The Cynics Workshop

Where I can try to influence the world, one word at a time.

Month: March, 2012

Athletic Greed

I’m a big sports fan, have been for years.  As March Madness (the greatest 3 weeks in sports) winds down, I am however painfully reminded of the disconnect that exists between college and pro athletes.  There is a beauty that comes with watching college athletes, even high school athletes, as opposed to the pros.

The beauty that exists is obvious to me…its desire, it’s a will to get something, it’s the need to play for something.  When I watch college athletes, I see them play with a fire that I rarely see from the pros.  These guys are playing to impress, they are playing because they still have another level to ascend.  Once they hit the pros they will be rewarded with a fat contract, and almost without exception, as soon as they sign on the dotted line, their will and desire seem to vanish.  What more do they have to play for?  They now have enough money to last them for many many years (they will of course blow most of that on cars and a house big enough for every person in their family (going back to the Paleolithic era).

There are of course a few exceptions, but to find a professional athlete that still plays with the heart and will of a little leaguer is rare.  I know someone who said that the pros are where great college athletes go to die.  I would have to agree with that.   The main problem that I see here is that this problem doesn’t seem correctable.  You can get into the debate about whether or not we should be paying collegiate athletes, (I think we should give them some type of payment or stipend), but I don’t see how you can create will in a person.  It’s possible for great players to inspire others, and to make average players better (see Michael Jordan and his effect on Scottie Pippen), but it takes each and every person on their own to want to win, and to want to give their best each and every game.  I was an athlete when I was younger and there was nothing I hated more than to lose.  Unfortunately not everyone shares that same philosophy, and that’s what separates the good ones from the great ones.

If you’re an athlete and you seemed to have lost the will or desire to want to win, then you should retire.  If you find you’re playing for the wrong reasons, it’s up to you to remove yourself from the game.  You need to remember that you are an adult getting paid to play a kids game, and that there are a lot of people out there that would trade places with you in a second.  Remember why it was that got you into the game in the first place, remember the joy and jubilation you felt when you played the game as a kid, and most importantly, see the looks on the faces of the kids watching you from the crowd.  Know that you being joy to a lot of people, but also know that we can’t stand watching lazy overpaid adults walk through the game just to collect a paycheck.

An Eye for an Eye

We have a real problem in this Country with people stealing things, and with people hurting other people.  We also have a problem with over-crowding in our jails.  I think I might have a solution to both those problems.

I read an article a few weeks ago in The Economist about a documentary being made in Pakistan.  The film, called “Saving Face”, is allowing women who have had terrible things happen to them finally speak publically.  More specifically, the article spoke of one woman who after years of abuse at the hands of her husband, finally filed for divorce.  As she was exiting the courthouse, her husband threw battery acid in her face, causing her to lose one of her eyes. 

Pakistan has a similar problem that we do, an inadequate judicial system.  What do you suppose happened to that Pakistani woman’s ex-husband?  The answer was that he was actually sent to jail (for 14 years) thanks to a new law.  Do you think justice was applied?  I for one can say that I do not think justice was served.  I am one of many who believe that acid should be thrown in his face, an eye for an eye.

What should happen to someone who is found guilty of stealing something?  My answer is that their hand should be cut off.  Does it sound barbaric?  Well then ask yourself if you think it would curb crime.  Is it going to completely eliminate crime, no, there will always be stupid people walking around, but I guarantee it will cut down on it…no pun intended.

I know what you’re saying now, “so we would have less people in jail, but more people walking around with one…or with no hands, right?”  The answer to that question is yes.  So what happens to someone who has been caught stealing twice, and thus having been left with no hands?  For one thing, they just made their life a lot more difficult.  As far as how they survive, how they work, how they contribute meaningfully to society, well that’s their problem.  The tough answer is that they should have thought of that before stealing.  If they aren’t able to make it, if a lack of hands means they can’t work, so they lose everything and end up on the streets before ending up in the morgue, well that’s called Natural Selection.

