Roundup – Transformers in a Nutshell

Best of the Best:

Philip K. Dick On Fine-Tuning Your B.S.-Meter To Spot “Pseudo-Realities” [Phillip K. Dick via io9] (2/25/15)

I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.

Expressing Your Insecurities to Your Partner Can Actually Create More Insecurities. Here’s Why. [Samantha Joel on The Science of Relationships] (2/23/15)

Again, the researchers found strong support for their model: People who expressed more vulnerabilities to their friend/partner tended to believe that this person saw them as insecure, which in turn led them to doubt that person’s authenticity, which in turn led them to believe that this person viewed them more negatively. Over time, this belief that the person viewed them more negatively led the person to express even more vulnerabilities, and thus the whole cycle would continue to worsen over time. Furthermore, these effects occurred independently from the friends’ partners’ views…Maybe, rather than trying to change how we express our insecurities to close others, we should instead try to change our perceptions of how those close others are reacting to our insecurities. If you believe that someone sees you as insecure or that they’re walking on eggshells around you, those beliefs are more likely a projection of your own feelings than they are an accurate assessment of how the person feels. You are far more aware of your own insecurities than anyone else is. In fact, research shows that it’s precisely when you’re feeling the most insecure that you’re most likely to underestimate how much the close people in your life care about you and how positively they feel about you. So, the next time a close friend or a romantic partner tells you something complimentary, try taking it at face value. In all likelihood they do mean it, or they wouldn’t be saying it.

American Sniper Fans React Completely Reasonably [Spilly on KSK] (2/25/15)

Hailey, you’ve got a strong contender for take of the week. There’s the capitalization of every word, the random usage of “Proff”, and the lack of a fourth digit in ‘2,000’. It’s really a quintessential Facebook comment, even without diving into the content. Once you do, you realize that if all award shows perfectly mirrored what Facebook deems is popular, every Pulitzer prize would be awarded to Buzzfeed clickbait articles about 90s kids.

Does Parenting Make People Happy or Miserable? [Bonnie Le on The Science of Relationships] (2/25/15)

First, the age of parents and their children play a role in how happy parents are. Parents who are older and who have older children tend to be happier given that they are relatively more mature and financially stable. Further, parents of older children feel more effective at parenting and may experience greater happiness if they have positive and supportive relationships with their older children. Gender, marital status, and education level matter too. For instance, men tend to experience greater well-being from becoming parents. The picture is less clear for women; parenthood has been linked to greater happiness in some studies and to less happiness in other studies, likely because women tend to engage in child rearing tasks that center upon both routine and play, while men tend to spend a greater proportion of their caregiving time on play. In addition, married parents tend to have relatively greater happiness than their non-married counterparts given the increased social support available to married adults, lower financial strain, and greater help with chores and housework. And lastly, parental education and socioeconomic status relate to happiness as well. Specifically, parents of higher education and socioeconomic status find less value and fulfillment in parenting relative to those who are lower in socioeconomic status and education, with research indicating that these parents may find parenting to conflict with other goals in their lives, such as their careers…So, does parenting make people happy or miserable? What we’ve learned from research is, it depends! Some parents may be happier than others on average, but on the whole, having children can be both stressful and demanding, but can also provide parents with great joy and meaning in many ways.

Astrology could help take pressure off NHS doctors, claims Conservative MP [The Guardian] (2/24/15)

David Tredinnick said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors, but acknowledged that any attempt to spend taxpayers’ money on consulting the stars would cause “a huge row”. He criticised the BBC and TV scientist Professor Brian Cox for taking a “dismissive” approach to astrology, and accused opponents of being “racially prejudiced”.

Sharing A Room Before Sharing Vows? What You Should Know Before Cohabiting [Jana Lembke on The Science of Relationships] (2/19/15)

One recent study of 280 cohabiting individuals found that people’s primary reasons for living together mattered for their relationship quality.4 Specifically, cohabiting for the purpose of spending time together was linked with greater relationship satisfaction, higher commitment, and lower conflict. In contrast, other reasons for cohabiting were associated with less desirable outcomes. People who reported living together to “test the relationship” reported greater ambivalence about the relationship, while those citing “convenience” as the main reason reported lower commitment – a risk factor for cheating. These findings mean that identifying specific motives behind wanting to live with someone is important in deciding whether cohabitation will likely help or harm the relationship. Another study suggests that it’s important for both partners to be clear about their goals when it comes to making relationship decisions like moving in together. The researchers found that regardless of whether partners were dating, cohabiting, or married, those who reported engaging in more thoughtful decision-making processes (e.g., reflecting on the risks and benefits of the decision; communicating intentions) were more dedicated to their partners, more satisfied with their relationships, and less likely to cheat. In other words, cohabitation is more likely to confer positive relationship outcomes when partners are on the same page about the decision and they engage in proactive discussions about potential challenges. The bottom line: Cohabitation is increasingly seen as a relationship milestone, but it doesn’t mean that engagement is around the corner. In fact, moving in with a dating partner for shortsighted reasons or just because you’ve been with them for awhile may invite problems later on. There may be value in cohabiting to spend more time with your partner on a daily basis, but when you anticipate spending a lifetime together, why rush?

