Welcome to this week’s edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and relax.
Lena Groeger of ProPublica shares a bunch of stories, charts, and graphs that all show how easily your brain can be fooled without you even realizing it:
[Houston airport passengers] were complaining about the inordinately long time they had to wait to pick up their bags. The airport decided to look more closely at the baggage collection process. They found that passengers typically got off an airplane, walked for about a minute from the gate to the baggage claim carousels, then waited about seven minutes for their bags. That is, most of their time was standing around and waiting.
So the airport changed the location of baggage claim so that it was further from the arrival gates, which meant that passengers were now walking for seven minutes and waiting for only one. The complaints stopped.
My old boss had a saying he would use with our team often: “Perception trumps reality. Every time.” How true he was.
[Lena also published this story at Source in case the ProPublica link ever goes dead.]
- Somewhat related: The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality
The first bank ATM was installed in 1969. There are now about 400,000 ATMs across the US, and yet over the past 40+ years, the number of jobs for bank tellers hasn’t declined (and in fact has risen slightly).
In part it’s because banks have opened more branches. But also, as Timothy Taylor points out:
The other major change was that the job of a teller changed. Banks began to offer more services, and tellers evolved from being people who put checks in one drawer and handed out cash from another drawer to people who solved a variety of financial problems for customers.
Technology creates opportunities for humans to offer more meaningful and personal services. Let technology help with the things that can be automated so the jobs people fill can be more impactful.
(Adapted from our editor-in-chief Shawn Blanc’s newsletter, The Fight Spot.)
Rob Cockerham put together a pretty cool treasure hunt for his daughter’s eleventh birthday party (I just had to bold that last sentence because it’s a funny line only a kid could come up with):
It is always enlightening to watch kids work. The map strips had been coiled up to fit in the eggs, and it was difficult to hold them all down flat. After a spell one girl had the foresight to ask for some tape, so they could start viewing the entire map at a glance.
They checked for an obvious dirt mound or recently-displaced earth, but they didn’t find anything. The X was in an unlikely spot.
As they grew frustrated, one girl offered encouragement, “Don’t get discouraged, cops take days to figure out stuff like this”.
But by 2010 or ’11 it was like 95% of the money was coming in from Google, and other ad companies were dying or being bought out. I remember showing friends how my revenue was from a single source, going, “This is nerve wracking,” and them going, “Oh my God, you should never be in this position. You should diversify. Burn money on something else in the hopes that someday it pans out, like try something else. This is terrible. The day they turn it off, you’re dead.” And then that’s what happened.
While I’m sure it was uncomfortable for him to share these things so openly, there are useful lessons to be gleaned from his story.
747 pilot Mark Vanhoenacker, writing for Vox, shares some of the amazing things he sees every day on the job:
I decided to write Skyfaring, a book about flying, in order to set down for myself some of the remarkable details of the job I’d dreamed of since childhood. I guess I hoped, too, that these details would be of interest to readers who travel so often that flight has become an uninteresting experience for them. […]
In my book I speculate a little on how culture and mythology might have accounted for the jet streams, if only we could see them. Although they’re among the most physically dramatic phenomena on earth, they were all but unknown to us until the age of aviation. How might we have worshipped them, or beaten drums to summon or scatter them, if they were a prominent feature of the daylight sky? Or if these air-rivers’ remarkably clean-cut edges or shimmering, racing depths were somehow visible at night? At the very least, I suggest, we would have named them. Maybe someday we will.
In addition to having a cool day job, the man is a great writer.
Sarah Laskow, Atlas Obscura:
Pranks are meant to be discovered—what’s the point in fooling someone if they never notice they’ve been fooled? But one 19th century prank, sprung by John James Audubon on another naturalist, was so extensive and so well executed that its full scope [including 11 fake fish, 3 fake snails, 2 fake birds, 1 fake mollusk, 2 fake plants, and 9 fake rats] is only now coming to light.
Found this via @pourmecoffee, who adds:
Total respect for the long game here
In the early 1480s, many years before he painted the world-famous pieces for which he is now best known—the Mona Lisa being just one—Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci sought a job at the court of Ludovico Sforza, the then de facto ruler of Milan. Fully aware that Sforza was looking to employ military engineers, Leonardo drafted an application letter that put his seemingly endless engineering talents front and centre, by way of a 10-point list of his abilities; interestingly, his artistic genius is merely hinted at towards the very end. It is believed that the final document, pictured above and translated below, was penned not in Leonardo’s hand, but by a professional writer. The effort paid off, and he was eventually employed. A decade later, it was Sforza who commissioned him to paint The Last Supper.
Last month on the Hoefler & Co. Typography blog, Jonathan Hoefler examined “twelve kinds of italic typeface, with some notes on their cultural contexts, historical backgrounds, and practical applications.” Typographical nerdery ensues:
An italic’s angle shapes its personality. A font with a gentle slope of just six degrees can be lovely and lyrical; fifteen degrees and it’s positively brisk. This powerhouse superitalic achieves its speed and urgency with a 28° slope, making it our most italic typeface ever. Useful in everything from political campaigns to motorsports, it’s a typeface that designers call upon whenever typography needs to communicate raw power. And it’s supplemented by a backslant with contrary motion, offering an intriguing alternative to simply “roman or italic?”
Got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage? Please do let us know on Twitter.