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October 2, 2010

Why is overhearing one side of a cellphone conversation so irritating?

Science may have the answer to yet another of life's minor vexations.

Roni Caryn Rabin's September 28, 2010 New York Times story reports on the results of a study just published that teases apart the conundrum of why hearing one side of a conversation is so much more annoying than hearing both ends.

The article follows.


Perceptions: When Speakerphone Is Less Distracting

Ever wonder why overhearing one side of a cellphone conversation can be so irritating — and why you feel compelled to eavesdrop in spite of yourself?

Lauren L. Emberson, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Cornell University, used to get so distracted by cellphone conversations overheard on the bus that she couldn’t focus on reading. It made her wonder whether hearing only half of a conversation — a “halfalogue,” she calls it — is somehow more disturbing than hearing the whole discussion.

Twenty-four students were asked to perform tasks that required constant attention, including tracking a cursor on a screen and pushing a button every time one of four letters appeared on the screen. The volunteers were told to ignore background noise, which alternated between a recorded conversation, a “halfalogue,” a monologue and silence.

The volunteers weren’t distracted by the conversations or the monologue, but their performance on the tasks was significantly impaired when the “halfalogue” was played, according to the study, published online in Psychological Science on Thursday.

Ms. Emberson speculated that hearing half a conversation may be distracting because it is less predictable than a dialogue, which has predictable patterns.

“When speech is unpredictable, we can’t control our brain’s reaction to it — it draws our attention in,” she said in an interview. “It’s harder to understand less predictable speech.”


Below, the abstract of the scientific paper.


Overheard Cell-Phone Conversations

When less speech is more distracting

Why are people more irritated by nearby cell-phone conversations than by conversations between two people who are physically present? Overhearing someone on a cell phone means hearing only half of a conversation—a “halfalogue.” We show that merely overhearing a halfalogue results in decreased performance on cognitive tasks designed to reflect the attentional demands of daily activities. By contrast, overhearing both sides of a cell-phone conversation or a monologue does not result in decreased performance. This may be because the content of a halfalogue is less predictable than both sides of a conversation. In a second experiment, we controlled for differences in acoustic factors between these types of overheard speech, establishing that it is the unpredictable informational content of halfalogues that results in distraction. Thus, we provide a cognitive explanation for why overheard cell-phone conversations are especially irritating: Less-predictable speech results in more distraction for a listener engaged in other tasks.

October 2, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Scary creepy peel-and-stick skull wall sticker



"Completely removable, repositionable and reusable — without damaging your walls or leaving any sticky residue behind."


18"H x 10"W.


October 2, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tilt: coffee bar tips on its side


Hold on a sec — there,


that's better.

Elaine Louie's September 30, 2010 New York Times story: "When Eugene Kagansky, the owner of D'Espresso on the Lower East Side, decided to open another coffee bar a block away from the New York Public Library at Bryant Park, he told his designer, “Let’s do a coffee bar that looks like a library, but would be more interesting.”

So Anurag Nema, the founder of nemaworkshop, a Manhattan design firm, did something interesting: he flipped the coffee shop on its side.

Glazed tiles printed with images of books create the illusion of bookshelves tilted sideways, running along the ceiling, down the rear wall and onto the floor. Another wall is covered in herringbone-patterned oak flooring. And the spherical glass lights jut out horizontally from behind the bar, rather than hanging from the ceiling.

The budget was $500,000 for the 500-square-foot coffee shop, which opened earlier this month. Mr. Kagansky said he plans to open 10 more in Manhattan and other major cities. “The next one will be upside down,” he said.

D'Espresso, 317 Madison Avenue (42nd Street), 212-867-7141.

October 2, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Say whaa?

Never heard of that until I read this past Thursday's Washington Post story by Adrian Higgins headlined "Bird lovers see roaming cats as a major threat to many species."

I must say, birds are very seldom seen among the many victims of Gray Cat's predation around my environs.


In the past month alone she's brought home the following: rabbit, squirrel, chipmunk, mouse, frog, snake, lizard — no birds.

