Well, not literally. As funny as it would be, nobody is expecting the Senior Editing staff of Journal of Applied Psychology to march the ball up the field. But I/O psych actually does have practical applications to sports.
We already know that if you have a bunch of job applicants you can use properly constructed and skillfully administered employment tests to pick out the most suited to the job. If you have a Pipeline Operations Tech, for example, you may test for mechanical knowledge, basic mathematical ability, and upper body strength. Add up those three test scores and blammo! You just have to pick the applicant with the best results to maximize your chances of getting a high-performance employee.
And so it is with sports --or can be. Coaches and scouts already use lots of information about athletes to draft new players or trade veteran ones. 100 meter dash, bench press, high jump, height, weight, number of yards gained during high school or college, et cetera. These analysts of talent look at all these things and make a determination about an athlete's potential performance. It's not that different than looking at an applicant's mechanical knowledge, mechanical ability, or upper body strength, is it? (Hint: no, it's not.)
Thing is, coaches and scouts usually aren't scientific or methodical about it. Going by gut and experience only lets our puny human brains take into account a few factors at a time, and it leaves us vulnerable to all kinds of human foibles and biases. So coaches and scouts are only taking advantage of a tiny fraction of the data's true predictive power (or worse, they're making entirely wrong predictions).
Enter I/O psychologists or others trained in the mysterious ways of data management and statistical analysis. It's fairly straight-forward to take a bunch of data and see what predicts what by building a multiple regression formula, a path analysis, or a structural equation model. (That's basically statistical l33t sp34k for saying "to the degree that a player has X, Y, and Z, he/she will do well".)
As a matter of fact, my friend and fellow U. of Missouri -St. Louis graduate Spencer Stang has a company called SportLab that does this very exact thing with a product called "BASELINE".
Another interesting example of this sort of thing can be found in a book called "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game". I haven't read it yet, but I did hear a fascinating interview with its author on NPR. The book describes how Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A's, looked at these kind of stats and systematically interpreted them to scoop up the right players (most often those who were not highly sought after by others) to assemble a winning team --all on one of the League's smallest budgets.
If this catches on, we'll be worshiped like tiny, number crunching demigods. It'll be awesome.
I was going to post this picture at the last pregnancy update, but things obviously got hectic. One night last week Geralyn and I sat down with a game of Scrabble and ended up with the following:
I guess you can say we were preoccupied.
For those keeping track, Geralyn, Samantha, and I are all back home at this hour. We ended our stay at the hospital earlier today, but we still have a lot of pictures to remember it by. Here's a few:
You may notice from those pictures that Sam looks a bit yellow. In fact, she has a moderate case of jaundice, which occurs when an infant's liver is not yet able to eliminate a certain substance called bilirubin. It's what causes that yellow complexion. Her case was strong enough to keep us at the hospital for 48 hours instead of 24, and we're going back tomorrow so that the doctor can monitor her closely.
There's nothing to be concerned about; they just want to monitor this closely. Worst case scenario is that they give Sam a blindfold and put her under some ultraviolet lights, which breaks down the bilirubin in her skin.
Other than that, everything is fine. Sam seems to be more content here in her own nursery than in the hospital, though we do miss the 'round the clock nursing staff, the lactation consultants, and the room service.
Enjoy the pictures. I still plan on posting a more detailed accounting of the labor, delivery, and recovery, but I need sleep first.
Let's get the big news out of the way first: On January 25th, 2004 at 4:42 a.m. the world population increased by one as Samantha Alyse Madigan was born a week ahead of schedule. She weighed 6 pounds 10 ounces measured 20.5 inches long, and has lots of dark brown hair. I estimate her IQ to be somewhere in the high 200s.
I've only come back home to grab a few things and take a shower, then I'm headed back to the hospital to stay the night with Geralyn and Sam. So I'll post the highlights and a few pictures now, then a much more detailed recounting of our adventures in birthing.
Let's start with the pictures. I have many and will put together a full album, but here's four good ones. Click on any to see a bigger version.
As far as highlights go, here's how it unfolded, starting Saturday, January 24th:
8:22 am -- Geralyn's water breaks, exactly one week ahead of schedule.
