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The other things in life

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Now, For $35, An Insider's Access To Hot tables

People who go out to eat in New York can be divided in plenty of ways, but the division that matters most is this: You are either someone who can get a great table on a Saturday night, or you're not. Now there is help for those who can't.

With This Ring, I Thee Bed

My husband and I used to have sex once a day. Then we got married. But this is not a sad story; it's a happy story. I hope.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tech & Science

Can Humanity Survive? Want To Bet On It?

Dr. Rees is not a knee-jerk technophobe — he expects great advances as researchers around the world link their knowledge — but he fears that progress will be undone by what he calls the new global village idiots. He's sure enough of himself to post an offer on Long Bets, a clever innovation on the web that Stewart Brand helped start with money from Jeff Bezos, the founder of


The Readers Strike Back

Massive online feedback has rocked writers and changed journalism forever. This brave new world is filled with beautiful minds and nasty Calibans and everything in between. Its benefits are undeniable. But do they outweigh its insidious effects?


Tarot Card Of The Dreaming Man, Face Down

Mark Conway works at the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota.

Monday, January 29, 2007


China's Fantasy Of Freedom

Over the years, the Qixia village chiefs served as my China reality check. Compared with the days when foreign journalists had to smuggle in ground coffee in their suitcases, my life in China was positively luxurious: I sipped lattes at Starbucks and collected tips on where to buy the best pesto in Shanghai. But every few months, the Qixia men would call with an update, reminding me of some of the grim realities beyond China's cafes and marble-lined lobbies.


Google's Moon Shot: The Quest For The Universal Library

Every weekday, a truck pulls up to the Cecil H. Green Library, on the campus of Stanford University, and collects at least a thousand books, which are taken to an undisclosed location and scanned, page by page, into an enormous database being created by Google.

Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeves

In the days before iTunes, when you wanted to impress a girl you lovingly put together a compilation tape from your LPs. Now — thanks to the wondrous choice of digital music — mix tapes and vinyl are dying out. But is some of the mystery and meaning of music also disappearing?


Good People

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tech & Science

Too Clever By Half

Our minds don't always act in our best interests. Ever wondered why we fret over obscure risks and ignore real dangers? Or why we search for happiness in all the wrong places? Fortunately, researchers are beginning to expose the tricks our brains play on us.


Awash In Words: Why The SAT Makes Lousy Shower Reading

One of the great traditions and cultural hallmarks of Western civilization is reading in the bathroom. In my house, this has taken on a dramatic new element with the acquisition of a shower curtain filled with 500 common SAT words. Santa Claus brought it as a lovely Christmas present for a teenager who understands that her societal worth and the honor of her family hinge entirely on her SAT score.

Unhappy Meals

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing questions of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I'm tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


An Oenophile And His Money: Is Any Bottle Of Wine Worth $700?

This is a story about a bottle of wine. A very expensive but also very delicious bottle of wine — a wine that so captivated me when I first tasted it that I immediately resolved to taste it again. What followed was an almost two-year odyssey that tested the limits of my resourcefulness and perhaps also expressed the warping effect that wine has had on my brain.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tech & Science

Of Gay Sheep, Science And Peril Of Bad Publicity

Charles Roselli set out to discover what makes some sheep gay. Then the news media and the blogosphere got hold of the story.


For The High-End Bathroom, Something Unexpected

Among the features of the new 6,000-square-foot, $3 million entertainment wing in Kevin Scherer's home in Plano, Tex., are two bars, a theater, a video game room, a shuffleboard table and a golf simulator that projects images of top courses onto a big screen. Oh, and a urinal.

Women In Love: On patty Marx, Christopher Hitchens, And Funny Women

Life is long and the world is small — so much so that you occasionally encounter one of your former boyfriends turning up as a tinly disguised character in one of his previous girlfriend's satiric novels.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The Mystery Of The Chinese Baby Shortage

China has always limited foreign adoptions, and it does not publish reliable statistics on the number of children in its orphanages. So how is one to know whether the decrease in adoptions reflects a lack of supply or a lack of demand?


Girl, Interrupted: The Power To Shrink Human Beings

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Ashley. And she stayed little forever. It's a true story.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tech & Science

Do You Believe In Magic?

