Blah

I don’t write nearly as often as I used to nor, quite frankly, as I would like.  There was a time I would write to explore ideas, or to give myself a creative outlet, or if nothing else, to keep myself sane.  There have been times when I have been ridiculously creative or depressed and needing an outlet.  I’ve traveled an interesting journey in discovering myself, and writing has served a solid purpose in helping me explore those feelings.

Over the last few years, I’ve found differing purposes that have held my attention.  I no longer spend a hundred hours a month commuting to a stifling job and therefore no longer spend that time circulating ideas in my head – creating existential questions begging to be answered.  I’m largely free to explore ideas of interest in the context of my job – a job with the twin benefits of at once being highly entrepreneurial while also being one where I have a consistent and predictable salary.  I’m actually paid for my opinions and the analysis at which I am very good.  The best of both worlds.

It’s with this in mind, then, that it occurred to me that after some 10 years of self directed writing that I write most of my work at night.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a night owl.  There’s no one around to distract my attention, and as such, I can focus my efforts without interruption.  The house is quiet.  The external demands minimal.

I am without a doubt an introvert.  I used to take this time to recharge my batteries, to get out all of that “STUFF” in my head.  I now spend a lot of time alone and as such my batteries are generally charged up.  This has served me well, as I cannot remember the last time I felt so emotionally healthy.  I have a better understanding of myself, my limitations, and my strengths.  It’s in this context that writing takes a backseat, because I have the time to think and process and just be alone that I’ve never had before.

There are times, though, that I still need to process out in writing.

When I was in college, I had an Op/Ed column in the school paper.  I wish I had been forward thinking enough to save some of the pieces, but alas I wasn’t.  Every week there was a column put out there – for ridicule or praise – in front of my 4,000+ fellow students and faculty.  And there was always this weird sort of dichotomy where I would read what I had written and question my work, but when I read it in the paper – as though someone else had written it – it felt “right.”  It was in black and white on newsprint.  It had to be legit.  Writing served as a really good way to force some construction around my ideas and communicate them.

Now, I realize a good portion of what makes me tick – middle age seems to have had that effect.  When there’s a lot going on around me, I start to shut down – there’s so much to process, over which I have no control.  With all that environmental noise going on, I focus on one thing at the exclusion of everything else.  As the noise increases, my field of vision – or hearing – decreases.  It takes work to filter out all that “stuff” in the environment, so when something deserving of attention requests attention, it’s often difficult to get it.  Essentially, I’m capable of focusing on one thing at a time and when I focus, I do so effectively at the exclusion of everything else.  Sometimes so feverishly that I fail to notice things I should – like the effect I’m having on those with whom I’m having a conversation.  I have to force myself to make sure I’m not driving home my analysis at the expense of alienating those who have so graciously engaged me.

What makes me feel badly is when someone who deserves my attention doesn’t get it and is hurt by that.  It also makes me feel badly when my headspace and need isn’t acknowledged.  It’s important to get my attention to discuss something so I can respect your feelings, but it’s equally important that my need to be able to focus is respected.

I want to be engaged and to listen, but I also want to be respected and not belittled.  I process information my way, you process information your way.  It would be great if we could just figure out how we could process together.

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Pokey Reese

For Boston Red Sox fans, Pokey Reese is probably best remembered for one play, in one game.  That one play was in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series.  A ground ball was sent to short stop, and the call “…Pokey Reese has it…” sealed the deal for the Sox to complete the most unlikely comeback and advance to the 2004 World Series.

Pokey Reese, however, was more than that.  Earlier in the baseball season, at the beginning really, we fulfilled a promise we made to my daughter when we had told her we would get a dog when we had bought a house.  

A year before, we had bought our home and while it took us a year to fulfill our promise, on Memorial Day weekend, we had decided it was time.  We knew the kind of dog we wanted – a breed that was known to be good with kids – and we had located the place to buy this new member of our family.

When we arrived at the store, we told the proprietor what we were looking for, and she led us to the area of the store where we could find it.  An entire litter of cockapoos in one area, all of which had poop on their heads, were squirming around an open air crate.  One immediately took an interest in us and we decided quickly that this little puppy would be our choice – or rather, we would affirm his choice in us.  

For almost 10 years that little puppy, the one we named Pokey Reese after the 2004 Red Sox 2B/SS and otherwise largely unremarkable player, would become our family member.  He knew only our home and our “pack” for as long as he lived.  On Thursday, 12 December, he passed away from the leukemia that had been diagnosed last year.  We were fortunate that he was a survivor as long as he was, but in the end cancer has its ways of making itself known.

Over the last month, we went from having a largely healthy dog, to a confused little old man, his cancer having spread to his central nervous system.  Eventually, despite some of the worlds’ best care just miles down the road from us, he succumbed to his disease having had a seizure and falling into a coma.

