Sep 282017
  • There shouldn’t be any such thing as canned asparagus. That someone apparently consumes such a product, demonstrated by its ongoing availability, makes me so sad.
  • Hugh Hefner has died at 91. I have a rather more complex opinion of his life and work now than I had maybe five years ago, but I still think my description of Playboy is spot-on: a magazine for college students and middle-aged men who each wish they were the other. RIP.
  • “There is always more goodness in the world than there appears to be, because goodness is of its very nature modest and retiring.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall      That was good for me to read today on my friend Dennis’s Facebook page. I was just chatting yesterday with a colleague about how little we expect of people in general anymore.
  • I have just given up on my Moto G phone, which worked flawlessly for six months; then with intermittent glitches for another four; and which now malfunctions more often than daily. The screen registers phantom touches that aren’t actually occurring—frequently dozens of them in rapid-fire succession, calling people, launching apps, taking photos, and so forth. Motorola has assigned some poor customer service representative to answer complaints on What they need to be doing is buying these lemon phones back from us.
  • The weather turns a bit tonight. Enjoy it. I know I will.
  • We were eating dinner last night and Aaron suddenly said “hey, this song has the same chord progression as “Let’s Stay Together.” (It was otherwise rather dissimilar.) I replied “welcome to being a musician, son.”
  • And hey, speaking of that dinner, watch Rocket City Mom for a review sometime soon!
 Posted by at 12:50 pm
Sep 272017

I’m over here shopping for a new fall/early winter sport for 2018 and not having much luck. I thought it might be ice hockey. Unfortunately, the NHL has the same problem with CTE the NFL has, only they’re five to ten years behind the NFL in acknowledging it. Sigh. Maybe I’ll try college hoops from the beginning. Never done that before.

Of course the NFL is embroiled right now—not in CTE controversy but in whether and to what degree players are being disrespectful when kneeling during the national anthem (or not coming out, or raising a fist, or tying the flag in knots and passing it through their colons, or whatever).

I think reactions are beyond the pale on all sides of this debate. I think it’s peaceable activism on the players’ parts. I also recognize that the players are employees at their workplace, and their employer legitimately has something to say about how they conduct themselves at work. My passions are remarkably unstirred either way.

I do have a question for everyone who thinks this activism is a great thing, though.

You were just as cool with Tim Tebow praying, right?

 Posted by at 11:29 pm
Sep 242017

“It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football — there is a problem.” – Dr. Ann McKee

Perhaps nothing in my life has given me more silly pleasure than American football. I like the pro game. I adore the college game. I have never known a fall without it. Labor Day weekend is one of my favorite leisure times because football starts for real. I never miss any of the postseason games. And I love that Alabama so effectively sticks it to the rest of the country. Please, hate us. Your tears are delicious.

Yet, barring significant changes to the game, I’m giving it up. I have already dropped the NFL, and this is my last year to follow college. I’ll have my memories on a shelf, like mental memorabilia, and that will be it.

It’s not anything about flags, or protests, or people acting ugly. I’m just barely aware of all of that noise. No, it’s about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—the debilitating, fatal disease to which we are sentencing a substantial number of football players by design.

CTE is degenerative. Repeated blows to the head are believed to be the primary cause of it. It causes confusion, memory loss, depression, dementia, and other severe mental symptoms. Symptoms can first occur many years after the repeated blows stop. Dr. Ann McKee just published a study in which she examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. Of the 111 NFL players’ brains, she examined, 110 of them had CTE.

“Oh, Bo. Come on. Sports can be dangerous. Aren’t you into auto racing?”

The big difference between the scourge of CTE and the risk of injury in other professional sports is that for some significant number of football players, this is a certainty. The players are too big. The equipment is too effective. The forces are too great. Football kills a large percentage of its participants by design. If played absolutely correctly, the game results in substantial fatalities.

That is not sport. That is gladiatorial.

However marginally (he said, laughing nervously), are we still a civilized society, or not?

The whole point has been entertainment, yes? It’s big, stupid fun. Well, how can it be fun now? Can I pour myself wholeheartedly into the NFL playoffs, knowing this guy on the screen will never know his grandchildren, or that guy won’t speak for the last four years of his shortened life? Can I scream “Roll Tide!” knowing that some substantial percentage of the kids I’m watching aspire to the NFL? No, I can’t. I won’t be party to it.

So what would gridiron football have to become for me to follow again? Well, I don’t know. I’ve imagined a game much like today’s, perhaps augmented with electronics that measure touch duration, with a continuous touch of a certain duration being a tackle? Certainly there would be a much larger emphasis on speed rather than size.

Whether the NFL would ever work on the problem at that level is another question entirely. The NFL response to the report is tepid in some ways, and perhaps somewhat constructive in others. But there’s still a bit too much tobacco company in their supposed wonder into the frequency of CTE in football players vs. the general population. Golly gee, we just don’t know.

What we do know is that football is a gigantic money machine, and if that is genuinely threatened, the NFL will move to protect it. Whether it will do so ethically and morally bears close scrutiny. There’s a bumpy start to the 2017 season, but all of the sociopolitical churn makes it hard to tell whether that represents a genuine decline. We ought to be smarter about that in a month or two.

Or, what if parents just stop letting their kids play? Then the sport doesn’t backfill with new talent, or does so insufficiently to preserve the quality of the game. I wonder whether that would ever be a strong enough force to effect change, but it might. There are significant changes already in how our very youngest children play the game. George Will speculates that “football participation will skew to the uninformed and economically desperate.”

I would love for this to get fixed. I’ll be watching the issue closely for progress. Ideally, we’ll have a dramatic medical breakthrough that enables us to protect the players without changing the game too much. Barring that, yes, we’d need to switch things up pretty dramatically. We’d have to learn to get excited about watching a significantly altered game.

Until that day, I must say goodbye.

 Posted by at 4:37 pm
Sep 212017
  • I apologize for my reduced frequency lately. I’ve been writing less anyway, and I didn’t manage even my new “standard” this week. It’s been an unusually busy time.
  • Gene Simmons says he’s charging $2,000 for his box set The Vault, and will personally deliver it to anyone who purchases it. I doubt he’ll find it practical to follow through on that. Expect additional constraints. (No, I am not a prospect for the set.)
  • Last man standing at my house. Nate got sick about a week ago. Lea was next. Now Aaron has it. It’s cold symptoms with a fever; lasts about three days. I hope I don’t get it at all, but I can now without a severe hit to my schedule, so I’m thankful for that.
  • Taco Bell is going to serve alcohol at up to 300 locations. Presumably the model is you drink until Taco Bell food sounds like a good idea, and then you’re already there.
  • The Duluth Trading Buck Naked boxer brief acquisition is nearly complete. I’ll have a full, yearlong review underway by next week.
  • I had pho tai at Viet Cuisine for lunch, and it was good, but a little off. It’s my favorite in town, but there might be an issue with consistency. Further research warranted.
  • I had a nice stainless wristwatch bracelet repaired at this shop this week. It was good, prompt work at a fair price—and the repair is better than original.
 Posted by at 7:45 pm
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