Home > Uncategorized > On Learning Reading and Baseball

On Learning Reading and Baseball

February 6, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Something weird happened to me today.

Usually during my breaks at work I’ll read a book. Today, however, I decided that I’d be a little more productive and get some school work done. I’m going to school now for an associate’s degree in network administration and most of my homework up until this point has been all on the computer. This is the first course were I actually have to take out a book and look through it and answer questions based off of what I find in the book. In most of my other classes, I would see this kind of homework as being menial busywork, but I’ve been finding it pretty interesting in this book. I guess it’s because I find the information to be somewhat interesting and in many instances to actually be useful.

I was getting really excited doing my homework.

The only way I can account for this is that my brain must have subconsciously decided that the work, in and of itself, was boring and that the only way to make it bearable was to make a game out of it. With each new answer I found, I came closer and closer to winning. Instead of being homework, I was no engaged in fierce competition and the faster I learned and the more I learned the better I did. Otherwise it just doesn’t make sense. I mean, I’m way too cool to be excited about something as dorky as homework. Unless…

Unless learning itself is exhilarating.

That would probably make the most sense. I can’t remember how many times I’ve learned a new fact while watching a television show or reading on a website and instantly perked up, exclaiming, “That’s cool!” with elf-like glee. I can remember distinctly a moment last semester when I was struggling to understand something in one of my courses. So far, a lot of the work pertaining to my major requires memorization of  information and very little conceptualization. Subnetting was one of the rare exceptions. I’ll spare you the fascinating details surrounding the wonderful world of subnetting, but I can assure you that while it’s no Fourier transform, it’s still not something that’s easy to pick up. The teacher was doing his best to explain it to us a number of different ways and there were even a couple of times where I thought I understood it, but that was a case of the numbers working out more than me getting the process. To borrow steal a metaphor (and probably horribly misuse) from a friend, it was as if I had been digging and digging and when I understood, it was as if I had suddenly struck gold. I wanted to stand up and look at my classmates and scream, “There’s a whole ocean of oil under our feet! No one can get at it except for me!” It was a wonderfully exciting moment.

That’s right, subnetting is wonderfully exciting.

Well, not so much that subnetting is exciting, but learning about it certainly was. Regardless, this probably explains my rather eclectic reading materials. I’m currently reading six books. I have one that I take with me to work which I read when I’m on break (that is, when I’m not doing homework) and during other small moments of reading I can squeeze in at odd times. One is festooned firmly outside “the thinking room” (I know that’s not even close to the proper use of the word festoon, but it seems so fitting phonetically) and the other four are set up next to my bed and get cycled through before I go to sleep. The books beside my bed consist of a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury, What If? which is a collection of essays by military historians, and Billions and Billions by Carl Sagan. Each time I finish a chapter or story in one of the books, I move onto the next.

The What If? book really stands out there. History was always my weakest subject in school, mostly because I had no interest in it. The fact that I take an interest in it now is somewhat puzzling. I read a book on the civil war over the summer. It was a tome, and when I started I never imagined that I would finish it. The subject matter of the first hundred or so pages didn’t help matters. It went into depth about the socioeconomic causes of the war, and there was also a lot of discussion about what was going on in congress and in senate at the time. Normally that kind of talk will put a glaze over my eyes that would rival the best pastry, somehow the book made it interesting. I soldiered forth and eventually finished. By the end, I was restless with the book. I am a fickle creature by nature, and spending too much time with a book is never a good thing with me. I won’t grow bored with the book, but I’ll become ill at ease by the fact that I’m not reading something new. This helps to explain why I cycle through four books for bedtime reading, that way I never get tired of any one.

The book I take with me to work, and which I’ve been neglecting for that wonderful schoolwork is The Catcher Was a Spy by Nicholas Dawidoff. It’s about the famous baseball player cum CIA spy, Moe Berg. So far it’s a wonderful book, filled with a plethora of baseball talk. I was never a “sports” guy. I don’t have the brain for statistics about players, or who made plays during games. I’m slowly learning my way around football, but I haven’t quite grasped a lot of details about baseball yet, though. It’s a shame because I just recently discovered that I really love the sport. It wasn’t until my wife and I moved from our hometowns to Rochester, MN. We made a bit of a tradition of going out on Tuesday evenings and eating with a number of my wife’s co-workers. Being the unsocial guy that I am, and since none of my friends were there, I would spend most of the time watching the big screen, which usually was showing a Twins game. Usually a couple of times during the evening, someone would ask if I was bored, to which I’d always reply that I was fine and enjoying myself. It wasn’t a lie. I would find a zen-like calm watching the game.

I think a part of this could be attributed to the fact that, while I wanted the Twins to win, I really had no vested interest in the game. I could be just as amazed at a play the rival team made as I could at one made by the Twins. There was no lingering feeling of resentment or jealousy when a double play occurred or a run was scored by the other team. I could just enjoy the game for its beauty, and if the Twins won, all the better. When we moved back to Wisconsin and local channels would show Brewers games instead of Twins games, I would still watch but it could be more frustrating than calming. I wanted the Brewers to win and the game lost some of its calming effect. Maybe I should switch to the nationally televised games.

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