The unbearable lightness of peeing.

cell-phone-toilet-nasty

3 reasons to block wi-fi and phone signals to workplace bathrooms.

Many workplaces recognize the drag on work time if staff are checking in on their mobile phone to catch up on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, What’s App etc.  HR departments have introduced guidelines on use of mobile phones.  Many have restricted access to wi-fi networks to business approved usage only.  But with cheap data usage plans plenty of staff are still “always on” as long as they have a phone signal.  Maybe it is time to monitor bathroom behavior in your business.

Productivity

It is a no-brainer that staff members who are accessing their social media feeds are taking time away from their work.  In certain types of business this impact can be significant.  For people working on complex data tasks an interruption to analysis can result in a 20 minute “recalibration” penalty as the staff member picks up from where they previously left off.

If you are engaged in a complex task, or something that needs a lot of concentration (think about sitting exams) a bathroom break can be a moment when you order your thoughts on how to approach the task at hand.  How often have you worked out the solution to a problem by going for a walk, or eating lunch, while mulling over the problem?  But if that time is spent checking social media feed the brain is distracted.  Instead of working out the problem at hand the brain is leaping from photos of friends lunches to the latest on Royal Weddings.

By making the bathroom in the office a data black hole you help staff members to avoid the lure of the device in their pocket.

Health

If people are in the habit of checking their phone in the bathroom there will be implications for the spread of germs.  This is not rocket science.  When have you last seen someone wash their iPhone in the sink?

Think about that next time you borrow someones phone!  Yuck.

Congestion

The hidden cost of phone usage in bathrooms is congestion.  Staff members are taking longer to use the bathroom because they are checking the phone.  Male staff members are more likely to use a stall instead of a urinal because they can scan their feed.  This causes lost time, but hides a more insidious issue.

Buildings are designed around the flow of people.  A building is designed with an optimal number of bathrooms for staff, based on research into usage parameters.  There have to be enough toilets to handle the maximum demand periods.  If each staff member is spending just a few extra seconds using the bathroom, checking their phone, this has knock on consequences for office design and consequently the cost of office space.

Summary

Bathrooms are designed for going to the lavatory.  If they are designed to block phone and wi-fi signals they will operate more effectively for their intended purpose.

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Perception is reality.

Darwin

Charles Darwin and his ancestor.

Every day I see a drama played out in the media, and on social media in particular.  Group A present their reality.  Group B present a counter reality.  Group A argues on science.  Group B argues on pseudo-science overlying blind faith.  Group A is constantly baffled by the inability of group B to grasp reality.  Group B is constantly baffled by the inability of group A to grasp reality.  Group A say “that is not reality – it is perception”.  Group B say “I know what reality is”.

Group B is right.  They do know what their reality is.  Group A ignore perceptual reality at their peril.

Let me tell you a story.

When I was a child I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family.  Seven kids of which I was 6th.  As if the house was not full enough we also, until she married, had my Aunt Phyllis living with us.  I was about 5 when she married.  I was supposed to be the “train bearer” but her bossy bridesmaid, would not let me bear the train.  What I remember about that wedding is the cold.  It was a red raw cold Easter wedding.  In the main group photo you will see me retreating from the church steps to escape the wind by going back into the church.

Phyllis was, to my young mind, the living embodiment of Mary Tyler Moore living in our house.  She was cool, sassy, grown up and not a parent.  My two oldest brothers are over 6 ft tall.  Phyllis is about 5′ 3”.  To my young mind she towered over them.  They were teenagers.  They are my brothers.  She was an adult, they were kids.  She towered over them.

My oldest brother, Jerry, is a Solicitor.  Second oldest, Fergus, is an Architect.  Both well educated professionals.  Phyllis was never a professional.  Mostly she was a mother and housewife.  When she married and moved to Swords in North County Dublin my younger brother and I used to cycle out to visit her quite often.  She would feed us and then send us home.  We loved it when she baked a cake that flopped.  She let us eat as much of it as we could before it went into the bin.  In a family of 7 kids cake is a luxury, flopped or not.

So here you have this short woman with no pretensions to a fantastic education.  Beside her you have my two oldest brothers, towering over her, wielding university degrees.  If I have a need to seek advice on an important philosophical matter who am I going to ask?

Phyllis of course.  In the reality of my 5 year old mind she is the adult.  They are the teenagers.

I know, in my 50 something year old brain that my 60 something year old brothers are well capable of addressing deep philosophical issues.  I know, rationally, that they are well educated, highly experienced adults.

This is the point at which Group A and Group B fall out with each other.  You can prove, without a doubt, to the adult mind, that Jerry and Fergus are the more qualified mentors.  You can absolutely convince me on the evidence that I should ask them for advice.  I will absolutely agree with you, and then I’ll go consult Phyllis.