To give an idea of how important and how loved this dog was, today his oncologist called and told us that she had pictures on her phone dating to last year of him and telling us how sweet he was, that she was there when he died and that he was loved.  This is a woman who sees hundreds of dogs and yet, she bonded with my Pokey Reese.  

It’s self serving, and perhaps even egocentric, to say he was loved by all he met, but he was.  He was a special creature, very loving and gentle.  Never fearing an apparent strike to the face, because he’d never experienced being hit.  I trusted him not to bite me, and he trusted that I would never hit him.  Both were self fulfilling prophesies.  

Tonight, his water bowl is empty, his bed alone, and his leaches untouched.  All where they were when we brought him to the hospital for the last time.  He’s no longer suffering, and I have to believe he was suffering, but we are sad for that special little creature we have lost.  

It’s been a little more than 24 hours since he passed onto the Rainbow Bridge and we’re still sad.  I have to believe that we’ll be sad for a while – he was a member of our family for almost a decade.  There’s no more furry friend sharing our bed, or to be put out, or to be fed.  We’re eternally grateful for the additional year we had with him, but eternally sad he’s no longer here with us.

Twenty-Twelve

I know I talk a lot.  A lot about stuff that is full of nuance and from most people’s perspective boring.  I like the intricacies of law, and how things work and fit together; I spend a lot of time thinking about those things.  What I’m not particularly good at is being introspective and being reflective.  

As we near the end of another year, I’ve wanted to be thoughtful, introspective and reflective about the past year.  2012 was a pretty good year – a very good year all together – for my family and me after a particularly difficult 2011; a fitting comparison being the pendulum that swings one way and then to another.

Some things remain: Family-wise, we’re healthy, we’re together.  We have a wonderful home. And we’re perhaps a stronger unit for having followed the journey.  Over the years, we’ve weathered ups and downs – 2012 represented a much needed up year.   

Our beloved family dog was diagnosed with leukemia in November and we feared we would lose him before the end of the year.  Thankfully, we had the resources – including the necessary funds, but not to be overlooked the amazing Tufts Veterinary Hospital nearby – to get him the treatment he needed.  We obviously don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that he has more time left with us.  We are truly blessed to share our lives with this wonderful creature; his diagnosis has made us even more aware of how blessed we are to have him.

Our children are healthy and thriving.  2013 will see the oldest graduate from High School and onto the start of the rest of her life.  We were able to give her the freedom an automobile represents, as well as the responsibility.  She has before her a world of opportunity, which includes a world of responsibility and 2012 has demonstrated that while she’s somewhat reticent about accepting either of those things, she’s demonstrating that she has the capacity to accept them.  

We’ve been able to sustain and improve our home – the only home our son has ever known.  With continued good fortune, it may be the only home he knows for some time.  He has expanded our connections here, 2012 had several people enter our lives because he was busy doing what young boys do – make friends.  I am so thankful for the people and friends in my life, and particularly thankful for my little boy, who shows me every day the power of imagination and the importance parent have in a child’s life – some day he will no longer be a child and the first part of our jobs as parents will be done.  Until that time, though, I intend to love every minute of his childhood.

We were able to share in the wedding of friends who now live a half-planet away.  Through the love and affection of people we consider family, though with entirely different lineages and without true blood relations, we shared a wonderful time with two people who mean the world to us, shared the world with our son, and cemented a bond between our two families I hope will last several lifetimes.  

The last gift 2012 gave us has been each other.  Life as a family has always been challenging, and sometimes people let those challenges pull them apart.  Other times those life challenges are opportunities to do hard work and come together.  So far, we’ve been successful in navigating life’s challenges; it hasn’t always been easy, but it has demonstrated our capacities to weather storms and emerge together.  

Sure, 2012 saw its share of storms, but overall it gave us another year of experience and it gave us so very much for which to be thankful.   2012 represented a year in which the good vastly outweighed the bad; the positive outweighed the negative; and the rough waters never got so rough as to breach the dams.  We should be so fortunate every year.

2012 Boston Red Sox

2012  was an abominable season for the Boston Red Sox – 69 wins, the worst season since 1965 (a season in which the team lost 100 games).  That’s bad.  The 16th worst team in franchise history in winning percentage.  To put that in a little context, this is a franchise with 112 seasons of baseball in the record books – 86% of its seasons have been better.  The only other time the Sox had a worse record in a 162-game season was 1965, going 62-100.

This team gets a bit of a pass however because there have been some truly abhorrent teams in the franchise’s history – the 111-loss 1932 squad; the 107-loss 1926 team; and 105-game losers in 1906 and 1925.  And those were years in which 154-games made up a season.  Exceptionally bad teams, 1906 especially so considering two years previous they had won the American League and three years previous the World Series.

