Stephen Curry injury, Dwight Howard ejection: the NBA’s star problem

Stephen Curry takes a hard upside down fall and lands on his head, but minutes later he’s back in the game. Dwight Harden assaults another player in a manner that just got a lesser known player ejected the day before, and he’s allowed to remain in the game. The reasons are obvious: the NBA is built on its star players, and it knows it. The league simply can’t afford for its most popular players to be absent from games, particularly during the postseason – but is it eating away at the integrity and the safety of the game?

Doctors claim Steph Curry suffered from a head contusion, not a concussion. In medical terms those aren’t the same thing. But in terms of player safety, they’re essentially a distinction without a difference. When he re-entered the game, he was so woozy he promptly threw up an airball on an easy shot. This the league’s best shooter. He doesn’t miss those shots period, let alone by a mile. Later he gets enough of his balance back to hit a three pointer. But then later he misses an uncontested layup.

From the standpoint of the Golden State Warriors, having Curry back out there at eighty percent or even fifty percent might be more valuable than playing his backup at one hundred percent. But from a medical safety standpoint, it’s difficult to justify the decision. The NFL is being raked over the coals for its prior practice of allowing concussed players back onto the field, yet the NBA gets a pass here. Some will argue that due to the nature of the sport, it’s far less likely that a basketball player will fall on his head twice in the same game than would be the case with a football player. But that seems to miss the point; head injuries are always the exception to begin with, and when they occasionally happen, they must be treated differently than any other form of sports injury.

Unless of course you’re the biggest star in the western conference and your team is one win away from reaching the NBA Finals, in which case doctors and coaches and officials send you right back into the game, sink or swim.

Dwight Howard is another matter entirely, but with similar motivations. He was being antagonized by an opposing player, and responded in the kind of physical way that nearly always gets a player ejected. In fact it’s the kind of response that got Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks ejected in the eastern conference series. But then, as talented as he may be, the NBA doesn’t need Al Horford on the court in the way it needs Stephen Curry or Dwight Howard on the court. It’s our fault, really. The NBA knows that if the stars aren’t on the court, we’ll change the channel.

Bernie Sanders flounders in 2016 vs Hillary Clinton, blames the media

Bernie Sanders has been given every opportunity to deliver his 2016 campaign message in the media, and now that it still hasn’t helped him in the polls against Hillary Clinton, he’s blaming the media for his flailing campaign. Liberals who admire him, no matter what they think of his ill fated campaign, must hate watching him unravel like this. He’s been invited onto every talk show and given a chance to share his good ideas. But he’s a fringe candidate with no chance of winning his own party’s nomination. He expects the media to decide his ideas are the best, tell the public to vote for him, and run his campaign for him.

Sanders would do well to take a look at Elizabeth Warren, who largely shares his views, and similarly would have no chance of winning a presidential election under current finance rules. Neither is willing to accept the corporate contributions required in order to fund a proper campaign and get their message out through television ads. But while he’s wasting time running a campaign that no one in the mainstream is listening to, she’s quietly using her power behind the scenes to steer the actual democratic candidate Hillary Clinton toward more progressive stances on economic reform. That’s actual, tangible change which will end up benefiting real people if and when Hillary wins.

On the other hand Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to understand how politics and influence work. Just because you have the best ideas in a vacuum, it doesn’t mean you win, or that people are even willing to listen to you. Instead of using his accumulated influence as a senator to steer the party closer to his ideas, he’s decided he’s the only one who can single handedly change things. He’s suddenly riding around like Don Quixote and can’t figure out why so few are taking his windmill-tilting seriously.

It’s probably not a coincidence that so many of the people cheering on his candidacy don’t seem to understand how politics works either. They think if they just believe in him strongly enough, he’ll magically win. They’ve put no thought into what happens to the real election once his campaign predictably folds after not having made a dent, other than convincing themselves and some fellow liberals that Hillary Clinton is too imperfect to be electable. The rest of the democratic base can only hope once they’re done tilting at windmills of their own, they’ll come back to reality and conclude that Hillary is significantly closer to their views and values than any republican candidate.

Apple Watch review: hands-on first day impressions

With Apple Watch preorders finally shipping and talk of a retail launch soon, consumers are now facing the choice of whether to invest in one. My preorder, the 42mm (large) Sport Black model, arrived earlier today. While I’ll go into further depth in subsequent articles once I’ve been able to test longer-term features including battery life and charging, here’s my hands-on Apple Watch review based on first day impressions alone. For reference, I like to initially test a new technology product without reading the manual or studying up intently on the instructions, in an attempt to measure how intuitive the device is out of the box and simulate the initial experiences of a user who isn’t enough of a techie to do homework before commencing use.

Basic usage: You’ve got like a watch that’s smart enough to turn its screen on when it’s at an angle you can see it, and turn it back off once you move your wrist so the screen is out of view. I found that this works consistently. Of course it does mean the screen will turn on in some instances in which you’ve simply moved your wrist in a certain direction, meaning this feature uses at least a bit more battery life than manually turning the screen on and off. However, if it can get through a full day on a single charge, that’s not an issue.

