Thursday, October 18, 2018


Why people don’t have hobbies
More and more Americans say they have no hobbies.  Part of the reason is that we are all so very busy, but the deeper reason is the growing expectation that we must be skilled at what we do in our free time--that everything in this intensely public, performative age reflects on your identity. If you’re a jogger, it is no longer enough to cruise around the block; you’re training for the marathon. If you paint or write or play the guitar or do carpentry, you better be good enough at it to display your skills publicly.  This is a terrible shame. There is a pure, childlike delight in learning something new, without the burden of excellence or self-judgment.  What if you decide in your 40s, as I have, that you want to learn to surf?  Or to learn to speak Italian in your 60s? Even becoming minimally competent is highly rewarding. Our affluent, technological era is supposed to free us from the struggle just to survive, so that we have time to pursue purpose, joy and contentment. Why cheat ourselves of one of life’s greatest rewards--doing something that you merely, but truly, enjoy?
--Tim Wu, New York Times
Where’s the digital-age TV Guide?
We may be living in the golden age of television, but it’s almost impossible to find all the good shows out there.  TV used to be simple: You turned on the set and flipped channels and settled on the best option. It wasn’t always great, but finding it was easy.  Now you have to trawl the vast libraries of Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Go, and there’s no TV Guide to help you navigate this sea of content.  Presented with so many options, I usually give up and watch "The Office" for the umpteenth time.  Determined to end this paralysis, I recently went in search of a service that would tell me what to watch. I tried aggregators like Apple’s TV app, which puts a number of content providers in the same place and offers viewing suggestions, and Reelgood, a useful app that offers recommendations based on Rotten Tomatoes reviews and viewer data.  But none of these services are comprehensive: Reelgood doesn’t track some of the content providers I use the most, such as YouTube TV and Sling.  Until we get a real TV Guide for the digital age, this so-called future of TV feels a lot like wandering through the Blockbuster shelves back in the day, always searching for the perfect thing but never quite finding it.
--David Pierce, Wall Street Journal

The Fed won’t be able to save us
Another recession is looming.  And this time the Federal Reserve doesn’t have the tools to turn the economy around.  The next crisis won’t be an exact replay of the last one.  Homes are not as overvalued as they were in 2006, the peak of the housing bubble.  But stocks are at an inflated level, just as house prices were in the mid-2000s.  In both cases, the cause is the same:  Ultralow interest rates encouraged investors to borrow and spend, sending asset prices rocketing.  Just as the housing bubble burst two years after the Fed started hiking interest rates in 2004, rising rates now will push down the stock market.  If share prices go back to their historical average relative to corporate profits--about 40 percent below today’s level--$10 trillion of household wealth will be wiped out.  And as household wealth drops, consumer spending and economic activity will fall with it.  When that happens, the Fed won’t have much room to cut rates.  And with federal deficits already rising to $1 trillion a year, Congress won’t be able to spend money to stimulate the economy.  The next recession will likely be deep and long, and there’s nothing the government can do to prevent that from happening.
--Martin Feldstein, Wall Street Journal

The roots of the press’ liberal bias
The press used to be one of America’s most respected institutions.  Now it’s among the least, particularly among conservatives.  What happened? Until the 1960s, the daily newspaper consisted primarily of official statements and speeches by government officials, all of which were automatically considered newsworthy.  The press deferred to power and the status quo, and mostly eschewed reporting on controversial issues and criticism of elected officials.  Vietnam, the civil rights movement and Watergate changed that paradigm.  As television took over the basic role of telling people the breaking news, newspapers began to analyze the news--and to challenge the elites in power. Journalism awards were handed out to reporters who dug into official wrongdoing, social injustice, and the inequality of the races and sexes.  It’s this evolution of the press into an adversarial sometimes activist institution" that has eroded trust in the media among conservatives.  Their anger over the perceived liberal slant in journalism is, in essence, a rejection of journalism’s routine rejection of authority.  But there’s virtually no chance the media will ever revert to its stenographic and pliant ways. That means distrust in the media is as much a feature as it is a bug.
--Jack Shafer,
Goodbye, planned obsolescence
There may be plenty of life left in your old iPhone.  Apple made two recent decisions that could dramatically extend the life of your phone.  One was introducing a battery replacement service, charging $79 to put a new battery in the old phone.  The other was making sure the new operating system, iOS 12, would work on old phones as well as it does on new ones.  This is the opposite of what we’ve come to expect:  With previous updates, older phones would get slower.  Not so now. With iOS 12, an older phone such as an iPhone 6 can open the camera app 70 percent faster and will run twice as fast under a heavy workload.  My old phone, which cost $649 new, seems like a much better deal now, considering all the use I’m getting out of it.
--Jeff Sommer, New York Times
The (mostly) men in black
Since its creation, the Supreme Court has had 113 justices, and all but six have been white men.   Today’s court is the most diverse in history, with three women and two people of color.  But in other ways it’s incredibly uniform.  While just over half of all former justices went to an Ivy League school, all of today’s current justices have a degree from either Harvard or Yale.  With the exception of Justice Elena Kagan, all of the current justices served on federal appeals courts.  Kagan was the dean of Harvard Law School before becoming solicitor general.  In the past, 58 justices were elected officials--including William Howard Taft, who became chief justice a decade after serving as president but none of today’s justices has held elected office and answered to voters.  "I, for one, do think there is a disadvantage from having (five) Catholics, three Jews, everyone from an Ivy League school," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2016, arguing that judges should be from more varied backgrounds. "We understand things from experience."
--The Week

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