Monday, January 09, 2012

Possibility and Optimism

My economics training has me thinking about decision making under uncertainty as determined by subjective probability. But as an old dog I think that's the wrong trick so I'm going to suggest something else here.  I don't really care about likelihood, at least if it is above a certain threshold.  What I care about, is that there is a chance, a decent chance. Then I can get pumped up about that and focused on it.  Here are some examples.

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The Illini Men's Basketball team has been playing mediocre, with one exception, the offense of Joseph Bertrand.  In the last game, a squeaker home win over Nebraska, Bertrand was 11 for 12 from the field.  None of those were three point shots.  They were all runners/floaters.  Mark Jackson, when he was point guard of the Knicks way back when, used to shoot this sort of shot and then I really didn't like it, it seemed somewhat out of control.  Bertrand, in contrast, is an artist with this shot.  It looks like it can't miss.  The part that is really hard to figure is that Bertrand has only started 3 games, and wasn't even the sixth man earlier in the season.  But he has come on like gangbusters since the Mizzou game, where he kept us in that one. 

Tomorrow night we play Ohio State.  On paper, they should trample us.  But I'm thinking upset.  Yesterday I read somewhere that the reason Bertrand has been so successful is that the opponents have been double teaming Meyers Leonard and it allows Bertrand to get open. Leonard has actually not looked too good the last few games, except on a handful of plays.  One wonders if Ohio State will pay more attention to Bertrand and therefore that Leonard will be freer to perform up to snuff.  And one also wonders if Bertrand can keep up with the high level of play in spite of the attention he will garner.  He moves and that makes him harder to defend. 

We'll see tomorrow night.

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Politics has seemed increasingly dreary as of late.  Yet Bill Keller has a column today that perked me right up.  It's about Hillary Clinton becoming the Vice Presidential candidate in a scenario that has Joe Biden ultimately becoming Secretary of State.  I hadn't given it any consideration previously, but it sounds to me like a really good idea, not just making it much more likely that President Obama would win reelection, but also generating substantial coattails for Congressional elections.  Keller points out that Joe Biden is 5 years older than Hillary Clinton and for this reason, if no other, he is not a likely Presidential candidate in 2016.  Clinton would be the front runner.  And right now she would put a lot of spark into an otherwise dispirited electorate. 

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I'm in the middle of reading Creative Experience by Mary Parker Follett.  I am enjoying it a lot.  It may very well be that the Progressive movement of the early part of the twentieth century provides the political philosophy with which I'm most comfortable.  Follett is a contemporary of Herbert Croly.  I read his book, The Promise of American Life, for a course on American Political Thought that I took when I was an undergraduate.    She acknowledges him in the introduction to Creative Experience. 

Follett argues for a focus on the whole, which she claims is different (not better, just different) from its constituent parts.  This requires an understanding of the underlying dynamic.  Things are always in a state of flux.  Static conception are pernicious because they masks this.  She also views subject and object as co-participants in shaping the whole.  Creative experience flows out of that.

I'm wondering whether Follett's work might be teachable to undergrads, in a course on leadership, and if I would be able to teach it.  I'm not sure, but it seems possible.  Likewise, I wonder if peers would enjoy reading it.  Is it my peculiar disposition that makes this book appealing, or perhaps the times in which we live?  I "found" this book by reading On Not Being Able To Paint which, in turn, I found by reading Between the Devil and The Dragon.  This seems to me an interesting trilogy for a leadership class.

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I wonder if we can consciously allocate our time to the possible and reduce time spent on blockages or on procrastination.  I'm going to try to allocate more of my time this way and see if I can stick to it.

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