Archive for April, 2013

Why I’m getting tired of my iPhone

Let’s get something straight. I love my iPhone.

Really, I do. But it’s getting a little moldy.

I don’t mean mine in particular. It’s fine and I keep it pretty clean.

I mean the iPhone in general.

It’s been years since the iPhone really had any major changes or “new stuff” added to it, and to be honest, it’s getting moldy.

This begs the question a lot of people are asking these days.

“WTF has happened to Apple?”

I don’t mean this in a snarky way. I mean it in a troubled and somewhat surprised way.

For a company that prides itself on innovation, it seems they are falling behind the curve.

Other platforms and hardware vendors have done amazing things in the past few year. Android has finally figured out they need to address their “fragmentation” problem…er…excuse me…the fragmentation “situation”. Things are improving and the industry is seeing lots of new stuff that runs across the board on different Android devices.

Apple has rested on their laurels, the loyalty of their fan base, and their market inertia to keep them where they are.

But let’s consider a few symptoms of the underlying problem.

Stock prices are dropping. Used to be Apple stock was the hottest thing on the planet. In the past couple quarters they have lost billions in overall valuation. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Sales of iPhones have slumped. iPads still sell like crazy. They should. They are fantastic. But the iPhone….not so much.

I’ve got two main complaints here. They are hardware stagnation and IOS stagnation. So, pretty much the whole thing.

You see, the hardware of the iPhone, while it’s gotten updated and upgraded over the past few years, hasn’t really changed. It’s fundamentally the same device. OK..new stuff here and there, and how much can you really change a device that has one button (three if you count power and volume).

But the guts aren’t really my beef. It’s the design of the hardware.

Where the hell is the cool design? Why do we still have the clunky iPhone 4 design (that sucks BTW) when we have the cooler looking iPad mini design? Where is the teardrop shape we keep hearing rumors about? Other companies have done some cool stuff with their hardware designs. They are more pleasing to look at, and to be honest, feel better in your hand.

Apple needs to seriously update it’s design of the phone.

The real concern here is IOS. It’s stale, out of date and behind the times. Honestly, it’s boring.

Let’s start with the “swipe to unlock” issue. A PIN code? Really? Let’s move into the modern era. There are so many more effective and better ways to lock/protect your device. I love the pattern code Android has. Next is the iOS home screen. Dull and not really that functional anymore. If Windows Mobile has taught us anything, is that a “tiled” home screen with things like weather data, frequently use app shortcuts and such are valuable.

The real estate on your home screen is the most valuable there is. You see it ALL the time. Make it do more than just show you a list of app icons. Make it “work”.

How about a fingerprint reader? That covers hardware AND IOS. See any uses there for this? I sure do.

You now what? Even a better calculator would be nice. There are a myriad of other issues.

I’m not alone in wanting these things. I read stuff like this all the time. Apple has lost it’s creative mojo. It needs desperately to get it back.

When I read that Apple plans no product announcements planned through the next two quarters of this year, two things come to my mind.

First, I hope they are using this time to work on something big. A new iPhone, from the ground up is not only what I’m hoping for, it’s what Apple NEEDS.

Second, if they aren’t, and come out with a new version of AppleTV and an iPhone in blue, they are going to be in real trouble.

I question Tim Cook’s leadership at this point. I realize he appears to be a hell of a business leader. But where is the creative leadership? Jony Ive needs to step in a big way. I’m willing to give him time to work since he’s been given more responsibility. Probably more than Wall Street is willing to give him.

But I’m not waiting forever.

It’s like the Jimmy Buffet song says, “Can’t you see them circling….can’t you see them schooling around. You’ve got fins to the left, fins to the right…”

Apple isn’t the only girl in town these days, and the sharks are circling.

If they don’t do something soon, Android is going to be looking mighty good.

So. Very. True

Love. This. Image.

wpid-good-point-you-make-14-2013-04-28-21-26.jpg

A map of my brain

My brain is a scary place.

