Monthly Archives: June 2009

Ponzi Schemes and Physical Therapy

Well, looks like Bernie Madoff has signed a long-term lease for housing at the Federal Slammer Hotel. What was it that the Eagles said about the Hotel California: “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.” And while enduring enjoying my now daily sojourn on the elliptical trainer, I heard some people opine on TV that Bernie’s sentence of 150 years was not enough. Woot.

And I also heard the TV talking head pundits describe Bernie’s vocation as running the largest Ponzi scheme in history. I wonder. Shouldn’t Social Security at least be given some consideration? And if so, why let Bernie sit in the slammer on the public dime for the next several decades at a minimum. Why not put him in charge of Social Security? And turn the profits over to Ma and Pa Taxpayer? Probably a flaw in that thinking. If so, I’ll offer this excuse. My mind is on overload trying to make sense of my physical therapy debacle.

I head to the sports medicine doc this afternoon. And if I am going to be honest, I’ll tell her that a month in physical therapy for my leg has been a waste of time — and money. Wonder if this is typical for the average — like me — person? And I wonder how many medical dollars are consumed by this — both by weekend warriors trying to recover from self-inflicted injuries or by people injured on the job, in car accidents and so on?

Here’s problem No. 1: communication. My belief is that in the Internet, Twitter, texting culture that we live in most of us enjoy talking a lot more these days than listening. Does anyone actually listen anymore? Can’t even drive a car without talking on the phone or sending a text message. I digress. Listening is a skill, but we are so distracted by gadgets and by the notion of multitasking that I’m becoming convinced that you could yell fire in a crowded theater these days and no one would pay any attention, let along race to the exits. Anyway, despite my best efforts, I was several sessions into therapy before I could get anyone to consider that my injury started with a problem in my foot — and then progressed to the upper leg. I’ll see if I can make that point again this afternoon.

Here’s problem No. 2: weekend warriors don’t know when to quit. I would have been better off a month ago just stopping. Instead I tried to run through the pain. Bad idea, but typical. Here’s an informative article that everyone who participates in sports — biking, running, swimming, hiking (well maybe not) and so on — should consider. It’s from The New York Times, “That Little Voice Inside Your Twinge“:

“ ‘Listen to your body’ is always a tough one,” said Keith Hanson, a coach who directs the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, which recruits talented distance runners and supports them while they train full time.

One of his runners, Brian Sell, was in the Beijing Olympics, and others are internationally competitive.

“There are several aches and pains that you can run through,” Mr. Hanson said, “and others that need some down time. I always try to follow one key rule: If you are gimping — altering your gait— after 10 minutes of running, then it is an injury and not just an ache or pain. You should never run through injuries. If you do, they almost always turn into compensation injuries. What started as an ankle pain becomes knee and hip problems.”

Ah — “never run through injuries. If you do…what started as an ankle pain becomes knee and hip problems.”

And I knew that a month ago but chose to ignore the reality until one problem had multiplied and there don’t appear to be easy solutions. Wow. Just like putting your faith in a guy running a Ponzi scheme.

Running and Moonwalking

OK. I understand why Michael Jackson dominates the news, print and broadcast and everything in between. There is tremendous world interest in his life — and death. Yet beyond the tributes to his talent and music, this story has the potential to get ugly — as journalists, old and citizen, focus on his alleged drug use, custody of the children, his will and estate and the circumstances surrounding his death. This won’t happen now given the hype, audience interest and media frenzy, but maybe we would be better off going back to some other stories — the economy, health care, Iraq, Iran and so on.

I’m more sensitive to this now that I am tethered to the elliptical trainer — and morning TV news. My God. I have some of the stories about Michael Jackson memorized. Aren’t there any Republican senators or governors going hiking these days? And you know you are bored when you are clamoring for more info about a coup in Honduras.

