Saturday, July 25, 2009

Today's Conversational Assignment: Wait!

This came to mind--again--while typing a deposition transcript.

In conversation, people talk over each other. All the time. I had never really noticed this before I started typing up depositions; I was always as much an offender as anyone. Beyond not perceiving it as rude, most people tend not to even notice the constant interrupting each other they do in conversations, unless one party or the other is being especially egregious about it. When I have to type every word, it becomes extremely noticeable when two people are at once talking, and when one person cuts another off.

You cut the other person off in conversation--constantly--not because you're a jerk, but because when he's halfway through his sentence you know what the rest of the sentence will be, and you're skipping ahead to save time, hitting the fast forward button. The other person is not offended; in fact, as often as not he'll cut you off halfway through your sentence, for the same reason, and you won't think a thing of it. This is normal and accepted.

But it's not optimal. You're losing conversation-control value.

Tomorrow, I am going to go the entire day without interrupting anyone in conversation, even once. (This will be a challenge, because as much as I am madly in love with my wife, her propensity to ramble redundantly is amazing.) I've actually been paying attention to this for a while now and have gotten a lot better at it, but it's time I really mastered it--and you can, too.

Don't interrupt!

Think about the alpha male (or, now and again, alpha female)--the person who's at the center of whatever room he's in. How does he handle himself in conversation?

The intuitive answer is, aggressively. He lets no one interrupt him or cut him off. If someone tries, he'll slam the door on the offending party with a witty riposte or simply by raising his voice. Aggression is the key to success in life. This is true.

But that answer, in this case is completely wrong.

The person full of confidence, who never lets anyone upset his self-balance, is deliberate. Aggression does not necessarily mean loudness, stubbornness, or insistence. In fact, those are all marked characteristics of people that lack confidence--they lash out with these things, and try to dominate conversations, to cope with their inherent insecurity. And rambling is a nervous habit. Habitual ramblers are, almost inevitably, people with a nervousness problem, people who are uncomfortable in social settings.

The confident person does not need to get the most words, or the last word, to control the conversation he's in. In fact, very often he'll control the conversation while contributing 10% or less of the word count--he just leans back and lets the other party talk, and contributes only when he's certain of what he wants to say and why. Do you see how this gives him control? The other party is, generally, all over the map (as most people are), but he steers the conversation with his occasional contributions. And his self-confidence and assertiveness are very, very obvious to everyone else.

To-do list:
1. Don't cut off a single word in conversation! Wait for a period of at least three full seconds of silence before you speak, even if you know exactly what you want to say. If the other person gets nervous at the silence and speaks further (and MANY people do this, as you'll notice if you try this), let them.

2. Speak slowly! If you're a natural fast talker (as I am), this will take a lot of practice. You'll feel unnaturally, painfully slow to yourself--but trust me, others will respond much better this way. It also allows you to carefully choose your words, and minimizes having to repeat yourself. Remember, confidence -> deliberateness.

3. Be selfish! Yes, you got that right. Holding your silence in conversation is the selfish thing to do, counter-intuitive as that seems at first blush. Conversation is an exchange of information. When you speak, you give it; when they speak, you receive it. When you receive more information than you give, you come out ahead. Simple as that. And even the many, many things people want to talk about that don't interest you, listen to them anyway! This carries two important benefits:
  1. The other person will appreciate it and like you more, even if after they finish talking you express your lack of interest in the subject. It's true! Try it if you don't believe me.
  2. If you get in the habit of listening to people talk about subjects of their choice even when they don't interest you, you will in short order realize how useful this will become. You'll learn things that will later prove unexpectedly useful.

Most importantly of all, this is the low stress way of conducting conversations--and the low stress life is the happy, and healthy, life.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baseball podcast-like thing.

Adam Adkins and I recorded a 20 minute baseball spot, just to find out what it feels like. It's right here if you want to listen to it. The audio quality is poor but not inaudible. Sorry for that; My site can't handle a lot of bandwidth, so I had to make the filesize super small, and had to sacrifice quality to do that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

So Long, Daniel Jimeno Romero

We have our first fatal goring in the Running of the Bulls Presented by Pepsi™* in 14 years. The linked article spares few details; the bull in question rammed its pointy horn right through the neck and the lungs of the unfortunate gentleman, a British chap who was the same age as myself. He must have been a tough SOB to even last long enough to reach the surgical table at the local hospital, but alas, 'twas all for naught; it's hard to breathe with three inch holes in your lungs. Or with most of your blood scattered in the dirt somewhere in Barcelona.

* Not its actual name. Yet. The only good thing I can think of about the occasional fatal goring is it must discourage corporations from trying to buy off the naming rights.

I'm mostly ignorant of Spanish culture; I'm vaguely aware that traditionally bulls, bullfighting and such is important there. And that's well and good. But really, the remarkable thing is that only 15 people have been reported as having been killed during the running of this crazy festival in the past 85 years. I would not be especially surprised were the figure 15 per year. Let's face it, the thousands of tourists that go to Spain to run with the bulls every year don't do it out of their deep-rooted fascination with the intricacies of Spanish culture. They do it because hey, that's pretty damn screwed up, going out of your way to see if you can dodge a pissed-off charging bull at high speed. That is so hardcore.

