Thoughts on Floyd

I’ve been in denial since last Saturday’s release of the second test of Floyd Landis’ sample which confirmed elevated testosterone levels after his epic ride on stage 17 of the Tour de France when he put himself back into contention after bonking the day before.

I had the same reaction in 2004 when Tyler Hamilton was banned from cycling following the results of his Athens Olympic blood test that showed someone else’s blood in his body. It’s a naive reaction on my part, a childish tendency to want to believe in heroes and give the benefit of the doubt, the old innocent-until-proven-guilty high sentiments that cynically seem to get dashed time and time again. Being the resident cycling fanatic, everyone aware of the Landis affair has asked me my thoughts, given my bipolar sadness and exultation during the Tour. At first I wanted to give Floyd the benefit of the doubt, now …

I love cycling, I think it is a magnificent sport, one that is incredibly dramatic in its alliances between rivals, its subtle strategy, and its superhuman demands on the riders. But …. there’s no denying the sport is rotten with doping, and while I wouldn’t begrude a rider an Advil to assuage an ache, I can’t condone EPO, testoterone, blood packing, and the other sophisticated techniques that are outright cheats and shortcuts around hardwork and training.

Will I continue to follow the sport? Yes. I believe there are clean cyclists in the sport. Perhaps the Landis debacle will persuade the remaining cyclists that there is no way to get away with doping, no way to dodge the labs, and the sport will return to some form of purity that it perhaps — as historians of the sport will point out — never existed.

We all want heroes, but in Floyd’s case, the story was too good to be true. I hope he exonerates himself, but I fear he’s going the way of Tyler Hamilton, proposing outlandish excuses while he name remains tarnished to the end.

Tips for working during vacation

Yes, I am on “vacation.” One of those do-nothing, go-nowhere vacations which is my favorite kind given that I do live on Cape Cod, it is August, and the price is right. I’ve rarely, if ever, been able to completely go off the grid during a holiday. The classic was 1998, when my wife and I spent two weeks in France to celebrate my 40th birthday. I was at Forbes.com working with the managing editor and one of the top reporters to uncover the Stephen Glass hoax at the New Republic (later turned into a movie Shattered Glass). Right up to the moment I had to catch a cab to Newark for the flight we were in crazy mode trying to get the facts quadrupled checked. I continued to work by cell phone right up to take off, landed in Paris, got back online, and kabloom, the story hit the fan over the weekend, causing a front page sensation in the NYT and global press.

My wife was not amused as I stayed glued to a phone. I wanted to be in the newsroom, but there was no way I could detach myself from the story.

So vacation has always meant for me a fully charged cellphone, occasional breaks back into conference calls, and a lot of email scanning with an occasional reply if the subject warrants an immediate response. This five day break is no different. Forthcoming product announcements, long-standing conference calls, and the blog that never sleeps (not this one, Lenovo’s Design Matters) keeps me working two, maybe three hours a day. While the workplace psychologists may caution us worker bees to completely unplug, the reality is few people can afford to. So, here is how to cope and decompress at the same time.

1. Just say no. Not every mail needs a reply, not every conference call needs to be dialed into. People will understand.

2. Fight your fires, not your inbox. Scan subject lines, look for the exclamation points and red text, and make terse replies, not lengthy ones.

3. Do it all early in the morning and late in the evening. Compress the work into blocks. Don’t spread it through the day.
4. The cellphone is the leash. Laptops don’t work when there is sand in the keyboard: a cellphone in the beach bag is fine. Turn the ringer off — bring an index card with conference call in numbers, put on the Borg headset, hit mute, and listen. When you have to talk the rest of the call will have to put up with the background sounds of seagulls and jetskis. Too bad.

5. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one likes a whiner. You’re guaranteed to be very bored and very left alone in retirement, so don’t get resentful that work creeps into vacation — there are no hard and fast lines left in life.
6. Noble sentiments of fully disconnecting and decompressing are just sentiments.

7. And set your autoreply and voice mail messages ….