Information Dumped 2020

Happy Fourth of July! By just about anyone’s standards, 2020 has been, in the Coach Hays Dictionary of Colorful Terminology, a shit storm. Coronavirus, politics, racial tensions, police brutality, immigration, cancel culture, etc. The list just keeps growing. You in the mood for a fight? Mention any of the above topics in certain crowds and watch the verbal tirades begin. Better yet, post on social media about the topics and let the feed explode.

We, as Americans, have never been more at odds, more unhappy, angrier, and/or more anxious than we are in 2020. Why?

I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know all the reasons and details. I only know that each and every one of those things that cause America 2020 to turn on itself and attempt to destroy itself from the inside out can be solved. Our problems are not, in any way, shape, or form, beyond the capabilities of our American Spirit. What we need is a way to focus and come together to solve problems instead of creating problems.

We need a crash course in team building. We need leadership. We need to build a better Team America 2020. We also need the most vital thing for the nation’s health; the necessity to get a handle on our data.

I hear you out there either saying or thinking “WTF, Hays? Data is our problem? Really?” A few of you might even be throwing your electronic device at the 8” x 10” glossy printout of my Coach Hays Gameface avatar displayed on your office or living room wall.

Data. 

We’re drowning in it.

The Information Age is everywhere. In our digital world, we are confronted with information and data 24/7. We are analog people trying to make sense of a digital world. We of a certain age were educated and raised in an analog system. Through our media and trusted news sources who were trained to analyze the available data and break it down into a concise report that was easily digestible by the public. The media in the digital world is focused more on commentary than reporting. Talking heads have replaced reporters for the most part. Instead of vetting and analyzing the data, they are reacting and commenting. 

With this data and information pouring in from all sides each and every minute of every day, it becomes overwhelming. We’ve convinced ourselves we don’t have time to sit and read in our modern life. We’ve quit trying to make sense of the information and, in defeat, only listen to the easiest (and usually the LOUDEST) voice. 

Imagine going to the kitchen tap to pour yourself a nice cold glass of water. You fill the glass, take a drink, and then set the glass down on the counter. That’s analog. Now imagine going to the sink, turning the tap on, and the water gushes out from a giant firehose that doesn’t stop. Soon you are treading water in your own kitchen and will be until you figure out how to get that rush of water under control.

This is the onslaught of information we face as the current generations of people raised on analog trying to make sense in a digital world. We are treading water and as we do we are getting frustrated and impatient. Our analog brains are searching for a world that makes sense. Instead of learning to think and act and function within the digital framework, we fight against a tide we cannot resist. 

Wonder why schools are trying to change the way they teach young minds? It’s because, in the digital age, today’s kids must learn to navigate information in order to thrive. For the analog generations, school and training were all about learning and knowing the sets of data that were vetted, deemed important, and taught to us. We learned to trust in the story that we were told, whether it was the complete story or not.

In the digital age, the mountains of information are out there and wide open. Take a minute and think of all the data you carry around in your pocket every day inside your phone. You have more information on your smartphone than mankind had in total a short one thousand years ago. The digital generation must learn how to analyze the data, draw conclusions, and make decisions. We need to develop young minds with the skills to analyze all the stories and decide what the complete story is. We need these young minds to lead us out of the potential shit storms so we can better handle and adapt to a changing world. 

We need Team America to up its game. Stay focused and avoid targeted distraction. Stay calm when frustration strikes. Make better decisions instead of snap decisions. We need to teach ourselves to work together despite our differences. Different is just different. 

Information can be our friend if we don’t allow it to flood our lives.

I firmly believe the best days of The United States of America are out there waiting for us.

We just need Team America to figure out a way everyone gets there.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Shut Up & Dribble?

‘Shut up and dribble.’

Damn, I hate this so much. When I hear a politician, a businessman, an administrator, or a franchise owner use this phrase, they immediately get kicked off my team. I will never vote for, or support, someone who believes that the athlete’s worth is only measured on a single layer without consideration of who they are as human beings.

Shut up and dribble?

Stop, just stop.

Whenever this term or a similar one is used, it shows the speaker’s true self. It shows that they define others, especially those they consider below them, as mere material goods rather than complete human beings. ‘Shut up and dribble’ means they think the athlete voicing their opinion is nothing more than a servant who doesn’t deserve a voice—an individual whose only place and worth in society are to provide their singular performance as entertainment. 

An athlete is so much more than their performance or their athletic ability. They are human beings, with intellect and ideas and consciousness. In fact, the athlete may even have a more broad intellectual experience to draw upon than many of our political, business, or administrative leaders. Think about that next time you hear one of these fools tell athletes to stay in their space.

