Monday, March 31, 2008

A First-Timer’s Foray into March Madness

This year marks my first exploration into the world of Hoops Hysteria, better known as NCAA March Madness. Herein lies the tale:

A nominal observer at best, I now found myself coerced to join a “tourney pool,” as the lingo goes. What’s a girl to do?

The Monday before brackets were due, I frantically read through every article from many a news source on the Internet, desperately trying to learn as much as I could about teams I had never heard of, playing a game I usually paid little attention to. After reading several commentators and sports writers, “experts” in my summation, argue which team would “upset,” which team had the best “percentage from the line,” and predicting which team would be the “Cinderella story,” I felt moderately comfortable in completing my bracket.

Look at me and my new jargon.

I chose my winners using a very scientific formula of personal loyalty (20%), number of friends who attend said university (30%), and fierceness of mascot (50%). As I filled in my brackets to the championship, I found my heart beating faster. My concentration level was off the charts – an anomaly brought to my attention by a senior staff member walking into my office and interrupting my “work.”

Was I, shudder to think it, excited?

As the tournament (or “tourney” as those intheknow will say) began the next weekend, I found my eyes unwillingly drawn to the television while out for drinks with friends. I kept a quarter of my attention on the conversation whilst the rest of me watched the crushing defeat of Gonzaga by Davidson. (dammit Gonzaga!)

At lunch the next day, our conversation centered on the tourney (see?) and I found myself checking the television, only to be disappointed with an NIT game. Apparently, to those who keep tabs, the NIT is like purgatory for any athlete (or athletic supporter, name that movie) whose team is not currently banished to its confines.

I ended the round with all of my upsets being upset, which, if two negatives make a positive, then I just stated that the higher seeds did, in fact, win their games when I said they would lose. I made two major mistakes in pinning three consecutive rounds on an upset by Gonzaga, whereas Davidson upset them. (dammit Gonzaga!) I also made the mistake in placing my trust in Duke, NCAA tournament veterans, but came to find that most everyone made that same mistake.

Needless to say, I found myself a bit disillusioned by the all of the red strikethroughs that CBS Sports placed on my bracket layout.

Side Note: Your Quarter Century gal must admit that, whilst watching one of the first round games, and seeing that she was losing in the bracket pool, this author sneakily ferreted bracket picking strategies from not one, not two, but three compatriots in the hopes of making better picks next year.

The next weekend, and round, came with less attention paid by yours truly. Sweet Sixteen? Elite Eight? I made the mistake of thinking these rounds would be played over the course of two weekends instead of one. Beginner’s mistake, bygones.

After tuning in to exactly one game of these two rounds, I am pleasantly surprised to find that three out of my four Final Four picks did, in fact, make it to the Final Four. This places me just below the halfway mark in my tournament pool standings.

Not bad for a beginner, eh?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Generational Observation

The other night at book club we were in the midst of a discussion about our latest title, The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins. Naturally, as all book club discussions go, we veered off topic, then on, then off again; the tangents becoming longer and full of more twists and turns as the night wore on and we drank more beer.

The tangent du jour was about the workplace, and how the Baby Boomer generation differs from the Gen X-ers and Millenials (of which we were all in the middle ground – neither comfortably in one group nor the other). Discussing our current work situations, we found a common thread of being thrown into the midst of things on our first day with little to no training in organizational history or procedure.

This “baptism by fire” approach let us hit the ground running, yes, but made the first six months of the job less productive and effective, not to mention stressful.

Why is job training a dying practice? Why do companies seem to not want to take a few days of training in order to invest in our success?

We discussed the current structure of management, and how so many organizations lose top-level executives only to scramble in finding adequate replacements. Why, we argued, could an organization not simply plan for the future by grooming an internal senior staff member for those executive positions?

Was it a generational thing? Did baby boomers never plan for; much less think about, the day they will leave an organization for retirement? And when will that mass exodus of baby boomers finally happen and open up the abundant supply of jobs we have been promised since freshman year of our undergraduate studies?

A mystery, to be sure.

I was thinking about this topic on the way to work this morning. As I circumvented rush hour traffic by taking the back streets, I had time to reflect. I realized that what made this discussion so interesting was that I had never before thought of it as a generational issue.

I guess I just always thought that the companies I worked for were really busy and disorganized. That is why, I reasoned, I was never properly trained for my position. That is why I am still, after two years in this job, learning about organizational procedures that I have not been following, but which have been in existence long before I arrived. I simply was never told they existed, you see.

This issue is probably the reason I am so organized to the point of obsessive compulsion. The first thing I do when I arrive on the job is to set up my office form templates and filing systems. The last thing I do when I am planning to leave a job is to write comprehensive handbooks and “how to” lists for the next person, outlining all of my major duties and organizational procedures. My way of making sure that the next person doesn’t have as hard a transition as I did.

In sharing these rather odd, I think learned, behaviors during the book club discussion, my friends all agreed with me. The moment I started talking I saw heads nodding and heard murmurs of agreement. My peers had been through the exact same thing. They, too, work in much the same manner when first entering and then leaving a new job.

