Friday, February 29, 2008

The Marvels of Medical Technology

DUBLIN (AFP) - An Irishman blinded by an explosion two years ago has had his sight restored after doctors inserted his son's tooth in his eye, he said on Wednesday.


The procedure used on McNichol involved his son Robert, 23, donating a tooth, its root and part of the jaw. McNichol's right eye socket was rebuilt, part of the tooth inserted and a lens inserted in a hole drilled in the tooth.


"Nor do they allow marketing that suggests a drink can be consumed without feeling the effects of alcohol."

Some annoying anti-alcohol group is suing Miller over their surprisingly awesome beverage, Sparks.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Thursday that Anheuser-Busch's Bud Extra and Tilt, and Miller's Sparks, contain stimulants that are not officially approved for use in alcohol drinks. The group also accused the companies of falsely suggesting those stimulants will help combat the effects of alcohol.

Falsely suggesting those stimulants will help combat the effects of alcohol? So Miller is telling people, "drink our alcoholic beverage. It's just like drinking a non-alcoholic beverage!"? That just doesn't make sense.

The nonprofit health advocacy group, based in Washington, D.C., will seek a judge's order prohibiting the companies from combining stimulants with alcohol.

Why do people always have to fight against convenience? The great thing about Sparks is that you just pop open the can and start drinking. No mixing involved. They even sell it at Miller Park. These people essentially want you to drink Redbull and vodka instead. Which is more expensive and less convenient.

I like this bit:

Federal regulations do not allow advertisements implying that such drinks have a stimulating effect. Nor do they allow marketing that suggests a drink can be consumed without feeling the effects of alcohol.

So first, you're not allowed to say that your drink has a stimulating effect. But here's a little secret about Sparks: it DOES have a stimulating effect! So this is a federal regulation requiring a company to lie about it's product. Secondly, you're not allowed to say that your product doesn't exhibit the properties that consumers want in your product. So it would be like if the federal government told Coke that they couldn't say, "Coke doesn't taste like Coke." What a useful law!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stuff White People Like: Wrigley Field

The other day, a friend sent me the link to a hilarious website called "Stuff White People Like." I've been gradually making my way through all of the posts. Given that it's the start of baseball [pre-]season, I found this entry pretty funny:

#30 Wrigley Field

One of the best things someone can do to gain the respect and trust of a white person, is to attend a baseball game with them at Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. When most people think of the Chicago Cubs they think of tradition, ivy covered walls, Fergie Jenkins & Harry Caray. A more accurate representation would be khaki shorts, frat boys & rich white business men on their iphones.

Yeah, that's about right. He adds:

Wrigley is an old stadium where people still pee in troths, but white people love paying top dollar to do this. They also like being around “real baseball fans”, even though most of the people in the bleachers are drunk rich frat kids that aren’t from Chicago and have no idea who Ernie Banks is.

Read the whole thing.

The whole website is really funny. I'd guess that the majority of the site's readers are white. Which makes this one true.

There are few things in this world sweeter than seeing something like this in print:

Cactus League Action: Brewers (Vargas) vs Athletics (Blanton), February 28. 2008, 2:05 CST

Welcome back Baseball Season. I missed you terribly. GO BREWERS!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Shelf Etiquette

Here's an interesting article on the Rules of Library Management, by some jag-off at TIME Magazine's website. His "Prime Directive" is:

RULE #1: THE PRIME DIRECTIVE -- It is unacceptable to display any book in a public space of your home if you have not read it. Therefore, to be placed on Matt Selman's living room bookshelves, a book must have been read cover to cover, every word, by Matt Selman. If you are in the home of Matt Selman and see a book on the living room shelves, you know FOR SURE it has been read by Matt Selman.

The first thing this article tells us is that Matt Selman, whoever he is, is a fucking dork. The second thing it tells us is that Matt Selman doesn't really understand what shelves are for. Or maybe he just has a different idea of what shelves should be for than I do.

I view the books that I own as having two functions. We'll call them the "primary function" and the "secondary function." The primary function, is of course, providing information to me, the owner/reader. The secondary function is providing information to people that might observe what books are on my shelves and form conclusions about what kind of person I am based on said books. We'll call these people "chicks that come over to my apartment."

I have four book shelves. The first is located in my bedroom. It contains approximately 15 books (and a plant, some candles, this sculpture thing and some book-ends). I have read 100% of the books on this shelf. The books on this self are mostly my favorites. All of them are newish hardcovers or decently kept up, newer paperbacks. In other words, I've read them and they look pretty nice. They include Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" and "The Baroque Cycle," Michael Lewis's "Moneyball" and "The Blind Side," Carl Sagan's "The Demonhaunted World," Scott Adams's "God's Debris" Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" and the entire Harry Potter series.

The second shelf is located in my living room. It is in an area of the room that can be seen by anyone sitting in any of the chairs in said living room. There are about 30 books on this shelf. I've read approximately 25% of these books. They are all thick hardcovers, from which I've removed the nerdy book-jackets. I obtained most of them from my grandparents' place after they passed away. They include many biographies and historical accounts of wars and things. I'm interested in all of the topics covered in them, but haven't gotten around to reading all of them yet. I think that even though I haven't read all of these books, they still convey something about who I am. They tell visitors that I'm well-read and interested in history. And I am pretty well-read and interested in history. So I don't really think that makes me a poser.