I fully recognize that. And you know what, I’m ok with that fact.

In fact it’s pretty cool.

For example. For some reason, my brain retains advertising jingles that I hear in TV. Want to know the jingle for Ball Park Franks from the mid 1980’s? I’m your guy.

It’s a sickness, I know. In college, my freshman year, I took a senior-level course in the History of Journalism. Great class! I loved it.

At one point we were talking about the rise of advertising and the professor started tossing out the first lines of jingles or ad slogans and asked the class to come up with the product.

Let’s just say, I got a LOT of weird looks that day. I think I got them all, even if I didn’t raise my hand for all of them. I wanted to fit in with all the seniors after all.

Movie quotes? Oh hell yes.

I used to watch movies all the time, and yes, they stick with me.

“If you guys know so much about women, what are you doing here at the Gas ’n Sip, all alone on a Friday night?”

“Choice man. Conscious Choice.”

Movie anyone?

So what I’m getting it is this. I ran across a near perfect representation of my brain today. It’s great.

wpid-100-sooooo-true-f3dff8f7-sz800x645-animate-2013-04-28-17-21.jpg

I think this pretty much applies to a lot of guys (maybe women also) but I think it hits me dead one.

Useless Trivia…check.

Comic Books…oh hell yes! Loved them as a kid.

Obscure Science Fiction References…please!!!

Monty Python quotes? Required in my circle of friends. Although how I married a woman who doesn’t “get” Monty Python is beyond me. (Sorry Mrs. Technocrat)

The interesting thing about this diagram is the Social Skills part. For me, that should be “Socialization Interest”.

You see, for me, I have the skills. I can socialize with the best of them. I can be (so I’ve been told) polite, charming, witty, funny, well-mannered and quite the gentleman.

I just don’t like it a lot. You see, I’m fundamentally anti-social at heart.

Not in a Grumpy Old Man sort of way. Just more of a “I’d rather be alone” sort of way.

I like my space and privacy. A lot.

But the key ere, why it’s so applicable to me, is the cartoon theme songs.

Oh My God! They are like little individual people in my head and they pop out at random times.

Sitting in a budget meeting, hey…lets think about the theme song to the Jetsons.

Trying to go to sleep… Johnny Quest.

Talking to my boss…Scooby Doo.

The list goes on and on and on.

See, I great up on Saturday cartoons. It was a central point in my life for years.

Saturday morning was NOT for sleeping in. It was for getting up by 7 or 8 and watching cartoons. Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner show. Scooby Doo (the original ones…NOT with that moron Scrappy). Tom and Jerry. Grape Ape. All the classic.

It was heaven.

And my brain retained all of the theme songs. It’s a curse. If I ever find myself on a game show and am asked to hum the intro to Woody Woodpecker, I’m golden.

Until then, it’s just another region in my brain.

This map is missing only one thing. Where’s the region devoted to power tools. For me, I think it would replace the math region.

Power tools are far more fun than math.

Kids and technology

I remember growing up and being fascinated with technology. Anything “electronic” was cool, fascinating and worth of worship in my adolescent mind.

I’ve said it before here that I was introduced to technology at a young age. We got our first computer in the late 1970s and it mushroomed from there.

Fortunately, my father was cut from the same cloth (or maybe the other way around) so I never had to worry about my parents being “technophobes”.

I loved it.

Timex Sinclair, Atari, Commodore 64, Radio Shack, and Coleco Vision were all icons of my youth.

Today, the fascination is still there, but not for the “electronic” part of things, but it’s more utilitarian. Simple, plain and easy to understand. Kids today view electronics as tool. Cool they might be, they are tools to them. Tools to socialize. Tools to communicate. Tools for work.

My kids are perfect examples.

They have had my old iPhone castoffs for years now, and over the holiday we bought both kids an iPad mini.

They use them for games, email, Skyping their friends, YouTube and generally isolating themselves from the “natural” world at large.

The oldest has been going to virtual school for years now, so he is intimately familiar with technology.

