Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Our Greatest Fear

NBA referee Bennett Salvatore said in CS Fullerton Institute tonight: “The unknown is not that scary. Rather, it’s the knowledge of impending danger that evokes the emotion nothing short of absolute terror.”

As I pondered Bennett’s words, I thought of the tagline of the 1998 Michael Crichton survival-thriller Sphere: “Terror can fill any space.”

I took out a 3-by-5 note card and began jotting down my thoughts on the subject:

“I dissent from Bennett’s opinion. I believe the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown, because we do not know what to expect. It is not the monster himself in the closet, but the possibility that he is there that evokes the fear within. Once the monster is revealed to us, we may fear him, and rightly so, but the fear has nonetheless diminished, if only slightly, once the threat has come into the light, and our imaginative faculties are put into recess. Darkness, not danger, is the ultimate source of fear. No matter how grave the danger before us, it is never as great as what we can imagine it to be.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Guest Enforcers

Boom, Shaq-a-lacka!

Shaquille O'Neal's role as guest enforcer on WWE Monday Night Raw proved to be dramatic. NBA as well as Kazaam fans around the world tuned in to see if the "Shaqtus" would fight the world's largest athelete--7-foot, 485 pound 5-time world heavyweight champion, Paul "(The) Big Show" Wight.

Shaq tried to intimidate Big Show by puckering his lips in his direction and provoked Big Show's tag teammate Chris Jericho by calling him "Christina". Big Show responded by saying that Shaq would have a better chance of hitting two free throws in a row than intimidating him. Judging by Shaq's career free throw percentage--52.8%--my math tells me the odds of him making two in a row are 52.8% x 52.8% = 27.9%, which would mean that the odds of the Big Show being intimidated by Shaq's kissy faces are less than 27.9%--though low, still within the range of possibility. At the end of the day, however, I think Big Show's point was made, evidenced by Shaq's disgusted glare.
"Two free throws--in a row!" Thus was the bold declaration of Big Show's lack of intimidatedness of Shaquille. The two extended fingers evidenced Big Show's bright and unclouded mind--the ability to count on his fingers. He may have more brawns than brains, but he's loaded with both.

Though Big Show claimed the chances were slim of him being intimidated, he declined Shaq's invitation to a match, citing the reasons as not wanting the NBA breathing down his neck, legal fees, attorneys, and "Kobe Bry--who is it--LeBron James?" Though Big Show's argument may have been convincing to some, he still later beckoned the guest enforcer to enter the ring.

And the enforcer accepted.
Dual death grip--Big Show started it, Shaq finished it.

Big Show attacked by getting Shaq into a death grip, but Shaq countered with one of his own. After the two unlocked, Shaq body slammed Big Show off the ring. Game over.

An Enforcer of Another Color

I had the priveledge of playing the same role as Shaq as I accompanied my roommates on a home teaching visit last evening.

As I pondered my role as guest enforcer of the home teaching visit, I thought about the durastic difference in my circumstances to Shaq's on Monday. Though I was still the "guest enforcer", my role did not receive attention from the media. The audience was one--three if you count Harry and Srun. No death grips, no trash talk, no spotlight, no fanfares or rolling red carpets for me. As I was pondering these differences while Harry began sharing a message, he was finishing his opening line of his thought:

"...of the Book of Mormon's unboundless veracity!"

My thoughts shifted from the Big Show and Shaquille to why on earth he used the word "unboundless". Isn't that equivalent to "bounded"?

Harry turned to me and asked: "Ben, do you have anything you would like to say about this?"

I struggled to regain my focus and said: "Much has been said tonight about the Book of Mormon. I can't tell you what to think." As I continued my message I thought of an unsung hero in Church history--Brother Eleazar Miller.

Eleazar Miller--certainly not a headline in Church history--nonetheless was an unparalleled "enforcer" in a man's life as the man heard this "man without eloquence" share his testimony. That man, by the way, was Brigham Young. Brother Eleazar was invited to share his testimony of the Book of Mormon in a meeting one evening in which Brigham was present. It was his testimony that convinced Brigham that the Book was true. The rest is history.

Gradually I saw my perspective shift 180 degrees from thinking that guest enforcer on WWE's Monday Night Raw was the significant of the two. The audience was much louder, but also much more fleeting. Now I can boldly say, alluding to Big Show, that Shaq has a better chance of making two free throws [holding up two fingers] in a row, than for me willing to trade him spots in our respective guest enforcer roles--not only because I could neither escape Big Show's death grip nor body slam him as Shaq, but also because like Eleazar, my simple understanding outweighs my eloquence.

