Stick to baseball, 11/28/15.

Eric Longenhagen and I posted a too-early ranking of the top 2016 MLB draft prospects, one that highlights the lack of a clear #1 overall prospect.

I reviewed two boardgames for Paste recently, the tile-laying game Cacao and the the family adventure game Mission: Red Planet.

Around these parts, I posted my annual list of recommended cookbooks and a short post listing boardgame app sales for this weekend.

And now, the links…

  • Glenn Greenwald destroyed CNN for suspending reporter Elise Labott for two weeks for a rather innocuous (my opinion) tweet on the Syrian refugee topic. Greenwald even went on CNN to rip them apart for their fearmongering and mishandling of Labott, as covered here by Erik Wemple, whose initial complaint of Labott’s “bias” in her tweet seems to have sparked the suspension. (Wemple has said he opposes such suspensions, but I don’t see why he singled out Labott, a relatively unknown female reporter, among the various more serious breaches of ethics Greenwald listed.)
  • Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks says Syrian refugees are just looking for a “paid vacation.”
  • Is the west’s reaction to the Paris terror attacks the war that ISIS wants?
  • The young Iraqis who are presumably risking their lives promoted evolutionary theory and rational thinking.
  • A great longread on so-called “inauthentic” ethnic cuisine as practiced by Asian-American chefs like Danny Bowien, Dale Talde, and David Chang. Authenticity is great, but isn’t de facto superior to inauthentic food made well.
  • The Guardian weighs in on fad diets that are often light on science, asking what constitutes “healthy eating?”
  • Aziz Ansari appeared on NPR’s The Hidden Brain podcast to discuss findings from his book on love and dating, co-authored with a sociologist, called Modern Romance.
  • Via a reader, a story from June in Slate that describes aquafaba, the possible vegan replacement for egg whites. It’s actually just the brining liquid found in canned chickpeas, and for reasons not yet understood, its protein structure can create a stable foam just like the albumin from chicken eggs.
  • Remember that hedge fund douchebag who bought the rights to a decades-old drug and raised the price fifty-fold, then reversed that decision under public pressure? Yeah, well, they reversed that reversal. It’s a clear situation where the free market – of which I’m a rather ardent supporter – fails, because the market for the drug is so small (the NY Times says that there were only 8821 prescriptions for it in 2014) that it likely wouldn’t support the creation of a competitor due to the high regulatory costs. The only solution I see would be for the FDA to “fast track” a generic alternative, assuming a manufacturer could be found – or, unfortunately, for the federal government to mandate a price cap.

Stick to baseball, 11/21/15.

Not much from me at Insider this week as I wait for a big trade or signing worth writing up; I did post my NL ROY ballot with my explanation on Monday, and held my regular Klawchat on Thursday. I’ve deferred a couple of trade comments because the PTBNLs might be significant, such as in the Leonys Martin-Tom Wilhelmsen trade.

I know there are many sci-fi fans among you – Robert Heinlein’s first Hugo winner, Double Star, is $2.99 for kindle today. I bought it since I’m reading the Hugo winners and haven’t read that one yet.

Also, if you didn’t see my post yesterday, the Ticket to Ride app (for iOS devices or for Android) received a major update, with upgrades to the base game and in-app purchases for most of the major maps (Europe, Switzerland, Asia, and India) available as well.