And get this. Remember Bernie Madoff? He’ll learn this morning from a judge how many years he gets to spend in prison for destroying the lives of so many individuals who invested in his financial house of cards. Wonder if he has any sense of theater? If so, maybe he could exit the court doing the moonwalk. That would be sweet — and would most likely compete with MJ for top billing on YouTube and the TV news. Good grief. I’m losing it.

And I’m not sure why I am worrying about this at all. Clearly I have bigger fish to fry.

I’m going back to physical therapy for the last scheduled visit this afternoon. And I’m no better off now than I was a month ago. In fact, I ran around five miles yesterday, dragging my foot and leg along the concrete. I could walk — barely — afterward. That’s a good sign. But as Mary, Walter, Jerry and I get ready to run the Peachtree 10K July 4, something tells me this isn’t going to be the best run (or maybe better described as a limp-along) that I’ve ever had.

Maybe I would be better doing the moonwalk.

Tomorrow I’ll share some thoughts on physical therapy. I was going to do that today but figured I might as well wait until after my session this afternoon. Who knows. Maybe there will be a miracle.

Michael Jackson and the News Media

I’m not going to try to be cute or snarky about this. Clearly, Michael Jackson’s death yesterday touched the lives of millions. And it sparked — understandably — a news media firestorm. We tend to criticize reporters and editors for their fascination with celebrities — but I expect that they ignore them at their own circulation and ratings peril. And maybe this story for me is somewhat generational. I don’t believe I ever purchased a Michael Jackson album — yet based on the tributes from yesterday and today, I’ll accept the view he was a musical icon, some personal demons notwithstanding.

From the standpoint of the news media coverage:

  • Interesting how quickly and completely the news focus can change from one story to the next. Didn’t hear much (anything?) last night from the talking head TV pundits about Iran, GM, health care, Korea and so on. Even with all the media outlets and platforms these days — old and new — it’s still pretty much one story at a time.
  • Rumors move quickly; facts not as fast. I was watching CNN at about 5:40 p.m. when it first reported that Jackson had been taken to the hospital. At about the same time,Twitter was already spreading the “news” that Jackson was dead, first reported by the Web site TMZ.com. CNN, Wall Street Journal, LA Times and others confirmed the death much later. Has the immediacy of Twitter and similar media created a new standard: get it to an audience first. The old standard was to verify and make sure it is correct. Are we OK with speed — even if it means that on occasion it will be inaccurate or incomplete?
  • Timing is everything. If Mark Sanford would have continued his “hike on the Appalachian Trail” for just one more day, there probably wouldn’t have been more than a dozen people who knew he had returned to South Carolina, or cared.
  • MSNBC can mobilize its resources for Michael Jackson coverage 24/7. But on the weekends it is mute on the crisis in Iran and everything else. Hmm.

Oh well. Heading to the weekend. And my physical therapist admitted yesterday that she had no idea how to best rehab my injured leg. But she told me to go ahead and try to run Sunday morning — and hope for the best. Here’s hoping. Woot.

The Viagara Chronicles

Well, Tricky Dick Nixon was back in the news this week. The National Archives released more of his tapes and documents, providing another glimpse of his view of reality. I kind of miss Tricky Dick. At least we knew he was screwing everybody. Now with elected government officials we have to wait and see who is “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” Sheesh. Wonder if Sanford, Ensign, Vitter, Gibbons, Spitzer, Edwards and their cohorts megadose on Viagra? Just a thought.

And here are a few others:

  • I’m really not a moralist — and I try not to judge what people do in their private lives. But elected officials should be held to a high standard of trust, responsibility and honesty — and ethical conduct. And if they are going to preach family values — and influence public policy accordingly — then how they live their own lives is important.
  • I’m glad that we are no longer forcing the wife of the wayward pol to “stand by her man” during the humiliating mea culpa and pro forma public apology. Mark Sanford’s wife, Jenny, retained her dignity — and her statement certainly displayed a lot of class and communications savvy. And by the way, Sanford’s rambling news conference was a fiasco. Only Elizabeth Edwards showing up to hawk her book could have made it any more pathetic.
  • As the conservatives continue to self-destruct, Sarah Palin is looking better by comparison, with a just-released Pew Research Center study listing her as the most popular Republican. I know. I know. Hard to find a group in public that will admit to liking Sarah Palin or believing that she is qualified to do much of anything. And that’s especially true of liberal women who view Palin as cutting ahead of them in line. But — if Palin doesn’t “hike the Appalachian Trail” between now and 2012, she may find herself camping on the moral high ground with the remaining conservative faithful. And at least we can count on Sarah not to megadose on Viagara.

