4 articles you don't want to miss: Happiness, Ramadan, frappuccinos on the prairie, robotic fingers

DecodeDC's weekly recap of must-read stories

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It’s been a rough few days newswise, with little relief from violent, heart-breaking stories. So do yourself a favor and apply these few daubs of journalistic salve before heading back out into the real world of news.

Love People, Not Pleasure,” says happiness-researcher Arthur C. Brooks in the New York Times Sunday Review. Brooks is a social scientist and president of the conservative think-tank The American Enterprise Institute. His op-ed reviews recent research into human happiness revealing, among other things, that “the No. 1 unhappiness-provoking event in a typical day is spending time with one’s boss.”

But it was this anecdote, describing a (probably apocryphal, Brooks notes) interaction between President Calvin Coolidge and his wife while touring a poultry farm that made this story a DecodeDC must-read:

“The first lady noticed that there were very few roosters, and asked how so many eggs could be fertilized. The farmer told her that the virile roosters did their jobs over and over again each day. ‘Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge,’ she told him. The president, hearing the remark, asked whether the rooster serviced the same hen each time. No, the farmer told him — there were many hens for each rooster. ‘Perhaps you could point that out Mrs. Coolidge,’ said the president.”

Happy Ramadan to the estimated 24 percent of the world’s population that is Muslim. That makes Islam second only to Christianity among humanity’s religions, so to ignore the holy month of Ramadan, and these last, extra-holy 10 days would be like not noticing Christmas or Passover somewhere else. Be a citizen of the globe and take a glimpse of what about a quarter of the earth’s population is doing these days, with this National Geographic photo gallery of Muslims celebrating Ramadan around the world. My favorite pic is of a little girl in a red dress, surrounded by women in long, white robes, attending evening prayer in East Java, Indonesia.

If you’re close to my age (cough-40-cough), your worlds will probably collide in a hilarious and thought-provoking way in this surreal piece by Gary Altmeter on McSweeney’s humor blog (officially “Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency”). It’s titled, “Episodes From Season 4 of Little House on the Prairie Reimagined to Reflect the Presence of a Starbucks in Walnut Grove.” This synopsis, from a fictional “Episode 22,” is titled “I’ll Be Waving As You Drive Away”:

“Charles brings a sullen Mary to Iowa so that she can study at a school for the blind. In Walnut Grove, financial crisis has come upon the town. The Ingalls and the Olesons and other families are preparing for the possibility that they will have to start a new life elsewhere. Laura and Andrew Garvey visit Starbucks for one last communal Frappy Hour. They ask for extra java chips on their java chip blended Frappuccino and are dismayed to discover the java chip crop was destroyed by locusts.”

Finally, after finding myself, for the five-thousandth time since the start of motherhood, wishing for an extra arm, I decided to settle for a few more fingers instead. Sign me up, MIT; I’ll take what I can get.

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