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March 30, 2020
[life] Humblebrags: Self-Isolation Edition‘UPDATE: We are now on lockdown here in the Marquesas Islands, a remote archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean described as “heaven on Earth” by the New York Times. So hard to be hundreds of miles from family.’
March 24, 2020
[herzog] Werner Herzog Has Never Thought a Dog Was Cute … Wide-ranging, recent Werner Herzog interview… ‘Q: How do you derive meaning from life if life is indifferent? Herzog: Life is not indifferent. The universe is indifferent. But just trying, itself, is something I should do.’
February 17, 2020
[books] Literary Alternatives to “Ghosting” at Parties‘EDGAR ALLAN POE-ING – Die in a gutter before the party starts, probably from consumption (with a hint of alcohol poisoning).’
February 13, 2020
[life] Was Jeanne Calment the Oldest Person Who Ever Lived—or a Fraud? … A deep dive into the world of Gerontology and the mystery of Jeanne Calment. ‘The passage of time often quells controversy, but, in the Calment case, it only unsettled the dust. As the world’s population continued to grow, the cohort of people living to the age of a hundred and twenty-two did not. More than two decades after Calment’s death, her record still stood, making her a more conspicuous outlier with every year that went by. Either she had lived longer than any human being ever or she had executed an audacious fraud. As one observer wrote, “Both are highly unlikely life stories but one is true.”’
February 11, 2020
[life] The Octopus: An Alien Among Us … Are Octopuses Conscious? ‘The octopus has a central brain and also an independent, smaller processor in each arm, giving it a unique mixture of centralized and distributed command. The octopus also probably has self models—rich, constantly updated bundles of information to monitor its body and behavior. From an engineering perspective, it would need self models to function effectively. For example, it might have some form of a body schema that keeps track of the shape and structure of its body in order to coordinate movement. (Perhaps each arm has its own arm schema.) In that sense, you could say that an octopus knows about itself. It possesses information about itself and about the outside world, and that information results in complex behavior. But all of these truly wonderful traits do not mean that an octopus is conscious…’
February 5, 2020
[life] Today I Learned That Not Everyone Has An Internal Monologue And It Has Ruined My Day‘All my life, I could hear my voice in my head and speak in full sentences as if I was talking out loud. I thought everyone experienced this, so I did not believe that it could be true at that time. Literally the first person I asked was a classmate of mine who said that she can not “hear” her voice in her mind. I asked her if she could have a conversation with herself in her head and she looked at me funny like I was the weird one in this situation…’
January 29, 2020
[socialmedia] The strange case of Paul Zimmer, the influencer who came back as a different person… Always love a story about influencers behaving badly. ‘On 14 October 2019, Paul Zimmer posted a side-by-side image of himself (sporting a barely-grown-out beard) next to another image of what appeared to be himself, albeit clean-shaven. “This actor @TroyBeckerIG kid literally looks like a younger sexier version of me,” Zimmer wrote. “I don’t even use social media anymore but had to post this hahah…” Clicking on Troy Becker’s Instagram led to an almost unpopulated account, with only 11 posts uploaded before Zimmer’s side-by-side post. For a Gen-Z actor, this would amount to an unusually sparse social media presence.It’s hard to track the fan response to this post because comments on Zimmer’s Instagram are disabled. But almost two months later, on December 10, another “Troy Becker” post was made, addressing those who had responded that Becker was in fact Zimmer by saying: “IM TELLING YOU HE IS MY YOUNGER BRO [crying laughing emoji]”).’
January 24, 2020
[life] How DISGUSTING Are You ? 🤢 quiz… So, it turns out I am more dusgusting than I thought.
January 21, 2020
[life] My (36F) husband (41M) has some disturbing requests for after he’s passed away.‘My husband wants me to have his skull taken from his body and cleaned. Then he wants that skull put on the mantelpiece in the living room. The rest of his body he wants sent to one of those places that makes the gems out of bodies and made into two blue diamonds. He then wants those gems to be put in the eye socket of the skull to look like eyes. Then he can “watch the family home” and “be passed down through the generations”.’