Physical controls: You’ll only have to reach for the crown in instances where using the tiny touchscreen isn’t practical. The crown is surprisingly intuitive. When you’re on a screen which requires zooming, you spin the crown to zoom in and out. When you’re on a list of items, you use it to scroll up and down. When you’re on a really long list, such as all the artists in your music library, scrolling quickly shifts the interface to scrolling through the alphabet instead. Which, come to think of it, is a more intuitive implementation than the one the music app uses on the iPhone. As a left handed person I found there was really no downside to wearing it on my right wrist with the crown on the left side, even though it means the crown is on the bottom. In contrast, the other physical button feels useless. It brings up a wheel of favorite contacts by default, but in some other instances it attempts to act as a back button, and too often guesses wrong. This is why the iPhone has never had a back button. It doesn’t work right on Android, and it doesn’t work right on the Watch. Until the system software can be improved to guess better about what you intuitively want the back button to take you to, it might as well not exist.

On screen interface: There are essentially two ways to access the functionality of the built in apps. One is to use the honeycomb grid, which works well despite being a hexagon on a rectangular screen, thanks to how the app icons change size as you scroll around. However there are too many built in apps. I quickly moved my most important apps to the inner layer of the honeycomb. I won’t be installing any third party apps until I can figure out how to hide or delete all the built in apps I’ll never use, which are getting in the way of the interface. The second way of using the built in functionality is to simply swipe downward on the home screen. Then you can swipe left or right for various control screens, from music control to weather to activity and so on. This feels like the interface method I’ll be using most often.

Music: My most useful app during my first day of usage was the Music app. It acts as a remote control for the music on your iPhone, and integrates so well that you forget the music isn’t actually on your Watch. Music like the iPhone app, you can scroll through artists, playlists, albums and songs. I’m highly impressed that Apple was able to get so much of that interface onto a screen this size, in a manner that’s completely intuitive. There are a couple of hiccups. For instance there are two volume interfaces while in the Music app. There is a digital plus and minus button which only changes the volume by rigid increments, and then the crown can be used for more precise volume tuning. Both work well. However, while navigating a music menu, neither volume interface is accessible, meaning you have to back completely out of the menu hierarchy to adjust volume. This may not matter to you unless you’re as finicky about adjusting music volume as I am. But it made me wish the useless back button was replaced by physical volume buttons similar to the one of the iPhone, so they’re always accessible. That said, the music aspect of the Apple Watch is phenomenal overall, particularly for a first generation product.

Exercise: The Workout app has a nice clean interface for monitoring specific periods of exercise. I’ve been using the iPhone Health app, but it’s limited by the fact that the iPhone is not a wearable device. One of the big reasons I wanted the Apple Watch is so I can use it as part of my exercise routine. So I took my Apple Watch straight to the gym, got on the treadmill, fired up the Workout app… and found that it has no setting for treadmill. I tried it in indoor walk mode, then indoor run mode, but each time got comically false reading for calorie measurement. Then I realized it didn’t appear to be factoring in my eight degree incline. Perhaps the Watch can’t accurately measure that, as it’s only your feet doing the climbing while your wrist remains steady. If that’s the case, it’s understandable from a technology standpoint, but it makes the Watch somewhat useless in my exercise routine, which I’ve set up to measure my progress based entirely on calories. Oh well. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. I’ll study up and try again more knowledgeably tomorrow.

Phone calls: When I got a phone call while I was on the treadmill, I simply sent it to voicemail, and was relieved I didn’t have to take my iPhone out of my pocket. However I then tapped on the Watch button for listening to the voicemail, and instead of it playing through the headphones attached to my iPhone as expected, it instead played out loud. That doesn’t seem right.

Mail: Email works as about intuitively as I had hoped. Some of the more complexly formatted emails could only display in text form, but it allowed me to glance at and read my new messages so I could keep up with them without having to pull my iPhone out unless there was something I wanted to immediately reply to. Which is of course the entire point.

Glitches: The only bug I was able to find was that if I used the crown to scroll to a song and selected it, and then immediately tried to use the crown to adjust the volume before the song even began playing, it ended up taking me to some other song. Aside from that, this feels glitch free. Which for a version 1.0 system software is highly impressive.

Overall first day impressions: Based on the advanced nature of its interface and built in features, the Apple Watch feels like a third generation product. In terms of refinement, there are aspects which feel distinctly first generation, the kind of things that Apple will only know to fix once it gets user feedback and finishes up some of the interface aspects which may not have been ready in time for launch. However all of that should be packed into the first or second software update. That means if the Apple Watch appeals to you, there’s no real need to wait for the second generation of hardware before buying. Then again, as backordered as this product is, it may be awhile before you can get your hands on one. Items for my forthcoming second-day hands on review: Siri, third party apps, battery life, ease of charging, and how the Watch responds overnight in terms of Do Not Disturb and other non-usage features.