Teenage Boys and Guardian Angels

I got to thinking about the guardian angels tasked with keeping teenage boys alive and, mostly at least, out of major trouble. This ties into my thoughts that boys need to get into a certain amount of trouble in the first place to finish growing into men. How we deny them that will need to be the subject of a longer post later. Back to guardian angels. When you conjure that image, the timeless art of the cherub, encased in a golden glow and sporting white wings, springs to mind. A little three-year-old missing in the woods? She'll have an angel to look after her, tall and strong and kind. An elderly person passing from this plane? A guide, compassionate and welcoming. Heart-warming concepts, indeed.

Exactly the opposite of what teenage boys need. By nature, teenage boys are prone to do stupid things, usually in an effort to either move up in the dominance hierarchy or to impress a girl. Which is redundant. Work with me.

When a teen looks at a small chasm with a swiftly flowing creek, he sees an opportunity to measure himself and impress his peers where mature adults see an idiot playing Evel Knievel. This is the narrowest point in the creek. It seems more impressive when up-creek and down-creek spread out like that to either side, but it's also the point with the deepest plunge if he misses.

"Bet I can jump it!"

"Bet you can't."

He and his big mouth firmly puts his body on the line. His brag got called. No backing out now without loosing face. His friends will deride him not for the attempt, but to discourage him because they're eyeing the same yawning gap and thinking, "Crap, if he makes it, I gotta try." The girls, if present, will tell him, "Don't do it, you could get hurt. Do you think you can make it?"

"Sure!" What other answer is possible? Thus committed, the teen backs up, checks the distance from one shore to the next. Backs up two more steps. Three. It looks like erosion made that damn jump a heck of a lot longer than it was a moment ago. His friends, sensing a chicken, heckle.

So far, his guardian angel, the one on duty - they work shifts twelve-and-twelve to keep up with the level of testosterone induced lunacy - sighs and puts down her cigar. Her squadron never has a quiet shift.

She's a veteran at the game, not some rube cherub just getting its wings. Imagine a cigar-chomping, raspy voiced, frazzled woman, tougher than a Drill Instructor and half as sentimental. That's the prototypical angel for boys 12-and up. Her mission, to keep the moron boy alive for one more day.

While he's making his run up to launch mode, she makes decisions. Will the fall kill him? No. Good, a teachable moment, then. Can he get hurt. Probably, but not relevant. Will he make it? Snort. She could trip him before take-off but the chucklehead will just back up more, three times as determined.

She let's him jump.

And he's going to make it, by about a shoe-length, as in his heels hang on the edge of the abyss. But, since boys need lessons in mortality, she loosens the embankment. A dirty trick, to be sure, but if he makes it cleanly this time, he'll try again, something bigger and more dangerous.

As the grassy verge breaks loose, the boy experiences an instant of panic and hurls himself forward, skinning his shins in the process. Inside, he's pure elation. He won! At least, this time, because one of his buds is going to one-up him soon. But not today, no-sirree. He stands, wipes the blades of grass off his chest, and turns to face the rest of them.

The boys are looking at their feet. Hah! The girls are looking at him, which normally makes him uncomfortable as hell. One, the cutey blonde has hasn't got the guts to ask out, looks at him concerned. She cares! It can't get any better. Her next words crush that like a car compactor taking on a Yugo.

"How are you going to get back?"

His guardian angel snickers, picks up her cigar, and puffs it back to life. My, but she does love a two-for-one lesson.

Disruption and the Dearth of Good Options

Sarah Hoyt has yet another interesting post over at her place. As usual, she makes me think and it ties into much off the research I've been doing for my current book series. Go read it for the full Sarah effect, but the gist of her post is that the same stick of disruption whacking is doing the same to every facet of human activity. She's right, but that is not the scary part.

The Good News is There is No Good News

The part that should terrify everyone is we are just entering the disruption. Worse, we don't know which direction it will travel. Will the technologies Sarah mentioned fundamentally transform human society and, possibly, supplant it? That's certainly a possibility and for those who assume that forward progress in technology is an immutable fact, a given. In fact, it is the dominant position.

That position, though, involves considerable pain. One example: once the disruption is in full bloom, we will have surplus population relative to the work needed. Automation will replace nearly every repetitive job in every industry. Not just manufacturing, but every industry. I can't think of a single one that won't be impacted. What do we do with the extra people? The usual human method of shedding population involves violence in large quantities.

