Monday, October 6, 2008

Million vs. Billion – A Drift To Innumeracy...

The first time I heard the term innumeracy was in 1991. I was in college and had a psychology professor who was going on and on about how people today don’t understand the magnitudes of numbers. He had a point. I maintain it’s because practical application ceases once the numbers grow to be larger that what we encounter in our everyday lives. Most people I encounter (and I’m in the banking and finance industry) don’t have a clue what large numbers mean and what their impact is on whatever they are being applied to; whether it be financing for large projects, balancing budgets, timeframes, or even how many fish are in the sea.

I wrote this post to illustrate in real-world examples (by showing the unknown in terms of familiarity) how large numbers relate to each other and the impact and magnitude they have on us. I was compelled to write it based on a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine who (it became apparent) hadn’t the slightest clue as to what they were talking about; not because they were incapable or because they had a differing opinion from mine; but because they were utterly ignorant to the magnitude of the numbers they were throwing around – my friend was innumerate...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Legos, Eggos, & Our Slogan Ethos…

The famous “L’Eggo my Eggo” has been Eggo’s only slogan since 1965. Through the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s it became a permanent addition to the colloquial lexicon of us all. Even if we don’t like the waffles, we’ve all said “L’Eggo my Eggo” in reference to something at some point in time. By 2005, it had propelled Kellogg’s Eggo frozen waffle brand to 65% market share. It is an example of how these platitudes with attitudes grab the products they represent and slingshot them into orbit like tiny satellites around our minds. They linger like voices in our heads, telling us to reach for one canned soup over another; scrub with this soap or that soap; spritz or spray on one cologne instead of another so women will act like buffoons trying to get a swatch of our clothing; or they convince us, against all logic, that our asses really do feel fresher with some particular toilet paper or other…

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vikings, G-CHIPs, & Genomic Verity (Part 2)…

In Vikings, G-CHIPs, & Genomic Verity (Part 1)... I addressed the Human Genome Map. My conclusions were that it was incomplete both in its content and in its effort. Now, in (Part 2) I intend to discuss just how incomplete I think it is by showing you one possible future…

Monsters lurk everywhere. They manifest themselves as addictions, fears, illnesses, and sometimes just rocks and hard places. But in the not-so-distant future there will be monsters of a much different ilk. Creatures so scary we will find ourselves unable to function as we do now. Fear of the unknown will take on new meaning as “the unknown” is completely redefined in unimaginable ways...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Vikings, G-CHIPs, & Genomic Verity (Part 1)…

They’re watching you watch what you watch, so watch what you’re watching. Sound complicated? I’ll explain… But before I tackle what I mean by the whole watching you watching thing, let me start in   Part 1 with something less complicated – like, say, genetics.

In the summer of 986 CE, Norwegian explorer Bjarni Herjolfsson set sail as usual to spend the winter with his Father. This year the trip was unique in that four months prior his Father had relocated from Iceland to Greenland. Herjolfsson, despite being unfamiliar with the waters of Greenland, set out for his Father anyway. Midway through the journey, his ship was blown off-course by a storm and Herjolfsson found he was lost at sea with no compass or map. He eventually righted his vessel but not before glimpsing the forest-covered hills of a distant shore to the West. Eager to complete his journey home, He continued on to Greenland. He reported his visual discovery both in Greenland and upon his return to Norway, but few took notice. Ten years later renowned Norwegian explorer Leif Eriksson listened. Eriksson purchased Herjolfsson’s ship and sailed west from Greenland in 1000 CE. He landed in Newfoundland, Canada and continued down the Eastern seaboard to Florida. 957 years later, in 1957 CE, a map surfaced in the collection of an antiquities dealer. It was dubbed the “Vinland” Map and depicts the cartography from that very journey. I’ve seen the map and it looks more like an old coffee stain on a Formica counter top than the outline of North America…

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I see London, I see France...

