Facebook Likes Affect Mortality Rates?

According to an article from Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News, a hospital’s Facebook likes have a direct correlation to the hospital’s mortality rates, and worse, might even be a contributor to the increase in mortality rates. Say what?

Here’s the quote, “…in fact, mortality rates increase as ‘likes’ decrease.”

This can’t possibly mean that if you unlike a hospital’s Facebook page (thus decreasing their likes) you are contributing to the increase of the mortality rate at that hospital, could it?

After checking out the source for the Ragan article, Greatist News, it was clear that Ragan had, in fact, applied a wicked spin on the findings.

According to Greatist News, “A decrease in hospitals’ mortality rates showed a higher average of likes…” Now that makes more sense. Hospitals stop killing patients and they tend to get more likes on Facebook.

Notice how the Ragan article twisted the original phrase to make it seem as though the Facebook likes were a contributing factor to mortality rates, rather than a consequence of the increase or decrease in mortality rates.

To make matters worse, check out the vastly different approaches each article used for tailoring a headline.

Greatist News (the original article):

Facebook links linked to mortality rates at hospitals

Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News:

Facebook links linked to mortality rates at hospitals

The Greatist News headline says, “Hey – here’s a little something interesting.” The Ragan’s headline says, “Holy $#*%, is our Facebook page killing us?!”

However, I will give Ragan some credit – excellent wordplay between “Life and Death” and the subject of mortality rates. And, hey, they got me to read it.

—Ryan Varney

Paul Harvey Remembered

Paul Harvey's Herald of Truth Statue
Top: Paul Harvey’s Herald of Truth statue
View closeup of nameplate

In light of the recent Dodge “God Made a Farmer” ad during the Superbowl that featured Paul Harvey, some friends have suggested I write a little about my experience working with the legendary radio broadcaster. I have always been hesitant to put down a ‘permanent’ record about my time with Mr. Harvey. The stories I tell people close to me, while generally funny and harmless, could alter the way one views him. I would never want to take away from the respect he earned throughout his brilliant career. So instead, here’s a small tribute about how I see my old boss (yeah, the title and form might be a little cheesy, but the sentiment is not).

If God Made a Newsman

If God made a newsman He would give him a voice…a double-edged sword. One side would be rich and pleasing to the ears, a light touch in an often somber business. The other would be authoritative and stern, so you’d know he meant business. Immediately identifiable, his voice would resonate beyond our ears, deep into our hearts and souls, making us take stock of this world. If God made a newsman, his voice would move us: to listen, to learn, to laugh or even cry, to think and wonder and hope and dream. And of course it would dare us to act.

If God made a newsman He’d give him a child’s spirit: curious and hungry for knowledge…and experience. No stone would be left unturned if God made a newsman. Fearless – and sometimes reckless – he’d wrestle with things about which he knew little, until he learned them inside and out. That’s how a child learns. He explores and consumes, digests and contests, processes and accepts until he’s made sense of it all.
And if God made a newsman, He’d couple that curiosity with a razor-sharp intellect. An historian and a seer would God’s newsman be. He would study the past and he would never forget. He’d apply proven knowledge to new plots and schemes and he’d share his conclusions so you could see, too.

If God made a newsman, he’d be a chameleon. Slipping in and out of social spheres and economic tiers, he would put his finger on the pulse of our world. He would find common ground and, like a cowboy, herd us toward the lush lea of equanimity where we might finally learn how to get along. He’d be just as comfortable in boots and a denim shirt as he would in a suit and tie. After all, when it comes time to knuckle down, every shirtsleeve rolls up the same.

If God made a newsman, he’d be salt-of-the-earth. But he’d have a pinch of pepper, too. Tenacity and toughness mixed with the bite of wit. His words just might make your blood boil, your heart race, and your color rise so that all of a sudden, you’re in a sweat. But God’s newsman knows that a good sweat can purify and cleanse.

And if God made a newsman He’d temper that fire with a sense of humor. News is all at once contentious, divisive, doom and gloom, bust and boom. Sometimes we need a little chuckle, a good belly laugh or even a straight guffaw to break things up. If God made a newsman he’d see the funny side of us and help us see it, too. He’d understand that no one can take himself so darn seriously all of the time.

Well, good news Americans…God did make a newsman…and his name was Paul Harvey.

—Ryan Varney

Can a Dog Person Become a Cat Person?

Sometimes people are broken up into two categories: dog people and cat people. I’ve always been a dog person. My folks got a dog when I was nine years old and they’ve had one ever since. Though I’ve never truly owned a dog since moving out on my own, I still consider myself a dog person. The funny thing is that I’ve inherited four cats since then (not all at the same time – I’m not that crazy). And while I’m still not a cat person, I’ve come to accept cats and even grown to love cat people (you know who you are).

I make mention of this because recently one of the cats I’ve inherited, Walter, is doing his best to turn me into a cat person.

Can a dog person turn into a cat person?
Stoic Walter just might turn me from a dog person to a cat person

Walter’s Harrowing Tale

Due to the ineptitude of Walter’s owners, he’s currently trying to recover from a nasty bite wound he received because said owners left him outside all night. True, he probably could’ve backed down from the altercation that led to the bite, but he’s no pussycat. In fact, his toughness is playing a big role in swaying me to the dark side.

