Thursday, September 14, 2006

A news story about my brother

The Columbus d'Feet ALS Walk is this Sunday. Please visit my walk page. Make a donation or come and walk with me. Your support will be very much appreciated.

My brother Kenny and his family

Grove City man fights ALS with son's help
Local fifth-grader Sam Timmons has been knocking on doors recently asking residents in his parent's and grandparent's neighborhoods for money.

Sam is not collecting for a paper route. He's not selling magazines for school. He's not collecting money for a Boy Scout trip. He's asking people in Grove City to help his dad, Kenny, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Fifteen people per day in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS, or 5,600 new cases per year, according to ALS's Web site. Roughly 30,000 Americans have the disease. Seymour said there are 450 ALS patients in the 56 Ohio counties of the Central & Southern chapter of ALSA. No exact figures pinpointing greater Columbus are available, she said.

ALS patients gradually lose muscle control until they become paralyzed and the disease is eventually fatal.

"I couldn't hit a golf ball over 170 yards and I knew that something was wrong," Timmons said.

After the doctor's diagnosis, "I was devastated. She told me I had three to five years." Another doctor told Timmons, some ALS patients live more than a decade.

Timmons said he went through a hard period of anger and jealousy.

"I was angry at God. I would see other dads at baseball fields throwing a baseball or kicking a soccer ball with his kids and I couldn't do that. And I was jealous. I knew I shouldn't be. I thought why me."

After Timmons started attending healing services at Grove City United Methodist Church on Columbus Streets he said he woke up one morning, "I was down and I looked at my self in the mirror and and said, You can either live with this or die from it. Every day I get down on myself I tell myself that."

And his friends, he said, have been coming out in scores to help him.

"I don't know how someone could go through something like this without a support system like I've got."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Studio 60: Perfect for Aaron Sorkin Return

If you haven't heard, the upcoming Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip premier show is available for streaming from (it will air on TV next Monday, the 18th) (see the news, and some short reviews). I watched it. You can too at the AOL site; however, because it uses WM DRM you'll probably need Windows Media Player 10, which is only available on Windows XP. That's right, you probably won't be able to watch it even on Windows 2000. That really sucks. But that's just how stupid Microsoft DRM is. Well, that's just how stupid DRM is. Additionally, STRANGELY it opened FINE with Firefox but there was a JavaScript error with Microsoft Internet Explorer, so you might want to try viewing the site with Firefox in order to watch the episode. I watched it (45 minutes) in full screen mode, and it looked fine.

I enjoyed it. I actually thought Matthew Perry did an especially good job. You can feel the similarities between it and the format of The West Wing. Music rumbles quietly in the background as title credits put a period on a tense scene at the beginning, for example (oh, and they brought Snuffy back to produce the music). However, there are major differences too. I think Bradley Whitford is trying very very hard not to slide into the Joshua Lyman typecast that actually started well before The West Wing (by the way, have you now noticed movies before The West Wing where he and John Spencer both had roles? (e.g. Presumed Innocent) This happens a lot with certain groups of actors. I wonder if this has something to do with having a shared agent. It makes me wonder about how much casting is actually done on pure connections and not primarily on merit). I think Whitford does a good job avoiding the Lyman trap.

Overall, I think it's great how this show is about two men (a producer and a director? Two producers? Maybe I'm slow, but I didn't catch exactly all of the roles that people would play) who are asked to return to a show that they were forced to leave earlier in life. This seems to parallel Aaron Sorkin's dismissal from The West Wing and his welcoming back for this show. There are some other very specific parallels to the Aaron Sorkin dismissal, but I won't ruin the surprises for you. However, I will mention that I especially like how at the end of the show in the final scene, when the two men march out onto the stage to make their first speech to the cast, and the cast welcomes them with clapping and cheers, the scene pans out and fades away as the final credits appear in the middle of the screen. Behind the credits all you can really see are the backs of the two men who have accepted the charge to take over Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and rescue it. What do those final credits say?
Executive Producers
Aaron Sorkin
Thomas Schlamme

(note: Thomas Schlamme worked with Sorkin on The West Wing)

Welcome, fall TV season.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Telephone telepathy study: some kind words

There has been a lot of criticism (from the popular media/lay folk) of the study that is the subject of this story. The study that asks each of 63 people for the telephone numbers of 4 different friends or family members and then randomly calls those numbers and has the friend/family member call the person back. Before the call is answered, the person is asked who is calling. You would expect that the correct rate would be 25%. However, it was 45%.

Telephone telepathy - I was just thinking about you
Each person in the trials was asked to give researchers names and phone numbers of four relatives or friends. These were then called at random and told to ring the subject who had to identify the caller before answering the phone.

"The hit rate was 45 percent, well above the 25 percent you would have expected," he told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. "The odds against this being a chance effect are 1,000 billion to one."

