Monday, March 30, 2009

Open letter from my bosses

Date: Monday, March 30, 2009
To: Lee Todd, President, University of Kentucky
From: IBM management, Software Middleware division

Dear Dr. Todd,

We are writing you to ask you and your Athletics Director, Mitch Barnhart, to please move quickly in naming a head coach for the UK basketball team. Normally we do not mettle in affairs of athletics or higher education. As an IT company our business is technology, not basketball.

However, we have noticed a dramatic drop in productivity in one of our employees in sector 7G, cube H164 over the past few days, and we believe that drop corresponds directly with your vacant head coaching position.

After more detailed investigation it appears this employee -- a tall, lanky fellow with bags under his eyes the size of teabags and who shall remain nameless -- has been foregoing his professional responsibilities and instead sits at his laptop hitting the F5 refresh key on message boards,, and until his fingertips are thick with heavy callouses. As a result, no one else in our software lab in North Carolina has any internet bandwidth because this employee is using it all to see if you have named a coaching replacement.

So please understand our predicament and take our request under advisement. The employee's wife has also contacted us, asking that we send security in to pry him away from computer. And to remind him to pick up some diapers on the way home.

Thank you for your time and best of luck in your search.

IBM software management team

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Interesting editorial today in the NYT from an exec at AIG who announces his resignation and gives his side of the story to the people that were promised the bonuses which are triggering outrage across the country.

He actually raises some fair points in his defense -- not everyone at AIG is to blame for the mistakes of the few, politicians grandstand and scapegoat people without understanding all the facts, and this guy is actually donating his bonus to charity (assuming Congress doesn't tax it at 90% like the Dems have proposed).

It goes to show that there are two sides to every story. That said, he lost me once I read down at the end of the article about how much the guy made in that bonus. Unbelievable.

"Dear AIG, I Quit!"
On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients.

The comments online in response have been brutal. My personal favorite:

In what other universe does a company that loses $60B in one quarter pay huge bonuses negotiated when it was clear the company was going down. Thanks to the U.S. taxpayers, which will be paying for this debacle for many years, AIG is still a company instead of a bankrupt shell and you still have your stocks and they may someday be worth something

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cutting Losses

Selection Sunday was yesterday, and for the first time in 18 years Kentucky was left out of the brackets. There has been a lot written, blogged, and "talk radioed" about the state of the Kentucky basketball program with Billy Gillispie at the helm. Much of the ranting and raving comes from the same people that expect Kentucky to win every game and make the Final Four every year. I do not count myself in that company of Kentucky basketball fanatic. But I do count myself -- reluctantly -- in the company of those that believe Dr. Lee Todd and Mitch Barnhart should cut the cord with Gillispie after a short two-year stint as basketball coach.

Let me start by saying that I was a fan of the Gillispie hire. Although I was a Tubby Smith supporter to his last day on the job, I thought if anyone fit the mold of what it takes to succeed in the fishbowl that is the University of Kentucky basketball program, it was Billy Gillispie. Here was a guy that admittedly put basketball first and foremost in his life so much so that it cost him his marriage. What better person was there to eat, sleep, and breathe basketball at one of the most storied schools in the country to appease a never-satisfied fan base.

Through his first season and a half, I still thought he was the best coach for the job despite some embarrassing losses -- Gardener-Webb, a 40-pt drubbing at Vanderbilt, VMI. But my mind began to change in January as Kentucky went on a 3-game losing streak. It was not the losses that bothered me so much -- after all, Kentucky never did develop a solid scoring option outside of Jodie Meeks or Patrick Patterson. Rather, it was the way the coach handled himself in representing the university that bothered me.

At Ole Miss, Gillispie was interviewed by an ESPN sideline reporter where he gave a condescending answer to a straightforward question. The next game, a home loss to loss to South Carolina in January where UK blew a 10-point second half lead, Gillispie chased the officials off the court at the end of the game rather than shaking South Carolina coach (and Lexington native) Darrin Horn's hand. Finally, the following week on another ESPN-televised game against Florida, Gillispie once again gave a belittling, snippy answer to a seemilngly harmless question from Jeannine Edwards, ESPN's sideline reporter.

As the losses began piling up and Kentucky's chances became slimmer and slimmer of making the tournament, articles were written that were more and more critical of Kentucky's coach. Some of those articles come with the territory when a team is losing. But when a coach's team is not winning the quirks and behaviors are less likely to be brushed aside or glossed over.

