The Monthly Memo — November Edition


What I saw in Europe

I recently (about a month ago now) visited Europe for the first time in four years, and the first time not as a student. Europe does not change; it is the Old World for a reason. A priest friend of mine I met in Rome put it nicely: “It’s not like they move the buildings.”

But being in Europe as a student is very different than seeing it as an adult. The continent may not change, but you certainly do. 

Since people like lists, and Americans are generally interested to hear what other Americans think of Europe, below are my observations from my 12 day, 3 country, 5 city visit of the continent (and Ireland). 

Beware: a lot of food photos will follow. (The photo above is the Tuscan countryside).

Read more at Medium.

Max vs. Magnus

The Wall Street Journal framed this article as David vs. Goliath, and for good reason. Max Deutsch -- a 24 year old American post-grad with a basic knowledge of chess -- challenged the reigning chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, to a match. Carlsen surprisingly accepted, and Deutsch gave himself a month to train. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that this match was a blowout. It wasn't. Read on to see who won. 

Max Deutsch went through a month of training before he traveled across the ocean, sat down in a regal hotel suite at the appointed hour and waited for the arrival of the world’s greatest chess player.

Max was not very good at chess himself. He’s a 24-year-old entrepreneur who lives in San Francisco and plays the sport occasionally to amuse himself. He was a prototypical amateur. Now he was preparing himself for a match against chess royalty. And he believed he could win.

The unlikely series of events that brought him to this stage began last year, when Max challenged himself to a series of monthly tasks that were ambitious bordering on absurd. He memorized the order of a shuffled deck of cards. He sketched an eerily accurate self-portrait. He solved a Rubik’s Cube in 17 seconds. He developed perfect musical pitch and landed a standing back-flip. He studied enough Hebrew to discuss the future of technology for a half-hour.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal (click on the Facebook link). 

Prime Cut
The best of the best

Martha Lillard spends half of every day with her body encapsulated in a half-century old machine that forces her to breathe. Only her head sticks out of the end of the antique iron lung. On the other side, a motorized lever pulls the leather bellows, creating negative pressure that induces her lungs to suck in air.

In 2013, the Post-Polio Health International (PHI) organizations estimated that there were six to eight iron lung users in the United States. Now, PHI executive director Brian Tiburzi says he doesn’t know anyone alive still using the negative-pressure ventilators. This fall, I met three polio survivors who depend on iron lungs. They are among the last few, possibly the last three.

Their locations form a line that cuts directly through the heart of the country—one in Dallas, one outside Oklahoma City, and one in Kansas City, Missouri—what some call tornado alley.

Storms have always been especially difficult for Lillard because if the iron lung loses power, she could die in her sleep. She lives alone, aside from three dogs and 20 geckos that she keeps in plastic terrariums filled with foliage and wool. “They like to sleep in the fleece, wrapped up like a burrito,” she said as she introduced me to a few of her favorites.

Lillard sleeps in the iron lung, so it is in her bedroom. Even though the tank is a dull canary yellow it pops in the room, which is painted chartreuse—like the rest of the house, inside and out—and filled with toys and dolls that she has collected throughout her lifetime. On the walls hang a crucifix, a plush Pink Panther, and mirrors strategically placed so she can see around the room and into the hallway.

The Last of the Iron Lungs from Gizmodo