Sunday, February 18, 2018

To Do Lists or Not to Do

     Dang… the weekend has gone by. I did about 80% of what I wanted to do. I should be happy but I wish I had done more and feel bad about it.  Why is that?
     First, I know I could have planned and executed better. But, I always think that. Most other times when I think that, I have, and allow me to use the technical term here, royally slacked off and therefore did not accomplish what I had planned. That is not the case this weekend. So, I should just lighten up a tad and give myself a break.
     I did start using task management in MS Outlook. It replaced what I had been doing which was to jot my to-dos on the back of envelopes. Literally, I would write my task list on the backs of envelopes or the fronts. Why? There is no other reason but that I like the idea of the backs of envelopes. To me it is a symbol of sorts for innovation. We always hear about this genius idea or that being written on a napkin or on the back of an envelope. So, in my desire to be more, I think that by writing my to-dos on envelopes they will somehow become bigger and more meaningful.
     There are three more, very mundane, reasons for this. First, the envelope might simply be near at hand. So, I grab it and use it. Secondly, envelopes fold and fit in a shirt pocket. Thus, I can take my to-do list with me. When I don’t use envelopes, I use 3x5 cards for the very same reason. Lastly, I am getting a bit more use out of an envelope before tossing it. Instead of using a new 3x5 card and eventually tossing it out, I use an envelope which was about to be tossed out. So, I am actually being environmentally conscious here.
     So, why wasn’t I using the task list app on my phone and MS Outlook, which by the way sync with each other. Seriously, I do everything else on phone, my desktop computer, or laptops.  It seems like a better way to keep track of what must be done instead of having 3x5 cards and envelopes all over the place. The answer to this is quite simple. I like the act of crossing out items on paper with a pen. Sometimes it is just one line. Many times it is crossing out with several lines, back and forth, crossing out with a vengeance. Take that you lingering task you! Be gone ye stubborn task!  Plus I can see what is crossed out and what isn’t. On the apps, the completed items tend to disappear and that bothers me. I want to see what I have done even if the things that I did were simple tasks that I did to avoid tackling the harder ones but still giving myself a false sense of accomplishment.
     I am not so sure, I should be giving these glimpses into the maze like structure of how I work… if we can call it work.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

     On February 10, I read a quote attributed to C. S. Lewis on Facebook.
You can’t go back and change the beginning, but your can start where you are and change the ending.
     I liked it and, without giving it much thought, shared it. People started liking it and commenting on it saying that it was profound and such. I went back and looked at the original post. It had over 13 million views, 435 thousand shares, 14 thousand likes, and 900 comments. I would classify this as a viral post. Some comments on the original posts claim C. S. Lewis never said this. Others got very spiritual about it.
      I do like the quote, but it is not so profound to me at this time. While I have never heard this particular quote, the message or concept is not new.

Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. ~ Bill Keane
     The bottom line is that we cannot reverse the past. What’s done is done. There is no time machine. We could have regrets over what we did or didn’t do. A little regret good, too much regret will… well the following quote attributed to Lao Tzu said it best:
If you are depressed you are living in the past.  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace you are living in the present.
     There is a Bible passage, Isiah 43:18-19, that gives a similar message:
18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
     Another popular short hand for this is adage states that “today is the first day of the rest of your life.” This quote is attributed to Charles Dederich, the founder of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization, Synanon, which he founded in the 1960s. It was a very popular quote in back then. I do remember thinking it was profound when I first heard it back in the late 1960s.  It made a lot of sense to me though ever since then it has been a minor contributor to the anxiousness that Lao Tzu referred to.
     There seems to be a recurring theme. We cannot change the past. Of course, we would only want to do that if there is something in the past that we regret. It could be that we squandered time or opportunity or, worse, did things we are ashamed of. If all we do is regret the past, we will indeed get depressed and just wallow in that depression. Better that we deal with our regrets in the only way possible by doing something in the here and now to make for that better ending that C. S. Lewis was talking about.
     If we squandered time and opportunity, stop doing it now and everyday moving forward. If we did somethings we are ashamed of, we can only change o
ur behavior moving forward to be a better example and atone for what we did. We can make amends by paying it forward to others. 
     The concept is indeed profound. It makes so much sense, but it is as if collectively we do not think it important enough to teach it as a fundamental concept to others. We are just surprised when we run across it. It is a bit like The Golden Rule. It is profound when we first hear that we should treat others as we would want them to treat us. Yet, we hear of this very early in our lives and most all religions have some version of it as a tenet to live by.  
Thus, we all know about The Golden Rule and believe it is how we should live.  The same cannot be said of the Lewis Rule.
     Both these maxims or beliefs, The Golden Rule and this lesser known Lewis Rule, are wonderful notions and ideas. As stated above, they are how we should we should live. Should is the key word here. We should follow both maxims but we don’t. Knowing what we should be doing and actually doing it are two very different things. What is profound, amazing, and humbling to me, is when I see someone actually living these tenets.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