All of which said, let’s mitigate the mitigation: While over the existence of the franchise 86% of it’s seasons have been better,  its the worst season in the last 42% of its existence.  Of the 11-seasons in team history that were worse, 10 occurred in the first 50% of the teams history, from 1901-1956.  Only 2 have occurred in the second 50% of the teams history.

The first year manager of the 1965 squad, Billy Herman, got another year to manage.  The 1966 Sox managed to lose only 90-games – the same number as the 1964 team.  Despite the disappointing September of 2011, the Sox finished with a 90-72 record – a far higher perch from which to fall in one season.  Which makes the 2012 squad that much more disappointing.  Before the crash of September 2011, the Sox looked like a 100+ game winner.  First year manager Bobby Valentine was clearly not coming back for a second bite of the apple.

Going back, the closest drop of that magnitude I can see between two seasons is 1953 (84 wins) to 1954 (69 wins) and then into the 1940’s for an even worse set of contiguous season pairings – 1942 (93 wins) to 1943 (68 wins) unless you want to include the drop between 1946 (104 wins) and 1947 (83 wins).  What makes 1946 so remarkable, and what mitigates 1954 and 1943 somewhat, is that those were 154-game seasons, so the win/loss % is better for 1954 and 1943 than for 2012.

Very disappointing year indeed.

1932 43 111 0.279 64 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1926 46 107 0.300 44½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1925 47 105 0.309 49½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1906 49 105 0.318 45½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1927 51 103 0.331 59 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1930 52 102 0.337 50 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1928 57 96 0.372 43½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1929 58 96 0.376 48 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1965 62 100 0.382 40 Did not make playoffs 9th place in American League
1907 59 90 0.395 32½ Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1922 61 93 0.396 33 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1923 61 91 0.401 37 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1931 62 90 0.407 45 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1960 65 89 0.422 32 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1933 63 86 0.423 34½ Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
2012 69 93 0.426 26 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1924 67 87 0.435 25 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1966 72 90 0.444 26 Did not make playoffs 9th place in American League
1964 72 90 0.444 27 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1943 68 84 0.447 29 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1954 69 85 0.448 42 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1992 73 89 0.450 23 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League East
1945 71 83 0.461 17½ Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1994[d] 54 61 0.469 17 Playoffs cancelled. 5th place in American League East
1961 76 86 0.469 33 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1920 72 81 0.470 25½ Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1963 76 85 0.472 28 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1962 76 84 0.475 19 Did not make playoffs 8th place in American League
1997 78 84 0.481 20 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League East
1987 78 84 0.481 20 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1983 78 84 0.481 20 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League East
1936 74 80 0.481 28½ Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1919 66 71 0.481 20½ Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1959 75 79 0.487 19 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1921 75 79 0.487 23½ Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1908 75 79 0.487 15½ Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1993 80 82 0.493 15 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1952 76 78 0.493 19 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1985 81 81 0.500 18½ Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League East
1944 77 77 0.500 12 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1934 76 76 0.500 24 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
2001 82 79 0.509 13½ Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1911 78 75 0.509 24 Did not make playoffs Tied for 4th place in American League
1935 78 75 0.510 16 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1989 83 79 0.512 6 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1976 83 79 0.512 15½ Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1958 79 75 0.512 13 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1905 78 74 0.513 16 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1991 84 78 0.518 7 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1980 83 77 0.518 19 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1974 84 78 0.518 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
2000 85 77 0.524 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1996 85 77 0.524 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1971 85 77 0.524 18 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1937 80 72 0.526 21 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1913 79 71 0.526 15½ Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1910 81 72 0.529 22½ Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
2006 86 76 0.530 11 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1984 86 76 0.530 18 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League East
1968 86 76 0.530 17 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1957 82 72 0.532 16 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1940 82 72 0.532 8 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1981[c] 59 49 0.535 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1970 87 75 0.537 21 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1969 87 75 0.537 22 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1947 83 71 0.538 14 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1990 88 74 0.543  — Lost ALCS to Oakland 1st place in American League East
1956 84 70 0.545 13 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1955 84 70 0.545 12 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1941 84 70 0.545 17 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1972 85 70 0.548 ½ Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
2010 89 73 0.549 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1988 89 73 0.549  — Lost ALCS to Oakland 1st place in American League East
1982 89 73 0.549 6 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1973 89 73 0.549 8 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1953 84 69 0.549 16 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
2011 90 72 0.556 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1902 77 60 0.562 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1951 87 67 0.564 11 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1998 92 70 0.567 22 Lost ALDS to Cleveland 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1967 92 70 0.567 Lost World Series to St. Louis 1st place in American League
1979 91 69 0.568 11½ Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
2002 93 69 0.574 10½ Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1999 94 68 0.580 4 Lost ALCS to New York 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1901 79 57 0.580 4 Did not make playoffs 2nd place, behind the Detroit Tigers
1909 88 63 0.582 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
2009 95 67 0.586 8 Lost ALDS to Los Angeles 2nd place in American League East (Wild Card)
2008 95 67 0.586 2 Lost ALCS to Tampa Bay 2nd place in American League East (Wild Card)
2005 95 67 0.586 —[e] Lost ALDS to Chicago 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
2003 95 67 0.586 6 Lost ALCS to New York 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1939 89 62 0.589 17 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1986 95 66 0.590  — Lost World Series to New York 1st place in American League East
1916 91 63 0.590  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1938 88 61 0.591 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
2007 96 66 0.592 Won World Series 1st place in American League East
1917 90 62 0.592 9 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1975 95 65 0.593  — Lost World Series to Cincinnati 1st place in American League East
1914 91 62 0.594 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1918 75 51 0.595  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1995 86 58 0.597  — Lost ALDS to Cleveland 1st place in American League East
1977 97 64 0.602 Did not make playoffs Tied for 2nd place in American League East
2004 98 64 0.605 3 Won World Series 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1978 99 64 0.607 1 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1950 94 60 0.610 4 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1942 93 59 0.611 9 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1904 95 59 0.616  — World Series canceled[b] 1st place in American League
1948 96 59 0.619 1 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1949 96 58 0.623 1 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1903 91 47 0.659  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1915 101 50 0.668  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1946 104 50 0.675  — Lost in World Series to St. Louis 1st place in American League
1912 105 47 0.690  — Won World Series 1st place in American League

