Archive for February 2014
Nothing that will surprise anyone who’s ever stepped into the store with a critical eye, but a line like this made me feel I had to link to the piece:
If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health?
A text-interview isn’t the most compelling way I can imagine to convey this story, but it has a high novelty factory: a 38-year-old man who’s lived on pizza alone for 25 years. This bit of the prelude didn’t really surprise me, but some of his answers did:
Everyone who knows Dan wonders how he’s still alive. Beyond the fact that his diet is completely horrifying, he also has diabetes and frequently gets low blood sugar. When his blood sugar dips into the danger zone, it sometimes results in his blacking out on the kitchen floor in his underwear with frozen food scattered around him. There was that one time he bought a new car and then blacked out on the drive home. He swerved off the road and totaled the vehicle, but besides from that isolated incident, his pizza diet seems to be working out for him. I recently spoke to Dan to hear more about how he came to subsist on gluten, tomato sauce, and cheese alone.
Neat little chart — maybe even a map — of how the European language relate to each other. It’s a pity it’s a bit cryptic with many getting only two letter abbreviations, but the gist is quite good.
It includes some interesting notes about English:
English is a member of the Germanic group (blue) within the Indo-European family. But thanks to 1066, William of Normandy, and all that, about 75% of the modern English vocabulary comes from French and Latin (ie the Romance languages, in orange) rather than Germanic sources. As a result, English (a Germanic language) and French (a Romance language) are actually closer to each other in lexical terms than Romanian (a Romance language) and French.
A really interesting point I’d never encountered:
How many calls to a typical U.S. fire department are actually about fires? Less than 20%. If fire departments aren’t getting calls about fires, what are they mostly getting calls about? They are getting calls about medical emergencies, traffic accidents, and, yes, cats in trees, but they are rarely being called about fires. They are, in other words, organizations that, despite their name, deal with everything but fires.
Why, then, are they called fire departments? Because of history. Cities used to be built out of pre-combustion materials—wood straight from the forest, for example—but they are now mostly built of post-combustion materials—steel, concrete, and other materials that have passed through flame. Fire departments were created when fighting fires was an urgent urban need, and now their name lives on, a reminder of their host cities’ combustible past.
The post goes on to explore how this exists for other models in the world, and is well worth reading, but I never really recognized that specifically about fire departments.
Currencies of the World Map
I really enjoyed this AskReddit thread:
If suddenly everybody in this one profession is dead, what profession do you think would cause most impact to the world?
I initially thought “well, doctors, probably.” But the top answer:
The people running the Power Grid.
convinced me differently. On the whole a really interesting hypothetical, which touches a lot of things I find interesting to think about.
Really interesting talk or essay — pick your format: the video and scroll-and-read are substantially the same thing — about video games, their implications, and ramification from Paolo Pedercini:
Feasible or not, gamification is the object of desire of contemporary capitalism and, as such, deserves attention because it prefigures trends to come. It’s the fantasy of measurement of the unmeasurable (lifestyle, affects, activism, reputation, self esteem…), as measurement is a precondition for commodification. It’s the new frontier in the rationalization of our lives.
(via Buzz Anderson)
In honor of Valentine’s Day last week, Facebook made a number of interesting post based on the unfathomable quantities of data they possess. The specific effects are generally understandable but not necessary what you would have predicted. On the frequency of Facebook activity as a relationship starts:
During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. When the relationship starts (“day 0”), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.
(via The Atlantic)
I enjoyed Daniel Soar’s review of the Snowden affair from a half-year’s distance. One imagines the upcoming wave of books may surface more such piece’s, but this is the one I read. I’d not known this detail:
Greenwald said that Snowden had planned to put up a manifesto on the web, calling for an end to the surveillance state, but, Greenwald thought, he came across as a bit ranty and Unabomberish. So he persuaded him not to publish. Snowden’s best strategy was to speak in his own voice to camera: he was his own biggest asset. Here was a man – normal-looking, nice-looking, young – who had given up his $200,000 salary as an NSA contractor and his home in Hawaii (‘paradise’, Snowden called it) in order to let the world know what his government had been doing.
The Settlers of Catan is one of the few board games that most people — people who almost never play board games, and the hardest core of board game geeks — seem to like equally. Adrienne Rachel has a short profile of its rise and creator:
The company originally sourced all of the materials for the game from Europe, but, when demand began to take off, the manufacturers didn’t have enough wood to keep up. Mayfair expanded to American companies for more resources. Today, every box of Catan that Mayfair produces is an international affair: the dice are tooled in Denmark; the more intricate wooden pieces are done in Germany; other wood parts are made in Ohio; the cards are from Dallas; the boxes, Illinois; the cardboard, Indiana; the plastic components, Wisconsin; finally, everything gets put together on an assembly line in Illinois.