The third shelf is also in my living room. It is a "barrister's cabinet," which means it has doors on it. They're glass, so you can still see what books are inside, but not as well. And it's in a place in the room where it's harder to see unless you're looking right at it. There are about 100 books on this shelf and I've read approximately 95% of them. Some of the books on this shelf are my favorites, but the copies I have of them kinda look like shit. They're mostly beat up old paperbacks I bought at used books stores during college.

The final shelf is in my spare bedroom. I got this shelf at Wal*Mart in like 1999 and it's a piece of garbage that is falling apart. The books on this shelf are mostly textbooks from college and law school, coffee table books I got on sale at Borders and a few miscellaneous others. I'd say there are about 200 books on this shelf... and a small collection of Milwaukee Brewers bobble-head dolls. I read most of most of these books, and they look alright, but one message I'm most definitely not trying to convey is "I went to law school." That's why they're in a room where nobody really goes.

Basically, my system involves accepting the idea that books that I'm interested in, but haven't read, say something about me too. So the books that are the most prominently displayed are the ones that look the nicest. I didn't really do that on purpose, that's just how it ended up. But I like that system, and I'm sticking to it.

How are your books displayed?

Workin' Late

Sometimes I don't think I'm cut out for the real world. I say this based totally on the nine 7:30 to five 6:45 schedule. I do my best work at night and at the last minute. This has always been the case. One of the several corny sayings that I throw around on a regularly basis is "pressure creates diamonds." For me that's totally true. I'm one efficient mo-fo when there's a deadline looming (I say, ironically, as I'm writing a post on my blog). But whatever, it'll all get done. It always does.

Knowing I was in for a late one, I was faced with the decision of whether I plug away until it's done, or go to the gym and then come back. I chose the latter, and I've been a machine since then. I work better when I get in a good workout.

Does anyone else think the 9-5 schedule is stupid?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Incentives and weight loss

In the post below, I noted that keeping in shape is easier when you have benchmarks. Benchmarks simply provide an incentive. For me, that incentive is simply a predetermined task that allows me to measure my accomplishments. Pride, in other words.

Interestingly, the Freakonomics Blog has this guest post by Ian Ayres about incentives and weight loss. Mr. Ayers notes that commercial weight loss programs (Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and Zone) aren't all that effective for keeping weight off for over a year. He came up with a solution:

In the last decade, I’ve yoyo-ed several times. I’d take off a bunch a weight, but by the end of the year I’d put it all back on plus a little extra.

Until this last year, when I did something different. As described in this L.A. Times op-ed, I put $500 each week on safely losing and keeping off my extra weight...


I originally had to lose a pound a week (or else lose money). Then I had to keep my weight below my contractual target of 185 pounds.

In contrast to Weight Watchers, which can cost about $500 a year and helps you lose on average 6 or 7 lbs (about 3 percent of your initial weight), I put $500 at risk each week. In equilibrium, I’ve lost 25 pounds (12 percent of my pre-diet body weight) and so far it has cost me nothing.

Based on this principle, Mr. Ayers created, a website on which you enter into a commitment contract to do anything from lose weight to quit smoking to reconnect with old friends. The site essentially allows you to place a financial wager on weather or not you achieve your goal. If you accomplish your goal, you get your money back. If you don’t, your money goes to charity or to someone you’ve designated in advance.

Here's where it gets intriguing to me. If I have to pay $500 if I skip my workout today, I probably won't skip it. But if that money is going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation or the Red Cross, it wouldn't really be the end of the world. But what if the money would go to an organization I hate? Think of the possibilities. If you're a Democrat, would you even consider lighting up a cig if it meant that $500 of your money would go to Mike Huckabee's campaign? If you're an atheist, would you consider having a doughnut if you had to lose a pound or donate $500 to your local archdiocese? If you're a Michigan grad, wouldn't it be easier for you exercise every day if missing a day meant a substantial donation to Ohio State University?

What goals do you want to accomplish, and what organization do you find objectionable enough that a donation to said organization would help you accomplish your goals?


I think one important factor in getting into peak fitness is setting goals. In the past, I was always in much better shape when I was training for competition. It's always harder to make yourself train hard when there's not an upcoming race or game or competition of some sort. The exception to this was weightlifting. I always liked weightlifting and never competed in it. But with lifting, the benchmarks were clear. If I benched 185lbs 10 times last month, I knew I was improving if I could do 195lbs this month.

One of the great things about Crossfit is that there are many, many benchmarks for measuring your progress. Most of them are short, custom-designed workouts that bear girls' names, like "Angie" (100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 air-squats , for time), "Diane" (21+15+9 reps of 225lb deadlifts and handstand push-ups, for time), or "Nancy" (5 rounds of 400 meter run, 15 overhead squats at 95lbs, for time).

