Practical Tips for Traveling the World

Jodi Ettenberg, author of the Legal Nomads travel blog, offers some excellent travel tips in this blog post. She’s been traveling for more than four years, so she’s got some excellent tips/advice:

4. Everything else you can buy.

I didn’t believe it at first – “what if I forget to pack something!” But I’ve learned that most things can be bought abroad, from t-shirts to bras to new flip flops when a monkey throws yours over a cliff.

I like this tip about knowledgeable taxi drivers (my taxi story from my travels wasn’t nearly as pleasant):

6. Your taxi driver knows where to eat breakfast more than you do.

Swap this out for tuk-tuk driver, songthaew driver or rickshaw driver, where appropriate. When I go to a new place, I find the eldest cab driver possible and ask him where he ate breakfast.

And perhaps the best tip of all:

8. Oranges are the perfect public transportation snack.

I started bringing a bag of oranges with me for long bus rides, primarily because they quench thirst and smell delicious. I quickly learned that many Thai and Burmese busgoers sniff the peels to stave off nausea, and that kids love oranges. Really: kids LOVE oranges. So for those who want to bring something for the bus ride but rightfully worry about giving sweets to kids, oranges are your friend.

Read the rest of the tips here.

On another note: Jodi recently published The Food Traveler’s Handbook*, a guide on how to eat well (and safely) around the world (there is a strong emphasis on discovering great street food). I am about one third of the way through the book, and it is excellent so far.

###

*Full disclosure: I helped Jodi with a few minor grammar edits of the book prior to publication.

This is Our Fate: What Could Disappear

This op-ed in The New York Times doesn’t mince words. Global warming is real, and many parts of the world will simply disappear if the sea levels rise:

Whether in 50 or 100 or 200 years, there’s a good chance that New York City will sink beneath the sea. But if there are no patterns, it means that nothing is inevitable either. History offers less dire scenarios: the city could move to another island, the way Torcello was moved to Venice, stone by stone, after the lagoon turned into a swamp and its citizens succumbed to a plague of malaria. The city managed to survive, if not where it had begun. Perhaps the day will come when skyscrapers rise out of downtown Scarsdale.

Don’t miss the excellent interactive to go along with the piece, showing which cities will fall if the sea level rise.

On a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone goes to zero.

An interesting way to start the week, don’t you think?

Filming a Sprinting Cheetah at 1,200 Frames Per Second

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on Earth. Combining the resources of National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo, and drawing on the skills of a Hollywood action movie crew, the team used a Phantom camera filming at 1,200 frames per second to capture a cheetah at its full sprint. The result is nothing short of mesmerizing:

Read more about this initiative here. Also check out the accompanying National Geographic article, “Cheetahs on the Edge.”

 

Fiona Apple’s Poignant Letter about Her Dying Dog

Last week, singer/song-writer Fiona Apple posted a handwritten letter addressed to “a few thousand friends I have not met yet.” In the letter, Fiona Apple announced that she is postponing the South American leg of her tour because of the ill health of her beloved dog, a pit bull named Janet. Janet is a 13-year-old rescue dog suffering from Addison’s disease (as well as a tumor on her chest), and Fiona Apple, acknowledging the inevitable, wants to be there for Janet’s final breath.

Fiona Apple’s heartbreaking letter to her fans.

The letter is one of the best things I’ve read ever read on the love humans have for dogs. A must-read in its entirety, presented below:

It’s 6pm on Friday, and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet. I’m writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.

Here’s the thing.

I have a dog, Janet, and she’s been ill for about 2 years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then — an adult, officially — and she was my kid.

She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face.

She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.

She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.

Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We’ve lived in numerous houses, and joined a few makeshift families, but it’s always really been just the two of us.

She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.

She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me, all the time we recorded the last album.

The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks, every 6 or 7 years.

She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it more dangerous for her to travel, since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.

Despite all this, she’s effortlessly joyful & playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago. She is my best friend, and my mother, and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.

I can’t come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.

She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore.

I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.

But I know she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.

I just can’t leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.

Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes just to decide what socks to wear to bed.

But this decision is instant.

These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship.

I am the woman who stays home, baking Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable & comforted & safe & important.

Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life that keeps us feeling terrified & alone. I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time. I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.

I need to do my damnedest, to be there for that.

Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.

When she dies.

So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and I am revelling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel. And I’m asking for your blessing.

I’ll be seeing you.

Love, 

Fiona

What a testament to Fiona Apple’s character. These are words to live by: “I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship.”

###

(via Letters of Note)

The Hard Life of an NFL Long Shot

Charles Siebert profiles the story of Pat Schiller, a Northern Illinois football player who is trying to make the NFL. The story gives an inside look of what it takes to make the NFL if your chances are low. Charles is Pat’s uncle, but don’t let that detail get in the way of superb reporting:

Being an undrafted free agent in the N.F.L. is an extended exercise in ego abnegation. You’re not only stripped of your college number; you’re exiled from the N.F.L.’s mandated numerical bracket for your given position. Linebackers on all final team rosters must bear a number in either the 50s or 90s. Pat, for now, was given 45. As for his fellow undrafted competitors, Max Gruder, a linebacker from the University of Pittsburgh, wore 46; Rico Council, a middle linebacker from Tennessee State, 43; and Jerrell Harris, an outside linebacker for last year’s champions, Alabama, 49. Some days in practice, Pat wore 40 and then was switched back to 45. Coaches and fellow players, meanwhile, were constantly confusing Pat with a third-year safety, Shann Schillinger, whose seniority naturally merited his getting dibs on the nickname “Schill,” thus saddling my nephew with — for obscure reasons — “Patty Melt.”

