Sunday 1.25.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. Instagram’s Graveyard Shift

“This is the ghost world of #graveyardshift (#nightshift’s sister hashtag), whose workers file into Instagram every evening. These pictures may be clever or maudlin, silly or harrowing or sad. ‘Desperate’ is a word that comes to mind, but so does ‘resigned.’ And even ‘resistance.’ Sometimes it’s in the form of a gag, a ridiculous pose; sometimes it’s in the form of a gaze so steady that it seems to warm the fluorescent panels framing so many of these pictures. The hashtag itself is a form of solidarity.”

2. A Quiet Revolution in Helping Lift the Burden of Student Debt

“A couple of little-noticed legislative tweaks to a small, obscure loan repayment program — revisions made under two very different presidents — appear to have created the conditions for far-reaching changes in how a college education is bought and paid for.”

3. Your College May Be Banking on Your Facebook Likes

“EverTrue enables educational institutions to parse the social media activities of their graduates.”

4. Searching for Sex

“Men make more searches asking how to make their penises bigger than how to tune a guitar, make an omelet or change a tire.”

5. The Secrets of Street Names and Home Values

“Street names tell stories. They tell us if a neighborhood is expensive or affordable, brand-new or decades old. With street names alone, we can uncover all kinds of insights.”

6. How Auschwitz Is Misunderstood

“In Rwanda in 1994, the Hutu perpetrators killed 800,000 Tutsi at a more intensive daily rate than the Germans did the Jews, using only the most primitive technological means, mainly machetes, knives and clubs.”

7. This Is Your Grandmother

“I’d begun to save each of her messages on my cellphone until I got the next, having realized that any message could be the last. She was in the early stages of dementia, and when I answered or called her back, she was often too tired to talk, so these messages became our conversation.”

8. What’s Worse Than Sad

“We trivialize what we wish to make truly important.”

9. Is Your Data Safe at Healthcare.gov?

“The health insurance site has been sharing user data — possibly including characteristics like users’ age and income, as well as whether they’re pregnant — with companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook.”

10. The League, a Dating App for Would-Be Power Couples

“Users are shown only five potential matches a day. If they don’t connect with any, they have to wait until tomorrow’s batch is served. If Tinder is a superstore for mate-shopping, the League, with its tiny pool and selective criteria for entry, is a boutique.”

11. Reeling Through Life and Silver Screen Fiend

“Returning from the ‘briny darkness’ of the New Beverly each night, he logs every film dutifully in one of five reference books, before haring across town to do stand-up at the Largo, waking up bleary-eyed the next morning to scratch out gags fitfully for ‘MADtv.’ ‘I look back … and I’m amazed I didn’t kill anyone,’ he writes. ‘Does anyone act more like an overserious senior citizen with time running out on their chance for immortality than someone in their 20s?’”

12. Once Upon a Time, by Marina Warner

“The Grimm brothers’ collection is the most translated book after the Bible and the Quran, clocking in at 160 languages.”

13. Somebody’s Watching Us

“For nearly 30 years, the legend goes, he wrote the best books for the best publisher, won the best prizes and taught in the best city.”

14. Which Literary Figure Is Overdue for a Biography?

“Here is a crash course in Murray: He was the author of a memoir, four novels, several books about the blues that are at once scholarly and down-homey, and a few volumes of cultural criticism. Ah, yes, and a collection of poetry that includes a poem about William Faulkner I’d dare anyone to top. Ralph Ellison was a dear friend of his. The painter Romare Bearden was a friend, too. Murray and Bearden entered into an artistic collaboration that yielded Bearden’s series The Block, inspired by the view from Murray’s balcony in Harlem. Murray hung out with James Baldwin in Paris in the 1950s. He was the co-writer of Count Basie’s autobiography. The National Book Critics Circle gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1997. Duke Ellington called him ‘the unsquarest man I know.’ During his college days, he spent a night at Ma Rainey’s house; in his memoir, South to a Very Old Place, he describes sleeping in her ‘red-velvet-draped, tenderloin-gothic, incense-sultry sickroom.’”

15. The Case for Legalized Gambling on Sports

“Gamblers are always looking for an edge and, at any level of play, basketball is a relatively easy game to corrupt. Each team has only five players on the court, and teams score dozens of times a game. It takes just one deliberate underperformer to tilt the contest in a way that isn’t possible in most other team sports. (Scoring in baseball and football, by contrast, is much more contingent on how the team performs as a whole.)”