An aside for those how think they're in a bullet-proof industry. You're not. If it involves routine processes, you are replaceable, whether that process is physical or mental. The current crop of robots have already transformed manufacturing. Almost no one will dispute that. But what of a medical diagnosis? An AI is already in development to function as a primary care practitioner and the long-term prognosis for the medical field is machine-based. The law? We already have computers to do taxes (poorly in the case of Timothy Geithner) and wills.

Maybe you build houses? Safe as it gets, right? Meet the future.

Even with the automation in manufacturing, they're still on the edge of innovation. What happens when every home has a 3D printer and uses open-source plans to make most of their household possessions? It's reminiscent of Frederik Pohl's excellent sci-fi story, The Midas Plague. Which, I was thrilled to see, is available for free.

(Sorry for the interruption. Love that story, so I took a break . . .)

The Bad News is Worse

That's the future, as much as I can see and by definition limited, if technology remains ascendant. It's not the only possibility, though. We have plenty examples from the past to see alternative paths, most of them wildly unpleasant.

We take our toys and the infrastructure that allows for them for granted. Those systems are relatively fragile and vulnerable to human neglect or sabotage. The Luddites haven't taken to the streets yet, but they will. They may hamper innovation, bring it to a stop, or even manage to set it into retrograde. The latter is possible if the Luddites decide that the STEM fields should be subject to opinion and the same lack of rigor that the social sciences maintain.  That's the best case scenario for the disruption heading negative.

The next-worst case is deliberate sabotage, combined with totalitarian control of the population. For that scenario, the only useful technologies to survive will be those that enhance the state, the theocrat, or the monarch, depending on how the rulers choose to present themselves. North Korea is a prime example of what could become ordinary. A thoroughly ruthless dictatorship that uses tech to control the populace and prey on neighbors. Any deviation from orthodoxy will be detected and eradicated.

A common misconception is that such a thing could not happen here. Ludicrous. Look to the educational campuses and their rigid intolerance of competing views. They go so far as to spy on students, Soviet-style. The riots on the streets of Berkley, when both the police and the university were forewarned, provide another data point. There is a faction that would be pleased to the role of Supreme Leader.

A total collapse of human civilization would be my next-to-last worst case. Imagine all the ungovernable regions in the world without the aid they currently received and see how long human 'decency' holds. Starving people will not worry about niceties. They'll love their neighbor - in a soup, or on a spit.

Worst case? We kill ourselves off and the roaches or AI-enabled-robots with Austrian accents take over.

Pick your scenario, make your plans, plan to be flexible, and know that it all can disappear in a blink.

Must Focus

I've joked for years that given enough time, I can think my way through a brick wall. I've also known that to do so, you must focus in single-minded obsession on those things that are important. The world, however, is now geared to perpetual distraction. The social media platforms are all dedicated to stealing your attention, either by triggering your fears, your rage, always your emotions. Nor is it just the platforms. The on-demand world permits easy avoidance of the hard work that is needed to accomplish, well, nearly anything. "I'll just watch one show on Netflix." ends with a binge session of eating, watching, and zero productivity.

Throw in the most divisive and poisonous political environment in my lifetime, and the obstacles to good work can overwhelm most everybody. It's not just me. Chuck Wendig hosted Kameron Hurley at his blog, Terrible Minds, to discuss working through the upheaval. There's some great advice in that article. Go read it and see for yourself. (Disclaimer: I know who Chuck is; he has no clue I even exist. If he did, he'd think I was wrong about damn near everything. Go read the article anyway.)

I've let myself get distracted. And angry, which is why I haven't blogged in months. Like I did with so many other things, I will fix the problem. In my case, that means going cold turkey. I've already purged a goodly chunk of my Twitter feed to get rid of the politics. I'm down to runners, writers, and travelers. Things that add value to my life.

It's time to perform triage on the distractors and, if I can't do it with a scalpel I'll bring a bloody great axe to the job. One way or the other, it will happen.

Must FOCUS - Fixed On Course Until Successful.

One of the best acronyms I've employed. Time to put it on steroids.


