For the record, two (interesting!) boiled-frog updates

Both referring to yesterday's shock-horror revelation that the NYT, Oxford Univ, and a skilled tech writer had combined to repeat a cruel bit of misinformation.

1) My friend Dottie Hall, a veteran of Microsoft, Symantec, Eclipse Aviation, and other ventures, points out in her blog that the boiled frog story was not the only canard in the NYT article. The column, by G. Paschal Zachary, also said this:

Businesses crave a sweet spot: where the line is drawn in favor of the innovator. The late Akio Morita, founder of Sony, talked about satisfying appetites that people didn’t even know they had. He achieved such a feat with the Sony Walkman, the music player introduced in 1979. While at the Lotus Development Corporation, [Mitch] Kapor created another such “killer app,” or application: the spreadsheet for the PC.


Mitch Kapor is a wonderful guy, creator of such truly innovative programs as Agenda and Magellan during his years at Lotus and in recent years hard at work on the innovative Chandler project. And while he can be credited with introducing the spreadsheet for the PC, namely Lotus 1-2-3, that was less a break through than the real innovation of creating the spreadsheet itself. All honor for this latter achievement lies (as Dottie Hall points out) with Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, who invented VisiCalc for the Apple II.

2) Reader Gregory Sokoloff points out a version of the boiled-frog story that, if we called it boiled-salaryman, might actually be true. He lived in Japan when I did, in the late 1980s, and reports:

You may remember that the most common form of bath in homes was of a design not found in the West. The bath would first be filled with cold water, then a natural gas heater would be lit and the water would slowly circulate from the bath into the heater and then back into the bath, much like a heated swimming pool. The recirculation was achieved simply through convection without any pump, and thus the device was very, very quiet. Apparently, people commonly would get into their baths when the water was tepid, fall asleep, and then wake up with serious burns requiring treatment in a hospital. I don't know if there were deaths. Of course, only one who has lived in Japan can fully appreciate how sleepy and inebriated many Japanese are by the time they take a bath after rounds in the local bars (the best named one where I lived was the "Salaryman Daigaku" ["Salaryman University"]).

I may be repeating an urban myth here, but a good friend of mine their swore she witnessed the aftermath of such an incident.

So, consistent with my emphasis on the scientific approach to tall tales, I hereby request that henceforth people begin the cliched story thus: "Throw a salaryman into a boiling hot bath, and he'll scramble right out. But put a salaryman in a nice comfy tub, and....."