16. The Orthodox Sex Guru

“How widespread sexual aversion is among ultra-Orthodox women is impossible to say, and the question is made especially difficult because there is a host of movements and sects with varying statutes and customs. But there is an erotic ideal that all these cultures share. After a young woman marries — often, like the Satmar wife Marcus told me about, to a man she has met and spoken with only once before the wedding — she’s supposed to feel that sex is a blessing, a union full of Shekinah, of God’s light, not just a painful or repellent reproductive chore. Quietly, rabbis refer struggling wives to Marcus’s care. Her task is to instill desire in them.”

17. The Megyn Kelly Moment

“For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, a Megyn moment, as I have taken to calling it, is when you, a Fox guest — maybe a regular guest or even an official contributor — are pursuing a line of argument that seems perfectly congruent with the Fox worldview, only to have Kelly seize on some part of it and call it out as nonsense, maybe even turn it back on you. You don’t always know when, how or even if the Megyn moment will happen; Kelly’s political sensibility and choice of subjects are generally in keeping with that of the network at large. But you always have to be ready for it, no matter who you are.”

18. Why Is India So Crazy for World Records?

“Har Parkash, a 72-year-old man from New Delhi, covered his body in 366 flag tattoos, chugged a bottle of ketchup in under 40 seconds, adopted his 61-year-old brother-in-law and set several other records and then, for good measure, changed his name to Guinness Rishi, his life and identity swallowed up by his obsession.”

Sunday 01.18.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. Among the Disrupted

“Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life.”

2. From Amateur to Ruthless Jihadist in France

“If we have such a hard time regulating something as simple as cigarettes, how do you expect us to regulate something as abstract as ideas, as religion?”

3. Lower Oil Prices Provide Benefits to U.S. Workers

“The latest drop in energy prices … is disproportionately helping lower-income groups.”

4. Restoring ‘Wonder Theater’ Movie Palaces to Glory

“The renovation effort was herculean…. When it started two years ago, he said, workers discovered that water had corroded vast sections of decorative plaster, carpets squished underfoot, light fixtures had been torn from the walls, pigeons roosted in the ceiling and a naked man was found curled up on the stage, alive but startled when police officers and two workers woke him.”

5. In Charge, and Sounding the Part

“As people gain authority, their voice quality changes, becoming steadier in pitch, more varied in volume and less strained. Power sounds distinctive, creating hierarchies measurable through waves of sound.”

6. The Power of a Simple Nudge

“Community college students received texts reminding them to complete their re-enrollment forms, particularly aid applications. Among freshmen who received the texts, 68 percent went on to complete their sophomore year, compared with 54 percent of those who got no nudges.”

7. After PTSD, More Trauma

“There are many reasons to be disappointed, even angry with the V.A. right now — the unforgivably long wait times, the erratic quality of care, the reports of administrators’ falsifying records to cover up those shortcomings. My own disappointment is that after waiting three months, after completing endless forms, I was offered an overhyped therapy built on the premise that the best way to escape the aftereffects of hell was to go through hell again.”

8. The Best Way to Get Over a Breakup

“For many, the key may turn out to be some self-reflection, but not too much: writing about your feelings, ‘but then not necessarily mulling over it or doing any more. Just write it, talk about it, leave it, do it again.’”

9. Toilets for the People

“A disproportionate amount of poop on the streets is not from dogs but from humans.”

10. Mean Girls in the Retirement Home

“High school doesn’t last forever, everyone grows up. But Nanna’s experience suggests otherwise. It says that the cruel, like the poor, are always with us, that mean girls stay mean — they just start wearing support hose and dentures.”

11. Packing Heat at the Airport? Oops

“Increasingly, screeners for the Transportation Security Administration are detaining travelers for more than their toiletries or electronics. Gun confiscations at checkpoints have been on the rise, reaching approximately 2,200 last year, the agency reported, a 20 percent increase over the previous year and 230 percent more than in 2005. A vast majority of the weapons were loaded and had bullets in the chamber.”

12. Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others

“The smartest teams were distinguished by three characteristics. First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group. Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible. Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not ‘diversity’ (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at ‘mindreading’ than men.”

13. Is a Climate Disaster Inevitable?

“The defining feature of a technological civilization is the capacity to intensively ‘harvest’ energy. But the basic physics of energy, heat and work known as thermodynamics tell us that waste, or what we physicists call entropy, must be generated and dumped back into the environment in the process. Human civilization currently harvests around 100 billion megawatt hours of energy each year and dumps 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the planetary system, which is why the atmosphere is holding more heat and the oceans are acidifying.”

