Mental Yoga Sunday / 5 Favorite Long Form Reads This Week / Issue No. 18

The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing — to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.
— John Keats
Mental Yoga Sunday posts are meant to be like a big mute button you aim at the rest of the world. Just you, your chair, a mug, a spot next to a dust-filled sunny spot or a rainy window. Take in a long form read...sip by sip.

"As classes got underway this week, something was missing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Something weird.

The sidewalks of Cambridge were jammed with students and their boxes, as they always are during the first week of September. There was nowhere to park. Moving vans blocked traffic on every street. Freshmen walked the “infinite corridor” of the main building as their parents took photos and consulted maps, mortifying their children. Tanned professors returning from vacation unlocked their labs. Tour guides pointed out the nuclear reactor in the center of campus. (It’s easier to miss than it sounds.)

But about the weirdness: Across the street from the Media Lab, a grand neoclassical building rises at 70 Amherst Street, an L-shaped stone structure with a courtyard at its crook, over which look two ornate balconies held up by Doric columns. A large oak tree grows in the courtyard, a tire swing that for decades was tied to a sturdy branch is gone. All is quiet. You can hear the plink on stone each time an acorn drops.

This was Senior House, the oldest dormitory on campus, built in 1916 by the architect William Welles Bosworth. For 101 years it welcomed freshman and returning students. Since the ’60s it was a proudly anarchic community of creative misfits and self-described outcasts—the special kind of brilliant oddballs who couldn’t or didn’t want to fit in with the mainstream eggheads at MIT. Some did drugs and dropped out. Some did drugs and graduated. Others were proudly “straight edge,” eschewing drugs and regarding their bodies and minds as pristine temples. Many went on to create startups, join huge tech firms, and change the technological world as we know it." - Read Full Story

"The Amish community is growing at a rate that may surprise outsiders — and that growth is helping to push the sect’s adoption of technology.

The Amish population in the United States is estimated at around 313,000, up nearly 150 percent from 25 years ago, according to researchers at Elizabethtown College near Lancaster. Large families are the chief reason: Married women have seven children on average, and Amish people marry at a higher rate and at a younger age than Americans over all.

In the Lancaster area, as open land has become scarce and more costly, the rapid population growth has pushed some Amish families into more rural areas in places like upstate New York. Others have left farming and moved into business trades. Moses Smucker, for example, opened a food store and sandwich shop at Philadelphia’s popular Reading Terminal Market. Six days a week, he is driven from the Lancaster area to Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia is very fast-paced,” he said. “Then I go home, and I can drive my horse. I enjoy horses. Some people don’t, but I do. It slows everything down."

His business, Smucker’s Quality Meats and Grill, caters to tourists and office workers near City Hall. It takes credit cards, and has four and a half stars on Yelp. (“Pot roast beef sandwich was PUUURFECT!!” one reviewer wrote.)

Referring to technology, Mr. Smucker said, “You have to do what you have to do to stay in business. People are starting to understand that." - Read Full Story

Seven Days of Heroin (Cincinnati Enquirer)

6:06 AM

“Good morning!”

Officer Tim Eppstein’s greeting wakes about a half dozen homeless people dozing beneath the I-71 overpass on Butler Street in Cincinnati. Their heads poke out from under dirty blankets, eyes squinting to see who’s there.

“You’re not under arrest,” Eppstein assures them. He’s making the rounds at Cincinnati homeless camps to hand out eviction notices.

As the residents of the makeshift camps slowly get to their feet, Eppstein encourages those addicted to heroin to get some help. He can see by the orange syringe caps littering the ground that many of them need it.

The brightening morning light reveals some familiar faces. Terri Byrd, 26, is here with her boyfriend. Eppstein knows she’s got warrants out for her arrest, mostly on charges of carrying drugs and syringes.

He explains to Byrd that he has to arrest her.

“I’m sorry,” Eppstein says.

The handcuffs snap shut, and tears burst from Byrd’s bright blue eyes.

Her boyfriend stuffs their belongings into a backpack and turns to his girlfriend, now slouched in the caged backseat of the police car.

He blows her a kiss. Then starts walking down Third Street, disappearing into the crowd of people making their way to work." - Read Full Story

"Michelle Jones was released last month after serving more than two decades in an Indiana prison for the murder of her 4-year-old son. The very next day, she arrived at New York University, a promising Ph.D. student in American studies.

In a breathtaking feat of rehabilitation, Jones, now 45, became a published scholar of American history while behind bars, and presented her work by videoconference to historians’ conclaves and the Indiana General Assembly. With no internet access and a prison library that skewed toward romance novels, she led a team of inmates that pored through reams of photocopied documents from the state archives to produce the Indiana Historical Society’s best research project last year. As prisoner No. 970554, Jones also wrote several dance compositions and historical plays, one of which is slated to open at an Indianapolis theater in December.

N.Y.U. was one of several top schools that recruited her for their doctoral programs. She was also among 18 selected from more than 300 applicants to Harvard University’s history program. But in a rare override of a department’s authority to choose its graduate students, Harvard’s top brass overturned Jones’s admission after some professors raised concerns that she downplayed her crime during the application process." - Read Full Story

"To qualify for the list, it’s not sufficient for a film to be sci-fi (Blade Runner doesn’t count). Nor are aliens alone enough (sorry, E.T.Close Encounters, and Arrival). The prerequisite is simple: To be eligible, a movie has to be at least partly set in space. Some of the movies below entirely take place in space, while in others, space makes more of a cameo. But if you’re wondering why a movie you love didn’t make our cut, an absence of actual space scenes might explain the snub." - Read Full Story