Month: February 2014

International Vacations, Dying British Pubs and Spanish Siestas

Curated by CLAI

VACATION HAPPINESS: Vacations are fun, Americans are stressed, and happiness raises productivity and sales. Therefore, people should take more vacations, right? Nope – there is no happiness gain after vacation if there was moderate to high travel-related stress.

  • Stress involved with managing transportation, trying to deal with details while on the trip, unfamiliarity with the location, and lack of feeling safe all contributed to travelers feeling less happy and more stressed, and they had lower energy at work after the average vacation.
  • Travel does not lower happiness when you return to work — travel stress does.
  • The happiness level of users increased the further the Tweet was geotagged from the user’s home.
Restaurant in Madrid, Spain

Restaurant in Madrid, Spain (Christine Lai)

DISAPPEARING BRITISH PUB: Save an endangered species – the pub. Changing economics and shifting tastes have claimed roughly 1 out of 5 pubs during the last two decades in Britain. Since the 2008 financial crisis, 7,000 have shut, leaving some small communities confronting unthinkable: life without a “local,” as pubs are known.

  • Antismoking laws are keeping smokers away. Cut-price beer for sale at supermarkets is eating into business. In London, the upward spiral of real estate prices has made pubs attractive targets for developers.
  • New legislation is letting people petition to have a pub designated an “asset of community value.” The status provides a degree of protection from demolition and helps community groups buy pubs themselves. Roughly 300 others have followed suit.

BYE BYE SPANISH SIESTA: Even as people in some countries are preparing for bed, the Spanish evening is usually beginning at 10, with dinner often being served and prime-time television shows starting (and not ending until after 1 a.m.). Nearly a quarter of Spain’s population is watching television between midnight and 1 a.m.

With the economic downturn and the search of a more efficient culture, the Spanish government is truncating siesta to 1 hour, and the elastic Spanish working day would be replaced by something closer to a 9-to-5 timetable.

Divorcing Faith, Women, and Relationships

Curated by CLAI

LOVE & WOMEN: Love consists of overestimating the difference between one woman and another. – George Bernard Shaw

RELATIONSHIPS AS JOBS: Relationships are hard. It’s like a full-time job, and we should treat it like one. If your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to leave you, they should give you two weeks’ notice. There should be severance pay and before they leave you, they should have to find you a temp. – Bob Ettinger

Jewish Divorce

Jewish Divorce (Patrick Leger, NYTIMES)

JEWISH DIVORCE: I stayed inside. I followed the rules. I got engaged at the age of 22, after a blind date and a dozen weeks of dating. I was a senior in college, he in law school. We were of the same world, and fell quickly, easily in love. Nowhere was there room to say, I don’t yet know myself, let alone you.

Years later, the people who had shouted “mazel tov” at our wedding asked “What happened?” They wanted to hear the black and white explanation, not about the myriad shades of experience that move people apart. To get divorced was to shatter the wishful belief that to be Orthodox was to shield yourself from the discontent and disappointment that invaded marriages in the outside world.

“It’s a new beginning,” the rabbi told me, kindly. “Don’t look back. Go forth, become the person you need to be.”

Microhousing, 3D Mapping, and Glassholes

Curated by CLAI

MICRO-HOUSING: 144 square feet houses (~Chevrolet Suburban) for the poor like the Quixote Village was proposed for NYC. Construction can cost ~$19K per unit. Showers, laundry and a shared kitchen have been concentrated in a community center. The typical studio apartment for a homeless adult in western Washington costs between $200,000 and $250,000 to build.


Microapartment (Jeremy Bittermann, NYTIMES)

GOOGLE PROJECT TANGO: The prototype phone, a 5-inch device codenamed Project Tango. Its sensors can read a room by tracking the motion of the device itself and simultaneously mapping the environment around it. Uses include: (1) Shopping – indoor map of store or buying furniture for your house, (2) Directions, (3) Visual Impaired, (4) Emergency Response, (5) Augmented Reality Gaming.

GLASSHOLE: Google released do’s and don’ts on how not to be creepy with the Google Glass. “Standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass is not going to win you any friends.”

Game Addiction, Smartphones, Sleep

Curated by CLAI

GAME ADDICTION: How can we make games addictive — and how we might use video games to make our minds stronger, faster and healthier? We might develop games to treat depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Or games that rewire our brains to improve memory and cognitive function. Maybe 5 years from now, you go to the doctor with a problem and he prescribes an F.D.A.-approved video game to play for two weeks.

  • Sometimes, games just seem unwinnable. Turns out, that helps explain why we keep playing them and try so hard to win. As we play them, we’re trying to fix something. In Candy Crush, for example, you can buy more lives; in Dots, you can buy more time. ‘If I can just get this bird past these pipes, I’ll fix it. I’ll save that little bird, and everything will be O.K. in the world.’
  • Those who play first-person shooter video games for two weeks can improve visual attention, mental reasoning and decision-making skills. Surgeons who played video games were 27% faster and made 37% fewer mistakes than nongamers during laparoscopic surgeries. Playing Tetris for extended periods may increase memory and cognitive skills.
Alarm Clock

Alarm Clock (Nick Bilton, NYTIMES)

SMARTPHONE ALARM CLOCKS: Banish cellphones from the bedroom? It’s a very slippery slope, once you’ve picked up your phone, to see what time it is, to checking your email, to lying awake with anxiety. Smartphones in the bedroom have led to a rise in sleep-related complaints from patients. For people I see in their 20s and 30s, the phone is becoming a more common contributing factor to insomnia.

MOBILE WIKIPEDIA: The shift to mobile away from desktops could pose long-term problems for Wikipedia for free contributing writers and editors. The mobile phone is not a great input device — especially a smaller phone.

Young & Old Happiness, Finding Wine, and American Chinese Food

Curated by CLAI

YOUNG v. OLD HAPPINESS: When we’re young and believe we have a long future ahead, we prefer extraordinary experiences outside the realm of our day-to-day routines. But when we’re older and believe that our time is limited, we put more value on ordinary experiences, the stuff of which our daily lives are made.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Wadi Rum, Jordan (Credits: Christine Lai)

  • Why? For young people trying to figure out who they want to become, extraordinary experiences help establish personal identities and are therefore prized. As people become more settled, ordinary experiences become central to a sense of self and therefore more valued.
  • People aged 18 to 79 were asked to recall an experience that was extraordinary or ordinary, and then asked them to rate their emotional responses. The conclusion: happiness derived from extraordinary experiences remained fairly constant, but pleasure from ordinary experiences increased as people got older.
  • Perception of happiness changes over time, with younger people feeling more rewarded by feeling excited and older adults getting a bigger boost of satisfaction from peace and calm. Older adults’ sense that time is limited alters their emotional perspective, causing them to invest energy in what is most meaningful to them.

FINDING THE WINE YOU WANT: Wine distribution in the United States is regulated by an irrational patchwork of laws. Also, small producers often create wines that are more intriguing and distinctive but less available. Factor in that wine shops have many different rationales for how they put together their inventories, and you have a complicated Venn diagram with scores of different circles and few points of intersection. But the simple solution — choosing only wines that are easy to find — is worse than the problem.

AMERICAN CHINESE FOOD? Americans like American Chinese food – not Chinese food. Chinese immigrants created it over time, adapting recipes with U.S. ingredients to appeal to American palates. American expatriates who grew up with popular takeout dishes like General Tso’s chicken can’t find it in China because it essentially doesn’t exist. White cardboard takeout boxes with wire handles and red pagodas on the side are ubiquitous in America, they are known to Chinese only through scenes in Hollywood movies.