Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spread Too Thin

Thinly Spread

That seems to be my modus operandi these days.

It’s true right now at work.

It’s true right now at home.

It’s just that there are so many exciting things happening now that I find myself a part of.

Spare time is such a commodity. One day it will be sold – I am certain – on a global trade exchange. Sell your free time to someone else so they can relax while you do their work.

I think the smartest investment of the future will be to purchase robots – highly skilled machines that do your work for you – where you send them out to earn your living for you while you sit back and collect their pay cheques.

I really need a robot.

My lovely wife Darlene would like a robot – that much I am sure of. Our little girls aren’t very good at being housework robots – no matter how we try to re-program them. Likely we are using the wrong programming language – with words like responsibility and teamwork and duty. They prefer languages that result more in monetary and consumer rewards.

I’m afraid I don’t know those “Object-Oriented” languages – I prefer “Objective Oriented languages myself.

You know – that’s not really a bad idea.

I know the Japanese companies like Sony and Mitsubishi have some models that do housework.

“So how was your day today X15-R Model 39?”

“Blip blip Beep.”

“Well, rest over there by the recharging bar and I will reset your rotors and run some diagnostics … you like it when I reset your rotors …”

“Blip Bleep”.

My problem is not a problem really. And I certainly don’t say this braggingly – but almost despairingly.

I’m an idea guy.

If I come up with an idea, I can’t rest until I test the waters of the idea. And if the waters reply back with successful response – I then either saddle myself or get saddled with the work of engineering and driving the idea to a successful completion. A realization.

The same is true when others express an idea to me – one that I see real value in – one that the idea spawner can’t carry through with on their own. After I describe how the realization of their idea would come about – I find myself again saddled with either parts of realizing the solution – or taking the whole concept over – ensuring the idea spawner is still recognized as the genius behind the idea.

And in these exciting times both in my professional and personal life – ideas are coming to fast from all over the place – and I am finding myself spread too thin to devote the attention that each deserve or required to succeed.

Sometimes the idea is solely to automate a manual process – and therefore requires the inclusion of multiple skilled people – all to participate – and move in the same direction that I am trying to point them to.

Those are the easy projects.

Mostly these days – in my personal life anyway – my projects all seem to be more a creative collaboration of sorts.

And I struggle with those “what’s in it for me” responses.

Because more often than not – there is little to nothing in it for me … let alone the other person.

Those idea projects don’t usually fly to well, and I am left saddling the whole task myself – or with the assistance of my lovely wife Darlene – who is as quick to jump on board as I am … most of the time.

The problem is that I just can’t move forward after hearing or coming up with a great idea until I test those waters. It gets stuffed in my head until I perform some sort of action towards it to either realize of discard it.

It’s kind of like why I write headstuffing.

“Well, if that’s the case Fred, then why do you let yourself get caught up in all these …. Ideas?”

Because the satisfaction of seeing an idea realized is so personally satisfying. That alone is the reason to do it. And to know you did it very well. And to know that somebody out there benefited from your efforts – somebody who really needed the help – that is where the thrill in the end comes from.

That’s why it is so difficult to be spread so thin right now.

There’s no reward in seeing a great idea realized and come to completion poorly. It’s like a failure.

But there are only so many hours in a day. And now that it’s summer time in the northern hemisphere and daylight lasting to nearly 9:30 at night as we just passed the summer solstice – the days have gotten longer. And sleep time has gotten shorter.

Perhaps one day one of these ideas will really click – really catch on. Perhaps if I ever finish my book – or see one of my other personal objectives reach their desired result – I might be in a position to hire a staff.

You know – start a think tank – a group that could attack all of these ideas – and perhaps ideas of much grander scales – to drive them through to real completion.

To make a real difference. All the time. Making big strides instead of being content with “baby steps”.

That’s what we’re all here for really … don’t you think? To enhance the common good?

To make a difference.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Baseball Dad

Baseball is a big deal at our house.

It has been since I was a little boy.

No matter where we were going, the ball equipment always sat in the trunk of our car – at the ready – should we pass an empty ball diamond along the way. And if we did, the car pulled over to the side, the equipment bag came out of the trunk, and we would hold a quick infield practice.

That’s just how my Dad was.

He was an excellent coach – and his forte was teaching technique. Acquire the basic skill, and then master the technique.

The one break-through day I clearly remember was when Dad taught me how to charge a hard hit ground ball so that you catch it just as it hit the ground – taking the ball just as it came up – eliminating for the most part the possibility of the ball taking a bad bounce and going by you.

That advice really worked.

