Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scotland, Summer, Adventure.

morrison luke smith
not MorrisonLukeSmith
The Famous Scottish Tower Story...

Originally posted HERE

This is from the 1999 WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation) WUCC (World Ultimate Club Championships).

I'm Revisiting the past, with some frisbee content specific.  I normally have a frisbee blog, but this is quality stuff.

OK, fine, some frisbee content.

I went to Worlds in Scotland in 1999. My team was too bad. And that was the name. Partying ensued. I played OK, this was sort of the transitional period in my development from fairly fast Atlanta player to stupid slow Seattle player. These were the 3 years when i traveled a ton to tournaments, and developed some skills, some understanding of the game, and had a lot of fun. I was well on my to becoming a suprisingly effective slow player. I like to think i developed the same crafty moves as Jerry Rice. I think it's fairer to say that like Jerry rice in the nadir of his career, I have developed the abillity to juke all over the place with out moving anywhere. Sometimes the defense moves more than me and i miraculously get open. Combine that with the fact that i'm left handed (bordering on incompetently ambidextrous, I can actually cause turnovers with both hands), and voila. Marginal effectiveness.

Anyway, Scotland. This was maybe my favorite worlds ever. St. Andrews is beautiful, the pubs were great, I had no real pressure to win or lose. The weather was what I assume to be traditionally Scottish.  Wet, and flipping cold all the time. And basically, all 150 teams would party together every night.

After our last loss (Actually, we may have won our last game, some inconsequential seeding match), ribaldry continued. All but 4 teams (the top 2 boy and girl teams) were done, and it was shennaniriffic.

Eileen and Timmy and I were wandering around late at night/early morning, enjoying the relatively warm (50 F) evening and the questionable decision was made to get to the top of the old chapel, the tallest building in st. andrews to see the sun rise over the Firth of Forth. Well that was squashed by the walls and gates and barbed wire... so we headed back to the main campus. Looking at the old dorm where most of us were staying, I decided that the central tower of this building (like, an old castle tower) was the SECOND tallest building in St. Andrews, and that would do.

morrison luke smithWe found the closet door that contained the stairs, and up we went... in pitch black, illuminated by watch lights, we found the top door. Secured by a tiny little lock, like a luggage lock, we headed down the stairs where either EILEEN ACCIDENTALLY PUSHED OPEN a secret panel. Like pitch dark. Totally lucky. This opened on to an attic door. There was a window accross the attic, faintly revealed by the predawn light glowing behind it. I walked accross the joists, and when I arrived at the window, i noticed i was covered in cobwebs. No one had been here for years. The window was openable. I climbed out, shimmy-d around to the roof pitch, and there, 20 feet away, was the top few feet of the turret. At 6'2, I was just able to reach the low part of the parapet, and was able to chin up, and help my fellow miscreants up.

Spread out below us was all of St. Andrews, and the beautiful calm waters of the Firth (i think it means Bay or something). Slowly the sun came up. Awesome.

We descended, I jogged home, and went and watched the last matches in Torrential rain. Quidditch-erriffic.

What made the trip even better was spending another 7 days hiking and hitching around scotland, but that memory was great. Oh, for a camera...
morrison luke smith

Morrison Luke Smith

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The legendary pig story.

The pig story.  Be patient.  I trot this out every so often with my students and see what I hook. It's usually good for one or two BIG FISH...   It's all in the detail, and the delivery.  Originally published in my older mostly frisbee blog.

OK. I don't know if you knew this but my dad is a doctor. In fact, he scored the highest score in the state of Georgia on his medical boards. That is to say, Smith's are good at standardized tests. Anyway, Rodney aced his shit at the Medical College of Georgia, and was valedictorian.

As an aside, my mom or my dad was summa cum laude at Emory, and the other was magna cum laude at Emory. I'm not sure which is which, but my mom was better, and she graduated in 3 years, to my dads' 4. Apparently for all their smarts, neither was smart enough to keep an accidental child from occurring. Apparently they were right in Health class.

