Life-hacking: Saying thank-you

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, “life-hacking” is a tech savvy term for something between productivity enhancement and self-help. What follows is a an item highlighted in the recent post of, originally appearing in the Harvard Business Review, on the importance and strategic value (it’s business, after all) of saying “thanks.”

“John, the CEO of a sales organization, sent an email to Tim, an employee several levels below, to compliment him on his performance in a recent meeting. Tim did not respond to the email.


“About a week later, he was in John’s office applying for an open position that would have been a promotion into a management role, when John asked him whether he had received the email. Yes, Tim said, he had. Why, John asked, hadn’t he responded? Tim said he didn’t see the need.

“But Tim was wrong. John’s email deserved, at the very least, a ‘thank you.’ Continue reading “Life-hacking: Saying thank-you”

Invisible soldiers

Apparently, stealth technology is reaching further into the aspirations ofUnknown the U.S. Army. After working on ways to generate artificial fog and camouflaged tanks, the Army now wants “super-black” materials to render its stuff virtually invisible. As Danger Room reports,

“In its latest round of solicitations for small businesses, the Army is asking for proposals for super-black material. That is, material so black that it absorbs 99 percent of all light. But it isn’t really black paint, exactly. The plan is to use either an “antireflective coating or surface treatment process for metals” to absorb stray light “in the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared regions.” This, the Army hopes, will boost the quality of high-resolution cameras, while also cooling down sensitive electronics. Or to put it another way: The Army needs the color black to reflect its icy-cold heart. Continue reading “Invisible soldiers”

The world as game

“Congratulations. Reading the first paragraph of this article has earned you a badge.” In a curious piece in today’s New York Times, Nick Winfield discusses a concept already well known in gaming circles: that the tasking and reward systems of video games have broader social implications. As the article continues:

images-1“If this made-up award makes you feel good about yourself, then you are on your way to understanding gamification, a business trend — some would say fad — that aims to infuse otherwise mundane activities with the excitement and instant feedback of video games.

“Many businesses are using these game tricks to try to get people hooked on their products and services — and it is working, thanks to smartphones and the Internet.

“Buying a cup of coffee? Foursquare, the social networking app that helped popularize the gamification idea, gives people virtual badges for checking in at a local cafe or restaurant. Continue reading “The world as game”

Game Theory?

imagesOf course the “media violence” debate will be revisited in coming weeks and months.

Below we see the introduction of “Game Theory” in the New York Times, a series primarily devoted to what games its reviewers like for their entertainment value. But the first “edition” of Game Theory ventures into the emotion-laden topic of game violence. Notable in the article, as in almost all of the discourse on media violence, is the absence of any empirical evidence to support alarmist arguments that young imitate in real-life what they play on their computers.

“Welcome to the first edition of Game Theory, a conversation about the year in video games. Some introductions for the uninitiated: Stephen Totilo is the editor in chief of the gaming news site, and he also writes about video games for The New York Times; Kirk Hamilton is the features editor at Kotaku; and I’m the deputy editor of Yahoo News, and a writer of video game reviews for The Times. The three of us will be bickering — I mean, coming to a friendly consensus — about the year’s best games, the year’s worst games and about what 2012 indicated about the state and future of this creative medium. Continue reading “Game Theory?”

Absolutely relative

The Tea Party’s use of history illustrates a public yearing for clear answers in a time of economic stress and national insecurity. Seeing the American Constutition as clear set of eternal “truths” also enables its use as a bludgeon in political rhetoric, while describing the documets as cauldron of competing ideas neutralizes  such claimstea-party-food2.

