Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bad at Math

It's Social Media Tuesday so I am going to rant about something I saw making the rounds on Facebook a few weeks ago: Death Wish Coffee.

I failed to grab a screencap of the actual meme that was passed from page to page, but to the best of my recollection it claimed that Death Wish was the strongest coffee in the world, with 200% more caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. It also observed that drinking it was not recommended for those with heart conditions or anyone who wants to sleep in the next three days.

Har har har.

I just found the whole thing baffling, mainly because it seems to regard caffeine as this quasi-magical substance that must be handled with delicate circumspection. I drink a ton of caffeine on the regular (and I'm well aware that this probably has a deleterious effect on my health, but that particular horse has long since left the barn). I drink my coffee every morning, seven days a week, from a comically large mug, which just might be twice the size of a standard coffee cup. I also drink soda like Coke and Mountain Dew which have plenty of caffeine themselves. I used to drink Jolt, when that was a thing. I've been mainlining caffeine since I was 16, so that's nearly three decades of constant consumption which has turned the drug into something I'm largely metabolically immune to, and at this point is somewhere between a habit I haven't kicked and a psychological placebo. Sometimes on a Saturday I might have two comically large mugs of coffee in the morning, a soda at lunch, and go to a movie at night and enjoy a medium 44 oz. soda then as well. And I never do anything once I finally get in bed other than fall asleep like a baby.

So if I were to drink a cup of Death Wish Coffee, I doubt very much it would keep me awake for days on end. It would probably just make me have to pee, maybe a little faster than the usual brew.

And the thing is, all of the above notwithstanding, I don't consider myself a coffee junkie, at least not out of any proportion compared to the average American. One thing I don't do is go to Starbucks mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon, although I do see loads of people around me doing just that on a daily basis. And certainly the soda manufacturers of our fine country are not going out of business. There are loads of people drinking several caffeinated beverages over the course of any given day, is what I'm saying.

So who, exactly, would lose sleep if they so much as allowed Death Wish coffee to touch their lips? The only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that someone at some point mistakenly thought that "200% more caffeine" meant "200 times as much caffeine". Because, yes, I'll grant you that my twenty-six-and-counting years of building up a tolerance to caffeine would probably be blown away by getting two hundred doses all at once in a single cup of coffee. I daresay that much stimulant in such concentration would either leave me vibrating like a cartoon character or in fact literally kill me. But that's not what 200% more means. It means two extra, an equivalent total of three in the space of one. So drinking one cup of Death Wish coffee is like drinking three cups of regular coffee, which is something normal people do over the course of a day without batting an eye (or unbatting them when it comes time to turn in for the night). It doesn't sound like reckless self-endangerment to me so much as a bit of a timesaver.

Apparently nobody who propagates the meme has thought this through, though. They read "200% more" and think "200 cups of coffee ZOMG SO MUCH". Or maybe it's just a question of scale. If my entire yearly income were to increase by 200%, that would be life-changing. Ditto if the number of small children I had living under my roof went from three to nine. But caffeinated coffee is such a small thing in the grand scheme of life that a factor of two bump doesn't strike me as earth-shattering. All I can do is just shake my head at the arithmetic illiteracy, if in fact that's what it really is. Of course a lot of these people gobsmacked at the outrageous caffeine content of Death Wish are the same ones who complain that they can't help their kids with their Common Core math homework because it's so counter-intuitive. That's probably a screed for another day, though.

Monday, February 8, 2016

To be The Man you've got to beat The Man

Did the whole Super Bowl party thing last night, which was a relatively sedate affair. Five couples gathered around the ceremonial wings and beer to watch the game, and there was very little rooting interest in the actual participants. One couple was pulling hard for Denver, and the rest of us (a motley assortment of fans of New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, Washington, New England and ... Arsenal, I think?) were fairly agnostic. Not only were none of our teams playing for the championship, but none of our teams' hated rivals were playing either. (I've spent as many if not more Super Bowls rooting against the Pats, Ravens and Cowboys as I have for the Steelers or Giants, I'm pretty sure.) We were the platonic ideal fans, tuning in because of the spectacle and just hoping for a good game.

Then the Broncos fan left around halftime and we all started openly rooting for the Panthers.

OK, not really, mainly at that point we just wanted to see the game get interesting and maybe Carolina mount an impressive comeback, though obviously that didn't happen. I said during the pre-game, and I said truthfully, that I would not be disappointed with either of the two potential outcomes. I like Peyton Manning and I like the idea of him winning two Super Bowls for two different teams and going out a champ, since everyone (myself included) assumes his retirement announcement will come some time Wednesday morning, if only because the victory parade in Denver isn't until Tuesday afternoon. But I also like Cam Newton and thought the Panthers had a great season and liked the idea of them claiming the trophy just fine as well.

If anything, I was leaning towards rooting for the Panthers because I like my pro sports to be entertaining (if they're not vindicating my personal fandom investment - I'm totally fine with a Giants or Yankees coronation that bores everyone else to tears). Peyton at the end of his career is basically grinding it out, and there's nothing wrong with that per se but I admit I tend to undervalue things like the inherent nobility of stolid work ethic and overvalue razzle-dazzle, especially in the specific, superficial sphere of American athletic events. And of course, I don't always get what I want. Super Bowl 50 was a microcosm of late-stage Peyton Manning, the game manager trusting in his running backs and his defense to methodically do their jobs and not give the game away.

And again, it wasn't a thrilling instant classic but the end result is Peyton's second ring and secure legacy and that's cool. The game was broadcast for free on network tv so I can't say I didn't get my money's worth.

Weirdly enough, even having just articulated that Peyton is an athlete whom I respect without ever really getting stoked about, I'll miss not having him around the NFL in the future. But I suppose time will tell how much longer we'll have him pitching insurance and pizzas and whatnot in our living rooms.