Friday, April 18, 2014

A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader

“For five millennia, humans have read linearly. It is surprising that this convention has lasted. Rather than correcting for our weaknesses, linear reading exacerbates them. The problem lies in the saccade, the quivering motion of the fovea from one fixation point to the next. These transitions, which are unconscious, aren’t smooth. Frequently, saccades miss their target, and our eyes slip from the line or regress along it. Recovering costs us time.

Spritz, a Boston-based startup, intends to fix this. On its Web site, the company’s founders assert that “only around 20% of your time is spent processing content” when reading. “The remaining 80% is spent physically moving your eyes from word to word.” They have accordingly developed technology to obviate the need for this movement. Text appears in what they call the “redicle”: a rectangular window designed to float in the upper portion of an electronic screen, inside which up to thirteen letters at a time strobe into visibility. The background is white, the font is black, and the single-character optimal recognition point (O.R.P.)—a neologism denoting the ideal letter for the reading eye to fixate on—is set off in an attractive red. (Or another color of the user’s choice.) The result is a reading experience that is tailored to the dimensions of the fovea. Text streams in, word by word. As the company asserts, the redicle “not only reduces the number of times your eyes move” but “also decreases the number of times your eyes pass over words for your brain to understand them.” Adults read linearly at around three hundred words a minute; Spritz promises rates of up to a thousand, and also greater comprehension.”


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Working on the cure

“At Swim Smooth we call an Overglider someone who has focused on trying to reduce the number of strokes they take per length to an absolute minimum, believing that a reduced number of strokes is the key measure of efficiency in freestyle swimming. Many have also been taught that by pausing and gliding as long as possible on their side they will be conserving energy.

The truth is though that swimming like this is very energy sapping. Water is 800 times more dense than air meaning that any significant pause at the front of the stroke will cause the swimmer to stall before having to re-accelerate on the next stroke. This accelerate-decelerate-accelerate-decelerate action is very inefficient.

Under the water at the front of their stroke, nearly all Overgliders drop their elbow and show the palm forwards. We call this ‘putting on the brakes’.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


“She also wants to inspire women, especially young girls, to focus more on what their bodies can do than on how they look. “I’m not preaching that everyone should try to become a CrossFit champion,” she says. “But I want to show them that training can give them more confidence—and that being strong is beautiful.””

CrossFit Phenom Annie Thorisdottir: The Fittest Woman on the Planet? – Vogue

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Years of Living Dangerously

Sou desu ne

“1. Doumo – Hello, thanks, and hello and thanks

The extremely convenient domo manages to do the job of both “hello” and “thank you,”as it’s the first component of both doumo konnichiwa (good afternoon) and domo arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much).

Aside from being shorter than the two phrases it can replace (which are both a bit of a mouthful even by Japanese standards), doumo can also be used to combine the two sentiments. Did someone invite you to their house? A warm “Domo!” with a smile as they open the front door works as both a friendly greeting and a heartfelt thanks for opening their home to you.

2. Ozappa – Working in broad strokes

Ozappa is often used to describe a type of personality, and while it directly translates to “rough” or “broad,” it doesn’t mean the person in question is abrasive, nor does it indicate someone who’s broad-minded in the sense of being open to new ideas. Rather, someone who’s ozappa doesn’t really sweat the details, whether for better or worse. Your friend who planned the barbeque, said he’d buy the beer and stick it in the cooler, but didn’t think to buy ice? He’s ozappa, but so is your other pal who doesn’t get worked up when you hand him a lukewarm brew.

3. Bimyou – Subtly…not right

Although it literally means “subtle,” bimyou usually implies that something is a little off, and that maybe it’d be better to just do without it altogether. The dash of red wine that pork cutlet sauce really doesn’t need, the clunky metaphors in the love letter your wrote to your junior high crush, and the tasteful nose piercing you picked out for your job interview could all be described as bimyou.

4. Irusu – The “the lights are on but nobody’s home” fake-out

This is one many foreign residents in Japan do without even realizing there’s a term for it. Imagine it’s a nice Sunday afternoon. You’re lounging at home, enjoying your day off and browsing the Internet, when all of a sudden, there’s a knock at the door. Staring out the peephole, you spot someone dressed in clothing that could only be described as “missionary casual.”

Since you’ve already discovered your own personal guiding light, you slink quietly back from the door, fooling the solicitor into thinking you’re out so that he goes and bothers your neighbors instead. Congratulations, you just pulled off a successful irusu (pretending to be out when someone comes by) operation.

5. Chu to hampa – Not quite one thing, but not quite the other, either

Say you’re waiting to meet up with your friend, and he calls to say he’ll be five minutes late. No big deal, right? You can hold out that long.

