Sunday 12.15.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. Why Are Americans Staying Put?

“The percentage of Americans moving across state lines has fallen by about half since the 1990s.”

2. The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder

“The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.”

3. Japan’s Top Voice: High, Polite and on the Phone

“For over a half-century, office workers from companies across Japan have gathered each year to battle it out for the title of Japan’s best phone answerer.”

4. Scientists Turn Their Gaze Toward Tiny Threats to Great Lakes

“Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes are slipping through water treatment plants and turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes. There, fish and other aquatic life eat them along with the pollutants they carry — which scientists fear could be working their way back up the food chain to humans.”

5. A Formula for Happiness

“It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.”

6. Surveillance: Cozy or Chilling?

“There is ample virtual turf on which to wage this fight over metaphors.”

7. Skip the Supplements

“They often aren’t what they say they are.”

8. The Code of Life

“If we’re going to fight the corporate agendas embedded in our software and hardware, people need to become more tech savvy, not less.”

9. The Agony of Instagram

“Members of the Facebook generation are no strangers to the sensation of feeling a little left out when their friends post from that book party they weren’t invited to, or from someone’s latest transporting trip to the white sands of Tulum. Yet even for those familiar with the concept of social-media envy, Instagram — the highest achievement yet in social-media voyeurism — presents a new form of torture.”

10. Patronizing the Arts

“Irritatingly, the authors do have a point: there is a hunger to believe art has a pragmatic purpose in our lives (witness the excitement over studies showing that going to museums makes us smarter and reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic). And of course art consoles and nourishes and does everything Armstrong and de Botton say it does. The problem is that we don’t need them as middlemen, and we certainly don’t need paintings puréed down to pablum and spoon-fed to us. But Armstrong and de Botton think so little of us, they design museums like Temple Grandin designed humane slaughterhouses, to minimize our fear and confusion. And in sparing us the horror of feeling ‘inadequate,’ they deprive us of a chance at rapture, to work to possess the work ourselves.”

11. Three-Ring Circuses

“It’s hard to laugh at the clowns when you’re feeling sorry for the elephants.”

12. What Anesthesia Can Teach Us About Consciousness

“First, we don’t totally understand how anesthetics work, at least not on a neurological basis. Second, we really don’t understand consciousness — how the brain creates it, or even what, exactly, it is.”

13. Google’s Road Map to Global Domination

“The competition to make the best maps, the thinking goes, is more than a struggle over who dominates the trillion-dollar smartphone market; it’s a contest over the future itself.”

14. Inside the Power of the N.R.A.

“Founded in 1871 to teach marksmanship to city-dwelling Union soldiers, the group was originally a nonpolitical and noncontroversial league of sportsmen and remained so for nearly a century. Everything changed, however, during the urban tumult of the 1960s, culminating in the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The 1968 Gun Control Act imposed a licensing system for purchases, mandated serial numbers on weapons, banned certain gun imports and barred felons and illicit drug users from obtaining firearms. Gun-loving legislators like Representative John Dingell of Michigan worried that even harsher restrictions were imminent and clamored for the N.R.A. to wake up and enter the political arena. The lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, was formed in 1975. Two years later at a now-famous annual convention in Cincinnati, Dingell and other N.R.A. allies ousted the group’s reigning executives, who saw the organization largely as a haven for gentlemen hunters, and replaced them with fire-breathing Second Amendment absolutists.”

15. Confessions of a Daydreamer

“Thurber’s hero was the embodiment of an active imagination, and Kaye’s was the dreamer who used his false courage to rise to the occasion. This new Mitty starts as an archetype and ends up being a warning to get offline and out of our own heads. We have become a nation of 24-hour daydreamers who have outsourced our daydreams, obsessed with virtual lives and remote communication; it’s not until Stiller’s Mitty becomes the Man Who Wakes Up to Reality, one who stops living in a pretend world and really travels to far-off locales and sees real volcanoes and actually climbs real mountains, that he can be happy and live a fulfilled life.”

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