August 31, 2006
So, with the time change, the 10 1/2 hours on planes, and the layover, travel annoyances, etc, I was pretty well worn out last night. It was even worse when I realized that my wake-up time, 5 AM in Atlanta, was 11:00 PM the previous night in Hawaii. So the wife and I racked out about 7 PM last night.
Of course, that does nothing to help overcome the jet lag. It’s now 8:30 AM, I’ve been up for the last 4 1/2 hours, and I’ve been answering work emails this morning. I’m far too young to be acting this old and responsible…
Ah well… College football starts in a few hours, and I’ll be hanging out at the Maui Brewing Company with coworkers to usher in the season in style (meaning halfway blotto)!
August 29, 2006
It’s been a busy couple of days. I was up in Chicago this past weekend for a funeral, and now that I’m back, I’m leaving again. Thankfully, this is on better circumstances.
I’m headed to Hawaii for the next week! I’m not sure how much I’ll post, but I will make sure to give my Week 1 College Football Predictions before Saturday morning. I won’t be able to update my results live, but will do so as soon as I can. This year, I’m planning on picking against the spread all year, and I’ll track everything on a spreadsheet to find out whether I can beat the house edge.
After Hawaii, I’ll be in Vegas the weekend after, and headed up to Purdue to watch a game the following weekend. Those trips will probably not include any blogging…
To quote Lewis Black, anyway…
Georgia has escaped the cellar on the SATs, the tests widely used for college admissions.
Results released Tuesday show Georgia’s students performed well enough to lift the state to 46th place, up last year from a tie for last with South Carolina.
Relative success on the writing portion of the New SATs appeared to have helped raise the achievement level.
With the added writing portion, the new SATs have a total possible score of 2400. Previously, 1600 was a perfect score on the tests.
Georgia’s overall score was 1477, which was lower than the national average of 1518.
The state remained last in math, with an average of 496 out of a possible 800. The state’s score on the verbal portion of the test â€” now known as critical reading â€” fell three points to 494 of a possible 800.
Pennsylvania, Florida and South Carolina all scored lower than Georgia on the new test, with Hawaii pulling up the rear, according to results released by the College Board, overseer of the powerful college admissions exam.
Bastards… This new scoring scale makes my score seem a lot less impressive.
I would like to see how my local school district scored, though. I moved here because it was one of the top districts in the state. But if it’s just a matter of beating up on losers, I might have to consider private schooling anyway. Good thing I’ve got several years to figure it out.
Hat Tip: Jason Pye
Yeah, I really hope that’s “60″… Up at the Socratic Rhythm Method. Matt did it this time without any Fiona Apple, and I must say, his new theme is a big improvement. Click over there, because it is REALLY cool…
August 28, 2006
Well, I hesitate to do this, because I worry a bit about my predictive ability. Last year, I thought Purdue was ready for a special season, and they certainly didn’t disappoint, if you consider “special” to be of the short-bus variety. The team broke down worse than New Orleans after Katrina, answering the Orlando Sentinel sportswriter who picked the Boilers as his preseason #1 with their first losing season in 8 years.
But ever the optimist, I’ve got a good feeling about this one, because a lot has changed since last year:
1. There’s been a lot of upheaval in Purdue’s coaching staff. Five assistant coaches were replaced, and consensus opinion is that there are some definite improvements. If nothing else, the coaches are bringing a new attitude to the program, and news reports of spring and summer practices have universally been positive and reflected a reenergized program.
2. There was internal dissension in last year’s team. A “me-first” attitude started to take over, and it wasn’t handled well by Coach Tiller. At times, reports bubbled up to the surface of fights in the locker room or in practice. Some fans chalked that up to the natural excitement of a “fired up” football team, but it was more a sign of a cancer on the team. However, most of the culprits have departed through graduation or leaving early for the NFL, and it seems that the reports out of practice this year show a team that’s together and ready to get down to business.
3. The injury bug bit the defensive backfield. At the beginning of the year, it was one of our weaker units, and injuries hit so hard that we converted a wide receiver over to cornerback. Doubly worse were changes to the defensive schemes. Purdue had previously played a very aggressive, attacking defensive scheme, relying on their speed. To mask the injuries, though, they started blitzing less and dropping linebackers in coverage. The result was a poor run defense and a poor pass defense, with no pressure on opposing QB’s. Mid-year, they changed the scheme back, and the defense returned to old form. This year, they’ll run that same aggressive, blitzing scheme, and Tiller has recruited some serious JuCo and freshman talent to shore up the defensive backfield. They won’t be shutting down everyone they face, but they’ll be worlds better than last year.
