31 January 2006

Clemente and Two Robinsons

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, Sharon Robinson, have come out against the movement to retire Roberto Clemente’s 21, as was done by Major League Baseball with Jackie’s 42.

First of all, Frank Robinson is a Grade-A Hall of Famer and despite his amazing statistics, a case could be made that he is still largely under-rated. In addition, he played against Clemente (most notably in the 1971 World Series) and with him on All Star Teams. Frank even played baseball in Puerto Rico. There seemed to be between Frank and Clemente the mutual respect and distant acceptance of competitive athletes who can acknowledge each other’s attributes. So for Frank to come out against this signal honor bears some weight.

The gist of his argument is that by retiring #21, we open the floodgates to retiring other numbers, unleashing a scenario of “where will it end?” Frank is entitled to his opinion (he’s never been shy about sharing it) and though he is often right, in this case he is wrong. That Jackie Robinson was a significant athlete in American history is without question; that he is the only ballplayer to have faced racial and social barriers, and made an impact on his people, is just not true.

Roberto Clemente was black, so he owed a debt to Jackie’s quiet courage. But Clemente was also Puerto Rican, thus making him in the eyes of the average American a “two-striker”. That his command of English was poor and thus the object of open ridicule goes deeply to the heart of Clemente’s aloofness, but he never let it stop him from stating what he felt…much like Frank does.

Jackie Robinson changed the face of baseball, but Clemente changed the face of the baseball player. There are many heroes on the diamond, from Wagner, Lajoie and Young to the current crop of Jeter, Clemens and Griffey, Jr. But Clemente was a hero to three nations, a man who laid down his life helping others. In that sense, maybe the fighter pilot exploits of Ted Williams or the spying adventures of Moe Berg could match; however, neither man carried the fervent hopes and aspirations of so many people as Clemente did. Maybe only Jackie did.

As for Sharon, she is a daughter defending her father’s memory; nothing wrong with that. But note this: Clemente left on his final act of humanity despite having three little boys. He weighed the needs of earthquake-ravaged people versus his own safety and chose to take the risk. His three sons lost a father in service to others. Shouldn’t their views as children of a worthy-to-be-honored player also be taken into account?

As for the argument that by honoring Clemente the honor done to Jackie is somehow diminished, that argument is simply empty. Jackie was first, deserved to be first and nobody can ever take that from him. Nobody should. But to think that by honoring someone who was also a first, an exemplary athlete, model citizen and hero will detract from another honoree is fatuous. The only strong cases in baseball for such an honor are Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente. Nobody else in baseball comes close to these two men in terms of athletic excellence and social importance. “Denying” the honor to others is thus not possible. Those who believe so are ignoring the facts and undermining the best tribute Major League Baseball or any sports organization has to offer.

Let’s retire Roberto Clemente’s number 21, at the 2006 All Star Game, in Pittsburgh. It is the right thing to do.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

30 January 2006

Radar Blips

A few items that popped up on My radar over the past two weeks:

-- Impeaching the murderous moron: Fourteen former government officials and constitutional scholars (see list below) present a compelling case against president bush’s illegal acts of wiretapping citizens. As can be expected, it is a heavily-documented bitch slap and if Life were fair, it would be another in a hopefully-short series of such leading to the downfall of the Oval Office criminal. Lest you think the authors of the piece are anonymous, check out this line-up:

• Curtis Bradley, Duke Law School, former Counselor on International Law in the State Department Legal Adviser's Office
• David Cole, Georgetown University Law Center
• Walter Dellinger, Duke Law School, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel and Acting Solicitor General
• Ronald Dworkin, NYU Law School
• Richard Epstein, University of Chicago Law School, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
• Philip B. Heymann, Harvard Law School, former Deputy Attorney General
• Harold Hongju Koh, Dean, Yale Law School, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, former Attorney-Adviser, Office of Legal Counsel, DOJ
• Martin Lederman, Georgetown University Law Center, former Attorney-Adviser, Office of Legal Counsel, DOJ
• Beth Nolan, former Counsel to the President and Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel
• William S. Sessions, former Director, FBI, former Chief United States District Judge
• Geoffrey Stone, Professor of Law and former Provost, University of Chicago
• Kathleen Sullivan, Professor and former Dean, Stanford Law School
• Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard Law School
• William Van Alstyne, William & Mary Law School, former Justice Department attorney

-- Current governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá actually attacks Congress about the commonwealth status he idiotically insists on defending, stating that the most recent “report” was essentially an underhanded political maneuver. Yeah, right, and porkers glide. Here’s a topic you CAN do something about, Mr. Off-Base: unicamerality. Remember that? We actually voted for it. Your stance on the status is about as relevant as the Irish lottery on the Super Bowl, but maybe, just maybe, you could actually do something with this unicamerality idea. Then again, porkers may glide before you actually accomplish anything.