In any event, my parents moved to rural Maryland, where my dad entered school, and at Georgetown in Residency, redeemed himself in his inability to be number one in the family. He was served to the National Institute of Health, where he served in early viral pathology research.

Afterword, we moved to a rural area outside Atlanta. I was in 2nd grade, but I was stuck in a mix of city and country.

My mom, despite the fact that she was magna, or summa, or whatever, had been burdened down by 4 kids in 6 years. or perhaps she was bored, or, as will be revealed, capricious, as she was several years away from being one of the few people in the country who passed her CPA exam, all 4 parts, in one attempt... but I digress.

Mom was given a gift: as far as I know, it was the first Vietnamese potbellied pig purchased in the USA . This pet pig turned out to be ACTUALLY, a full on PIG, and grew up big and strong.

Albeit, with 3 legs.

So anyway, there we were, living in Northern Georgia, and as was the case in the 70's and 80's, it was not uncommon for a doctor to be both a doctor, and as was the case for my father, following his passions, a farmer.

in any event, in late 1979, or early, 1980 (i can't remember), our family farm was visited by a traveling vacuum salesman. Now you have to imagine the scene; at the time my parents (now happily divorced) were happily married, but during this era, cable was non existent, north Atlanta was farmland, there was no internet, and my dad was too smart for his own good.

On this particular day, I was home. Technically, I was the 'owner' of this pig. I mean, once we realized 'PIG' was just a pig, not 'Gavroche', we were all pretty OK w/ raising 'PIG' to be food. But like many young children of age 5, I was not a good steward, and, my dad was the de facto parent.

But I remember the salesman showing up, and the conversation went something like this.

The salesman showed up, and asked my father about our current vacuum cleaner. It was late 70's and we DID in fact own a perfectly serviceable vacuum cleaner.  He was however blessed, or cursed, with a proclivity for bullshit, and he brought this salesman in with his usual vigor associated with boring afternoons grilling proselytizers on scriptural detail. he was not particularly devout, but like many southerners growing up during this time, he was fairly well educated in the distinctions between Leviticus law and new testament 'turn the other cheek' issues.

He was educated, even beyond his rather egregious knowledge of 2 season corn growing, viral pathology, and Georgia basketball, in the area of basic fundamental dogma. and more specifically, he was extremely well versed from years of reading Scientific American, and felt comfortable grilling some yokel Yankee in the arena of vacuum technology.

In any event, I remember well my father, gentleman farmer, sitting there with his tie on (as was the case with many gentlemen farmers of the era), meeting with this particular salesman. And as the salesman insisted on showing his vacuum's ability to suck up coffee grounds, etc... my dad kept going for more virulent dirt, and nails, etc. He was being a jerk.. I mean, my dad was a doctor. We had a vacuum. Technically, we had a maid. but, life on the farm had boring moments, and dad was never one to fail to capitalize on them.

In any event, after a couple hours of my dad grilling this young man about venturi effect and Bernoulli law, he finally let him off the hook. But as the salesman was leaving he commented upon my pet pig.

Now, as I mentioned, PIG had originally been named Gavroche (named for the urchin in Les Miserables) but when it turned out that he was not in fact a Vietnamese Potbellied pig, but in fact, a full on HAWG, he became my pet. but as is often the case when you give a pet to a child, care of PIG fell to dad. Well, our three legged pig was extremely bright, and, as the vacuum salesman watched, limped in and out of the door, over and over.

And as he was leaving, the young salesman had the temerity to say to my father, 'Say sir, I'm just dying to know, what's up with your 3 legged pig?' And my father replied with the following story.

'Well son, once, one march, we all were sleeping soundly. meanwhile ,our Christmas tree was downstairs. Now, I admit, I should have disposed of that tree some time earlier, but the fact is, the can of seven up i poured into the base of that tree had in fact evaporated, and perhaps, my tree was a bit dry. Suffice to say, a bit of an electrical spark occurred, and that tree caught on fire.'

