Archive for January, 2009

Third Hand Nonsense

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

This is usually the purview of the other Michael Siegel, but I thought I’d tackle it as well.

Some people have their boxers in bunch over third-hand smoke:

Need another reason to add “Quit Smoking” to your New Year’s resolutions list? How about the fact that even if you choose to smoke outside of your home or only smoke in your home when your children are not there – thinking that you’re keeping them away from second-hand smoke – you’re still exposing them to toxins? In the January issue of Pediatrics, researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and colleagues across the country describe how tobacco smoke contamination lingers even after a cigarette is extinguished – a phenomenon they define as “third-hand” smoke.

What they’re talking about is the smell of smoke that lingers in your clothes after you’ve smoked or been in a bar. It’s unpleasant but I highly doubt that it is dangerous. There evidence that second hand smoke is dangerous is tenuous at best.

Keep in mind: there is no science in anything you are about to read. Only panic-mongering. Their “study” consists of asking people if they think third-hand smoke is dangerous. By that standard, I could do a survey of kids and conclude that we need to establish strict laws against the boogeyman.

Particulate matter from tobacco smoke has been proven toxic. According to the National Toxicology Program, these 250 poisonous gases, chemicals, and metals include hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, butane, ammonia, toluene (found in paint thinners), arsenic, lead, chromium (used to make steel), cadmium (used to make batteries), and polonium-210 (highly radioactive carcinogen). Eleven of the compounds are classified as Group 1 carcinogens, the most dangerous.

This sounds scary but it’s garbage. They have no statement of how prevalent these things are. You can find trace amounts of dangerous chemicals in almost anything. Lima beans have traces of cyanogen; potatoes contain arsenic and celery contains psoralen. They mostly drag this stuff out of the ground, which is how this stuff gets into tobacco and hence, smoke. But that doesn’t mean it’s killing people or causing neurological damage.

Even if something is a carcinogen, low levels are not necessarily dangerous. Selenium is an important mineral to human health. In large amounts, it is extremely toxic.

Are we through yet? What’s the next thing we’re supposed to panic about?

Remember the Trojans

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Presented for your consideration:

Team A: 12-1, lost one game on the road to a ranked team. Allowed less than 8 points a game during the regular season, racking up a 450-93 score over the regular season. They didn’t do this against patsies either. They dominated a conference that went 5-0 in the bowls, went on the road to crush a 5-7 ACC team, smashed an independent team that went on to run wild in a bowl, and convincingly beat the top two teams in the Big Ten.

Hypothetical Team B: 13-1. Lost one game on a neutral site to a top-five team. Played all other ranked teams at home. Scored an incredible 702 points during the regular season but gave up 319 (25 per game). Their conference is 3-1 in bowls so far. Their non-conference schedule included a horrible AA team, an 11-2 Big East team, a Pac 10 team that didn’t win a single game and an 11-2 Mountain West team. The good teams in that list were played at home.

Can you make the case that Team B is clearly better than Team A? Because the Sports Media Twerps certainly think so. If Oklahoma wins the BCS Bowl, they will become a national champion while Team A (USC) will probably not be ranked any higher than they are now.

The SMTs also rank Texas two slots about USC and claim that the Longhorns deserved a shot at the title. If Texas wins, they will be ranked higher than USC in the final poll. This is a Texas team that lost its only road game to a ranked team, had a laughable non-conference schedule and outscored opponents 527-223, an unimpressive ratio given their pathetic schedule.

I don’t know if USC is better than Oklahoma. I would love to find out. I am pretty convinced that they are better than Texas. I would love to see them prove it. They should clearly, at the very least, be ranked #2 or #3 at season’s end. They won’t be unless Alabama and Texas both lose because the SMTs don’t think about their votes. Their ranking considers three factors: 1) number of losses; 2) amount of hype; 3) how they ranked last week. Texas was more hyped as a title contender than USC. Therefore Texas must be better. Ignore those facts behind the curtain. You are getting sleepy. Very very sleepy.

Yeah, a playoff would be so much worse than this.

Housing Crash

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

What does it say when an 18% drop in home prices returns them all the way back to … March 2004? That we were in a bubble. No one seems to comprehend this basic truth.