I Voted

I voted. My wife voted. My friend Jack voted. I did not want to and that, based on my observations, does not put me in a unique position this election season. Shoot, based on the poor turnout in US elections, it hardly makes this year unique that so many are repulsed by politics. This year is special, though, and not in the good way. Yes, he is an addled buffoon; but she's despicably criminal in all her dealings. Yes, he's crass and (likely) committed sexual assault; but she covered up for Bill. We could go 'round this till we're sick with dizziness. We have terrible candidates. We have only ourselves to blame for it.

Voting is perhaps the least of the rights that we are granted, for all the high talk about how special it is. Quadrennially, we get the reminders of 'one man, one vote' and 'no taxation without representation'. Every election cycle, men and women stand before us and make us promises that they intend to break post-election, as Bill Clinton did promising a tax cut or Obama did with health insurance. And people vote for the liars.

In the midst of all this, we forget a basic truth that harkens back to the first days of the Republic. The Founders never intended a citizenry that voted to engorge itself at the expense of the country, nor a political class that enriched itself at the public trough and through special grants, such as the exemption from insider trading laws.

The Founders intended for a patriotic citizen to vote for the best of the country. In some cases, that is an abundantly easy thing to determine. This year? Good luck figuring it out. My determining factor was which candidate generated the most intuitional and press opposition. I voted--for gridlock. I want the kind of internecine warfare that has led to resignations of corrupt public officials. WikiLeaks brought sunlight to this election, albeit on only one side. I want more sunlight, on both sides.

I want the crooks gone, all of them.

And since we're on the subject, here's an old article of mine from 2012. I still want my purple thumb.

The Long Road to Boston - Part History, Part Memior

The Long Road to Boston, by author/runner Mark Sutcliffe, paints his personal quest for trip to Boston to run the storied marathon with the fine brush of an artist while using broader strokes to bring the hallowed course and the former competitors to life. Boston, the goal of many, if not most, marathoners presents a challenge beyond simply finishing the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. To simply toe the line, the marathoner needs to run a qualifying time, no easy feat for the merely mortal. In Sutcliffe’s case, it took twenty-one marathons to get to the start and two years of absolute dedication when his quest, to run the world’s oldest and most historic marathon, became irresistible.

But Sutcliffe has a fine appreciation, not just for the training required, but of the place that the Boston Marathon holds in the pantheon of marathons. Interspersed in his own narrative are the stories of John McDermott, the first champion, to Native American runner and twice-champion Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, to the immortal Clarence DeMar.

In Sutcliffe’s description of his race, he introduces us to the course itself, narrow chute of the starting line, into Ashland with the original starting line until 1908, and through from the screaming tunnel of enthusiasm of the Wellesly women. For runners, no course in the world matches the spectator support that Boston delivers – and it is to these people and the thousands of volunteers that Sutcliffe addresses his most touching words.

For a fan of running, an athlete aiming for their own shot at Boston, or history buff of sport, The Long Road to Boston serves to at once inform and inspire.

Old coot and the 3-Legged Dog

Report came into the Humane Society shelter, of a missing dog, named Ripley, a black 3-legged chihuahua, belonging to an elderly couple. Second report came in of FOUND chihuahua, by local animal welfare cop.

Call went out to Harold and Winnie, we might have found your dog.

Shelter followed protocol, no promises, please come down and ID your dog.

Everybody gathers, expecting a happy, happy ending.

Until Harold said, “It’s the wrong leg missing. That’s not my dog.” Sadness. Then shock, as Winnie whacked him on the shoulder, enough to rock him.

“You forgetful old coot, you’re dyslexic.”

If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas

[et_pb_section admin_label="section" transparent_background="off" allow_player_pause="off" inner_shadow="off" parallax="off" parallax_method="on" padding_mobile="off" make_fullwidth="off" use_custom_width="off" width_unit="off" custom_width_px="1080px" custom_width_percent="80%" make_equal="off" use_custom_gutter="off" fullwidth="off" specialty="off" disabled="off"][et_pb_row admin_label="row" make_fullwidth="off" use_custom_width="off" width_unit="off" custom_width_px="1080px" custom_width_percent="80%" use_custom_gutter="off" gutter_width="3" padding_mobile="off" allow_player_pause="off" parallax="off" parallax_method="on" make_equal="off" column_padding_mobile="on" parallax_1="off" parallax_method_1="on" parallax_2="off" parallax_method_2="on" parallax_3="off" parallax_method_3="on" parallax_4="off" parallax_method_4="on" disabled="off"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_style="solid" disabled="off" border_color="#ffffff"] Eric Metaxas penned an impassioned case for the patriotic citizen in If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty and set out to define what both ‘patriotic’ and ‘citizen’ meant, not only in this day and rather cynical age, but during the early years of our Republic. The differences that arise in the two centuries plus between the framing of the Constitution and today are striking.9781101979983

