Saturday, December 30, 2017

2018: Looking Forward More than Back

I have had two separate incidents in the past week that got me looking backwards. The way I often do it is look year by year. 2006 was the year that I seemed to achieve everything I was hoping for. 2007 was the year I lost it all. It's not a good thing to do, but I find myself doing it. Year by year I summarize my life, lamenting what is lost and feeling that some of my best days are back there.

One reason my best days are ahead.
But are they? I am poised to have my most lucrative year in 2018, making more than I've ever made financially. I have a brilliant young daughter who is developing spectacularly, and a wonderfully supportive wife. I am finding my place in my community, making connections socially, professionally, and politically. I'm even an elected official.

So, I decided to take my usually backward facing process and point it forward. With the predictability
that working with BVM brings me, I can actually map out year by year what things might look like going forward.

If 2017 was the year of taxiing to the right runway and applying the throttle, 2018 will be the year of climbing into the air. I will be in a position to serve my community as I never have before, both through my role on the RTM and through Groton Mystic Neighbors. When the magazine gets to print, it will provide a resource for Mystic like nothing else that exists. It will still be a lot of work to get it up and going, but it will be the more engaging next stage.

2019 will be the year of taking things to the next level. With Groton Mystic Neighbors being a significant part of the community, I'll be able to focus more on service, taking a larger role in Rotary, possibly doing more for the town officially, and maybe being involved in other organizations. I will also be able to rededicate more energy into ConCardia.

2020 will be the year that Rowan turns 6. Much will depend on what she needs as she enters school, but I will be in a position to have the resources to provide her whatever she might need, whether it's more of my time or money for a private school or anything else. She will also be old enough to start to understand some of the exciting things her parents are involved in and start to learn about them.

Of course, there is an old saying that if you want to make God laugh, make plans, and long term plans even more so. However, I am in a position to plan like I have never been before. While it lacks the excitement of the unknown that I enjoyed in my youth, it replaces the unpredictable hope with a steady confidence which serves me much better at this point in my life.

Happy New Year, and may 2018 be our best yet.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Story of a Cat Person

Note: this story is an alternate point of view of Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian in the December 11th, 2017 issue of the New Yorker. Cat Person is a brilliantly written piece that was created with considerable effort and does an excellent job of presenting a very realistic and relatable story. I highly recommend you read Cat Person first. This story was written in one day as a response and commentary. The purpose of this story is to expand the discussion and perspective that has been created by this very popular and excellent story, as well as to explore the mental states that a passionate relationship can create. Ms. Roupenian deserves all credit for any quality you find below. All quotes are from the original story, and this is simply a fair use derivative to expand the narrative.

Robert did not consider himself a lonely man, but he would generally be considered a loner, largely because the whole “people thing” did not often work out well for him. He didn’t understand them well. He had some friends: people he hung out with, gamed with, maybe had a beer with, but no one he was really close with.

He’d dated a few women, but it always ended the same way, with his heart broken and her going off on her merry way, likely happy to be rid of him.

Robert could be described as awkward. The word “aspy” had been suggested, as in describing someone with Aspergers Syndrome, the mildest form of Autism. He didn’t disagree.

This is why he would do things like go out to the movies by himself. He didn’t have anyone to go with, and that was fine. It was him and his cats. It was nice enough. Who needs a girlfriend? Cat’s never break your heart.

He liked the artsy theater downtown because it had the movies that most people were too stupid to understand, and he liked to go midweek because there were less of the morons there who came the movie but came anyway to impress their equally moronic girlfriends, ruining the experience by fiddling with their phones all night.

He approached the concession stand and ordered his customary large popcorn and box of Red Vines, largely oblivious to who was behind the counter.

“That’s an… unusual choice,” the concession-stand girl opined. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually sold a box of Red Vines before.”

He suddenly noticed the young, bubbly girl behind the counter. Probably because you’re too busy on Instasnapping and Facetweeting to notice what you’re selling, he thought to himself. He was used to people making fun of him for this or that, but didn’t expect it here.

