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Respecting Randomness

by bauer on April 9, 2008

This is a letter to the Editor of the Denver Post. The article Ski deaths prompt look for link demonstrates how we humans are compelled to create patterns to explain things - and how those who should know better don’t stop those with credentials from doing so. Numbers are used, statistics are implied, and causes are stipulated - all without any sound basis in truly rational reasoning. The author strives to imply that groomed slopes are at fault. 9 of the 17 hit trees on groomed runs. He goes on to say that 7 of those 9 had helmets on. Maybe the helmets were at fault. Ridiculous? Certainly. Just as ridiculous as any of the other cause-and-effect relations you could surmise. The lack of intellectual rigor goes on. The author states that there “rarely is statistical proof supporting one theory for why people die skiing”. The phrase “statistical proof” is an oxymoron. You have correlation with statistics, not proof. As such, the choice of word should be “never” not “rarely.”

In any case, the truly random thing about this letter is that I’m actually on the Management Team of Slope Watch, part of Ski Patrol at Copper Mountain. I’ve “stood post” at Copper for seven years helping everyone have as enjoyable a skiing and riding experience as possible in congested areas. I stated on my blog that there “are no patterns” in these incidents. This brought the comment from the author in an email exchange that this was the “canned response from every Kool-aid drinker who has ever earned a dollar from a skier”. I’m actually a volunteer, have never earned a dollar from Copper, and don’t imbibe high fructose drinks. BUT NONE OF THIS IS THE POINT. You could replace the article with something about food poisoning in the restaurant industry. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care about the ski industry. What I do care about is intellectual rigor and the responsibility of journalists - and their editors - not to so blithely dismiss the bitterly random unique circumstance of each one of these tragic deaths by trying to explain them in some cartoon-like semblance of intellectualism. It repels the reality and trivializes the tragic.

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Skiing Deaths - Naive Sensationalism

by bauer on April 9, 2008

The Denver Post article Ski deaths prompt look for link tries to make sense of the terrible tragedies of 17 deaths at Colorado Ski Resorts this year. This article really isn’t about the skiing deaths. It’s really just a classic display of ignorance (both explicit and implicit) of trying to explain the intrinsically random nature of life - with a little sensationalism mixed in. For example, the headline itself is misleading: “Ski deaths prompt…” Who’s “prompting” here? The newspaper. No other source is quoted in the article as calling for an investigation. What’s the “kicker”? “Do manicured hills encourage unsafe speeds?” The implication? There must be some cause and effect relationship. Let’s pick this one. Despite all of the “questions” that are raised every time a spike happens (again by the newspaper) - Lack of helmets, lack of snow, snowboarders, young males, terrain parks - let’s pick this one. Why? Because 13 of the 17 deaths occurred near groomed trails. Has to be the groomed trails. Couldn’t possibly be because THIS IS WHERE MOST PEOPLE SKI. It’s just another case of someone who doesn’t understand statistics (17 is a sufficiently large sample size - not) or who misleads us into thinking that he does as the article states that there is “rarely statistical proof supporting one theory” - care to point to ONE study that has drawn a statistically significant correlation? These deaths are horrible. Each of them a singular loss for family and friends. But that’s just what they are. Singular losses. Stop disparaging them with deluded attempts to see patterns that aren’t there. Or blame it on the Spaghetti Monster. Either way, show some respect and some clarity of thinking. BTW, I know of that which I speak. I’ve been part of Slope Watch at Copper Mountain the last 7 years. A terrific program started by the legendary Ward Jackson, Slope Watch has evolved from a few intrepid folks cutting crosses out of old Ski Patrol uniforms to a 100+ professionally managed organization that’s an integral part of Ski Patrol at Copper Mountain. We’re dedicated to helping Patrol provide skier and rider safety and education. We’re out there every day doing what it takes to make the hill as safe as possible in conjunction with all the other teams on the mountain from Lift Operations to Park Crew. There are no patterns - trail, rider, helmet, age. Each incident is unique. Tragedy is random. Write about that.

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The Windows Logo: 21st Century Medusa?

by bauer on April 5, 2008

Following up on my earlier post, I was thinking that I may actually have stumbled onto something. I think that there may be a higher correlation between Microsoft (Windows) users and mental illness than between Apple (Leopard) users. As this recent study clearly shows, there is clearly a creative effect caused by the Apple logo. I wonder what the effect of flashing the Windows logo would have? In fact, I’d wager that the Windows brand - because of its association with the untold pain and suffering caused by the Window Operating System - may actually cause the viewer physical discomfort (I know I want to throw up every time I see it). Now, this leads me to believe that once this is proven that this could very well lead to the largest class action suit mankind has ever seen. I was going to try to setup a test but don’t want to start causing vast swaths of the population to turn to stone.

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Internet Explorer and Emotional Issues

by bauer on April 3, 2008

My friend Bill asked me to take a look at his practice site Clarity, Commitment, and Change in IE. I was about to tell him not to worry about IE as we don’t necessarily want to associate with the people who use IE but then I realized they were probably his target clientèle. B)

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Using Facebook

by bauer on February 11, 2008

Sorry, I don’t understand how to use the damn thing! Somebody wrote on my wall. I try to find what they wrote. I get forwarded somewhere. I’m about to send a message out to everyone. I don’t get it! I guess when you have something that encourages people to connect with one another they’ll figure out how to do it regardless of how difficult it is. Thinking back on what I had gone through to get a date with a woman I can now understand why user-centered design isn’t all that important for social networking applications.