If You Can Keep It is not, however, a political screed. Instead, Metaxas bring to the fore the primary ingredients of a populace capable of governing itself – and demonstrates how far from those standards we have drifted, whether by complacency or intent.

He begins with Franklin’s famous quote to one Mrs. Powell, who asked, “Well, doctor, what have we got? A Republic or a Monarchy?” The reply that lives nearly two and a half centuries later, “A Republic, madam—if you can keep it.” This is no idle place to open the conversation. Embedded into the short exchange is both a promise, unique to the world at that time, of self-government, and an equally sincere promise of the effort that would be required of the citizen and the country to preserve the liberties thus secured.

For those expecting a purely intellectual discussion of Constitutional minutiae, this book will be disappointing. Metaxas takes the position that for all the wonder of the freedoms expressed in that document and the Bill of Rights, they cannot long exist without the active participation of the patriotic citizen. He is careful in defining such and spends considerable time on the nature of the patriot, how patriotism was conveyed from one generation to the next, and most importantly, that which is lacking in today’s populace.

Nor, given Metaxas’ fervent belief, should it surprise any reader that he builds his case upon the faith and virtue of the country. Using Os Guinness’ Golden Triangle of freedom, faith, and virtue, he explains how each plays a crucial part in an interlocking system by which the ordinary man can rise above his personal desires and benefits to vote to the betterment of the country as a whole. In fact, this is central to the idea of self-government and he correctly points out that moral leadership is absolutely necessary to encourage and foster the commitment to the nation as a whole over the benefit to oneself directly. Quoting,

Corruption in leaders gives citizens the sense that they are, in fact, not all in it together. They will get the positively fatal idea that there is indeed an ”us” and “them.” . . . The citizens will buy into the deeply pernicious idea that rather than ruling themselves, they are in fact being ruled but others—that all the talk of self-government and liberty is a sham.”

A more timely and prescient summation of the current political environment would be hard to find.

Metaxas is expressly religious in many of his arguments, as would be expected of him. None of that negates his larger points. From John Adams, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (pg.61). There simply must be a call to a power greater than oneself for a people to self-govern. In the case of Metaxas, and indeed many of the Founders, it was a Christian God. Even a Deist such as Benjamin Franklin recognized the significance of religion in crafting virtue. “Only a virtuous people,” he declares, “are capable of self-government.”

This is no small idea. In the political arena today, we see the result of a lack of virtue. One person campaigns on “free-everything”, another on vague generalities, and none on the national stage could in any sense be considered virtuous. Other than the obligatory nod of “God Bless America!” at the end of speeches, religion might well not exist in politics. There is no call to rise above oneself, no noble over-arching view of the ‘city on the hill.” In short, the politics of the nation has become as tawdry as the leaders lives. It becomes almost impossible to consider a modern politician as a hero in the mold of Washington, or Lincoln, or even Kennedy. Whatever their personal flaws, each asked Americans to rise to the challenge of citizenship.

Selected for special attention by Metaxas as emblematic of the larger problems are our heroes, and our new-found inability to acknowledge heroic behavior. This, postulates Metaxas, exposes a major deficiency in our modern society. Without unifying heroes to rally around as a culture, we Americans supplant the noble with the famous to our detriment. Truly, though, our current leaders prefer this. Measuring up to reality television is much easier than matching the integrity of Washington, the steadfastness of Lincoln, or the courage of the minutemen who suffered in Valley Forge.

Throughout, Metaxas deliberately avoids pointing fingers except at brief points to show that the polarization that exists today is detrimental to the body politic. His message, which permeates every page, is that improving our discourse, providing for the common culture, and our responsibility to preserving our Republic is in our hands. Simple demagoguery will not solve the divisions in society that threatens the Republic. And Metaxas clearly sees the American Exceptionalism as in great danger. Unlike many, he does not believe that we are beyond the point of no-return.