One article in particular on stuck with me as I came to grips with the fact that I may join some of the fanatics that were calling for Gillispie's head. The piece was "An inside look at a blue blood on the bubble" by Dana O'Neil where she was given "all access" to follow the team and coach through practices and games the last week of the season. The article touched on Gillispie's sarastic leadership & motivational style:

Gillispie hasn't revealed himself to be a yeller. He is more a sniper, a guy with a biting tongue who can make his point without ever inserting a curse word.

Far edgier in this practice, he reacts to a lazy lob pass with a "That's the difference between being 11-4 and 8-7 right now,'' and sarcastically asks a player if he's ready to hustle now.

If you have ever worked for a manager or played for a coach that used this type of leadership with people, you know how limited this approach is. I am a believer that you don't bring the best out in people over the long term by consistently belittling them or using negative motivational tactics. Granted, this is basketball and you don't hand out Disney stickers when a player does something good to motivate him. There is yelling and hard-nosed tactics involved with motivating 18 year-olds. But sarcasm and negativity as the cornerstone of your approach burns people out over the long haul.

Case in point, a team that features two of the best players in the country in Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson (and two incredibly quality individuals at that) loses nine of its last thirteen games down the stretch and misses the NCAA.

So I am joining the fanatics in calling for a coaching change after two seasons. After two seasons of a childish, arrogant, and ultimately non-producing coach, Billy Gillispie is not the right guy to lead the University of Kentucky basketball team.

The only caveat I will put on this is if Gillispie atones for his mistakes and changes his ways, especially with how he represents the university. But there is something about that stubborn, arrogant Texas swagger that leads me to believe Kentucky fans have to take him or leave him as he is.

If that's the case I say cut your losses right now and make a change before the situation gets even worse.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Random Kid Conversation #384

There is something amusing about having a conversation with a three year-old. Just the reckless abandon with which they blurt out whatever comes to their mind, regardless of company or context.

My most recent favorite from last night after Owen cleaned his plate.
Dad: Owen, you did a really good job with dinner. You ate all your soup. That makes Mom very happy when you eat something that she worked hard to make.

Mom: Yes, Owen, very good job.

Dad: What was your favorite part of the soup, the potatoes or the meat?

Owen: Mmmmm, all of it.

Mom: That makes me very happy, Owen. Thank you.

Owen: When my penis burns, I come and tell you.

Mom (bewildered): Uh.....Owen, is your penis burning now?

Owen: No, but when I go to the bathroom and my penis does burn I come tell you or Dad.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lions, Lambs, Hooks and Reality TV

"In like a lion, out like a lamb" goes the saying about March. We are living proof of that here, even just this week. It has rained nonstop for 2 days -- of course this happens on the weekend so we parents are forced to entertain kids indoors. Tonight it is supposed to turn over to snow, with 2" to 4" of accumulation predicted. The low Tuesday morning is 14 degrees.

But wait, whatever snow we get will be out of here in a hurry. By Saturday the temperature is predicted to warm up to a balmy 74 degrees. So we have a 60 degree swing in 4 days. Craziness.

This weekend I made my first trip to Blockbuster in over 5 years. Amy & I just never rent movies anymore. If we do make the time for a silver screen special, we normally just dial one up on pay-per-view. But even that is a rarity. So given the prospect of having two energetic 3 year-olds in the house for two days in the rain (and potential snow), I decided to get the boys some movies and get us adults some movies to guarantee ourselves a couple of date nights.

I had to call my pal Chris from the video store to tell me what movies had been released since Casablanca, which was out about the last one Amy & I rented a flick. We settled on "W" -- which is supposed to be a humorous and even sympathetic portrayal of our favorite Presidential punching bag -- "The Prestige," and "Changling." No clue if these will be any good, but it's worth a couple of bowls of popcorn to find out.

The boys have worn out "101 Dalmatians" and "Peter Pan" the past two days. Owen was a little unnerved by Cruella deVille and Captain Hook. You forget as an adult that these villains in some of these old Disney classics were drawn & animated pretty scarily for a kid. But both boys were very happy when the dogs triumphed over Horace and Jasper the dognappers and when Pan & kids fed Hook to the crocodile. The Disney classics will always have a place in my heart.

Other than the movie binge, Amy and I are presently stuck on "Millionaire Matchmaker," which comes on Bravo on Thursday nights. It's about a woman in Hollywood who fixes millionaires up with their true loves. The show is somewhat mindless like a good reality show should be. But it's 60 minutes of escape and actually does provide a cool glimpse into human nature, regardless of income. And the best part is Matchmaker doesn't make you feel like you need to take a shower afterward like "Rock of Love," which admittedly we still keep up with.

So it's been an ode to TV weekend here as we await the sleet and ice. Stay warm wherever you are.