4. The offense will be firing on all cylinders. Last year, the offense had a few difficulties. They brought in the spread option to take advantage of Brandon Kirsch’s running ability, but he never seemed to make good decisions. Purdue’s receiving corps struggled, as their primary receiver, Dorien Bryant, found himself facing double-coverage all year. Mid-year, coaches yanked the senior Kirsch in favor of redshirt freshman Curtis Painter. Painter executed the option very well, and showed good decision-making skills, but was too green to be accurate throwing the ball. This year, Painter has had all spring and summer practicing with the starters, and his accuracy should improve. On the receiving end, sophomore Greg Orton looks to be poised for a breakout year, and Tiller’s best recruit so far, Selwyn Lymon, will take the field for the first time. If those two can draw enough coverage that defenses can’t bracket Dorien Bryant, we should be able to pass at will. The coaches have already said they’re going to stretch the field, and this receiving corps can do it. At running back, we have proven talent in Kory Sheets, an explosive JuCo transfer, Jaycen Taylor, and two big bruising backs in Anthony Heygood and Frank Halliburton. And last, but really the most important of all, Purdue has fielded their best offensive line since the 2000 Rose Bowl season. They were good in 2005, and should dominate this year. They’ll give Curtis Painter time to read his progressions, and control the line of scrimmage for the run.
The pundits don’t see this the way I do. Many of them predict Purdue to fit somewhere between 6th and 9th place in the Big T(elev)en. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Here’s how I see it going down:
Sep 2 – Indiana State (I-AA): Big W
Sep 9 – Miami (OH): W
Sep 16 – Ball State: Big W
Sep 23 – Minnesota: W
Sep 30 – @ Notre Dame: L
Oct 7 – @ Iowa: L
Oct 14 – @ Northwestern: W
Oct 21 – Wisconsin: W
Oct 28 – Penn State: W
Nov 4 – @ Michigan State: L
Nov 11 – @ Illinois: W
Nov 18 – Indiana: W
Nov 25 – @ Hawaii: W
Truthfully, that’s what I see, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost to Penn State and beat Michigan State. Those two are going to be close games. I think Purdue is headed for a 10-win season, with about a 3rd or 4th place finish in the Big Ten. If we eek out a win over Notre Dame, which is a possibility given the fact that overrated program will be battered coming off 4 tough weeks, we could finish 11-2. With Purdue’s tendency to lose a game they shouldn’t though, it could be as bad as 9-4. But I doubt it will be worse than that. Either way, this is going to be an exciting season.
August 24, 2006
Hereâ€™s a story on the BBC about how easy it would be for terrorists to poison our food supply: just a tiny bit of botulism in a milk truck, for example, could kill a couple hundred thousand people.
“Prof Wein found milk was particularly vulnerable to an attack. If someone were to put just 10 grams of botulinum toxin into a milk tanker, it could have devastating effects.
“If we didn’t realise what was happening, half a million people would drink this milk… most of these would be poisoned, roughly half of them would die,” he concluded.”
That’s why I drink nothing but distilled water, or rain water, and pure-grain alcohol.
Always in a mood to make sure those who fear everything get aneurysms from worry overload, I figured I’d pass this along. But I thought about it a little more, and did some research. According to Wikipedia, botulinum toxin is “the most poisonous naturally occurring substance in the world” and “a single drop is capable of killing 50,000 people.” Pretty nasty stuff, don’t you think.
Yet women in Hollywood voluntarily pay doctors to inject this stuff into their faces, at least when it’s called “Botox”. In small quantities, botox can be used to treat muscle spasms. In the cosmetic treatment world, I like to call it “voluntary paralysis”.
And last, I was struck by another thought. Botox is used by older women in order to get their face and skin to hold up the way a younger woman’s would… When will they start using it for boobs?
August 23, 2006
Last night, my wife’s crazy friend left to head back to CA (finally!!). Of course, she was scared out of her mind about flying, made doubly so by the bad weather we had in Atlanta. Always one to throw fuel on a fire, I had to correct her (and my wife) when they asserted that commercial planes had RADAR to detect the other planes in the air.
It made me think, how many things of this nature are people completely clueless about? I’m not a pilot, but have spent a fair amount of thought on planes, as my brother is a Marine pilot (helo and fixed-wing), and I was in a small Piper with my close college friend at the controls when we stopped* a plane in mid-air. So I know quite a bit, at least for a layman, about how aircraft fly, some of the differences in private and commercial aviation, and how this whole system fits together.