People who seem to have a problem with this study are saying that the sample size was too small. This criticism didn't make any sense to me. This wasn't a poll. They weren't trying to use a small number of people to estimate some statistic of a large number of people. This wasn't about estimation at all. Thus, I think 63 is not only sufficient, but actually really BIG. It's like the researcher says, the odds against this being chance effect are 1,000 billion to one.

Unfortunately, the criticism about sampling effect is even referenced in the article by the Reuters reporter who wrote it.
However, his sample was small on both trials -- just 63 people for the controlled telephone experiment and 50 for the email -- and only four subjects were actually filmed in the phone study and five in the email, prompting some skepticism.

This obsession with sampling size fascinates me. Was I overlooking something? You could certainly do the Bernoulli trials and calculate exactly what the probability of this being pure chance was, couldn't you? In fact, didn't the researcher do that specifically? That's what he was referring to in his quote, right? What was I missing?

So I e-mailed an ecology professor I know who does some really impressive things with statistics in his data. He's very humble about his capabilities, but we all know better. His response? (note: I think I told him 64 people instead of 63, if you want to check these numbers yourself)
An exact probability of 3.4x10-14. That's more unlikely than encountering Moses on The Oval. My criticism: the sample size was ostentatious.
I'll try to remember this example. Good for those teachable moments.

Yes, exactly! (note, "The Oval" is much like "The Quad" at other universities)

Now, I'm not quite sure exactly what he means by the sample size being ostentatious. That is, could this sample size be TOO large? Could that be causing problems? Or does he just think the researchers are being obnoxious and including far too much data?

Regardless, anyone saying that the sample size is too small needs to really think through what that would mean. Why is 63 too small in THIS case? What exactly is being "sampled?" If 1000 people are enough to poll the opinion of a few million people (or much more, actually), then how many people do you need to say something conclusive about the abilities of humans in general? (there are near 7 billion of them in existence now, but that number could change greatly with time)

It's not about sample size. 63 people is plenty.

If you're looking for something to criticize, look elsewhere.

Monday, September 04, 2006

She's 14. She should know about sex, idiot.

After discussions with her mom, Linda, right, and doctor, Amanda Zaborowski, 14, recently got the first of three doses of HPV vaccine.

For one, does the girl on the left look 14? Evidently I'm a dirty dirty old man.

Moving on, the story is about the HPV vaccine. That's right, it's an HPV vaccine. Sure, it can prevent cervical cancer. However, it's an HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer is linked to the pathogen HPV. Not telling your kids that it's an HPV vaccine is hiding something silly from them. They should know -- it's a vaccine for an STD. If they're 13 or 14, they should know about sex by now. If they don't, you're an idiot for not addressing it with them, and you're basically asking them to learn about it from their peers (which they'll probably do anyway). Additionally, all schools should have had sexual education by that point (unless you live in backwards Deliverance hickville land). Sure, they may not know about STD's yet, but if they know about sex, they're at least ready to talk about STD's with you.

From the story . . .

Cervical cancer vaccine changes 'the talk' for many parents
What they thought would be a routine physical for her volleyball team found 14-year-old Amanda Zaborowski and her mom facing a big question: Did they want Amanda to get a new vaccine that would protect her against the common and serious sexually transmitted disease HPV, or human papillomavirus?

What's the big question? Yes, you want her to get the HPV vaccine!! Are you an idiot?
This was a doctor that her mom, Linda Zaborowski, had trusted since Amanda was a child. She thought the vaccine sounded like a good idea. But she ultimately wanted her daughter to make the decision.

Huh? Are you an idiot?
Do they simply say it's a vaccine against cancer and leave it at that? Or should they also explain that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that, among other symptoms, causes genital warts?

Are you an idiot?

The next section of the story is called "Growing up faster" and begins . . .
Linda Zaborowski says it was clear that she needed to give Amanda, her eldest daughter, more information than less.

Did you really need to think about that for very long? Concealing SEX from her when she's FOURTEEN is just SILLY.
She started to realize that when she sat in on Amanda's fourth-grade lesson on reproductive anatomy a few years ago and discovered that some girls were already menstruating.

Okay. Now you're really pissing me off. And now is when I stop quoting from the article.

Clearly Amanda was taught about sex in fourth grade. She KNOWS it exists. Sure, she may not know much about it, but she knows that one day she'll be having it. She may not know about STD's. So right now, without knowing about STD's, she thinks sex is just something natural that people do that doesn't have any consequences outside of maybe pregnancy (which, I'm sure, hasn't really sank in yet).

So keeping her from knowing about STD's actually seems to promote sex MORE than telling her about them.

Tell her about STD's. Tell her about all of the complications of sex. Give her information. Make her responsible. She's got an active reproductive system. That's just as much of a weapon as a car is. When she turns 16, you want her to be responsible in her car. Well, now that she's 14, you should give her all the tools to be responsible about her reproductive equipment. After all, women mature faster than men at that age. She'll be able to handle it.

The whole debate is stupid. Would you not give your child an MMR vaccine because the child protested against it?