Another factor in my possible conversion is the way Walter is handling the prolonged suffering from the bite. The day after the Fight in the Night, Walter was quite lethargic and limping horrendously. He spent his whole time laying around in this crummy old foam cushion we gave him for a bed. Concerned, we inspected him and found nothing out of the ordinary. We even took him to the vet for a professional inspection. The vet found a puncture wound, but there was no blood or sign of infection – though Walter was running a slight fever. He gave us some antibiotics and called it a day.

A few days later, Walter showed signs of life, though he still had a terrible limp. The antibiotics were definitely helping the fever, but not much else. So back to the vet he went and without complaint – even the vet was impressed with his stoicism. X-rays were taken and no damage was found. Perhaps the owners need to take a cue from their cat and handle the situation with a stiff upper lip instead of freaking out like ninnies, the vet insinuated. Admonished, we headed home with our tails between our legs and resolved to give Walter adequate time to heal.

Fast forward one week. Walter is still limping egregiously but seeming to get stronger. He managed to pull himself up on his favorite kitchen stool where he likes to keep an eye on household activities – in this case, dinner. I happen to notice some liquid running down the stool onto the floor and thought maybe I’d spilled some milk or something. I inspected closer and got a whiff of pure rottenness. Definitely not milk. Did Walter puke?

Walter is one tough cat
Walter’s bite wound and the origin of the puss leak…ew.

I started to move him so I could clean up the mystery substance and as I grabbed him I uncovered the mystery. A stream of puss oozed out of the puncture wound as I picked him up and I noticed the area was quite red and swollen. The infection had finally set in and Walter was now dealing with a monstrous abscess. Clearly the antibiotics were not strong enough.

Back to the vet – and again, no complaints from Walter. This time the vet cut a half inch incision (no anesthesia mind you) under the abscess to allow continuous drainage. Walter made nary a peep. We also received some more potent antibiotics.

So far, Walter finally seems to be improving. His abscess still leaks a little but his limp is better and sometimes he even tries to break into a run. Despite the hilarity of the way he looks running on three and a half legs, I applaud his toughness and determination.

He has won my heart over and I think he’s earned some kind of treat. Considering it’s winter and he spends a lot of time in the garage, I think I’m going to replace that crummy old foam cushion with a real bed. A nice heated thermo cat bed. What tough guy doesn’t appreciate some nighttime warmth?

One Final Note

Walter is certainly living up to his namesake. This is a quote from legendary HOF running back Jim Brown.

“The first time I saw him…I saw him make this one run. He fought for every inch… Spun around. Accelerated. And I said, ‘Oh my goodness! What kind of animal is this?’ The strength, the tenacity. Give me the heart of [Walter]. There’s never been a greater heart.”

Brown was talking about Walter Payton, Chicago Bears HOF running back, and a man known for his toughness. He’s also the man for which our tough guy Walter was named.

After watching Walter the cat handle his ordeal with stoicism and toughness, I think he’s living up to his name.

—Ryan Varney

Wade Boggs and the Field of Dreams – My Youth Lives Again

Today I surrendered to sweet nostalgia. My childhood was resurrected as I read a story that brought together three influential icons of my youth. For virtually every other human on the planet, this story was relatively meaningless, but for me it created the perfect storm of reflection.

(Quit blathering and get on with it, right?)

The story was about how the baseball complex used in the movie Field of Dreams was recently purchased by a group that included baseball HOFer Wade Boggs, with the goal of developing it into a multimillion dollar baseball and softball complex. It would also keep the complex from fading into obscurity.

So why is this story such a big deal for me? Three things: Wade Boggs, Field of Dreams and W.P. Kinsella.

A Little Personal History

I grew up in Northwest Ohio (Toledo), moved to Chicago and now currently reside in Cincinnati. As a kid I grew up listening to Ernie Harwell do Tiger games every night. So why am I a diehard Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins and New England Patriots fan?

Wade Boggs. For some reason, when I was eight years old, I took a liking to Wade Boggs, the baseball player. As an adult, I’m a little incredulous that my parents would let me idolize a proven womanizer and ridiculously heavy drinker – it’s been noted that Boggs would actually drink a case of beer after games. Then there’s the old joke that says he hit .800 with women in scoring position. But I digress…

Wade Boggs single-handedly turned me into a Red Sox fan, which then translated into me following the Bruins and Patriots. I learned heartbreak and pessimism quickly as immediately the Patriots got crushed in Superbowl XX, the Red Sox suffered through the Buckner World Series loss and the Bruins fell to the Edmonton Oilers in ’88 and again in ’90. Thank God for the new millennium.

1986 Topps Wade Boggs baseball card
1986 Topps Wade Boggs baseball card

I forced myself to bat left-handed just because Boggs batted lefty. I wanted to play third base. I even ended up playing for the Red Sox in Little League. I had Boggs posters all over my bedroom and to this day I still have a Wade Boggs binder displaying over 250 Boggs baseball cards (including 20 of the one pictured to the left). Yeah, I might’ve been a little obsessed.

