One of the best pieces about baseball you’ll read this week (or this year) has nothing to do with the Boston Red Sox and their 2013 World Series title. It’s Adrian Cardenas writing in The New Yorker on why he quit the sport and took up creative writing:
When you lose yourself in the game, as you must, it’s all too easy to lose your sense of home. It didn’t take long for me to see how it happens, as I became friends with players and heard about the relationships and marriages that broke up, the relatives and close friends who faded from view, the parents or grandparents whose funerals were missed because of an expected call up to the majors. Sometimes I’d stay awake through the night, almost laughing to myself, mentally weighing the small fraction of success against the overshadowing personal and professional failure that comes with being a ballplayer.
I came to realize that professional baseball players are masochists: hitters stand sixty feet and six inches from the mound, waiting to get hit by a pitcher’s bullets; fielders get sucker punched in the face by bad hops, and then ask for a hundred more. We all fail far more than we succeed, humiliating ourselves in front of tens of thousands of fans, trying to attain the unattainable: batting a thousand, pitching without ever losing, secretly seeking the immortality of the record books. In spite of the torments—the career-ending injuries, the demotions, the fear of getting “Wally Pipped”—we keep rolling our baseball-shaped boulders up the impossible hill of the game, knowing we’ll never reach the top. Baseball is visceral, tragic, and absurd, with only fleeting moments of happiness; it may be the best representation of life. I was, and still am, in love with baseball. But I quit…
I quit because baseball was sacred to me until I started getting paid for it. The more that “baseball” became synonymous with “business,” the less it meant to me, and I saw less of myself in the game every time I got a check from the Philadelphia Phillies Organization, the Oakland Athletic Company, or the Chicago Cubs, L.L.C
The American dream didn’t tell me that an experience only matters if I acknowledge it, that losing yourself in the game is a good way to lose what makes life meaningful.
A must-read in entirety.
I wish Adrian the best and want to see what comes out of this next venture in his life.
Major props to Chris Bosh for writing this piece in Wired about the importance of computer programming/coding in his life:
For most athletes, the sport they end up turning into a career was decided in school. For me it all started in high school. This is where it all happens. On one end, you are growing fast and becoming very good at sports, on the other end grownups all around you say you need to try out different things, to discover your likes and dislikes, you need a plan. It’s a lot of pressure for that age.
Despite knowing my highly decorated jersey hung in Lincoln High’s gymnasium I knew well before I was in the NBA that to feel secure with my future — our future, really — I would need to be able to manipulate those 1s and 0s. Luckily, having extremely geeky parents that were constantly testing gadgets and flashing mad AutoCAD skills helped push my hands towards a keyboard and learning to code when they weren’t palming a basketball or blocking an opponent.
For as far back as I can remember, my mom had a business called Computer Help. So I pretty much grew up around computers. Later on, she worked for Texas Instrument. We used to come back home after school and my mom would bring all these new TI gadgets for us to test and play around with; I still remember the first digital cameras! When people were still using AutoCAD, my dad did professional plumbing, engineering, and designing for a couple different companies.
I’m lucky because my parents held us to a very high standard when it comes to education, and they were very science driven. In high school I joined a club called Wizkids, a computer graphics club for two years. I always felt like I was in my element, my environment there. I also joined the Association of Minority Engineers and NSBE the National Society of Black Engineers during my senior year.
Bosh spent a year at Georgia Tech before he declared for the NBA draft, so this story hits a bit closer to home (having graduated from Georgia Tech).
Love his philosophy:
I’m the Miami Heat player with “1” on my team jersey back. For me winning isn’t “winning” — it’s 01110111 01101001 01101110 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 (that’s W-I-N-N-I-N-G in binary code).
How does the kettle whistle? Apparently this is one problem that hasn’t been solved in 100 years, until now. Phys.org leads with this:
Researchers have finally worked out where the noise that makes kettles whistle actually comes from – a problem which has puzzled scientists for more than 100 years.
Seems hard to believe.
Writing in the October issue of the academic journal, The Physics Of Fluids, two Cambridge University researchers claim to have solved the conundrum, and in the process developed the first accurate model for the whistling mechanism inside a classic stove kettle.
