our national parking snarl

We are a nutty nationhood: 

In the United States hundreds of engineers make careers out of studying traffic.

Entire freeway systems like L.A.’s have been hardwired with sensors connecting to computer banks that aggregate vehicle flow, monitor bottlenecks, explain congestion in complicated algorithms.

Yet cars spend just 5 percent of their lives in motion… !

…and until recently there was only one individual in the country devoting his academic career to studying parking lots and street meters: Donald Shoup.


a first hand chilling account

In 2007, the cruise ship MV Explorer sank after hitting an iceberg off the Antarctic.

From my lower bunk I could not only hear the sound of ice banging and scraping against the hull of the ship, I could feel the vibrations of the impact through the wall and the cold radiating through the hull of the ship.

I was looking forward to setting foot on Antarctica, and wanted to make sure I was rested and ready to go the next day. I couldn’t let the banging of the ice keep me up all night… 

Then there was a bang followed by what sounded like a creaky door in a haunted house swinging open and closed.

The wall of my cabin flexed… !


peeking into history

Photographs. Photographs. Photographs. Each tell a story. 

The Nationaal Archief in The Hague preserves almost one thousand years of history, in the form of over 110 kilometres [68 miles] of archives, almost 300,000 maps and drawings and more than 2 million photos. 

Hague Archives


flame retardant increases poison gas

Materials in our home that are doped with fire retardent may slow a fire but kill more people. 

Flame retardants in upholstered furniture and other household items to stop the spread of flames also increase emissions of two poisonous gases. Hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide are odorless, colorless chemicals, making them silent killers. 

Carbon monoxide is an important toxicant in fire effluents. However, we have seen that it is less important than hydrogen chloride from burning PVC, or hydrogen cyanide from burning nitrogen-containing polymers such as nylon, polyurethane or acrylic, in developed fires.

Hydrogen cyanide –  so lethal it was used in the Nazi gas chambers – is a bigger cause of fire deaths than previously thought. 

“If there is a fire, it doesn’t matter how big or how small, you have the possibility for those gases.”

a plague on society

The situation at Fukushima is still dire.

Number-two reactor continues to heat up, and appears to be out of control. Rolling blackouts are a regular occurrence. Nuclear reactors are being shut down, one by one, all over Japan.

Fukushima caesium leaks equal 168 Hiroshimas.

Meanwhile, there is talk that Tepco will be nationalised and its top executives are under investigation for criminal negligence

hollow social networks

Hollow Social Networks: The number of users, active and actual, could be as small as one-third. And nearly one-half of user accounts could be fake or contain no user profiles.

This has given rise to a growing services sector where it’s easy to buy “friends” and “followers,” by the thousands, and “likes” by the tens of thousands, for a low fee. This can jumpstart a marketing campaign if it makes it onto a top trending list. Buying such services will also help contractors meet performance goals set by clients and trigger payments.

optimizing butt

Dr. Ben Goldacre:

Since I was a teenager, whenever I have a pivotal life event coming – an exam, or an interview – I perform a ritual. I sit cross-legged on the floor, and I imagine an enormous golden beam of energy coming out of my arse.

I picture this anal beam passing through each layer beneath me, through the kitchen of the flat below, through the shop, and its basement, past gas pipes and sewers and then deep into the earth, where it spreads out into a glorious branching root network sucking power from the earth. I picture this energy surging through me, I visualise the outcome I want, in enormous detail, and I will it to happen, for about five minutes.

Surprisingly enough, this nonsense is broadly supported by data from randomized controlled trials.

do cats make us nuts?

Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains?

Are cats causing car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders?

Recent lab findings from suggest that the parasite T. gondii is capable of extraordinary shenanigans.

What’s more, many experts think T. gondii may be far from the only microscopic puppeteer capable of pulling our strings.

My guess is that there are scads more examples of this going on in mammals, with parasites we’ve never even heard of.

eat off the floor!

Scientific American:

In a coarse way, dirty living is good for you and clean living is bad for. You are part bacteria, if you got rid of the life on your skin or in your gut, you would almost certainly die. But, what I had envisioned was an expansion of the slightly more complex idea called the hygiene hypothesis, whose argument goes something like this… Humans moved from rural lifestyles outdoors to hyper-clean lifestyles indoors in city apartments with central air, sealed windows and surfaces scrubbed clean, at every opportunity, with antimicrobial wipes. That transition led us to spend less time getting “dirty” outside. It also “cleaned up” many of the species we need around us indoors that would allow us to get dirty with life. This combination prevented many of our immune systems from developing normally2. As a consequence, our immune systems tend to get “messed up” when we live in cities. They revolt against us in the form of asthma, allergies, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and, depending on who you ask, maybe even MS and autism.

In other words, clean living of one sort or another may be at the root of the majority of modern, chronic, diseases.

Joint Summits on Translational Science:

These days scientists have a much clearer picture of our inner ecosystem. We know now that there are a hundred trillion microbes in a human body.

You carry more microbes in you this moment than all the people who ever lived. Those microbes are growing all the time. So try to imagine for a moment producing an elephant’s worth of microbes. I know it’s difficult, but the fact is that actually in your lifetime you will produce five elephants of microbes.

You are basically a microbe factory.

old colonies never die

1) A view which is very common among mainlanders is that “without China’s economic support, Hong Kong would have been dead long ago.” But many Hong Kongers now think that the “mainland invasion” has done more harm than good to Hong Kong.

2) There is also a fear of the erosion of traditional Hong Kong values like the rule of law.

3) Hong Kong has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world.

4) Hong Kong people could realize the fact that they, like most mainlanders, live in an unjust political system under which the rich and the powerful collude. They share the same destiny, that is, to end this injustice.

fake reviews


…a leather case for the Kindle Fire was receiving the sort of acclaim once reserved for the likes of Kim Jong-il. [!]

Hundreds of reviewers proclaimed the case a marvel, a delight, exactly what they needed to achieve bliss. And definitely worth five stars.

Reviewers are paid for?! Yuck.

When the package arrived it included a letter extending an invitation “to write a product review for the Amazon community.”

“In return for writing the review, we will refund your order so you will have received the product for free,” it said.

normalized abandonment

Birnbaum: He wasn’t a predator.

Russel Banks: No—a dumb kid. Sexually confused. Alienated. Lots of things. Not angry. Basically an honest kid. Trying to figure out how to be a good person. Not very well equipped to do that. An abandoned kid, essentially. Benignly neglected. The mother takes credit for provided him with shelter, food, and an iguana. He’s a feral child in a way. You have an awful lot of them out there. Latchkey kids we used to call them. One parent—she’s working all day. Comes home then goes out at night, and she’s still a child herself in some ways. It’s a country that has fewer and fewer adults in it.