10:30 am -- We leave for the hospital
11:03 am -- We check in to triage and Geralyn is examined.
12:14 pm -- They tell us we're not going back home and admit us to room 305 in the Labor and Delivery unit.
12:45 pm -- Geralyn gets her I.V.
2:04 pm -- Geralyn is administered Petocin to induce labor (despite having her water broken, she wasn't having any noticeable contractions)
2:49 pm -- Geralyn feels the first "uncomfortable" contraction and they get steadily worse.
6:36 pm -- Geralyn is dilated to 8 centimeters
7:01 pm -- Geralyn is given an epidural
10:40 pm -- Geralyn is fully dilated to 10 centimeters and she starts trying to push the baby out
4:42 am -- After six hours of hard pushing and work, Samantha Alyse Madigan is born. We thank God.
Thanks to everyone who has already called, e-mailed, and sent instant messages! A much more detailed report is forthcoming in the next couple of days.
Oh, and here's the final pregnancy update picture of Geralyn that we snapped right before we left for the hospital:
We think Ger's water just broke. We're leaving for the hospital now. Bye.
A while back, right after I finished reading George Orwell's Animal Farm, I quipped that the novel's message was so apparent that to point it out would be "...akin to opening up the Sunday newspaper circular for Wal-Mart and saying 'See, what the author is trying to tell us here is that they have low prices every day, guaranteed.'"
It's almost like Sam Logan, who creates the very excellent online comics "Sam & Fuzzy", was listening in. Just a few days later he ran this comic, which proved to be so popular that he created tee shirts featuring the punch line.
You should read a few strips of Sam & Fuzzy and see if you like it; I do. Other web comics I read? Sluggy Freelance is probably my favorite. Despite the rough art style it characters and stories are really fun. PvP is probably the highest quality webcomics out there. (I once had the pleasure of hanging out with Scott Kurtz, its creator, while he visited GameSpy. I saw him two years later at a convention and he didn't know who the hell I was. Nice guy, though.) Penny-Arcade isn't often laugh-out-loud funny any more, but it's pretty much required reading for gamers and the art is very good.
Nodwick has superlative art and you'll find it funny if you were ever into role-playing games at any point in your life. SinFest only has about a half-dozen jokes, but they're good ones and the strip has style. Foxtrot is a Sunday paper staple, but you can read it for free online. Bob the Angry Flower flitters between "really weird" and "really weird but funny". And finally, Partially Clips proves the importance of writing by taking clip art and turning it into (usually) very funny cartoon strips.
Make with the clicking.
Let's be honest: despite Geralyn's best efforts, my diet isn't perfect. I have not, however, eaten at McDonald's or its ilk in quite some time. Years, even. That stuff is poison, and I don't see how anyone can not hold themselves responsible for eating too much of it.
To remind you just how big a "Super Size" has gotten, here's a comparison between a large fries and an adult llama:
That's why I'm intrigued by this review of a new documentary called "Super Size Me". The film maker starts off as a trim, healthy adult who gorges on 3 meals a day at McDonald's for 30 days straight. He interviews people, including children, about their eating habits. He also meets with the U.S. Surgeon General to discuss the obesity epidemic and he asks lobbyists for the fast food industry to explain themselves.
I think this quote more than gives you the idea:
Spurlock [the film maker] starts out the picture of health, a strapping 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds. Three doctors and a nutritionist, who reappear throughout, examine him and attest to his well-being. But within a few days, he's vomiting out of the window of his car. And it's downhill from there. Spurlock's body goes through a general deterioration that surprises even his doctors in its rapidity. (His girlfriend, a vegan chef, is beside herself.) Gaining weight is just the outward sign; his liver becomes toxic, his cholesterol skyrockets, his libido sags, he gets headaches, and he becomes depressed.
This film just came out at Sundance recently, but I'm going to keep my eyes open for it. I'm not sure that it's something that will present itself on the shelf at my local Blockbuster Video, but you never know. In the meantime, if you eat at fast food places more than occasionally, you might want to check it out, as well as read the book Fast Food Nation.