This type of “absolutism” has been a tool  of many populist movements through out history, from the religious crusades of byegone ages, to the fascist movements nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to Cold War paranoia, to contemporary panics about against minority groups, and to our current political contests.  Absolutism is the belief that there are concrete standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context in which they occur. Absolutism is often contrasted with moral “relativism,” which asserts that moral truths are contingent upon social or historical circumstances. Absolutists believe that morals are inherent in the laws of the universe, the nature of humanity, or the will of God. From this perspective, all actions can be evaluated as either inherently moral or immoral. For example, an unprovoked war might be deemed a moral act by an absolutist. Continue reading “Absolutely relative”

Fake malaria treatments stymie efforts

counterfeit-drugs“The life-saving medicine arrives on cargo trucks and in suitcases, crossing borders to be put on sale in pharmacies, shops and hospitals. There is just one problem: it isn’t life-saving at all,” reports today’s edition of The Guardian. By some reports a leading source of the problematic vaccines in China.

“To look at the packaging, you would never know. It is usually a dead ringer for the real thing. Only on closer inspection will you find a watermark missing or notice the crumbling edges of a tablet that to well-trained inspectors can be the telltale signs of fakery. Even health professionals are routinely fooled. Continue reading “Fake malaria treatments stymie efforts”

The Civil Rights issue of our time

“While there’s still a lot more work to be done, 2012 saw some remarkable milestones for transgender people both in the U.S. and abroad,” said today’s Huffington Post in the beginning of its 2012 year-in-review series8206734246_75149a2eb2_z

“From Vice President Joe Biden declaring transgender rights as the ‘civil rights issue of our time,” to the huge update made by the American Psychiatric Association to its Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, trans acceptance has certainly made some enormous strides this year.

“We even saw one of our favorite TV shows, ‘Glee,’ include a transgender character in its diverse cast, and the transgender flag was flown in place of the iconic rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco for the first time ever.

Check out some more phenomenal transgender stories from 2012 in our roundup below and be sure to let us know what other moments captured your attention in the comments section.”

For more on this story, see “2012 Top Transgender Moments” in Huffington Post:

Trouble for cats at Hemingway Museum

Apparently, visitors to Key West’s Ernst Hemingway Museum are often tickled by all of the weird cats the place has. Yes cats.  in fact, pthe lace is overrun with cats who all have six toes

“The so-called Hemingway cats — who for generations have stretched out on Hemingway’s couch, curled up on his pillow and mugged for the Papa-razzi,”  reports todays New York Times. “Tour guides recount over and over how the gypsy cats descend from Snowball, a fluffy white cat who was a gift to the Hemingways.images Seafaring legend has it that polydactyl cats (those with extra toes) bring a bounty of luck, which certainly explains their own pampered good fortune.

“But it seems the charms of even 45 celebrated six-toed cats have proved powerless against one implacable foe: federal regulators.

“The museum’s nine-year bid to keep the cats beyond the reach of the Department of Agriculture ended in failure this month. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that the agency has the power to regulate the cats under the Animal Welfare Act, which applies to zoo and traveling circus animals, because the museum uses them in advertisements, sells cat-related merchandise online and makes them available to paying tourists.

“In other words, the cats are a living, breathing exhibit and require a federal license.

“’The most ludicrous part of the whole thing is that if we were really dealing with the health and welfare of the cats, this would have never been an issue,’ said Michael A. Marowski, the great-nephew of the woman who bought the Hemingway house in 1961, the year Hemingway died, and opened it as a museum in 1964.”

Full story at:


Where your charitable gift really goes

If you’re thinking of giving to charity this holiday season, you might want to take a second to find out where your money is going.

“A report released today by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that a staggering amount of the money raised by charitable telemarketing winds up going to pay the telemarketing companies, and all too often, little if any money actually makes it to the cause in question,” states today’s Village Voice.

“How bad is it? Schneiderman investigated 602 charitable telemarketing campaigns from 2011, which together raised more than $240 million. In 78 percent of the campaigns, less than half of the money raised actually went to the charity. In 76 of the campaigns, the charity actually lost money on the deal — zero money went to the cause, and the charity paid the telemarketers out of pocket.telemarketer-pic-dec-2008

“New York City organizations fared slightly better than average, with about 46 percent of money raised going to charity. Long Island charities were the worst in the state, keeping a scant 27 percent.

