Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘lessons’ Category

Everyday Lessons Learned: December 2011, Week 4

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Here’s to the end of 2011. It’s been quite a busy and eventful year. I’m pleased with how I’ve been able to keep up with posting what I’ve learned every day, even if I didn’t keep track in June (posting instead about my trip to Korea). One blogging tip I have – especially for longer term projects like my “Everyday Lessons Learned” – is to set aside time to post. Otherwise it’s easy to forget and realize that you’ve fallen behind. If you set a personal schedule of posting and set yourself to it, it’s not hard to keep a blog active.

Baltimore for Kinetic Sculpture Race

22: This year was the first year in over 3 decades in which we sentenced fewer than 100 people to death row. From a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, as reported on NPR’s Morning Edition. Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, says one factor in this is crime rates:

This year the murder rate fell to where it was in the 1960s, meaning there are fewer people to charge with capital murder. That’s an enormous drop from the 1990s — when the U.S. executed more inmates than in at least half a century.

23: Did anyone else attempt to read the dictionary as a kid? I’m reminded of my short-lived attempt to read (not necessarily memorize) every word in the dictionary when I see this list of words David Foster Wallace copied out of a dictionary. My bookmark while I read DFW’s Infinite Jest was a sheet of paper on which I wrote all the words he used that I didn’t know the meaning of.

24: Together with the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) forms the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the United States.  It’s 3,100 mile long, and runs along part of the North American Continental Divide. A thru-hike (a complete hike of the entire trail from end-to-end) of the CDT takes around six months at a pace of 17 miles/day. Add that one to your bucket list.
East Coast Greenway Overview Map

25: The East Coast Greenway (ECG) is a 2,500-mile, car-free path planned to go from Calais, Maine to Key West Florida, spanning huge distances with a continuous path. Currently over 25% is already on paths free of motorized vehicles, and the rest consists of interim on-road routes while the rest of the paths are being constructed. The goal for the ECG is to link all the major cities along the way, creating a safe way to travel by non-motorized means between these places on the eastern seaboard.

26: Some of the benefits to having a green roof:

There are many benefits to a green roof including a decrease in heating and cooling costs, which in turn mitigates the urban heat island effect. Other benefits include a natural filter for rain water, an increase in the life span of the roof, a natural habitat for animals and plants and a reduction in dust and smog levels. (via ArchDaily)

27: Detroit is planning a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will span 110 miles with these dedicated bus lanes. This would make Detroit’s BRT system the largest in the United States. (The largest in the world is currently Jakarta’s TransJakarta BRT system.) Stephanie Lotshaw at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy says that all current BRT systems in the U.S. are under 20 miles.

28: As described in the New Yorker, the Pitch Drop Experiment is the world’s longest running lab experiment, in which University of Queensland physics professor Thomas Parnell poured hot pitch into a glass funnel, tracking how long it would take for a drop to fall. It look eight years for the first drop of pitch to fall, another nine for the second drop, and so far there have been eight drops. The professor currently overseeing the experiment, John Mainstone, predicts the next drop will occur in 2013 – no one has yet witnessed the actual occurrence of a falling drop.

29: Layaway programs are regaining popularity in America with the depressed economy. These allow shoppers to make payments on the full price of a product, only getting the product once it’s paid off. However, there’s usually a $5 service fee, which means that it would typically cost more to buy something on layaway. The option of paying for things on layaway has recently returned to Walmart. Some of the appeal of layaway is that it forces you to put money aside for a specific product, rather than spending it elsewhere, especially because of the sunk cost of the service fee and the extra fee for cancellation if the shopper doesn’t make all the payments.

30: The Teapot Dome Scandal was an incident considered the greatest scandal in American politics, before Watergate. In 1922, during President Harding’s administration, the Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall accepted huge bribes from oil companies to grant them production rights without competitive bidding at Teapot Dome, an oil field in Wyoming. Fall was the first Presidential cabinet member to be imprisoned for his actions while in office.

31: Just to come back around: In 2011, Arlington may have had its first year since the 1950s without a single murder. DC’s also experiencing a decline in murders.
Virginia Train Tracks

For some other notes in the year-end roundup, keep reading.

Traffic to my blog grew by more than 65% over last year.

