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Friday, May 29, 2009


All my life, I've been a book person.  Book worm.  Biblophile.  But until I moved to KC, I never connected with anybody who read for fun, who collected works for their own pleasure.  Well, there was my roommate, Curious George:

He was the kind of guy who was well read, but it felt like it was the intense kind of "absorb all knowledge via osmosis" reading.  I'd like to give him a shout out (or a wave out, to be more appropriate) for completing his 3rd year of law school at UW and is presently studying for the WA law bar.  Go, Kyle!

However, upon landing in KC not too long ago, I came across Seth - and from there, I've delved deeply into Chuck Palahniuk's insane and graphic ramblings.  It was the passion that my buddy showed that got to me -- at last, I no longer need to hide my carnal need to devour paperbacks and library books to, well, fit into the group.  Now I've come across a few more people, in KC and elsewhere, who express deep literary knowledge that I've been craving to share.  And yes, science nerds DO need to read Anne McCaffrey. ;-)

Bottom line -- books are good, mmmkay?  I'm meeting authors and writers and scripters and screenwriters, all with superb creative ideas.  I'm humbled by such company, and someday I hope I can join their ranks.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Leadership and Management

About a month ago, I had an opportunity to interview for a 2nd promotion - going from the equivalent of "Subject Matter Expert" to "Group Lead." Basically, getting the lead job would fast-track my rise to upper management at a Fortune 100 company - not a mean feat by any means, especially for someone with hearing loss.

Unfortunately, I didn't even get a second interview. I typically interview well and have the credentials to back up what say, so I wanted to find out what I needed to improve. It turns out, I might not have as good of a grasp as I thought on what is "Leadership" and "Management."

Right now, to me, leadership and management are nearly synonymous - leaders tend to be in positions of managing others to reach goals. Leaders are at the forefront, managers are at the top. I've worked under managers who tend to lead by example. So, color me confused when my boss tells me that they're two completely and utterly different concepts. However, instead of simply telling me his opinion, I'm tasked with interviewing the managers who interviewed me - and getting their perspective in the meantime.

After talking with the three managers, it boils down to thus:

1) Leaders focus on the big picture. They set the goals, the vision, the "mission accomplished" point - but rarely do they handle the details that are left to the managers, leading us to...

2) Managers focus on the day to day details. They facilitate the tasks to reach the goals, vision, etc. They resolve the little personnel conflicts, coach the staff into better performers, manage time spent on activities, checking off things little by little until the leader announces "Mission Accomplished!"

So which skill am I apparently lacking in? #2. Curses.

The upside is, I've got a plan of action to tackle that. Time to go a-huntin' for trouble to practice fixing!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dr. Gregory House and his tragic "flaws"

House M.D. - at first, I thought I wouldn't ever like this show.  It features a practically all-knowing protagonist who comes up with the right solution just in the nick of time, while juggling adversarial relationships to all those around him.  But, dammit, the show is HILARIOUS.  The one liners, the comebacks, the sparring of wits - delicious.  

"Everybody lies, the symptoms don't lie."

"It's not Lupus.  It's NEVER Lupus."

A recurring plot element is House's drug addicition.  The idea of someone taking drugs and becoming addicted to them is abhorrent to me - on the same level to me as doing illegal drugs or smoking.  But lately, with the amount of training I've been putting into my run for Men's Deaflympics volleyball - I'm starting to soften my stance, or at least have empathy with those kind of people.  I'm now up to 3, maybe 4 advils every couple of hours to deal with my shin pains, pains that my doctors say they can't link to anything wrong.  It's getting bad enough that I'm going to have to stop playing for a few months to recuperate.  It's affecting my play - I'm a hair slower, less flighty, less manuverable when in pain.  Make the pain go away... and I'm able to continue winning.  

That's a strong motivator to continue to take drugs - either play in pain and probably lose at that high of a competitive level, or enjoy a pain-free existence and play to win.

Looks like I'll be sitting out the next season or two of vball.  *grumble*  Wonder if they make bionic shins......

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Ha-HA!  After 4 long years of struggle, Sprint has achieved what it has only dreamed of doing for so long - win a gold medal in volleyball at the KC Corporate Challenge!

I'd like to take all the credit, but frankly, we won despite my best efforts to screw up.  And boy, did I screw up lots today.  Well, everyone else did too, that's the nature of A-level volleyball.  The top division in the competition consists of companies with 2500+ employees -- meaning that each company can cherry pick their best players to pit against each other in heated competition.  

Such was the case against Honeywell, DST, and Cerner today.  Elite players in  combat with other elites, men who had grown up playing on the beaches of California, of the gyms in Florida, at colleges like Penn State or UCLA.  Luckily, we held together against all comers and emerged victorious.

I think sports can be a great equalizer between people.  Everyone on the team knows I can't hear, but boy, they're not gonna just let me play and have fun because I'm special (or more precisely, special ed.).  We worked harder together and in the end, my small physical setback became a rallying flag energizing my team.  "If Dennis can do it... I can too!"

