Sunday 10.5.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Forty Portraits in Forty Years

“Throughout this series, we watch these women age, undergoing life’s most humbling experience. While many of us can, when pressed, name things we are grateful to Time for bestowing upon us, the lines bracketing our mouths and the loosening of our skin are not among them. So while a part of the spirit sinks at the slow appearance of these women’s jowls, another part is lifted: They are not undone by it. We detect more sorrow, perhaps, in the eyes, more weight in the once-fresh brows. But the more we study the images, the more we see that aging does not define these women. Even as the images tell us, in no uncertain terms, that this is what it looks like to grow old, this is the irrefutable truth, we also learn: This is what endurance looks like.”

2. In Washington State, Political Stand Puts Schools in a Bind

“Test scores soared. Yet just before school resumed for this fall, Lakeridge learned that it had been declared a failing school under federal education law.”

3. Community College Students Face a Very Long Road to Graduation

“The majority of community college students come from low-income families, and many arrive at school, as he did, with competing obligations (29 percent of community college students in the United States are parents), as well as the need for extensive remediation.”

4. Aboard a Cargo Colossus

“Until the late 1990s, the largest container ships could carry about 5,000 steel shipping containers, each about 20 feet long. Today, such ships are little more than chum … The Triple-E’s can carry more than 18,000 containers, piled 20 high, with 10 above deck and 10 below.”

5. Who Are ‘We the People’?

“Who is a person? How do you qualify for basic human rights? What is required for you to be able to speak or worship freely or to be free from torture? Throughout American history, the Supreme Court has considered and reconsidered the criteria for membership in the club of rights, oscillating between a vision limiting rights to preferred groups and another granting rights to all who require protection. These competing visions have led to some strange results.”

6. Download: Naomichi Yasuda

“Next year maybe I’m going to attempt the Mr. Tokyo bodybuilding contest in my age and weight category. No kidding! I attempted the Mr. Tokyo Jr. contest two times when I was 23 and 24 years old. It wasn’t good. My muscles were pretty much small. Now I’m 55. I just want to attempt growing the muscle and see how much my body can get in shape. Last year I went to the gym a total of 352 days. Every time I train for 2 hours and 15 minutes.”

7. We Want Privacy, but Can’t Stop Sharing

“Information about yourself is like currency. The amount you spend on a person signifies how much you value the relationship. And that person compensates you in kind. That’s why it feels like theft when someone tells your secrets or data miners piece together your personal history — using your browsing habits, online purchases and social networks — and sell it. And it’s also why if you’re profligate with information about yourself, you have precious little to offer someone really special.”

8. Smelling Liberal, Thinking Conservative

“Researchers found evidence that people are instinctively attracted to the smell emitted by those with similar ideologies. In one memorable instance, a female participant asked the scholars if she could take one of the samples home, describing it as ‘the best perfume I ever smelled.’ The scent came from a man who shared her political views. Just before, a different woman with the opposite views had smelled the exact same sample, declared it ‘rancid,’ and urged the researchers to throw it out.”

9. A Debt Collector’s Day

“On average, bill and account collectors in the United States make $16.66 an hour. Many are in debt themselves. The owner of one agency told me that, quite by chance, he occasionally bought debts that belonged to his own employees.”

10. I Love Lena

“The thing that makes Dunham’s show so interesting, the reason it inspired a certain unsettlement among some of its early fans, is that it often portrays young-liberal-urbanite life the way, well, many reactionaries see it: as a collision of narcissists educated mostly in self-love, a sexual landscape distinguished by serial humiliations — a realm at once manic and medicated, privileged and bereft of higher purpose.”

11. Antiquities Lost, Casualties of War

“The list of destroyed, damaged or looted works has only grown longer as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which seeks to create a caliphate, has pushed into northern Iraq. Sunni extremists like the Islamic State and others are deliberately wrecking shrines, statues, mosques, tombs and churches — anything they regard as idolatry.”

12. Resurrecting a Disgraced Reporter

“Sometimes, when David takes on Goliath, David is the one who ends up getting defeated.”

13. In Colorado, a Rebranding of Pot Inc.

“How can the pot industry shed its stoner stigma?”

14. An Imported Soda That Comes With Buzz

“Among subcultures that pride themselves on early adoption — techies, foodies, Brooklyn baristas — Mexican Coke is the new black. MexiCoke, as it is also called, is imported from Mexico and is sweetened by pure cane sugar, rather than the corn syrup found in the American version. Devotees say it delivers a sugar-infused, caffeine-amplified buzz, which is a particular draw for stay-up-all-night coders, writers and musicians. For hard-core fans, it’s Mexican Coke or none at all.”

15. Geek Squad

“Isaacson identifies several other virtues that were essential to his geeky heroes’ success, none of which will surprise those familiar with Silicon Valley’s canon of self-help literature: The digital pioneers all loathed authority, embraced collaboration and prized art as much as science.”

16. The Elements of Style

“Watching other women, seeing how they’re dressed and how they pull it off, is the way most of us learn to become ourselves.”

17. In Their Fashion

“Whether we know it or not, we are all now wearing Chanel’s distillation of European history.”

18. Market-Driven Behavior

“If you look on society as a product of human energy that has become a second nature to us, the environment we have to care for includes society itself, as well as the natural world of mountains, lakes and forests.”

19. A Brutal Process

“Slavery was essential to American development and, indeed, to the violent construction of the capitalist world in which we live.”

20. Elevating Dinner for One

“It is impossible to eat well in groups if you cannot eat well alone. I think this is true of anything — if it’s not what you do when no one’s looking, it will never be truly what you do. An hour spent tasting, watching, hearing only the rustle of your own observation, allows for a certain perceptiveness to arise, for the I to be sharpened.”

21. The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson

“I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.”

22. The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever

“The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.”

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