Most-read posts on Aesthetics of Everywhere from 2011:

  1. Everyday Lessons Learned: May 2011, Week 3
  2. T-money for transport and more in Seoul
  3. Spa Land in Centum City, Busan (and this one I just typed out quickly on my iPod)
  4. Seersucker Social 2011 Photos
  5. “Hamtdaa: Together” at Artisphere

Cheers to the New Year! Make 2012 count.

Written by Crystal Bae

January 2nd, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: December 2011, Weeks 2 and 3

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Projects abound these last few weeks. I keep forgetting it’s nearing that time to stop and take a break.

8: There are a variety of ways that allergists test for allergies. Allergy specialists use skin tests or blood tests to test the patient against suspected allergens, and several are usually tested at the same time.

9: Vacation photos of hotels can often be misleading. Check out Oyster’s Photo Fakeouts for some particularly exaggerated ones.

10: Random Hacks of Kindness is a hackathon devoted to creating software solutions focused on disaster risk and response. Programmers assemble in groups all over the world to work on projects like raising awareness of emergency hydrants in San Francisco or this analysis of health facilities distribution in Haiti.

11: Google has a product called Fusion Tables that allows you to import your data and map it fairly quickly. Somehow I missed when this came out, even though I’m a geek about making maps. I’ve played around with the sample and though Fusion Tables isn’t what I’d call a great product yet (it’s still in beta), it’s certainly nice to see the act of mapping data simplified and opened up to the masses. See examples here.

12: In September 2006, the mayor of São Paulo banned all outdoor advertising in the city – to include billboards, flyers, ads on buses, and other forms of “visual pollution.” This Clean City law was a move intended to wash away all the garish adverts that covered virtually every surface and increase quality of life for those in São Paulo. For some thoughts on how effective this has been, see the responses on Quora.

13: The Cupertino effect is a widespread error in texts of a certain time period that originated with spell-checking software. When the word “cooperation” (without a dash between “co” and “operation”) was typed on an older computer, the word would auto-correct to “Cupertino”, a word that was commonly found in the spell-checker’s dictionary.

14: A talk by Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice, always an entertaining topic. “The way in which we value things depends on what we compare them to.”

LuminAID light pillow15: The LuminAID is a solar-powered inflatable LED light designed by two Columbia University graduates, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta. It’s lightweight and waterproof, making it ideal for disaster relief. They also position the LuminAID as “a cheaper, safer alternative to kerosene lamps.”

16: Apparently there’s a language fad among female college students called vocal fry, a kind of “creaky” sounding voice. Hear an example here. But be warned, this is one of those things where once you hear it, you’ll start to hear it everywhere.

17: Read “The Movie Set That Ate Itself” and just try not to think about The Truman Show. Director Ilya Khrzhanovsky began a mock town inside of Kharkov, Ukraine, placing cameras all around this set and making it home to over 210,000 cast and crew members for six years. They’re recorded 24 hours a day, living out their roles. This is for his film Dau, and filming is scheduled to end in 2012. If anything, it’s an undertaking.

18: Composting your food waste has benefits for the environment, because less organic matter that ends up in landfills means less methane gas produced by the landfill. Currently about 98% of America’s food waste goes to landfills according to the EPA. Reduction of food waste is even more essential, as America wastes 27% of the food available for consumption – around 30 million tons of food each year.

19: An amazing story from a researcher conducting ethnographic fieldwork in China: Street Vendor Life in China.

20: Get geeky with these 3D pixelated animals by artist Shawn Smith. He uses balsa wood which he cuts to length and paints, arranging each ‘pixel’ to form these striking figures.

“For the past few years, I have been creating a series of ‘Re-things.’ These whimsical sculptures represent pixelated animals and objects of nature. I am specifically interested in subjects that I have never seen in real life.” (via Colossal)

21: Though I am planning a round-up of great end-of-year lists, The Atlantic’s In Focus series of photos from 2011 is especially noteworthy: The Year in Photos (Part 1 of 3)

Written by Crystal Bae

December 21st, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: December 2011, Week 1

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Already a week into December, and I’m not looking forward to the holiday shopping season – I work near a mall, meaning traffic is nearly at a standstill for the last few weeks of the month. Fortunately, in December there are also a lot of distractions in the form of festive parties and visiting friends.

