Vote for Homecoming Queen

Awards, particularly the lifetime achievement flavour, seem to be loaded, risky business. This seems a particularly stinky year for those particularly sticky awards. The people that have the dubious honour of sitting these committees have my sympathy as well as my scorn. In a very inclusive field, why do we feel the need to have exclusive awards?

Like pornography, we tend to know who deserves one of those jobbies when we see them. Something resonates in us, and we think "Yeah, they deserve it."

I'd love to see the feelings set aside for substance.

I have an albatross, called a Distinguished Service Key, from my Fraternity. I still chalk this up as mostly accidental. I have to wear it once a year lest I offend my Chapter. When I think back to an early discussion that predated that award, one of the older Brothers outlined the qualities folks that bear one are meant to have. He and I had many philosophical conversations, and much of the wisdom he imparted to me has resonated far outside the Fraternity.

One of the things he said that day was "Just because things have always been that way doesn't mean that they're right or the ideal way for things to carry on." That came back to me loud and clear as I heard excuses for a candidate not being a recipient. "These people had to wait several years, you know." Which brings me to the second bit of advice.

When there's a long line for an award, hand more out.

Is there something wrong with acknowledging everyone that's made a difference? Some folks seem scared to death that lengthening a list of recipients somehow cheapens an award. I feel that the opposite is true. When good candidates are disenfranchised, the award loses its sheen for lack of meritorious people sporting that award. These things fester - people notice when folks are left out, and it sparks nasty backroom discussion. Are those numerical limits on something so beyond data a sensible way to proceed? This can be particularly true when a committee does not observe it's own history.

If you're one of the chosen committee members, know the history of your own award.

As the hot air was escaping, both in pixel and in voice, I couldn't help but think "Hmmm, I know that it's not strange to give out more than this year's tally..." just as I was shocked that initially the mistake of not knowing the cycle of the award was evident in an email. Not only that, but the same email let me know the actual recipients well ahead of the game.

Know it, but don't be a slave to it.

Every now and again, someone so different comes along that they break all of the rules. There are superstars that come along at very young ages. The science community comes strongly to mind. The achievement of a generation might happen in one's thirties; this was the case with Watson. Does this make it less than a lifetime achievement? Does anyone dispute the value of DNA being discovered towards the beginning of one's life? Should we make a value judgment about someone's dedication to a given geography?

If it's a lifetime achievement award, think about age.

I know that I just warned about size of achievement being the main factor, but I'd be foolish to not admit that age plays a roll. So formalise that. Defer to veterans over rookies IF (and I think it's a stinky if) an arbitrarily decided upon number of awards is triggered. Just as health should factor into things.

Is a committee still a valid structure?

This will vary. But if we continue to essentially shy away from controversy through selecting people that are neutral, it boils down to a popularity contest. Doesn't that mean that we ought to just vote, as for Homecoming Queen?

When people fight for their man, they aren't necessarily fighting the committee.

I didn't have problems with the other recipients. They were all meritorious; some are just more equal than others. This was NOT the case with the Edwards, of course.