Sunday 9.24.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. Facebook’s Ad Scandal Isn’t a ‘Fail,’ It’s a Feature & Will Mark Zuckerberg ‘Like’ This Column?

“People who use the platform to keep in touch with loved ones may forget that the site makes its money by serving as a conduit for whatever messages people with money want to push at us.”

2. Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far

“One radical fringe that is growing is Mgtow, which stands for Men Going Their Own Way and pronounced MIG-tow. Mgtow aims for total male separatism, including forgoing children, avoiding marriage and limiting involvement with women.”

3. As Equifax Amassed Ever More Data, Safety Was a Sales Pitch

“As part of its pitch to clients, the company promised to safeguard information.”

4. Technology Used to Track Players’ Steps Now Charts Their Sleep, Too

“Wearable technology represents opportunity not only for the teams, but for the companies who sell it. Many teams break down their data for their own personal insights, effectively doing research on the companies’ behalf.”

5. Some People Learn to Code in Their 60s, 70s or 80s

“While millennials make up the bulk of those learning in-demand skills like web design, programming or digital marketing — the average age of students at coding boot camps, for instance, is just under 30 — some people old enough to be their parents or even grandparents are also acquiring these abilities.”

6. The Best Investment Since 1926? Apple

“In the history of the markets since 1926, Apple has generated more profit for investors than any other American company.”

7. Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.

“The emissions that create those risks are happening now, raising deep moral questions for our generation.”

8. The Not-So-Glossy Future of Magazines

“Increasingly, the longtime core of the business — the print product — is an afterthought, overshadowed by investments in live events, podcasts, video, and partnerships with outside brands.”

9. The U.S. Still Leans on the Military-Industrial Complex

“As weapons production increased, the manufacture of autos and electronics shifted partly or wholly overseas. So did the production of other civilian products — leaving behind weapons bought by the Defense Department as an ever bigger share of the nation’s factory output.”

10. Coming Home to a Shipping Container

“Building with shipping containers isn’t exactly new, but until recently it hasn’t been exactly mainstream either. Now, though, it is becoming a lot more popular, as eco-friendly practices begin to influence market trends. Containers are loved by the hip and the practical, artisans and DIY-ers, engineers and construction foremen, as they are both sustainable and affordable. And used 20- or 40-foot containers can be obtained for as little as several hundred dollars apiece, so it’s not surprising that some industry professionals consider them the future of home building.”

11. How to Win a War on Drugs

“The U.S. could achieve Portugal’s death rate from drugs, we would save one life every 10 minutes. We would save almost as many lives as are now lost to guns and car accidents combined.”

12. Everyone Wants to Reduce Drug Prices. So Why Can’t We Do It?

“The pharmaceutical and health products industries spent $145 million on lobbying for the first half of 2017.”

13. Sisterhood’ Felt Meaningless. So My Sisters and I Got in the Car.

“The art historian Moyo Okediji notes that in Yoruban concepts of history, the community must assure children that they are not physically alone and ‘that a series of road maps exists, made by great and talented ancestors who as individuals have beaten a track for succeeding generations.’”

14. Want Geniuses? Welcome Immigrants

“Many of our country’s finest minds and brightest ideas are forged when dreamers from elsewhere encounter an unfamiliar place with unimagined possibilities. There’s a creative spark in that convergence. It has powered American greatness.”

15. Rocket Man Knows Better

“As global anxiety mounts, remedial history is in order.”

16. Why Texas Is No Longer Feeling Miraculous

“It finally seems to be dawning on people that low taxes, less regulation and more oil are no substitute for actually governing.”

17. Do Women Get to Write With Authority?

“Young men purchase authority on credit for which they are preapproved. But if you are a young woman, even now, no one and nothing will guarantee you. Is it any wonder, then, that if you wish to be in possession of authority, you seek to borrow before you expect to own?”

18. The Last Stand of the Amazon’s Arrow People

“Hidden deep in primeval Amazon forests, these groups represent the final frontier of a seemingly inexorable conquest that began with the landing of Portuguese and Spanish navigators on South America’s shores at the start of the 16th century.”