Likewise, if he’s going to be two hours late, this doesn’t put you in such a big bind, since you can go do something else while you’re waiting. You could get something to eat, do some shopping, or grab a couple cups of coffee (or glasses of bourbon, neat, if it’s late enough in the day and/or you’re an alcoholic).

But what if your friend is going to be 20 minutes late? Now that’s a pain, since it’s way too long to sit around twiddling your thumbs, but not enough time to actually do anything with.

This kind of situation is what the Japanese call chu to hampa, halfway and some fragments. It’s used whenever you’ve got something that would be fine if it was just a few steps in either direction on whichever scale you’re measuring it with, but like some Opposite Day-version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it’s just wrong. The car that’s too big and bulky to be fun to drive but also doesn’t have enough trunk space to be practical? The girl you have too much chemistry with to be “just friends,” but don’t get along with well enough to want to see more than once a month? Chu to hampa, chu to hampa.

6. Majime – Earnestness for the 21st Century

Majime is usually listed in textbooks as “serious,” and you could translate it that way. However, saying a person is majime doesn’t mean they’re somber, since even people with professional-caliber senses of humor can be majime.

Majime is actually a little closer to “earnest,” but it doesn’t have the same nuance of ineffectualness associated with “earnest efforts,” nor the Victorian ring of calling someone “an earnest young man.” Majime indicates the personality possessed by people who are reliable, responsible, and can simply get things done without causing drama or problems for others. Not surprisingly, this is seen as an extremely desirable mindset in industrious Japan, and calling someone majime neither labels them as uptight or old-fashioned, but rather respectable and admirable.

7. Otsukaresama desu – You’re probably tired, and I think that’s great

Coming from tsukareru (to be tired), otsukaresama desu is one of the most useful phrases in Japanese business. Although it literally means, “You’re tired,” it’s not used to point out someone’s lack of pep, but to thank them for exhausting their energies to do something you, or the team you’re part of, benefitted from.

While the meaning is akin to “I appreciate your hard work,” otsukaresama desu has a couple distinct advantages over its English equivalent. For starters, it doesn’t sound nearly as stiff and impersonal. It can also be used when speaking up or down the chain of command. Managers can say it to their subordinates, and you can even say the phrase to your boss if he’s heading out of the office before you.

Otsukaresama desu is even a common greeting is business correspondence, especially among employees of the same company. Even if you don’t work side-by-side with him, it’s polite to give Tanaka in accounting the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s been busting his butt at work just like you have. So when you call him up to ask for the quarterly revenue figures, it’s common courtesy to start off your request with otsukaresama desu.

8. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu – I hope things go well, even if I’m not exactly sure what those things are

Fittingly, we finish with a phrase that’s often used to express an abstract yet genuine hope for good things to come, yoroshiku onegai shimasu. While onegai shimasu is pretty much just a polite way of saying “please,” yoroshiku means “well” or “favorably,” so the whole thing together is essentially a way of making the request, “Favorably, please.”

“Umm…favorably what?” is the reaction most English speakers initially have to this. Sure, Japanese can be a vague language at times, but this is a little much, isn’t it? If someone just says to you, “Favorably please,” what exactly are you supposed to do?

And therein lies the beauty of yoroshiku onegai shimasu: The exact thing you do doesn’t matter. As a matter of fact, the person who says yoroshiku onegai shimasu likely doesn’t have any concrete idea either. All they know is that somehow the two of you are connected, whether socially or professionally, and they hope that the relationship will be a mutually happy one.

There’s an unspoken understanding that while you’ll work out the details later, the ultimate goal is this.

Did your boss just hand you an important project? He’ll probably give you a yoroshiku onegai shimasu, or at least its informal variant, yoroshiku, before you get started on it, since you may run into some problems that take extra time and effort to resolve. Hopping in a friend’s car for a trip to the beach? Give him a yoroshiku, since he’ll be driving safely, even if he’d rather be sitting in the back joking and fooling around with everyone else. Meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time? You’d better believe that’s ayoroshiku onegai shimasu, since if things progress to marriage and babies, you’ve just linked two families who are going to be connected for generations to come.

And of course, this phrase gets used all the time with businesses and organizations who hope their patrons keep coming back for years to come. So thanks for reading, and to all of you, yoroshiku onegai shimasu!”

8 Incredibly Useful Japanese Words That Have No English Equivalent

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Wheat?

“Oh if I had a dollar for every time I scoffed at someone going on a gluten-free diet because it was “the thing” to do. For people with celiac disease, eating wheat can be a matter of life and death; good health and bad. But for someone who gives wheat and baked goods up just because Elizabeth Hasselback said it was cool, ha!

And then I had to give up wheat.”