His last paragraph implores the reader to “. . . go forth and love America . . .” and is a powerfully resonant message and a gauntlet thrown to the ground at our feet.

We have a Republic, if we can keep it. Will you, citizen, stand fast to see America survive and thrive, a beacon to the world for freedom or will you surrender? As a free person, which will you choose?


Mark Cuban Misunderstands Patriotism

Mark Cuban may be part of the celebrity nouveau riche , but on CNN recently he decided to play the menial labor job of partisan hitman while wrapping himself in the flag of a patriot. Go listen to the piece and count the times that Cuban says, "if Donald took a short cut . . ." or " we just don't know . . ." In another interview, Cuban states, "After military service, the most patriotic thing you can do as a wealthy person is pay your taxes, because that keeps the roads paved, the military paid and kids going to school. He obviously doesn’t understand the concept.” I'll grant you, he has a point. Following laws is an act of a patriot. The thing is, we don't know if Trump paid taxes or not.Cuban admits such, in passing, before he launches into more of his diatribe.

There is no legal or moral responsibility to overpay one's taxes. I am quite sure that if we examined Mark Cuban's taxes, we would not find any over-payments and a simple internet search did not show an articles praising Cuban for voluntarily contributing monies above his tax obligations to the federal treasury.

Cuban, the Hypocrite

Cuban, if he ever runs for office, he's not going to release his returns. How do we know? He said so on his blog, in his own words:

"I have absolutely nothing to hide,  and if I ever run for President you will have to take my word for it and I hope every candidate for office says the exact same thing. Read my words: My taxes are none of your business.

Funny thing, that. Especially with a statement he made in the very same post:

So my suggestion to Donald Trump is to not be intimidated. Stand up for all of us and every future Presidential candidate and not provide your tax returns . You get audited every year like I do. If there is anything wrong it was the job of the IRS to find it, not the other candidates, the media or any of us.

Another aspect of patriotism, arguably higher on the list of 'most patriotic', what ever the hell that means, is not blatantly slandering a fellow citizen by innuendo and weasel words.

Still, the whole subject interests me. No, not Cuban's hypocrisy, but patriotism. It's a word and a concept that has fallen (or been hurled) into disrespect. That, to my mind, is dangerous, so for the foreseeable future, I am going to take a look at patriotism, what it is, what it isn't, and how to practice it. Expect to see new articles every Tuesday until I run out of ideas.

Books for the Fall Running Season

A couple of great reads.

The Inner Runner by Dr. Jason Karp

First up, Dr. Jason Karp's The Inner Runner. Unlike most of the running books out there, Dr. Karp does not set up a training program or discuss the various workouts. For anyone who's read running books at all, those tropes are tired beyond belief. What Karp does is give you reasons to run, lots of them, told in a friendly style with the anecdotes woven into the science.

Take his example of the connectivity of running. The premise of his statement is deceptively simple: running is very connective. But then Karp plays with the idea of connectedness, tying it to nature, then people, to effort, and finally to souls. (Okay, that was a bad pun. Couldn't resist.) And, after leading us down into introspection, he lifts the story back up, to the sights and sounds of all the myriad places running can take us.

Even his chapter titles highlight the differences: Heathful Runs; Creative and Imaginative Runs: Productive Runs.

What The Inner Runner does, successfully, is to open the realms of the possible for all runners, by taking a look at facets beyond the optimal 5K program or the latest marathon tweak. It a worthy book for any runner to keep permanently on their shelf.

COMPETE Training Journal (Believe Training Journal) by Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas

I didn't realize the newest version of Fleshman's and McGettigan-Dumas' Training Journal was available for pre-order until I caught a tweet from Sally Bergesen of Oiselle.  The authors approach the journal process a bit differently than most. While the basics are there, theyadd (based on last year's version) a heap of perspective and motivation to get you to your goals.

Now, I should back up here a touch - Fleshman and McGettigan-Dumas wrote this journal specifically for women. That does not mean it's soft - no one in their right mind considers Fleshman or McGettigan-Dumas soft. It doesn't mean that males can't use it, just be prepared for feminine pronouns in place of the traditional "he, him, his."

