📰 Inspired Miscellany: A Random Collection of Things I Found of Interest

As I continue to review the collected links, here’s a random collection of articles that I found of interest:

  • Amazon’s streamlined plastic packaging is jamming up recycling centers. One area of interest to me is plastics, and the growing amount of plastics in our waste stream. They are hard to recycle, and even their presence makes things that are normally easy to recycle very difficult (think plastic tape on packaging). This article explores a recent change made by Amazon in their packaging. Amazon is an interesting case, for they require extra packaging as they ship everything. Over the last year, Amazon.com Inc. has reduced the portion of shipments it packs in its cardboard boxes in favor of lightweight plastic mailers, which enable the retailing giant to squeeze more packages into delivery trucks and planes. But environmental activists and waste experts say the new plastic sacks, which aren’t recyclable in curbside recycling bins, are having a negative effect. The problem with the plastic mailers is that they need to be recycled separately, and if they end up in the usual stream, they gum up recycling systems and prevent larger bundles of materials from being recycled.  It’s a really hard question. Cardboard is easier to recycle. But it is heavier, takes up more space, and requires more trucks, which have more environmental impact. Plastic takes less space and less trucks, but is harder to recycle and can contaminate the recycle stream.
  • Why your desk job is so damn exhausting. Think about it: Which is more exhausting: a job that requires physical manual labor, or a desk job behind a computer all day. You would think the former. This articleexplores one of the more hotly contested issues in psychology: What causes mental fatigue? Why is desk work so depleting? It presents the two main hypotheses for why we get so tired from work when we’re not physically active. Hypothesis 1: we get so tired because we deplete an internal store of energy. The problem is, increasingly, psychologists aren’t sure it’s real. Hypothesis 2: we get so tired because our motivation runs out. We become drawn to the things we want to do, rather than the things we have to do. And this tension possibly causes fatigue… and blog posts like this… did I type that with my public fingers?
  • How to Make Your Office More Ergonomically Correct. Here’s another thing that could be making you tired: Your office layout. At the end of last year, I moved offices — meaning a new desk and new monitor support, and it took me a while to make things comfortable. I’m still not 100% sure it is right. This article explores how to ensure that. Remember: About $1 billion a week is spent in the United States to deal with entirely preventable work-related musculoskeletal injuries, many of which are caused by small flaws in body positioning. You can do a surprising amount of damage to your body if you hold parts of it in strange positions for hours at a time, five days a week. But some research suggests that you can also prevent and even reverse damage by engineering your office work environment properly.
  • How to responsibly get rid of the stuff you’ve decluttered. Right now, society is on a decluttering trend. More and more stuff is being removed from closets and houses, and it has to go somewhere. You want it to go to the right place. Last thing you want to do is add it to the trash stream, especially for clothing. This article explores the best way to get rid of different classes of stuff you may be (shall we say) de-accessioning. For us, it will probably be participating in a multi-family estate sale in a few months.
  • Why so many financially independent adults are still on their parents’ phone plans. You would think, as you become financially independent and move out of your parent’s house, that you would financially separate from them. But that doesn’t always happen — and for good reasons. Kids stay on their parent’s health insurance until they are 26 because that’s often much cheaper (especially for insurance you get through work). Often Car Insurance is bundled if it makes financial sense. This article explores the reason that kids are on their parent’s phone plan — and it is often for the same reason: adding an extra line to your phone is much much cheaper than having a separate plan.
  • The periodic tables we almost had. Design is an area that fascinates me. This explores how we got the current design of the periodic table, exploring its evolution over time. It was surprisingly hit and miss, settling down as we began to learn more. But in many ways it is still imprecise, and not an accurate model. I tend to like the “Underground Map of the Elements” m’self.
  • The Aldi effect: how one discount supermarket transformed the way Britain shops. Yes, I know, I’m not in the UK. But this article — which looks at the evolution of Aldi as a market and its expansion into the British market — provides some fascinating insights into the US: especially the difference between Trader Joes (owned by Aldi North), and Aldi (owned by Aldi South). If you don’t know what I mean by Aldi North and Aldi South, you really need to read the article.
  • Community colleges can cost more than universities, leaving neediest students homeless. We’ve all been taught that it is cheaper for students to go to community college than a big university. But what if that is wrong? This article explores why it is wrong — and the answer is interesting. Community colleges do cost less tuition-wise. But because they have lower tuition, they also have lower financial aid — meaning that students get less support in paying for those units. There is also less to no housing aid, meaning students are on their own to find housing. This makes the total cost often higher than a mid-tier state university with aid.
  • Off the chart: the big comeback of paper maps. We often think mapping apps will be the death of paper maps, but that’s not the case. This article explores why. In a time when facts are to be treasured, perhaps paper maps have real significance, recording as they do a version of the truth less susceptible to tampering and fakery. The effects of the digital era on humans’ mental map abilities are becoming apparent. A recent study at the University of Montreal found that some video games that relied on non-spatial strategies could reduce growth in the hippocampus, an all-important region for mental mapping.

 

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