The Open-Office Trap [Maria Konnikova on The New Yorker] (1/7/14)

In June, 1997, a large oil and gas company in western Canada asked a group of psychologists at the University of Calgary to monitor workers as they transitioned from a traditional office arrangement to an open one. The psychologists assessed the employees’ satisfaction with their surroundings, as well as their stress level, job performance, and interpersonal relationships before the transition, four weeks after the transition, and, finally, six months afterward. The employees suffered according to every measure: the new space was disruptive, stressful, and cumbersome, and, instead of feeling closer, coworkers felt distant, dissatisfied, and resentful. Productivity fell. In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation. When David Craig surveyed some thirty-eight thousand workers, he found that interruptions by colleagues were detrimental to productivity, and that the more senior the employee, the worse she fared. Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward. Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance. Open offices also remove an element of control, which can lead to feelings of helplessness. In a 2005 study that looked at organizations ranging from a Midwest auto supplier to a Southwest telecom firm, researchers found that the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction. When workers couldn’t change the way that things looked, adjust the lighting and temperature, or choose how to conduct meetings, spirits plummeted.

Smart Girls Wear Flats, Leave Heels Behind [Rachel Bergstein via Bloomberg News] (5/16/12)

The 1950s were a historically rigid decade, in which women could be either a lonely intellectual or a vapid sexpot. The question of whether one could be both an Audrey and a Marilyn didn’t emerge until the 1960s, when the sexuality of the stiletto and the practicality of the flat merged in the low-heeled boot — made for flirting, butt-kicking and, most important, walking.

NRA-Backed Law Spells Out When Indianans May Open Fire on Police [Mark Niquette on Bloomberg News] (6/4/12)

Indiana is the first U.S. state to specifically allow force against officers, according to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in Washington, which represents and supports prosecutors. The National Rifle Association pushed for the law, saying an unfavorable court decision made the need clear and that it would allow homeowners to defend themselves during a violent, unjustified attack. Police lobbied against it.

The stress of being bisexual drives young people to drink [George Dvorsky on io9] (6/7/12)

A study from the University of Missouri is suggesting that young adults who don’t identify their sexual orientation as being either exclusively heterosexual or homosexual tend to misuse alcohol more frequently than people who have a firmly defined sexual orientation. The authors of the study speculate that college students who are coming out as bisexual, or experimenting with their sexual orientation, in college may be stressed out because of it, and as a result, are engaging in risky behaviors — most notably heavy drinking.

America was bombed 1,000 times during World War II [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9] (6/7/12)

School children in Japan were asked to make gigantic balloons, thirty-three feet in diameter. The first prototypes were made out of paper, but later ones were made from silk. The balloons, when filled with hydrogen gas, were buoyant enough to carry a thirty-three pound bomb, as well as a few incendiary bombs and thirty-six sandbags. When released they would shoot up to 35,000 feet. They’d leak gas, slowly dropping, until a barometer caused one of the sand bags to drop off into the sea, at which point they’d go up to 35,000 feet again. The balloons could travel on air currents at up to 120 miles per hour, and so, when the last sandbag fell, they descended onto North America. For navigatorless objects, drifting on the wind, a surprising amount of them made it over the sea. Out of the nine thousand launched, about one thousand reached land, while the rest exploded in the sky or dropped into the ocean. The bombs went off as far east as Kansas and Texas. Some drifted down to Mexico, and some up to Canada. Although the bombs caused a few fires, American officials asked people not to talk widely about them. The bombs didn’t cause any actual casualties until 1945. Six people, five of them children, were killed at a church picnic, when they saw a deflated balloon and touched the bomb, not knowing what it was. A sad but touching epilogue came from the Japanese children who had built the balloons, also not knowing what they were. In the late 1980s, they sent letters and paper cranes to the families of the people who’d been at the picnic.

10 Weirdest Urban Ecosystems On Earth [Charlie Jane Anders and Kelly Faircloth on io9] (6/14/12)

Mitsubishi bought a reef and built it out into an artificial island, a kilometer long, so the company would have a base for undersea coal mining operations in the area. And for many years, it was the world’s most densely populated place, with 85,500 people per square kilometer in 1959 — and 135,000 people per square kilometer in the densest areas. The name, Gunkanjima, is Japanese for “Battleship Island,” because the artificial island resembles a battleship when seen from the ocean. The island was completely closed down in 1975, when the coal ran out, and now it’s quite possibly the world’s largest ghost town.

