Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The company line

This is a call for greater authenticity in speech and writing.  The "company line" gets created, often by unspoken consensus and by repetition.  I saw that the British Psychological Society reported that letters expressing gratitude raise recipients' spirits more than expected.  I thought about the emails I receive every day thanking me for my patronage at this store or that. I believe my spirits are not raised even a little bit by such expressions because I think the expressions are churned by unfeeling machines.  They seem mechanical in the worst sense.

I believe computers can be very helpful but so far, I haven't felt that they care.  The first story in Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" is about a well-built robot that is taking better and more immediate care of a young child that its biological mother.  The reader can see that the affection of the child for the robot is greater than its feeling for Mom. I know that people can have strong affection for their car but I imagine that our feelings for that '64 Chevy have as more to do with memories of young married life than with affection for fenders and steering wheels.

If the boss orders 6700 copies of the letter expressing gratitude to the customer and I receive one of them, I will toss it.  I realize somebody human composed the text and somebody or bodies human is responsible for the printing and the mailing but the sheer numbers and impersonality of the operation block the emergence of any strong feeling on my part. I am not sure what to advise the boss to do to achieve a more human and touching connection.  Maybe the actual number of exchanges between a real human and me matters.

I may get yet another request for my "feedback" and reaction to my experience of shopping with this store but that is not going to help.  I get too many such requests and I don't want to spend my declining days answering questions about my experience with them. The truth is that I don't really want to be buddies with the company or the manager or the checkout clerk.  I want to pay my money and forget about the human side of their business. I am not that loving and caring.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Getting close

I get excited by edges and changes. I was interested when an anthropologist said that during the ice ages, the edges of the glacier were popular with humans and animals.  Richer living for plants and so a variety of species of both plants and animals were found there. Maybe edges of periods of time also are a bit exciting.

It is almost August, almost the end of July 2018.  Once it is gone, we will never see it again. I read an American general's comment, who wrote that he was surprised to find that he felt a little sad as he left a Japanese prisoner of war camp upon being freed.  Sometimes, I read that we never knowingly do something for the last time without some sadness but I have my doubts. I am confident that taking my last antibiotic after some rehab period or other medical endpoint occurs without sadness.

August includes the first day of the new school year in many parts of the US.  Its beginning is a signal that the last day of the growing season is getting closer, as are the end of summer, the beginning of fall.  Several friends who live in the South have mentioned the heavy heat. My brother-in-law once stood on our deck commenting that the temperature he felt in the air would not be available in Texas until December.

I actually prefer months of thirty days.  Those extra days tacked on beyond the 30th drag things out.  Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar both got their names on extended months but I don't like dragging things out.  We are getting close to the end of a fine month so we should just end it! I doubt if anyone is going to take me up on that idea and I can't say I understand what all the ramifications, timewise and calenderwise, of having more 30 day months would be.  Didn't the Romans or somebody have an extended holiday just to make a calendar that would fit the spinning globe and the circling of the sun?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Fwd: You're fluent in this language (and don't even know it)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: This week on TED.com <no_reply@ted.com>

Date: Sat, Jul 28, 2018 at 9:15 AM
Subject: You're fluent in this language (and don't even know it)

You won't believe your eyes ... Open in your browser
This week on TED.com
July 28, 2018

Christoph Niemann: You are fluent in this language (and don't even know it)

12:42 minutes · Filmed Apr 2018 · Posted Jul 2018 · TED2018

In this funny, relatable talk, explore a language we all speak: the language of pictures. Illustrator Christoph Niemann shows us how, with a few simple lines, an artist can tap into our emotions and minds -- all without words.

