Blog

Welcome to my blog where I will post commentary on issues ranging from fiction to public policy. Tucked away in the Idea Boxes are “how to” tips on a variety of projects that have become part of our family’s culture over the years. I hope you’ll find some useful ideas there. My blog will take you through the fantastic journey of writing fiction, as well as the decisions I will be making about publication of my first novel One Summer in Arkansas. Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lance Armstrong and Doping

Coming on the heels of several Major League Baseball suspensions, Lance Armstrong’s tacit admission to use of performance enhancing drugs during his spectacular cycling career has led to a massive media condemnation of cheaters.

Use of terms like “cheaters” and “cheating” appears to be favored by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which probably hired the same marketing experts who train our political candidates—experts in the use of inflammatory words to frame issues in a certain light in the public consciousness.

It’s hard to argue against the effort by professional sports organizations to do what they can to eliminate use of these steroids and hormones, which have serious health implications for the athletes later in life.  But the bitterness and acrimony towards these “cheaters” who are trying to get ahead at risk of their health strikes me as over the top.

In baseball, many of the players who have tested positive are young men from extremely poor families in Latin America who are risking everything for a chance to make enough money to help their families achieve some security.  And, it’s not as if these athletes haven’t continued to work hard to improve their natural talent.

The idea of a level playing field is a fantasy.  Most exceptional athletes had the good luck to be born with physical capabilities that permit them to excel at sports, probably including naturally high levels of testosterone.  We don’t penalize basketball players, after all, for their unfair advantage of being born tall.  Or the son of a professional athlete whose dad can afford to buy a batting cage for the backyard when the boy turns six.

What if we decided to level the playing field for college admission by prohibiting wealthy families from sending their kids to SAT prep classes or hiring consultants to work with them on their essays?

I’m not arguing against better and more frequent drug testing.  But I just don’t go along with subjecting these guys to public humiliation and shame for their bad judgment.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Will You Support the President in 2013?

Depends who’s elected, you’re probably thinking to yourself. 

But, think about it.  Supporting a president you voted for is just getting what you want.  It doesn’t say anything about your commitment to a better future for our country.

I don’t mean to dismiss your heartfelt belief that one candidate is better than the other.  We should all do our best to understand the issues and decide who we want to support.  Then we should fight for what we believe in—speak out, work the precincts and contribute money if we can.

But the concept of a “loyal opposition” stands for the proposition that we can continue to work towards the type of government we want without demeaning the presidency and the country by attributing wickedness, stupidity or illegitimacy to the winner of the election.

When I was on executive staff of a Fortune 1000 company, the CEO had a rule.  Important decisions about the company’s direction (which product lines to pursue and which to drop, whether to restructure reporting lines of major units, etc.) would be made one of two ways: (i) exec staff consensus or (ii) CEO edict.  When exec staff was trying to reach consensus on one of these important decisions, people would fight like cats and dogs for their preferred outcome.  But the CEO had a rule:  Once the decision was made, everybody must agree not to sabotage it by complaining to their staff, delaying implementation or putting up road blocks.

I wish our American democracy had a rule like that.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Cousin Camp 2012

Just returned from Cousin Camp Amsterdam, with a three-day finale in Paris.  Our big family of 14 adults and 8 children from 5 to 11.  So many highlights…

In Amsterdam, the block party at Toby and Hinke’s, Parents’ Night Out, Anne Frank, a sign for Grandma and Grandpa engineered by Hinke and visible from the Westerkerk tower, Nemo and the ship, a side trip to Madurodam, the wonderful canal boat trip hosted by Hinke’s parents Riky and Lambert, Vondelpark, Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum.

In Paris, climbing the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle, cafes, Montmartre, pony rides in the Luxembourg Gardens, learning to ride the Metro and the long walk back to the hotel through the Tuileries Gardens and down the Champs Elysees, where the Arc de Triomphe was visible from our hotel.

But mainly it was about the family being together and the shared experience.  Three lost baby teeth, lessons every afternoon with G&G about the next day’s adventures, serious shopping with euros earned from online math lessons from the Kahn Academy,  all eight of them learning to say “Bonjour, Madame” or “Au revoir, Monsieur” to the desk clerks as we left the Paris hotel.

Precious memories.