And now, my longest-yet collection of links …

  • The closing of Grantland has relit the debate over writers getting paid an appropriate wage for their work, with two strong editorials on the subject appearing over the last few weeks, one from Salon and another from
    Autostraddle. Both followed Wil Wheaton’s tweets about Buzzfeed approaching him about republishing something he’d written on his own blog without any compensation. When people tell me they think it’s “wrong” (or some variation thereof) for ESPN to charge for Insider, they’re falling into this same trap: If you want quality content to survive, you’re probably going to have to pay for it somehow, as ad revenue doesn’t cut it.
  • Buried amidst all the hot takes and thinkpieces after the terrorist attacks on Paris lie some smart writing on the broader topics of fighting Islamist extremists and the Syrian refugee crisis. Military historian Gwynne Dyer argued that terrorism is “overblown” and we shouldn’t bomb ISIS. (Security expert Bruce Schneier has been arguing since before 9/11 that we overreact to terrorist incidents, an overreaction that I think is a combination of availability bias and just plain old-fashioned fear of dying.) Nicholas Hénin, who was held captive by ISIS, also argues against airstrikes, saying we should take out Assad instead, while welcoming Muslim refugees. Freelance journalist David Perry pointed out that the United States has a long history of getting refugee crises “wrong.” And ESPN’s sister site Fivethirtyeight pointed out that of the governors who’ve said they won’t accept Syrian refugees – which is not actually their call, but the federal governments, but, you know, panderers gonna pander – come almost entirely from one party. This manifestation of anti-Muslim/anti-Arab prejudice is exactly the sort of discord ISIS can use to claim to recruits that the West is at war with Islam.
  • The longread of the week, which everyone seemed to be talking about on Twitter already: The New Yorker‘s detailing of the un-conversion of Westboro Baptist scion Megan Phelps-Roper, who, as the primary social media voice of the gay-bashing cult, spewed vitriol and hate for years before social media itself opened her mind.
  • A former Gawker staffer details the site’s problem with female staffers, largely a lack of female voices in the organization but also cases of harassment and other possibly illegal behavior.
  • I’ve long wondered how sellers of used books on amazon get any benefit from selling titles at a penny apiece. The New York Times is on it, describing those sellers’ business models in a way that made me want to go buy more of those books.
  • Christopher Kimball is leaving America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve never been a huge fan of his folksy act on TV or his prolix prose in their books, but I’m in the minority on that, and his personality was a dominant factor in the rise of ATK and success of their various media ventures.
  • Why is Urban Outfitters buying the Vetri restaurant group, which includes the wonderful Pizzeria Vetri mini-chain, modeled after Pizzeria Bianco? I don’t get it, although it seems like a backdoor IPO for Vetri, who will keep only his eponymous flagship restaurant. I just hope the pizzas and the amazing pastas at Osteria don’t change. Maybe now I can convince them to open a pizzeria in Wilmington.
  • NPR’s science desk reports on a contest for sustainable aquaculture startups called Fish 2.0. One winner: SabrTech, which produces substantial Water-filtration Above Replacement by using algae.
  • The Atlantic reports on a 19th century mental hospital in Alabama where the patients produced their own newspaper.
  • The world is on the cusp of a “post-antibiotic era,” based on the discovery of completely antibiotic-resistant strains of two bacteria in livestock in China. This is why buying antibiotic-free meat matters – and mattered a long time ago when we may have had time to prevent this.
  • Two more idiots who won’t vaccinate their baby … except these idiots are famous and someone might listen to them.
  • Friend of the dish Erik Malinowski has a wonderful piece on the 1995 Baltimore Stallions, still and likely forever the only U.S. team to win the CFL’s Grey Cup.
  • Two more strong pieces from Fivethirtyeight: How Alaska is heading for potential bankruptcy and a longread on the difficulty involved in statistical research for scientific papers.
  • This is the best piece I’ve seen on the debate over free speech on campus: In “Confessions of a non-leftist professor,” the author isolates the specific question of academic freedom for faculty members who aren’t in ideological sync with the overwhelming leftist majorities on campus.
  • The libertarian Cato Institute calls out two GOP Presidential candidates (plus Bobby Jindal, who was designated for assignment this past week) for “sucking up to hatemongers” by attending a conference where the keynote speaker called for the execution of gays. You’d think Ted Cruz would be lambasted for this, but the story seems to have slipped under the mainstream media’s radar.
  • Finally, the tweet of the week mocks our idiot friend the FraudBabe:

Saturday five, 11/14/15.

I have analyses up for Insiders on the Aaron Hicks-John Ryan Murphy trade, the Andrelton Simmons trade, and the Craig Kimbrel trade. I also held my weekly Klawchat here on the dish.

My various offseason buyers’ guides all went up this week:
Corner infielders
Middle infielders
Starting pitchers
Relief pitchers

Plus, you all saw my ranking of my all-time favorite boardgames, right?

