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Archive for Life

Feb. 16, 2018 — When a visit to a taco shop parallels a school shooting

This evening, as I’ve done about once a week since the last Presidential election, I visited an independent Mexican taqueria, just to put a little money in the Latinx economy and put a thumb in the eye of a xenophobic administration.

As I was sitting down with my bottle of Sidral Mundet (a delicious apple-flavored soda) awaiting the soft taco platter, I heard a man talking to someone in a serious tone.

I had seen this threesome in line behind me, an adult male with military-style close-cropped hair, an adult female, and a small child who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old.

While the adult female was in the bathroom, the following was said by the male:

“I see how you escalate things now. If you were an adult and did what you did to me, I would never talk to you again. I would have punched you in the face.”

This was a threat directed at a child. In public.

Now, there are are any number of people in our society who are called “mandatory reporters.” These can be teachers, police officers, clergy, and health care professionals. They are bound, by law, to make a report to law enforcement when abuse is observed or suspected.

Had one of these professionals been in the restaurant, the male would likely have been questioned if not reprimanded already, even though he had not done anything that was against the law.

Question is, how is this different from Nikolaus Cruz, the Lakeland school shooter who hadn’t done anything wrong in the eyes of the law until the moment he took out his assault rifle at the school last Wednesday and murdered 17 people?

Apparently, the FBI may have dropped the ball on an early report, but the thing is, politicians have prevented this kind of reporting on possible firearm use/abuse for decades, all in the name of the preservation of the Second Amendment.

There’s a phrase for the kind of behavior that both Cruz and the short-haired man in the taqueria exhibited.

“If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it is a duck.”

May we, as a society, get all our ducks in a row, flying in the right direction.

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Feb. 15, 2018 — Two out of three ain’t bad. Or is it?

This morning, I hit the TV button on the remote control, pointing it at the leftmost of the three monitors I keep attached to various devices in order to get my news and information.

There was no click in response, but there was one from the middlemost monitor, which sometimes activates when I aim the remote incorrectly.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Bad logic board.”

Since buying the monitor back about three years ago, I have changed boards once every 18 months or so. This will be the third change. Repair of digital TVs is remarkably simple; I did my brother’s TV a few years ago, and I have kept mine in working order with just a careful inventory of screws, a flick of my fingers on the connecting ribbon, and about 45 minutes of my time.

But until I get a new board (or actually take some time to figure out exactly what component keeps failing so that I might get something less faulty), I have to rely on my other monitors.

My rightmost monitor, which I attach to my laptop, can get many more video streams than it used to because news sources have figured out that getting their product out into the mainstream is better than hiding it behind a subscription wall.

The middle monitor has a Roku attached to it, which is an electronic device slightly larger than a deck of cards. It streams hundreds of video sources, everything from sports to horror movies. The Roku is where I will watch the majority of my field hockey and lacrosse during the NCAA season, so I’m not terribly worried about losing the left monitor for a few days.

So, why do I have three monitors? The same reason Lyndon Johnson had the same setup in his Oval Office: to see what was going on in the world.

Plus, these small flat-screen TVs are incredibly cheap compared to the luxury models that some people are getting for their houses. Some of them are pretty nice, but I don’t need that much screen size. I can only focus on a finite area at any one time, and I’d rather have a smaller screen so I can see everything.

Which makes it fun whenever there is an event like an Olympics, a World Cup, or your average weekend in NCAA lacrosse or field hockey. Having three games on simultaneously — in the same sport — is an experience not to be believed.

Feb. 14, 2018 — This time, it’s personal

This evening, I learned that a friend of mine from the vernacular dance world was involved in the shooting spree that occurred today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. He is a teacher there.

At 9:32 this evening, he posted the following:

I am home safe and sound. Hug your loved ones tonight.

None more needs to be said.

Parkland is the latest in a long line of school shootings that are breathless read off like a train schedule: Columbine, Jonesboro, Newtown, and now, Parkland.

Yet with hundreds of such events over the last 20 years, it is amazing how little has been done on the legal side, the mental health side, and the law enforcement side in order to tighten up firearms-on-demand by teenagers. The assailant in this case was a 19-year-old, seemingly too old for high school except for perhaps being held back once or twice.

But when the laws, regulations, or whatever put my friend in danger? That’s when it gets personal. And it’s when you get writers with my depth, reach, and influence that will hopefully gain a positive change for our society.

 

Jan. 27, 2018 — Where will the trail lead?

The fallout from the sentencing of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar on sexual assault and child pornography charges has started to gain momentum.