But how many people think that a pilot of a 747 is the one making sure they don’t run into other aircraft, with onboard RADAR as their guide? I’d say it’s quite a bit, largely due to movies like Top Gun, where pilots do have onboard tracking and targeting RADAR. Yet nothing of the sort is in common use. Our Air Traffic Control system is controlled by people in office-type buildings staring at computer screens and talking to pilots on radios. Thousands of airplanes in the air at a time, traveling at hundreds of miles per hour through crowded airspace; it’s a wonder that we don’t have more collisions. We’ve got a very complex system of RADAR, onboard transponders, banks of outdated computers, and a heck of a lot of human interaction, all making sure that people get where they’re going with an absolutely miniscule chance of trouble.
How does it work? Well, for that, I’ll point you over to HowStuffWorks.com. To put it simply, before a commercial plane takes off, the pilot files a flightplan with the FAA, which helps everyone along the route to be warned that they’ll be expected to be certain places at certain times. The country’s airspace is divided into zones, and as a plane travels through each zone, it is routed by controllers on the ground. This is accomplished by RADAR that identifies that planes are in the air, where they are, their speed and heading, and by a transponder onboard the aircraft, which tells the controller which plane is which**. The controllers take care of routing planes around weather, congested airspace, and turbulence, for every plane within their geographical zone. As the plane traverses from one zone to another, it is passed to the next zone’s controllers.
It’s an insanely complex system. It’s built on a network of hundreds and thousands of people working in concert with technology to keep big multi-ton cylinders riding Bernoulli, filled with hundreds of passengers, from becoming a tragedy. And it works.
In fact, it’s one of those systems that is a credit to governmental action. Of course, I think if the private sector was left in control, it’s not something that wouldn’t be accomplished. And, of course, if the private sector was in control, the system would likely be much more modern and capable of handling more traffic than the FAA system. But the FAA administers the air traffic control system much better than the government administers the US Postal Service or the IRS. Funny how thousands of passengers’ lives create a bit more incentive than customers angry over lost mail. It doesn’t need to be done by government, but at least government does it relatively flawlessly.
Even more, it’s a system that reminds people how complex our world is and how well it works. I can’t remember the last aviation “close call” I heard about on the news. It’s been several years (if not decades) since the last mid-air collision I’ve heard of. Our air traffic control system, fighting old technology and barely designed to keep up with the current load, manages to work, because those thousands of people do their job every day. Thousands of people working to make sure their own small piece is done right (for the controllers, due to desire not to be fired, for the pilots, desire not to die) ensure that passengers make it to their destination and that people afraid to fly are the irrational exception, not the rule.
Reminds me a bit of a market, the open-source community, or a large corporation. Everyone in our nation doing a small thing, often for our own self-interest, and as a result we have a society that accomplishes great things. The Air Traffic Control system doesn’t have one central computer or central planner determining who flies when. It’s a bottom-up system, with pilots eager to be granted permission to fly 3,000 ft higher to avoid turbulence for passengers, controllers trying to fit a puzzle full of fast-moving aircraft into limited space, and yet it’s a tremendous success. Most government (in)action is defined by failure, and yet in this incredibly complex system, failure is so rare as to be a horrible tragedy when it strikes. Pretty wild, if you ask me.
*Yes, I said stopped in mid-air. That’s not a good way to put it, of course. Our airspeed was still positive, it was just our groundspeed that was zero (or slightly negative). Aim a Piper into a strong wind, cut the power significantly and raise the nose to a near-stall angle of attack, and you may just find yourself “hovering” with zero groundspeed.
**If you remember Sept 11th, there was incredible confusion over what flights were missing, and which (how many) were and were not hijacked. While you’d think it would be simple to ask which planes just aren’t where they’re supposed to be, it’s not that simple. It becomes a process of elimination, and searching for planes that aren’t responding to air traffic controller’s instructions. Changes to the system could solve this in the future, but as far as I am aware, the FAA has not advocated the sort of changes that would be required.
Every so often a football coach says or does something that leads most of us to wonder how he can be a functioning member of the world the rest of us live in. The latest case in point is Nick Saban, head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who just the other day turned down a dinner invitation from President Bush. Saban didn’t have to fly to Washington. He didn’t have to miss a game, seeing as the NFL season doesn’t begin for another five weeks. All Saban had to do was drive to Joe’s on South Beach. I’m sure somebody would have been perfectly happy to fetch the coach a car and driver.