19. A Starry Night Crowded With Selfies

“It’s as if taking a photo of a work in a museum means ‘seeing’ it to a viewer, even though someone like me worries that taking the photo replaces seeing it in the slow and thoughtful way I would ideally wish.”

20. Learning to Live With a Changing World Map

“The United States, a country founded as a breakaway colony, has generally been reluctant to see changes to the world map.”

21. Alternative Movie Posters: Fan Art We Love

“Created by artists outside Hollywood, these hand-drawn beauties are not only better than most fan art, they’re often better than the real thing.”

22. How to Survive the Apocalypse

“In a world where the bombproof bunker has replaced the Tesla as the hot status symbol for young Silicon Valley plutocrats, everyone, it seems, is a ‘prepper.’”

23. Marilynne Robinson on Finding the Right Word

“I was very struck by something that I came across in my reading of Jonathan Edwards. I recall him quoting a writer who talks about how whatever we say lives on after us, that we continue to exist so long as any word we say exists in a living mind. And that there should be two judgments: one when we die, and one when the full impact of our lives has played itself out. That is, when every word that we’ve said, for good or ill, basically ceases to be active.”

24. Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson and the Ways We Talk About Our Past

“The talk in these rejoinders of Hemings as simply ‘property,’ as if she were akin to an inanimate object or nonsentient being, turns aside decades of historiography that makes clear that enslaved people, when they had chances, often acted to shape their circumstances to the extent that they could.”

25. When Corruption and Venality Were the Lifeblood of America

“The ambiguous liberal ideals of contract freedom and self-regulation that helped eradicate slavery became instruments for brute and chaotic corporate power. With the ex-slaves betrayed and the Indians conquered at last, an ‘uncommon’ America emerged, characterized by neither the imperatives of creative destruction nor even simple greed as much as by extravagance, mismanagement and predatory flimflam. Risk-taking and rugged individualism, big business’s eternally self-proclaimed virtues, were in extremely short supply at the top; Gilded Age fortunes sprang from government subsidies, insider tips and, above all, the corruption required to get these favors.”

26. Survival of the Prettiest

“Books by Darwin number 25. Books about Darwin, according to the global library catalog WorldCat, number about 7,500, with production ever rising. This cascade started with 22 books about Darwin published in 1860, the year after his On the Origin of Species appeared, averaged about 30 a year for almost a century, ballooned to almost 50 a year after World War II, and reached 100-plus in the 1980s. Currently we get about 160 a year — a Darwin tome every 2.3 days.”

27. How We Make Up Our Minds

“New knowledge doesn’t erase old misconceptions the way a software upgrade deletes the previous code. Instead, different theories coexist within our minds, and compete to explain the world.”

28. Are Artists the New Interpreters of Scientific Innovation?

“Science is too important to leave to the scientists.”

29. The Visionaries Behind the Memorable Worlds of Film

“Transcendent production design isn’t just about getting surfaces right, any more than great acting is just memorizing words. It’s about translating writers’ and directors’ intentions into a crystallized universe that’s both visceral and rich with meaning, telling parts of the story that even the best actors can’t.”

 

Fall In

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Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash.

I’m writing this on the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

Depending upon where you are, it might not feel like fall yet. Right now, for instance, it’s 92°F outside where I live. And humid. More summer than fall. Yet, at the same time, school’s back in session, football is being played, and Halloween paraphernalia is appearing in stores.

The leaves on one of the trees outside my window are starting to change color. Some leaves have even started to fall. It’s getting darker earlier and lighter later. And even though it’s still hot out during the day, it’s cooling down more at night.

Change is in the air.

This leads to a question: Should one also change in conjunction with the seasons? By this I mean more than donning a natty scarf when the temperature drops below a certain level—I mean changing things about the way you eat, sleep, live, and work.

Conventional productivity advice doesn’t really take up this question. One of the things, in fact, that irks me about such advice is that it tends to frame things in terms of daily routines, routines that are ostensibly the same regardless of the season. In other words, most productivity advice is seasonless. Here I’m thinking of things like Mason Currey’s engrossing 2013 book Daily Rituals and Tim Ferriss’s more tech bro-y late-2016 knockoff Tools for Titans.

