Why Developing Serious Relationships in Your 20s Matters

I’m not an entrepreneur, but this post by Elizabeth Spiers resonated with me:

There was this girl. This guy.

Eh, fuck it. You’re busy. You have more important things to do. Changing the world is a full-time job and if you don’t do it now, when will you?

Here’s the thing: I know you. You’re probably one of the many people I’ve mentored or hired. On multiple occasions, you’ve explained to me (as if I were your batty old aunt, but I’m not taking it personally) that you have no time to get to know anyone because you’re busy doing your work.

This is a complete fallacy. Work and relationships are not incompatible…

Will Humans Ever Encounter Aliens?

This is a thought-provoking analysis by Paul Tyma on why the human race will never encounter aliens:

So why else might they [aliens] want to come here? Maybe they want to trade with us. Well, yeah, right. If you’ve gotten this far it’s obvious we have no tech that would interest them. Maybe we’d be able to trade them some local arts and crafts or pottery or something – but other than that, they won’t be interested in our childish technology.

Well, maybe they want to study us? Well, maybe. It seems probable that if they were on a mission to study life forms, we would not be the first planet they would have visited. Chances are, they’ve seen other life forms already. Probably some at least similar to us. Statistically speaking, we might be interesting but not all that interesting.

What do you think?

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(Via Tim O’Reilly)

Getting Lost Inside Your Home: Developmental Topographical Disorientation

If you think you have a bad sense of direction, you may be relieved that there are people like Sharon Roseman, who suffers from Developmental Topographical Disorientation (D.T.D.), a rare neurological disorder that renders people unable to orient themselves in any environment.

Click here to watch The New York Times video describing this debilitating condition:

Before she was given the D.T.D. diagnosis, doctors told her she might have epilepsy or a brain tumor. She kept her condition a secret from her husband, worked close to home and was terrified of not being able to take care of her children in the event of an emergency. After the diagnosis, she says she felt validated for the first time in her life: “I can now talk freely about D.T.D. and teach others what it is, so that someday a young child can be diagnosed and not have to grow up being afraid.”

Michael Santos and the Power of the Internet

Michael Santos spent 25 years in jail. When he got out in 2012, he experienced the wonder of the Internet. Writing in Salon:

As a prisoner, I could not access the Web directly. Staff members oversaw policies that placed enormous barriers between the people inside boundaries and society. In the prisons where I served my sentence, prisoners were even prohibited from accessing electronic typewriters. They had their reasons, I suppose, but blocking people inside from using technology did not go far in preparing them for success upon release.  By the late 1990s, I became so hungry to experience this new tool for myself, I created indirect ways to access the Internet. Connecting with society and making efforts to prepare for a law-abiding life upon release was a priority for me, and I had to figure out ways that I could overcome the obstacles imposed by prison rules that blocked prisoners from computers.

After reading numerous magazine articles about how people were launching websites, I wrote out a web design. It wasn’t much. I simply wanted a place to publish essays, articles, and profiles I wrote about other prisoners. I was still a citizen of our democracy, and as such, I felt that I had a duty to share my observations with taxpayers. I sent my web design to people from my support network and they coordinated the development of my first website. It was simple, but it served the purpose of allowing me to use it as a tool to document my journey through prison and to write about the experiences of others. Throughout the final decade of my imprisonment, I published thousands of articles on my website to help others understand prisons, the people they hold, and strategies for growing through confinement.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of his story is that he was publishing important, material work while in prison (linked above) and once he got out of jail, the Internet propagated his discovery.

The San Francisco Chronicle profile of Santos, published last year, is excellent.

A Fortune for No One

The New York Times profiles the story of Roman Blum, a Holocaust survivor who died last year but left no will. He had a fortune of more than $40 million, the largest unclaimed estate in the history of New York state:

Much about Mr. Blum’s life was shrouded in mystery: He always claimed he was from Warsaw, although many who knew him said he actually came from Chelm, in southeast Poland. Several people close to Mr. Blum said that before World War II, in Poland, he had a wife and child who perished in the Holocaust, though Mr. Blum seems never to have talked of them, and the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, has no record of them in its database. Even his birth date is in question. Records here give it as Sept. 16, 1914; identity cards from a German displaced persons camp have it as Sept. 15.

But perhaps the greatest mystery surrounding Mr. Blum is why a successful developer, who built hundreds of houses around Staten Island and left behind an estate valued at almost $40 million, would die without a will.

Read the rest.

Decoding the Graffiti Symbols of Utility Workers

This is a great post at The Smithsonian Magazine on decoding what those symbols pasted as graffiti by utility workers mean:

These “safety colors” –expanded to include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, grey, white, and black– have been formalized by the American Standards Institute (ANSI) as Safety Color Code Z535, which provides Munsell notation and Pantone color-matching information to help ensure consistency across mediums.