-- The much-vaunted EnterPrize Competition, aimed at fomenting the development of quality VC-attractive projects has led to…nothing. The winning project may have had slight appeal, like dating a 4 (on a scale of 10), but the other “winners” were dogs. A food franchise? A stand-alone “search engine optimizer”? Puh-lease. At Open Source Minds, We know of at least 8 projects that are easily rated at 8 or 9 on a scale of 10. Three reasons why EnterPrize didn’t know about them:

1) No solid quality project will go through the myriad and stupid hoops of the EnterPrize carnival for $25,000 or less. The hours invested in that crapfest can be put to MUCH better use.
2) The EnterPrize folks are “swinging for the fences,” looking for the next “Google” or “Hotmail”. To build solid project flow is very much like scoring runs in baseball: you get better results with singles and doubles and the occasional home run than you do trying to crush the ball with every swing.
3) The EnterPrize judges have very little grasp of technology and its impact on the current economic scene. Instead of choosing generalists who live by seeing big pictures (such as Dan Bariault, of the law firm Goldman, Antonetti), they chose specialists who know only one field, and thus are people who barely know anything useful to the start-up process.

The Jenius suggests that Guayacán Venture Fund, the carnies running the EnterPrize show, get together with Open Source Minds, Dan and a handful of others and spend a few hours listening and learning. Barring that, the best thing they can do with their money is bet Red or Black (and watch out for them green zeroes).

-- The Jenius will be speaking at the CaribeSoft Event, February 2, at the San Juan Marriott Hotel (morning session). The topic: How to Build Effective Teams. Mr. Off-Base is cordially invited.

The Jenius Has Returned.

13 January 2006


Panel One: On impeaching president bush, the murderous moron

Congresswoman (D) Elizabeth Holtzman, with a career that includes Watergate, remarks in her article in this month's The Nation on the growing public debate--or call--for impeaching the convict in the Oval Office. Referring to bushie's lying the country into war in Iraq and the warrantless, illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens, Holtzman writes:

"As a matter of constitutional law, these and other misdeeds constitute grounds for the impeachment of President Bush. A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law--and repeatedly violates the law--thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government."

She goes on to explain her reasoning for fully investigating impeachment, in reasoned, sober, even humble tones, but neither her tone or political position can hide the fact that impeaching the murderous moron is the only reasonable and responsible course of action.

For further proof, head over to Truthout.org and read about bushie authorizing wiretapping prior to 9/11. Political mudslinging? No, internal documentation, from the National Security Agency (NSA), the perpetrator of the illegal action.

Panel Two: Schools suck

In the pages of Reason Magazine (very very under-rated publication), John Stossel, of ABC Network News fame, slams the public school system of the U.S.

Stossel focuses on over-unionization in the public school system in this article, though he sideswipes the very notion of a government monopoly on education, advocating instead for a private, competition-based system, i.e., schools as a business niche.

Nothing you haven't heard The Jenius say before. Here it is in Stossel's own words:

"The longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids from countries that spend much less money on education.

This should come as no surprise once you remember that public education in the USA is a government monopoly. Don't like your public school? Tough. The school is terrible? Tough. Your taxes fund that school regardless of whether it's good or bad. That's why government monopolies routinely fail their customers. Union-dominated monopolies are even worse."

The solutions lie in taking education into private hands--beginning with parents. We simply cannot afford to let The Fools and The Dully Incompetent (teachers and other educational system flabware) curtail or even destroy the best in Our children's future. An educational system run like retail competition makes all the sense in the world, for it places the true emphasis for success where it belongs: on delivering value. Yes, delivering value for money, but right now We're handing over money and getting bat snot. Low-quality bat snot, at that.

So yes, some schools will be "Wal-marts", others will be "Nordstroms" and still others will be "Guccis". Fine. Because in Our consumer-obssessed society, becoming value-conscious about education through the Madison Avenue pseudomagic of "get your money's worth" might be the only thing that keeps Us from lodging Ourselves firmly into global backwaters. (Or We may just decide to create a better educational system as its own reward...at about the same time We colonize Io.)

