Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Aunt's Funeral

Yesterday my Aunt Sue's funeral included a long procession to the cemetery along Highway 29.  Along the way about half of the cars going the other way pulled over to the shoulder with their lights on.  We didn't need the room - it's just a tradition of respect for a funeral procession.  I don't know if it's a local tradition or a Texas thing, but I can't describe how much it touched me.  Reminded me of the scenes in Lion King where the animals kneel for Mufasa - not that this was homage to Aunt Sue, just respect for her and her mourners.  I'm not usually a fan of traditions, but I definitely saw the value here.

Sorry if this is a little incoherent.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Curmudgeonly Counting

I was listening to a pledge drive on the radio, and they had several "Challenge Grants" in which anonymous donors put up $5,000 or more if a certain number of callers make a minimum pledge.  Does anyone else calculate the ROI on these things?  One challenge offered $20,000 if 2,000 callers would pledge $360 in an hour.  That's a grant of 1/36, or 2.78%.  Aren't there bonds or CDs that would return more so you could just invest it and give the charity the total return?

I know these are mostly psychological ploys - each of the 2,000 donors can say their pledge was the key to $20,000 - but still.  Building up excitement with the fuzzy math seems even a little dishonest to me.  But I might just be being curmudgeonly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Best of Flicks, The Worst of Flicks

I saw a few movies worth mentioning while on hiatus.

The Social Network: Excellently written story about the beginning of Facebook.  No idea if it's true, don't care, loved the script and the characters.  Well-directed, too, to keep the viewer moving along in what's basically a story about nerds and lawsuits.  My wife got to give me the "yeah, that's you" look many times, although sadly not in the getting-rich scenes.

Catfish: People lie.  Even on Facebook.  Even about sex.  That doesn't make them interesting.  I just saved you 90 minutes of your life - use it well.

Never Let Me Go: I've never thought of a movie as haunting before.  Good acting and writing, solid if predictable story, it's affected me more as I've reflected on it than it did in the theater.  If you don't like sad movies, avoid it (not spoiling the ending - the story is just relentlessly grim).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scalzi's Thinking

John Scalzi is an excellent writer, and demonstrated that skill on his blog today.  You might not agree with everything, but you should check it out:

One bit of housekeeping: Sorry I've been gone so long, but thanks Joe for reminding me some of you needed reading material at lunchtime!  I'm planning on reviewing some books and movies, a personal exploration, some objective election information, and less-objective political thoughts.  If anyone has a preference, I'll try to get to that one first - just leave a comment.  Thanks for your patience!

Reperconcussions On My Mind

On Sunday, 5 head-shot tackles took out 6 professional football players, and that's just from the front-page bylines.  The carnage piled up until even the NFL has announced plans to increase penalties.  I hope the NFL is as concerned when a defensive player whines that the new penalties made him give up a game-winning touchdown.

The NCAA should be concerned.  Defensive tackle Eric LeGrand of Rutgers was paralyzed from the neck down after a special-teams hit on Saturday.  Penalties haven't been increased as these players volunteer for their schools and their teammates.  No guaranteed millions or ex-players' associations, although I believe (hope?) universities have a good track record of taking care of their own.

That's 7 people.  At least, in the headlines.  Even if that's all the injuries, a new study indicates damage at much lower thresholds.  Purdue University followed 21 high school football players, and while 4 had concussions, 4 other players with no evident symptoms suffered a greater decrease in cognitive function than the concussed players.  That's high school players with no symptoms.
"We've confirmed what a few other researchers have hinted at: There is something going on and it doesn't manifest itself with symptoms," said the article's co-author Larry Leverenz, a clinical professor in the department of health and kinesiology and an athletic trainer at Purdue. 
The study was too small for statistical significance, but doesn't it suggest we need significant studies?  If the Purdue study is off by an order of magnitude, that's still one in 30 players - 1-3 on each high school team, 3 on each college team, 2 on each NFL team.  And I don't think anyone thinks the effects are that rare.

I hope the NFL's new penalties work.  I hope they find a way to trickle down the effects to college and high school.  Until then, I hope people stop subjecting their children to these unquantified but KNOWN risks.