Now, I’m as interested in famous people’s daily routines as anyone. But at the same time, I feel it’s important to resist the tyranny of “the day.”

What do I mean by that?

Well, we live in a world of seasons—and increasingly more variable and violent seasons at that—but productivity advice seems to always think in terms of the day, the week, the year, or five years, never the season, the sun, and the shadow.

In Lewis Mumford’s endlessly-rich 1937 book Technics and Civilization, he explains how the clock altered human relations by organizing everything around twenty-four little hours instead of, say, the rhythm of the seasons.

The consequences of this, Mumford argues, are profound:

When one thinks of the day as an abstract span of time, one does not go to bed with the chickens on a winter’s night: one invents wicks, chimneys, lamps, gaslights, electric lamps, so as to use all the hours belonging to the day. When one thinks of time, not as a sequence of experiences, but as a collection of hours, minutes, and seconds, the habits of adding time and saving time come into existence.

Because of the clock, Mumford continues, “Abstract time became the new medium of existence. Organic functions themselves were regulated by it: one ate, not upon feeling hungry, but when prompted by the clock: one slept, not when one was tired, but when the clock sanctioned it. A generalized time-consciousness accompanied the wider use of clocks: dissociating time from organic sequences….”

Since we all pretty much live according to “clock time” now, the autumnal equinox presents us with an opportunity to cast off our Apple Watches and reflect on some of the benefits of living according to what might be called “seasonal time.” To that end, I encourage you to step out of “clock time” and into “seasonal time.”

This will, no doubt, strike some as unappealing. Many people see nature as something to overcome or counteract, not as something to flow with or submit to. For others, it will be impossible. “Clock time” is simply imposed on them too strongly. But if you can do it, even just a little bit, I strongly recommend it, if only for the perspective it brings.

To quote Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season.” What if we took that adage seriously, not just by buying pumpkin spice lattes but by doing key things in a more fall-like way? Fall-like might take different forms. The point is to embrace fall in particular and seasonal change in general. I’m definitely not recommending becoming “Mr. Autumn Man”. I’m talking about something else, something deeper.

One example I like is how novelist Lee Child sits down every September and begins work on a new Jack Reacher novel. He finishes up sometime the following spring and then spends the rest of the year doing other stuff—stuff like spending the entire month of August on vacation. (I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty nice.) Note, too, that this routine produces a book a year. (As someone who writes much more slowly, this sounds pretty nice to me as well.) And Child has been doing things this way since the late 1990s. (For more on Child’s process, see Andy Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.)

Fall is a time to write for me as well, but it also means welcoming—rather than fighting against—the shorter days, the football games, the decorative gourds. Productivity writer Nicholas Bate’s seven fall basics are more sleep, more reading, more hiking, more reflection, more soup, more movies, and more night sky. I like those too. The winter will bring with it new things, new adjustments. Hygge not hay rides. Ditto the spring. Come summer, I’ll feel less stress about stopping work early to go to a barbecue or movie because I know, come autumn, I’ll be hunkering down. More and more, I try to live in harmony with the seasons, not the clock. The result has been I’m able to prioritize better.

And yes, fall for me also means some of the stereotypical stuff: apple picking, leafy walks, we’re even trying to go to a corn maze this year.

In sum, as the Earth wobbles around the Sun, don’t be afraid to switch things up. I can’t promise an uptick in productivity, but when you think of things in terms of seasons instead of a single day, the entire year becomes your canvas.

Sunday 9.17.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. Our Constitution Wasn’t Built for This

“Our Constitution was not built for a country with so much wealth concentrated at the very top nor for the threats that invariably accompany it: oligarchs and populist demagogues.”

2. How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food

“Nestlé’s direct-sales army in Brazil is part of a broader transformation of the food system that is delivering Western-style processed food and sugary drinks to the most isolated pockets of Latin America, Africa and Asia. As their growth slows in the wealthiest countries, multinational food companies like Nestlé, PepsiCo and General Mills have been aggressively expanding their presence in developing nations, unleashing a marketing juggernaut that is upending traditional diets from Brazil to Ghana to India.”

