Sunday 1.10.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. You Don’t Need More Free Time

“It’s not just that we have a shortage of free time; it’s also that our free time, in order to be satisfying, often must align with that of our friends and loved ones. We face a problem, in other words, of coordination.”

2. The Lark-Owl Scale: When Couples’ Sleep Patterns Diverge

“A chief impediment to sleeping together is different preferences for what time to go to bed. As early as the 1970s, researchers began looking at the distinction between morning people and night people, often referred to as ‘larks’ or ‘owls.’”

3. When Teamwork Doesn’t Work for Women

“Women get essentially zero credit for the collaborative work with men.”

4. It’s Payback Time for Women

“The universal basic income is a necessary condition for a just society, for it recognizes the fact that most of us — men, women, parents and nonparents — do a great deal of unpaid work to sustain the general well-being. If we’re not raising children, then we may be going to school, or volunteering around the neighborhood.”

5. St. Teresa and the Single Ladies

“I am not Catholic, and yet I find myself drawn to the women saints. There is something about them that I admire. Maybe it is simply the lengths to which they went to avoid marrying. When St. Catherine’s mother said her hair would surely attract a good suitor, she cut all of it off. When St. Lucia’s pursuer said she had lovely eyes, she cut them out and presented them to him. (‘What,’ I imagine her asking him as he screamed. ‘I thought you said you liked them.’) Then there’s St. Olga of Kiev, whose feast day is my birthday. Emissaries came to her and suggested she marry their prince. She had them all buried alive.”

6. The Joy of Psyching Myself Out

“I left psychology behind because I found its structural demands overly hampering. I couldn’t just pursue interesting lines of inquiry; I had to devise a set of experiments, see how feasible they were, both technically and financially, consider how they would reflect on my career. That meant that most new inquiries never happened — in a sense, it meant that objectivity was more an ideal than a reality. Each study was selected for a reason other than intrinsic interest.”

7. To Be Happier, Start Thinking More About Your Death

“If this year were your last, would you spend the next hour mindlessly checking your social media, or would you read something that uplifts you instead? Would you compose a snarky comment on this article, or use the time to call a friend to see how she is doing?”

8. Campus Sex … With a Syllabus

“And there is a whole new vocabulary to memorize, with terms like ‘enthusiastic consent,’ ‘implied consent,’ ‘spectrum of consent,’ ‘reluctant permission,’ ‘coercion’ and ‘unintentional rape.’ Even ‘yes means yes,’ the slogan of the anti-rape movement is sort of confusing.”

9. The Confidence Game, by Maria Konnikova

“Con artists thrive in times of social and political upheaval, when instability and uncertainty reign, making it easier for emotion to overwhelm reason.”

10. The Defender, by Ethan Michaeli

“By avoiding fire-breathing newspapers like The Chicago Defender, The Baltimore Afro-American and The Pittsburgh Courier, Roosevelt insulated himself from questions about what ­African-Americans saw as the burning issue of the 1940s: the government’s decision to embrace segregation in the military.”

11. The Geography of Genius, by Eric Weiner

“It seems near impossible to will an exceptional place into being or to manufacture the conditions that lead to an outpouring of genius.”

12. Alex Haley: And the Books That Changed a Nation, by Robert J. Norrell

The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots helped to fundamentally transform American race relations and the understanding of black history for successive generations.”

13. Christopher Hitchens’s And Yet… and Roger Scruton’s Fools, Frauds and Firebrands

“For all of their differences in method, scholars and journalists tend to aim in their work for something like impartiality, bracketing their individual idiosyncrasies in favor of a largely selfless pursuit of objectivity through focused, meticulous research. Intellectuals, by contrast, aim to be ‘specialists in generalizations,’ as another New York intellectual (the sociologist Daniel Bell) once put it, pronouncing on the world from out of their individual experiences, habits of reading and capacity for judgment. Subjectivity in all of its quirks and eccentricities is the coin of the realm in the Republic of Letters.”

14. Words Unwired

“More than ever, we need writers who are unprofessional, whose private worlds come first.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: A Field Guide to American Houses

“McAlester’s book is the most authoritative dictionary of the language spoken by the built environment.”

The Hunter

Trailer for The Hunter (1980), Steve McQueen’s final film:

“He’s not a cop, he’s America’s last bounty hunter.”