That was when I was eleven years old.

Up until then, I would simply sit back on the ground ball and snag it as it came by – most often with success – but that waiting time both allowed the runner to move further up first baseline meaning he would beat my throw more often.

After I learned that technique of Dad’s and mastered it as an eleven year old, I made the all star team at short stop or second base every year after. It made such a huge difference.

I see a lot of coaches teaching the principle of charging the ball these days, but they seem to forget the point of taking the ball on the short hop.

He also spent a lot of time teaching us the individual techniques of hitting, all those little things like the proper stance – spending hours positioning us at the plate – and how the timing of shifting your weight from your back foot to your front foot so that your bat strikes the ball at the exact moment your weight shifts – allowing you to hit the ball hard with your weight rather than with your arms – and how to snap your wrists right at the point of contact to optimize your leverage and transferring twice the power of your weight into the ball. All these individual points of technique that when put together with keeping your eye on the ball and being able to tell a strike from a ball as it leaves the pitchers hand – add up into one beautiful swing that hits line drives over the infield and perhaps over the outfield every time.

That was my Dad. He knew baseball. He coached baseball. And he coached coaches how to teach these advanced fundamentals.

But nothing really clicked for me until I turned eleven – when my muscle and hand-eye coordination started to really allow me to apply these techniques. Until then, I never really felt like I had control – control of the ball as I threw it like my Dad taught me – control of the heavy bat as I tried to move it through the plane of the swing – control of my feet and my body as I went back for a long fly ball looking over my shoulder and watching it all the way into the webbing of my glove.

At age eleven – I gained the coordination of the muscles in my body to do what I was thinking – and what I was thinking came all that training.

Now I am a Dad. Not nearly as good a Dad as my Dad when it comes to baseball – or softball – as Alannah and Ashley-Rae are nine and ten years old. But I am trying.

But next year, Alannah turns eleven. And I am hoping her muscle coordination “kicks in”.

Friday Night – the Turtle Club team they play for was facing Windsor West – at Mic Mac Park – under the lights for the first time ever. And the girls were excited – and the Windsor West team was a good team with decent pitching.

Alannah hit a line drive right to the girl playing short stop – who caught it. Later – with girls on second and third hit another line drive up the middle and scored two runs. As well, Ashley-Rae ran out a close play at first to be called safe.

Later, Alannah in right field (all players rotate positions each inning to be fair to all) – a hard line drive was hit up the first base line – just inside the bag – a fair ball – and Alannah took off to chase it down. As she reached the ball the runner was turning first and heading full speed for second – and Alannah picked that ball up with her bare hand and threw it on a rope to the second baseman Danielle – hitting her glove perfect as the base runner ran into her glove for an out.

It was great.

Our Turtle Club team lost that match 9-10. But it didn’t matter.

There are signs that both are on the verge of their coordination “kicking in”.

Dad would be so excited.

And now, just starting right now, we can start to carry that equipment bag in the car, and stop and hit ground balls and take batting practice and work on all of these techniques my Dad taught me.

At least that’s what I hope will happen. Like I said earlier, I’m not as good a Dad as my Dad was. And it’s harder with our schedules now to find the time to just have fun anymore.

I can’t find any time to play golf – but maybe baseball will be different.

That all being said – my Dad could be a tough coach – insisting that you try – and repeating the same things over and over again each time he slammed a ground ball …

Get up on balls of your feet and off your heels

Keep your head down on the ball … it won’t hurt you

Charge that ball harder and keep that glove down

And sometimes my brother Paul and I would get plain frustrated – and we would say mean things to him. And sometimes we quit.

But Dad always inspired us to get back out there and try even harder.

I don’t know how all that repetition and frustration will play out with Alannah and Ashley-Rae – but we will see. They’re good girls and they really do love softball and want to learn more … but they both get frustrated very easily. And they cry … girls cry. I don’t remember me and Paul crying playing ball. Maybe we did.

But Dad was patient. More patient than I think I am.

I’m not as good a Dad as my Dad was, you see.

First Tee Jitters

Well, it finally happened.

It’s near the middle of June. It had to happen sometime.

But yesterday it finally happened.

I played my first round of golf.

No practice. No driving range. No putting on the living room carpet.

I just showed up to play golf.

In a tournament.

No, not a fun best ball drive around in a cart drinking beer with your buddies tournament.

This was a tournament for our local zone. Playing with a partner, our combined scores would have to be good enough to qualify and advance to the district tournament in July. And from there, the regional, and from there the provincial. Qualify there, and you go on to the national tournament.

