Archive for October, 2010

Nordstrom's Employee Handbook — short and sweet

27 Oct

For years, Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook was a single 5×8” gray card containing these 75 words:

Welcome to Nordstrom

We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

During this time, Nordstrom had the highest sales per square foot performance in the retail industry – by almost double. [thx Ian]


The True Size of Africa

26 Oct

Africa is the world’s second-largest continent (Asia is #1), but gauging the actual size of something that seems so far away can be difficult. Fortunately, Greg Ousuri has created this incredible visual aid to help put the mind-boggling size of the land mass into perspective.  It is fascinating to see that the U.S., all of Europe, China and Japan still don’t fill up the entire surface area of the continent. Personally, I was shocked to see that Madagascar is around the same size as the entire U.K.

It would be interesting to see a few different models that contain other countries, such as Russia, Canada and Mexico.


strip for October / 26 / 2010

26 Oct
strip for October / 26 / 2010

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Taste receptors in our lungs sense bitterness and respond with opened airways

25 Oct
A paper in this week's Nature reports on the discovery of taste receptors inside the lungs, on the airway smooth muscles. These are "the same as those on the tongue" and respond to bitter flavors -- not by transmitting the taste of bitterness to the brain, but by opening the airway "more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."
There are thousands of compounds that activate the body's bitter taste receptors but are not toxic in appropriate doses. Many are synthetic agents, developed for different purposes, and others come from natural origins, such as certain vegetables, flowers, berries and trees.

The researchers tested a few standard bitter substances known to activate these receptors. "It turns out that the bitter compounds worked the opposite way from what we thought," says Dr. Liggett. "They all opened the airway more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)." Dr. Liggett says this observation could have implications for new therapies. "New drugs to treat asthma, emphysema or chronic bronchitis are needed," he says. "This could replace or enhance what is now in use, and represents a completely new approach."

Quinine and chloroquine have been used to treat completely different diseases (such as malaria), but are also very bitter. Both of these compounds opened contracted airways profoundly in laboratory models. Even saccharin, which has a bitter aftertaste, was effective at stimulating these receptors. The researchers also found that administration of an aerosolized form of bitter substances relaxed the airways in a mouse model of asthma, showing that they could potentially be an effective treatment for this disease.

Bitter taste receptors on airway smooth muscle bronchodilate by localized calcium signaling and reverse obstruction (Nature)


(via /.)


Beethoven’s Fifth Sith-Phony

25 Oct

Yes this video is a year and a half old, but it's so unbelievably awesome that I had to share it in case you hadn't seen it. Basically, it's seven minutes of pianist Richard Grayson (yes) playing the Imperial March from Empire Strikes Back in the manner of Beethoven. It's beautiful and exceedingly impressive in its reimagining. That sound you hear at the very end? It's John Williams weeping and putting a gun in his mouth.Thanks to Brandon M. for the tip.

Welcome to Room 116

25 Oct



Dark chocolate a day keeps high blood pressure away

24 Oct
Artery-friendly flavonoids in dark chocolate are so powerful that a daily piece the size of a Hershey's Kiss can lower your blood pressure. Eating that much only once or twice a week cut heart failure risk by a third in a recent study.

Weird Science’s pessimistic dogs won’t play fetch

24 Oct

Your dog isn't misbehaving, it's just a pessimist: We make jokes about other people's separation anxiety, but people are hardly the only who experience it—our pets often do as well. Some dogs and cats (and possibly other species) will often respond to an owner's absence with various misbehaviors, from treating a bed as a litterbox to chewing up the furniture. Why do only some pets respond this way to their owner's absence? Because the ones that do are inherently pessimistic. Stick them in a situation where they had to run to a bowl that may or may not contain food, and the ones that showed separation anxiety tended to run to the bowl more slowly, as if they expected to be disappointed by its contents.

Senility strikes the bees (no word on the birds yet): No, it's not the cause of colony collapse, but the memory deficits that we humans develop with aging are apparently widespread in the animal kingdom. Bees that were given a chance to adjust to a change in hive location did worse if they were older. The problem isn't that they consistently fail to form new memories; instead, memory performance gets more variable, and the bees can't seem to get rid of memories of their old hive location.

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U.S. College Degrees by County

24 Oct

College degrees by U.S. county, 2009

“Americans are better educated now than ever, but the distribution of people with college degrees is growing increasingly unequal,” write Roberto Gallardo and Bill Bishop in the Daily Yonder. “And the clustering of people with higher education is creating greater disparities in regional incomes and unemployment.” Their article includes three U.S. county maps showing how much above or below the national average each county has been in terms of number of adults with a college degree since 1990. Via David Brin.

U.S. College Degrees by County first appeared on The Map Room: A Weblog About Maps on October 24, 2010. Copyright © 2010 Jonathan Crowe. Distributed under a Creative Commons licence.


iwdrm: “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’, I bring out my…

23 Oct


“Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’, I bring out my checkbook.”

Le mépris (1963)