An Old Fashioned Winter

This past Wednesday Morning.  Brrrisk!!
     I have talked with friends in Chicago, Detroit, and Boston over the weekend. They are all complaining about the snow. Enough is enough. Not me. Bring it on. I love the four season and that includes a good serious winter.  Therefore, I love it when it is really cold. I love blizzards both during and right after before we dirty up with our cars.
      The past few winters in Chicago have been too warm and with not nearly enough snow. To me, that just makes for a dreary and glum winter. The leaves are off of the trees and everything is brown and grayish. It was not Fall. It was not Spring. And, it certainly was not Winter. It was nether land. It was global warming purgatory.
     An icy arctic blast is necessary. It cleanses the soul. It is a pleasure to get all bundled up and go out into the elements. It is good to be inside writing where it is warm and hearing the wind howl outside. It is what winter is and should be. Add snow to this, and it is perfect!
     Now, I am not wishing it to be so cold that people die from exposure. I do not want it to snow so much that roofs collapse and there are multiple car accidents all the time. But, to me, it is not winter without a couple days, maybe weeks, of single digit temperatures, either plus or minus, and with a few, alright several, blizzards that dump a foot here, six inches there, and perhaps a two footer occasionally.
     This weekend was great. It snowed all weekend, it was cold. I was inside grading and working. I ventured out, took a walk, jumped in my 4Runner and ran errands. It really makes winter more likable when you have the right car and even more so when you have the right boots and clothes. Otherwise, I will admit it, I would probably not be so fond of winter myself.
     I do teach at a university and there are students, mostly young men, who refuse to wear a coat or put on long pants. This winter, I am seeing very few dressing for summer. I like to wear winter boots, coats, gloves, scarves, and hats. Sure, I eventually get weary of them. When? Just about when Spring starts. So, it's all good.
     I was in California over the holidays. I was wearing shorts and t-shirts. I won’t lie, I enjoyed it. It was nice. The whole time I was there, it was really cold in Chicago. Everyone I talked to, texted, or emailed said “don’t come back. Stay where you are. It is freezing here.” I know they meant well and were a bit envious of where I was. In this case, envy was a two way street. I felt like I was missing out and hoping winter would be there upon me return. I have not been disappointed.
    Give me four seasons and that includes a good old fashioned winter… just like this one.

MEME and ME

     I moved to Chicago in late 2006. If memory serves me correctly, it was 2007 when I first heard about the University of Chicago Middle Eastern Music Ensemble (MEME). My friend Zaven Tokatlian told me about MEME and sent me an announcement for their first concert of the season: The Turkish Concert. I knew I had to attend, though I was not sure what to expect.
     The concert took place on a late Sunday afternoon in November. I was surprised the concert was free.  It was in a stately old hall in the grand architecture of the University of Chicago. The word ensemble led me to believe that the group was going to be small, like the kind of band I was used to playing in. I was surprised by the number of chairs on stage. There were at least thirty chairs. The program booklet informed me that it was their 10th Anniversary year. I believe the concert was called A Night in Istanbul. In looking at the instrumentation and selection of pieces to be played, I was even more intrigued and excited. They were playing several classical Turkish selections with an orchestra of violins, violas, cellos, Middel Eastern percussion, clarinets, and a variety of Turkish instruments including kanun, ouds, and sazes. The even had a chorus of singers. I was a fan and very much enjoyed recordings of this kind of Classical Turkish and Ottoman music but I had never seen a live performance. Furthermore, I had actually wanted to play in such an orchestra.
     I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. For amateur and avocational musicians, they had a great sound.  A few of the musicians were quite talented and even world class.  Case in point is Issa Boulos who was the director of the orchestra and was one of the oud players in the ensemble. I knew nothing about Issa and had no expectations, until he played a taksim, an arhythmic improvisational introduction one of the pieces. I was blown away. What a talent. When I asked around my circle of musicians if anyone heard of Issa, my friend Ara Topouzian told me he was well known in Arab circles and was a beast of a player. I could certainly attest to the latter.
     After the concert, I went up and talked to the musicians. I learned that MEME was a student and community ensemble. The students could get one credit hour for participating. The community players ranged from people who loved and wanted to learn to play Middle Eastern music to very accomplished players of Middle Eastern instruments. No one, that I could tell, was a beginner on their instrument. Furthermore, it was open to anyone with an interest.
     I was certainly interested. Two things, at that time, stopped me from joining the ensemble. First, I was in a corporate job that had me working late hours and traveling enough that I could not reliably attend their weekly practices. Secondly, everything was written out as one would expect. Everyone had sheet music in front of them. I had not read music since 1965 when I was 12 years old. I was beyond rusty. Bottom line? I didn’t pursue joining the ensemble.
     I did attend the Arab concert in 2008 and a few Turkish concerts in the following years. Each time I attended, the desire to play in such an Ensemble grew stronger.
     At the end of 2008, my corporate responsibilities came to an abrupt halt with the Great Recession. While I had the free time, way too much of it, I was not thinking of MEME. I was thinking of getting work, starting a consulting business, and securing some adjunct teaching positions provide some income and keep me busy.
     While I was not thinking of MEME, I did participate in a few workshops on Middle Eastern Music at Chicago’s Old Town School of Music in the summer of 2014. At one workshop, I met Wanees Zarour, a leader of the workshop along with Ronnie Malley, a most excellent oud player, who I already knew. I learned that Wanees was now the director of MEME having been in the ensemble for many years. He took over from his uncle, Issa, who moved to Kuwait to teach in a music academy there.
     By chance I was working on learning, by ear of course, the Longa Ferafeza composed by the well known Egyptian composer and player Ryad Al-Sunbati. I thought Wanees or Ronnie might be able to help me with some of the passages I was struggling with. Wanees was more than happy to give me some pointers. After the workshop, we talked in general and about MEME specifically. I expressed both my desire to play and my trepidations due to not actually having read music since 1965. He encouraged me to give it a try.
     As I had just landed a full time teaching position at North Park University in what I call my encore career and had Thursdays free, which was the practice night, I decided to try the Turkish concert in the fall of 2014. I figured I should know some of the music which would help me learn to read again. I went to the first practice unsure. I did already know some of the music like Yuksek Yuksek Tepelere and Uskudara Gideriken. This helped re-enforce my learning to read again. I felt OK. I got stronger each week, and after seven practices and a dress rehearsal, I achieved the goal of playing with such an ensemble in a concert of Turkish folk and classical music. There were 35 or 40 musicians of varying skill. I was somewhere in the middle. Jim Stoynoff, a most talented clarinet player, was already a friend and it was great seeing him every week. I made new friends, felt part of the ensemble, and it was good. The concert itself? Forget about it, there were 350 people in attendance, and was everything I expected it would be. 

