Weekend Reading: Technical Categories

In this weekly roundup, we scour the Web for our favorite long-form articles, collecting them here and on Longreads and Twitter. This installment focuses on sled dogs, sewer rats, and mountaintop doping.

Mar 15, 2013
Outside Magazine

The God of Awards glowers at mere mortals, withering their very being.    Photo: Joe Seer/Shutterstock.com

As some of you may know, it’s award season here at Outside. This week, we published our prestigious Travel Awards, handing out accolades where appropriate to the best travel destinations of the year. All the big names were included—Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, even Pakistan. The party does not stop. Peanut allergists beware because it is literally nuts over here.

Much like the Oscars, big banner awards like Best Island and Best Hot Spring take precedent in the public eye, pushing the smaller technical categories into oblivion. Well, since we pretty much have carte blanche here at Weekend Reading studios to produce any kind of award show we darn well please, we thought we’d throw some sunshine at a few of the lesser known awards. Please take your seats and prepare for an orderly, time-sensitive award ceremony of great class and merit.

  • Best Place for an 11-Year-Old to Get Lost and Picked Up by the Police: Florence, Italy. Best honey cake I’ve ever had in a police station. Note: learn the name of your hotel.
  • Chillest Terminal: Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina. You haven’t waited hours for a delayed flight until you’ve done it in a rocking chair.
  • Best Airport Restaurant: Gallagher’s Steakhouse, Newark International Airport. I don’t remember the food, but it’s been a frequent bonding site for my family. My father insisted I include this.
  • Best Animal to Be Attacked by on Vacation: Seagulls. Big enough to make for a good story. Not actually threatening.
  • Thing We Should Be Most Afraid of This Year: Sinkholes. One ate a golfer on Thursday and there’s still no cure.

Big round of applause for everyone that didn’t win; rabid dogs, hantavirus, take a bow. Thanks for coming out! Here’s your Weekend Reading.

Climbing’s Little Helper
In 2009 Jesse Easterling almost died on Everest. The culprit? A steroid known as dexamethasone. How did this common climbing aid, available at any pharmacy, become mountaineering’s dirty little secret? Devon O’Neil, Outside.

"The doctors immediately sent a Sherpa to Easterling’s tent to collect any drugs he could find. When the Sherpa returned, the doctors gasped: he was carrying a tray full of dexamethasone, also known as dex, a controversial anti-inflammatory steroid. Prescribed to treat everything from tumors to asthma, dex has become popular among mountaineers in recent years because it can mitigate some of the effects of altitude sickness and high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), like brain swelling, and because, when taken prophylactically, it can help climbers ascend quickly. Used to excess, it can also have dangerous side effects. On the tray sat 30 unopened vials of dex—more than Goodman stocked to serve every climber on Everest for an entire season."

No Sleep ‘Til Fairbanks
Inside the Yukon Quest 1,000, the grueling dog sled race across the heart of Alaska and the men and women who brave the task. Eva Holland, SB Nation.

"The Pit is where mushers, handlers, veterinarians, media, and race officials set their responsibilities aside for an evening or two, and mingle on purely human terms. A former Quest champion trash-talks a reporter over the sagging pool table, where a second, stained 6 ball stands in for the missing black 8, and one drunk handler grinds herself up against the wall, temporarily lacking a dance partner, AC/DC keeping time. The locals lean into their drinks at the tables in the center of the room while knots of Quest folk stand around the fringes of the bar and whisper the latest trail gossip in each other’s ears. A haze of marijuana smoke hovers outside the bar’s back door—and sometimes out front, too."

Cold Fusion
Alaska Distillery’s Scott Lindquist makes the world’s best glacial vodka, yet he’s legally blind and hunts his icebergs with a hockey stick. David Kushner, Outside.

"Quickly, Lindquist grabs his most important tool: his son Hank’s old hockey stick, which he uses partly for good luck and partly because it works well for hooking ice. 'Ease it back,' he shouts at the captain, who idles the boat. Lindquist lies on his belly at the bow, extending his torso over the water, and starts pulling on the berg. The wind has just picked up, and Lindquist’s target is bobbing around like a giant candy apple dusted with powdered sugar. The boat rises and falls on the waves, the water slapping Lindquist. When he finally pulls the berg within arm’s reach, one of the crew scurries up and tries to steady the ice with the pike pole as Lindquist attempts to twist in the ice screws. But with each motion, the berg bobs away stubbornly."

The Robot Will See You Now
We trust robots with our money, our consumer choices, and our education, but can they ever replace doctors? Jonathan Cohn, The Atlantic.

"'In Brazil and India, machines are already starting to do primary care, because there’s no labor to do it,' says Robert Kocher, an internist, a veteran of McKinsey consulting, and a former adviser to the Obama administration. He’s now a partner at Venrock, a New York venture-capital firm that invests in emerging technologies, including health-care technology. 'They may be better than doctors. Mathematically, they will follow evidence—and they’re much more likely to be right.'"

Excuse Us While We Kiss the Sky
While climbers and hikers re-conquer the same old peaks over and over, a new breed of explorers are looking to our cities for new heights to reach, and new dark depths to plunder. Matthew Power, GQ.

"When we came out dripping from the underworld, a double-decker bus rolled past, but the driver paid no attention to our extremely conspicuous group emerging from a manhole at 2 a.m. We circled around the city again, Garrett restless, looking for something. He spied a 10-story construction site surrounded by chain-link and scaffolding. There was a small gap in the fence, just big enough to slip through. Garrett hauled himself effortlessly through to the scaffold. Wary of security guards and CCTV cameras, I followed as silently and elegantly as a bear clambering into a Dumpster. We made our way up an internal stairwell to the roof and onto the ladder of a massive construction crane. Finally we were sitting right next to the control cabin 150 feet up, feet dangled over the void, London glittering to the horizon. Garrett pointed out landmarks, famous and less so: Big Ben, the Eye, the Shard, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie, King's Reach Tower. The names sounded like constellations or rock-climbing routes. In fact, he had summited most of them."

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