Sunday 9.14.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. We’re All Nerds Now

“Never before has the boundary between geek culture and mainstream culture been so porous.”

2. Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

“Some experts say the electricity business is entering a period of turmoil beyond anything in its 130-year history, a disruption potentially as great as those that have remade the airlines, the music industry and the telephone business.”

3. Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town

“Since 2006, police agencies in California have received 8,533 surplus assault weapons, shotguns and pistols, as well as 7,094 pieces of night-vision equipment, the highest allocation of any state in those categories.”

4. What Were They Thinking? Ugly Video, Blind Justice

“When the wife of an N.F.L. cornerback sports a black eye; when the girlfriend of a linebacker has road burn on her thighs because he dragged her outside his car; when a running back’s 4-year-old son is beaten with a small tree branch; when women have finger bruises on their necks, fractured ulnas and splintered clavicles, do league owners and general managers allow their minds to run down darkened alleys toward the truth?”

5. Trying to Hit the Brake on Texting While Driving

“People know they shouldn’t text and drive. Overwhelmingly, they tell pollsters that doing so is unacceptable and dangerous, and yet they do it anyway. They can’t resist. So safety advocates and public officials have called for a technological solution that does an end run around free will and prevents people from texting in the first place.”

6. A Texting Driver’s Education

“Technology distraction is an issue that scientists say is playing out in many aspects of life — not just behind the wheel, but also at work and at home. In an eye blink, the devices designed to become productivity tools can, in fact, enslave us and become decidedly counterproductive, even deadly.”

7. Jeers and Cheers Over Tax Inversions

“American corporations are doing what they do best: finding ways to profit, regardless of national borders.”

8. Looking Another Culture in the Eye

“In Japan, there is an expression popular with young people: ‘kuuki yomenai.’ Often shortened to ‘K.Y.,’ it refers to someone who is unable to read the atmosphere. On my trip to Japan, I learned just how K.Y. I was.”

9. The Way to Beat Poverty

“One reason the United States has not made more progress against poverty is that our interventions come too late. If there’s one overarching lesson from the past few decades of research about how to break the cycles of poverty in the United States, it’s the power of parenting — and of intervening early, ideally in the first year or two of life or even before a child is born.”

10. Download: Lil Buck

“[Emerson’s] one of my favorite philosophers. He tells you to create your own path. Don’t follow the trail that’s already there. Bruce Lee is another philosopher who has had a huge impact on my life. He has a philosophy about being formless and shapeless like water. Water in a teacup becomes the teacup. Put it in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. But don’t fill up too much at once so you have an overflowing cup. Go at your own pace. It’s how I dance and how I try to live my whole life.”

11. A Monet of One’s Own

“No different from falling in love with a song, one may fall in love with a work of art and claim it as one’s own. Ownership does not come free. One must spend time with it; visit at different times of the day or evening; and bring to it one’s full attention. The investment will be repaid as one discovers something new with each viewing — say, a detail in the background, a person nearly cropped from the picture frame, or a tiny patch of canvas left unpainted, deliberately so, one may assume, as if to remind you not to take all the painted parts for granted.”

12. Should We All Take a Bit of Lithium?

“Mother Nature has already put a psychotropic drug in the drinking water, and that drug is lithium. Although this fact has been largely ignored for over half a century, it appears to have important medical implications.”

13. Useless Creatures

“It may seem like the only way to keep what’s left of the natural world from being plowed under by unstoppable human expansion and by our insatiable appetite for what appears to be useful. But usefulness is precisely the argument other people put forward to justify destroying or displacing wildlife, and they generally bring a larger and more persuasive kind of green to the argument.”

14. The Middle East’s Friendless Christians

“Christianity is now the globe’s most persecuted religion.”

15. Learning How to Exert Self-Control

“There are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.”

16. The Lighthouse Keepers

“As marine navigation tools have become more sophisticated, lighthouses have become less necessary, and automated technology has eliminated the need for people to actually operate them. As a result, more and more lighthouses have been decommissioned, creating a quandary as to whether to pursue preservation or privatization, or simply let some fall into neglect.”

17. A Kiss, a Sigh … and a Postage Stamp

“A man who writes a good love letter is a man who knows how to seduce with words.”

18. The Homework Squabbles

“In my house, it’s not homework wars as much as homework squabbles, little questions and doubts that build up and start to nag.”

19. Global Warning

“Liberal democracy remains the best system for dealing with the challenges of modernity, and there is little reason to believe that Chinese, Russian or Islamist alternatives can provide the diverse range of economic, social and political goods that all humans crave. But unless liberal democracies can somehow manage to reform themselves and combat institutional decay, history will end not with a bang but with a resounding whimper.”

20. Can a Book Ever Change a Reader’s Life for the Worse?

“It has become popular to consider fiction in terms of empathy — how it can catalyze and deepen our awareness of lives beyond our own — but what if it can also catalyze other tendencies, other capacities or grooves of thought?”

21. Lena Dunham Is Not Done Confessing

“For all the comparisons to Ephron and even to independent female filmmakers like Nicole Holofcener and Miranda July, the artist to whom she’s most analogous is Allen. With her awkward screen presence, her preoccupation with sex, her frank exploration of her own neuroses and, above all, her willingness to play the part of herself almost to the point of caricature, Dunham has ensured that her work be guided by her own persona, which in turn has been shaped by the twin forces of profound anxiety and exhaustive (though, again like Allen, somewhat roving and undisciplined) intellectual engagement. Plus, of course, extensive therapy.”

22. The Death of Adulthood in American Culture

“It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups.”

23. The Big Leagues

“It is hard to overstate how drastic a change is required of basketball players, most of them barely old enough to drink, when they go pro. One day they’re students who live and breathe the sport; the next, they’re multimillionaires who are expected not only to be exceptional athletes but also exceptional role models, media personalities and holders of that elusive thing, that golden ticket: the personal brand.”

24. Destiny in Taos

“My father, Dennis Hopper, believed that being on the road in search of something was very American. You had to keep moving forward no matter what. Ride into town, gunfight at high noon, then off into the sunset.”

25. Animal Traffic

“From the outside, the place doesn’t look like much. It’s a low-slung glass and concrete pile, set back from the road behind some drab landscaping. It could be mistaken for a small office park, or an administrative building at the neighboring Southern Oregon University. In fact, it’s home to one of the most unique law enforcement institutions in the United States, or anywhere else: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, the world’s only full-service science lab devoted to crimes against wildlife.”

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