[The fact that most of the benchmark workouts have girls' names also makes it fun because you can say things like, "I did Fran last night in five minutes and thirty-two seconds."]

But some of the relevant benchmarks are much simpler. Like pull-ups. When I started Crossfit in early December, I could do about 2 legit pull-ups. When I was in college I could probably do 5 or 6. Last night I did 17. By June 1st I hope to double that.

Does Jason Kendall Suck?

The short answer to this is: "yeah, pretty much."

Paul at the Wisconsin Sports Bar notes that Kendall is "gritty," which is a fancy way of saying that he sucks but the old-school baseball media likes him for stupid reasons. Paul concludes:

Anyway, he gives everyone a "GRIT" score. Note that being gritty means that you are gritty, and that you are probably bad at baseball. Over the last 25 years, Jason Kendall has 3 of the to 12 scores. He ranks as the 3rd grittiest player of all time with a 214.62 career GRIT, or about 19.51 per year. He trails only Ron Hunt and Craig Biggio. Flotsam also calculated the list of least gritty seasons/players. They feature guys like Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, and Ernie Banks. You know, good players. In closing, Jason Kendall sucks balls, and will be a giant black hole for the Brewers all year. Or until he is replaced.

Paul is probably right for the most part. But it's important to note several things before we completely right off Kendall. The first is that Johnny Estrada sucked a lot too. The second is that maybe Kendall does "call a good game" or bring some other hard-to-measure benefits to the team. Paul doesn't think so. Or at least he doesn't think it's worth factoring in. But I find this relatively interesting. Here are the A's records and ERAs with Kendall catching:

Dan Haren 10-3 2.30 ERA
Joe Blanton 8-5 3.28 ERA
Chad Gaudin 8-3 2.88 ERA
Lenny Dinardo 3-5 2.72 ERA

Here they are after Kendall:

Dan Haren 5-6 4.15 ERA
Joe Blanton 6-5 4.89 ERA
Chad Gaudin 3-10 6.30 ERA
Lenny Dinardo 5-5 5.27 ERA

Now obviously a lot of that has to do with fatigue over a long season and "luck", but those are some pretty huge jumps. If Kendall is at all responsible for improving pitching, I'll take him.

Cuban sandwiches are gross

In honor of the fall of Castro from power, I had a mojito and some empanadas at Cubanitas last weekend. I'm a big fan of Cubanitas. It's a lively place, with good food and fun drinks, and it's certainly something "different" in Milwaukee. The one exception to the "good food" is the Sandwich Cubano. I can't blame Cubanitas specifically for this disgusting thing, because I'm sure they make a lovely version of it. The problem is the sandwich itself, so I blame the whole country of Cuba. The Cuban sandwich starts off with roasted pork, Virginia ham and Swiss cheese. We're okay so far. Nothing wrong with pig and cheese. But then they start to lose me: a dill pickle. Now, I don't know what the difference between a dill pickle and a sweet pickle is, but I do know that I'd rather eat a bug than either of them. I find pickles to be the absolute most disgusting food on earth (except maybe strawberries) and I'm grossed out when even the juice of one touches some french fries on my plate. But it gets worse: with a mustard- aioli spread. I'm not sure what a mustard-aioli spread is, but I do know it burns my nose when I smell it. That can't be good. All that said, the rest of their food is pretty awesome and it's a great place to go if you're into toasting to the fall stepping down of a cruel dictator. And who isn't?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I heard you guys got some snow

I'm sitting in the Las Vegas airport right now. I'm here for a business trip, which is pretty cool. Or it would be cool if I hadn't lost like $300 at the craps table and had my flight home delayed by four of five hours.

As I was sitting here bored out of my mind, I told myself, "at least it beats a day at the office." But as I thought about it more, I'm not sure it does. I like Las Vegas and all, but this kind of trip can really be a pain in the neck for several reasons.

For one thing, it's expensive. Even though I didn't have to pay for my flight and my room, being in Vegas ain't cheap. Between the casino, the overpriced food and drinks and the ocasional lap dance, your money just flies away.

For another thing, I haven't exercised very much in the last three days. When I was looking for hotels, I made sure to check for a fitness room. But when I got here I learned that the fitness room: (1) Costs $20.00 per day, and (2) Blows. So I did an impromptu workout in my room yesterday (5 rounds of 25 pushups, 50 situps and 75 airsquats) but other than that, I didn't do jack. Well, actually, I probably improved my grip strength by farmer carrying my filecase and suitcase. Imagine the guy below, but instead of a muscular guy in a tank top carrying a bunch of o-plates, think of a wimpy guy in a suit with a big pleather file case full of medical records in one hand and a dufflebag full of other crap in the other.

To make it worse, I've been eating like garbage for the past few days. In actuallity, I wasn't eating any different than I did all the time a few months ago, but now it's making me feel like hell, mentally and physically. I've only been dieting and crossfitting for a few months, but after a few days, I've realized just how much I'm on board with the program. I'm "drinking the kool-aid"* as they say.

*I think it's stupid that crossfitters say that. But they do. I'm not sure why anyone would want their fitness program compared to some suicide cult, but whatever.