Friday, June 11, 2010

"Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis" Review

  • Title:  "Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis"
  • Author:  Christopher Nowinski
  • Finished: November 4, 2009
  • Synopsis:  This book is a mixture of many things: autobiography, lessons learned, advocacy, etc.  Nowinski tells the story of his battle with multiple concussions and warns football players, families, and coaches of the danger of not taking concussions seriously.
  • Impression of the book: I was impressed with Nowinski (Harvard football player turned professional wrestler) and his ability to tell a really sad story that continues to wreak havoc in his life.  I closed the book feeling both sad for him and fortunate that  I walked away from football mostly unscathed.
  • Read Again Scale: 6
    • I was suckered by the display at the Fayetteville Public Library.  This is one time that I am not sorry about it.
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author:  5  
    • A definite maybe on this score.  I think it would entirely depend on the subject.
Nowinski tells a story that is perhaps familiar to many that have played high school and/or college football. He has multiple instances of getting dinged, having his bell rung, etc.  What football players, coaches, and professional wrestlers don't realize is that each of those cultural phases for going loopy after hit are basically the recognition of the symptoms of a concussion (without actually saying concussion).  I had ONE pretty serious concussion as a high football player, but thinking back on my career, it is likely that I had multiple "minor" concussions that never took me out of the action.

Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis from the NFL to Youth Leagues
This book caused me a lot of consternation, but it also confirmed a lot of my beliefs about youth football. I am one that believes that tackle football at ages less than middle school/junior high is counterproductive.  First, there is such a great disparity in body size at young ages that there is an inherent problem of the smaller players quitting (or never starting) because of the size mismatch with larger kids.  Second, there is nothing that is taught or learned at those young ages that is neglected in higher levels of football.  Finally and probably most importantly, the coaches of these Pop Warner or Pee Wee leagues don't have the training to recognize the signs of head injury.  For that matter, neither do some high school or college coaches if we are to believer the reports from Texas Tech last season.

I think that every youth, junior high, and high school football coach should read this book.  I think that coaches care about their players. Living with the fact that they could have prevented an injury (or death) of a player would be extremely difficult.  I also recommend this book to anyone involved with high school athletics.  Finally, I would recommend that high school coaches associations around the country bring in neurologists or other doctors to train/inform coaches on the dangers of head injuries for adolescents.  Emphasizing the dangers might reign back some of the cavalier attitude toward head injuries that can be seen on almost any Friday night during football season.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"Children of Dune" Review

  • Title:  "Children of Dune"
  • Author:  Frank Herbert
  • Finished: April 17, 2009
  • Synopsis:  This book is the 3rd book in the original "Dune Chronicles" by Frank Herbert.  A pretty good synopsis is found here.
  • Impression of the book: This book brings closure to many of the issues raised in the first two novels.  Leto (son of the emperor who was both worshiped and hated) brings about a more complete transformation of society than even his father managed, but he pays a terrible price. 
  • Read Again Scale:10
    • Like "Dune" this book is also on my five year re-read list.
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author: 10
    • As I mentioned in the "Dune Messiah" review, Frank Herbert is one of greats of science fiction.  Eventually, I plan to read every novel that he wrote.
This book shows how the twin children of an emperor (who was elevated to messiah status) deal with the problems he left behind.  The twins must negotiate assassination plots, family politics, and a crumbling religion based on their father.  AND they have to do all this before they turn 10.  The end of this novel is closure for the first "trilogy" in the Dune Chronicles, and it is likely that Herbert intended to end his story here. I enjoyed the follow-on novels, but the ~5 years between this book and the next one tells me that Herbert was persuaded to expand his universe rather than planning it.  As I wrote during the Dune and Dune Messiah reviews, if you are a science fiction fan (or thinking of giving the genre a try), the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert is a good place to dive into.  If you enjoy the world that he creates, you might try the other books written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.  Again, I will warn you that if you don't enjoy sci-fi, take a pass on this book and series.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"The Hobbit" Review

