4 Thoughts on Tonight’s All Star Game

1. Too many Cubs.
Four Cubs will start tonight for the National League. Originally five were in the lineup, but Dexter Fowler is injured. Five of eight starters were Cubs. Seriously, five of eight.

Here’s the thing about Cubs fans: because of superstation WGN they are everywhere, and in disproportionate numbers, especially for a team that posted 59 losing seasons out of 107 since they last won a World Series.

Yes the Cubs had the strongest start in the MLB, but they have lost 14 of their last 20 games. More importantly only one of those starters, Anthony Rizzo, clearly deserves the position. The others were outperformed by players receiving fewer votes. Some, and I’m looking at you, Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler, put up weaker stats than several of their colleagues.

Which brings me to…

2. Change the selection process. Please.
The fan voting process is ridiculous. I understand the value of involving fans, but why not let the fans choose the last few players after the starters and reserves have been chosen by the experts – coaches, players, and sports writers? And while they are making changes, how about each fan getting one vote? The current system, with fans choosing the starters and each fan getting 35 votes, results in many voters simply selecting players from their favorite team. It’s a nearly meaningless popularity contest.

Give the fans a smaller role. The resulting teams will be better, fairer, and more meaningful for the players. Keep the rule that each team sends at least one player, though. Team inclusion is at least as important as fan participation.

3. The whole home-team-advantage-for-the-World-Series thing.
While I understand the motivation for this move (former Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to make the game matter), and I remember the ugly mess that was the 2002 All Star game (which ended in a tie after both teams ran out of pitchers), it makes no sense for players who may have no relationship with the ultimate league champions to determine home team advantage in the World Series.

For that matter, the old method of alternating between leagues every year wasn’t fair either. The team with the best record deserves home field advantage, the way it’s done in basketball and hockey. If cities can be prepared to host playoffs for those sports, why is baseball any different?

4. Ugliest uniforms ever.
What was with those All Star uniforms in last night’s Home Run Derby? Brown and yellow with a font from the ‘60s? Yikes.

Enjoy tonight’s game. And may the future games include the best players and have no impact on the World Series. Oh, and Go A.L.!

Hopeful news for Meet the Press fans.

Good news from Politico:

http://www.politico.com/playbook/0814/playbook14952.html

EXCLUSIVE: “MEET THE PRESS” plans to announce new moderator soon: CHUCK TODD is the favorite

By MIKE ALLEN | 08/11/14 9:08 AM EDT
SIREN: Chuck Todd, a political obsessive and rabid sports fan, is the likely successor to David Gregory as moderator of “Meet the Press,” with the change expected to be announced in coming weeks, according to top political sources. The move is an effort by NBC News President Deborah Turness to restore passion and insider cred to a network treasure that has been adrift since the death in 2008 of the irreplaceable Tim Russert. Although Todd is not a classic television performer guaranteed to wow focus groups, his NBC bosses have been impressed by his love of the game, which brings with it authenticity, sources, and a loyal following among newsmakers and political junkies.

Gregory’s next move is unknown, but he’s unlikely to remain at the network – a stunning turn for a quick-rising star with a broadcasting polish and on-air versatility that once made him a natural candidate to be a future “Today” show host. It’s unclear whether Gregory or Todd knows about the big move, likely to be in place before year’s end.

The sources caution that nothing is definite or decided. “Meet” once dominated Sunday mornings, but ABC’s “This Week” – with 31-year-old Jonathan Greenberger as executive producer — has scored ratings wins with an increasingly eclectic lineup that emphasizes zippy packages over long interviews. CBS’s “Face the Nation,” with down-homey Bob Schieffer anchoring, has also scored ratings wins as “Meet” struggled.

Chuck, 42, now wears three hats for NBC: chief White House correspondent; host of “The Daily Rundown,” at 9 a.m. weekdays on MSNBC; and political director. The Miami native, an alumnus of George Washington University, was editor in chief of The Hotline when it was the mustest read for political insiders, and is as passionate about Miami Hurricanes college football as he is about campaign dynamics.

@ChuckTodd Twitter bio: “Political junkie; @NBCNews reporter & analyst; @msnbc @dailyrundown host; Covering politics since ’92; And, yes, I tweet about sports too.”

Some helpful info for Illinois voters

Capitol Fax (and the Dem Governors Assoc) with some info on Rauner and his condescension toward voters. I actually watched several minutes of his speech starting where they suggest (the 44:45 min mark), and found many more of his statements prettey outrageous, including points he makes about both Romney and himself.

