Since most people will be off for the holidays next week, this is the last issue of NextDraft until we hit 2013. For today's edition, I decided to collect some of the best and most popular long reads I've linked to over the year and paste (er, I mean carefully curate) them all into one special Holiday Reads Extravaganza. You'll have plenty of solid material to get you through the holiday week without NextDraft. Thank you for your readership, excellent feedback, and support in 2012. Happy holidays from all of me at NextDraft.
+ Let's start things off with a new, short read. This is my last Tweetage Wasteland post of 2012 and a good one to consider as you plan for the new year. Technology used to be a way to solve life’s little problems. Now, technology is used to solve the little problems caused by technology. So how did a bunch of highly effective Type A professionals walk into a conference session and find balance in their lives without even knowing it? Find out in: The answer is just a click away.
2. Love, Guilt and Parenthood
Former White House correspondent Ron Fournier didn't realize that his son Tyler had Asperger’s syndrome until he saw a character with similar traits on the show Parenthood. That began his journey to better understand and appreciate his son (with a little help from two of the men he once covered). Do not miss this great and moving read: How Two Presidents Helped Me Deal With Love, Guilt, and Fatherhood.
+ After the death of his son, Brian Burke -- a "fists-up, knock-your-teeth-out gladiator" legend of the NHL -- found himself in a strange, new role. He became a strong advocate for gays in so-called macho sports. This story is all the more powerful because of the progress that's been made since it was written (in part because of guys like Brian Burke). GQ's Mary Rogan does a pitch-perfect job of telling this sad but inspiring story: Out on the Ice.
3. Be Cool
There's probably a cooler version of yourself out there. The person you thought you'd be back when you were in college. In this great GQ article, Eric Puchner decides to find that cooler version of himself. And then they hang out. The Cooler Me.
4. The March of the Nerds
From Mat Honan: "In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook." Honan was essentially deleted. The one upside was that he could write an amazing cautionary tale for the rest of us. From Wired: How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking.
+ "They'd been working 14-hour days, six or seven days a week, trying to reelect the president, and now everything had been broken at just the wrong time. It was like someone had written a Murphy's Law algorithm and deployed it at scale." The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal provides an inside look at the dream team of engineers who built the software that helped win an election: When the Nerds Go Marching In.
In the NYT Magazine, Amos Kamil shares a very well-written account of his days at Horace Mann and the school's secret history of sexual abuse (and it's connection to Penn State): "The questions of Penn State, I realized, are the questions of Horace Mann and perhaps every place that has been haunted by a similar history." Prep School Predators.
+ Buzz Bissinger's piece on Penn State - Good Riddance, Joe Paterno - was graphic and horrific. And because of that, it accurately got to the heart of what made that scandal so unthinkably terrible. The article will upset you. That's why you should read it. Bissinger's refusal to pull punches helped get this story the coverage it deserved.
6. Getting Healthy at The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory has a hundred and sixty restaurants that each feature more than three hundred menu items that are served up to cool eighty million customers a year. Whether you're a fan of the Cheesecake Factory or not, there's no denying that - like many major chains that enjoy the benefits of scale - their product is consistent, the prices remain under control, and their efficiency is impressive. The New Yorker's always excellent Atul Gawande wonders: What can hospitals learn about quality from the Cheesecake Factory?
7. Getting Oral
"Everybody was so talented and nobody knew it yet." The Vanity Fair oral histories of television shows are always awesome. The latest one is on a cult classic that launched the careers of the folks you see in what seems like every comedic movie. 2 Good 2 Be 4Gotten: An Oral History of Freaks and Geeks.
Michael Lewis wrote a very interesting Vanity Fair profile of President Obama. It's less a look at the politics that fill the airwaves, and more a look at the day to day existence of a person who is president. For example, here's Obama on decision-making: "You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself ... You can’t wander around. It's much harder to be surprised. You don’t have those moments of serendipity. You don’t bump into a friend in a restaurant you haven’t seen in years. The loss of anonymity and the loss of surprise is an unnatural state. You adapt to it, but you don’t get used to it -- at least I don’t."
9. Peanut Butter and Pickles
I love peanut butter. But more importantly for this story, I know peanut butter. I know peanut butter the way Da Vinci knew fluid mechanics, the way Einstein knew physics, the way Grand Master Flash knows a turntable. I have eaten it. I have coddled it. I inhaled. What can I say? That’s how I spread. And this is the story I've been waiting for my whole life. I realize now that this is the reason I launched NextDraft in the first place, the reason I read and share stories, the reason I have Internet access. The New York Times has blown the sliced bread off the biggest culinary secret of all time. Nothing in this world goes together better than peanut butter and pickles. This has been my go-to meal since childhood. Every kid who came over got served one, and loved it. And my six year-old won't eat his peanut butter sandwiches any other way. You want value from a news source. Trust me, I just gave you value. (And for the layperson, these are the pickles to start with.)
10. Wait, There's More
Here are some more excellent pieces for your holiday reading pleasure. Shorter intros; equally great reads.