Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Review: Seizing Destiny, by Roger Kluger

Kugler has produced an epic that explains not only the how but the also the why of America's geographical growth. Beginning with colonial times, Kugler describes how the thirteen colonies came to be and how the royal crown apportioned additional lands to them, and how even these apportionments were not without controversy and disputation. This was probably the roughest terrain to cover while reading, but if you make it through, you emerge upon a lush land of dramatic exposition of America's development from a country of 895,000 square miles, located on the Atlantic seaboard to one of over 3.5 million square miles covering territory in the Caribbean, near the arctic, and in the Pacific Occean. Kugler covers in dramatic detail all the various forces - economic, religious, political - that pushed our country's frontiers to its current boundaries. There are fascinating details, like Franklin's initial demand for all of Canada to settle the revolutionary treaty with Britain, fro example.

Kugler's skillful use of dramatic metaphor brings to life what in other hands could be a dry recitation of events. Key players abound, from the well-known like Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, to lesser lights like Robert Livingston, and especially many of the players from France, Britain and other countries. Each chapter on expansion is like a mini-drama with its own cast of characters, and its peculiar forces shaping their motives and actions. Read this book to take a quantum leap in your understanding of how and why this country came to be geographically how it is today.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Clemens/McNamee Steroids Hearing

The hearing was pathetic, really. McNamee did not endear himself to anyone. He came across as the low-life slime-ball he is. Yet, low-life slime-balls have a way of telling the truth when their necks are on the line. It’s an honored tradition among defendants turned government witness.

Clemens, on the other hand, wants us to see him as the new Forrest Gump - a naive, innocent individual caught in the midst of others’ wrong-doings and foibles. Clemens would have us believe that those dearest and closest to him - his wife and his best friend - were being injected with HGH by his personal trainer while all along Roger just kept innocently pumping iron and jogging, wrenching Cy Young Awards from his aging body the way Forrest Gump pulled injured comrades out of a Vietnam marsh. It’s a tall tale and one that, I believe, he’ll have to make stick to federal prosecutors.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Never Ever Ending Clemens Steroids Saga

The soap opera gets worse: Congresspeople pander to Clemens; Clemens' team may have tried to influence their nanny’s testimony; Debbie Clemens received HGH shots from McNamee without her husband’s knowledge. All-in-all, I still believe McNamee more than Clemens. Like OJ, Clemens will say til his dying day that he never took steroids, even if sent to prison for lying about it.

To believe Clemens you have to believe the following:

That he received lidocaine and b-12 shots from McNamee which were administered in the wrong area;
That his wife secretly received HGH shots from McNamee;
That Andy Pettite received HGH shots from McNamee, but not Clemens, even though McNamee was Clemens’ personal trainer, not Pettite’s;
That Andy Pettite has a poor memory and a hearing problem.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Even More on the Clemens Saga

I don’t think McNamee started out with a vendetta. I think he cleverly, and surprisingly, maintained that evidence “just in case”. Why would he? Because other than Debbie Clemens, he of all people probably knows Clemens better than anyone else. Remember, Clemens deceived thousands of fans years ago when he said he was retiring. He soaked in the adulation and the gifts during his farewell tour, never even remotely suggesting he might reconsider. Then he reneged on his retirement and took a bundle of money to play in Houston. A major reason he gave for his change of mind was that he did it only because he remained close to home. Then his definition of home expanded years later when he signed a contract to play againfor the Yankees, a second deception as far as retirement went.

And let’s not forget his responses to beaning Mike Piazza and then throwing a piece of a bat at him in the 2000 World Series. He was never forthright in his answers. If he though the bat was a ball, why didn’t he “throw it” to first, instead of at Piazza?

The guy is cut from the same cloth as Pete Rose: his narrow needs are all that matters, and if the truth gets in the way, the truth loses.

McNamee has seen Clemens’ character up close and personal, and probably sensed that Clemens would not back him up if trouble ever surfaced. How could a personal trainer win against a larger-than-life persona like Clemens?

Well, the “just-in-case” scenario has appeared, and, as I mentioned in my last post, it seems that Andy Pettite’s testimony will, indeed, corroborate McNamee’s accounts and end Clemens’ charade. He has one last chance tomorrow to make amends. Don’t hold your breath.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Continuing Clemens Steroids Saga

This whole thing is getting weirder and weirder. McNamee apparently held on to the syringes and gauzes that he allegedly used to inject Clemens with steroids and HGH. Some have said this was a forward thinking precaution by a former cop who thought he might need evidence were he ever hung out to dry. It does seem odd that he would hold on to something like this for so long, but if the evidence proves to be credible, maybe the guy is not as dumb as he appears.

Here’s one thing that gets me about this case: A lot of people are attempting to dismiss the case against Clemens by pointing to McNamee’s personality, suggesting that he is a person of bad character with serious issues. My thought is: how many people of high character who are stable get involved in what McNamee did? He was at the center of proliferating illegal drugs to professional athletes. I think this removes him from candidacy for Mr. Good Guy.

Clemens, on the other hand, with his lawyers, is going around conducting what I feel are equally bizzare one-on-one interdictions with individual Congressmen, as if getting his message across in that manner will make it true.

This has become a contest of two questionable personalities: Clemens, the arrogant, money hungry ballplayer and McNamee, the weak, disreputable trainer. Hopefully, it won’t be character that wins, but the facts.

Mcnamee had no reason to turn on Clemens. I think a key to this might be what Pettite and other Clemens teammates say they knew about Clemens. For a guy who only used HGH a couple of times to recover from injury, Pettite’s depositon seemed incredibly long. The hearing next week will be a meaningless circus, unless something solid, one way or the other, comes out from someone.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Book Review: PowerPoint: The Dark Side

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, Second Edition, by Edward Tufte

Edward Tufte insightfully tells us how PowerPoint corrupts the communication process by forcing its format on content. For me, this is just another example of dumbing down in general. No longer do managers communicate via reasoned analysis through narrative. No, all communication must be as brief as possible and to the point. Unfortunately, sometimes the point needs more than just a multi-bulleted slide. Tufte's argument is highlighted by the PowerPoint parody of the Gettysburg Address. I too experience the constraint of expressing important detail, context and relationships when the expectation is to fit it into a Word table or a Power Point presentation. Now, this is not a call for wordiness. Unnecessarily long and tedious papers will do just as well in stifling communication. The point is to learn to write well and communicate well, without surrendering to the allure of the promises of new technology that may actually provide the opposite. Read Tufte's treatise and get a good idea of what not to do and why.