From Wikipedia’s entry for the film:

At home in Los Angeles, Thorson is an old-fashioned guy who has a love of antiques and classical music, drives a 1950s convertible and keeps an antique gasoline pump in his house. His schoolteacher girlfriend Dotty is pregnant and would like “Papa” to be there for her when the baby is born, but his work continually keeps him on the road.

McQueen’s boots, jeans, MA-1 flight jacket combo is very on trend right now.

Heat

Sunday 1.3.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity

“A surprising number of the conveniences of modern life were invented when someone stumbled upon a discovery or capitalized on an accident: the microwave oven, safety glass, smoke detectors, artificial sweeteners, X-ray imaging. Many blockbuster drugs of the 20th century emerged because a lab worker picked up on the ‘wrong’ information. While researching breakthroughs like these, I began to wonder whether we can train ourselves to become more serendipitous. How do we cultivate the art of finding what we’re not seeking?”

2. Spurs Get a Laugh Track to Go With Their Five Titles

“The show has become a darling within the thin demographic subcategory where web-savvy basketball fans and quirky comedy aficionados intersect.”

3. Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?

“Nearly one in three teenagers told the American Psychological Association that stress drove them to sadness or depression — and their single biggest source of stress was school.”

4. The Selfish Side of Gratitude

“The financial crash of 2008 further dimmed the luster of positive thinking, which had done so much to lure would-be homeowners and predatory mortgage lenders into a speculative frenzy. This left the self-improvement field open to more cautious stances, like mindfulness and resilience and — for those who could still muster it — gratitude.”

5. Why the Post Office Makes America Great

“Dependable infrastructure is magical not simply because it works, but also because it allows innovation to thrive, including much of the Internet-based economy that has grown in the past decade. You can’t have Amazon or eBay without a reliable way to get things to people’s homes.”

6. Beginning Greek, Again and Again

“It’s been said that, for nonstellar teachers at least, the hardest things to teach are the things one loves most.”

7. Robert Irwin’s Big Visions, Barely Seen

“Mr. Irwin doesn’t make sculptures or, for that matter, very many of what would be considered art objects of any kind. Instead, he has spent most of a restless career, based in Los Angeles and then San Diego, creating subtle, at times vanishingly evanescent, environments with plain materials — fabric scrim, glass, lights, plants and trees — ‘to make you a little more aware than you were the day before,’ as he puts it, ‘of how beautiful the world is.’”

8. Bill Gates: The Billionaire Book Critic

“For years, Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft who now focuses on the philanthropic work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had been scribbling notes in the margins of books he was reading and then emailing recommendations to friends and colleagues. Then he began to post these recommendations and critiques on the blog.”

9. Amy Cuddy’s Presence and Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes

“Success doesn’t equal happiness. That’s the message coming in loud and clear in this dawning era of transparency, whether it’s embodied in enraged emails from a powerful movie producer or depressive tweets from a wealthy celebrity. But success without popularity doesn’t count, either. Slipping into the shadows in the wake of an achievement is no longer an option; you must re-enact your value in real time, on a world stage, via conferences, TED talks, panels, festivals, radio appearances and podcasts, all the while conjuring a level of poise and grace that was once the sole purview of news anchors and talk-show hosts. This is the paradox of the modern digital world: It demands broadcast-quality demonstrations of social value, even as it steadily erodes our ability to deliver them.”

10. The Diet Myth, The Good Gut and The Hidden Half of Nature

“Scientists have discovered that 100 trillion microscopic creatures live in and on the body, influencing everything from the intensity of our immune responses and our moods to our dietary preferences and propensity to gain weight.”

11. Infectious Madness, by Harriet A. Washington

“A handful of researchers are wondering whether mental illnesses are really caused by our immune system’s response to powerful microbial infections.”

12. The War on Alcohol, by Lisa McGirr

“Outlawing alcohol had many supporters and inspired more fervor than any reform except abolishing slavery.”

13. Suspicious Minds, by Rob Brotherton

“We are all conspiracy theorists.”

14. Can the Turtleneck Ever Be Cool Again?

“The idea that a few inches of fabric might not only indicate a lifestyle but also incarnate an approach to the universe was an absurdity too delicious to resist, so no one did, and the austere, informal and yet ceremonious black turtleneck entered the iconography of nonconformism.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: Terro Liquid Ant Bait

“This is not your usual trap — those black plastic ant yurts no self-respecting ant would ever enter. Terro comes in a plastic rectangle with two compartments, which together make up a minimalist slaughterhouse. One side is filled with a syrupy liquid, a sugar solution with borax. The other forms a small ramp leading into the solution.”

