Sunday 5.18.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. The United States of Metrics

“In the last few years, there has been a revolution so profound that it’s sometimes hard to miss its significance. We are awash in numbers. Data is everywhere. Old-fashioned things like words are in retreat; numbers are on the rise. Unquantifiable arenas like history, literature, religion and the arts are receding from public life, replaced by technology, statistics, science and math. Even the most elemental form of communication, the story, is being pushed aside by the list.”

2. Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm

“Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as ‘trigger warnings,’ explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.”

3. Never Forgetting a Face

“Online, we are all tracked. But to Dr. Atick, the street remains a haven, and he frets that he may have abetted a technology that could upend the social order.”

4. In B-School, Is That a Syllabus, or an Itinerary?

“In many M.B.A. programs, lifestyle experiences are gaining on academic ones in importance, as seen in much busier evening and weekend schedules of bars, parties and trips.”

5. Always Hungry? Here’s Why

“What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?”

6. Class, Cost and College

“The greatest crisis may be that while college supposedly represents one of the surest ladders to, and up through, the middle class, it’s not functioning that way, at least not very well.”

7. Medicine’s Top Earners Are Not the M.D.s

“Though the recent release of Medicare’s physician payments cast a spotlight on the millions of dollars paid to some specialists, there is a startling secret behind America’s health care hierarchy: Physicians, the most highly trained members in the industry’s work force, are on average right in the middle of the compensation pack. That is because the biggest bucks are currently earned not through the delivery of care, but from overseeing the business of medicine.”

8. Where Are the Gay Chief Executives?

“There are very few openly gay chief executives at the nation’s 1,000 biggest companies.”

9. A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’

“Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.”

10. What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong

“For all its successes, farm-to-table has not, in any fundamental way, reworked the economic and political forces that dictate how our food is grown and raised. Big Food is getting bigger, not smaller.”

11. Psst. Look Over Here.

“Making eye contact even with a character on a cereal box inspires powerful feelings of connection.”

12. What Do Pregnant Women Want?

“Pregnancy plays out very differently around the world.”

13. All Blurbed Out

“No one I’ve talked to in publishing can say with certainty whether even the most extravagant endorsement has sold a single copy.”

14. So You’re Not Desirable …

“In most romantic contexts your unique appeal is more important than your mate value.”

15. All Aboard, for a Trip to the Past

“Rail travel is rhythmic. It has its own beat, its own sway, its own jerking, erratic thrust. Even its dullest hours are sexier than the lustiest mile-high moments of contemporary air travel.”

16. An Intimate View of America, From Above

“My pilot-husband and I have been meandering around the country for many months now in our single-engine four-seater propeller plane. We land at small town airports, where the airlines never land, and where even occasional private jets are easily outnumbered by crop dusters. There are more than 150,000 small piston planes flying in the United States, offering a view of America and life that is otherwise rare to find.”

17. Colson Whitehead: By the Book

“I don’t know the name of my favorite novelist of all time, because they never wrote anything. They had no inkling they had a knack for writing, so instead channeled that talent into being really nice to family, friends and strangers. It seems like a better way to spend one’s time, and a higher art.”

18. Every Little Byte Counts

“The Big Data debate needs grounding in philosophy.”

19. The Bud Light-ification of Bud

“A joint might never be as easy to access as a can of beer or a cigarette. But thousands of people and millions of dollars are hard at work to make it as predictable and dependable as one. Call it the Bud Light-ification of bud.”

20. Who Gets to Graduate?

“When you look at the national statistics on college graduation rates, there are two big trends that stand out right away. The first is that there are a whole lot of students who make it to college — who show up on campus and enroll in classes — but never get their degrees. More than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven’t earned a degree after six years. If you include community-college students in the tabulation, the dropout rate is more than half, worse than any other country except Hungary. The second trend is that whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor — how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t.”

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