Finally getting featured in Fortune Magazine

Elizabeth Dwoskin for the Wall Street Journal:

Computer programs that scan facial expressions have been used to detect whether people respond positively to commercials or whether hospital patients are in pain. Can they also read a CEO’s mind?

James Cicon thinks they can. A finance professor at University of Central Missouri, Cicon built software that analyzed video of the faces of Fortune 500 executives for signs of emotions like fear, anger, disgust, and surprise. The emotions, he found, correlated with profit margins, returns on assets, stock price moves, and other measures of performance at the associated companies.

“What do you think of my profile in Fortune Magazine?…I look what? The shares are what?…Oh.”

Berenst#in Bears hit close to home

Nightmares are much more powerful when you’re younger. I can’t really remember any bad dreams I’ve had over the past five years (although I’m sure that I had them) but I still vividly remember a nightmare I had at age five when a wolf was stalking our family van. I was looking out the back of the car after I thought we lost him, only to have his head appear around the corner of a building and turn to look at us. That seemingly innocuous dream influenced my sleeping position for months, afraid that if I ended up in the same position I’d fall back into that dream. While the finer details are now gone (I know the dream was much longer), I still can pinpoint that nightmare as a major event in my young life.

There was another nightmare that I had as a child that’s a little more fuzzy. In fact, I don’t remember a single detail. But here’s the weird part: I vividly remember not ever remembering a single detail. In the days and weeks that followed this event, I couldn’t tell you what took place in the dream. I only knew the subject of the dream: the Berenstein Bears.

It wasn’t one of those dreams that wakes you with a start. In fact, it wasn’t even a dream that comes back to you in when you open your eyes in the morning. Instead, I remember seeing a Berenstein Bears book and getting a sudden jolt of dread. Of re-remembering something terrible. I couldn’t place my finger on what it was. Some sort of deja vu. It must have been because of an unremembered nightmare.

This happened in the early ’90s. The memory had lied completely dormant, until The Berenst#in Bears Theory started growing in popularity.

I’m not submitting my experience as proof one way or the other. But this is a 100% true story, and I’m feeling all weird inside now.

The Easyway to quit Beijing

From The Economist’s “Mapping the invisible scourge“:

Berkeley Earth’s scientific director, Richard Muller, says breathing Beijing’s air is the equivalent of smoking almost 40 cigarettes a day and calculates that air pollution causes 1.6m deaths a year in China, or 17% of the total.

Um, holy crap.

A “simpler” life

The joking/not joking tone of this post really gets me.

From Rob Rhinehart’s How I Gave Up Alternating Current:

With no fridge, no dishes, no microwave, no oven, no range, no dishwasher, no utensils, no pests, no cleaning products nor dirty rags, my life is considerably simpler, lighter and cleaner than before. I think it was a bit presumptuous for the architect to assume I wanted a kitchen with my apartment and make me pay for it.

Also, he too has a magnet in his finger, so I guess that makes us best friends.

Being plucked from obscurity

Stefanie Cohen, writing about Robert Askins (playwright, Broadway’s “Hand to God“) for the Wall Street Journal1:

Mr. Askins wrote “Hand to God” five years ago and it was staged in 2011 at the off-off Broadway Ensemble Studio Theater. The show was critically praised, and producer Kevin McCollum, (“Avenue Q,” “Motown” “Rent,” “In the Heights”) who had been told by a friend to see it, introduced himself to Mr. Askins in the lobby after the show…Within 24 hours, Mr. McCollum was in negotiations to option the piece.

This reminds me of the blade of grass paradox, which shows that events with really low odds (being plucked from a small theater and brought to Broadway) aren’t actually as low as you might think. Imagine standing in a large field of grass, reaching down, and touching a blade. There are millions of blades of grass that you might have touched, so the odds of being one of those blades of grass is extremely slim. Yet, a blade of grass did get touched, which means that there’s a 100 percent chance that one of the blades of grass will be touched.

Stories like Askins’ are inspiring (and “Hand to God” is amazing, so the fast track to Broadway is well deserved) but the resulting inspiration is inherently conflicted. Something like this will never happen to you…unless it does. Which it won’t. The odds are extremely low, but not that low(?). What if Askins is that single blade of grass, which has already been touched?

Then again, what are the odds that someone standing in a field reaches down and touches only one blade of grass?


  1. Life hack: to view the full WSJ article for free, paste the full URL into a Google search and click the link in the search results.