Ichiro Suzuki and His Care for Bats

Very interesting New York Times piece highlighting how Ichiro Suzuki cares for his bats. To Ichiro Suzki, bats are his Stradivarius violins:

Today, after a decade in the major leagues, Suzuki still displays that same reverence on a daily basis, caring for his bats like Stradivarius violins. While most players dump their bats in cylindrical canvas bags when they are not using them, Suzuki neatly stacks his best eight bats inside a shockproof, moisture-free black case that he keeps close by his locker at home and on the road.

Said Suzuki: “In Japan we take care of our instruments, our bats and our gloves…We take care of them well because these things are very important.”

On Louis C.K. and His Comedy Show

Adam Wilson’s Los Angeles Review of Books piece on Louis C.K.’s comedy show is a brilliant piece of journalism. It’s entertaining and highly informative:

The format of the American sitcom held steady for almost 40 years. The most noteworthy innovation was a negation; in the early nineties, HBO comedies like the short-lived Dream On ditched the pervasive canned laugh track, paving the way for the so-called cringe comedy of shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm. On Curb, the absence of a laugh track makes it difficult for viewers to know when to laugh. We cringe because we’re holding in laughter, waiting for a cue that it’s okay to release. But there is always a breaking point, an explosion into an absurdity so deep — Larry rushing into the water to “save” a baptismal candidate from drowning, for example — that the tension is relieved, and the laughter is released.

Louie both reacts to the failure of Lucky Louie and advances on Curb’s cringe comedy by creating something tenser, more tonally ambiguous. Louie’s singularity lies in its ability to further confound viewers by setting up jokes, and then providing pathos instead of punch lines. Not only does Louie’s audience not know when to laugh, they don’t even know if what they’re watching is supposed to be funny. For the Laptop Loner, this ambiguity is made all the more palpable by the absence of viewing partners; we use other people’s reactions to gauge the correctness of our own. But it also makes the ambiguity less assaulting. Alone, we can be comfortable in our discomfort.

I recommend reading the whole thing. I didn’t really know anything about the guy until his $5 comedy show hit the Internet last year. I bought it and enjoyed it.

Ray Bradbury on Optimism

INTERVIEWER: How important has your sense of optimism been to your career?

BRADBURY: I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing. If you behave every day of your life to the top of your genetics, what can you do? Test it. Find out. You don’t know—you haven’t done it yet. You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes. I learned a lesson years ago. I had some wonderful Swedish meatballs at my mother’s table with my dad and my brother and when I finished I pushed back from the table and said, God! That was beautiful. And my brother said, No, it was good. See the difference? Action is hope.

At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.

That’s from this fantastic Paris Review interview.

###

(via Swiss Miss & explore)

Tastes Like Chicken

Jackson Landers ponders why so many people claim something “tastes like chicken” when they try an exotic food. He goes into the evolutionary aspect of it, but first:

In order to answer this question, we need to start with chickens and work our way back through the evolutionary family tree.

Does chicken taste like chicken? Don’t laugh—this is an important question. Even lifelong chicken eaters usually have a very narrow experience because the birds sold in grocery stores are usually one of a very few breeds that have been designed to grow a lot of breast meat very quickly in factory-farm settings. A Plymouth roasting hen slaughtered for market at 7 weeks does not make for the same eating experience as a 2-year-old Rhode Island Red. I once ate a bantam rooster that tasted more like iguana than a grocery store chicken.

The most interesting paragraph was the explanation of why fish do not taste like chicken:

Several barriers prevent fish from tasting like chicken. A chemical called trimethylamine, which develops after a fish dies and creates that distinctly fishy flavor and odor, is a big one. Texture also plays a role: Fishes’ muscle structure is different from chickens’.  Fish muscles are typically arranged in bands along the sides of the body and are separated by relatively less connective tissue than what is found in the muscle of their evolutionary descendants. These bands of muscle are what make cooked fish flaky. Fish muscles are relatively simple because all they have to do to move through water is perform a sort of sideways flopping motion. The muscles of land-dwellers like chickens, lizards, and frogs are more specialized and are designed for the more varied movement of individual limbs.

