Friday, July 31, 2009

The Kid Can't Help It

Our daughter has been known, on occasion, to exhibit extreme sensitivity to... let's call it "sensation." Ever since she has been old enough to talk, she has recoiled in horror from all sorts of foods that she called too "spicy." In my gentle, nurturing form of parenting, I routinely and openly mock her, telling her that what she is sensing is "flavor." Brushing her hair is a grim exercise of pain management. Brushing her teeth with anything more than the lightest pressure sends her into paroxysms of agony.

I have not always been terribly sympathetic to her plight. It will take her all of her teen years to catch up to me in the eye-rolling department.

Now it turns out I may have been more of a jerk than I realized. According to a new study conducted by a dental organization, redheads are significantly more likely to feel pain, and be less responsive to anesthesia, than anyone else. According to the study, redheads need 20 percent more anesthesia than people of other hair colors to achieve the same result. Conventional local anesthetics are far less effective on redheads. Apparently, there may be connection between a gene that affects hair and skin color and pain sensitivity.

One of the phrases that I never like to hear from my kids is "I can't help it." It turns out that to some degree, they really can't help it. Nobody tell Kelly, okay?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Safety Is Job One

To non-fans, car racing makes little sense. It is loud, expensive, wasteful of resources and, worst of all, boring. Even if all of those things are true, though, it is undeniable that the car driving public has benefited from products developed in the crucible of automobile racing. Countless engine, suspension, tire and aerodynamic advances have been made by and through race teams.

Another area that has yielded benefits to race drivers as much, if not more so, than the public, is safety. Long gone are the days when the racing season in review inevitably included an in memoriam segment. Thankfully, deaths, or even serious injuries, are rare in nearly all racing formats, particularly at the highest levels of the sport.

The abuse that modern race cars can take while still protecting the driver from debilitating injury or worse is astonishing. Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica walked away from this horrific crash with nothing more than a sprained ankle.

It has been 15 years since a Formula 1 driver died on the track. Legendary champion Ayrton Senna died in a high speed crash when the front suspension of his own car struck his head in the impact. Drivers of open-wheel race cars now sit very low in the car, with padding nearly up their ears, as a direct consequence of the Senna accent.

The safety of Formula 1 cars came to the fore again this past week when Ferrari driver Felipe Massa crashed head-on into a tire barrier at 120 mph after being struck on the helmet by a part that had fallen off a car ahead of him. Massa suffered a skull fracture around his eye from the impact on the track, but no injuries directly attributable to the ensuing crash. After spending several days in the hospital, Massa is up and around and eager to resume his career.

Unfortunately, just one week before, young Henry Surtees, the teenaged son of former Formula 1 world champion John Surtees, was killed in a freak accident in a Formula 2 race by a tire that had come loose from another car. Some things even the best of safety equipment can't prevent.

Doctors may not let Massa drive for the rest of the season, which has led to the most interesting development in years: retired seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher will come out of retirement to return to the Ferrari cockpit while Massa recuperates. In his heyday, Schumacher and Ferrari were utterly dominant, which often led to predictable (maybe even boring) racing. A number of young guns have come along since Schumacher retired two years ago, and this year's championship is wide open. The return of the old lion will surely lead to great intrigue and even better racing. Take it from a fan: the next race, on August 23rd, will be an excellent spectacle and well worth the time spent to watch it.