What’s the alternative?  It’s the current system, we put them in jail, spend our tax dollars to try to reform them before letting them out and hoping they don’t commit another crime.  Hope is not a strategy that I like to employ.  Wouldn’t you rather see your tax dollars go to more meaningful uses within the community, like improving our schools, our infrastructure, or to put more police on the street?  Or would you rather see your tax dollars go to give the guy who stole your car 3 square meals a day, and access to a gym and a library for a few years?  We need to find a way to make penalties stiffer for criminals, because as long as there are repeat offenders out there, that is a sign that our judicial system is too lenient.  Pakistan has an excuse; they are a third world country…what is our excuse?

A Note to the Casual Train Rider

As a frequent passenger of commuter trains, I feel I should pass along some common sense rules to those of you who are not frequent riders of the rail.

1 – Do not talk on your cell phone.  I put this one first because it is the rule broken most often.  Just because you have 45 minutes where you are sitting in one place, absent of a television, doesn’t mean you should take that opportunity to reach out to every one of your family members.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of listening to a one sided phone conversation for 45 straight minutes, I advise you to ride the train more often.  If you do feel the urge to blab on your phone, please adhere to one of the following two suggestions, either talk as soft as you possibly can, or go stand by the doors so no one has to hear you.  Trust me when I say, your life is not as interesting as you think, and pretty much everybody who is not you does not want to hear anything about it.

2 – Put your cell phone on vibrate.  This one is dedicated to the yahoo who sits next to me who lays claim to the musical interlude courtesy of Felix Mendelssohn whenever someone calls them, not to mention the fact that whenever they get a text message, I have to listen to cathedral bells go off like I’m sitting in a English Church.

3 – When you walk down the aisle, it is not necessary to hit everyone on the shoulder with your luggage.  Apparently the only people, outside of the regulars, that ride the train are those who are headed to the airport for a seventeen week European vacation.  Judging by the size of some of these suitcases, Jeffrey Dahmer could have fit half of Milwaukee inside of them.  It is ok to leave your suitcase by the door, and then pick a seat that is 4 feet away.  Your suitcase weighs 55 pounds, no one is going to tuck it under their arm and make a break for it.

4 – Turn your music down!  Just because I am sitting in the same row as you, doesn’t mean I need to hear Jimmy Buffet sing Margaritaville.  Yes I have an iPod too, but I prefer to read on the train, if I wanted to listen to an iPod, I would listen to mine.  Don’t worry; I’ll have the last laugh.  If you’re dumb enough to listen to your music at those levels, then you obviously don’t know that continued exposure to loud noises will eventually ruin your hearing.

5 – Know not only what stop you want to get off at, but when we are scheduled to arrive at that stop.  Unless you are a 25 year old blonde, chances are I do not want to talk to you.  This means that I do not want to be hassled by you at each stop asking “what stop is this?”  When the conductor comes by to take your ticket (yes this is normal), simply ask them what time we are scheduled to arrive at your stop, then look at your phone (which you should not be on simultaneously having another conversation about what temperature the meat loaf should be on), and proceed to do some simple math with your smart phone calculator.

6 – Your ticket only entitles you to one seat.  If you naturally take up more than one seat, then you need to examine your eating habits.  For those of you who can fit in your size sixes, there are overhead racks that are designed to hold your make-up cases and shopping bags filled with shoes you don’t need.  For the younger generation, the seat across from you was put there to hold another passenger, not for you to rest your weary 22 year old legs.

If you find you break any one of these rules, please make some changes in your life.  It is important to remember that many of us who ride trains often are creatures of habit, so we like to sit in the same seats and we do not like to be disturbed, unless someone is dying…and even then it is debatable.  Lastly remember this, your life is not that interesting, and neither are you.  We do not want to talk to you, unless you are a 25 year old blonde, nor do we want to hear you talk to anyone else.

“Well Patrick…young Pa…

“Well Patrick…young Pat, I’m a farmer, born and raised on a farm, and I’ve hunted all my life. And I’ve…had Springer spaniels with short hair {that} could hunt like hell, and I’ve had long-haired Springer spaniels that coundn’t hunt worth a damn. But you know, when I found one that could hunt, I didn’t give a damn whether his hair was long or short, I just wanted it to hunt.”