This story was, perhaps, more interesting to me because Pat Schiller was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, my hometown football team. I think it’s worth the read.

The Internet: A Connector

Sarah Pavis is guest-editing Kottke.org this week and asked the following question in a blog post: Do you have any cool stories about how the internet has been a people connector for you? Turns out, the answer is yes for a lot of people. Today, she published a post highlighting some of the best and most memorable responses.

Heather Armstrong:

Jason’s blog was the first I ever read and what inspired me to start my own in February 2001. I was really stupid back then (as opposed to now? SHUSH) and wrote a lot of what I thought were funny stories about my family that were in fact kind of horrific. A few months into it I wrote Jason an email asking for advice and he responded! He was like, “Hi. You’re kind of funny. But your family is totally going to find your website, you know this, right?” My mom didn’t know how to turn on a computer at the time, so I just laughed and laughed, and then they all found my website the day after I wrote a scathing diatribe against the religion my parents had raised me in. The whole family exploded.

Jason, he is wise.

Then he linked to my site. My traffic tripled. That was the first bump in visitors I ever saw. Now my website supports my family and two employees.

When I visit New York I try to stop in and say hi to Jason and Meg and their two beautiful kids.

 M. Lederman:

Around twenty years ago, I was sitting at my home desk looking at my first ever personal computer. This was a particularly sad time in my life and the thoughts running through my head were leaning towards the end of things rather than beginnings. I happened to click on a story about web communication and one click led to another and I ended up at a telnet chat site called, “Spacebar”. There were but a few people there as it was after midnight here in Texas, and one with a name of, “shena” happened to be in the same chat room as I was. I sent shena a chat request which was ignored and thought I was doing something wrong, then I sent the message, “do you want to chat or are you just lurking” and shena began a conversation with me that lasted a few hours. We made plans to chat the next day and then the day after.

Shena turned out to be a lovely girl living in Australia who chatted with me for about two years on a daily basis before one Christmas holiday when I called her to wish her a happy holiday. Now twenty years have gone by and we have grown to know each other very well, chatting nearly daily sometimes for many hours and sharing each others very different lives. I consider her my closest friend and confidant and now cannot imagine a life without her in it. We’ve shared so many important moments in each of our lives growing closer with each new communication invention from telnet chat and email, to ICQ then AIM, VOIP phone calls to Skype where we can talk and see each others reactions to our statements. If technology had given me just this without all the rest I would have been satisfied so without the Internet I would not have this lovely lady in my life.

 Atanas Entchev:

I remember exactly how and when I found kottke.org. It was Saturday, February 12, 2005. I had a Flickr meetup with several Flickr friends for the opening of The Gates in NYC’s Central Park. My Flickr friend Gene Han (whom I had known from Flickr for a while, but never met in person until then) told me about kottke.org. The rest is history.

Last week Jason wrote a post about My American Lemonade — my book about my family’s 18-year (and counting) US immigration ordeal. I am looking for a publisher, and Jason’s post has already resulted in several inquiries. Connecting people.

 Tony Williams:

My tale of people connecting starts many years ago in the nineties.

There is a six year age difference between my brother and I and I was 12 when he went away to University, first in Canberra (I was living in Sydney) and then overseas in Rochester, New York before he finally settled in Boston. We had never been close but when we both had access to email in 1991 we started a correspondence that created a real relationship that we had never had before. It got to the point where we would correspond at least once a week or so.

 On top of this I have the usual tale of finding long lost friends via social media. One friend I hadn’t seen since we both lived in Newcastle, NSW when I was 12 who now lives in Los Angeles, we hadn’t been in contact in almost forty years until I found him on LinkedIn.

I recently had coffee with a bloke I hadn’t seen in thirty nine years who found me on Facebook.

 Tracie Lee:

I read your post and i was like, OMG kottke.org was my people connector and led to my work life for the past five years. I’ve been following kottke.org since 2003, maybe? at least. I’m definitely more of a lurker. In 2007 Jason posted about a job at Serious Eats and I applied. I didn’t get the job, but through Alaina (the general manager) I was introduced to David Jacobs and John Emerson. Long story short, I started working at their company (Apperceptive) and then Six Apart, and consequently met everyone IRL (Jason, Meg, David, Adriana, Alaina, Anil) and became friends with them. All because I answered a job posting on Jason’s site! And to come full circle I’ve been working on Serious Eats for the past two years as their designer.

The internet is an amazing place for sure.

A lot more of these connecting stories here. The internet is an amazing place indeed.

On Hearing vs. Listening

Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist and author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind, explains the difference between hearing something and actively listening:

But when you actually pay attention to something you’re listening to, whether it is your favorite song or the cat meowing at dinnertime, a separate “top-down” pathway comes into play. Here, the signals are conveyed through a dorsal pathway in your cortex, part of the brain that does more computation, which lets you actively focus on what you’re hearing and tune out sights and sounds that aren’t as immediately important.

In this case, your brain works like a set of noise-suppressing headphones, with the bottom-up pathways acting as a switch to interrupt if something more urgent — say, an airplane engine dropping through your bathroom ceiling — grabs your attention.

Hearing, in short, is easy. You and every other vertebrate that hasn’t suffered some genetic, developmental or environmental accident have been doing it for hundreds of millions of years. It’s your life line, your alarm system, your way to escape danger and pass on your genes. But listening, really listening, is hard when potential distractions are leaping into your ears every fifty-thousandth of a second — and pathways in your brain are just waiting to interrupt your focus to warn you of any potential dangers.

Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.

Are you listening?