Why hibachi is a unique dining experience 

hibachi cooking is a unique experience
Fire it up.

The Japanese are known for making portable objects for individuals and small groups. They created the world’s first on-the-go vinyl player. After World War II, Americans adopted the Japanese hibachi grill to cook steak outdoors.

The hibachi table is the center of attention

Today, North Americans eat out at hibachi restaurants, sitting around a large square grill while watching their food cooked live in front of them. What people like about hibachi is the dining experience. Unlike the typical restaurant table that pits diners face to face, the cook and the grill are the center of attention at the hibachi. Although you may sit with some strangers, the setup, and the subsequent entertainment remove the friction of anonymity.

Perhaps one of the hallmarks of eating hibachi is the food toss. It’s impossible not to root for the person who’s trying to catch a piece of an egg thrown into their mouth. Mouths open wide, neck stretched, it’s the one moment where people act like a begging dog.

The first taste is always with your eyes

In addition to feeling part of a small friendly community, people also like the transparency of hibachi. The food cooks right before your eyes, whetting the appetite; after all, the first taste is always with your eyes. Seeing all the vegetables, meat, and fish steam and chopped on the grill makes you appreciate the cooking process. The food doesn’t cook itself!

The closest you’ll get to a hibachi experience at an Italian restaurant is the pizza oven. Rarely do you get to see how the pasta sauce and noodles get made. A little transparency further validates good tasting food.

Hibachi dining is like participating in a live experiment–the cook is the lead scientist while the rest of us watch and take mental notes. But the best of all? We get to eat the subject at hand, in this case, freshly cooked food.

Avoid election news by escaping into the ephemeral social networks

hillary clinton, election 2016
You mean, there’s a way to go online and avoid the news?

Social networks are places that often change. Take Instagram for example. Up until the launch of Stories, it’s been your life’s highlight reel. Now Instagram is a place to share real and raw moments.

I used to post an edited photo to Instagram at least one time a day. Today, I share to Stories ninety percent of the time and skip the permanent grid altogether. I enjoy using Instagram more than Snapchat not only because of the built-in audience but because you can upload prerecorded content taken that day.

“Instagram seems to be on the path to becoming a different kind of place — a network where you can experience the most intimate and endearing moments of your friends’ and acquaintances’ lives in an environment blessedly free of the news.” – Farhad Manjoo

Still, the best thing about Instagram may be the fact that it has become a place to get away from the inundation of election news. News about Trump and Hillary are noticeably absent on the ephemeral sharing networks. Meanwhile, on Facebook and Twitter, the news is inescapable. Manjoo explains the benefits of Instagram/Snapchat escapism in the New York Times

“There’s a constant reality show on your phone, but an honest one, starring your friends. And Mr. Trump is nowhere to be found.”

Of course, Facebook wasn’t always this way. It used to be the safe place to reveal your more personal side before everybody in the world got on it. Like Snapchat and Instagram Stories today, Facebook was a place for the occasional drunk photo while posting something egregious on Twitter (i.e., Anthony Weiner) begged for trouble.

Instagram and Snapchat will not be the same place they are today, however. Like the over-filtered photos of the past, people will get used seeing the real world too often and take their true selves and their FOMO to new platforms elsewhere.

As platforms mature, so too does their community’s behavior. No news is good news.

A Charming Alternative Universe of You, Your Friends and No News

Bugging out: How your wealth attracts more insects

butterfly, insects
Different rooms, different insects.

A recent study links higher income to the diversity of bugs inside homes. Called the ‘luxury effect,’ wealthier people tend to have more bug types hanging out indoors.

This may not seem obvious at first, but the reason is simple. The richer you are, the more likely you are to own a bigger house and maintain a landscape, which supports more plants and trees, which cultivates more bugs, thereby inviting more types of insects into your home.

“More expensive houses tend to be larger, providing more space for bugs to roam. This is called the species-area curve, a concept originally  developed to help explain diversity in oceanic islands. The concept soon expanded to include diversity of all stripes. Basically, the more area there is, the more species can call a place home.”

The study also suggests that bugs treat the larger homes like they do trees, living in different rooms like they do on tree branches.