I've been reading a lot in the last 6 months. Certainly more than I did during the years I spent obsessed with video and computer games. I track what I read on the Now Reading page for your convenience and sanitation, and as you can see in the pic below I've got a big backlog on the "to be read" bookrack next to my bed:
I don't often have a chance to talk about what I read with people who have also read the same books. One fascinating solution to this problem via the magic of the Internet is to create a virtual book club. BookBlog.net is one good example of this approach. Each month, one of its members picks a book and everyone spends the first three weeks reading. The fourth week of the month is dedicated to guided discussion on the site's message boards. The person who picked the book asks one question per day in order to get/keep things moving.
I'd just join BookBlog.net, but their selection of books has been a little ...odd recently. There have been books about hermaphrodites, Japanese coming-of-age stories, and Chinese fairy tales. These are all perfectly fine topics; they just happen to not overlap with my interests.
So I thought I'd toss this idea out to anyone reading this blog: Would you be interested in joining a virtual book club modeled after BookBlog.net? It wouldn't be all Stephen King --look at the Now Reading page and the pic above to see what I'm into. Besides, other people would pick books, too. Starting with a group of friends, family, and anyone else who enjoys the witless banter on this site would increase the odds of ending up with a reading list of interest to all of us.
Any interest? Leave a comment on this thread, send me an e-mail, or shoot me an instant message.
Last weekend Geralyn and I went to the San Diego Science Center near downtown. We thought it was one of the few chances we'd get to do this kind of thing for a while. The science center is okay --not as good as the one in St. Louis, but it had some interesting displays and an IMAX theater.
I snapped a few pictures for your compulsive clcking needs. Click on each one to see a larger version.
I'm a Stephen King fan. I've currently trying to collect and read every novel he's published (current score: 25 out of 52), and recently finished up the latest in his Dark Tower series, Wolves of the Calla.
I didn't like it at all.
I had originally wrote "hated it" in that last sentence, but my venom really isn't that potent. Many people (like this columnist on Blookslut.com) have accused King of "jumping the shark". This is a euphemism for passing one's prime, made popular by the infamous Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumps over a bunch of sharks ...on water skis. I mean Fonzie was wearing water skis, not the sharks, though that might have been an improvement.
King's latest, 700-page shark jump is Wolves of the Calla, which is supposed to be the next installment in King's thrilling Dark Tower series. The main gripes I have with the book are that it's trite, and it's boring.
Coincidence veiled as fate (or vice versa) is a major theme in The Dark Tower books, and WotC swims in it. People are at the right places at the right times, they know passcodes and others' thoughts because they were fated to. The action, what little of it there is, is entirely plot-driven instead of character-driven. The end result is that the whole plot feels like it was shoe horned into place by a tired author that just doesn't care about making sense any more.
Another example of this is the flashback about Father Callahan's activities since we last saw him in 1978's 'Salem's Lot. Callahan had been infected by a powerful vampire, made unclean to the point where God rejected the priest and sent him into a booze-slicked exile. In WotC, not only is Callahan "all better" in the span of a few pages, but we get inexplicable new rules about the vampires that were never present or hinted at in 'Salem's Lot and seem to serve only the purpose of setting up the plot for this book and its sequels. Again, I felt that King was cramming a square peg through a round hole.
Perhaps WotC's most egregious shortcoming, though, is that it's boring. The titular wolves don't make an appearance until the last 50 pages or so, and when they do show up their action is almost meaningless and short-lived. The rest of the book is almost only sparsely populated with all the things that typically make us want to turn the page: suspense, action, character development, and revelations about Roland's world. It's just not there.
There are a few good things going on in WotC, like Jake's character development and the introduction of Mia (though I kind of felt like "been there, done that" in reference to the latter). But they're very few and far to far between.
Oh, I'll still buy and read the next two books, but I may kick back to some older King circa the 1970s and 1980s while I wait.
Some new pictures for you today. When we started thinking about redesigning the nursery, Geralyn made it fairly clear that she was going to retain final judgment on the colors, decorations, and general theme. As a compromise, I told her that I got to decide on the theme of the guest/baby bathroom, which is right next door. I was originally going to go with a tropical fish theme, but eventually decided on frogs.