Not knowing what to say, he said, “Well, O.K. then,” and pocketed his change, heading to his seat and trying to put it out of his mind to enjoy the movie.

The next week he came back to the theater. The same pretty young girl was there behind the concession stand. He asked for another box of Red Vines. She handed it over without commentary this time.

“You’re getting better at your job. You managed not to insult me this time.” It never hurt to show some appreciation when someone did something you liked. He’d heard that somewhere.

In the split second between when he finished speaking and when she replied, he had that feeling that he had maybe said something he shouldn’t have. Wasn’t sure exactly what. He had said the truth. But some people got offended by that.

“I’m up for a promotion, so…” she shrugged.

She did seem offended. Was that a joke? Was she engaging in banter with him? Sometimes he bantered online, especially in the role playing rooms where he could adopt a persona. It was easier online. He had time to think. Time to be witty and clever. Never done it in person.

These thoughts wandered through his head throughout the movie. The movie was in French anyway, so he didn’t really follow it. He’d heard that some people got along so well that awkwardness fell away. He’d seen these kinds of people on TV, of course, but when Aaron Sorkin writes your lines it’s easy to be clever. He’d actually known some couples who were like that. Alex and Joanna, for example, two of his gaming friends that bounced off each other like a comic duo. Could this Concession-stand girl be his Joanna?

He was still half lost in thought when he left the movie, so he quite surprised himself when he heard “Concession-stand girl, give me your phone number,” come out of his mouth. He was more surprised when she did.

Friday, December 8, 2017

How We Fail Most Children

I have always been passionate about education, more specifically, the fact that most Americans reach adulthood lacking most of the soft skills that are required for great success in our culture and economy.

I attended a well funded, highly rated high school from which I went to an excellent university, and I came out with a cum laude degree and almost none of the skills or knowledge that I would need to be successful beyond academia.

It is no mystery what I needed to know, nor are they difficult skills to teach: business planning, goal setting, salesmanship, networking, and the like. Furthermore, I was fortunate to have learned that our economy is such that opportunity still exists and that you need to know to look for it. Too many young adults do not know this, which is why some of the best minds of my generation are flipping burgers or working at the mall.

With the birth of my daughter, I have given a great deal of thought to this over the past few years. Knowing that the education system will fail to provide her this array of skills and knowledge, how will I supplement that education to prepare her for success?

The juxtaposition of a number of interactions with particular people and groups this week has reminded me that this is a much broader problem affecting almost every young person approaching adulthood, but that there are resources which could be mobilized to help.

The fundamental problem is that education has been structured by experts who are focused on the acquisition of knowledge who lack expertise in how that knowledge is executed to create results in adulthood. The focus has become testable knowledge: accountable, concrete, useless. We can talk about test scores doing this or that without recognizing that many high achieving students become low achieving, unhappy adults.

The solution is simple but not easy.
We must teach our children that opportunities exist if they are bold enough to seek them.
We must teach them the basic skills for success in adult life: networking, salesmanship, grit and resilience, goal setting and achieving, and business concepts such as marketing, bookkeeping, and the like.
We must teach them the value of entrepreneurship, whether in terms of running their own business or simply thinking of themselves as the masters of their own commercial destiny rather than drones in a vast capitalist machine.

These things are not difficult to teach, and the first step would be to teach them to the most motivated to learn: the top and bottom students. The top students are eager to learn and succeed and they desire to know how to succeed at the next level. At the other end of the spectrum, many very intelligent students drop out, burn out, or tune out because they have not learned these things, and they would benefit the most from them because the lack of this knowledge is why they have disengaged from the educational system.

They could be taught in afterschool programs. They could be taught as courses in school. They could be directed independent study projects. There is a variety of options, but it must be done. An entire generation of millennials have fallen into adulthood, saddled with student loan debt, unprepared for a dynamic and changing economy, and we are all suffering for it.

This can be better. Together we can find a way.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

On Gratitude

Related image

Gratitude is a deconstructed element of faith. Some of the happiest people that you will ever meet have a profound and and deep faith in some form of God. I don't mean the people who wave the Bible around and tell you why you're a sinner. I mean those people who just seem very serine all the time no matter what is happening; as if they have read the last page of the novel and they know how all of this will turn out.

