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Exercise for your boss

"Managers who exercise more are less likely to be abusive to employees, a study has claimed," reports The Daily Telegraph. "Researchers found stressed supervisors struggled to cope with time pressures and vented their frustrations at subordinates without regular physical activity. The Northern Illinois University study found only moderate levels of exercise were necessary to minimize abusive supervision. This could include just one or two days of exercise per week while the type of exercise appeared to make little difference to the results, they found. … The findings, published online in Springer's Journal of Business and Psychology, add weight to previous research that showed employees generally bear the brunt of their supervisor's workplace stress."

Fast food, French style

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"McDonald's is the world's largest food chain," says U.S. National Public Radio. "Naturally, the U.S. is its No. 1 market, but guess who is No. 2? You got it: France. A paper out this month by three graduates of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business says McDonald's is such a success in the land of the Michelin three-star restaurants because it has adapted to French eating habits and tastes. There are now 1,200 franchises in France; the company opened 30 restaurants per year in the past five years alone. Even in these harried times, the French spend more than two hours a day at the table. Sitting down to a meal is a cornerstone of French culture, and McDonald's seems to get that. French McDonald's are spacious, tastefully decorated restaurants that encourage people to take their time while eating. And the cozy McCafés with their plush chairs and sofas have become an extension to many restaurants."

Cold War relic?

"Three-quarters of the candidates in Illinois for the U.S. House have signed a loyalty oath to the United States," reports "The optional form, submitted along with ballot paperwork, asks candidates to swear they're not communists. You can rest assured that candidates signing the oath don't plan to teach or advocate for the overthrow of the government, and that they're not affiliated with any communist groups or communist-front groups. The oath used to be mandatory, but a federal court decision four decades ago made it optional. And while communism isn't much of a campaign topic these days, the loyalty oath is still popular."

The trouble with toys

"Once upon a time, a typical gift for a child was a set of blocks," writes Stephanie Hanes of The Christian Science Monitor. "Plain old blocks with no batteries or screens, no electronic voice asking to be friends, no game of Angry Birds somehow embedded in their cubic walls. No longer. As anyone who braved toy stores this past holiday season knows, the bulk of gear for children these days is far more technologically decked out, with everything from flashing lights to 3-D computer screens to disembodied voices. And this, say child development experts, is turning into a massive problem. High-stimuli toys, even many of those advertised as 'educational' or 'interactive,' actually serve to diminish children's activity, many experts say. Instead of using their minds to imagine how to use a toy – how to build a castle with blocks, say – they simply push a button or watch a flashing light. The toy is doing the work, which is the reverse of what researchers say is ideal."

Slow pitch experiment

"No less than twice a week, Professor John Mainstone fields an inquiry from someone around the world about his pet project," says The Brisbane Times. The University of Queensland's Pitch Drop Experiment began in 1930 as a way for the late Prof. Thomas Parnell to prove the liquid nature of the material at room temperature. "Having dripped just nine drops in 81 years, it is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running experiment in the world. … Grandparents bring their grandchildren to show them the experiment and reminisce about the drop formations when they first saw it displayed. And enthusiasts from around the world watch it live on webcam, eager to be the only person to have ever witnessed a drop fall from the experiment."

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Long hours and depression

"Working long hours appears to substantially increase a person's risk of becoming depressed, regardless of how stressful the actual work is, a new study suggests," says "The study, which followed 2,123 British civil servants for six years, found that workers who put in an average of at least 11 hours per day at the office had roughly two and a half times higher odds of developing depression than their colleagues who clocked out after seven or eight hours. The link between long workdays and depression persisted even after the researchers took into account factors such as job strain, the level of support in the workplace, alcohol use, smoking, and chronic physical diseases."

Thought du jour

"There is only one ethics, one set of rules of morality, one code: That of individual behaviour in which the same rules apply to everyone alike." – Peter Drucker (1909-2005), management consultant

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