May 29th, 2007

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Vacation entries unlocked

A quick public note: for the past week we've been off on vacation. On the occasions I managed to have an Internet connection, I've been posting some longish word-picture descriptions of the trip, but keeping them locked down on the "don't tell the world you're not home" theory. Those are now unlocked, so if you're interested, here are Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Suffice it to say, the trip home was uneventful -- the main thing that stuck with me was a big, incongruously chirpy billboard in Orlando for "Vasectomy.com -- It's Easier than you Think!". Oh, and Southwest Airlines gave us a final Disney experience with a half-mile-long line for baggage checkin: managing two suitcases and a cup of coffee really ought to be some sort of juggling-school entrance exam...
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Psychological Warfare in Baseball

Okay, call me slow on the uptake, but I'd never really paid attention to the stats board at Fenway Park before. There's a whole game there unto itself.

We wound up at the Red Sox game last night, courtesy of hungrytiger and isisofcool, who had standing-room tickets but couldn't use them. It was a good, classic game: we were ahead for much of the time, but Papelbon managed to inject some tension at the end by being uncharacteristically shaky for a while. (It's isn't really a Sox game unless it's a nail-biter.) Our mission was to cheer on the returning Trot Nixon, who might be playing for the other guys right now but is still a Fenway hero. Fortunately, the whole crowd got in on the act: he got by far the loudest applause of anyone all evening, several times. (When he and his wife presented the Jimmy Fund Award, the crowd were on their feet for a couple of minutes.) He even had the crowd rooting for him loudly his first time at bat. Then he turned out to be the most effective member of the tribe, which quieted things down a bit -- everyone loves Trot, but no one wanted him to actually *win*. Everyone was fine with him getting hits, but runs left the crowd in conflict.

Anyway...

About halfway through the game, I noticed that the main stats board -- the thing that shows the current batter and how well he's hitting -- didn't agree with the Avaya advertisement board showing the same thing. And that was the moment that I twigged that the main board is there *mainly* to mess with the players and the crowd.

I mean, here you are, standing at the plate. Staring directly at you from across the field is this huge board, with your stats lit up. But baseball is a game of Fun With Numbers, and the board takes full advantage of that. If you're on the home team, and you've been on a hot streak (as most of the team has been), the board shows "Month of May (2007): .348" or "Career vs. Lee: .385". Never mind that your actual record this season is .263, the board will find *some* reason to cheer you up. Contrariwise, if you're a visitor, it switches to "Career with RISP: .204", regardless of the fact that you've been hitting .308 this year. Or if you're down in the count, it suddenly switches to "2007 w/2 strikes: .145".

It's rude, but kind of amusing. Somewhere, up in the booth, there is someone who is paid solely to mess with the players' minds; presumably the players are specifically trained to Pay No Attention To That Damned Board. An aspect of the game that wouldn't have occurred to me, until I watched it in action...
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And the world raises yet another interesting ethics question...

So today's big hoohah is about a woman in Holland who is taking a novel approach towards organ donation. She is dying of cancer, and wants to donate a kidney while she's still alive. But instead of simply submitting to the usual impersonal waiting lists, she's doing something quite different: she'll be appearing on a TV show with three "contestants" who need kidneys, and who will make their cases. Viewers can send in advice during the show; at the end, she'll make her choice about who gets this particular gift of life.

Public opinion has been predictably unhappy about it. People are shocked, and that's appropriate: it's shocking when someone crosses the conventional lines like this. But when you step past the shock of the new and different, the ethics look remarkably thorny, and I find myself of very mixed minds. I'm willing to grant that, by the usual norms, it's kind of tasteless. The more interesting question, though, is is it reasonable?

So here's a question tossed out to the gallery: is this an appropriate thing to do? Should organ donation always be managed with the usual impartial and presumably fair waiting lists, or is there something potentially inspiring about giving the donor the great and terrible power to make this life-and-death decision? Is it reasonable to call attention to the poor state of organ donation with a publicity stunt like this, or is this the thin end of a very bad wedge? I'm pretty sure I could Silverwing this one all over the place, but I'm curious what my flist thinks...
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Fractions

Yes, I understand that you weren't very good at fractions in school. Really, I sympathize. But if you're going to work in the butcher's department, I *do* expect you to learn what "2/3 of a pound" means. And no, 1.25 pounds isn't close...