I guess that is a glaring generational difference as well. Fifty years ago a person could expect to stay in one company for their entire career, working up the ladder and then earning a nice pension. My peers and I do not even know what the word pension means, and we, as a generation, are often criticized for our career-hopping ways.

Interesting observation, that.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Let me be the first to congratulate you

Let us begin with a Sidenote: It is this author’s opinion that the moniker “Cream City,” though well intentioned, still manages to invoke a feeling of crassness. Perhaps this author merely has a dirty mind. Bygones.

First, let me congratulate you on finding your way to this blog. Filled in the posts of this “web-enabled Internet log page” are the musings and random thoughts attributed to my life as experienced by me in this fine, underrated city.

Second, I must admit that I never particularly wanted to live in Milwaukee. In fact, I fought the move until the end, remained a bit disgruntled after the fact, and only began to warm up in the several months following my full-fledged unpacking.

With that confession out of the way, I can now say that I love my life in this dear city. Surprising everyone who knows me, I have come to enjoy living in Milwaukee and have become its most avid supporter.

Need a sales pitch to help prevent the brain drain?

I’m your girl.

Want to convince outsiders of Milwaukee’s charm?

Why, I can help you with that too.

In short, I enjoy my life here so much that I have taken to the profligate pages of the Internets to espouse all of the wonderful attributes of the Cream City as experienced and opined by me, your Quarter Century gal.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


If I were a man, I bet that I'd like baseball much more than I currently do.

As such, I'm sure that, if I had grown up as a boy my dream would've been to be a professional ball player (any sport probably would've done just as well, but for the purposes of this post let's go with baseball).

If my goal was to be a pro baseball player I probably would've worked hard, practiced harder, and maybe been signed to a team like the Brewer's after a somewhat successful college career playing ball.

If I were signed to the Brewers, then I would be able to choose a song that played every time I walked up to bat.

If this were the case I would choose this one (especially beginning at 48 seconds into it):

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Trendy American Dream

Or more like American Dream Trends?

In the early 1900’s the American Dream was to have a “good job,” and by that, we meant a steady income that would pay your bills. The kind of job you would start when you were 18 and stick with until retirement.

Eighty years ago the American Dream was to have food on the table and a place to live. The Great Depression was a nightmare – the exact opposite of that earlier dream – yet those I know who lived through it were stronger for having done so.

In the mid-1900’s the American Dream was to be able to afford a single-family home (for your single family of mom, dad, and 2.5 kids), with a “his and hers” car set in the garage. Ah, the return of materialism.

In the 80’s the American Dream was the high-powered career. Think Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl,” minus the shoulder pads. Double incomes were the toast of the town, and except for that bit of recession at the beginning, the decade led rather nicely to the lucrative 90’s.

Today the American Dream is to have a job you enjoy, a career you love, a dream gig, as so described by yesterday's headline on MSN news. (I’d find the link for you, but it was replaced by the more news-worthy “REPORT: N.Y. Gov. Involved in Prostitution Ring.” Bygones.)

The dream of Americans today is not only to have all of the above, but to also enjoy that aforementioned “good job” as well. Not an incomprehensible desire when we are spending 60+ hours at work each week.

No more “nose to the grindstone,” or “back to the salt mines,” no. We Americans want a single-family home with the single family. We want the “his and hers” car set, with maybe a recreational vehicle thrown in for good measure. We want a steady job we can depend on – with health insurance, dental, vision, and retirement planning – but we also want to wake up in the morning and be excited at the prospect of commuting 90 minutes (damn suburbia) so that we can do our soul-satisfying work.

We want to do something we love; something we’re passionate about.

In other words: we want our cake, and we want to eat it too. To hell with that extra hour of cardio we’ll have to do at the gym.

Let’s face it. America is spoiled. We are the spoiled teenager that is a 230-year-old nation.

But who am I to complain? I have a job I love.

Note to anyone who knows me: I may not be loving it right now, as you know, but in general I really do enjoy my job.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Scholarship of Engagement

You may be wondering what the scholarship of engagement is, and I am here to tell you. Under duress.

No, it is not the study of marriage traditions across cultures.

It is, however, the practice of taking learning out of the classroom and into the community, and in the process creating a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship.

Perhaps it should be termed “Engaged Scholarship,” that’s all I’m saying.

Do you know that some people devote their entire lives to studying this practice?

Even more, upwards of 50 people devoted 5 hours to this subject just yesterday in a converted manse off Lake Drive just a stone’s throw from Whitefish (folks) Bay.

“Why,” you may ask? (Go ahead, I’ll wait)

Well, I do not rightly know. As far as this author is concerned, the Scholarship of Engagement (better known as: Engaged Scholarship) is already taking place in schools across the country – and very much so in the Greater M area.

Service learning, faculty research studies, real time case studies – all are versions of this type of learning, and yet 50 unfortunate academics spent five hours of their busy lives dissecting and discussing how they can create scholarship of engagement at a university that already widely uses this practice.

This author was not amused to have to take part.