Monthly Archives: July 2011

Need Another Reason to Love Science?

Connecticut Mountain Lion Likely Came From The Black Hills by Wright Bryan

from All Things Considered

You got to read this link above and listen to the story from NPR. So cool. Using DNA typing technology and database analysis, a cougar killed in a car collision in Connecticut in summer of 2011 was determined to be closely related to a group of mountain lions in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  This animal was also genetically typed to one unknown individual in the database from which genetic analysis was performed on scat, hair and blood samples collected in 2009 from eastern Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2010.  That is some serious ground to cover. Too bad such an awesome animal died an unfortunate death.

Molecular biology is so dang cool! You gotta love it.

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Parenting Legacy

One day when I am gone and people are considering my life or pondering as they read my headstone what type of person I was, I hope they ask one question:

What kind of parent was this person? 

Maybe then, through some advance in graphical interface headstones technologies, I am able to program a visual answer to this question, a question which speaks volumes of the joy a person experiences in their lifetime.   Below is the picture I  choose.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one is worth an infinite number of words to me. And yes, that is how we rolled.

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The Hardcore Viking

Vikings Filed Their Teeth to Remind You They Are Totally Hardcore

-from (a 5 of 5 star of the awesome scale for kick butt science news)

I could not resist posting about this.  Go read the article at the link above.  Do you blame me? Vikings are badass. Serious. They didn’t fool around.  When you start filing horizontal ridges in your own teeth to intimidate, shouldn’t that be enough to warn the bystander to clear the hell out of the way?  NOW!

I think it is time to start studying the Vikings again.  I used to read up and study the barbarians back in my football coaching days. Laugh if you must, but I learned much from studying groups like the Huns, Vandals, Goths and my favorite since my youth, the Vikings.

The education from studying the barbarians actually made me a better defensive football coach.  Confuse, attack and destroy. Intimidate with hustle and intensity.  Hit the opponent like a cannon shot over and over again until his will is broken. Play with such desire it seems we have 13 on the field instead of 11.

I am tearing up just thinking about it. Now, where’s that dang rasp at?

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Five Things I’ve Learned: Parenting

These are five things I have learned (and am still learning) since becoming a father, with some things learned from the wise mother.

1. Watching your own kids is NOT babysitting, it’s called PARENTING.

2. The dining room table is one of the most effective family-building tools.

3. The kitchen, household and laundry appliances are unisex in design and engineering. Go figure.

4. Not much beats a good family game or movie night, especially when the Dad wins the game or John Wayne and/or Star Wars and/or Indiana Jones is the movie.

5. If you give them a good base and allow them to be them, your kids will become better human beings than you. (Just as you wished for the day they were born.)

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Seven years ago, on July 7, 2004, THE SHOT HEARD AROUND CLAY CENTER occurred.  A home run was hit in a summer American Legion baseball game at Kelly Campbell Field.  I can’t remember who we played that night. In fact, I can’t remember any details from that doubleheader. I can usually remember those details a coach is programmed to remember, but I can’t on this one, too traumatic I guess.  Honestly, I searched for the original scorebook in my collection of artifacts to help trigger memories, but it was nowhere to be found.  These seven years have passed with an epiphany of my acceptance of the reality IT actually did happen and IT was not a dream or heat-induced hallucination.

Kiel Unruh hit a home run.

There it is, the most unlikely sports highlight ever. I admit it is still shocking, even more shocking than SpellDog’s walk-off blast in another game that season.  Both those home runs were the only home runs either of those men hit in their entire baseball careers.  SpellDog’s was impressive (and a walk-off), but since he had actually hit several pop flys to the outfield in his illustrious career, a coach knew it would only be a matter of time before he hit one.  But Kiel, not even close.  I guess I need to give a little physical background on Kiel.  He is skin and bones.  There is nothing to this kid.  We had to keep the hanger in his jersey just to keep it from falling off over his shoulders. That’s skinny!  He was a wizard with the glove in the outfield, though.  He and his outfield mates cut the open outfield space down to a bare minimum, he just couldn’t hit a baseball to save his life.  He was our permanent nine-hole hitter, he was our walking sacrifice bunt and he was only a position player if we could use a DH.