A life of Gratitude is a key part of this serenity. Anytime something happens in your life, your emotional reaction to it is only loosely connected to how good or bad it is in reality. If you get a promotion and a raise at work, you can see it as a very exciting thing or you can see it as a whole lot of extra work with only a little more money. If you lose your job, you can see it as a disaster or you can see it as an opportunity to find something better.

Gratitude is crucial to being able to control the difference for yourself. Being grateful is not just something that "good people" do because they should. Gratefulness is something that you do because it is good for you.

I mention faith because most people have encountered faithful people who give thanks to God no matter what happens. If they are starving in the woods, and have nothing left but a handful of trail mix, they will give thanks to God for that trail mix. What would most of us do? Probably be upset that we're out of food and about to starve.

But think about the difference this could have in your life. How many blessings do you have every day that you don't even think about.
  • If you are reading this, you are blessed to have access to the Internet, giving you access to all the assembled knowledge of mankind. 
  • You either have your eyesight, or some other method to read. 
  • If you live in America or another developed country, you live in relative security with a level of technology that was science fiction just 20 years ago. 
  • If you are able to work then you have health that allows you to do so.
But what about when bad things happen. How can you be thankful for that. Let's say you lose your job. It is reasonable to be angry or anxious, but the anger and anxiety will pass more quickly if you can get to a place of gratitude. What might you have to be grateful for?
  • You are now free to find a new and better opportunity.
  • You gained certain skills and experiences which are now yours to capitalize on.
  • You may have friends and connections through the last job.
Many of us go through our lives in fear and anger. Upset about this and worried about that, but what if, instead of looking at everything that might go wrong or has gone wrong, we look at what has gone right? Think about how that would change your average day. 

Think about the posts you make on social media. Are they negative or positive. What if you made just one more every day that expressed gratitude for something? What if you made an effort to thank someone every day for something they had done in your life? Imagine the difference this slight change might make.

I write this article aspirationally. I often find myself focusing on what I have lost rather than what I have, and it does not bring joy. Perhaps, starting today, we can start down this road of gratitude together. I can start by thanking you for reading this article.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Talk Politics Like a Salesman

What do I think? Well,
what do you think?
A good salesman has no political opinions. Well, that's not true. They have opinions just like anyone else, but they are not going let those opinions get in the way of a sale, and that means that you are unlikely to learn anything about them in a sales context. In fact, should you start talking politics to a salesperson, you might even come to think that they agree with you politically.

In my years of selling, I have encountered a great many people whose politics I disagreed with. Some radical left, some radical right, many radically wrong on basic points of fact. My job, however, was to sell, not educate, so I said a lot of "hmmmm" and "interesting" and "wow."

An interesting thing happens when you are listening to people espouse their political views but you cannot argue or disagree: you actually find yourself listening. Not agreeing, but at least understanding.

You come to understand a few things. First, everyone wants what's best for our country. They have different opinions on how to get there, different views of the size of the pie to be shared, different concepts of economics and justice, but the goal is still to find what is best.

You also come to see that many opinions are the result of the source of your information. If a person gets all their information from a place that claims that the Republicans are all Russian spies or Democrats are all socialist revolutionaries, their opinions on issues will follow. You will also find that when you are able to compare sources of information, that you have a great deal of common ground with most people.
This advice is also excellent for avoiding duels.

So, I encourage you all to try this exercise: next time you find yourself in a conversation about politics with someone you disagree with, approach it like a salesman. Say as little as you can about your own beliefs. Ask specific questions about how they learned that and explore their beliefs. Try to find common ground.

You will be amazed just how much you can hear when you are trying not to talk.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

6 Ways to Achieve Your Dreams - That Most People Won't Follow

There are many people out there who have very fulfilling jobs. Their jobs align well with their skills and interests, paying them a good salary while giving them a sense of fulfillment. This article is not for them. It is for people who want to be them.