Psychologists and anthropologists have typically truned to faith healers, tribal cultures or New Age spiritualists to study the underpinnings of belief in superstition or magical powers. Yet they could just as well have examined their own neighbors, lab assistants or even some fellow scientists. New research demonstrates that habits of so-called magical thinking — the belief, for instance, that wishing harm on a loathed colleague or relative might make him sick — are far more common than people acknowledge.

Making Sense Of Time, Earthbound And Otherwise

We are poised between the extremities and homogeneities of nature, between delirium and ad infinitum, and our andante tempo may be the best, possibly the only pace open to us, or even to life generaly.


A Librarian's Lament: Books Are A Hard Sell

Literacy today is defined less by how English departments or a librarian might teach Wordsworth or Faulkner than by how we find our way through the digital forest of information overload.


Sitting In The Last Of Sunset, Listening To Guests Within

Cell One

Seventy-Two Virgins

Monday, January 22, 2007


Five Myths About U.S. Kids Outclassed By The Rest Of The World

Recently, Newsweek International's Fareed Zakaria noted Singapore's success on international math and science exams, but asked Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam why Singapore produced so few top-ranked scientists, entrepreneuers, inventors, business executives and academics. "We both have meritocracies," he replied. America's "is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well — like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. There are the areas where Singapore must learn from America."


Of Thought And Metaphor

Asking Steven Pinker, Harvard researcher and best-selling author, to pass the salt turns out to be very educational. Not about sodium and high blood pressure, but about how we use language and what that reveals about human nature.

Astonish Me

No one was more excited than I was when Maureen Corrigan of National Publc Radio's "Fresh Air" described Alice McDermott's new novel as "astonishing." Several years ago, overwhelmed by the flood of material unleashed annually by the publishing industry, I decided to establish a screening program by purchasing only books that at least one reviewer had described as "astonishing."

The Search For Beautiful

Cosmetic surgery is no longer just for white women. Now recrod numbers of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics are lining up for a nip here, a tuck there. Are they chasing a Caucasian ideal of beauty? Or are they aiming for racial and ethnic ambiguity?

A Home, No Matter How Humble: What Happens When The Housing Crunch Leaves You Out Entirely?

Typically, San Francisco's 20,000 single-room occupancy units are between 100 and 200 square feet. Bathrooms are dormitory style, and there may be only one per floor. Most buildings have no cooking facilities, forcing residents to eat out or cook in microwave ovens. Despite these paltry accommodations, rent on most SRO units is relatively high — ranging from $500 to $1,000 per month. Because SRO hotels don't typically require security deposits or run credit checks, they are the only housing option for thousands of San Francisco's poorest residents.

The World Is Watching. Not Americans.

The movies are out there, more numerous and various than ever before, but the audience — and therefore the box-office returns, and the willingness of distributors to risk even relatively small sums on North American distribution rights — seems to be dwindling and scattering.


War Babies

Kaui Hart Hemmings is the author of "House of Thieves" (Penguin Press) and the forthcoming novel, "The Descendants," to be published in May by Random House.

Sunday, January 21, 2007



After almost four decades on Sesame Street, Caroll Spinney — the man who brings Big Birad and Oscar the Grouch to life — still has a spring in his giant step.

The Sound And The Fury

Night life and noise are always a fraught topic in the city, but they are particularly so now. An overhaul of the city's noise code, the first in more than 30 years, will take effect on July 1. Moreover, in light of the growth of bars in gentrifying areas and the spillover of smoking patrons onto sidewalks because of the no-smoking laws, officials are taking a close look at night-life regulation.

Looking For My Father In Las Vegas

My father never worked a day in his life. He was a gambler and a con man and a grifter for all of the 65 years that I knew him. He gambled on pool, cards, dice, horses, sports events, two ipgeons sitting on a fence, anything — as long as he could find an edge.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Walking All Over Fashion

Although many interesting and salient facts may be gleaned from tourist brouchures, one of the more esoteric has to be that included in a new informational pamphlet for visitors to Rome. There, apparently, the very latest thing is to war two completely different shoes.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Mao Was Cruel - But Also Laid The Ground For Today's China

The crimes of communist China's founder shouldn't blind us to achievements which paved the way for its current modernisation.


