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Social Studies

A steep fall from the top Add to ...

Banker hits rock bottom

“Life was good to Kevin Browne,” says The Independent on Sunday. “The 54-year-old investment banker went to the United States to run a firm on Wall Street. Then came the crash of 2008; he lost his business, his marriage and his home. Browne had to rely on a charity to fly back to Britain earlier this year. He slept rough and ate at soup kitchens. … He never saw homelessness coming: ‘It’s a bit like being the Thanksgiving turkey, who has no reason to think tomorrow won’t be okay because the kind farmer has fed him every day of his life … but, one day, Thanksgiving comes.’”

’Tis the season for this headache

“[E]very holiday season, untold numbers of … spirit-sapping characters appear in our midst,” says The Boston Globe. ‘they are the Hard to Buy For, and like the devil himself, they assume many forms: the hobbyless brother-in-law; the enthusiast so serious about her leisure-time pursuits that an outsider could never get a gift right; the dad who overnights himself whatever he wants; the teenager with unknowable preferences; the mom who insists she needs nothing; the baby with the fussy parents. … Never mind that the world’s bounty is a mere credit-card swipe away; anyone with a member of the HTBF on his or her list has experienced the helplessness that sets in before the shopping even begins. … It’s no wonder that gift cards are this season’s hottest gift, according to the National Retail Federation.”

Feel distracted at work?

“Office workers are interrupted – or self-interrupted – roughly every three minutes, academic studies have found, with numerous distractions coming in both digital and human forms,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Once thrown off track, it can take some 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who studies digital distraction. … Not all workplace distractions harm productivity. Mark found that people tended to work faster when they anticipate interruptions, squeezing tasks into shorter intervals of time. Workers’ accuracy suffered little amid frequent interruptions, but their stress rose significantly.”

Why you need a necktie

“At first blush,” says the Los Angeles Times, “a necktie that doubles as a cloth for cleaning your touch screens may sound like something out of a Saturday Night Live TV ad parody (‘a floor wax and a dessert topping!’). But if you think about it, the ties and T-shirts from Swipe Apparel are a kind of genius. The idea behind the SwipeTie is simple: a silk necktie with a patch of microfibre fabric (the same stuff used for lens-cleaning cloths) behind the tip of the tie, at the ready to wipe smudges and greasy fingerprints from the screen of a smartphone or tablet.”

Sailor, do you own a yacht?

“What is a yacht?” writes L.V. Anderson for Slate.com. “A sailboat or motorboat used for recreation. Most yachts are privately owned and big enough to contain a cabin, but even small, cabin-less dinghies are sometimes described as yachts. The Dutch term jacht, meaning hunt, originally applied to light sailboats that were used to pursue pirates. Such boats eventually gained popularity as leisure vessels.”

Farewell, good riddance

Some of the “words of 2012” we hope never to hear again, writes Sarah Rainey in The Daily Telegraph:

Shamazing (a blend of “shazam” and “amazing”)

Sofalizing (spending the night on the sofa, browsing social media sites)

Adorkable (meaning dorky yet adorable)

Brandalism (This conflation of “branding” and “vandalism” describes a movement in which street artists paint over advertising billboards with their own designs and slogans)

Thought du jour

Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but principally by catchwords.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author (1850-94)

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