14. At the Super Bowl of Linguistics, May the Best Word Win

“If wordsmiths had a Super Bowl, this would be it, a place where the nation’s most well-regarded grammarians, etymologists and language enthusiasts gather to talk shop.”

15. A Voice Still Heard: Selected Essays of Irving Howe

“He was an American Orwell: our most thrilling dissident, a socialist with conservative cultural sympathies, a scything polemicist capable of the most tender, patient literary explication. Unlike Orwell, Howe never went on great foreign adventures — there was no journalism in him. And his standing will never be buoyed by his novels, because there aren’t any. But Orwell and Howe shared a romantic vision of their chosen path in life, and it’s that ­marrow-deep commitment to heterodoxy that makes the current climate feel uninspired and careerist by contrast.”

16. The Point of Order

“Most people now think of the police primarily in their role of crime fighting. But it is at least as much their other original mandate, the prevention of disorder, that perpetuates the suspicion many hold for them. Order is a subjective thing, and the people who define it are not often the people who experience its imposition.”

17. Try This at Home!

“You can’t self-censor art based on the possibility that some people might misunderstand the point.”

18. A 12-Hour Window for a Healthy Weight

“Meal times have more effect on circadian rhythm than dark and light cycles.”

Sunday 01.11.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. When Will the North Face Its Racism?

“High profile-cases of police brutality have recently come to be associated with the North rather than the South.”

2. Warning: That Tan Could Be Hazardous

“Indoor tanning might seem like a fashion that faded with the 1980s, but it remains a persistent part of American adolescence, popular spring, summer and fall but especially in winter, when bodies are palest. Salons with names like Eternal Summer and Tan City dot strip malls across the country, promising prettiness and, in some cases, better health, despite a growing body of evidence that links indoor tanning to skin cancer.”

3. College Football Is Powerful: The Proof Is in the Alcohol

“The NCAA does not permit alcohol sales — or even its advertising — at the 89 championships it administers. But on Monday night, about 80,000 fans will flock to the same stadium for the first College Football Playoff title game, between Oregon and Ohio State, and they will be able to select from an array of beer, wine and spirits.”

4. Should Schools Teach Personality?

“An emphasis on children’s personalities could take attention away from problems with their schools.”

5. The Backlash Against African Women

“Street harassment is often a sign of deep-seated resentment of women’s changing status in society.”

6. Old Nazis Never Die

“Many of the most notorious Nazi fugitives — members of the SS and the Gestapo — fled to South America after the war, but hundreds fanned out through the Middle East, primarily to Egypt and Syria.”

7. Hearing Is Believing

“Progress doesn’t always mean going forward.”

8. Getting Grief Right

“Grief is as unique as a fingerprint.”

9. When Art Is Dangerous (or Not)

“There are still cultures in which art is not a harmless diversion or commodity, but something real and volatile, a potential threat to be violently suppressed.”

10. Stop Checking Email So Often

“Could the frequency with which you check your email play a role in causing stress?”

11. How to Make Yourself Go to the Gym

“By inducing a habit with cash payments, and then reinforcing that habit with self-funded payments, the researchers were able to permanently change workout habits for at least some people.”

12. Always on His Own Terms

“Twenty years ago next week, the artist Ray Johnson jumped off a low bridge in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and backstroked placidly out to sea. Two teenage girls saw him plunge into the frigid water and tried to alert the police, but when they found the station closed they went to see a movie instead, a detail many of Mr. Johnson’s friends said would have delighted him.”

13. Big-Budget Effects Without the Budget

“Visual effects have quietly become part of small films in ways you might not expect. Hidden away in art-house movies, including a recent crop of dramas, are digital tricks that reduce the cost of potentially expensive shots or, more subtly, help filmmakers heighten the visual impact of seemingly naturalistic tales.”

14. Who Will Be America’s Next Top Mentor?

“Is it possible that women now suffer from a surfeit of supportive you-go-sister pompoms?”

15. To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This

“Love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be.”