But some time ago, he asked for his own laptop.

It didn’t start out that, way. Initially he wanted his own full-sized iPad.

So Mrs. Technocrat and I made a deal with him. He could earn it.

If he read 50 books (and real books, not “kiddy” books) we would contribute $500 to an iPad. He had to save the rest.

This was quite a while back. He moved in fits and starts and didn’t really seem committed to it.

About a year ago, he changed his tune. He wanted his own laptop.

Not just for games, but to start learning programming languages, more email….and maybe even creative writing.

Mrs. Technocrat and I determined he was mature enough for this, so we let him change the terms of the agreement to a laptop.

At this point, the kid dug in like like a tick on a bloodhound. It was fun to watch.

He blew through the 50 books in no time. Wasn’t hard for a kid who loves to read when he has books he likes.

The rest of the money was a different story. That took some real effort on his part.

For the one he wanted (a refurbished Apple MacBook Air) he needed an extra $350 to $400. Not a small task for a 13 year old.

So it was extra chores, jobs for the grandparents, asking for cash for birthday and etc.

Well, the kid finished it up this past week. He did it.

He and I sat down together yesterday and ordered HIS very first computer. Not a shared family computer. His.

I couldn’t be more proud of him.

We’ve set ground rules, and Dad is going to help him understand how to take care of it. From virus software to backups, to “appropriate” places on the internet. He lives in a techno-centric world these days, and it’s time he learns how to survive in it. I see far too many adults without the basic computer skills that today demands.

So, here’s to you C. Good job! I hope you enjoy the laptop and take care of it.

You’ve earned it!

Pure Joy

Sometimes I run across images that are just so beautiful, they need to be shared.

some-beautiful-moments-16

Skills we’ve lost

Got to thinking the other day that, while the Internet and the rapid advance of technology are nifty and all, we’ve lost some fundamental skills as a result.

I know, I know…you are thinking, “Duh! That’s amazing Captain Obvious!!”.

Yeah, I know. I’m a master of that sort of thing.

This is on a societal level as well as an individual level. I really hate to sound like one of “those old guys” that sits around and pines for the “good old days”. Because, and let’s be honest, how good were the good old days? Seriously, for anyone that remembers the hair styles of the 70’s and the clothing of the 80’s….yikes!!

However, I think there is something to be said for the lack of “connectedness” that we had even in the late 90’s and early 00’s.

Now, granted, we’ve gained some skills as well, and I have to say that Amazon.com and Amazon Prime are pretty F’ing cool. But, we’ve lost some things that I’m not sure are a good thing.

So, I present my list of things we’ve lost the ability to do as a result of the internet and technology.

/pontification = on

The ability to sit quietly and do nothing.

Have you noticed that these days, just about no one can just sit and be quiet? We all have to grab our phones, or iPods or tablets and “fill in” that time. What happened to sitting on the bus and looking out the window? What happened to time spent mentally decompressing from the day? It’s gone and honestly, I think this contributes to the overall heightened stress level people have today. This is a huge pet peeve of mine and it drives my kids crazy. They have to have their iPads with them just about every moment they are not eating or sleeping.

Heck, they even have them with them when they are watching TV. And it’s not just for the commercials. They are watching TV AND watching something on YouTube at the same time. So, unless they have figured out how to watch one screen with a single eyeball and the other screen with the other…what the hell is the point?

In short, the idea of “quiet time” from Kindergarden is really appealing these days.

The ability to be patient.

People want things instantly today. Waiting for anything is unacceptable. In the world of high-speed internet services and Jimmy John’s instant delivery (not really instant but pretty darn quick), people don’t know how to wait for things.

I see this in my kids and I see this in my work. It’s all got to be right now.

Internet running slow? Oh…I’m sorry, did that Google search take 10.3 seconds instead of 1.7? Yup, you are totally justified in screaming at the IT staff about how the network sucks. Did you have to wait a bit for that 679Mb video to load before you could watch it? I know, your life is terrible.