The response to last year's version was very positive from the users. It's unusual to get runners to almost unanimously agree on anything but this training journal (I'm basing my opinion on last year) seems pretty well beloved.  Personally, I liked the quality of the covers and pages. I'm not much for running logs since I'm not actively training any more, but the one I checked out as a gift was just plain welcoming to open and I could see my daughters using it with pleasure.

The Compete Training Journal is a nice tool for those that are looking for something that brings quite a bit more to the table than a spreadsheet. According to Amazon, the book will ship November 1st, in plenty of time for Christmas and the upcoming racing seasons.

The Occasional Diamond Thief by J. A. McLachlan

It's not a running book, I know. Still, it was a darn fun read. I picked up a copy of this novel while on my trip to Calgary (and Jane was kind enough to autograph it for me.) As I wrote in review on Amazon:

What an enjoyable read! J. A. McLachlan crafted an entertaining story centered on teenage Kia, a gifted linguist, and a family secret wrapped in guilt. The story moves with smooth pacing and engaging characters from the death of Kia's father to the planet Malem, with enough twists to keep things interesting and none of it forced. The interactions between Kia and the Select, Agathe, are warm and touching, lending a great deal of humanity to the story.

McLachlan managed a nice trick of building a wonderfully adventurous coming-of-age tale in a science fiction future that blends so seamlessly that she transports you with Kia and the Select Agathe to Malem. Definitely a novel to recommend.

Disclaimer: I buy these books out of my own money - none have been given to me for review and the authors didn't know that I would be writing a review.

NCAA Virtue-Signals On Its Way to Irrelevance

On Monday, the NCAA, already embroiled in law suits that threaten its existence, took another definitive step toward irrelevance and eventual oblivion when it pulled seven championship events from North Carolina venues in response to HB2, the law that among a myriad of other things, prevents people with wangs from using the restrooms designated for those without.

This, to the NCAA, is the biggest problem that it faces in North Carolina, something so horrible that action must be taken.

Since no discussion is possible on transgender issues without declarative statements, let me make mine, right here, at the top. I. DON'T. CARE. If you are a transgendered person, do what you want, provided it does not impact or harm another person. That does not include using whatever restroom you want, though. You're not the only person in there.

Nine or fifteen year-old girls should not be required to have biologically-identifiable men share restroom facilities, regardless of orientation. Your right to self-identity does not supersede their right to privacy. If, however, you have had surgery and taken the drugs to erase the outward physical differences, I'm back to 'Who cares?'

Got a wang and don't want to use the men's room? In the text of HB2, it provides for single-occupancy bathrooms. Use them. If they are missing, demand they be built. That would be fair.

So great, that's out of the way.

Please note that the NCAA is being somewhat inconsistent. Their pulling seven events from public venues but leaving in place events where a North Carolina university is the host. It's one thing to posture - it's a wholly different thing to interfere with the flow of Benjamins.

In that same vein, at the University of North Carolina, a cheating scandal that encompassed the best part of two DECADES is ever-so-quietly getting swept under the rug. Considered by many to be the largest case of academic fraud in history, UNC established fake courses, initially to keep basketball and football players eligible, and got caught. The fraud was so pervasive that the accrediation body, SACS, said this: "The investigative report clearly refutes the institution’s claims that the academic fraud was relegated to the unethical actions of two people." In other words, it appears to be an institution-wide problem.

Brian C. Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, went so far as to suggest in the Chronicle of Higher Education, that UNC should lose their accreditation. Silliness. UNC is in the 'too-big-to-fail' group for SACS to punish with anything more than a finger wag and a sternly worded missive.

Since getting busted, the university has been fighting tooth and nail to avoid any form of punishment. Rashad McCants, a star on the 2005 basketball squad, released his transcript and told ESPN that he made the Dean's List, despite never showing up for classes. He wasn't alone. McCants challenged his teammates to do likewise - to date, none of the other starters on the 2005 championship team have done so. The classes were arranged by the staff for the athletics department and included the direct knowledge of at least one department Dean. Lack of Institutional Control is one of the biggest charges that can be filed against a member university. Implicated in the cheating were men's and women's basketball, women's soccer, and football.