The vaccine is just good sense. It will be nice when it becomes good common sense.

Steve Irwin is DEAD!

Stingray Kills 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin
Steve Irwin, the Australian television personality known as the
"Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray while filming an
underwater documentary. He was 44.

'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin dead
Steve Irwin, the enthusiastic "Crocodile Hunter" who enthralled audiences around the world with his wildlife adventures, died Monday after being stung by a stingray while shooting a TV program off Australia's north coast.

Media reports say Irwin was snorkeling at Batt Reef, a part of the Great Barrier Reef about 9 miles (about 15 kilometers) from the town of Port Douglas, when the incident happened on Monday morning.

Irwin, 44, was killed by a stingray barb that pierced his chest, according to Cairns police sources.

Irwin was in the area to film pieces for a show called "The Ocean's Deadliest" with Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, Irwin's manager and friend John Stainton told CNN's "American Morning." But weather had prevented the crew from doing work for that program, said Stainton, so Irwin decided to do some softer features for a new children's TV show he was doing with his daughter, Bindi.

"He came over the top of a stingray that was buried in the sand, and the barb came up and hit him in the chest," said Stainton.

Wildlife documentary maker Ben Cropp, citing a colleague who saw footage of the attack, told TIME that Irwin had accidentally boxed the animal in. "It stopped and twisted and threw up its tail with the spike, and it caught him in the chest," said Cropp. "It's a defensive thing. It's like being stabbed with a dirty dagger."

I guess that means his daughter (a child?) was there with him? That's really sad. Well, it's sad either way.

Crazy marine life.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Once upon a time . . .

. . . I grew a beard. It was for a "mountain man" competition among some GTA's. We read about a similar competition held at a different school among a similar group of grad students. So we decided to try it ourselves. Unfortunately, I was also parting my hair at that time.

Take a look at the competition page. Personally, I think I won. However, Raj had the ability to puff his beard out with a comb before the final pictures were taken. In other words, he cheated.

This was years ago (2003). However, today someone did a Google Images search for my name and these images turned up. Thank you, Google, for keeping everything current. I think they call this the "long tail" effect or something.

So there ya' go. Bearded and hair-parted Ted.

I so won that competition. Damn you Raj and your fro pick (and puffy cheeks, I think?).

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Church of Brunch

Feeling secular, but also miss that camaraderie you felt with your old church peers every Sunday? Well, you can get that same Sunday social feeling without all the God talk at the Church of Brunch. Sounds great!

"Church of Brunch" on today's Weekend America
There was a time decades ago when nearly everyone spent Sunday mornings at church. Sunday services were so pervasive that the event became a place of community for the whole neighborhood. Now that religion is less prominent in some folks' lives, they are looking for that same type of community, but minus the God. One such group in Austin, Texas started their own church, the Church of Brunch. Alex Cohen tells us what it's all about, and if the hash browns are really divine.

Note: I don't want to give you the impression that this is just a bunch of people eating together. This particular church does churchy things. They have a few readings. They sing. But it's all secular and none if it is about how to live your life. Instead, it's about community and... happiness, maybe? It's really everything that people seem to like about church, just without the God. From their blog:
  • Group singing
  • Non-religious inspirational (or thought-provoking) readings
  • Quiet contemplation
  • Humorous interludes
  • Fellowship
  • Brunch!!!

There is apparently another Church of Brunch in SLC, Utah, and there's also a Church of the Barbeque in San Francisco, I think. It's hard ot search for these things since lots of churches have brunches and barbeques.

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Ohio Football Rain

It's raining right now. It's a type of rain I never saw in Texas. I don't think I ever saw it in North Carolina either. It's the type of mist that you'd expect from a greenhouse (or a supermarket?) right during watering time, except with the pressure increased a little more than usual so that the mist has a little bit of directionality.

Looking out the window, you see the image of rain you would see on a TV screen if you were watching a football game from a camera somewhere high in the stands with a wide angle lens... except out the window the rain is right there. It's just a light mist. Just a ripple in the fabric of the vision of the trees just beyond the parking lot outside the window.

It's good football rain. It should make for a good game later. It makes me miss going to games. Going to games when it is pouring sucks. Going to games when it's sunny is nice, but it can get hot. Going to games like this... There's something special about this. It's just a mist. You slowly get wet, and if you get out of it soon enough, you'll dry off almost immediately. There's something that says "midwest autumn" about the rain.

It's great.

I hope it rains like this all day. I wish my desk faced the window so I could always have it in the background.

Go Bucks. :)

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Bill of Rights

Look closely . . . and picture this on a shirt.


On a similar note as before . . .

Description: "Where's the best place to meet a hot sandwich? The club. Baby, I like it rye."

Hm. I would actually buy that shirt.

Practice Safe Lunch

I would never wear this shirt, but I love it.

Practice Safe Lunch: Use a Condiment

Columbus is my city, Ohio is my state . . .

Go Bucks. Beat Northern Illinois. :)