Shut up and dribble.

The term attempts to dehumanize those with different viewpoints and philosophies. Instead of attacking or debating on an intellectual level, the user of this term dismisses the opposing ideas by attempting to degrade the individual. Everything contrary to my beliefs is not necessarily wrong. It’s not ‘FAKE NEWS!’, it’s just different.

Different is not all that bad. In fact, different makes life more interesting. 

One of the joys of coaching was getting to know athletes beyond the field of play. I learned as much about life from simply talking to the athletes about school, family, work, books, movies, etc. than they ever learned from me about football or baseball. That’s why it chaps my ass whenever I hear athletes being tagged with ‘Shut up and dribble’. It’s an attempt to define us as dumb jocks and that is as far from the truth as you can get. We may not be upper-level intellectuals but we are all much more than the athletic abilities we possess.

People are different. People are much more than the single-layer you notice.

Athletes are different. Athletes are much more than the single-layer you notice.

Think about how many of the problems we have created in modern America are grounded in the ‘Shut up and dribble’ philosophy of trying to blanket stereotype and generalize human beings. It’s time for ‘Shut up and dribble’ people to shut up themselves.

Nobody cares what you think IF you don’t care what we think.

 

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Graduation Tattoo 2020

It’s been a rough 2020 so far. In particular, I feel for those in the graduation class of 2020. You’ve had the rug pulled out from underneath you. Your life the past several months has been a mishmashed, bizarro world. I said some words at our local high school graduation a few years ago about bouncing back and using failure as a tool to improve which might help at this time. Here’s a link to the transcript of that 2018 graduation speech if you are interested.

In the chaos of 2020, I know one thing for sure: you will survive these times and be better for it. While the fail cycle can help, there’s something else that can help carry you through the tough times.

Confidence.

Confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Confidence often gets a bad rap. We’ve come to equate confidence with bravado. They are not the same. Not even close. Bravado is “a show of boldness intended to impress or intimidate” according to the dictionary. 

To understand confidence and how we can make full advantage of it in our life, we should look more closely at the word itself. Confidence is derived from the Latin confidentia which is a combination of the Latin word “con” with the word “fidelis”.

Con = With

Fidelis = Faith

Confidence at it’s most basic derivation means, “with faith”. When you have faith in yourself, you have confidence. When you have true confidence, the world is your oyster.

How do we build that kind of confidence?

I like to think of confidence as a combination of three things. Preparation. Practice. Performance. In order to build confidence, you need to train the physical, the mental, the emotional, the spiritual, and the intellectual pieces of yourself. You need to practice the task time and again until the execution of the task is flawless. You need to go out and make it happen in a controlled and in a real-world environment.

Preparation, practice, and performance build confidence. True confidence gets results while bravado rings hollow.

In the end, it’s all about doing things con fidelis (with faith). 

To the class of 2020 and beyond, good luck in your chosen endeavors.

Believe in yourself. The most important person who will ever believe in you is you.

Believe in your plan. Dreams and goals are priceless. They provide direction and a beacon of hope in the tough times.

Believe in your preparation. Do the work and then do it again. Repeat. 

Hard work is the magic.

Hard work builds confidence.

Try hard things and leap with confidence. Confidence leads to not only potential success but success with joy and accomplishment.

My tattoo design suggestion for all graduates in the Year of Our Lord 2020, and for all who are struggling through these hard and difficult times, is inscribed with two simple, indelible words:

Con Fidelis

With faith, all is possible.

 

 

 

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Sports Talk Radio Wisdom for Troubled Times

I heard two things of infinite wisdom over the past month on sports talk radio. I know many people think sports are trivial and just a side gig to life. I’m not one of those people although I do now try to keep sports in perspective. In other words, sports have always been an integral part of my life but not my life. 

The first piece of wisdom came from Sports Radio 810 host Soren Petro in a discussion about when Major League Baseball would be able to start and how upset people are becoming over the possibility of the 2020 season not happening at all. He said something that has stuck in my head and is about as truthful a description of America 2020 as I’ve heard. To paraphrase, he said,

“Americans believe that what’s inside their own head is the way things have to be.”

The second nugget of wisdom was heard on 1350 KMAN’s afternoon sports talk show, The Game. It came during a discussion of basketball recruiting at Kansas State University. The hosts, John Kurtz, former Clay Center Tiger noseguard Mitch Fortner, and Mason Voth were discussing the recruiting rumor mill. John Kurtz pointed out the distinction that has to be made between what’s fact and what’s BS. His nugget of wisdom is a great piece of wisdom for our times,

“Don’t place stock in Uncle Bob’s Facebook posts.”

