The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Experts Boil Telecommuting Decisions Down To Flexibility Vs. Serendipity

Feb 28, 2013
Originally published on May 20, 2016 4:46 pm

Yahoo touched off a debate about the effectiveness of telecommuting when it told employees last week that they may no longer work from home. The policy change was made, according to the company's internal email, to enhance workplace collaboration.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who happens to be a new mother, drew fierce criticism from those who say she should embrace, rather than reject, flexible work arrangements.

What exactly is lost and what's gained when people work from home?

Jerry Davis noticed that his University of Michigan colleagues got most of their work done during "free food Fridays" at the office. Lunch is the bait, and shoptalk the byproduct. That sort of workplace dynamic is Davis' area of study.

"One of the places we studied, the coffee machine, seemed to be the central holy site holding the whole place together," he jokes.

Davis, a business professor, says what you miss in telecommuting is the "Oh, I've been meaning to ask you ... " conversations that turn into something more.

"It's more efficient, but you lose that serendipity," he says.

Davis says he himself has had those moments. When he was donating blood, a political science professor lay on the gurney next to him, and that discussion eventually turned into some scholarly research. And he suspects it's that serendipity that Yahoo is trying to re-create by summoning workers back into the office.

"The random interactions that people have turn out to be potentially quite consequential," Davis says.

But is it possible to measure what that happenstance interaction really generates in terms of innovation or productivity?

"Yes, funny you should ask," Davis answered.

He is now studying a group of scientists who recently started working under the same roof. He says those whose daily paths tend to cross at the elevator or copier also tend to collaborate more often.

John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas, says tech companies were early adopters of telecommuting, and they're now finding that the practice sometimes goes too far. But he says it's interesting that this edict is coming from an Internet company that offers email and instant messaging.

"There's so much irony here," Challenger says. "Not only is this high-tech company that's been at the forefront of the technology that's changed how we work now asking workers to come back in, but also it's a 37-year-old mother who is seeing the advantages of being able to balance her work life and her personal life by telecommuting and yet saying, 'For the good of the company, we can't do this. We have to change.' "

Many people say Yahoo CEO Mayer is missing the point and missing an opportunity to set an example as one of the few prominent women in technology.

One of them is Cindy Auten, general manager at Mobile Work Exchange, a group that helps government and business clients design telework programs. She says telecommuting requires putting trust in your employees. And if you can't do that, she says, you have other problems.

"One of the things telework will expose is issues in your management," she adds.

Auten says the fear is that telecommuters may just eat snacks and watch cat videos all day. But in fact, properly managed, telework often exposes unproductive workers.

"You know, a lot of cases, from a management standpoint, is if somebody wants to telework, it's forcing a conversation that you might need to have with that employee, or had needed to have a long time ago," Auten says.

Yahoo said in a statement: "This isn't a broad industry view on working from home." It added, "This is about what is right for Yahoo right now."

In clamping down on remote work, Yahoo is going against the grain. The Families and Work Institute, a research nonprofit, says the number of employers who allow telecommuting has more than doubled since 2005.

"We can't just assume we work in an industrial command-and-control work environment anymore," says Ellen Galinsky, president of the group.

She says companies that don't recognize this do so at their peril. She adds that they risk becoming less productive, because today's top talent values flexibility even more than money.

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