Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Why is fiction so important?

June 24, 2006

Let me begin being by saying the purpose of this particular blog is to share some ideas but also to receive some feedback via comments or trackbacks.

I always hated reading as many people do. Growing up I never read and I always associated reading with being a pain. Over the past couple of years I have become a pretty avid reader. A majority of it is web-based content but I have read quite a few books as well. The conclusion I came to as to why I and many other people associated reading as being a pain is because for so long we were force fed fiction.

Growing up in school year in and year out we had English/Language Arts classes and we were forced to read fiction books. Alot of the books, in particular the Shakespeare readings, were difficult to read and atleast in my case provoked very little thought. The three reasons I came up with why reading as a part of education is important are to create desire and means for obtaining knowledge, to spark thought and ideas, and to appreciate literature and writers.

For those of you who don't know me I pretty much only read non-fiction and the only two books I can remember reading precollege that I enjoyed were Michael Dell's Direct from Dell and Reggie Miller's I Love Being the Enemy and neither of those were for school. Why can't nonfiction be incorporated into education? It meets two of those three criteria and I'm not saying it needs to be all non-fiction so its not like the appreciation aspect would be eliminated. We aren't forced to appreciate art or music why are we forced to appreciate literature. This is a disservice that leads people to associate reading with pain.

I think the reason lies in one of two phrases that rub me the wrong way, "its always been that way" and "because I said so". The last fiction book I tried to read, granted I didn't know it was fiction when I picked it up, was the DaVinci code. I was interested because it seemed to be advertised as a book that was based on little known historical facts that provoked thought about religion. About ten pages in I went from interested to not interested after I realized it was a fiction book based on manipulating pseudo facts to tell a made up story. Needless to say I didn't get much past page ten.I am not saying we should go with fiction free education. I am just saying why can't nonfiction have a place so that people like me don't give up on reading all together. In same ways I think its just that I could be unique bc I don't like a lot of the fiction pop culture type books and movies. I am not a fan of DaVinvi Code, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, or The Matrix. These just don't do it for me but that should be okay.

Alot of times fiction is valued because it is supposed to spark creativity and imagination. I think that is true to an extent but in many cases nonfiction can go beyond what fiction can. Like when I blogged about the story of the 2005 Texas Football team and that if the story had appeared in a book or movie it would have been written off as unrealistic. Fiction often has constraints that the oddities of reality can go beyond.

The bulk of the books I read today are biographies. I am a big believer in the thought that the path to success is through emulating successful people. Explain to me why the world of academia cannot come to grasps with this thought.
-hj

Don’t get left out of the future

June 10, 2006

Almost two years ago I was making an argument to a buddy of mine but I wasn't aware of the term that encapsulated the idea I had in my head. We were discussing Texas football and I was making the argument that the program could do a much better job of turning lemons into lemonade. Everyone always jokes about how critical Texas fans are of their football and how willing they are to lend their opinions. Well as a result the contribution of fan ideas are very inaccessible to the program. Well the term I was looking for I now have learned was Web 2.0 and the organizations and individuals who embrace it will be successful.

It is my prediction that success in the future will be as a result of accessibility, transparency, and accountability. These three things can come easily and cheaply in the form of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 isn't an actual thing it's a term to describe the second wave of web services and a truly web-based community. Think about what things are exploding right now. Social networks like MySpace and Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, and podcasts. User created content that is made available through interconnected web communities. This is how society communicates and entertains itself now.

I've been reading a corporate blog lately by a guy who runs a company that specializes in helping companies get started with employee blogs. While employee blogs are a PR nightmare in terms of liability they are provide credible insight and personality. Companies like Microsoft, Boeing, GE, Google, and Sun now all have employee blogs in some form or another.

I have two examples of instances where individuals and organizations have embraced this Web 2.0 type environment. The first, as sacrilegious as this is to type, is Texas A&M's AD Bill Byrne. Byrne isn't really an Aggie, he just got the job a couple years ago out of Nebraska, so I have never really felt bad for secretly liking him. I'm still a huge DeLoss Dodds fan and he owns Byrne on the field but Byrne kicks Dodds' ass as far as Web 2.0 is concerned.

