Sunday 09.29.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. A Nightly Dinner Out That’s Like Therapy

“They always ask my age, and I often lie and tell them I’m 90. If I tell them my real age, it becomes the whole subject of conversation and makes it look like I’m looking for attention, which I’m not.”

2. N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens

“Metadata can be very revealing.”

3. Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll

“There are far more of these innocent victims than official records show.”

4. Didn’t Ace SAT? Just Design Microbe Transplant Research

“You need not be president of the debate club or captain of the track team. No glowing teacher recommendations are required. You just need to be smart, curious and motivated, and prove it with words — 10,000 words, in the form of four, 2,500-word research papers.”

5. A Zen Master With a Mean Cutter

“Mariano Rivera understood what Steve Jobs, Lao Tzu and Bruce Lee understood: that simplicity is an art and a strength, a source of joy and beauty and power.”

6. Grooming the Champions of the Keyboard

“Most remained in bed until after noon, when they wandered down the Lair’s front stairs in surfing shorts and T-shirts. All of them went barefoot and were somewhat lax with hygiene. Dirty dishes sat at Baker’s desk for two days one weekend. Loranger kept some Lady Speed Stick deodorant at his desk, handily in reach.”

7. Lacking Rules, Insurers Balk at Paying for Intensive Psychiatric Care

“Patients often find themselves at odds with health insurers, but the battles are perhaps nowhere so heated as with the treatment of serious mental illness.”

8. On the Threshold of Obamacare, Warily

“Mr. McGovern is exactly the sort of person the Obama administration needs to enroll in the new insurance marketplaces if the federal health care law is to succeed — young, healthy people who until now have not been covered by insurance, either because they couldn’t afford it or because it wasn’t a priority. If a critical mass of these people doesn’t enroll — the federal government hopes to sign up about 2.7 million of them — the premiums for plans offered on the exchanges could skyrocket and cause the market to fail as fewer and fewer people take part.”

9. The Bridges Are New, but Business Scams Are Timeless

“The truth is that while the details of the swindles have changed, the fundamental techniques have not. The cons, like Bernard L. Madoff’s epic Ponzi scheme, have become only bigger. What’s surprising is that more affluent and well-educated Americans are sometimes the easiest marks.”

10. Is the Game Over?

“The N.F.L. has certain structural advantages over Major League Baseball: teams play only once a week, and when the postseason arrives, every game is an elimination game. But its real advantage is that it’s louder, faster and more violent — which is to say, better in tune with our cultural moment.”

11. The Enigma of Chinese Medicine

“Americans are gravitating to acupuncture and herbal medicines (less so the zoological pharmacology, like my turtle blood), but we crave some scientific validation for these ancient practices. And the Chinese are themselves looking for ways to legitimize T.C.M. to the Western world, and distinguish it from the more superstitious aspects of traditional culture.”

12. I’ll Have What She’s Thinking

“Ground zero for the research is Rutgers University, where scientists have repeatedly had female volunteers put their heads into giant machines and focus their attention on erotic fantasies — the scans reveal that the pleasure centers of their brains light up in ways indistinguishable from everyday orgasms.”

13. Are We Hard-Wired for War?

“The problem with envisioning Homo sapiens as inherently and irrevocably warlike isn’t simply that it is wrong, but also that it threatens to constrain our sense of whether peacemaking is possible and, accordingly, worth trying.”

14. The World According to Team Walt

“The allure for Team Walt is not ultimately the pull of nihilism, or the harmless thrill of rooting for a supervillain. It’s the pull of an alternative moral code, neither liberal nor Judeo-Christian, with an internal logic all its own. As James Bowman wrote in The New Atlantis, embracing Walt doesn’t requiring embracing ‘individual savagery’ and a world without moral rules. It just requires a return to ‘old rules’ — to ‘the tribal, family-oriented society and the honor culture that actually did precede the Enlightenment’s commitment to universal values.’”

15. Never-Ending Story

“Post-‘Roots,’ a Hollywood consensus took shape that replaced the old magnolia-scented mythology with a new one, almost as focused on the moral condition of white people, but with a different political inflection. The existence of racism is acknowledged, and its poisonous effects are noted. But it is also localized, in time and geography, in such a way as to avoid implicating the present-day white audience. The racists are clearly marked as villains — uncouth, ugly, ignorant in ways that no one watching would identify with — and they are opposed by a coalition of brave whites and noble, stoical blacks. At the end, the coach and his players, the preacher and his flock, the maid and her enlightened employer shame the bigots and vindicate the audience.”

16. Still Making Music Together, Far Apart

“Though these songs have become identified with Elton John, they actually arise from the meshing of two distinctly different personalities — a rusticated, straight writer, who loves his solitude, the American West and raising horses, and an urbane, gay rock star who has a penchant for a crazy wardrobe and thrives in the spotlight.”

17. For Cicely Tyson and Kerry Washington, Roles of a Lifetime

“As a white man, you could spend your entire life never really thinking about the inner life of a black woman. Art allows you a window in.”

18. A Cruise on the S.S. Brainstorm

“If TED talks and Google Labs copulated and spawned a cruise for the Facebook generation, Unreasonable at Sea would be the result.”

19. Technology and the College Generation

“E-mail is a sinkhole where knowledge goes to die.”

20. When College Is Close to Home, What Are the Boundaries?

“It can be harder to reinvent yourself in your hometown.”

21. Athletic Socks that Give a Foot Bragging Rights

“Athletic socks, once the most forgettable item of clothing, have become hugely coveted and a huge, nearly $3 billion business.”

22. This Is Only a Test

“Those who have grown increasingly alarmed at seeing public education bartered off piece by piece, and seeing schools and teachers thrown into a state of siege, will be grateful for this cri de coeur — a fearless book, a manifesto and a call to battle.”

23. Are We Too Concerned That Characters Be ‘Likable’?

“Perhaps, in the widespread longing for likable characters, there is this: a desire, through fiction, for contact with what we’ve armored ourselves against in the rest of our lives, a desire to be reminded that it’s possible to open our eyes, to see, to recognize our solitude — and at the same time to not be entirely alone.”

24. Freebies for the Rich

“Over the years, many state-university systems — and even states themselves — have shifted more of their financial aid away from students who need it toward those whose résumés merit it. The share of state aid that’s not based on need has nearly tripled in the last two decades, to 29 percent per full-time student in 2010-11. The stated rationale, of course, is that merit scholarships motivate high-school achievement and keep talented students in state. The consequence, however, is that more aid is helping kids who need it less. Merit metrics like SAT scores tend to closely correlate with family income; about 1 in 5 students from households with income over $250,000 receives merit aid from his or her school. For families making less than $30,000, it’s 1 in 10.”

25. Carrie Is Back. So Is Kimberly Peirce.

“What might have seemed like a disappearing act is instead a fairly good representation of a movie business built for easy paychecks and commercial compromises, not for making the kind of personal, character-driven films she favors.”

26. We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better

“You’re a person, and they’re a person, so you shouldn’t be imitating a robot, and you shouldn’t treat them like they’re robots. Know what I mean? No robots work here. We never want the customer to think they’re dealing with a faceless entity, so you should always be sure to inject humanity into the process.”

27. The Apocalypse Market Is Booming

“It’s only natural that the apocalyptic canon has radically expanded in the past few decades. Never has our species been so besieged by doomsday scenarios. If our ancestors channeled their collective death instinct into religious myth, we now face a raft of scientific data that suggest the end might be truly nigh.”

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