How Traffic Actually Works

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Jason Liszka:

Every so often this article makes the rounds and it annoys me. That isn’t how traffic works and the proposed solutions won’t fix anything. Maybe you can eliminate the annoying stop-and-go, but no one gets home any faster. In fact you can prove that you and everyone behind you get home strictly later than if you had just gone along with the stop-and-go traffic.

[…]

The important fact: there is a limit to the number of cars that can pass by a given point on the highway in a given amount of time, and that limit is one car every 2 seconds, per lane.

Liszka discusses the role of merging, bottlenecks, and catastrophe. He even includes code for a model of traffic flow.


HappyPlace on an awesome letter written by a young boy, Flint, to a local meteorologist who visited his school:

If Flint grows up to be a local TV weatherman, we are immediately packing our bags and moving to that city. Think this kid would settle for just putting a pair of Ray Bans on the sunshine graphic? His sunshine graphic would ride a harley while juggling rescue puppies. Every time a nice day was predicted we’d probably get to see his sunshine graphic disembowel a raincloud graphic with the tusk of a narwhal.

Flint included all of the essential things for an awesome letter: a bacon tuxedo, a cyborg unicorn, and a space shuttle engulfed in flames.

(via: Brian Bridges)


A Tipless Restaurant

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Jay Porter, owner of the Linkery restaurant in San Diego, details his decision to disallow tipping in favor of a flat service charge. Porter’s results show promise and he addresses concerns with his policy:

I can hear your objection now: How could servers be motivated to do a good job without tips?

This is a common question, but it is also a silly question. Servers are motivated to do a good job in the same ways that everyone else is. Servers want to keep their jobs; servers want to get a raise; servers want to be successful and see themselves as professionals and take pride in their work. In any workplace, everyone is required to perform well, and tips have nothing to do with it. The next time you see your doctor, ask her if she wouldn’t do better-quality work if she made minimum wage, with the rest of her income from her patients’ tips. I suspect the answer will be a version of “no.”

Earlier this year I argued for this very system:

Instead of simply adding a service line-item on bills, employers leave it to confused, math-challenged, and often immature customers to decide the service fee. Not only does that eliminate fairness, it leaves employees susceptible to the sexual and racial judgements of their customers. In short, it’s 2013 - tipping as currently constructed is dumb.

It seems, at least in Porter’s anecdotal evidence, that such a system can work. I hope more restaurants switch to a similar model.


Smart Quotes for Smart People

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A good explanation on the correct usage of quotation marks:

“Smart quotes,” the correct quotation marks and apostrophes, are curly or sloped. “Dumb quotes,” or straight quotes, are a vestigial constraint from typewriters when using one key for two different marks helped save space on a keyboard. Unfortunately, many improper marks make their way onto websites because of dumb defaults in applications and CMSs. Luckily, using correct quotation marks and apostrophes today is easier than you think.


Team Martha

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Jeff John Roberts, GigaOm:

Who knew Martha Stewart had it in for patent trolls? The decorating queen’s media empire has filed a lawsuit to crush Lodsys, a shell company that claims the Martha Stewart Weddings iPad app infringes its patents.

Go Martha.


MLB Stadiums To Deploy Apple's iBeacons

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Shane Cole, AppleInsider:

MLB demonstrated the new technology on Thursday at the New York Mets’ Citi Field, showing off several potential applications. Fans who purchase their tickets from MLB could have the tickets’ barcode automatically displayed on their device as they approach the gate, for example, alongside a map of their seat location. Those who visit a concession stand might be given a virtual “point card,” while fans shopping for merchandise can be served coupons upon entering the team store.

This sounds like a cool idea. MLB has done a great job of embracing new technology. Just last year, they were one of the early adopters of Apple’s Passbook. Too bad the same can’t be said of the NFL.


Allison Aubrey, reporting for NPR:

Fast-food giant McDonald’s has made a commitment to stop marketing sodas as a beverage option in kids’ Happy Meals.

Instead, the chain has committed to market and promote only milk, water and juice with the children’s meals.

This is a welcome move, however, the company (and more importantly parents) should be careful about how milk and juice are marketed to children in terms of health.

Here is a brief comparison of the respective nutritional values:

  • Coca-Cola (child size): 100 calories, 28g carbs, 28g sugars
  • Milk (1%): 100 calories, 12g carbs, 12g sugars
  • Chocolate Milk (fat-free): 130 calories, 23g carbs, 22g sugars
  • Apple Juice (box): 100 calories, 23g carbs, 22g sugars

Based on a single serving, cola isn’t substantially worse in terms of calories, carbs, and sugars when compared to most of the other options. Now, I presume one major benefit is that the cola alternatives are not refillable. That’s exactly why portion control and responsibility should be the larger message directed to children. For instance, if a child were to drink a large amount of juice because they believe it is inherently “healthy”, they can still gain weight. Conversely, if a child enjoys a rare single soda in the context of a well-rounded diet, they will be okay. I worry that rebranding juice and milk as “healthy” in the absence of portion control education will do little to curb our current childhood obesity issues. That said, I believe this is a great start from McDonald’s.


Messy Desks

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Gretchen Reynolds, writing for The New York Times:

For some time, psychologists and other researchers have been studying how personality traits affect health and health-related choices. Not surprisingly, they have found that people blessed with innate conscientiousness, meaning that they are organized and predictable, typically eat better and live longer than people who are disorderly. They also tend to have immaculate offices.

What has been less clear is whether neat environments can produce good habits even in those who aren’t necessarily innately conscientious.

I’ve never really thought about this. As my officemates can tell you, the state of my desk’s organization is rather manic. Following the results of this study, however, it seems my desk is an extension of what kind of focus I require on a particular day. In other words, on days that I need regimented focus, my desk must be clean. Conversely, on days when I need creative freedom to solve a problem, my desk goes to hell.


Popular Science Shuts Down Comments

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Suzanne LaBarre:

… because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

I, for one, applaud Popular Science’s decision. Comment sections are largely cesspools of anger and ignorance.

If you have a hard time avoiding the comments below an article, I suggest you follow this wonderful twitter feed for a bit of inspiration.


Forward Thinking

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Sisir Koppaka:

I don’t believe Apple added 64-bit support to iOS 7 and all their apps just to prepare for an eventual transition to 4GB+ memory capacities in future iPhones. I think this was to do with something more impending. Do we know any product category that Apple would be interested in, that would require the use of both iOS and an A-series chip that is 64-bit capable in order to address 4GB+ memory?

Apple TV (the one that is yet to come, not the one that exists).