The Critical Mass

I read the Sunday New York Times, so you don’t have to: July 11

First music of the day: Canadian jazz pianist Francois Bourassa. It will be a good afternoon on the deck. Chicken quarters are marinating in a local strawberry-balsamic vinegar purchased Saturday at the Rochester Public Market. They’ll be joined by wings, and later, bacon-wrapped figs.

1, Whose recession? Profits for members of the New York Stock Exchange totaled a record $61,4 billion in 2009. New York securities firms have added nearly 2,000 new jobs since February.

2, The teaching potential of robots is being explored with kids in the classroom, as well as with autistic children. “I worry that if kids grow up being taught by robots and viewing technology as the master, they will see it as the master,” says one concerned educator. Yet after all of these years, centuries even, experiments with these robots interacting with, and teaching kids, reveals one obvious fact: We don’t really know much about how people learn.

3, Beneath the headline “Enigmatic Jobless Man Prepares a Senate Campaign,” we meet Alvin M. Greene, Democratic candidate for the South Carolina senate. He’s running against one of the more disagreeable conservatives in Congress, Jim DeMint, but Greene’s victory in the Democratic primary is inexplicable. An unemployed man involuntarily discharged from the Army in August, and so poor he had to have a public defender represent him on a felony obscenity charge, Greene comes off as completely unaware of local or national issues, or what it takes to run a senate campaign. No one can explain how a man who accepts unemployment benefits, and who has no health insurance, came up with the $10,440 filing fee for the June 8 primary. Or how he won without campaigning, getting more than 100,000 votes, 59 percent of those cast, except maybe it’s because his name appeared first on the ballot. Suspicions have been raised that “mischief-making Republicans” are behind the Greene candidacy, although no evidence has surfaced. Greene says one solution for propping up the economy would be to sell action figures of himself. And he’d like Denzel Washington to play him in a movie.

4, In the magazine, “Egghead Alert” discusses how Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was coached in how to appear less intellectually superior for her Congressional hearing. As Richard Hofstrader wrote in his 1962 book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, this is a part of “our culture’s longtime devaluation of the head in favor of the heart.”

5, Ousting Al Qaeda from Afghanistan takes on less significance when you read in the magazine how the group has penetrated the next launching pad for terrorists, Yemen.

6, Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton cracks the case on the secret of the ribs at New York City’s Fatty ‘Cue, which the owner himself refers to as built on “strong cocktails, chili, palm sugar and smoky fat.”  I tore out the recipe and stuck it on the refrigerator in anticipation of the next round of ribs smoking. As soon as I find some ground Indonesian long peppers.

7, Pulitzer  Prize winning columnist Maureen Dowd seems to have been off her game for a while now, but I’ll still turn to her for my sports news. Today she examines the inane ESPN special, breathlessly named “The Decision,” in which LeBron James announced he was leaving Cleveland to play basketball for the Miami Heat. “It’s always a bad sign when people begin taking about themselves in the third person,” she writes.  Indeed. Incidentally, Jeff thinks that LeBron teaming up with the millions being paid to his new teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh will leave precious few dollars to put little more than a pickup team around them. No championship for you, Miami.

8, I’m sorry, I did not read the special section, “Mutual Funds Report.”  Ask LeBron what he thought. But not Alvin Greene.

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