Think Life a Freak

I have been a big fan of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. They are about to release a new book Think Life a Freak on May 18th.  Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics are well known best sellers. They have an amazing ability to tell stories with data.

think like a freak

Telling stories with data has impacted other books that I have chosen to read including Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, Mark Penn’s Microtrends and Tom Davenport’s Competing on Analytics.

After Freakonomics I was pleased to see Levitt and Dubner make a movie with new stories that focused on the hidden side of everything.

And I found the movie very enjoyable. A few of the stories out of their original book while a new story focused on Chicago, their hometown.

The segment, paying high school students $500 for good grades simply brought out the ‘freak’ side of their research. At the same time I have wondered about how the impact of paying students in middle school may have a bigger impact on success rates.
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Moyar on Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam

triumph forsakenMark Moyar really opens up on journalists Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam in Chapter 7: Attack July-December 1962.

Moyar is attempting to mislead with broad, inaccurate generalizations as if Sheehan and Halberstam fell off the turnip truck and landed on a Smith corona typewriter south of Saigon.

Both Sheehan and Halberstam won Pulitzer Prizes for their Vietnam war coverage. Moyar’s most outrageous statement is that Halberstam “did more harm to the interests of the United States than any other journalist in American history.

Really? Even more than Sheehan or Dan Ellsberg publishing the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times?

But Moyar’s attacking statements on all journalists regardless of political view really misses the mark:

Representing the United Press International was a twenty-five-year-old named Neil Sheehan, who arrived in Saigon in April. Having just entered the profession of journalism, he was the youngest and most inexperienced reporter in a country full of young and inexperienced reporters.

Upon graduation from Harvard where he was editor of the campus literary magazine Harvard Advocate Neal Sheehan joined the Army serving from 1959-1962 in Korea, and Japan editing a weekly Army newspaper called The Bayonet. During this timeframe in Japan Sheehan also moonlighted in Tokyo for UPI. Upon his discharge he landed in Vietnam as UPI’s Saigon bureau chief.  It fair to say Sheehan understood Asia and the US Military operating in Southeast Asia. But here Moyar over reaches:

David Halberstam, who like Sheehan hailed from the Northeast and was a recent Harvard graduate. Halberstam was twenty-eight when he came to Vietnam. Before he left, fifteen months later, he would do more harm to the interests of the United States than any other journalist in American history.

Moyar’s neocon gloves come right off with his last statement. His position that Halberstam was a recent graduate also misses the mark.  Halberstam was the managing editor for the Harvard Crimson. In 1955 he turned down offers from big newspapers to cover Civil Rights and race issues in Mississippi. He left after just ten months when his editor did not want him focusing on those topics in a small town paper. He continued to cover the civil rights movement at The Tennessean in Nashville beginning in 1956.

In 1960 Halberstam was hired by the New York Times. After covering the Kennedy inauguration for six months in Washington D.C. he was assigned to the Congo to cover the war against Belgian colonialism. Then he was assigned to Vietnam when Diem kicked out the standing New York Times reporter.  Halberstam well understood struggles with colonialism.

Triumph Forsaken

Academic debates regarding revisionist history continues to rage across university lecture halls. Yet traditional (orthodox in those academic circles) views on Vietnam were challenged by revisionists including Mark Moyar’s Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965.

triumph forsaken

America’s historical views of Vietnam are actually unique since the war’s bible The Pentagon Papers remained classified for just over forty years.

Moyar published Triumph Forsaken in 2006 and created academic controversy for over five years before the National Archives released the full 7,200 plus pages from the Department of Defense which also focus on Moyar’s timeframe.

Have just found my way last night into chapter three of Moyar’s book. Memories of actually reading the entire Pentagon Papers and the frustrations revealed has caused my eyebrows to be raised….just a bit. Moyar has been portrayed as attacking American journalists who were on the ground in Vietnam.

Moyar’s focus on Ho and Diem in this timeframe are core to his view on America’s early fatal flaws in the war. Time will tell as I continue to read, research and compare notes in the Pentagon Papers.  Moyar may be correct in his assumptions and points of view regarding these two leaders in Vietnam’s civil war.

Also on my bookshelf sits another revisionist view of Vietnam A Better War written by Lewis Sorley.  I will attempt to fully measure Moyar and Sorley against The Pentagon Papers and Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam which won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2013.

Dave Duerson Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL

Dave Duerson committed suicide on February 17, 2011.  He will always be remembered as a member of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl team.  He was a four time NFL Pro Bowl player and won a second Super Bowl with the New York Giants. He finished his career with the Phoenix Cardinals. Dave Duerson was the 1987 NFL Man of The Year award winner.

dave duerson

I remember watching Dave Duerson play at Notre Dame. He was a two time All American.  Dave also graduated with honors in Economics.