Playlist of the week

Great TED Talks for language practice

Learning a language? We've collected 11 TED Talks that can help you practice -- and inspire you to stick with it. (Pro tip: Select subtitles in your preferred language to read along, too.) Watch »

11 TED Talks to choose from • Total run time 2:08:20

Catch up on this week's newest TED Talks

Let's face it, online dating can be hard. So many potential people, so much time wasted ... is it even worth it? Christina Wallace thinks it can work -- if you do it right. In this funny, practical talk, Wallace shares how she used her MBA skill set to invent the "zero date" approach to get the most from dating apps -- and how you can, too. Watch »

Do you think you're good at spotting fake videos, where famous people say things they've never said in real life? See how they're made in this astonishing talk and tech demo. Computer scientist Supasorn Suwajanakorn shows how, as a grad student, he used AI and 3D modeling to create photorealistic fake videos of people synced to audio. Learn the ethical implications and the creative possibilities of this tech -- and the steps to fight against its misuse. Watch »

You might be investing in a tobacco company without knowing it. In a bold talk, oncologist Dr. Bronwyn King tells the story of how she uncovered the deep ties between the tobacco industry and the global finance sector, which invests our money in cigarette companies through big banks, insurers and pension funds. Learn about the worldwide movement to create tobacco-free investments and how each of us can join. Watch »

Right now, an AI can be trained to look at medical images and spot disease ... which is amazing ... but it takes tens of thousands of images to "train" the AI, making the process expensive and slow. TED Fellow Pratik Shah is working on a clever system to speed things up -- and can even use photos taken on doctors' cell phones. Learn about his work to bring expensive high tech down to your local doctors' office. Watch »

Parents and kids spend lots of time in doctors' waiting rooms. What if those hours could be used for something productive -- like saving money? That's why pediatrician and TED Fellow Lucy Marcil started offering free tax prep to parents right in the waiting room. Bonus: In the process, many parents found that they qualified for a big tax credit they didn't even know about. An inspiring talk about finding small, smart ways to help others. Watch »

In case you missed this much-discussed talk: "Ideas can and do change the world," says historian Rutger Bregman, sharing his case for a provocative one: guaranteed basic income. Learn more about the idea's 500-year history and a forgotten modern experiment where it actually worked -- and imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all. Watch »

Read more on ideas.ted.com

Creativity: Take our quiz: What's your creative type?
Unleash your own creativity by finding out how you best express yourself

We humans: How to introduce yourself so you'll be unforgettable
Learn this simple trick to share your story 

Arts & design: Meet the creator of the world's biggest connect-the-dots
It's all about the process, says Phil Hansen

Quote of the Week


How many of you have had your doctor ask you about sex? Your mental health? Alcohol use? These questions are almost universal. But how many of you have had your doctor ask you about money? Most of us haven't. Yet ... poverty creates conditions that may elevate stress hormone levels and impair brain development. Poor children in the US are one and a half times more likely to die and twice as likely to be hospitalized as their middle-class counterparts."

Lucy Marcil
Why doctors are offering free tax prep in their waiting rooms
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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Jotting down notes

I use the idea that writing regularly in this blog is a good way of staying in touch with myself.  I like to take notice of both pleasures and pains that occur in my life, maybe think about how and why they happen.  Sometimes I give myself a pat on the back or admit to being lazy or irresponsible when I look at what is going on.

I guess that the more I allow myself to notice what is going on with my life, mind and body, the more I catch glimpses of what is happening, even quick messages about ideas, feelings and memories. I mostly use "salience", what sticks out, what pops up, what comes to mind.  I like to sit with a blank sheet of scrap paper and a pencil and see what comes to mind when I ask myself

  • What am I thinking?

  • What has happened lately?

  • What pops up in my mind?

I realize that tons of things happen that I don't notice or even can't perceive, such as clouds passing over, neighbors walking by or birds and critters carrying on their lives around me.  Just about every sentence I have written so far in this post could be the focus of further thinking.

My friend mentioned the other day that she was reading an old diary she had written years before and something in it sparked a thought.  She took a piece of paper and made a note about the idea. Then, she wondered if it was at all sensible to be taking notes on one's own writing.  Today, I read about a web site called Book Traces that focuses on notes writers and readers have made in book margins. There was a case where someone stole a book, started reading it and was struck by a idea.  The thief made a note in the margin.

I am not sure how note-taking changes as I age, but I find that jotting down the essence of the theme helps me put it in perspective.  I can return to it or combine it with other ideas. I like to work at notes until I have at least five themes before focusing on one to blog about.  Sometimes, I transfer unused themes to a computer document in Google Drive. I can go back to those sets of themes when I get tired of what I am thinking about or bored with what comes up in a particular day.  

