Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas or Saturnalia?

Repost from a few years ago. Can't believe I've been on blogger this long.

Don't you love hypothetical questions?

If you could choose, which holiday would you celebrate this year--Christmas or Saturnalia? And no, Festivus isn't an option.

I've done a little bit of research on both, so I could make an informed decision. As in, I spent five minutes on Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, Christmas and Saturnalia have more than a few commonalities. (Gee, wonder why.)

After much thought, Saturnalia gets my vote.

What's that? Are you laughing? Well, sir, just hear me out. Before you scoff at the idea, at least pause to consider what Saturnalia has to offer:

-A week-long holiday
-Conventional sacrifices
-School holiday
-Small presents (But I'm not sure if Guitar Hero counts as a small present)
-Special market
-Gambling for everybody!
-Reversal of social roles (You can tell your boss what you really think of him/her)

Doesn't sound half bad. And, you're not required to wear a toga for Saturnalia. That's right. Instead, you'd wear the synthesis, which I hear is much more comfortable AND flattering.

With Saturnalia, you still get all the benefits of Christmas (gifts, school holiday) with some added bonuses, like tomfoolery and sacrifices. Seriously, can one ever get enough tomfoolery? And I think this world could do with more sacrifices. Perhaps regularly-scheduled sacrifices would satiate the blood-lust inherent in man so there would be no more war.

Then there's the fact that you're not required to risk your life hanging lights on the roof all of which, may I remind you, have to come down in less than a month.

Saturnalia doesn't require the creation of scores of Christmas cards to send out to family members you see, if you're lucky (take that how you want), once a year.

Given the choice between a one-day, or at best, a one-and-a-half day if you count Christmas Eve, celebration and a week-long celebration, well, I think you know where I'm headed with this...


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gene Roddenberry Called It

The science community has been buzzing of late about the Voyager probes' impending (did it already happen?) departure from the heliosphere. Launched 35 years ago, Voyager's primary mission was to visit the outer planets. The two craft performed flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and for the last 23 years have continued along their trajectories toward the edge of the solar system. It looks like V'GER will become the first ship to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space.

If you're asking me what V-GER is, you're not a Trekkie. V'GER was the fictional Voyager 6 craft that appeared in Star Trek: The (Slow) Motion Picture (I'm still yawning) and wreaked all kinds of sci-fi havoc on the Klingons and the Federation. According to Kirk, its purpose was to transmit data back to Earth but eventually it disappeared into a black hole. The real Voyager crafts aren't headed for any black holes that we know of but they'll one day both leave the solar system. Who knows what they'll find. Preliminary data received from Voyager 1 as it navigates the heliosheath is already forcing astrophysicists to reevaluate some of their long-standing assumptions about the edge of the solar system and interstellar space.

BTW, I dig the poster for the upcoming Star Trek movie even though the Dark Knight influence is obvious.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

David Stern Doesn't Understand Basic Exercise Science

In a controversial, dunder-headed move, NBA Commissioner David Stern imposed a $250,000 fine on the San Antonio Spurs for resting four of its five starters against the Miami Heat last week. Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich, one of basketball's sharpest minds (I'll take him over Phil Jackson), made the decision to give his better players the night off because it was their fourth game in five nights.

Stern claimed the sanctions were imposed because the team had not informed the league ahead of time of the "one-day vacation" the players were going to take, although no such onus is placed on Coach Pop or the Spurs by NBA rules. In truth, the move rankled Stern because it was a marquee match-up between two high-caliber teams who might be meeting in the NBA finals this season, so obviously the game was nationally televised.

There are many layers to this which I won't go into here, but Pop's decision was sound. You see this in other sports frequently, especially in baseball, and basketball should be no different. In fact, the wear and tear athletes face on a basketball court is just as bad, and probably worse, than that endured on a baseball diamond, even though the MLB season is 162 games compared to the NBA's 82. Factor in that the Spurs are an old team compared to most of the other title contenders, and Pop's decision is all the smarter.

Many are clamoring that Pop should have just rested his guys during the last two weeks leading up to the playoffs, presumably when they had their playoff berth locked. And Stern's choice of words in his sanction, referring to the fact that this was an early-season game, reflects this myopic thinking.

I'm no physiologist but I've run two marathons and another middle distance race so I've paid attention to what the sports scientists are saying. You rest before you're tired. You hydrate before you're thirsty. With such a long, grueling season, the NBA athlete's body will break down, it's only a question of when. If you rest your guys early, you stave off that breakdown. Waiting till the last two weeks of the season to do it is useless. Most athletes will be beyond the point of no return by then and missing four or five games won't be a difference-maker. Ignore the principle of rest-early and you increase the risk of injury. It's that simple and any high school trainer will tell you this and yet Stern, the man in charge of a multi-million (billion?) sports business, does not.

Stern is peeved because it was a nationally-televised game and Pop's move probably hurt viewership. But Stern's thinking and punishment were short-sided--the healthier the Spurs are, the better they will be in the playoffs. And that will maximize ratings for Stern.

Never mind the fact that the Spurs almost won the game against the Heat anyway, or that Pop wanted his best guys hale for their upcoming match-up with their Western conference challengers, the Memphis Grizzlies, a much more important outcome for the Spurs come playoff-time.

Some have argued that Pop should have rested two guys one night, then two guys the next. But that's statistically nonsensical. Why increase your chances of losing two games as opposed to just one?