Is “next day delivery” not fast enough for you…oh, I’m sorry. Wait, no I’m not!

Slow down and be quiet (see above) for a few minute and wait.

There are things in life you have to wait for. Patience is and important life skill and we are collectively losing ours.

The ability to research something (A.K.A how to think for yourself).

OK…so how many of you out there remember having to do a report in school that required you to go to the library (usually after school) to be able to research information in something called an Encyclopedia? You know what I’m talking about (maybe not), those massive sets of books that only libraries had because they collectively weighed like 800 pounds, cost as much as the Space Shuttle and needed an acre of shelf space to store? World Book? Encyclopedia Britannica? Anyone?

Yeah, not today.

Today if you can’t find it on Google or Wikipedia, the attitude is that it doesn’t exist.

Those skills you learned using those tomes of knowledge were life skills that translated to all sorts of things. Information gathering, data sorting, prioritization, outlining, decision making, scheduling, time management. The list goes on.

In the corporate world it translates into people that can’t think for themselves and can’t use basic research tools to do any work. Case in point…Build a large group of people a custom tool to allow them to search your corporate information and run reports on said data. Make it simple to use. Offer to train them on the tool. Train them on the tool. There will always be a significant group of people that will still ask others to do their work for them because they can’t figure out how to find the data. Why, because they don’t know how to think and figure things out.

Learn the tools! It’s not that hard people. Seriously, this is “Thinking 101”. Take the time (see both above) and put in the effort

One of the students in one of the classes I teach asked me about a process a few weeks ago. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “The idea here is to teach you how to think about this process and how to use the tools available to solve the problem. It’s really about teaching you how to think.”

Student: “So is there a step-by-step instruction sheet for this? Can you send me that?”

Me: “No…there isn’t one. Part of this is to have you figure out this on your own. There are several ways to accomplish this and it’s up to you to pick the best one.”

Student: “But how am I supposed to learning anything if you don’t tell me how to do this and how to do the assignment?”

Me: /facepalm

The ability to have basic social interactions beyond 140 characters.

People don’t have conversations anymore. The ability to have and participate in a significant conversation is becoming a lost art. With it, I suspect goes the ability for meaningful sociopolitical discourse.

Dinner tables have been invaded by phones, and family time has been replaced by tablets and MMO games (look it up if you don’t know what an MMO is..you know..research).

I read an article a few days ago trying to teach parents how to communicate with their kids on sensitive issues such as sex, drugs, the violence in the world. All via TEXT messaging. You know since, as the article said, kids relate to this and don’t communicate well in situations where they have to, “communicate face to face with people”.

Hello job interviews? Hello dating? Hello interpersonal conflict resolution? WTF are we allowing our kids to become?

It’s because, again as the article says, “kids today don’t have the ability or desire to have long conversations (see above) nor do they possess the desire to have to focus for a long period of time on a single train of thought”. (Also see above).

Now, I don’t agree with this entirely, but it has some valid (and scary) points.

So here’s my point in all this…yes, I do have a point.

I think we’d all benefit from taking some “time off” from technology, instant gratification, email, and the “always on” culture we seem to be developing.

Sit quietly, watch the sunset when you aren’t on vacation. Learn something by researching it and forming your OWN opinion on it. Talk to your family at dinner.

There is a National Day of Unplugging each year. You can learn more about it here: http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/

It’s past for this year, but for next year, I’m definitely going to sign up and participate.

And so is my family.

They just don’t know it yet.

/pontification = off

Not in Kansas anymore…

I grew up in Kansas and lived most of my life there. It’s an “interesting” place, but that’s another story.

While I still miss a few things about it (not that many really) one of the things I don’t miss is the crazy weather.

While most places like to joke “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes,” they don’t really “get” that whole phrase the way Kansans get it. In Kansas, it’s not a joke. It’s not said with a chuckle and a wink. It’s reality and said with that sort of quite resignation that comes from living in a place where you can see, snow, rain, hail, tornadoes, and scorching heat…all in the same day.

