Nov. 29, 2015

This might become a regular thing, or not: an exercise in answering the question on my mind every Sunday: “What’s good in the Times today?”

I’ve been wishing someone would do this for a while. Maybe someone has — please let me know if you’ve seen something like it. I’d like it to evolve into something more collaborative.

I usually end up leaning on Twitter searches for #NYT or just scrolling through Facebook to see what people are posting, but haven’t found anything that gets it done dependably.

So, here goes. Apologies to folks on the east coast — hopefully some of you are evening Sunday Times readers.


Sunday Review | Page 1: Addicted to Distraction — Tony Schwartz

Read this if you’re looking for an example of how you could become less distracted by the internet.

On a 1-to-5 scale:

  • This-Is-My-Life: 5
  • Inspirational: 3
  • Global Awareness: 1
  • Useful: 4

Schwartz writes about his struggles with a situation I’m familiar with: the feeling of having lost the ability to direct one’s own attention for sustained, useful periods of time. The culprit: the Internet, of course.

As part of a 30-day behavioral cleanse of sorts, Schwartz decides to add undisciplined Internet usage to a verboten list that includes soda and alcohol. It turns out booze and pop are much easier to quit than Taboola ads.

At this point in the piece, I’m sympathetic but it hasn’t done anything useful for me. I’m still clinging to the promise of the article’s subhed: “The story of how I lost, and found, my focus.

Two-thirds of the way through, we get to the “found” part: Schwartz goes on a month-long vacation with a suitcase-load of books and slims down his e-intake to an SMS-only diet: no email, no web, no apps.

It works! Schwartz emerges from his sabbatical with a ripped 6-pack of attentional muscles. He now plans his days out the night before; starts each day working for a 90-minute stretch before he lets the email smoke monster loose in his cabeza; resists diving into the celeb trash-heaps steaming seductively at the end of pretty much every article on the web; packs multiple hour-long work sessions into a single day; and most impressively, leaves his devices downstairs at night when he heads up to bed.

I’m hoping a month-long vacation isn’t the only way to get to the promised land, because that ain’t happening. But damn, I’d sure like to not have what he’s not having.

Sunday Styles | Page 2 : Command Z: Stop Your ‘Dying,’ It’s Killing Me — Jessica Bennett

Skip it unless you feel like you are lacking knowledge about current SMS slang.

1-to-5:

  • This-Is-My-Life: 3
  • Inspirational: 0
  • Global Awareness: 2
  • Useful: 0

A lite rant about the vapidity of a bunch of hyperbolic phrases people type (“Dead” “Dying” “[x] is life” “I can’t even”) when they mean “That’s funny” or “that’s interesting” or “that’s remarkable.” This is more a criticism of the editors’ work than the writer’s: the objects of the polemic here are not worthy of your time.

Sunday Magazine | page 32: Swatted — Jason Fagone

Riveting and disturbing. A must-read if you have gamers in your family. Prepare for a SWAT team to show up at your house. A view of Twitch as a vector of real-world evil.

1-to-5:

  • This-Is-My-Life: 4 but trending upward as the kids’ gaming gets more connected
  • Inspirational: 4 (inspired to increase awareness of what my kids are doing online)
  • Global Awareness: 3 (border-hopping crimes call enforcement structure into question)
  • Useful: 5 (for families who play games online)

Here’s a link to the story.

Page One: Big Companies Put Their Money Where the Trash Is — David Gelles

If you believe that recycling is important and virtuous, and especially if, like me, you spend time lecturing certain family members about putting item type (c) in specifically purchased and labelled receptacle type (c), this piece will first make you sad and will then give you hope.

1-to-5:

  • This-Is-My-Life: 5
  • Inspirational: 4 (megacorporations are trying hard to buy the stuff you want to recycle!)
  • Global Awareness: 4
  • Useful: 2 (unless you run a recycling startup — in that case, 5)

The really annoying news is that a lot of the stuff you faithfully sort into your recycling can ends up in a landfill anyway. The better news is that a consortium of giant companies like Walmart, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, 3M and Coca-Cola have put money into the $100 million Closed Loop Fund, which makes loans to companies addressing the appalling inefficiencies that stand between consumers’ good intentions and corporations’ demand for well-sorted rubbish.

Here’s a link to the story.