But no, Saban turned down the president. Why? Because he didn’t want to take two hours out of training camp.
So, it’s as simple as this: Saban would rather lock himself in a cave and watch film, tinker with schemes, pore over depth charts and sit around with his assistants plotting the exciting intricacies of the next day’s practices than have dinner with the president for two hours. Saban said, “It was a really tough decision for us last night to stay here, work with our team, go to the meetings and do what we have to do in camp.”
It wasn’t a tough decision as much as it was a dumb decision, certainly an arrogant decision. And it wasn’t “we” it was he, Saban. I guarantee you he didn’t put it to a vote of the assistants and players.
Arrogant?! It’s not like the president was offering him the job of Secretary of State, and he said that running a football team was more important. He had an offer to go have dinner in a room where, if he was lucky, he might have a few minutes with the president. This doesn’t show arrogance, this shows that Nick Saban considers his responsibilities a few weeks prior to a season, in the middle of training camp, to be more important than a social activity with a celebrity. That celebrity is the president, yes, which makes someone like me consider it a little more of an honor than dining with Paris Hilton. But it’s a social gathering, it’s not like they’re discussing public policy.
I’m racking my brain wondering why the author, Michael Wilbon, is so critical of Saban here. And the only thing I can come up with is that he’s a reporter. His job is to report on events, and by god, when you’re a reporter, you take every chance you get to be around somebody like the president. After all, the president is a powerful guy, and it’s powerful people who you report on. I can only think that Wilbon is jealous. After all, he may not get invites to dine with the president very often, and here goes Saban, turning down the invitation because he’s too busy.
You know what I think? I think Saban should be commended for keeping his priorities in line. He’s a football coach, and as such, he has responsibilities. Particularly when he’s a few weeks away from the start of the season, in the middle of training camp. Those responsibilities preclude him from leaving in the middle of practice for a social gathering. He’s not a reporter, and he doesn’t have to kneel and kiss the king’s hand. He’s got his own life to live.
August 22, 2006
Quite a while ago, Dec 2004, in fact, I told you all why I prefer NCAA football to NFL. Given that we’re coming up on my favorite season of the year again, when I wake up and spend morning, afternoon, and evening every Saturday watching college football, it’s a good time to revisit that post. And to let Ivan Maisel do it much better than I can, when his editors asked for 20 reasons. And as he puts it:
Oh, the sleepless nights of trying to face such a task. Oh, the agony.
Oh, and one other thing: Only 20 reasons? Sure you don’t want 40?
A few of my favorites:
The appeal of college football is rooted in the simple notion that your team represents you, your state, your alma mater, your youth. The NFL represents — what, exactly? A bunch of 25-year-old millionaires who will dump your town the minute their agent secures a better offer. There is no loyalty in the NFL. College football is all about loyalty.
2. 25-year-old millionaires
Speaking of which, college football has none. What the game does have, instead, is humility. You want the bling and the talk? Have at it. We’ll stick with guys who are still happy to get their names in the paper.
Army-Navy. Ohio State-Michigan. Alabama-Auburn. Texas-Oklahoma. Harvard-Yale. Williams-Amherst. No matter the division, there are rivalries that go 365-24-7. You revel in victory and agonize in defeat. What does the NFL offer in comparison? Dallas-Washington? How big can a rivalry be when they play it twice a year?
NFL owners hold up their hometowns for state-of-the-art palaces that have as much personality as a downtown skyscraper. Give me old-school (there’s a reason that became an adjective) classics like the stadiums at Notre Dame, Ohio State or most any SEC school any day of the week.
And think about this: Which sport has 16 stadiums that average more than 80,000 in attendance? The NFL has one. Which sport has four stadiums that average six figures in attendance? It ain’t the Sunday one.
Joe Paterno has been at Penn State as assistant (beginning in 1950) and head coach (since 1966) for 56 seasons — or seven years before the dean of NFL coaches, Bill Cowher, was born.
And one of my favorites:
20. Eternal youth
How about “eternal co-eds”? I get older, but they stay the same age…
Below The Beltway linked with Football: College vs. The Pros
11 points. Hayden, with a truly underacheiving 9th place finish, gave back 11 points of his championship lead to Dani Pedrosa on Sunday at the Brno race. He was lucky it was only that much. Had Dani won the race, rather than finishing 3rd, he would have taken back an additional 9 points.