What I noted for this blog post was "Should I be making notes on my own writing?"  My answer is "Sure, go ahead. Whether my earlier writing is from years ago or an hour ago, me and my head are in a different place now and I may be glad to have any note I make."

Friday, July 27, 2018

British Psychological Society reports

One of the blogs I link to on my Fear, Fun and Filoz page is the British Psychological Society report, usually written by Christian Jarrett.  Today's post by the BPS has some notable items. One reports on letters of gratitude having more effect raising people's spirits than most people expect them, too.  The post describes a mental process that too many people go through

  1. Thinking of writing a note of gratitude

  2. Then thinking it would not be all that important to the recipient

  3. Deciding to forget about writing or messaging

Thus, gratitude does not get expressed, even though it is important and valuable.

A 2nd item in the BPS blog reports five reasons that alcohol remains popular in social occasions.  The idea has been that it relaxes people but that does not seem to be the case. It does make it easier to put worries aside and to be present in the current moment.  It also makes it easier to bond with others and easier for positive emotions to spread from person to person.

A 3rd item of interest relates to my current reading "The Other Side of Normal" by Prof. Jordan Smoller of the Harvard Medical School.  His book emphasizes the history of psychology and psychiatry and their traditional focus on what is abnormal. The British Psychological Society blog states that there are now 10 times as many recognized psychiatric diagnoses as there were just 50 years ago.  Smoller and others are attending to the fact that recognizing some debilitating condition or thought pattern and slapping a Greek-ish name on it leads to unreliable, contradictory and superficial understanding. Getting a better description, and measurements if possible, of what is normal and what underlies various difficulties might lead to better and more helpful treatment.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Are we letting the apes get ahead of us?

Many older people are doubtful that the younger generation, say, under 30 years of age at this time, are prepared to face life's obstacles and nasty turns.  Their favorite worry seems to be screen time and the possibility of lower interpersonal skills and niceties. The sort of immaturity and poor manners show in the YouTube "Millennial Job Interview" captures their fears.  

I spend plenty of time with people over 70 and some getting close to that age and I observe lots of screen time among that group.  So, I don't think that it is only young smartphone users and Instagram and Pinterest users that ignore facial expressions, worry about nasty comments on social media, and transmit derogatory comments to others.  

The news in the last few days has included references to Nikki Haley, Indian-American former governor of South Carolina and currently US ambassador to the UN and her talk to high schoolers advising them to turn away for "owning the libs", the practice of honing provocation skills on social media and being satisfied with enraging "liberals".  Such behavior does not improve lives nor serve to lead others higher.

Sitting together while thumbing screens is a very common activity these days but consider our cousins, the other apes such as chimps, gorillas and orangutans.  While we are checking our tweets, they are physically caring for each other.


True, they have coats that need inspection and bug removal.  They lack showers and shampoo (I think). But our lives are drifting away from touching each other.  We tend to think touching = sexual activity and find ways to avoid non-sexual touching. Meanwhile, warm and lasting relationships are being formed in our cousin families right under our noses.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

We are wonderfully made

I read "Joy on Demand" a while back.  Given my personality, I have not been one to demand joy or to construct a path that will always get me to it.  But I respect the idea that while the world is replete with sorrow and ill will, it is also filled with sources of joy and wonder and awe, with facts as solid as arithmetic but are about wonderful and joyful aspects of our lives.

I recently took a week workshop about the Old Testament Psalms.  The two women who ran it had printed out photos expressing the beauty and wonder of life.  One of the photos showed a fetus in the womb and was accompanied by a quote from Psalm 139 "You knit me together in my mother's womb." Melvin Konner in "The Tangled Wing" describes the complex and amazing constructions and trajectories that circuits and connections make as a baby is put together in the womb.

It may be that habituation will gloss over any idea or symbol or picture eventually but for now, the idea of my own construction, a process that takes nine months and lasts 80 or more years is one that grips me.  Thinkers, theorists and practitioners often council stepping into the present on a regular basis. They point out that the past, a year ago or a second ago, is not here now, while the future a year hence or a second from now, has not arrived and is only an idea.  So, feeling, imbibing the present as it is, right now, can anchor me in a place outside of worry or fear. In a similar way, "habeas corpus", "I must have the body" and I do have a body. These fingers, these back muscles, these bones are a wonder and I salute them with gratitude and appreciation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


I mentioned that we had the office painted.  We have built-in bookshelves in there and over time, we accumulated about 600 books.  I like to use electronic books in Kindle form but some books are not available like that.  The used book market and the two local libraries are good places to get a copy of a book that is too old or too specialized to be in e-format.  So, over time, I get a copy of this book or that one and the total collection grows.