I'm particularly proud of the "Ribbit... Ribbit..." stenciling across the top of the walls, which was my idea. With a total of forty-eight frogs in the one bathroom, we may have gone overboard, though. Some thumbnails are below, any of which will take you to the full gallery.
Pregnancy Update: Week 38
I think we're ready when baby is, or at least as ready as we're going to get. I mean, we've learned what we can from books, taken all the classes, painted and furnished the nursery, stocked up on diapers and various ointments, picked out itty-bitty baby clothes, toured the hospital, made a list of critical phone numbers to call, installed a car seat in each car, and watched what seems like a thousand episodes of that show on the Discovery Channel where they redo nurseries while the parents are at the hospital.
We've even packed our hospital bags at this point. Included or to be packed at the last minute are:
Any experienced parents out there see anything we're missing?
As I mentioned, we toured the hospital where we're going to be delivering today. The bad: It's quite a ways away from where we live (thank you, Blue Cross HMO). The good: It's relatively new and pretty nice. The labor and delivery rooms are private, bright, and stocked with comforts like a CD player, cable TV, and a fold-out bed for moi. I just REALLY hope that we don't have to drive there in rush hour traffic while Ger in labor. Statistically, though, the odds are against it.
As usual, the pregnancy photo album has been updated with this week's picture:
Also, just for fun, here's a picture of where we'll put Samantha once she gets home:
Man, want to waste some time? Check out www.ratemykitten.com. I must have just clicked through a few hundred pictures of kittens, cats, and the occasional blob of unidentifiable fur. The gist of the site is that people submit pictures of their kittens, then you get to rate them from 1 to 10.
Sites like this one crack me up. A quick search on Google shows that there are sites dedicated to rating things such as mullets, puppies, implants, fingers, tatoos, cars, pectoral muscles, PC cases, gas masks, thongs, photographs, houses, babies, birds, dresses, arts, crafts, men, women, squirrels, feces, camel toes, wedgies, and a number of things that are too indecent to mention here.
I am seriously considering creating a "Rate My Llama" site, as no website currently exists to fill this gaping hole in the "Rate my X" community. I'm shocked.
Well, not really, judging by my conspicuous lack of bling and/or drug addiction. But I was kind of surprised to find this page dedicated to me on RottenTomatoes.com. There I am by merit of the video game reviews I've written for GameSpy.com. In fact, most of the GameSpy.com staff can also be found there. Rotten Tomatoes is a website most renown for its compilation of movie review ratings, and it appears that they are, like many companies smelling the sweet scent of money, expanding into video games.
I found the page above via Google. "Googling" one's self is fun. Searching for my name brings up the link above, this website, and a few other interesting things referring to myself and other folks sharing my name. Searching for Thrrrpptt! brings up even more (and I think I alone use that particular moniker).
Try it on yourself and let me know if you find anything interesting.
This story, sent to me by Frank, is some crazy stuff. File it under "I read it on the Internet" with the appropriate amount of caution, but it discusses the new role that some neuroscientists are playing in determining how advertising affects the human brain.
In it, the author describes a study that found that branding can have just as much affect on how something tastes as ...well, as taste does. He describes a version of the familiar "Pepsi Challenge" where subjects are hooked up to brain monitoring equipment, sample unmarked cups of soda, and report which they like better. Usually it's Pepsi, and researchers can see changes in an area of subjects' mellon called the ventral putamen. This is a region of the brain known to be associated with feelings of rewards.
However, when researchers told subjects which cups contained which brand of soft drink, almost everyone picked Coke. What's more, there was increased activity in the brain region controlling higher-level cognitive function.
It could be argued that Coke's marketing and brand image were affecting how they tasted the soft drink! If not that, then it at least affected which they preferred! That alone isn't too surprising to people convinced of the power of marketing, but what is huge is that these scientists are measuring it with hard, scientific data. That's huge!
