Trying to capture 4 innings of Little league game in May

Sometimes you’re aware of the milestone moments in your life, sometimes you only recognize their importance upon reflection. We might try and document these on video or in a photograph, but while those media might trigger a memory, they don’t capture the full sensory experience, the pit in the stomach, the welling up, the excitement. There’s part of me that wishes that I had captured last night’s game on video, but I know that it would end up in either a physical or virtual box, and that it wouldn’t have the power or impact that it continues to have on me today. Last night at a small baseball field in Dedham, Massachusetts I was taught the value of words and witnessed the emotional growth of my twelve year old son.

Jax had been put in to pitch in the third inning. He has an arm, but struggles with control. Like his father, when he’s nervous or anxious, he speeds up in hopes that he can keep pace with the expectations that he’s placed on himself, speeding up then results in a loss of control, and through a combination of flexible little league strike zones (a father’s pride sneaks in), pressure and self doubt, seven runs are scored and the inning is called.

He walks off defeated, I start to walk to him, to console him, to let him know that this is an incredibly painful, but powerful part of learning, but he’s not looking at me and quickly his teammates and his coaches gather round to offer encouragement, kindness and empathy. He acknowledges these things, but still avoids our gaze and stoically sits on the bench staring out at the field. After a couple minutes he takes off his glove and walks to Jessica and I, first there is the anger about the strike zone, an insistence that the fix was in before he took the mound. Quickly, however, the frustration and disappointment turn inward and the floodgates open. We tell him that we love him, we tell him that we know that this is hard, but that we are proud, and I am, not just fatherly pride, but proud that he stood on the mound while the wheels were coming off and that he kept pitching.

He gathers his composure and sits back down on the bench. Moment’s later, he’s up. A year ago, he had a similar inning where 7 runs were let in and I spent the better part of an inning and a half walking and talking with him, wrestling with his frustration and anger. The rest of that game and the ride home were tough, but he lived to play another game. Today, fresh from the same sting, I have that same anxiety. I want him to put a ball in play, just to inch that self confidence up. One strike, two balls, two strikes, two balls. And whether or not its true, I feel that the coaches, his team mates and every parent whether for our team or the other is holding their breath in the hopes that he’ll find redemption at the plate. Sure enough, with the next pitch he lines a double through the short stop. A cathartic sigh. He’s stranded on second, but quickly runs out to play short.

Over the next two innings, Jax fields five of the six outs, grabbing shallow infield pop flies, picking up tough grounders and preventing runners from making it to second and first. He is all business as his coaches and team mates congratulate him, there is still the sting of the third, but he lets out a small smile to Jess and I as he walks off the field at the end of each inning.

The Dodgers were down 9-3 as they entered the final inning, but very quickly the opposing team had let them crawl back in, and with two kids on and the score 9-6, Jax is back up at the plate. I honestly don’t remember how many outs there were at that point, but once again I’m holding my breath. The opposing team pulls their pitcher, who had been struggling and brings in a reliever to face Jackson. The first pitch Jackson swings at, but the next three are balls, then connection. Down the third base line, the two men on score and Jackson has a standing double! The score is 9-8, and Jackson steals third. Two pitches later, and his team is rushing out to meet him as he steals home. They are elated, not only has Jackson pulled himself out of his hole, but the Dodgers have as well. The game is tied

The Dodgers lost it in the bottom of the sixth, final score 10-9, but the kids, coaches and parents couldn’t be happier. The coaches for the other team upon winning quickly calm their team down, and I’m grateful. At the post game huddle, the coach tells him how proud he is and hands Jackson the game ball. Earlier in the inning during his fielding fireworks I had heard a couple of his team mates remark that Jackson should get the game ball.

We sit in the car, Jackson and I, getting ready to drive home, and he is humbled and proud. “Dad, I’ve never gotten a game ball before.” “You deserve it Jackson, I’m so proud of you.” “But you should get a game ball too dad.” “Jackson, you’re the one who played out there.” “But Dad, you inspired me when you told me that you were proud of me.”

I am proud of you Jackson, in so many ways.

 

Degreed and the Facebook Login conundrum

door with light
I was reading David Wiley’s post on the beta release of Degreed this morning, when I was inspired to create this post. Degreed is a new startup that promises to “jailbreak your degree” by allowing an individual to build a more comprehensive dashboard of their education, incorporating official academic transcripts, work experience, MOOCs, and more. There’s a tremendous amount happening in the space of profiles, personal dashboards and badges in education, and the screenshots looked cool, so I excitedly clicked over to check out the service. I was greeted with a big, Login with Facebook, and instead of clicking that big blue button, I opened another tab and started this post.

