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Office in the woods

There’s a scene in the movie Office Space where Peter, the protagonist, unscrews part of his cubicle and ceremoniously pushes the wall over, sending it and its shelved contents crashing to the floor. With a satisfied smile, he pats his desk a few times, kicks back, and enjoys his new view.

As I write this, the view out my window isn’t much more than Peter’s. Just a handful trees—no mountains, no idyllic nature scene, nothing that would make Ansel Adams jealous. Just one scrubby street tree and a couple of canopies poking their heads above the adjacent apartment building.

But according to Rachel Kaplan, an environmental psychologist, those few trees are far better than nothing at all. Kaplan has documented numerous cases in which workers reported feeling happier and more satisfied with their jobs because of the view they had out their window. Even views of parking lots—so long as they had trees or some other landscaping—were enough to brighten some people’s days.

Kaplan has made a career out of studying how views of nature affect various parts of people’s lives, from patient recovery times to worker productivity. Currently, I’m interested in her research on the latter topic. Staring out at a busy street is better than no view at all, but sometimes I feel antsy and distracted for no apparent reason. I’ve wondered if a more bucolic view would focus my efforts and lift my spirits. Coincidentally, Kaplan’s research suggests that’s exactly what would happen.

Kaplan says windows give people the opportunity for short restorative breaks. After hours spent staring at a computer screen or hammering through some repetitive task, a brief diversion or daydream is sometimes all that’s needed to push through the rest of the day. Allowing ourselves a short mental break boosts our happiness, which also increases our productivity.

But restorative breaks are more effective, according to Kaplan’s research, if they include gazing upon a natural scene. There’s something irreplaceable about nature. Not just greenery—office plants had a small positive effect, but one that paled in comparison to a natural view. Just adding a few natural elements to a windowful of buildings or parking lots raised employee satisfaction by a significant amount. Workers with nature views reported feeling less frustrated, more patient, and more satisfied with their jobs. Perhaps improbably, they also felt their jobs were more challenging and expressed greater enthusiasm for their work, despite the fact everyone surveyed had relatively similar jobs. Furthermore, workers with nature views also reported fewer ailments than those without.

People with outdoor jobs in natural settings—park rangers and park maintenance staff—had it best of all. They said their jobs were less demanding, lower pressure, less frustrating, and so on. It’s possible that such jobs are actually less demanding and lower pressure, but given how nature affects office workers, I wouldn’t be surprised if being immersed in nature plays an important role.

Alas, as a writer I don’t have many excuses to work outside. But I shouldn’t complain too much. My three trees are certainly better than Peter’s view before his renovations and far better than many people who work in windowless caverns.

Photo by Buy Carisoprodol Online Cheap.


Kaplan, R. (1993). The role of nature in the context of the workplace Landscape and Urban Planning, 26 (1-4), 193-201 DOI: Buy Phentermine Us Pharmacy

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Visit different cities and you’ll immediately notice something—life proceeds at different paces. Inhabitants of some souther cities saunter slowly, while people in other places like New York City practically run at a rat-a-tat rate. Eric Jaffe covers research for the Atlantic Cities that links different walking paces to economic activity.

For the aurally inclined, don’t miss Lorazepam Online Shop on the metabolism of cities.

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Conservation fever isn’t just Buy Klonopin Australia. The Economist:

Recreating America’s version of Africa’s Serengeti means thinking big. A sustainable ecosystem needs to be able to cope with fires, disease and icing over of parts of the ground in the winter. But such a reserve would be of international significance. Grasslands, which are economically valuable as farmland, are enormously underrepresented in nature reserves in America and worldwide. Temperate grasslands have the lowest level of protection of the world’s 14 recognised “biomes”, or habitats.

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Eric Jaffe, reporting at the Atlantic Cities:

Since the pairs of counties are about the same size and distance apart, the “gravity law” treats them as equals. Sure enough, it predicts that only one commuter will make the trek in each place. The “radiation model,” on the other hand, is able to take into account the fact that population density is very low in Utah compared to the national average, which means work opportunities close to home may be harder to come by. As a result it predicts a considerably more accurate 66 commuters in Utah and two in Alabama.

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Finn Arne Jørgensen, writing at the Atlantic about the Cheap Xanax:

The Cabin Porn website is just the latest in a long tradition of dreaming about cabins as the gateway to a simpler life in harmony with nature. Thoreau was part of this tradition, and while certainly not the first, he contributed one of the most powerful literary representations of a simple life in nature. The cabin has become shorthand for a whole complex of values and aspirations, of self-reliance, doing-it-yourself, living off the land and off the grid, using our bodies in simple, honest, manual labor — all the things that modern urbanites supposedly have lost.

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Michael Cooper and Jo Craven McGinty, reporting for the New York Times:

It is too early to tell whether the program is working over all, but an analysis of city parking data by The New York Times found signs that the new rates are having the desired effect in some areas. While only a third of the blocks in the program have hit their targeted occupancy rates in any given month since the program began, the analysis found, three-quarters of the blocks either hit their targets or moved closer to the goal. The program is a bit more successful on weekdays.