There’s a pattern here — the percentage of gross receipts from New York charitable telemarketing campaigns has hovered between 30 and 40 percent for the past decade.That’s not to say that different charities and telemarketing companies aren’t better than others. Oxfam America, USAFA Endowment, and Child Fund International pass along more than 90 percent of their telemarketing revenues. They were the only ones.

“But according to the Attorney General’s report, if you donated to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center through a telemarketer last year, exactly none of your money found its way to its intended target. Same for the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, the Christopher Reeve Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Feed the Children, the Food Bank for New York City, and the International Rescue Committee, to name a few. Why big-name charities accept such a miserable return on investment isn’t clear.”

For complete story, see:

Reverend Billy and the end of the world

Reverend Billy, Buy Nothing Day NYC 2005Today is 12-21-12: Doomsday, the end of the world. On this special day, Democracy Now spotlighted the recent efforts of Reverend Billy, the activist-performance artist known best for his “Church of Stop-Shopping.”

“One doesn’t need to look at the Mayan calendar, the words of Nostradamus, the prophetic dreams of Daniel or the revelation made to John to see the world is in dire straits. The sky may not be falling in, but it sure felt like it to the victims of Superstorm Sandy. Along with climate change, gun violence, drones, warfare and other henchmen on the horizon, it’s easy to see why some may think the apocalypse is fast approaching. The word “apocalypse” originated from the Greek term “apocalypsis,” which literally means “uncovering,” in the sense of revealing something previously hidden. Someone known for pulling the covers off is activist and performance artist Reverend Billy, who is holding his “The End of the World” ritual in New York City’s Times Square tonight. Continue reading “Reverend Billy and the end of the world”

Growing up in North Korea

Welcome to the world of North Korean childhood. Today’s Asia Times carries an article on the strident nationalism in state education in North Korea: “In this world, cartoons such as ‘Pencil artillery shells’, by Cha Kye-ok, call on children to study well. Unlike in South Korea, where the same imperative is justified by intellectual fun and social success of the students, the North Korean educational paradigm suggests another lucrative objective: good students are better prepared for the defence of their country against invaders.

“In the constantly emphasized potential war, North Korean children are summoned to prepare for the worst.imgres-1 Verses of their songs widely employ idioms such as kyolsaongwi (desperate readiness to die [for the leader, the country, the party]) orch’ ongp’ at ‘anadulttal, (sons and daughters of guns and bombs/living guns and bombs). See, for example, a typical children’s poem by Kim Ch’angmu, They Envy Us, They Are Afraid of Us: Continue reading “Growing up in North Korea”

Bye-bye Blackberry

The story is simple: BlackBerry has lost nearly half its users in the past year.imgres

Research in Motion said on Thursday that it lost a million BlackBerry owners worldwide during the company’s last financial quarter. The New York Times reports that the company “has other bad news as well, a month before introducing its new BlackBerry 10 phones to the public. Revenue fell 48 percent in the company’s fiscal third quarter, ended Dec. 1, to $2.7 billion from $5.2 billion a year earlier. RIM reported net income of $9 million, down from $265 million last year. The company said that using nonstandard accounting methods to adjust for the tax gain and other pretax charges led to an adjusted net loss of $114 million for the third quarter, or 22 cents per share. Continue reading “Bye-bye Blackberry”

Miss USA contestant to pay $5-million for defamation

“A beauty queen who claimed this year’s Miss USA contest was fixed has been ordered to pay the pageant organization $5 million for defamation,” reports Yahoo News today.usa

“In a decision signed last week, an arbitrator found that the comments from Miss Pennsylvania USA Sheena Monnin were false, harmful and malicious. Monnin had alleged that the five finalists had been selected in advance of the pageant’s live telecast.

