Archive for the ‘Kottke’ tag
An interesting list: the least commonly visited countries in the world. The thing that elevates it beyond mere trivia is that they list the reasons no one goes, the reasons people might want to go, and other interesting details about the counties.
While I hardly love the idea that what’s good for business is automatically good for your life, Greg McKeown manages to get some good ideas out of this observation about companies that fail to build on their successes. The process, for both companies and people:
Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.
You really don’t know yourself until you know how other people see you. Whether or not that’s true, I really enjoyed this brief description of how travel books seek to explain my country to the world.
But maybe the topic that gets the most attention in these books is food, which they praise for its quality and variety (and portion size) in a tone of near-disbelief. As in any culture, the niceties of dining — especially at someone’s home — can get complicated. Here, from Wikitravel, is some sage advice on a ritual that even I did not realize was so complicated until I read this passage:
When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such a dessert, a side dish, or for an outdoor barbecue, something useful like ice or plastic cups or plates. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash, prepared ready-to-serve foods, or very personal items (e.g. toiletries) are not appropriate.
This McSweeney’s piece, whether or not it knows it, is about the Buddhist idea that dukkha (“suffering”) in an inherent characteristic of samsara (the flow of life). In English, it’s about how our constant seeking after passions, objects, and experiences causes us a great deal of confusion, frustration, and pain. And finally, to paraphrase Daniel Gilbert, it’s about how the things we think will make us happy rarely do.
Holy cow this Kottke post is awesome! A very well made video, and a very interesting piece of relevant information that’s not in the video.
This is another one of those stories I saw a few times before I paid attention to. My excuse is that it’s poorly titled, it’s more about the broken American system of end of life care than it is about strictly “how doctors die.” (A problem whose most visible manifestations was all the hubbub about “death panels” some years ago.)
If you’re really interested in that topic, PBS’s Frontline’s Facing Death (from about a year ago) was another worthwhile treatment of the problem.
How I Do Via Links
After I spent nearly 20 minutes looking for where I’d gotten the story I linked yesterday, I got to thinking about the somewhat arbitrary need I feel to attribute my sources. I thought some readers might be interested in it, so this is a brief exegesis of that need and an explanation of how to facilitate it.
The primary reason I care is ego. I don’t want someone coming here, stealing all my links and acting as though my time spent in curation was valueless. And so similarly, I refuse to do this to others. Even when more than half my links seem to have come from one site (today it’s The Browser, there was a time it was kottke, a time it was brijit (what was that?), and time’s it’s been other stuff I don’t remember), I’d rather you know how awesome that site is in deciding what’s valuable on the internet than that you think I’m really hardworking and great at finding stuff. (While I might like for that to be true, it’s not.)
Secondarily, I want to facilitate your finding good things on the internet, not impede it. And the single best thing I can do to help you find cool things is to disclose where I find cool things. If you want more stuff like the stuff I post here, you could do a lot worse than following along a five of the sites I attribute links to.
Now, more important than why I do it is how to do it. For me, 99% of what I read comes from four streams, so if I forget where I got something — which is true about half the time — I look at those four places. Google Reader, Twitter, Hacker News, and reddit all have serviceable search functions, so anytime I forget I just need to do 10ish searches I should be able to attribute where I got something. (Google Reader searches for URLs rarely work, so one must account for the various ways an article may have been described. The reason yesterday took 20 minutes is that I was incorrectly confident about where it came from.)
Because it’s funny, and popped into my head while typing this, I’ll wrap up with part of an old tweet from the ur-link-blogger, Jason Kottke:
As Woodsy Owl would say: give a shit, via it.
PS: If you haven’t been to an single-entry page on this site in a while, they’ve got a better looking box of recommended actions for what to do beyond a single entry. More articles, a better looking tag list, and more accurate recommendations (though I’m still not fully satisfied with those). I made the box myself, it’s also on Frozen Toothpaste.
