Sunday 7.26.2015 New York Times Digest

Tiny Hamburger
1. Americans Are Finally Eating Less

“Changes in eating habits suggest that what once seemed an inexorable decline in health may finally be changing course.”

2. For Ransom, Bitcoin Replaces the Bag of Bills

“Criminals like the virtual currency because it can be held in a digital wallet that does not have to be registered with any government or financial authority — and because it can be easily exchanged for real money.”

3. An Act That Enabled Acceptance

“Looking back, perhaps the most unexpected achievement of the A.D.A. isn’t the wheelchair lifts on buses or the sign-language interpreters at political conventions. It’s that it gave people like me a sense of entitlement, of belonging, of pride.”

4. Of Dogs, Faith and Imams

“Most of Muslims’ dog hate comes to us via the Hadith, a collection of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. There are various, often contradictory hadiths about whether or not you are allowed to keep a dog as a pet. Dogs are allowed for security, says one. Their fur is fine but their saliva is unclean, says another. But if the fur gets wet, it becomes unclean. You can pet dogs, but you may not kiss them. You can keep them if they are not allowed inside the house. You can have them as long as you use them for hunting. What about the saliva they leave on the hunted animals? That’s fine.”

5. The Rise of Climbing

“Every other fundamental human movement pattern developed long ago into a mature sport. Competitive running dates back thousands of years, competitive swimming got started in the early 19th century, and both now enjoy such immense demographic reach that genetically suited outliers self-select for each and every subspecialty. Generations of accumulated training wisdom bring Olympians like the sprinter Usain Bolt or the distance swimmer Katie Ledecky to performances that have long since reached the outer limits of human potential. World records are broken by fractions of a second, and we now have an excellent sense of just how fast the fastest human beings can swim and run. As a result, a middle-aged father who ran a modest 4:50 mile at his last high school track meet is quite unlikely to see his daughter’s entire generation suddenly start running 3:45 miles, with a few kids clocking 3:30. Something very like that, however, is happening to rock climbers of my generation.”

6. Passing on Wedding Gifts, Millennials Prefer Cash

“With large student loans to pay, later marriages and often houses already purchased and filled with furnishings, millennials are bypassing traditional registries.”

7. The Pros and (Considerable) Cons of Budget Bus Travel

“Megabus as a cheap way of getting from Point A to Point B is great, if you are doing a short route or are strapped for cash. Megabus road trips as leisure travel? That’s an off-label use prescribed for a specific type of person: the truly flexible, comfort-be-damned, all-out budget traveler.”

8. Black Travel Groups Find Kindred Spirits on Social Networks

“Nomadness is one of several virtual communities that have sprung up on social media in recent years catering to African-Americans, who rarely find themselves the target market of tourism and hospitality companies. They are carrying on a long tradition of travel media created by and for black consumers, from the ‘Negro Motorist Green Book,’ which helped black vacationers find lodging during the years of segregation, to the professional and fraternal organizations that book large group trips, to cultural sponsors like Essence, which draws thousands to New Orleans each year for its music festival.”

9. Dr. Seuss’ What Pet Should I Get?

“Geisel was known to be extremely self-critical, and while his books go down so easy that they risk seeming merely tossed off, his process was laborious. Each book went through many drafts; he once said he produced over a thousand pages in order to end up with 64.”

10. The (Continuing) End of Science?

“John Horgan’s The End of Science has been a cause of contention since it was published in 1996, partly because of its incendiary title. Horgan argues that science’s grandest discoveries (heliocentrism, evolution, relativity, etc.) are behind us, and all that remains is to fill in some blanks, however interesting they are.… Nearly 20 years later, Horgan has written a preface for a new edition, and is sticking by his guns. ‘In some ways, science is in even worse shape today than I would have guessed back in the 1990s,’ he writes. And the progress that has been made in recent years, he argues, proves his larger point. The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, for instance, ‘serves as the capstone of the standard model of particle physics,’ but ‘doesn’t take us any closer to physics’ ultimate goal than climbing a tree takes us to the moon.’”

11. It’s the End of the World as She Knows It

“Female post-apocalyptic writers have a history of being more interested in memory than dismemberment.”

12. The Unquiet Sky

“The key expansion in the public understanding of drones is in the realm of popular photography.”

13. Letter of Recommendation: New Balance 990s

“Nothing about the 990 has ever really changed: not the high price (they’re now $179.99), not the design, not the fact that they’re made in America. Plenty has happened since 1982, but nothing that has managed to make the 990 budge.”

14. How Taye Diggs Is Transforming the Role of Hedwig

“Black America’s most eligible bachelor is about to play a glammed-out Teutonic genderqueer mash-up of Nico and Axl Rose?”

15. Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?

“Now, ISIS is looking to eradicate Christians and other minorities altogether. The group twists the early history of Christians in the region — their subjugation by the sword — to legitimize its millenarian enterprise. Recently, ISIS posted videos delineating the second-class status of Christians in the caliphate. Those unwilling to pay the jizya tax or to convert would be destroyed, the narrator warned, as the videos culminated in the now-­infamous scenes of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians in Libya being marched onto the beach and beheaded, their blood running into the surf.”

16. Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California?

“Californians, spoiled by Platonic produce, excellent burritos and fine-art coffee, have a tormented relationship with this particular food item.”

17. The Singular Mind of Terry Tao

“The ancient art of mathematics, Tao has discovered, does not reward speed so much as patience, cunning and, perhaps most surprising of all, the sort of gift for collaboration and improvisation that characterizes the best jazz musicians. Tao now believes that his younger self, the prodigy who wowed the math world, wasn’t truly doing math at all. ‘It’s as if your only experience with music were practicing scales or learning music theory,’ he said, looking into light pouring from his window. ‘I didn’t learn the deeper meaning of the subject until much later.’”

18. Ted Cruz Is More of a Spider-Man Guy

“Let me do a little psychoanalysis. If you look at ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ it basically split James T. Kirk into two people. Picard was Kirk’s rational side, and William Riker was his passionate side. I prefer a complete captain. To be effective, you need both heart and mind.”

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