When Byrne got to A&M he started Bill Byrne's Wednesday Weekly. Now the website is a piece of shit and those farmers don't know to call it or format it as a blog but the concept and content are right. In a post a couple years ago Byrne responded to emails from Aggies who wanted to paint the stands at Kyle field maroon and they wanted the situation with the orange, GOD FORBID, Gatorade jugs on the sideline fixed. He acknowledged receiving the emails and then responded to both explaining to those idiots exactly why they wouldn't do either. Fair enough. In his latest post he open's up the books to the athletic department and discloses their budget, actual expenses, and actual revenue.

My second example is with Mark Cuban. He makes himself very easily accessible via email which he uses religiously. I've emailed him a couple of times and he generally responds within hours, pretty impressive. When he didn't pony up the dough for Nash he went on his blog and explained why. When he made the decision to use the amnesty clause and cut Finley last summer he explained to his customers essentially why he made that decision. When Kenny and Charles ripped the Mavs for how they defended the Suns pick-and-roll on opening night, Cuban went on his blog and broke down the percentages of how teams had defended Phoenix and what their actual rate of success was.

Accessible, transparent in your decisions, and accountable for the decisions you make. Mack Brown is always very accountable for what happens on the field and I love that about him. But as far as the program and the department on the whole are concerned, how about some insight into their philosophy behind stadium expansion. How about some insight into what the hell is going on with Texas-OU in Dallas. How about some insight into why guys are jumping ship on the men's basketball team.

The era of secret decision-making is over. Web 2.0 will leave those behind. Everyone talks a big game about how they're dedicated to their customers but then they refuse to get feedback from them and deny them communication. And I'll leave you with this thought. For the most part I kept this post light heartened in discussing Web 2.0 in the context of sports programs.

What do you think is the future of these 3 traits in politics? There will always be areas where secrecy is a must (national defense) but everything else is fair game.

*Cue Washington bumrushing WordPress.com*

-hj

The switchover to WordPress

April 7, 2006

So I decided to switch blog publishing systems from Google owned Blogger to WordPress. There are some new features that I think are pretty cool…

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Education: My Take

February 7, 2006

The Daily Texan is having a series of editorials about education. I have some strong opinions and I thought I'd throw out my two cents on the matter. For those of you who don't know I grew up going to DISD schools until high school. To be completely honest I went to St Rita, a private parochial school for 3rd and 4th grade which I absolutely hated but I will get to that more later. I went to high school in Coppell which is the epitome of suburbia. So when it comes to education I have pretty much run the gamut. Inner city schools, private schools, and white washed suburban schools.
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Hey Slovenia

January 23, 2006

There is a feature you can enable that allows people to comment on your blogs. I left it on not thinking it would ever be used. Well it has been used in response to my blog about kickers:

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President Larry Faulkner

July 13, 2005

I'll be honest, if you are not a University of Texas student or alumni this blog may not be too interesting to you. Texas' President, Larry Faulkner, will resign this spring after taking over at the university in 1997. Under Faulkner Texas has had numerous accomplishments across the board implementing programs and increasing prestige of the athletic program, individual colleges, and the university as a whole.

He implemented the FIG program which resulted in higher freshman retention rates. When Faulkner took over in 1997 the freshman retention rate was 86% which increased steadily to last year's rate of 91%, maintaining the best retention rate of all Big 12 schools ever year. He re-opened the observation deck of the Tower. The soccer and track stadium, Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, and the Basketball Practice Facility were completed during his term. Renovations to the Football stadium and Basketball stadium were also completed and renovations on the Baseball stadium will start soon(NO MORE TURF!!!). He instituted the flat rate tuition program to improve four year graduation rates making it more economical for students taking over 15 hours and less economical for those taking less. Faulkner obtained the Watergate archives for the university as a private gift. He created the Blanton Museum of Art. He created the Commission of 125 to investigate policies to address the future of the University in the next 25 years recommending that all academic programs not ranked in the top 20 nationally be eliminated. He established an Honor Code for the university. He ran the "We're Texas" fund raising campaign which raised $1.6 Billion with a "B", the most successful campaign ever for a University without a Medical School. Under Faulkner the University climbed to second, only behind MIT, in federal funding for research programs. He implemented salary increases for faculty and staff every year he was president.