Is Going Gluten-Free Healthy?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bliss Point

“The public and the food companies have known for decades now — or at the very least since this meeting — that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control? It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive. I talked to more than 300 people in or formerly employed by the processed-food industry, from scientists to marketers to C.E.O.’s. Some were willing whistle-blowers, while others spoke reluctantly when presented with some of the thousands of pages of secret memos that I obtained from inside the food industry’s operations. What follows is a series of small case studies of a handful of characters whose work then, and perspective now, sheds light on how the foods are created and sold to people who, while not powerless, are extremely vulnerable to the intensity of these companies’ industrial formulations and selling campaigns.”

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Why Is Nutrition So Confusing?

“The associations that emerge from these studies used to be known as “hypothesis-generating data,” based on the fact that an association tells us only that two things changed together in time, not that one caused the other. So associations generate hypotheses of causality that then have to be tested. But this hypothesis-generating caveat has been dropped over the years as researchers studying nutrition have decided that this is the best they can do.”

Why Is Nutrition So Confusing?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Accept and Celebrate

“I don’t understand his world, but I do understand he is part of mine.”

Monday, April 07, 2014


“What does the way you speak say about where you’re from? Answer all the questions in this quiz to see your personal dialect map.”

How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk

I’d like to see a UK version of this..

Friday, April 04, 2014

1991 iPhone

“Considering only memory, processing, and broadband communications power, duplicating the iPhone back in 1991 would have (very roughly) cost: $1.44 million + $620,000 + $1.5 million = $3.56 million.

This doesn’t even account for the MEMS motion detectors, the camera, the iOS operating system, the brilliant display, or the endless worlds of the Internet and apps to which the iPhone connects us.

This account also ignores the crucial fact that no matter how much money one spent, it would have been impossible in 1991 to pack that much technological power into a form factor the size of the iPhone, or even a refrigerator.

Tim Lee at The Switch noted the imprecision of the original analysis and correctly asked how typical analyses of inflation can hope to account for such radical price drops. (Harvard economist Larry Summers recently picked up on this point as well.)

But the fact that so many were so impressed by an assertion that an iPhone possesses the capabilities of $3,000 worth of 1991 electronics products – when the actual figure exceeds $3 million – reveals how fundamentally difficult it is to think in exponential terms.

Innovation blindness, I’ve long argued, is a key obstacle to sound economic and policy thinking. And this is a perfect example. When we make policy based on today’s technology, we don’t just operate mildly sub-optimally. No, we often close off entire pathways to amazing innovation.”

How much would an iPhone have cost in 1991?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

How Wolves Change Rivers

Pretty cool.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Move, and move often!

“Data from activity monitors that reveal patterns in when someone is moving around versus when they’re motionless. And what’s interesting about this comparison is that the two individuals shown have the same total amount of sedentary time. The differences is that the person on the left has long blocks of unbroken sedentary time and long blocks of active time; the person on the right alternates much more frequently between rest and motion.

It’s not that you have to leap up and do 50 push-ups every hour — you just need to avoid going into hibernation for an entire morning or entire day. Get up, walk around the office, get a drink, whatever, then resume what you were doing. Behavior change takes time, but this isn’t a particularly tough one.”

The Importance of Breaks in Sedentary Time

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eat afterwards

“In conclusion, our present findings clearly demonstrate that consistent exercise training in the fasted state markedly stimulates the contribution of IMCL – intramyocellular lipid – to energy provision during fasting endurance exercise. Fasting training also increases muscular oxidative capacity more than a similar intensity and duration of exercise with ample exogenous carbohydrate supply. In addition, training in the fasted state prevents drop of blood glucose concentration during fasting exercise. Our present findings therefore provide evidence to indicate that regular fasted training is a useful strategy to stimulate physiological adaptations in muscle that may eventually contribute to improve endurance exercise performance.”

Beneficial metabolic adaptations due to endurance exercise training in the fasted state

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Change blindness

“Daniel Pauly, a professor at the University of British Columbia, has a way of describing these acts of creeping amnesia. He calls the condition “shifting baseline syndrome,” and while he was talking about marine biologists’ failure to see drastic changes in fish sizes over time, it’s a bigger, deeper idea. When you’re young, you look at the world and think what you see has been that way for a long time. When you’re 5, everything feels “normal.” When things change in your lifetime, you may regret what has changed, but for your children, born 30 years later into a more diminished world, what they see at 5 becomes their new “normal,” and so, over time, “normal” is constantly being redefined to mean “less.” And people who don’t believe that the past was so different from the present might have what could be called “change blindness blindness.”

Because these changes happen slowly, over a human lifetime, they never startle. They just tiptoe silently along, helping us all adjust to a smaller, shrunken world.”

Big Fish Stories Getting Littler

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Monday, March 24, 2014

The Test of Fitness

Great workouts, mixed feelings about the ‘brand’.