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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019
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Sitdown Sunday: The tale of the Trenchcoat Robbers

Grab a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. How carob traumatised a generation

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Were you given carob to eat as a child, and told that it was ‘just like chocolate’ – only to realise it’s precisely nothing like chocolate? Then you’ll empathise totally with this article.

(The New Yorker, approx 8 mins reading time)

In 1932, the naturopath and Los Angeles Times alternative-medicine columnist Phillip Lovell mentioned sweets made of “figs, nuts, prunes, honey, dates, raisins and carob meal.” By the nineteen-fifties, one of those health-food faddists must have wondered whether, if you closed your eyes tight, and meditated on your well-conditioned bowels, carob didn’t maybe taste a little bit like chocolate.

2. The cult of Mary Beard

Classics don Mary Beard knows a think or two about ancient Rome – and she also knows about power, and being a woman in a man’s world. Here’s a look at how her career has flourished, and how she has hit on issues (like being hounded by trolls) along the way.

(The Guardian, approx 33 mins reading time)

She is not afraid to take apart her own work: at that same conference in the early 1990s, she presented a paper that repudiated one of the scholarly articles that had helped make her name a decade earlier, an influential study of Rome’s Vestal Virgins. It was an extremely unusual thing for a scholar to do. “She doesn’t let herself off – she’s not one of those scholars who is building an unassailable monument of work to leave behind her,” Woolf said. “She is quite happy to go back to her earlier self and say, ‘Nah.’”

3. Don’t leave Facebook

 

shutterstock_328031672 Source: Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com

Ever tried to leave Facebook, and found it really difficult? Or tried to cut down on the time you spend on the site and wondered what Facebook thinks about it? Read on…

(Bloomberg, approx 7 mins reading time)

People who are logging into Facebook less often—but aren’t fully disconnected—are noticing more and more frequent prompts to come back, sometimes multiple times a day, via emails or text messages reminding them what they’re missing out on, according to screenshots and reports from users around the world. Gorantala, who eased off his Facebook usage because of privacy concerns, said his security prompt comes “whenever I don’t log in for a few days.”

4. The price of female pleasure

There have been a fair few high-profile articles of late that look at uncomfortable or disturbing sexual encounters that women have had. And in this article, Lili Loofbourow looks at the ideas of male and female pleasure, and what we’re programmed by society to expect in relation to this.

(The Week, approx 16 mins reading time)

The studies on this are few. A casual survey of forums where people discuss “bad sex” suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience. (Here’s a very unscientific Twitter poll I did that found just that.) But when most women talk about “bad sex,” they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical painDebby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, and one of the forces behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, confirmed this. “When it comes to ‘good sex,’” she told me, “women often mean without pain, men often mean they had orgasms.”

5. The Winter Olympics

Pyeongchang Olympics South Korea's Choe Un Song, top right, skates during a Men's Short Track Speed Skating training session ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea. Source: Felipe Dana

The New York Times has produced an interactive, in-depth issue about the Winter Olympics, with stories about how women’s ski jumping was prohibited, the hidden drama of speedskating, and what cross-country skiing reveals about the human condition. Dig in.

(New York Times)

6. The noose beneath the waves

You might not have heard about the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network, but the work it does is fascinating. It involves 10 teams and hundreds of people who rescue entangled whales on the east coast of the US and Canada. Here’s a look at their work and how fishing gear endangers whales’ lives.

(Hakai, approx 26 mins reading time)

Around the world, entanglement is a major driver of the whale deaths and injuries we can attribute to human activity. It’s also the leading cause of human-related deaths for endangered right whales. The CCS is recognized globally as a leader in disentanglement operations; it developed the protocols and standards followed by whale rescue teams around the world, and delivers training to many of them. This makes Landry and his network largely responsible for the welfare of vulnerable marine mammal populations, as well as the Americans and Canadians who risk their lives to save them.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

shutterstock_402751402 Source: Shutterstock/Sylvia Biskupek

The story from the New Yorker in 2002 is about men called the Trenchcoat Robbers, Ray Bowman and Billy Kirkpatrick, who were prolific criminals.

(Alex Kotlowitz, approx 26 mins reading time)

Bank robberies tend to be committed by inexperienced and desperate people, but Bowman and Kirkpatrick always worked with remarkable preparation and restraint, and they never bragged about their successes. They operated for fifteen years,one year less than Jesse James and his gang, and they robbed an average of two banks annually-always in a different city or town across the Midwest and Northwest. “They’re a throwback to the old days,”one veteran F.B.I.agent told me.”I hope we don’t see anyone like them again.”

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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