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You Tube meets Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

by bauer on January 25, 2008

That about sums up how I felt about the Cloverfield movie. Just not impressed by a monster taking Manhattan and cloaking it in “Movie 2.0″ with the jingly-jagly hand-held “reality action” video did not make it any better. You could easily beat to death one of the secreted offspring but of course all the firepower of a United States Combined Forces assault couldn’t bring down the parent. And as if the battery would last that long.

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Omnibowl

by bauer on January 6, 2008

I’ve been toying with writing a story for a couple of years. Haven’t gotten very far but thought I’d put up some of what I’ve written so far just to see if it was interesting to anyone at all. :)

“Welcome back to Omnibowl 27. I’m Jim Edwards along with Tokado Yomito and Phillipe Denard with continuing live coverage from the new Ariel Tel Aviv stadium. It’s Third and 78 from the 235. Rio de Janero sends 6 wide right, 3 left. Yokohama responds with a triple-layer prevent. RdJ snaps to an 11 man wide 10 man double core. Yokohama feathers the flanks, sets up a shock. Ball snaps.”

The thunderclap of the lines drown out the 200,000 plus in attendence. Surgical corner strikes take out 5 of the receiver set. Shock blitz tears a hole right but offensive countershock left keeps it from penetrating inner shell. 6 receivers are 40 yards deep into the second perimeter in under 3 seconds and now at full speed.

Santos looked out over the field from the safety of the inner pocket. He gives thanks that the he could still see over the smaller 10 foot inner linemen. Heads up visor vector displays show Emmanuel as the highest probable reception. Santos wasn’t paid 200 million Gs a year to think about doing anything other than what the display told him to do.

Emmanuel heard the audible tone indicating he was primary receiver and accelerated along his vector. He focused on the reception trusting his armor to handle the expected impact of the Yokohama tertiary.

Takada Otoma, the defensive operator for Yokohama, smiled. He took a serious gamble on this play, purposely making a couple of the corner strikes miss and feiging follow-on coverage. Just as Santos went to Emmanuel, Takada released 3 of his corners and 2 safeties to the projected convergence point. The RdJ offensive coordinator hit the alert. Santos could only watch as the ball arced the 150 yards to Emmanuel.

The warning audible sounded in Emmanuel’s helmet. He’d heard it a few times before in his career, probably more than any other receiver. He’d always been able to handle it. He just needed those few extra centimeters and he knew he could make it through. He started to make his move but something was wrong. The anticipated acceleration he’d always expected didn’t come. His eyes opened wide and a sudden stomach punch of fear hit him.

So did the first two corners. One high, one low, while the two safeties hit him in the front and the back, one at base of his skull the other in his stomach. His nanoarmor was designed to react to one or two, possibly three simultaneous hits, but not four. It buckled almost instantly. Things might have been only game-ending at that point. Unfortunately the third corner was Okama Noguchi.

The biggest and fastest of the Yokohama corners at 8′ 3″, 350 lbs, Okama was trained to use his 2.9 40 yard speed to hit “last to last”. He started out just a little behind his teammates and aimed for the small of the back. Normally this kind of hit would be enough to severely strain the nanogear, taking him out for the game.
The gear failed completely when Okama struck. Emmanuel’s spine snapped so loud, it could almost be heard outside the massive Tel Aviv dome. One harsh sound came from Emmanuel’s throat and then just a gurgle. The last thing he saw were the lights from the helodirigibles above, floating gently, filled with party gods looking down on the arena from comfortable amphitheater seating.

“Whoa, Emmanuel is down on a terrific convergence play by Yokohama. Wow! That was pure genius. A full 5 back hit. Haven’t seen one of those all year.”

“You’re right, Bob. Terrific play. Looks like Emmanuel is down. His gear seems to have failed. Helodroids are on the way out to pick him up. We’re going to have a substitution time-out. Looks like we’re going to take an injury timeout. We’ll be back after this.”

Except for the familiar sound of a spine snapping, Morgan wasn’t paying attention to the play at all. He wasn’t watching the field. He couldn’t care less. No American team had made it past the opening round in a decade. No, the stands were what interested him the most; a certain section in particular. Looks like he might have something to do anyway today.

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Internet access after this 30 minute ad

by bauer on January 2, 2008

“Free” Wi-Fi at DIA is available - all you have to do is watch a 30 “second” commerical from Ultramercial. Of course, the servers are so slow that the 30 seconds turns into 30 minutes of “Loading…” Watching that little blue bar in Safari creep forward gives me more than enough time to write this post. At first, this was all I was going to say except that it’s still “Loading…” so I need to make up some more things to say… Yep, more things to say. Ah! Progress. Now I got the attached message. No shit, Sherlock. I can imagine just how happy Ford is making their potential customers sit through this.

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Supporting Barack

by bauer on December 28, 2007

I’m definitely supporting Obama. Only candidate that’s clearly stated that the problem is Pakistan. It’s going to get bad and we need new thinking not old experience. Only problem is I donated cash to the campaign and the only email I get from them is asking for more donations. Doubt that’s a unique situation still it’s a little frustrating.

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Falling off the Lift

by bauer on December 25, 2007

I actually came up on a guy that had fallen off the lift. I ran up to him thinking the absolute worst and preparing to make the best radio call I could. He just looks up at me and says, “No, no, I’m good.” I couldn’t believe it. I looked up at the lift and back at him. It had to be at least 30 feet high. I stared at him waiting for him to collapse. Nothing. Talked to him for a while and still he seemed to be perfectly OK. Ended up backboarding him as a precaution but he walked right out of the clinic later. Talk about a Christmas gift.

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