Things I’ve learned in the past week:

1. Dr. Cornel West is an inspiration. He could convince anybody to devote their life to activism.

2. Ever thought about regionally-specific hand gestures? I hadn’t until a friend from Michigan taught me what a Michigan hug is: two friends press their palms together and wrap their thumbs around each other’s hand. There’s another where you just greet each other by repeatedly slapping each others’ hands as if they were trouts flopping on land. And even more strangely, there’s such a thing as hand-based cartography.

Please Keep Hands Off Doors - NYC Subway

3: Bikram yoga, or “hot yoga” as it’s commonly called, is a highly-regulated form of yoga in which the room is heated to precisely 105 degrees Fahrenheit and its practitioners aren’t allowed to take even a sip of water during the 90 minute session. This is because Bikram yoga is copyrighted by its founder, Bikram Choudhury, who has sued a number of yoga schools and instructors for deviating from his method of practice when teaching Bikram.

4: Stop signs are fairly similar throughout the world, with the United States and many European countries abiding by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD). There are a number of interesting differences between stop signs worldwide, collected on the Wikipedia entry for Stop sign.

5: Here’s a great primer about map design: “Web cartography… That’s like Google Maps, right?” (Via Axis Maps blog.)

6: Work at a job that has you looking at a computer screen all day? You can do things like dim your screen or turn up the brightness of the room’s lights to help keep your eyes healthy. As long as the ambient light in the room is brighter than the computer’s screens, your eyes should be fine. Try to minimize the glare on your computer screen as well. I’ve also heard you should occasionally focus on something far away from you, because if you spend a prolonged period of time focusing on close things, you may cause yourself eye strain.

7: In Silicon Valley, California (and maybe elsewhere), it’s common for people who want to start start-ups to go on co-founder dates. Before diving into a new venture, it’s important to try to minimize your risk by judging whether your potential co-founder’s personality and skill set complement yours.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 8th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: November 2011, Week 4

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Louise Bourgeoise Spider

22: A third of all restaurant searches on Google are made on a mobile device. Seems obvious, since people are usually looking for directions or perhaps reading Yelp reviews on their way there, but it’s important to think about if you’re looking to improve your restaurant’s visibility in search results.

23: A good question: How much tech should be allowed in competitive sports?

24: Art has the power to transform lives. See some of the artist JR’s work, especially his famous mural of women’s eyes in Rio de Janiero’s oldest favela. He’s done a similar project in Kibera, Nairobi.

25: Urban planning in Africa still largely follows adopted models from the global north that often don’t apply to African cities. Urbanized areas in Africa need to be assessed according to their own needs. That is the aim of the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS), an organization that seeks to reform Africa’s urban planning education. Nancy Odendaal, project coordinator of AAPS, explains that the colonial planning strategy that is traditionally taught “simply does not have the built-in flexibility to accommodate the diversity of livelihoods pursued in a typical African city. Conventional urban plans typically criminalize the informal economy, for example, where street vendors are harassed by police and have their incomes curtailed.” Therefore it’s important to understand the unique features and issues associated with each place. An African city should not be designed to imitate the cities of British tradition (or otherwise).

Hiking in Toubkal, Morocco

26: Starlings, when they talk, are pretty creepy. They’re loud and spend a lot of time mimicking sounds, including human speech.

27: The Where’s George bill-tracking data is available online. Where’s George is a long-running project to track the movement of dollar bills as they exchange hands throughout the nation. The dollar value of all the tracked bills totals over $1 billion.

28: Cycling more just makes sense. Commuting by bicycle costs less in dollar spend, but takes more of your time. You can think of that extra time spent as an investment in your health. I have a coworker who used to ride his bike two hours a day to work – now that’s active transport. Via Streetsblog, “Can America Afford Not to Bike More?

29: Map Kibera is a project to map one of Nairobi’s largest slums. The central goals of this crowdsourced effort, as outlined in the Map Kibera proposal, are:

  • Raise general awareness of the living conditions in Kibera by mapping, as much as possible the extents of navigable streets and other mappable features within the informal settlement.
  • Catalyze the local community and expand the capabilities local participatory mapping, expanding previous work and initiating mapping parties within Africa starting with Kibera.
  • Test the licensing mechanisms of multiple mapping platforms by making raw data freely available and uploading that data into multiple systems.

30: A toy that has seen more of the country than I have, in the cross-country adventure Address is Approximate by Tom Jenkins. (Navigation using Google Maps Street View.)

