Friday, October 31, 2014

Farmers, Shields, and Money: An Iterative Approach to the Rise of the Greek Polis

I was selected to give a presentation at the SUNY: Empire State College's 10th Annual Student Academic Conference. The presentation combines two papers I wrote on the emergence of the Greek Hoplites and the influence that group had on the rise of the Greek polis. I am working on recording the audio of the presentation to go with the slides. Until then, here are the slides:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Further Examination of the Hoplite Debate

This is a paper I wrote for a class in Ancient Greek History. This is a continuation of the theme I explored in "A Proposed Alternative to the Hoplite Debate." I examine the thesis of John R. Hall in Donald Kagan's "Men of Bronze." I filter the thesis through Kagan's definition of the debate points and conclude by incorporating Hall's thesis (that hoplites emerged from Greek mercenaries) into my own iterative model.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Donald Kagan on George Will's Baseball Book

I was conducting a brief experiment with a tumblr focusing on history. Then I realized that I needed to actively start the process of publicly re-focusing my public presence. So.....I'm back!

I just finished reading Donald Kagan's essay/critique of politico and Cubs fan, George Will's book on baseball ("Men at Work"). Kagan's essay is called "George Will's Baseball, a Conservative Critique". 

I really just wanted to share a quote from the opening paragraphs on Kagan's friend, Yalie, and former commissioner of baseball: A. Bartlett Giamatti. Kagan says:

"From a more classical perspective Giamatti regarded baseball as a kind of Homeric Odyssey. The better is its hero. He begins at home, but his mission is to venture away from it, encountering various unforseeable dangers. At each station opponents scheme to put him out by strength or skill or guile. Should they succeed he dies on the bases, defeated. If his own heroic talents are superior, however, he completes the circuit and returns victorious to home, there to be greeted with joy by friends he left behind. But Giamatti knew the Iliad too, and as a long time Red Sox fan, he believed that the tragic epic best corresponded to baseball; thus he observed that the game 'was meant to break your heart.'"

I love this passage. It provides a form of convergence for me that is almost unreal. Kagan, my guide star (not to be too dramatic), Homer and in particular, "The Iliad", baseball nada my Red Sox. (Even though they have one three championships since he wrote this and might not be so tragically romantic anymore with the league' second highest payroll. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Proposed Alternative to the Hoplite Debate

This is the paper I wrote for the History of the Ancient Mediterranean class I took with Denise Kawasaki through SUNY Empire State University. In this paper, I took a deep look at a chapter from Donald Kagan's Men of Bronze which reviews the origins, evolution and current fighting points of the "hoplite debate". After considering all sides, I propose an alternative model based on an iterative approach.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: Practice Perfect

I don't know what happened. I finished Practice Perfect back in September and I never wrote a review! I got turned on to this book from Tom Peters. He was doing a piece on a leadership self assessment and talked about this book.

[Interesting sidebar here: I had to go google "tom peters practice perfect" to make sure that is how I got turned on to this book. I found Tom's 2012 reading list. This book was on it. As were 54 others!


I hate him. My list this year will top out at 23 or 24. Keep in mind, I am also reading a G.I.A.N.T. text for my History of the Ancient Mediterranean course. But 55, Tom? Damn.]

I knew right away this was going to be a great book because only 1 or 2 pages in they start talking about John Wooden. The famous coach of UCLA basketball. 10 NCAA Championships. In there, an 88 game winning streak. Seven of those championships were in.a.row.

The authors help teachers get better. They are educators. They are coaches. So the guy that has written the first review on Amazon that says that this book is only worth reading if you are an educator. That guy should be banned from Amazon. Actually, he should be banned from the Internet. That guy is what is wrong with the world.

This book is for everyone that has to (or wants to) stand in front of a group of people and LEAD them. Everything these authors have done for teachers and educators DIRECTLY applies to every leader down to the newly minted team leader of a small quality assurance team.

I went through my kindle highlights as I set about writing this review. (I have no idea how to link them even though they are "public." But two things struck me. First, I may have highlighted the most passages of a book EVER. Second, I forgot to include PARENTS in my list of people that would benefit from this book. My daughter's CYO basketball season just started. I just re-read my highlights and have remembered some critical tips from Lemov on how to coach her.

Here is the summary of rules included at the end of the book. Go read the book. Highlight it. Write notes. Put post it notes on it. The summary is mostly there for me as a quick place to go refresh myself. But they will also serve as a very high level introduction for you, dear reader. 

1. Encode Success Practice getting it right. Take the time to check for understanding and work for mastery before adding complexity. Remember, failure builds character better than it builds skills.

2. Practice the 20 Be great at the things that matter most. Spend 80% of your time practicing the 20% of skills that are most important.

3. Let the Mind Follow the Body Get skills going on autopilot. Build up automated skills to master more complex situations.

4. Unlock Creativity . . . with Repetition You can’t do higher level work if you are wasting brain power on the basics. Drill the fundamentals to free your mind to be creative when it matters most.

