The Upside of Pessimism and Other Fascinating News on the Web

5 minute read

1. The Worst Case Scenario

When you’re faced with a challenging and stressful situation, some social scientists believe there’s a better strategy than thinking positively. Defensive Pessimism challenges you to imagine worst-case scenarios in order to manage your anxiety. The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan describes the upside of pessimism: “When people are being defensively pessimistic, they set low expectations, but then they take the next step which is to think through in concrete and vivid ways what exactly might go wrong. What we’ve seen in the research is if they do this in a specific, vivid way, it helps them plan to avoid the disaster. They end up performing better than if they didn’t use the strategy. It helps them direct their anxiety toward productive activity.” (I actually doubt my ability to be appropriately pessimistic. That helps me sink to the occasion.)

2. Fighting Homelessness with Homes

The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki describes how some cities have successfully dealt with the homeless. They gave them homes. “Handing mentally ill substance abusers the keys to a new place may sound like an example of wasteful government spending.” But it turns that the strategy actually saves money. Very interesting.

+ Can crowdfunding help the homeless?

3. Error Attack

“A lot of the convoys have dispersed, a lot of the assembly areas have been moved into urban areas.” An American general sums up the difficulties already associated with attacking a terrorist group from the air.

+ From the money to the territory to the leadership, the NYT provides an overview of how ISIS works.

+ Meet the Americans who have tried (and failed) to join ISIS so far.

4. The Switcheroo

During the middle of the night, the Minnesota Vikings (with some urging from the NFL) ran a reverse on their decision regarding Adrian Peterson. The star running back indicted for child abuse went from starting Sunday’s game to being barred from all team activities indefinitely.

+ It’s hard to avoid seeing a connection between the new decision and the pressure being applied by big NFL sponsors like Anheuser-Busch. Beer makers are lecturing the NFL about its connections to abuse. Think about that for a second. (Before sponsors applied pressure, the Vikings were going to punish Adrian Peterson by having him run three Hail Marys.)

+ Once again, the outrage is being driven by visual evidence. But do we really feel OK about leaking photos of a kid?

+ Grantland on the NFL’s dark, intractable history of domestic violence.

+ Jeb Lund: Adrian Peterson and what our fathers did to us: we have not turned out fine.

+ And an important, related piece from NPR: How smartphones are used to stalk, control domestic abuse victims.

5. Upper/Inner Management

“The young guys on the street look to the gang members inside as role models … Getting sentenced to prison is like being called up to the majors.” Graeme Wood explains how gangs took over prisons, and crime on the streets.

6. Jiro Dreams of CD

When it comes to technology and gadgets, one usually associates Japan with the cutting edge. So it’s all the more surprising that Japan is one of the few countries where the compact disk is still king.

+ The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman: “Most people think of U2 as a wildly popular rock band. Actually, they’re a wildly popular, semi-secretly Christian rock band.” (That explains why they didn’t respond when my mom tried to get them to play at my Bar Mitzvah.)

7. Scot Free?

The polls suggest that tomorrow’s vote is still too close to call. In the meantime, there have been massive rallies held by both sides of Scottish independence debate.

+ Boston Globe: 10 things to know about Scotland’s vote for independence.

+ Buzzfeed: 9 charts that show how the UK would change without Scotland. (An obsession with these lists of charts is the inevitable long term outcome of gaining independence from the UK.)

8. Riders on the Storm

San Francisco is the petri dish for car services. So it’s worth paying attention to what’s happened to the traditional cab business in this town where “the number of trips taken by taxi plummeted 65 percent in just 15 months.”

9. Borderline Personalities

Modern Farmer’s Cat Ferguson tells the unlikely story of the cowboys who patrol the border to protect Americans from ticks. (They must use some really tiny lassos.)

10. The Bottom of the News

The endless iPhone reviews are hitting the Internet this week. So Chris Plante on The Verge decided to create romantic poetry constructed exclusively from iPhone 6 reviews. It’s like normal poetry, but dirtier.

+ Heating pads might feel good, but most physical therapists say they don’t do much when it comes to the healing process. (Tell that to my cat.)

+ Cary Elwes talks about his upcoming book about the making of The Princess Bride. (Anybody want a peanut?)

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