Perhaps reassuringly for those who never felt that this was a significant problem, the ramifications reach far beyond kettles themselves. Using the knowledge gained from the study, researchers could potentially isolate and stop similar, but far more irritating whistles – such as the noise made when air gets into household plumbing, or damaged car exhausts.
“The effect we have identified can actually happen in all sorts of situations – anything where the structure containing a flow of air is similar to that of a kettle whistle,” Ross Henrywood, from the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering, and the study’s lead author, explained.
“Pipes inside a building are one classic example and similar effects are seen inside damaged vehicle exhaust systems. Once we know where the whistle is coming from, and what’s making it happen, we can potentially get rid of it.”
Henrywood carried out the research for his fourth-year project as part of his engineering degree, under the guidance of his supervisor, Dr Anurag Agarwal, a lecturer in aeroacoustics. Drawing on previous research by Agarwal, which identified the source of noise in jet engines, the pair were able to show how sound is created inside a kettle as the “flow” of steam comes up the spout.
The abstract of the paper is here.
This is an interesting investigation by the BBC about how easy it is to fake credentials and get an MBA degree from The American University of London. In exchange for a fee, of course.
The American University of London (AUOL) awarded a fictitious person created by the programme a Master’s in Business in exchange for a £4,500 fee.
AUOL has insisted it is “not a bogus university” and defended the robustness of the qualifications it offers.
Newsnight has found hundreds of senior executives listing AUOL qualifications.
The programme contacted some of them, but they all insisted that they had had to study for their degrees.
AUOL styles itself as a pioneer of distance learning, offering degrees and post-graduate qualifications in business, IT, law, education and liberal arts, humanities, and English to more than 100,000 students worldwide.
Its website claims that that all of their courses “have been designed to the most exacting standards, in accordance with the most stringent criteria, in order to provide outstanding education at an affordable price”.
However, Newsnight found that getting the university to provide a qualification without any study at all was easy.
The programme drew up a one-page fake CV for a management consultant Peter Smith, known as Pete, living in South London, which included 15 years of made-up work experience and a fictitious undergraduate degree from a UK university.
The real Pete was actually a dog living in Battersea Dogs’ Home.
Read the rest here.
Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, reflects on the difficulty of writing:
It’s not that hard to be a lawyer. Any fool can be a lawyer. It’s really hard to be a writer. You have to be born with incredible amounts of talent. Then you have to work hard. Then you have to be able to handle tons of rejection and not mind it and just keep pushing away at it. You have to show up at people’s doors. You can’t just e-mail and text message people. You have to bang their doors down. You have to be interesting. You have to be fucking phenomenal to get a book published and then sell the book. When people think their writing career is not working out, it’s not working out because it’s so damn hard. It’s not harder now than it was 20 years ago. It’s just as hard. It was always hard.
Further reading: Elizabeth Wurtzel on her “one-night stand of a life,” published earlier this year in New York Magazine.
Scott Walsten, a senior researcher at the Tech Policy Institute, parsed through the American Time Use Survey and analyzed the Internet’s “crowding-out” effect — what things we do less of so we can spend more time online. His findings are published in a paper on opportunity cost of spending time online (i.e., what are we NOT doing with every minute we spend online not doing work?). From the abstract:
The Internet has radically transformed the way we live our lives. The net changes in consumer surplus and economic activity, however, are difficult to measure because some online activities, such as obtaining news, are new ways of doing old activities while new activities, like social media, have an opportunity cost in terms of activities crowded out. This paper uses data from the American Time Use Survey from 2003 – 2011 to estimate the crowdout effects of leisure time spent online. That data show that time spent online and the share of the population engaged in online activities has been increasing steadily. I find that, on the margin, each minute of online leisure time is correlated with 0.29 fewer minutes on all other types of leisure, with about half of that coming from time spent watching TV and video, 0.05 minutes from (offline) socializing, 0.04 minutes from relaxing and thinking, and the balance from time spent at parties, attending cultural events, and listening to the radio. Each minute of online leisure is also correlated with 0.27 fewer minutes working, 0.12 fewer minutes sleeping, 0.10 fewer minutes in travel time, 0.07 fewer minutes in household activities, and 0.06 fewer minutes in educational activities.