Eleazar Miller: performance is what matters, not the size of the stage.

I've often thought about if it would all be worth giving up if I had the opportunity: the glamour, the fame, the popularity of a professional athlete. If I had the option available and I gave up all the fame and fortune--is it worth it? [pause] Yeah, it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Basketball Greats in Heated Debate on Deadly Spider

Brandon Roy (left) and Luc Longley (right) have agreed to disagree on matters such as the Sydney Funnelweb (center).

SEATTLE—There is no love lost between NBA superstars Brandon Roy and Luc Longley. Suprisingly, however, their rivalry does not originate in the gym, but rather in the lab.

Former University of Washington guard Brandon Roy’s recent scientific findings have the entire nation of Australia in an uproar. Among those leading the voice of opposition is former NBA legend Luc Longley.

“Roy is out of line,” Longley told reporters Monday. “He’s touching a sensitive subject with those Sydney Funnelwebs. That is Australia’s claim to fame. The Funnelweb is the deadliest spider in the world. The entire world.”

Roy released a scientific study last weekend that indicated that “no spider species anywhere can properly be called ‘deadly’,” which generated no small share of comments, mostly from Australians who were certain their country at least had truly deadly spiders, including the Sydney Funnelweb Spider Atrax robustus and the Redback Spider Latrodectus hasselti.

Roy’s response? “To start with, Luc and all these people have misunderstood what I said. I never claimed that no human ever died from spider venom. What I said was that there is no species whose bite kills as many as 10% of its victims, nor any spider that kills within minutes, like in the movies. This applies just as strongly to Australia and Brazil as to the USA.”

Roy backed up his point using Australian data. “According to the Australian Spiders FAQ, the number of human deaths from authentic spider bites of any kind in Australia since 1979 has been zero. A recent published medical study followed 750 genuine Australian spider bite cases with identified spiders over 27 months (1999-2001). Only 44 bites (6%, mostly redback spider bites) had significant effects. Only 6 redback bites and 1 Atrax bite were serious enough to need antivenom. In no case was there any sign of allergic response to spider venom, and I have only seen one such case in North America in 34 years.”

And what of the boast of the Funnelweb being the “world’s deadliest?” Roy challenged: “Atrax robustus, the Sydney Funnelweb Spider, is often publicized as the ‘world's deadliest.’ Authentic medical information (click here for details) suggests otherwise. There have been no deaths (out of 30-40 bites per year) since antivenom was introduced in 1980. During the 53 year period 1927-1979 there were 13 or 14 known deaths, which would be a death rate of under 1%! Although one child died in 15 minutes, adult fatalities typically took 2-3 days. 90% of Atrax bites are judged not serious enough to need antivenom.”

Roy went further to explain that most serious spider bites in Australia are from the Redback, Latrodectus hasselti, a close relative of American black widows with very similar venom and effects. The recent study mentioned above tallied 56 genuine redback bites. Only 37 (66%) had any serious effects, and only 6 (11%) were serious enough to need antivenom. There have been no redback-caused human deaths in several decades.

Roy’s concluding statement said: “Most medical conditions blamed on spiders by physicians lack confirmation that any actual spider was involved in the case. Spider bites of all kinds are rare events (as opposed to other bites and medical conditions that get wrongly blamed on spiders). Although it is possible for a spider bite to cause death, that is a very unlikely outcome and does not happen in enough cases to justify calling any spider ‘deadly.’”

Luc’s response to this? “I think Brandon Roy needs to be focusing more on the basket than the beakers,” he remarked. “I would like to see him come face to face with a Funnelweb and then tell me how harmless they are.”

Roy answered with appeal to facts. “The facts are there. There is no need for me to defend my position. Aussies are too prideful. They always try to one-up America. They claim they have a cattle ranch bigger than Texas, the deadliest spider, the best rugby players, the better ways of spelling, and the list goes on. Do you want to know what I think they’re really cheesed about? That they’re still under rule of the Brits and we’re not. They’ve got convict blood in them, and Luc Longley’s no exception.”

Longley was surprised by Roy’s boldness. “All I have to say now is, good thing we didn’t play each other in the NBA, or I’d annihalate that rookie. Who-Dub? Pac-Who? B Roy, you don’t know me!”

Roy’s response? “Look, Luc, better leave me alone, before waste you in one-on-one and send you home! I am the Roy, belee-dat! One on one, y’all, Luc reach, I teach! Bring it!”

