This is your brain on an inappropriate statistical threshold


"This picture occasionally does the rounds on Twitter, often spurred by tweets from the kind of evidence-phobic accounts that publish whole lists of mind-blowing 'facts', at least 50% of which are made up. This picture has also spurred about a billion blog posts, somewhat unsurprisingly, written by the kind of people who like to get their scientific evidence from a single image on Twitter."

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Standing desk

A couple of months ago, I switched to a standing desk. I figured I'd give it a try, after so many years of reading how sitting will kill you.

Anyway, I like it. It didn't take any time at all for me to get used to it, I don't get tired or sore standing for hours at a time, and I've noticed that my neck is basically never stiff any more. So it seems like a solid plan!

I find that it makes me pace around a lot more. Without the overhead of having to actually lift my ass out of the chair, I wander more when I'm thinking, and I take my hands off the keys more often when I'm not actually typing.

The biggest downside is that I couldn't figure out a way to continue using my beloved and long-discontinued Kinesis Evolution chair-arm-mounted keyboard (what with there no longer being a chair). I tried attaching it to an arm, but that didn't work out. The whole contraption was too wobbly. So currently I'm using a Kinesis Freestyle2, but I don't like it very much. The layout is ok, but the keys are mushy.

For the keyboard tray, I got a Vivo laptop arm, which is adequate. I got a 3'×1'×½" piece of plastic from Tap to make it be wide enough for the hand separation I like.

And now, for what I did wrong:

Look, if you're thinking of switching to a standing desk, don't try to do it halfway. Just commit. Raise the legs on your existing desk, or go to Ikea and get an end-table that's about the right size, cut its legs to fit, and set that on top of your existing desk. Just do the obvious, easy thing.

I decided that I should come up with something adjustable, in case some days I wanted to sit. So I wanted to be able to bring my monitors and keyboard back down to desk height as needed.

Well first of all, after standing at this desk for months, I have never wanted to do that, so that was a waste of time.

There are motorized desks out there, but they look like slow, noisy and expensive pieces of shit, so instead I went with monitor arms, thinking, hey, just grab the thing and pull it to the position you want it in.

First problem: there aren't very many monitor arms that will support a 35 pound iMac. The most promising-looking was the Ergotech Freedom Arm. That's what I got. Do not under any circumstances buy this. Here's why it sucks:

  1. The mounting pole is too short. At maximum extension, it will only bring the bottom edge of your monitor about 12" above the desk, which isn't nearly high enough to turn a sitting desk into a standing desk. They don't sell a longer pole. If you were designing this product, you'd just use commodity threaded plumbing stock, right? Of course they didn't. I managed to find some pipe of the right diameter, and with a second pipe inside and a bunch of duct tape was able to shim it, and make it extend to the 20" I needed, but that was a pain in the ass.
  2. With the longer arm, you can't just grab the monitor and move it from "sitting" to "standing" height anyway. It doesn't extend that far. To change it that much, you'd need to undo the set screw and re-adjust. So that was a waste of effort.

  3. They have two models, one for iMacs and one with standard VESA screws. If you were designing this product, you'd make one arm, and ship a mounting shim with the Mac version (like, say, this). Of course they didn't. They have a custom iMac-only head-end on the arm, and it's riveted in. So you can't ever use the iMac version with a non-iMac.

  4. Oh guess what, by "iMac version" they mean "discontinued iMac version". Because you see, the old iMacs let you remove the leg to mount this thing, but any iMac manufactured after 2011 no longer has a removable leg! You have to order a different Mac with VESA screws and no leg for that. And it's not an option on the standard Apple order-configuration page. There's a completely separate page for the VESA-screws iMac, with all the same configuration options as the normal page.

  5. And then -- it turns out that the VESA version of the Ergotech arm can't actually support the weight of an iMac. I don't even understand why this is, because they look physically identical, except for the mount point, but it seems to be the case. Maybe they put a wimpier spring in it or something. I had to splint it into the fully-extended position with a piece of plumbing strap and a random steel bar. Oh, the indignity.

  6. So now you've got an old 2010 iMac to use as a hand-me-down at the office. You take off the arm and put the leg back on. Oops, no you don't. The leg doesn't go back on after the arm has had its way with it. So now both your old and your new Mac are arm-only models. Get used to it.

What I'm saying is, forget the arms, just make your desk taller somehow. This was a dumb mistake, even though it gives me more surface area to clutter up. Also, the monitors wobble a little bit when I type, which is irritating.

But, standing good!

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"A giant statue of Marilyn Monroe is seen at the dump-site of a rubbish collecting company in Guigang, China. The eight-metre tall stainless steel statue, which weighs about eight tonnes, was dumped after being displayed outside a business centre in the city for only six months."

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