Relief Effort

Well, after busting my ass for a couple of weeks on this writing-heavy issue of the magazine, with plans to work through the long weekend in order to get the pages out Wednesday morning, I discovered that another magazine at our company is way off schedule and is shipping with ours from the printer. So, according to our production coordinator, I have more time (like into the week after) to get this issue wrapped up.

So there’s a profound sense of relief going on, with me and my associate editor. We haven’t said anything to our salespeople; so no telling!

But an ever weirder feeling of relief comes from the fact that I finished reading The Power Broker this morning. I started Caro’s epic biography of Robert Moses in the middle of May, and 6-7 weeks is a long time for me to spend on a single book (let’s leave out last year’s reading of Proust, which sorta breaks out into 7 books). As I told Amy a few nights ago, “I think this is the first book I’ve ever read in which the page count reaches four digits.”

The book was absolutely amazing. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in how New York City “got that way,” as well as anyone who wants a good illustration of

a) how your good intentions can lead everyone else to hell;

b) how city authorities function(ed) a lot differently than elected officials, operating like a kingdom (complete with dark tower);

c) how idealism can get squashed like a bug;

d) how much of a douche Robert Moses could be; and

e) how one can be a creative visionary force, and be completely wrong.

That said, it’s a giant book: 1,165 pages of not-so-great typography. But the portrait it paints is fantastic.

Now, as I said, there’s also a relief factor. See, for weeks now, I’ve been bringing that volume with me to work. Lately, I’ve been going out for take-out lunch, parking in a lot, sitting in the back of the car and listening to Howard Stern replays while eating, then, when I’m through, turning off the satellite-radio and reading 15 or 20 pages of the book. It’s been pretty consuming.

Today, about to head out for some sushi, I thought, “I have nothing to read.” Walking in the door tonight, I thought, “I don’t have to kill myself on the magazine, and I don’t have any more of The Power Broker to read. Wow.”

Anyway, that’s Life As I Know It. I watched a little of the NBA Draft last night, but no one wore any really breathtaking ensembles (Amy & I were waiting for the 18-button, triple-breasted suit and vest, but gave up and watched an episode of Buffy instead).

And now it looks like I actually will get out to that staging of Measure For Measure this weekend.

Unless I start another book. . .


Blogging’s going to be pretty light for the next few days, while I write my annual Top Pharma profiles. I’ll try to get my Fenway photos and observations up by the weekend.


Neat article in BusinessWeek about problems with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This falls into the “I find this stuff fascinating but recognize that many readers don’t care about how some/most/all industries work.”

The article discusses the new model of production that Boeing’s trying to implement for this plane. The company’s engaged in a variety of outsourcing that it hasn’t really tried before, and that may be tied directly to the technological hurdles that the new plane is facing:

Boeing has undertaken a grand business experiment with the Dreamliner. In a bid to tap the best talent and hold down costs, the aerospace icon has engaged in extreme outsourcing, leaving it highly dependent on a far-flung supply chain that includes 43 “top-tier” suppliers on three continents. It is the first time Boeing has ever outsourced the most critical areas of the plane, the wing and the fuselage. About 80% of the Dreamliner is being fabricated by outside suppliers, vs. 51% for existing Boeing planes.

The Dreamliner’s mounting challenges call into question whether such a radical business model can succeed, and whether the advantages of collaboration on such a scale are outweighed by the loss of logistical and design control.

My day job is editing a magazine about outsourcing in the pharma/biopharma industry, so I wonder about how other industries manage this stuff. It’s not the commodity-level transactions that are interesting (like sourcing your wiring or excipients from a provider), but the question of how you look out-of-house for the more integral aspects of product design and development.

Now, for smaller biopharma companies, that’s a functional necessity, since they don’t tend to have the infrastructure to develop things themselves. But when it comes to aviation, in which there are really only a pair of major players left, it’s gotta be a much dicier proposition.

In this instance, the fuselage cracked.

I don’t feel tardy

I’ve been on prednisone for the last 10 days, trying to clear out the ugly ol’ case of poison ivy I picked up from the Memorial Day yard-clearing extravaganza. The pred has left me pasted by heartburn for over a week, which is no fun. I’ve juggled the sleeplessness with some Xanax & gin, which seems to be working okay, but this morning, I finally looked up all the listed side effects of this little corticosteroid and discovered that among of the rarer ones are a “false sense of well-being” and “mistaken feelings of self-importance.”