-Lyle Setencich-
Linebacker Coach, Arizon State University (1995-1996)

This quote (found on page 177) comes from one of the best books I have ever read, Boots on the Ground by Dusk, My tribute to Pat Tillman, written by his mother, Mary Tillman.  Pat Tillman had just been moved to Linebacker from Safety when he walked into Lyle’s office, who was the new linebacker coach.  The two had never met before when Pat (who had long hair), walked into his office and and says “hey, are you the new linebacker dude?”  Lyle responds by saying “yeah, I’m the new linebacker dude.”  Pat said, “well I hope you know your shit because I want to be good.”  Lyle responds by saying “son, I know my shit.”  Pat asks, “what do you think about my freakin hair?” which was down to his waist.  Lyle then responded with the above quote…

 

Do we still need unions?

There was a time in this Country when unions were very important to our development, when they fought to protect the rights of their workers, when they instilled fear and trepidation into the hearts and minds of the managements they went up against.  Today they are a mere shell of what they once were, with union managements looking out for themselves more than the members they were elected to represent.  Gone are the days when they would fight for equal rights and fair treatment, now they are overrun with greed and selfishness and exist for no other purpose than to be the monkey in the proverbial wrench.

The origin of unions’ can be traced all the way back to the 18th century.  We were a society that was growing rapidly and we needed more bodies to sustain our appetite for goods and services, so employers looked to put women and children to work.  We needed to put something in place to protect their rights and so unions were born.

Today however, we are not living in an era where people lack the ability to self-govern themselves, at least to a certain degree, and we are certainly not living in an era where people lack the ability to go out and do their jobs with a reasonable degree of competency.  So why do we need elected officials who are in charge of negotiating their working terms for them?  Why can’t someone get hired for a job, be offered a competitive salary and fair working terms, and then go out and do the job to the best of their ability?

The answer is that we are and will always be living in a society where people will look out for themselves first, and others second.  If that is indeed the case, are union leaders and unions they work for still effective?  Labor laws exist today to protect the unlawful employment of underage children, and women seem to have their rights protected just as men do.  It would then seem that unions are no more than fraternal orders that collect dues to shake up already stable environments.

I once worked alongside a union member who would consistently do work that was less than average.  When I asked him if he was afraid of being fired, his response was “no, the union will find me another job.”  I was I my early twenties when that encounter occurred but I could still spot a person that didn’t care.  To me, his union had help to breed a lazy person that didn’t care about the work he was doing because he knew that instead of being fired, he would simply be shipped off to another job site.

In 2008, Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of D.C. public schools attempted to make some radical changes within the D.C. public school system.  One plan of note was that she wanted to offer teachers larger salaries in exchange for removing teacher tenure, versus offering them smaller pay raises with tenure rights retained.  The union leaders who are usually in favor of change and shaking things up, failed to even bring this motion to their constituents, they voted it down on the spot.  Why if unions exist to protect their workers was that motion not brought up for a public vote?

Teachers are one of the few professions that I know of that virtually guarantee’s you a job, in some places in as little as three years.  Were the union leaders afraid that their constituents would vote down that motion and then they would perhaps see some of them let go, which would ultimately mean that they could lose a re-election?  Whatever the reason was, the unions failed.  It is not their job to be a parent to the union members; their job is to offer advice but then to let the member decide for themselves on a course of action.

Unions have run their course in this Country; we are no longer a developing nation that needs to be babysat in every aspect of our lives.  We already have one set of elected officials that are inept at their  jobs, we don’t need another.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin (or a 4 pound pork shoulder)
1 (12 ounce) can of root beer
1 (18 ounce) bottle of your favorite bbq sauce

Directions:

Place the pork in a slow cooker; pour the root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6-7 hours. Drain the root beer, then stir in the bbq sauce…then serve.

5 minutes of prep, 7 hours of cook time, days of enjoyment!

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