16. Masters of Crime

“Raymond Chandler is a bit like Rimbaud: a great artist who left behind no great art. The plot of his most famous book, The Big Sleep, makes no sense, as he admitted himself, and none of his novels hold up — their characters thin, their wisecracking growing quickly stale, unless you happen to adore wisecracking. Yet Joan Didion might not exist without him, or Bret Easton Ellis, or, in the present moment, a writer like Dana Spiotta. What he bequeathed them was the idea of existential weariness as the essential idiom of modern life. And glittering, empty Los Angeles as the place it lived.”

17. Why Do We Hate Cliché?

“Many of the people I know who use the most platitudes are the ones who have led the hardest lives.”

18. Retrograde Beliefs

“To understand the illusion of its movement means to realize that we are not at the center of things, that there is a reality beyond the one we see.”

19. Death by Robot

“Computer scientists are teaming up with philosophers, psychologists, linguists, lawyers, theologians and human rights experts to identify the set of decision points that robots would need to work through in order to emulate our own thinking about right and wrong.”

Sunday 01.04.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. How My Mom Got Hacked

“In addition to being criminals, these peddlers of ransomware are clearly businesspeople, skillfully appropriating all the tools of e-commerce. From branding … to determining what they can extort … these operators are … part of ‘a very mature, well-oiled capitalist machine.’”

2. The Economics (and Nostalgia) of Dead Malls

“With income inequality continuing to widen, high-end malls are thriving, even as stolid retail chains like Sears, Kmart and J. C. Penney falter, taking the middle- and working-class malls they anchored with them.”

3. N.F.L. Coaches Now Reach for Next Level: College

“In college, the head coach frequently has more power than the star quarterback, the athletic director, the university president, even the governor.”

4. Her Task: Weaning White House Off Floppy Disks.

“Ms. Smith, 50, an M.I.T.-trained mechanical engineer and former Google executive, is working hard to bring her Silicon Valley sensibility to the Obama administration.”

5. Dying in the E.R., and on TV Without His Family’s Consent

“No one in the Chanko family had given ‘NY Med’ permission to film Mr. Chanko’s treatment at the hospital or to broadcast the moments leading up to his death.”

6. Racial Bias, Even When We Have Good Intentions

“Good intentions do not guarantee immunity.”

7. If You Want to Meet That Deadline, Play a Trick on Your Mind

“Research into procrastination has noted that people have much less concern about their future selves than their present selves — and are willing to sell their future selves down the river for the sake of present ease. But when the present marches into the future, and we are confronted with the work that our past selves refused to do, we pay the price in unmet deadlines, all-nighters and general torment.”

8. Playing Dumb on Climate Change

“Even as scientists consciously rejected religion as a basis of natural knowledge, they held on to certain cultural presumptions about what kind of person had access to reliable knowledge. One of these presumptions involved the value of ascetic practices. Nowadays scientists do not live monastic lives, but they do practice a form of self-denial, denying themselves the right to believe anything that has not passed very high intellectual hurdles.”

9. Healthy Body, Unhealthy Mind

“We run and run in search of contentment, Pascal wrote in his Pensées, and so ensure we’ll never be settled or content. We mindlessly race away from the one place where happiness is to be found.”

10. Is Life Better in America’s Red States?

“For a middle-class person , the American dream of a big house with a backyard and a couple of cars is much more achievable in low-tax Arizona than in deep-blue Massachusetts.”

11. Suicides Spread Through a Brazilian Tribe

“Indigenous peoples suffer the greatest suicide risk among cultural or ethnic groups worldwide. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men ages 25 to 29 have a suicide rate four times higher than the general population in that same age group in Australia, according to the country’s Department of Health. In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death, behind accidents, for American Indian and Alaska Native men ages 15 to 34, and is two and a half times higher than the national average for that age group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.”

12. China’s Crime-Free Crime Films

“Welcome to the world of screenwriting for China, where crime stories are crime free, ghost tales have no ghosts and crooked politicians can’t be crooked.”

13. Resolving to Create a New You

“Instead of looking outward to find the value that determines what you should do, you can look inward to what you can stand behind, commit to, resolve to throw yourself behind. By committing to an option, you can confer value on it.”

14. The Liberation of Growing Old

“The historians Thomas R. Cole and David Hackett Fischer have documented how, at the start of the 19th century, the idea of aging as part of the human condition, with its inevitable limits, increasingly gave way to a conception of old age as a biomedical problem to which there might be a scientific solution. What was lost was a sense of the life span, with each stage having value and meaning.”

15. Radical Islam, Nihilist Rage

“A religion is defined not just by its holy texts but also by how believers interpret those texts — that is, by its practices. The ways in which believers act out their faith define that faith. The fact that Islamist extremists practice their religion in a manner abhorrent to liberals does not make that practice less real.”