* The Democratic Governors Association is trying to gin up the animosity toward Rauner…

As Chairman of GTCR, Bruce Rauner was a central figure in the formation of ConvergEx. As news breaks that ConvergEx’s CEO will be added to the list of Rauner’s indicted business associates – Rauner is again trying to distance himself from the CEO and the company he formed.

The truth is the that GTCR’s investment model includes picking company managers and management strategies. But Bruce Rauner is banking on the fact that you won’t understand how he made this money through private equity.

Rauner actually said, “Your average voter will never understand what private equity is and I’m not going to try to explain it too much. They’re not going to know.”

http://capitolfax.com/2014/08/08/todays-quotable-20/

and there’s this as well:

rauner vs marriage equality

 

 

 

 

rauner against marriage equality

rauner against marriage equality

We Are the Frogs

 

Cars drives though water on road.

Driving to meet a friend for dinner, I noticed puddles on the main road. Nothing significant, they weren’t deep (yet), but they were surprisingly large given the fairly light rain earlier in the day. Although no more rain was forecast, I began constructing alternate routes home in my head in case the rains came anyway and streets did flood (again).

I live in suburban Chicago, not a third world country, not a low-lying coastal town, yet here I was plotting emergency directions home because of a few large puddles.

That’s when it hit me. We are the frogs. That old warning, made more famous by Al Gore in his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” felt real. The premise is that a frog placed in boiling water will try to escape. But if the water is tepid and heated slowly, the frog will become accustomed to the temperature changes and fail to perceive the danger, eventually boiling to death.

images

Isn’t that about where we find ourselves today with climate change? We hear about a hurricane nearly destroying New Orleans; a super storm in New Jersey causing $65 billion of damage, rendering more than 30,000 homeless, and killing over 150 people. News programs and documentaries tell of melting glaciers, raging wildfires, droughts, and changing weather systems that alter migration patterns and destroy habitats.

But, like all politics, almost all credible evidence is local. Just a few weeks ago my 19-year old son called me as he drove late at night after a rainstorm trying to find a flood-free route home. A year before that as I tried to take my youngest son 3 miles to his high school for an early baseball practice, we drove for 90 minutes, finding every possible path to the school underwater before we gave up and searched out a relatively dry way back home.

In our area, what we used to call “100 year floods” now arrive once or twice a year, flooding basements and turning short neighborhood drives into hours-long hunts for passable streets. Seeing rolled up carpets, soggy electronics, and damaged furniture piled at curbs along our suburban streets has become the new normal.

Yet rarely do we hear anyone outside of activist groups and op-ed writers talk about the looming threat. When will we, along with our friends and neighbors, prioritize working on solutions?

Hearing a description of our current environment 20 years ago, we would have pictured a dystopian work of fiction. But we are living in it. Now. And I don’t want to be one of those frogs.

Don’t cry for me, guys.

I am a city person. While I enjoy a walk along the beach or through a botanic garden, I prefer exploring towns and cities. My husband and oldest son love the outdoors, camping, and living among nature. My idea of camping is a cheap hotel.

So every summer when my husband’s family vacations in the north woods, I stay home while my husband and sons join them in their musty, not-large-enough cabin for a week of outdoor adventures, slimy lake water, and bugs.

The week alone in my house has become treasured vacation time. Women get this; men do not. Over 15 or so years, I’ve heard a similar reaction from every single woman I’ve told about my “home alone” vacation:

“I’m so jealous.”
“I would kill to have my house to myself for a week.”
“Oh my God, you are so lucky.”
“How did you swing that?”

Men, on the other hand, all respond with some version of:

“Wow, aren’t you lonely?”

When I share the mens’ reaction with women they laugh. Hard. And often add, “NO I am not!”

I’m not sure why women enjoy time to themselves more than men do. I suspect one reason is that women who are moms get little time off when they are with their children. Many a mom has complained of spending family vacation time doing laundry, cleaning up, and sourcing meals. Not being responsible for anyone else’s needs becomes a rare treat, whether we are at home or on a beach. I love visiting beautiful places and spending time with friends and family, but staying home with just my own books, to-do lists, projects, and food to deal with is its own kind of bliss.

So don’t worry about me, guys. And fellow moms, don’t hate me because I have a week of peace. Especially since I’ll spend most of it finishing projects, working, and getting organized, until everyone comes home and our house and my life return to their normal state of chaos. At least my husband will do the musty, dirty, buggy laundry.

August 1 memory

The first of August always reminds me of this quirky Harry Nilsson song, Rainmaker.  A Pied Piper-esque tale of a selfish town that refused to compensate a man for his invaluable services, it resonates even more to my adult self. The music and lyrics are fun too.