  • Title:  "The Hobbit"
  • Author:  J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Finished:  April 10, 2010
  • Synopsis:  Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, "signs on" for an adventure as the burglar for a group of dwarves.  Gandalf plays a large role in his recruitment for this task. Along the way to reclaim the dwarf treasure, they run into many strange creatures, close calls, and exciting new acquaintances.  By the way, during all this adventure Bilbo stumbles across THE Ring of Power made and obsessed about by Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor. Bilbo is able to use it to become invisible and help the company in many ways during the trek to the Lonely Mountain.
  • Impression of the book: I first read this book as a middle school student.  Middle Earth was (and still is) a great escape from wherever I am.  I love this book, and I think Tolkien is one of the best storytellers of the 20th century.
  • Read Again Scale:  10
    • I first read this book in middle school.  I like to pick it up every so often. 
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author: 10
This short novel is a small part of the backstory that launches "The Lord of the Rings" epic.  I have always liked the story of how Bilbo stumbles across the ring.  Bilbo thinks it is just a useful trinket, but eventually he finds it very difficult to part with it.  This story contains a lot more fantasy and young reader stuff than the LOTR follow-up. I enjoyed it as a middle school reader, and I still like it as an adult. After the publication of LOTR, Tolkien "cleaned up" some of the details of the finding of the ring, but the essence of the story didn't change. Tolkien knows how to tell a story.  He was also brave enough to take the amount of words necessary to tell a great story.  If you like classic fantasy literature or want to give it a try, "The Hobbit" is a great place to start. If my voice would hold out (and she would patronize me), I will start reading this book with Sophie when she reaches middle school.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nuclear Posture Review Report - Post #3

I am finally ready to write a little bit more on the NPR report issued by the Obama administration. You can download the report here. This post will deal with the "Introduction" chapter of the NPR. Again, before I continue commenting on the NPR, I need to add a disclaimer. I am employed by Sandia National Laboratories. The views written here are not the official position of SNL and should not be viewed that way. They are my views as a private citizen.

As I read the introduction (page 1), I was struck that NNSA national laboratories (Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore) were left out of the discussion. If true, it seems that a lot of brain power was left out.  However, since reading the NPR, I have heard statements from NNSA lab directors affirming that the labs were consulted as the DoD and the administration moved forward on the document.  I am not sure that they were heard or understood, but they were "consulted".

Continuing on to page 2, I can't help but notice that the 2010 NPR is trying to tie the hands of future Presidents and Congresses.  Some of the policies that are outlined in the document would be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.  In any case, there are five key objectives of the U.S. nuclear weapons policy and posture listed on this page.  I will quote the objectives and then give you my stream-of-consciousness response as written in my notes on the document.

Objective #1: "Preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism."

  • I agree that at this time in history this should be have the highest priority.  
Objective #2: "Reducing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy."
  • I disagree with this for a host of reasons.  Foremost, even if we were going to do this, why are we telling the world about it.
Objective #3: "Maintaining regional deterrence and stability at lower nuclear force levels."
  • Probably can be done at the tactical level.  It is also possible at the strategic level, but both depend ENTIRELY on implementation.
Objective #4: "Strengthening regional deterrence and reassuring U.S. allies and partners."
  • We must do this, but I don't think many of our "friends" believe us right now (e.g., England and Israel).
Objective #5: "Sustaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal."
  • I agree with this, but the success of this (again!!) depends ENTIRELY on implementation.

Taken our of context, each of these objectives seems entirely reasonable even though I may disagree with the reasoning.  The problem is that we cannot take them out of the context in which we are allowing Iran and North Korea (and possibly others) to pursue nuclear ambitions, committing the fortunes of our grandchildren to keep government union members employed, and blaming the previous President for every thing that goes wrong 2 years after he left office.

Basically, each objective has a chapter dedicated to it, so I will leave my stream of consciousness critiques and address the details of the policies in future posts. So, that's it for the Introduction.  I must say that I was disappointed but not surprised by this document.  Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I will outline (in coherent fashion) why this document concerns me a great deal.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Vote for Pedro!

For the fans/haters of Napoleon Dynamite out there, you know that this is the battle call to get out the vote for your favorite cause. For the next few days (15 to be exact), I am going to Parents Connect to nominate Kristy's blog (Tales from the Krit) for the 2010 Best Parenting Blog. You can join me there to vote once per day.

You can click on the badge in the top left sidebar of this blog, and it will take to her picture which will be highlighted in yellow. On your first visit to the site, you will have to register. After that, you simply vote each day.

The Parents Connect website claims that Kristy's blog is one of the "up-and-comers" in the blogging world and I really believe that. She held her own against some really BIG blogs in the 2008 Weblog Awards. Since then, her writing has only gotten better. Back then, I nominated her for the Weblog Award with the comment that "Sophie provides the material and Kristy makes it hilarious."

Even if you aren't going to be rocking the vote on Parents Connect, I do suggest subscribing to Kristy's feed with your favorite feed reader (click here to subscribe). It is an easy way to get her latest posts. Don't forget to comment on her posts. She LOVES that!

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