We have gotten rid of large numbers of books before.  Getting the first pair of Kindles was a big change. We donated about 700 books then.  And, I have accumulated books on statistical analysis methods, mental test theory and other secretly sexy topics that most people overlook.  Books used in a tough course or that were fundamental in research project or books shared with a close friend - such books can serve as souvenirs and reminders of important milestones.  As Don Aslett says in his books on decluttering, just because I donate Winer's book on analysis of variance to a library doesn't mean I didn't use his approach to good effect. Just because I get rid of the copy of "Just So Stories" Grandma gave me, doesn't mean we didn't love each other.

Most of the books I wanted to part with are not books that would be of interest to my immediate family.  I asked four different retired professors if they would like to look over the books we were parting with.  All four said the same thing:"Ha!" I drove the books to the public library in town. At one time, of course, the library was a collection of books and other materials.  It still is, but now it is augmented by electronic communication with a large network of other libraries and teams of drivers and vehicles that carry books from a library with the book I want to my local one.  

The public librarian said they are only allowed to accept up to two large bags of donated books.  I gave them away but still had a large number to get rid of. The reference librarian gave me the phone number for a contact with the local retired teachers group that sells used books.  Before calling, I decided to give the remaining 500+ books to the local university library. They eagerly accepted all the rest.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Pssst! Look at this!

This is a time when money can be made by getting attention.  I guess there was always that possibility. When Dr. Dulcamara enters the town square in the 1832 opera, The Elixir of Love, he wants to draw a crowd.  He has a trumpeter or two sound a fanfare. I imagine in those days in that town, such a sound would interest people in finding out what was going on.

But these days, in many places, a fanfare would be unheard.  Citizens are wearing earphones or buds that are already playing in their ears.  We have smartphones set to vibrate in our pockets so we can be alerted to the latest text from someone.  More and more companies, organizations, causes and campaigns would like to vibrate us to pay attention to their cause, their opinion, their product.  

When you are walking down the street, they want you to be thinking about their message, their project, their idea.  But there are so many of "them", that you can't pay attention to all the seekers for your focus. We quickly reach a useless infinity when we try to have special notices of special messages about special events that are arranged to get and keep our attention.  One way I find what is important among the many messages sent me is to look for a person, a person I know, have met and talked to. I don't count a Nigerian prince who will give me a cut of his fabulous fortune if I put his large sum of money in my bank account.  I am not quite to the point where I tell my computer to block all messages except from someone in my contacts but I am getting close.

I not only have a ton of calls and nuges to look here or pay attention to that, I have more associations and questions and ideas of my own than I can attend to.  I have as much internal clamor as I do external. Whether they come from my mind or my surroundings, I often have to buckle down and shut out calls to pay attention or play a game or have a snack.  I often need to pinch myself and lock onto what I should be paying attention to, even if I may miss a wonderful sight or a valuable idea.

Friday, July 13, 2018


She wanted to try turning off the security program to see if that eliminated the problem.  She found that turning off the security required a special password. Now what was that password, anyhow?  Well, she keeps a list of passwords in the safe. Now what was the combination for the safe?

We are a sort of life forms that need food, shelter and clothing, plus water, air, and amusements but even when those are supplied, we age.  Enough aging and we die. That's not a very secure situation. Take care of yourself and you won't die for a while - probably. Well, unless you get hit by a bus.  Or, a bull. Or, a bullet. Or, the wrong bacterium.

Seems like the best we can do is take some basic precautions but not overdo it.  I read about WWII German forces being slowed down by their need to destroy extensive files that had been created for security and back-up purposes.  A famous seeker of security is Hamlet:

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?

Hamlet, Act III, Scene I [To be, or not to be] by William Shakespeare ...


What is Hamlet saying in his To Be or Not To Be soliloquy?