December 31, 2019
[til] 52 things I learned in 2019 … Fifty-two TIL from Tom Whitwell. ‘Polling by phone has become very expensive, as the number of Americans willing to respond to unexpected or unknown callers has dropped. In the mid-to-late-20th century response rates were as high as 70%… [falling to] a mere 6% of the people it tried to survey in 2018.’
December 13, 2019
[life] Simply 17 ‘shower thoughts’ that will make you stop and think, if only for a moment‘There is no physical evidence to say that today is Wednesday, we all just have to trust that someone has kept count since the first one ever.’
December 6, 2019
[politics] Uncovered: reality of how smartphones turned election news into chaos … Interesting attempt to study how Social Media influences election news. ‘Several participants were observed sharing articles on Facebook without clicking the links, and excitedly diving into comment sections for an argument before looking at the articles. Most showed a tendency to read news that confirmed their existing views. Some behaviours were more surprising, hinting we may be becoming a nation of trolls. One 22-year-old Conservative-voting woman was observed going out of her way to read reputable mainstream news sources so she had a balanced understanding of Labour policies. But she would then seek out provocative far-right blog posts to share on Facebook because their headlines would anger her leftwing friends and create online drama.’
December 4, 2019
[time] The 2010s Have Broken Our Sense Of Time … How mobiles phones and social media changed our perception of time. ‘Using a phone is tied up with the relentless, perpendicular feeling of living through the Trump presidency: the algorithms that are never quite with you in the moment, the imperishable supply of new Instagram stories, the scrolling through what you said six hours ago, the four new texts, the absence of texts, that text from three days ago that has warmed up your entire life, the four versions of the same news alert. You can find yourself wondering why you’re seeing this now — or knowing too well why it is so.’
December 2, 2019
[life]Try Beautiful News … Need a lift? Try this site.

November 21, 2019
[work] Pointless work meetings ‘really a form of therapy’ … This article is from BBC News, not the Onion. ‘Many regular, internal meetings might seem entirely “pointless” to those taking part, says Prof Hall. But he says the real purpose of such meetings might be to assert the authority of an organisation, so that employees are reminded that they are part of it. Such meetings are not really about making any decisions, he says.’
November 20, 2019
[comics] The Death of the Age of Stuff … Interesting 2013 comic from Peter Bagge on being a cartoonist in the internet age.
November 13, 2019
[scams] I was an astrologer – here’s how it really works, and why I had to stop … An insiders story about Astrology. ‘I also learned that intelligence and education do not protect against superstition. Many customers were stockbrokers, advertising executives or politicians, dealing with issues whose outcomes couldn’t be controlled. It’s uncertainty that drives people into woo, not stupidity, so I’m not surprised millennials are into astrology. They grew up with Harry Potter and graduated into a precarious economy, making them the ideal customers.’
October 17, 2019
[life] Escape rooms are very big business … A fascinating look at the world of Escape Rooms. ‘…Escape rooms are fundamentally odd. It is weird to gather in a themed room for an hour to unlock combination locks in a high-stakes situation that matters not at all. We didn’t use to trap ourselves in $30 rooms and now we do, and it doesn’t feel like an accident that the rise of escape rooms in the first half of this decade corresponds almost exactly with a seismic shift in how we relate to technology (intimately, all the time). Escape rooms are an antidote: They require you to exist, in real life, with other real-life people, in the same place, at the same time, manipulating tangible objects. But you only have to do it for an hour! High intensity, low commitment. You get the thrill of deep connection, but you don’t have to, like, talk about your feelings. Maybe we talk about feelings too much anyway. Maybe we should just do stuff. But who has time to do stuff?’
October 3, 2019
[life] List: Famous Philosophers’ Pick-Up Lines … from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. ‘Arthur Schopenhauer: “Life is nothing but a meaningless fluctuation between pain and boredom. And we are but worms. And our only chance of freedom is to embrace the dark nothingness that surrounds us. And to cast off the burdensome yoke of individualism. And to embrace the void. And to become one with the unyielding Will of the universe. Anyhoo… wanna smush?”’
September 24, 2019
[people] My (33F) husband’s (35M) career in academic philosophy is ruining our marriage… Epic Reddit r/relationships posting. ‘His obsession with Hegel himself has reached the point of creepiness. At one point he literally told me that all other work either agrees with Hegel so is redundant, or disagrees with Hegel and is wrong. He keeps a framed picture of Hegel on the nightstand in our bedroom. In fact, he even changed his phone’s background from a picture of me to this same picture of Hegel. I feel like I am competing with a 200 year old philosopher for my husband’s attention.’