So, just imagine the diversity of insects bug lovers would discover at the White House, Lebron’s mansion, or your resort. But if you live in a city? You can throw the insect to income ratio out the window.

The Bigger Your House, The More Room for Bugs

Everything starts on paper 

writing, note-taking, gif

Everything starts on paper.

Whether you are using post-it notes or loose leaf, paper is ideal for getting down thoughts and mapping out ideas quickly. In fact, some Google employees prohibit phones and use paper exclusively to brainstorm. The magic of writing in analog is a controlled speed, flexibility, and focus.

“Everyone can write words, draw boxes, and express his or her ideas with the same clarity.”

If computers are a bicycle for the mind, as Steve Jobs once proclaimed, then writing on paper is like taking a walk. Paper jogs the mind, it is slow yet methodical, allowing it to connect the dots between disparate things.

“As with music, so with thought: when you want clarity, you seek out paper. Paper is the slow food of thought.”

As much as technology facilitates creativity, it can also distract it. Various studies show that taking notes by hand helps students remember more. Physical books, like vinyl, are also still hanging around despite the popularity of ereaders. Meanwhile, handwritten letters are considered more meaningful because of the perceived effort it went into writing and mailing them.

Digital abundance drives up the value of scarce objects like paper. Paper is proving its longetivity not just as a nostalgic medium but also because it benefits the process of thinking and planning.

“As long as everyone is thinking and writing stuff on paper, you’re on the golden path.”

The Google Guys Use Paper

The history behind the modern definition of ‘average’

sats average human size

Everybody is unique, but on the whole, there’s still the average. Average height, average SAT score, there is even ‘average looking.’ From clothing to education to body features, there’s always been a standard.

According to 99% Invisible’s podcast ‘On Average,’ Belgian astronomer/mathematician discovered what we now know today as the ‘average’ when he aggregated the mean chest size of five thousand Scottish soldiers. Consequently, he took his philosophy and applied to other areas such as marriage and human lifespan, forever stamping his law of averages on the world, starting most notably with the Civil War.

The reason we have small, medium, and large clothing sizes today is that Abraham Lincoln needed a way to mass produce uniforms for the Union army. The US military would standardize both uniforms and airplanes in 1926, “the distance to the pedals and the stick, and even the shape of the flight helmets.”

However, with increased manpower required for World War II, the Air Force jettisoned the average American pilot for new planes with customizable seating, later adapted to account for female pilots such as five foot four Senior Air Force pilot Kim Campbell. She successfully flew her A10 Warthog to safety despite getting hit and losing all hydraulics during the aerial raid of Baghdad in 2003 Iraq.

So despite the continued standardization of certain clothing sizes and educational tests, today we are at least more flexible and egalitarian. You still have the option–albeit an expensive one–to order custom-made Nikes and a bespoke suit. The world is yours. Kind of.

Listen to ‘On Average’ from 99% Invisible 


How to use ‘temptation building’ to get things done 

cookie monster habit

How do you make a strenuous activity more enjoyable? According to Wharton School assistant professor and behavioral economist Katherine Milkman, you bundle it with something that’s rewarding in what she calls “temptation building.

It goes something like this:

“This means you would restrict your Netflix time to the same time you spend working out – only watch your favorite show while you’re in the gym. Once you leave the gym, you’re left wondering what happens next in that show. The only way to find out (that is, if you stick to the plan) is to reward yourself with the next episode while you’re on the treadmill.”

There are of course countless ways to make the things you ‘should’ do easier. My preference is to listen to a new music playlist while cleaning up the house or checking out the latest Tim Ferriss podcast while jogging on the treadmill. Anything that requires extra effort or creates boredom (like driving), I try to find a way to make the process a little more pleasurable.

The only problem is that temptation bundling strategies are brittle. Every time you skip a workout, it will become harder to start up again. Do it or lose all motivation.

In the long-run (assuming you stick to your habit), the goal is to drop the incentive of temptation altogether. You ‘should’ be able to accomplish things without the extra encouragement. For writers or athletes, practicing each day is non-negotiable and often the force of grit.

There is nothing wrong in dropping carrots for you to get started. Intermixing activities of strain and happiness makes things a little easier.

Read more about temptation building on the ToDoist blog.