Saturday, February 21, 2015

Change is scary!

Happy New Year, Reader!  It's the year of the Goat, which means the Cubs suck!

Let's look at this thing.  Blah, blah, blah... MLB is doing some excellent things to speed up the pace of play.  Awesome.  Then there's the dumbest food metaphor we've had in a while.  Take it away Mat Latos:

''If you rush a hamburger, it's not going to be completely done. There are going to be too many mistakes. You're going to rush the game. It would just be terrible. I don't think there needs to be a time limit."

Here's the thing, Mat... salmonella is a real thing that happens if you don't cook a burger. Conversely, I do not get a food born illness if Pedro Alvarez isn't allowed a timeout between strikes 2 and 3.

Then there's Adam Eaton weighing in:

''I'm not a big fan. There's a lot of thinking involved. When a pitcher steps on the rubber, there's a lot going on. There's thinking in the dugout, the coaches, everyone. Why speed that up?''

While I'm sure that the guys in the Pirates' dugout are a modern day Manhattan Project every time Jared Hughes holds the ball and refuses to come home, I'm assuming most of the "inside baseball" thinking looks like this:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mumps and the NHL: Don't blame the vaccine

Sidney Crosby has mumps. He joins a handful of other NHL players to be diagnosed over the past several weeks. According to the Pens medical team, Crosby received a booster shot before the Sochi Olympics last year. So what gives? Already, media types have taken to blaming the vaccine. Here's Trib beat writer Josh Yohe:

And here's Shelly Anderson saying something similar:
So, why are players who have been vaccinated coming down with mumps? It's not the vaccine. The CDC estimates that the two dose mumps vaccine is 88% effective. So if 100 vaccinated individuals are exposed to mumps, we'd expect that around 12 of them would still get mumps. And if, say about 25 vaccinated players from an NHL team were exposed, it's not unreasonable for 2-3 of those players to contract mumps. So if 12% of vaccinated people aren't protected, why are the mumps still pretty rare? It's because of herd immunity. Herd immunity is the concept that if most of us are protected from a disease, we can also protect those for whom the vaccines may be ineffective. We can also protect infants and individuals who cannot receive the vaccine. If we can vaccinate most of the population, the disease cannot spread as much, and it's less likely that people who aren't protected even come into contact with the disease. 

Recently, however, vaccination rates have dropped, and the dropping rates have been concentrated in certain areas. Wealthy parents in southern California, for example, have been opting out of vaccinating their children at alarming rates. This puts children and the greater community at risk of contracting and spreading very preventable diseases. There were 438 recorded cases of mumps in 2013, and 1,078 cases from Jan-Nov of 2014. That's almost 2.5 times as many cases, and we've still got a month to go! Also, if anyone has doubts regarding the efficacy of the vaccine, there were approximately 186,000 cases per year before large scale vaccinations began in 1967. Implementation led to a 99% decrease in mumps cases.

It's no coincidence that I mention the plummeting vaccination rates in southern California. The NHL mumps outbreak is believed to have originated with three players from the Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, and Clayton Stoner. These are wealthy guys who play hockey in southern California. This is total speculation on my part, but it's possible these guys came into contact with the disease in under-vaccinated communities. In any case, it's not the vaccine that's at fault, it's the plummeting vaccination rate that has threatened our herd immunity and made everyone more susceptible to contracting preventable diseases.

Update: There were suspected mumps cases from both the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues before the Ducks' cases, but it's suspected that the visiting locker room in Anaheim was the breeding ground. Also, check out this great piece on Deadspin. McCarthy focuses on the waning effectiveness of the vaccine as one gets older, which probably lowers that 88% effective rate for people who were immunized as children but did not receive boosters as adults. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Everyone needs to shut the hell up about Conflict Kitchen

Now that you’ve completed the arduous task of reading the headline and doubtlessly have strong and emotional opinions tied to today’s topic, please take a step back and a deep breath.

The ongoing argument over food wrappers at Conflict Kitchen’s Palestinian incarnation is, to be charitable, egregiously stupid and infantile. 

Food is the most fundamental and basic aspect of any culture. Since 2010, Conflict Kitchen has offered Pittsburghers the chance to sample cuisine native to places that typically wind up on the less favorable end of American foreign policy. By doing this, it does justice to the residents of these places — it humanizes the conflict. 

The restaurant has featured food from unstable, perpetual war zones, like Afghanistan, to places with whose leadership our country fundamentally disagrees, like Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. It’s undeniable that politics become a prominent part of the conversation should one delve any deeper into these conflicts, but that’s not what Conflict Kitchen is about. It’s about helping people over here realize that people over there are and have always been actual people. It’s about encouraging us to appeal to the very nature of our humanity and find some empathy, whether we ultimately agree or not.