5. Replace Your Purpose (with an Objective) Purpose is not enough. Focus practice on measurable and manageable objectives.

6. Practice “Bright Spots” Tap into the power of what works. Find your strengths and use practice to make them stronger.

7. Differentiate Drill from Scrimmage To develop skills, use drills. Reserve scrimmage for evaluating performance readiness and mastery.

8. Correct Instead of Critique Help people repeat a task in a concretely different way rather than simply telling them what was wrong.

9. Analyze the Game The skills needed to deliver a winning performance are not always obvious. Watch, gather data, analyze, and let yourself be surprised.

10. Isolate the Skill New skills are best taught and practiced in isolation. Challenge yourself to define small, specific skills and to craft precise drills for each.

11. Name It Give skills a name and create a shared vocabulary for practice in order to focus people’s discussion and reflection.

12. Integrate the Skills After initial mastery, weave together multiple skills in increasingly complex environments and situations.

13. Make a Plan Great practices depend on great planning. Create plans with data-driven objectives, detail activities down to the last minute, then rehearse and revise.

14. Make Each Minute Matter Every moment is precious. Find efficiencies and make them a routine part of practice.

15. Model and Describe Good teaching requires both showing and explaining to ensure understanding.

16. Call Your Shots When modeling —whether it may be a specific technique or how to run a meeting— alert observers to what you’re trying to demonstrate so they see it happen. Help them watch strategically and with intention.

17. Make Models Believable Flawless modeling in ideal settings can be easy to dismiss. Ensure that modeling occurs in conditions that are true to life and credible.

18. Try Supermodeling Directly modeling a skill in context is an opportunity to show how other skills can be applied.

19. Insist They “Walk This Way” Many people resist imitating others, thinking it’s cheating or uncreative. But sometimes this is the best way to learn. Make “copying” a good word and tell people what they should strive to copy.

20. Model Skinny Parts Break down complex skills into narrow steps, modeling each part separately. Let people succeed and then stop before they try to do more than they can successfully execute.

21. Model the Path Modeling the perfect result can sometimes lead to poor performance. Model the process of how to achieve as well as the achievement itself.

22. Get Ready for Your Close-up Video has many advantages. You can edit what gets shown, highlight important points, analyze, and review. Use it to capture real-life situations—both in the performance and in practice.

23. Practice Using Feedback (Not Just Getting It) It’s one thing to accept feedback; it’s another to actually use it. Make putting feedback into practice right away the expectation.

24. Apply First, Then Reflect Reflection is worthwhile, but it is best done after you’ve tried out feedback, not before.

25. Shorten the Feedback Loop Feedback works best when it’s given (and used) immediately. Timing of feedback (and the right time is right away) beats strength of feedback every time.

26. Use the Power of Positive Feedback is not just a tool for repair. Identify what people do right, help them repeat it, and guide them to apply it in other settings.

27. Limit Yourself Too much feedback is overwhelming. Feedback from too many sources is confusing. Discipline yourself and others to keep feedback focused and productive.

28. Make It an Everyday Thing Make feedback the norm by consistently giving and receiving it from the start. Create an environment where feedback is not only accepted but welcomed.

29. Describe the Solution (Not the Problem) Make sure guidance is specific, actionable, and tells people what to do. Find ways to abbreviate frequently-given solutions to make them easier and faster to apply.

30. Lock It In To insure feedback is fully received as intended, ask recipients to summarize it, prioritize important parts, and identify their first step in implementation.

31. Normalize Error People will not take risks if they are afraid to fail. Approach error as an opportunity to learn.

32. Break Down the Barriers to Practice Practice can be stressful and sometimes scary. Develop strategies for overcoming barriers in order to start practicing successfully.

33. Make It Fun to Practice Integrate elements of play, competition, and surprise to cultivate an environment where practice is both valued and enjoyed.

34. Everybody Does It In a true culture of learning, top leadership can’t just stand back and watch. Model risk taking and openness to feedback in order to invest others in practice.

35. Leverage Peer-to-Peer Accountability When people on teams make mutual commitments to each other, investment and follow through are more likely to occur.

36. Hire for Practice Build a team that is open and ready to do the hard work of practice. Ask candidates to practice and implement your feedback.

37. Praise the Work Normalize praise that is meaningful and supports the work your team is doing. Praise actions, not traits. Differentiate acknowledgment from praise.

38. Look for the Right Things Closely align what you look for in performance with skills taught in practice. Create observation tools to keep a focus on the right things.

39. Coach During the Game (Don’t Teach) Performance is a time for cues and reminders. Introducing new skills should be reserved for practice.

40. Keep Talking Take the shared vocabulary developed during practice into the field. Finesse it to create a shorthand for communicating (but not teaching!) during performance and when debriefing.

41. Walk the Line (Between Support and Demand) Be the warm/ strict coach. Reward hard work and communicate urgency when improvement is necessary.

42. Measure Success Measurement drives results. Gather data during performance to improve practice.