Monday, April 30, 2007

See April 27 Post

Here is Loren Steffy's blog post about his column, including a rebuttal from the Philadelphia Inquirer. I appreciate anyone who lets people of different viewpoint have a say.

Friday, April 27, 2007

An ethical dilemma

I like to read the business section of the newspaper. Coincidentally, I am interested in staying in bsiness with my new practice. One of the columnists that I read reglualy is Loren Steffy of the Houston Chronicle. Today, his column addresses a bank funding a column for another newspaper and how that leads to an obvious conflict of interest.

Of note, he addresses the newspaper industry's financial woes and points out that allowing a business to sponsor a column is a potential revenue stream. As the internet changes how information is disseminated, traditional purveyors of information (newspapers, the evening news shows) are finding it hard to keep people's attention (and revenue). So while Mr. Steffy is right to say that journalistic integrity is compromised by selling a column to a local bank, he fails to address the larger question:

How does a newspaper grow its business while maintaing its independence and integrity?

If a newspaper goes out of business, it probably won't maintain very high standards of journalism.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Can Phil Jackson coach?

The NBA playoffs are in full swing- which means I will be staying up watching late night West Coast blow-outs just to see if Phoenix can hit 100 points by the end of the 3rd quarter. Kobe and the Lakers were hammered by the Suns by 30 points in the "game". Lakers coach Phil Jackson was powerless to stop the Suns attack.

Jackson has never won a coach of the year award, but has 9 NBA titles. Golden State's Don Nelson has won mltiple coach of the year awards, but no NBA titles. This year, Toronto's Sam Mitchell won the award because the Raptors won 20 more games this year than they did last year. Other good coaches, like San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Houston's Jeff Van Gundy, made the mistake of having multiple good players on their team. That means that potential voters won't vote for them because they did not have to "coach" as much to get victories. It didn't matter that Van Gundy's best players missed significant chunks of the season. They were dealt a perceived better hand than Mitchell, whose team had an inferior record in an inferior conference.

Meanwhile, Jackson's detractors point to the fact that he has only won titles when he had the most dominant players in the NBA on his team (Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant). The logic is that anyone can win with the best players. If that is true, why hasn't every season produced a 70+ win team like the Bulls in '95-96? And why have Jordan and Shaq only combined for 1 title without Jackson? (note, Pat Riley, the coach who won with Shaq and Dwyane Wade in Miami, was accused of being overrated because he had the gall to coach Magic and Kareem at the same time) You don't fall ot of bed and win 9 rings no matter who is on your roster. However, he can't get his undermanned Laker team to beat a superior Phoenix team, while Don Nelson has won some playoff serieses (sp?) with small lineups and less than stellar talent.

I think coaching skill is relative. For instance, an authoritarian like Gregg Popovich (owner of 3 rings) would fail miserably with the Bulls of the late 90's because his style would clash with Jordan, Rodman, and Pippen. Phil Jackson can get the most out of veteran players, while a Don Nelson or Avery Johnson can get more from younger players who need more help in skill development.

A better question to ask is: Can Phil Jackson coach a particular team "X"? I ask this given that teams (and businesses and patients) want star coaches and leadres and doctors, when the star does not necessarily have the right skill set for the task at hand.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Writing is difficult

It is amazing how hard it is to write an intelligible, entertaining post. I've written about 4 that I haven't published because, well, they sucked. I do a pretty good job of speaking- being entertaining yet informative. When I try to write the same thoughts out- the dots don't connect just right. Here's why:

1. I can use voice inflection when I talk. Without proper use of emoticons, you can't replicate that in black and white.

2. I can use my body (facial and hand expressions) while talking. I'm doing it now while writing, but the visual impact is diminished without a webcam.

3. I can get my words out faster talking. I think faster than I type. That leads to missing a few thoughts to get my point across faster.

4. I never shut up as a kid. I got a lot more practice talking than I did writing. That's why was a great listener. Or maybe he was just sleeping.

5. I think in bullett points. That's great for powerpoint or lecturing, but it makes for a lousy narrative. What if Shakespeare and mark Twain just left 5 take home points instead of writing in the vernacular? The Cliff's Notes people would be unemployed.