At this point, the young man interjected (i was busy doing whatever it is 5 year olds did in 1980 georgia, probably eating pudding) 'so, did the fire burn the pig?'

My father replied, 'No, No, No, sir. have you been paying attention? You see that doggy door there? That pig, raised like a member of the family, ran into the house, and woke me up, and we were all saved!!!!'

the young man replied, 'so, I don't get it. The pig got burned?!!!'

My father rolled his eyes, and said, 'young man you just don't get it. Let me tell you another story.'

'I was out running the combine one time between house calls' (did I mention my father was a gentleman farmer) when it broke down. I got out to free up the blades when my tie (again did i mention my dad was a gentleman, physician farmer) got caught in the blades.'

The vacuum cleaner salesman interjected, 'so the pig got caught in the blades?'

My father replied, 'Ah callow youth.  No,  there i was, being dragged in, when PIG came running out, ran across the fields as my good for nothing son sat at home playing atari PITFALL, ran up to the combine, and... to this day I don't know how or why, came up and bit my tie off at the neck. I don't know why or how, but PIG saved my life!!!!'

The traveling salesman replied, 'sooo did the pig get caught in the wheels?;

My dad replied, 'SON, are you listening!'

The salesman got up to leave, scratching his head, and as he finally walked out the door said, 'sir, dr. smith, i just don't get it. why does your pig have only 3 legs?'

My father said, in the way that only a doctor with too much time on his hands could say,' damn boy, don't you get it! you can't eat a pig like that all at once.'

morrison luke smith
(c) morrisonlukesmith

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Investment Advice for Superheroes.

A recent posting on Slate sparked my interest about the relationship between Superpowers and the drive to do good, or bad.  You should read the article HERE, but it raises a number of interesting questions.  The study cited found that “do-gooder” powers like strength and flight tend to encourage altruistic behavior, and stealth powers such as invisibility and X-Ray vision tend to encourage sneakiness. I'm not sure what to think about stretchy heroes. 

But since it really is clear why VILLAINS use their powers for money or power, it made me think about how much our heroes sacrifice for the US of A, and the world.  So, I'm creating investment strategies for Super Heroes (and super villains, as I don't want to be discriminatory).  But buyer beware, because a man who drives this luxurious automobile should not be making his living giving investment advice.

Superman/ Clark Kent. 
Day job:  Newspaper reporter
Salary: 70,000 (if the Daily planet is a union shop).
Clark Kent actually makes a decent living, assuming that the Planet is a Union Shop.  With a good investment strategy, and careful budgeting, an early retirement should be no problem.  Additionally, he shouldn’t need to spend much on travel costs, so he should be able to enjoy many of the travel perks of a rich man, without the costs.

Tips:  Try to leverage your opportunities for travel into a successful blog.  Since I’m not sure where you’d tuck the camera, have tourists take their photos with you on their camera, and post to your media.  Then, monetize that stream!    You could quite possibly parlay your unique skills into a travel show.  Think Anthony Bourdain without the cigarettes or profanities.


Spiderman / Peter Parker
Day  Job: Photographer, Bugle.
Salary: 30,000
First, Mr. Parker needs more income. He should abandon the Bugle, and their skinflint Publisher J. Jonah Jameson, and peddle his photos to more upscale media sites.

Tips:  Instead of making your money on Spiderman pictures, use your skills to capture some high value paparazzi photos, which can go for $50,000. 

Day Job: Super Hero.
Salary, none.

Aquaman. You have no job, no money, and, no pockets.  How do you even make it to the Justice League?  Ride a turtle or something?  I’m not even sure what The Aquaman eats.  Do you lure fish over with your psychic fish talk powers and eat them?  Wouldn't that be breaking the great trust the innocent creatures of the sea have placed in you? Or do you just eat the “evil fish” (great white sharks,  squid, sea snakes?). If so, I ask, "who are you to judge Aquaman?"  
"Who are you to judge?"

