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Friday, November 19, 2004

A Pain in the Neck 

Argh. Sidelined at home. This is why you shouldn't run around and have fun on your lunch hour after age 30:

Thursday, I participated in the usual intramural indoor soccer game in the gym. It went just fine until I had a harmless fall while playing the ball, got up, and a minute or two later was incredibly stiff-necked. I abandoned the game, and ground my teeth through the rest of the day.

I could barely move my neck all night. I still can barely move my neck. At least this morning large doses of ibuprofen seem to be helping, unlike last night. Note to those who would exploit the synergistic effects of alcohol and ibuprofen: one of the side-effects is stomach bleeding. Which didn't happen to me. But the pain overwhelmed the ibuprofen.

Hey, it's time for a "two weeks late" book review!

I have been reading Gregg Easterbrook's book The Progress Paradox, which posits the shocking idea that things are getting better. The book is a font of interesting tidbits, all aimed at Easterbrook's exploration of the question of why people who are doing so well relative to their forebears think they are doing so badly. He has interesting analyses of everything from the increase in global prosperity (which has been enormous, even in very poor countries) to the unheralded point that U.S. and Russian nuclear weapon stocks have been dismantled down to about a tenth of their Cold War peak.

I'm not done the book yet, but it's interesting reading in parallel with The Book of Risks, which attempts to document as factually as possible relative risks of various activities. I don't think it's a very good book, so far: the author makes a good start when he describes how relative risks should be assessed, but doesn't seem to compile the data he has into a form that would best allow you to do that across all manner of risks. The charts and graphs in the book contain all manner of Tuftean sins, including 3-D pie charts, bad pie charts with holes in them, and other annoyances. But it does glean some useful statistics, including the clearest comparison of the relative risks of motorcycling and car-driving ever (your mother was right: motorcycles are really dangerous, but don't let that stop you).

Both books have as a major point that people don't worry about the right stuff, and don't assess risks and their current situation well. We worry about very small and dubiously proven carcinogenic effects while ignoring huge hazards caused by eating too much or exercising too little.

So today's meditation: cheer up. It's not as bad as you think, it's getting better all the time, and you're worrying about the wrong stuff anyways.

Ow! My neck....

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