While the color system warns workers about certain types of hazard, there is a complementary language used to approximately mark the underground location of a conduit, cable, or pipe. According to the Guidelines for Operator Facility Field Delineation established by the Common Ground Alliance, spray-painted lines (in the appropriate color, of course) space between four-feet and fifty-feet apart should be used to mark the center of a single facility or, if multiple conduits are running in a single trench, over their outside edges with arrows pointing in the the direction the services are running with a perpendicular line connecting the edge marks to form an H (as seen in the photo at the top of this post). A diamond is used instead of the perpendicular line to indicate a duct system.

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(hat tip: @pbump)

The Milk Smugglers in Hong Kong

Bloomberg reports on the milk smugglers in Hong Kong:

Since the former British colony on March 1 restricted outbound travelers to two 2-pound cans each, a syndicate has been cracked and more people have been arrested for smuggling milk powder than were detained all of last year for carrying heroin.

The reason? Mainland Chinese demand for the formula, fueled by distrust of locally made food after product- safety scandals that included the deaths of at least six babies due to tainted milk. The U.K. and New Zealand are among countries that restricted milk sales as bulk purchases of brands such as Danone’s Aptamil and Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (MJN)’s Enfamil caused local shortages.

Who knew?

Cheating on a Game Theory Test: One Professor’s Experience

Peter Nonacs is a professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at UCLA. He studies the evolution of social behavior across species. In this blog post, he recounts how one of the tests he gave in his Game Theory class he allowed the students to cheat (collaborate with one another):

So last quarter I had an intriguing thought while preparing my Game Theory lectures. Tests are really just measures of how the Education Game is proceeding. Professors test to measure their success at teaching, and students take tests in order to get a good grade. Might these goals be maximized simultaneously? What if I let the students write their own rules for the test-taking game? Allow them to do everything we would normally call cheating?

A week before the test, I told my class that the Game Theory exam would be insanely hard—far harder than any that had established my rep as a hard prof. But as recompense, for this one time only, students could cheat. They could bring and use anything or anyone they liked, including animal behavior experts. (Richard Dawkins in town? Bring him!) They could surf the Web. They could talk to each other or call friends who’d taken the course before. They could offer me bribes. (I wouldn’t take them, but neither would I report it to the dean.) Only violations of state or federal criminal law such as kidnapping my dog, blackmail, or threats of violence were out of bounds.

Gasps filled the room. The students sputtered. They fretted. This must be a joke. I couldn’t possibly mean it. What, they asked, is the catch?

I like the conclusion:

The best tests will not only find out what students know but also stimulate thinking in novel ways. This is much more than regurgitating memorized facts. The test itself becomes a learning experience—where the very act of taking it leads to a deeper understanding of the subject.

Roger Goodell and the Hugs at the NFL Draft

Today marks the start of the 2013 NFL Draft. The New York Times has a great story on how the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, has started giving out hugs at the Draft. It all started out in 2010 with Gerald McCoy:

When the Buccaneers selected him with the No. 3 pick in the 2010 N.F.L. draft, McCoy did something no player had done. He strode across the stage and embraced Commissioner Roger Goodell, a spontaneous show of emotion that proved significant: McCoy had broken the hug barrier.

“I wasn’t aware that I was the first when it happened,” McCoy said by telephone, “but I am now.”

Inspired by McCoy, Goodell has become a proactive hugger. But there are hugging rules:

In his predraft briefing with players, Goodell now includes hug-specific instructions. They can hug him for as long as they want, with one caveat: try not to break his ribs. A couple of players have come close. Such are the perils of “bringing it in” with 300-pound offensive linemen.

Wonderful.

Mark Bittman’s New Column: The Flexitarian

In this column, Mark Bittman introduces The Flexitarian. I look forward to reading it. As he puts it:

The moderate, conscious eater — the flexitarian — knows where the goal lies: a diet that’s higher in plants and lower in both animal products and hyperprocessed foods, the stuff that makes up something like three-quarters of what’s sold in supermarkets. That’s the kind of cooking and eating I’ll be exploring in this monthly column.

I hope these recipes demonstrate the general goal of The Flexitarian, which will be to marry the burning question “What should I be eating?” with another: “How do I cook it?” And just as it will describe the latter with the most flexibility and the greatest possible sense of ease and relaxation, it will recommend the former with as little dogma as an advice-giver can muster.

It’ll also be about personal experience: I’m just another guy trying to figure out what to eat. (Everyone is. And I’ve no intention of abandoning the occasional rib-eye, nor of seeing that as a betrayal of anything.) I might be able to cook nearly anything decently, but I can be slow to figure things out (it took me a long time to realize that popcorn with a little oil and salt was the closest you could get to healthy junk food), and I certainly struggle with cravings.

That makes the primary challenge to discover how to satisfy those cravings while staying as best as I can within the boundaries of what we know to be sane, or conscious, or well-informed — call it what you will — eating.