The conclusion? About 350 million years ago is probably when life began to taste like chicken.

The Truth about the Golden Ratio

Steven Strogatz, in a piece titled “Proportion Control” at The New York Times, dispels the myths behind the famous number known as the golden ratio (φequal to 1/2+√5/2):

Unfortunately, in the more than two millenniums since Euclid, the golden ratio has suffered from so much hype, numerology and wishful thinking that it’s become hard to separate the myth from the math. Many of its supposed occurrences in nature, anatomy, art and architecture don’t stand up to careful scrutiny. For example, you can find lots of books and Web sites claiming that the shell of the chambered nautilus obeys the golden ratio, but in reality, nautilus shells have average growth ratios between 1.24 and 1.43, quite far from 1.618.

So be skeptical the next time you see the golden ratio being used to sell blue jeans, stock tips or the perfect smile.

The upside is, if a nautilus can’t get its proportions golden, maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about mine.

Pass the nachos.

Love that conclusion.

On Medical Errors in Hospitals

This is a terrifying read from Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in The Wall Street Journal. Medical errors kill enough people to fill four jumbo jets a week:

I encountered the disturbing closed-door culture of American medicine on my very first day as a student at one of Harvard Medical School’s prestigious affiliated teaching hospitals. Wearing a new white medical coat that was still creased from its packaging, I walked the halls marveling at the portraits of doctors past and present. On rounds that day, members of my resident team repeatedly referred to one well-known surgeon as “Dr. Hodad.” I hadn’t heard of a surgeon by that name. Finally, I inquired. “Hodad,” it turned out, was a nickname. A fellow student whispered: “It stands for Hands of Death and Destruction.”

He then offers five suggestions for improvements, including the use of video recording of surgeries:

Cameras are already being used in health care, but usually no video is made. Reviewing tapes of cardiac catheterizations, arthroscopic surgery and other procedures could be used for peer-based quality improvement. Video would also serve as a more substantive record for future doctors. The notes in a patient’s chart are often short, and they can’t capture a procedure the way a video can.

Shaking the Hand of a Troll

Leo  Traynor recounts a frightening story of how he came face-to-face with a troll:

It started in July 2009. I’d been on Twitter for over 2 years at that point having joined in May 2007, and I’d never had a problem. My account was followed by a fairly innocuous looking one which I followed back and within 10 minutes I had received a Direct Message (DM) calling me a ‘Dirty f*cking Jewish scumbag’. I blocked the account and reported it as spam. The following week it happened again in an identical manner. A new follower, I followed back, received a string of abusive DM’s, blocked and reported for spam. Two or three times a week. Sometimes two or three times a day. An almost daily cycle of blocking and reporting and intense verbal abuse. So I made my account private and the problem went away for a short while. There were no problems on Twitter but my Facebook account was hacked, my blog was spammed and my email address was flooded with foulmouthed and disgusting comments & images. Images of corpses and concentration camps and dismembered bodies.

Again, it eased off for a couple of weeks. I relaxed. Thought they’d finally tired of failing to get a reaction from me. Boy, was I wrong.

I didn’t mention it to my wife. Didn’t see the point of worrying her. But then she joined Twitter to see what it was like and grew to enjoy it. It wouldn’t have been immediately obvious to outsiders that we were man and wife. She made the mistake though of changing her profile to state that she was ‘The long suffering wife of @LeoTraynor’. Not a good idea. She received a DM stating ‘Your husband is scum. A rotten b*stard and you’re a wh*re.’ She laughed it off. Blocked and reported and then the pattern started again. We got to the point of not accepting new followers at all and then one day my wife received a torrent of abuse via DM and on the timeline that was so vile she’s never been on Twitter since – which is a real shame as she has so much to share and is far more interesting than I am.

People kept asking me ‘Why you? Why would these guys want to have a go at you?’ I couldn’t answer them other than it was a couple of random nutters who didn’t appreciate my political views or ethnic origins. Or even someone who couldn’t solve my cryptic crosswords!

