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The Idaho Way To Treat You.

“[C]yclists are probably in the right here. While it’s obviously reckless for them to blow through an intersection when they don’t have the right of way, research and common sense say that slowly rolling through a stop sign on a bike shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. Some places in the US already allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yields, and red lights as stop signs, and these rules are no more dangerous — and perhaps even a little safer — than the status quo.”

In Vox, Joseph Stromberg makes the case for “the Idaho stop” — i.e. bikers treating red lights like stop signs, etc. As a frequent bike commuter (who, like most, does this anyway), I’m all for it. “There are even a few reasons why the Idaho stop might even make the roads safer than the status quo…[It] could funnel bikes on to safer, slower roads…[and] if legalized and widely adopted, would also make bikes more predictable.”

Many Words. Such Modifying.

“Of course, since none of the five main doge modifiers (much, many, so, very, such) are ever found with verbs in canonical English, all of them are candidates to modify verbs in doge: for example, much eat, many eat, so eat, very eat, and such eat would all work for doge speak. Other modifiers such as quite, rather, and even lotsa are also found more rarely in doge, under similar principles of mismatch.”

Wow. Such knowledge. Many Smarts: Linguist Gretchen McCulloch explains the grammatical principles of Doge. “What light. So breaks. Such east. Very sun. Wow, Juliet. What Romeo. Such why. Very rose. Still rose. Very balcony. Such climb.”

Actually, It Gets Worse.

“Ceaseless optimism about the future only makes for a greater shock when things go wrong; by fighting to maintain only positive beliefs about the future, the positive thinker ends up being less prepared, and more acutely distressed, when things eventually happen that he can’t persuade himself to believe are good.”

The New Yorker‘s Adam Alter surveys the recent data suggesting something that accords well with my overall worldview: Positive thinking is for suckers. “In a provocative new analysis, Oettingen and her colleagues have suggested that public displays of positive thinking may even predict downturns in major macroeconomic outcomes…the staggering results in this most recent paper are consistent with more than a decade’s worth of studies in Oettingen’s lab.”

Smarm is the New Buncombe.

“Stand against snark, and you are standing with everything decent. And who doesn’t want to be decent? The snarkers don’t, it seems. Or at least they (let’s be honest: we) don’t want to be decent on those terms. Over time, it has become clear that anti-negativity is a worldview of its own, a particular mode of thinking and argument, no matter how evasively or vapidly it chooses to express itself…Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.”

Ably channeling the spirit of Mencken, Gawker’s Tom Scocca writes in defense of Snark, and skewers the evil that produced it, Smarm. “We have popular names now for the rhetorical tools these flacks are deploying: the straw-man attack, the fake umbrage, the concern-trolling. Why are those tools so familiar? It is because they are essential parts of the smarmer’s tool kit, the grease gun and the rag and the spatula.” If you judge a man by his enemies, Scocca picks a lot of the right ones here.

They All Float Down There.

“Even the people who are supposed to like clowns — children — supposedly don’t. In 2008, a widely reported University of Sheffield, England, survey of 250 children between the ages of four and 16 found that most of the children disliked and even feared images of clowns. The BBC’s report on the study featured a child psychologist who broadly declared, ‘Very few children like clowns. They are unfamiliar and come from a different era. They don’t look funny, they just look odd.’”

Can’t Sleep Clowns Will Eat Me…The Smithsonian‘s Linda Rodriguez McRobbie looks into the history and psychology of scary clowns. “[P]erhaps as much as 2 percent of the adult population will have a fear of clowns. Adult clown phobics are unsettled by the clown’s face-paint and the inability to read genuine emotion on a clown’s face, as well as the perception that clowns are able to engage in manic behavior, often without consequences.”

The Pleasures of the Void.

“I slid the blackout door closed behind me, eased down into the water, and touched a button that switched off the lights. I was floating in total darkness and silence…For what must have been the first 15 minutes, I wondered what I was doing there…Then a transformation began…My brain went a little haywire. When the storm passed, I found myself in a new and unfamiliar state of mind.”