I’ve known about playing in this tournament now since March.

But there is little time for golf now, with being so busy at work, and my new responsibilities to our local Legion branch. And of course there’s the girls softball schedules and all star try outs. That leaves me very little time for golf.

Or much else, really.

When I arrived at the local course in Windsor to register, I met my partner for the first time. Larry looked the part of an avid golfer, black pants and red shirt, weather beaten golf hat and worn glove. Looking at Larry I knew I had the advantage of a good player for a partner.

The combined scoring format meant Larry was counting on me to pull my share of the load. I felt ashamed as I introduced myself to Larry. But as we shook hands, Larry confided to me that this was his first round of the year too. He stopped on his way to the course to hit a bucket at the range to try to get his swing back.

I didn’t even do that. And I told him so.

I explained how unprepared I was to Larry. Larry simply smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it”.

We paired up with another pair to make our foursome, a couple of seniors from another branch in our zone. These guys –further advanced in their years – were both retired – and both played every other day.

Oh dear.

We were the first foursome off the tee – the starting foursome. This of course means the whole tournament would be standing there watching us – judging us – as we teed off. A group of forty or so ambitious golfers would be standing there watching me take my first swing of a golf club since last September.

What was I thinking?

Our foursome was called to the tee, and as I was I was putting on last year’s old golf glove, Ian of the other pair said to the crowd “Show us the way there Fred”.

Now I’m scared.

I pulled a brand new ball out of my pocket with a tee, and as I bent down to put the tee in the ground with the ball on top of it, I felt my knees shake. I moved the writing on the ball so that the words “Titleist” pointed down the line I was aiming to the left side of the fairway.

I was sure to slice the first drive of the year. That is if I even hit the ball. I might just dribble it off the tee box to the white tees just ahead of me. And this crowd would all laugh at me.

I stood up and took one practice swing as I stood behind my ball looking down the fairway to my target. I could hear the mumblings in the crowd – small talk amongst themselves – as I approached the ball – taking one final swing with my left arm only to get a feel for the weight of my driver.

The mumblings in the crowd stopped as I addressed my ball, slightly behind my left foot and gave the club a final waggle.

The silence was deafening. But the thoughts in my head were so loud I thought everyone in the crowd would hear them.

“you can do this … nice and easy swing … don’t lift your head … bring that right hand over … “

There was no wind. The air was still. The crowd was silent.

I drew back the club and it felt good. My club head was in the right place. I came down through the ball pulling hard with the left arm and bringing the right hand over exactly as I struck the ball, I watched the tee do a couple of flips in the air as I followed through.

Then I looked up as I followed through – in that pose one takes after hitting a drive. It felt great. But the sky was grey – and my ball was white – and I couldn’t find it in the sky.

But it felt great. Where was it?

Then I heard the crowd behind me. I heard “Nice shot”, and “it’s drawing nice” and “he got all of that one” … but I still didn’t know where it was.

As I picked up my tee, and turned to join the crowd so that a player from the other pairing could hit his tee shot, I saw smiles in the crowd and nods of approval from the other golfers. “Nice shot” said Larry as I stood beside him.

I leaned over and in a whisper I said “I lost it in the sky. I have no idea where it went”.

You’re about 280 down there – just past the one fifty marker – in the first cut off the fairway”, and he offered his fist for me to punch with mine.

When Larry hit his, he blasted it down the middle – and the ball took a bad bounce and ended up in the first cut on the right side. We were side by side on opposite sides of the fairway. Ian and Dave – the other pairing in our foursome - were side by side in the middle of the fairway – Ian playing a big slice – and Dave hitting straight as an arrow. But both were some fifty yards behind us.

As we got into our cart to drive away, both Larry and I breathed a sigh of relief in unison, and we both laughed.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it”, said Larry.

“I was trembling the whole damned time”, I confessed.

“Yeah, I know – I saw your knees shaking”, replied Larry. “Mine were too, but I’m wearing pants”.

We qualified to go on to the District tournament in July. But we didn’t shoot great. I had a nine on one hole, but I put together a string of pars and a birdie to offset it later in the round. Larry played bogey golf with the odd double. We only beat the other pair by one stroke. They qualified as well.

Later, drinking beers after the round, I confessed my terror on that first tee box to all at the table.

“You didn’t look scared to me” said Ian.

I saw your knees shaking”, said Dave.

But I’ll be playing and practicing before we go play District in July.

And I might just wear black pants like Larry instead of shorts – no matter how hot it is.

I don’t want them seeing my knees shaking at District.

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