Panel Three: Make that big decision

You face making a decision and though you go over it endlessly--like a dog chasing its tail--you're getting nowhere. Break that cycle and make the decision using one of these four methods: (with more that you can find here and more you can download here)

1) Make a weighted list of pros and cons. List the positive expected results of the decision and the potential negatives, then assign each a number that indicates how important, valuable or undesired that result is to you. Whichever side ends up with a higher number is the decision you should make. Best when used with "either/or" scenarios.

2) For decisions with multiple variables, make a list of the important variables in the decision. These are your "categories". Then for each option, assign a weight or ranking in each category. Add or subtract (if you use negative values) until you get an answer. In My case, the rankings are from "1" (best) to whatever number the variables are, then by adding the numbers, the lowest score "wins" (because it involves the best of high-ranking criteria).

For example, in hiring a new salesperson, the categories could be Experience, Initiative and Management Potential, while the candidates could be Anne, Bill and Carlos. In each category, rank the candidates. Anne scores 1, 2 and 3 in the categories; Bill scores 2, 3 and 2, while Carlos scores 3, 1 and 1. Total scores: Anne has 6, Bill has 7 and Carlos has 5. So you hire Carlos.

3) Open a book. Any book, though most people choose the Bible. The idea is that the words will trigger a new angle of thought or coalesce one already formed, so in effect, it isn't that the book tells you the answer, but rather that your mind uses the act of reading a random phrase as a trigger. Some people do this consciously with TV, movies, music, the Internet, pictures and even exercise (to distract one's attention). It's possible to do this with any stimuli so long as one is aware of the process of decision-making.

4) My favorite, though never used completely: Assign one option to one side of a coin ("heads") and another option to the other ("tails"). Flip the coin. Before the coin lands, you'll think of which one you want to see come up and you'll know your decision.

Why hasn't The Jenius used it? Because even before needing to flip the coin, whatever option is "heads" is invariably My preference.

Like you really expect The Jenius to settle for "tails"...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

12 January 2006

Required: A Bias To Action

From the wisdom of Bill Cole, The Mental Game Coach, comes a brief list of moving past wishes and dreams into the wonderful realm of achievements. The Jenius encourages you to not only read this valuable article, but also to drop by Cole's website as soon as possible.

How Superstars Reach Their Goals, How We Can Reach Ours

Are superstars born or made? Do they have the genius of supreme achievement by an accident of birth, a favorable environment or from their own individual effort? Whatever the reasons, superstars are a different breed. They must succeed and they will succeed. They have an amazing capacity to dream big, strive even bigger and come through against all the odds.

Can we learn to become better achievers by looking inside the minds of the big-time peak performers? Let's see what makes them tick and why they are able to achieve so much more and at a higher level than anyone else. Here are their characteristics.

1. A Can-Do Attitude. Superstars have a "make-it-happen" attitude. They take it for granted that they will succeed. They act as if it's a done deal that they will win. They are infectious in their enthusiasm for a project and enlist others easily to make it become a reality. They are bursting with positive expectancy that everything will be a smashing success. Their motto is "Get It Done!"

2. A Bias To Action. Superstars take action. They start acting on an idea or plan quickly and make room in their schedule for tangible, concrete objectives that take them closer to their goals. They spend time reflectively, but take action when action is required. They don't waste time over-planning. They get down to it.

3. Atmospheric Standards. Superstars are often not 100% happy with their performances. They are not negative about them, but they are realistic and demanding of themselves and often of those around them. They continually seek improvement in even the tiniest areas of their performance and regularly raise the bar as each new ability level is surmounted. They hold their best all-time performances as the ideal and seek to rise to that level always.

4. Superb Organizational Skills. Superstars know how to break projects down into manageable bite-sized chunks. Their favorite motto is "Mile by mile it's a trial; inch by inch it's a cinch". They know that many details placed together in proper order lead to something big. They spend time planning and keeping records to show progress and to stay on time projections. They are in a hurry to succeed, but never rush.

5. Decisiveness. Superstars are decisive. This is a characteristic of all successful people. They gather information and quickly decide to act on it and later make changes based on new information. They take advantage of the windows of opportunities that arise and go for it. They have confidence that they made the right decision and the confidence that if they do not, they can successfully change gear and recover for a positive outcome.

6. They Sacrifice.
Superstars know how to sacrifice to make something happen. They know they often can't have it all and that they must have singular focus to succeed. They are good at going into "tunnel-vision" to block out all distractions so they can rapidly advance past their objectives. They deny themselves those things that do not contribute to making them successful. They know how to be self-disciplined and stay on track.