     I was not not able participate in the Persian or Arab concerts that year.
     The next year I participated in the Turkish Concert again. It was even better and more fun than the first year. It was great seeing all the musicians again. I have played in the Turkish Concert for four years running now. In the concert, I even played an Ussak taksim before Bu Akşam Gün Batarken Gel. I was feeling most professional!
     In the 2015 -16 season, I decided to give the Persian Concert a try. Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did not know the music and therefore had some fears again. Sure, it was different, but there was a piece, Gole Sangam, that I already knew. It was like the second practice and I was hooked. It was a challenging and fun piece called Khazan by Parviz Meshkatian that hooked me. In the last practice before the concert, Wanees passed out another piece. It was rather slow and easy. I was happy I could kinda sorta sight read it. I was feeling good about reading music. I was not able to play in the Arab concert as I traveling to China to teach and would have to miss the concert.
     In the 2016 - 17 season, I was able to play all three concerts and there were no more fears of any kind. In my first Arab concert, I fell in love with a Farid Al-Atrash song, Ahbabina Ya Ein, and have been playing and humming it ever since.  
     I has been a real pleasure being part of MEME. It is really wonderful group of musicians and friends. We practice seven weeks in a row from 7 to 9:30, and sometimes later.  We have a dress rehearsal on Friday night and play the concert on Saturday of that seventh week.  It is great fun and great camaraderie to finally play the concert in front a full house that is alway enthusiastic.
     This season, the 2017-2018 season, is the 20th Anniversary of MEME. For each concert, we are doing the best of Turkish, Persian, and Arab music that MEME has performed.
     The next concert is February 24 at 7 pm and February 25 at 4 pm at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th St, Chicago, Illinois 60637. It is the first time MEME is doing two shows of any concert. The Persian Concert is that popular. Follow MEME on Facebook


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Snow Day!

Detroit Big Snow of February 1965
     In the days before internet and smart phones, before cable 24/7 on-demand 755 channels, there was only one TV in the house and it was black and white. In fact, the whole winter world, the time between Christmas and Spring, seemed black and white. Martin Luther King had a birthday, but was not yet holiday. It was snowy and cold the whole winter. It was a time when we walked to school and even came home for lunch. Our sweaters and coats were heavy, woolen, and there was not a designer label to be found on them. It was before riots that redefined the City of Detroit. it was Thursday, February 25, 1965, I was eleven years old, and we had the first big snow I can remember.
     We did not have school that Friday. It was a snow day. I am not sure how we even knew it was a snow day. There was no email chains, text messages, nothing scrolled on the bottom of the TV. Maybe there was a radio report, perhaps my parents heard it. Most likely, we looked out the window and there was so much snow, no one thought of going anywhere. It was simply not possible. The world was white and pristine. There wasn’t a foot print or tire track to be seen. No one was, yet, out shoveling which was the only way folks cleared their walks and drives back then.
     It was amazing and awesome. It was quiet and beautiful. And, there was no school. It was an unplanned holiday. My Mother made a hearty breakfast, I am going to say oatmeal, but honestly I don’t remember. My Dad went out to shovel, but we only had one shovel. My sisters and I bundled up and followed after he had cleared a path. As it was a small city lot, there was not a lot of shoveling to do. I used to think about that when I shoveled my long drive in Connecticut in the 90s. We just enjoyed the snow and cold. The neighborhood and city slowly came to life and dug out. By Monday, we were back at school talking about the big snow and our snow day. It was a highlight of that winter.
     Since then, I have experienced a couple dozen snow days when school or work was cancelled. In recent years, with laptops, wifi, and cell phones, snow days became work at home days but they were welcome nonetheless. These days with improvements in weather forecasting, schools and businesses proactively close often the night before.
     This week there has been a forecast of a big snow in Chicagoland. The snow started this evening around 6 pm and is supposed to continue until 11 pm tomorrow. Last night I got an email that the Poon Parigentan (Mardi Gras) at our church was cancelled. All day long I have been getting inquiries from my students if we were having class tomorrow morning especially my Microeconomics students who were to take an exam. I just gave my typical response. If the university is open, I will be there. If it is closed, class is obviously cancelled. At 5 pm today, we all got an email that classes are indeed cancelled for tomorrow. Yay! A snow day.
Chicago Big Snow 2-9-18