Clearly, You Must See The Humor In High-Def Television

If you're looking for cheap, easy entertainment — and who isn't these days? — here's something that's always a hit.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


How Cinema Lost Its Soul

From Bunuel to Warhol, film used to be thrillingly experimental, but now we have to look to other art forms for the avant-grade.

In New 'Quality TV,' Dark Is New Light: CSI-ing Of America

Darkness has become a signifier for deepness, for deep seriousness — most often a substitute for it, alas.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tech & Science

The Warming Of greenland

All over Greenland and the Arctic, rising temperatures are not simply melting ice; they are changing the very geography of coastlines.


What's Wrong With Vocational School?

Too many Americans are going to college.

The Food Connection

Many manages to find good food through a mixture of effort, serendipity, research and connectivity — whether to the web, a hand-held device with a comprehensive database, or by word of mouth. But sometimes there is more to the equation than just the food, especially for business travelers on their own.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tech & Science

The Lost Art Of The Letter

The internet is affecting not only how scientists communiate, but also how future science historians wil have to work.


Death's Doorman


Monday, January 15, 2007


Doodles A La Carte

At the aptly named Pergola des Artistes, New Yorker cartoonists dined and dished on Tuesday at their weekly lunch. Every topic is on the table, including the pronounciation of the name of the 46th Street restaurant.

A Silver Of A Storefront, A Faith On The Rise

Storefront churches have become part of the streetscape in New York and around the globe in recent decades. Tiny and makeshift, they sprout up almost overnight, wedged in among the bodegas and takeout counters.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tech & Science

For Human Eyes Only

The whites of our eyes are several times larger than those of other primates, which makes it much easier to see where the eyes, as opposed to the head, are pointed. Trying to explain this trait leads us into our of the deepest and most controversial topics in the modern study of human evolution: the evolution of cooperation.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The Art Of Being Shamless

I suspect that part of the reason self-promotion makes some of us cringe is the lovely belief that if something is really good, it will naturally find an audience. But a recent study of what creates a cultural hit by Columbia University sociologists Matthew Salganik, Peter Sheridan Dodds and Duncan Watts suggests what I have always feared: "Success was only partly determined by quality."

Newspapers... And After?

The dinosaurs still have enough life in them to guide — and perhaps even define — our politics.

Friday, January 12, 2007


For $7.93 An Hour, It's Worth A Trip Across A State Line

Just eight miles separate this town on the Washington side of the state border from Post Falls on the Idaho side. But the towns are nearly $3 an hour apart in the required minimum wage.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


The Copycat Syndrome

Plagiarists at work.

A Trough At The Theater - To Chow Or Not To Chow?

Why can't America stop eating for two hours?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


The Breakfast Wars

Even as Starbucks has developed a mass following for its dark, super-roasted coffee and its iced, frothed, blended and flavored offspring, the company has struggled to get its food up to par.

Seven Rules For Reading The Paper

Newspapers are portable, disposable and convey a certain savoir faire. Follow these easy steps, and you'll be leaving your laptop behind.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Stern Likes His New Censor: Himself

Howard Stern, who today marks his first anniversary on satellite radio, wasted little time over that period before settin goff on an expedition deep into the wild, forested territories of a medium patrolled by neither the Federal Communications Commission nor, apparently, his own employer.


Lincoln Road

Monday, January 8, 2007

Tech & Science

Scientists Shining Light Into Black Holes

Over the past 10 years, black holes have moved to the center of the world of astrophysics, leading to a steady flow of discoveries that have begun to answer, or at least better describe, some of their mysteries.


Getting It All Wrong

We love stories, and we will continue to love them. But for more than 30 years, as Theory has established itself as "the new hegemony in literary studies" (to echo the title of Tony Hilfer's cogent critique), university literature departments in the English-speaking world have often done their best to stifle this thoroughly human emotion.

Jazz Is Alive And Well. In The Classroom, Anyway

Today's aspiring player has a choice of school programs, method and theory books, videos and transcriptions.