Early in his retirement Dave started his own food processing company. He turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

However Dave Duerson succumbed to the impact of chronic brain trauma. All for the glory of Sunday football. It was only after his family donated his brain to research did the tragic effects of his brain trauma reveal the type of punishment professional athletes in many sports accept as part of the game. The suicide of San Diego linebacker Junior Seau proved Dave Duerson’s death was not unique.

How much longer will we see former NFL players suffer long term brain injuries after their glory days are over.  More importantly will the NFL or fans realize the game has reached such a high level of contact that its literally killing their Sunday heros?

Malcolm Gladwell evening in Milwaukee

Friday was a wonderful evening with Malcolm Gladwell. I was able to get a personalized copy of his book David and Goliath. As usual he was sharing a remarkable series of intertwined events. Tonight it was about the IRA collapse in Belfast, Alva Vanderbilt and the women’s suffrage movement in America. Malcolm is truly a great storyteller.
Malcolm Gladwell in Milwaukee

Tableau your data!

Dan Murray was the keynote speaker at the March Milwaukee Tableau User’s Group and discussed his new book Tableau Your Data!

Tableau your data

I was lucky enough to win a raffle for one of the books and Dan was kind enough to sign.

Look forward to diving into Tableau dashboards by tapping into an Oracle data warehouse and Google Analytics data.

Clearly this type of Business Intelligence tool has been gaining ground among data report writers, supervisors and even C-level executives.

My latest read: Bobby Orr – My story

Bobby Orr was my favorite athlete in my childhood growing up in Toledo Ohio. My father watched CBC broadcasts of NHL games and they are some of my earliest recollections of sports. I kinda learned about Bobby and the Boston Bruins from my Dad.

Bobby Orr

His first year playing in Boston was also the year I was born. My knowledge of his skills as a player came later in his career. I recalled later in life learning that my father worked for Storer Broadcasting‘s WSPD-TV station in Toledo. In 1973 Storer purchased the Boston Bruins and the Boston Garden.

After Storer purchased the Bruins my parents went to Boston and my Dad returned home with an official Bruins press kit featuring black and white photos of the team and every player. It was like striking hockey gold for a kid who played hockey in the back yard and on the cement streets around my neighborhood.

Without the internet and cable television it was very rare for me to see the Boston Bruins play on television growing up less than an hour from Detroit, unless it was broadcast with Harry Neale and Ron MacLean.

My interest in hockey began to wain when Bobby left Boston for Chicago while I had just turned ten years old. I remain a Bruins fan but was sorry to see him retire after missing so many years with his bad left knee. By this time I was playing basketball, having never played organized ice hockey and was following Dr. J and the Sixers.  Funny how my Dad played high school basketball with Dr. J’s teammate Steve Mix. My hometown hockey team the Toledo Goaldiggers had a pretty good player for two years as well — Mike Eruzione, yea that Mike Eruzione.
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My latest read: A Spartan Game

Merriam-Webster defines Spartan as a person of great courage and self-discipline and A Spartan Game The Life and Loss of Don Holleder is just about a perfect story of such a person.  Yet I find it somewhat difficult to share how immense Don’s life was today. Many heroes on the gridiron and battlefield have been lost to our collective memory simply because HDTV, the internet & social media did not exist in the 1940s.

a spartan game

Since the 9/11 attacks only a handful of professional athletes have chosen to serve our country rather than continue playing sports.

Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal defensive back turned down a multi-million dollar NFL contact extension to enlist in the Army only to be killed under questionable circumstances in Afghanistan.

If you found Pat’s story compelling then A Spartan Game reveals how Don Holleder played and lived in a much higher stratosphere. Pat was killed two years after leaving the NFL. Don Holleder was killed 11 years after leaving West Point, but within three months of arriving in Vietnam.

The early chapters of A Spartan Game reveals Don’s family history, his extended background and amazing success playing high school football and basketball in Rochester New York. His high school team actually traveled to my hometown of Toledo Ohio in the early 1950s to play Toledo Central Catholic in basketball. I was surprised to read so many Catholic schools in the 1940s and ’50s traveled so extensively throughout the country.   Don was an extraordinarily gifted athlete and he excelled as a football player.

Don was expecting to attend Notre Dame on a football scholarship but something changed his life. After his senior football season but before he graduated Don’s father died suddenly. His father never told Don he wished for his son to attend West Point. It was only after his father’s wishes were revealed by his mother that Don focused solely on attending West Point.
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