Why? I distrust facebook. I use facebook, sparingly, but have felt that historically they’ve been playing a shell game with my privacy. You might say, “privacy’s dead” and I might agree with you. You might say, “I trust Facebook more than Google” and that’s fine too. I recognize that others distrust Google, Apple, Twitter, Insert Company Name Here. My issue with the Degreed beta isn’t that it has a Facebook login option, it’s that it’s the only option. There’s something funny about the idea that your degree is being liberated but you’re being locked into a single authentication method. Hopefully this will change, as I’m sure that the Degreed team is building something that I see as a great need: accounting, documenting and vouching for a lifetime of learning. I also understand from Wiley’s post that the likely reason for the facebook option is that part of the initial setup up of Degreed involves understanding a user’s education history, and that this is accomplished by scraping education data from facebook, but I would rather give you that information on my own. How do you feel about the Connect/Log In with facebook option?

Let’s Hangout!

The scenario:

Much of my course work has a team or group component. While it’s great to distribute the workload and have the opportunity to collaborate, coordinating schedules and getting everyone in the same room is often a challenge if not impossible.

To address this problem, the teams that I’ve been working with have adopted Google Hangouts. In the class that I’m taking right now, we’ve had four projects due, and outside of class we’ve only met face to face once. Intrigued? Read on.

What is a Hangout?

Hangouts are a feature of Google’s social network Google+. Up to 10 people can simultaneously video/audio chat and collaborate over the internet with this powerful tool. Participants can join Hangouts from their laptop/desktop/smartphone or be dialed in if they are in an area without internet service.

Getting Started:

In order to use Hangouts, there are a couple technology pre-requisites.

1. You need a Google account.

2. If you’re using a desktop/laptop you’ll need to install the Google Voice and Video chat plugin .

3. Navigate to http://plus.google.com to get setup with Google+ (setting up your profile, etc)

*optional* If you want to connect using your iOS or Android device, be sure to download the Google+ app.

*optional* For each class, I create a Circle, an organizational tool in Google+. This semester I’m taking EPS7545, so I’ve created an EPS7545 circle that I’ve added my four team members to. This just makes my life easier when I’m setting up the Hangout.

Time to Hangout

Now, assuming that you and your group members are all setup (meaning they have their Google+ accounts set up), it’s time to get to the good stuff, starting a Hangout!

Navigate to http://plus.google.com

On the right hand side of the screen you’ll see a Hang out’s section and a Hang out button. Click on the Hang out button:

A new browser window will open up with an interface that looks something like this:

The first input box is where you enter the names/e-mail addresses of the people you want to hang out with. Hangouts will default to inviting everyone that we’ve placed in circles. For our cases, however, we’re looking to hang out with a specific group, so remove the “Your Circles” blue button in the invite box. If you did the optional step and created a circle for your group, all you have to put in is the name of that circle, otherwise you can enter the e-mail addresses or circles of the people you want to invite (*note* they will need a plus account to join and will be prompted to create one if they don’t have one).

To keep things simple, there’s not a real reason for us to name the Hangout or enable Hangouts On Air, so you can skip these steps.

Finally click on the big blue Hang out button, you’re Hanging out!

So what does it look like?

Let’s take a moment to talk about what’s happening in the Hangout interface. Google divides the interface into three functional areas:

  1. The People area – Along the bottom third of the Hangout screen you’ll see the video thumbnails of the people who have joined your Hangout and the Apps that are currrently enabled for the hangout.
  2. The Content area – In my screen shot, I’m the only person in the Hangout, otherwise you’d see whomever was talking in the content area, the app that was active or the screen that was being shared.
  3. The Upper menu – Above the main content area are a series of button that will allow you to text chat, invite more people (including dialing someone in over phone), share an application or your whole screen, bring up a google doc for everyone to edit, bring up a youtube video for everyone to watch or add one of the many Hangout apps that are available, such as a sticky note brainstorming wall, mind-mapping diagramming, etc.

How to join an existing hangout:

How do your participants know that the Hangout has started? There are actually a few ways. If you have Google Chat installed, you’ll get a chat message with a link to the Hangout automatically when you’re invited. If you’re on your Google+ page there are a few ways to discover Hangouts that you’ve been invited to

  • In your activity stream (just click the blue Join button).
  • In your notifications (Red number in the upper right hand of Google Plus).
  • By clicking on the Hangout button in the left hand nav (if you don’t see it, click on the More button).
To configure how your notified of hangouts, visit Google’s help page on Hangout Notifications.

Conclusion:

That’s about it. If you get stuck, Google’s help for Hangouts is also fairly comprehensive. It may seem like several steps to get up and running, but it’s important to remember that once you’ve done the set up the first time you’re done, each subsequent time you’ll be up and collaborating in seconds. There are many alternatives to this. WebEx, Skype, etc, but the integration with Google docs and the price (free) make Hangouts a winner for me. What are you using to bring your team together? Let me know in the comments.

BetaMatt

I finally decided to pursue an MBA this spring and I’m thoroughly enjoying immersing myself in the student perspective. For the past 20 years, I’ve researched, taught, advised on, and built technology solutions for education, but now, on the advice of a friend, I walk into that classroom and do my best to leave those perspectives at the door and do some agile development on myself. So welcome to BetaMatt, an attempt to disruptively innovate me.