7. They Love The Struggle. Superstars love the battle. They love the process. They love the climb up the ladder. Superstars love to be in the game, the hunt, the chase. This is what it is all about for many of them. They are excited pursuing their goals and take extreme pleasure in the challenge to see what impossible obstacles they can leap on their way to success. They want stories to tell, bragging rights as part of the success trophy.

8. They Love To Achieve. Meeting objectives and reaching goals is energizing to top achievers. They can't wait to get to work and see the results of their efforts. They boost their self-esteem and self-confidence as they finish a project or task that is highly satisfying. They pour their entire passion into what they love to do and complete it with all their energies and enthusiasm.

Some people look at superstars and lament that they could never do what they do. They get discouraged at the gap between what is and what could be. Other people look to the superstars and are inspired. They use the superstars as a template or benchmark and use them as models for what they would like to achieve. They view them as "best practices" and measure themselves against the superstars. Watch a superstar and become discouraged or become encouraged...the choice is yours.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

11 January 2006

Joining A Debate

While reviewing visitor data to Gil The Jenius, a local website, Zonai, was prominently listed. It appears that within a cyberforum debate concerning the use of English by The Fools in the legislature, a side topic came up about Puerto Rico being or not a Third World country.

Let Me dismiss one aspect of this immediately: whether The Fools in their legislative pigsty want to speak English or not is about as relevant to Our progress as whether cows poop east or west. Hell, at least the cows produce something useful. [For a Jenius post on local "bilingualism", you know what to do.]

As for whether Puerto Rico is Third World country or not (this link has My initial take on the matter), what brought The Jenius into this Zonai discussion was a post by a member named lakemaster, who thought my Sobering Territorial Statistics post was germane to the ongoing discussion.

A member named Orocovis (also the name of the town where My father was born) scolded lakemaster for posting a link to a personal blog and added this link as an economically-based "answer" to Puerto Rico being "Third World or not?" (Puerto Rico appears as #47 in the World Rankings of Gross National Income at Purchasing-Power-Parity per Capita and Year. Whew.)

First of all, My thanks to lakemaster for dropping in to visit. Second, My Sobering Territorial Statistics post was comparing and contrasting Puerto Rico's median family income to those of Guam, the Marianas Islands, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands and how We fared poorly in the comparison. At no point is The Jenius arguing that Puerto Rico is a Third World country, only that We weren't doing as well as We would expect.

In third position, Orocovis rightly describes this blog as personal, but missed the obvious fact that the statistical data is objective, or at least, developed separately from The Jenius, and provided with a link to the original source. The tone of his writing is respectful and worthy of the time taken to read it, so it seems careless of him to dismiss a blog post without verifying its true origin.

And lastly, it was a pleasant surprise to discover this debate, for it was quite engaging, well-mannered, often playful and though the original topic weighs toward the banal end of My scale, it was clearly worth My time in discovering it. A special salute to lakemaster, Orocovis and cruisegirl for their efforts and here's hoping the rest of Us can emulate their fine example.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 January 2006

Many Golden Rules

From the still-intriguing Business 2.0 comes a collection of Golden Rules, offered by 45 notable leaders, mainly involved in business. (They even threw in a professional poker player.)

Arranged in alphabetical order, from Chris Albrecht (CEO of HBO) to Sergio Zyman (marketing expert), the Golden Rules are a thought-provoking set of maxims every professional should read at least once.

Two rules were selected by two people each:

-- Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Chris Albrecht and the Head of the Evil Empire (beaten by the Pirates in the 1960 World Series by Bill Mazeroski's ninth-inning home run), George Steinbrenner. (The Jenius loves rubbing ancient history in where it hurts. He also thinks this Golden Rule is da bomb.)

-- Never, ever forget you're a servant. David Neeleman, founder and CEO of JetBlue and Jim Press, president of Toyota Sales USA.

Other Rules worthy of attention, for some reason or another:

-- If you think you can't, you're right. Carol Bartz, CEO of AutoDesk. Shades of Henry Ford's "Whether you think you can or think you can't--you are right." Other Great and Pertinent Thoughts here.

-- Don't be interesting--be interested. Jim Collins, author of "Built to Last" and "Good to Great" (both highly recommended by The Jenius). As to this Golden Rule, The Jenius follows it more often than most of those who know Him would believe.

-- Learn to give back. Michael Graves, architect and designer. Those that learn this lesson are demonstrably happier and more successful than those who don't.