At this point, with 5 races left, we have the following totals:
1. Hayden — 201 pts
2. Pedrosa — 176 pts
3. Rossi — 163 pts
4. Melandri — 161 pts
Below that is Capirossi with 151, but he’s effectively far enough back to be out of the title hunt. He does deserve an honorable mention, though, as he absolutely crushed the field in the race Sunday, winning by an absurd margin. The Bridgestone-shod Ducati was working brilliantly, and Capirossi jumped out to an early lead, which he quickly extended to break away from the field. In fact, it was a poor showing for his TV time, as he was so far out in front that the cameras were trained on the people actually racing.
And boy, the race for second was pretty exciting. Pedrosa and Rossi were in an absoluted dogfight, racing mere inches from each other. Considering how hard Pedrosa was riding, I was shocked he finished the race upright, rather than in a cloud of gravel dust. There were several times I was worried he would crash himself and Rossi out of the race together. A few laps from the finish, Rossi was finally able to rid himself of Pedrosa, and cruised to a 2nd-place finish. Pedrosa being a rookie in the premier class, though, I can only think we’re seeing some flashes of things to come.
So where does that leave the championship? Hayden can still win, but he can’t have any more 9th-place finishes. While he’s a great rider, both Rossi and Pedrosa appear to be capable of riding at a higher level. His consistency has put him at the top of the standings, but if he opens the door, those two will happily ride right through it. I expect this championship to tighten over the next few weeks, and we’re in for a very exciting finish.
August 21, 2006
aka: Just Another Day in the War On Drugs
A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, “United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a “lack of significant criminal history” neither accused nor convicted of any crime.
On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez’s name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez — who did not speak English well — and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.
Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez’s story.
Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez’s story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, “We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion… Possession of a large sum of cash is ’strong evidence’ of a connection to drug activity.”
The man was never charged with a crime. There was no proof offered or required that he was in any way connected to the drug trade. But in our war on drugs, that doesn’t matter. And he and his business associates are out their entire life savings.
Now, I don’t know whether his story is on the level. I’ll freely admit that someone driving a rented car not in his name, carrying $124,700 in cash, is a little suspicious. But who holds the burden of proof? If the government is going to confiscate $124,700, I’d say the onus is on them. But in the war on drugs, you have to prove your innocence. The government can come in, destroy your life, confiscate your property, and unless you prove a negative, the best you can do is ask nicely for them to make it right.
I wish I could say that any of this surprised me. But in the war on drugs, not much surprises me any more. I’ve stopped expecting anything approaching justice or common sense. It’s but one more example of our government disregarding the Constitution, disregarding individual rights, and disregarding sanity, in the quest for ever-greater power. I fear that it will get worse before it gets better, and in the meantime, I can only hope that nobody I know or care about gets hoisted on the pike as the next “victory” in the war on drugs.
But don’t just take my word for it. Below is a video from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), a group of current and former law enforcement personnel. As the people who have spent years as the front-line force in the war on drugs, they’ve seen firsthand exactly what has been accomplished. A string of destroyed lives, non-violent people in jail, violent people enriched by the illicit drug trade, and at the end of the day, not a whit of improvement in the proportion of our population who are addicted to drugs.
How long do we have to continue this before we can finally admit it’s not working?
Hat Tip to Radley Balko on the video. If you’re also fed up with the damage to our society, our Constitution, and our civil liberties caused by this useless “war”, please pass this video along.
Overlawyered linked with Driving while loaded
A Stitch in Haste linked with Cash is King Criminal
August 18, 2006
I won’t be posting much over the weekend. The wife’s birthday is tomorrow, and she’s making the transition from “hip twenty-something chick” to “why bother?”…
But if you’re bored, check out Speed TV on Sunday morning (11:00 AM eastern). It’s the Czech round of MotoGP, after their summer hiatus.
August 16, 2006
A couple of good entries:
OK so I’m not really a cowboy gives us his thoughts on Tough Love. I highlight this because it has expressed some of the things I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. I wonder why it is that I look at all my friends who are on various mood-stabilizing drugs for anxiety, depression, etc, and yet somehow I’m the stable one who doesn’t. The only rationale I can find is that I was challenged my whole life. I was expected to perform, and when I didn’t, my parent’s disappointment tought me lessons. I think that one of the crucial flaws about my generation is that too few of us were ever challenged. Too few of us have had to taste the pain of failure, because parents and loved ones tried to shield it from us. When you do that, you only make things worse.
We accept that the immune system is strengthened by exposure to pathogens, that muscles only grow when stressed to their limit, that without gravity, bones do not grow strong. But far too many of us deny the importance of being pushed to oneâ€™s limits when it comes to personal growth.
