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Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Four Things

I learned last night that one of my favorite musicians, Dr. John, died of a heart attack at the age of 77. I will start this week's roundup with one of my favorites, which he wrote after Hurricane Katrina devastated his beloved New Orleans.

As an atheist, I do not believe in an afterlife, and I take comfort in knowing that he spent so much time in the place he loved, and doing the thing he enjoyed most.


1. Through GeekPress, I ran into an amusing list of laptop holding styles. But they left off "The Polymath", I thought. That was because I had also just encountered an interesting article about Stephen Wolfram's personal infrastructure:
The biomechanics weren't too hard to work out. I found out that by putting a gel strip at the correct pivot point under my wrists (and putting the mouse on a platform) I can comfortably type while I'm walking. I typically use a 5% incline and go at 2 mph -- and I'm at least fit enough that I don't think anyone can tell I'm walking while I'm talking in a meeting. (And, yes, I try to get potentially frustrating meetings scheduled during my walking time, so if I do in fact get frustrated I can just "walk it off" by making the treadmill go a little faster.)
Well, okay, that's his desktop setup. But a bit further down, there is a picture of him happily walking around outside with a laptop strapped on.
Could one actually work like this, typing and everything? After my "heart-rate discovery" I decided I had to try it. I thought I'd have to build something myself, but actually one can just buy "walking desks", and so I did. And after minor modifications, I discovered that I could walk and type perfectly well with it, even for a couple of hours. I was embarrassed I hadn't figured out such a simple solution 20 years ago. But starting last fall -- whenever the weather's been good -- I've tried to spend a couple of hours of each day walking outside like this...
You heard that right: "Walking desks" are a thing. I don't see myself using one under the blinding Florida sun, but I like the idea.

2. No. Kudzu never "ate the South":
kudzu.jpg
Image by Scott Ehardt, via Wikipedia, public domain.
[W]here did the more fantastic claims of kudzu's spread come from? The widely cited nine-million-acre number appears to have been plucked from a small garden club publication, not exactly the kind of source you expect a federal agency or academic journal to rely on. Two popular how-to books, one a kudzu craft book and the other a "culinary and healing guide," are, strangely, among the most frequently quoted sources on the extent of kudzu's spread, even in scholarly accounts.

Yet the popular myth won a modicum of scientific respectability. In 1998, Congress officially listed kudzu under the Federal Noxious Weed Act. Today, it frequently appears on popular top-ten lists of invasive species. The official hype has also led to various other questionable claims -- that kudzu could be a valuable source of biofuel and that it has contributed substantially to ozone pollution.
Of course Congress -- the same institution that paid farmers to plant this weed in the first place -- ended up declaring it a noxious weed.

3. The following comes from a thought-provoking review of Rich Karlgaard's Late Bloomers:
[T]here's an argument to be made that early bloomers, though they may unsettle those of us who are slow to sort ourselves out, have ultimately helped improve the odds of late bloomer achievement. This column regularly argues that Main Street and Wall Street can't exist without the other, and perhaps there's a similarly optimistic scenario unfolding here. Those early achievers make our late-in-life reinventions much more of a possibility. Furthermore, discomfort is a good thing at times. The early achievers arguably spur us to betterment, or greatness. Karlgaard seems to agree.
Hear, hear!

4. Although I don't recommend emulating such behavior professionally, the story of how Internet Explorer 6 was finally put to pasture is a fun read:
The first person to come by our desks was the PR team lead. He was a smart, dapper man who was always bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. Except this time. This time he was uncharacteristically prickly. He had come in on an otherwise normal day to find email from every major tech news publication asking why the second largest website on the planet was threatening to cut off access to nearly a fifth of its user base. Fortunately for us, the publications had already settled on a narrative that this was a major benefit to the Internet. By their call, YouTube was leading the charge towards making the web a faster, safer experience for all of its users. The entire PR team had Macs running Chrome and could not even see what we had done, let alone issue comments to the press on any of it. They were caught completely unaware. We eagerly told them everything about what we had launched and helped them craft the necessary talking points to expand on the narrative already established by the media. Satisfied that he could get back in front of the story, the PR team lead turned and warned us to never do anything like this without telling him first. He did not want to let great public relations opportunities like this slip by ever again.
The whole thing reads like this.

-- CAV

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