I link to this story because beyond being an enjoyable diversion, it makes two important points that many people still don’t get.
- George W. Bush is a man who did his best to lead the United States in the direction he thought it needed to go for eight years.
- He is unquestionably well-read on a variety of historical topics. (Whether this raises or lowers your opinion of reading generally, or his reading, doesn’t make it any less true.)
This reminds me of the billion heartbeats thing (across species, that’s approximately how long all lives are — I’d thought it was apocryphal until I saw Sean Carroll mention it as fact), but I’d never heard this one:
In other words, your ears aren’t deceiving you: Spaniards really do sprint and Chinese really do stroll, but they will tell you the same story in the same span of time.
These anomalies caused by the algorithms Google uses to turn maps into pictures are surprisingly interesting and fun.
The things that most excited me about geology and paleobiology are included in this story, most of things I didn’t much care for aren’t. A solid read. Seriously:
Theia hits the Earth and shears off a large chunk, forming a trail of shattered, molten or vaporized rock that arcs off into space. Within an hour, half the Earth’s surface is red-hot, and the trail of debris stretches almost 4 Earth radii into space. After 3 to 5 hours, the iron core of Theia and most of the the debris comes crashing back down. The Earth’s entire crust and outer mantle melts. At this point, a quarter of Theia has actually vaporized!
There are few things that environmental activists have enjoyed attacking more in the last decade than meat, and so to see one of them reconsider that is nice.
If pigs are fed on residues and waste, and cattle on straw, stovers and grass from fallows and rangelands – food for which humans don’t compete – meat becomes a very efficient means of food production. Even though it is tilted by the profligate use of grain in rich countries, the global average conversion ratio of useful plant food to useful meat is not the 5:1 or 10:1 cited by almost everyone, but less than 2:1. If we stopped feeding edible grain to animals, we could still produce around half the current global meat supply with no loss to human nutrition: in fact it’s a significant net gain.
It should be noted, however, that this theoretical world where ideal meat-raising is practiced is quite different than the methods currently used to do so.
In 1994, Charlie Munger (best known as the guy Warren Buffett runs every business decision by) identified why Newsweek — to choose the most fashionable example — would struggle:
That’s what happened to The Saturday Evening Post and all those things. They’re gone. What we have now is Motocross—which is read by a bunch of nuts who like to participate in tournaments where they turn somersaults on their motorcycles. But they care about it. For them, it’s the principal purpose of life. A magazine called Motocross is a total necessity to those people. And its profit margins would make you salivate.
He says a number of other seemingly unrelated things worth hearing. The speech as a whole is massive and rambling, but has enough good nuggets that I wouldn’t discourage you from reading it.
There’s very little meat in this article, and the fact that PepsiCo is likely to have patented whatever improvement they may have made saddens me, but I love this idea in the current anti-sodium climate:
“If we could figure out a way of getting the salt crystals to dissolve faster, then we could decrease the amount of salt we put on a snack with no compromise on taste.”
This is, at minimum, an unconventional view. And it is precisely that reason that David Graeber’s history of debt is so interesting.
While the claims of the impersonal market and the claims of “society” are often juxtaposed – and certainly have had a tendency to jockey back and forth in all sorts of practical ways – they are both ultimately founded on a very similar logic of violence. Neither is this a mere matter of historical origins that can be brushed away as inconsequential: neither states nor markets can exist without the constant threat of force.
It’s not the nature of the errors that so amazing, it’s their sheer number. I thought we were supposed to value print for soberness and fact checking the internet doesn’t provide:
An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite’s career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite’s coverage of D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. “The CBS Evening News” overtook “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” on NBC in the ratings during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A communications satellite used to relay correspondents’ reports from around the world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he became anchor of “The CBS Evening News” in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite was the anchor. Because of an editing error, the appraisal also misstated the name of the news agency for which Mr. Cronkite was Moscow bureau chief after World War II. At that time it was United Press, not United Press International.