Little Asia On The Hill

The revolution at Berkeley is a quiet one, a slow turning of the forces of immigration and demographics.

Sunday, January 7, 2007



Most everybody knows — particularly in the aftermath of the consumption-frenzy holiday season — that utility can fade, pleasure can be fleeting and the whole thought-that-counts thing is especially ephemeral. Apart from the usual solution to this problem (more new stuff!), it's worth pondering whether getting rid of stuff can ever feel as good as getting it.

Katrina Victims Find A Solution: Modular House

Modular houses, which range from simple shotgun-style cottages to fancy minimansions, are starting to appear across the Gulf Coast.

Mr. Ford Gets The Last Laugh

I've often thought how odd it was that we became linked together. It's not like we had a lot of common. But linked together we were. And not just in the obvious ways.


The Agoraphobic's Holiday

Saturday, January 6, 2007


And You'll Be A Moviegoer, My Son

At their best, movies not only offer glimpses of fantastic imaginary worlds, but also inklings of what is, for children, the most intriguing and enigmatic world of all: the world of adulthood.

Saddam Should Have Been Studied, Not Executed

Sparing Hussein and studying his makeup could have provided valuable research.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Tech & Science

The Book Of Nature

Galieo's famous metaphor of the "book of nature", which he used to defend the work of scientists from religious authorities, can be dangerous today.


Strange Love

In an age of color-coded threat levels, the cold war and concepts like mutual assured destruction can seem far away. But they are kept alive at museums and historical sites like the one in Sahuarita, relics of a recent bit of American history.

An American Muslim

Maher Hathout and his philosophy of radical openness.


Ma Bell is back. Should you be afraid?

Thursday, January 4, 2007


Why Hawks Win

Why are hawks so influential? The answer may lie deep in the human mind. People have dozens of decision-making biases, and almost all favor conflict rather than concession. A look at why the tough guys win more than they should.

And You Thought Snow Globes Were Harmless Decorations

To paraphrase a classic line from Lily Tomlin, I worry that the person who thought up the rules for carrying liquids and gels on airplanes last year is busy thinking up something new this year.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Tech & Science

A Surprising Secret To A Long Life: Stay In School

The one social factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.


Amazon Mystery: Pricing Of Books

Although the electronic world provides much greater latitude in pricing, as a longtime Amazon watcher I had never seen such an abrupt and unexplained price change.

I'll Have What They Don't Know About Yet

Off the menu. Have sweeter words ever been spoken, especially by New Yorkers? We all believe we deserve something more special than the people at the next table, and who's to say we're wrong?

Big Breasts For Dummies

Mannequins with giant bazooms are busting out in shop windows from coast to coast. More than just garment racks, they are a mirror of current beauty and fashion.

Late-Breaking Deaths In 2006

Good timing for some, bad timing for others.

Ancient Messages, Hidden In A Dusty Bottle From Long Ago

What no one has been able to do is predict when a wine will be at its peak or exactly how it will fare in its descent. What happens after a few decades along the aging trail is a mystery. But wine as old as these bottles borders on the mystical.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Tech & Science

Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don't

Physicists, neuroscientists and computer scientists have joined the heirs of Plato and Aristotle in arguing about what free will is, whether we have it, and if not, why we ever thought we did in the first place.


How To Operate The Shower Curtain

When Bad Things Come From 'Good' Food

These days, shopping in the produce aisle feels like a gamble. If you don't pick a winner, the costs could be high.


Bear Meat

Self-Portrait As Alcibiades

Monday, January 1, 2007


Snackmakers Chew Over Ideas As America Munches Into The New Year

The American appetite for snacks, much like the American waistline, is always expanding, so the search for the next great flavor never ends.

Long-Ago Snow

With the exception of the rare power blackout, nothing disrupts life in New York like a winter storm. This was especially true a century ago, long before conveniences like the Weather Channel and 24/7 takeout, and devices like computers and cellphones that make instant communication possible.

The Lonely Newspaper Reader

As I sat at the kitchen table, I marveled at the low price of a newspaper that had once preoccupied the conversation around my dinner table. Then I looked at the four papers on the table and the empty chairs that surrounded them.

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