-- Make deals with people, not paper. Penn Jillette, magician, author and producer. If the people aren't right, it doesn't matter what or how much is on paper: it won't come together ever.

-- Business can't trump happiness. Shelly Lazarus, Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. She says something even more profound in her mini-essay: "Finding fulfilling work should be an early and deeply pursued part of everyone's career path." She's 100% right, on both accounts.

-- Hard work opens doors. Ivan Seidenberg, Chairman and CEO, Verizon. Yeah, The Jenius shreds the company sometimes, but when the man is right, he is right, as in "Work hard, have high standards, and stick to your values, because somebody's always watching."

-- Quit taking, start giving. Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records and founder of Rush Communications. And a rapper shall lead Us.

-- Business is not about ideas, it's about initiatives. Sergio Zyman's Rule should be plastered all over business classrooms and boardrooms from Alsatia to Zanzibar.

Check out these Golden Rules for a brief idea lab and ethics seminar. You'll notice a difference as soon as you do.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

09 January 2006

Dangerous Ideas Of 2006

My thanks to Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman for picking up My Let's Retire Roberto Clemente's #21 post. Global Voices has picked up several of My previous posts and their interest is always welcome.

Dangerous ideas are ideas with all the limitations inherent in mere thought constructs, but with the perceived potential of doing more than just upsetting the proverbial apple cart.

Ask over 100 scientists and thinkers what their most dangerous idea is and you get what Edge Magazine has created: The World Question Center 2006. Once you scroll past the self-congratulatory press clips, (The Jenius is against self-aggrandizement for self-aggrandizement's sake) you'll start a sequence of 119 revealing and often interesting takes on what consists a dangerous idea in the sixth year of the 21st century.

The Jenius was intrigued by the number of respondents who merged science and religion in various ways: competition, conflict, merger, irrelevance or dismissal. Could be a fruitful year for more pseudo-science or pseudo-religious books on the Best Seller lists.

Dangerous Ideas worth pursuing:

--Leo Chalupa's 24-hour of absolute solitude. The Jenius will do this one this year.

-- Matt Ridley's idea that government is the problem, not the solution. Not new, but if taken to practical terms, wonderfully dangerous...to Fools. (No direct URL; must scroll down to find.)

-- Timothy Taylor's idea that the brain is a cultural artefact. Imagine that genetics takes a back seat to simple survival and social criteria in the creation of Our dominant organ. Discuss.

-- Jamshed Bharucha's contention that education as we know it does not accomplish what we believe it does. Amen. This needs to be addressed now, and the society that does it first will streak ahead of the world. Mark My Words.

-- Robert Shapiro thinks we will understand the origin of Life in the next five years. And We will discover Fools are actually plant feces.

-- Terence Sejnowski wonders when the Internet will become self-aware. The Jenius wondered the same thing back in 2000-2001, as have others. But it bears serious thinking: a global self-aware entity is a force to be reckoned with. Just ask Gaia.

-- Douglas Rushkoff sees a use for Open Source currency, i.e., self-created money with negotiable value. Puerto Rico is probably the perfect laboratory for a research project in this area: high population density, high level of consumerism, opportunistic "gray" economy and low income per capita relative to societal pressure (leads to wanting way more than you can afford).

-- David Gelernter asks "What are people well-informed about in the Information Age?" The Jenius believes the Information Age is turning Us into self-selected idiot savants...only some people don't make much of an effort to move past the first word.

-- Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that political systems be based on empathy. He argues that men, being systemizers, naturally created the political structures We have now. Baron-Cohen indicates that political systems based on empathy--a more feminine trait--could radically alter societies. The Jenius is all for it.

-- Roger C. Schank is The Jenius' New Hero. His idea, in a nutshell: "Just call school off. Turn them all into apartment houses." YEAH, BABY!!

From a total of 119 dangerous ideas, there are several more dangerous and several more equally or more interesting than the ones presented here. If you have a curious mind and a desire to challenge it, spend some time with The World Question 2006.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 January 2006

Let's Retire Roberto Clemente's #21

On the anniversary of the day The Jenius expected to meet His Idol, a reprise of a petition worthy of your attention...

The Jenius was 4 years old when he first saw him play, swinging off his front foot and running like a panther. Back in the days when there was only one baseball game a week, catching the Pirates on TV was like catching a lunar eclipse. But in 1971, the Pirates were in the World Series, against the mighty Baltimore Orioles, and suddenly, every game was a Roberto Clemente game.