To kick off his new Slate column “Anything Once,” friend Seth Stevenson finds himself reveling in the sensation of sensory deprivation. “I emerged in a profound daze. I spoke slowly and quietly, like a smooth-jazz DJ, to the person at the spa desk who inquired how my session had gone. I felt more rested than if I’d slept for 16 hours on a pile of tranquilized chinchillas. Outside, colors were saturated; sounds were vivid. I had to try this again, as soon as possible.”

That’s Exactly What They Want You to Think.

“9% of voters think the government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons (not just dental health). 4% of voters say they believe ‘lizard people’ control our societies by gaining political power…14% of voters believe in Bigfoot. 15% of voters say the government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals (the so-called Tinfoil Hat crowd.)”

PPP polls America’s taste for various conspiracy theories. “37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at 41-51. 61% of Romney voters believe global warming is a hoax…20% of voters believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism, 51% do not.” Sigh. Don’t blame me, I voted for Lizard People.

The Shawshank Bowl.

“‘It’s startling to see a stadium will be named after them,’ Libal said. ‘It’s like calling something Blackwater Stadium. This is a company whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents that really draw into question their ability to successfully manage a prison facility.’”

Our culture veers even closer to self-parody upon the news that Florida Atlantic University will name its stadium after a private prison conglomerate. “GEO Group reported revenues in excess of $1.6 billion in 2011, income generated mostly from state and federal prisons and detention centers for illegal immigrants.”

What the?! Honestly, how shameful is it that we ostensible lovers of freedom — mainly on account of our ridiculous incarceration rates (for anything other than white-collar crimes) — not only have a private, for-profit prison industry flourishing in our country — one that routinely maintains substandard prisons and undercuts workers’ wages by outsourcing their captive labor force — but that we’re sufficiently unembarrassed about it to start naming stadiums after them? Pathetic.

Update: FAU students make their displeasure known.

Whither Happiness? (At Wal-Mart).

“The researchers coded each tweet for its happiness content, based on the appearance and frequency of words determined by Mechanical Turk workers to be happy (rainbow, love, beauty, hope, wonderful, wine) or sad (damn, boo, ugly, smoke, hate, lied). While the researchers admit their technique ignores context, they say that for large datasets, simply counting the words and averaging their happiness content produces ‘reliable’ results.”

Happiness where are you? I’ve searched so long for you. A statistical analysis of states’ relative happiness, as determined by tweets. (Red states above are happy, blue states are not.) David Simon is 2-for-2: Next to the mouth of the Mississippi, the Maryland-Delaware area is apparently the saddest in the nation. Perhaps due to proximity to Washington DC? Definitely maybe.

In probably related news, a different map of the United States shows the most popular places cited in Craigslist’s Missed Connections. “The most popular place to spot potential love in Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida? Wal-Mart.”

Of course, this begs the question: Do people actually ever meet up on Missed Connections? Every time I’ve perused them, that section is overwhelmingly the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, just damaged, lovelorn people sending out messages in a bottle to lost exes who are actively ignoring them.

Bicycle! Bicycle!

The popularity of the program is due to the attractiveness of the sturdy red bikes–every distinctive Capital Bikeshare vehicle on the street is a rolling advertisement for the program–and its incredible convenience. The system is very easy to use, and riders may pick up a bike at any station and drop it off at any station, perfect for short, one-way trips. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free, making a year’s membership a bargain for $75 if one uses the bikes for in-city commuting and errands.

Bicycle sharing is coming your way, so forget all your duties, oh yeah… From Kevin Spacey to Fratty McFrattersons, Kaid Benfield briefly surveys the rise of DC’s Capital Bikeshare in The Atlantic. “‘Capital Bikeshare’s success right out of the gate has far exceeded our expectations,’ said program director Terry Bellamy.” (LivingSocial helped.)

I joined in March after my crappy Target bike was stolen, and, while it definitely has logjams at the morning and afternoon rush hours (hopefully soon alleviated by 25 more stations), it mostly works out for my daily commute. Now if only they could get users to wear helmets.

Mr. Smith Moved to Washington.