Tips:  Aquaman, do you realize they have a sign on the bathroom at the Legion of Doom that says, “The Aquaman’s Lagoon?”  Enough said. 


Not the Wolverine you meant?
Wolverine/ Logan.
Day Job: Lumberjack
Salary:  Freeloads off the X-men.
My research found that Logan’s father invested  $10 in the Bank of New York for him in 1900.  Unfortunately, Logan accidentally killed his father when he was 8, and lost his memory when shot in the head.  Logan is a rich man, but since he doesn’t remember either where he’s from or his real name,  it is unlikely he’ll find that safety deposit box.   Luckily, he can take the long view, as he may live forever...  

Tips: Go buy 1 share of BP stock, and put a dollar a day in a basic savings account.  In 80 years, your retirement is assured.

Hulk:  David/Bruce Banner
Day Job: Fugitive
Note: It's difficult to monetize on the run.

Tips: Ask Tony Stark for some free lance science work for Stark Industries, in an environment with soothing music.  And good bandwidth -- no frustrating spinny wheel of death Dr.  And a well stocked courtesy buffet.  What ever makes you calm Mr. Banner, DR. Banner, of Course I mean Dr.

Have Tony Stark handle your investments.  I'm not saying I'm afraid to help. But.. Just saying.  One suggestion.  The government is relaxing their stance on internet gambling.  Perhaps, with your intellect, online poker might be the job for you.
Lex Luthor: 
He innvented Collateralized Debt Obligations, Mortgage Backed Securities,  Hedge Funds, and brought Wall Wtreet to it’s knees, and profited immensely.
And Served as President of the United States

Don’t worry about Lex, He's doing fine. 




Let's have some more fun at Aquaman's expense, thanks to our good friends at Robot Chicken.

Still Stuck in adolescence, 
morrison-luke-smith-50 by mlsmith
(c) MorrisonLukeSmith

Friday, May 3, 2013

Winter Triathlons. My first newspaper publication...

This was originally posted in the local Local, Arts, and Entertainment weekly, The Source weekly.  It's an article about my observations on the 2008 USA Triathlon National Winter Triathlon Championships, presented by Bend Bike N Sport.  (I get that wrong in my essay, which a commenter notes at the original Source).  The original article is HERE. The Source is a great local paper.  The only differences are that I've blogged in some pictures, and added probably 154 words, as the original column had to be 800 words.  I think it flows better this way, but I'd like to improve my writing so that I can get my point across, AND get in a few jokes (or statements that I think fit the category).

March 26, 2008.
by Luke Smith

EX-Treme Winter Triathlons

A trek flying V Bike. Sick
Off To the Races. I was totally baited. For bike and running fitness, all I had to do was either keep commuting on my bike in the winter (which I did for three and a half years) or train a bit in a spin class (somewhat less likely), or run a bit in the snow. (How hard could that be? I coach high school cross-country and track). The cross country skiing would be easiest: I skate ski a bit and feel race-worthy in the winter.

Well, that went out the window.  A spin class sounds like a hamster wheel, and running in the snow sounds like, well, running in the snow. Also, I broke down and bought an $800 Volvo this winter, so Mr. Smith the bike commuter became Mr. Smith, the guy with a roof box box full of skis, and a ready willingness to stop playing daily bike tag with cars.

And Mr. Run All The Time developed a foot ache best described as the "sissy foot" that precluded any running other than down to the mailbox, or over to the coffeehouse, or most frequently, "how fast do I have to run to set a personal record for sliding across the hardwood floor."

In other words, I was so ill prepared,  I had no reason not to enter.

So why, why, why DIDN'T a guy who will - with basically no talent, no ability, and lots of gear - race anyone, anywhere, anytime for anything (shopping carts, milk drinking name it) enter a winter triathlon called the XTERRA American Championships?

