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Lacking Self-Awareness

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digdoug
3 hours ago
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oh indiana.
Louisville, KY
skorgu
17 hours ago
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Big Gay.
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annberends
13 hours ago
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i'm sorry but these both sound like teasers for porn videos
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Friday, 27 March 2015, baked by Natasha Lampard

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In a tiny, picturesque valley, nestled in the southern alps of Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture, lies a traditional Japanese hot spring hotel, or onsen.

It’s not big. There are fewer than 40 rooms. Unlike other typical onsens, which operate during certain hours, the baths at this onsen are open 24 hours a day to serve its patrons.

The water is of the highest quality: quality; pure, alkaline, neither artificially heated nor treated.

The meals served aim to "balance taste, texture, appearance and the season". Fresh, seasonal ingredients are used, foraged and caught in the nearby mountains and river. The finished dishes have an art-like quality, garnished with leaves and flowers, served on plates and trays highlighting the quality produce, its preparation and its seasonal theme.

The staff are hardworking, courteous and have an absolute commitment to providing exemplary hospitality. They are the embodiments of omotenashi - somewhat difficult to define, but best summed up as the “the spirit of selfless service, humble hospitality. hospitality”. Anticipating guests’ needs is at the heart of the concept, as is attention to even the most minor detail. With an understanding that each of those they serve has different needs, there is a desire, a commitment, to put them first, personalise their desire to personalise the experience, and exceed all expectations.

There is no internet at the onsen. But there are hot springs and trees and mountains and rivers and tatami mats and a sense of calm and tranquility, and the staff with their spirit of absolute service, of dedication. A staff who, imbued with their spirit of omotenashi, work not to reach the top of the corporate hospitality ladder, but instead to protect the onsen, to help it thrive and keep it for years to come. They do this year after year after year.

Over 1,300 years in fact. This onsen, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, is the oldest company in the world. Established in 705 AD.

At the time this onsen opened, it was the Western Middle Ages; before Charlemagne; before the Islamic Conquest of Spain; it was 1000 years before the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. is written, "the fall of Rome still dominated the Western culture of the time".

At the time the onsen opened, my country of birth, New Zealand, had not yet been discovered by our Maori ancestors.

And in all that time, it has been operated by the same family. The same family operating the same onsen for over 1,300 years.

It is currently in its 52nd generation of continuous management. Some of the staff are from families who’ve held the same post for generations, passing it from parent to child, child to grandchild, grandchild to great grandchild.

This onsen has stayed small. They know what they do. They do what they know. Their focus on service is relentless; their team of employees is family; stronger than family possibly, for it is unified, united in its mission to protect, to nurture, to tend to, to keep alive.

They have successfully achieved a delicate balance of continuation, innovation and dedication. 52 generations. 1,300+ years.

Several months ago I came across an article written by a start up advisor and mentor. This article was about the exit, which the author said, is the end goal of any start up.

This article reflects what appears to be a widely accepted attitude that to be an entrepreneur, one must have an exit strategy. To focus on it as their end goal. Encouraged by investors to build towards the big pay out - even if that means abandoning their customers, who helped them achieve that which made them attractive to the investor in the first place. The acquirer may then shut the business down, or more commonly, shift focus and neglect that je ne sais quoi, oh so very special, that made the company and service what it was.

Entrepreneur is a French word, for one who undertakes. It is a person who "sets sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risk in the hope of profit". profit. It is a person “who organises and manages an enterprise, usually with considerable initiative”, talent, and a lot of hard work.

Would Fujiwara Mahito, founder of the onsen, and surely by this definition an entrepreneur, have considered the exit strategy as his end goal back in 705AD?

I wonder if Fujiwara Mahito’s child, or his child’s child, or his child’s grandchild, or his child’s great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandchild considered their exit strategy?

I can’t imagine they did.

I imagine they focused, not on an exit strategy, but on an exist strategy, a strategy built on sticking around; a strategy not for a buy-out, but for a handing down, a passing along.

I wonder what decisions we would make differently if we inherited the work we do?

I wonder what decisions we would make differently if our duty was to pass on the work we do?

Over the past few months, as I’ve sat in my little office, in the house I call home, working on Webstock, I’ve thought how beautiful it would be to have my older daughter, or my younger daughter, or my youngest son, or both my daughters and my son, all working alongside me. To have my children share in the love and passion of Webstock, and for the people Webstock works for; to have them want to protect it, nurture it, nourish it, tend to it, craft it, feel grateful for it, and to try to keep it going for a long time, for themselves, for future generations.