September 19, 2019
[emoji] 📙 Emojipedia — 😃 … for all your Emoji needs. ‘😱 Face Screaming in Fear 😱’
September 18, 2019
[fandom] Superfans: A Love Story … A profile of fandom from the New Yorker.

Annie Wilkes, [Stephen] King told me recently, was inspired in part by Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon hours after getting his autograph. As an author, King is familiar with fan enthusiasm gone awry. “There was a lot of backlash about the way that the ‘Dark Tower’ books ended,” he told me, referring to his multipart fantasy series. “Those fans were absolutely rabid about those books.” Not long after “Misery” came out, King and his son were at a baseball game when a man broke into his house with what he said was a bomb, claiming that Annie Wilkes had secretly been based on his aunt. “My wife ran out in her bare feet and called the cops,” King recalled, “and the guy was cowering in the turret of the third floor of our Victorian home.” The bomb turned out to be a bunch of pencils in a rubber band. Still, it unnerved King: his novel about a stalker fan had summoned a stalker fan. “People have gotten invested in culture and make-believe in a way that I think is a little bit unhealthy,” King said. “I mean, it’s supposed to be fun, right?”

September 5, 2019
[sealand] A Visit to Sealand, the World’s Tiniest Nation … The bizarre creation story of the micronation of Sealand along with more recent history. ‘As we finished one last cup of tea in the kitchen, Michael grinned. He seemed as proud of the convoluted story behind his family’s bizarre creation as he was of Sealand’s resilience. Taking advantage of a gap in international law, Sealand had grown old while other attempts at seasteads never made it far beyond what-if imaginings. The Bates family was certainly daring, but the secret to Sealand’s survival was its limited aspirations. It had no territorial ambitions; it wasn’t seeking to create a grand caliphate. In the view of its powerful neighbors, Sealand was merely a rusty kingdom, easier to ignore than to eradicate.’
August 15, 2019
[ideas] Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in … A long-read on Accelerationism. ‘In 1998, Land resigned from Warwick too. He and half a dozen CCRU members withdrew to the room above the Leamington Spa Body Shop. There they drifted from accelerationism into a vortex of more old-fashioned esoteric ideas, drawn from the occult, numerology, the fathomless novels of the American horror writer HP Lovecraft, and the life of the English mystic Aleister Crowley, who had been born in Leamington, in a cavernous terraced house which several CCRU members moved into. “The CCRU became quasi-cultish, quasi-religious,” says Mackay.’
August 13, 2019
[life] Having the best mattress, suitcase, and vitamins nearly broke me … A journalist uses all the best products for a week. ‘For one week, I lived the kind of life that’s scientifically concocted by marketing professionals, the kind of life that Bill O’Reilly probably thinks of when he gets riled up about annoying young people. I tried to be a different version of me; I tried to be less gross. I will not lie and say that I had fewer than two existential crises…’
August 8, 2019
[life] A revolution in our sense of self … A fascinating look at how human consciousness may have little depth and might actually be really shallow. ‘Each of us is a unique history, together with a wonderfully creative machine for redeploying that history to create new perceptions, thoughts, emotions and stories. The layering of that history makes some patterns of thought natural for us, others awkward or uncomfortable. While drawing on our past, we are continually reinventing ourselves, and by directing that reinvention, we can shape who we are and who we will become. So we are not driven by hidden, inexorable forces from a dark and subterranean mental world. Instead, our thoughts and actions are transformations of past thoughts and actions and we often have considerable latitude, a certain judicial discretion, regarding which precedents we consider, which transformations we allow. As today’s thought or action are tomorrow’s precedents, we are reshaping ourselves, moment by moment.’
August 5, 2019
[space] Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us) … Steven Johnson on the Pros and Cons of attempting to contact Extraterrestrial Civilizations. ‘Drake leaned forward, nodding. “It raises a very interesting, nonscientific question, which is: Are extraterrestrial civilizations altruistic? Do they recognize this problem and establish a beacon for the benefit of the other folks out there? My answer is: I think it’s actually Darwinian; I think evolution favors altruistic societies. So my guess is yes. And that means there might be one powerful signal for each civilization.” Given the transit time across the universe, that signal might well outlast us as a species, in which case it might ultimately serve as a memorial as much as a message, like an interstellar version of the Great Pyramids: proof that a technologically advanced organism evolved on this planet, whatever that organism’s ultimate fate.’