Well, here are my reasons, all reinforced by actually skiing on the day of the race, and observing the race itself:

running in snowObservation 1) It turns out that running in the snow is at best a crap-shoot, and most likely a disaster. It seemed questionable as to whether or not snow would support my 180 lb frame, so it was great to see the race leader, and various other (lighter) competitors float across the snow - on the first lap. It was less wonderful to see somewhat less light runners, and other victims, plunge painfully into knee-deep crevasses on the second lap as the snow became chewed up.

Observation 2) On the other hand.. no, on the SAME hand, biking in the snow is, at best, a disaster. Are you gambling on Mother Nature's grace to provide a firm surface for a 25-pound mountain bike topped by a 180-pound hairless ape? Alas, mountain bikes are not the ideal tool for riding upon snow. In fact...

Observation 3) There are other tools for snow. Around 1000 years ago, someone realized that if you strapped a couple of long sticks to your feet, you could shuffle along in only relative misery, and occasional bliss, on snow. SKIS! Brilliant. Here's a thought: It's a race on snow - USE SNOW TOOLS.

Observation 4) I'm an ameteur maths nerd.  Here's some bad math, but it approximates the challenges. A bike puts about 16 square inches in contact with the snow, if you let the air out of the tire. - A shoe puts maybe 30 square inches in contact with the snow. A snowshoe, or ski, puts oh, conservatively, 145 square inches in contact with the snow. 145 square inches! I'm a history teacher - not a math teacher - but it seems there's a difference there. Now stack a couple hundred pounds of racer on top and do the math. (Side note, snow is often soft; stilts would make poor snow tools).

Observation 5) Over time, living in cold climates man has created a series of tools to deal with snow and ice. Ice Skates. Snowshoes. Skis. And clowns. (Their massive feet may indicate an inherent evolutionary predisposition towards snow sports). Luckily for the XTERRA crowd, I am relieved to know that logic need no longer rule my life. It turns out my Huffy and my Keds are ACTUALLY BETTER SNOW TOOLS THAN THE FAMED TOOLS OF THE NEANDERTHALS, NORWEGIANS, AND ESKIMOS

THIS is what i want to carry
morrison-luke-smith-skateObservation 6) Neanderthals. Are. Extinct. Suckers. Maybe skiing led to their extinction as over wearing of spandex led to frequent mockery by more developed Homo Sapiens, and an inability to get dates.

Observation 7) Carrying a bike for an hour because the snow is too soft to ride sounds like hell on earth. Maybe you should just show up with a really small bike. A clown bike.  Or a wheely bike.

Observation 8) I suspect that the event may be corporate driven. (Maybe that's because it's the XTERRA American Championships).  Somehow Nissan has decided that winter sports needed improving. I'd have loved to be at that meeting:...  "Well, our marketing department has decided that a bike race is sexier than skiing."... "And it seems like our RedBull test group keeps calling snow shoe-ers 'Clowns " (Note: I was totally wrong on this.  It was sponsored by the now out of business Bend-Bike-n-Sport, a great business I purchased two bikes from. Sloppy reportage).

Observation 9) Amazingly, the sponsors desire Olympic status. While the XTERRA winter-tri may or may not have the gravitas of curling, I believe that the race would come to be dominated by light people with big feet, who would simply purchase the smallest child's bike they can find (if you're just pushing the bike, why not just carry it). Imagine Jockeys with enormous feet each carrying the world's smallest bike on a strap around their back. Swifter, Higher, Stronger indeed.

Observation 10) I think it's important to note the awe I have for the athleticism and perseverance of all the finishers. Some younger entrants were ones I'd coached, many of the amateurs I knew, and all I admire. I'm just saying...

Editor's note: Morrison Luke Smith is a local high school teacher and coach who recently attended the Xterra Winter Triathlon in Bend.

(c) MorrisonLukeSmith

Destroy Multi-Tasking...

Here are some of my favorite student statements:

"I'm just better at writing essays than objective tests." 
"I don't need to take notes"

and my favorite...

"why can't I use my phone/ laptop / mp3 player/ ?.  I can multi-task."

Uh, no, you can't.  And study after study continues to back this up.  A recent article on Slate drives this point home.