Chances are that there is something you are very good at. Maybe it's a craft or artistic skill like leather working, composition, or music. Maybe it's a knack for understanding where people are coming from and what they are thinking. If your best skill is not a core component of your job, then you are likely underpaid. If Steve Jobs got a job as a house cleaner, he'd get paid what a house cleaner does.

1. Look Broadly at Your Skills
Many highly talented people assume that the skills that they have are not marketable. Maybe you make leather armor as a hobby. When you search Indeed for "Armorer" there's not a lot of listings. However, it takes a variety of skills to be a good armorer. Three dimensional thinking, knowledge of materials, tools and often mechanical skills, aesthetics, color design, etc.

Break down your one big skill into smaller skills, then consider who gets paid to use those skills. I suspect that the skills of making armor and reupholstering furniture and vehicles are similar.

2. Know Your Limitations (Probably Less Thank You Think)
"Be reasonable and know your limitations" is some of the worst advice you can give someone, especially a young person. Not because it's not good to know your limits, but because telling someone to know their limitations is like telling them to know how to fly. Left to their own devices, everyone will get it wrong. When you were young, you probably had people saying something like this to you about knowing your limitations, but you thought you knew better. You thought you were unlimited, so you tried to soar... and you probably crashed and burned one or more times.

This convinced you that the nay-sayers were right, and you went from overestimating you abilities to underestimating your abilities. The irony is that while you were trying to do what turned out to be impossible, you were learning and developing skills. You are now more capable than you were before, but, believing that your detractors have been vindicated, you accept the limits they placed on you when you were younger.

When I talk about this, I'm not just talking about you, I'm talking about myself. I came out of college thinking I could do anything. I opened a game store and proceeded to make no money for five years. In my arrogance, I did not think I needed to study, so I did not learn (until much later) what I would have needed for success. That experience gave me the skills to succeed, but it also drained my confidence to try again so boldly, keeping me from putting those skills to use for many years.

If you find yourself looking at your dreams and not pursuing them because you are not good enough, then I'm talking to you. You're probably better than you think, and even if you are not, you can probably get good.

I say probably because there are some things that can never be overcome. If you want to join the NBA and you're 5'1", then you might want to think more broadly. Maybe Baseball might be a better sport. However, if it's a matter of lack of skill and talent, then remember that dedication and humility will overcome natural talent every time.

3. Know What You Want to Do
Part of "knowing your limitations" often involves settling. Maybe you are a seamstress and you wish you could make fine wedding dresses, but you believe that it beyond you, so you put it aside and follow a career path that takes you in a different direction.

If someone were to ask you what you want in your next job, you'd say "more money, better hours, benefits." But the truth would be that what you want in your next job is to be one step closer to creating beautiful dresses. Most people never achieve their dreams because they don't take a single step towards them.

4. Yes, You Can
In response to what I'm sure you just said to the last section, yes, you can. Whatever justification you just offered is probably an excuse (unless you're 5'1" and want to play for the NBA).
There's no jobs in my area in that industry.
I don't have the skills.
I don't have the experience.
I don't have the contacts.
I can't afford it.

Any of those sound familiar?

Some reasons are legitimate, but many are excuses. All to often, we look at one path, determine it will not work and give up completely. If you were driving to Boston, and I-95 was closed, would you just give up and go home, or would you find another road?

Skills can be learned. Experience can be earned, either through work or even volunteer opportunities. Don't have time to volunteer? Is it that you really don't have time or you prioritize other things over your dream?

Need contacts? Go make them. Don't know how? I wrote a book on the topic.

The point is that whatever obstacle you have that keeps you from doing what you say you want to do can be overcome if you are willing to make some sacrifices to do it.

5. It's Closer than You Think
Often, all that you need to take a step towards your goal is one good connection. Just one introduction to someone who knows about that one job opening or apprenticeship opportunity. This comes back to that excuse of not knowing the right people.

Chances are that in the circle of people you know, there is at least one person who either is the connection you need or could introduce you to them. How do you find them? You put in the work. Have you made sure that everyone who knows you knows what you are trying to do? If not, how would they know to help you.