America’s Most Important Cities: 1978 vs. 2010 [Jordan Weissman on The Atlantic] (6/26/12)

First, there’s the fall of the Rust Belt and the rise of the Sun Belt. As the country’s economy eased away from manufacturing, which tends to be clustered in discrete regions, and towards services, which can be almost anywhere, people moved away from the old, frigid, and declining industrial centers towards states with cheap real estate and warm weather. Population growth ultimately means economic growth. And so you see the emergence of places like Riverside, Phoenix, Orlando, and Tampa. Second, there’s the dominance of finance. If New York had the same GDP today that did in 1978, it would still have the second largest economy of any American metro region. Instead, it nearly doubled. Same for Chicago. Not coincidentally, both of those cities consistently top lists of the world’s financial centers. This has allowed them to overcome their slow population growth by generating more economic activity per resident. These are still massively populated metro areas. But they’re also cities of bankers or commodity traders instead of retirees.

U.S. Government insists that mermaids do not exist [Charlie Jane Anders on i09] (7/3/12)

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement explaining that no evidence of the existence of mermaids “has ever been found.” NOAA explains helpfully that belief in mermaids may go back as far as 30,000 years, to a time when humans first began “to sail the seas.” So why does this government agency feel the need to clarify for the public that Ariel isn’t really hanging out in the ocean with Flotsam and Jetsam? Discovery News explains. Apparently, it’s all because of a show on Animal Planet (Discovery’s sister channel) called Mermaids: The Body Found.

5 Ways Process Is Killing Your Productivity [Lisa Bodell on Fast Company] (5/15/12)

But it’s not a good thing when there are so many processes in place that they restrain the people they’re supposed to help. If your team spends its days asking for permission before executing, taking an hour to complete expense reports or time sheets, attending redundant meetings, or answering irrelevant emails, you’ve got a problem. Exactly when are employees supposed to find the time to innovate when every task or topic is labeled “urgent” and every deadline is ASAP? Something will eventually give, and that something is going to be the part of the job they can keep pushing off until later.

[Clients From Hell] (8/21/13)

A description of a logo a client wanted:

I would like to create a logo of a heartbroken woman in a wheel chair with mascara running down her cheeks and with her torso shaped like a broken heart held together with safety pins – and when she looks into the mirror, the reflection she sees is a Sexy Jessica Rabbit, Powerful Woman and [the] broken heart is now her proud/inflated chest.  The mirror should be inside of a door frame and there should be 9 keys dangling above the key hole on the door.  Make sense? Your thoughts?

I told her she would have to get a full illustrator for this “logo”. It never came to fruition.

Tweets of the words “beer” and “church” by U.S. county [Monica Stephens on FloatingSheep via Robbie Gonazalez on io9] (7/6/12)

San Francisco has the largest margin in favor of “beer” tweets (191 compared to 46 for “church”) with Boston (Suffolk county) running a close second. Los Angeles has the distinction of containing the most tweets overall (busy, busy thumbs in Southern California). In contrast, Dallas, Texas wins the FloatingSheep award for most geotagged tweets about “church” with 178 compared to only 83 about “beer.”

10 Science Experiments That Looked Like the End of the World [Keith Veronese on io9] (7/6/12)

New Zealand experimented with the use of bombs to create artificial tsunamis, between 1944 and 1945. By strategically placing bombs, the military scientists behind New Zealand’s Project Seal believed they could divert explosive energy through water, causing tsunamis and tidal waves. After thousands of test explosions, New Zealand ceased experimentation, because military scientists kept having trouble with funneling the explosive energy in a horizontal direction. If New Zealand’s tsunami bomb experiments had been successful, tsunami creation could have gone mainstream — allowing anyone with a conventional explosive device to create widespread chaos and death with ease.

The Dream Will Never Die:An Oral History of the Dream Team [Lang Whitaker on Gentlemen’s Quarterly] (July 2012)

Allan Houston (college squad player): The clock ran out—we had a twenty-minute clock—and we were up. And everybody looked around sheepishly, like, This is not supposed to happen. Nobody said anything for a few minutes.

Karl Malone (Team USA): We took them for granted, and they kicked our butt. And Coach Daly just had that look on his face like, “Well, this is what we told you guys. You gotta be ready.” After that, we was chomping at the bit to play them again that same day, but he didn’t let us. He let us stew on it a little bit.

Chris Webber (college squad player): When we busted their ass, they didn’t say any prima donna stuff—”We let you win.” That night was special. I remember me and Bobby Hurley decimating the golf course on some golf carts because we were so excited.

Houston: Back at the hotel, I was on the same elevator as Bird and C-Webb, and C-Webb was chirping. Bird got off the elevator and said, “Don’t worry, tomorrow’s a new day.” He kind of left us with that thought. And yeah, we got back in there, and it was a new day. [laughs]

Charles Barkley (Team USA): We sent them a little message.

Webber: We didn’t score a point. Not one point. Not a point on a free throw, not a point in the game. We were the perfect wake-up call for them, and they were the perfect reality check for us.

Curiously Strong Remains:


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