Hamlet is basically contemplating suicide on and off throughout his soliloquies. In this soliloquy, he compares death to a little sleep, which he thinks wouldn't be so bad. ... Of course, we'd escape a lot by being dead, like being spurned in love. This is that whole "slings and arrows" bit is all about.

Albert Camus (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

"There is only one really serious philosophical problem," Camus says, "and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that" (MS, 3). One might object that suicide is neither a "problem" nor a "question," but an act.Oct 27, 2011

Most people would rather not commit suicide just to reach a secure state.  It is better to seek a balance between secure, secure, locked-up, barred, guarded security and careless hanging the safe combination and the security password on the office wall.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


The first church, Sunday school and summer Bible school I can remember was the First Baptist Church of Pimlico, Baltimore.  Later, my family attended the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. I have attended Lutheran services with my wife many times.  When she became a Quaker, I attended their Meeting. Most of the time, I don't currently have anything to do with churches, organized religion, and any other type.

However, the annual Society of Friends (formal name of the Quakers) Gathering can be fun and instructive and inspirational.  Our friend Judy once drove with us from the Minneapolis airport to Tacoma, Washington for Friends General Conference. This year, it was held on the spacious campus of the University of Toledo.  Not being much of a church person, I chose Gail Thomas's Psalms workshop and I am very glad I did.

This is a picture of our classroom.  It probably doesn't look like a holy place but at times, it is.

There were several times when reading or commenting, one or more of us would feel emotions strong enough to interfere a little with speaking.  One of the lovely passages in the Psalms is

Psalm 139:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;

   you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

   your works are wonderful,

   I know that full well.

It is wonderful, no?  We were knitted together in our mothers' wombs and we are wonderfully and fearfully made. And that was just the beginning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mindfulness and a little update

Here is what I wrote about mindfulness five years ago:

Mindfulness everywhere

What is mindfulness, anyway?  Discussions often equate being mindful with being aware.  When you think about it, most everybody is aware of SOMETHING all the time.  Does that mean that most everybody is mindful? No, because the quality meant is something like a second order of awareness.  Not the first level, the road that I am driving on, not the blog post I am writing but more of an awareness of my own mind, what it's doing, what it's feeling while I am driving or writing.

Doubters, scholars, investigators are likely to mentally step behind assertions to ask "Where did this assertion come from?"  Who is the author of this statement? I can think of that sort of source awareness as a form of attention being paid to the background or motives or contributing influences of a statement or source of information.  The Mindfulness Revolution is about similar awareness of and attention to the background of one's mind, one's thoughts and feelings as they occur.

The best known methods for increasing one's awareness of one's own mind are meditation practices.  Focused attention on a given anchor is the crux of most modern, popular methods for increasing one's mindful attention to what a person is doing with her own mind.  Intending to keep one's attention on a given resting point is involved in the practices of many religions. Once I commit myself to five or ten minutes of steady attention to something to look at or listen to or attend to such as my own breathing, I have a way of noting when my attention has slipped off my intended focus.  When I note that my attention has slipped, I bring it back to my focus. As Jack Kornfield notes, the actions and steps involved are very much like house-training a puppy. Keep bringing my attention back, over and over, and pretty soon, I notice more immediately when it has slipped.

The most developed practices, the most extensive discussions and writings about developing and using mindfulness are associated with the Buddhist religion.  But, as Jacob Needleman shows in "Lost Christianity" and the writings of many Sufis and Jewish mystics show, practices that increase one's awareness of what one is doing with one's attention, have been an important part of the practice of many religions, especially among the more devoted adherents and followers.  The idea was probably Hindu before it was anywhere else.

Nowadays, the practice of increasing one's sensitivity to one's own mental workings is being shown to matter in virtually every field of human endeavor.  From medicine/nursing/healing to police training to improving student performance, mindfulness training is everywhere.


Here is a little updating to that post:

It can be helpful for moderns interested in using their minds better to practice 5-10 minutes of steady concentration on a given target, visual or their breath.  Everytime one notices one's attention has slipped from the target, calmly return to the target, the intended focus. Do that daily and notice in a couple of weeks more awareness of what is on the mind.  Better judgment about whether the mind is being used as desired.