Playing in front of a national audience, facing a team with four--four!--20-game winning pitchers, Clemente and the Pirates were considered an easy opponent for the Orioles. My Dad, the only Puerto Rican in his Air Force Personnel office, was the sole Pirates supporter. Against the likes of future Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer, with Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Boog Powell and Paul Blair thrown in for good measure, my Dad's reply never changed: "Yes, but we have Clemente."

In 1971, the concept of the World Series MVP was just taking off, the award part of a package that included a car. By Game 4, Roger Angell, one of the greatest baseball writers of all time, wrote that the car should be given to Clemente, for he "...played a kind of baseball that none of us had ever seen before—throwing and running and hitting at something close to the level of absolute perfection...as if it were a form of punishment for everyone else on the field."

At the time, the Pirates were tied 2-2 with the Orioles. But the only thing people could talk about was Roberto.

Our Roberto.

He hit line drives like lasers. At the age of 37, he ran the bases like a racehorse, digging in fiercely as he rounded the bases, ending in a slide so beautiful it would take your breath away. He fielded flawlessly and at one point unleashed a throw so powerful, so numbingly accurate, it was more art than sport.

Before Game 5, the men in my Dad's office could only say: "You were right. You guys have Clemente."

The Pirates and Orioles split the next two games and that most exciting of sporting events, a Game 7 in the World Series, was set. The Jenius could barely sit still. The first run of the game was a Clemente home run, a signature line drive off of a wicked pitch, Clemente's second home run of the Series and extending his World Series hitting streak to 14 games.

In a breathless game, the Pirates won 2-1 and were World Champions. Clemente was the Series MVP and in typical fashion, his first words to the national audience were directed to his parents. In Spanish.

Roberto was ours in every way.

The next season, despite injuries, he achieved a rare goal: 3,000 hits. In the playoffs, facing what would become The Big Red Machine, the Pirates lost in the deciding game because of a passed ball. Clemente walked off the field and none of us, even through the tears of so painful a loss, could imagine it would be his last game.

Christmas Season. The earthquake in Nicaragua. An effort to secure emergency supplies. Stories of profiteering and violence, even deaths. Clemente, a recent visitor to Nicaragua, steps forward. Told he could be in danger if he tried to stop the profiteering, he replied "They will listen to me."

New Year's Day. The Jenius, a sleepy child in the brilliant sunshine, hears the news: Roberto Clemente's plane had crashed in the ocean, shortly after take-off. My first thought was He's a great swimmer. Only years later did The Jenius find out his wishful thought was actually true. And yet, it didn't matter.

Shortly after midday of 1973, the news: Roberto Clemente--My Roberto Clemente--was dead.

In honor of his career and humanity, Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame the very next year, the first ballplayer of Hispanic descent to enter Cooperstown. An award was established in his name to annually honor the player who combined on-field excellence with community work. The players themselves consider The Roberto Clemente Award to be one of the greatest honors in baseball.

When Major League Baseball made the brilliant decision of honoring Jackie Robinson by retiring his number 42 from all baseball teams, there was only one more candidate worthy of the same: Our Roberto Clemente.

This year, the All Star Game will be played in Pittsburgh, Clemente's home for 18 seasons. With an aura that has grown since his death 33 years ago, Clemente has transcended the sport and become an icon. A very human one. In the words of Thomas Boswell: "I believe that Roberto Clemente is the patron saint of baseball."

Let's make that July night in Pittsburgh the night Roberto Clemente's number 21 is retired. Please visit this website and sign the petition to make this happen.

"Anytime you have an opportunity to make things better and you don't, then you are wasting your time on this Earth" -- Roberto Clemente

The Jenius Asks For Your Support.

05 January 2006

The Power Of Questions

Over at Marginal Revolution, a group blog generally about economic issues, Tyler Cowen posted his "Macro Final," presumably a final exam in a college-level macroeconomics course he teaches. The last question was captivating:

5. Write your own exam question and answer it, do not use open economy macro as your major topic since three of the questions already cover that. The quality of the question matters as much as the quality of the answer.

"Write your own question" coupled with "the quality of the question matters as much as the quality of the answer" is the kind of exercise that should be applied to practically every academic course and almost every learning experience.

Asking questions--learning to ask the right questions--is one of the most valuable skills a person can have. Unfortunately, asking questions is considered "intrusive," "stupid" or "unnecessary" in many of Our schools, an attitude that says too much about how deficient the educational system and its practitioners are.