Translation: Luc, I challenge you to a game of one-on-one.

Luc accepted the challenge. “This guy’s a petty rook, mayte. No worries, I’ll bring him down just like all those yanks, fair dinkum!”

Translation: Brandon is a rookie. Because of his inexperience, I will win.

In ten seasons from 1991 to 2001, Longley averaged 7.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. Roy is a rookie this year for the Portland Trail Blazers. He is averaging 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game.

Numbers seem indecisive? Think about experience. Luc has played in 567 NBA games. Roy has played in a total of 13. But often with inexperience comes youth. Luc will be 38 on January 19th. Roy is 22. Former Washington teammate Ryan Appleby said: “Roy will be runnin circles around Luc. It’s like playing one on one with your old man.”

What about size? Longley’s 7-foot-2, 265 pound presence seems to dwarf the 6-foot-6, 215 pound Roy.

But Roy is not intimidated by Luc’s size. “Often your strength is really your weakness,” he said in the pregame conference, “and if Luc’s game is any sort of reflection of his scientific reasoning, I won’t have too much difficulty beating him.”

So what was the outcome of the game? Officially, the game is written in the books as SUSP. We all know what that means. Suspended. Roy was leading seven to one and went in for a drive when he was fouled hard by Longley, resulting in a reciprocation by Roy. Both were ejected following a scuffle and the game was suspended.

Luc Longley (left) and Brandon Roy (right) didn’t play long before the game became too heated to finish.


Michael Jordan attacks Clinton

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's All About the Numbers?

Do stats really tell the whole story?

NBA legend Oscar Robertson was once asked in an interview whether Wilt Chamberlain was the greatest player ever. The “Big O” responded with four words: “The books don’t lie.”

My response to that statement would be: Yes, Oscar, they don’t. But although the books cannot tell a lie, they do not quantify greatness. Sure, they keep track of points per game, rebounds per game, etc, but they do not keep track of greatness per game.

What Oscar is really saying is that the numbers tell the whole story. Without any disrespect to the Big O, I must say that I could not disagree with him more. This "all about the numbers" blunder, committed ironically by the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double, deserves a special name. I termed it "Oscar's Oversight".

Oscar, The NBA, and the fans praise players for their offensive performances. Wilt's 100-point game in Hershey, Pennsylvania and Kobe's 81-point game against the Raptors two years ago are impressive. But how consequential were they? They were regular season, inconsequential games. Sure, they go in the record books as the two best offensive performances ever.

But let me ask you, Oscar, what if they introduced some new stats into the NBA—some things that though not kept track of, are just as pivotal as the points, rebounds, and assists? I think that the current stat system in the NBA gives everyone a bad case of Oscar's Oversight and should be revised.

Let’s look at NBA under-the-radar defensive specialist Derrick McKey. You will never see a poster of him on a kid’s wall. Why? Because he is not flashy. No, not even his stats back him up. But the impact of "Heavy D" Derrick McKey on the basketball court is enormous. Yet for some head-scratching reason his influence is not recognized on the official stat sheet.

Let’s look at an example. Game 4 of the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Finals featured the Indiana Pacers hosting the Chicago Bulls. The final score: Indiana 96, Chicago 94. A scan of the game recap and box score would reveal that Reggie Miller hit a game-winning 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second remaining in the game. Without thinking twice the typical fan might conclude that Reggie was the player of the game, or perhaps Rik Smits, who led the Pacers in scoring of 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

What were Derrick McKey’s stats? Two-for-six shooting, 1-for-2 on three pointers, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 rebounds, 0 blocks, 1 turnover, 6 points. Not too impressive of a stat line. Yet Derrick McKey had a number of game changing plays. His tight defense forced Michael Jordan to shoot an airball at the end of the first half. He took a hit to the ground and got up and nailed a three-pointer to give the Pacers their first lead of the second half.

81 points? No, only 6. But Derrick McKey's performance was much more pivotal to his team at the time than Kobe's was to his. Because of McKey, his team tied the playoff series at two games a piece. Clearly, McKey’s 6 point, 3 assist, 0 steal, 0 rebound, and 0 block stat line is not an accurate representation of his game performance. Thus, I am proposing some additional stats be kept:

  • SAPG—shots altered per game—it is not a block, but the defender’s hand is right in the shooter’s line of sight. Perhaps the fingers just graze the ball, or even just the air from the hand whizzing underneath the released any case, the shot does not go in.

