Stick to baseball, 2/17/18.

My one new piece for Insiders this week covered the top 30 prospects for this year’s MLB Draft, in advance of yesterday’s opening night in Division 1. And I held a Klawchat on Thursday. Unfortunately I did not recover enough from whatever ailment I had this week to make the trip to Myrtle Beach, but hope to be on the road next weekend.

I reviewed the board game Seikatsu, one of my daughter’s new favorites, here this week, with another review hitting Paste‘s site next week. Also, I never tweeted this link at all, but reviewed the Romanian-language film Graduation, from Oscar-nominated director Cristian Mungiu, on Wednesday.

Smart Baseball comes out in paperback on March 13th! Some readers have reported difficulty finding the hardcover version in stores, but it is still available on amazon at the moment.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 1/6/18.

I’ve had no new content off the dish this week, as baseball is boring, and I’m working on my top 100 prospects package, which will run later this month. I will have a new board game review up on Paste next week, however.

Feel free to sign up for my email newsletter, which costs you nothing and totters somewhere between occasional and infrequent. And, of course, thanks to everyone who bought Smart Baseball for themselves or as a Christmas gift, or as a Christmas gift for themselves.

And now, the links…

On Immunity.

Eula Biss’ brief 2014 book On Immunity: An Inoculation takes a novel angle on the subject of childhood vaccinations by weaving the science around the subject into her personal experiences as a first-time mother hearing all of the nonsense anti-vaccine arguments out there and finding herself bombarded with information. Biss makes it clear that she is pro-vaccine and pro-science, and that she did get her son vaccinated, but her essay-like style puts the reader on the ground with her as she’s navigating the uncertainties and fears that come with parenthood, which may also give some readers a new window on how new parents get bamboozled by the many charlatans and frauds out there telling them not to vaccinate.

When my daughter was born, vaccinating was never a question for us … but we were shocked to learn that they vaccinate newborns for hepatitis B, a viral infection that is probably best known as a sexually transmitted disease but that can also be transmitted through many other bodily fluids, including blood, so it’s possible for a child to get an infection through exposure from another kid in school or day care. We made the mistake of looking online for information on the hep B vaccine, and found the website for the so-called “National Vaccine Information Center,” a dangerous anti-science group that spreads misinformation about vaccines and, of course, presented horror stories from parents who claimed the hep B vaccine harmed or even killed their babies. (We vaccinated anyway.)

Biss’ recounting of her own meanderings through the world of vaccine information and bullshit felt very familiar to me, as she obviously understands science – her father is a doctor, and she refers to him frequently in the text – but also gives real credence to the fears of the new parent, and how overwhelming all of the information coming at new parents can feel. Biss hits all of the notable cranks, from the NVIC to Andrew Wakefield to Bob Sears (who has been accused of selling medical exemptions for California kids) to well-meaning but clueless parents who talk about “toxins” or “natural” or “organic” as if those terms really mean anything when it comes to health. She walks back through the history of vaccinations, to Edward Jenner’s experiments with cowpox and previous awareness in non-European societies of inoculation techniques, and the associated history of anti-vaxers, a group that once at least had a legitimate complaint because vaccines weren’t regulated for safety or efficacy; in 1901, two separate batches of vaccines caused deadly tetanus outbreaks in St. Louis and Camden, New Jersey. Now, such groups just capitalize on the public’s science ignorance – and fear – to make a few bucks from selling books or “alternative” therapies. (Note: There is no such thing as “alternative medicine.” If it works, it’s medicine.)

Fear is just as much a theme of On Immunity as science, and Biss, unlike many writers (myself included), has quite a bit of empathy for parents who hear (bogus) horror stories of vaccine “injuries” or who see that vaccines contain aluminum (in adjuvants, which make the vaccines more effective) and waver on vaccinating their kids. Failing to vaccinate puts your kids at risk, but also the community as a whole; Biss discusses herd immunity, which was first identified nearly a century ago, and the societal cost of failing to vaccinate, as well as the risk posed to vulnerable populations who can’t be vaccinated, such as newborns, the elderly, or the immune compromised. This understanding tone makes it a better read, I think, for folks who are on the fence about vaccinations; she was essentially preaching to the converted with me, while hardcore denialists won’t bother with the litany of facts she includes or the blithe knockdowns of anti-vax tropes.

Biss is a “professor of instruction” in Northwestern’s English Department and has garnered praise both for On Immunity and her 2009 essay collection Notes from No Man’s Land; she writes here like an essayist, with a strong first-person perspective that allows her to bring the reader inside her head, so to speak, as she became a mother and experienced all of the typical anxieties and moments of panic that come along with new parenthood. It makes the brief book both readable and engrossing, almost as if Biss wanted to slip in a little education – a dash of history, a pinch of immunology – along the way. And the resulting work may do as much or more to address new parents’ fears of vaccines, fears that are unfounded, irrational, but still quite common, as direct attacks on anti-vaxer falsehoods.

Stick to baseball, 12/30/17.

Since my last links post, I’ve written three Insider pieces, on Colorado signing Wade Davis, Cleveland signing Yonder Alonso, and San Francisco trading for Evan Longoria.