“The arbitrator, Theodore Katz, said Monnin had two motives: ‘She was a disgruntled contestant who failed to make it past the preliminary Continue reading “Miss USA contestant to pay $5-million for defamation”

Obama to consider American Sign Language proposal

“For more than a hundred years, American Sign Language (ASL) has been persecuted as a ‘lesser’ language. It is a homegrown and complete language that has survived efforts to wipe it out,” says a petition that the White House will consider in coming weeks. As DisabilityScoop reported today:

“More than 29,000 people from across the country signed a petition on the White House website this fall seeking to gain stature for the visual language. President Barack Obama’s administration has pledged to provide an official reply to any petition on the site that attracts at least 25,000 signatures within 30 days, a threshold that the sign language petition met earlier this month.signlanguage1280x1024

Continue reading “Obama to consider American Sign Language proposal”

The buzz in California

marijuana_plants“Marijuana is, as a practical matter, already legal in much of California,” sayd today’s New York Times. “No matter that its recreational use remains technically against the law. Marijuana has, in many parts of this state, become the equivalent of a beer in a paper bag on the streets of Greenwich Village. It is losing whatever stigma it ever had and still has in many parts of the country, including New York City, where the kind of open marijuana use that is common here would attract the attention of any passing law officer.

“’It’s shocking, from my perspective, the number of people that we all know who are recreational marijuana users,’ said Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor. ‘These are incredibly upstanding citizens Continue reading “The buzz in California”

Sales booming for bullet-proof backpacks

No this isn’t a joke. The Nation today reports that such things actually exist and that people are buying them for their children like crazy in the wake of the school shootings:

“Firms selling bullet-proof children’s gear – including Disney Princess and Avengers backpacks lined with Kevlar-type sheeting – are reporting a massive surge in sales in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.

“Salt Lake City-based Amendment II is among several firms being accused of callously cashing-in on the tragedy in which 26 people were gunned down including 23 children.525082_10151216477798802_1898309770_n

“The firm is currently promoting a range of $300 bulletproof backpacks, Continue reading “Sales booming for bullet-proof backpacks”

Homeless to get free cell phones

You may not know this, but programs exist in 36 states, which provide free mobile phone service to the poor.

For the homeless and indigent, cell phones can make the difference in getting help, work, housing, or access to other needed services. According to income statistics, as many of 28-million Americans qualify for the program, which experts say could enable recipients to earn as much as $3.7-billion in new income for the poor and near-poor.A mobile phone in back pocket

That’s right, $3.7-billion in money not-paid by government assistance programs. The cell phone Continue reading “Homeless to get free cell phones”

A Grimm legacy considered

Grimm's Fairy Tale illustartion for Fitcher's Bird“Once upon a time, two German brothers began collecting the best fairytales of their age,” reads a story in The Guardian today about  the enduring legacy of a certain set of children’s stories. “They gathered an array of stories involving princes and princesses, forests, castles and magic, but also darker sagas of cannibalism, dismemberment, murder and evil stepmothers.

“The 200th anniversary on Thursday of the first publication of the Grimm brothers’ Die Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), a collection of 86 stories that became worldwide classics, is triggering a year of feverish celebrations in Germany to mark the birth of one of the most frequently read books in the world. Continue reading “A Grimm legacy considered”

Sandy Hook, Jihad, and The World

“Jihadi atrocities and mass murders in the West do not occur in different worlds,” writes Spengler in today’s Asia Times in a thoughtful consideration of murder-suicides around the globe. The author continues:

“Consider two situations. First, a madman kills 20 schoolchildren in America for unexplained reasons. Second, Muslim terrorists kill 22 children in Israel (at Ma’alot in 1974), or 186 children at Beslan in the Russian Caucusus in 2004, for clearly stated reasons. What do they have in common?London Terrorist Bombings

“The suicidal jihadi is the Doppelganger of the angst-ridden Westerner. The jihadi attempts to reconstruct a faux version of a Continue reading “Sandy Hook, Jihad, and The World”

Mental illness creates disability around the globe

Mental illness is the largest contributor to worldwide disability, according to a report card on the health across the globe. The seven papers comprising storyimages_braininheadbwlthe report and two commentaries will be published in a collection entitled “The Global Burden of Disease” (GBD) in The Lancet. As reported in Bioscience Technology:

“GBD 2010 is a collaborative project led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (UW) in the US and involves 302 institutions across 50 countries. This is the first report since the inaugural study was published in the early 1990s. Continue reading “Mental illness creates disability around the globe”