The Monday Morning Rouser:
The Olympics are over, so let's check back in with the fancy math model that predicted the medal counts.
Earlier this summer, Dan Graettinger formulated his model for predicting how each country would do in London, with a calculation of gross domestic product and even the Internet:
The single characteristic most closely associated with winning Olympic medals is ... number of internet users . My initial reaction was, "What the heck??!!" This is a good time to point out that good predictors may not actually cause the outcome, but rather go together with (correlate to) the outcome. After further thought, I realized that the number of internet users does tell us a lot about a country. The people are wealthy enough to afford computers and internet access. The population of the country is relatively large (since this piece of data measured the total number of users, not users per capita). Finally, the people have enough free time on their hands to engage in non-subsistence-related activities, like participating in sports or surfing the net!
Graettinger also used an "economic freedom" component in his calculation. NPR reports the model was 97-percent accurate, although it's difficult for non-mathies (bowing) to see just how that works out, since just about everybody could've predicted the U.S. and China would've won the most medals.
Conento, a Spanish marketing firm, also put together a model. In this paragraph -- somewhere -- is a reasoned explanation of how:
What is the reliability of the model and what type of data can help us making this estimate? The mathematical model obtained by a Poisson regression (a more technical version of the article, with details on the methodology used can be downloaded from the same website), can explain almost 96% of the medals from each country in previous Olympics, relying on three main sources of information. The first is made up by the medal counts for the last four Olympics (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008), with greater weight for those Games closer to our time. Of course, if a country in the past won a high number of medals, it would make us assume that this result could be repeated. Lacking any additional information, the safest bet is an "evolution in continuity", although it may be otherwise.
So let's just go to the prediction:
And the results...
Show offs. But nobody predicted the Spice Girls reunion.
Here are the most absurd moments from last night's closing ceremonies.
Related: A woman rappelled 40 stories down a skyscraper in Seattle to raise money for Special Olympics. The pictures are spectacular.
Who do people in one location pay one price for gasoline and a few blocks away, people pay another?
"It's the age-old question," Paul Mutch, vice chairman with the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association, tells the Grand Forks Herald in its story today about the patterns of gas prices.
Take a look at the map for the current gas prices for the region (from MinnesotaGasPrices.com)...
The prices change, of course, but the pattern usually doesn't. Differences from state to state are often a reflection of taxes, but within a state, what accounts for it? Unfortunately the paper doesn't answer the question in its article.
Meanwhile, the recent rapid runup in gasoline prices are being blamed on refinery woes and ethanol. Corn is used to make ethanol, and the drought has wiped out a lot of the country's corn crop, forcing the price higher.
The price of oil jumped a bit in international trade circles today ahead of U.S. retail sales figures. An improving economy is bad news for people who want lower energy prices. So, which would you rather?
Somebody may tell you something is impossible today. They might be wrong.
(h/t: The Big Picture)
Unless you stayed up very late into the morning, the Twin Cities missed a good view of the Perseid meteor shower.
When last we discussed the great airplane building project, it had flown off to Airlake Airport in Lakeville in June for its required testing phase. On Saturday, it returned "home" to South Saint Paul, able to take on passengers. And so, we took passengers and gave rides. My youngest son produced the following...
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his choice for vice president, bypassing former governor Tim Pawlenty and others. Today's Question: What do you think of Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: The single woman and the presidential election.
Second hour: Where is that thin line between hate speech and a real threat? Is there any way law enforcement can do more- without impeding people's First Amendment rights?
Third hour: What makes Florida such a politically unique state?
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Rajiv Chandrasekaran at the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, "Little America: The War within the War For Afghanistan."
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - The duty to warn. Since the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, questions have swarmed about whether there were any signs that James Holmes was capable of such a violent crime. Defense attorneys for the accused mass murderer believe the suspect is mentally ill and court documents reveal that he was seeing a school psychiatrist.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - All 201 seats in the Legislature will be on the ballot in November and there are more than 40 contested nominations. We'll take a look at some of those where the stakes are highest and where the most candidates are competing.
For the first time in many years, money that cities and counties in Minnesota spend on law enforcement has started to decline by some measures. For some time, local governments have been whittling at parks, libraries, street maintenance and other services and avoiding public safety cuts. Now it's clear that public safety is also getting the scrutiny of budget cutters. MPR's Dave Peters will discuss.
MPR's Jess Mador looks at the new veterans court in Minneapolis. But for outstate veterans who live far from the new court, it's not so accessible. People in the court system say more options are needed to help the growing number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as they begin to experience mental health problems after deployment.
You see a lot of roadside memorials in the days and weeks after a death, you don't usually see them reappear once they're gone. People move on.
A year ago Friday, Arianna Tatum jumped to her death off the White Bear Ave bridge over I-94. In the days afterward, I wrote about the memorial that sprouted on the bridge.