There you have it, a couple shots of sports wisdom to get you through the COVID-19 crisis.

First, pay attention to reality whether you like it or right. Reality is not looking for your personal seal of approval. Reality doesn’t give a rat’s ass what on individual thinks. Reality is reality. It’s right there, see it and react accordingly.

Second, hone your BS meter. Take a few minutes to let the information you find on television, radio, and social media sink in and be processed through your brian’s logic filter. Then dig a little deeper before you file the information as reality or pass it along. Uncle Bob on Facebook is rarely a credible source of information (unless he’s posting about how awesome my Traeger skills are).

Stay safe. Be kind. Learn something new.

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A COVID-19 Exercise: What Next?

As we transition from the first phase of COVID-19 into what comes next, I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. No, I don’t mean recovery-wise, I mean what do we do next to make sure we are prepared when the next pandemic threat knocks at our nation’s door?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do some reading and studying and maybe even ask for your opinions on the subject of “what’s next?” One thing that is 100%, minted in gold, true is we CANNOT respond to the next pandemic disease threat like we responded to this one. As a nation, we got caught with our pants down. We failed to realize the looming threat. We failed to imagine it could happen to us. We failed to respond rapidly and with intent and the virus spread like a wildfire.

We tried to throw cow poo to cover over the problem while telling everyone it was chocolate. The best nation on the planet with the finest people, a great health system, and all the data we needed fell flat on its face. It will take years to recover from the loss in life, health, security, economics, and trust in our elected officials. Years.

The blame falls on everyone. We should have done better. Period.

We can do better. We need to do better. We should demand better from our leaders. We have the plans, the data, the institutions. What we lack is a cooperative system that has a green light to track, analyze, and respond to international, national, state, county, city, and neighborhood threats. This type of system has been bouncing around in my head for weeks. Sound impossible? Maybe. But think about a system you rely on daily and that you really don’t give a second thought to its complexity.

The weather report.

Meteorology relies on data collection, analysis, and modeling to predict what will likely occur in an hour, a day, a week, months, etc. Maybe the weatherman gets a rain shower wrong every now and then but they rarely miss the big threats, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

In public health and infectious disease, we have data, we have analytical tools, and we have computer models. What we need is to make the infectious disease reporting system and response as rapid and as commonplace as our weather service.

I envision a system that can give officials rapid, accurate, point-specific information to help them make decisions about how to best implement responses, resources, and social contact initiatives.

Can we do it? Absolutely!

As they said on the Six Million Dollar Man, “We have the technology.”

It’s a question of do we, as a nation, have the resolve to do it.

Lives are at stake. We cannot accept the loss of 50,000+ Americans to a pandemic again. Never, under any circumstance or political environment or world events.

We need better leadership. We need to use our resources. We need to understand and react.

Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again! ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men.

AWIPS-3-head-workstation

 

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Paul Harvey Wisdom

“Self-government won’t work without self-discipline.” – Paul Harvey.

I miss Paul Harvey. I didn’t always agree with everything he said but I always learned from his common-sense approach in studying our country and our world. This short quote is one that is peppered throughout his 2003 Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. The links to his Landon Lecture are below. It’s worth a few minutes to watch it or to read it.

It is a quote that always pops to mind in times of national unrest. We are a great nation when we are a disciplined nation. We are not a great nation when we become haphazard, unfocused, and selfish.

Where we go as a nation in 2020 depends on our collective individual ideals and actions. The question becomes a matter of discipline and sacrifice so we can ensure the future of our republic.

Self-government won’t work without self-discipline.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Click here for a transcript of the lecture.

 

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A COVID-19 Exercise: Theoretical effect on local hospitals

Note: This post is the product of my brain working quite a bit on the COVID-19 pandemic issue. It is not meant as any kind of official public health or medical advice. I’m a molecular microbiologist. I’m not a doctor or public health official. There are people A LOT smarter than me supplying official information. There are also many buffoons spewing idiocies out there. In difficult times, knowledge is power. Do the work. Find the truth. Ignore the myths. The most valuable tool we have right now is the same powerful tool we have at our disposal every single day of our lives. Our brain.

On 4-9-2020, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), through their excellent COVID-19 Resource Center web page, reported 1106 confirmed COVID-19 positives with 263 requiring hospitalization (a 23.8% rate). These numbers got me thinking about how my small Kansas town and our excellent local hospital might be affected by the coronavirus. 

I did some calculations on what might be in store for our local medical resources if the coronavirus becomes community transferred in our fair city. Information on our local hospital’s website says they are a 25-bed facility. In an emergency, I imagine they can swing another 5-10 beds but I don’t know for sure.

