By Emily Senger - Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 0 Comments
April 15 was a sad day on Twitter. In fact, it was the saddest…
April 15 was a sad day on Twitter. In fact, it was the saddest day in the past five years, according to measurements used by a team of researchers who post their work at Hedonometer.org.
Researchers who run the Hedonometer monitor a sample of the data posted on Twitter each day and have assigned a “happiness score” of one to nine to each of approximately 10,000 unique words. An average of those scores shows the happiness level on Twitter for each day.
April 15 was the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 250 more near the finish line of the world-class event. On that day, people were tweeting words such as victim, sad and injured, which would be assigned a low happiness score.
Another sad day on Twitter in the past year was Dec. 14, 2012, the day Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed 26 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The Hedonometer also shows Twitter happiness peaking each year on Christmas Day.
The system does have a few flaws: it only measures tweets in English and it judges sentiment by measuring only certain words. Also, the measurement tools are a challenge for complex emotions. For example, on the day that Osama Bin Laden was killed, the Hedonometer rated a very low level of happiness. “While we do see positive words such as ‘celebration’ appearing, the overall language of the day on Twitter reflected that a very negatively viewed character met a very negative end,” the site explains in its Frequently Asked Questions section.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
Maryland abolishes the death penalty and the UN celebrates the first ‘international day of happiness’
A big stick
Barack Obama’s decision to beef up anti-missile defences along America’s West Coast will be costly—more than $1 billion—but worth every penny if the message gets through to North Korea. In recent months, the regime of Kim Jong Un has started behaving as badly, and erratically, as his late father’s, with rocket launches, nuclear tests and increasingly bellicose declarations. Whether the Hermit Kingdom’s newish leader is trying to strengthen his hand domestically, or is really as paranoid as his predecessors, doesn’t much matter. The time has come for the U.S. to back up sanctions and diplomacy with a little menace of its own.
Better late than never
It took many months—and the threat of jail time—but the family that owned the ill-fated mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., has finally agreed to hand over tens of thousands of internal emails to the public inquiry probing last June’s fatal roof collapse. Bob Nazarian, his wife, Irene, and his son, Levon, had repeatedly ignored orders to produce the documents, but after commissioner Paul Bélanger took the rare step of initiating a court action, they bowed. The truth (or at least part of it) is buried in those emails. The public deserves to read them.
By Mitch Moxley - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 11:39 AM - 0 Comments
They are four times richer than they were 20 years ago, yet they find their lives lack meaning and direction
The Chinese have an expression to describe coping with hardship: chi ku—to eat bitterness. The sensation is familiar to Wang Hui, a 50-year-old salesman in Beijing. Wang earns less than $6,000 a year, struggles to put his son through school, and is openly jealous of those around him who have made out better in the new China. A former colleague, for example, who invested in real estate at the right time, now owns four apartments and a Mercedes-Benz.
“I’ve seen so many people get rich so quickly,” says Wang, whose missing bottom tooth and cracked watch seem to accentuate his Willy Loman predicament. “If I worked for 50 years, I wouldn’t make that much money. Of course I’m envious.”
Wang isn’t alone. In fact, he reflects a widespread dissatisfaction in China, one that at first glance might seem counterintuitive. It’s been more than 30 years since Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping opened the country and the Communist party embraced the mantra “to get rich is glorious.” In the decades since, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. In 2010, China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. The Chinese today are four times richer than they were 20 years ago, and people like Wang have opportunities and creature comforts unheard of a generation ago. Continue…
By Blog of Lists - Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
According to the United Nations, when measured by factors such as life expectancy, income and education, here are the countries that have the most reason to be happy:
4. United States Continue…
By Anne Kingston - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Wong’s new book ‘Out of the Blue’ is the ﬁrst of a new genre: the workplace divorce memoir
It’s not 10 minutes into my lunch with Jan Wong, and the veteran journalist’s Type-A ways are on full display. Her backseat driving began in a cab after the restaurant where we chose to meet was closed after a break-in. When I arrived, Wong was busy grilling the owner for crime-scene details. “There was broken glass and blood everywhere,” she reports cheerfully in the taxi, interrupting herself to tell the driver to turn.