America is a nation of Smiths, Johnsons, and Sullivans — but also of Garcias and Nguyens. Zoom in on the map below to see what surnames proliferate in your part of the country.” By way of a friend, National Geographic breaks down America by surname. Good to see the Murphys holding it down in Massachusetts.

Slainte 2010.

A very happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours.

Thus Passeth the Small Talk.

An application that lets users point a smart phone at a stranger and immediately learn about them premiered last Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Developed by The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a Swedish mobile software and design firm, the prototype software combines computer vision, cloud computing, facial recognition, social networking, and augmented reality.

Well, that should really facilitate the stalking (and now everyone will know right away I like sunsets and long walks on the beach…) The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson reports in on Recognizr, a smartphone app soon likely to cause all kinds of consternation and unwanted advances in a town near you.

Eyes Without a Face.

“[N]obody knows who the faceless figures, who often appear as motionless couples are, or why they are turning up at high profile events. Theories include the possibilities that they are limelight-seeking pranksters, performance artists or that they are at the centre of a viral marketing campaign for an as-yet unknown product of forthcoming horror film.” I, for one, welcome our new faceless overlords.

The Kingdom.

The guy is sculpting the toddler id while also designing a domed metropolis with a monorail. How did this happen? A man who got famous drawing a cartoon mouse was now going to solve all America’s urban problems?” Old friend Seth Stevenson spends a week in the realm of Disney, and lives to tell the tale. “After spending the past five days here, I’ve come to the conclusion that Disney World teaches kids three things: 1) a meaningless, bubble-headed utopianism, 2) a grasping, whining consumerism, and 3) a preference for soulless facsimiles of culture and architecture instead of for the real thing. I suppose it also teaches them that monorails are cool. So there’s that.

Breathing is for Closers.

We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re waterboarded. Uh…As part of a “team-building exercise,” a Provo-based motivational speaker apparently held a waterboardingin front of his sales team to demonstrate that they should work as hard on sales as the employee had worked to breathe.” We just took a big step closer to Brazil. (Via TPM.)

When your heart grows cold.

“The weather is appalling, the Christmas credit card bills are landing on the doorstep…and you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolutions. But don’t worry, if you can just get through today, things will start to look up.” Once again, some depression experts hypothesize, it’s Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. Well, as with last time, I can think of worse, just around the corner…

The Forgotten Kinsey.

“Kinsey’s pioneering work is still one-of-a-kind because in all the time since, only a handful of sex researchers have even tried to match his breadth, depth, and scale. For all our obsession with sex, we’re skittish about studying it. There’s one major exception: a large survey, conducted in the 1990s, that far outdid Kinsey in terms of statistical reliability. It’s the most authoritative sexual self-portrait the country has. But you’ve probably never heard of its author, because unlike Kinsey, he has worked hard to keep it that way. Alfred Kinsey may have gotten the biopic, but according to Slate‘s Amanda Schaffer, it’s the University of Chicago’s Edward Laumann we should now be turning to for reliable data on carnal matters. “Kinsey’s data aren’t the last word on matters sexual, but they’re sometimes still the first.

It’s the thought that counts.

This site’s been languishing in the bookmarks for a good while now, but that doesn’t make it any less hilarious. By way of mkh at Hidden City, Someecards.com, for “when you care enough to hit send.” It’s got exemplary Onion-like ecards for almost any occasion, and many, many ways to express the inexpressible. Hallmark, you are in a world of pain.

What can men do against such reckless hate?

In the deadliest act of school violence in American history, at least 33 people lie dead at Virginia Tech after what was presumably a jilted student’s bloody shooting rampage.”‘It is difficult to comprehend senseless violence on this scale,’ said Virginia’s Governor Timothy M. Kaine in a statement.