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Angus Shaw, reporting for the Associated Press:

Previous attempts to set up massive cross-border conservancies in Africa have failed largely because impoverished local communities weren’t engaged to help before governments signed up, said Chris Weaver, the World Wildlife Fund’s regional director in Namibia.

“This is very different. It has a very strong community focus,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

We’ll see if they get it right this time. Development near parks Buy Zolpidem Online Usa.

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Bubbler in a city park

The United States is not run by godless Communists. Neither is most of the rest of the world. In fact, the godless Communists that do remain are not all that Communist anymore. I bring that up because command and control economies can dictate what development happens where. Land conservation under such a system is technically easier, even if the actual results in Communist nations like the Soviet Union weren’t that inspiring. Land conservation in the free world is a trickier game, one played with carrots and sticks as opposed to edicts and directives. Here, money is your best friend.

Conservation organizations have focused on preserving big tracts of land, and rightfully so. Big buys are often more cost effective and easier to manage. But they’re also becoming trickier to execute in a world dominated by curving cul-du-sacs and one acre lots. If we want functioning ecosystems in these places, we need to focus on land conservation within the subdivision, not along its borders.

Luckily, the carrot seems to be working in those places. A study of subdivisions in Maryland between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore shows that developers have been incorporating more open space into their subdivisions. That’s not because they’re interested in land conservation. Part of it is a bit of command and control—Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act forces developers to conserve a modicum of forested land—but it’s also simple economics. Developers can sell lots and houses at higher prices if open space is nearby. Because proximity matters, that open space typically needs to be within the subdivision.

To developers, though, that open space is fungible. It can exist either as public parks or larger private lots—both raise prices. The Maryland study also found that minimum lot sizes—which governments typically use to preserve open space—can push developers away from shared open space toward larger lot sizes.

This poses a problem for maintaining healthy ecosystems. Like many laws, the way the Maryland Forest Conservation Act is interpreted matters. People can uphold the letter of the law—maintaining forest cover—without changing their usual habits—mowing their entire lot. The result is something that looks like a forest from above but doesn’t function like one.

In a perfect world, everyone would happily tend a few thousand square feet around their house and leave the rest to nature. But that’s not always the case. People will spend all Saturday mowing acres of grass and grumble about it afterwards. That’s because for many people owning a country manor is more alluring than owning a chunk of the great outdoors. You can fight that mentality by increasing minimum lot sizes to the point where mowing it all becomes completely unreasonable,Buy Crescent Diazepam but the closer you get to a metro area, the less tenable that becomes.

There’s also no guarantee that laws dictating minimum lot sizes will remain in place. As the city creeps closer, pressure to further subdivide will mount. Open space preserved in private lots could easily disappear.

Parks, on the other hand, tend to stick around. Unlike large lots, they’re seldom subdivided. Instead, they tend to become institutions. People like their parks and are loathe to lose them—no one wants to see their neighborhood park disappear. So let’s put that to use. Instead of—or in addition to—minimum forest cover and minimum lot sizes, let’s institute minimum park sizes. Everyone will benefit. Developers will be able to sell lots at higher prices. Kids will have playgrounds. Adults will have walking paths. And because big parks often have big natural areas, ecosystems will have a better chance at surviving. It’s a solution that’s a bit more command and control than current vague regulations, but everyone will benefit. It’s also more carrot than stick. Even if you don’t particularly like carrots, it’s better than getting hit with a stick.

  1. Though there will always be exceptions—near where I grew up, one guy mowed 18 acres. He had to buy a bonafide farm tractor so it wouldn’t take him all week. Buy Generic Valium 10Mg

Photo by Buy Alprazolam From Mexico.


Lichtenberg, E., Tra, C., & Hardie, I. (2007). Land use regulation and the provision of open space in suburban residential subdivisions Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 54 (2), 199-213 DOI: Buy Diazepam 10Mg Bulk

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Daniel Grossman, reporting for The World:

The Gobi has never been an easy place for nomads like Tsoolon to scratch out a living. But in recent decades temperatures here have shot up dramatically. The already spartan grasslands have become drier and watering holes have evaporated. Meanwhile, scientists say the nomads themselves have contributed to the problem with oversized herds of camels, sheep and goats, which are destroying the plain.

All of these growing difficulties are directly related to the dust storms that plague Korea. And that’s where Korean activist Dong Kyun Park comes in. For more than a decade, Park has worked to prevent those dust storms, sometimes alongside Kwon Byong Hyon, the former Korean Ambassador to China.

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Marco Arment, the man who brought us Instapaper:

Good link blogs are designed to send as many readers as possible to the source post by not only making it very easy to see the source link, but by not replacing the need to read it for most interested readers.

He also argues that the Curator’s Code won’t change “aggregation” one bit. Pretty convincing.

