Wednesday, December 29, 2010

African Huts Far From the Grid Glow With Renewable Power

An incredible story in the NYT:
For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.
Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.

Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning...
What is her solution? An $80 solar panel from China. Read the entire NYT article. (Thanks, Will)

Taxes and the Top Percentile Myth

The WSJ writes an article about current taxes has a few incredible bits of trivia
  • the upper 1% of the income distribution earned 19.6% of total income before tax [in 2004], and paid 41% of the individual federal income tax
  • he wealthiest 1% of U.S. households now take home more than 20% of all household income
Read the rest of the WSJ article. (Thanks, Corinne)

American Education, Curbing Excellence

In Waiting for Superman, there was a section on "tracking," having some honors classes and some lower level classes for the same subject. The movie argued that many students that went on the "lower" track level ended up having a worse education and were rarely prepared for college.

It argues, that removing tracking is one way improve the educational experiences for most students. But what really happens when you cut honors courses? Read an pro-tracking article in RealClearPolitics. (Thanks, Corinne)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pop Culture Creates New Heroines

"For years, maybe forever, the essence of women has often been reduced, to put it somewhat crudely, to a deeply etched dichotomy: madonna or whore. Marry one; have sex with the other. It is a view of women that has survived shifts in social attitudes and periodic bouts of feminism.

But in recent decades — marked by a more radical advance of women and some appreciation for that shift — variations on the theme have emerged in society and pop culture. In films, books, music and television and on the social media networks, we have rethought gender roles, and the old virgin versus slut metaphor rings false, if it ever was true.

Now, in keeping with what some call (hopefully) the age of female empowerment, women are more likely to be cast or depicted as sex objects or action heroes — or both in one..." Which actresses do you think it is referring to? Read the rest of the NYT article.

Four in 10 Americans Believe in Strict Creationism

"Four in 10 Americans, slightly fewer today than in years past, believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Thirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms, while 16%, up slightly from years past, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God's involvement." Read the rest of the Gallup article.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dow Jones follows Twitter moods?

This study claims that the mood of Twitter can be used to predict the movement of the DJIA, with a lag of a few days. It is said to be 87% accurate with a standard deviation of only 4%.

Hmm... (Thanks, Lucy)

Steve Blank on Entrepreneurship

Time Person of the Year Mark Zuckerberg and the DSM -- making the world safe for narcissism

Check out Alexandra Petri's article in the Washington Post. Here's an excerpt:
The definition of a narcissist used to be "someone better-looking than you," just as the definition of an alcoholic used to be "someone who drinks the same amount as you whom you dislike."

But I think that's changed.

Now it's "someone with more Facebook updates than you" or "someone who has more Twitter followers than you do."

The recent announcement that they were removing Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the DSM IV Statistical Manual caused quite a stir. But narcissism is no longer a disease. It's a lifestyle.

(Thanks, Kristina)

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture? Check out the full New Yorker article. (Thanks, Claire)

Damn you autocorrect

Check out more at DYAC. (Thanks Cass and Jess)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Google's Zeitgeist 2010

The Lottery of Life

Check out more pictures at Design Better: Blogless.

Group Sets Goal to Get More Women on Boards

"Helena Morrissey wants to raise the number of women on British boards to roughly a third by 2015, without using quotas." Read the entire NYT article.

Some Unlicensed Drivers Risk More Than a Fine

A sad turn for one life in America:
It was just another suburban fender-bender. A car zoomed into an intersection and braked too late to stop at a red light. The Georgia woman driving it, an American citizen, left with a wrecked auto, a sore neck and a traffic fine.
But for Felipa Leonor Valencia, the Mexican woman who was driving the Jeep that was hit that day in March, the damage went far beyond a battered bumper. The crash led Ms. Valencia, an illegal immigrant who did not have a valid driver’s license, to 12 days in detention and the start of deportation proceedings — after 17 years of living in Georgia...
Read the entire NYT article.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Clayton Christensen, a professor at HBS, wrote this article for the Class of 2010, and it was published in the a Harvard Business Review. One excerpt:
...On the last day of class, I ask my students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves, to find cogent answers to three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?

Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction...
Read the full article in the Harvard Business Review. It's worth it! (Thanks, Freed!)

Love a capella

Sam Tsui and Kurt Schneider are Yalies right now. Check out their YouTube Channel. (Thanks, Chris!)

400th post this year -- thanks to all for many of the finds!

In Entitlement America, The Head Of A Household Of Four Making Minimum Wage Has More Disposable Income Than A Family Making $60,000 A Year

... and the yearly income for minimum wage is ~14,500. It's a bold claim, and getting a lot of buzz on economist blogs. How true is it? Find out the answer here at ZeroHedge.

If I were to write a management book about career “option value” ...

Hahaha, this is a hilarious post by two former management consultants who are now in "consulting rehab". (Thanks, Freed)

With a Little Help From His Friends

"At 19, Sean Parker helped create Napster. At 24, he was founding president of Facebook. At 30, he’s the hard-partying, press-shy genius of social networking, a budding billionaire, and about to be famous—played by Justin Timberlake in David Fincher’s new film, The Social Network."
Read the Vanity Fair article. (Thanks, Prabhnoor)

Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

"Noah Goldstein’s, Steve Martin’s and Robert Cialdini’s Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive is a pop psych book, where a bunch of research in psychology is distilled into one readable volume.

"50 scientifically proven ways constitute 50 chapters of the book, longest of which take 7 pages. The authors take the position that persuasion is a science, not art, hence with the right approach anybody can become the master in the skill of persuasion. So, what are the 50 ways?"

Read the book review here. (Thanks, JC)

Psychology: Too good to live

"People hate generosity as much as they hate mean-spiritedness." Rather surprising / sad, huh? Read more in the Economist article. (Thanks, Claire)

PR Hell: Media Misrepresentations

Duke has been suffering from terrible press in the past few months. Check out this article by Julia Love in the Chronicle. It's a well-written story of the different recent traumas and how Duke is handling them. (Thanks, Jules)


If you enjoyed last week's Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes, you should check out Gapminder.

Google just bought Gapminder a couple years ago. Gapminder "produces visually attractive graphics to display facts, figures, and statistics in presentations." It has an incredible set of data.

Why Charities Should Have an Expiration Date

"When an organization accomplishes its goal, Nancy Lublin thinks it should consider shutting down -- not finding another mission." Check out the full article at FastCompany. (Thanks, Jules)

M.B.A.’s Have Biggest ‘Mommy Penalty,’ Doctors the Smallest

Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz just released a new paper in the last few weeks about how family choices affect women's career success. Which industries are the most friendly to taking time off? Read the NYT Economix blog to find the answer. (Thanks, Claire)


"The Microaggressions site is based on the concept of microaggressions which was originally a race term but is now applied to sexuality, gender, class, etc. It describes rather than an event of discrimination that is fleeting, a daily accumulation of communications and experiences that marginalize a person. its harder to attack a problem that isn't overtly a problem."

Check out Microagressions -- some of them are incredibly funny! (Thanks, Clare)

Race to Nowhere

A new documentary is exploring the enormous pressures students face in school --
It isn’t often that a third of a movie audience sticks around to discuss its message, but that is the effect of “Race to Nowhere,” a look at the downside of childhoods spent on résumé-building...
Here's the trailer:

Check out parents' reactions to this film in the NYT. You can also check out the film's website to find showtimes near you. (Thanks, Claire and Jules)

Google easter eggs: 15 best hidden jokes

"Google loves to slip in-jokes and hidden features known as 'easter eggs' into its products. Here are 15 of our favourites." Check out all of the hidden Google easter eggs in the Telegraph. (Thanks, JC)

Using Waste, Swedish City Cuts Its Fossil Fuel Use

"KRISTIANSTAD, Sweden — When this city vowed a decade ago to wean itself from fossil fuels, it was a lofty aspiration, like zero deaths from traffic accidents or the elimination of childhood obesity.