  • SSPG—squeaky sneakers per game—the sound of the sneakers squeaking on the wood floor is an indicator that some serious defense is being played.

  • CTPG—charges taken per game—sacrificing a body for the team does not earn any stats, but it should.

  • FBPG—floor burns per game—the idea for keeping track of floor burns came from Ian Eagle in a 2001 regular season game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Oregon Ducks. Ian showed that both teams had 9 floor burns.

  • 2LPG—two-handed layups per game—thank Robert Horry for this one. How often does a 6-foot-10 player all alone going to the basket lay it up with two hands? With Robert Horry, it is an almost nightly occurrence. Apparently, it is paying off; “Big Shot Bob” has 7 rings.

  • IYFDPG—In-your-face D’s per game—please explain to me why they keep no stat for this. Nothing is greater than seeing someone playing his heart out on defense, right in the face of the offensive player.

  • MSPG—motivational speeches per game—sometimes the greatest contributions to a game are not anything actually on the court. It might be a sideline huddle, where the little man with the big mouth (e.g. Avery Johnson) says something to get the team going. This is also a momentum shifter.

  • MSPPG—momentum-shifting plays per game—this could be any play: a block, a fancy pass, a dunk, a big three-pointer…whatever it is, it shifts the momentum meter to the other team. This is not kept track of, which I find puzzling. It is such a critical point in any game, yet it will get no recognition on the official books.

Following are some examples of these critical plays not kept in the current NBA stat system, but were absolutely essential to Indiana's win:

"His Airness" shoots an airball as the clock runs out in the first half. Why? Because of Derrick McKey's heavy, in-your-face D. No credit given on the stat sheet.

With the shot clock winding down, Jalen Rose's pressure in-your-face D forces Michael Jordan to pass the ball to Toni Kukoc, who commits a shotclock violation.

Jalen Rose's pressure defense on Michael Jordan causes Jordan to commit an offensive foul. 1 charge taken.

McKey's heavy D causes Jordan to miss a jumpshot, after which Travis Best runs down the court and drills a three. 5 point turnaround, yet no credit on the books given to Derrick McKey. That was one squeaky sneaker, 1 in-your-face D, and 1 momentum-shifting play.

McKey gets clobbered by teammate Rik Smits, falls down, gets jumped over by Dennis Rodman, gets up, runs down the court, and nails a three to give his team its first lead of the second half. 1 floor burn.

A replay of the previous video.

What can I say more? Derrick McKey and Jalen Rose were the Pacers' catalysts in this game. Give them some credit. If the NBA began keeping these stats, not only will players like Derrick McKey and Jalen Rose get more credit for what they do night-in and night-out, but we will see the NBA players as a whole improve their all-around game. Sometimes players carry the mentality that if it doesn't affect their stat line it doesn't really matter. Well, now it will really matter. The time has come for the unsung heroes to shine. The time has come for the cliche "stats don't tell the whole story" to become obsolete. Stats could tell the whole story if we wanted them to.

True, the game is not determined by which team had more floor burns, or rebounds, or assits; the result of the game is determined by which team had more points. But those points would not be scored if it were not for those floor burns, and that in-your-face defense that caused the missed shot which led to a score on the other end. These unofficial stats are really what the game is all about.

Just ask "Heavy D" Derrick McKey.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sasquatch: Man, Myth, or Martian?

Sasquatch is possibly the most popular cryptozoological creature of all time. He--assuming he is male--has caused fear among many inhabitants of the remote forests, primarily in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, where the majority of reported sightings have occurred.

Sightings have not been restricted to the Pacific Northwest, however. There have been a cluster of sightings in
Fouke, Arkansas. If this is the same Sasquatch, apparently he is both mobile and intelligent enough to travel across the country.

But to Mars?

A rover on Mars captured a photo of a man-like creature resembling the alleged Sasquatch captured on the famous
1967 Patterson film in 2004, and the photo was posted on NASA's website on January 2, 2008. NASA Scientists are puzzled by the photo.

Can't really blame them.

Is Life Possible on Mars?

Bigfoot isn't exactly the first person you would expect to see on Mars. The only evidence of life of any kind on Mars is scientists’ discovery of
evidence of water on Mars in 2000. This was, again, only evidence of water, not actual water.

Is the climate of Mars habitable? The average recorded temperature on Mars is -63 C (-81 F) with a maximum temperature of 20 C (68 F) and a minimum of -140 C (-220 F). [
1] Clearly colder than Earth, nonetheless with temperatures reaching in the 60’s Bigfoot could survive in the climate.