That a food stand nearly 10,000 miles away can’t sell a damn falafel without B’nai Brith taking it as a personal affront from the Heinz Endowments shows how deeply this particular conflict runs, but it also demonstrates what makes having an ongoing, honest and civil discussion about these affairs so important — a discussion that can’t happen when discourse devolves to name-calling and death threats, and that won’t happen when the mere mention of said conflict spurs people on opposing sides of it to the thoroughly disgusting arguments and behaviors we’ve seen since this non-issue became an issue.

To characterize Conflict Kitchen's serving of Palestinian food wrapped in Palestinian opinions as anti-Israel is every bit as facile as arguing that their featuring of North Korean or Afghan cuisine constitute the tacit endorsement of Kim Jong Un or the Taliban. One might as well take it a step further and claim that because Conflict Kitchen only serves food from these places, it is serving as an anti-American splinter cell, here to subvert our citizenry one lunch at a time. No reasonable person could possibly think this.

Pittsburgh is in the midst of a Golden Age. There are truly remarkable people here doing wonderful things. Our track of progressive and community-oriented forward thought has garnered us a ton of positive attention the last five years, but more importantly, it’s made this an entirely pleasant place to live. 

In addition to our art, music and food scenes, we have well-organized forums for discourse on these exact issues, including the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, Global Solutions Pittsburgh and the American Middle East Institute, not to mention your school, your social circles or your own goddamn dinner table, where you can wrap your falafel in whatever literature pleases you.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's Netflix Night in America

Exciting week, lots of great action out there.  Needless to say, there are going to be a lot of moves between now and Friday, when Netflix turns over several dozen big titles and brings in a new batch.  Never fear.  FTC is here to guide you through all the good stuff.


This 2007 period thriller by David Fincher (Fight Club, Gone Girl) is an under the radar hit.  Sure, it clocks in at two and a half hours, but it's sexy, scary and completely episodic-- so taking an intermission is no problem.  And compared to Se7en, this movie is a breeze.  I dare say Fincher started his career with worlds that were a bit too dark and impenetrable; he doesn't have that problem here.  Also: h/t for shooting on a digital camera and making it look good, Dave!  Watch this movie, people.  It's pretty good!

The Twilight Zone

Seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5 are on Netflix.  This is a win for you, a win for me, and a win for everyone in the free world with a decent bandwidth.  Watch this series and try to remember what was going on in the world when it was made.  It is your bridge from surrealism to post modernism, and don't you forget it.

The West Wing

I would find this show compelling if it wasn't so artistically bankrupt. 

American Horror Story

I'm pretty great at not watching TV that isn't Cheers, Seinfeld, Twin Peaks and Star Trek (TNG and DS9).  So when I succumb to a guilty pleasure like this, you've gotta think it's pretty delicious.  Without spoiling too much, American Horror Story is a convoluted piling on of ghost tale cliches,  hidden under the heavy garnishes of violence, sex, profanity, infanticide, school shootings, and unfiltered abuse of someone with Down's Syndrome.  At first, all that is liberating and great, but then you realize how low this art actually is.  I think about how David Chase ripped apart the sphincters of television morality, but man, The Sopranos is a statement on par with Eugene O'Neill's better work.  American Horror Story is not that.  And as far as being freaky,  it is maybe a little creepier than Twin Peaks, but only because it's unrelenting with the blades and burns and monster babies.


It's on Netflix!!  You know what to do!


Coming November 7th!  Finally, you'll have something to be grateful for when asked. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Hello. Yes. This is Gary Sheffield. Gary Sheffield speaking.


It's Jason!



It's me.


Right, right...

…you're my agent!

Cool down fire cat, I gotchyou.

Jase of Base.

I hear that.

What's hot?

I want to get right to the point, Gary.

I want a new nickname.

The Grilled Cheese thing isn't cutting it.

What's not cutting it mean? What's it not cut? You're cutting just fine. Don't you let those west coast srirachas get up into messing with your head!

You hear me?

Yeah, I hear--


I hear you.

You get a thing up in your head from these people and you will never get a woman to ride with another woman in the front seat of your car again.

You feel that?

I feel it.

I know you feel me, because Jason...




I gotchyou. Who gotchyou?

You do, Gary.

That's right Gary gotchyou.

Hey, another thing.

Would you like to buy a cordless headset for your home office?

You know you don't even have to ask.


This episode of We Tapped Gary Sheffield's Landline is brought to you by

Monday, September 8, 2014