     Kid or parent, professor or student, worker or boss, an occasional snow day is still an unexpected joy! I look forward to venturing out, take a walk, and marvel at the snow… oh yeah… and, of course, catching up on my grading.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Legacy Band

Michael, Phillip, Andrew, and Armen
The Legacy Band
     Poon Parigentan in the Armenian church is the “joyous living day” and feast before the start of Lent. Lent in the Armenian church begins on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. Growing up, I do not recall ever hearing the term. I am sure that is either a hole in my memory or a gap in my Armenian experience. It was about 20-25 years ago when I first started hearing the term and getting hired to play music for Poon Parigentan cerebrations. It is quite common these days for Churches to have a gathering which includes food and music for the joyous living day.
     This past Saturday, the Armenian Diocesan Churches in Chicagoland had their joint Poon Parigentan Dinner Dance. This year the big attraction for me was the band which was billed as the The Legacy Band: The Sons and Grandsons of Richard Hagopian and Hachig Kazarian.
      Richard Hagopian is an oud virtuoso and master of Armenian and Turkish folk and classical music. He was playing violin at age 9 and the oud at 11. He studied Middle Easter Music Theory or Maqam Theory with the famous Kanuni Garbis Bakrigian. Richard was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California where as a young fellow, he learned folk songs and lyrics from the first generation of Armenian that migrated there. While well known in Fresno, he burst on the national scene in the 1960s. In 1989, he was named a Smithsonian Master of Traditional Arts, the first and only Armenian to be so honored.
     Hachig Kazarian is a clarinet virtuoso from Detroit. Having grown up there myself, I remember being amazed by Hachig’s playing when he was a student at Cass Tech High School and I was like half his age. He went on to Julliard and quickly became a fixture of the Armenian music scene there playing with oud players like Chick Ganimian and John Berberian. He returned to Detroit and recorded two albums with the Hye Tones, my favorite band growing up. His second album, The Exciting Sounds of Hachig Kazarian, was groundbreaking. It inspired countless young Armenians to take up the clarinet. They all wanted to and tried to play his signature piece at that time, Govand, which was a halay.
     It was inevitable that Richard and Hachig meet and play together. They did thanks to the famed drummer Buddy Sarkisian who brought them together for groundbreaking Kef Time Las Vegas album. They played Armenian and Turkish dance and party music. The had a heavy, soulful, and yet energetic style which is basically the Armenian definition of the word kef to me. The went to record Kef Time Fresno, Kef Time Hartford, and Kef Time Detroit which are all classics in my book. As a young oud player, I used to tune to their albums and play along for hours on end. Hachig and Richard appreciated each other both as friends and simpatico musicians. They were often hired together and, needless to say, I would got to see them play whenever feasible. They were awesome individually and even more awesome together.
     I was delighted to see that their sons and grandsons would be performing in Chicago. I had to go and it was great. Hachig’s son Michael is an excellent drummer. I have known him all his life and had the pleasure of playing with him several times. It was good seeing and Michael.
     Richard’s son Armen plays the clarinet. I recall hearing him many years ago and remember liking how he played. So, I looked forward to seeing him and hearing him again. Indeed, it was a pleasure, Armen played very well. I especially liked his well crafted improvisations. I appreciated talking and catching up with Armen.
     The real attraction of the evening, and this is no offense to Michael or Armen, was to hear Armen’s sons and thus Richard’s grandson’s, Phillip and Andrew, play. I had heard great things about them. They each play keyboard and oud. In fact, Phillip majored in piano at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. He graduated in 2017. In Chicago, he was playing oud and singing. His brother Andrew, who plays guitar and kanun as well, is younger and is just graduating from high school this year. He looks to major in business in college. For the Poon Parigentan, Andrew played guitar and sang.
     The band was awesome. The young brothers were phenomenal. I had heard that they both sing like Richard and, in fact, they do. Richard has a unique voice which I am going to classify as a bassy tenor with a unique lilt and accentuation. Darn if both boys didn’t inherit that gene. Richard’s playing is also unique. He has the fastest mzrab, pick, out of any one I know. It looks like he is pounding the oud but has a very controlled and very articulate style that try as my contemporaries and I have, we haven’t been able to duplicate. It is simply because we are lacking that gene but not Philip. I heard he is very Richard like in his playing. I thought they were over exaggerating a bit. No they weren’t. It was amazing to hear this clone and prodigy who will only get better. Andrew was rock solid on the guitar. In watching him play, you could sense his love of the music by the body language he had while playing. He also had some great chord progressions. From what others have told me, I would have liked to have heard him on oud or kanun as well.
     Even though the grandsons were excellent musicians and lived up to their advance press, they were also very friendly, polite, and engaging young men. I think is was even more impressed by this.
     I liked The Legacy Band. I hope this appearance in Chicago was not a one and done. I think the name is meaningful and quite marketable. Best of all, the music lives up to the legacy their fathers and grandfather have given us. I look forward to hearing them again and again. Abriss dghakner!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Nonchalantly Underwhelmed