I'll keep trying this writing stuff. My goal is to achieve readability

A good cause

My Friend Tom Harris is a Pediatric Pulmonologist In North Carolina. He is participating in a Walk-a-Thon for Cystic Fibrosis. Actually, he's against CF and the damage it causes to lungs. You can donate here:

By the way, if they find a cure for CF, Tom's business will suffer.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Texas Southern University and conservatorship

Kristen Mack of the Houston Chronicle has a good report on the differing opinions regarding fixing TSU's financial problems. One the one hand, TSU has consistently had problems with managing their finances, including the hiring of a CFO with a felony conviction for writing false checks. TSU also has a very low graduation rate (less than 20%). On the other hand, TSU has produced more than it's share of congressmen and women (including Mickey Leland and Barbara Jordan) and a significant number of minority attorneys and pharmacists.

Texas, and its large African American and Hispanic population, needs universities like TSU that accept all applicants. It is part of the foundation of the community and a pipeline for minority talent to find graduate education and skilled jobs (that help the tax base by the way).

It is also a symbol of fiscal mismanagement. If TSU goes out of business (and this happened to Bishop College in Dallas), blaming the state for not sending enough money won't excuse "losing track" of millions of dollars. And cutting academic programs (like the proposed elimination of majors in Spanish and History) make a mockery of the idea of higher education.

Governor Rick Perry wants to have a Consevator manage the university for one year; many others just want to reorganize the Board of Regents. I don't think any of this will matter if the basic culture of TSU does not change. The only way for TSU to become a sustainable, economically viable entitiy is for the students, alumni, faculty, and trustees to decide to hire honest leadership and let them lead without asking them to keep the status quo. there is a tendency to decide to hold on to "traditions" and to keep doing things "the way we've always done them". But since that is consistently leading to outdated facilities and misappropriated funds, radical and unwelcome change will be coming. Hopefully, not the kind of change that causes TSU to close its door completely.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dave Chappelle did a skit about this

I just couldn't pass this up.

I've heard of pick up games of basketball, but dice?


Congratulations to Mark Buehrle for pitching a no-hitter against my beloved Texas Rangers.

They are "my" team because no one else will own them. 35 years of baseball- one playoff game win. I think this year's marketing campaign is "We're punctual"

Funeral ettiquette

In the last 3 weeks I've lost a grandfather and a close family friend. I'm at the age where most of my friends have had their weddings and/or a child. Now we're at the point where the funerals start. Right now the remaining grandparents (age related illnesses) are going fast, and my parents' generation is going through the round of cancers and early heart attacks.

*Disclosure* As a physician, I've had to attend to the many dying patients. Even when I've been really close to the family, it's a different feeling for 2 reasons. First- caring for the dying is my job, so I've been afforded many opportunities to see this process, while a family only loses Dad or Cousin once. Second, I'm not in the Family/Friends circle- I don't have the memories of the patient being full of fun and life. I remember the patient being full of various fluids that needed to be collected and vital signs. But I digress.

Anyway, now that I am going to more funerals, I have a dilemma- What do I do when I stand in front of the open casket? Is there a protocol? For instance, the first degree relatives get to kiss the body, second degree relatives and close friends may touch the body, all others just linger somberly sounds good. I noticed at my grandfather's funeral, most people got to the casket and just sort of looked confused. There are always the performance artists who do ritual crying/touching/humming dances. I prefer to move away quickly because I don't know what to do and funerals creep me out. I figure the quicker I get out of the way, the quicker the ceremony ends. What should people do?

Last note, at one funeral, my then 7 month old son passed copious amounts of stool that left a fragrant and flagrant trail of tears. So basically, I walked right in and right out of the church, to keep my son's BM from waking up my uncle. I knew exactly what to do then.

NBC should have said no

I realize that everyone (present company included) is extra sensitive in the wake of the recent tragic shootings. That being said, I strongly disagree with NBC's decision to publish and air video from the shooter.

First, it helps turn the shooter into a type of anti-hero. He viewed himself as a persecuted soul who could do a heroic work by sacrificing himself and others. Unfortunately, there are others like him who feel the same way and can now feel encouraged while watching the video. Second, he wanted to show the world his views by killing people, then having his video aired. If you are a mass murderer and you want to speak from the grave, send your thoughts and images to (fill in the media related blank)......

I just don't think we should honor the shooter's wishes, and NBC did just that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Blog

Just what the world needs, a new blog. I hope to add links to my favorite blogs.

One of my goals is to learn to be a better writer. I'm not very good now, so consider yourself warned.

Please give a big hug and kiss to any college students you know.