The atmosphere of Mars is quite different from that of Earth. It is composed primarily of carbon dioxide with very small amounts of other gases, such as nitrogen and oxygen. Martian air contains only about 1/1,000 as much water as our air, but even this small amount can condense out, forming clouds that ride high in the atmosphere or swirl around the slopes of towering volcanoes. Local patches of early morning fog can form in valleys. At the Viking Lander 2 site, a thin layer of water frost covered the ground each winter. [

So there is evidence of water on Mars, and the atmosphere and weather conditions make it possible—though not probable—that a human could survive on this planet.

Bigfoot on Mars: Is it really that Unbelievable?

Skeptics—or, for that matter, mostly anyone who reads about Bigfoot on Mars will laugh at the ludicrousness of even the thought of Bigfoot being on Mars.

Well, why not Mars? We can't seem to produce any empirical proof of the existence of this creature on our own planet. Every identifiable animal on the planet reproduces, dies, and there are remains (e.g., a body or skeleton) to provide evidence of its existence. All that has been produced remotely related to Sasquatch is a fossil of a believed ancestor:
Gigantopithecus blacki. No bodies. No bones. Only some alleged footprints, grainy photos, and one 1967 film.

The existence of Bigfoot on Mars is not much less believable than the existence of Bigfoot on our own planet. It is similar to arguing that unicorns couldn’t live in Massachusetts, or that penguins couldn’t fly on the North Pole.

The Cain Connection

There is a theory that Sasquatch is really the biblical figure Cain, a son of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:1). Cain is commonly regarded as the first murderer, who slew his brother Abel. The book of Genesis fails to mention Cain’s motive for murdering Abel, but the book of Moses indicates that Cain killed his brother in order to obtain his flocks (Moses 5:31, 33).

After murdering Abel, the Lord visited Cain and told him: “thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood” (Moses 5:36).

The Lord then explained to Cain his curse: “When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth” (Moses 5:37).

Cain then told the Lord that Satan tempted him because of his brother’s flocks, and that he (Cain) was wroth also, “for his offering thou didst accept and not mine” (Moses 5:38). Cain then lamented, “my punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13, Moses 5:38).

Is Sasquatch really Cain?

David W. Patten, known as the first martyr of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, related a story in which he came across a "very remarkable person who had represented himself as being Cain":

"As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me. He walked along beside me for about two miles. His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight..."(Lycurgus A. Wilson, Life of David W. Patten [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1900], p. 50., as quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, Inc.]18th printing 1991 p.p. 127-128.).

Elder Patten’s description of Cain is very close to the general description of Sasquatch. Sasquatch is described as being between 7 and 10 feet tall, and covered in dark brown or dark reddish hair.[3]

From the biblical and subsequent Moses account, we know that Cain was cursed to be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth. There is no account of Cain’s death in the Scriptures, only that he was shut out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt with his wife and brethren in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden (Moses 5:41).

If Cain is Sasquatch, it would explain why there have been no Sasquatch remains (e.g. bodies or bones) discovered.

The Mark of Cain

Both the Genesis and the Moses account indicate that the Lord set a mark on Cain, “lest any finding him should kill him” (Genesis 4:15, Moses 5:40). What exactly was this mark? The accounts do not explain specifically what the mark was, however the purpose of the mark was clear: “lest any finding him should kill him.” The dictionary defines the word lest as “for fear that.” Thus the Lord wanted Cain to not be killed. This is supported by the Lord’s curse on Cain: “a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth,” and further by the Lord’s declaration: “Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold” (Moses 5:40).

Flood Survival

Certainly if Cain is walking to and fro on the earth today, he must have survived the great flood by which the Lord told Noah He would destroy mankind (Genesis 6:7). Where was Cain during the flood? Maybe he made a raft, or perhaps he took a hiatus on Mars. It is not completely unreasonable to conclude that anyone who can survive for 6,000 years might also have the ability to travel to different planets. This would, however, contradict the statement made by Elder Patten that Cain was a “wanderer in the earth to travel to and fro…”

The Conclusion

So, is Sasquatch real? Is he really Cain? Is he capable of space travel? The answers to these questions are more than I know. One thing is for sure, however: if anyone is capable of living on Mars, it is someone who has survived in isolation for and indefinite number of years and still remained a mystery to everyone else.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jackhammer Noogie

ASSM alum Zach Harding has threatened fellow former missionary Matt Inouye with a jackhammer noogie.