You should really read the whole article. It goes on to talk about how some scientists are using their expertise to determine the effectiveness of specific marketing and advertising techniques. They can do stuff up to the point of showing you the same product packaged two different ways and measuring which one you prefer, all without your doing anything overt. It's creepy, in an Orwellian kind of way.
Thinking on this, though, I can see other applications for such technology in the realm of "Industrial/Organizational Neuropsychology". An important issue in the hiring process is determining person/organization fit between a job applicant and the company. In a nutshell, this deals with the degree to which the applicant and the organization have the same values, preferences, and expectations.
What if you could jam a few electrodes into a job applicant's head, then describe or show him situations that are typical (or atypical) of those encountered in your organization. You could measure his brain activity when you show a vignette of a group working as a team, versus that of a bunch of individuals working independently. You could describe a job's travel requirements and see how averse the applicant's brain is to that information.
The problem of job applicants' aversion to having needles stuck in their brains aside, how cool would that be? I'll make millions!
One of my earliest memories involves discovering that the perfection and omniscience of adults --particularly one's parents-- is a brittle ruse. The memory in question involved a huge set of orange and black Encyclopedia Britannica books that my family kept, for some reason, in the hall closet. For those who don't know, encyclopedias are like the precursors to the Internet, except without so much pornography and advertising. You could look up all kinds of subjects and read all about them while looking at color photographs or drawings.
In this case, I had snuggled in the hall closet between the vacuum cleaner and a foot locker full of blankets, propping the volume "T" between my knees and flipping through it. I came to Einstein's Theory of Relativity and paused to look at the bizarre line diagrams and photographs of space --a subject which used to fascinate me as a kid.
I don't think I was old enough to read much, but I could make out that this entry dealt with a theory of relativity (I spelled the word out phonetically as I had been taught to do), that it was really complicated, and that it involved Albert Einstein. I knew Einstein was really smart. Beyond that, the words and diagrams were beyond me. And that was weird, as I thought the subject should be pretty straight forward. I thought I knew all about relativity, but apparently I only knew a little bit.
Puzzled but intrigued by the pictures of space and the diagrams full of wavy lines and concentric circles, I took the book to my mother and asked her to "explain the theory of relativity to me".
I remember quite clearly her blank look that flowed into amusement streaked with anxiety. "I can't," she said. "It's very difficult to understand. There are only a few people in the whole world that really understand it."
This was an unexpected answer, and a pretty unsatisfactory one. "I think I understand it," I said.
"Yeah, it's like how Shawn's my sister and I'm related to her. Aunt Jo and Unc are related to me. Are there other kinds of relationships?"
At that, of course, my mom laughed. She explained that that's not what "relativity" meant. I was slightly annoyed at my own ignorance, but then asked her to explain what it did mean. No, she couldn't. Could Dad? No, she didn't think he could either.
So I was left not only with my own sticky ignorance of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, but the realization for the first time that there were things my parents just didn't know. I dealt with it, of course, and it probably spared me a lot of perplexity later when other adults, especially teachers, did assinine things or tried (unsuccessfully) to veil their ignorance.
But still, that's a tough moment for a kid no matter how unavoidable it is. Like with demolishing the myth about Santa Claus, it's kind of what we psychologists like to call a "critical incident" in the occupation of childhood. I see it as part of the promotion process into the much more cynical job of being an adolescent. Already, I'm wondering about the time when my own daughter will ask me a question I can't answer.
Perhaps I'll just lie and tell her that Einstein had discovered a new kind of cousin that only became apparent when one approaches the speed of light.
Hey! This was a very busy week for us with lots going on in the pregnancy, so this is kind of a long update. Perhaps most exciting is that Geralyn went to one of her routine doctor's visits earlier this week and they did another ultrasound to check up on things. Not only has the baby "lightened" by moving into an upside-down position in preparation for delivery, but the sonogram tells us for sure that she is indeed a she. Whew!
And while we're on the topic, what is it with sonogram technicians having such interesting (and sometimes crude; let's not forget the whole "twat" incident) words for that tell-tale area between baby's legs? This time around, the tech asked Geralyn if she could "see the baby's hamburger". Like baby had somehow gotten a Burker King takeout order delivered in there. Sure it kind of looks like a hamburger if you think about it, but then you'd really be thinking about it too much. I'd think that these people could discuss human anatomy without resorting to vulgarity or similes involving foodstuffs.