But I digress.

Toward the end of Higgins' article was the following: "Of course, turning an outdoor cat into an indoor cat is not as easy as it sounds. Sue Mandeville, a retired university employee and gardener in Springfield, Ore., said she tried to keep her three cats inside after they started catching birds. 'They became very angry at me,' she said, and showed it by marking parts of the house with urine. The standoff lasted three weeks, and 'everyone was miserable.'"


"Mandeville gave up on keeping her cats under house arrest; wondering how she could have them outside without killing birds, she came up with the idea of a bib. She cut up the leather tongue of her husband's boot and attached it like a shield hanging from the cat's collar. She refined the design and now uses two-millimeter-thick neoprene bibs that weigh 'less than a chickadee,' she said. 'It gently interferes with their timing and coordination,' she said. 'They can still climb trees and jump on counters and run,' but it makes them much less dangerous to birds. She sells the CatBib from her Web site, http://www.catgoods."



I do believe Flautist needs to weigh in here; I'm hoping she'll do so at length (as is well-known, there is no word limit here at bookofjoe — though there are those who believe it would be in everyone's best interest if there were... but that's another subject, for another post entirely).

*WWGS? (What would Garfield say?)


Never mind — this site is G-rated.

October 2, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

"The buying and selling habits of Victorian collectors and dealers are now being exposed online"


From a story in the September 23, 2010 New York Times:


The Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have sent about 1,500 pre-1920s auction catalogs for scanning through JSTOR, a nonprofit digital archiving organization, and 100,000 searchable pages are now posted at a beta Web site, auctioncatalogs.jstor.org.

Although the pages are rarely illustrated, they reveal the history of auctioneers’ hyperbole and collectors’ obsessiveness. Christie's described consignors with phrases like “a Connoisseur Who has spared no Expense,” and a portrait for sale would be listed as “a Female sitting, overpowered with sleep and heat of a sultry Summer evening.”

In 1804 Sotheby’s broke up a bankrupt merchant’s museum of oddities, and a single lot contained “Liquid Bitumen or Naptha, Alluminous Schistos, Iron Ores, Gallena, Bitumen in Fluor, Sulphat of Lime, Antimony, Stalactites and Various.”

In the margins of the pages, saleroom observers occasionally scribbled prices, identified buyers and gave critiques of the art. “Sometimes it says, ‘Bad painting,’ or, ‘No way this is by Rembrandt,’ ” said Deborah Kempe, the Frick library’s chief of collections management.

JSTOR is now deciding how to expand the scanning scope and link to museum and library Web sites, and possibly the recent databases of auction houses.



From the JSTOR auction catalogs beta website: "This prototype site is open to the public through 2011. If you are interested in this content and the importance to art research, we encourage you to try the site and take the brief survey linked below. We will evaluate use of the content and the feedback we have received in order to help determine the future of the resource."

From the New York Art Resources Consortium website:


JSTOR is collaborating with the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Art Reference Library in a pilot project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to understand how auction catalogs can best be preserved for the long term and made most easily accessible for scholarly use. Auction catalogs are vital for provenance research as well as for the study of art markets and the history of collecting. Libraries, however, face a range of challenges with respect to their catalog collections, including preservation concerns and shelf space constraints.

This pilot project will digitize and preserve a small set of American and British auction catalogs dating from the 18th through the early 20th century, while examining how best a more extensive effort might be undertaken. To enhance access to content, Jstor is developing new tools for digitization, such as capturing handwritten annotations that document the lots’ buyers and prices. New tools linking resources and allowing authorized users to contribute information will provide opportunities to enhance content.


Project figures and contributions:

• 106,000 pages scanned from 1,600+ auction catalogs

• Watson contribution: 81,824 pages from 1,203 catalogs

• Frick contribution: 24,807 pages from 425 catalogs

October 2, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Erosion Table


By Ireland-based Joseph Walsh, the 2009 piece is made of olive ash.