The funniest thing is -- I play too loud.  The guy who can't hear is the megaphone on the court.  I'm the guy on the court everyone can hear "It's OUT!  It's OUT!" "Set middle.  MIDDLE!" "KILL the ball! SCORE!"  "I GOT it!  YOU got it!" Nobody can be bothered to out-shout me.  It bothers the hell out of the other teams because I'll shout nonsense that takes them a second to figure out if it's their own team shouting or if it's me.  Hey, I'll take every advantage I can get on the court. ;-)

And since I've just played 6 hours of v-ball, I'm gonna crash into bed.  G'night all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fitting in

I constantly amaze myself at my ability to be a chameleon.  Essentially, I blend in amongst the rest of the herd, so to speak.  Well, for the most part.  There are days where I don't realize I have a hearing loss, and fool others into thinking the same.

Today was definitely not one of those days.  I don't play volleyball with my "ears" in -- I would if I could, but since the BTE isn't glued to my head, it doesn't bode well to have it come flying off when I'm 8 feet above the ground slamming the ball down from the outside scoring a kill.

With every new friend I meet, whether hearing or hard of hearing, they often comment on how amazingly "normal" I sound.  For example, yesterday was Morgan's graduation party.  I was hanging out back with a mix of deaf and hearing - one of the hearing guys was still pretty new to understanding things about hearing loss.  So here I am, a categorically profoundly deaf guy, interpreting for the hearing guy and still fully being a part of my deaf friends.  I was like water, flowing from one side of the conversation to the other, talking to the hearing and signing to the deaf.

But what is normal?  Is it the ability to sound just like everyone else?  Do I want to fit in, or is it better to stand out and be recognized?  I'm being recognized for my ability to fit in -- damned if you do (fit in), damned if you don't (fit the stereotype).

This is too much thinking when I've got to use my brain for tomorrow.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I've always wanted to write a book.  When I was around 10 or so, my Dad had divorced my mom and married this horrid, uptight woman that was bossy, superficial, and controlling.  The one upside to this, though was on those every-other-weekend visits to my Dad's, I would sometimes get to hang with this really cool uncle (step-uncle to be accurate, but since American culture is getting so full of divorces and remarriages, I think the whole "step" moniker might need to go away).  This uncle was, I believe, my Dad's wife's brother-in-law.  

Anyway, the point is, he was the creative type - played in bands, wrote songs, did art, stuff like that.  One day he sits down and asks me what I really want to do when I grow up - and the first thing out of my mouth was "writer."  Growing up, I was the extreme bookworm of the family - I preferred books to people.  I believe my hearing loss contributed to that -- my primary language isn't spoken English, but written English -- a fine distinction, to be sure.  So, I would read hundreds of books a year - maybe more than a thousand - I would be reading on the bus to school, reading hiding my book in my textbook in class, readin at lunch, reading on the bus back home, reading when I got home, and reading to sleep.  Novels?  Eat through 'em in a day or two.  Epic, thousand page adventures?  A week, unless it was summer - then it'd be 4 days, tops.

Umm, back to writing.  I had excellent writing skills - spelling, grammar, sentence structure, proper opening, body management, how to close -- but I never wrote for creativity.  This uncle -Uncle Roy - and I came up with "Robots in my Underwear."  Inspired by my love for science fiction, space, and electronics, I wrote about a boy who discovered a secret alien robot who wanted to know what being human was like and did things like wear the boy's clothes.  It was going to be a kid's book about the two having great adventures exploring the world and life.  Unfortunately, not too long after I started that, I never saw Uncle Roy ever again.  It wasn't much later that my Dad divorced the woman.

I really should get back into developing that story, just brainstorming and writing and exploring trains of thought.  I'm inspired that one my friends, Shanna Groves, just got published - she wrote "Lip Reader" and it's now available on Amazon.  Rock on, girl!

Well, time to put away the brain stuff and focus on the game stuff.  Volleyball tourney tomorrow.  Time to pit Sprint's select elites against those other companies in the Kansas City area.  We will rock!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Open for business

"Positive Terminal."  

You know when you have to write a paper for school, you have to come up with a title.  Something descriptive, something relevant, or maybe sometimes just plain interesting.  Just how did Herman Melville come up with the title "Moby Dick?"  Sure, it's the name of the eponymous whale, but man, I might've read it at a younger age if it was "The Tyranny of Captain Ahab."

So, out comes Positive Terminal.  A bunch of plays on my personality there - meanings involve batteries (electronics), positive attitude, airplane terminals, computer terminals, physics, magnetism, smiling, sportsmanship, optimism.... just to throw out a few thoughts.  

This'll be the first time I'm blogging without hiding who I am.  In the past, my professional life consumed a huge portion of my personality, making it very difficult to separate my personal views from my professional identity.   It was almost impossible to state my mind without having someone associate it with my work organization.  I've gotten much better at that lately -- as a consequence, I'm comfortable putting myself out there to touch on a number of controversial topics that I'll cover in this blog.

I'll get started right away.  I'm disappointed we're still enmeshed in the Iraq battlefield.  Just today, on CNN, there was a report of a soldier who shot up a medical clinic in Iraq on Monday.  I've got an acquaintance who has been doing merc medic work in Afghanistan and Iraq, patching up both warriors and civilians alike.  I hear stories of kids coming in with mine-wounds, bullet wounds, and much worse.  As much as I applaud him for being willing to do that while in harm's way, I'd rather he be home doing EMT stuff instead of potentially meeting guerilla warriors and insane PTSD  soldiers shooting up hospitals.  Even if the pay is 10X less being an EMT here at home.  Head down and come back safe, Bryan.

Well, stay tuned until the next installment!