3. Hold the Egg Sandwich: Egyptian TV Is Calling

“Mr. El-Gamasy owns the Lotus Deli in Ridgewood, Queens, a place known for its sandwiches, extensive craft beer selection, and its gracious, friendly owner. But few of his customers — and likely, none of his viewers in Egypt — know that the man making egg sandwiches and small talk behind the counter is the same one who appears on popular Egyptian television news programs, holding forth on subjects from immigration policy to North Korea.”

4. Computers Are Taking Design Cues From Human Brains

“For about half a century, computer makers have built systems around a single, do-it-all chip — the central processing unit — from a company like Intel, one of the world’s biggest semiconductor makers. That’s what you’ll find in the middle of your own laptop computer or smartphone. Now, computer engineers are fashioning more complex systems. Rather than funneling all tasks through one beefy chip made by Intel, newer machines are dividing work into tiny pieces and spreading them among vast farms of simpler, specialized chips that consume less power.”

5. Bump in U.S. Incomes Doesn’t Erase 50 Years of Pain

“Since the 1950s, three-quarters of working Americans have seen no change in lifetime income.”

6. In Amish Country, the Future Is Calling

“The Amish have not given up on horse-drawn buggies. Their rigid abstinence from many kinds of technology has left parts of their lifestyle frozen since the 19th century: no cars, TVs or connections to electric utilities, for example. But computers and cellphones are making their way into some Amish communities, pushing them — sometimes willingly, often not — into the 21st century.”

7. When History’s Losers Write the Story

“The South, facing catastrophic loss of life and mass destruction on a European scale, wrote its own history of the war. It cast itself as an underdog overwhelmed by the North’s superior numbers, but whose cause — a noble fight for states’ rights — was just. The North looked the other way. Northern elites were more interested in re-establishing economic ties than in keeping their commitments to blacks’ constitutional rights. The political will to complete Reconstruction died.”

8. The Making and the Breaking of the Legend of Robert E. Lee

“The ups and downs of his reputation reflect changes in key elements of Americans’ historical consciousness — how we understand race relations, the causes and consequences of the Civil War and the nature of the good society.”

9. The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here

“Millennial suburbanites want a new kind of landscape. They want breathing room but disdain the energy wastefulness, visual monotony and social conformity of postwar manufactured neighborhoods. If new suburbs can hit the sweet spot that accommodates the priorities of that generation, millennial habitats will redefine everyday life for all suburbanites, which is 70 percent of Americans.”

10. How to Bring Your Vacation Home With You

“Beyond a week or two away from work, more time off isn’t going to make you happier or calmer or produce more lasting gains of another sort.”

11. The Nazis’ First Victims Were the Disabled

“We often say what happened in Nazi Germany couldn’t happen here. But some of it, like the mistreatment and sterilization of the disabled, did happen here.”

12. The Ever-Changing Business of ‘Anti-Aging’

“The only real solution to aging is, of course, death, but our central mode of dealing with that inevitability is to delay and deny it.”

13. New Sentences: From Lower Ed, by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Lower Ed is a dense little wonder. What seems like it might be a narrow academic study — a sociological analysis of for-profit colleges — turns out to be about the whole agitated essence of America: our markets, inequalities, prejudices, blind spots and guiding mythologies.”

14. What the World’s Emptiest International Airport Says About China’s Influence

“For centuries, Western liberalism has ruled the world. The Chinese believe their time has come.”

15. RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

“You can tighten your internet security protocols to protect against data breaches, run counterhacking operations to take out infiltrators, sanction countries with proven links to such activities. But RT and Sputnik operate on the stated terms of Western liberal democracy; they count themselves as news organizations, protected by the First Amendment and the libertarian ethos of the internet.”

16. What Could We Lose if a NASA Climate Mission Goes Dark?

“One lesson of publicly funded science is that Americans are not very good at predicting how useful it will be.”

 

The Rock at Work

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(Via The Rock’s Instagram.)

