Friday, January 26, 2007

Random thoughts

1. How can a state believe in capital punishment, but not spanking?

2. Does anyone besides me absolutely love those new "un pimp your auto" Volkswagon commercials? They make me want to be a fair-skinned, light-haired, blue-eyed, non-rapper who talks with a funny accent. Oh ... I guess I already have four of those criteria covered and people who aren't from around here might already think that I talk with a funny accent. I guess those commercials were made for people just like me.

3. Did y'all know that I can now ocassionally beat Little David in ping pong? I'm so proud.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Committee on Committees

I have been described as many things: crotchety, old, cantankerous, cranky, and that is just from my sister. Of course, I think she is just jealous because I spend my days hanging out with 18-22 year olds and am in essence way cooler and more up-to-date than she is. She, after all, hangs out with people who are one urine test away from the big house. I will admit, however, that I am not the type who enjoys social events. A friend of mine, who is very much a social animal, says that when he talks to his wife about going to an event, the first thing she asks is if there will be other people there. That’s kind of the way I feel. I’m much more comfortable in small groups where I feel in control of the situations.

So how did I end up on the “hospitality committee” at work? Another “friend” of mine decided it would be moderately humorous to nominate me for the committee. I know that in a job situation like this, we are all expected to serve on various committees, many of which never meet or do anything, but I’m not exactly known as the best party planner for social events. My standard phrase is, ‘I don’t like dealing with people,’ which explains perfectly how I ended up with a career in public relations.

It’s not that I don’t like the other people on the committee. They are all nice people and I get along with them very well, but I just don’t feel that party planning is one of my strengths.

However, as I sat through a meeting of the committee on Monday, I began to wonder how certain things would get done if I hadn’t been there. I went to the meeting expecting it to be a short affair concerning decorating for our winter employee banquet which was only five days away. That is how the meeting started as we sat around discussing things like tool, chargers and votives. I’m still not sure what a votive is or if I even spelled it correctly, but I was shocked when I discovered they were not talking about hardware.

It was during this course of discussion about decorations when someone broached the question: What are we doing for entertainment? Need I remind you we were only five short days from showtime. The reply to the question was even more interesting: Well, I was thinking we could ask Amy, one of our students, to sing.

Now, I am not a party planner, but I do work on deadlines and I understand the need to give people an appropriate amount of time to plan and prepare. This was apparently lost on all but one other member of the committee. We were meeting five days before the event and no one had planned the entertainment.

As we sat there, the group began making grand plans for how Amy could do this or do that at which point I, being the only person in the group who actually knows Amy, said, “Wait a minute. You can’t count on anything yet. This is extremely short notice and Amy might have other plans.”

The concept seemed lost and suddenly I realized why it makes me so angry when people ask me to produce and eight-page table piece and have it printed and ready to go by next Tuesday – they just don’t get it.

As it turns out Amy is free on Saturday. She is a gracious young lady and said she would be glad to perform and she will do a wonderful job. I won’t get to see or hear it, however, as I have somehow managed to double-book myself and I just can’t seem to get away to enjoy the social event of the year. Aww Shucks

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Crime and Punishment

Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned discipline? My wife is a school teacher in the public school system. It’s little more than a glorified day care and we wonder why our education system is in such a mess. Teachers really have little control over what goes on in the classroom. Unruly students and litigious parents drive the policy making. There’s just no such thing as good, old-fashioned discipline -- unless, of course, you happen to be a coach at a private institution of higher education where you are free to discipline your charges as you feel led.

Our women’s basketball team has been up and down this year which is a vast improvement over the constant state of 'down' to which these young women aspired last season. They are very talented, but at times seem to lack the drive and focus it takes to be competitive. I would say they have more raw talent than most of the teams in our conference, but have yet to actually believe in themselves.

Last Saturday, as an arctic ice storm blanketed our area of West Texas, our young ladies played the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. After falling behind by 18 points at the half, our team fought back and controlled the second half. We lost by six, but the second-half performance was one to remember and hopefully build on.

So how does our team respond to their strong performance? By showing up late for practice on Monday. Not all of them were late, just three. But when you only have eight players to begin with, that is a significant percentage of the team. As a result, the coach wasn’t in a good mood and decided to take it out on his players.

Each week, I make a point to stop by practice and watch for a little bit before interviewing our coaches in order to prepare a special PR related newspaper page for the local media. This day was no different, other than the fact that the coach had something special planned.

I arrived at practice just in time to hear him outline his discipline program, and it was not pretty. To get a better understanding of what the team was required to do, you need to understand our gymnasium. The court is a sunken court, so in essence our gymnasium has two levels with the majority of the seating on the upper level. Seating is on either side of the court and the gymnasium has the capacity to seat 3,000 people.

In his little exercise the coach required the players to sprint up to the second level, around a corner, then sprint up to the top of the upper level seating area. They would then walk across to the next isle, walk down the steps, sprint to the next isle, sprint up the steps, walk over to the next isle, walk down, then sprint all the way to the other end where they entered the seating area, sprint down the steps and run a lap around the court where they would stop and do 20 pushups. They were then required to repeat the process on the other side of the floor, this time doing 20 crunches upon completing the lap around the floor.

… And that was one circuit. The players who arrived on time had to complete five circuits. The players who were late … 27, one for each minute. I sat with the coach and watched as his team began the drill. About 30 minutes into it, the player who finished first, a great young lady with an excellent attitude and work ethic, you’ve met her before, finally completed her five circuits. As they ran, the coach sat there and contemplated the rest of the day. His original plan was to practice from 1-2:30 and give the players a chance to rest their legs after the weekend’s tough games. His new plan was a little more intense. The girls ran from 1-3 p.m., then had to return at 6 p.m. for practice. And after practice, “they are going to run some more,” he said.

While I sat there contemplating mortality and how a drill like this would easily send me to my grave several times over, I realized that the chances of any player showing up late for practice again were exceedingly slim. And if one were looking for a way to adjust someone’s behavioral patterns, this would probably do the trick.

It's a shame you can't do this to ignorant fourth-graders ... or better yet to the parents of ignorant fourth graders. After all, isn't adjusting someone's attitude what punishment is all about?