Japan’s lack of bins are both a security measure and a cultural aversion to littering

Japan’s lack of bins are both a security measure and a cultural aversion to littering

Public waste bins and garbage cans were largely removed from Japanese cities following the 1995 sarin gas attacks, forcing residents to adopt some of the world’s more disciplined waste disposal techniques.

The Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult led a series of coordinated chemical weapon attacks on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995, which left 12 people dead. More than 1,000 were injured by exposure to the toxic agent. The domestic terror attack remains deeply resonant among the Japanese public, in part because of the potent symbolism in targeting the Tokyo subway—a system that carries millions of passengers each day and serves as an emblem of the nation’s economic power and modernity. To attack trains in Japan is to attack more than just run-of-the-mill civic infrastructure.

In mascot-mad Japan, there is also an anti-litter superhero yuru-chara, Mangetsu-man, patrolling the streets of Tokyo.

The huge numbers of foreign visitors—a phenomenon dubbed kankō kōgai, or “tourism pollution,” in local media—has convinced authorities to re-introduce more public waste receptacles to accommodate those unfamiliar with Japanese garbage mores.

But the country’s still-tenuous relationship with trash cans shows the lasting impact of terror attacks, even decades after the event. Worrying about litter is something that Japanese authorities and residents alike aren’t entirely ready to toss out.

Rewrite the hiring script

Rewrite the hiring script

The disconnect between how many companies claim that they only hire the best and how they try to actually do that is perverse. A depressing number of job postings are barely more than a list of technology or process requirements paired with an arbitrary desire for years of irrelevance. That’s then fluffed up by a bunch of trite rah-rah bullshit about the supposed glory of hiring company. Ugh.

… taking the time to describe the role, the work, and the organization with clarity and honesty matters so much. The vast majority of potential candidates in this world are not going to apply to your position in any case. The aim of a great job posting is to expand the pool in awareness of that fact. To entice those complimentary candidates to apply who might otherwise wouldn’t have. Dropping this “the best” nonsense is a start.

So that’s what we’ve tried to do with renewed vigor over the past few months here. We’ve been in an uncommon hiring spree with five open positions recently. Every single one of those involved a prolonged, careful process of crafting the best job posting we knew how. Yes, some of the framing is similar between the posts, but each one was written for that particular position. Then subjected to critique, review, and editing by a broad cross-section of future coworkers. I think it shows.

It shows. I am so impressed with Basecamp’s job descriptions. Also, props to Basecamp for highlighting and posting this on their company blog!

Practice hard. Practice well

Practice hard. Practice well.

When I started writing this blog in 2003, I was not a strong writer. Sixteen years later, I am a better writer. Doing something every day is the best way to improve at something.

I think everyone can improve at things they are not good at and become competent, even excellent, at them. I am not going to win a Pulitzer Prize, but I can write well and have become a strong communicator by practicing it routinely. Practice really works.

It has been over 10 years of practice for my relationship. Pretty damn solid now. On to the next thing to practice.

Too big to care

Too big to care.

As brands get bigger (and bigger might be as small as an organization with just two people in it), policies kick in. Policies and budgets and bureaucracy.

The brand has become too big to care. I mean, it might be big enough to pretend to care. To have policies that appear to set things right. But they don’t really care.

The only way to really care is to have human beings who care (and to give them the authority and resources to demonstrate that.)

Once you’ve got that, it’s pretty easy to show that you do.

The Science of winning online sweepstakes

Winning online sweepstakes is supposedly an act of pure luck — but some contestants claim to have it down to a science.

Qualitative vs

Her strategy is simple: She primarily enters “qualitative” online contests that allow her to stand out in some way, like tweets or photo tags on Instagram.

“A lot of people maintain that [sweepstakes] are just pure chance,” she says. “But the people running them aren’t picking at random. They often go for the person who put in more effort than everyone else — the type of winner who would really appreciate the prize.”


…using a quantitative strategy based on sheer volume: 

1. She creates a new email specifically for sweepstakes.
2. She uses sweepstake aggregators (resources that list thousands of legitimate promotions in one location) to find form-based competitions.
3. She uses software to auto-fill hundreds of entry forms with her information.

In a one hour-long sitting, with a few clicks, Wilman can enter more than 200 sweepstakes. The goal is two-fold: To enter as many contests as humanly possible, and to minimize the amount of time it takes to do it. 

“Luck has nothing to do with winning,” she says. “It all comes down to effort and persistence.”

Effort and persistence.

Do or do not. There is no try.

What if marriage is not the social good that so many believe and want it to be?

What if marriage is not the social good that so many believe and want it to be?

But speculation about whether or not marriage is obsolete overlooks a more important question: What is lost by making marriage the most central relationship in a culture?

For me, this is a personal question as much as it is a social and political one. When my partner, Mark, and I talk about whether or not we want to get married, friends tend to assume that we are trying to decide whether or not we are “serious” about our relationship. But I’m not expressing doubts about my relationship; I’m doubting the institution itself.

… in America today, getting married is still “the most prestigious way to live your life.

This prestige can make it particularly difficult to think critically about the institution—especially when coupled with the idea that vows might save you from the existential loneliness of being human. When my friends cite the benefits of marriage, they often point to an intangible sense of belonging and security: Being married just “feels different.”

marriage actually weakens other social ties. Compared with those who stay single, married folks are less likely to visit or call parents and siblings—and less inclined to offer them emotional support or pragmatic help with things such as chores and transportation. They are also less likely to hang out with friends and neighbors.

