Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Monday, February 08, 2010

In the closet.

In my closet, hanging way over to the side, near the wall, is an old letter jacket. I received this wool, polyester, and vinyl monstrosity of clashing colors in the summer after my graduation from high school. In the spring semester of my senior year, I had lettered, and been fitted for a jacket. I was called in on a sweltering late June day to come pick up my prize. There, emblazoned across the left chest of the snap-up jacket, was a large sewn-on letter representing my high school, with the word "ACADEMICS" embroidered down one leg of the letter.

I wore it a few times that winter at U.T., then decided that it was silly to wear a high school jacket in college, and gave it to my younger brother, who started at the same high school a couple of years later. I don't know if he ever really wore it much. I found it in my mom's house when I helped her move a few years back, where my brother had left it. I took it back. It really needs dry-cleaning. It doesn't fit me anymore. Huh. Guess it shrunk. I don't know why I keep it.

It's geeky enough to have an Academic letter, so it's no worse, I guess, to admit that I picked up that letter for Extemporaneous Speech. I was an officer of our Speech and Debate team my senior year, and my partner in Cross Examination debate had left. While my buddies got to compete in the district U.I.L. tournament on policy debate, I was left alone. I was damned if I was going to start trying Lincoln-Douglas values debate at that late date. But, as an officer of the team, I needed to attend the 5A speech tournament. I threw together a file box full of periodicals, and entered the tournament in Extemporaneous Speech. I mean, how hard could it be, right? You give some speech about current events for 7 minutes.

Turns out, that the style is harder than it seems. There were two types of Extemporaneous Speech: Persuasive, and Informative. Well, Informative sounded closer to the gritty policy debate that I was used to doing (We used to make fun of L.-D. debaters, jeering "Who cares if Suzie Shortcake thinks vanilla is nicer than chocolate?!?"), so I went with that. You're supposed to prepare by cutting out articles from periodicals, and filing them neatly, and bringing your files with you to the tournament. You get called up, pull three written topics out of the hat, pick one, and then take 15 minutes to prepare a speech from information that you glean and cite from your files. You may put notes onto one single 4"X6" note card. This was nowhere near enough for a speech (and who had time to write one?), but would allow you to put your talking points, so that you could pace yourself, and end just before the buzzer.

I had hit the lottery on my very first try. I don't remember what the other two choices were, but the third choice was, "Give a description of what's happening with regard to the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan." Hell, that's all I had read about for years. I knew about the buildup and initial onslaught of the Soviet military, the response by the Mujahideen, the U.S. support of the Islamic freedom-fighters, the international Islamic build-up of Afghan resistance, and the ongoing withdrawal of Soviet occupation. I also happend to have in my files a very recent article that I hadn't even read yet, which had the new lines of local power drawn out. Most of my card space went to phonetic spellings of the Afghan names that I rattled off in my speech.

I started with 20 seconds of passionate description of a fictional battle between a hero and a hydra, and went on to compare the multiplying heads of the decapitated hydra to the multiplying problems of Afghanistan. I killed. The judges stood up and applauded. The tournament organizers out in the hallway came into the classroom that I had just given my speech in, to see what in the world was going on-- none of the other speech givers were receiving standing ovations from their judges.

As it turned out, there was one other guy who was better than me. I only got a silver. Eh.

So I went on to Regionals, and learned there that I had gotten lucky before, hitting it on the fat part of the bat. These new judges smiled politely. I did not advance to State. But I still got my jacket.

I later found that the ability to put together a decent speech with just a little prep time was a pretty valuable skill. I learned that the use of talking points kept me on my time schedule, and kept me from straying from my goal.

Years later, as a young cop learning how to do DWI/DUI investigations, I learned that there were some key pieces of information that HAD to make it into my Probable Cause Affidavit. What clues I had observed for the standardized field sobriety tests had to be listed. What time I stopped the driver was a good thing to know. What time I concluded that the driver was intoxicated was necessary for my paperwork. I needed to know what time we arrived at the jail. Important statements made by the suspect needed mention. I found that I would have this information "at hand," if I just jotted them down on the not-inconsiderable palm of my left hand. Occasionally, I would even have to photocopy my hand at the jail, if I found the ink was fading. With all the paperwork from book-in and from a DWI license revocation, I wasn't going to lose these notes.

And just a little meant a lot: "123; 131; 6/6; 3/8 bal, li, htt; 2/4 ft dn 2, 6, 7 & hop; 4-5 br, 95@ 151, SO221." meant:
"Stopped at 1:23 AM. Began SFST's at 1:31 AM. Subject displayed six out of six clues for Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. Subject showed three out of eight possible clues for Walk And Turn, to wit: Lost balance during instruction phase, stepped off of the line, failed to touch heel to toe. Subject displayed two out of four possible clues for One Leg Stand, to wit: Put foot down at the count of 'two,' at 'six,' and at 'seven,' and the subject hopped while doing the test. The subject said he had four to five beers. The subject was arrested at 1:51 AM, and arrived at the Sheriff's Office Jail at 2:21AM."
So I'm not surprised that a politician giving a speech to hundreds of people personally and before assorted members of the print and broadcast media might put a few talking points on her hand. I am surprised that it's raising such a stink, from people who have never had to do such a thing before, and don't seem to know what they're talking about.

