Sunday 1.3.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity

“A surprising number of the conveniences of modern life were invented when someone stumbled upon a discovery or capitalized on an accident: the microwave oven, safety glass, smoke detectors, artificial sweeteners, X-ray imaging. Many blockbuster drugs of the 20th century emerged because a lab worker picked up on the ‘wrong’ information. While researching breakthroughs like these, I began to wonder whether we can train ourselves to become more serendipitous. How do we cultivate the art of finding what we’re not seeking?”

2. Spurs Get a Laugh Track to Go With Their Five Titles

“The show has become a darling within the thin demographic subcategory where web-savvy basketball fans and quirky comedy aficionados intersect.”

3. Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?

“Nearly one in three teenagers told the American Psychological Association that stress drove them to sadness or depression — and their single biggest source of stress was school.”

4. The Selfish Side of Gratitude

“The financial crash of 2008 further dimmed the luster of positive thinking, which had done so much to lure would-be homeowners and predatory mortgage lenders into a speculative frenzy. This left the self-improvement field open to more cautious stances, like mindfulness and resilience and — for those who could still muster it — gratitude.”

5. Why the Post Office Makes America Great

“Dependable infrastructure is magical not simply because it works, but also because it allows innovation to thrive, including much of the Internet-based economy that has grown in the past decade. You can’t have Amazon or eBay without a reliable way to get things to people’s homes.”

6. Beginning Greek, Again and Again

“It’s been said that, for nonstellar teachers at least, the hardest things to teach are the things one loves most.”

7. Robert Irwin’s Big Visions, Barely Seen

“Mr. Irwin doesn’t make sculptures or, for that matter, very many of what would be considered art objects of any kind. Instead, he has spent most of a restless career, based in Los Angeles and then San Diego, creating subtle, at times vanishingly evanescent, environments with plain materials — fabric scrim, glass, lights, plants and trees — ‘to make you a little more aware than you were the day before,’ as he puts it, ‘of how beautiful the world is.’”

8. Bill Gates: The Billionaire Book Critic

“For years, Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft who now focuses on the philanthropic work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had been scribbling notes in the margins of books he was reading and then emailing recommendations to friends and colleagues. Then he began to post these recommendations and critiques on the blog.”

9. Amy Cuddy’s Presence and Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes

“Success doesn’t equal happiness. That’s the message coming in loud and clear in this dawning era of transparency, whether it’s embodied in enraged emails from a powerful movie producer or depressive tweets from a wealthy celebrity. But success without popularity doesn’t count, either. Slipping into the shadows in the wake of an achievement is no longer an option; you must re-enact your value in real time, on a world stage, via conferences, TED talks, panels, festivals, radio appearances and podcasts, all the while conjuring a level of poise and grace that was once the sole purview of news anchors and talk-show hosts. This is the paradox of the modern digital world: It demands broadcast-quality demonstrations of social value, even as it steadily erodes our ability to deliver them.”

10. The Diet Myth, The Good Gut and The Hidden Half of Nature

“Scientists have discovered that 100 trillion microscopic creatures live in and on the body, influencing everything from the intensity of our immune responses and our moods to our dietary preferences and propensity to gain weight.”

11. Infectious Madness, by Harriet A. Washington

“A handful of researchers are wondering whether mental illnesses are really caused by our immune system’s response to powerful microbial infections.”

12. The War on Alcohol, by Lisa McGirr

“Outlawing alcohol had many supporters and inspired more fervor than any reform except abolishing slavery.”

13. Suspicious Minds, by Rob Brotherton

“We are all conspiracy theorists.”

14. Can the Turtleneck Ever Be Cool Again?

“The idea that a few inches of fabric might not only indicate a lifestyle but also incarnate an approach to the universe was an absurdity too delicious to resist, so no one did, and the austere, informal and yet ceremonious black turtleneck entered the iconography of nonconformism.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: Terro Liquid Ant Bait

“This is not your usual trap — those black plastic ant yurts no self-respecting ant would ever enter. Terro comes in a plastic rectangle with two compartments, which together make up a minimalist slaughterhouse. One side is filled with a syrupy liquid, a sugar solution with borax. The other forms a small ramp leading into the solution.”

16. How to Listen to a Police Scanner

“Pay attention if you hear a telltale uptick in chatter; a frenetic shift in tone usually marks a bigger incident, like a homicide. Don’t bother memorizing the old-school radio shorthand known as 10 codes. After communication breakdowns during the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, the federal government urged that 10 codes be phased out in favor of plain speech.”

17. The Imperiled Bloggers of Bangladesh

“All readily admitted their roles and laid out the inner workings of an extremist cell that was created with the specific intent of murdering secular bloggers.”

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