What if our “exits” were bestowing upon someone you love, the thing you have created and crafted with love?

What if, instead of focusing on exits, we focused on sticking around?

What if the focus wasn’t on selling up and moving on, but instead was on handing down and passing on?

I wonder what our decisions would look like if that were the ultimate goal?

What would our businesses be like?

What would our communities be like?

And if such thinking were truly celebrated in business, what would its overflow effect elsewhere be?

What would our governments be like?

What would our planet be like?

I think of this as longtrepreneurial thinking. Entrepreneurialism, but rather than expansion and acquisition as primary goals, with the long game - and the concept of omotenashi - as the focus.

Success, surely, needn’t be measured only by the hockey stick or the exit sign.

We can choose to remain small. We can choose to devote ourselves to something, and to those we serve. We can choose to do our small things in small ways, which ways and which, over a period of time, can build upon themselves.

Surely this is success too.

Shelley Bernstein said recently in an interview that one of the greatest challenges currently facing us is how to interact meaningfully with the people we serve.

Interact meaningfully with the people we serve. I love that.

Not eyeballs. Not users. But people. The people we serve.

The spirit of service: continuous, continual, selfless service - of omotenashi - is something that sits somewhat oddly at the table with a focus wholly on the exit strategy.

What could we do for ourselves, and each other, and those we serve if our goal was the long, or at least, the longer, term?

Not five or 10 years but 20 or 50 years, or even 100, 150, more...

What would longtrepreneurial thinking do for how we worked, who we worked for, what we created, and for the communities of which we are a part?

I wonder.

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glenn
4 days ago
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Lots to think about in here. 1300 years. 1300.
Waterloo, Canada
WorldMaker
2 days ago
It's hard not to feel like we've really messed things up for short term gains that don't matter. The stock market focuses so many companies on growth uber alles, and a strict eye on the bottom line one (or at most four) quarter at a time. High Frequency Trading has algorithms questioning if a company is useful to them for the next few milliseconds. Does it do any good for the world for a company to worry about individual milliseconds?
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Lemon-Scented Malaria

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Parasites are life’s great success story, abundant in both species and sheer numbers. One secret to their success is the ability that many parasites have to manipulate their hosts. By pulling strings like a puppet master, they use their hosts to advance towards their own goal of planetary conquest. Creepy is the best word to describe most of their strategies. They turn some hosts suicidal. They castrate others. They turn still others into zombie bodyguards. But a new study published today suggests that the parasite that causes malaria may use a more pleasant strategy. It lures mosquitoes to infected hosts with a lemony scent.

Malaria is caused by single-celled parasites called Plasmodium. A female mosquito carries them in its gut as it flies around in search of a victim to bite. After the parasites mature, they push through the insect’s gut wall, eventually making their way into its salivary glands. When the mosquito lands on a person and drills into the skin, it pushes some of its Plasmodium-laden saliva into the wound.

The parasites now begin their long journey through the human body. They get pushed by the surges of the bloodstream to the liver, where they invade cells and multiply inside them. The infected liver cells erupt with the next stage of Plasmodium’s life cycle, called merozoites. The merozoites end up back into the bloodstream, where they now invade red blood cells. They multiply yet again, rupturing the blood cells and invading new ones. Eventually the parasites achieve the next stage in their life cycle, when they’re ready at last to get sucked up by a hungry mosquito in a meal of blood.

If Plasmodium  can’t get into a mosquito, all of this multiplication is for naught. So anything that the parasite can do to increase the odds of a successful exit can potentially be favored by natural selection. Last year, for example, a team of researchers found that mosquitoes were attracted to mice infected with Plasmodium parasites–but only when they were ready to leave their rodent host. The scientists found evidence that the parasites engineer this attraction by changing the odor of the mice. Infected mice give off odor molecules that draw mosquitoes to them.

Those scientists speculated that perhaps the parasite alters its hosts chemistry to make new odors. But recently Audrey Odom of Washington University and her colleagues raised another possibility: maybe the parasites themselves produce mosquito-attracting chemicals.

Other scientists had explored this possibility before without much to show for their efforts. But Odom and her colleagues suspected that previous researchers hadn’t looked hard enough. So the Washington University team added Plasmodium to much larger volumes of blood than before–400 milliliters–and then snagged odors rising off the blood with more sensitive traps. The efforts paid off: Odom and her colleagues found that when Plasmodium infected red blood cells, it produced chemicals called pinene and limonene.

You have probably smelled these chemicals before. Pinene is part of the blend of odors that make up the scent of pine trees. Limonene gets its name from lemons, which produce it in their rinds.

