10 for 10/10/10
Happy 99th Birthday to the Republic of China, also known as Taiwan! I attended the parade today and saw the fireworks from the roof of my dormitory. This is a great place to live. It’s a capital, but it’s small enough that it feels personal.
Anyway, this is an amazing time in news. Many Saturday mornings, I find myself sitting at the news buffet until lunchtime because there’s so much to know. Here are some things I read this week.
10/10/10 Weddings: This is sweet. The same thing happened a month ago in Taiwan. Taiwan dates its birth to the 1911 revolution against the Qing Emperor, making this Year 99 of the Republic of China. Hence this September 9 was 99/9/9. 九, “jiu,” is a homophone of 久, “jiu,” which means a long time. So you can also read the date as 久久久久. Classical Chinese poetry has four characters per line, so this date is a wish for eternity. Just as well, “jiu” can also be 酒, or alcohol, which calls for a good party. I wish all these newlyweds happiness!
Found in Translation is a stimulating editorial by a novelist and translator about his work.
24 Rooms in 330 Square Feet should ensure Hong Kong architect Gary Chang never has to look for work again. He’s taken the bookshelf-stacking systems in newer university libraries in a brilliant new direction.
Extreme Scrabble fans photographed playing in amazing locations: Happy 60th Anniversary, Scrabble. This is our family game. Grandmother Smyth, my father, my brother David, and I love to play it. We have to block out an entire night for it, though, because we’re too competitive to let it go and do something else. Unlike many families, we play open-dictionary so we can keep learning words to use in the future, and you can tell someone has all consonants or the game is almost over when you can eat a meal and someone still hasn’t taken their turn. We use our kitchen timer more often regulate Scrabble turns than we use it for cooking.
A Couple’s Webcam Chat Takes a Turn for the Worse is ideal 30-second comedy.
The Real Life Social Network v2 is a presentation by Google employee Paul Adams about social networks aimed towards businesses who want to use them. This is long, but the big insight is that Facebook, MSN, and the like treat everyone on our friends lists the same, when really we have strong friends, weak friends, different friend groups that don’t understand each other’s references. Also, most people can only manage close relationships with around 5 people, ongoing communication with 15 or less, and continuous relationships with around 150 people: this was the max number for neolithic farming villages and Roman Empire squadrons, and it even applies to Warcraft raids. Did you know 80% of phone calls are made to the same 4 people, and the majority of phone calls even in the ’70s were made to people within 5 miles of the caller’s home? It helps explain why when someone posts “Happy Birthday!” on your wall, you can be really surprised and happy about their existence though you saw them in person only a year before.
Two big international stories of the week were the Nobel Prizes. Mario Vargas Llosa was the laureate for Literature (El País retrospective) and Liu Xiaobo for Peace. Liu’s story made the front page of every news outlet outside the recipient’s own country, and Japan must especially savor it after weeks of conflicts over that fishing boat. I saw that conservatives were happy about the prizes for the first time in a while.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Pearlman recommends Dear Cindy, Love Mom: Letters of Love, Loss and Life, a collection of letters Ellaine Roberts Schaller wrote to her daughter Cindy after Cindy died of a brain aneurysm at age 33.
Robot controlled by a rat’s brain inside a bell jar. One of the classic sci-fi questions is “Can robots be people?” Using a living brain to control a robot is one way to do it. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles already thought of that, of course, but it was more comic. (Hat Tip: Kids Prefer Cheese)
This is a provocative and sad editorial about corruption of UN peacekeeping forces in Africa.