July 4, 2019
[life] Why Are Octopuses So Smart?‘Losing their shells also made the cephalopods exquisitely vulnerable. One scientist described their soft, unprotected bodies as the equivalent of “rump steak, swimming around.” The rest of the ocean seemingly agrees: Almost every major group of predators eats cephalopods, including dolphins, seals, fish, seabirds, and even other cephalopods. This gauntlet of threats might have fueled the evolution of the cephalopods’ amazing color-changing skin, their short lifespans, and their large brains.’
June 21, 2019
[distractions] How to reduce digital distractions: advice from medieval monks‘Sometimes they accused demons of making their minds wander. Sometimes they blamed the body’s base instincts. But the mind was the root problem: it is an inherently jumpy thing. John Cassian, whose thoughts about thinking influenced centuries of monks, knew this problem all too well. He complained that the mind ‘seems driven by random incursions’. It ‘wanders around like it were drunk’. It would think about something else while it prayed and sang. It would meander into its future plans or past regrets in the middle of its reading. It couldn’t even stay focused on its own entertainment – let alone the difficult ideas that called for serious concentration. That was in the late 420s…’
June 12, 2019
[web] Screenshots of Despair … a amusing Tumblr capturing some Herzogian computer messages.

May 31, 2019
[pizza] I Staked Out My Local Domino’s to See Just How Accurate Its Pizza Tracker Is … Some quality journalism on an important issue. ‘7:08 p.m. — “PERFECTION CHECK COMPLETE” No, there’s no perfection check. You just put it in the oven ONE MINUTE AGO!!! 7:12 p.m. — The Domino’s Employees Grow Suspicious of Me…’
May 28, 2019
[last] Experience: I manage the last Blockbuster in the world… A poignent check-in with the last Blockbuster video rental store in the world. ‘The final store closures happened so fast. At the end of 2017, there were seven Blockbusters left in the US, but by early 2019 it was just us and one other store in Perth, Australia, in the world. When they closed in March it was bittersweet. We were happy to be the last store, but sad that we were one step closer to Blockbuster ceasing to exist. They called us from Australia on their last night and wished us all the best. That was very sweet. Since then, things have been crazy. The local community has been incredibly supportive, and people have come from all over the world to rent movies: we’ve set up close to 5,000 new memberships…’
May 24, 2019
[internet] Why People Fake Cancer Online … A look at why people fake illness on the Internet. ‘This condition of faking illness online has a name: “Munchausen by internet,” or MBI. It’s a form of factitious disorder, the mental disorder formerly known as Munchausen syndrome, in which people feign illness or actually make themselves sick for sympathy and attention. According to Marc Feldman, the psychiatrist at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who coined the term MBI back in 2000, people with the condition are often motivated to lie by a need to control the reactions of others, particularly if they feel out of control in their own lives. He believes that the veil of the internet makes MBI much more common among Americans than the 1 percent in hospitals who are estimated to have factitious disorder.’
May 9, 2019
[life] Mariko Aoki phenomenon … Do you have a urge to defecate after entering a bookshop? You are not alone! ‘Persons with a history of experiencing the Mariko Aoki phenomenon were described as having a “book bowel” tendency (Japanese: 書便派 sho’ben-ha) in Vol. 41 of Book Magazine.’
May 8, 2019
[work] Moderately Motivated Gen-Xer for Hire‘Candidate understands that individual contributions often have limited value in the wider context, and is content to follow orders with no grasp of said orders’ ultimate purpose or importance. Gratification on a severely delayed timetable is perfectly acceptable. Candidate is accustomed to a reporting structure that includes multiple redundant levels of management.’