If you’re confused at this point about a single-celled blood parasite producing a fragrant odor, you have every right to be. To make sense Odom’s weird discovery, we have to take a sharp detour through more than a billion years of evolution.

plasmodium-evolution

It’s 1.3 billion years ago. The planet is ruled by bacteria and protozoans. Animals and plants won’t evolve for many hundreds of millions of years. On the surface of the ocean, some bacteria are capturing sunlight with photosynthesis, while protozoans are preying on them. Somehow, this story goes off-script, and some protozoans end up with photosynthetic bacteria trapped inside them. Instead of becoming food, the bacteria supply the food, powering the protozoans with photosynthesis. Over many generations, the bacteria become an inseparable part of their host. The combination of these two kinds of life become a new kind, which we call algae.

This primordial algae had many descendants. Some of them evolved into green algae, and eventually gave rise to plants on land. Another lineage of algae were swallowed up by yet another protozoan, and became another form of algae found on Earth today, known as red algae. Some red algae live now as free-floating photosynthesizers in the ocean. Others took up inside corals, providing coral animals with sustenance from the sun. And still other red algae became parasites of animals. Some of these parasites eventually became Plasmodium.

Plasmodium’s ancestors lost the ability to photosynthesize a long time ago. But they still hold onto some of the ancestral enzymes from the bacteria that their forebears swallowed 1.3 billion years ago. As a result, Plasmodium is weirdly similar to flowers and trees. Some scientists have even taken advantage of this evolutionary kinship by looking at weed-killers as potential drugs for malaria.

This ancient heritage also explains why Plasmodium can smell like lemons. Odom and her colleagues found that the parasite make pinene and limonene using enzymes that are related to the ones that plants use to make these chemicals.

There are reasons to think that the parasite are using these chemicals to lure mosquitoes. While we’re painfully aware of the appetite mosquitoes have for blood, the fact is that mosquitoes also feed on flower nectar. They depend on the nectar for sugar they need to fuel their flights. Many insects are keenly sensitive to certain colors and odors that flowers produce, which guide them reliably to their next meal of nectar. Odom and her colleagues found that the antenna of malaria-carrying species of mosquitoes are exquisitely sensitive to pinene and limonene. If you want to attract mosquitoes, it makes sense to make those chemicals.

While this research is tantalizing, it is only the first step in testing the hypothesis that Plasmodium makes a fragrant odor to lure its next host. So far, Odom and her colleagues have only demonstrated that the parasites are making these chemicals inside red blood cells. It’s certainly conceivable that in a living host, these odors could escape into the lungs and leave the body with exhaled air. It remains to be seen if they really do get out, and if they make a difference to the success of Plasmodium. Or perhaps this parasite perfume has some other function, and it remains bottled up inside sick hosts.

(For more examples of parasite manipulation, see my cover story in the November 2014 issue of National Geographic or my book Parasite Rex.)

Reference: Kelly M, Su C-Y, Schaber C, Crowley JR, Hsu F-F, Carlson JR, Odom AR. 2015. Malaria parasites produce volatile mosquito attractants. mBio 6(2):e00235-15. doi:10.1128/ mBio.00235-15.

[Update: Link to paper fixed]





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digdoug
6 days ago
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SCIENCE!
Louisville, KY
satadru
6 days ago
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so cool
New York, NY
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Photo Gallery: Dogs Left Alone in A Photo Booth

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Imagine leaving your dog alone in a photo booth and seeing his reaction to his picture taken, not knowing really what the heck is going on? Just imagine. Anyway, these dogs come to us courtesy of the Humane Society of Utah. Adopt a puppy, or a full-grown dog today, and check out how these dogs faired in the photo booth! Talk about cuteness overload:

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digdoug
7 days ago
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My ovaries!
Louisville, KY
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‘A Drive Into the Gap’ by Kevin Guilfoile

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drive-gap-kevin-guilfoile

Kevin Guilfoile’s novella, A Drive Into the Gap, is a book centered around baseball, his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, the ephemerality of memory, and the mystery of what exactly happened to the legendary bat Roberto Clemente used on that 3,000th base hit. Even more interestingly, the book was published by the folks at Field Notes and could be mistaken for one of their signature memo books.

The first chapter of A Drive Into the Gap can be read on its store page, and I’d be surprised if you weren’t itching to hit the Buy button by the end. A fantastic story for just $7. It’s also available in $2 ebook form, both for Kindle and on the iBookstore.

Buy Now

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digdoug
8 days ago
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This is a tremendously readable story.. And the form factor is awesome. Please buy it in paper!
Louisville, KY
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