Saturday, February 19, 2022

Data Driven - Data Drowsy


Early indications point not only to a cancelled spring training season, but possibly no regular season for Major League Baseball.  A "lockout" with no easy solutions is given as the reason. Instead of live baseball, a favorite movie about baseball, "A League of Their Own" will be added to my watch list. A Women's League which was formed during World War II is the basis of this movie. Of the memorable characters, Coach Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks) says to Dottie (played by Geena Davis), "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."

We live in a society driven by data. Every time we browse the internet, fill out a survey, scan a loyalty card, order online, or use a streaming service data is collected about our habits. We are enticed to turn over our information for the sake of financial incentives or the promise that our lives will be easier and more seamless in the future. Precious time will be freed up because our decisions are already made. All we have to do is touch the button on the screen. It is that easy!

Tracking Device
According to one of the definitions for the word "adventure" can be, "a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome." On numerous occasions I have described my life as an adventure. I believe life is lived when the outcome of an opportunity is uncertain. Yes, the final outcome is certain, but there are ample opportunities for adventure prior to that point. However, as more devices, more data, and more buttons orbit the hours of my days the reality of adventure is dwindling. Long gone are the hours of outdoor activity without a communication tool. I used to mute the notifications on my phone. Recent circumstances have changed that option. "You never know what may happen," echos through my mind. This has been etched on my psyche from many sources. I realize those individuals, as well as organizations are concerned for my well being. Yet with all of the data, all the connectivity, and the ease of assistance and escape I feel the reality of adventure has lost its meaning. Coach Dugan was accurate in saying, "If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it." It now seems like everyone wants the experience of adventure without the inherent risk which defines it. Everyone wants easy!

Tracker with messaging
Has the ease of life and/or lack of adventure made us drowsy? We rely upon data and algorithms to solve our problems, direct us to our destinations, make our decisions, and free our time. However, we are freed to do what? Are we seeking adventure but unwilling to assume the risk? Is success so important that we are fearful of learning from failure? If so, is that being free?  Data collected over years of life directs me to believe life is best encountered in what we cannot control. Individual characteristics are developed, as well as personalities chiseled as we confront aspects of life with our full attention. We all have unique and important aspects of our lives which cannot be honed by pressing the "Easy Button."

"The hard is what makes it great." These words of Coach Dugan came after he stopped numbing his life with alcohol and encountered the multiple dynamics of the team. For him it was a season of adventure, a leap into the unknown which was not driven by data. There may not be Major League Baseball this summer. The national pastime may not capture some of our time. Instead each of us can create individual adventures which will develop and enhance our souls and spirits. Such actions will make it a great season for our lives! 


Saturday, February 5, 2022

Functionally Dysfunctional

Last Sunday (January 30th) was the beginning of my fifth year supporting Ryan in the Arrowhead 135 Winter Ultra. As I parked at the Hillsboro United Parish, I noticed a chemical smell. With no factories near

Ryan @ Jan 31 start

downtown Hillsboro, ND, I was puzzled by the smell. As I unlocked the church doors the air was crisp and fresh. Following worship, I listened to the navigation prompts directing me on county and state highways to Bemidji, MN. As my speed lessened through the small towns and especially in Bemidji, the smell was noticeable again. Could it be oil? Was it a belt? Parking to investigate, the smoke rising from the engine compartment confirmed that something was amiss. The belts were not hot, not loose, not glazed. It must be oil. The oil level was checked. A quart was purchased and a small amount added to the engine. The final push to International Falls, MN to meet Ryan was uneventful. 

My family of origin
In my opinion the word "dysfunctional" is both over used and misused. According to it means, "not performing normally; having a malfunctioning element; and behaving outside social norms". Too often it gets used to negatively describe a person or group of people. "That certainly is a dysfunctional family!" gets bantered about frequently. It appears to be a veiled and judgmental way of saying, "That family sure behaves strangely." The comparison of normal comes from the person making the statement. Is there a standard norm of behavior for families?

Engine ran but it did not move!
Another example could be the legislative branch of the Federal Government. Numerous pundits and commentators describe Congress as dysfunctional. What is the function of government? In our current partisan culture what type of performance are we expecting? Is what we see normal functioning given the current mood in our country? Do we judge today by the norms of the past? Congress is functioning, just not moving.

My family of origin was loosely connected to extended family. We did not place emphasis on specific holidays. Heirlooms, as well as traditions were not a facet of our family. My wife's family was the opposite. Gathering on holidays was more sacred than the holiday itself! Values, expectations, traditions, and furnishings were to be followed and passed through generations. This aspect of family was initially attractive to me. Over time I saw it as both humorous and constricting. I learned to embrace it because I choose to enter into the relationship. Numerous times over our years of marriage my wife clearly stated that our family acted dysfunctionally. As we grow in years realizing that our future is shorter than our past, my wife wants to pass on stuff. Most of the stuff is material in nature. It is too late for passing on values and traditions. Our daughters have no need of material stuff. It does not hold the value which my wife places on it. Is this being dysfunctional? Our daughters are choosing how they want to function. Do we make judgments about today based upon the norms of the past? Do we all have to operate the same way in order to be a functioning family?

The evidence on the ground
Following Ryan's fifth place overall finish, second place in the unsupported bike category (total time of 17 hours and 33 minutes), and a few hours of sleep we headed back to International Falls. Checking the dipstick before starting the car the oil level was fine. It did not take too many miles before the smell returned even on a windy, ground blizzard drive of 4+ hours. The oil light did not come on. Everything sounded fine. It was just the annoying smell of burning oil. Ryan's nose provided the second opinion. I let the car sit outside while Ryan and I got gear placed in the proper places. The pattern on the driveway made me think. With a few searches online and a couple of videos watched, it appears the oil is leaking from the oil filter which is surrounded by the exhaust. With the severe cold temperatures my favorite, dependable, and honest repair shop (Johnson's Auto Repair) could not get the vehicle in until this coming week. Thankfully the other vehicle is working fine!

I believe we function, we survive in all types of circumstances. Could we be more caring, more efficient, more understanding, more responsive? Certainly! Yet, it is in the willingness not to judge people by the past, to consider the current circumstances, to own our quirks, and get repairs as needed that we discover meaning in the adventures of life!