Asking questions opens doors to knowledge, and if combined with a method for developing useful questions, it then becomes the fastest path to knowledge. In addition, it helps you teach with greater effectiveness. For the doubters out there, it's called the Socratic Method and it's been around for almost three thousand years; there are plenty of reasons why.

Asking questions and developing skills to ask questions are at the root of critical thinking. Compared to the sawdust-level thinking that schools at all levels tend to require of its teachers and students, critical thinking is gold in all its malleable glory. Without questions, without curiosity and rational probing, few subjects can be learned and none can be mastered.

Even in the realm of the imagination, asking questions is fundamental. Almost every story and creative endeavor, from paintings to video games, begins with a question: What if? Science is built upon the structure of questions and more questions, an unending series of forays into the mysteries surrounding Us.

There's a time in a child's life when he or she suddenly becomes a question machine. It often seems as if they forget to speak in declarative sentences. It is not a coincidence that the amazing learning capacity of the child is directly linked to this "question-heavy" period. Thus, encouraging the child to continue questioning and teaching them to formulate better questions is probably the wisest investment in their education you will ever make.

For once a child learns to ask questions and self-produce better questions, his or her greatest potential is truly unleashed. It is never too late to learn such a valuable skill, but once you have it, do everything you can to pass it on.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

04 January 2006

The Jenius' Blog List

There's a long list of blogs down the right side of Chateau Jenius and as changes will be made soon to the lineup, this seems to be a good time to indicate which ones are very high on The Jenius' Reading List:

-- BoingBoing: The very first blog The Jenius ever read and still a winner. Not for everybody and that's why it works: because it is a personal collaborative effort by very talented and interesting people.

-- Metafilter: A community of web-savvy, pop-culture savvy and just plain savvy people from around the world. Somewhat Anglo-centric (think "occasionally veddy British"), but that's part of its charm.

-- Lifehacker: Not tecno-centric, but people-centric, Lifehacker adds tools to your personal toolbox that often make big differences in your productivity and enjoyment of life.

-- Fark and Madville: A daily collection of oddities, inanities, insanities, vanities and verities. Not listed over there, Jenius, you say? Changes are coming.

-- The Information Soldier and Portal Al Exito are high on my reading list, but both Aníbal Freytes and Kevin Shockey are deeply involved in work and can't post as often as they'd like. Hopefully that will change soon.

-- Arts & Letters Daily: Almost a series of short "culture" snapshots, A&L Daily could also be likened to a gourmet hors d'oeuvres table.

-- How To Save The World: The Jenius would love to meet Dave Pollard someday, and if this blog has dropped off My daily reading list, it's not because it isn't valuable and engrossing: it's simply envy...and a need to step up My effort to match his. Pollard is a Genius.

-- Creative Generalist: Canada seems to have an undisclosed number of Bright Minds, to which you can add Steve Hardy. His ideas, observations and commentary are almost always a step ahead of The Jenius. So Steve is also on My envy list.

-- Cool Tools and Red Ferret Journal are like ever-growing catalogues of neat-o stuff. (Yes, The Jenius wrote "neat-o".) Other sites offer similar fare, but these two have wit, charm and a personal touch.

-- 43 Folders: If The Jenius gave out awards to useful websites, 43 Folders would be a big winner. Mac-centric and proud of it, the site is aimed at improving personal productivity without technology. (The Jenius seems really focused on productivity.) If you don't know what a "Hipster PDA" is, drop in and explore a world of easy-to-use personal tools that require no batteries. Ever.

There you have it: My Daily or Almost-Daily Blog Reading List. Take a detour through these sites and then you may go back to your regularly scheduled websurfing.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 January 2006

Impeach The Murderous Moron

The Jenius is stepping off His usual mindmap, ever so briefly, to target the national disgrace known as president bush, who deserves no capital letters until he undergoes the capital punishment he so liberally espouses.

[The Jenius knows that, for bushie, the truly offensive term in the previous paragraph was "liberally". bushie thinks being a liberal is worse than being black in New Orleans and you know how he treated those folks...]

That bushie lied the nation into war is beyond dispute. Iraq had as much to do with 9/11 as Lord Kitchener, but that didn't stop bushie and his buttlickin' crew from repeating the lie.

Weapons of mass destruction? None.

Direct links to Al-Qaeda? None.

Proof that Sadam Hussein planned, coordinated or participated in 9/11? None.

Any proof of any claim made by bushie to justify invading Iraq? None and none and none. A big fat stinking zero...which, coincidentally, is bushie's total value.