But Kristianstad has already crossed a crucial threshold: the city and surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, essentially use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters.

It is a complete reversal from 20 years ago, when all of their heat came from fossil fuels.But this area in southern Sweden, best known as the home of Absolut vodka, has not generally substituted solar panels or wind turbines for the traditional fuels it has forsaken..."

Read the NYT article. (Thanks, Claire)

Smart Wallets Get Harder To Open As You Spend More

Proverbial Wallets from John Kestner on Vimeo.

"The wallets communicate with your bank via a bluetooth connection to your smartphone and come in three variants. The 'Mother Bear' has a hinge that gets harder to open as your balance dwindles. The 'Bumblebee' vibrates every time a transaction gets processed, with one vibration for debits, another for credits. And the 'Peacock' swells and shrinks along with your account balance."
Read more at the Consumerist. (Thanks, Cass)

Stuff on my cat

Check out (Thanks, Cass)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving

Great insights (no pun intended!):
In a just completed study, researchers at Northwestern University found that people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine.

...“It’s imagination, it’s inference, it’s guessing; and much of it is happening subconsciously,” said Marcel Danesi, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and the author of “The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life.”

“It’s all about you, using your own mind, without any method or schema, to restore order from chaos,” Dr. Danesi said. “And once you have, you can sit back and say, ‘Hey, the rest of my life may be a disaster, but at least I have a solution.’ ”

For almost a century scientists have used puzzles to study what they call insight thinking, the leaps of understanding that seem to come out of the blue, without the incremental drudgery of analysis....
Read the NYT article. It's so good! (Thanks, Claire)

Michelangelo 'hid secret code in Sistine Chapel'

"Michelangelo hid a secret code in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel made up of mystical Jewish symbols and insults aimed at the pope, according to a new book." Read more in the Telegraph article. (Thanks, Claire)

‘Comparison is the death of happiness’

A nice reminder for all people out there in competitive schools, jobs and social situations ... comparison is the death of happiness.

A new site debuted this week that aims to be a literary Facebook for the teenage set -- a social network for young adult fiction. will be unveiled on Monday as an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, both on their computers and on their cellphones. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site.
Check out and for a bit more background read the NYT article. (Thanks, Claire)

DREAM Act: I'm an Illegal Immigrant at Harvard

"I was a little girl who hadn't even learned the alphabet when I overstayed my visa. If the DREAM Act doesn't pass, I might have to take my degree and go back to a country I never knew."

Read the powerful article in the Daily Beast. (Thanks, Claire)

If Only Laws Were Like Sausages

Robert Pear starts dives into the laws are like sausages metaphor (e.g. the recent health care bill):
In defending their work, members of Congress love to repeat a quotation attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made...”
Read the rest of the NYT article. (Thanks, Cassie)

Amish Photos by Bill Coleman

Check out more at (Thanks, Jules)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are you a Rebel or a Yankee?

To find out how much Southern blood your speech shows, simply choose the words you use below, then press "Compute My Score!" at the end. alphaDictionary will compute your score and tell you where you're coming from: are y'all speaking Bubbaese or are youse guys Yankee Doodle Dandies? The higher your score, the deeper from the South you are coming.

Take the test! (Thanks Chris!)

Mercury 'turns' wetland birds such as ibises homosexual

"Mercury affects the behaviour of white ibises by 'turning them homosexual,' with higher doses resulting in males being more likely to pair with males." Haha, maybe we should start thinking more about how all of that pollution is affecting humans...

Read the BBC news article here.

"Mind-Boggling" Pictures: Goats Scale Dam in Italy

It's not photoshopped! Read the National Geographic post.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carolina's Basketball Dynasty

With Only 3% of the U.S. Population, the Tar Heel State Dominates the Sport at Every Level:

... North Carolina's first claim to basketball fame is Michael Jordan, the kid from Wilmington who went on to attend the University of North Carolina, win six NBA titles and become one of the planet's most famous and widely admired athletes. It includes Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has guided U.S. teams to gold medals at the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Championships. It has spread more recently to John Wall of the Washington Wizards, last year's No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, who hails from Raleigh.

