Sunday 9.2.2012 New York Times Digest

1. Our Longing for Lists

“Our technology has imperceptibly infected us with ‘list thinking.’”

2. Tracking a Subtle Scent, a Dog May Help Save the Whales

“He is the world’s only working dog, marine biologists say, able to find and track the scent of orca scat, or feces, in open ocean water – up to a mile away, in the smallest of specks.”

3. Where’s Walden? GPS Often Doesn’t Know

“Some 21st-century conveniences – namely Google maps and some GPS devices – have been leading a distributary of travelers to the wrong Walden.”

4. A History of New York in 50 Objects

“An artichoke and an elevator. A Checker taxicab and a conductor’s baton. A MetroCard and a mastodon tusk.”

5. Alexander Saxton, Historian and Novelist, Dies at 93

“‘At various times,’ he said, he had worked as ‘a harvest hand, construction gang laborer, engine-wiper, freight brakeman, architectural apprentice, assistant to the assistant editor’ of a union newspaper, railroad switchman and columnist for The Daily Worker.”

6. When the Work-Life Scales Are Unequal

“The pursuit of ‘work-life balance,’ which sounds so wholesome and reasonable, can be a zero-sum game in the office.”

7. When GPS Confuses, You May Be to Blame

“It is designed for docile drivers whose navigational skills have atrophied.”

8. Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing

“When I draw something, I remember it. The drawing is a reminder of the idea that caused me to record it in the first place. That visceral connection, that thought process, cannot be replicated by a computer.”

9. They’re Souvenirs, Not Stuff!

“We are living in an age in which it is considered morally superior to be a minimalist – not that I’ve ever met a real live one, mind you. We are supposed to stop accumulating things, and start shedding. This presents a serious problem for travelers and their souvenirs.”

10. Staying Power

“He was a man of abundant gifts, Christopher: erudition, wit, argument, prose style, to say nothing of a titanium constitution that, until it betrayed him in the end, allowed him to write word-perfect essays while the rest of us were groaning from epic hangovers and reaching for the ibuprofen.”

11. Who Made That Flip-Flop?

“‘All us well-dressed Lake Tahoe summer residents are wearing thongs this year,’ reported the humorist Frank Johnson in 1960, adding, with what now seems shocking racism, that ‘we pad around in floppy hunks of rubber a sensible coolie wouldn’t wear into a rice paddy.’”

12. Who Wears the Pants in This Economy?

“We’re in the South. A man needs a strong, macho job. He’s not going to be a schoolteacher or a legal secretary or some beauty-shop queen. He’s got to be a man.”

13. Thriller and the Lessons of the Mega-Super-Album

“Just nine songs, four of which don’t merit any substantial discussion now. So what made Thriller such a big hit?”

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