Vaccination protagonists present all the science to anti-vaccination people, who read it, internalise it and refuse to vaccinate their kids.  Astronomers present incontestable evidence to flat-earthers who nod and smile and go back to live on their flat earth.  Democrats present cast iron evidence that Republicans are exploiting the working man and the working man reads it, shakes his head and votes Republican.  Atheists disprove God again and again.  People of faith can’t argue back, but they know what they feel, and they feel they believe, and in belief lies salvation.

Evidence, statistics, facts, research, proof, they are all good.  They are all worthy valuable pursuits.  But they don’t necessarily change our innate perceptions.  Our reality is founded on our perceptions, not on the cold hard realities of the world.

Again and again Group A think they can win by arguing reality.  In truth they will only win by changing perceptions, and that is a far harder task.

Martin Luther challenged the reality of the Christian Church in 1517.  By the 1960’s the church had, for the most part, altered it’s perception, with the enactment of Vatican II.  That was a hard won victory, 450 years and counting.  Charles Darwin postulated the theory of human evolution in 1859.  That took only about 100 years to gain widespread mainstream acceptance.

Changing perception takes time.  It does not take weeks, months or years.   It takes generations.

 

Eye Contact

My Eyes are up Here!  (Courtesy of Arrested Development)

My Eyes are up Here!                                      (Courtesy of Arrested Development)

It is an old joke that men cannot look a woman in the eyes, especially if she is wearing a low cut top.  And let’s be honest girls, how many of you have played to the balcony and used your assets to good effect to gain the upper hand in situations?

Men do drop their eyes when they meet women.  But the reason why may come as a surprise.

Humans have the ability to make very rapid assessments of certain situations.  Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Blink” gives a good review of the ability of people to make snap “gut instinct” decisions that are very accurate.  One of the areas where we are able to make a snap decision is in mate selection.  Love at first sight may not be such a bad idea!

We don’t know all the elements that contribute to finding the “perfect” mate, but we do know of some of them.  I suspect that there is a huge body of work that remains to be done on how the human olfactory system can decode the scent of a potential partner to yield triggers to compatibility.  But that is for another day.

Today I am looking at the difference between the way men and women carry out their first visual inspection of each other.  A woman looks at a man in the eyes and scans horizontally across his face.  A man drops his eyes and looks downwards, scanning vertically.  So why the difference?

Both men and women are scanning for markers of fitness (ability to provide), health (ability to procreate healthy children).  Men are also scanning for preparedness, the signs that a woman is in the fertile point in her menstrual cycle.  The shortcuts for these markers are very different between men and women.

In men facial symmetry is a very strong indicator of fitness and health.  In both sexes facial symmetry is equated with “beauty”, but in men it carries even more powerful cues for women.  A symmetrical face is a map of good genetics, nutrition and development.  This is a kid who was born with good genes, was well fed as a child and has matured in a healthy manner to adulthood.  In practical terms this means he can run fast and catch food.  He is also likely to have a healthy sperm count.  Olympic sprinters, for instance, have very symmetrical faces.

The key elements you need to scan to assess facial symmetry are the eyes, the ears, nose and mouth.  When a woman meets a man for the first time she looks at his eyes, then scans left and right to measure the position of his nose, ears and mouth in relation to the line of his eyes.  What the man sees is a girl looking him in the eyes.

The key markers that men seek in women are different.  The first is waist to hip ratio.  Almost everywhere across the world a ratio of 0.7 waist to hip is seen as ideal.  Why?  Believe it or not women with this ratio have ideal oestrogen balance, better fertility, higher pregnancy rates and are less susceptible to diseases such as diabetes.  A woman with an ideal waist to hip ratio is more likely to give a man children.

The next important marker is spine curvature.  When the spine is curved at the ideal angle it accentuates a woman’s behind and makes it attractive to men.  What is so attractive about a prominent butt?  Studies have shown that women with a certain curvature of the spine remain mobile for longer in the later stages of pregnancy.  In primitive and nomadic societies (most of man-kinds history) they can forage for food later into their pregnancy.  They also have fewer problems in childbirth.  What is more, women with good levels of hip and buttock fat have been shown to raise children with higher IQ’s.  These qualities have become encoded in human brains over thousands of years to equate with “attractiveness”.

For a man to assess waist to hip ratio and spine curvature he simply must drop the eyes and “check her out”.  This is very obvious to women.   So if it is all about the hip area, why is he ogling her breasts?

