" /> Stylized Facts: August 2013 Archives

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August 27, 2013

Li Na sleeping but motivated

Days before Wimbledon began, Li Na vowed to quit in anger when she lost early -- her tailspin continuing -- at a warm-up tournament in Eastbourne. To her surprise, Carlos Rodriguez agreed. "Everybody always says, 'No, no, Li Na, don't quit,' " he recalled. "I told her: 'Fine, you can quit. Stop playing if that's what you feel. But if you're quitting because you didn't like what happened today, have some courage. This is just a game, but you can't continue to run away from your problems. They'll follow you until the end of your life.' "


Shaken by his words, Li agreed to train hard for Wimbledon. "At Wimbledon, we started to see a different person emerge -- more relaxed, more positive," Rodriguez said. "Now I think she's hungry for more."

August 21, 2013

Hipsters are vain ?

Hipsters can be annoying, sometimes exceedingly so. As someone who has lived in one of Yelp's demarcated hot zones (Toronto's Beaconsfield Village) for 15 years, I have borne witness to the invasion of sockless bearded guys in black specs and skinny jeans, their vintage-wearing girlfriends with the studiously dishevelled haircuts, the Pabst-fuelled bar conversations about raising chickens, the latest Daft Punk album and the healing powers of kombucha. None of these things is inherently irritating, but the cocksure non-conformist posturing with which they're brought together (if you can call what a whole identifiable group of like-minded people are doing non-conformity) sure is.

"I think what people hate is the vanity," agrees Stuart Berman, music reviewer for Pitchfork and the author of This Book Is Broken, a volume about the Toronto indie-rock band (and hipster deities) Broken Social Scene. "It's not so much that hipsters are on the lookout for new things and new experiences [that's irksome]," he says. "It's the fact that they're celebrating themselves for doing so."

From the TV show Portlandia to American artist Jeff Greenspan's practice of leaving (non-functioning) bear traps baited with hipster catnip - a Holga camera, neon Ray-Ban Wayfarers, a fixed-gear bike chain - along New York streets, hipsterism has fuelled some clever critical art, high and low. The backlash against them, however, is getting decidedly meaner, moving beyond gentle satire to something more disturbing.

In Berlin, "hipsterdriven gentrification" is being blamed, according to a recent Vice article, for a proposal to build new luxury apartments where a section of the former Wall stood; the building, enraged locals behind the slogan "no tourists, no hipsters, no yuppies" argue, will supplant squatters with artsy cafés and nice flats (as if that's a bad thing). Encyclopedia Dramatica , meanwhile, calls hipsters "narcissistic douchebags ... who frequently carry an STD and rarely shower." The irreverent online reference site also refers to them as "faggots," presumably because the hipster uniform is sometimes androgynous.

"I don't understand this hating on hipsters," says Lauren Baker, owner of the online boutique LAB Consignment. Before moving it to the Web, Baker ran her bricks-and-mortar shop not far from Toronto's Dundas Street West, a once-bland strip that has been given new vitality by you-know-which-group. "What's funny to me is that the mainstream and the masses end up liking [what they initially make fun of] down the road, once it has been accepted by all of their peers."

August 1, 2013

300 square feet is humane

In his 2000 book The European Office, Juriaan van Meel noted that in Sweden "almost everybody has a private office", while in Germany "open-office layouts are scarce" - although small teams sometimes shared a room.

German office workers have an average 28.2 sq m of personal space. Their right to elbow room and daylight is enshrined in law.

The office buildings that meet such requirements generally have separate wings of long corridors, with small offices on either side. Some, the most ambitious, have a central "street" where employees can come together to collaborate.

In the UK and North America, by contrast, design is mostly driven by cost rather than worker satisfaction, and open-plan layouts remain the norm.

In London's West End, space for one desk (4 sq m) costs £8,500 ($13,000) a year. A private office would cost much more than that - and have a larger carbon footprint.

One compromise popular in the US is the cubicle, in which desk space is enclosed by canvas-covered dividers, usually around 5ft (1.5m) high. It's a set-up which blocks daylight and, supposedly, office distractions.