Public Speaking

I’m a competent public speaker – meaning I don’t think I say “um” a lot (I might) and I don’t get so nervous as to lose my train of thought.  Give me a small group and I’m quite comfortable – it’s well within my comfort zone to be able to present to a group of say 10 people.  I make eye contact, and carry on a conversation on a topic I’m familiar with.  I can be funny and engaging.

Give me a larger group – say 35 – and I’ve lost my comfort zone.  This isn’t to say I stumble over my words, or lose my grip, but it is to say that it’s no longer an intimate conversation.  And I still see maybe a handful of people.  To the point that while giving a presentation this week to a group of people who really didn’t want to be there about a topic that can make people a little uncomfortable, I had someone fall asleep.  And I didn’t even notice.  Because she wasn’t one of the people I could “see.”

Now, I suppose it speaks volumes that I was so engaging that someone decided it was better to fall asleep than to listen – in my own mind I can rationalize that in all kinds of different ways, and besides, that’s not within the scope of this post – but in the end the fact of the matter is that I just didn’t even notice.  

It was no longer a “conversation,” but a presentation.  I’ve never spoken to a BIG group – Bill Clinton or Laurie Ruettimann – but I’ve done a little large group speaking; the one talk of this kind which I’m most proud was the eulogy at my father’s funeral.  But even then, I saw a few faces and was so concerned that what I was saying wasn’t registering with them that I failed to notice the church’s AV system had crapped out.  Of the group of people who came to honor my dad and to support my family, I was so nervous I had only seen a handful.  The larger the group the tighter and smaller my line of vision – almost like looking through a paper tube, where I can see only the few people I focus on.  

I wonder if this is a typical thing, or if its a part of that introvert-pretending-to-be-an-extrovert thing.  I don’t worry about stomping up to be the focus of attention, I worry about goofing up.  When I put myself in position to be a public speaker, I know what I’m capable of presenting and capable of discussing – but inside I think I go through this inner turmoil worrying that I’m going to get a “stumper” question that I can’t answer or just go about the topic at hand all wrong.  Imagining the audience in their underwear doesn’t help – I don’t “see” them.  I’m worrying more about giving the presentation and realizing I’m in my underwear…or worse, wearing the emperor’s clothes.

 

Googling.

In 2006, the verb “To Google” entered the Oxford English Dictionary.  I know this because I googled the definition.  One wonders if “Google” has entered the realm of “Xerox,” “Kleenex,” “Kool-Aid” and “Scotch Tape.”  Its funny how language develops.

“Google” is a thoroughly made up word, a malaprop of “googol” – 10,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000 –  chosen ultimately because the .com domain was available.   It gained its meaning because of the power of the Google algorithms in finding information on the web – their approach was so different from other search engines, it allowed for differentiating names from other entries.  The difficulty of differentiating a product or service to such a degree the best way to describe it is to use its own name in a self-referential cycle.

One might think this would be an exceptional thing for a company – to have its name become so familiar that it becomes part of our everyday lexicon – but to the corporate types it represents a threat to the control of the name.  Quite the conundrum that.

Advertisers spend so much time and money to differentiate their product.  Google spent almost no money and wound up with the same result.

I know, this is old news, but it got me thinking.