The initial notice of allegations also specifically noted the high use of the fake classes, some graded by a secretary, by basketball and football players. UNC had a ready response to this charge though - they included non-athletes, too. Yep, the defense is we didn't just defraud athletes of an education, we inflicted it on frat boys, too, so it's all good. The NCAA bobbed its head, practically apologized, and sent out an amended NOA removing the individual sports - except for women's basketball, which looks to be the designated scapegoat.

Rashada McCants, a star in her own right on the UNC women's team and sister of Rashad, disagreed with the assertion that a pretense of education is sufficient. She is suing the NCAA over her lack of education. The NCAA's response was that it has no legal responsibility to ensure the academic integrity of courses, despite its proclamations on its website. This is, of course, exactly opposite the claims it makes in the O'Bannon case, where former UCLA stand-out Ed O'Bannon is fighting to get the revenue shared with athletes. In that case, the NCAA has argued that the education the students-athletes (no snickering, UNC fans) get is compensation enough.

As mentioned, UNC has battled the NCAA, effectively denying that the governing body has any right to comment, much less punish them, for the paper classes. Quoting from News & Observer, "UNC isn’t saying it didn’t happen. It’s saying that the system of phony classes happened within the university’s academic side and involved athletes as well as non-athletes and therefore presents an issue beyond the NCAA’s scope." The rumblings from the NCAA suggest that, given the chance, they will cave. Penalizing UNC, after all, will hurt their cashflow.

As if hypocrisy is not enough, the UNC case points out a recurring problem in college athletics. Universities such as UNC prey on minorities. The larger portion of athletes in the fraudulent classes were African-American. Want to see institutional racism? Just head over to UNC and you can check out what it looks like in the modern era. (And based on the news breaking this morning, they will protect the athletes from scrutiny at the expense of women.)

So, into this quagmire of ugliness in North Carolina, the NCAA has decided that the single biggest issue deserving its attention is . . . bathrooms.

Not pervasive cheating. Not the inherent racism. Bathrooms.

These are the actions of a dying organization, seeking relevance. If it can't have that, well, virtue signalling will have to do.


Running in Greenville, South Carolina

Visiting family on the other side of the country for Labor Day. They have interesting spots to run here, too.

Saw a big heron. Too slow to get the picture. I keep stumbling on pretty places like this. Life is good.

Saw a big heron. Too slow to get the picture. I keep stumbling on pretty places like this. Life is good.

No one in the booth to collect the toll, so on we roll.

No one in the booth to collect the toll, so on we roll.

About here is when I remembered the East Coast has a lot of poison ivy.

About here is when I remembered the East Coast has a lot of poison ivy.

That is not good Georgia red clay . . . South Carolina has their own variety.

That is not good Georgia red clay . . . South Carolina has their own variety.

As evident by the lack of footprints, not too many people here leave the beaten path.

As evident by the lack of footprints, not too many people here leave the beaten path.

When Words Collide by day, Axe Throwing by night

Let's start off by stating, unequivocally, that Calgary is home to some of the nicest people. It also boasts a beautiful skyline downtown and the Canadian Rockies beckoning just to the west. This is where When Words Collides holds its annual convention which is, in turn, the reason I came to Calgary.

When Words Collide emphasizes speculative fiction (sci-fi and fantasy) and is the venue for the Aurora Awards, along with three days of workshops. As with other cons I've attended, some of the workshops are great, some are good, and some I should have snuck out of. So far, I've averaged six class sessions per day, ranging from book launches to writing romance in young adult fiction. In the Romance in YA session, I was the only man.

The con is well organized. I am discovering that most of the business side of the sessions aren't very useful to me. Since I read widely on industry trends, I'm a bit ahead of some of the curves.

The craft sessions tend to be the most attended and of the most immediate utility. Donna, who is attending with me, thinks that part of that is a desire for people to find the magic key that will unlock a famous writing career. A session on creativity and another on time management dashed those hopes if the same people attended. There is no substitute for placing your butt in a chair and working, working, working, to improve your storytelling.

The other function the con serves, besides award recognition and education, is to allow for some networking. Notables, Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press who publishes Lousie Marley and James Van Pelt, authors I met last year at Worldcon. Brian Hades and Janice from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, based here in Calgary, that have a strong line-up of successful authors that includes J. A. McLachlan. McLachlan is a terrific presenter, but strikes me as disinclined to put up with fools.