At the college level, North Carolina and Duke have won back-to-back NCAA titles—and together with North Carolina State and UNC Charlotte, have racked up a nonpareil 34 Final Four appearances in 50 years—nearly twice as many as schools from the next-highest state, California.

The future looks just as bright: Three of the state's college programs have incoming recruiting classes considered to be among the nation's 10 best. And while North Carolina ranks No. 10 in the U.S. in population, it has eight high-school players ranked by scouting services among the nation's top 100 for 2011—a number only matched by Illinois...

Read the WSJ article. (Thanks, Rish)

A’s for Good Behavior

Are the best students those who hand in the material on time, are never tardy, and are polite in class? Or are they the ones that master the material the best, even if they are delayed with certain social expectations? Read more in the NYT article. (Thanks, Claire)

Beatboxing in Google Translate

Check it out. Put your sound up and click listen! (Thanks, Jules)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What good is Wall Street?

Read the Annals of Economics article in the New Yorker.

Carbon Sciences Moves Closer to Turning CO2 Into Gasoline

How is this possible? Read the FastCompany blog post.

Behavior: Too Much Texting Is Linked to Other Problems

"A study suggests that the high school students who spend the most time texting or on social networking Web sites (or both) are at risk for worrisome behaviors including smoking, risky sex, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and absenteeism."


At Berlin Museum, Reindeer, Art and Overnight Stays

"Carsten Höller’s “SOMA” exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for Contemporary Art in Berlin. The bed, where visitors can stay the night for 1,000 euros, is in the center of the exhibition."

"One bed. Twelve live reindeer. Twenty-four canaries, eight mice, and two flies. Lots of Andy Warhol. Plenty of Joseph Beuys." Read the NYT "In Transit" post.

13 communication and life tips that children teach us

Read the Presentation Zen article.

Army Studies Thrill-Seeking Behavior

The military, alarmed by a rising suicide rate and the number of veterans dying in accidents at home, is asking provocative questions about high-risk behavior. Read the rest of the article in the NY Times.

Depression Often Returns in Youths, Study Finds

In a study of nearly 200 adolescents, about half of the subjects who recovered from major depression became depressed again within five years. Read more in the NY Times.

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

This piece by Yale University Professor, William Deresiewicz, argues that our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers. (Thanks, Chrissy)

Solitude and Leadership

"If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts."

This lecture by William Deresiewicz in The American Scholar was delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October of last year. (Thanks, Chrissy -- it's an incredible piece.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I LOVE DUKE: Kyle Gets Buckets

(He made this in under an hour!!!)

The Shadow Scholar

"The man who writes your students' papers tells his story."

It's a rather eye-opening story that dives deep into bad ethical choices across our elite educational systems. Read the story in the Chronicle Review.

"Hallelujah!" Random Act of Culture

It gave me chills.

Chinese Woman Imprisoned for Twitter Message

"A Chinese woman was sentenced to one year in a labor camp on Wednesday after she forwarded a satirical microblog message..." Read the rest in the NYT.

Pretty Good for Government Work

Warren Buffet writes a thank you note in the NYT. (Thanks, Rish)

Are You A Christian Hipster?

Take this quick 30 question quiz to assess your CHQ (Christian Hipster Quotient)."

(Thanks, Cass)

Bosses Overestimate Their Managing Skills

"Bosses who think they're the next Jack Welch might want to reassess their talent level. A new survey of 1,100 frontline managers suggests many are overestimating their skills, with surprisingly little self-doubt. Seventy-two percent said they never questioned their ability to lead others in their first year as a manager.

"It doesn't matter what industry you're in. People have blind spots about where they're weak," says Scott Erker, a senior vice president at consulting firm Development Dimensions International Inc., which conducted the survey in September. One problem: when workers become managers, they're often surrounded by employees who flatter them as a way of ingratiating themselves to their boss, said Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of the book Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't."

Read the full WSJ article.

