Sunday 03.29.2015 New York Times Digest

29CAREY-master675

1. Learning to See Data

“The information is all there, great expanding mountain ranges of it. What’s lacking is the tracker’s instinct for picking up a trail, the human gut feeling for where to start looking to find patterns and meaning. But can such creative instincts really be trained systematically?”

2. In Silicon Valley, Auto Racing Becomes a Favorite Hobby for Tech Elites

“Over the last year or so, racing seems to have become the Valley’s ‘it’ hobby. There are informal groups of drivers at Apple, Facebook and Google who get together to rent out local tracks. As a reporter who covers the industry, I’ve received three separate invitations from sources in the past few months. ‘By the way, are you into cars?’ they’ll say. ‘Ever gone out on a track?’”

3. A Wi-Fi Barbie Doll With the Soul of Siri

“This fall, Mattel plans to introduce Hello Barbie, a Wi-Fi enabled version of the iconic doll, which uses ToyTalk’s system to analyze a child’s speech and produce relevant responses.”

4. The Passive House in New York

“Kurt Roeloffs renovated his townhouse on West 88th Street in Manhattan using passive systems that he says did not add any extra costs to the renovation. Since moving in this past November, he’s been nothing but satisfied living in his home, where the temperature is a constant 72 degrees, and he can walk around barefoot in a T-shirt in total comfort in the winter. ‘We were so impressed with how quiet it is, and how comfortable it is,’ he said. ‘The air just smells fresh and sweet, even after we cook, because the filters get rid of it so quickly.’ His house uses an energy recovery ventilator, which pushes out stale air while drawing in fresh air, exchanging heat in the process. During the winter, heat from the exhausted air is transferred to the incoming cold air; and in summer, heat and humidity are drawn out of incoming air and transferred to the outgoing stale air.”

5. Tweeting Mom’s Goodbye

“A Twitter feed can be the 21st-century equivalent of a papyrus scroll or a folk ballad: scraps of our lives that we share with the larger world. Life-changing experiences can move us to pass along what we believe we’ve learned. We want to shout about a birth into the heavens. We want to place the face of someone we’ve lost in the stars. We want people to know. Social media has become the first line of our utterly human response.”

6. Should We Keep a Low Profile in Space?

“There’s now a perception that advertising our existence could be a mortal threat to the planet.”

7. What Starbucks Is Ditching Along With CDs

“Now, when record labels send physical copies of CDs rather than email digital files, it seems like an imposition — I know, a real first-world problem, but I live in Brooklyn. Who has space for all of this? A friend of mine, also a critic, used to live among towers of CDs, to the point they threatened to take over his entire apartment. I imagined the Fire Department one day having to break in and rescue him from a toppled pile, pinned under stacks of Maroon 5 promos, the worst way to die.”

8. Paul Walker’s Films, Beyond The Fast and the Furious

“Mr. Walker was the cool, laid-back California dude who often seemed to be having a ball on screen. In most of his films, he ran with a diverse crew and was ready with a bro handshake and a quick laugh.”

9. Baselworld, Where the Watch Is Still the Greatest Gadget

“‘We like machines because we can relate to them kinesthetically. There’s something about force being transmitted through gears that we can relate to on a physical level. With watches, we feel that there is something in some inexplicable way alive about them, in a way that electronics are not.’ And that’s the problem with any battery-powered time keeper, be it quartz watch or smartwatch: ‘The minute you put it on your wrist,’ Mr. Forster said, ‘it starts to die.’”

10. She Sounds Smart, but Look at Her Hair!

“In our reality-show era, anyone who steps in front of the camera is subject to a Joan Rivers-style red-carpet dissection.”

11. Unplugging Without FOMO

“In this day and age, it is expected that you know all the unnecessary tidbits. But ask people what they think about death, the process of birth or the caste system in India, and they have no idea what to think.”

12. Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be and The End of College

“Ultimately, these are both utopian books. Perhaps Bruni speaks for both authors when he writes that ‘college has the potential to confront and challenge some of the most troubling political and social aspects of contemporary life; to muster a pre-emptive strike against them; to be a staging ground for behaving in a different, healthier way.’ But he looks backward with nostalgia at what may be lost if Carey’s futuristic vision materializes: the transformative experiences of different people learning in a room together.”