urbandictionary.com
     Sometimes I get hung up about words. Sometimes it is out of curiosity. Mostly, I like to delude myself into believing that it is related to the image I think I have of myself as a writer, you know, a man of letters, a wordsmith.  Here are a few examples in this Seinfeldish blog about about nothing.
     My second boss at Ford Motor was a few years older me. I was a direct report of his and it was his first managerial job. He used to use the word whelm which I had never really heard. He would often ask, “Are you overwhelmed, underwhelmed, or just whelmed?” I think that he used underwhelmed and overwhelmed correctly and assumed, as I did, whelmed just something like having a workload or task list that was normal or doable.
     I just finally looked up the three words:
  • Overwhelm: “bury or drown beneath a huge mass.”
  • Underwhelm: “fail to impress or make a positive impact on (someone); disappoint.”
     And whelm, the word I had only heard him use? I wasn't sure it was a word, so only he used it. I was surprised to find that it is a perfectly good word that means to “engulf, submerge, or bury (someone or something).” Well, that did not really help very much. In fact, it confused things a bit. If I was whelmed, I would be engulfed, submerged, or buried. If I was overwhelmed? I would also be buried. So, whelmed is not a neutral place between being underwhelmed and overwhelmed. Actually, overwhelmed is kind of redundant. It is like being  whelm-whelmed.
     Furthermore, underwhelmed is not the opposite of whelmed or overwhelmed. It is more about being disappointed or not impressed. It can even have a humorous twinge to it.
     In the second example, I have been thinking about the word nonchalant. It means “feeling or appearing casually calm and relaxed; not displaying anxiety, interest, or enthusiasm.” OK, that is how I use the word. It is basically how everyone uses the word. It is like being chill in the slangy vernacular of these days.
     Nonchalant begins with non which is, of course, a negative. It would make sense that there is a word, chalant, that means the opposite of nonchalant. Chalant should mean agitated and anxious. The problem is that there is no such word. Chalant doesn’t exist. It is not in the dictionary. It is not a word. A google search simply confirmed this and also let me know that I am not the first person to think of and inquire about this.
     But wait, maybe it is becoming a word. It is in the Urban Dictionary meaning “extreme concern about an object."  In the slangy vernacular, maybe Net Flix and Chill is kind of like being chalant about one’s significant other. 
 At my age, I am sure I got this wrong.