Danielle Jensen sat on two panels (Romance for YA, Plotting for "Pantsters") I attended yesterday. She's more soft-spoken than many of the panelists, but had a wealth of advice to impart. She never mentioned it during her introductions, but Jensen is a USA-Today Best-Seller.

By four o'clock, we were done with the sessions. Since we didn't have tickets to the banquet, we were on our own, so I got to try something that just seemed a hoot.

I went axe-throwing.

The Backyard Axe Throwing League is one of several clubs that cater to a clientele that prefers to hurl something somewhat more substantial than a dart. The Calgary branch allows walk-ins to visit and learn, so we did. Or I did, as Donna appears to place axe-throwing in the same category as running - if nothing is chasing you, why bother?

The fee is just $20 for an hour session with a coach to guide you along. I presume the coach is also supposed to ensure the guests leave with all their digits squarely attached instead of in a kleenex box. At least, that's the way I would run things.

Blair was my coach, known around the club as "Bees". Since Donna declined the chance to throw, we skipped some of the safety warnings that the group in the next cage - the throwing lanes has cinder block walls and chain-link separators to protect the unwary from wayward axes. Their warning included an admonition to not throw until the person ahead had both retrieved their ax and returned to the safety of the top of the lane. Seemed sensible unless someone was over-insured and a nuisance to boot.

Bees led me through the process, two-handed grip, the lift overhead, the delivery, follow-through. His stuck in the wood with a satisfying thud. Mine try went thud as the back of the ax head dented the pine. The next one went into the net above. Oops. The third one bit wood and stuck. Pretty soon, all of them started to stick and some hit the bull ring. Obviously, it was time to more up from the small ax, a hatchet-sized affair, to a full lumberjack ax.

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That one requires a bit of a rocking movement to get it launched. You also start out farther back as the blade on the rebound can come distressingly far out into the lane. Bees demo'd the action, and then it was my turn. Over-rotated the first one, so I changed my position in the lane, snugging up six inches. A meaty thunk told me that part was dialed in. A few throws later and I was dialing on the bull ring with the big ax, too.

A couple of dozen throws and I moved back to the little ax. One miscue on the first throw while I adapted to the weight and then I was back in business, dropping three bulls in a row at one point.

That, however, was the highlight. Axe throwing is tough on the forearms and my form started to deteriorate. It was time to call it an evening, so we left. I did forget to get some critical information from Bees.

I need specs on how to build an axe target at home. The neighbors won't mind - they already think I am bit of a loon. Pleasant enough, but odd, you know.

Have fun out there this week. Run, jump, throw axes - make it fun.

Lazy Writer Day

Max Siegel might USATF's CEO but he certainly does not cut it as a leader. We need lifetime bans, Max, and leadership. You don't need anybody's permission to set the example. From the WSJ:

"Max Siegel, chief executive of USA Track & Field, condemned doping but said he sees his job as that of an enforcer of anti-doping rules, which currently permit athletes to return from doping bans. “I know exactly what (King) is calling for, and it doesn’t change the way the rules currently exist. My job is to apply the rules fairly across the board.”

Tomorrow I take off for Calgary, my first visit there in a quarter century. Reason? When Words Collide, a writer and fan convention. Conventions are a great chance to meet folks and refuel the writing batteries. I'll be in information overload by Sunday, but . . .

You know what else Calgary has? Axe throwing! How cool is that? Great way to relieve the stress of writing. Or unreasonable bosses. Do not mix with alcohol.

After having struggled for most of this year to get words on paper, I turned a corner a month ago. In the last three weeks, I've put out about 10,000 words on the second novel of the Splintered Magic series (the first is done, needs editing. Later, as the series will be released in one gigantic push.) The key? Mostly having the guts to turn down paying work to make time and then letting the story take over instead of following the outline I set up.

On a related note, for the first time in years, I'm not coaching junior high xc. I'm going to miss the kids, but I was missing the excitement I normally feel this time of year. More, I was dreading surrendering my writing time.

Now, to check my schedule to see if I can return to blogging about the local races.

It's a bit early, but have a great weekend. I'll put up some pics from Calgary over the weekend.