The rise of worktime was unexpected. For nearly a hundred years, hours had been declining. When this decline abruptly ended in the late 1940s, it marked the beginning of a new era in worktime.
Since 1948, the level of productivity of the U.S. worker has more than doubled. In other words, we could now produce our 1948 standard of living (measured in terms of marketed goods and services) in less than half the time it took in that year. We actually could have chosen the four-hour day. Or a working year of six months. Or, every worker in the United States could now be taking every other year off from work -- with pay.
How did this happen? Why has leisure been such a conspicuous casualty of prosperity?
- This is a film noir set in a present-day high school. It has the traditional banter, character types, and plot-style, but doesn't ape the visual look. The surprising thing is that it almost always works. There's only one scene where it seems forced, and that scene is really funny, so it's forgiven. Definitely worth seeing.
- Moore has not written a less-than-hilarious book yet. This is the story of a guy who discovers that he's a grim reaper, so comparisons with Dead Like Me aren't far off. It's very silly, and very awesome. It also includes some returning characters from both Bloodsucking Fiends and Coyote Blue.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach:
- This is a book about what happens to dead bodies: how decay, embalming, cremation, organ donation, crash testing, medical training, and all sorts of gross things work. It's really interesting, and written in a very non-clinical personal style (e.g., "they asked if I wanted to watch, and I didn't, but I said yes anyway.") You can -- and should -- read part of the first chapter here: A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste.
My new favorite piece of trivia: it turns out that hearts work just fine without brains attached. During a heart transplant, with a corpse on life support to keep everything warm, after completely disconnecting the heart from the body, the heart keeps beating for like ten minutes. And they really go: they're not cute little gently pulsating blobs, they really thrash around, which means that it's not uncommon for them to get away. And when that happens, they pick 'em up off the floor, wash 'em off, and install them anyway.
("tastes like victory")
By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish.
A narrow strip of red plastic connects the Brain Port to the tongue where 144 microelectrodes transmit information through nerve fibers to the brain. Instead of holding and looking at compasses and bluky-hand-held sonar devices, the divers can processes the information through their tongues, said Dr. Anil Raj, the project's lead scientist.
In testing, blind people found doorways, noticed people walking in front of them and caught balls. A version of the device, expected to be commercially marketed soon, has restored balance to those whose vestibular systems in the inner ear were destroyed by antibiotics.
Michael Zinszer, a veteran Navy diver and director of Florida State University's Underwater Crime Scene Investigation School, took part in testing using the tongue to transmit an electronic compass and an electronic depth sensor while in a swimming pool. He likened the feeling on his tongue to Pop Rocks candies. "You are feeling the outline of this image," he said. "I was in the pool, they were directing me to a very small object and I was able to locate everything very easily."
So colourful and exotic is the list of substances that have been claimed to heighten sexual appetite that it is hard not to feel a twinge of disappointment on first beholding the latest entry - a small, white plastic nasal inhaler containing an odourless, colourless synthetic chemical called PT-141. Plain as it is, however, there is one thing that distinguishes PT-141 from the 4,000 years' worth of recorded medicinal aphrodisiacs that precede it: this one actually works. And it could reach the market in as little as three years.
The full range of possible risks and side effects has yet to be determined, but already this much is known: a dose of PT-141 results, in most cases, in a stirring in the loins in as little as 15 minutes. Women, according to one set of results, feel 'genital warmth, tingling and throbbing', not to mention 'a strong desire to have sex'.
The precise mechanisms by which PT-141 does its job remain unclear, but the rough idea is this: where Viagra acts on the circulatory system, helping blood flow into the penis, PT-141 goes to the brain itself. 'It's not merely allowing a sexual response to take place more easily,' explains Michael A Perelman, co-director of the Human Sexuality Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a sexual-medicine adviser on the PT-141 trials. 'It may be having an effect, literally, on how we think and feel.'
Two years earlier, and just three years past its start-up, the company had bought the rights to develop a substance called Melanotan II. Originally isolated by University of Arizona researchers looking for a way to give Caucasians a healthy, sunblocking tan without exposing them to dangerous ultraviolet rays, Melanotan II achieved that and more: it also appeared to facilitate weight loss, increase sexual appetite and act as an anti-inflammatory, too. Quickly dubbed 'the Barbie drug', Melanotan II seemed too good to be true.
In fact, it was too good to be good. A drug with so many effects, Palatin decided, was not an effectively marketable one. So Palatin's researchers set out to isolate the individual effects in the laboratory, experimenting with variations on Melanotan II's molecular theme. The compound that became PT-141 was one of the first variations examined.
'I see a lot of couples in my practice who don't know how to relax,' says Leonore Tiefer, a professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. 'That's fine - it's a big asset to them in their corporate lifestyle, where they can work 80 hours a week. They're trained to multi-task. Well, it doesn't seem that that is really doable when it comes to sex. And they're angry about that: they need it to be doable because they only have their five minutes.'
The five-minute meaningful sexual encounter: if ever there was a holy grail for the age of the tight-wired global economy - with its time-strapped labour force and its glut of bright, shiny distractions - that is it. And if ever there was a reason to be wary of the pharmaceutical industry's designs on the market for sexual healing, say critics such as Tiefer, it's the attractiveness of that simple-minded ideal.
And here's a fine out-of-context quote:
'He notices it's there, and he grooms it to detumescence,' says Annette Shadiack, Palatin's executive director of pre-clinical development. 'And then it happens again.'