University, College, and Program Rankings and Awards under Faulkner

  • In 2005 Newsweek ranked the University of Texas the "Hottest State University" in the nation.
  • In 2004 the Times of London ranked the University as the 15th best university in the world based on a survey that spread across 88 countries.
  • In 2002 Sports Illustrated ranked UT #1 among the 324 Division 1 Athletic Programs.
  • The University's Business(18th), Law(15th), Engineering(12th), Education(15th), and Pharmacy(2nd) programs rank in the top 20 according to U.S. News and World Report. That same report ranked UT's Petroleum Engineering program #1 in the nation while Accounting ranks #3, Civil Engineering ranks #3, Entrepreneurship ranks #9, Marketing ranks #9, Chemical Engineering ranks #7, and Mechanical Engineering ranks #10.
  • And, although I doubt Faulkner had much to do with it, Playboy ranked UT #1 in their "Top 10 Colleges With The Best-Looking Girls".

Athletic Accomplishments

  • 2004-2005 UT was the only school to see its football team play in a bowl game, its men and women's basketball teams reach the tournament, and its softball and baseball teams reach the College World Series. All 19 men's and women's sports teams saw postseason play while Baseball, Gymnastics, and Women's track brought home National Championships.
  • During his tenure he saw the football program finish in the Top 10 3 times, both basketball programs reach the Final Four, the baseball team win 2 national championships, and the softball team reach the College World Series 3 times. Also, men's swimming won 3 national championships, and women's track and field won 3 national championships.
  • TJ Ford and Cat Osterman(2) won Player of the Year awards and Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy.

Needless to say during Faulkner's time the University of Texas has advanced as a nationally elite institution. Hopefully whoever replaces him can keep up the momentum.

hj

Foreign Policy: Iraq

June 29, 2005

I have not yet blogged on any political hot button topics. This was not because I hadn't had any thoughts concerning politics. I just didn’t want people to think that was the intent of the blog. After Bush's speech address last night I have a few thoughts. Let me make no qualms about it, I support the War on Terror and I voted for George W. Bush. If you can not be open minded enough to expose yourself to a political ideology that differs from yours I suggest you not read this blog.

I support the War on Terror because it is the proactive approach to confront hate driven ideologies that we should have put in place a long time ago. Ever since WWII, the United States seemed to have a policy of prevention. Prevent North Korea from invading South Korea. Attempting to prevent North Vietnam from attacking South Vietnam. In the early 90s it was prevent Iraq from invading Kuwait. Evil, freedom hating, tyrannical dictatorships could exist as long as they only terrorized and killed those who lived within their borders. And why not, if they kept it within their borders it doesn't affect us as Americans right? Wrong.

By allowing them to exist we allowed them to strengthen and on September 11th, 2001 they brought the terror to us and kicked us in the mouth. So what was our reaction? It was to uproot the Taliban government in Afghanistan that protected terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and to go after bin Laden. Our next, and obviously much more controversial step, was to go in the tyrannical terrorist hotbed of Iraq and uproot Saddam Hussein and the terrorists.

Many people claimed the terrorists were in Afghanistan and had nothing to do with Iraq. Let me say this, the terrorist ideology and their network is not limited by a country's border. This is made obvious by the number of insurgents including Zarqawi who is Al-Qaeda. That is the last time I will refer to these men as insurgents; they are terrorists. The bias of the liberal media resulted in defining these men insurgents because calling them terrorists would be to admit that President Bush was right. How can al Qaeda be terrorists when they attack us at home but be insurgents when they attack Americans and innocent people in Iraq?

Anyways, getting back to the timeline. So we send troops to Afghanistan and a little over a year later we decide to go after Iraq. The plan was to defeat the government who creates the most anti-American sentiment, bring those tyrants and terrorists to justice, and to bring democracy and freedom to the Middle East.

There is a lot of talk about how Bush and the U.S. military did not have a plan going into this war. Let me break down some facts for you. First off Iraq is a big country, roughly the size of Texas but with slightly more people and less land size, with conditions that are not ideal for tanks. Second, Baghdad, the biggest city in Iraq and capital, is located dead in the middle of the country. I watched a history channel special that focused on the take over and ranked it one of the best in history in terms of how swift the take over was and how few lives were lost. Here is a quick recap of how quick it truly was…
We launch the attack on March 19.
By April 9th we had secured Baghdad. (20 Days)
April 23rd we arrive in Fallujah which we now know is where a majority of Al-Qaeda fled. (34 Days)
On July 22nd troops kill Saddam's sons in a firefight in Mosul (123 Days)
Thanksgiving, November 27th, President Bush and Condoleeza Rice secretly travel to Baghdad to have dinner with the troops (248 Days)
A little over 2 weeks later and less than 9 months from the initial invasion we capture Saddam Hussein. (262 Days)
President Bush should play the lottery if all that was accomplished without a plan.

