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News 11.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 11.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lovisabarkman
News 11.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@fakerstrom
News 11.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lovisabarkman

One morning last summer, I was midway through an experiment—sample size: 1—to see whether I could change my personality. Because these activities were supposed to make me happier, I approached them with the desperate hope of a supplicant kneeling at a shrine.

Psychologists say that personality is made up of five traits: extroversion, or how sociable you are; conscientiousness, or how self-disciplined and organized you are; agreeableness, or how warm and empathetic you are; openness, or how receptive you are to new ideas and activities; and neuroticism, or how depressed or anxious you are. People tend to be happier and healthier when they score higher on the first four traits and lower on neuroticism. I’m pretty open and conscientious, but I’m low on extroversion, middling on agreeableness, and off the charts on neuroticism.

Researching the science of personality, I learned that it was possible to deliberately mold these five traits, to an extent, by adopting certain behaviors. I began wondering whether the tactics of personality change could work on me.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 11.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 11.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In June last year, the staff of Sheffield’s John Lewis department store began the sad task known as “de-rigging”: clearing shelves and boxing up goods to be sent for sale elsewhere. The city-centre store had been shut since the start of the year, and in March 2021, the John Lewis Partnership had announced that it intended to close the store for good.

Some employees said they were too distraught to take part in all the packing-up. But others volunteered to participate, wanting to bid farewell to their colleagues and the building some of them had worked in for decades. There was a lot of reminiscing, as well as an undercurrent of anger: “tears and laughter in equal measure,” one former employee told me. Some people took away souvenirs, including the store directories that had sat next to escalators and staircases.

In the store’s restaurant, a signwriter had painted: “We no longer have our store but we will always have the memories.” The surrounding wall was soon full of photographs arranged in the shape of a heart, and expressions of gratitude and sadness: “I walked in these doors on my first day, turned round, had been here 23 years”; “For 19 years I’ve been here looking after you and you looked after me – that’s what families do”. T-shirts were handed out, reading: “John Lewis Sheffield: Sept 1963-June 2021”. By September, after three months of work, the store’s five floors were empty, and a story that had run for 58 years apparently reached its end.

When I visited two months later, the building was shuttered and silent. Every ground-floor window was covered by pastel-coloured posters advertising John Lewis’s “virtual events” and click-and-collect services. No one needed any persuasion to talk about the closure. “It’s as bad as a death in the family,” one passerby told me. Then she checked herself. “Well, that’s a bit over the top maybe. But it really upsets me. It’s just always been there.” Other people mentioned the excellent customer service, fondly loved rituals like Christmas shopping and the January sales, and the modest pleasures of visiting an old-fashioned retailer, where “you could see what stuff was, and find out what was what”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 11.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

This past October, while scrolling through social media one Wednesday morning, I reluctantly clicked into a livestream of yet another billionaire joyride to the lower limits of outer space.

It had been a summer of first launches, overhyped PR events intended to jump-start a long-anticipated second space race. In July, licensing megalomaniac Richard Branson flew fifty-three miles above Earth in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane, just a few weeks before supply-chain zealot Jeff Bezos rode his Blue Origin rocket some thirteen miles higher for a whopping ten-minute journey through zero gravity before landing back in the West Texas desert. In September, the Mars-obsessed emerald heir Elon Musk had the surprising decency to stay home while his company SpaceX sent an all-civilian crew—the tickets purchased by a fellow billionaire, the e-payments tycoon Jared Isaacman—on a multiday mission around Earth, now memorialized in a five-part Netflix documentary series.

For these modern robber barons, the dawn of commercial space activity marks nothing less than a new chapter for humanity. Branson’s self-proclaimed dream is to “make space accessible to all,” a prospect that inspires little faith given his defunct rail service and bankrupt airline. For Bezos, space seems to represent limitless capacity, the potential to move “all polluting industry off of Earth,” and create floating colonies that house “a trillion humans . . . a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts.” Musk sees himself as some cosmic guardian, helping to preserve the “light of consciousness” by making humans a “multi-planetary species.”

Despite this grandiose rhetoric, these launches accomplished something much more prosaic in the short-term; they opened the lucrative market for civilian spaceflight. No matter how flush their war chests of cash and equity, these billionaires know the success of their sci-fi fantasies relies on a succession of practical businesses that can keep the grand delusion afloat for decades to come. Space tourism is one of those big bets, and on that autumn day, as I watched Blue Origin host its second civilian launch, the sight had already become somewhat familiar. The concept had been tested, the price point verified (roughly $250,000 to $500,000 per seat, which might seem outrageous but is not much higher than what the 1 percent already spends on private air travel in one business quarter). Now the industry just needed to drum up demand.

As such, the livestream I watched was not just a silent feed but a feverish infomercial. Bezos trotted around the launch site in his blue jumpsuit and cowboy hat, inspiring jokes that he might join the flight at the last moment. The crew this time around included William Shatner, the legendary Star Trek captain who looked terrified standing beside the real-life, plutocrat-funded pleasure craft. Two ecstatic hosts provided play-by-play narration of the press conference and behind-the-scenes footage, like Monday Night Football commentators. The segues between scenes showcased the all-inclusive Blue Origin experience: luxury Airstream trailers, cozy outdoor bonfires, blue specialty cocktails. It was a Marriott-ized vision of space travel reminiscent of James Gray’s film Ad Astra (2019), in which a near-future moon base resembles an even bleaker version of New York’s Penn Station, with the same windowless passageways and grimy fast-food franchises.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.