15. The Paradox of the Free-Market Liberal

“There are often decisive forces compelling those with a conservative personality to be economically left wing.”

16. The Unending Anxiety of an ICYMI World

“ICYMI makes staying connected feel like a constant game of catch-up, like finding things at a slower pace warrants some kind of disclaimer.”

17. The Selfie Stick Takes Manhattan

“In a culture where technological advances are often used to help humans connect more deeply to their own narcissism, this is an important innovation.”

18. A Prairie Prologue in Nebraska

“Never used for farmland, the Sand Hills are said to be one of the most unique grasslands in the world and the largest, intact native grasslands in North America.”

19. Patton Oswalt: By the Book

“I hate the term ‘guilty pleasure.’ If I take pleasure in something there is no reason for me to experience guilt. Especially if it hurts no one else.”

20. Loitering, Essays by Charles D’Ambrosio

“The presentation of himself as a damaged outsider, barely holding on, ups the dramatic ante, though it does seem at odds with the accomplished, balanced, commanding prose D’Ambrosio appears able to muster with every sentence — not to mention his prestigious awards and teaching stints. But he certainly has cause to feel damaged, as we learn from his family history: One brother committed suicide; another brother, schizophrenic, jumped off the Aurora Bridge but lived. His ‘monstrous’ father, a professor of finance, stopped communicating with his seven children, gave all of his money to the Roman Catholic Church and ended up a crackpot.”

21. Citizen Coke, by Bartow J. Elmore

“Coke was the brainchild of John Stith Pemberton, a broke, morphine-addicted pharmacist in Atlanta who advertised it as a ‘brain tonic.’ ‘Just add a few squirts of carbonated water,’ he instructed the salesmen hawking the syrup in 1886. A century later, those squirts have gushed into a tidal wave. Over 79 billion gallons of water are required annually to dilute Coke syrup, and an additional eight trillion gallons are needed for other aspects of production, including the manufacturing of bottles. In 2012, Coke used more water than close to a quarter of the world’s population.”

22. A Tale of Two Plantations, by Richard S. Dunn

“In the Caribbean, white masters treated the slaves like ‘disposable cogs in a machine,’ working them to death on sugar plantations and then replacing them with fresh stock from Africa. In the United States, white masters treated their slaves like the machine itself — a breeding machine.”

23. Empire of Cotton, by Sven Beckert

“The 18th century certainly belonged to sugar. The race to cultivate it in the West Indies was, in the words of the French Enlightenment writer Guillaume-Thomas de Raynal, ‘the principal cause of the rapid movement which stirs the Universe.’ In the 20th century and beyond, the commodity has been oil: determining events from the Allied partitioning of the Middle East after World War I to Hitler’s drive for Balkan and Caspian wells to the forging of our own fateful ties to the regimes of the Persian Gulf. In his important new book, the Harvard historian Sven Beckert makes the case that in the 19th century what most stirred the universe was cotton.”

24. Empire’s Crossroads, by Carrie Gibson

“Europeans met with resistance in the Caribbean, and Gibson debunks yet another myth of the naïve native welcoming the white man. She also points out that geography and climate were major forces on the side of the natives, deterring the conquest of the islands: volcanoes, hurricanes, suffocating weather, swampy terrain, not to mention all sorts of insects, like the malaria-carrying mosquito … Jamaica is hilly, so many Africans and Amerindians were able to escape slavery by hiding in caves in the hills. The density of the forest in Dominica, observable on the route from the airport to the capital, allowed many Kalinago people to survive, undetected among the thick trees.”

25. The Split-Screen Marriage

“In our lives, we sync calendars, share photo streams and believe ourselves to be just a few app installations away from banishing loneliness altogether. In our art, though, we stew in mutual incomprehension, turning every queen-size bed into the set for a miniature Rashomon. These stories are a warning bubbling up from our collective unconscious about something we’d rather forget: that we might not know one another nearly so well as we think. In the era of family Fitbit competitions, tales of irreconcilable narration are our spine chillers.”