13. Shrinks, by Jeffrey A. Lieberman with Ogi Ogas

“Lieberman recognizes that many people remain skeptical about his specialty and uncomfortable with the notion of mental illness generally. It’s one thing for somebody to suffer from a malfunctioning of the body’s infrastructure, like ­thyroid disease or appendicitis. But mental illness targets the mind, the seat of the self, and its symptoms are often disguised as personal defects — laziness, weakness, a bad attitude. Lieberman tells the story of an unidentified celebrity and his wife, who brought their Yale-student daughter to him for advice. The daughter had been behaving erratically, skipping classes, ­accusing her sorority sisters of theft, insisting to a professor that James Joyce was speaking to her in code. After a lengthy interview and a series of medical tests and scans to rule out alternatives, Lieberman concluded that the daughter suffered from schizophrenia and recommended she be hospitalized for her initial treatment. The famous father was indignant, insisting, ‘She doesn’t need to be locked up in a hospital, for God’s sake. She just needs to buckle down and get her act together!’ Despite parental balking, the daughter spent three weeks in the hospital, where she was prescribed the antipsychotic drug risperidone along with cognitive and group therapy sessions, and her condition improved dramatically. Yet after her release, Lieberman said, her parents’ skepticism again took hold, the daughter received no further outpatient treatment and she very likely relapsed into psychosis.”

14. What’s More Important to You: the Initial Rush of Prose or the Self-Editing and Revision That Come After It?

“I write to find what I have to say. I edit to figure out how to say it right.”

15. Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant

“It might seem intuitive that when there is an increase in the supply of workers, the ones who were here already will make less money or lose their jobs. Immigrants don’t just increase the supply of labor, though; they simultaneously increase demand for it, using the wages they earn to rent apartments, eat food, get haircuts, buy cellphones. That means there are more jobs building apartments, selling food, giving haircuts and dispatching the trucks that move those phones. Immigrants increase the size of the overall population, which means they increase the size of the economy. Logically, if immigrants were ‘stealing’ jobs, so would every young person leaving school and entering the job market; countries should become poorer as they get larger. In reality, of course, the opposite happens.”

16. An Upbeat Emotion That’s Surprisingly Good for You

“A new study singles out one surprising emotion as a potent medicine: awe. And happily, awe seems to be much easier to come by than many might expect, even for the busy and stressed-out.”

17. Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison

“How did the toughest prison in the United States become a mental asylum — one incapable of controlling its own population?”

18. Prison Planet

“Different nations take very different approaches to the convicts they deem the most dangerous. From Russia’s prison island to Saudi Arabia’s unexpectedly cushy cellblocks, here are some of the most notable.”

19. The Radical Humaneness of Norway’s Halden Prison

“To anyone familiar with the American correctional system, Halden seems alien. Its modern, cheerful and well-­appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere — these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.”

20. Let’s Talk (Frankly) About Sex

“The first hour of each class amounts to an informative stand-up routine — Metzger sticks a sanitary pad on her shoulder to show that it won’t slip around — but the second hour is devoted to answering the girls’ questions. Metzger believes that having kids pose questions fosters intimacy and allows parents to hear for themselves what their children’s concerns are. In the first class, when the focus is on the physical changes caused by puberty, Metzger tends to be asked: Why do we have pubic hair? What does it feel like to have a growth spurt? How do I know when I’m getting my period?”

21. Loving the Unlovable Decade

“In contrast to the pared-down discipline of midcentury style, the ’70s were sensual and decadent. People were unafraid to take risks. The furniture was made for hanging out, lounging or sex — activities infinitely more tempting than what was going on in the places where postwar design made its mark: schools, offices and hospitals. Imagine trying to make out on a Barcelona Chair.”

22. The Writer’s Room

“Surrounded by photographs, family mementos and the clamor of everyday life, seven authors offer a glimpse into the spaces where they create.”

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