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(Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail/Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail)
(Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail/Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail)

Social Studies

Weighing advice, police brutality, brains in the deep Add to ...

Which camper were you?

"If there's a more reliable Rorschach test than away camp, I'd like to see it," Timothy Noah declares on Slate magazine's website. Some of the points he makes:

- "Let's begin with the people who didn't like camp. I was one such person. … People (like myself) who didn't enjoy camp tend to have a problem engaging in organized activities of all kinds. Later in life, we often become criminals or sociopaths. The more respectable among us often become journalists."

- "Some people enjoy camp. These people grow up to be normal."

- "Some people really, really enjoy camp. These are the people for whom childhood represented the zenith of human existence and everything that followed [was]an anticlimax."

- "The final category is people who really, really, really enjoy camp. These are the camp cultists. … [They]grow up to be chief executive officers of major corporations, name partners in Wall Street banking firms … Their home towns name schools after them."

Weighing advice

"We have a psychological hang-up preventing us from accepting negative advice," writes philosopher Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable. "People do not realize that success consists mainly of avoiding losses, not of trying to derive profits. Bookstores are full of books on how someone became successful; there are almost no books with the title What I Learnt Going Bust."

Aha, police brutality

A police dog in the central Idaho resort town of Sun Valley is back on duty after serving a "suspension" for an unprovoked attack on a small schnauzer, Associated Press reports. Sun Valley police chief Cameron Daggett says the five-year-old German shepherd named Dax took a few weeks off the job after the incident. The dog will receive more training to prevent a recurrence of what Chief Daggett says was an unfortunate situation. Dax is a four-year veteran of the force. He is trained to find illegal drugs, missing people and evidence of a crime scene.

Brains in the deep

"Perhaps the most unlikely hero to emerge from this summer's World Cup was Paul the octopus," writes Emily Anthes in The Boston Globe. What scientists are discovering about the octopus, she notes, calls into question many of our assumptions about intelligence. "[T]ey are almost as far removed from us primates as another animal can get. And although it has long been theorized that intelligence evolved in social creatures as a way for species that live in groups to navigate the complex social world, the octopus leads a solitary life. That suggests that perhaps the octopus's smarts evolved for a different reason. The soft creatures are a favoured prey for many marine species, and unlike, say, clams, they lack protective shells. Many of the octopus's cleverest tricks, then, have nothing to do with navigating the social world and everything to do with avoiding becoming dinner."

Bodies in the blue

"There are no average days when you're cabin crew, each flight is unpredictable in its own way, thanks to the passengers," writes a cabin-crew insider for The Guardian. "Often I can guess from someone's job how they'll behave. Businessmen are just like small boys - completely lost if you don't take their jackets, but happy to settle down with their toys. Media and actors are usually the best, because they drink the most and they're more likely to be famous - the best combination in terms of funny conversations."

No brains, just nerve

"A dine-and-dash escapade [in Springfield, Mo., last week]went bad when two of the fleeing diners left their purses behind," Associated Press reports. "The Springfield News-Leader reported that no charges had been filed as of mid-week against the three women who ran from a Waffle House restaurant Sunday morning without paying their $39 bill. The general manager said the women seemed intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. The Springfield paper said a short time after fleeing, one of the women returned to the store and demanded the purses."

Storage space

- "Here at Runner's World," writes staffer Susan Rinkunas, "we're constantly receiving information about new products for runners - some inventive and useful-sounding, and others very curious … Someone alerted us via our Twitter account about a new product for women called The Racktrap. It's a product. To keep stuff in your bra." She notes that the invention's website says the undetectable, one-size-fits-all garment comes with its own "instructional video!"

- "This summer's must-have accessory? The WineRack, a bra that holds an entire bottle of wine," reports Geoff Williams for Aol.com. The accessory, he adds, has been selling briskly among college students. The booze bra comes with a straw for sipping.

Astronaut cuisine

Space food must be both lightweight and dense in calories, reports Mary Roach in her forthcoming book Packing for Mars. Therefore, bacon enters a hydraulic press to become a Bacon Square and toast becomes a Toasted Bread Cube glossed with a layer of edible fat designed to keep crumbs in check. Because carbonation bubbles won't rise to the surface without gravity, beer is a no-go in space.

Thought du jour

"Is the mind more like a fancy system of domino chains or a bathtub full of spring-loaded mousetraps? I'm betting on the latter." - Douglas Hofstadter

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