This is where we move from “fitness” to “preparedness”.  When women are ovulating the hormonal changes in their bodies can have some interesting effects.  First off it makes your breasts more symmetrical.  Yes, every month they even up a bit better for a few days.  They also fill out a bit.  So do the lips, which become redder as a result.  Skin clears up and can develop a healthy glow and hair becomes fuller and shinier.  The cosmetics industry makes a fortune by replicating exactly these effects.

When these changes occur women feel more body confident.  They preen by exposing more flesh, wearing lower cut tops, higher cut skirts etc.  They are effectively advertising the fact that they are “in heat”.

So when a man drops his eyes, he is not ONLY ogling your breasts.  He is checking out the deeper and more telling signs that you are going to make a good mom.

When you wear that bright red lipstick and the low cut top with the push-up bra you are telling him that you are ready for a baby!

When Health & Safety goes mad!

health-and-safety-logo

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My eldest son was describing his school science class to me.  He told me how frustrated his science teacher is, because Health & Safety guidelines have resulted in the removal of many substances from the school.  Teachers cannot demonstrate many of the bread and butter experiments any more because they are too dangerous.  Bunsen Burners are being removed and replaced with hot plates.  Sodium and Potassium have been taken off the experiments list – way too dangerous.  And forget phosphorous.

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For many years in Ireland the study of science was in decline.  The government of Ireland made science education a priority.  We want kids to study science.  We want them to experiment and to have fun and to get excited about the subject. At the same time the Health & Safety gremlins want to make sure that our kids are not boiled in acid, blinded by explosions, scorched by naked gas flames, gassed by toxic fumes or knocked out with chloroform. The problem here is that the H&S gremlins always win the argument.  There is no reasoned debate.  If you ask “how many kids were actually harmed in school experiments in the last 12 months” they will not answer.  They work on the basis of risk assessment, not risk fact, or risk history, or reported incidents. This is a problem for the teaching of science in schools,and in universities.

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Science involves pushing the boundaries of what is now possible.  Science is about doing risky things.  If we let H&S take over the world then we can say bye bye to any new breakthrough discoveries. The minute I start to talk like this the H&S gremlins roll out their big guns.

Insurance.  If you don’t listen to the gremlins, they warn that the Insurance costs will skyrocket.  Even worse, they warn, we will be open to claims of liability.

The very fact that H&S have raised a risk means that we automatically become liable to that risk in a way we never were before. Just imagine, little Johnny is in class carrying out a titration experiment.  The teacher warns the class not to boil the alcohol.  Johnny thinks this is funny and turns up the heat.  The alcohol boils and ignites.  There is a relatively harmless flash which removes Johnnies eyebrows, much to the amusement of the class.

Mommy is not laughing.  He was scheduled for a set of head-shots for a modelling job. She sues the school.  Her bottom feeding pond sucking scum lawyer knows exactly what to look for.  He unearths the minutes of a school meeting where the Health and Safety officer expressed concern that bunsen burners in the hands of children were a danger.  The school did not remove them.  QED, the school is at fault.  Case closed.  Now, if H&S had never reported the risk, the liability of the school would have been lessened.

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My own take on all this is simple.  I want my kids to learn science properly.  I want them to engage in experimentation.  I am prepared to sign a liability waiver as a condition of my child taking part in potentially dangerous experiments.  If little Johnnies Mommy is not prepared to sign the waiver I am quite happy to see little Johnny study something less dangerous instead.

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Art?  No, chisels are too dangerous. Technical drawing?  No, compasses are pointy. Music?  No, drumsticks, violin bows, breaking strings, risk of deafness from Cymbal crashing. Home economics?  Sewing needles, knives, scissors, hot cooking plates, no way. Religion.  That should be OK.  Nobody dies because of religion.  Do they? Problem is, how is Mommy going to protect little Johnny from himself, and from getting his heart broken by a girl, and from his personal failures, and his nasty boss, and from the random vagaries of the world?

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Chemistry Experiment; by Bart Edelman

We listened intently to the professor,

Followed each one of her instructions,

Read through the textbook twice,

Wore lab coats and safety goggles,

Mixed the perfect chemical combinations

In the proper amount and order.

We thought we were a complete success.

And then the flash of light,

The loud, perplexing explosion,

The black rope of smoke,

Rising freely above our singed hair.

Someone in another lab down the hallway

Phoned the local fire department

Which arrived lickety-split

With the hazardous waste crew,

And they assessed the accident,

Deciding we were out of danger.

It was the talk of the campus,

For many weeks afterwords.

We, However, became so disillusioned

That we immediately dropped the course

And slowly retreated from each other.

The very idea we could have done

More damage than we actually did–

Blown ourselves up and the building

From the base of its foundation–

Shook us, like nothing had before.

And even now, years later,

When anyone still asks about you,

I get this sick feeling in my stomach

And wonder what really happened

To all the elementary matter.