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget

Have problems with how the Government is fixing the budget? Fix it here in the NY Times interactive graphic. (Thanks Jules and Yousef)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Track Your Happiness iPhone Study Finds That Your Mind Is Wandering Too Much

"'A wandering mind is an unhappy mind,' the researchers Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert conclude. In other news: having sex makes people happy. It was the one activity where people reported mind-wandering less than 30% of the time."

Check out the FastCompany post.

Can Microlending Save Haiti?

Check out a few ideas for Haiti in the NYT. (Thanks, Dad)

When a Rig Moves In Next Door

The Gasland movie vividly documented the horrors of drilling for natural gas, called "fracking." With all the negative publicity about "clean" natural gas -- where can you find a more balanced view?

The NYT presented a less biased overview of fracking. (Thanks, Claire)

The World's 100 Most Powerful Women

Check out Forbes's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2010. Lady Gaga is number 7? (Thanks, Cass)

The Risk-Taking Edge of West Coast Women

East Coast v West Coast takes on a new spin:
When Deborah Perry Piscione moved to Silicon Valley after a career in media and foreign relations on the East Coast, it wasn’t the weather or wealth that amazed her. It was the women.

Back east, my whole network was men,” she said, “but here there’s this big group of incredible, fearless women. They rise a lot more quickly in their careers, and they support each other. They’ve made their own money and they take risks. There’s such a disconnect between the two coasts..."
Check out the entire NYT article. (I'd like to get an invite to that 50 person brainstorm event! Thanks, Jules)

Top 10 Electronic Etiquette Faux Pas

Check them out at Forbes. (Thanks, Cass)

While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales

It's a rather remarkable example of government waste:
Domino’s Pizza was hurting early last year. Domestic sales had fallen, and a survey of big pizza chain customers left the company tied for the worst tasting pies.

Then help arrived from an organization called Dairy Management. It teamed up with Domino’s to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese, and proceeded to devise and pay for a $12 million marketing campaign...

...And Dairy Management, which has made cheese its cause, is not a private business consultant. It is a marketing creation of the United States Department of Agriculture — the same agency at the center of a federal anti-obesity drive that discourages over-consumption of some of the very foods Dairy Management is vigorously promoting...
Read the entire NYT article. It's fascinating. (Thanks, Caleb!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Are You Going to Do With That?

William Deresiewicz delivered a speech to freshmen at Stanford about following conventionally unpopular professions.

It's one of the best speeches I've read in a while. Check out the comments at the end, too. (Thanks, Jules)

Pumping Up the Self-Control in the Age of Temptations

Read the NYT column about how to strategically build up your willpower (and some characteristics of people who have higher willpower than others). The secret? Learning tricks to make delaying gratification "fun." (Thanks, Lucy)

Breathe In, Breathe Out, Fall in Love

Read the Modern Love NYT Column about Vipassana Romance. (Thanks, Claire!)

Neuromarketing the 2010 Elections: Scoring Campaign Ads

Republicans were highly successful with their neuromarketing ad campaigns this election season:
But what is neuromarketing? You've probably had the experience of watching an ad and unexpectedly getting choked up -- or, in the case of campaign ads, feeling the sudden need to take a shower. Neuromarketers measure the way your brain and body responds to these messages, then reverse-engineers the effect into another message.
Watch some of the videos (with their neuromarketing explanations) in the FastCompany post.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

What Happens to Unused Texas Rangers World Series Gear?

But what happened to all that unsold Texas Rangers gear? Some is going to kids in developing countries!! Check out the FastCompany article.

How Google Maps Led to An Accidental Invasion

"A Nicaraguan military commander recently invaded Costa Rican territory, and ordered troops to take down a Costa Rican flag and replace it with Nicaragua's. Was this the work of a brash commander, going rogue on his superiors? A new policy of Nicaraguan imperialism? Neither. The incident was caused by an error in Google Maps."
Read the FastCompany article. I guess the army should have used Bing...

Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were

"It’s not a pipeline problem. It’s about loneliness, competition and deeply rooted barriers." Read more in the NYT .