And in closing, a musical tribute to Mark Sanford from Madonna — Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. Woot.

Politicians, Perceptions and Leadership

It appears that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is jumping back on the grid today. Wonder if he is on Twitter? And maybe we’ll find out whether he sojourned for the past few days hiking in the woods or wandering through the Atlanta airport. Hey, it can happen. I was like the Flying Dutchman in the airport from hell a few weeks ago. But something tells me there is more to the Sanford story — and whether it is a mountain or a molehill of an issue remains to be seen.

But here’s reality. I now have a perception of Sanford that ain’t good — and won’t change anytime soon, if at all. Sanford may be the nation’s best governor (not a high bar to jump over) — but I can’t imagine that based on this episode. And he certainly doesn’t strike me as a leader. I prefer that my leaders stay on the grid, or at least let spouses, staff members and others know where they can be reached. It seems to me that is a responsibility that goes with elected office. What if — “Sorry I wasn’t around for the hurricane that leveled South Carolina.” Duh.

And perceptions matter when it comes to politicians and leadership. Here’s a for instance.

Voters in Akron yesterday rejected a bid to recall Mayor Don Plusquellic. About 20 percent of eligible voters — most like me with no clue about any real issues involved, if any were actually involved — swatted down the recall effort like a fly hovering in Obama’s office, with Plusquellic getting about 75 percent of the vote.

Notes: I worked with Plusquellic about 30 years ago when we toiled together in the corporate gulag at Goodrich. He was an office planner, or some such thing. And I live now in a community — Copley Township — just west of Akron. So I can’t vote in Akron elections and rarely, if ever, get into the city these days.

Still, my perception is that Plusquellic has been a strong and effective leader since he became head of the city government in the 1980s. And if this wasn’t a referendum on his leadership — or the perception of his leadership — then what was this recall all about? No hint of criminal activity or malfeasence. So Akron spends about $170,000 to affirm the results of the general election held a year or so ago. Woot.

Now — if Mark Sanford were the mayor of Akron things might have turned out differently yesterday.

Perceptions matter — especially when the perceptions are anchored by some truth and reality.

UPDATE: Just as I sent this post out into the blogosphere, I received the following alert from the Wall Stree Journal. Bet Gov. Sanford’s spokesperson feels like an asshat. I digress.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was in Buenos Aires during his five-day absence, not hiking along the Appalachian Trail, he said in an interview with a South Carolina newspaper. In the interview with the State newspaper, Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail. “But I said ‘no’ I wanted to do something exotic,” Sanford said. “… It’s a great city.” He said he traveled alone and drove along the Argentina coast, but declined to provide other details.

What — Me Worry?

With respect to the philosopher Alfred E. Neuman, I find myself worrying more these days about things that probably don’t matter all that much. Probably has something to do with the fact that I am tethered to the elliptical trainer at 5:30 a.m. (and watching local TV news) rather than grinding my feet and knees into the concrete. For instance, didn’t Jon and Kate owe it to the nation to try to work things out with, ah, Dr. Phil?

And will the Republicans have a presidential candidate in 2012? I worry about that. Not sure why.

Gail Collins surfaced that issue in her New York Times column Sunday, “A Nation of Candidates.”

The saga of Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who resigned from a party leadership position this week because of a sex scandal, contained one surprising piece of information.

Obviously, it was something other than the fact that a U.S. senator, who is extremely vocal about family values, had a messy affair with a former campaign staff member.

