RIP Jon Driver (1962-2011)

January 3, 2012

I have just discovered a blog which notes the untimely passing of Professor Jon Driver. Driver was a central figure in cognitive psychology for much of my career and has contributed many papers investigating the way the human brain pays attention to things and fails to pay attention to other things. His work was mostly concerned with the processing of visual information and included work in both neurologically damaged patient groups and normal, healthy control subjects.

The blog indicates that he passed away unexpectedly.

Jon Driver died suddenly on 28th November 2011. Jon was a wonderful individual; a loving son, husband and father; and an irreplaceable friend and colleague.

This is a place for everyone who knew Jon to share our memories of him and through this to help celebrate his life.

If you would like to add a description of your memories of Jon to this blog please contact with the text you would like posted. We welcome any contribution, from short snippets to longer pieces. Please bear in mind this is a place to remember Jon and to help celebrate his life.

He will be missed.

I might be a plagiarist…

January 3, 2012

When it comes to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports, aka doping, I’m a confirmed cynic. Each case of a later life confession for prior doping habits, when the person wasn’t ever caught by the system, just reinforces cynical suspicion about other athletes. Suspicions based on mostly circumstantial evidence in the absence of a confession.

Marion Jones...before and after

The circumstantial evidence will depend on the sport….in some sports it is the player’s amazing physical transformation. In others it is the amazing, short-duration transition from from a relatively pedestrian* level of performance to the top of the heap. In other cases it may be sustaining top level amazing performance for a longer duration of time than seems reasonable. Additional grist is added via comparing athletes to those who are confessed dopers and concluding that if Manny, Moe and Sarah doped, those who were competitive with them likely doped too.

Common Man has been cracking me up lately. For those that don’t follow @commnman, he styles himself as some sort of baseball pundit. Big baseball fan. Seems like a decent dude, other than this clear character deficit (no?)

Common has been holding his fellow baseball writers’ feet to the fire over cynical suspicion about suspected PED use in baseball, specifically related to the Hall of Fame voting for one Jeff Bagwell.

We asked you to find us more writers who believed, without evidence, that Jeff Bagwell was too “suspicous” to have naturally played baseball so well, knowing that it would be equally fair for all of us to collectively suspect those writers of being dirty, stinking plagiarists based on the same lack of evidence they use to punish Jeff Bagwell for his big arms and for the era in which he played.

The original complaint:

The point of this exercise is obviously not that we should hang the lot of them. It’s that trying to play this game of who played with whom and asking whether or not that should make us suspicious is a stupid one, especially when, by The Common Man’s count, just 42 clubs out of 408 436 possible teams (bah, I included from 1992-2006, just 10.3 9.6% of clubs, were devoid of players who have thusfar been accused of PED use. It touched every single franchise in Major League Baseball, and presumably every single player.

By the ridiculous standards used by many of baseball’s HOF voters, no one is enough above suspicion to warrant consideration. Just stop everyone. Stop. It was an era of rampant cheating in which relatively few players actually got caught. We cannot ignore an entire era of baseball history, and we cannot delegitimize the Hall of Fame by refusing to recognize some of the greatest players of all time for nothing other than our own suspicious natures.

If you want to see the raw data from TCM’s study, you’re welcome to click here. The second sheet on that spreadsheet will give you the team-by-team breakdowns.

Mark McGwire, before and after ?

And then the shit got totally, hilariously funny with

Plagiarist who (might) write among us

This led The Common Man to the realization that, if it was fair for writers to penalize Bagwell* because of their own suspicions that they were apparently too busy to investigate during Bagwell’s playing career, it was equally fair to suspect them of being plagiarists.** After all, sports reporters tend to write an awful lot, and so many of them seem to be writing about the same topics and coming to the exact same conclusions. Are we really so naïve as to think that they are doing this naturally?

These plagiarists, who violate the public trust and unfairly compete against their fellow writers on a daily basis, need to be called to account in a public forum. And thanks to our friend LeoKitty of The Girl Who Loved Andy Pettitte and her Hall of Fame voting tracker, TCM was able to find several writers who seem incredibly suspicious.*** Until they are able to definitively prove otherwise, the following writers are hereby suspected plagiarists:

Which of course put some people into a terrible snit, which I am inferring from the content of this:

Every so often, I get an objection in the comments or on Twitter about my use of a pseudonym, especially when I use this forum to criticize others who are not similarly pseudonymous. This happened to me the other day, in fact. It’s an entirely reasonable and justified objection to raise, and my reasons for remaining pseudonymous are not easily explained in 140 characters or less. So I thought it would be appropriate to have a place to which I can point people to explain my decision. If you are not at all interested in why I choose to write as The Common Man…well…feel free to skip this post.

You will recognize the above topic as being of interest to me. I am fascinated, as always, that people who find themselves on the pointed end of sharp criticism feel the need to go after the person who is criticizing them, rather than the critique itself. Especially when the criticism is so. damn. obviously. correct.

Which brings it back to me. I’m totally guilty of the charge Common is making. Overly suspicious of athletes without direct evidence of PED use. An unshakeable belief that despite the limitations of circumstantial evidence analysis, dammit, those dudes clearly doped. So I’d better take it in good humour if someone like Common called me out for it.

*don’t get me wrong, anyone who makes the professional ranks, olympic or other serious international “amateur” level is an amazing athlete. But not everyone can be a superstar.