On the board game front, I reviewed Photosynthesis for Paste, and ranked my top ten board games of 2017 for them too. Over at Vulture I did another Best of 2017 list, looking at the best light game, heavy game, board game app, expansion, and more.

The Wall Street Journal asked me to contribute to their annual “Who Read What” series, where 50 avid readers provide one or two books that really stood out for them in the preceding year. I was specifically asked to name one work of fiction and one of non-fiction, and chose The Erstwhile and Betaball.

As always, feel free to sign up for my email newsletter, which costs you nothing and won’t clog your inbox; I’ve only sent three total in the last two months, so if anything, I should probably be sending more. And, of course, thanks to everyone who bought Smart Baseball for themselves or as a Christmas gift.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 12/16/17.

The MLB winter meetings were a bit slow this year, but I did have five new Insider pieces this week, covering:

The Dodgers/Atlanta salary swap and the Matt Moore trade
The Santana and Cozart signings, plus the Galvis trade
The Piscotty and Kinsler trades, and the Shaw/McGee signings
The Marcell Ozuna trade
A quick take on a few interesting Rule 5 picks
The Giancarlo Stanton trade

My ranking of the top ten new board games of 2017 went up at Paste on Sunday evening. My latest game review for the site covers Ex Libris, a fun, light strategy game that’s extremely well balanced, and made my top ten as well.

The holidays are upon us! Stick a copy of Smart Baseball in every stocking.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 12/9/17.

For Insiders, I had four pieces this week (and may have another before the day is out). I wrote about what Shohei Ohtani’s deal with the Angels means for them and the AL West, Seattle’s trade for Dee Gordon, the signings earlier this week of Kevin Maitan, Mike Minor, and Miles Mikolas, and deals involving Welington Castillo, Aledmys Diaz, and Brad Boxberger. I held a Klawchat on Thursday.

For Ars Technica, I looked at the upcoming virtual reality adaptation of the board game Catan.

If you missed them here on the dish, my annual cookbook recommendations, gift guide for cooks, and top 100 board game rankings are all up.

Also, here’s your weekly reminder to buy my book Smart Baseball for everyone on your holiday list.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 12/2/17.

My Insider post on Shohei Ohtani is finally up, with a scouting report compiled from aggregating opinions of multiple scouts who’ve seen him hit and pitch, and thoughts on what MLB’s rigging of the rules against him really signals. Between the lack of significant activity in the hot stove and the fact that I got quite sick in the middle of the week, that’s been my only baseball content since Thanksgiving. I did hold a Klawchat on Thursday.

For Paste, I reviewed the train game Whistle Stop, a mid-weight title that’s among the best new board games I’ve played this year. My ranking of the top ten games of 2017 will go up the week of December 10th. EDIT: My first piece for Ars Technica is up now – a look at a beta version of Catan VR, an upcoming digital port of the global bestseller from Asmodee Digital.

I’ve taken an unintentional hiatus from my free email newsletter, but will resume this week. The holiday, PAX Unplugged, and that virus I had have all conspired against me, I swear.

Smart Baseball is out now in hardcover, e-book, and audio formats, perfect for your holiday shopping! Buy one or forty copies, your call.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/25/17.

The biggest piece I wrote this week was actually right here, the tenth annual ranking of my top 100 boardgames, including a list (at the bottom) of my favorite titles for two players. And you’ll see in the comments there are still plenty of good games out there I haven’t played.

For Insiders, I broke down MLB’s penalties for Atlanta, looking at the players set free and the impact of the league’s actions for the long term, and also looked at how the top few free agents might end up overpaid this offseason. My next scheduled piece will cover Shohei Otani and will run December 2nd, the day he hits the market for real, assuming there isn’t another roadblock between now and then.

No Klawchat this week on account of the holiday.

Buy Smart Baseball for all your loved ones this holiday season! It makes a great gift. By which I mean it’s great for me when you give it as a gift.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/17/17.

I had one Insider column this week, on Friday, looking at a few free agents who might sort of possibly perhaps be bargains this offseason. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday; that will be the last chat until after Thanksgiving.

If you’re at PAX Unplugged in Philly this weekend and have a copy of Smart Baseball, I’ll be signing on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm.

Feel free to sign up for my free email newsletter, which I send out … I guess whenever I feel like it. I aim for once a week, although I’ve gone as long as two weeks between issues when I haven’t had much to say. You can see past issues at that link.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/11/17.

I have a new boardgame review at Paste, covering the card-drafting game Skyward. I also had two Insider posts go up earlier this week, one previewing some potential offseason trade targets, the other ranking the top 50 free agents this winter. And I held a Klawchat on Thursday.

Feel free to sign up for my free email newsletter, which I send out … I guess whenever I feel like it. I aim for once a week, although I’ve gone as long as two weeks between issues when I haven’t had much to say. You can see past issues at that link.

Also, don’t forget to buy copies of Smart Baseball for everyone on your Christmas list! Except for infants. They might eat the pages. Get them the audiobook instead.

And now, the links…