Settled into our destination, a chic downtown Toronto restaurant, Wong appears harmless in a brown pantsuit, seed-pearl necklace and sensible shoes. A youthful 59, she carries a blue backpack. A decade since Wong’s Globe and Mail column “Lunch With . . .” famously—often brutally—skewered subjects, there’s little evidence of the “Hannibal Lecter of the lunch set,” as Pamela Wallin once called her. Wong is friendly and open, though commandeering. After we both decide on the special, she orders for us then sets about structuring the conversation: “Let’s start at the beginning,” she says. “Back off, Jan,” I tell her, “this is my interview.” She laughs and sits back on the banquette. “Okay,” she says to herself, “calm down, relax.”
Wong is stressed, she says. It’s the eve of the publication of her ﬁfth book, Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness and much is on the line. She is self-publishing after Doubleday Canada cancelled her contract at the 11th hour. This morning, she approved a second print run of 5,000, for a total of 10,000 copies—which, if sold, would make it a blockbuster. Wong has sunk some $35,000 into the project, which has garnered predictable buzz in media circles. But her battle with the Globe and its insurer Manulife Financial over unpaid medical leave will resonate with a bigger audience spurned by a long-time employer or visited by depression’s “black dogs.” Out of the Blue is a page-turner suffused with suffering—and pluck. All ends happily with Wong conquering workplace-induced depression to become a kinder, gentler being proffering a “smell-the-roses” instructive.
By Andrew Potter - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 10:08 AM - 6 Comments
If you’re a politician, there are only a couple of ways you can tackle the falling-income problem
Politics is the art of taking credit, and politicians have been known to insert themselves into the receiving line for kudos for everything from Olympic gold medals to sunshine in July. But what they really like to take credit for is economic growth, which is why an election-starved Michael Ignatieff has been going around lately asking Canadians whether they are any better off today than they were four years ago. The recession bit hard, recovery has been slow, and Canadians and their governments find themselves mired in debt.
What Ignatieff should really be asking, though, is whether we’re any better off today than we were 40 years ago. The economist Tyler Cowen recently released a short e-book called The Great Stagnation, in which he points out that between 1947 and 1973, inflation-adjusted median income in the United States more than doubled. But from 1973 to 2004, it rose only 22 per cent, and over the past decade median income has actually declined. He notes that if pre-1973 growth rates had continued for the next three decades, “median family income in the United States would now be more than $90,000, as opposed to its current range of around $50,000.”
So, what happened?
Cowen’s argument is that the West spent most of the 20th century living off the easy proceeds of the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to machinery powered by cheap fossil fuels, industry grabbed almost all of the low-hanging fruit available for increasing productivity, and that got widely shared out in the form of steadily growing wages for all workers. But now we’ve reached a technological plateau, and while Cowen thinks things will get better, eventually, it will be a while before we see a true dividend from biotech, or clean and cheap alternative energies. In the meantime, income growth will continue to flatline.
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 9 Comments
Two new books tap into a growing feeling of ‘continent envy’—the idea that we really belong somewhere else
Geography is destiny, the old chestnut goes. Now, however, geography is also identity—as well as the latest determinant of personal happiness. The idea that place influences self has insinuated itself into the culture, from popular Facebook memes “What continent are you?” and “What country should you REALLY be living in?” to a barrage of self-seeking travel memoirs, most notably the 2006 blockbuster, Eat Pray Love. In it, American author Elizabeth Gilbert shopped the world as if it were a supermarket—travelling to Italy for gastro-epiphanies, to India for a spiritual tune-up, then on to Bali for transcendental scenery and sex.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
The author of ’The Secret’ has brilliant new answers for our tough recessionary times
Released in 2006, The Secret harnessed the power of positive thinking and enthusiastic! punctuation!! It claimed that the blueprint to a happy and prosperous life lies in politely asking “the Universe” for a happy and prosperous life, please. “When you think about what you want,” author Rhonda Byrne explained, you attract it by causing “what you want to vibrate at the right frequency!” If nothing else, this provided a plausible explanation for why Quarter Pounders start to shake when Kirstie Alley pulls up at the drive-thru.