Nilsson – Rainmaker
From the 1969 album ‘Harry’, this song was a joint effort between Nilsson and William Martin. It was originally recorded in mid-1968 and was issued in a radically different mono mix with slide guitar and one less verse (and it was slightly sped up).

November 22

I am among the youngest who remember JFK’s assassination.  My kindergarten class was gathered in our daily circle singing songs and listening to stories when we were interrupted by the principal’s voice over the public address system.  The president had been shot and killed, he told us, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson was being sworn in as President.  I remember picturing Johnson as a younger, handsome man (my 5 year old mind assumed a VP must be younger than a President, and weren’t all Presidents good-looking?) and being shocked when I saw the real new President, a weathered Texan who looked older than his 55 years.

Because I was so young, the actual memories mix with the endless video replays until I’m not sure what I witnessed live, but I remember watching so many iconic TV moments with my mother on our lone living room TV.  Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, the funeral processions, John John’s salute.  All so long ago, yet seared in our collective consciousness whether we saw them live or many years later.

Now my sons share a similar universal memory of September 11, 2001. One was also in kindergarten. It makes me wonder if each generation is doomed to share at least one horrific moment. And it makes me hope, against all logic, that their generation has seen its last one.

Getting the Politics Right

Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist I’ve had the (mostly) displeasure of reading over the past 30 years in publications from The New Republic to TIME Magazine, to the Washington Post, is a writer with whom I almost never agree and I generally find neither compassionate nor insightful. Imagine my surprise – shock even – when I saw him on MSNBC’s Morning Joe last week and he articulated, better than I ever could, my own philosophy.

Krauthammer just published a collection of selected essays from his 33-year writing career. Initially he planned to focus on, as he said, “the fun stuff, the interesting stuff, the elegant and the beautiful stuff in the world” including “the innocence of dogs, the cunning of cats, the beauty of a perfectly thrown outfield assist. There’s a column on the proper uses of the F-word.” While I know many political writers and pundits share my love of baseball (what is the connection between politics and baseball anyway? It’s amazing how many political junkies  share a passion for baseball), I was surprised to hear that his top four topic mentions were frighteningly close to what mine might be. (And by the way, the only good use of the F-word is as an adjective ending in
-ing).

But as he began putting his book together, he realized he couldn’t omit what really mattered. He felt compelled to include his thoughts on a force that drives the ultimate direction for our lives, our country, and our world.

“…I realized you can’t do that, because all these things,
all the beautiful and elegant things, in the end depend on
getting the politics right. You can have the most flourishing of cultures,
you get the politics wrong, and you’ve got Germany 1933,
you get China during the cultural revolution…in the end,
politics is the…wall which keeps away the barbarians.”

Politics is the wall that keeps away the barbarians. It’s also the philosophy that moves us toward helping those in need, educating our children, ensuring citizens have access to adequate housing and health care, and guaranteeing that we all share the benefits of equal rights and equal opportunities. Or it can be the philosophy standing between the people and those benefits. Getting the politics right, as Charles Krauthammer said, is all. Getting the politics right, in the end, drives nearly everything that matters to us.

I could say that when I thought about how I wanted to spend my free time, I considered all that and decided to become a political activist. I could say the same about choosing a subject for my writing. But neither statement would be honest. My time and my writing took their own direction without any active decision-making from me. I work and write to communicate the messages and encourage the actions I believe are important for others to be aware of, to think about, and to pass on.

In the decades I have read and listened to Krauthammer, I can’t recall ever agreeing with his political positions, although I have enjoyed some of his personal stories. But with his statements on the critical role of politics, he spoke to me.  He was “killing me softly,” as the Roberta Flack song goes. On that political point we could not agree more. You have to get the politics right. And even though, in my opinion, Krauthammer rarely does, I’m grateful to him for spreading the word about the tremendous importance of the discussion.

Generation Next

DSC_2005_2One of the paper photos I still carry with me, even with a lifetime of photos immediately phone-accessible, is of my adorable 3-year old nephew. He’s looking down at his fingers while his bowl of blond hair falls just above his eyes. He was the first person who made me want to be a mom.

So how can it be that he’s 30 and about to be a dad?

It must have been 5 or 6 years ago I distinctly remember packing a box of baby gifts – a Gund bear with flat eyes that couldn’t be pulled or chewed off, outfits made for ease of diaper changing, black and white toys, a Pat the Bunny book – for him. I hate to sound all Sunrise/Sunset, but I don’t remember growing that much older – when did they?