Written by Crystal Bae

November 30th, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: November 2011, Weeks 2 and 3

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Lots of topics the past two weeks about cool research. I’m deep in data these days, so it’s seeping into all of my thoughts…

8: Before the concept of homesickness came around in the 1750s, it was known as nostalgia and categorized as a medical condition – deaths could be attributed to this condition. Francesca Mari reviews Homesickness: An American History: “By two years in, two thousand soldiers had been diagnosed with nostalgia, and in the year 1865, twenty-four white Union soldiers and sixteen black ones died from it.”

9: A mondegreen is a mishearing of a spoken phrase that results in a more interesting take on the intended phrase. Here’s the origin of the mondegreen:

The term “mondegreen” was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines “They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen.” As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn’t realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: “They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green.” (Source)

10: New research suggests that the middle class eats the most fast food – not the poor.

11: It’s no secret that bicycling keeps you fit. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that if residents of 11 Midwestern cities ran just half of their short-distance errands by bicycle for four months out of the year, it would save at least $3.8 billion from avoided mortality and reduced health-care costs, and lower the number of annual deaths by 1,100. Results of the study are posted here.

12: Natural Language Processing: Where linguistics meets computers. Check out some of the work by the Stanford Natural Language Processing Group here.

13: The debate around climate change has changed markedly in recent years. A Harris poll in 2007 estimated that 71% of Americans believed burning fossil fuels led to climate change. That number was only 51% two years later, and then dropped further to 44% by June 2011. But this shift in belief has been very one-sided: 70-75% of self-identified Democrats and liberals believe in climate change, while only about 20% of self-identified Republicans do. (The Nation)

14: Mexico City’s Metro officials reported that 23 to 35 people fall into train pits each year. Mexico City is working to install platform barriers in its stations, starting with just two of their busiest stations (due to budget constraints). From The Atlantic Cities blog.

15: A law student in Austria, Max Schrems, requested his Facebook data – and received a CD with a 1,222-page long PDF of his personal information including deleted private messages.

16: Number of people who have disappeared from cruise ships in the past decade? 171. And 19 people have already gone missing this year alone. Because cruise ships tread murky international waters, and it’s often not possible to stop the ship to search for a person fallen overboard, and there’s also a high incidence of suicide on cruises, many cases are unresolved. It’s true, some are likely to be on-board murders. It’s in the cruise industry’s interests to quiet any of these disappearances. The eerie story of Rebecca Coriam, the first public disappearance from a Disney cruise, is recounted in The Guardian.

17: Apples go through a trial by fire kind of process when they’re bred; the process is narrated in John Seabrook’s piece in the November 21 issue of the New Yorker, “Crunch.” This story’s a lot more compelling than it sounds at first. For instance, did you know that apples are often selected over time for their redness, despite the fact that the redder apples have less flavor? It’s called “red drift” – retailers believe customers buy with their eyes, so growers tend to select for redness while sacrificing taste. An all-red apple also hides its cosmetic defects better, meaning more of your apples will be sold.

18: The Love Parade Stampede was an incident in Duisberg, Germany, on July 24, 2010 in which 21 people were trampled to death and over 500 were injured in the underpassthat led to the Love Parade music festival area. This was the only entrance and exit, and long after the stage area had filled up past capacity, people were attempting to enter through this tunnel. Those who were already in the main festival area had no way of exiting, with the masses of people pressing forward to get in. I first saw video footage of this horrifying scene in the crowd-sourced documentary Life in a Day, which records the happenings of a single day as experienced by people all over the world. Al Jazeera coverage shows footage of the event.

19: Pierogies are made in essentially the same way as Korean mandu (dumplings), except the filling’s a bit different and you add sour cream to the flour. Our first batch came out decent, though the process was kind of long. It’s a learning process. I’d say every culture has their own form of dumplings – one of my favorite things to do at family gatherings is sit around with my mother and grandmother and form the mandu by hand, adding special flourishes to mark them as yours (like signing a work of art).

20: There’s a proposed plan to turn an abandoned trolley terminal in NYC’s Lower East Side into an underground public park: Delancey Underground, or “the LowLine”. It’d be like the subterranean equivalent of the High Line.

21: According to XKCD’s notes on the Money Chart, the EPA’s current dollar value on a human life is $8.4 million. Go spend some time exploring that chart.

Hope everyone enjoys their few days of rest and feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

Written by Crystal Bae

November 21st, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: October 2011, Weeks 3 and 4

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The theme of the week is: mind control. And food, as usual.