Byrne has now produced a sequel, The Power—and she’s cut out the middleman. No longer do you need to climb upon the Universe’s lap with a wish list. Simply express feelings of “love” for what you desire—cash, health, the telepathic powers of Aquaman—and it will be delivered to you. To assuage skeptics, the book is padded with deep quotes from such esteemed figures as Jesus Christ, Sophocles and the guy who draws “Dilbert.”
By Kate Lunau - Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Around the world, happiness dips in mid-life. But how Canadian boomers experience it may be very different.
Everybody knows the stereotype: a person hits age 40 and trades in the minivan for a red convertible. Maybe they quit a high-paying job, leave a long-term spouse for a younger partner or obtain an unusual piercing. They’re the classic signs of a mid-life crisis, and the punchline for countless jokes.
But jokes and stereotypes aside, there’s some truth to the notion that our middle years can be tough ones: studies have found that happiness levels dip down at mid-life, and it seems to be affecting baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) more than previous generations. In Canada and the U.S., the boomer experience can be starkly different: one survey found that, while middle-aged Canadians felt relatively in control of their lives, Americans were close to panic. There, boomers have contributed to a startling rise in the suicide rate. Still, a number of studies show that, after age 50, happiness levels begin to climb, a period many boomers are now entering. In the third and final instalment of a series examining the well-being of baby boomers, Maclean’s takes a look at the “mid-life crisis,” and how baby boomers—who make up nearly one-third of our population—may well redefine it.
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 10:34 AM - 5 Comments
The monthly news magazine published by UBC has a neat little feature this month:…
The monthly news magazine published by UBC has a neat little feature this month: they asked a handful of researchers to talk about interesting and futuristic-y developments in their field.
A nuclear weapon-free world would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m also extremely wary of psychology prof Elizabeth Dunn’s proposal to make enhancing subjective reported happiness “the explicit goal”of public policy. “I’m from the government and I’m here to make you happy” does not strike me a fruitful direction for public policy.
If we must have centralized control, how about systems that eliminate the need to drive:
We have now reached a stage, thanks in part to work on guided missiles, where camera systems can do a better job than the human eye and brain. Couple this with communication of precise positions and headings of vehicles in the vicinity and you have the possibility of safe, driverless vehicles operating over existing roads. There would be no need for traffic lights or signs and vehicles would hardly ever need to stop. A central control would normally manage all vehicle movements.
Finally, if there is one advancement on this list that I think will do most to enhance human welfare, it is professor Frank Ko’s work on tissue scaffolds:
Like the scaffolding we see on construction sites, the nano scaffolds are being created by Ko to reconstruct damaged tissue within the human body. Burn victims would benefit from scaffolds used to regenerate new skin. Those with failing heart valves or damaged nerves could count on scaffolds to regenerate these parts from within the patient’s own body. As healing progresses, the scaffold, being constructed from a biodegradable material, is absorbed and metabolized by the body while slowly releasing drugs to aid in the healing process.
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 7:58 PM - 0 Comments
While exiled in Siberia in 1915, the Bolsheviks — including Stalin, Spanderian, and Kamenev…
While exiled in Siberia in 1915, the Bolsheviks — including Stalin, Spanderian, and Kamenev — enjoyed a fairly blissful summer reunion. At a boozy supper, Kamenev asked everyone to
“declare their greatest pleasure in life. Some cited women, others earnestly replied that it was the progress of dialectical materialism toward the workers’ paradise. Then Stalin answered: ‘My greatest pleasure is to choose one’s victim, prepare one’s plans minutely, slake an implacable vengeance, and then go to bed. There’s nothing sweeter in the world.”
S.S.Montefiore, Young Stalin