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At Tuesday, February 09, 2010 2:00:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Excellent post Matt- I wonder if this is a 'reaction' to the Lightbringer's use of teleprompters at EVERY stop... Hell, I STILL scribble notes on my palm, at least I don't lose that...

At Tuesday, February 09, 2010 7:30:00 AM, Anonymous jimbob86 said...

I write notes on the back of my nitrile exam gloves on calls all the time.... won't lose those no matter how chaotic the back of the squad gets..... writing legibly in the tiny blocks of a paper NARSIS form in a bounding ambulance is a fool's errand.....

Palin frightens these people precisely because they don't understand her: she does things without endlessly analyzing what someone else will think of it. She sees what it is she wants to do or say, and does it. THAT scares the hell out of them.

I am not going to try and say that Sarah Palin is the smartest person in the room, but who do you want running the Government? Someone who understands the founding principles and the free market and will govern accordingly, or someone who does not believe in those things and, as Reagan said, "Knows so much that just isn't so." ?

At Tuesday, February 09, 2010 9:12:00 AM, Anonymous KCSteve said...

I believe they're having another 'failure to comprehend' moment.

They want to show that Palin using topic reminders on her hand is just like POTUS using TOTUS, but unfortunately for them it's painfully obvious to pretty much everyone what the difference is between having topic reminders and having your entire speech is.

Agreeing with my verification word, I'd say this is yet another 'clangr' by the MSM.

At Wednesday, February 10, 2010 10:28:00 AM, Anonymous pax said...

Good post & good points.

At Wednesday, February 17, 2010 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Kevin T. Keith said...

*All that* was to make the claim that there's nothing suspicious about the fact that Sarah Palin can't think in terms more sophisticated than "Energy" (a subject on which she claims to be a world expert, remember?) and "Tax Cuts" (her entire political program, remember?), and that she needs to write *that* down to remember it?

Seriously, dude, you're displaying 5/5 clues for credulous right-wingerdom (denial, rationalization, confusing superficial slogans for actual knowledge, studied refusal to acknowledge intellectual weakness, and hopping).

How about this: ask Sarah Palin to give a 7 minute speech on *any* contemporary policy topic, using only notes she prepares herself without help. If she can turn in a credible performance at the level of a high-school speech class, I'll admit she's pretty smart for a Republican. Think it'd be safe to let her take the challenge? (Here's a hint: her own campaign didn't.)

But a high-school letter jacket for speech is pretty cool. I had a grad-school professor who wore his letter jacket from the Chess Team. What I really hated was that it still fit him.

At Wednesday, February 17, 2010 7:17:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

"If she can turn in a credible performance at the level of a high-school speech class, I'll admit she's pretty smart for a Republican."

So that's your thesis, Kevin? That Republicans are dumb? I'm not one, by the way, but I know some that are pretty bright.

And which campaign are you claiming wouldn't allow Ms. Palin to take a challenge? The 2008 Presidential campaign, of course, was not hers.

While I roll my eyes about some things she says, I note that the same media frenzy that is attacking her is fawning over our current President manner in a fashion that bears little resemblence to credible objective journalism.

Rather than point at some really, really dumb people from across the aisle who do not receive such attacks (let's not kick Joe Biden while he's down, okay?), I will question whether the ability to give a pep rally without talking points or teleprompters is really the defining characteristic in leadership that we're looking for.

I'll admit publicly that Ms. Palin has effectively had her public credibility undermined to the point that she would be unlikely to make a President that this nation would follow in a single piece.

Now: who WILL this nation follow? And for what reasons?

At Friday, February 19, 2010 10:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Palin is a unacceptable as not for suspect communication skills. Our last 2 term president was no wonder in the oratory category. Flip-flopping on issues is also not a dis-qualifier. The bridge to nowhere that she supported and then opposed is nothing special even outside politics. Even the apparent naivete on foreign policy and apparent lack of effort in learning a solid position from which to stand is not that huge, see Jimmy Carter. What makes her such a joke is the utter lack of a professional staff or support system. What I have read or heard about her time as governor of Alaska seems to indicate that she was a master of putting people in positions that they were unsuited to give a 5 minute lecture on. Add to that the avowed goal of reducing government (not a bad thing) and you come up with the possibility of someone not only downsizing the govt, but also rendering it ineffective. The only thing worse than paying your hard earned money for government crap of dubious value is knowing that what you are buying is guaranteed to be flushed down the toilet.

Also, she's a hot chick. Who could get anything done with her there (except straight women)?


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