The whole thing escalated in June, July and August this year. I received more and more abuse on the timeline and via DMs. A crossword clue account I’d started (@Leo’sClue) was inundated with abuse too.

Then one day something happened that truly frightened me. I don’t scare easily but this was vile.

Click through to read the entire account. The resolution was amicable, but it’s disconcerting to think people like this exist on the Internet.

Who Invented the Internet, Anyway?

Steven Johnson, author of Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age, reminds us that the Internet wasn’t created by the government (and certainly not by Al Gore):

Like many of the bedrock technologies that have come to define the digital age, the Internet was created by — and continues to be shaped by — decentralized groups of scientists and programmers and hobbyists (and more than a few entrepreneurs) freely sharing the fruits of their intellectual labor with the entire world. Yes, government financing supported much of the early research, and private corporations enhanced and commercialized the platforms. But the institutions responsible for the technology itself were neither governments nor private start-ups. They were much closer to the loose, collaborative organizations of academic research. They were networks of peers.

Peer networks break from the conventions of states and corporations in several crucial respects. They lack the traditional economic incentives of the private sector: almost all of the key technology standards are not owned by any one individual or organization, and a vast majority of contributors to open-source projects do not receive direct compensation for their work. (The Harvard legal scholar Yochai Benkler has called this phenomenon “commons-based peer production.”) And yet because peer networks are decentralized, they don’t suffer from the sclerosis of government bureaucracies. Peer networks are great innovators, not because they’re driven by the promise of commercial reward but rather because their open architecture allows others to build more easily on top of existing ideas, just as Berners-Lee built the Web on top of the Internet, and a host of subsequent contributors improved on Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web.

If you like how Steven Johnson writes, I highly recommend his other book published in 2005: Mind Wide Open.

The Evolution of the Soda Can Tab

Tom Vanderbilt, writing for Slate, traces the very interesting history of soda tab design. The modern incarnation of the ubiquitous feature has only been in existence for less than 40 years:

The solution came from Daniel F. Cudzik, an engineer with Reynolds Metals, who for years had been toiling away on what would what become known as the “Sta-Tab.” As Cudzik told Studio 360, his search for a “convenience top” that was “more practical and less prone to litter” came to fruition one night when he was in living room, “half watching a movie.” While the idea might seem simple to a consumer raised on nothing but stay-on tabs, the design required some elegant engineering (and some subsequent legal battles over alleged patent infringements).

As Cudzik described the problem in his 1975 patent application: “The opening construction of the invention requires a tab which must be stiff against transverse bending and yet flexible enough and tough enough at the connection between the tab end wall to permit lifting and retracting the tab without causing a fatigue crack at the connection.” As elegantly explained in this video, the design operates both as a “second class” and as a “first class lever” at different points in the can-opening process—redirecting loads and shifting the fulcrum—using the inherent pressure from the carbonated beverage in its favor.

Apparently the new invention caused some concern, as people were used to opening cans with this device.

On Success as a Travel Blogger

Chris Guillebeau, whose World Domination Summit I attended earlier this summer, gave a closing keynote at this year’s #TBEX conference in Girona, Spain. I didn’t attend the conference, but I appreciate his message about becoming successful at what you do. It’s not about followers, but becoming better at your craft:

I hear from a lot of people who want to “get noticed.” They write in to ask, “How can I become more known?” Whenever I hear this question, I’m reminded of something that John Mayer said in a talk at the Berklee College of Music. As best as I recall, the quote was:

“The world doesn’t need more mediocre musicians who are really good at Twitter.”

His point was that musicians should focus on honing their craft instead of working on getting followers or mastering social media. I’d say something similar: the world doesn’t need more mediocre bloggers or writers who are really good at Twitter. 

What the world does need is storytellers. We need people to challenge us. We need people to explain how travel can be a force for good. 

Chris’s point about skepticism on the Internet resonates:

Don’t tell a story that isn’t yours. You have to remember that we live in a world of skepticism, so our task is to be authentic and congruous. There are blogs about making money online from people who have never made money online. There are blogs about being “location independent” from people who live in their parents’ basement.

You should read the entire post here.