October 16, 2020 by libroshombre
Dipping a toe into the Internet’s torrent of real and unreal information is all that’s required for a full immersion into a torrent of knowledge, even after eliminating the obviously bogus. For example, a recent brief interlude exposed me to the physics of hot dog eating competition, Yogi Berra explaining jazz, Walt Whitman’s workout regimen, Kurt Vonnegut’s stationery preferences, and how a library clerk can steal $1.3 million in printer toner. Last July fourth, “Joey Chestnut broke his own world record for hotdog eating by downing 75 hotdogs (with buns) in 10 minutes,” according to a NYTimes article. Prior to this event, Dr. James Smoglia, “a veterinarian and exercise scientist, had been working on a mathematical analysis of the maximum number of hotdogs that a human could theoretically consume in 10 minutes. ‘The answer is 83,’ said Dr. Smoglia.”
Smoglia’s premise, based on 39 years of historical data from hotdog competitions and his study of extreme athletic feats, revealed that “when adjusted for body mass, the world’s most competitive hotdog eaters could outeat a grizzly bear or a coyote.” A bear can eat 8 per minute, but not for more than six minutes. Mr. Chestnut, whose tummy is stretchier than most humans, eats 7.5 per minute for ten minutes, though to keep up with a Burmese python he’d have to down 99 pounds in a sitting.
That unsettling thought brings us to Yogi Berra being asked to explain jazz music. “Interviewer: ‘Can you explain jazz?’ Yogi: “I can’t, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So, if you play the wrong part, it’s right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it’s wrong.” Interviewer: ‘I don’t understand.’ Yogi: ‘Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can’t understand it. It’s too complicated. That’s what’s so simple about it.’”
A Brainpickings.com essay described poet Walt Whitman’s workouts. Whitman’s writings celebrated human existence, and he enjoyed being physically fit. According to his principal biographer, John Burroughs, in his middle years Whitman exercised daily for an hour by “tossing in the air, as he walked, a round, smooth stone of about one pound weight, catching it as it fell. Later in life, after his first paralytic stroke, when in the woods he liked to bend down the young saplings, and exercise his arms and chest in that way.” Or as Whitman himself described a typical workout, “A solitary and pleasant sundown hour at the pond, exercising arms, chest, my whole body, by a tough oak sapling as thick as my wrist, twelve feet high – pulling and pushing, inspiring the good air. After I wrestle with the tree for a while, I can feel its young sap and virtue welling up out of the ground and tingling through me from crown to toe, like health’s wine.”
Kurt Vonnegut felt similarly. His wife berated him for going out to buy a single envelope that he could order online, but “I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And see some great looking babies. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up … The moral of the story is – we’re here on Earth to fart around … we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around.”
Moving around and enjoying people is difficult enough these days, but when they do “nearly 70,000 lives could be saved in the next 3 months if more Americans wore masks,” according to TechnologyReview.com. “134,000 people could die in the US from Covid-19 by December if no further safety measures are mandated.” A study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed that “70,000 of those lives would be saved if many more Americans wore masks.” Combining influenza season with the spike in Covid infections magnifies the problem. I got my flu shot last week and then read with great complacency a posting from “One Vexed Nurse” that I shared with my doctor, who agreed. “The flu shot is made with dead virus. Killed. Completely inactive. That low-grade fever and body aches you get after vaccination is from your immune system beating the crap out of a corpse. Your body is training for the real fight. It’s like a stationary punching bag preparing you for self-defense. You might leave class hot, sweaty, and with sore muscles, but you can take on an assailant if you have to later. Your punching bag didn’t assault you, and your flu shot didn’t give you the flu.”
Finally, I was astonished to learn from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that an Austin Public Library clerk “fraudulently bought and stole at least $1.3 million in printer toner and resold it online. The clerk had been arrested for theft multiple times in the last 40 years which raises all sorts of human resources issues, and the overall question of the library’s printer toner consumption. But the Internet proves that it’s mighty hard to immunize from corruption.