I’m not joking here.

Growing up in Kansas, you learn really quickly that there is “winter”…which is fondly referred to as the “sucky ice and cold” season and then you have “crazy weather” season.

The later tends to run form around early March to November.

To give you an example from my own life, there was a “spring” day not so long ago when we woke up to a cold overcast day with temps of around 40 degrees. By noon we had sunshine and a 88-degree day. That changed in about two hours as the temp dropped to around 55 degrees and a heck of a hail storm rolled in. That lasted for about an hour…temp shot back up to the high 70s…stated sunny, for about two hours…temp dropped back to the low 50s and a thunder cell rolled in…bringing with it, high winds, a massive lightening storm (the kind you hide from), and yes, tornadoes. Several to be exact. This departed around 6pm that evening, and at that point, the temp started to climb a bit, and stayed sunny.

Until the evening…when we got an inch of snow.

/facepalm

You see, Kansas is sort of right on a meteorological “boundary line” between different zones and weather patters. Cold dry cells from the north tend to roll down from Canada and smash into warm, wet cells from the gulf of Mexico in some sort of climate gang warfare. And it takes place over Kansas and Oklahoma.

Now you know how the area got the name “Tornado Alley”.

So what I’m getting at is, I’m used to weird weather.

I just thought I left it in Kansas when I move to Wisconsin. I expected cold. I expected snow. But I didn’t expect it to mirror Kansas so much in the weather insanity.

Today proved me wrong.

Sunshine, wind, rain, snow, more sunshine, blue skies, more snow, ice pellets. It’s a veritable cornucopia of icy cold SUCK!

Have I mentioned I’m sick of winter?

Really, I know Mother Nature is pretty pissed at human kind in general, but this is just crazy.

How about a little consistency? And preferably warm?

Pretty please?

It’s starting to feel like I’m in Kansas again.

No, no and HELL no!!

I attended a regular meeting yesterday regarding a grant project and we had a guest speaker talk to use about games and simulations.

It was fascinating. Lots of cool examples, and a great discussion.

You see, we are looking at dealing with some very large amounts of community health data in the grant and we are looking into alternative ways to visualize the data.

It was fascinating to listen to this person and let the braincells run amuck with ideas and possibilities.

So, simulations…keep that in mind.

Later in the day, I was reading some of the industry threads I frequent. There was an article on simulations and healthcare.

“Cool”, I thought to myself and wandered to the article.

Great article with lots of cool links. So I was clicking through links to lots of different projects that involve simulations to improve healthcare, or improved healthcare care education. Even some educational games for kids to help make health choices.

“Even cooler”, I thought to myself as these are two specific areas I deal with. And in light of the previous meeting, I was happily reading away.

Then I clicked on one more link.

Wow, talk about a great example of the “one too many” syndrome. I should have just stopped before I started into the “other” category of links.

What should I find…well…just look at the photo below.

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/cringe_factor = MASSIVE

Yes, that’s right folks, an interactive simulator for…Prostate exams.

Ewwwww!!!!!!

This is real. It’s being marketed to med schools and healthcare organizations.

I’m not sure what is worse, but here are the possibilities.

#1. The fake butt complete with asshole and “textured, fleshy anal region” (these are from the article…NOT my words…you can see it in the photo) “to simulate a realistic exam experience for the learner.”

#2. The fact that this image is showing someone USING this thing. Let me just say again….EWWWW.

#3. The fact that there is a fake prostate inside this thing with sensors to “simulate a variety of prostate conditions”. Yet again…EWWWW!

or…and I think this is the worst

#4. The video image (not static photo) of a guy bending over the table presenting well…his vertical smile to the audience at large.

I’ve talked in the past about technology going “too far”, but folks, there are simply no words to describe how “wrong” this is.

I can’t tell you the mental whiplash I have right now having gone from the meeting early in the day talking about simulations to late in the day finding this and, well, the buzz kill that went with it.