And now, the links…

  • One of the bigger surprises on Art Angels, the outstanding new album from Grimes (née Claire Boucher), is the presence of the female Taiwanese rapper who goes by the name Aristophanes. Fader has a little more info on her with some Soundcloud links.
  • The Atlantic has a good review of Art Angels that talks about Grimes’ emerging fame and choice of musical direction. I’ll try to get a review of the album up early next week.
  • Public schools in Louisiana are teaching kids Christianity and creationism, a blatant violation of federal law and of the students’ rights.
  • The New Yorker has an excellent piece up on using “free speech” to distract from discussions of racism, focusing on the protests at Yale and the University of Missouri. The Yale controversy has seemed particularly easy to parse to me: You don’t get to go around in blackface in a closed environment and then claim you’re exercising your free speech rights. You get expelled.
  • Pennsylvania has the second-worst student immunization rate in the nation, but there are bills pending in their legislature to end the “philosophical exemption” (that is, the opt-out for parents too stupid to understand basic science), while the state’s departments of health and education are working to end the “grace period” that allows kids to attend school before they’ve gotten all their shots. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s editorial board supports these moves, as do I, not least because the state of Delaware told me building a border wall was too expensive.
  • Doctors need to do a better job of encouraging parents to give their kids the HPV vaccine, according to Aaron Carroll, Professor of Pediatrics at Kyle Schwarber’s alma mater (well, technically at IU’s Medical School). The problem, in Carroll’s view, is that it touches on ignorance about vaccines as well as the dirty dirty subject of teens having sex.
  • J. Kenji Lopez-Alt talked to NPR’s Here and Now, and the resulting interview includes three recipes from his new cookbook The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.
  • The BBC has a quirky story up on a brand-new record store in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. And if all you know of Mongolia is “Mongolian barbecue,” well, that’s Taiwanese, sorry.
  • Last week’s links included a story on Elizabeth Holmes, the Stanford dropout whose blood-testing startup Theranos may have lied about its product’s capabilities. The Washington Post has a story on how the NY Times erased Holmes from a story on tech heroes, as well as failing to discuss a potential conflict of interest by that story’s author.
  • This story by a pro-science skeptical blogger about an vaccine-denier nut job is a bit inside-baseball, as the saying goes, but highly amusing.

Saturday five, 11/6/15.

My annual ranking of the top 50 free agents this offseason is now up for Insiders, and I held my weekly Klawchat right after they were posted.

I reviewed the app version of Camel Up for Paste this week. Since I wrote that review, there’s been a minor update that cleaned up some of the issues I had with the graphics, notably the info available on screen to you. It’s available here for iOS devices or Android.

And now, the links…

  • Well this just sucks: Kevin Folta, scientist and advocate of genetic engineering of food crops and generally of the safety of food science, is removing himself from public debate. He’s been attacked by the FraudBabe and the dipshits at U.S. “Right to Know,” a group that uses the veneer of consumer rights to mask a blatant science-denial/anti-GMO policy. They’ve been using FOIA requests to try to scuttle legitimate research and discussion. The only solution I see is for more of us to speak up and out about science.
  • Peet’s Coffee has purchased a majority stake in Intelligentsia, their second such move into high-end craft coffee after their purchase of Stumptown. I don’t know what this means for the space; I don’t see a natural synergy here but fear it’s more a move to neutralize competition from a higher-margin competitor
  • We forget that the people pictured in certain memes are actual human beings, such as the skeptical Third World kid, so the BBC has done a story on that picture, finding the aid worker pictured but not the child.
  • Canada’s new government seems about as pro-science as it gets, including the creation of a new post, Minister of Science. Can you imagine any of the current Republican candidates for President doing such a thing? So many of them have staked out one or more denialist positions that this seems out of the question.
  • Some good sense from the Environmental Defense Blog on what the news about China’s coal consumption really means. Tip: Climate change is still real, and the CO2 measurements aren’t affected.
  • Thanksgiving is coming and it’s never too early to start cooking, at least when it comes to preparing stock, as Michael Ruhlman explains. I actually make a brown chicken stock instead, since I always have chicken carcasses in the freezer (bones and necks, and sometimes wings) but rarely have turkey.
  • Smile You Bitch: Being a Woman in 2015” lives up to its provocative title. Rape culture is everywhere, and it’s ingrained in many young men from childhood.
  • Speaking of treating women like navel lint, I give you the NFL’s attempt to hush up Greg Hardy’s domestic violence case.
  • So the demise of Grantland led to a lot of thinkpieces (and a few readers telling me they were canceling their Insider subs, which, to be perfectly honest, just punishes all the wrong people here), but one I liked was from Fortune, talking about its implications for the business of longform journalism. I didn’t read a lot of Grantland’s stuff, but I do believe their mission mattered, and I hope the end of that site is just a blip.
  • From Forbes, a good piece looking at the limited research to date on pediatricians who turn away vaccine-refusing parents. That’s a lot better than the nonsense hit piece on Bryce Harper the same publication ran earlier last week.
  • I’ve often wondered about whether linking to Spotify in my music posts was helping or hurting the artists in question, but Cameron from the band Superhumanoids told me in September that it was the former, and now FiveThirtyEight has a piece supporting this with data.
  • The long-running TV series Mythbusters is ending after its next season, and the NY Times offers an appreciation, crediting the show with rising interest in STEM education and careers.
  • New research on the lizards called tuataras supports the theory that the penis evolved just once for mammals and reptiles and has just, well, hung around.

