Friday, July 28, 2006

Sometimes, there are really problems with the media

Way back in November, you may have heard the story about the 15-year-old girl who died of an allergic reaction after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich nine hours earlier. An article about nut allergies on Slate got me thinking about the case again, and the fact that while I had heard some reports that the peanut allergy hadn't actually caused the girl's death, I couldn't recall ever reading anything concrete about the actual cause of death.

In fact, the top two returns to a Google search of the girl's name (Christina Desforges) are two articles that still cite the peanut butter kiss as the cause of death. The third link, however, is the actual coroner's report, which lists the cause of death as a severe asthma attack, and NOT an allergic reaction. (You can view the report here.)

As Emily Bazelon discusses in her article on Slate, there are real cases of severe allergies, and reactions to minute exposures, sometimes even to airborne particles. As a parent, I have sympathy for the nightmare of losing your child to something that neither you nor they could do anything about. At the same time, in dealing with public heath issues, hysteria and misinformation are often the greatest enemies. We'll be best able to deal with severe food allergies, as Bazelon states, if we really know what we're dealing with instead of dealing by default with the worst possible scenario.

I think that the Desforges case is likely to become something of an urban legend, especially since it contains just the right amount of possible sexual transgression to justify the "punishment" of death. ("Did you hear about the girl who DIED after kissing her boyfriend?") It would have been great to see some sort of follow-up to the original "peanut kiss of death" stories on a sufficient scale to correct the record.

But then, publishing corrections has always been a problem in the mass media, and far more so in the broadcast media world. We often hear about bias being the biggest problem with modern media, but I've never given that argument much credit. I think we suffer far more from sensationalism and sound bites.

(Editor's note: There is an aspect of mea culpa in this post. Back in November I participated in some of the hysteria when Snarkmarket originally brought the case to my attention. Consider this my attempt to print a correction of sufficient scale to try and correct the record.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Better news

I have a house!

And to celebrate, here's a link to one of my favorite episodes from the New Batman Adventures: Over the Edge. (Note: It seems Warner Brothers finally got wise, and YouTube has pulled the episode. 12/07/06)

I get a house, Batman loses his. The universe stays in balance. (Of course, my new house is no Wayne Manor, but then, since Wayne Manor doesn't actually exist, that means that my house is actually way bigger than Bruce Wayne's.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

It's been a tough week in Lansing. . .

I'm trying to buy a house and we're running into issues getting the deal closed. I apologize if I seem to have disappeared, but I should be back soon (unless, of course, I'm homeless).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It's been a tough week in Detroit

Which is probably why I'm happy that I'm in Lansing. . .

But anyway, it has been a tough week or so in Detroit sports. Steve Yzerman is retiring. Ben Wallace signed with the Bulls. The Tigers scraped out a couple of wins in a tough series with the worst team in the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and have lost two straight to the AL-West-leading Oakland Athletics.

While Yzerman is a big loss, I'm not that much of a hockey fan, and the Captain has been thinking about retirement for the past couple of years at least. Wallace is a bit more of a surprise, and while I'm concerned, I still can't quite think of it as the worst thing in the world. Wallace is irreplaceable in defense, but is questionable at best on offense, and he spent a good part of the second half of last season clashing with Flip Wilson, the Pistons' head coach. At the same time, however, Wallace was a big part of team chemistry, and it remains to be seen what the Pistons' starting five will look like on the floor next year, even with Rip, 'Sheed, Chauncey, and Tayshaun coming back.

I've taken a great deal of pleasure from watching the Tigers this year, but like all other Detroit teams, them seem to give an attentive fan a great deal to worry about, even when they possess the best record in Major League Baseball. This year, the Tigers seem to insist on losing to the good teams--Boston, New York, Chicago, and apparently Oakland. In all truth, I'd bee happy this year with a .500 season, but it would be a shame if the Tigers weren't able to follow-up this first half without at least a wild card bid. Were it just the Oakland series, I wouldn't be so worried, but to play poorly against the Pirates and then lose to Oakland doesn't bode well.

It may be well to keep in mind that the playoffs are really a bonus at this point. As poorly as the Tigers have played the past few years, it's really good to just see them win.

My prediction, just before the All-Star break: we make the playoffs as the wild card and lose first round. (I think we'll keep playing well, but the Tigers just haven't shown the ability to beat the really good teams yet.)