April 30, 2019
[tech] Death by PowerPoint: the slide that killed seven people … How Microsoft PowerPoint contributed to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. ‘Typing text on a screen and reading it out loud does not count as teaching. An audience reading text off the screen does not count as learning. Imagine if the engineers had put up a slide with just: “foam strike more than 600 times bigger than test data.” Maybe NASA would have listened. Maybe they wouldn’t have attempted re-entry. ‘
April 18, 2019
[life] Paris Vows To Rebuild Notre Dame Despite Cosmic Absurdity Of Seeking Inherent Meaning In Fleeting Creations Of Man‘“We will come together as a nation to reconstruct Notre Dame, no matter the fundamental irrationality of imbuing mere man-made structures of stone and wood with any sort of deeper meaning in an existence where entropy is the only universal truth,” said French president Emmanuel Macron in a press conference, adding that the government had already received more than $700 million in pledged funding for a restoration project that will “serve as but a momentary impediment to the corrosive sands of time.”’
April 9, 2019
[life] Mickey Rooney’s Wacko Businesses from Mickey’s Weenie World to Mickey’s Tip-offs Disposable … It turns out that Mickey Rooney had many wacky businesses! ‘To Mr. Rooney, every phrase suggests a book title, every person a character for a show, every mouthful a fast-food empire. ”He’s so creative it verges on insanity,” said his dresser Tony Buonauro. Mr. Rooney had written six unpublished novels and and had “Eight or 10 filmscripts ready for production. Scripts for all genres: a horror film for Bette Davis, a thriller for Glen Ford, and television pilots that range from ”Roughshod,” a Western, to ”The Discoverers,” which Mr. Rooney describes as ”the episodic adventures of Balboa, Cortez and Ponce De Leon.” One favorite was ”The Picture Nobody Should See.” ”It’s about Charlie and Hazel Crow,” says Mr. Rooney, ”a milkman and his wife who set out to make a porno film. That’s the picture nobody should see.” He claps his hands. ”It’s a picture within a picture!”’ [thanks @ModernDayNTK]
March 26, 2019
[disaster] Normalization of Deviance … a fascinating look at why disasters happen.

Because here’s the thing: most of the time when there’s a Serious Problem™, it’s not just one event. Disasters aren’t caused by one small event: it’s an avalanche of problems that we survived up until now until they all happen at once.

Like, the Titanic disaster didn’t kill 1,500 people because they had a one-in-a-million chance of hitting an iceberg. Yeah, the iceberg was the linchpin in that disaster, but it’s just the final piece in that jigsaw.

If they hadn’t been going so fast, if the radio operator hadn’t been preoccupied, if the lookout’s binoculars hadn’t been missing, if it hadn’t been a moonless night, if they’d not had rivet problems, if the bulkheads went all the way up, if they had enough lifeboats … It might have been a minor enough incident that you wouldn’t have even heard of it.

Like, in 1907 the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm rammed an iceberg. It was a passenger liner (later a troop transport) and fully loaded would have over a thousand passengers and crew aboard. It survived. It completed its voyage and stayed in service for another 16 years.

You probably haven’t heard of this incident. It’s a single line mention in a wikipedia page. Because they didn’t hit all the failures at once. They rolled the same dice and didn’t come up all 1s.

March 8, 2019
[lists] The Best Unusual Articles on Wikipedia … List of amusing time-wasting articles on Wikipedia. Check out Jesus H. Christ, Calculator Spelling and the Cadaver Synod.
March 7, 2019
[life] Mob deep: Russian mafia gravestones … Collection of oddly compelling photo-realistic gravestones of Russian gangsters and family.