Saturday five, 10/31/15.

No Insider content this week, as I’ve been on vacation, but I did hold a Klawchat on Thursday. My AFL scouting notes from last week are here and here.

The app version of the cooperative boardgame Elder Sign is on sale right now for $0.99 for both Android (via amazon) and iOS. It’s absolutely worth it.

And now, the links…

  • No, bacon doesn’t really cause cancer, not in the way the media’s coverage of the WHO designation would lead you to believe. This was a case of mass science ignorance at work.
  • Chimeras are real! Well, again, not really, but there is a phenomenon in humans known as chimerism, where one of two twins in the womb doesn’t make it, and the surviving twin absorbs some of the lost sibling’s DNA. This led to failed paternity test last year which led to this significant scientific discovery.
  • The NY Times covers the fraying narrative around the medical startup Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. My favorite quote in the piece, from another reporter, is, “People in medicine couldn’t understand why the media and technology worlds were so in thrall to her.” Uh, maybe because she’s 31 and blonde and pretty?
  • David Mitchell has a new book out, Slade House, and Wired has a piece praising it for being so beginner-friendly. I read Cloud Atlas this spring (that links to my review) and enjoyed it quite a bit. Still waiting for that second Luisa Rey mystery, though.
  • Tokyo will have a bookstore-themed hostel starting next week. I’m a bit old for hostel travel now but there’s something decidedly romantic about this whole concept.
  • SXSW is trying to undo the damage done by its earlier decision to cave to online harassers, now restoring panels on the problem of online harassment of women, although one of the panelists is himself accused of just such a crime.
  • All the news on China this week focused on the end of the one-child policy, but the NY Times has a long read on the country’s construction of seven new islets in the Spratly Islands chain, ownership of which has long been disputed among multiple countries. This is a highly aggressive move that seems like a play toward gaining more control over undersea resources in the region.
  • A small study in North Carolina found that parents’ vaccine-denial beliefs often preceded pregnancy, coming from cultural factors, often correlated with other anti-science beliefs.
  • Subway earned plaudits for its decision to switch to antibiotic-free meats, but they gave themselves ten years to do it, and the linked piece details some of the challenges for ‘suppliers’ (that is, the people who raise the animals). Humans started using antibiotics prophylactically on animals because it allowed them to crowd more and more of the creatures into smaller spaces without incurring the wrath of bacteria that spread quickly when conditions are tight. Such practices are, in my view, inhumane to begin with, but antibiotic resistance is the very real cost on which there should be no disagreement. Evolution’s real, and it has little regard for our species’ whims.

Saturday five, 10/24/15.

I had one Insider post this past week, covering Arizona Fall League prospects, and will have another one up this weekend now that my trip to the Valley is done. I also held my regular Klawchat on Thursday.

I’m taking vacation this upcoming week, so I’ll be off social media for a bit and won’t have any Insider posts after the second AFL dispatch goes up. I may still chat Thursday, however, now that those are mine and a bit more loose and fun.

And now, the links…

Saturday five, 10/17/15.

No new Insider content this week as I was writing up free agent capsules for the annual top 50 ranking, which will appear after the World Series at some point. I did review the Game of Thrones card game, which is surprisingly good (I hated the first GoT book), for Paste, and held a Klawchat on Thursday.