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A subtle shift occurred on the Internet over the weekend. Maria Popova unveiled at South by Southwest a project she’s been working on for the last year called the Buy Xanax Cancun. Popova—a serial aggregator on Buy Soma Online Cod and Order Phentermine Online Mexico—is hoping to encourage content aggregators to give a little back to the original source through links that trace the origin of the work. The site isn’t much—it’s a plea for transparency coupled with a few tools to facilitate citations—but Popova’s idea has made a palpable splash.

The Curator’s Code is only a start, but I’m happy it’s out there for two reasons. One, I’m a writer. I want my work to be spread as far and wide as possible, but I’d also like to be noted as the original source. And two, I started dabbling in aggregation—sharing, really—two months ago when I launched the Buy Yellow Phentermine 30Mg. Before that, I thought a lot about what it means to be a responsible and ethical aggregator. In the process, I developed my own code of conduct which I think does more to respect original content than the Curator’s Code.

The entire point of the Linked List is to send people out to other sites. That’s it, really. I view the Linked List as a themed Twitter account without the character limit. If you think that way, everything else follows naturally: Don’t copy too much of the original article. Don’t summarize it, either. Get people to click the link. Even the design I chose for the Linked List emphasizes outbound traffic. The headline—often the most visible link in the post—is a link to the article itself. The permalink to my post—the infinity symbol just to the right of the headline—is almost an afterthought. Everything about the Linked List is meant to send you away from Per Square Mile. (Just don’t forget to come back!)

Oh, and there’s one more principle I follow—don’t be a dick. When I’m crafting a Linked List post, I think to myself, Would I be OK with my work being shared in this way?

That’s an easy question for me to answer. I’m a writer, and I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of some, ahem, aggressive aggregation. Take my article on Order Xanax From China. Russia Today repackaged it without a link (an oversight they later corrected). Business Insider and the Huffington Post excerpted a small paragraph and summarized most of the rest. I have no idea how much traffic they got from their versions, but I do know that among the three of them I received well under 1,000 hits.

Fortunately, not all aggregators are created equal. From that same post, Matthew Yglesias on Buy Zolpidem From Canada pulled one factoid from my article, added a quick take, and sent me over 1,000 visitors. On other posts, the editors at Andrew Sullivan’s blog Buy Zithromax 500Mg have sent me a few thousand readers by tastefully excerpting. And I have great respect for Order Valium 10 Mg Uk: Where Gizmodo and Business Insider were happy to copy and post Buy Ambien Online Reddit—sending me around 1 percent or less of the traffic their posts received—John not only asked permission to use the image for a post at Fast.Co Design, but he interviewed me for Cheap Alprazolam 2Mg.

It would be great if “overzealous aggregation” meant the sort of effort that John put into his post, but Buy Adipex Online Prescription. The Curator’s Code is a first step, but it’s not a complete solution—it would be easy to use the “via” and “heard through” links as a license to over-aggregate.

I signed a pledge to honor the Curator’s Code, but I’m also sticking to the principles I outlined above. They may not be perfect and they may not work for everyone, but I think they’re good signposts for when I’m working on the Linked List.

What do you think? Do Linked List entries catch your attention enough to send you away (and then hopefully return)? Am I striking the right balance between aggregation and original content? Does the Curator’s Code go far enough? Or do my principles do more to respect original content?

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Eric Jaffe, writing at The Atlantic Cities:

In an upcoming issue of Transportation Research Part B, John Bartholdi III and Donald Eisenstein propose a method of bus coordination that abandons the concept of tightly-managed headways or schedules. Without the restriction of meeting pre-specified targets, drivers instead follow the flow of traffic, and natural headways emerge over time. The result is a “self-equalizing” system with less bunching and more reliability.

Traffic is chaotic, ergo an entropic bus schedule is a better fit.

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Nate Berg, reporting for The Atlantic Cities:

To help understand the distribution of parks and the areas where access to them is low, KaBOOM! has launched a crowdsourced online park mapping effort. People can contribute to the map by adding the locations of parks and playgrounds in their neighborhoods, including images and information about the amenities the parks and playgrounds feature and ratings of their relative quality.

This is a perfect application of crowdsourcing.

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Charlie Gardner, writing at his blog the Old Urbanist:

Adaptation of old city squares to host parking is very common throughout Europe, and has made occasional appearances in the United States as well. Savannah’s centuries-old Ellis Square, over which a parking structure was built in the 1950s, was recently reconstructed with an underground parking garage. Nashville’s Public Square, which I mentioned last week, now has a multi-story garage beneath it topped by an award-winning green roof.

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Glenn Chapman, writing for Agence France-Presse:

“I love the game,” said “Inconvenient Truth” director Davis Guggenheim, who played an early version with his son. “Climate change is the biggest crisis of our time, but there is a disconnect because it is not in front of us,” he added. “When you play ‘SimCity’ it is in your face; if you build a coal power plant you feel the consequences — smog in the city, water table getting dirty, and your people getting angry.”

It’s fitting that the new SimCity should force players to cope with climate change—real world mayors are some of the only elected officials who have been tackling the issue head on. But what I’d really like to see is an updated version of Order Adipex Online Prescription. Nothing teaches you about complex ecological systems like having to deal with them yourself.

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