There. Are. No. Words.

Can you imagine the poor programmers that worked on this project?

/set_scene = dinner party

“So what sort of project are you working on now Carl?”

“I’m working on a project to simulate prostate exams complete with video footage, and dynamic prostate gland and a fake ass complete with a ‘textured, fleshy anal region’.”

. . .

Talk about a conversation killer.

The perfect background image

I got a new computer for work a week ago. A nice shiny new MacBook Air, and I absolutely love it.

I’ve been debating the idea of dropping my beloved 27” iMac for something less bulky for quite sometime, but I finally acted on the thought.

I’ve had iPads since they came out and love them, but for how I work (and this is purely about how I work) they just aren’t “quite” right.

When the iPad mini came out it filled the perfect niche for me between what I “really” wanted in a tablet and what “was” available in a tablet. It’s nearly perfect.

/apple_fanboy = on

So I’ve relegated my full-sized iPad 4 to retirement, shuffled my 27” iMac to storage, and have (what I think) is the perfect work setup for me. After years and years of wanting something like this, I’m thrilled. Laptop and small, highly portable and (most important) light table.

This, however, brings me to my quandary.

I need a new desktop image for my laptop. Actually, I need two.

I’m not the type to settle for the standard monochrome desktop background image. I firmly believe you can tell a lot from a person (about their personality and interests) by their background image. Someone should study this and see if they can match personality types to different genres of images.

I like to change mine out occasionally, but a new computer is the perfect time.

Here’s the kicker. As I said, I need two. One for the laptop and one for the shiny new 27” Thunderbolt Mac display sitting on my desk. The whole process and (somewhat painful one at that) is doubled.

See, I didn’t want to work on that 13” screen ALL day. So I got the big monitor and a 12 South Arc dock for the laptop. Love that dock by the way.

The laptop can have two different backgrounds. One for the laptop by itself and one for when it’s plugged into the monitor. It changes them automatically and everything!

I’ve been in a tropical mood for a while so I’m thinking of switching it up.

Here’s the first one I’m seriously thinking about…for the laptop.

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I love the colors (green = happy color) and the water.

For the larger monitor I’m thinking of going more “out there”. Here’s what I’m leaning towards right now…

wpid-screen2-2013-04-11-10-36.jpg

I love the “feeling” of that image, and if I’m going to be starting at this for hours on end every day I need to really FEEL the image.

This is serious stuff for heavens sake!

I’ve never been one to go for “funny” or silly images. I tend to gravitate more toward deeply environmental images or peaceful and moody.

I wonder what that says about my personally?

Anyway, I’m still looking. So if you have any good sites that offer interesting backgrounds, just let me know.

No erotic images please. While appreciated (and enjoyed), there’s that whole pesky NSFW thing.

Finding an answer

Sometimes things in life happen and you know instantly why they happened. Sometimes it takes a while and others, well, you never really find out an answer.

Too often, it’s the sad things that you never really get an answer for. But sometimes, they are mixed in with some good.

Let me try and explain…so hang with me.

I coach youth sports. I have for years. Soccer and Basketball. I started almost 10 years ago with my oldest son when he started playing soccer. When my youngest started playing, naturally I coached him and his teams also. Ever since, I’ve been a part of their teams in one form or another. Either as a head coach or an assistant.

I had coached the youngest’s basketball team last year, and I had decided that enough was enough. Time to hang up the whistle. I had a bad experience with a parent the previous season and between that, the increasing competitiveness of the game, wanting my kids to experience other coaches and my general stress level (which has been high of late) I had decided not to coach again this year. I’d finish out the spring soccer season and I’d be done. Blessed retirement. I’d happily sit on the sidelines and watch.

Then the emails started.

The basketball league was asking for someone to coach the team my son would play on. They didn’t have anyone and needed a coach.

I told my wife not to respond. I was done.

The emails kept coming. Eventually with more frequency and with greater urgency.

