Our entire future lies behind us

World Hum's list of the top 30 travel books. I always try and read a book about the area I'm traveling to, or a book by an author from that region, but I've only read the Bryson and Twain off of this list (Bryson's next book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, releases Oct. 17). The obvious cure, of course, is to pull out the passport and head back out into the world.


Speaking of travel books: download the 2000 through 2006 editions of the CIA World Factbook and Factbook on Intelligence for free as PDFs. Very cool reference.


Aymaran people of the High Andes think of the future as behind them, the past ahead of them, different than most everyone else, perhaps because of differences in their language. I have a conceptual metaphor for time as well. My mental map of the years looks something like this:

It's a bit more involved than that (if you imagine it as a flat board, the right side of the board is actually pushed further away from me so that the entire board is at an angle), but that's the best 2-d representation I can come up with. 1974 is the start b/c that's the year I was born. When I think of sports events of importance to me, I think of them as falling on this spatial representation of my life. 1984, Cubs lose in NLCS to the Padres. 1985, Bears win the Super Bowl. 1991, the Bulls win their first championship.

When I think of an individual year, my spatial representation is a vertical one, with January at the top, December at the bottom, the days of each week running horizontally, from Sunday at the far left to Saturday at the far right, one week above the next. I suspect this arises from the idea of a wall calendar whose pages are torn out and affixed to the wall, one month above the next.

When I think of 24 hours, my mental image is of a 12 hour circular clock, like an analog watch, with 12:00 at the top. The same with a minute, it's a circle with 0 and 60 seconds falling at the top.


Flickr still maintains a 20MB per month upload limit for its freeloading customers. Having just returned from a wedding, I had set up a Flickr group for everyone to use to compile photos for the bride and groom, but then the groom pointed out that the service is all but useless to people without pro accounts because they can only upload a few pics. Flickr needs to raise the upload bandwidth for non-paying customers.

Their pricing seems to be based in a world where printing was not possible. They should up the bandwidth limit but offer cheaper printing prices and longer storage of photos for Pro members. You want to hook people by getting them to upload pics, then convert them to paying customers by giving them strong incentives to stick around.


Is football (soccer) boring? I used to think so, but I'm coming around this World Cup (from the television ratings, it appears I'm not alone). I don't have the appreciation for the sport that an actual player has, but my love of cycling has opened my mind to sports that are usually described as appealing only to practitioners. A few things appeal to me. The sheer athleticism and coordination of some of the players is stunning, like watching Reggie Bush in the open field, but if he had to dribble a football. The format of World Cup once it moves into single elimination raises the stakes. Every goal that is scored seems a miracle, and many seem gorgeous in their angles and athletic execution. And the Brazilian female fans? Yet another justification for high definition television.

The global appeal of the World Cup leads to some great gatherings to watch matches. In Beijing last Saturday, as Jed and I were strolling down a dark street after the wedding, we came upon a group of Chinese twenty-somethings gathered around the blue-white glow of a television on the patio of a cafe. They had beers in hand and we were screaming with delight at every twist and turn. If I could have felt my feet, I am certain that I could have joined this group of strangers and been sharing Yanjing beers with them in no time. In 1994 I attended one World Cup match at Stanford Stadium, Brazil - Russia, and from start to finish it was one of most raucous sporting events I've ever been to. I spent almost the whole match jumping around, trying to learn some Brazilian chants and songs.

Still a few things about the sport put me off. Watching two subpar teams battle to a scoreless tie, the ball turned over time and time again, holds about as much appeal as watching professional darts. The theatricality involved in diving is just absurd; they should make players who dive exchange their soccer shorts for skirts for the next match. And using penalty kicks to determine winners in matches that are scoreless through overtime seems a poor method for determining the superior team.

I've often heard that he U.S. loses its best athletes to sports like basketball and football. I'm curious to see some athletic profiles of the best football (soccer) players. How tall and heavy are they, and what are their times in the 40? Vertical leaps? Strength? What types of American athletes would fare best if converted?


Please, please, let it end.