Sunday 5.15.2016 New York Times Digest


1. When Did Optimism Become Uncool?

“Optimism itself has stopped being respectable. Pessimism is now the mainstream, with optimists viewed as Pollyannas. If you don’t think everything is awful, you don’t understand the situation!”

2. For Obama, an Unexpected Legacy of Two Full Terms at War

“Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.”

3. Start-Ups Embrace Arbitration to Settle Workplace Disputes

“As Silicon Valley companies grow from small start-ups into major employers, their labor practices are coming into focus. Despite the popular image that the industry is predominantly made up of nerdy millionaires, many of these growing companies depend increasingly on lower-paid employees.”

4. Humans and Mastodons Coexisted in Florida, New Evidence Shows

“It is the oldest site with evidence of human activity in the Southeastern United States and one of only a handful of sites that show that humans were living in North and South America by about 14,500 years ago.”

5. New Crowdfunding Rules Let the Small Fry Swim With Sharks

“Until now, only accredited investors, meaning those with an annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million, have been permitted to take equity stakes in most private companies.”

6. When Websites Won’t Take No for an Answer

“There’s the ‘sneak into basket’ technique, where a retailer automatically adds products — like a magazine subscription or travel insurance — to consumers’ shopping carts and makes it hard for them to remove the unwanted items. There’s the ‘roach motel’ or ‘walled-garden’ technique, in which sites offer fast-and-easy sign-up processes but make it much more cumbersome for consumers to close accounts.”

7. What Was the Greatest Era for Innovation?

“We thought a better way to understand the significance of technological change would be to walk through how Americans lived, ate, traveled, and clothed and entertained themselves in 1870, 1920, 1970 and the present.”

8. A Side Order of Creativity for a Part-Time Diner Waitress

“Success is how you define it. Though I would love to make $300,000 a year, if it messed with my quality of life and happiness, I would easily walk away. At work, it’s being part of something bigger than me; I feed off that energy. At home, it’s raising three great kids with my husband, Tom, and owning a home we built on 85 acres near the Brule River State Forest. Plus, we get to take advantage of all the outdoor recreation in this part of the country. These things are priceless to me.”

9. Sorry, We Don’t Take Obamacare

“Even as many beneficiaries acknowledge that they might not have insurance today without the law, there remains a strong undercurrent of discontent. Though their insurance cards look the same as everyone else’s — with names like Liberty and Freedom from insurers like Anthem or United Health — the plans are often very different from those provided to most Americans by their employers. Many say they feel as if they have become second-class patients.”

10. The Busy Person’s Lies

“I know that professionals tend to overestimate work hours; we remember our busiest weeks as typical. This is partly because negative experiences stand out in the mind more than positive ones, and partly because we all like to see ourselves as hard-working. One study from the June 2011 Monthly Labor Review found that people estimating 75-plus hour workweeks were off, on average, by about 25 hours. I once had a young man tell me he was working 180-hours a week — impossible, considering the fact that this is 12 more hours than a week contains — but he felt tired and overworked, as we all sometimes do, and chose a high number to quantify this feeling.”

11. Sexual Freelancing in the Gig Economy

“Today, people are constantly told that we must be flexible and adaptable in order to succeed. Is it surprising that these values are reshaping how many of us approach sex and love?”

12. Is There Too Much Democracy in America or Too Little?

“The power of electoral majorities really has ebbed away to a great extent. When people keep putting money into a vending machine that does nothing, or gives them the opposite of what they ordered, some of them will kick the vending machine or turn it over.”

13. Fishes Have Feelings, Too

“As a biologist who specializes in animal behavior and emotions, I’ve spent the past four years exploring the science on the inner lives of fishes. What I’ve uncovered indicates that we grossly underestimate these fabulously diverse marine vertebrates. The accumulating evidence leads to an inescapable conclusion: Fishes think and feel.”

14. Why Are You Laughing?

“In the United States, ‘dead baby jokes’ are now the 13th most popular joke topic, with about 600,000 Google searches every year. Searches for ‘dead baby jokes’ have nearly caught up in popularity to ‘blonde jokes’ and are within an order of magnitude of ‘knock knock jokes.’”

15. When the Wrong Are Right

If bigots are for it, we’re against it. It’s a powerful credo. But there’s always a danger that by following it too far, you end up being against reality itself.”

16. Sebastian Junger: By the Book

“Whatever the genre, I look for someone who is precise and economical in their style and hard-working in their prose. By that I mean they take the time to choose words that surprise me; they use metaphors that I’ve never heard before; and they avoid clichés like ‘The mortars slammed into the hillside.’ I don’t want to read anything — not even a clause — that I’ve seen before. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time.”

17. You May Also Like and Pretentiousness: Why It Matters

“The metaphors we use to describe what offends our sensibilities frequently involve the body, as if our dislike lies beyond the realm of reason and explanation, which it very often does. Even when we do articulate why we abhor something, words have a hard time capturing the force with which one’s entire being might revolt when faced with the offending song or novel or film.”

18. The Boys in the Bunkhouse, by Dan Barry

“There, for more than 30 years, they lived — and some of them died — in the little town of Atalissa, in a mouse-, mold- and roach-infested abandoned school building. They earned virtually nothing for their work eviscerating turkeys, and were increasingly abused and humiliated if they didn’t perform up to speed. They were denied proper medical care for a dizzying array of ailments, and were kept off government assistance. All the while, they were promised a retirement home on Johnson’s Texas ranch that, of course, was never built; they were rendered quiescent by Johnson’s minions with food, beer and, on occasion, the services of local prostitutes. When that didn’t work, they were chained to their beds, or beaten and kicked repeatedly. Bosses shouted profanities at the men, and some of them were forced to carry heavy weights around the school gym as punishment.”

19. We Were Feminists Once, by Andi Zeisler

“Zeisler is sharpest and wittiest when she’s skewering some of the sillier media efforts to collapse the political into the personal, tackling the implication that systemic gender oppression will be eliminated as soon as each of us individually works out what she ought to be doing with her pubic hair.”

20. What Do Our Online Avatars Reveal About Us?

“The coincidence of a bunch of American video-game, fantasy and science-fiction authors cribbing from Hinduism 101 speaks to the need to describe a truly novel phenomenon. But it also hints at a similar worldview among the men — and they were all men — who came to define it. As Stephenson told me, ‘That was a time when people had more idealistic notions of what digital technology was going to do for us, sometimes bordering on the mystical.’ For socially marginalized science-fiction fans and computer geeks, the virtual world could help people enjoy a level of social status and acceptance they lacked at home.”

21. Out With the Old

“Maybe it’s better to address all of our bad habits at once rather than try to make incremental changes to our lives.”

22. How to Take a Punch

“Whatever you do, don’t get angry.”

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