26. Inside a Chinese Test-Prep Factory

“Nothing consumes the lives of Chinese families more than the ever-­looming prospect of the gaokao. The exam — there are two versions, one focused on science, the other on humanities — is the modern incarnation of the imperial keju, generally regarded as the world’s first standardized test. For more than 1,300 years, into the early 20th century, the keju funneled young men into China’s civil service. Today, more than nine million students take the gaokao each year (fewer than 3.5 million, combined, take the SAT and the ACT). But the pressure to start memorizing and regurgitating facts weighs on Chinese students from the moment they enter elementary school. Even at the liberal bilingual kindergarten my sons attended in Beijing, Chinese parents pushed their 5-year-olds to learn multiplication tables and proper Chinese and English syntax, lest their children fall behind their peers in first grade. ‘To be honest,’ one of my Chinese friends, a new mother, told me, ‘the gaokao race really begins at birth.’”

Trailer for Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups

Sunday 12.28.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation

“In 1950, Gordon Parks was the only African-American photographer working for Life magazine, a rising star who was gaining the power to call his own shots, and he proposed a cover story both highly political and deeply personal: to return to Fort Scott, Kan., the prairie town where he had grown up, to find his 11 classmates in a segregated middle school.”

2. Amazon Offers All-You-Can-Eat Books. Authors Turn Up Noses.

“The world has more stories than it needs or wants to pay for.”

3. That Debt From 1720? Britain’s Payment Is Coming

“The British government is planning to pay off some of the debts it racked up over hundreds of years, dating as far back as the [1720] South Sea Bubble.”

4. Sprinting Over the Dirt, With a Robot on the Hump

Camel racing, in one form or another, has been part of Arabian culture for generations, with some historians tracing races to the seventh century … As races became more competitive and prize money grew, many camel owners began to use lightweight children as jockeys, some as young as 2 or 3, importing them from countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. Falls and critical injuries were common. Trading, bartering and kidnapping of child jockeys, as well as accusations of physical and sexual abuse, were frighteningly frequent, too. At one point, it was estimated that 40,000 child jockeys were being used across the Persian Gulf. The horrors of that human trafficking left a scar for the sport that lingers even now … but a majority, perhaps recognizing the troubling perception of having children ride animals that stand 6 feet tall and can run up to 40 miles per hour, unabashedly praised the technology now widely used instead: robots.”

5. The Scoreboards Where You Can’t See Your Score

“While a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires consumer reporting agencies to provide individuals with copies of their credit reports on request, many other companies are free to keep their proprietary consumer scores to themselves.”

6. Out of Tragedy, a Protective Glass for Schools

“A start-up company in Adams, Mass., called School Guard Glass has invented a strong glass intended to thwart intruders for a minimum of four to six minutes.”

7. Quenching Consumers’ Thirst for ‘Authentic’ Brands

“Luxury brand managers use myths and rituals to cast historical shops as sacred, which then lends authenticity to the merchandise and the brand.”

8. In Hollywood, It’s a Men’s, Men’s, Men’s World

“Money — getting it, keeping it and putting it on screen — remains one of the biggest barriers that female directors confront.”

9. The Tech Changes, but Not the Crime

Enter the superhacker, ‘someone who can seamlessly traverse the digital world and real world.’ (This is in contrast to the other stereotype, ‘the pudgy, sexually repressed, sedentary, overweight geek.’) Though The Matrix set the superhacker standard, a prime example Mr. Anderson noted was Hugh Jackman in the 2001 movie Swordfish. In an online archive of hacker clips that Mr. Anderson maintains, there’s Mr. Jackman, sexy in a loose shirt, pounding red wine as he types awkwardly, shouting ‘Oh yeah!’ at his seven oversize monitors.”

10. Facebook’s Last Taboo: The Unhappy Marriage

“Generally harder to find on the social network of over one billion people is the documentation of strife, anxiety, discord or discontent — states that anyone who has been married knows are a natural part of the emotional kaleidoscope of the institution. Marital distress, it seems, is the third rail, the untouchable topic of Facebook.”

11. New Translations of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

“The opposition between the ideal of producing a translation that reads as though the original had been written in the language and one that has an accent, like a Russian character speaking English in a Hollywood movie, is an old one, and convincing arguments have been made on both sides of the debate.”

12. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen

“What passes as news for some (white) readers is simply quotidian lived experience for (black) others.”

13. How We Got to Now, by Steven Johnson

“At various points in How We Got to Now, he helps us see how innovation is almost never the result of a lone genius experiencing a sudden voilà! moment; it’s a complex process involving a dizzying number of inputs, individuals, setbacks and (sometimes) accidents.”