I’ve successfully denied getting older for quite awhile. Turning 40 didn’t bother me – I threw a party and enjoyed being surrounded by friends who shared my journey. While turning 41 was a bit of a shock (yes, the numbers get higher after the big ones, you don’t just stay there), I navigated the next decade with aplomb, immersing myself in kids, school, sports, and work. Even turning 50 never felt horrific, and the party strategy worked once again to divert my attention (I highly recommend this approach).

55 is a bit disturbing. Denying middle age is no longer remotely plausible, and 55 definitely rounds to 60. AARP stalks my mailbox. I’m seeing wrinkles. And, between highlighting sessions, some grey hair. Our youngest will leave for college next year. All the signs of serious aging are there, but nothing that has stopped me in my tracks.

Until now. My nephew got married a few months ago to a wonderful woman. When my brother asked me if I liked his son’s fiancé, I replied, “She’s smart, funny, beautiful, went to Brown, and teaches special needs kids. What’s not to like?” Their wedding celebration was lovely, beautiful and low-key, perfect. We were all so happy and excited for them.

Of course I couldn’t be more thrilled by their news. And they will be great parents. I only wish we weren’t 900 miles away.

But wow. My baby nephew is having a baby. And while he’s certainly old enough to be a dad, and I am old enough to be a grandmother let alone a great aunt, a new generation is arriving that I thought I still had a couple years to prepare for. While this is so not about me, I’m starting to feel old. I remember, in my late teens, beginning to identify more with parents than children, and how odd that felt. Now, even though I remain in a stage of active parenthood with 2 in college and one in high school, is it time to identify more with grandparents? I’m pretty sure I’m not ready for that.

I’m looking forward to becoming a great aunt, and to carrying a new photo of my little nephew – with his own little boy or girl. I’ll keep that one on my phone. But I’ll keep my old paper photo of that adorable 3-year old too.

The Nice/Smart Matrix

As anyone who provides a service knows, clients can be a pain. While working for my Worst Client Ever, I tried to figure out what made these folks exponentially more challenging than the others. Their fatal flaw, I concluded – and I’m talking about their whole team, not just one jerk – was that they added no value.  They were neither nice nor smart. That day a new theory of human worthiness was born for my colleagues and me, and I’ve found it applies far beyond the workplace.

Our first choice, of course, is to surround ourselves with those who are both thoughtful and intelligent. Smart folks tend to contribute more valuable insight, advice, and results than do the less smart among us. They expose us to new ideas, they challenge our thinking, and they make us better at whatever we’re trying to do. We’d also take the nice guy over the not-nice one. No one enjoys dealing with a colleague, client, or neighbor who’s mean, inconsiderate, or rude, and nearly everyone appreciates caring and consideration.

nice-smart graphic

But we don’t all fit in the Nice/Smart box and, as always, there are tradeoffs. I’m happy to work with those who are smart but a bit socially clueless (Not-Nice/Smart). Their insightful analysis or creative solutions help move a project, or a client’s business, forward. Many super-achievers, like Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, might be found in this quadrant. Of course if their not-niceness is extreme, their personality issues may negatively impact the usefulness of their work and their recommendations. In those situations a Nice/Not-Smart team member might play a schmoozing role to compensate for colleagues who lack skills in managing relationships. Both these types add value, and we benefit from and appreciate their contributions.

All of us love people who are Nice/Not-Smart. While they may not be the ones we choose to debate world issues or discuss literature and philosophy, they’re often our favorite lunch dates, golf buddies, soccer mom friends, or board member colleagues, not to mention cherished family members. Similarly Not-Nice/Smart folks help make our town and school boards more effective or keep us current on issues or provide helpful advice in their areas of expertise.

Then there are those in the Not-Nice/Not-Smart quadrant. What about them, you ask? They make us miserable. They cause stress, bad decisions, unfortunate results, needless pain and suffering. We dread dealing with them, and they likely need more help than we can give them as friends or colleagues. Unless the relationship is one in which recommending counseling is constructive and appropriate, they are best avoided.  My Not-Nice/Not-Smart clients wasted time and money and wound up with a weaker plan because they lacked both people skills and judgment.

So that’s my handy tool for understanding who is worth your time, and why.  When someone drives you crazy you can use the matrix to understand what value he or she brings to the party. If you’re fortunate, you’ll realize that most of your contacts fall into the Nice/Smart quadrant, and those who don’t provide beneficial insight (smart) or needed diplomacy (nice). If you’re not so lucky you can at least identify the Not-Nice/Not–Smart folks more quickly. And run.