And hey, I think it's pretty cool myself. It's a win-win, really; the Spaniards like it for cultural/traditional reasons, and foreigners like it because Westerners these days like anything suicidally crazy. It didn't make the list of PETA's favorite things, and there are people out there shocked and appalled at such barbarism because people die now and again*, but I at least have a little sympathy for the lets-go-get-in-life-threatening-danger-on-purpose mentality. Get busy living or get busy dying, and all that.

* Though honestly, I'd rather get gored to death by a bull than die of cancer in a hospital bed. Just not yet.

By the way, have you noticed that the people, especially the foreigners, running with the bulls are overwhelmingly male? Huh.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Does Pedro Make Sense For the Phillies?

Sure it does.

There was a report earlier today that the Phillies had already signed Pedro Martinez--who, you may recall, used to be Pedro Martinez--to a $4 million contract, probably prorated, which means they'd be on the hook for around $2 million in exchange for his services for the rest of the season. MLBTradeRumors has all the scoops.

The last time Pedro Martinez was seen (last season), he was 36, started 20 games, pitched 109 innings and got lit up like a Christmas tree for lowly 75 ERA+. (For comparison, Livan Hernandez' 2008 ERA+ was 69.) In 2007 he pitched very well in very limited work; in 2006 he pitched most of the year and was average.

Who are the defending world champions looking at replacing? Well, they should be trying to replace Jamie Moyer, who sadly has finally reached the end of the line. (5.5 innings per start and a 75 ERA+.) But really, they're just looking to find anybody that will give them something half-decent out of the #5 spot in their rotation, which is currently pretty much vacant, as you can see from their B-Ref pitching report, which lists only four starters. In addition to Moyer, Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels have taken the ball every turn all year, and noted spousal abuser Brett Myers has taken ten starts. Other Phillies that have taken starts this year include such luminaries as Rodrigo Lopez, J.A. Happ, Chan Ho Park (he just won't die!), and the totally awesome Antonio Bastardo, who rung up a 6.75 ERA before calling it a year.

The plan sans Pedro, presumably, is to keep up the doses of Rodrigo Lopez, maybe sprinkle in some more Chan Ho Park. I could provide you with a helpful statistical breakdown, but let's face it: You know who Rodrigo Lopez and Chan Ho Park are. The chances Pedro Martinez comes in and performs appreciably worse than those guys are low, and he at least has some potential for upside that Rodrigo Lopez certainly doesn't. And there is some little bit of tangible value in giving the fans something to talk about at the water cooler.

Compared to the other options out there for adding a starting pitcher--what other options for adding a starting pitcher?--tossing $2 million at a wall with a famous name on the off chance it sticks really isn't the worst idea you've heard of today. If the price tag is more like $4 million for half a season's work, that's different, but if Martinez can be had for less, he's worth giving a shot, for the Phillies or one of a few other contending teams.

Trading Freddy Sounds Good To Me

The word is that the Pirates are pretty much hellbent on getting Freddy Sanchez out of town ASAP. There are a few factors in play here that speak against being so eager to get rid of the guy, such as:

1. He's currently the best player on the team;
2. He's also the most popular guy in the clubhouse now that Super Nate! is gone;
3. He's definitely the most popular guy among the Pirates' 14 remaining fans, who sincerely believe that next year is going to be the year and therefore assume it will be the Time of Freddy Sanchez' Glory.

Well, as for #3 there... those people are delusional, and even if the Pirates give Freddy Sanchez away for nothing, you have to figure those people will continue to hang around. Everyone else bailed out on this team years ago.

There are three reasons why I fully support trading Freddy Sanchez right now for whatever he'll bring:

1. Most of his value is in his batting average, which means he's not really THAT great and he's probably overvalued;
2. I have to say I approve of any course of action that will piss off Adam LaRoche, who really could stand to take a level in Shutting My Mouth and Playing Baseball;
3. Sanchez plays 140+ games every year, which hides the fact that he's injured a lot with nagging problems that render him worse than useless. Right now he's healthy and hitting .315, so trading him now means selling high before his next injury drops his rate stats by 80 points each.

Now, judging by some of the rumors floating around, I think the Pirates should be able to get a pretty nice chunk of value for the guy. Will Carroll reported that Carlos Gonzalez may be in play from the Rockies, for instance. I'd take him and a live arm or two back for Sanchez. That's certainly better than keeping Sanchez, who by the way is 31 years old and has a skillset that suggests he'll probably be finished by the time he's 34.

None of this is to say I don't like Freddy Sanchez or want the bum out of town. Actually, he seems by all reports to be a standup and hardworking guy, and so I will feel happy for him when he finally gets the hell out of Pittsburgh. (Shouldn't that be Adam LaRoche's reaction, too? It says here Adam's just jealous of the guys that get to leave.) So by all means, give Freddy a chance to play for a major league team and bring back some guys who might help the Altoona Curve advance from their current status of Nationals of the Eastern League, perhaps all the way up to Royals of the Eastern League.