Once you have spread that message, it's time to go person to person. Talk to everyone you know individually and tell them what you are trying to achieve. Tell them whom you are trying to meet and ask them if they'd be able to help you. If they are your friends, they should be glad to introduce you to someone, and even if they are just acquaintances, most good people are happy to lend a hand. Think of the reverse. If an acquaintance asked you for an introduction to someone you knew, would you do so? Probably.

But first, you must believe that what you are trying to do is possible. You have to approach it with an attitude that you will find what you are looking for. It's only a matter of time. This confidence will show and make people more comfortable recommending you to their friends and contacts.

6. You Have At Least One Contact Who Will Help You
Don't think you know anyone who can help? I guarantee you know at least one. Reach out to me, and I'll be happy to talk you through what you need.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Man Got On the Train This Morning

This morning, I got onto the 5 train to go Downtown, and this guy gets on the train and starts speaking like he's at a podium. My first thought was that he was selling Jesus, but he wasn't. He was selling a book he had written.

His name was Randy Kearse. He had gone to prison for 15 years when he was younger, and he spent the time locked up preparing for when he would get out and change his life. He told us that he had his own publishing company and every eloquently invited us to look at his book.

Of course, no one looked up except me, but I bought a copy of his book. I wanted to read the story of a guy who was gutsy enough to walk onto a crowded train and just open up a sales pitch.

It got me thinking. This guy was in prison for 15 years, and now he's a writer who has apparently sold 75,000 copies of his books doing exactly what I saw this morning. I've never been to prison. I've got a college degree. I'm a little short on excuses today.

Then I thought about this past weekend. I went to Steampunk Worlds Fair, and Amy and I ran ConCardia, the Info Desk and the Merch Table. ConCardia, in 5 years has grown from an unplayable game I printed on my home printer to a fixture at the largest steampunk event in North America. I had some really awesome people having cards to give out in the game, and a lot of people really enjoyed it.

You see, this is important because my job has been wearing me down. I have not been terribly successful in what I am supposed to be doing, largely because I have not been able to do things that way I feel that they should be done. I have internalized this, started to doubt myself, started to think that maybe I don’t have what it takes.

Oh really? I have what it takes to get a quite a few bands, some awesome reality TV folks, and one very clever magician to be excited about my little card game.

My first job sales job was 1996. I chaired my first convention in 2001, and opened my first business in 2002. In 2003, I was a co-founder of the Come Again Players who still perform to this day. In 2005, I led the transition of a struggling game store into a volunteer run collective that successfully operated in various forms for 12 more years. In 2006 I co-founded Pi-Con which ran for most of a decade. I created the Connecticon Info Desk department. I have led sales training courses and written a (unfinished) book on networking.

I have been in sales, marketing and entrepreneurship for 21 years. My sales skills are old enough to drink. I know what the fuck I’m talking about.

So, if I analyze the data and develop a sales plan, I know a little bit of what I speak. If I present the plan, and you shoot that plan down in favor of a plan that my two decades of experience say will not work, listen to me when I say it’s the wrong choice or don’t blame me for the results.

I have the experience. I have the skills. I have the drive. I merely await the opportunity to put it all together and once again show the world what I am capable of.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What I Learned From Changing Train Stations

It took me almost half of a year to solve a very simple transportation problem, and the reason it took so long is instructive in how we look at problems and their solutions.

Since November, I have been commuting to New York City one day a week. I live next to New London, so it made sense to get on the train at the New London station, but there was a problem.

If you are not familiar with Connecticut shoreline geography, New London is about 130 miles from New York City. The Metro North line runs to New Haven, and Shoreline East runs from New Haven to New London (sometimes).

Source: Google Maps
I would take the 5:50 train from New London, and I would sit at a nice comfortable table on the Shoreline East train all the way to Stamford, then take Metro North to Grand Central and a subway to the office. 3.5 hours, but most of that time is productive working time.

The problem is when I go to return home. I kept missing the train in New Haven that got me home at a reasonable time, so I had to take the 9:00 train and get to my car at 10:00. Thus, my day that began at 5:50 AM finished up around 10:10 PM. Not optimal.