15: Research by the Yale psychology department a few years ago found that the most persuasive word in marketing to consumers was the word You. The other most convincing words were: MoneySaveNewResultsHealthEasySafetyLoveDiscoveryProven, and Guarantee.

16: During a recession, teeth-grinding goes up; shark attacks go down. Teeth-grinding, or bruxism, is often triggered by daily stress, which increases during periods of financial stress. As this often occurs at night, it’s difficult for a person to control (that’s if they even know they’re doing it). And why fewer shark attacks? Fewer vacationers.

17: Less time for play might be causing today’s children to grow up more anxious and depressed. There’s no question that unstructured play time is essential for proper mental development in children, and psychology professor Peter Gray believes it’s even linked to rates of clinical depression and suicide.

18: The body of a dead whale can itself sustain a complex underwater ecosystem as it decomposes. The process of decomposition takes something like 50 years, meaning the whale’s dead body sustains life for around the same length of time as it was alive. A whale carcass that has fallen to the ocean floor is called a whale fall, and certain species have only been discovered at whale falls.

19: Corning is a glass company that is the manufacturer of Gorilla Glass (which protects smartphone touch screens), along with other specialty glass. I recognize the company from their very well directed, futuristic advertisement, “A Day Made of Glass” – meaning their advertising is pretty effective.

20: A vigilante group in Veracruz targets drug cartels.

Romanesco Cauliflower21: The Romanesco cauliflower is a broccoli-cauliflower hybrid. See image at left. It’s a naturally occurring fractal. Nature and math are awesome.

22: More math! I don’t think I can explain this better, but read on because it’s fascinating: NYC water towers (via kottke).

23: The jackalope is an imaginary creature that resembles a giant rabbit with antlers. Sad about the imaginary part.

24: Tacos are an amazing food, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Especially for breakfast. Anybody know a good place to get a breakfast taco in Washington, DC?

25: Zombies = big business.

26: Rodízio is a style of Brazilian dining in which the waiters bring skewers of meat (or other foods) around to each of the tables, and the diners choose how much to receive. The meal is prix fixe, so one flat fee will get you as you want to eat.

27: The Occupy Wall Street movement has an app for informing those who need to know that you’re getting arrested.

28: Focusing one’s attention is a more daunting task than it seems – our brains receive over 1 billion pieces of information a second, but we can only consciously process about 40 pieces of information at a time.

29: The true size of Africa in relation to other countries: Top 100 Countries by Area.

30: I like these somewhat random finds. History of the Chinese Actuarial Profession, by Xie Z.

31: You can learn a lot about your neighborhood by sitting on your stoop/porch/stairs and greeting the people who go by.

Happy November, now. This entry’s shorter than usual because I’ve been swamped with work and moving house. Fall moving right into winter.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 1st, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: October 2011, Week 2

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8: The Alamo was a mission in modern-day Texas built by the Spanish empire in the 18th century, though it is better remembered as the site of an important battle in the Texas Revolution to gain independence from Mexico. Though the siege by Mexican troops on the Alamo ended in defeat, many joined the forces fighting for independence afterwards, under the rallying cry “Remember the Alamo!

9: Familiar with the great Velib’ bike-sharing system in Paris? The French are at it again with the launch of Autolib’, a car sharing program with all electric vehicles. It’s run similarly to Zipcar – pay a yearly membership fee then rent the car by the hour when you need it with a small cost for each rental. Hopefully it leads a lot of Parisian drivers to ditch their cars. The lower environmental impact and energy savings spell progress in our relationship to driving; the Bluecars of the Autolib’ program seat 4 and are zero emission. (NYT)

By Vasco Mourao

10: Check out this fun infographic of ingredient pairings created by David McCandless and Willow Tyrer using data from over 1,000 recipes: Taste Buds (clever title!)

11: Tightly-knit communities tend to fare better in most of the quality-of-life indicators that have been studied, but research by two sociologists in Louisiana have found that in communities where people have stronger attachments to each other, disasters may be, well, even more disastrous. Read more at The Atlantic‘s Cities blog.

12: From 6 billion people on the planet 12 years ago to 7 billion (on October 31, 2011), a lot has changed.