Now the prevaricator of the free world has committed an offense that also has historical precedent. (Before some of you leap at Me with bared fangs, lying to get the U.S. into war has been done before: See The Spanish-American War.) Without ANY legal authorization, bushie ordered wiretapping on citizens, the same citizens he falsely swore to protect.

The Jenius has one word for you, Bug-Snotty bushie: Watergate.

Go ahead, click the "Watergate" link. Nixon was threatened--no, guaranteed--impeachment for thinking himself above the law. For a greater offense, for the many greater offenses of this rampaging subnormal criminal, the murderous moron in the bloody White House deserves no less.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

Addendum: The following list is from AMERICAblog, asking a simple question: Exactly how has Bush(ie) made America safer in the past 4 years?

He hasn't. Here's why: (read the complete post, with links, here:)

1) Osama is free and forgotten. [The Jenius: bushie played into his hands by invading Iraq in a naked grab for oil. How's THAT for geopolitical strategy?]

2) Iraq is now the biggest terrorist training ground in the world. [The Jenius: Energized by and targeted at repulsing a criminal invasion of their own country.]

3) Our military is bogged down fighting the wrong war. [The Jenius: The "war on terrorism" should reduce terrorism, not foment it. Duh.]

4) The 9/11 Commission's recommendations are being ignored. [The Jenius: Maybe the report should be explained to bushie using hand puppets and Dr. Seuss' vocabulary...]

5) The Homeland Security budget is being spent on pork. [The Jenius: If by "pork" you mean "bushie's piggy friends," then that statement is as accurate as math.]

6) The (bipartisan) 9/11 Commission gave Bush a "D" for efforts to stop terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear bombs. [The Jenius: Like the 9/11 Commission actually means anything to bushie...]

7) Most of the world now hates us. [The Jenius: Nothing like inspiring hatred in others to make one feel more secure, right? republican logic, maybe...]

And as pointed out at Daily Kos, debasing U.S. economic power by making it the largest debtor nation in history is not "making America safer." It's shoving it down a path of failure, lubricated by lies and greed.

Lies and greed: bushie in a nutshell.

Oh, and you statehooders: Take a hint.

02 January 2006

The Kalamazoo Promise Redux

In an earlier post The Jenius mentioned The Kalamazoo Promise and how it can serve as an economic engine. But to make it work, the matter boils down to one question: how much money is needed?

If We estimate that 1,000 students are going to be graduating from public high schools every year, and that the average yearly tuition and fees for each student in a state university or community college will be $7,500, to keep such a Promise will require $7.5 million a year.

Both estimates are on the high side, for in a population of roughly 80,000 residents (Kalamazoo), the average number of high school students is roughly 475 (estimated from this FactFinder source on age and population) and the average annual 4-year college tuition is hovering around $5,500. So in actuality, We are talking about an amount of money closer to $2.7 million than $7.5 million.

Why the gross overestimation? To show that even with numbers that nearly triple a close estimate, The Kalamazoo Promise can be implemented here in Puerto Rico.

It would take creating a fund of about $45 million with an average yearly return of 10%. At present rates, funds of this size can return anywhere from 7% to upwards of 20%, depending on how the monies are used. Obviously, the Promise Fund monies cannot be reduced beyond what's needed to pay the current year's tuition and fees, but as the student population rises and inflation swells college costs, the Fund must stay ahead of that growth curve.

The way the Kalamazoo Promise is set up now, no student will receive monies until at least two years have passed, and more likely four. At that rate, a 10% interest (compounded) could add about $20 million in four years. With over $60 million on hand to build interest with, the Fund could easily provide the necessary monies for double the initial number of estimated students and grow as the number of students grows over the years.

And how difficult is it to create a $45 million Promise Fund in Puerto Rico? The difficulty lies not in accessing the money, for Puerto Rico has billions of dollars still deposited in so-called "936 accounts." In addition, the local economy could generate $45 million for a Promise Fund in days, if not hours, simply from major industries and retail companies.

No, money is not the problem. It seldom is. The problem lies in finding the will to do it and agreeing on how it will be done. Forget the government: waiting for them to do this would be like asking a cockroach to compose a symphony. Private industry could do it, but even with the best of intentions and efforts it would not come together for years--maybe more than a decade. By that time, We would be further down the list of "Attractive Places In Which To Invest For The Future."

Our best chance for a Promise Fund comes from private organizations and individuals. In fact, it is Our only chance. It's amazing how often that turns out to be the true path to progress and how often We seem to ignore it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.