What struck me was that virtually every story about Ensign’s fall from grace included a reference to his having been considered a possible contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2012.

Who knew? I have to admit, I had trouble even putting a face to Ensign’s name. Since then I have learned, however, that he is the only veterinarian in the Senate.

The Republican Party has finally turned into a big tent. Everybody’s a presidential contender! Being a Republican senator is pretty much an automatic qualification. After all, there are only 40 of them. Once you’ve eliminated the ones with sex scandals and the guy from Kentucky who uses a teleprompter in debates, there’s hardly enough left to fill up a stage at the Iowa State Fair.

I’ll admit it. I didn’t even know Ensign was a U.S. senator, let alone a presidential candidate. I digress. Yet if Ensign is out, who is in? How about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford? Well, probably not. Seems the gov has been AWOL for the past few days — off hiking somewhere without, apparently, letting his wife, staff or anyone else know where. Go figure. Here’s a story on The Huffington Post.

But get this. A Wall Street Journal online story reports that “Mr. Sanford has been viewed as a likely contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.” To steal from Gail Collins: Who knew?

If Sanford and Ensign are likely contenders, maybe it is time to worry.

Iron City and the City of Champions

imagesAdmittedly, there are more important matters to fret about this morning. For one: My upper leg muscles are still knotted like a pretzel and three weeks of physcial therapy has basically resulted in a loss of my afternoon nap but not any diminished pain while running. So it goes.

But the news out of Pittsburgh today is troubling nonetheless. The makers of Iron City beer — the iconic lager that symbolizes the City of Champions as much as the Steel Curtain of the Steelers circa 1970 — are abandoning the city and moving to Latrobe, home of Arnold Palmer and once the home of Rolling Rock. WTF.

Here’s from a Wall Street Journal article online by Kris Maher:

PITTSBURGH — The Steel City is losing its Iron City.

On Monday [June22], the last batch of Iron City beer will be brewed at the nine-acre, red-brick brewery complex outside downtown Pittsburgh that was founded in 1861. Production will move 40 miles away to the Latrobe, Pa., brewery that once made another recently displaced regional favorite, Rolling Rock beer, now brewed in Newark, N.J.

The beer-making musical chairs reflects attempts by Iron City’s new owners to survive competition from global beverage companies and newer craft-beer makers. They risk alienating fans in the area, as well as local officials and workers, who provided incentives and concessions to help the company emerge from bankruptcy.

Oh, mama. Next thing you know GM will be going belly up. Wait, I digress.

I lost my beer-drinking virginity to Iron City, sitting on a park bench on Pittsburgh’s North Side with high school chum Stanley Gurski, circa 1960. So this is personal.

And I share the view of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial pundits who opined last week: “IC slight — the historic beer maker’s exit leaves a bitter taste.”

Iron City Brewing and Lawrenceville have been together since the Industrial Revolution. As the Civil War raged, followed by two world wars, Iron City beer became synonymous with Pittsburgh. Consequently, generations of workers invested their hearts in making Iron City a brand known throughout the world.

Brewery President Timothy Hickman insists he wants to keep the brand alive but that it requires moving production 40 miles down the road to Latrobe. It might as well be 400 miles as far as the workers of union Local 144B are concerned. They’ll be losing their jobs, despite taking a 15 percent pay cut in 2007 to help the company emerge from bankruptcy.

And:

It’s always sad when an iconic business pulls up stakes in a place that’s been home for many years. The Iron City brand has been an ambassador for Pittsburgh around the world. Who doesn’t think of Pittsburgh when throwing back an Iron or an IC Light?

OK. Detroit is no longer the center of the auto world. Akron hasn’t made passenger tires for decades. Now Iron City beer is no longer brewed in Pittsburgh. Might as well go quaff a couple before heading to physical therapy this afternoon. And salute the good old days when you could sit on a park bench on a perfect summer night, sucking Iron City from a quart bottle hidden in a paper bag. Woot.