This weekend, it reappeared.1 Comments)
Fabrizio Montermini isn't having a lot of luck at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
A year ago, he was given a 14 1/2 year prison sentence after being convicted of third-degree murder, criminal vehicular homicide and six counts of criminal vehicular operation for a drunk driving crash that killed an 18-year old. That was after the Minnesota Court of Appeals allowed him to withdraw a guilty plea in the 2006 crash that allowed him to try his luck with a jury.
That appeal resulted in his getting a stiffer sentence and today, the Court of Appeals rejected his appeal that it constitutes double jeopardy.
In its opinion today, the court wasn't particularly sympathetic:
The egregious nature of appellant's conduct, and the reactions it generated on the part of his passengers, establishes that the conduct was eminently dangerous to human life, that appellant must have been aware he was placing human life at risk, and that he heedlessly disregarded that risk. It also excludes any rational inference that he was merely negligent.
Nor should they have been. Fabrizio Montermini may qualify as one of Minnesota's most despicable drunk drivers based on this must-read description in today's decision that should be required reading for anyone who thinks about getting into a car with a drunk driver.
The undisputed evidence is that, on the evening of January 13, 2006, appellant and B.F. met four friends at a home in Inver Grove Heights to go dancing at Stargate, a Maplewood nightclub. Appellant and B.F. arrived at the home between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. and appellant began drinking a mixture of vodka and Gatorade. At approximately 8:30 p.m., the group left for Stargate in two cars. There were three passengers in appellant's car. B.F. was seated in the front passenger seat, A.S. was in the rear driver-side seat, and M.C. was seated in the rear passenger-side seat. J.C. drove S.J.
in the other car. Appellant continued to drink the vodka-and-Gatorade mixture as he drove.
None of the group members knew how to get to Stargate, so appellant was relying on directions he was receiving by phone from a friend. The two cars initially drove north from Inver Grove Heights toward St. Paul on Highway 52. When he reached I-94, appellant headed west, but missed the exit for I-35E north. Appellant exited the freeway when he realized they were heading in the wrong direction and stopped his car on a side street. When the trailing car arrived, he reentered I-94 heading back east. On this pass, appellant again missed the turn for north I-35E and continued east on I-94 until S.J., with whom he was speaking by cell phone, confirmed that appellant was driving the wrong direction. He exited at Ruth Street, intending to reenter I-94 heading west. But appellant missed the freeway entrance ramp and instead turned west onto Old Hudson Road, a frontage road with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour, at approximately 9:40 p.m. He continued talking to S.J. by cell phone as he approached a curve in the road at between 58 and 61 miles per hour. As he rounded the curve, appellant lost control of the car, which skidded sideways into the oncoming lane, and the passenger side of his car struck the front end of an oncoming vehicle.
The collision left all three passengers of appellant's vehicle unconscious. B.F. suffered a severe head injury and multiple fractures. M.C. suffered a broken femur. A.S. received cuts and bruises. Four occupants of the car appellant struck were also injured. Appellant, who remained conscious, exited his vehicle. He walked down an embankment and urinated, then returned to his car. Despite the efforts of a bystander to stop him,
appellant drove up a curb, nearly striking other bystanders, then drove away from the accident scene. He rolled through a red light before turning north on Ruth Street, then accelerated to nearly 80 miles per hour. When appellant came upon an unlit church parking lot, he dragged the unconscious bodies of his passengers from the car onto the cold pavement, then left.
The last minutes of the people in the car were horrible:
Appellant resumed driving on I-94 heading east, and according to M.C., his driving became "worse." A.S. said he was driving "[v]ery, very fast," and estimated he was going 90 miles per hour. M.C. testified that she saw the speedometer indicate the car was going 115 miles per hour. She stated, "I was sitting there screaming for my life asking him to let me out of the car, to pull over and let me out." But according to M.C., appellant would either ignore them or say, "No way, dog."
His attorney argued at the trial that he should be sentenced to probation.1 Comments)
Joe DiMaggio was a righthanded hitter. What's wrong with this stamp in the recently released Major League Baseball stars series released by the USPS?
Nothing's wrong with it, the USPS blog contends today:
The Yankee Clipper was a right-handed batter, and he is indeed following through on his right-handed swing. However, due to the size of the stamp, you can't see that his lower torso and legs are twisted as they would be on his follow-through. The stamp artist, Kadir Nelson, also had to slightly change the position of the bat in order to show all of it. If this had been a photograph, you would've been able to see that when DiMaggio followed through, his bat was extended fully away from his body and nearly parallel to the ground.
Though some claim it's a guy poised to hit lefty, the video doesn't lie:
Although this famous photograph shows how the position of the bat had to be changed for the stamp:2 Comments)
Some Minnesotans might be chortling about a study out today showing Mississippi is the most obese state in the country, but our day will come, Minnesota. You had your chance to lower the obesity rate by 15 percent and -- like every state in the union -- you missed.