I stayed strong. I was done and didn’t want the commitment or stress again.

But as the season drew near, the league still didn’t have a coach. They talked about not having the team and refunding the registration fees.

So, after much quiet cajoling by my son (and a few hopeful looks from my wife), I agreed to coach. One. Last. Time.

I was not happy about it to be honest.

After the organizational meeting with the league, I found out they had 13 boys (all 11 years old) signed up. Not enough for two teams, but a “challenge” for one. That’s lot of players in a recreational league where you are supposed to guarantee every player the right to play 50% of the game. Plus if you’ve ever been around 13, 11-year-old boys…wow…like herding loud cats!

As I said, I wan’t too happy about the situation.

But let me tell you something. I’ve never been as glad that I coached a team as I am with this one. This gets into the reason “thing”. I kept asking myself why had I agreed to do this again when I was going to be stressed out about it and worry and so on.

Well, there are three words that I can tell you ARE the answer.

James Richard Helmuth.

I knew James in name only from the previous season. He had played for a different team and mid-way through the season James was diagnosed with a very, very rare form of cancer. He was 10 at the time, and it broke my heart just to hear about it.

James was signed up for my team and I recognized his name on the roster. I met his mom at the organization meeting and she offered to help out with the team. We talked about James and she said he had had surgery to remove the tumors, and had finished up his chemotherapy and was ready to try playing a little. She warned me he was weak and would need to rest a lot.

She was right. When James showed up for the first practice he was thin, pale and weak. I remember it well. He wore a basketball jersey and a Washington Redskins baseball cap (his hair was gone from the chemo).

He did his best, but got tired a lot. We let him take a lot of breaks, and he would always let me know when he was ready to play again. His coordination was gone and it was a struggle for him just to dribble a ball.

As the season progressed, James got stronger. He was able to run up and down the court, his coordination came back and he never, EVER once complained about anything. He was a fighter and he was determined to play despite his body protesting.

He was quite and a little stoic. I can’t imagine his thoughts as he struggled to recover from the previous year he had experienced. However I got occasional glimpses of the ornery glint in his eyes that apparently marked him before he got sick.

During games he and I had an agreement. I’d put him in once in the game to play, and after that he’d let me know when he felt up to playing again.

Some games, it was just that once. Other times he’d find me one the side line and tell me, “Coach, I’m ready to play.” That was my cue to get him into the game again. He’d always say those same words.

“I’m ready to play.”

Four simple words that spoke volumes.

James died two weeks ago.

It came as a shock to us as we had seen him just a week previously at the end-of-the-sean party for the team. He looked pretty good.

We attended a celebration of his life on Saturday and I have to tell you, I’ve never seen so many people at a funeral. It was truly a celebration of a life, albeit one cut far too short.

I’m not going to try and tell you about James and how he lived his 11 years of life. Others who knew him far better should do that. I wouldn’t do him justice.

But I will tell you this. James is the reason I ended up coaching that team. Even though I didn’t know it at the time.

Getting to know James for 4 months was an honor and a privilege and without him knowing, he taught me something.

When you can, in sports as in life, you should always be “ready to play.”

You see James loved sports. It was a central part of his life. To him, sports, and playing sports, WAS being alive. At the service people talked endlessly about his love of anything that had ball. Football, basketball, you name it.

He was happiest when he was playing. It was central to who he was.

So those words, “I’m ready to play”, took on even more meaning.

In the end, I don’t have answers as to why things happened the way they did. Why James got sick. Why him. Why he died when he seemed to be doing better.

But I do have one answer.

I know why something moved me to coach that team.

It was so I could get to meet James and get to know him for a time. Of this I have no doubt.

Those answers are few in life so I’m gong to relish this one, despite the hurt that goes with it.

Thank you James. You taught me something and it was honor to get to know you for a while.

My wish for myself, for my boys, for my wife, and for everyone is this:

As often as possible in this life, may we all be “Ready to Play”.