Category: Uncategorized

Runner’s World Feature: Porto Potties (yes really)

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 7.35.02 PMWe runners have a complicated relationship with portable toilets. We’re happy to see them before (and sometimes during and often after) a race, especially when we’ve been shot-gunning liquids and glucose. But that minute-plus (on average) we spend in their odiferous confines tends to yield some memorable-and-not-in-a-good-way moments. However, instead of shaking your fist at them, we suggest cutting the portable toilet some slack. Everything from the mysterious blue liquid to the height of the drop to the placement of the urinal has been studied and calibrated to make the best of a crappy situation. Which intrigued us—there’s a lot more to these things than we thought.

To explore the rest of the 5-page feature on the toilets we love to hate, check out the story in Runner’s World’s September issue. There’s a snippet version here.


Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World


Pop-quiz: Who discovered Earth’s inner core? Who mapped the bottom of the ocean? Who was the first American to spot a comet? Headstrong delivers 52 surprising and entertaining profiles of extraordinary scientists who’ve shaped our understanding of the world.

Headstrong (written by me!) is out April 7th, 2015. Get it. Learn it. Be a better person for it.

Preorder Headstrong through your local bookstoreRandom HouseBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Runner’s World Feature: The Untold History of the Beer Mile

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It is April 27th, and James Nielsen assumes his starting position on the track at the College of Marin in Northern California. His wife, Mimi, is filming him with a Flip video camera. She raises her iPhone to the camera, and focuses on the phone’s timer. “On your mark, get set…” On “Go!” she starts the timer, and Nielsen springs into action. He cracks open a room-temperature Budweiser–because warm beer retains less carbonation than cold–tilts his head back 45 degrees–an angle he knows through studying fluid dynamics will best usher the brew down his gullet–and seals his lips onto the can. It takes him five seconds to drain the can, three seconds faster than if its contents had been simply poured onto the ground. Then–this is very important–Nielsen starts running and tosses the can in the trash.

Find the rest of the story in the October 2014 issue of Runner’s World or online here.

Locksport: A Fight Club for Lock Picking

After exchanging some pleasantries, retrieving an iced tea from the cashier, and settling in, Eric Michaud clicks a standard issue handcuff around my left wrist. We’re sitting at a two-top upstairs in a small café, and the table before us is blanketed with metal. Pin-tumbler locks, like key in knob cylinders, pad locks, Mortise locks as well as several lock picking sets (some of which he’s testing and some of which he owns) have been taken from a Michaud’s black backpack and placed before us. My hand, heavy with metal and social baggage, rests there as well.
I have no idea what our neighbors think of this display because I’m too distracted by the gasp-laughter escaping from my mouth. At least something is escaping; my hand is not.Although I didn’t anticipate this exact predicament, I did anticipate that we’d be toying around with locks. I was looking forward to it, even. Eric Michaud is many things—a physical security expert, a hacker-space founder, a runner—but today he’s here to talk to me about using the pick in place of the key. As the co-founder of the US branch of The Open Organisation of Lockpickers (TOOOL), Michaud’s not only an expert lock picker, but he was also on the front lines as a small collection of enthusiasts that turned their picking passion into a full blown movement.

Naturally, it’s embarrassing in such company and to be failing the first lesson.

Check out the rest at

Saving a History of Invention From the Shredder

Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft and cofounder of the patent holdings company Intellectual Ventures, has a cutaway illustration of a “Type-Writing Machine” hanging in a clear plastic frame on his office wall. It is a lithograph of the original patent, produced a hundred and twenty-four years ago, when the United States Patent and Trademark Office first approved the idea. The paper is now the color of flan.

The lithograph, a sheet describing United States Patent No. 416,257, was a reference document that had once been stationed in the P.T.O.’s vast library of intellectual-property records; it had banked more than a century of service and, like many of the library’s oldest documents, may have passed through thousands of hands. It also did a short stint in another location: the recycling bin. In 1994, the P.T.O. began digitizing its records. In August of 2001, the office announced it would stop maintaining its traditional libraries. Its paper records, aside from those destined for the National Archives or examiners’ offices, were doomed, bound for a recycling facility.

Read the rest over at The New Yorker.

Digital Start-Ups Face Unexpected Gauntlet of Door-to-Door Sales

It’s Friday, and PayTango cofounders Brian Groudan and Umang Patel are pitching. Over the next two and half hours they’ll hit nine cafés, three gyms, two corner stores, and a music center in San Francisco, from its tony Laurel Heights district to the sometimes-seamy Upper Haight. The goal: To interest small businesses in PayTango’s big idea, a biometric reader that will allow customers to make payments, or verify their ID or gym membership, with a quick scan of their index and middle fingers.

Groudan is wearing a yellow polo shirt and shorts that hit just above the knee. Patel is in a blue-and-white checked button-down shirt and a pair of Levi’s. “We don’t have any empirical data, but if you walk in to a fitness club with a suit on, people are going to look at you funny,” notes Patel.

“You have to be careful,” Groudan adds, then pauses for a beat before finishing, his voice lowered slightly: “not to sound like a salesman.”

Local urban problems and the needs of small businesses are increasingly becoming inspiration for start-ups, and selling door-to-door — that icon of 1950s entrepreneurialism — is back with a new, digital face. Putting on a show for investors is one thing; facing off with an endless stream of bartenders and cash-register attendants over the shop counter is an entirely different proposition. Yet that’s exactly where many members of the newest crop of innovators are winding up as they try to bootstrap their billion-dollar ideas, one customer at a time.

In San Francisco, ground zero for the lean start-up movement, the competition is already pretty stiff. Even the tiniest mom-and-pop shops might already be outfitted with an all-in-one loyalty card and several mobile-payment solutions. Breaking through requires more than just a good in-person pitch; it means finding a way to set your business apart from the flood of other ones trying to get the little guys onboard. And it takes lots of shoe leather.

Read the conclusion over at Medium.

3 Adventurer-Approved Steps to Planning Your Future

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Thirteen years ago, Roz Savage thought she had everything she needed to live happily—a successful career as a management consultant, a husband, a home in London, and a little red sports car to boot. But in her day-to-day life, Savage routinely felt unfulfilled and much older than her 33 years.

So one evening she sat down and came up with two alternate versions of her future: The first continued from the life she’d already built; the second was inspired by her long-buried desire for adventure. The exercise kicked off small moves—like a trip to South America—that led to bigger challenges. By 2005 Savage had left her job behind and set out to pilot a 23-foot-long ocean rowboat across the Atlantic alone.

Today, at age 45, she’s also traversed the Pacific and Indian Oceans solo, and is feeling happier, more attractive, and more self-confident than ever—all thanks to her dual reality check. Even if you don’t think your future holds sweeping changes, Savage warns, taking the following steps “could have fairly dramatic consequences.”

Read the rest of Roz’s advice over at O, The Oprah Magazine.