And, as details from this story emerge, I’ve been catching up over at Medley on the recent nightmare befalling blogger Kathy Sierra, who’s been the recipient of sexually repugnant death threats as a result of her posting on, of all things, tech issues. (Not to say that posting on anything else would justify the depraved sexist bile thrown her way, but I’ve sadly come to half-expect that sort of vileness from Freepers, the uglier elements of dKos, and the like.) I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised by the disgusting misogyny pervading this latter incident — it’s sorta like people acting surprised that we’ve found a racist in our midst in Don Imus, as if bigoted old white guys in positions of power were a dwindling species or something. And, true, these two events have little or nothing to do with each other, except that I’m finding out about them at the same time. Still, I have to say, sometimes all the rage, ugliness, and despair that seems to lurk just under the brittle crust of our society is overwhelmingly disheartening. Let’s get it together, people. To go back to Auden again, we must love one another or die.

Update: Exhibit C in today’s litany of horrors, this ghastly assault on a Columbia Journalism grad student, which occurred not more than twenty blocks from here over the weekend. Sweet merciful Jesus, this is a sick, sick world sometimes. Update 2: They got him.

Salon of the Cave Bear.

“The implication of these careful cultural signifiers: The caveman has grasped not just literacy and reason but also the affectations of the modern hipster aesthete. (That knowingly antiquated racket might easily have been stolen from a Wes Anderson set.)” Old friend Seth Stevenson ruminates on the proposed Geico caveman TV show for Slate.

If you’re feeling sinister.

By way of Dangerous Meta, a new NBER working paper finds that left-handed men make 13-21% more than their right-handed counterparts (although the same doesn’t apply for women.) “The study is the latest to suggest there’s something special about lefties. Other researchers have found that left-handers are overrepresented on university faculties, as well as among gifted students, artists and musicians.Update: Slate‘s Joel Waldfogel considers the results.

Bowling alone.

“‘People are increasingly busy,’ said Margaret Gibbs, a psychologist at Fairleigh Dickinson University. ‘We’ve become a society where we expect things instantly, and don’t spend the time it takes to have real intimacy with another person.’” CNN delves into the broadening landscape of American loneliness, which, according to the NYT, is becoming particularly acute among middle-aged men without college degrees.

That Giant Sucking Sound.

Granted, some things require more involved assessments (like, say, James Joyce: I find his early work unparalleled in its style and its evocation of emotion, while his later writing became willfully opaque in a manner that leaves me cold). But other things don’t require this sort of elaboration (like, say, John Grisham: He sucks).” In Slate, my friend Seth Stevenson writes in defense of the word “suck.”

Cubism.

“The cubicle was not born evil, or even square. It began, in fact, as a beautiful vision. The year was 1968. Nixon won the presidency. The Beatles released The White Album. And home-furnishings company Herman Miller (Research) in Zeeland, Mich., launched the Action Office. It was the brainchild of Bob Propst, a Coloradan who had joined the company as director of research.” (Propst would later deem his invention “monolithic insanity.”) Fortune‘s Julie Schlosser recounts the ignominious rise of the cubicle as the bane of the American workplace. “The cubicle has been called many things in its long and terrible reign. But what it has lacked in beauty and amenity, it has made up for in crabgrass-like persistence.”

Captain Emo.

“Money is a funny thing with hipsters. They exist in a state of perpetual luxuriant slumming. They drink blue-collar beers but hold white-collar jobs. Or vice versa.” As seen on Slate, two choice essays on the Wes Anderson aesthetic and the cultural baggage of contemporary hipsterism (the former by a college friend of mine, Christian Lorentzen of N+1.) They said that irony was the shackles of youth.

Like Cats and Dogs.

Via Webgoddess, catpeople and dogpeople are going claw-to-paw over at AskMeFi. You can probably guess where I fall on this spectrum.

Father to the Man.

A very happy Father’s Day to you and yours.

Aigh!! Books!!!

By way of a colleague in the program, conservative rag Human Events lists their choices for the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th & 20th Centuries (because remember, folks — reading & thinking are dangerous.) The usual rogues’ gallery — Marx, Hitler, Mao — are up front, as you might expect, but then things get kooky. Including Darwin is medieval enough, but Betty Friedan and Rachel Carson? You must be joking. (Well, at least it’s good to see the right-wing fringe still running scared from progressives like John Dewey and Herbert Croly.)

Yum-Yum, Boo-Hoo.

Crying while Eating. So much food, so many reasons… (including winning this hit-counting contest, which is why the site was created.)

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