It can also be a help to realize that no one can be aware of everything.  There is too much. Movement in the peripheral vision attracts our attention but these days, we don't have to be quite so alert to predators.  No matter what, we can't attend to everything, in the mind or out of it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Table crashes and joy

I am a fan of the tv show "3rd Rock from the Sun".  It is a comedy that is imaginative in my view, even when it is silly and not too funny.  Four aliens are sent to Earth to learn about life here and report back to the leader , "the Big Giant Head".  The characters, earthlings and aliens, are exaggerated but clever.

Last night we watched episode 22 in the 4th season. The only woman, the out-of-it guy and the teen (actually the eldest of the crew but required for their mission to be a teen in a teen body) go out to a restaurant.  The host wants to sit them at a different table but they want their usual one. While they argue, a huge chandelier crashes the usual table, destroying it and its chairs. This sheds instant light for our group on what we would call "mortality" and the appreciation of life.  Suddenly, they grasp the value of being alive, of having each other. They can see the beauty in a paper clip and in just seeing and hearing at all.

John Lithgow plays the main character and his character cannot stand to miss out on anything, especially when he sees the others are transported by the charms of this life.  His speciality is becoming obnoxious rapidly and he does, while fretting over what he can't seem to see or feel about a paper clip and anything else he is already "familiar" with.

This morning, I got my first look at "The Book of Joy", a NY Times bestseller by the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu and Douglas Abrams.  It was recommended by Susan Hopkins in the Quaker workshop on the Psalms. The Chinese-American Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan has a book called "Joy on Demand" and it is about just that: how to feel real joy whenever you want.  

Episode 22 of season 4 shows that you will do better if you relax and if you don't expect to be in a state of joy all the time.  Generalized joy is great, but so is getting the dusting done and the grass cut. So is commiserating with your friend who has suffered a serious loss.  Was it Jesus who advised moderation in all things?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Fwd: Significant Digits For Monday, July 9, 2018

I should get something more original written sometime today.  Bill

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: FiveThirtyEight Newsletter <newsletter@fivethirtyeight.com>
Date: Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 9:50 AM
Subject: Significant Digits For Monday, July 9, 2018

18,632 state employees

A FiveThirtyEight email

Monday, July 9, 2018


You're reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

18,632 state employees

Turkey fired over 18,000 state employees — including teachers, academics, police officers and members of the military — and canceled their passports, for "alleged links to terrorism groups." The country has been in a state of emergency since a coup attempt in July 2016. [Associated Press]

29,000 homes and businesses

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the Los Angeles area were without power as of Sunday following a triple-digit heatwave. It takes a lot of energy to keep people cool, and peak megawatt usage there surpassed the power department's estimates. [Los Angeles Times]

$650 a night

New Yorkers brag about their efficiency with regard to at least two things: leaving the city for the weekend and spending money. These two skills can now be efficiently combined with glamping (that is, glamor camping) which is now available on Governors Island in New York Harbor. It's between $220 and $650 per night, there's a bar, foam mattresses, "Turkish towels," birdsong fills the air, the views are great and it's all without a doubt nicer than my apartment, which is, you know, indoors. [The New York Times]

1 year old

A 1-year-old boy, occasionally asking for "agua," appeared before a Phoenix immigration judge, where he was asked whether he understood the proceedings. That child, from Honduras, is one of hundreds of children who must be reunited with their parents after the Trump administration separated them from their parents while crossing the border. [Associated Press]

100 volts

Since at least the days of of Darwin, we've known that spiders could fly, miles up and hundreds of miles away. They don't have wings, but they can thrust out strands of silk and float away. It was thought that their silk caught the wind, like a kite. But, in fact, it seems that spiders take advantage of Earth's electric field — spiders can sense it and the air can be charged with as little as about 100 volts, which launches them. To recap: Spiders, flying hundreds of miles, fueled by the high voltage of thunderstorms. Got it. Sweet dreams. [The Atlantic]

69 percent

According to University of Chicago researchers, owning an iPhone is the most reliable indicator of whether someone is rich. "Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016," they wrote. Previous brands that occupied this dubious role were Land O' Lakes butter in 2004, and Grey Poupon Dijon in 1992. Pardon me, do you have any iPhone? [Gizmodo]

If you see a significant digit in the wild, please send it to @ollie.

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