Saturday Morning Links

In a hurry this morning, but hope you enjoy.

1. Paul Cooper on Twitter with the story of William Leonard Hunt, who said he found a lost city in the Kalahari Desert in 1881, but no one else has been able to find.

2. The NY Times on why some trees can live for thousands of years:

That’s because the genes in the cambium contain no program for senescence, or death, they say, but continue their program for making defenses even after hundreds of years. Old trees also produce just as many seeds and their leaves are just as resourceful as those of young trees. Though it has yet to be tested, the researchers believe other old trees — think of the 4,800-year-old bristlecone known as Methuselah in eastern California — may have a similar pattern of genetic programming.

3. Two links from OutsideOnline, a new trail in Slovenia looks absolutely amazing (and also home to Luka) and to get to this pub in Scotland requires a ferry ride or a three-day hike.

4. The BitterSoutherner on the nation’s largest maximum security prison in the nation, Louisiana’s Angola Prison.

5. Paul Graham on what it means to be a hater (and also a fanboy) on the internet.

Saturday Morning Links

It’s your Saturday morning links.

1. Radiolab is one of my favorite podcasts and they went to the Man Against Horse race in Prescott, Arizona, where the point of the race is to beat a horse in a 50 mile race. Maybe the most interesting thing I learned was that the nuchal ligament, which is this ligament kinda in the skull that first appeared in humans 2 million years ago. Basically how the body evolved over time to be able to run is pretty fantastic.

2. Kids talking about chess is delightful.

3. NPR had second hand store owners and they say that the best thing you can do is to not buy more stuff, which I’ve very much tried to think about recently. Is what I have good enough and usually the answer is yes.

4. ScienceFriday has an awesome article about how we need to relearn the stories of indigenous North Americans, which I always loved as a kid and how the stars and solar systems inspired people across cultures from across the world. I did find this PDF of Native American Mythology and the fact that they identified the Milky Way was pretty terrific:

Milky Way Trail (known as the Pathway of Souls to the Algonquin)

The Algonquin legend tells us that the Milky Way is the path that our souls take when we die. Sometimes referred to as the Pathway of Souls, it is an imperishable mark upon the sky which arches across the heavens. We do not know where the path leads nor do we know what sights they may behold. Each bright star, however, is a campfire blazing in the sky where they have paused in their journey to look down on us, their people, as we huddle for warmth around our home fire.

Other names for the Milky Way:
• Fox Tribe: “a river of stars”
• Yokut: “dust from a race between antelope and deer”
• Cherokee: “cornmeal dripping from a dog’s mouth”
• Ciowa: “backbone of the sky”
• Hidohsa & Patwin: “scattered ashes”
• Eskimo: “track made by Raven’s snow shoes”
• Skidee Pawnee: “glue holding the sky together”

5. The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis has the oral history of Stuart Scott and his life and it is absolutely fantastic.

Saturday Morning Links

Going to try to do some links every Saturday morning. Things I’ve enjoyed reading during the week in whatever down time I have. Grab a cup of coffee and (hopefully) enjoy.

1. As The World Turns.


2. Performance vs. Health. Via GQ’s Joe Holder — Why You Should Give Up on the Idea of Living a “Balanced” Life:

Where most of us err is in thinking either that these stretches can go on indefinitely—they can’t, or else we’ll be chronically fatigued; even professional athletes get an offseason—or that, when the stressful period is finally over, we can just do nothing. In fact, when our performance is over, that’s when investing in our health becomes most important.

This is why I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. The end of the year often provides a stretch of time where work slows down, and many of us can take some time to take care of ourselves. We can eat right, exercise more, and sleep better. But, because of resolutions, many of us just put that off until the new year, when we vow to get around to being better. And I get why! We’re overworked in America. So leisure becomes a narcotic. We use this period to retreat and indulge. The problem? When the new year hits, we’re trying to balance our self-care with all of the other bullshit the new year throws at us—and then we’re even more overworked and stressed out.