Tom Brady

Part 1: The Michigan Fan Perspective of Tom Brady’s Michigan Years
     I wrote this on January 21 while watching Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come from behind, again, to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFC
amazon.com 
Championship and advance to Super Bowl LII.
     Many Michigan fans are fans of Tom Brady and thus the New England Patriots. Count me as one of them.
     I find this odd because when Brady was at Michigan he was not necessarily a fan favorite.
     Brady was at Michigan from 1996 through 1999. He was a back-up quarterback for his first two seasons, actually 7th on the depth chart when he first arrived, to Brian Griese who led Michigan to an undefeated season and a National Championship in 1997. In 1998 and 1999 after Griese, Brady was essentially the starter. In 1998, the team went 10-3, 7-1 in the Big Ten and tied for first, and went to the Citrus Bowl and beat Arkansas. In 1999, the team had an even better record. They went 12 -2 and beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl in an overtime thriller.
     There are two reasons that Brady was not a fan favorite. First, after winning the National Championship in 1998, every Michigan fan in the universe just assuming it was the start of National Championship dynasty that probably would have lasted to this day. That vision was crushed in the first two games of the 1998 season with Tom Brady under center. They lost to Notre Dame, 36 - 20, and Syracuse, 38 - 28. Our beloved Wolverines were 12 - 0 in 1997 and began the 1998 season 0 - 2. That did not sit well with the fanbase. The only other game they lost that season was to Ohio State, 31 - 16.
     After the 0 - 2 start, fans were sure that this fellow, Tom Brady, was not the guy. There was a freshman, Drew Henson, from Brighton, MI who came in as the second coming of, well actually the second coming of no one. He came in the QB that was going to break the mold and rewrite all the records not only at Michigan but in all of college football and then go on to do the same in the NFL. Besides this hype, he was also a baseball phenom of equal, if not greater potential.
    So with that 0 - 2 start, everyone was clamoring for Henson. “Put the kid in. Let’s get this thing going. Let him fulfill his promise and destiny and in turn win four National Championships in a row.” While this may sound exaggerated, the thinking was certainly pro-Henson.
     Lloyd Carr mostly stuck with Brady, though Henson got some playing time in both seasons. In 1999, the team had a better record, 10 - 2. With a 5 - 0 start, we were all thinking a repeat of 1997 was at hand. Then we lost two in a row again to Michigan State and Illinois. After that we ran the table 5 - 0 again. This was good enough for 2nd place in the Big Ten. Not good enough and most blamed that it on Carr for favoring Brady over Henson.
     This completely overlooked the records that Brady set that year, perhaps a glimpse of thing to come. He completed 34 passes in the Orange Bowl victory over Alabama. He had 4 touchdown passes in that game. He had 214 completions and and 215.5 passing yards per game which were single season records at that time. He was the real deal, but we didn’t know it.
     These stats are given a most odd platoon system Coach Carr had for the first six games. Brady would start. Henson would play the 2nd quarter. Whoever did better would start the second half. In the loss to MSU, Michigan did not score in the first quarter. As planned, Henson started the 2nd quarter and put 10 points on the board. at the end of the half State led 16 - 10. Henson got the nod and started the 2nd half and could do nothing. Michigan State, however, scored two touchdowns. At the start of the 4th quarter is MSU 30, Michigan 10. Carr decided to go back to Brady. He put on a show winning the 4th quarter 21 - 7. After the loss to Illinois in the next game, Brady was the starter and the platoon system trash canned.
     In 2000 with Brady gone, Henson threw for 303 yards against Ohio State beating the Buckeyes 38 - 26. Michigan went on to beat Auburn in the Citrus. After that season, Henson signed with the NY Yankees and left Michigan and football behind. Henson’s baseball career did not pan out. He was to be the equivalent or better of Derek Jeter at third base. But, that did not pan out, he only had one major league hit. The Yankees turned to Alex Rodriguez and Henson tried to return to football. It was too late. He never panned out. I always thought that George Steinbrenner a staunch Ohio State fan pulled Henson out of Michigan partially to help the Buckeyes first year coach, Jim Tressel, in 2001. It’s just a theory.
     There is a brilliant article that provides even more details and insights on the Brady - Henson competition. It was a January 9, 2012 piece in Sports Illustrated by Michael Rosenberg: Tom Brady As You Forgot Him.

Before he became the premier postseason performer of his generation, the Patriots icon was a middling college quarterback who invited skepticism, even scorn, from fans and his coaches. That was all—and that was everything.
Part 2: Tom Brady in the NFL
     Upon the end of the 1999 season, Brady entered the NFL draft. He was
Time Magazine
drafted but it was not impressive. He was drafted in the sixth round and the 199th player drafted overall. Of course, he was drafted by the New England Patriots. As Drew Bledsoe was the veteran starter, Brady was a backup again. In this case he was 4th string or the number 3 backup. In his first NFL season, he saw little action and when he did he was nothing special at all. He was 1 for 3 in passing for a whopping 6 yards. But that one pass was for a touchdown in a losing effort agains the Lions.
     In 2001, Brady’s second season with New England, the New England starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, went down with a season ending injury in game two. Brady came in but the Patriots lost the game and were 0 - 2 on the season. In the next 8 games, the Patriots with Brady as quarterback went 5 - 3. Then, the Brady magic really clicked in. The Patriots won the next 5 regular season game to qualify for the play-offs. They then ran the table to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
     Since then the Patriots under Brady and Belichick have been the best franchise in the NFL to date including the storied Green Bay Packers of the Vince Lombardi era. Brady and Belichick have been to the Super Bowl 7 times and they have won 5 times. The two losses were in 2007 and 2011 were both to the New York Giants.
     In the transition from college to the NFL, it is really hard to predict how successful a quarterback will be. There are lists of great college quarterbacks who just never panned out in the NFL. There is also many examples of no-name college quarterbacks who have had great success in the NFL. Brady certainly qualifies in this regard. Basically, in the NFL, plays unfold faster and quarterbacks have to be able read, react, and execute faster. Clearly, not everyone can do that which explains why gifted college quarterbacks falter. It also explains how an unknown college quarterback can come out of seemingly nowhere and succeed in the NFL. As far as I know, there is no good way to gauge this ability to read and react short just getting in there and doing that.
     Beyond this Brady is dedicated to being the best. Like Lexus, his personal tenet is the relentless pursuit of perfection. He is strict about his training, diet, sleep, preparation, and practice. There was a January 12, 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal, Tom Brady Wants to Play Catch.”

Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, intimidates defenses. He intimidates opposing coaches. And he can intimidate teammates and friends with just one simple question: “Wanna have a catch?” 
Having a “catch” is typically one of the simpler transactions in sports. It’s so easy it’s performed by tailgaters in parking lots and kids on kindergarten playgrounds. You throw the ball, the other person catches it and throws it back. This is how most people in Brady’s inner circle assumed their games of catch would go. They were wrong.
     These “play catch” sessions were repetitive running of the same play with Brady being agitated if his throws were off by a few inches from the exact spot that would both guarentee a catch and the most yards after the catch. End after end basically said the same thing: The have never seen a quarterback with such an intense work ethic.
     As mentioned above, I started writing this before watching the Jaguars v Patriots AFC Championship Game in which Tom Brady did what he has done many times. He led a 4th quarter comeback to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl. It was a game in which Jacksonville outplayed New England on both side of the ball for three plus quarters.
     This was dramatic and it was pure Brady. He did it last year in an even more dramatic comeback in Super Bowl LI. The Atlanta Falcons dominated the Patriots for almost 3 Quarters and led 28 - 3. With only a few minutes left in the 3rd Quarter, Brady kicked it up to hyper-drive and scored the next 25 points to tie the game and take it into overtime in which the Patriots won the toss, drove for a touchdown, and won the game.
     Tom Brady did this at the age of 39 which is old age for an NFL quarterback. This year, obviously, he is 40. It is unclear if and when he might retire. He seems to be as good as he ever was. One could make the case that he may even be at his best.
     One question that comes up is whether he is the best that ever was? Is he the GOAT, which a FB abbreviation the Greatest of All Time. Most New England fans have already crowned him as such. There are probably a lot of Michigan fans, who have become New England fans, that agree. If he is not the greatest of all time, he has to be in the top 5. I tend to think that the number of Super Bowl appearances and wins make him the best ever in the ultimate measure: championships. This is not to take away from other great quarterbacks I like including Aaron Rogers, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ben Roethlisberger, Roger Staubach, John Unitas, Y. A. Title, Bob Greise, and Dan Merino. There are so many others.
     Super Bowl LII is later this afternoon. It promises to be a good game. The Eagles have a great defense that will pressure Brady more than he has been pressured all year. Nick Foles will lead the Eagles on offense. Everyone thought the Eagles were done when Carson Wentz was injured. But, Foles came in, took the helm, and has performed admirably. To me he is the Earl Morrall of this era. Everyone is looking for a good exciting game.
     I will watch with interest and root for the Patriots and I will root for Tom Brady like I should have rooted for him when he was at Michigan.

Part 3 of this post will be written in the few days after the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Business Cards

cleverbusinesscards.com
     There was another article in the Wall Street Journal this past week that caught my eye. This one, about business cards, was nowhere near as serious as the one by Mr. Morgenthau. The article is titled: Business Cards Aren’t Dead, They’re Just Getting Weirder.
     There are online companies like moo.com and cleverbusinesscards.com that specialize in creating cards that are different and standout. A business card is a handout and a reminder. Everyone has them and are happy to pass them out to prospective clients, people that we want to stay in touch with, or for general networking purposes. It is not uncommon to return from a conference, seminar, convention, trade show, or networking event with a stack of business cards. If you don’t do something with them almost immediately, these piles of business cards become desk or briefcase clutter. The next step is to toss them.
     What is an immediate action for business cards? Sales folks know what to do with them as the cards represent new contacts and leads that are essential to business development. They used to file them in a Rolodex to keep on their desk and so they could access whoever they wanted whenever they wanted to. The quality, depth, and breadth of one’s Rolodex was a sign of influence, importance, and connectivity in the 1960s and 70s.
     Now, of course, Rolodexes have been replaced with electronic contacts. They have been replaced by smart phones, LinkedIn and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. There is really no need to keep a business card after a LinkedIn connection has been made and the address, phone, and email has been entered into one’s contacts or CRM. It is even possible with phones to exchange contact information electronically.
    So, are business cards still important? Why carry them around and why pass 
them out?
     The answer?  They are still very convenient. Not everyone is phone and tech savvy. It takes no time and very little effort to take someones business card and put it in your shirt or jacket pocket to follow through with it the next time you are at your desk or on your computer. This is all well and good, assuming the card is not lost or you simply forget to do it; both of which, I have been guilty of.
     With the flexibility of programmable controllers business cards no longer have to adhere to a standard size. In fact they come in varieties of colors, shapes, and thicknesses that until just a few years ago were not possible. People have taken to making them unique in hopes that it will differentiate them from all the other business cards a perspective customer or client may have collected at a networking event or conference.
     This desire for differentiation is what draws folks to the moo.com and cleverbusinesscards.com. It is also what makes businesses provide coffee cups, pens, and calendars with the same information that is on their business cards. They want people to keep these handouts, trinkets and trash in promotional products industry slang, on their desk to keep their names top of mind. While I appreciate a good pen or coffee cup, I do not think I have ever thought of a product or service that I needed, looked at the pen or coffee cup, and then called or emailed that person or company. I have no idea what the statistics are for this or how one might even track such. 
4allpromos.com
     What led me to write this piece is the Lock Pick business card featured in the WSJ and on cleverbusinesscards.com. I was fascinated because I never thought of such a thing and for some reason I have always wanted lock pick tools… like I would ever use them. Clever Business Cards does indeed live up to their name with their offerings.
     A product that used to be more popular is the small desk calendar as in the photo. 4AllPromos.com, where I copied the photo, calls this the Legacy Desk calendar. I remember my parents always had one or two either from an Armenian Funeral Director or my father’s first cousin, John Baronian, who had an insurance agency in Medford MA. I cannot recall the last time anyone gave me one of these, if ever. Heck, I cannot remember the last time I actually saw one.
     Actually on cue, between editing and posting this piece today, I went to an operations/supply chain business networking cocktail party.  I met folks there from a Chicago based packaging company, PackSmart.  They were passing out mouse pads with a calendar on them.  They have been giving out these mouse pad calendars for years.  They are so popular that people call each year looking for the new one.  I will certainly replace my coffee stained old mouse pad with this one.
    A few years ago when I was trying to make a go of a consulting business, I added a dimension to my service offering: Business Writing. I would help folks write the business equivalent of term papers i.e. business plans, strategic plans, requests for proposals, responses to requests for proposals, and website copy. The reasoning was that the last thing most small business owners wanted to do was to put finger to keyboard and have to produce such a document.  I understood business and liked to write.  It was a good addition to my supply chain consulting.