I don’t even know how you begin to diagnose that. I mean, does the doctor say, “You’re not doing as well as you think! And you’re simply not that important! This is just a side effect!”

Evidently, I may also get them menstrual cramps, real bad.


Sorry I’ve been outta the loop, dear reader. I was just in one of those not-writing-so-much phases. I can’t afford to get caught in that for long, since I’ve gotta write profiles on the top 20 pharma & top 10 biopharma companies this month.

I’ve also been reading that Robert Moses biography pretty devotedly. Since it’s insanely long, I’ve been a little afraid of putting it down for a few days and losing my steam. It’s a phenomenal story, and the author’s just reached the point where all of Moses’ bridges and parkways are managing to create more traffic. The crux of the problem — Moses’ power-thirstiness — appears to be explained as a function of RM’s domineering mother and grandmother, which just sounds kinda boring. I’m hoping that Caro’s interpretation of RM’s personality gets a little more intricate, otherwise I’m afraid that NYC really is just a twisted child’s vision.

In other news, we went to a surprise 40th birthday party for my “big sister” (next-door neighbors who are more family to me than just about anyone beyond my immediate relations) on Saturday night. It was good to catch up with some of them, since we never get together, even though I still live next door to their house (where their mom lives). Just about all my “brothers and sisters” have kids now, so the evening was spent making sure they stayed out of trouble, got enough attention, and didn’t hear my gin-lubricated sailor-speaking mouth. It was good times.

We also discovered a good restaurant earlier in the day, while looking for a birthday present. It’s right across the street from one of the finest pizzerias in NJ, which I had to stare at while eating my rogan josh. It’s a tough life.

On the plus side, official VM buddy (and nearly VM wedding-officiant) Tom Spurgeon is coming to visit this week. We’ll watch the first game of the NBA finals Thursday night, maybe get to the Belmont (if he’s got an extra ticket for me) on Saturday, hit the MoCCA Art Festival on Sunday, and generally shoot the breeze, which I find to be a delightful and worthwhile pursuit.

Across the Transom

Most people get those wacky Nigeria e-mails during the workday. What do I get? An open letter to the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, apparently written by Borat (just out of discretion, I’ve redacted all personal names, except J-P’s):

Jean-Pierre Garnier,
Chief Executive Officer

Sofia, April 29, 2006

Re: GSK in Bulgaria: Lilliputian in One Year

Dear CEO,

Few months ago as the GSK’s chief partner in Bulgaria we’ve revealed the GSK representative was involved in dubious and near corruption practices and have deplored her threatening and intimidating letters in return (all timely & expressly mailed to you). Now, Mrs. XXXX XXXX unilaterally terminated the two GSK cooperation agreements with Commercial League, the largest pharmaceutical company in the territory. Such an illegal act has no material and contractual ground and bears several harmful consequences.

Beyond the severity of the legal and reputationally unavoidable damages I am more concerned about the long term deterioration of CL/ GSK business relations, at the end turning Glaxo to a Lilliputian pharmaceutical company in the fast growing market of Bulgaria, and perhaps other Balkan countries. I am sure you understand, despite systemic anomalies of the representative or any corporate friction by now notwithstanding, as the GSK main contractual partner CL’s unrivaled marketing machine did not compete directly with your product sales. However, this is exactly what your representative, undoubtedly endorsed by Mr. XXXX XXXX, is inviting through the latest hostile and illegal move. Twelve months from now sales of your peers will replace otherwise good portfolio of GSK in all strategic therapeutical arias and only you can take the lead to stop this inevitable down slide, hopefully not too late.

You know, you personally command my enormous respect,

[XXXXXXX] Chief Executive Officer

Someday, only meth users won’t be congested

The true cost of the War on Drugs was the 3 minutes of my life that were wasted in CVS on my lunch break when I bought some decongestant.

I had to bring a product-card to the front checkout so they could give me the decongestant. Then was told I had to sign a registry book with my name, address, time of purchase, and quantity of pseudoephedrine.

So I’m afraid that “Ambulatory P. Groin” of “1313 Mockingbird Ln.” might find himself getting a visit from the DEA sometime soon. He probably shouldn’t have bought “one pound” of the product, but hey.

(I wonder what expression the clerk would have had if I walked up with 200 product-cards and dumped them on the counter. I swear: when I get over this headcold, I oughtta start a meth lab. This is worse than those Truth commericals.)