Readings: Alexander Ovechkin, College Life, Five Guys Burgers, Nuclear Devastation

Here are some interesting articles I’ve read over the weekend.

(1) “Load up on Life, Not Classes” [The Tech] – a sound editorial at MIT’s student newspaper. The paragraph below is applicable to any kind of learning, and independent of where you end up going to college.

So much learning in college takes place outside of classes. By getting involved in extracurricular like clubs, sports or music groups, you learn to work with and communicate with other people — and initially, they’re usually strangers. You will learn to accomplish goals alongside people you like, but you’ll probably meet other people you don’t like. This is how the real world works, and MIT is a great place to get practice.

(2) “Alexander Ovechkin, the Mad Russian” [New York Times] – a most interesting article about the life and times of NHL’s best player, Alexander Ovechkin. In case you aren’t familiar with Ovechkin:

In 2005-6, he was the N.H.L. rookie of the year, scoring 52 goals, tied for third most in the league. In the 2007-8 and 2008-9 seasons he led the league in goals, with 65 and 56, and won back-to-back M.V.P. awards. He has been at, or near, the top of the scoring chart this year and is on track for another 50-goal season.

On Ovechkin’s most memorable, absolutely insane goal:

Ovie doesn’t just score often, he scores memorably. Against Phoenix in January of his rookie year, there was what is now known simply as the Goal. Going one on one against the Coyotes’ defenseman Paul Mara, he got knocked down and landed on his back but kept the puck on the end of his stick and, as he slid backward, flung it over his head and into the net. This magical feat was viewed so often on YouTube that Caps officials estimate ticket sales went up 15 percent as a direct result.

The following paragraph profiles other Ovechkin goals, and I’ve linked to the respective YouTube videos below:

There are now so many celebrated Ovie goals on YouTube that connoisseurs can argue over them like stamp collectors comparing the 1840 British Penny Black, say, with the 1868 Franklin Z-Grill. Which is better? The goal against Buffalo in December 2008, when he slipped the puck around a defender’s legs, fell and then, while sliding on his stomach, whipped a shot through the goalie’s leg pads? Or the one against Detroit in January 2009, when he dragged the puck between his own legs, faked a backhander and then drilled a shot into the top of the net? What about the stupefying goal against Montreal the following month, when, catching the Canadiens on a bad line change, Ovechkin spun 360 degrees, passed the puck to himself off the boards, got knocked on his side and while skidding across the goal mouth lifted a shot over the goalie’s outstretched leg? Against the New York Rangers in early February, he scored a one-hander, pushing the puck between the skates of the defenseman Michal Rozsival, picking it up on the other side and then stabbing it with one arm past the Rangers’ goalie, Henrik Lundqvist.

Also of interest is this TSN video highlighting Ovechkin’s top ten goals.

I think what makes Ovechkin appealing to the hockey fan (not just a Capitals fan) is because he’s extremely approachable and personal:

Unlike most Russian players, who are paired with a Russian-speaking minder when they come to the N.H.L., Ovie insisted on an English-speaking roommate, and his English has become steadily better (though he does refer to the Verizon Center’s corporate suites as “suits”). In January, he was made captain of the team, in part because he’s such a presence in the locker room. He seldom ducks an interview, a chance to appear in a commercial or a request to make an appearance for a charity. According to Nate Ewell, the Capitals’ director of media relations, it’s hard to persuade Ovie to say no to anything. Off ice, he enjoys full rock-star privileges. He lives in an immense pad and markets his own line of Ovie-wear. He enjoys techno-pop, fast cars, beautiful women, torn Dolce & Gabbana jeans and loud parties.

The entire NYT Magazine piece is a pleasure to read, and I encourage you to check it out.

(3) “How I Did It: Jerry Murrell, Five Guys Burgers and Fries” [Inc Magazine] – an excellent interview with Jerry Murrel, founder of Five Guys, one of the best burger joints in the United States. Three quotable gems from the interview (on soliciting reviews, creating ownership in the company, and how the name Five Guys came to be):

  1. We have never solicited reviews. That’s a policy. Yet we have hundreds of them. If we put one frozen thing in our restaurant, we’d be done. That’s why we won’t do milk shakes. For years, people have been asking for them! But we’d have to do real ice cream and real milk.
  2. We try to make kids feel ownership in the company. Boys hate to smile. It’s not macho. And it’s definitely not macho to clean a bathroom. But if the auditor walks in and the bathroom isn’t clean, that crew just lost money. Next thing he knows, the guy who was supposed to clean the bathroom has toilet paper all over his car and a potato in his tailpipe.
  3. Our lawyer said “You need a name.” I had four sons — Matt, Jim, Chad are from my first marriage, and Ben from my second to Janie, who has run our books from Day One. So I said, “How about Five Guys?” Then we had Tyler, our youngest son, so I’m out! Matt and Jim travel the country visiting stores, Chad oversees training, Ben selects the franchisees, and Tyler runs the bakery.

(4) “Dark Element” [Walrus Magazine] – a heartbreaking account of Zhovti Vody, a Ukrainian prairie city (built in the Soviet era to supply ore for nuclear weapons) on its deadly legacy: cancer and devastation. Still, life must go on, as this poignant photo essay demonstrates.