Doubling times are important in a contagious infection scenario. They mean it takes X number of days for the number of infected individuals to be doubled. The latest I heard last week was that COVID-19 was running at a doubling time of four days, so I included that in the table as well as an eight-day doubling timeline. The whole goal of social distancing and flattening the curve strategies are to extend the doubling time as far as possible. By stretching out the timeline of infections, as you can see in the table, a community can keep the number of infections and patients needing medical services within the limitations of the local medical system.

The public health issues rise exponentially once the illnesses overburden the system. It is vital to stay under these critical numbers and to stay within the limitations of our medical systems. As you can see in the table below, for our community hospital, in theory, the key period will be how fast we go from around 50 total positives (~10 patients hospitalized) to 250 positives (~50 patients hospitalized). If we don’t alter the doubling time of 4 days, our medical system will go from adequate to overwhelmed in about ten days. Ten days!

Bottom line. Stay home. Do what the local and state authorities advise. Be safe. Be kind. Help each other out.

# of COVID-19 Positive Cases Local Hospitalization (at a 20% rate) Days @ Doubling Time = 4 days Days @ Doubling Time = 8 days
1 <=1 0 0
2 <=1 4 8
4 1 8 16
8 1.6 12 24
16 3.2 16 32
32 6.4 20 40
64 12.8 24 48
128 25.6 28 56
256 51.2 32 64
512 102.4 36 72
1024 204.8 40 80
2048 409.6 44 88
4096 819.2 48 96
8192 1638.4 52 104
16384 3276.8 56 112

Here are a few things I’ve posted elsewhere about COVD-19:

Novel Coronavirus 2019: Scientist Roundtable

April 6, 2020 Facebook post about antivirals.

What are antivirals? They’re medications that reduce the virus making more of itself. They do their job in a variety of ways from affecting the genes being made into functional proteins to the proteins not being able to be put together properly to make new virus. They don’t completely kill the virus. They are effective because they can reduce symptoms or shorten the length of infection.

What antiviral drugs aren’t are miracle cures. You don’t inject an antiviral and expect to be protected or to stand up and walk out of ICU in a few hours. They may have serious side effects that may cause more harm than health so the balance has to be weighed between the doctor and the patient. That’s why antivirals and vaccines and all other drugs undergo extensive testing to give the doctor and patient the best information to make the best decisions.

Antiviral drugs are important in new outbreaks. In pandemics, like we’re in now, reducing and shortening hospital stays is vital. But, we have to remember one of the first tenets of medicine as we move to use existing antivirals in novel scenarios, “First, do no harm”.

The best way to stop pandemics? Prevent pandemics. That, my friends, is something I’ve been thinking a lot about and will write about soon. It’s time to elevate infectious disease defense to the level of national defense.

Have a good day! Stay safe. Be nice. Help each other out.

March 31, 2020 Facebook post on Social Distancing

Unacast has some interesting data tools they use to track movement by GPS. Below is a link to their Social Distancing Scoreboard.

Yesterday, Dr. Lee Norman of the KDHE talked about the importance of the stay-at-home order. At our current ~35% reduction in Kansan movement, the infection doubling time is around 3.6 days. If we can get to a 45% reduction, the doubling time increases to ~6.5 days. At a 55% reduction, it jumps to almost 10 days.

Why is this so damn important, you ask? Because at 55% reduction & 10 days doubling time, Kansas has ample medical resources to handle it. 45% & 6 days pushes the health systems to their limit. The health system becomes stressed and overloaded at our current 35% reduction or anything below that.

Stay safe, friends! Minimize movement and help each other out, if only with a wave and a smile.

 

NY_Foundling_Hospital_-_Operating_Room_-_circa_1899_-_Byron_Company_-_MNY25924

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Sports & Life 2020

Sports are not life.

Sports are not life.

Sports are not life.

Sports are not…

The struggle is real. At least for me. Sports run in the background of my life. Always have. Probably always will. The spread of the SARS-2 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the sports world to a screeching halt right at two of the peak times of this sports fan’s life, the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the start of the MLB season. Honestly, I no longer live on the edge of my seat over either these events as I once did but I do enjoy having them available to pay attention to.

The SARS-2 pandemic has also brought together two of my life’s passions, sports and microbiology. Public health and safety have warranted decisions recently that are highly unpopular with the sports side of my psyche. I miss my sports. These same decisions make perfect sense as sound preventative measures with the microbiologist side. Bottom line: People in positions of responsibility were forced to make very difficult decisions in a short amount of time. 