March 6, 2019
[winning] ‘I’d get 400 toilet rolls at a time’: how it feels to win a lifetime supply … amusing look at what it’s like to win a life-time supply competition. ‘The toilet rolls started arriving three months later. I was at design school in Orange County and living in a rented room, so my housemates were pretty excited when I got a phone call from UPS saying there was a big order for me to pick up. I pulled up at the depot in my Mini Cooper expecting a large package, and was met by two pallets, piled high with about 20 boxes, containing hundreds of rolls. I couldn’t get it all in the car. I folded the seats down, opened up boxes and shoved packets in every footwell. I was sweating. It was like something out of a movie. This would happen every two or three months; I would receive up to 400 rolls at a time. I’d go to the warehouse, or a haulage truck would pull up outside my house…’
March 4, 2019
[mind] Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness … A look at the mystery of consciousness from Oliver Burkeman. ‘Common sense may tell us there’s a subjective world of inner experience – but then common sense told us that the sun orbits the Earth, and that the world was flat. Consciousness, according to Dennett’s theory, is like a conjuring trick: the normal functioning of the brain just makes it look as if there is something non-physical going on. To look for a real, substantive thing called consciousness, Dennett argues, is as silly as insisting that characters in novels, such as Sherlock Holmes or Harry Potter, must be made up of a peculiar substance named “fictoplasm”; the idea is absurd and unnecessary, since the characters do not exist to begin with. This is the point at which the debate tends to collapse into incredulous laughter and head-shaking: neither camp can quite believe what the other is saying. To Dennett’s opponents, he is simply denying the existence of something everyone knows for certain: their inner experience of sights, smells, emotions and the rest. (Chalmers has speculated, largely in jest, that Dennett himself might be a zombie.) It’s like asserting that cancer doesn’t exist, then claiming you’ve cured cancer; more than one critic of Dennett’s most famous book, Consciousness Explained, has joked that its title ought to be Consciousness Explained Away.’
March 1, 2019
[life] Man destroys kitchen trying to spread cold butter on toast‘The first spread just kind of broke the butter and tore the toast a bit, then the second went straight through the kitchen counter and fucked the dishwasher. After the third I couldn’t see because of all the dust and masonry. I didn’t give up, because I really fancied some toast…’
February 25, 2019
[comics] Divorced because of comic books … scan of a story from a newspaper in 1949. ‘SALT LAKE CITY — Mrs. Ida Thompson Thursday sued Henry G. Thompson for divorce because he “frequently bought comic books by the dozens and sat around and read them while refusing to help care for our baby.”‘
February 19, 2019
[life] Do Animals Have Feelings? … A powerful examination of the consciousness of animals. ‘If one of the wasp’s aquatic ancestors experienced Earth’s first embryonic consciousness, it would have been nothing like our own consciousness. It may have been colorless and barren of sharply defined objects. It may have been episodic, flickering on in some situations and off in others. It may have been a murkily sensed perimeter of binary feelings, a bubble of good and bad experienced by something central and unitary. To those of us who have seen stars shining on the far side of the cosmos, this existence would be claustrophobic to a degree that is scarcely imaginable. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t conscious.’
February 18, 2019
[socialmedia] The Lonely Life of a Yacht Influencer … Profiling the life of a Instagram influencer. ‘Jimenez leveled with me — once upon a time, he had been excited by the idea of partying on a yacht. After all, who wouldn’t be? But now he was basically just a working stiff. He too had a home and a family, with kids he didn’t see as much as he could because his “feet were never on dry land.” He had considerable yacht expertise and knew all the major players in the yacht world, buyers and sellers and their glorious boats. He had been on the 100-foot yachts and the 500-foot yachts, and seen yacht-related activities he assured me exceeded any fantasies, dark or light, that I could ever imagine. Yet all that meant he was now just another yacht worker, someone who punched the clock — or the pearl-faced wristwatch, in his case — the same as the kitchen staff, the bartenders and the yacht’s crew.’
February 7, 2019
[life] Did you consent to being born? Why one man is suing his parents for giving birth to him … A look at Antinatalism from Pass Notes. ‘Antinatalism is a system of belief that holds that it is morally wrong for people to procreate, and a vast amount of human misery could be avoided by people simply not existing in the first place.’
February 4, 2019
[life] Why People Wait 10 Days to Do Something That Takes 10 Minutes … The Atlantic on procrastination. ‘Being conscious of your habits does seem to have an impact on procrastination, but in ways more complicated than I had first assumed. In 2011, the Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck published findings that suggest decision fatigue more negatively affects people who already expect their willpower to be low. People who expect themselves to fail toward the end of the day, in other words, often do. Maybe task delayers could all be better around the house if we simply stopped granting the premise that “bad” is the default with which we are stricken. Procrastination researchers, it should be mentioned, all seem to answer their emails in a timely manner.’
January 15, 2019
[life] Urinal protocol vulnerability … The maths behind Urinal Protocol from xkcd. ‘This leads us to a question: what is the general formula for the number of guys who will fill in N urinals if they all come in one at a time and follow the urinal protocol?’