At the beginning of the war many people argued we're engaging in this war because of oil. You hardly ever hear this anymore because that argument did not hold water. Oil and gasoline prices have gone up because of the war and we have spent more money than we will make back as a result of discounted energy from a new friendly nation. Two years later it is obvious that this conflict is about much more than dependance on energy from corrupt foreign nations.

The argument that there is not a connection between Iraq and terror SHOULD be settled by now but it isn't. An undeniable fact is that Saddam Hussein and his hatred for freedom and America, if nothing else, was a huge inspiration to these terrorists. I find it awfully ironic that we go to Iraq and what do we find? What has been the number one killer of US and Iraqi troops? Al-Qaeda terrorist groups, namely the one sponsored by Zarqawi who does have connections to bin Laden. But I guess that is all just coincidence and Zarqawi had no connections with Saddam or the American-hating Iraqi government. Hell he was probably just in Iraq on vacation with his family when our troops arrived being the loving man that he is.

I really do not understand why people who opposed the Iraq invasion so thoroughly wanted to give Iraq the benefit of the doubt. I am sure Saddam and his cronies had nothing to do with the terrorists who attacked us, they seem like nice enough guys. I doubt he would ever give any support or weapons to terrorists that they could use against us. I doubt he has any weapons of mass destruction even though there is intelligence that leads future Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry to believe there are. Saddam's not wanting UN weapons inspectors to be in Iraq has nothing to do with his plans for a WMD program.

Going back to the analogy, imagine looking for a bomb and all you know is it allegedly was built in Texas. It could be anywhere in Texas, it could have been dismantled by now, or it could be transported out of this area but while you are fighting in a war I want you to find this bomb. If you were expecting them to come on the news and say, “They found a WMD factory in a warehouse in the middle of Baghdad with 6 nuclear weapons” then you were mistaken. If there were weapons with a big red button on them they would have been detonated by now.

The military gets very little credit for how efficient they have been. They have been there over two years and in that little amount of time they have accomplished a ton. They ousted Hussein and the government that had been in place for 3 decades which is an underappreciated accomplishment. They have established democracy and held elections in a region that has not had democracy. The progress in Iraq has encouraged Syria, Turkey, and other surrounding nations in the Middle East are moving towards democracy. They uncovered a hornet’s nest of terrorists and have apprehended and taken prisoner a huge chunk of the terrorist network. They have kept the terrorists on the run and as a result the fight is being fought on their soil and at home we have experienced secure stable lives. They managed to accomplish all this in two years and at the expense of only 1,700 Americans Soldiers. Men die in wars; that is an undeniable fact. If your goal is to doing something great then chances are its not going to come easy. But if you break down U.S. wars by what was accomplished and how many lives were lost, Iraq may be one of the most successful operations in our country’s history.

War: Revolutionary War
Accomplishment: Freedom from England
American Lives Lost: 6,824

War: Civil War
Accomplishment: Abolished slavery, prevented the nation from splitting
American Lives Lost: 359,528

War: WWI
Accomplishment: Prevents German takeover of Europe and German alliance with Mexico
American Lives Lost: 126,000

War: WWII
Accomplishment: Ends Holocaust and Nazi take over of Europe
American Lives Lost: 407,000

War: Vietnam War
Accomplishment: Attempted to prevent Communist North Vietnam to take over South Vietnam but failed
American Lives Lost: 58,226

War: Iraq
Accomplishments to date: Ousted Saddam Hussein, established democracy and held elections in the Middle East, captured terrorists
American Lives Lost to date: 1,744

Go find the nearest 7 year old and ask her which number doesn’t fit. I understand there are more consequences that just lost lives. Funding wars are not free but our economy is already coming back around and the deficit that the war has caused has not resulted in such rampant inflation that our lives have been affected. It outrages me when people say that Iraq is the Vietnam of this generation. We have already had 10 times more success in 2 years in Iraq than we had in nearly 20 years in Vietnam and we have not endured anywhere near the sacrifice.

And how ironic that Kofi Annan , Secretary-General of the UN, and Jacques Chirac, France’s President, who were so adamantly opposed to the invasion of Iraq ended up being found to be the main players in the Iraqi Oil-for-Food scandal. What would ousting Saddam Hussein bring to them besides an end to cheap oil and big dollar kickbacks?

Whether or not you agree with the war and support our president’s decisions and the efforts of our soldiers you can sleep easy at night knowing you and the rest of the world is safer.

hj