I kept thinking that I just needed to catch an earlier Metro North train, but it turns out that I'd have to leave the office a little before 4:00 to catch the earlier New London train.

One of the 5:50 New London trains I rode.
It had been suggested that I drive to Old Saybrook, which has more trains, but it seemed silly to drive 25 minutes then take a train for 3 hours, when I could spend 3.5 hours on the train and have half an hour more productive time on the train. (I'm writing this article on the train, for example.) And, so, I got home super late every Monday night, exhausted and drained.

The solution, as it turns out, is simple: drive to Old Saybrook, catch the same train that goes to Stamford, then on the way back catch one of any number of trains to Old Saybrook and get home two hours earlier. Simple. Easy. Duh. How'd it take half a year to solve this problem?

I was trying to solve the wrong problem. I was trying to solve:

What is the most efficient way to get from New London to New York by train?

The problem I should have been solving was:

What is the most efficient way to get from Groton to New York?

You see, I don't live in New London. I live in Groton, one town east of New London. I thought I had the problem partially solved, knowing that the train left from New London, so I didn't reexamine that part of the puzzle. It's a matter of mental efficiency. We don't tend to look at the parts of the puzzle that are already solved. Why would we?
Train selfie on the Shoreline East

In life, often, what appears to be an effective preliminary step is not, and we need to reexamine the underlying "solutions" that we are basing our ultimate solutions on. By stepping back to the original question and away from the assumptions I had developed, I was able to conclude that Old Saybrook was the place to catch the train. I lose 25 minutes of working on the train, but I gain about 2 hours at home. Pretty good deal.

Next time you are struggling with an intractable problem, be sure that you are framing it correctly. Are you starting from assumptions, or are you starting from the raw situation? This will make all the difference.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Incomprehensible World

A bit of a rant, if I may.

I am coming to understand the mindset of one who votes for a candidate who promises to "tear it all down." My life is dominated by forces I cannot control or understand. All the big ticket necessities (phone, car, etc) require multi-year contracts that I cannot understand for service/products that I don't know how they will work until I'm locked into them, which, predictably, usually disappoint.

My car is ergonomically built for something other than a human, thus it causes back pain, and my phone service from T-mobile is awful. Apparently, I have been *leasing* my phone, which means that after paying more than the phone would have cost to buy, I must return it at the end, and rather than paying $150 for early termination, early termination would have cost over $600. All of this was described in a contract which I was not given the opportunity to read before signing.

I owed thousands of dollars in taxes last year, and, after increasing withholding for both of us, we apparently are on track to owe thousands more this year.

In trying to start a business, I have more or less resigned myself to the fact that at some point, I will make some unforeseeable error that will run afoul of some tax code or some regulation which will result in a level of fines that will bankrupt me.

Marauding gangs of thugs can be seen and fought. They can even, sometimes, be reasoned with. They can be prepared for, defended against, and, even if they destroy everything you care about, you at least know what happened and why. 

When the government determines you owe thousands of dollars in taxes or an insurance company tells you that you owe thousands to the hospital, it is a force of nature that cannot be resisted. But, what is worse, is that you feel like you should be able to do something about it. You can read the rules. You can read the contract.

But who has time for that? Who knows which rules to read? Who can afford to consult a lawyer to read it for them?

Of course, I don't support candidates like Trump, not because I like the system, but because I know that, rather than tearing it all down, he will just build it up even more and make it even worse.

And I don't support anarchists because, much as it seems appealing to be dealing with marauding gangs rather than the fear of bureaucracy, the fact remains that the constant danger of sudden death for myself and my family, really is worse than the lingering fear of the taxman or the insurance man or any other Man serving me with unpleasant papers.

In other words, my mindset is certainly growing closer and closer to that of the Trump voter. Only my understanding of the world makes me not like them. Worse, it means that I understand just enough to know that I really should be able to grasp this all but not actually enough to be able to do anything about it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ultimate School Choice

I attended a well funded, well rated, well equipped high school. It was a "good" school. but I managed to get through four years of education achieving honors without learning most of the skills that I would actually need to succeed.

