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3 posts from June 2009

June 24, 2009

Parkersburg suffers again

How much more heartbreak can the good folks of Parkersburg endure?

It was only a year ago that a tornado tore through the area and leveled half the town, including the high school, and killed six people. Now, with the community well on its way to recovery, another tragedy. One of the town's icons, Aplington-Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas, was shot to death in the school's weight room -- by one of his former players.

Stunning. Shocking. Tragic. Senseless. Unimaginable -- everyone grasps for words to explain their emotions when something like this occurs. How could it happen? What would drive someone to do that? And then you think about Ed's family and friends trying to deal with the sudden void in their lives. And about a town that already had suffered too much

I won't claim to have known Ed Thomas. I talked to him several times while working for the AP. I saw his teams play. I watched his son, Aaron, play basketball for Drake. But I picked up enough in those conversations and by talking with those who knew him to learn something about the man.

As a coach, Ed Thomas was a figure straight out of a Clair Bee novel. He was old-school, firm but fair, respected and yes, even loved. He taught his players to respect themselves and their opponents, too. Play hard, knock 'em on their butts, but shake hands and congratulate them on their effort afterward.

There was nothing fancy about his teams. His offense was plain vanilla -- his words, not mine. Ed's idea of the spread was to move an end a couple of yards out from the other linemen. IBlock, tackle and execute and you'll have a pretty good chance of winning. How old-fashioned is that? But it worked to the tune of 292 victories, 19 playoff appearances and two state championships. It had to be frustrating for opponents to have A-P line up and run the same plays time and time again and yet rarely find a way to stop them.

I once did a story on supplement use by high school athletes and called Ed for a comment. He said that when parents asked him about supplements, he'd say they should tell their kids to work hard, exercise and eat the right kind of foods. That was Ed Thomas.

Anyone who follows sports at all knows that Ed's program has produced four NFL players -- an amazing achievement for a school with less than 200 students in the top three grades. Ed was justifiably proud of those guys.  But those who knew him will tell you he was just as proud of his former players who became businessmen, lawyers, ministers, teachers, coaches and good fathers.

Ed's home was among those destroyed in that May 2008 tornado. He was one of the leaders in the effort to rebuild the town. He was insistent that the debris-littered football field would be ready for the season opener in September -- a field that carries his name -- and it was.

The night of that first game, a choked up Ed Thomas told the crowd, ``There's no question in my mind we will be a better school and a better community than we ever were before.''

Ed certainly did his part to make the community better. Sadly, though, his death leaves it a little emptier.

June 19, 2009

Have you joined a group on LinkedIn and found value in that move?

When an update came from LinkedIn recently showing that two of my contacts had joined the "NAWBO group" on LinkedIn, I checked it out (since I am also a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners). I signed up for the group and a day later got an email that I was approved. So I now have a "plus sign" beside the word "Groups" when I log into LinkedIn, as well as the NAWBO logo on my profile page. I also get the group updates on my opening page and as emails (per my settings). 

The NAWBO group site has an overview, discussions (the content appears to be a duplication of "overview" so I will look forward to some improvements here), news (some of the same things that have already appeared and I'm asking: "Why isn't the association promoting next week's conference in Chicago?), jobs (none posted) and more (lists group members—only 1028 at the time of this writing—plus updates and a place to determine one's settings).

The "discussions" option, which offers a few words about each WBO's posting, including one on Thursday by Cherish Anderson summarizing organizational steps to the successful Summit our chapter held earlier this year. This offers opportunities to comment and start conversations. One posting is from a WBO looking for a Wordpress expert; another asks women to take a quick survey; a third wants green vendors for her catalog. WBOs are sharing their expertise, building their brands, exchanging chapter best practices and promoting NAWBO events in their local area using LinkedIn.

There's a search feature in "members" so that one can find out who is LinkedIn via name or a particular chapter. There's also an advanced search with industries, language preference and what one is interested in (potential employees, consultants, deal-making contacts, industry experts, etc.). There I can search by relationship to me (1st and 2nd level connections), relationship + recommendations and keywords. Playing around with the search features revealed some insights.

Many NAWBO members (like ME) just put "owner" in their title. I've now changed my profilt to "owner, writer, project manager" to enhance my ability to be found for the work I do. And I'm going to go back and review my profile thoroughly. The more details there are, the more opportunities to be identified in a search. Try doing searches (not just in groups, but using all of LinkedIn) to be sure that you can be located for the talents and strenghts you possess.

Check out 20 Ways to Use Linked In Productively by Leo Babauta. The post is two years old, but still applicable for neebies.

June 07, 2009

Us, looking at them, looking at us, looking at them

I guess you could call it a primate networking event. On Friday we were with some special mammals who share 96.4 percent of their genetic material with humans. The communication took place with eyes, facial expressions, and actions (primarily by the stronger and hairier among us). Plus, one vocal rampage each by Kanzi, a bonobo wanting to get his hands on a large children's ball brought by a visitor, and 260-pound Azy, an orangutan who resembled the world's largest yarn ball as he rolled toward the front of the outdoor enclosure to get a look at us.
C14_but Azy (Great Ape Trust Photo)   Meet_kanzi_sm Kanzi (Great Ape Trust Photo)

Chuck and I were part of a 16-person tour of the Great Ape Trust, a world-class center located in Des Moines and committed to scientific research, conservation and education. At this time, the facility houses bonobos (native to the Democratic Republic of Congo) and orangutans (Asia's only great ape, found in Bornea, Sumatra and Malaysia). These thinking, self-aware and intelligent residents began arriving in 2004; all were born in captivity and came to Des Moines from other research programs, zoos and even Hollywood. No chimps or gorillas yet, and since the 2008 flooding of this facility, those apes will have to wait.

Because their behaviors are being studied, they don't see many visitors at the 230-acre campus. While they're very comfortable with the staff, they weren't so sure about the rest of us. But they were intrigued from the get-go, and studious eyes watched us approach. Once we were seated, first in front of the orangutan enclosure and then behind a clear wall in the bonobo's structure, it was difficult to determine who was having a better time watching whom.

I recalled sitting (a submissive posture) and being directed not to make eye contact when we trekked gorillas in Rwanda and chimps in Tanzania.  And here we were again, but this time we were all smiles and friendly as we asked questions of the research and caregiving experts and viewed the apes' behaviors. Our laughter over Rocky's antics with a recycling bin prompted him to keep the comedy going. (You might recall that last week's "ape tickle study" revealed humans are not the only ones with a funny bone and that there's a common ancestor -- from 10 to 16 million years ago -- from which humans and great apes evolved.)

But the afternoon's live demonstration of how apes use symbols to communicate what they want was a jaw dropper. Even Elikya, a "control subject," has picked up what the other bonobos are doing with language and learning fast. Plus, she had the prettiest smile of the day...and spiked hair that had a uncanny resemblance to that of my friend Joyce, whose membership entitled us to this special experience.