Boing Boing 

America's 55-hour work weeks ruin workers' lives and don't produce extra value for employers

Sara Robinson's written an excellent piece on the productivity losses associated with extra-long work-weeks, something that has been established management theory since the time of Ford, but which few employers embrace today. Americans are working longer hours than they have in decades, sacrificing their health, happiness and family lives, and all the data suggests that those extra hours are wasted -- resulting in hourly productivity losses that offsets the additional hours worked. Everybody loses.

It’s a heresy now (good luck convincing your boss of what I’m about to say), but every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive over both the short and the long haul. And it may sound weird, but it’s true: the single easiest, fastest thing your company can do to boost its output and profits — starting right now, today — is to get everybody off the 55-hour-a-week treadmill, and back onto a 40-hour footing...

By 1914, emboldened by a dozen years of in-house research, Henry Ford famously took the radical step of doubling his workers’ pay, and cut shifts in Ford plants from nine hours to eight. The National Association of Manufacturers criticized him bitterly for this — though many of his competitors climbed on board in the next few years when they saw how Ford’s business boomed as a result. In 1937, the 40-hour week was enshrined nationwide as part of the New Deal. By that point, there were a solid five decades of industrial research that proved, beyond a doubt, that if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day.

Evan Robinson, a software engineer with a long interest in programmer productivity (full disclosure: our shared last name is not a coincidence) summarized this history in a white paper he wrote for the International Game Developers’ Association in 2005. The original paper contains a wealth of links to studies conducted by businesses, universities, industry associations and the military that supported early-20th-century leaders as they embraced the short week. “Throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, these studies were apparently conducted by the hundreds,” writes Robinson; “and by the 1960s, the benefits of the 40-hour week were accepted almost beyond question in corporate America. In 1962, the Chamber of Commerce even published a pamphlet extolling the productivity gains of reduced hours.”

What these studies showed, over and over, was that industrial workers have eight good, reliable hours a day in them. On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day. Likewise, the overall output for the work week will be exactly the same at the end of six days as it would be after five days. So paying hourly workers to stick around once they’ve put in their weekly 40 is basically nothing more than a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits. Let ‘em go home, rest up and come back on Monday. It’s better for everybody.

Yes, you can squeeze out some extra productivity with sporadic overtime pushes in the busy season (though the returns diminish -- 80-hour weeks aren't twice as productive as 40-hour ones), but if you turn "sporadic pushes" into business as usual, you're just paying for the same work to take place over more hours while destroying your workers' lives. You may not care about the latter -- not if you've got five more applicants lined up to take the jobs of the workers who drop at their desks -- but even so, why pay more for less?

Bring back the 40-hour work week (via Beth Pratt)

(Image: Luigi Antonini speaks with a foot-sore picketer during the Dressmakers' strike for overtime pay, as supporters look on., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kheelcenter's photostream)

Officer Vader suit for your riot-control needs

If you're feeling alone and vulnerable in a big, troubled world, Amazon has this "Damascus FX1 FlexForce Modular Hard Shell Full Body Crowd Control System," which will provide you with the physical protection and the emotional distance necessary to beat, gas, and detain your fellow human beings. All for a mere $545.95!

The FX-1 FlexForce Modular Hard Shell Crowd Control System is the ultimate high-threat level riot control, domestic disturbance, and cell extraction suit. The FlexForce design provides substantial protection from blunt force trauma without sacrificing the fit or comfort. The suit is lightweight and ranks highest in easy to put on or take off in a moments notice. The front and back hard shell panels have a modular flex design allowing for all shapes and sizes to fit comfortably with out sacrificing much needed mobility. The forearm guard offers a much more comfortable elbow portion of the pad, which allows more flexibility. The knee/shin guard has a non-slip surface, which keeps you planted in position. The FX-1 is a considerably improved fitting system compared to competitor models and is worn by forces worldwide.Upper Body and Shoulder Protection.Hard shell front and back panels feature a unique Damascus 3-panel flex design for optimum movement, fit and comfort.

I love that it's a "system" and not a "Hallowe'en costume for terrified control-freaks and mall-ninjas."

Damascus FX1 FlexForce Modular Hard Shell Full Body Crowd Control System, Medium (via Red Ferret)

Dueling Banjos on Tesla coils

What better use for a pair of musical Tesla coils than FONentertainment's rousing 2010 chorous of "Dueling Banjos?"

Dueling Banjos on musical Tesla Coils (via Geekologie)

Kickstarter: False Profit

Pundit Award winning writer and film maker Dan Abrams joins forces with Science Channel’s Josh Zepps and Second City legend Jeff Michalski to film a mockumentary on the causes of the 2008 economic collapse.

Abrams and Zepps are writing with Michalski directing. If ever there was a high percentage chance for funny, this would be it. While I don’t know Abrams and Zepps personally, Jeff Michalski is an amazing director, comedian and friend.

If it looks good to you, please contribute.

And as the world crumbles, everyone is asking one question: “Who’s to blame?” Eugene Kramer was a simple Iowa farm boy who brought his folksy wisdom to Wall Street at an entry-level trading job in 2004. His sunny moral principles propelled him to the top — and unwittingly inspired his fellow bankers to unleash a global economic catastrophe. And that was just the beginning... From the credit crash to the auto bailout, from the Euro crisis to Occupy Wall Street, Eugene Kramer caused it all. And now it’s up to him to fix it.

False Profit is a hilarious satire told in the sober style of an investigative documentary, through talking-head interviews, mocked-up archival footage, re-enactments, and the visceral live action of a day-in-the-life documentary crew trailing this elusive young titan through the corridors of power. Despite its authoritative tone, it’s a gleefully absurdist farce in the mode of Arrested Development and Best in Show.

Kickstart False Profit

Library staircase delightfully transformed into live interactive game board

Four flights of seventy-two stairs were transformed into a giant game board using 1,200 feet of wire and 48 Internet-connected tin cans decorated with green and gold helium balloons at DIY: Physical Computing at Play. These were our targets.

Read the rest

Goldman Sachs Exec Director quits, indicts former employer in stinging NYT editorial

Greg Smith, a 12 year veteran of Goldman Sachs who held the rank of executive director until today, has tendered his resignation and penned a NYT op-ed explaining his disillusionment with the firm. Smith describes a "toxic," "destructive" company that puts its own bottom line ahead of its customers' best interests, the result of a "decline in the firm's moral fiber" under CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein and president Gary D. Cohn. In modern Goldman Sachs, customers are described internally as "muppets," and are pushed to trade in complex products that make big commissions for Goldman, even when they earn less for the clients compared to simpler products.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs (via MeFi)

Folding tables, desks and carts with a tiny footprint

On Core77, Hipstomp profiles Oasis Concepts, a furniture maker that produces flat-folding compact furniture. I'm semi-obsessed with tiny-footprint furniture at the moment, having confronted the reality that we're not likely to get a bigger flat any time soon. I keep thinking that if we could just put in some ambitious convertible Murphy-style furniture in each room, we could get 1.5 rooms' worth of utility from each.

Oasis Concepts' Folding Tables

What Do Robots Do All Day? A kids' book from the future

BERG's Matt Jones hazards a guess at the future of work in this hypothetical future Richard Scarry book-cover.

Richard Scarry’s "What Do Robots Do All Day?"

Scene-for-scene comparison of Sarah Palin and Julianne Moore

[Video Link] Via Biotv: "An interesting scene-for-scene comparison of actual media appearances of Sarah Palin and Julianne Moore reenacting them in HBO's Game Change." Pretty amazing acting by Julianne Moore.

Sarah Palin / Julianne Moore

The Root Children

Amy Crehore says, "There is something about children who live underground and play with big ants and other bugs that appeals to me." And who in their right mind would disagree with her?

Illustrations by Sibylle Von Olfers for this 1906 book can be found on 50 Watts. Read the Story of the Root Children at the Digital Children's Library.

People that live underground

Christopher Walken reads Where the Wild Things Are

Here's Christopher Walken reading and narrating Where the Wild Things Are, a treat to rival Samuel Jackson's dramatic interpretation of Go the Fuck to Sleep.

Where the Wild Things Are (as read by Christopher Walken)

Story of the first phone phreak

 Images Joybubbles

Joe Engressia Jr. was the father of phone phreaking. In the 1950s, the blind 7-year-old realized that his high-pitched whistle could control the phone system. Over the years, he learned the electronic language of clicks and tones and tapped into a network of phone freaks around the country, most of whom had previously phreaked in solitude. Radiolab just aired a fantastic profile of Engressia, who died in 2007. The radio documentary starts with his abusive childhood, moves through the birth of the phreaking underground, and ends with Engressia's reinvention of himself as perpetual child named Joybubbles, host of a telephone story line for kids. A compelling, moving, and inspirational story. "Long Distance" (Radiolab)

Image from a forthcoming documentary film, "Joybubbles."

Lux's vibrobot

[Video Link] David and his son Lux built this Vibrobot, featured in Make: Projects. It's the best one I've come across!

Wild skyscraper designs awarded

Zhi Zheng, Hongchuan Zhao and Dongbai Song from China won Evolo magazine's 2012 Skyscraper design competition. My favorite, however, is the runner-up (above) which crawls up the side of the Yunnan mountains. Designed by Yiteng Shen, Nanjue Wang, Ji Xia and Zihan Wang, it has the advantage of being neither outrageously science fictional nor horrible: consider the third place winner, a concept design for kilometer-high landfill silos.

Late night whipped cream supplies delivery service

On Monday, I was shooting some video in San Francisco with my friend Lessley Anderson of CHOW and she spotted this card for a late night whipped cream supplies delivery service. This seems fishy to me -- the only person who would need to make this much whipped cream late at night is Herb Alpert.

Resin octopus

Judy Fox's "Octopus" is an awfully lovely piece -- it's repped by LA's Ace Gallery.

Octopus, 2009 Sculpted in terra cotta, cast in poly resin and painted with casein paint

Alien/Giger heels

These never-released Alexander McQueen heels were inspired by HR Giger and the Alien franchise. They look a impractical, uncomfortable, and properly biomorphic.

Alien-Inspired High-Heels [Pic] (via Geekologie)

TOM THE DANCING BUG: "Hello! You've Been Targeted For a Drone Assassination!" Helpful Info From Your U.S. Government

Please always be visiting the TOM THE DANCING BUG WEBSITE, and when you are not, please always be following RUBEN BOLLING on TWITTER.

Read the rest

Should Gamblers Bear Responsibility for their Habits?

"Friends in Casino on a slot machine; all obviously are winning" by Kzenon / Shutterstock

The morning the trouble began—years before anyone realized there was trouble in the first place—Angie Bachmann was sitting at home, staring at the television, so bored that she was giving serious thought to reorganizing the silverware drawer. Her kids were in school. Her husband worked all the time. Bachmann had gotten married young and had become pregnant almost right away. She had never held down a meaningful job.

At the time, Bachmann had no idea that - someday - she would become one of the most prominent test cases of whether people should bear responsibility for their habits. Bachmann, in fact, would become a defining example of how neurological discoveries in the science of habit formation are challenging our concepts of right and wrong.

That morning, all she knew was that she was really, really bored.

Read the rest

Carving a Game Boy out of a matchstick

Here's a minute classic Gameboy carved into the base of a toothpick, in a mini-doc about its carving.


Rock family trees

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For more than three decades, veteran music journalist Pete Frame has specialized in creating fantastic Rock Family Trees that map relationships between musicians and bands. In the comments on my post yesterday about our Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree, commenter Preston Sruges pointed us to Frame's family tree of New York New Wave, featuring the likes of Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, and The Ramones. Frame has posted more than 2,000 (!) of the trees on his Family of Rock site -- from Art School Dance to Seattle: Grunge to (one of my faves) the Velvet Underground. He has also compiled them into a series of books and releases prints too. They remind me of Fluxus artist George Maciunas's incredible "Expanded Arts Diagram" that mapped the avant-garde scene of the early 1960s.

Gesture control system for drones

As you might recall from, well, Top Gun, the crew on aircraft carriers use a series of hand signals to direct planes as they land and take off. Spurred by the increase in drone activity, MIT researchers are developing a computer vision system to guide those robot planes using hand gestures. (MIT)

HOWTO make a shamrock shake at home

Bethany Nixon's husband claims to have found the exact proportions of peppermint extract, green food dye, and vanilla ice-cream to reproduce the seasonal McDonald's Shamrock Shake year round. This will certainly come in handy for those out-of-season snake infestations!

Dan is one of those people that run out the door to get a Shamrock Shake the day they are back at McDonald’s. You too? Well, today my husband created his own version in our kitchen, and I thought I’d share his recipe with you. Now both of you can have that minty goodness without ever leaving home & all year long!

Homemade Shamrock Shakes (via Craft)

Hand-cranked Japanese vending machine works when the power's out

Japanese vending-machine powerhouse Sanden has introduced a hand-cranked vending machine that operates when the power goes off. You just crank it 70 times and then insert your change.

Crank this vending machine 70 times in emergency

Copyright troll stripped of copyrights, which are to be sold to pay off its victims

Righthaven, the copyright troll that flamed out after a botched attempt to get rich by suing bloggers for quoting newspaper articles, has reached bottom. After having its domain seized and sold off to pay its legal bills, it is now faced with having to sell the copyrights to the aforesaid newspaper articles as well to offset more of its victims' expenses. David Kravets writes on Ars Technica:

U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro of Nevada ordered Righthaven to surrender for auction the 278 copyrighted news articles that were the subject of its lawsuits.

"The copyright registrations to more than 275 works are in Righthaven’s name, can be transferred by this court, and can then be auctioned," the judge ruled. (.pdf)

The domain was auctioned for $3,000 last year to help satisfy the legal bill the firm must pay to one of its defendants that prevailed in a copyright suit brought by Righthaven itself. The tab is more than $60,000 in the case before Judge Pro, and in total Righthaven owes about $200,000 to various defendants.

Judge orders failed copyright troll to forfeit "all" copyrights

Eyewitness to climate change

Numbers can be powerful things, but they don't necessarily help the average person grasp what's actually going on in science. Instead, personal stories tend to make a bigger impact. And that's understandable. Things you can see—or things that someone can show you—are going to stick in your head a bit more than a barrage of data.

This is especially a problem, I think, with climate change. Some of the largest impact of climate change, so far, have happened in places far removed from the experiences of the people who create the most anthropogenic greenhouse gases. So it's often hard to take the idea "the Earth is getting warmer" and really grok what that actually means.

That's why people like Will Steger are important. Steger is an explorer and science communicator who has won the National Geographic Society's John Oliver La Gorce Medal—an award that's also been given to Amelia Earhart, Robert Peary, Roald Amundsen and Jacques Cousteau.

He does most of his work in the Arctic and Antarctic, places where he has clearly seen the results of climate change. In a video of a presentation at the University of Minnesota, Steger shows you his experiences—and what they mean. How has climate change altered the landscape of the poles? What does that mean for the future of the Earth? Steger does a good job of making the data feel like something real.

I wish I could figure out how to embed this, but you should go watch it, nonetheless. It's a long video, but worth the time.

Image: Ice berg melting., a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from dkeats's photostream

Exploding manure terrorizes America's hog farms

The manure pits on pig farms across the United States have been invaded by a mysterious foam—at Ars Technica, Brandon Keim describes it as "a gelatinous goop that resembles melted brown Nerf". It's probably the byproduct of some kind of biological process, though nobody knows exactly what. The larger problem, though, is that the foam is rather explosive.

The Apocalypse will be a lot like flying coach

What could possibly make a 1960s-era nuclear war worse than you'd already assumed it would be? How about being packed like sardines into a fallout shelter with 13 of your soon-to-be-closest friends?

Frank Munger is a senior reporter with the Knoxville News Sentinel, where he covers Oak Ridge National Laboratory—a nearby energy research facility that previously did a lot of civil defense research. Munger turned up this, and several other photos, of mockup nuclear shelter arrangements tested out in the basement at ORNL when the facility was trying to establish best practice scenarios for surviving the Apocalypse.

They look ... less than pleasant.

That said, though, they may not have been meant as long-term arrangements. Munger linked to an Atlantic article that makes an interesting case related to these photos: If what you're talking about is one relatively small nuclear bomb (as opposed to massive, hydrogen bomb, mutually assured destruction scenarios), the idea of "Duck and Cover" isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. If you could get these 14 people out of the way of the fallout for a couple weeks, their chances of survival would rise exponentially. Fallout shelters were not meant to be "the place you and your people live for the next 50 years."

The radiation from fallout can be severe -- the bigger the bomb, and the closer it is the the ground, the worse the fallout, generally -- but it decays according to a straightforward rule, called the 7/10 rule: Seven hours after the explosion, the radiation is 1/10 the original level; seven times that interval (49 hours, or two days) it is 1/10 of that, or 1/100 the original, and seven times that interval (roughly two weeks) it is 1/1000 the original intensity.

See the rest of Frank Munger's photos of ORNL fallout shelter mockups.Read the rest of The Atlantic article on "duck and cover".

Kony 2012 screening in Uganda results in anger, rocks thrown at screen

[Video Link to Al Jazeera report]

Invisible Children's "Kony 2012" video has been viewed by millions online around the world. By view counts alone, it is now the most viral video in history. It is now the first ever YouTube hit publicly screened in the northern Ugandan town of Lira—and it didn't go so well.

The screening was hosted by African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET), an NGO founded by Victor Ochen (LRA abductee turned peacekeeper) mentioned in this previous Boing Boing post. Ochen and AYINET thought Ugandans who had been personally affected by the LRA and Kony deserved an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire attended the AYINET screening of Kony 2012 last night, and tweeted that local radio stations heavily publicized the event in advance. "There were 5000+ people at the screening," she says, "Many rode bicycles from villages to see the #kony2012 video in Lira."

Malcolm Webb attended the event in the Mayor’s Gardens in the city center, and he reports for Al Jazeera:

Having heard so many great things about the film, the crowd’s expectations were high. People I spoke to anticipated seeing a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict, and the ongoing struggles they still face trying to rebuild their lives after two lost decades.

The audience was at first puzzled to see the narrative lead by an American man – Jason Russell – and his young son. Towards the end of the film, the mood turned more to anger at what many people saw as a foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialised their suffering, as the film promotes Kony bracelets and other fundraising merchandise, with the aim of making Kony infamous.

One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11 – likely to be highly offensive to many Americans, however well intentioned the campaign behind it. The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled.

Kagumire adds this morning that AYINET has suspended further screenings, "not to further harm victims or provoke any violent response."

AYINET has published a statement on the screening here.

Invisible Children's bracelets and t-shirts aren't likely to receive a warm welcome in Uganda, either. Kagumire says "The Northern Ugandan people want the government to stop Kony 2012 tshirts from entering the country; the video sparked heated talks on 5 radio stations in Lira... one caller said #kony2012 t-shirts cannot cross Karuma. It would be too provocative."

Read more of Al Jazeera's report here, and follow Al Jazeera's reporting on the Kony 2012 phenomenon here.

(via @somebadideas)

Live discussion tomorrow: Electricity, infrastructure, and our energy future

Join me tomorrow at 11:00 am Eastern for a live chat with editors from

They'll be talking with me about my new book, Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us.

The key message I want people to take away from this book: Our energy problems (and our energy solutions) are about more than just swapping out fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable resources. Instead, what matters more is the infrastructures we live with, which dictate how we use energy, where we get it from, and how much we consume. If you want a more sustainable energy future, you'll need to focus on infrastructure. This isn't just about sources—it's about systems.

The chat will be embedded on Treehugger.