Sunday 9.10.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. Waiting for the Big One in Florida

“At first, we bought our supplies three and four days before a hurricane hit. Then we refined our strategy to a day or two. I filled the bathtub with water we could use in the toilet when we lost power. I cleaned and oiled our 9-millimeter pistols, then loaded them.”

2. A de Kooning, a Theft and an Enduring Mystery

“They are trying to determine if the heist was engineered by a retired New York City schoolteacher — something of a renaissance man — who donned women’s clothing and took his son along as his accomplice, and then hung the masterwork in the bedroom of his own rural New Mexico home, where it remained. In other words, they are examining whether he stole a painting now valued at in excess of $100 million simply so he could enjoy it.”

3. How Henry Threadgill, Composer, Spends His Sundays

“I don’t worry about staying out late. I can stay up all night. I may be out at some performance until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, but I’ll still be up at 6:30 the next day. I take naps — in the morning, in the afternoon, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is the work, the music. Researching and studying. I do it every day, no matter what day of the week it is.”

4. His Bravery Unsung, Varian Fry Acted to Save Jews

“Given the scope of his heroism and its implications for the momentum of 20th century cultural life, Fry remains relatively little known. He died in 1967, in Connecticut, a high school Latin teacher.”

5. The Awakening of Colin Kaepernick

“In Kaepernick’s absence, other players will kneel. Demonstrators will protest. Some will boycott. His jersey will be seen, more as a political statement than a sporting allegiance, as the game goes on without him.”

6. Ray Dalio Spreads His Gospel of ‘Radical Transparency’

“Is it a hedge fund, or a social experiment?”

7. What the Rich Won’t Tell You

“Their ambivalence about recognizing privilege suggests a deep tension at the heart of the idea of American dream. While pursuing wealth is unequivocally desirable, having wealth is not simple and straightforward. Our ideas about egalitarianism make even the beneficiaries of inequality uncomfortable with it. And it is hard to know what they, as individuals, can do to change things.”

8. How to Fix the Person You Love

“Today, we expect our spouse not only to make us feel loved, but also to be a kind of life coach.”

9. These Are Not the Robots We Were Promised

“Whether real or fictional, robots hold a mirror up to society. If Rosie and her kin embodied a 20th-century yearning for domestic order and familial bliss, smart speakers symbolize our own, more self-absorbed time.”

10. One Nation Under a Movie Theater? It’s a Myth.

“White supremacy is part of the heritage of Hollywood, which is to say of the American mainstream.”

11. Is Jake Paul a Social Media Genius or a Jerk?

“He has 10.5 million subscribers on YouTube, and seemingly five million haters. This high school dropout from Ohio has already outlasted Vine, the short-form video platform that gave him his first taste of fame; survived an ill-fated turn as a Disney star; cut a rap anthem (‘It’s Everyday Bro’) that became, simultaneously, one of the most viral and reviled songs on the internet; and established himself in the eyes of grown-up America as an embodiment of everything that is wonderful and horrible about Generation Z.”

12. What We Talk About When We Talk About and Exactly Like Trump

“Quick — try to recall anything Barack Obama, one of our most oratorically gifted presidents, said during his eight-year tenure outside of a written speech (and still nothing comes to mind as readily as President Trump’s ‘This American carnage stops right here and stops right now’). Even Mr. Obama’s abstract ‘Yes we can’ campaign slogan seems to have been crushed by the concrete force of ‘Build the wall.’”

13. Fake News: It’s as American as George Washington’s Cherry Tree

“Our national character gels into one that’s distinctly comfortable fogging up the boundary between fantasy and reality in nearly every realm.”

14. Americans Are Confronting an Alarming Question: Are Many of Our Fellow Citizens ‘Nazis?’

“The uncomfortable truth is that Nazi policy was itself influenced by American white supremacy, a heritage well documented in James Q. Whitman’s recent book Hitler’s American Model. The Germans admired, and borrowed from, the ‘distinctive legal techniques that Americans had developed to combat the menace of race mixing’ — like the anti-miscegenation laws of Maryland, which mandated up to 10 years in prison for interracial marriage. At the time, no other country had such specific laws; they were an American innovation.”

15. Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost.

“It’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story.”