16. How to Listen to a Police Scanner

“Pay attention if you hear a telltale uptick in chatter; a frenetic shift in tone usually marks a bigger incident, like a homicide. Don’t bother memorizing the old-school radio shorthand known as 10 codes. After communication breakdowns during the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, the federal government urged that 10 codes be phased out in favor of plain speech.”

17. The Imperiled Bloggers of Bangladesh

“All readily admitted their roles and laid out the inner workings of an extremist cell that was created with the specific intent of murdering secular bloggers.”

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The Getaway

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Sunday 12.27.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. The Year in Pictures: 2015

“Just look. The year is here.”

2. As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short

“The number of students earning high school diplomas has risen to historic peaks, yet measures of academic readiness for college or jobs are much lower. This has led educators to question the real value of a high school diploma and whether graduation requirements are too easy.”

3. In Sweden, a Cash-Free Future Nears

“Stefan Wikberg, 65, was homeless for four years after losing his job as an I.T. technician. He has a place to live now and sells magazines for Situation Stockholm, a charitable organization, and began using a mobile card reader to take payments, after noticing that almost no one carried cash. ‘Now people can’t get away,’ said Mr. Wikberg, who carries a sign saying he accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. ‘When they say, “I don’t have change,” I tell them they can pay with card or even by SMS,’ he said, referring to text messages. His sales have grown by 30 percent since he adopted the card reader two years ago.”

4. The Marriages of Power Couples Reinforce Income Inequality

“As it becomes harder for many people to ‘marry up’ as a path for income mobility for themselves or their children, families that are not well connected may feel disengaged, and the significant, family-based advantages for some children may discourage others from even trying.”

5. Breaking Up? Let an App Do It for You

“Dissolving a relationship used to be a private matter between the two principals, with a Greek chorus of close friends and family. Now the sopranos and tenors include apps, websites, social media tools and digital Cyranos for hire.”

6. What’s Your Favorite Poem?

Stephen King: My favorite poem is ‘Falling,’ by James Dickey. Published in 1967, its delirious language, coupled with a clear narrative, make it a precursor to Dickey’s novel Deliverance, published three years later. The poem is audacious, sensuous and completely beautiful. It’s also as neat a parable of the human condition as has ever been written.”

7. Ghosts in the Machine

“The near pervasiveness of social technology has delivered death back into our daily interactions. With the exception of our friends and closest kin, we typically encounter news of deaths through social media. The same feed that informs us about sports scores and plot twists on ‘Empire’ also tells us, without any ceremony, that a life has come to an end.”

8. All The Presidents’ Tailor

“His father, a judge, was shot dead in front of him when de Paris was 14. During World War II, he was a child messenger for the Resistance. He found himself penniless and homeless in Washington sometime around 1960, but within the decade he was running his own tailor shop and counted among his clients the Louisiana congressman Otto Passman, who sent along his compliments to Lyndon Johnson.”

9. Booyah!

“Stuart Scott sounded black. For a time, at America’s most-beloved sports network, that was revolutionary.”

10. The Comedian’s Comedian

“A good comedy writers’ room is filled with talented people, but there is usually one really funny person to whom the room turns when you hit a wall. Harris was that person. His jokes were unexpected and bizarre and full of joy.”

11. A Beloved Villain

“Piper never won a world championship, but he didn’t need to. He was the W.W.E.’s hero, his energy a shot of adrenaline into wrestling’s weary heart.”

12. Literary Theft

“Here’s a dirty secret: Writers are an unruly tribe of thieves, frauds and ventriloquists, desperately lifting what they can from real life, other writers, liquor stores — it doesn’t matter — and putting it to sometimes dubious use in the name of art and authenticity. If that sounds outrageous, or ungenerous, remember T.S. Eliot’s boiled-down dictum: Good writers borrow, great writers steal. Or that the best-selling novel of all-time, Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, was most likely ripped off from, among other sources, The Dead Heart, a play by a writer we most certainly don’t remember, Watts Phillips.”

Don’t Ask Him Why

“Driver wasn’t much of a reader. Wasn’t much of a movie person either, you came right down to it. He’d liked Road House, but that was a long time back. He never went to movies he drove for, but sometimes, after hanging out with screenwriters, who tended to be the other guys on the set with nothing much to do for most of the day, he’d read books they were based on. Don’t ask him why.”

—James Sallis, Drive (2006)