Great leadership is rational in irrational situations. Real life wins out over the sport’s life every time. As it should.

I feel bad for the athletes and coaches who did not see a 2019-2020 dream fulfilled with the magic of a postseason, especially the high school athletes. The only wisdom I can provide as a salve to soothe this unprecedented situation is this somewhat out-of-left-field food analogy.

You were allowed to make this beautiful and delicious multi-layered cake during your regular season. You were able to put various amounts and flavors of icing on your cake during the early postseason. Some of you earned the right to further decorate your frosted cake with awesome plastic cartoon character statues or your favorite candy bits by qualifying for state competition. What you didn’t get—the thing pulled away from you just as it was being handed to you—was a chance to place the “#1” candle of top of your cake for the world to see. For this, I’m sorry. But please don’t forget you made an awesome cake which looks fabulous (Those My Little Pony characters are pure genius!) and that you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.

Congratulations to all!

I know this doesn’t help the sting much but many of us appreciate and respect the work you put into the season. In a global infectious pandemic, like in a team, we are best when we are together. 

Good luck in the future and God bless us all.

And please never forget, sports are not life. Life is life. It’s there for each of us to make better for ourselves and those around us.

Be safe.

Be kind.

Help each other out.

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New Year, New You (Athlete Edition)

The New Year, New You (Athlete Edition) is the final part of a three-part series about improvement as we turn the calendar on a new year and a new decade. It’s short and sweet and to the point. Here are the links to the Coaching Edition and the Sports Parent Edition if you’re interested.

This one is simple. If you want to be better, do the work.

Aspire. Set a goal. Do the work. Fail. Do more work. Achieve. Repeat.

Trust in yourself and in your dreams. If you love a sport, play it until you can’t. Enjoy playing and participating. Please, if you are miserable playing and don’t enjoy any part of a sport, find something else to do with your time that you do enjoy. Don’t play a sport to make somebody else happy.

Learn to derive self-satisfaction and celebrate your accomplishments no matter if you’re all-world or fifth string. You are out there every day. 

Filter out negativity from peers, teammates, and/or adults. You can do this, people!

It’s a new year. It can be a new you if you want it to be.

Find a goal. Find support. Find a way. Find the will to do the work and you’ll find the magic.

Good luck to all athletes in 2020 and beyond.

New year, new you. 

 

 

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New Year, New You (Sports Parent Edition)

Oh, parents, we are ruining youth sports. 

Every level.

Everywhere.

Every day.

The adults are making the players not want to play, coaches to not want to coach, and officials not want to officiate anymore. That’s sad, people. 

I don’t know all the reasons. I don’t know all the justifications behind the behaviors. I just know we adults are strangling youth sports by making them into something they are not…mini professional sports.

Fixing this requires a fresh approach at the grassroots of the youth sports system. Changing parent behavior. 

New year, new sports-parenting outlook.

The Three Breathe Rule.

  1. Breathe in. Tell yourself, “Follow my kids lead.” Breathe out.
  2. Breathe in. Tell yourself, “I can’t want this more than my kid does.” Breathe out.
  3. Breathe in. Tell yourself, “It’s a game.” Breathe out.

Repeat as needed until your focus is back on the important task at hand, being your child’s biggest fan.

The Three Breathe Rules

“Follow my kids lead.” 

Pay attention to what your child is doing. If they are having a good time and enjoying the sport, let them. If they are not having a good time nor enjoying the sport, let them find one they will enjoy and have a good time playing. The future success we all dream about for our kids will only happen in a positive fashion if the kid develops the internal drive to do the work.

“I can’t want this more than my kid does.”

This is a big one. It’s not about you. Swallow your ego. Place your pride in Johnny someday winning the Super Bowl into a trunk, lock it, and bury it six feet underground. If by chance, Johnny does someday win the Super Bowl, you can dig up that trunk and display your pride for the whole world to see. Until then, don’t add the pressure of ungodly expectations upon your young athlete. 

“It’s a game.”

No need for explanations here. It is what it is. A game. 

These three rules helped me through years of coaching baseball and football and youth basketball. I think they can also help a parent enjoy the youth sports process while their kids enjoy participating in them. At least that’s my hope for the future. I love youth sports. From the playground to the sandlot to the driveway to the local stadiums and fields, sports are great and awesome things. Let’s not ruin them.

If you’re having trouble as a sports parent, I understand. I’ve been a bad and a good sports parent. We’ve all made mistakes. Let’s work in 2020 to make fewer sport-parent mistakes. 

New year, new you. We can do this.

If you missed part one of this series, New Year, New You (Coaching Edition), you can find it here.

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

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