These days I have pride in my country more days than not. So I cheer for our athletes “to bring home the gold.” And when the network needs to fill time, I sit attentively and listen to the special interest piece designed to get me all weepy and ready to pump my fists at the heavens for gold in the next event. I watch the athlete’s stories and I study their faces. I cry out when they fly off a beam in error, and I cry out when they fly off a beam by design. I sit in amazement at how some athletes make themselves so great and at how others even make it onto the flight to Beijing. I try to man-up and bite my lip when I hear my country’s anthem being played for a superior member of the human race and I wonder what it must be like to be a part of that time-honored podium ceremony…

I played rugby for most of my athletic career so the elegance of the Olympic medal ceremony is, well, excuse the pun but, Greek to me. If I could imagine rugby’s equivalent for you for a moment, it would most likely go something like this: a bar top instead of a podium; a bar crowd singing a very rude limerick in lieu of a formal anthem; a golden beer for a medal; and one’s own jock strap in place of the kotinos olive wreath. The only real similarity I can possibly muster (and I know it’s a stretch) between the ancient version and my rugby experience is all the nudity...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

eHarmin’ me dot com…

There were five bar stools between my future ex-girlfriend and me. Absently stirring her drink, she stared at the TV behind the bar and yawned. The condensation ran down my pint and soaked into the pressed-pulp bar coaster. The coaster had had more to drink than me and it was then in my boredom I decided to test a theory. I had acquired a two-page questionnaire earlier in the day. I slid off my stool and walked toward her counting down the bar stools as I went. She was an early 20’s student athlete type who looked like she might enjoy dinner and a movie with the right person…

No one does that anymore – dinner and a movie. I think more people would if everyone didn’t expect that everyone else liked the hip, trendy bar scene so much. It’s like there’s a silent understanding that my date won’t like a movie and dinner if I could have taken her to a club or a bar. I say bullshit. Every woman I’ve talked to says some of her best memories are of the simple dates. I’m not talking about married and might-as-well-be-married couples, either. Married date-night is different; where the cautious analysis of your date and scud-shot conversations are replaced with familiarity and comfortable colloquy; or in some marriages, silence...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Phelps over Spitz is hard to Swallow…

OK. I gotta know… does anybody else wonder about Phelps' achievements? So no one misunderstands my angle, indulge me. Step inside my head for a spell. I’ll spill my thoughts out for you in detail to nosh on, then you decide.

Modern sports have become mired in controversy over drug use and doping. The fundamental rationale for the World Anti-Doping Code (which is wholly adopted in toto by the IOC in the Olympic Charter) is “to preserve what is intrinsically valuable to sport.” The code states intrinsic value is characterized by ethics, fair play and honesty; excellence in performance; and health. It’s a few of these that got me thinking… I’ll start with a ridiculously simplistic scenario then move into a more complex one.

Let’s assume you have two sprinters representing different countries. Both are evenly matched in abilities and health. During training, they both find they are lagging behind the field of sprinters as a result of some deficiency. The first sprinter chooses to take a drug to erase the deficit. The second sprinter chooses not to. The race is run and the first sprinter – the doper – wins...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Waxing-off vs. The Real Thing...

Recently, I've realized that an experience one afternoon in college was to become one metaphor for how an awful lot of people enter into debates ill-prepared due to their own lack of desire to seek the facts before forming their opinion or broadcasting someone else’s.

In college there was a guy who roomed and played rugby with us who studied Karate – from a book. I’m sure he never earned a belt. What he did earn was a reputation for being the guy that told you to come at him slowly like you had a knife. After two or three restarts he would flip someone to the floor and proudly proclaim his status as a master of something-or-other. One afternoon over a few pints of Guinness we all watched the Master get the Bruce beat out of him by a guy on the tennis team. Apparently his Ninja-like discipline didn’t apply to his lips. Or, perhaps Martina hadn’t come at him as slowly as he’d been practicing. In the end, the pints of Guinness dulled grasshopper’s wounds, we laughed our asses off, and life went on...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Island of Atlanta...

So there I was sitting in the Atlanta Airport waiting for weather to clear so I could get to Dallas for a three-day business meeting. My plane was delayed for 4 hours and according to Delta it would be 2 more.

I'm a people-watcher so I don't mind delays and layovers. I actually quite enjoy myself as long as I get to watch the human animal in action - especially when it's unaware that it's being observed. Besides the nose-picking, wedgie-fixing, crotch-scratching members of the herd there are those that are truly worthy of being studied...