Over the last day or so:

  • Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon resigned;
  • Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announced his near-instant retirement;
  • The balance of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors entered their resignation, following what the executive committee did two days ago
  • The U.S. Congress, the U.S Department of Justice, the U.S. Olympic Committee, the NCAA, and the Michigan Attorney General all announced the start of investigations into the matter
  • A bombshell report from ESPN accuses members of the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams of sex assaults, and accuses the athletic department of protecting the student-athletes from prosecution.

It’s the last story that should shake every NCAA Division I institution to its very core.

Since the 1960s, many universities have used female “hostesses” as chaperones for student visits and as guides during the first weeks of school. It’s not known how many interactions between students and these hostesses crossed the line into sex assaults, but a spate of incidents in the early 2000s shone a harsh light on the practice.

The student-athletes in the revenue sports have also received a different level of treatment from campus law enforcement from the rest of the student body.

And it’s these kinds of practices which have led to lax oversight of athletic departments and teams, leading to the likes of Larry Nassar being hired at Michigan State.

I’m likely to see the names of people I have gotten to know over the last 20 years being splashed in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Get ready. This is going to get ugly.

Jan. 26, 2018 — In praise of the disruptors

The American economy — and, by extension, the world economy — has evolved into several iterations over the last 150 years. We’ve gone from an agrarian economy into an industrial, then into a service economy.

But right now, I’d argue that we’re into what you might call “the disruption economy.” Over the last several years, there have been companies which have upset what had been comfortable monopolies or oligopolies in everything from entertainment to goods to services.

Your Founder is now looking through a pair of lenses which were made by a mail-order company; all I had to do was send in the prescription numbers, pick the frames, and input a credit card number.

And, here’s the thing. The mail order company produced not one, but two pairs of glasses four days faster than the optometrist’s office.

It may be useful to understand that the owners of the two teams currently scheduled to play in next weekend’s Super Bowl are products of older-generation companies. Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made his money off General Cinemas, which is being disrupted by streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made his money off of Gillette, a company now being disrupted by the Dollar Shave Club.

Distruptors, I think, are here to stay.

 

Jan. 22, 2018 — An announcement

After a series of tests administered over the last three weeks or so, I have something I need to tell you all.

I do not have cancer.

For most of the 7 billion people on this planet, the above sentence is the default. But for those people who say that they do have cancer, what is your default response?

I got a different perspective today from feminist author, professional contrarian, and my former college classmate Elizabeth Wurtzel in a column she wrote for The Guardian recently.

In this article, she anticipates a wave of sympathetic or empathetic responses from friends, peers, and even long-lost classmates, and shuts them down.

The crux of her thought is this sentence:

I don’t need you to be on my side – I’m on my side.

Truer words were never spoken. In these days of “likes” or “dislikes” on social media, real words and deeds have given way to glib symbols. The Internet herd can given Elizabeth’s posts as many “likes” as can be gathered by any Lady Gaga Twitter post, but will they help her prognosis? Make her life better? Give her hope?

Of course not. And I get it.


Elizabeth, if you are reading this, just know that I support you in whatever decisions you make in your path towards remission.

You do not have to be an inspiration, and I won’t judge you if you don’t want to be. All I want is for you to feel better.

I recognize that you identify with the class behind me rather than us ’88ers, but I do hope you come this fall for Reunion, and we can meet up for something strong at Cafe Pamplona.

Above all, be well.

Al

Jan. 17, 2017 — A shocking and sad litany

The last day or so has seen a parade of young women, their lawyers, and surrogates going in and out of Rosemarie Aquilina’s circuit court chambers in Lansing, Mich.

The occasion: the reading of victim impact statements in the sentencing phase of the trial of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor Larry Nassar.

The number of statements should be shocking to you; there could be as many as 125 of them in this phase of the trial.

Thing is, it is not shocking to your Founder. In doing background research in order to better understand the problem of child sex abuse in sports in light of the trial and conviction of former U.S. field hockey international Todd Broxmeyer, we’ve estimated that, in light of the fact that only a dozen witnesses came forward at trial and at sentencing, Broxmeyer had access to between 175 to 200 young women as a field hockey coach over 17 years.

The Nassar trial, however, is being held in a cultural cauldron where men who have abused their authority are not getting away with it with the brazen and cynical tactics of the past, blaming and shaming victims. Instead, in large part because of the “#metoo” movement, more women are showing backbone by coming forward.

It’s happening in large ways, and even in small ways. An acquaintance of mine, who works in a large government office, reported repeated and unwanted advances by a man three times her age the other day. The responsive human resources department responded to her email message within 30 seconds, and an investigation is under way.

As it should.