Oil prices shot from a low of $13 a barrel in 1999 to $113 a barrel earlier this year, and they’re now hovering around $86. The prices of grains and other essential foodstuffs have more than doubled. Hunger and severe poverty have made a comeback. The fight against climate change has been nearly abandoned. The global economy has been battered. Economic development assistance has fallen short of expectations. Water scarcity and resource limitations have grown more acute. And the transition to a green economy has not been as swift as many hoped. In the meantime, world population keeps on growing with no end in sight. If fertility rates don’t continue to fall, population could soar as high as 15 billion by the end of this century.

It’s a scary thought, so there’s your Halloween gift. (Via Grist)

13: Plant a tree to raise your property value? A study by the U.S. Forest Service shows a positive correlation between number of trees on a property and the property value.

In personal news, I’m moving to Bloomingdale (the neighborhood in DC) at the end of this month, which I’m very excited about even though I’ll have a longer commute. I’m also going to Austin, Texas for the first time next weekend! It’ll be my first time in Austin and my first time in Texas.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 14th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: October 2011, Week 1

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A lot of moving and shaking this month. Let’s make things happen and learn something new every day. Here’s what I’ve learned on each day of the first week of October.

1: East African elephants are terrified of bees, and will emit a rumble as an alarm call in response to the sound of the African bees.  Science Magazine reports that this is the known finding of an alarm call amongst elephants.

2: Who knew watching paint dry could be this entertaining? Watch Pipe Plant by Sasha Aleksandrov.

Ghost city in Chenggong - 10,000 empty apartments.3: China is absolutely riddled with what are known as ghost cities – entire cities devoid of residents – which if occupied could house over 200 million people. Some photos from Quora user Brian Roemmele help drive this point home. Nevertheless, China continues to build at the rate of something like 16 new cities per year, many of which lack the most essential resource to a city: its people.

4: HTML microdata is information about a web page that can be added to reduce ambiguity by providing semantic meaning to online search results. Schema.org provides guidelines on how to markup your web content using microdata. The benefit to doing this is that it indexes your web pages more accurately by the major search engines, like Google and Bing.

5: Because of the way English bulldogs been bred to select for certain traits, such as their wide shoulders and narrow hips, they are unable to reproduce naturally. They require artificial insemination and a cesarean section to give birth. This intensive breeding process also makes them expensive dogs to purchase.

6: You can sign documents electronically. It’s likely that I knew vaguely that this was possible, but I’ve never e-signed a document before and it was exciting to see how simple the process is. They’re legally treated the same as regular signatures in the U.S.

7: Pasta carbonara involves a specific process of cooking with an egg. I assumed it referred to a type of sauce, but real carbonara involves a raw egg that needs to be handled in a way as not to clump up or overcook when it’s added. The egg is added after the pasta is cooked and drained – it’s cooked by the residual heat of the pasta. After looking through a few recipes, I’ll try my hand at making this soon.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 9th, 2011 at 6:56 am

Everyday Lessons Learned: September 2011, Weeks 3 and 4

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Somehow these last couple of weeks have been even busier than the week before! Sorry for the delay in posting – here are the things I’ve learned every day for the past two weeks. Any cool new knowledge you’ve picked up lately?

16: In many places, we’re pumping groundwater faster than it can be replenished – in certain parts of the Ogallala Aquifer, for example, groundwater is being pumped 20x faster than the aquifer can be replenished. This can result in a lower elevation of the ground surface in the surrounding area.

Men riding high-wheeled bicycles, from the Smithsonian Archives17: The penny-farthing bicycle was named for this early bike’s resemblance to two coins sitting side by side – the larger penny and the smaller farthing, which was worth 1/4 of a penny or 1/960th of a pound sterling. (Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling by Christopher Koelle)

18: The Kyopo Project by artist CYJO, on exhibit until October 14, 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery in DC, explores the variety of experiences of Korean-Americans. The term ‘kyopo’ refers to a Korean who grew up outside of Korea. Well worth visiting!

19: At one point in time, you could send children through the post. Unbelievable? Well, there are stories of at least a couple of instances

20: We’re primed to spend more when we go shopping through a number of psychological techniques that aren’t immediately obvious to most of us. Martin Lindstrom explains a few of these with the example of the Whole Foods grocery stores. Those flowers by the front entrance? Unconscious to you, their presence plants the thought of freshness in your mind, since they are so short-lived and perishable. The drops of water continually misted onto the fruits and veggies? They also call up the idea of freshness, though the extra water causes the fruits and vegetables to go bad more quickly. Lindstrom is the author of a book called Brandwashed that discusses more of these techniques of manipulation that marketers employ so effectively.

