Against Chairs

Why the chair is an unwelcome advance:

No one even knows what a “good” chair would have to do, hypothetically, let alone how to make one. Some ergonomists have argued that the spine should be allowed to round forward and down in a C-shaped position to prevent muscular strain, but this pressurizes the internal organs and can cause spinal discs to rupture over time. Others advocate for lumbar support, but the forced convexity that this creates is not much better in the short run and can be worse in the long: it weakens the musculature of the lumbar region, increasing the likelihood of the very injuries it’s meant to prevent. There are similar debates over seat height, angle and depth; head, foot and arm support; and padding.

Advertisements

From London to Rome in Only 26.4 Days!

This is balls to the walls amazing. Someone put together a transportation map for the Roman Empire which lets you know not only the method of travel but also the cost.


How To Make Oil Out Of Dirt

Fantastic photo essay on how shale oil is produced.

[The trucks are] so large people say they can drive over a Ford F-150 like it’s a ‘speed bump’ — with this shot from outside a mechanic’s shop it’s easy to see what they mean:


Montreal’s Snow Plowing Mafia

The snow plowing business in Montreal is hardcore:

One winter morning a few years ago, a driver steered his snowblower down the streets of a Montreal neighbourhood. It was the day after one of the season’s first snowfalls, and the roads were lined with fresh, white drifts. As usual, the driver’s co-worker walked ahead of the huge vehicle, warning pedestrians to move out of the way, then waving the all-clear. Suddenly, the man on foot signalled frantically for the driver to stop. He’d spotted something half-hidden in a nearby snowbank: a massive steel rod that would have destroyed the machine.

The driver slowed, and his co-worker sighed with relief. But it was already too late. The adjacent snowbanks were filled with concealed cinder blocks, which had smashed against the blower’s internal blades and sent chunks of cement flying all over the sidewalk. The cinder blocks wrecked the blades, costing the vehicle’s owner a minimum of $10,000 in repairs, according to someone associated with the company. The snow removers’ shock quickly turned to rage. This was no accident; they were under attack by industrial saboteurs.


Confessions of an Ex-Ex-Gay

Depressing narrative:

“Are you gay?” she asked. I blurted out that I was.

“I knew it, ever since you were a little boy.”

Her resignation didn’t last long. My mom is a problem solver, and the next day she handed me a stack of papers she had printed out from the Internet about reorientation, or “ex-gay,” therapy. I threw them away. I said I didn’t see how talking about myself in a therapist’s office was going to make me stop liking guys. My mother responded by asking whether I wanted a family, then posed a hypothetical: “If there were a pill you could take that would make you straight, would you take it?”


Cephalopod Intelligence

Octopuses are really damn intelligent, and weird:

Another measure of intelligence: you can count neurons. The common octopus has about 130 million of them in its brain. A human has 100 billion. But this is where things get weird. Three-fifths of an octopus’s neurons are not in the brain; they’re in its arms.

“It is as if each arm has a mind of its own,” says Peter Godfrey-Smith, a diver, professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an admirer of octopuses. For example, researchers who cut off an octopus’s arm (which the octopus can regrow) discovered that not only does the arm crawl away on its own, but if the arm meets a food item, it seizes it—and tries to pass it to where the mouth would be if the arm were still connected to its body.


The Mafia of Naples

A look at one of the most powerful mob bosses of Italy:

And maybe that doesn’t matter. People may wring their hands about the horror of it all, but this is Naples, one of the great alternatives to modern life. It is possible that the world should no more root out the Camorra than make Neapolitans operate on time. And then there is the practical side. An anti-Mafia judge told me that some of the police—even those who have not been corrupted—would rather not see the government prevail, because they fear the even greater disorder that would result. Another judge pointed out to me that the government needs the Camorra for social control. He said, “For a political leader, it’s easier to speak to a Camorra boss than to 100,000 people to get a message across.” More than that, he said: the Camorra sets standards, enforces laws, keeps police power itself in check, fends off aggressive tax collectors, employs a huge percentage of the population, creates and distributes wealth more efficiently than any other sector of society, and stands in to keep things going, especially in times like these, when the national economy has failed and the currency itself is at risk.