This good school failed to teach me financial literacy, how to find a job, interview skills, sales skills, marketing skills, or any other business skills. I did not learn these skills until my early thirties. This good school failed to teach me anything I needed to know. And the lack of these skills proved costly to me. Very costly indeed.

I'm not saying that every school needs to teach business skills, but parents should have the choice to send their children to a school that teaches business skills, or art, or theater, or science.

I actually don't think that most school choice proposals go far enough. I believe that the free market would be an effective solution. Complete school choice, allowing a broader standard for schools to be created, some of which are not hampered by standardized testing. Each child has a dollar figure attached to them, and parents send their child to the school of their choice, period. The good schools thrive, the poor schools close, leaving a fine building for a better school to open in.

With a diversity of schools, there will be a diversity of admission standards. Some will want test scores. Some will want entrepreneurship. Some will want artistic skills and auditions.
Imagine if a local community of 200 parents could join together to open their own school run by people they choose, teaching the curriculum they prefer. No more neglected schools run by distant boards. Every child the same value. This would be possible because the funding would exist.

Some ask about kids who need special education. Note than many learning disabilities are only disabilities when forced to learn the same way as everyone else. With a diversity of schools and styles, many who would be "behavior problems" or "learning disabled" at a normal school could thrive at a different kind of school environment.

No plan is perfect. Neither is this one. This is not a matter of Democrat or Republican. It's a matter of creating new forms of education for a new economy. Even the best public schools are failing their students, and there must be something better. This is the best I can think of.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Win and Lose By the Rules of the Game

Like him or hate him, if you're an American,
he is your President.
I see a lot of liberals claiming that Trump didn't really win the election because he lost the popular vote. You see this #notmypresident hashtag. And this really bugs me.

I'm not a Trump supporter. I didn't vote for him, and I think his administration will be a negative experience for many people, especially already disadvantaged populations. A lot of the people who are so upset about his election have good reason to be so upset.

But he did win.

Some of this may have its roots in 2000 when there really was shenanigans: votes being "misplaced", miscounted and a legitimate doubt as to who was the legitimate winner. 2016 is not that. The votes are pretty clear, and, under the rules that were in place, Trump won.

Look at it this way. The other American past time, besides half of American convincing itself that the other half will destroy us all every four year, is Baseball. In Baseball, you win by getting the most runs. But what if we have a game between the Red Sox and the Yankees and the score is:

Red Sox - 5 runs, 12 hits
Yankees - 3 runs, 18 hits

You have to touch to hard pentagon thing to score, not the
soft square one. See, I know sports.
I don't know if this scenario is mathematically reasonable, but it's an example, so roll with it. No one would say, "well, the Yankees really should be called the winner because they got the most hits. They got more men on base and maybe even advanced more bases, so they should be the winner."

Of course not. The rules say that the most runs win. If you don't like it, then maybe you should create a new game called Buntball in which the most hits win, and runs mean nothing. But even if you created Buntball, you can't say that the Yankees would have won if they were playing Buntball because you would play Buntball totally differently than you'd play Baseball. You'd be pushing for hits instead of runs, and that's a different strategy.

Same thing in electoral politics. In the Electoral College system, it's by state, so if you aren't going to win a state, you don't compete for the state. You save your resources. In a Popular Vote system, you would compete for every vote, everywhere. Clinton would have needed to campaign in the deep red country. Trump would have been out in upstate New York and Western Massachusetts (not the Pioneer Valley, the rest of it) and Eastern and Northwestern Connecticut.

Would he still have won? I cannot say. But the way the race would be run would be entirely different, so the outcome would be different.

While I hate to say "You lost. Get over it," or more accurately "We lost. Get over it," the fact is that's the case. We lost. Get over it.

That doesn't mean that liberals should just give up and go home and wait for the next election. It means the opposite. It means that we need to stop wasting energy whining about what already happened and put our energy to the changes we can make.

The midterms are 22 months away. It's not too soon to start recruiting and supporting candidates.

Many important decisions are made at the state and local levels. Do you know who your state and local representatives are? That seems like a better investment of energy than complaining about an election gone by.