Sunday, May 27, 2012

Life interrupted

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. ...

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement. ...

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
--Marina Keegan, Yale College class of 2012, special Yale Daily News commencement issue, May 21, 2012


Marina Keegan '12 was killed Saturday afternoon in a car accident near Dennis, Mass., the Boston Globe reported Saturday night. She was 22.
--Daniel Sisgoreo, Yale Daily News, May 27, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Facebook's trust problem

The data comes from a CNBC poll of 1,004 U.S. adults. ...
  • A majority (59%) of Facebook users do not trust the site with their personal information and have little or no faith in the company to protect their privacy. A slight minority (13%) trust the company completely or a lot.
  • About 8 in 10 Facebook users surveyed say they hardly ever (26%) or never (57%) click on online advertising or sponsored content when using the site.
  • Most (54%) say they would not feel safe purchasing goods and services on Facebook. Among the site’s most frequent users, half say they would not feel safe making purchases through the site.

--Emil Portalinski, ZDNet, on the fruit of past poor stewardship

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is bigfoot real? A DNA testing approach

Scientists are turning to genetic testing to see if they can prove the existence of the elusive hairy humanoid known across the world as bigfoot, yeti and sasquatch.

A joint project between Oxford University and Switzerland's Lausanne Museum of Zoology will examine organic remains that some say belong to the creature that has been spotted in remote areas for decades. ...

Tests up to now have usually concluded that alleged yeti remains were actually human, he said. But that could have been the result of contamination. "There has been no systematic review of this material."

The project will focus on Lausanne's archive of remains assembled by Bernard Heuvelmans, who investigated reported yeti sightings from 1950 up to his death in 2001.

Other institutions and individuals will also be asked to send in details of any possible yeti material. Samples will be subjected to "rigorous genetic analysis", and the results published in peer-reviewed science journals.
--Chris Wickham, Reuters, on genetic answers to a decades-long question

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Once a Harvard grad, always a Harvard grad

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who is serving life in prison for sending deadly mail bombs, won’t be able to attend his 50th reunion festivities at Harvard College. But he did contribute a bizarre entry to the alumni report for the class of 1962.

While many of his classmates sent in lengthy updates on their lives for the 2 ½-inch-thick “red book,” the entry for “Theodore John Kaczynski” only contains nine lines.

The listing says his occupation is “Prisoner,” and his home address is “No. 04475-046, US Penitentiary—Max, P.O. Box 8500, Florence, CO 8126-8500.”

Under the awards section, the listing says, “Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.”
--Allie Knoth, Boston.com, on the irresistible pull of the Harvard Red Book. See earlier entry on the Red Book.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Profiting off of extreme Facebook narcissists

Only 12% of your friends see your average status update, but Facebook is testing an option called “Highlight” that lets you pay a few dollars to have one of your posts appear to more friends. Highlight lets the average user, not Pages or businesses, select an “important post” and “make sure friends see this”, but not color it yellow as Stuff wrote when it first spotted the feature. A tiny percentage of the user base is now seeing tests of a paid version of Highlight, but there’s also a free one designed to check if users are at all interested in the option.

--Josh Constine, TechCrunch, on profit-maximizing pressures from an impending IPO

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ex-NFL players are better off than you think

News outlets (including this one) have suddenly became aware of some surprising and important CDC research published in January in the American Journal of Cardiology. At the request of the NFL Players Association, government scientists compared the death rates for almost 3,500 of the league's retirees to those for age- and race-matched non-athletes over the same years. The football players had much longer lives: Just 334 of them had passed away, compared with an expected total of 625.

What does this have to do with Junior Seau? The CDC study was designed to look for fatal cases of cardiovascular disease among the athletes. (It found one-third fewer than expected.) But the researchers also compiled numbers for more than a dozen other categories of disease and injury, including suicide. Former players were 42 percent less likely to die of cancer, 86 percent less likely to die of tuberculosis, and 73 percent less likely to die from digestive problems. And among the athletes who regularly played professional football between 1959 and 1988, a total of nine perished as a result of "intentional self-harm," compared with an expected number of about 22. The sample size was small, but the effect is large: Ex-NFLers were 59 percent less likely to commit suicide.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Myopia is the new normal in Asia

Reporting in the journal Lancet, the authors note that up to 90% of young adults in major East Asian countries, including China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, are nearsighted. The overall rate of myopia in the U.K., by contrast, is about 20% to 30%.
--Alice Park, Time, on the death of 20/20. See this old post for the leading suspect for why this is happening. HT: DL

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Going clubbing during your lunch hour

When it comes to lunch breaks, the laissez-faire French like to take two hours out of their workday to savor their food in the company of colleagues while workaholic Americans prefer dining solo in front of their computers. Well, in Sweden we have a whole other vibe going. Here, more and more workers are foregoing both leisurely lunches and "al-desko" dining in favor of daytime raves.

It started in the fall of 2010 when 14 friends decided to dance their lunch breaks away in their office garage. They called their gathering "Lunch Beat." As rumors about this literally underground movement spread, more and more people joined in. Today, Lunch Beat events are being arranged by a core group of organizers at venues around Sweden, attracting up to 600 people each time, and copycat clubs are popping up across Europe. Lunch Beat events can be arranged by any individual, group or company anywhere in the world as long as the organizers respect the founders' Manifesto, a list of 10 rules specifying, for instance, that Lunch Beat discos must be nonprofit events, take place at lunch time, have 60-minute long DJ sets, and include a takeaway meal. ...

With its strobe lights, smoke machines, funky wall projections, pounding techno music, and crowded dance floor filled with fist-pumping, sweat-dripping revelers, Lunch Beat recreates the atmosphere of nightclubs. Organizers look for spaces where there are not a lot of spectators or passers by, because they want dancers, not gawkers. The party starts promptly at noon and ends at 1 p.m. sharp. And while a sandwich, fruit, and water are included in the ticket price, drugs and alcohol are strictly forbidden.
--Nathalie Rothschild, Slate, on a civilized innovation. HT: SL