Sunday 04.19.2015 New York Times Digest


1. The Machines Are Coming

“Machines aren’t used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a ‘good enough’ job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans. Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency.”

2. Workers Seeking Productivity in a Pill Are Abusing A.D.H.D. Drugs

“Many young workers insist that using the drugs to increase productivity is on the rise — and that these are drugs used not to get high, but hired.”

3. Utilities See Solar Panels as Threat to Bottom Line

“Many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. In response, those solar companies are fighting back through regulators, lawmakers and the courts.”

4. Technology That Prods You to Take Action, Not Just Collect Data

“The quantified self has become the infantilized self.”

5. Can You Be a Waitress and a Feminist?

“It’s easy to have ideals, but reconciling them with the need to pay rent is a more difficult task.”

6. Would You Want to Smell BBQ All the Time?

“One person’s putrid is another person’s pleasant, and local governments around the country are having a hard time regulating what’s in the olfaction of the beholder.”

7. The Other Side of Boredom

“Sometimes boredom serves as empty ground on which to build new ideas, while other times it acts as a guide to our true desires.”

8. When a Gun Is Not a Gun

“There is a lesser-known psychological phenomenon that might also explain some of these shootings. It’s called ‘affective realism’: the tendency of your feelings to influence what you see — not what you think you see, but the actual content of your perceptual experience.”

9. Checking Charlie Hebdo’s Privilege

“The Hebdo massacre is just one of many cases in which today’s progressives, in the name of overthrowing hierarchies, end up assuming that lines of power are predictable, permanent and clear.”

10. With ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,’ Brett Morgen Demythologizes a Legend

“Mr. Morgen figured a Cobain documentary would take about 18 months. It took eight years.”

11. Hey, Kids, Look at Me When We’re Talking

“Dr. Nass told me about research he was doing that suggested young people were spending so much time looking into screens that they were losing the ability to read nonverbal communications and learn other skills necessary for one-on-one interactions. As a dorm supervisor, he connected this development with a host of popular trends among young people, from increased social anxiety to group dating.”

12. Don’t Confuse Jeremy Piven with Ari Gold

“‘Beyond sharp elbows, you’ve got to create your own work,’ he said, ‘to make a meal out of the scraps that you’re given.’ Early in the taping of Entourage, which ran for eight seasons on HBO starting in 2004, he hogged the camera and filled dead air with a barrage of hastily improvised banter. ‘It was awkward at first,’ he acknowledged. ‘People were asking, “Who is this guy and what does he think he is doing?” But I just kept talking and they didn’t yell, “Cut.” And suddenly one scene turns to three.’”

13. Why Is Spring Being So Passive Aggressive?

“Dr. Rosenthal estimates that 5 percent of adult Americans have ‘the full-blown syndrome, so it’s bad enough that it impairs function: work, productivity, interpersonal difficulties. Over and above the severe, there’s another 15 percent with a milder problem, who see reduced productivity and creativity.’”

14. Reclaiming the Age-Old Art of Getting Lost

“The ubiquity of map and navigation apps these days can be a boon, but it also means that pedestrians can easily choose efficiency at the expense of discovery.”

15. Spinster, by Kate Bolick

“What’s surprising about Spinster is how, in its charmingly digressive style, the book sets forth a clear vision not just for single women, but for all women: to disregard the reigning views of how women should live, to know their own hearts and to carve out a little space for their dreams, preferably a space with 11-foot ceilings. By the end of her book, Bolick has yet another devoted boyfriend but still sounds a little ambivalent about settling down. Even so, she has figured out how she wants to live: with romance, flair and courage of conviction, whether married or not.”

16. Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

“What are the actual stakes of shaming? Lurking and somewhat ­underdocumented in the tales gathered here is the fact that as agonizing as these experiences are, men often survive them just fine.”

17. Galileo’s Middle Finger, by Alice Dreger

“The fracas taught Dreger a somber lesson: When a motivated group with a playbook of ugly tactics spots a ­scientific finding they don’t like, they can often dominate public discussion in a way that replaces a factual story with a false one. Only scientists of Galilean character can weather the storm. And even they, like Galileo, might be effectively exiled.”

18. Rust: The Longest War, by Jonathan Waldman

“It is a book about what is corroding away unseen and unnoticed by most of us. The heroes and antiheroes in this account of cans exploding, bridges collapsing and buildings falling apart are the engineers and corrosion experts who are either saving us all from oblivion or pushing paranoia.”

19. Infested, About Bedbugs, by Brooke Borel

“A book about bedbugs is, by necessity, a book about nearly everything: about travel and adventure, about our ­relationship to nature, about how scientists solve problems, about trust and whether we view strangers as friends or foes. It is a book about what people will do under extreme circumstances, and about environmental politics, and art and mental illness. It is even a book about kinky sex.”

20. The Triumph of Seeds, by Thor Hanson

“These little pods can fly, spin, bury themselves, float across oceans, sleep for a thousand years, poison or seduce — a nearly infinite variety of poetic solutions to the hard and gritty question of survival. This is, in fact, the natural order at its most thrilling — seeds taking on the same issues of evolution and survival as a tiger, a whale or, let’s not forget, a human.”

21. The Muddied Meaning of ‘Mindfulness’

“Mindfulness has come to comprise a dizzying range of meanings for popular audiences. It’s an intimately attentive frame of mind. It’s a relaxed-alert frame of mind. It’s equanimity. It’s a form of the rigorous Buddhist meditation called vipassana (‘insight’), or a form of another kind of Buddhist meditation known as anapanasmrti (‘awareness of the breath’). It’s M.B.S.R. therapy (mindfulness-based stress reduction). It’s just kind of stopping to smell the roses. And last, it’s a lifestyle trend, a social movement and — as a Time magazine cover had it last year — a revolution.”

22. Instabloids

“For her purposes, Instagram was the equivalent of WordPress.”

23. A Visual Remix

“A number of artists are using this abundance as their starting point, setting their own cameras aside and turning to the horde — collecting and arranging photographs that they have found online. These artist-collectors, in placing one thing next to another, create a third thing — and this third thing, like a subatomic particle produced by a collision of two other particles, carries a charge.”

24. Letter of Recommendation: Kneipp Herbal Bath Oils

“Physical envelopment is soothing in almost any form: swaddling yourself in blankets on a winter night, driving through a fog bank, being hugged. The appeal of fondue, I’ve always suspected, is less about the flavor of kirsch mixed with cheese than the pleasure of watching a surrogate bread cube embraced in melted Emmentaler.”

25. The Man Who Makes the World’s Funniest People Even Funnier

“White is not a particularly funny person, but he has one of Hollywood’s most finely attuned, and highly valued, senses of humor.”

26. Her Majesty’s Jihadists

“More British Muslim men have joined ISIS and the Nusra Front than are serving in the British armed forces.”

27. Sally Mann’s Exposure

“For all the righteous concern people expressed about the welfare of my children, what most of them failed to understand was that taking those pictures was an act separate from mothering. When I stepped behind the camera and my kids stepped in front of it, I was a photographer and they were actors, and we were making a photograph together. And in a similar vein, many people mistook the photographs for reality or attributed qualities to my children (one letter-­writer called them ‘mean’) based on the way they looked in the pictures. The fact is that these are not my children; they are figures on silvery paper slivered out of time. They represent my children at a fraction of a second on one particular afternoon with infinite variables of light, expression, posture, muscle tension, mood, wind and shade. These are not my children at all; these are children in a photograph.”

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