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#NPRreads: In Defense Of California And Wearing The Same Thing To Work Daily

#NPRreads is a new feature we're testing out on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom will share pieces that have kept them reading. They'll share tidbits on Twitter using the #NPRreads hashtag, and on occasion we'll share a longer take here on the blog.

This week, we bring you a bounty of six super insightful reads.

From Jennifer Ludden, a national correspondent for NPR News:

My son's Little League team recently got free jerseys from the Washington Nationals, and now I understand why. As this Washington Post article explains, it's part of a larger effort to get more lower-income and minority kids interested in the game. (Though every team in the city got the jerseys – thank you, Nats!) Little League membership is down for many reasons, including — apparently – the fact that all that standing around in the outfield and waiting for your turn at bat leaves too many boys bored. As someone who covers family issues, I was also intrigued by this:

"A significant impediment to widening that pipeline to baseball may be the changes that have altered the structure of American families.

"In a 15-year study of 10,000 youth baseball players, Ogden found that the sport is drawing a more affluent, suburban and white base than it once did. In another study he conducted, 95 percent of college baseball players were raised in families with both biological parents at home — at a time when only 46 percent of Americans 18 and younger have grown up in that traditional setting.

"'We're looking at a generation who didn't play catch with their dads,' Ogden says, 'and that's at the core of the chasm between baseball and African Americans. Kids are just not being socialized into the game.'"

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From Gerry Holmes, deputy managing editor for NPR News:

My memory of school lunch is pretty well engrained: mushed up peas resembling the green ooze that covers a swamp, a meat slice that could have doubled as a ping pong paddle and cold, hard potatoes — shields for the toughest food fights imaginable. That's a far cry from this recipe I saw on a school's menu from Britain:

Cod fingers in five-spice crumbs with yoghurt and fennel slaw (serves 500)

For the cod fingers (2 per child):
30kg sustainable pollock

A big tray of seasoned flour

24 eggs

1kg panko breadcrumbs

250g Chinese five-spice

1kg oats

That's what a revolution of sorts looks like – whether you like Cod or not – and it's happening. This Guardian article tells the story of what's happened since celebrated Chef Jamie Oliver launched his battle 10 years ago to make school food better (in the U.K. and U.S.) and healthier. Nicole Pisani is the latest food star in this engaging read; she's a cutting edge chef who threw out the high end restaurant towel and decided to follow to jump on Oliver's bandwagon.

From Nicole Beemsterboer, senior producer on NPR's investigations unit:

This Houstoniamag.com article, had my stomach in knots from the first line:

"Jack Kreye, 4 years old, 40 pounds, and around three feet tall, was shuffling around his parents' new pool in 2008 when he discovered that his sister's bucket had somehow ended up in the water. "He couldn't reach it, so he found a shovel," remembered his mother Sherry. It was a chilly day in March, which is why Jack was wearing heavy boots, pants, and a sweatshirt when he fell in while reaching for his sister's bucket. He sank to the bottom almost immediately, even as his parents were carrying on a discussion just 30 or 40 feet away. There was no splash, no flailing, only silence."

Drowning is the number one cause of death for children under 4. It's easy to reject a statistic like that out of hand and assume it couldn't apply to you, but the Houstonian laid out why it would be foolish – and even harmful – to make assumptions. Drowning isn't what we think it is. It's quiet, it's fast and it often happens when adults are watching kids.

"Contrary to what you might expect, [children who drown] are rarely the victims of neglectful parenting. According to a 2004 study by Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to educating the public about child safety, 88 percent of all children who drown are under some kind of supervision at the time. And death by drowning strikes families of every race, economic group, and level of education, although the number of Hispanic and African American victims is disproportionately high.

"So, the inevitable question: how could something so preventable happen so disturbingly often? Could misperceptions about swimming pools—including the look and sound of drowning—be to blame?"

From Wright Bryan, a producer on NPR's social media desk:

Here's an Internet confessional worth reading: "Why I Wear The Exact Same Thing To Work Every Day." It's a new take on dressing for success from Matilda Kahl, who describes herself as "an art director at one of the leading creative advertising agencies in New York." For three years she has worn the same outfit to work every day. Is she crazy, or just crazy smart? Kahl comes across as the latter, explaining her strategy as a way to level the playing field with the men in her office. They go through their professional lives unburdened by the same appearance expectations placed on women, rarely having days like the one that changed both Kahl's wardrobe and life:

"About three years ago, I had one of those typical Monday mornings that many women have experienced. With a fairly important meeting on the horizon, I started to try on different outfits, lacking any real direction or plan. ... I finally chose something I regretted as soon as I hit the subway platform."

From Krishnadev Calamur, a blogger on NPR's news blog, The Two-Way:

Walter Scott is the most recent unarmed black man to be shot dead by a white police officer. But the narrative in this case from North Charleston, S.C., has been different — at least so far. Officer Michael Slager, who shot and killed Scott, was fired from the force and charged with murder. Whatever ingredients existed for yet another Feruguson, Mo.-like backlash faded when video emerged showing Slager shoot Scott multiple times in the back. As someone close to North Charleston's Mayor told Jack Hitt, who is writing in The New Yorker, "Before the sun was down, everyone was unified."

There's a reason for this, Hitt writes. It's South Carolina's bold attempts to move away from its often-violent racial past. Here's an excerpt:

"The state's history of violence against black men and women is excruciating to know, or to read. If you are unfamiliar, then Google 'George Junius Stinney, Jr.,' 'Julia and Frazier Baker,' the Hamburg massacre, or the Orangeburg massacre. That is South Carolina at its worst. But there is a streak of fair-mindedness in the state's history—an ancient ideal that Mark Twain parodied as coming straight out of the chivalric fiction of Sir Walter Scott's mist-filled novels of courtly knights. While reserved exclusively for whites for most of its history, this tendency appears from time to time and is always surprising, especially to outsiders."

From Chris Benderev, a producer on NPR's Weekend Edition:

As a born-and-raised Californian, I frequently bounce between feelings of pride and shame for my home state. I think it offers an unparalleled mix of exciting, beautiful and strange landscapes. It's a fantastic place to live. But of course it's also known for opulence, apathy and overplaying its hand when it comes to water use.

The New York Times highlighted that last point this past weekend with breathtaking photos of lush lawns and swimming pools next to bone-dry desert. As I scrolled through, my shame returned in full force.

But then a rebuttal in Matter by Steven Johnson brought back a sliver of pride . He argued that the Times piece was just east coasters wanting badly to see California get its comeuppance. He says we should remember that because the weather is so temperate, Californians use less power to heat and cool their homes than other Americans. Plus, the majority of the water usage goes to agriculture, which the entire country benefits from.

Here's an excerpt where Johnson responds to a quote in the NY Times piece from a historian who says "Mother Nature didn't intend for 40 million people to live here":

"First of all, Mother Nature didn't intend for 2 million people to live on Manhattan Island either. Mother Nature would also be baffled by skyscrapers, the Delaware Aqueduct, and the Lincoln Tunnel. Anyone living anywhere in the United States — apart from the most radical of the off-the-gridders, most of whom are probably in northern California anyway — is dependent on a vast web of human engineering designed specifically to mess with Mother Nature's intentions. The question is whether that engineering is sustainable."