Sunday 10.26.2014 New York Times Digest


1. What Are You So Afraid Of?

“Fear, real fear, deep fear, the kind that changes our habits and actions, is not something on which we are likely to follow sensible instruction.”

2. The Horror Before the Beheadings

“The story of what happened in the Islamic State’s underground network of prisons in Syria is one of excruciating suffering.”

3. Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required

“Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.”

4. The President Attends the World Series

“Angry spectators booed the president and shouted at him — knowing that Hoover backed Prohibition, which was still the law of the land — ‘We want beer!’”

5. Dividing and Conquering the Trash

“Rubicon also studies its clients’ waste for novel recycling opportunities, connecting businesses with the recyclers who see hidden value in their junk. For a national pizza chain, Rubicon determined that much of its leftover dough could be processed into ethanol. For a regional supermarket, Rubicon discovered that 400,000 old company uniforms could be shredded and resold as a stuffing for pet beds. Insulated containers that carried seafood for one business were repurposed to transport bull semen for another.”

6. Can Video Games Survive?

It’s the players who enjoy this culture, even as they distinguish themselves from the worst of the GamerGate trolls, who truly worry me. If all the recent experimentation and progress in video games — they’re in the permanent collection at MoMA now — turns out to be just a plaster on an ugly sore, then the medium’s long journey into the mainstream could be halted or even reversed.

7. The Meaning of Fulfillment

“Fulfillment is a dubious gift because you receive it only when you’re approaching the end. You can’t consider your life fulfilled until you’re fairly sure of its temporal shape, and you can’t get a view of that until you’re well past its midpoint. The realization that one’s life has been fulfilled is a good thing, but freighted with the weight of many days and the apprehension of death. It’s also quite useless, truly a white elephant. It can never be exchanged or redeemed, because everything has been exchanged or redeemed to make its purchase possible.”

8. Do Black People Have Equal Gun Rights?

“Until around 1970, the aims of America’s firearms restrictionists and the aims of America’s racists were practically inextricable. In both the colonial and immediate post-Revolutionary periods, the first laws regulating gun ownership were aimed squarely at blacks and Native Americans. In both the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies, it was illegal for the colonists to sell guns to natives, while Virginia and Tennessee banned gun ownership by free blacks.”

9. The Dangers of Eating Late at Night

“For my patients, eating late is often accompanied by overeating, because many skip breakfast and eat only a sandwich at lunch. Thus the evening meal becomes the largest meal of the day. After that heavy meal, it’s off to the sofa to watch television. After eating, it’s important to stay upright because gravity helps keep the contents in the stomach. Reflux is the result of acid spilling out of the stomach, and lying down with a full stomach makes reflux much more likely.”

10. The Problem With Positive Thinking

“The truth is that positive thinking often hinders us.”

11. Museums Morph Digitally

“Museums are being redefined for a digital age. The transformation, museum officials say, promises to touch every aspect of what museums do, from how art and objects are presented and experienced to what is defined as art.”

12. Lonesome George, Immortalized

“That’s always the great unknown, how long the animal will take to dry.”

13. A Writing Retreat by Rail, From Paris to the Côte d’Azur

“Cultural history is full of moments when writers and artists resolved intellectual problems by musing on the rails. At the lowest point in his career, facing a business disaster, Walt Disney doodled his first Mickey Mouse on a train from New York to Hollywood. Stuck on a stalled line, between Manchester and London, J. K. Rowling dreamed up Harry Potter.”

14. Atul Gawande: By the Book

“I don’t think there is a single all-time best self-help book. But I organize my life by David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Literally. It provides a system for dealing with your email inbox, the pieces of paper accumulating in your bag and all those to-do lists you never get through, and I follow it religiously — which is to say, imperfectly. I have read and reread Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis for almost four decades. At its root, it’s about closing the mental gap between potential and performance. When I played junior tennis, I followed its advice to put my attention on how the ball is spinning rather than worrying about whether I’m swinging the racket right or wrong. Now I read it to remind myself how not to think, just do, when I have to, whatever the situation. Then there are my clinical textbooks, which are, when you think about it, all self-help books, too. My favorite self-help book may be The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, for Franklin’s unrelenting, very American drive for self-improvement and similarly unrelenting, very American optimism that the effort will make him happy. I have the same delusion.”

15. James Risen’s ‘Pay Any Price’

“The tragedy is that, however implausible, it all appears to be true.”

16. Lucy Worsley’s ‘Art of the English Murder’

“Her goal isn’t to provide a history of crime or crime writing, but to show how ‘the British enjoyed and consumed the idea of murder.’

17. The Advanced 7-Minute Workout

“A new, more technically demanding regimen, one that requires a couple of dumbbells but still takes only seven minutes.”

18. Old Masters

“It is in the effort to close the distance between the work imagined and the work achieved wherein it is to be found that the ceaseless labor is the freedom of play, that what’s at stake isn’t a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self.”

19. What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

“Placebo effects are a striking phenomenon and still not all that well understood. Entire fields like psychoneuroimmunology and psychoendocrinology have emerged to investigate the relationship between psychological and physiological processes. Neuroscientists are charting what’s going on in the brain when expectations alone reduce pain or relieve Parkinson’s symptoms. More traditionally minded health researchers acknowledge the role of placebo effects and account for them in their experiments. But Langer goes well beyond that. She thinks they’re huge — so huge that in many cases they may actually be the main factor producing the results.”



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