  • President Obama interviewed one of my favorite American novelists, Marilynne Robinson. She’s best known for the trio of novels, beginning with the Pulitzer winner Gilead, revolving around a family in Iowa, but her 1980 debut novel Housekeeping is the one on my top 100.
  • “Reporters don’t just find facts; they look for narratives.” Isn’t this a big problem? And, hey, what do we really know about the death of Osama bin Laden? Mark Bowden, one of the writers whose recounting of that story is questioned in the Times piece, responded in Vanity Fair.
  • ON a related note, the BBC’s Assignment radio program looks at the U.S.’s use of torture to fight terror, with some horrifying details of what we did in the name of security (with dubious benefits). The host, Hilary Andersson, undergoes some of those techniques, while an American operative is (voluntarily) waterboarded during the program as well.
  • The Guardian ran a very open, honest essay on how quickly others expect us to stop grieving, in this case after the writer lost her mother to cancer.
  • Van Pierszalowski, lead singer/founder of WATERS and a diehard Dodgers fan, spoke to MLB about their season and the direction under the new front office, although this was before they lost game 5 to the Mets.
  • J. Kenji Lopez-Alt makes the list again this week with his ten commandments of eggs. I’m glad to see someone agree that salting eggs before you scramble them is the right move. I always did so for better flavor distribution but it turns out there’s good science behind it too.
  • Vanity Fair ran a piece on the “ermahgerd” girl, an unusually neutral, non-hysterical piece on how a woman became part of a very popular meme without her consent and what effect it had on her life (spoiler: it’s not actually that bad).
  • A short celebration of the short fiction of John Cheever, whose collected short stories won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1979. I haven’t read that yet, but it’s on my short-term to-do list; I did read and loved Falconer, but was a little less wowed by The Wapshot Chronicle.
  • The Guardian also ran a great piece explaining this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded to several scientists who discovered that neutrinos emitted from the sun could change “flavors” en route toward (and through) earth, which answered the question of where all those solar neutrinos had gone. (They were there, but not in the flavors we’d been looking for.) The footnotes are rather spectacular, too. I read and reviewed a book last March called The Neutrino Hunters that described the experiment that earned these scientists the Novel.

Saturday five, 10/10/15.

I visited the Dominican Republic for the first time this week, and saw Eddy Julio Martinez, six other Cuban defectors, and a handful of Dominican teenagers who will be eligible to sign in 2016 and 2017; Insiders can read all of my scouting notes on those players. I also wrote some preview/notes pieces on the American League and National League Division Series, although my Blue Jays in four prediction is already dead.

I held my regular Klawchat here on Thursday. I think the new software, despite some tiny glitches, is working out well; if nothing else it works far faster on my end.

And now, the links…

Saturday five, 10/3/15.

No Insider piece this week, but I held my weekly Klawchat on Friday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the reissue of the classic Reiner Knizia game Samurai.

I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday but it’s such a good deal it’s worth sending again – Ruhlman’s Twenty, one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever read, is on sale for the Kindle for $3.99 ($2.99 if you already own the print version).

  • Julie DiCaro wrote a great piece for SI about the threats female sportswriters receive via social media. She’s been besieged by numerous accounts (several fake so I presume they’re all from the same sociopath) calling for her to be maimed, raped, or killed.
  • Dan Rather, of all people, had a spot-on rant about science denialism and false balance in the media.
  • Foreign Policy has an excellent longread on the history and future of antibiotics, focusing on the iChip, a new device that allowed scientists to find and work with new species of bacteria that can only survive in soil.
  • Opposed to genetic modification? GMO methods are in more than just foods, appearing in medicines, detergents, and other products that make our lives safer and better.
  • The New Republic looks at the complicated world of cannabidiol, the anti-convulsant/anti-psychotic chemical in marijuana, as state and federal authorities try to roll back often pointless policies on the drug. (Delaware became one of eighteen states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this summer, and we now have one dispensary for medical marijuana.)
  • Sour flavors are making a comeback, thanks to globalization, rising popularity of healthful fermented foods, and a change in our attitudes towards sugar.
  • Reader Kelvin sent along this piece on Chris Bianco and the rise of Phoenix’s pizza scene, and I read it only to realize afterwards that I know the writer.
  • Harvard Law and Policy Review discusses the fallibility of finality vis-a-vis the death penalty, specifically the case of Richard Glossip, whose execution in Oklahoma was delayed about five weeks but only due to questions about the drug cocktail the state will use to murder him.
  • Superhumanoids’ new video, for the wonderfully-titled “Norwegian Black Metal,” features SNL player Kyle Mooney in corpse paint. I reviewed their latest album Do You Feel OK? last week.

Saturday five, 9/25/15.

My Insider column this week was on players I got wrong, specifically those I underrated (or didn’t rate) when evaluating them as prospects or younger players. I also held my weekly Klawchat here on the dish, which, again, is where they live now.

I’ll try to get a review of the new CHVRCHES album, Every Open Eye, up in a day or so, but in the meantime here’s a synopsis: If you liked their debut, it’s extremely similar and similarly excellent.

And now, the links…

And this week, a great reader tweet on vaccinations: