In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, one of the central characters is Lennie, a man with some form of mental development disability who enjoys petting mice and puppies. Only he enjoys it so much he can’t stop and often ends up squashing them literally to death.
The thing is, evidence suggests that the mice and puppies were probably enjoying the petting before Lennie’s fat fingers squashed them. In 2013 researchers from the California Institute of Technology published the results of a study done on mice that showed there is a specific type of sensory cell in skin that responds to careful stroking. The lead researcher on the study suggested we could one day have a skin lotion that makes us feel better.
It’s all very well that mice enjoy being stroked, but why did Lennie -- and why do many other people -- derive pleasure from stroking soft animals? Numerous research studies suggest that during stroking, receptors in the skin send signals to various parts of the brain. This can be measured using MRI scans of the brain during stroking that show increased neuronal activity associated with increased blood flow. The affected areas of the brain light up even when the person involved is unconscious.
I think Lennie should have been given a stress ball or something to occupy him, although I’ve no idea if it would have been a sufficient alternative to petting mice. Sometimes such toys are not always what they seem:
As we know, there are plenty of materials that are lovely to touch. Read the rest
Photos by Cynthia Palmer. Read the rest
What if you could learn how to play chess simply by looking at the pieces? Read the rest
Hammacher Schlemmer is a mostly mail-order company from which I’ve bought some lovely cashmere sweaters for my wife at Christmas. The company is renowned for its entertaining mail-order catalogue (and a great return policy) which has provided me with hours of fun reading over the years.
Often the cover features some incredibly outlandish extravagance designed solely for really wealthy folks, and which often costs a stratospheric amount of money. Top of the line at the moment is a “Five Person Exploration Submarine” which can descend to 656 feet, weighs over 7.7 tons and costs—take your seats, please—$2,700,000. As Dr. Evil used to say, “Almost three MILLION dollars.”
This year’s new and more reasonably priced money pit is a racing simulator for $185,000. It looks like a lot of fun, and my daughter says she rode something like it at Epcot at Walt Disney World, but something tells me that whoever receives it will lose interest ’ere long.
The exact prices are unimportant because they’re silly. As far as most of us are concerned, we’re far more likely to get hit by a bus than be given one of these gifts.
I genuinely enjoy Hammacher Schlemmer’s catalogue simply because it’s filled with incredibly weird things, like the remote-controlled flying shark mini-blimp for $40, and “The NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb” for $40.
There are also lots of handy things, like well-made flannel pjs, nice lined gloves, and so on. It’s a real 90-page potpourri and you should definitely call 1-800-543-3366 and request a free catalogue. Read the rest
He's been dead since Halloween, 1926, but Harry Houdini just won’t die. The old bastard really won’t go away.
When you think about it, the design of playing cards is ridiculously complicated and to create a truly unique deck could take many months. It’s one thing to take an existing template and alter it a bit and it’s another thing all together to rework each element from scratch.
Tyler Deeb of MISC. GOODS CO. has designed a deck of cards from the ground up and it has a whole lot to say. Every court card, every symbol and boarder has gotten as much attention as any deck I’ve ever seen. It’s clear that this was a labor of love and will act as his calling card for years to come.
To me, this deck is just chock full of story and I wonder if anyone else is seeing what I’m seeing.
There's so much to figure out when laying out a deck of cards and it all starts with the box that contains it. In this case, if you look closely, you’ll find some very thoughtful touches.
Firstly, besides the beautiful silver foil printing, there is an embossing of the message “Do nothing out of selfish ambition”. It’s a bible verse from Philippians 2:3-8 and the thing is, while this deck is one of the most ambitious ones I’ve ever seen, it certainly isn’t selfish. It’s a gift to us.
While I’m not going to go into every little detail of what I’m reading into here, I will share a playful contradiction that pops up when you look closely.
This contradiction sets the stage for what’s to come. Read the rest
Teachers don't go into education to get rich. It's a great job, the rewards are awesome and although they're not financial, they are of value. They are socially valuable. It's why teachers are one of the "professional" people allowed to verify your passport photograph, to qualify that it really is a picture of you. Society recognises that they're more likely to value the long rigorous process of acquiring that trust above jeopardising it to earn a quick kick-back. We even trust them with our children.
And then you get open teachers, who make their classes available online for free, for any learner regardless of their ability to pay or personal circumstance. Open teachers naturally earn this trust, this social capital, very publicly and because they're often teaching at scale they potentially earn this social capital at scale too. It means they and people like them are great people to impersonate in order to steal, from the people who trust them (all of us).
It isn't just teachers who are "Catfished" (the process of having your online identity hijacked). It can happen to anyone of us but what's worrying is when someone as trusted, high profile and digitally literate as an open teacher is Catfished, and try as they might, can just do nothing about it, then what are the rest of us meant to do when it happens to us (assuming we ever find out)?
Alan Levine made my open classes possible and anyone in open education knows Alan as the open teacher's teacher, the go-to-guy for teachers as well as students. Read the rest