The key to a childâ€™s success is not their diversity training, their self esteem, or their ability to use large words. It isnâ€™t in making them â€˜feel lovedâ€™, or in the clothes they wear. It isnâ€™t in being passed along to get a meaningless high school diploma. It wonâ€™t be found in a four year degree either. People will only realize their potential when their success is contingent upon their own efforts.
The second post that caught my eye was Matt Barr’s discussion on The most powerful man in the country, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Overall, it’s a very good post about the overreaching our Supreme Court has undertaken trying to right social wrongs where they have no jurisdiction. However, I do think there is one mistake:
Contrary to what I gather is popular belief, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Founding Persons didn’t sit around wondering what would happen if something went sideways and say, “I know! We’ll have a Supreme Court who can strike it down!” If it even occurred to them that the Supreme Court might be in a position someday where it could erase laws from state codes they had considered and validated 15 years earlier, they would have blinked a couple times at how ludicruous the hypo was but then noted that Congress could take away the Court’s appellate jurisdiction any old time it wanted. Checks and balances.
Unfortunately, this isn’t quite true. Judicial nullification of laws that were unconstitutional was widely considered to be a legitimate and inherent power of the judiciary. It wasn’t spelled out in the Constitution because it wasn’t considered something they needed to. I’ll agree with Matt that they likely didn’t think the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction extended to state rulings (at least until the 14th Amendment). Nor would they have looked favorably upon the idea that the Court can write rulings which compel the legislature to write legislation, or the way they’ve completely disregarded the plain meaning in their “interpretation”. But judicial nullification on Constitutional grounds is and was considered a legitimate and inherent exercise of judicial power.
August 15, 2006
Last Monday, I think I must have passed through a hole in the space-time continuum. Myself and one of the sales guys were headed to Birmingham to visit a customer, and we passed a town in Alabama called Chula Vista.
There is no reason why Alabama would have a town called Chula Vista. California? Sure. Mexico? Definitely. But not Alabama. I don’t think Cortez and his conquistadores ever made it to Alabama. Nor does it seem like the most immigrant-friendly place, at least to the point where they’d name their town in Spanish. Besides, a “vista” is something you would want to look at. There’s not much to look at on I-20 between Atlanta and Birmingham. Maybe Talladega, but that’s about it.
My only explanation is that I must have actually been magically transported through a wormhole to the Southwest, and then after passing the town, back into Alabama. Nothing else makes sense.
August 14, 2006
Office managers are under siege. They know that if they set the temperature to 74, they hear from the woman in human resources who says it is too cold. If they turn it up to 76, they hear from the man in marketing who wants to know why it is sweltering hot.
It is summer, which means inside the supposed comfort of air-conditioned buildings, thousands of people are swearing that they are dying of heat, freezing to death or otherwise experiencing thermal discomfort.
I deal with this one daily. My boss is Egyptian, and loves about a 75-77 degree office. I’m of Eastern European descent, raised in Chicago winters, and prefer it to be in that nice cool 68-70 degree range.
But some studies say it’s all in my head:
“There is a very large mental component to feeling hot,” said the psychologist William C. Howell, who has conducted experiments about how accurate people are at telling what the temperature is and about when people feel comfortable.
The experiments do not mean people cannot tell the difference between 70 degrees and 110. Of course they can. But the experiments do indicate that for the kind of arguments people have all the time — in which the range of temperature being argued about is often less than five degrees — psychological factors play at least as large a role in determining comfort as the actual temperature.
In one experiment, Howell had two groups of volunteers describe how comfortable they were in a room. Then he called one group back a couple of days later, after he had raised the temperature by five degrees. He told the volunteers that he had lost their original answers, and quizzed them again about their perceptions of the temperature and their comfort.
With the second group, Howell held the temperature in the room steady but told the volunteers that it was warmer than on the first day. Again, he had them fill out questionnaires about perceived temperature and comfort.
Both groups reported exactly the same changes in perception of temperature and comfort; Howell’s suggestion to the second group that it was warmer seems to have had the same effect as actually making the room warmer.
Well, we all know the power of suggestion is important. And perhaps if I didn’t know the office was 74 degrees, I might not feel as hot. But it can be relative. I start drinking coffee in the morning and feeling warmer. So I crank it down to 70. My boss feels the difference, and puts it back up to 74. After lunch, when it’s warmed up, I crank it back down, and it probably gets put back to 74 by mid-afternoon…
It’s a good thing we’re both laid-back people, or that might get awkward…
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