We need to invest in our health in the downtime before that, so that we can deal with the stretches of unhealthy behavior that are ultimately going to come. Because they will come. We can’t avoid the responsibilities, duties, or stresses of everyday life. But that’s okay. We should—and can—be equipped to deal with that.

3. Danny MacAskill Goes to the Gym.

4. Saving the Stradivarius Sound. Via Popular Science’s Chuck Squatriglia:

Antonio De Lorenzi takes a seat onstage in the concert hall of Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy, and carefully tucks a Stradivarius under his chin. The violin, crafted in 1727 and called Vesuvio, gleams red in the soft light of the auditorium. Through an earpiece, the ­soloist hears a metronomic beat as a voice says, “Go.”

De Lorenzi draws his bow across the lowest string and plays G for half a beat. He pauses, then follows with A-flat. Then A. He moves up the scale, never changing his pace as he works through all four strings. Once he finishes, he repeats the exercise, this time sounding each tone just a bit faster.

Clearly, this is no ordinary concert—or a typical practice. Outside, police have cordoned off the street to traffic. Inside, workers have shut down the heater despite the January chill, dimmed the lights, and unscrewed any buzzing bulbs. As each solitary note reverberates, an audience of 32 microphones ­dotted throughout the auditorium silently listens.

De Lorenzi’s performance is part of a campaign to preserve the Stradi­varius sound. Although many of the approximately 1,100 stringed masterpieces that Antonio Stradivari and his sons handcrafted in this town have endured for some 300 years, they are still mortal. Almost half have been lost to accidents, haphazard repairs, or the wear that comes with age. Of the 650 or so that survive, some have grown too fragile to play, their wood too thin or joints too weak to take the string tension or bowing pressure. Even those that still see regular use may change over the decades, as time and vibration slowly alter their mellifluous tone.

5. Bus Run Bus. Via Outside’s Martin Fritz Huber:

Within minutes of meeting the mountain runner Rickey Gates, I am asked to name my spirit animal. I don’t have a go-to answer for this particular request. Fortunately, it looks like I’ll have a moment or two to peer into my soul to determine where I fall on the spectrum from mynah bird to mastodon.

It’s a Sunday morning in early August, and there are more than 20 of us assembled for a meet and greet session in the common area of San Francisco’s Green Tortoise Hostel. We are about to embark on a weeklong journey on a sleeper bus that will shuttle us to various trail-running destinations across the American West. The itinerary is ambitious: four states, three national parks, 2,000 miles of driving, and over 100 miles of running for those who are up for it. It is not a trip for those who have strong feelings about personal space. The online brochure notes that this is a chance to spend time with “30 of your closest friends.” Most of us are meeting today for the first time. You get the idea.

“This is the first-ever Bus Run Bus trip,” Gates announces to the group, before adding wryly that it might also be the last one. “But that makes it all the more special.”

Gates is 38 years old and has the lean physique one might expect from someone who once ran across the country unsupported, which he did during the spring and summer of 2017. Bus Run Bus is his idea, the most recent addition to a growing number of multi-day running extravaganzas that he organizes throughout the year. Since 2013, he has been putting on Hut Run Hut (HRH), a six-day excursion that links up various mountain outposts from Aspen to Red Cliff, Colorado. In 2019, in addition to three separate iterations of HRH, Gates also cohosted a running trip in Oaxaca, Mexico. The day after our current trip is scheduled to conclude, he will get on a plane to Tokyo, where he will lead another group of runners on an extended excursion through the Japanese Alps.


New Year Resolutions | Planning for Success and Failure

It is nearly the new year and like every new year, resolutions are what we do at the start of the year in what seems like a jump start at improvement for the year. Nautilus’ Alice Fleerackers has a fantastic article about the idea of setting the right kind of goals (i.e. achievable goals) and anticipate that you’ll fail at some point, because as humans, we’re simply not perfect, but that there will be a day that you simply cannot go to the gym on Wednesday when you had set your goal at the beginning of the year to go to the gym every Monday-Wednesday-Friday.

