Archive for October 2010

Halloween: Today’s Evidence That People Are Totally Irrational

October 31, 2010

KTBS has a poll on the front page asking “Do you think trick or treating is as safe now as when you were a child?” The results: 834 nays to 146 yays. So about 85% of the people who answered think they were safer during the Halloweens of their childhood.

Meanwhile, from the Wall Street Journal the other day:

there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger’s Halloween candy.

Never, as in not once in the Halloween’s of yesteryear or even last year. On Halloween, candy from strangers is perfectly safe. Always has been, and still is. Again, consider the facts, this time from the Atlantic:

And how many children have been harmed by randomly poisoned trick-or-treat candy? Approximately zero. It turns out that the Halloween sadist is about 1 percent fact and 99 percent myth. One California dentist in 1959 did pass out candy-coated laxatives, and some kids got bad stomachaches. But instances over the past 40 years where children were allegedly harmed by tainted candy have invariably fallen apart under scrutiny. In some cases, there was evidence that someone (a family member) was attempting to harm a particular child under cover of Halloween. In other cases, poisoning which had another cause was misattributed to candy.

B-b-b-but, what about all the child predators? Well, first, does anyone really think they’re going to pick tonight to steal a child? The night with the most groups of kids? The night with the most lights on? The night with the most adults out walking the neighborhood? The night with the most cops on patrol? The night when fear of predators is at its highest?

Besides, the question isn’t absolute safety, it’s comparative safety: The past to today. I’m sure there were just as many predators lurking in neighborhoods yesterday as there are today. The difference is that now, thanks to technology and reporting laws, everyone knows ahead of time exactly where all these predators are. Not so in the past. So if this is something to worry about, the fact is that kids face less danger today.

Not surprisingly, then, there’s no reason to fear child predators on Halloween. From the same WSJ article:

Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, studied crime statistics from 30 states and found, “There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation.”

In fact, she says, “We almost called this paper, ‘Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year,’ because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day.”

In short, there might be lots of urban legends and unfounded rumors keeping people from letting kids enjoy the same kinds of Halloween fun that they did, but there aren’t any facts that justify ruining the fun. But hey, why should the facts keep anyone from abandoning what they normally consider their perfectly safe neighborhood, and going to some stupid faux festival at a local church or mall, and then standing in line for two hours before grabbing a couple of tootsie rolls from the trunk of some stranger’s car.

KSLA Learns Lesson, Changes Program Interruption Policy

October 29, 2010

Received the following e-mail from the station manager:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about the way KSLA News 12 handled the weather interruptions during the LSU-Auburn game.

We heard you loud and clear.

Since Saturday, we have closely examined what happened and reevaluated our emergency program interruption policy.

Effective Wednesday, October 27 we now have a new policy in place. The goal of the policy is to warn those in the path of the storm, and at the same time, serve those viewers not directly affected by the emergency. The new policy will keep program interruptions to a minimum.

During Tornado Warnings, our Meteorologists will interrupt programming to quickly alert those in the path of the storm. Within one minute, we will either return to full programming of the game or use an improved split screen technique so the audience can still watch the action on the field while our Meteorologists continue to give important information. We will get back to full programming as soon as we can.This is different from our former policy where we would stay on with our weather interruptions throughout the entire Tornado Warning…which could last for several minutes and even hours.

I apologize for the way we mishandled the LSU broadcast. We will do better.

James Smith
General Manager
KSLA News 12

Nice job admitting a mistake and correcting it. Now I feel much better about the Alabama game. Well, the coverage, anyway.

What If Glover Smokes Pot?

October 29, 2010

That’s Bryan Wooley’s charge.

Glover, of course, denies it. The “evidence” is an accusation in a divorce proceeding made by the wife of a third party. In other words, a friend of Glover’s – an attorney who does business with the city – and that friend’s wife are in the middle of a divorce. In a set of interrogatories (short written questions), the wife asks if the friend ever smoked pot with Glover. The answer is sealed, and thus unknown and the source of much rumor-mongering.

In a just world, I would not care at all what the answer is. That’s a very different attitude than the average Shreveporter, though. The mere fact that the Mayor tokes would send most people over the edge, screaming “OMG, Drugs! The DARE officer told me in second grade that people who do drugs microwave their babies! Whose baby is Glover microwaving! AHHHHHH.” Or something similarly rational. All I would say is “So the Mayor gets high, BFD.” It has no impact on his family, him, his job performance, me or anyone else in Shreveport. It’s no different from having a few too many drinks now and then. Let the man relax.

But this isn’t a just world. It’s a world in which the government sends people who enjoy marijuana to jail. Glover, as Mayor, has a big role to play in that process. Which means, if he smoked pot, he would be doing something for which his city’s police are arresting other people. Yet he hasn’t done anything to change it. If he smokes pot, he must know how unjust that is. That he has done nothing to change it is why, if this turns out to be true, I would be extremely upset with the Mayor.

An Arsonist’s Guide To Writers’ Homes In New England

October 27, 2010

Having recently finished reading it, I’m unsure if I liked it or not.

On the one hand, I frequently found myself wanting to punch the protagonist – Sam Pulsifer – in the face. He was that annoying. The guy makes all kinds of dumb decisions. That might be the wrong word. Plenty of his problems are due to his own unthinking inaction; not so much making conscious mistakes as inertly flopping through life. He calls himself a “bumbler.” He also has an incredibly annoying habit of imagining all kinds of motives and thoughts in other people. Sam’s father has frequent parties, which Sam has never attended, and featuring people Sam has never met. Yet he spends much time describing the appearances, jobs, and emotional lives of those attendees.