     I thought to make a more creative and distinctive business card for this
more creative and distinctive service offering. I just seen the movie Hitch in which the star, Will Smith, had a square black business card with rounded corners and shinier black printing. I liked the shape and went for it. I did not go for the black on black opting instead for more legibility. My friend Rose Kostan-Schwartz (rosekostanschwartz.com) helped me with the logo and layout and the Alphagraphics in Bannockburn, IL printed them out. I got a lot of compliments when I passed them out as they were unique. Today, I still like them but they are not so unique.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Tell the Truth About the Armenian Genocide

Ambassador Henry Morgenthau
     Robert M. Morgenthau had an Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today: Will Trump Tell the Truth About the Armenian Genocide? The gist of the article is that president after president has come into office with a promise to acknowledge that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy there. These same presidents have also promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Both promises were never fulfilled. As President Trump has recently lived up to his promise of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has committed to move the US Embassy there, Mr. Morgenthau suggests that President Trump should recognize the Armenian Genocide as well.
      Mr. Morgenthau, 98, who was was the Manhattan District Attorney from 1975 to 2009 is a valued friend of the Armenians. His grandfather, Henry Morgenthau, was the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916. Ambassador Morgenthau was the most prominent American to speak out against the Armenian Genocide at that time and perhaps ever. In Mr. Morgenthau’s words from his article:
For me, this chronicle is not confined to history books. My paternal grandfather, Henry Morgenthau, was President Wilson’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire as the horror began to unfold. He quickly understood that this was slaughter on a scale the modern world had never seen. He protested to Turkish leaders, who replied that the Armenians were not American citizens and thus none of the ambassador’s concern. Besides, they said, Ambassador Morgenthau was Jewish, and the Armenians were Christian. 
The Turks even threatened to pressure Washington to recall him. My grandfather’s reply was eloquent: “I could think of no greater honor than to be recalled because I, a Jew, have done everything in my power to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Christians.”
     In the past two days, I had a chance to make two new friends. One is a talented ceramic artist. He is a Kurd who grew up in Iran. Amongst other things we talked about how Turkey, just this week, bombed US backed Kurdish forces in Syria. We talked about how the Turks had the Kurds do some of the dirty work during the Armenian Genocide. With the Armenian Question then answered, the Turkish Government has been trying to solve the Kurdish Question. It is scary to think what might happen given Erdogan’s rhetoric and action. My other acquaintance is a student in my operations management class.
Robert M. Morgenthau
She is from Rwanda and has lived in exile with her family in South Africa, Botswana, and a few other African countries before her family settled in Chicago last year. We talked about how hard it is for the international community to step in and stop mass killings and genocides. This may be true even when there is economic interests and other national interests at stake.
     Maybe it is finally time for a US President to recognize the Armenian Genocide this year. Turkey is not the ally we once thought they were and President Trump may just express his frustrations with Turkey and Erdogan. As far as I am concerned, he could even do it in a tweet.
     As Armenians, we have hope every year as April 24th approaches. We will speak out, write letters, to the President, Senators, and Representatives encouraging them to do the right thing and acknowledge a historical truth. Every year we are disappointed. We will do the same this year and every year until the US government does the right thing. Again, as
Mr. Morgenthau wrote in the last two paragraphs of his piece:
Every April, the president issues a proclamation recognizing the atrocity that was inflicted on the Armenian people. But bowing to Turkish pressure, that proclamation has never contained the word “genocide.” That must change. 
I do not underestimate the concerns of those who say the wrath of Turkey may work against U.S. interests—as I do not dismiss those who say moving the embassy to Jerusalem may complicate peace negotiations. But a just and lasting world order cannot be built on falsehoods and equivocations. Let President Trump demonstrate that commitment once more by declaring the truth of the Armenian genocide. This would send clear message to the thugs in power around the world: Your criminal acts will not go unnoticed.
     Thank you Mr. Morganthau.