Do you tweet?
2/3 of the time, students in the study, when left to their own devices, used their own devices (mp3, phone, etc) with horrific results for comprehension, retention, etc.

This has certainly been my discovery in 10 years of teaching.  I don't want to disparage the attention span of an average 9th grader, but... well...

But where charming Dory gives it her full attention, Students today give the world the opposite of their full attention.  My own anecdotal observations confirm this:  ALL my "MOST" Successful students never have their phone, mp3 player, etc. out.  Never.  

The key to this is that you need to actually focus for chunks of time.  And checking your FB stream while trying to do calculus is a bad move.

“Young people have a wildly inflated idea of how many things they can attend to at once, and this demonstration helps drive the point home: If you’re paying attention to your phone, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in class.” Larry Rosen, California State University–Dominguez Hills

But the problem is greater than just in the class room.  PBS, in a Frontline piece entitled Digital Nation  covers the issues here.  In general, we find that self-described "multi-taskers" are usually bad at everything.  Texting while you drive isn't multi-tasking.  It's Russian roulette.  I guess it's more like Russian Roulette on a skateboard.  Well it's more like talking on the phone while you drive. (Insert Dory pic here).  But I've seen people read the paper when driving, etc.  

Stating that "I'm a good multi-tasker" for an adult is just as bad as for a child.  Tailing off in mid-sentence to text, FB, IM, is common amongst even my friends.  I think a cool study would be to test the perceived time of gaps in conversations when people pause in conversations to use media vs. actual time.  

Hypothesis: People who are texting grossly underestimate how much time it takes answering a text takes out of a conversation with a friend.

As an educator, I can monitor technology usage: But can I "Teach it?"  How do I get a student to internalize this lesson, and put away the phone when they are studying.  How do I get them to see the value of turning off the technology when they are in school?

The scariest thing for me is that my school's plan is to get MORE technology.  The plan is for a chrome book for every kid in the future.  I think that access to technology for an American is as important as access to tools for a carpenter.  But (old curmudgeonly simile here), just as you don't give a power saw to a novice laborer, you don't give unfettered internet access to a teenager and say, "just use this for a shared google doc project on tropical fish."

Morrison Luke Smith
(c) MorrisonLukeSmith

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ah, May Day....

morrison luke smith
May Day. Straw Hats, Seersucker suits, lemonade, croquet.  The official start of spring.  Or is that Easter.  Around these parts, spring kicks off in late July.  But in Seattle, May Day is the start of Riot Season.

And with Iron Man III dropping tomorrow, what better way to celebrate than Superheroes vs Anarchists!

Anarchists dressed as Clowns that is.  Really: You just can't make this stuff up.  Seattle has a long history of rioting, dating back to the 1886 when fighting erupted between the Knights of Labor, Federal Officers, and hundreds of Chinese immigrants. 

The excitement continued into the 1990's, when the meeting of the world trade organization sparked huge protests and riots memorialized in the movie, Battle in Seattle.  I never thought Andre Benjamin and Woody Harrelson would be in a movie together.  But a quick IMDB check reveals a second film together:  Semi-Pro with Will Ferrell.  I feel we should move on.

This most recent rioting in Seattle started as a protest in honor of May Day, which is some sort of Communist holiday.  Numerous similar events were held around the world.  But, as seems to be the case in Seattle, Black clad anarchists started a Ruckus.  Violence ensued.

But, luckily, El Caballero, Captain Caveman, Spectacularo, and Speed Walker were on the scene to regulate.  Mischief managed?

Which is most likely:
...that Fox News will blame OWS (Occupy Wall Street)?
...that the Protestors will Blame corporate instigators?
...that this will be out of the news cycle in 3 days?
(C) Morrison Luke Smith
...that Fox News will blame Acorn?
...that these people need jobs?
--(oh. wait.  that may be their point)
...that whatever good may have been accomplished with a peaceful march and a protest is completely undone by the violence of a few?