On the other hand, my intense dislike has to be a sign of good character development, right? Surely it requires great skill to raise emotions as intense as a desire to physically harm someone who is no more than words on a page. Also, by the end of the book, I sort of felt sorry for the guy. By the end, he claims to no longer be a bumbler. Not sure if I believed it. He did, though, seem to learn temper his judgments.

So Sam was annoying, but I warmed to him by the end. The story itself was the bigger issue.

Basically, as a teen, Sam burned down the Emily Dickinson house, killing two people, accidentally, he claims. He does ten years, leaves prison, earns a degree, marries, and has a family. Then the past comes alive and destroys his present. Also, someone does a copycat job on other dead writers’ homes in the area. Naturally, Sam becomes a prime suspect.

That’s a crazy plot, but not too crazy. At points, everything seemed believable. At others, not so much. It was like the book couldn’t decide if it was some kind of loony Carl Hiaasen type adventure, or realistic fiction. Ditto the characters who populate the story. Some, like the recurring group called the bond analysts, were stereotypical and flat. Others, like Sam’s wife, seemed like genuine people.

The whole thing made me feel like I was missing something. Like a novice in another language, I could recognize it, and even snatch hold of a few phrases, but comprehension was beyond me. Rather than more vocabulary and grammar, though, I think I needed more literary knowledge. The book, I think, had lots of smart commentary on books, writers, and the literary scene. Only I’m not well read enough to get the satire. Having finished the book, then, I feel like someone who’s heard an inside joke, but only has half the inside knowledge.

Greatest Invention Ever

October 26, 2010

This:

You’re probably saying “Huh?” If so, behold, it is genius:

Darwin Award Nominee

October 26, 2010

A Bienville Parish man was killed Monday afternoon when he was hit by a freight train as he walked down the tracks with headphones on.”

A Good Sports Weekend

October 25, 2010

My favorite team spanks my most hated team. Awesome. And can we please stop calling the Cowboys what they are not – underachieving – and start calling them what they are – sorry. The Giants played sloppy football. Eli threw three interceptions, and each of our top two running backs fumbled. Then the defense went to sleep in the fourth quarter. Yet the Giants won by a touchdown in Dallas. Plain and simple, the Cowboys suck.

TAINTS Rule Saints

October 24, 2010

Given the following stats, guess the score.

Time of possession: Team A, 35:24; Team B, 24:36.

First downs: Team A, 25; Team B, 12.

Passing yards: Team A, 336; Team B, 85.

Total yards: Team A 394; Team B, 210.

Team A in a blowout, right?

Right score, wrong team: Browns (B) 30, Saints (A), 17. Bad special teams and TAINTS trump winning the important stats.

Meteorologist: The World’s Most Narcissistic Profession

October 24, 2010

As everyone in Northwest Louisiana knows, KSLA decided to replace the second half of yesterday’s LSU-Auburn game with two hours of frantic warnings about severe weather. In a tone of incredible self-righteousness, I’m sure their defense would be something like “We would never give football, even a game between two top ten teams, one of which is the local favorite, precedence over PEOPLE’S LIVES.”

And you might be tempted to agree. I mean, given the facts as I’ve summarized them, you might think that during the hours of the game, multiple tornadoes, with lighting, and hail, and who knows what else, were destroying large parts of Shreveport. You’d be wrong.

In fact, what the weatherman did was spend two hours zooming in and out of radar that indicated a few strong storms were occurring around Mt. Pleasant, Texas, over one hundred miles away. There were no tornadoes, just conditions that might lead to tornadoes, and all of that far from KSLA’s viewing area. Oh, and did I mention it never so much as rained here yesterday?

These facts might be why no other station did anything more than put a small map in the corner of the screen, accompanied by a scrolling warning. Given the extremely low threat, that was the proper response. KSLA, meanwhile, absurdly overreacted, going into code red and interrupting LSU’s biggest game of the year.

But interrupting the game isn’t the biggest cost. I cannot be the only person who, after witnessing KSLA act like the world was about to end, only to be completely wrong, will never trust them again. I’m strongly disposed to distrust weathermen, and last night only made it worse. They’ve cried wolf one too many times.

So why did they overreact so badly? That’s the reason for the title to this post. My only guess is that after several months of the exact same weather – sunny skies, warm, no chance of rain – they needed to do something to affirm their existence. Unfortunately, all they did was piss off their viewers and earn themselves a lot of distrust.

P.S. The station manager’s e-mail: jamessmith@ksla.com

P.P.S. My e-mail to Mr. Smith:

mr. smith,

i’m sure by now you’ve read and heard this complaint a thousand times, but let me add my voice to those scolding you for your actions during yesterday’s LSU game.

the threat was minimal and miles from your viewing area. given the very low levels of danger, the proper response was that of your competitors: a small map and scrolling warning on screen.

your station wildly overreacted, costing me the game and you my trust. given your actions yesterday, i will never again rely on your station’s judgment about the weather.

of course, public admission of your mistake would go a long way towards re-earning that trust.

thank you,

How Many Losses By Teams You Hate Does It Take To Make Up For Your Favorite’s Loss?

October 24, 2010

Like I feared, LSU lost. But . . .

The Yankees lost on Friday, and the Phillies lost yesterday, meaning no World Series for either of my two most hated baseball teams.

In college football, Notre Dame lost to Navy. No matter how bad they are, I, and all other sensible college football fans, will always want the Irish to be worse. That’s what happens when you have your own reserved BCS spot, while outstanding teams like Boise, TCU or Utah have to hope and pray for divine intervention, no matter how well they play. Then, in last night’s game, Missouri beat Oklahoma, putting my least favorite college coach on the outside of the national title race.

Also, two of my other favorite teams – Arkansas and Nebraska – both won.

I don’t know. Right now, I’d call it even. It all depends on Monday Night Football. If the Giants beat the Cowboys, I’ll call it a successful sports weekend.