Single people, by contrast, are far more connected to the social world around them. On average, they provide more care for their siblings and aging parents. They have more friends. They are more likely to offer help to neighbors and ask for it in return.

The sociologists found that, for the most part, these trends couldn’t be explained away by structural differences in the lives of married versus unmarried people. They hold true across racial groups and even when researchers control for age and socioeconomic status. So it isn’t the circumstances of married life that isolate—it’s marriage itself.

Just a few generations ago, the ideal marriage was defined by love, cooperation, and a sense of belonging to a family and community. Today’s newlyweds, Finkel argues, want all that and prestige, autonomy, personal growth, and self-expression. A marriage is supposed to help the individuals within it become the best versions of themselves. This means that more and more, Americans turn to their spouses for needs they once expected an entire community to fulfill.

This article made me think deeply about my marriage. So much rings true. While we saw each other as a married couple way before we got married (late), society’s perception of us drastically changed when we signed the dotted line.

Our commitment to each other remained similar before and after marriage. What we both strive to maintain is relationships outside the marriage, as we both recognise that while we really enjoy spending time with each other, one day, we will be separated (death). Then we will need the support of others.

Bringing slave dwellings out of the shadows with Google Street View.

There is a video in the link that explains further about slavery and the project.

It’s easy to forget about the painful yet important parts of American history when we can’t see them. By immersing ourselves in the places where enslaved communities once lived, we are confronted with a history that cannot be ignored. So to virtually preserve these living spaces and give people access to them, we [Google] created custom Street View imagery for tours of a dozen slave dwellings throughout Virginia, which date from the late 1700s to the mid 1800s.

The Street View tours also play a role in virtual preservation. Many of the dwellings are in poor condition—even in worse shape than when we started photographing them a few years ago. By creating the virtual tours, we preserve the dwellings for future generations.

For the tours, we consciously chose a range of dwelling types and locations to highlight how ubiquitous slavery was throughout Virginia—from the Eastern Shore to Mecklenburg County. People tend to think that enslaved people only lived on rural plantations. But we have tours of slave dwellings in urban cities like Alexandria and Richmond, which challenge the stereotypes of how enslaved people lived.

In school, I explored the usefulness of digital exhibitions. Short of visiting so many places worldwide, photography of these places allows us to “visit” them.

The immersive experience that visiting a physical space provides is lost when viewed through a screen, but with immersive Virtual Reality coming up, sights, sounds and eventually touch and smells (4 out of 5 senses) will bring the immersive-ness to anyone in the world.

How Chicago Got a Lot Faster at Beach Water Warnings.

Chicago is the only major U.S. city to use a new method to test for bacteria at most of its beaches—and then issue same-day swimming advisories.

Millions of people in the U.S. get sick every year (often with a gastrointestinal illness) after swimming, boating, or fishing at a beach.

Authorities measure fecal bacteria—from sewage, birds, or other animals—in the water as an indicator of what other illness-causing organisms might have been released with the waste. If the levels are too high, they post a warning.

Under the usual method, labs grow bacteria from water samples, a process that takes about 24 hours to show results. So by the time high pathogen levels are evident and a beach warning goes out, “Mom is picking up the baby, washing sand out of their pants, and getting into the car,”

For the sake of public health (and good PR), other local jurisdictions and states across the country have considered switching to the day-of testing protocol—but it’s easier said than done. So far, Chicago is the only major city to use a new method for the majority of its beaches, a choice facilitated by political will, capable labs, urban density, and some good fortune.

A sexism questionnaire to filter sexist candidates

How the female CEO of a mechanical engineering Indian startup dealing in menstrual hygiene solutions avoids hiring sexist candidates.

“We have very abstract questions to check for sexism,” says Mohan, who refers to the questionnaire as a “sexism filter.”

…more nuanced questions—one, for instance, that presents a scenario of inequality, and asks how the employee would behave in it—are more useful for identifying whether the candidates are indeed feminists, or just playing the part in the interview. The questions also draw from news and current affairs, trying to gauge the candidate’s opinions on socially-divisive issues, such as caste politics or sexist religious practices.

The best evidence is in the numbers of unfit candidates it helped identify. “We have actually rejected a lot of technically good candidates because of it,” she says. “When there is a cultural misfit, it creates conflict sooner or later,” she explains. “So, from past experience, we prefer waiting to find the right fit, rather than hiring someone and asking them to leave.”

How social separation leads to tribalism and affects not just those ostracised, but the world.

But as measles cases in the U.S. climb to an all-time high after the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, U.S. public health officials have been looking for ways to address the problem.

As a researcher on religious politics and health, I believe that Nigeria’s highly mobilized efforts to eliminate polio can teach America how to reverse the increase in measles cases and shore up its public health infrastructure. Working with international partners, Nigerians have combated misinformation, suspicion of vaccine science and religion-based boycotts to go from ground zero for polio on the African continent in 2003 to nearly polio-free in 2019.

Nigerians understood that simply ostracizing religious communities would not work. Anti-vaxx politics tapped into mistrust of government and “others” that ran deep in a diverse but divided society, where religious, regional and ethnic loyalties took priority over national unity.

To foster reconciliation, Nigerians engaged in efforts to break down tribalism. One experiment, started in 1973 and still going, is compulsory service of college graduates in the National Youth Service Corps in “states other than their own and outside their cultural boundaries to learn the ways of life of other Nigerians.”

… we should work to depoliticize public health. Scapegoating religious communities evokes ugly histories of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

As different people, we have different mindsets. A way forward is agreeing to disagree and keep civilised communication going.

This applies to any form of interaction, including work and home.