16. ‘The Way to Survive It Was to Make A’s’

“An idea took hold of her. What would society look like if she exposed young wealthy white students to black scholarship students? Would the South change if its future leaders were socialized to be less bigoted? Her aim, using a few token blacks to mend the South’s racial divide from the top down, was utopian to say the least. It was also novel, a systematic effort by whites to help rid other whites of their prejudices. Providing a better life for black students was secondary.”

17. Who Benefits From the Expansion of A.P. Classes?

“Questions about the A.P. program’s purpose are complicated further by the fact that it provides a not-insignificant amount of revenue for the College Board.”

18. In a Topsy-Turvy World, Fashion Finds Solace in the Mundane

“When the world is falling apart around you, you just want to wear a cardigan.”

19. The Weird Brilliance of Joaquin Phoenix

“Phoenix’s life is remarkably simple compared to what people might imagine. He lives with Mara in the Hollywood Hills (he’s never been married and has no children) and is usually asleep by 9 p.m. and up at 6. When he’s not working his daily routine consists of answering emails, ‘chilling’ with his dog, meditating, taking a karate class, eating lunch, reading scripts and dinner — but for most of last year he’d been on location. He watches documentaries on Netflix (and he watched the 10-hour true-crime doc The Staircase recently because Mara wanted to) but rarely watches new movies.”

20. Who Will Save These Dying Italian Towns?

“There are nearly 2,500 rural Italian villages that are perilously depopulated, some semi-abandoned and others virtual ghost towns.”

21. Bruce Chatwin: One of the Last Great Explorers

“We think of travelers as people who have no attachment to things, but true travelers are people who really have no attachment to place. Home is not a beloved memory or something to yearn for and fetishize, but merely a matter of circumstance: a piece of land (sometimes large, but usually small) on which one eats and sleeps, sometimes for a lifetime, and sometimes for a day. Home, therefore, is anywhere, and yet nowhere as well. Chatwin was powerfully attracted to nomadism, and you might view his collective writings as a struggle to discard this idea of home as a kind of heaven, and to replace it with the radical notion that the person who found himself adrift, in perpetual motion, might already be at home — that movement itself might be the ideal human state.”

 

Hostiles

Sunday 9.3.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is for Losers

“A century ago, factory workers were forming unions and going on strike to demand better conditions and a limit on hours. Today, Silicon Valley employees celebrate their own exploitation.”

2. Football Among the Old Believers, in Alaska

“There’s a fear by some that ‘We’re losing our culture, our identity.’ But the flip side is, if you don’t offer something, you’ll lose the kids.”

3. Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now

“In the 35 years between their jobs as janitors, corporations across America have flocked to a new management theory: Focus on core competence and outsource the rest. The approach has made companies more nimble and more productive, and delivered huge profits for shareholders. It has also fueled inequality and helps explain why many working-class Americans are struggling even in an ostensibly healthy economy.”

4. Jason Fried of Basecamp on the Importance of Writing Skills

“The other thing that is weird about the business world in general is the obsession with domination and winning and destroying and fighting. Why? What is that about? It doesn’t ring true with me at all. Can’t you just build a nice business and can’t other people have a nice business?”

5. Get Ready for Technological Upheaval by Expecting the Unimagined

“Rather than planning for the specific changes we imagine, it is better to prepare for the unimagined — for change itself.”

6. Goodbye, Yosemite. Hello, What?

“I agree with the photographer Ansel Adams that ‘on entering the Ahwahnee, one is conscious of calm and complete beauty echoing the mood of majesty and peace that is the essential quality of Yosemite.’ But I also think there is something inescapably sick about a hotel on the site of a torched town copping a little mysto-Indian vibe from the word used by the arsonists’ victims for the valley they called home, and deliberately designed with a pan-Indian motif meant to conjure white fantasy while avoiding reference to any particular Native people.”

7. Don’t Suspend Students. Empathize.

“What looks like disobedience may reflect the ways teenagers are learning how to navigate the world — not as troublemakers, but as adolescents, testing out new identities.”

8. Instagram Your Leftovers: History Depends on It

“With its vast reach and the technological savvy of its users, Instagram could go beyond mere glamour and open up a domestic world that has always been elusive. I’m talking about ordinary meals at home — the great unknown in the study of food.”