Kiel has gone on to great accomplishments as an adult. He is assistant women’s basketball coach at Stephen F. Austin University, fresh off being a staff member of the 2010 National Women’s Basketball Champion Emporia State Lady Hornets.  He has enjoyed many successes in life and in sports,  but…

One night in early July seven years ago, Kiel connected.  The ball jumped off his bat and sailed over the Campbell Field Green Monster and into the kiddie playground.  Someday we will build a monument in the playground to this event.  Someday we will gather as old men on the field and sing songs of glory.  Of all his life accomplishments, I sure hope THE SHOT HEARD AROUND CLAY CENTER will always rank right up near the top.

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Fail Cycle #2

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I believe in the Fail Cycle. The older I get, when I want to relax and put life into cruise control, I know I need to force myself to keep working to improve through challenge and failure.

What is the fail cycle? In short, you have to push yourself to get better. If you are pushing your limits far enough, you will fail.  But, when you stay after it with perseverance and hard work, improvement is inevitable.  If you are not working to move forward, you are moving backward.  And yes, neutral is backward.

Coaching and training are filled with the experiences of the fail cycle, so is being a writer.  But the experiences are much different.  Coaching is a group exercise, we push a collective of people, personalities and philosophies toward a common goal of success.  The failures and the improvement are shared within the group. Training can be a group exercise and it can be very personal.  The individual or team is pushed to failure, but the failure is mostly internal to the individual or group.  Writing is a whole new animal. It is personal and it is individual.  Failure from the necessary exposure to outside editing and critique bites sharp at the marrow of the writer. It is a frightening experience.

Recently, I read a open blog invitation from an agent, Mary Kole, on her excellent writing blog site ( She read a book called HOOKED by Les Edgerton on book beginnings and offered the opportunity for her readers to submit the first 500 words of one of their manuscripts for her professional critique. She would select five and do critical workshops on them on the blog. I knew from her blog posts and information she provides on her site that she is a no B.S. professional. She knows her stuff and stands true for what she knows is the right way to write.

Basically, I knew sending in a beginning to one of my stories was putting myself out to the battlefield without armor or weapon.  I knew Mary Kole would pull no punches on the five beginnings she selected for the workshop.  With this looming in back, front and both sides of my mind, I took the chance anyway and sent in the first 500 words to a story I am working on.  The story, an upper middle grade fiction story called WONDERLAND GARDENS, is about a 14 year-old boy who must use the resources of the elderly citizens of the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Village to save his classmate nemesis, a girl,  from the evil clutches of a possessed dance instructor.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) out of the 100+ submission and dodging the bullet through four of the five workshops, guess who gets a cheery email on Friday July 1 from Mary Kole informing me I was Number 5?  Great, I submitted such a great examples of how NOT to start a story that I get to be the finale to the workshops!  Then, when one reads in her introduction, “This workshop will be a little more nitpicky”, one wants to crawl away and hide.  But, as I read Mary’s criticisms, I knew straight away she was spot on with her comments.  Everything she pointed out, when fixed, will make for a exponentially better beginning to the story. If you wish to witness the train wreck and Mary Kole’s exceptional and helpful critique, here is the link to the Beginning Workshop #5

Failure…is…necessary.  If I want to get better at anything I do, parent, husband, writer, scientist, coach and trainer, it takes hard work.  It takes pushing the envelope, failing, then working to get better.  I’m rewriting the beginning to WONDERLAND GARDENS following Mary Kole’s suggestions.  The first draft I did last night was miraculously so much better than the original version I previously submitted.  I might have to do a future post comparing the two versions when I complete the newest version.

A special thanks to Mary Kole, associate agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, for sharing her time and resources to help fledgling authors like myself.  This trip into the literary fail cycle has been quite an experience.  Hopefully, my story and my skill development will also reap great benefits because of it.

Finally, here is an applicable quote from Neil Gaiman’s 10 Tips to Writing.

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”

Have a great Fourth of July holiday!

Addendum: I forgot to put this in the original post.  When the failure robs the fun and enjoyment out of whatever you choose to do, it is time to back off a bit, take a short or a long break to recharge the motor, then take a running start at the next attempt.  The fail cycle should be an exercise of improvement, not an exercise in complete misery.

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