Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Saw 3 Of These Bad Boys On Friday

While driving after work through an upscale Denver suburb with large homes, each situated on acres of land, in a somewhat semi-rural environment within the city, I noticed something that looked to me like a wolf standing at a chained-driveway to suburban mega-church, just watching traffic go by. I pulled around the block to enter the parking lot and return to where I saw the "wolf", and when I got there and parked, I noticed that what was in fact a coyote had moved over to the other side of a small ravine behind the church. He stared at me, then started to walk away, when I then began to "howl", in order to keep his attention. His ears popped up, just as they had been at the chained-driveway, and he cocked his head as if to say, "why are you doing that?". As soon as I had howled, then 2 more coyotes appeared from the bottom of the ravine, and followed the first coyote over the crest of the ravine so that they could then be hidden from my view.

Coyotes are an increasing issue in Denver and other similar such cities. Only a month earlier, a coyote bit a 10 yr. old boy in a suburb just north of Denver, who had been playing in the snow with a friend in back of their house which was connected to a large field and open area. And, I've had dear friends whose collies were mauled to death by coyotes who came into the back yard, in the middle of the Denver metro area! I hope that somehow though, we can come to some sort of agreement with them. A lady in the area (which is across from a middle-school!) who had witnessed the coyotes with me, labeled them as 'majestic', with their heavy winter coats that make them appear to be more wolf-like than they would usually look. I experienced almost this feeling of "sadness" coming from that first coyote as I stared into its eyes, a conveyed feeling as if he were being hunted constantly in his efforts to avoid mankind in the middle of a major metro area. This is a rich area in which I spotted these coyotes, and rich people do not like having their pets killed, let alone having their small children potentially endangered on the way to school, and they have ways of getting things done as they would like. And these are not foxes; no these animals have been in fact known to go after small children in the right sort of situation. I don't know though, maybe a combination of population control and removal, as well as education, can allow us both to live in the same areas in relative peace. At least I would like to think so. Because they are indeed a majestic sight to behold.

Monday, December 01, 2008


This is a book by New York Times writer and author Malcom Gladwell (pictured), who has also authored the bestselling The Tipping Point, and Blink more recently. I have The Tipping Point here at home somewhere, and read part of it, but I heard someone talking about Outliers on the radio just a few days ago, so I ran out to the library to pick it up, and devoured its two hundred and some pages in just a few days, interrupting some other reading on the strict, masterful French culinary system to do so (The Perfectionist - which also turns out to be pretty good). The premise for Outliers is essentially that our notions of success are largely structured around traditional views of individualistic striving by very intelligent people, who end up where they are largely due to their own personal efforts. This turns out to be not exactly true. Individual effort, innate ability and so forth, are usually powerful factors for success, however it turns out that such successes (determined in this book it seems to be as at or near the top of one's field or chosen endeavor) are in fact more a matter of the seizing upon of such factors by persons who are already within a context or environment that is pre-favorable to success. This could mean anything from parents whom are able to bestow both cultural and social, as well as financial capital, upon their children, giving them early tools for later successful negotiation of their environments, to geographic positioning (being in the right place at the right time) as with Bill Gates in Seattle, in the early '70's, nearby to where the earliest public access to mainframe computers became available, to being born near to cut-off dates for acceptance to junior hockey leagues, making some boys physically almost 1 year older than their peers, even though they both can claim to be "16 years of age". Circumstances matter, it seems, and our notions of Horatio Alger-like successes are really few and far between, if at all. Success is in fact a combination of individual traits, connected with enabling environments and circumstances which are seized upon.

The most striking example in the book to me, is the story of Chris Langan, with an IQ near 200, perhaps the highest ever tested, who has worked largely at manual type work, including being a bouncer for twenty years. It's estimated that Albert Einstein had an IQ of around 150, and a comparison of the two is done to show that Langan's dysfunctional upbringing did not allow for anything like the success of Einstein, although he had the potential for it. It seems Langan lacked the ability to schmooze, and couldn't even get his professors to let him take a same class in the afternoon rather than his enrolled morning class, for transportation reasons, leading to his dropping out of college and typical of how things worked out for him as time went on. The ability to get what you want or need (schmooze is my word) is based upon being trained to do so, something that middle and upper class children are trained for by upbringing, while working-class children usually are not. Langan's potential remained largely untapped, a point that Gladwell makes in that society loses out on a large source of potential by failing to account for how success is in fact achieved in our society. Another great point made by Gladwell is that you don't have to be super smart, only smart enough, in most cases, and then your schmooze factor can (and in fact is necessary) take you the rest of the way.

I related a lot to this book, feeling much like an outsider in my academic experience, and the book explains a lot for me as to why things have been as they have within this experience. Too bad that the dullards who pass themselves off as learned within this realm will never read this or other such works. They're like lemmings to the sea, as the saying goes,and they'd never read it unless for some reason it got on to their particular (and largely irrelevant) playlists. I guess you can see already, I largely lack the schmooze factor. I did enjoy and would highly recommend the book though, as well as anything that Malcolm Gladwell writes; I always find him uniquely insightful, and someone who digs a little deeper.