Compass Roundup

Short takes from all over

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Information Overload
Not only is routine correspondence taking more time out of the workday, but such distractions are literally draining the brain. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London, found that when test subjects who were asked to carry out problem-solving tasks were bombarded with e-mails and phone calls, their IQs dropped an average of 10 points (even when they were told to ignore the interruptions). New Scientist (April 30, 2005), which reported Wilson's findings, tells readers that other studies have shown that those high on pot lose just 5 IQ points.

Divine Drilling
Believing that the Bible points to a precise place to find black gold in Israel, evangelical Christian John Brown had his Dallas-based company, Zion Oil, begin drilling there in June, according to Car Busters (April/June 2005). Faithful that the project can restore Israel to its days of biblical glory, Zion is also building a lookout tower at the site where evangelical pilgrims can come and pray to their god(s).

One Man's Junk . . .
Architect Yoshio Taniguchi, who designed New York City's Museum of Modern Art, recently helped build a $400 million incineration plant in Hiroshima, Japan, that doubles as a tourist destination, complete with glass walkways and a waterfront park. According to Shameless (Spring 2005), the city's mayor believes that the building will beautify what is an otherwise pretty utilitarian-looking landscape (thanks to World War II), and, if a bulk of the city's 1.1 million citizens -- who produce way too much garbage -- actually see their waste being processed, they might become more environmentally conscious.

Supersize That Dream
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine (May 2005) says that if the next 100 billion burgers sold under the Golden Arches were the chain's plant-based McVeggie (available in select markets), consumers would eliminate approximately 550 million pounds of saturated fat and 1.2 billion total pounds of fat from their diets while adding 1 billion pounds of fiber and 660 million pounds of protein.

Different Strokes
A new technique for verifying people's identities, called keystroke biometrics, reads a user's typing speed and rhythm, which is nearly as unique as a fingerprint (only 1 try in 50 yields a false rejection). Wired (June 2005) reports that the World Bank is already using the technology, which is cheaper and more reliable than other forms of identification, from passwords (which can be stolen) to keys (which get lost). And BioPassword of Issaquah, Washington, one of the industry's big players, is already negotiating a deal with the intelligence community.

Bilingual Broadcasting
According to Arbitron, which records radio and TV ratings, Spanish-language radio now has 15 percent of all young radio listeners in the United States, up from 8.3 percent in 1999. Rock and Rap Confidential (May 2005) urges readers not to dismiss this increase as just an overdue reflection of massive Hispanic immigration. It's also a musical phenomenon, with listeners across the demographic spectrum grooving on music from south of the border. Which is why the 'hurban' format -- half English, half Spanish -- is gaining momentum at massive chains such as Clear Channel and many Top 40 stations are regularly programming Spanish-language tracks for the first time.

Movies on the Move
Subversive cinephiles are squatting in parking lots coast to coast and projecting films on the outside walls of nearby buildings in an effort to preserve the spirit of an imperiled American institution -- the drive-in movie. To find a guerrilla drive-in near you, Blackbook (Spring 2005) suggests starting with the Internet, where some groups, like rad.art in Ann Arbor, Michigan, post locations and showtimes. Since open-air exhibition is technically illegal, though, your best bet is to take your sweetheart for a late-night drive and keep your eyes peeled for an abandoned strip mall.

The Money Shot
The year's most scintillating sex magazine is devoid of air-brushed photos, and there is no forum for readers to tell tall tales from the bedroom. $pread (www.spreadmagazine.org) is a new trade pub for workers in the sex business, which includes everyone from strippers to erotic masseurs to call girls and boys. City Limits (May/June 2005) observes that the illustration-heavy, black-and-white mag is pro-sex, in favor of legalizing (and regulating) prostitution, and up-front about the pros and cons of the business.

Toll-Free Rejection
Next time those smarmy guys or gals at the singles bar won't take a hint, just give them what they want: the digits. Don't give out your private number, though (or a fake one) -- put your tormentor in touch with the Rejection Hotline, which Moment (June 2005) reports is now available in some 25 cities. Callers who dial in hear the following straightforward message: 'The person who gave you this number does not want to talk to you or see you again.'