So when I see a story about Boggs these days, I am always reminded of his influence on my childhood and my personal fandom. But this story! It has Boggs and Field of Dreams.

Not Costner’s Best Baseball Movie – But Still Good

Field of Dreams is a good baseball movie – though it’s no Bull Durham. However, it does a great job of unlocking the magic and mystery that has surrounded baseball through the years. It depicts players of old whose thirst for the game is quenched when an Iowan farmer builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn fields. Shoeless Joe Jackson, banned from baseball in 1920, and a host of old ballplayers find “heaven” playing ball again on this field of dreams, while farmer Ray Kinsella and family get to watch them play. As a kid, this movie brought to life the history of baseball and the reverence that should be paid to the game. It confirmed my love for baseball.

Field of Dreams Father and Son Story
Ray Kinsella (l) makes peace with his father John (r) in the closing scene of Field of Dreams

Today it’s the only movie I regularly cry while watching. Being older, I now recognize that the story is about a son reconnecting with his father. Baseball is just the vehicle that brings them together. As it turned out, the catchphrase “if you build it, he will come” was not about Shoeless Joe, but about John Kinsella, Ray’s father. Ray said some regretful things to his father and then his father died before Ray had a chance to make things right. By building the field of dreams, he was able to restore the relationship. It’s the last scene that always gets me.

The game is finished for the day and the players are all heading off into the corn (this makes sense if you see the movie) and one player is left standing on the field. Ray realizes it’s his father John and you can see the emotion on Ray’s face as he understands he can finally make peace with his dad. Ray walks over and introduces himself to John and they have a conversation about the field and whether or not it’s heaven and then Ray finally says, “Hey…Dad? You wanna have a catch?” And John says, “Yes, I’d like that.” And then they begin to throw the ball back and forth. And just like that, a simple game of catch brings a father and son together.

I’m tearing up even writing about this because my father and I spent a million hours playing catch together when I was a kid. Looking back, that time he spent with me meant everything. Playing ball was just a vehicle for him to show his love for me and I treasure those memories dearly now.
Okay, I have to move on or I’m going to short out the keyboard.

So Where Does W.P. Kinsella Fit Into All This?

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella
My favorite book by W.P. Kinsella

Field of Dreams was based loosely on the book “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella. Kinsella was an avid baseball fan and had more than a passing interest in Canadian Indian mysticism. He was a master at weaving the mystical and magical into baseball tales in a way that was quite believable – to the young reader. As a kid I read every book, short story and essay Kinsella wrote. He made me believe that baseball was magic…and enduring. My copy of his book “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” is more worn than Billy Graham’s Bible. It was Kinsella who made me want to write.

The Perfect Storm

If you’ve made it this far (and I say thank you), you can now see how an insignificant, back page news story created the perfect storm of nostalgia for me. I played baseball (still do actually) and studied writing in school because the three influential factors found in this story. It was a remarkable trip down memory lane and I’m glad for the opportunity to have shared it with you. Sometimes it’s good to look back and remember how you got here.

Archibold “Moonlight” Graham (in Field of Dreams) said, “We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening.”

I’m glad I can now.

—Ryan Varney

New Car Could Fight Drunk-Driving Accidents

New car fights drunk-driving accidentsI just finished reading an article about the new Lincoln MKZ. Apparently the 2013 MKZ uses a system called Lane Keeper that automatically keeps your car from drifting out of your current lane – even around curves in the road. It also features adaptive cruise control that can allow your car to exactly match the speed of the car in front of you.

Think about that for a minute.

We’re talking about an autonomous car—or at least the start of one—with huge implications for today’s drivers. In fact, the author of the article I read, Ezra Dyer, points out that the new Lincoln MKZ will keep you safe if you’ve ever: fallen asleep at the wheel, been distracted by your cell phone or stereo system, or dropped a McNugget between the seats and went fishing for it.

Sadly, my immediate thought was, “Wow, this would really help drunk drivers.” It seems to me that speeding and weaving are the two biggest factors in drunk-driving accidents – that and not paying attention. So the 2013 Lincoln MKZ would do wonders for most inebriated drivers. If you’re not black-out drunk, the 2013 MKZ should provide you enough time to hit the brakes and keep you from side-swiping or rear-ending another vehicle.

Accident averted.

Plus, not speeding and weaving will lessen the chances of you catching the eye of that lurking state trooper and getting a DUI.

You bet I’ll drink to that.

—Ryan Varney

Bacon on the Hoof

Wild Pigs Feeding on Marshmallows


While I was in New Orleans recently I took a swamp tour courtesy of Cajun Encounters. Most people take the swamp tour hoping to get a glimpse of man-eating alligators—though the only alligators I saw would’ve had trouble eating a gnome. However, I was fortunate enough to stumble across two wild pigs who dove right into the swamp water after the tour guide pelted them with a few large marshmallows. They just couldn’t wait to gobble the gooey goodness. Who knew pigs loved marshmallows? No wonder bacon is so darn fatty (and so tasty)!

Wild pigs eating marshmallowsWild pigs in a swamp near NOLA