21: In New Orleans, all-day parties called boucheries are held in backyards and will often involve cooking up an entire pig – every part, including the blood, as Anthony Bourdain discovered on No Reservations.

Rubber Shelves - Luke Hart for The Sculpture House22: Don’t wear herringbones, houndstooth or small plaids on-air. These patterns don’t capture well on TV cameras: they appear to ‘dance’ around because of the moiré effect.

23: This is probably an obvious fact to many, but South Korea has the fastest Internet speeds in the world – averaging 17.62 Mbps. The United States is in 26th place, with an average speed of 4.93 Mbps. (From a study by Pando Networks)

24: Steeling is the process of re-aligning the edge of your kitchen knife to keep it sharp. Honing steels are the steel rods that are used to hone the blade edge, and ideally, this should be done every time you use the knife.

25: Here’s a neat website called Inconspicuous Consumption – recommended for those interested in sociology, consumer culture, or product design.

26: Mosquitoes can be attracted to you by many cues, including the carbon dioxide in your breath, skin chemicals such as lactic acid, or body temperature. Basically, if you’re a breathing and sweating human being, you’re a target – though certain people seem to naturally attract more mosquitoes than others. Personally, I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes lately and wouldn’t mind if autumn settled in quickly.

27: Science explains: how a riderless bicycle can steer itself! Hint: it’s physics. However, the research of Andy Ruina and Jim Papadopoulos on gyroscopic torques and trail has found that these are not required to have a self-steering bicycle, as was commonly believed.

28: Eating three meals a day didn’t become the norm in the United States until as late as the 20th century. Dinner used to be the meal served at home around the early afternoon, but was moved into the evening as cities grew and more people worked further from home; the lighter mid-day meal then became known as lunch.

29: Incredible photos from the mass games in North Korea by Sam Gellman. Via Wikipedia: “Today, mass games are regularly performed only in North Korea, where they take place to celebrate national holidays such as the birthdays of rulers Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.”

30: We’re not the only office who decided to put our geekiness on display to the world around us with Post-It Space Invaders and Mario scenes on our windows. Check out Post-It War, a project out of France.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 1st, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: September 2011, Week 2

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It’s been a busy week. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past few days.

08: Specific to Washington, DC… DCist explains ghost buses! Ghost buses are those ones that seem to disappear off the NextBus online tracker (which uses GPS data for Metrobuses). The explanation is that not all of the buses are GPS-enabled, therefore some of the NextBus ‘tracked’ buses are simply predictions. There may be a specific bus that was scheduled for that time, but for whatever reason it never ran. So then there’s you, wondering why you’re standing at the bus stop with a prediction for “Arriving” with no bus in sight.

09: Here is probably the most plain-language explanation of your health plan: Health Savings Plans: Making Sense of HSAs, HRAs, and FSAs Unless, of course, you’re part of the 16.7% of Americans who are uninsured.

10: Go read this long-form story, On Change in India by Siddhartha Deb. It’s hard to point to a “lesson” here.

11: David Choe has a very entertaining documentary called Thumbs Up! about his adventures hitchhiking. He explores a lot of desolate places, plays a tiny travel drum set, and meets many people along the way.

'All back to dust' by Jiang Pengyi12: Jiang Pengyi makes miniature stills of the demolition and urbanization in Beijing. See image at left; click to see more.

13: Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. It explains why many buildings don’t have a 13th floor (by name), instead numbering their floors from 1-12, skipping 13, then 14 on. This is true of many residential buildings and of my office building. Also, interesting to note that the 13th floor of hospitals is usually mechanical.

14: There’s a WiFi-free zone in the mountains of West Virginia, where people who have a debilitating fear of electromagnetic radiation go to live, as wireless technology is banned by law there. Here is an excerpt from the article:

The wireless association, CTIA, says that scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that wireless devices, with the limits established by government regulators, do not pose a public health risk or cause any adverse health effects.

And the World Health Organization, while acknowledging that the symptoms are genuine and can be severe, says: “EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem.” (BBC News)

15: The biggest dam removal project in history, on the Elwha River in Washington, begins this week. Via Matador Network.

Written by Crystal Bae

September 15th, 2011 at 9:18 pm