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The Morning Grumpy – 4/2/13

2 Apr

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.


Tom Bauerle, presented without comment.

1. An incredible piece in the NY Times about a harmful industrial chemical and the inability of OSHA to stop its use.

For about five years, Ms. Farley, 45, stood alongside about a dozen other workers, spray gun in hand, gluing together foam cushions for chairs and couches sold under brand names like Broyhill, Ralph Lauren and Thomasville. Fumes from the glue formed a yellowish fog inside the plant, and Ms. Farley’s doctors say that breathing them in eventually ate away at her nerve endings, resulting in what she and her co-workers call “dead foot.”

A chemical she handled — known as n-propyl bromide, or nPB — is also used by tens of thousands of workers in auto body shops, dry cleaners and high-tech electronics manufacturing plants across the nation. Medical researchers, government officials and even chemical companies that once manufactured nPB have warned for over a decade that it causes neurological damage and infertility when inhaled at low levels over long periods, but its use has grown 15-fold in the past six years.

Such hazards demonstrate the difficulty, despite decades of effort, of ensuring that Americans can breathe clean air on the job. Even as worker after worker fell ill, records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that managers at Royale Comfort Seating, where Ms. Farley was employed, repeatedly exposed gluers to nPB levels that exceeded levels federal officials considered safe, failed to provide respirators and turned off fans meant to vent fumes.

But the story of the rise of nPB and the decline of Ms. Farley’s health is much more than the tale of one company, or another chapter in the national debate over the need for more, or fewer, government regulations. Instead, it is a parable about the law of unintended consequences.

Investigative journalism at its finest.

2. The H-1B visa program is largely used by Indian outsourcing companies which are running high-tech sweatshops to replace American jobs.

3. Modafanil, not just for narcoleptics anymore. Lifehackers around the world are using the drug to up their concentration levels and manipulate sleep patterns.

Tasks that were usually soul-crushing now had his undivided attention. He spent hours fine-tuning ad campaigns for his new business, and his output wasn’t just faster and longer—it was better. “I didn’t take as many breaks; I didn’t get as frustrated; the stuff came out with fewer errors,” he says. “I never felt, Oh, let’s just get it done. I polished things.” As long as he kept taking the pill, his focus never wavered. “Time took on an entirely different sort of quality.” He was even happier. “There were some very potent anti-anxiety effects. Which was strange. I didn’t think I was an anxious person, but I guess I was.”

I took Modafanil for a few weeks about two years ago. It’s not something I wanted to make a habit out of, but it certainly was a potent mental supercharger.

4. Health self-tracking with Fitbits and iPhone apps is all the rage nowadays, but what lessons can we learn from diabetics who have been monitoring their health for years?

If self-tracking is so great, why do diabetics hate it so much?

The fact that diabetics have been doing this for years, and that they largely loathe the experience, not only serves as a caution to the vogue of self-tracking. It also offers an opportunity, serving as an object lesson in what works, and what doesn’t work, when people track their health.

Interesting lessons about the self-quantification movement.

5. Three days after an Exxon pipeline in Central Arkansas burst and soaked the town of Mayflower in thousands of barrels of crude oil, the cleanup is ongoing. At last count, 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been dumped on the small town.  Which is why the Keystone XL pipeline is as dangerous as it is unnecessary.  Here’s a visualization and analysis of all the pipeline safety and environmental incidents from 1986 to the present. It’s exceptionally enlightening data.

Fact Of The Day: Gmail first launched on April 1st, 2004. It was widely assumed the service was an April Fools Day joke.

Quote Of The Day: “If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?” Shantideva

Video Of The Day: Two nonagenarians face off in a 100 meter dash. Awesomeness ensues.

Song Of The Day: Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello – “The Ghost of Tom Joad”

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