First off it’s the idea that there are two different types of goals, one is big picture and the second is more micro:

Höchli argues that achieving New Year’s resolutions usually involves building new habits. Rather than focusing on specific, short-term goals, she recommends bringing some bigger-picture, longer-term aspirations into the picture. “It’s not just about one single behavior over a limited time,” she says. “It’s about behavior change that should be maintained over the long term.” These superordinate goals are less focused on concrete behaviors and more on how you want to be in the world. Goals like wanting to be healthier or more generous fall into this category. They’re a lot broader than subordinate goals, like ordering a salad at dinner or giving $50 to the local food bank.

Superordinate goals are also more flexible than subordinate ones, because they can apply to more than one situation. “Getting fitter,” for example, can encompass a range of activities—from winning an ironman to taking a stroll in the park. So if you don’t succeed on your first attempt to get active, there are still plenty of other ways you can make progress. “Going to the gym on Wednesday,” on the other hand, is a much narrower goal—and, therefore, an easier one to fail.

Goal-setting isn’t about choosing one type over th other, the article continues to state that people who, “set both superordinate and subordinate goals at New Year’s invested more effort into pursuing them.”

The other factor is that fear of failure is much worse than failing and getting back on that horse. Generally speaking, we, as humans, are terrible at predicting future emotions and predicting how we’ll feel if we don’t get to the gym on that Wednesday, just as materialistic goals like wealth or fame simply don’t necessarily bring a person happiness:

Dunn specializes in the psychology of happiness, and has spent years researching what’s called affective forecasting—our ability to predict our future emotions. She explains that, by and large, people tend to overestimate how bad they will feel after failures or disappointments, as well as how long it will take to bounce back. They also underestimate how happy they’ll feel after other experiences, like exercising or spending money on someone else.

In the context of goals, this inability to accurately predict our feelings can have important implications. People also tend to overestimate how happy materialistic goals, like wealth or fame, will make them, and pursue goals that will never actually fulfill their deeper psychological needs. But, Dunn says, these mispredictions aren’t always necessarily a bad thing. Consider studying for a big exam, or preparing for a major presentation, for example. Overestimating how bad you’ll feel if you mess up might be just the motivation you need to succeed. “Maybe it’s good to exaggerate the emotional impact that various outcomes are going to have for us, if that helps us take [our goal] more seriously,” Dunn says. “It’s a really tricky question.”

The takeaway? It’s good to set a goal, like deciding to run an ultramarathon, but it’s also good to set parameters about how often you’ll run during a week, perhaps 3 days a week. Rather than specify those days, make it specific enough that it is achievable, yet broad enough to fit it within your schedule. And failure to achieve that goal in a given week isn’t the end of the world, the next week is an opportunity to get back on track. Life is going to get in the way sometimes.

Let’s Begin

Why am I starting this and why am I doing this now? Those are both good questions and I don’t know that I have a clear answer other than I’ve had a scratch I’ve wanted to itch for a while. I don’t have any expectations about what this will become, butI’m 45 and I thought if I was going to try to write with the thought that there are things that I want to write about that don’t necessarily have anything to do with Texas Tech. That’s what this space is for.

As you’ll note, this blog is really my personal blog from many moons ago. I decided to buy the domain “Seeking The Substantial” and go from there.

The name of this site comes from a Jim Harrison quote that I’ve always remembered but cannot remember where I read it:

I seek the substantial in life.

The difference here and what I normally do is is that I am not making any promises in terms of a posting schedule and the content will most likely be not at all related to Texas Tech. This is just my personal scratchpad. If I’ve got a thought, it goes here. What about if there’s something that I’ve bought or something that I use all of the time and it works really well? Possible influencer? Probably not. Anyway, this is a place for me to write about things that may not fit in the Staking The Plains box.

Let’s go.