It’s probably a conspiracy by the Republican party to condition voters

I learned something heartbreaking this weekend. Despite thinking that I had raised her right, my daughter came right out and told me the horrible truth: she likes to watch football. She appreciates the strategy, she says. I tried to explain that it’s so boring, that it’s brief flurries of burly men bashing each other in between long sessions of inane “color commentary”, but she would have none of it. She’s too far gone.

And now I discover that Rebecca Watson is also a fan! What is this? A whole generation of young women corrupted?But at least she has a good argument against football.

The paper she cites is damning.

Public schools should end their football programs because of the high prevalence of concussions. Five to twenty percent of students experience at least one concussion in a season of play. Nine to twelve year old players experience an average of 240 head impacts per season; high school players average 650 head impacts per season. An initial football concussion increases the risk of a subsequent concussion three or four fold not simply for the balance of that season but for the following season as well. Catastrophic brain injuries, though rare, are far more common in high school and college players who have experienced a previous non-catastrophic concussion. The brains of children are more susceptible to long-term damage from concussion than adults. Although the frequency of concussion in football is about the same as in hockey, fifty times as many students play football than hockey; football causes far more brain injuries. The brain is an irreplaceable organ, the health of which is foundational for the ability to learn, socialize and for fully realizing life’s physical and vocational opportunities.

Time for the slippery slope game. If we’re going to end football programs for kids under 18, why are we going to support college football? That should go, too. And if we kill college football, there goes the farm that raises brain-damaged blocks of meat to batter each other in professional football. And if pro football dies, Texas will secede from the union!

And hey, this is true heresy around Minnesota, that fewer players play hockey is not an excuse to tolerate an equally brain-damaging sport. We’ll tear the country apart.

So, clearly, thousands of children with cognitive dysfunction, neuron injury, and lifelong cognitive impairment are a small price to pay.

…school football concussions are often followed by weeks of impaired school academic performance, memory disturbances, headaches and absenteeism. High school cheerleaders have impaired cognition for at least days after a single concussion even when claiming to be asymptomatic. Cognitive dysfunction or neuron injury occurs after repetitive mild to moderate athletic concussions; catastrophic injuries or instances of prolonged loss of consciousness are not required to cause such harm. Even when measured cognition returns to baseline, symptoms of concussion often persist. A season of collegiate play leads to persistent cognitive dysfunction that is roughly proportional to the magnitude of head impact. One study shows that greater later-life cognitive impairment in NFL players is correlated with exposure to competitive football before twelve years of age. Evidence about the effect of youth football is evolving but is sufficient to show that school football is likely to adversely affecting school performance in the short term and may, if the trauma is not stopped, may proceed to permanent cognitive dysfunction over the long term.

Botanical Wednesday: Plants for dinner

I’m hearing occasional gasps of disbelief at the notion of a vegan Thanksgiving, so clearly I need to show you something to make you salivate.

That’s just an example — we’re having something different — but honestly, you can have a tremendous variety of textures and flavors, all delicious, without killing an animal.

Also not shown: Lefse is vegetarian, don’t you know.

Well, it isn’t any worse than that Time-Life image of human evolution

At last, I understand human evolution. It’s all here in this painting.


Working from bottom to top, we witness the ascent of man. First, Homo erectus discovers fire, and stares at a burning twig. This was easier than it sounds, since all he had to do was light it from the volcano erupting over his left shoulder (there’s always a volcano, and it’s always erupting, in these things). If anyone has ever gone on a camping trip with those atavistic boy scouts, you will recognize his expression.

Next, Neandertals invent rocks. Two rocks at once…it’s a triumph!

The next big leap: men invent shaving and art. The subtle revelation in this image is that Cro-Magnon men were also all bronies — notice that he’s drawing a pony.

Civilization arises! Our representative man has invented writing and hats. He has not yet invented shirts, however, and I suspect that what he’s writing is My Little Pony slash fiction. It takes time to progress.

Then, Aristotle. Man has forgotten how to shave. He has, at least, evolved to the point of having half a shirt — clearly, a transitional form. Of course, the most important thing is that he has invented Thinking, or at least, staring vacantly while scratching his neck. He could be thinking about My Little Pony, but at least he’s not being obvious about it anymore.

Darkness follows. The next two and a half thousand years are unimportant and nothing of consequence happens until, at last, with a coruscation of light beams, Ayn Rand invents planets and stars while scribbling Libertarian rape fantasies with Objectivist rationalizations.

In the next phase (not shown), humans worship the god-like Rand to the point of paying $14,000 for cheesy paintings that portray her as the pinnacle of evolution, and thus begins the Fall of Man.

I have to weep at this Art. It tells a grand tragic story.

How not to do research

Oh, man. What did I just read? It’s on, and it perfectly reflects the twistedly wonky and uneven character of that site — it’s a piece by techbros for techbros titled How San Francisco’s gender disparity affects the attractiveness pairings of couples.

It is truly, deeply, monumentally awful. It’s the work of a dude who knows how to use R, is happy to invent lots of numbers to feed into R, and is himself full up to the brim with unjustified assumptions that he never bothers to question. And apparently he got enough people remarking on how stupid his article was that he had to add a disclaimer:

There seems to have been quite a bit of misunderstanding stirred up by this article, so please read this disclaimer: this analysis makes absolutely no value judgements about how attractive men & women in SF are, or how attractive they should feel. I lay out all the simplifying assumptions and I’ve tried to explain that this is not how the real world works. Nor do I believe this is how the real world works. No sane human should heed any advice from this article. None of this has any basis in reality. It’s not supposed to. This is just a thought experiment about how one might build an economic model for dating with gender ratio imbalances. I’ve preserved the entirety of the original text below. There’s plenty of room for miscommunication because the assumptions are buried inside the text. That’s my fault. But I urge everyone to read the piece in its entirety before jumping to conclusions.

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The magical world of epigenetics


Let me tell you the hard part about writing about epigenetics: most of your audience has no idea what you’re talking about, but is pretty sure that they can use it, whatever it is, to justify every bit of folk wisdom/nonsensical assumption that they have. So while you’re explaining how it’s a very real and important biological process that is essential for development and learning and behavior, half your readers are using the biology to confirm their biases about evolution and inheritance, and the other half already know all the basic stuff and want to get to the Evisceration of the Wrong, which is always the fun part anyway.

So I’ve split this post in two: there’s a section on the basics of what epigenetics is, and there’s a section on what epigenetics is not, and why. Read whatever part floats your boat.

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Suddenly, I have a favorite fungus

It’s beautiful: the devil’s fingers, AKA the octopus fungus. Even just the name is like a barbed hook calculated to draw me in.


It has other interesting features, besides the awesome appearance.

While unappealing to us humans,

Stop right there. Am I not human? Did I not coo in delight when I first saw this lovely organism? Do I not want to see my grassy yard replaced with thousands of erupting fungal eggs?

But do continue.

what you’re seeing is actually a rather ingenious method of reproduction. The tentacles are laced with a foul smelling tissue, specially formulated to attract flies and other insects. When bugs come-a-knockin’, they get to feed on the slimy substance, but not before their feet are coated with fungus’ spores.

See? What’s unappealing about all that?