The Washington Post summarizes that for every 10 minutes people fool around online, they spend:
- 2.9 minutes less on all other types of leisure
- 2.7 fewer minutes working (or a more dramatic 3.75 minutes, for people in their 30s)
- 1.2 fewer minutes on personal care, including sleep
- 1 less minute travelling
- 42 fewer seconds on household activities
- 36 fewer seconds on educational activities
When you break out just the leisure category, people spend:
- 32.4 fewer seconds on offline socializing
- 24 fewer seconds of relaxing and thinking
- 9.6 fewer seconds at parties
- 6 fewer seconds at cultural events/institutions
What are you not doing when you’re spending time online?
A feel-good story from this weekend is about the pay it forward phenomenon happening at America’s drive-throughs at fast food restaurants, where the car ahead of you in line pays for your meal. The New York Times is on it:
You could chalk it up to Southern hospitality or small town charm. But it’s just as likely the preceding car will pick up your tab at a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through in Detroit or a McDonald’s drive-through in Fargo, N.D. Drive-through generosity is happening across America and parts of Canada, sometimes resulting in unbroken chains of hundreds of cars paying in turn for the person behind them.
Some great trivia in this paragraph:
Perhaps the largest outbreak of drive-through generosity occurred last December at a Tim Hortons in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when 228 consecutive cars paid it forward. A string of 67 cars paid it forward in April at a Chick-fil-A in Houston. And then a Heav’nly Donuts location in Amesbury, Mass., had a good-will train of 55 cars last July.
Serial pay-it-forward incidents involving between 4 and 24 cars have been reported at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Del Taco, Taco Bell, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Maryland, Florida, California, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, North Dakota, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington.
It hasn’t ever happened to me, but then again, I hardly order food from a drive through (I prefer to walk inside to order a meal).
More than 20 years ago, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She spilled the coffee, was badly burned, and one year later, sued McDonald’s. The jury awarded her $2.9 million but she eventually settled for about $500,000. Her story became a media sensation and fodder for talk-show hosts, late-night comedians, sitcom writers, and political pundits. The New York Times has a short piece and a video on how serving hot coffee has changed since then:
The point is, the world now caters to the coffee drinker. The idea of getting into a car without cup holders and lifting the lid off the cup in order to add milk and sugar and drink the coffee, as the facts of the case show Ms. Liebeck did that morning, seems strangely anachronistic.
Within the ensuing years, some genius invented a sculptured lid with a little sipping hole in the top, eliminating the need to open the cup and reducing the potential for spills. Sloshing grew less likely once the lip was raised above the cup rim.
Let’s not forget the evolution of the cup holder. Teams of car engineers continuously work to perfect their design for drivers in the front and those passengers two rows back.
In which you also learn about the zarf, that cupboard thingie that goes around the cup of coffee.
Writing in The New Yorker, this is a deeply moving personal reflection by one of my favorite writers, David Sedaris, on his youngest sister’s suicide:
“Why do you think she did it?” I asked as we stepped back into the sunlight. For that’s all any of us were thinking, had been thinking since we got the news. Mustn’t Tiffany have hoped that whatever pills she’d taken wouldn’t be strong enough, and that her failed attempt would lead her back into our fold? How could anyone purposefully leave us, us, of all people? This is how I thought of it, for though I’ve often lost faith in myself, I’ve never lost it in my family, in my certainty that we are fundamentally better than everyone else. It’s an archaic belief, one that I haven’t seriously reconsidered since my late teens, but still I hold it. Ours is the only club I’d ever wanted to be a member of, so I couldn’t imagine quitting. Backing off for a year or two was understandable, but to want out so badly that you’d take your own life?
The family’s back-and-forth on what to name their beach house was amusing in an otherwise very melancholy piece.
If anyone can make it happen, it’s Elon Musk. A report from CNN:
Thursday night, a Tesla Motors spokeswoman confirmed that the submarine, modeled after a Lotus sports car, had been bought by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Musk plans to take the movie prop and turn it into an actual car that transforms into a submarine, the very thing it was built to portray in the movie.
“I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform,” Musk said in a statement provided by Tesla. “What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.”
What will he think of next?