Sunday, September 30, 2012

Win Comes with Loss (of Sleep)

I felt grumpy Saturday after my beloved Louisville Cardinals ran their record to 5-0 with a slim, come-from-behind, 21-17, victory at Southern Mississippi on a soggy night in Hattiesburg. But my fellow Cards fans were surprisingly upbeat on Twitter.

Their comments included these themes: 
  • Yee Haw, we’re 5-0!
  • Oh well, the conditions were horrible and we won.
  • Maybe we needed this scare anyway.
  • Everything is irrelevant until Big East play starts. 

Perhaps it was because I was up past my bedtime reading Twitter instead of going to sleep, but I couldn’t be as optimistic. Sure, I’m happy to be 5-0, but U of L has now played 10 quarters of pretty uninspiring football.

They blame the rain, but I don't.
The Cards have played in the slop for the past couple of weeks, but so have their opponents. Conditions aren’t always going to be ideal. Both teams have to adapt. So I’m not ready to pull a Milli Vanilli and blame it on the rain.

In terms of needing a scare, the Cards have had three straight. Louisville nearly coughed up a 36-7 lead against North Carolina before breaking up a potential game-winning pass. They came from behind to beat Florida International of the Sun Belt conference. Then, against Southern Miss of Conference USA, they had to both come from behind and hold on. If U of L hasn’t been scared straight yet, then it’s probably not going to happen.

By comparison, Southern Miss was throttled 42-17 just a week earlier by Western Kentucky University. I bet WKU also beats FIU by a greater margin than Louisville. Although I respect what Willie Taggart is accomplishing at Western, that shouldn’t happen.

Finally, there’s the notion that what really matters is the conference schedule and its attendant BCS bid, not these lackluster road games at FIU and USM. However, even with West Virginia leaving for the Big 12, the Big East looks tougher than expected. Just ask Virginia Tech of the ACC, which lost to both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Additionally, although Charlie Strong’s teams have shown the ability to improve throughout the season, I’m not convinced that U of L’s defense is suddenly going to snap to attention once conference play starts.

Some people think this could be a pretty special season. After all, Louisville returns most of its key players from last year’s Big East champions. Others believe the Cards might be a year away because of their youth. After five games, it seems cases could be made for both. Today, I’m leaning toward the later, but maybe just because I need some rest. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Isaacson Shows Jobs' Genius, Madness

Apple founder Steve Jobs was a man who was complicated as his products were simple.

I recently read Jobs biography, written by Walter Isaacson. Even when I finished, I couldn’t figure out whether to admire Jobs or pity him.
I picked up the book because I was interested in insights regarding one of the great visionaries of our time. However, I feared the book would amount to nothing more than a very long Apple press release. To Issacson’s credit, he somehow got the notorious control freak to release his grip and allow the author to tell the full, fascinating story.

The book drags a bit in the middle. For instance, I could have lived with less discussion of open code vs. closed systems. But other seemingly extraneous material, such as Jobs’ relationship with Bill Gates, could not have been missed.

So how do you best describe the late Steve Jobs? Imagine the most difficult person in your life. Now multiply that by a thousand.
Jobs co-founded Apple in a garage and parlayed it into one of the nation’s most admired and financially successful companies. He left his fingerprints all over some of the greatest innovations in a host of industries, including personal computing, cell phones, retailing, music and even movies (through Pixar). In the process, Apple created legions of loyal fans who swear by the simplicity and elegance of its products.

Isaacson tracks each of these great developments from their genesis to completion and all the pain-staking details in between.

Despite Jobs successes, he was neither personally nor professionally satisfied. Issacson suggests this stems from him being placed for adoption as a child. Although Jobs ended up in a loving home, he never got over feelings of abandonment.

Perhaps this is why he could be so cruel, especially to people closest to him, including his own family members. He kept some of Apple’s first employees from sharing in its financial gains and eventually got run out of his own company because of his volatile temper. In his personal life, Jobs had a child out of wedlock and initially chose not to be in her life, just as his own biological parents had done with him.

Jobs eventually returned to Apple to orchestrate some of its greatest accomplishments, including the IPod and IPad. But the ending isn’t nearly as redemptive as it seems. He continued to struggle with professional and personal demons until his death.

According to Isaacson, Jobs wanted to revolutionize other industries, including television. It would have be fun to see what else he would have created. On the other hand, the destructive path in getting there wouldn’t have been any fun at all.