More than a third of the U.S. adults -- I'm guessing it's the middle third -- are obese, the report says.
Looking at the Centers for Disease Control map on obesity in just the last half decade is like watching the progression of Asian carp and zebra mussels.
First Wisconsin and Iowa...
Like dominoes -- really fat dominoes -- the Dakotas and Minnesota fell in 2007...
But Minnesota took a step back in 2008 and nothing has changed since. We're surrounded...
According to today's report from Trust for America's Health, Minnesota ranks 38th in obesity, down from about 31st four or five years ago.
The State Fair starts in 10 days. We could go orange by the end of the month.(7 Comments)
George Dennehy, born with no arms, can play the guitar with his feet. The Virginia man made an Internet splash a month ago when he posted on Reddit, calling attention to a video of his performance of "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls..
The buzz eventually got back late last week to the Goo Goo Dolls.
Tucked into today's Mayo Clinic announcement that Rep. Jesse Jackson is being treated for bipolar disorder is the role weight-loss surgery has had.
Here's the full news release:
Following extensive evaluation, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is undergoing treatment for Bipolar II depression at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Congressman Jackson is responding well to the treatment and regaining his strength.
Many Americans have bipolar disorder. Bipolar II disorder is a treatable condition that affects parts of the brain controlling emotion, thought and drive and is most likely caused by a complex set of genetic and environmental factors. Congressman Jackson underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2004. This type of surgery is increasingly common in the US and can change how the body absorbs food, liquids, vitamins, nutrients and medications.
Congressman Jackson has asked Mayo Clinic to distribute this information on his behalf. He and his family remain grateful for support and prayers offered and received on his behalf.
The middle paragraph is the eye opener -- a suggestion that the congressman's bipolar disorder is because of weight-loss surgery, although it may be an unfortunate piece of writing in which "caused by" was used in the previous sentence.
It would be unusual to hear a suggestion that weight-loss surgery could cause bipolar disorder. More than likely, what's being pointed out is the bipolar episode is connected to weight-loss surgery.
According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, people eligible for weight loss surgery often have a history of mental health problems or eating disorders.
According to its 2008 article:
The Harvard Mental Health Letter notes that mood disorders such as depression and anxiety affect many people who are eligible for bariatric surgery. The weight loss following surgery generally improves mood, at least initially. In studies, depression and anxiety scores were reduced significantly one year after surgery, but tended to be higher two and four years later. And some research has found higher-than-expected rates of suicide among surgery patients.
Eating disorders, such as binge eating, also affect many people considering bariatric surgery. And a highly controversial theory--as yet unproven--is that bariatric surgery may cause some people to lose weight but then "transfer" their food addiction to some other harmful addiction. Surgery may change the rate at which alcohol is absorbed, which may increase the risk of dependence in people who are vulnerable to becoming addicted. All of these factors underscore the need for mental health treatment before and after surgery, says the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
When we read about weight-loss surgery, we often are witness only to the before and after. It's clear from many stories, that there's a painful physical and emotional "right after" that rarely gets documented. In patients who are already taking medication for bipolar disorder, the physiological changes afterwards makes the medication problematic, according to Canadian studies cited by the National Institutes of Health:
The impact of bariatric surgery on psychiatric pharmacotherapy has not received much attention, and few specific recommendations exist to optimize medication regimens for this population. Based on potential for decreased absorption, it has been suggested that patients taking lamotrigine, olanzapine and quetiapine be monitored for decreased efficacy, as should those on controlled or extended-release antidepressants. Given that lithium is influenced by factors such as fluid volume, levels of this medication should also be monitored postoperatively to prevent problems with toxicity.
Patients with a psychiatric illness are especially vulnerable to obesity, and as a consequence of the factors contributing to weight gain in this population, they may also be less amenable to changes in diet and exercise alone. Bariatric surgery, a weight-loss tool that essentially cures obesity-related comorbidities such as type II diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia, may be lifesaving for this population and is an option that we need to thoroughly consider.
Jackson's weight-loss surgery was eight years ago. But bipolar is a lifelong illness that can only be managed.
Name all the people in baseball who have been associated with (mostly) one team since 1942.
Johnny Pesky may have been the last when he died today and you don't have to be a son of Red Sox Nation to know what a figure he represented in major league baseball.
There were bigger stars in Boston, but few more beloved. At the start of the season, he and teammate Bobby Doer were wheeled out for opening day (scroll to 2:14)...
He was a player, a manager, a long-time broadcaster, and then a coach.
Pesky was 92.
He was just a kid when he has alleged to have held the ball on a cutoff relay with the scored tied in the 7th game of the 1946 World Series. That allowed Enos Slaughter to score what would be the winning run and send the BoSox to several generations of self-pity.
For that one bad day, Pesky spent the rest of his life answering questions about it.