14. Hand to Mouth, by Linda Tirado

“Stress over money and the exhaustion of working multiple jobs aren’t ‘great for higher cognitive activity,’ Tirado notes, leaving her hungry for intellectual stimulation. ‘I stopped thinking in higher concepts, gradually. I feel stupid when I realize how long it’s been since I thought about anything beyond what I had to get through to keep everything moving along: no philosophy, no music, no literature. We know we’re not at capacity, and it rankles.’”

15. Why Homer Matters, by Adam Nicolson

“The world needs more Adam Nicolsons, unabashedly passionate evangelists for the power of ancient poetry to connect us with our collective past, illuminate our personal struggles and interrogate our understanding of human history.”

16. How to Be a Victorian, by Ruth Goodman

“Goodman’s unique selling proposition as a historian is that she walks the walk of her time period, even when that walk involves hard labor in a corset and a hoop skirt. The book is peppered with her wonderful, and often wonderfully dotty, social experiments. For months on end she brushed her teeth with soot, wore the era’s recyclable sanitary towels … set fire to herself cooking on a Victorian range and cleaned herself only with a linen towel, thus replicating the Victorian aversion to water, which was thought to possibly open the pores to infection.”

17. The Lives They Lived: Remembering Some of Those We Lost This Year

“How do you continue beyond the mythmaking moment?”

Sunday 12.21.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. How to Be Liked by Everyone Online

“Break something in real life: not recommended. Break the Internet: you’re a star.”

2. Dude, Close Your Legs.

“It is the bane of many female subway riders. It is a scourge tracked on blogs and on Twitter. And it has a name almost as distasteful as the practice itself. It is manspreading, the lay-it-all-out sitting style that more than a few men see as their inalienable underground right.”

3. Raising Ambitions: The Challenge in Teaching at Community Colleges

“Perhaps no other cohort of instructors in American education confronts such a consistently low-performing group of students on a daily basis.”

4. An Economist Goes Christmas Shopping

“Ill-chosen gifts caused between $4 billion and $13 billion a year in economic waste.”

5. What We’re Searching For

“Jan. 1 is the day of the year with the most searches for the morning-after pill.”

6. The New Allure of Sacred Pilgrimages

“Of every three tourists worldwide, one is a pilgrim, a total of 330 million people a year.”

7. North Korea and the Speech Police

“The common thread in all these cases, whether the angry parties are Hermit Kingdom satraps or random social-justice warriors on Twitter, is a belief that the most important power is the power to silence, and that the perfect community is one in which nothing uncongenial to your own worldview is ever tweeted, stated, supported or screened.”

8. We Now Conclude Our Broadcast Day

“We not only demand our television, radio and music in unblemished HD on whatever device we choose, but also our weddings, children, houses and bodies. And in our heedless embrace of digital cosmetic surgery, we’ve forgotten that it’s the flaw that makes a thing all the sweeter — like the bruise on a peach.”

9. Millennials and the Age of Tumblr Activism

“A lot of millennials have been discouraged for a long time. Now, with social media, they feel empowered, like people are hearing their voice. And Tumblr is a great platform for all types of media.”

10. Los Angeles, as a Pedestrian

“Visit Los Angeles as a solo traveler and you’ll find few better ways to unmask the city’s hidden-in-plain-sight history, meet other people and imbibe responsibly than to be car-free.”

11. Dick Cavett: By the Book

“Burgess recounted how, diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor, he rapidly dashed off four novels in succession to support his family. Upon learning he’d been misdiagnosed, he claimed he was ‘vaguely disappointed. All that hard work for nothing.’”

12. A Philosophy of Walking, by Frédéric Gros

“Less organized than a sport and more profound than a voyage, a long walk, Gros suggests, allows us to commune with the sublime. Through sheer force of continuous effort, the views we contemplate become more beautiful than if we had simply pulled over by the side of the road to admire them. By physically covering the terrain, we make it ours: The beauty of the world is inscribed in us, and we in it.”

13. The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand

“She is cut off not only from basic tools of reporting, like going places and seeing things, but also from all the promotional machinery of modern book selling. Because of the illness, she is forced to remain as secluded from the public as the great hermetic novelists. She cannot attend literary festivals, deliver bookstore readings or give library talks and signings. Even the physical act of writing can occasionally stymie her, as the room spins and her brain swims to find words in a cognitive haze. There have been weeks and months — indeed, sometimes years — when the mere effort to lift her hands and write has been all that she can muster.”