161cm L x 86cm W x 52cm H (lower level 41cm H).


Edition of 12 plus 2 artist proofs.

[via Rima Suqi and the New York Times]

October 2, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Experts' Expert: Yoana Baraschi on tying the perfect scarf


This is more for you than me since I never wear a scarf.

Of course, there's a lot of things you do that I don't do... but I'm not going there — am I?

Here's Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan's interview from Thursday's Wall Street Journal with designer Yoana Baraschi (above) to help you achieve a great look.


Scarves have long been a staple of a chic look for European women, but many Americans still regard them as difficult to pull off.

Designer Yoana Baraschi believes that anyone can wear them. Indeed, they're best worn in an insouciant way—no complicated knotting needed.

A square silk scarf—Ms. Baraschi has collected vintage Hermès and Gucci—is great for dressing up a conservative suit. Ms. Baraschi, whose scarves and clothes are sold in Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and other stores, chooses a patterned scarf with a color that picks up on the hue of her blouse. Then she folds it in half to form a large triangle, asymmetrically drapes it over one side of her jacket, and makes a small knot with the ends on the other side of the body.

"It should look natural," not stiff, she says, noting that the knot shouldn't look "meticulously tied."

Sometimes, she'll twist the folded triangle a few times and drape it around her neck before knotting it lightly to one side. "It shouldn't look very tight around your neck, or it'll look like you have a cold," says Ms. Baraschi, who leaves her collarbone exposed for a more "playful" look. The designer sometimes pairs a dress or a dress shirt and pants with a scarf tied in this way.

Ms. Baraschi generally likes square scarves that are 30 or 32 inches wide. With anything larger than that, there could be too much fabric billowing around the neck. If she is wearing a patterned top with her suit, she'll typically wear a plain scarf that picks up on a color.

"Long scarves are my favorite," Ms. Baraschi says, because of their versatility. She has several lightweight cashmere versions that she wears year-round. She favors a looser look with these scarves, sometimes folding one in half to make a loop, putting it around her neck and then pulling the ends through.

Often, she simply drapes a scarf around her shoulders, saying this gives dresses and pants a "fresh and modern look." This is a good way to wear a scarf with a shorter dress, which can get overwhelmed by long, dangling ends. With pants or jeans, she loosely loops her scarf once or twice around her neck and lets the ends hang down—preferably no farther than just past the waistline.

Ms. Baraschi avoids wearing necklaces with scarves that are wrapped around her neck, noting that the scarf is "the major statement" near the face. Earrings should be small—"nothing dangling," she says.

If her scarf is very colorful, Ms. Baraschi keeps her eye shadow to a minimum so she doesn't have two strong colors competing. And if her scarf bears red or pink, she makes sure that her lipstick color doesn't clash. But if the scarf is in a neutral color or a cooler shade like gray or blue, she'll make her lipstick color a little bolder. "You want to play with contrasting elements," says Ms. Baraschi.

While she likes patterns of all kinds on her scarves, she finds traditional paisleys can look "old-fashioned." She prefers paisleys that are "only on a part of the scarf" or "very tight and dense." For a modern look, she sometimes likes scarves that are made in a very light, see-through silk, which has an airy effect.

Otherwise, there are few rules for choosing a scarf. "Be creative, be courageous," she says. "Scarves are a way to express a more interesting and perhaps deeper side of you that's not always visible."

October 2, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stormbag — got water?

Mark Hall sent me a link to Stormtec, the company that makes these innovative sandbag alternatives.

Watch the video up top and tell me you're not convinced this is excellent technology.

But perhaps you're not convinced, or maybe it's that you're not yet ready to get back to work.

No worries: here's part two of the Stormbag saga.

Now don't tell me... you're feeling even more averse to doing what you're supposed to be doing.

How do you spell "enabler?"

But I digress.

Part three follows.


What the heck, let's go all in with part four, the grand finale.

I was interested to see that the view count for the four parts went from 809 for part one to 271, 158, and finally 74 for part four.

October 2, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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