9. The Best Era for Working Women Was 20 Years Ago

“The late 1990s … may have been as good as it gets for American women in the workplace.”

10. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Tackle the Vietnam War

“The 79 onscreen interviews give the ground-up view of the war from the mostly ordinary people who lived through it: American veterans (including former P.O.W.’s), Gold Star mothers, diplomats, intelligence officers, antiwar activists, journalists, Vietcong fighters, North and South Vietnamese army regulars, even a (woman) truck driver from the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”

11. Paul Newman’s Rare Rolex Has Auction Watchers Buzzing

“It is basically the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous timepiece in the world, coveted all the more because for decades, no one outside the Newman family seemed to know where it was.”

12. Who’s Allowed to Hold Hands?

“There is a strange hierarchy of handholding that dictates who gets to express physical affection without repercussions. For straight couples it’s fine, of course. For white gay couples it’s a little less fine. For black lesbians like us, it can feel like a radical act.”

13. Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues

“Ms. Delzer is a member of a growing tribe of teacher influencers, many of whom promote classroom technology. They attract notice through their blogs, social media accounts and conference talks. And they are cultivated not only by start-ups like Seesaw, but by giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, to influence which tools are used to teach American schoolchildren.”

14. Jesmyn Ward: By the Book

“All told, more than $600 million, or almost half of the economic activity in the United States in 1836, derived directly or indirectly from cotton produced by the million-odd slaves — 6 percent of the total U.S. population — who in that year toiled in labor camps on slavery’s frontier.”

15. ‘Good Booty’: The Sexual Power of Music

“Her argument, that ‘we, as a nation, most truly and openly acknowledge sexuality’s power through music,’ is intimately tied to the body: enslaved and objectified black bodies, the erotic sublimation and liberation of dance, the dialogue between charismatic performer and enraptured audience and the problem of ‘cyborg’ singers like Britney Spears.”

16. The Amish Guide to the Apocalypse

“Jacob, an Amish farmer and carpenter, serves as our tour guide to this disorienting psychological landscape. The novel takes the form of his diary, and his sentences proceed with Amish forbearance: His words are simple and, like a buggy-tugging horse, each pulls its weight. This stylistic staidness runs in satisfying counterpoint to the dramas unfolding in the outside world of the ‘English’ — the Amish term for non-Amish people. Without electricity or fuel, transportation systems fail and the English lose access to food shipments. Looting, murder and mass starvation result.”

17. The Real-Life Reality Show That Jumped the Shark

“Like the best episodes of Black Mirror, Made for Love provokes the disturbing realization that we are, more or less, already living in the time portrayed as a couple of steps beyond too much.”

18. Should Critics Aim to Be Open-Minded or to Pass Judgment

“The simplest prescription for better criticism of all kinds — electronic, journalistic, academic — remains: read more; think longer; write less.”

19. In Our Cynical Age, No One Fails Anymore — Everybody ‘Pivots

“The ‘pivot’ has assumed a peculiar place in our common lexicon. A word once used to describe a guard angling for position on the basketball court is now in wide circulation in politics and business. That’s especially the case in Sili­con Valley, where pivoting has become the new failure, a concept to describe a haphazard, practically madcap form of iterative development. With its sheen of management-speak, pivoting is well suited to our moment. And like any act of public relations, pivoting is also a performance. A key part of the act is acknowledging that you are doing it while trying to recast the effort as something larger, more sophisticated, highly planned. The pivot, though it arises from desperation, is nevertheless supposed to appear methodical.”

20. How to Write a Love Letter

“You need a minimum of one hour.”

21. The Incarcerated Women Who Fight California’s Wildfires

“When they work, California’s inmates typically earn between 8 cents and 95 cents an hour. They make office furniture for state employees, state license plates, prison uniforms, anything that any state institution might use. But wages in the forestry program, while still wildly low by outside standards, are significantly better than the rest … Inmate firefighters can make a maximum of $2.56 a day in camp and $1 an hour when they’re fighting fires.”