At any rate, here's the picture from the sonogram (click it for a bigger version). See if you can find the hamburger --I sure can't.
The other big event was that we went through a marathon class on labor and delivery, which stretched across most of both Saturday and Sunday. We trekked over to another hospital, carrying pillows, blankets, and a gallon of apprehension with us. The latter was with us because we knew that the class was supposed to be no holds barred and that it would, at some point, involve THE VIDEO.
It was rumored that THE VIDEO spared no detail and obscured no part of the birthing process, shoving its unblinking electronic eye into the very heart (or crotch, in this case) of the process. And as promised, THE VIDEO was one of the first things that we tackled Saturday morning. In a darkened room ten couples squinted at a 25-inch television set that beamed forth the glorious, gruesome spectacle of life.
I witnessed bulbous, furry little heads squeezing through tiny holes like blobs of screaming toothpaste. I saw one woman reach down to pat the emerging baby between her legs, then cry with hysterical joy as the rest of its head popped out. For a second before the baby's shoulders and body followed, they resembled a single, two-headed creature like what you might read about in a H.P. Lovecraft story.
Going in, I didn't know how I would handle THE VIDEO. During the spectacle I glanced around the room to see several of the other fathers-to-be hanging their head down between their knees to avoid the whole thing. Once the beautiful gore of childbirth started, though, I couldn't look away except to glance at Geralyn and whisper "That ...is ...AWEsome!" Even when the placenta was delivered, looking like a hunk of raw meat, I only flinched a little.
On the whole, the class was pretty good. We did some breathing exercises that seemed silly outside of an actual delivery, but Ger and I walked away feeling like we were reasonably educated on the matter (the half dozen books we've read helped as well). I can't promise complete calm during the actual labor and delivery, but I don't think I'll flip out. And I know Geralyn is going to do great.
To close things out, the picture of Geralyn for week #37 is below. It was actually taken yesterday.
For fun, here's a screenshot of my computer desktop at work today. I decided to just snap it when my mind started wandering, as it usually does when I need a break. Click for a bigger version.
I like to keep things tidy, but if you look closely you can see some of the icons I keep handy, as well as a few random documents. Miranda-IM, my preferred instant messager client, is open there on the right. I was chatting with shaithis at the time.
What's on your desktop?
Recently I finished George Orwell's Animal Farm. I'd read it before, but have been familiar with the story for a long time. When I was a kid, cable television was brand new. Most of the channels were wanting for content, so they repeated what they had, over and over again. I remember that Channel 5 would endlessly repeat three cartoon movies based on classic literature: Watership Down, Gulliver's Travels, and Animal Farm. Being a kid, I watched them again and again and again. Watership down was particularly vivid (I also eventually read and loved that book), but so was Animal Farm.
There are certain images from that 1954 cartoon that stuck in my mind, like the sheep bleating "Two legs bad! Four legs good!", and when the horse Boxer was sold to the glue factory for a crate of booze that the pigs kept for themselves. The book is even better, though I think that the cartoon and book ended differently. In the book, the pigs turn to humans and the other animals just watch. But I seem to remember the animals in the cartoon freaking out after they see the pigs' transformation, eventually working themselves up into another frenzied revolt. But I can't remember for sure.
Animal Farm's straightforward symbolism and allusion seem to make it a favorite subject for for high school lit classes and books on Intellectual Snobbery for Dummies. In fact, Orwell's messages are so opaque that engaging in any kind of discussion of the book's meaning seems almost trivial. It would be akin to opening up the Sunday newspaper circular for Wal-Mart and saying "See, what the author is trying to tell us here is that they have low prices every day, guaranteed."
So I don't much see the point. But if you're interested, the guy from Book-A-Minute offers two great summaries --one snobby and one entertaining. Take your pick.
I found this link to Johnny Cash Desperado, but With Monkeys on a site called The Big Smoker ("Now including both stuff and things"). It's fantastic and comes to me via Todd's site, and came to him via Joost.