#8:The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson (1953) #9:The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson (1961)
The thermometer says it’s 23 degrees, but the wind blowing east off the Gulf of Maine says differently. I can hardly feel my fingers though my deerskin mittens have been off for less than half a minute. I wanted to grab a couple snapshots with my Blackberry of the waves as they roll in and hit the granite shoreline that the receding tide has been slowly revealing. As the waves hit, the same wind that’s numbing my fingers is sheering off the tops of the whitecaps before they hardly have time to spray. There’s a booming flash of white—and then the wind erases it.
I’m standing at the southern tip of Mt. Desert Island, near the western end of the natural seawall. I’ve come here, to the edge of the sea, to spend some time with Rachel Carson’s The Edge of the Sea. Continue reading →
The Tech Curmudgeon looked up the word “technology” in his dead tree American Heritage Dictionary, and just in case he was dating himself, he looked up the word in an online dictionary too. Both dictionaries generally agree with each other that the word “technology” means the application of science or knowledge to achieve a practical objective. That’s a pretty broad definition that takes in anything from stereo systems to car engines to air- and spacecraft to oil extraction equipment. So the Tech Curmudgeon wants to know when was it that “technology” came to mean just personal gadgets, social media, and smartphone apps? Continue reading →
Is “Higgs boson” a creative particle or energy field? Can we thus infer an “anti-God particle,” as anti-matter opposes matter, or dark energy battles gravity?
Any covenant with Godhead, in my book, comes down to Creation. Genesis, the source of time, space, and being; in short, existence. Especially our piddling existence. Without creation as we know it, we’d be deficient in mass, not even rocks; or with multiverse speculations, we could also be someone else, who knows where, gabbing with utter aliens. Because we esteem existence (over all the sorry alternatives), let us greet the New Year by honoring the force that could well have made something real out of, well, something not. The “God Particle.” Hallelujah!
Once more, I feel late to the party. I had no idea who Edward Abbey was, yet nearly every nonfiction writer I’ve read so far has referenced him. The only one who hasn’t was Thoreau, and that’s because Abbey hadn’t been born yet—and wouldn’t be for another sixty years after Thoreau’s death.
Abbey and Thoreau still share a connection, though: Novelist Larry McMurtry has apparently referred to Abbey as “the Thoreau of the American West.” Even the dead guy has a link to Abbey. Damn.
I stumbled on Abbey completely by accident. A blurb on his book Desert Solitaire described it as “an account of Abbey’s seasons as a ranger at Arches National Park.” Having just spent this past summer as a National Park ranger, and contemplating a similar writing project, I thought Abbey might be of use.
Atmospheric CO2 concentration data from ice core (blue, 1750-1975)
and direct atmospheric measurements (red, 1960-2010) vs. “compounding
interest” model described in post (purple). Click for a larger version.
In many ways, climate science is difficult. There’s a reason that the best climate models require some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world in order to run. But the most important concepts are easily understood by a non-expert with either a little mathematical skill or the ability to use some simple online tools. This is the inaugural post of a new series that seeks to illustrate how anyone and everyone can understand the most important concepts underlying climate science and the reality that is human-caused climate disruption.
Update: To read other articles in this series, click here.
Are people adding a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere? It’s such an easy question to ask, but the answer depends on what you mean by “a lot.” And it depends on what you’re referring to. Continue reading →
When ToR3 started some of you probably looked at the relative popularity of the bands involved, reflected in things like the size of their Facebook communities and the numbers of people they draw when they’re on tour, and figured the Finals would wind up featuring either The Horrors or The Postelles facing off with either The Raveonettes or Eilen Jewell. But, now that The Blueflowers have defeated Doco in the second semi-final, we’re looking at a battle we maybe didn’t expect: two bands that are somewhat lower in national profile (although hopefully that’s changing). And who are actually very good friends when they aren’t in the ring (it was Ed, TLP’s manager, in fact, who turned me on to The Blueflowers several months ago).
Major congrats to Doco, by the way. They’re one of those no-frills acts that does nothing but practice and tour and thrive on the energy of their fans and the live show. Great run, guys, and we’ll see you here shortly in our Best CDs of 2011 series.
Here’s my New Year’s gift, a light bauble of a jingle for those normally put off by reason in rhyme. I gave up trying to take Newt seriously enough to write prose for him; like Kissinger per Tom Lehrer, he’s moving himself beyond satire. But I found a thesis and inspiration from that famous lyric celebrated by heavy drinkers. Enjoy.
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should this self-adoring crackpot,
Not by satire be enshrined? Continue reading →
Katahdin, some twenty miles to my west, looks like a sketch done in chalk, set against the winter-gray sky. Its ever-present clouds hover today down where its knees might be if the great mountain had them. Katahdin always has clouds. Henry David Thoreau described Katahdin as “a cloud-factory.”
“I entered within the skirts of the cloud which seemed forever drifting over the summit, and yet would never be gone, but was generated out of that pure air as fast as it flowed away,” Thoreau wrote.
The great hermit of Walden is much on my mind today as I read his book The Maine Woods and, by happenstance, retrace part of his route. Continue reading →
I do not believe in God. Still, arguing against God, as Dawkins, Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens have done, is a mug’s game. Whether it’s Allah, or dead relatives, or the constellations, or stupid stuff from movies (the Force,) belief in an extrinsic, intercessionary force seems to be a basic human need.
And where there’s a consumer need, an industry will emerge, whether the product is ringtones or salvation. Religion is the business of god. We have had organized religion in every society and every geography at every time in history, and we always will. To quote myself, if we abolished every religion at midnight, we’d have a thousand more by sunrise.
#5: A Year in the Maine Woods by Bernd Heinrich (1994)
When Bernd Heinrich retreated to a cabin in the mountainous forest of western Maine—a place “where the subtle matters, and the spectacular distracts”—he intended to live as close to nature as he could. He took a leave from his post as a professor of zoology at the University of Vermont so that he could take a turn as the eager pupil. He would let nature do the teaching.
The Maine woods, of course, hold an romanticized charm for most people from “away,” which native Mainers immediately dismiss because they understand the curse of blackflies and the rugged bitterness of winter. Heinrich likewise refuses to perpetuate any of that romantic bosh. The world he observes is wondrous enough on its own without being sentimentalized.
The result, A Year in the Maine Woods, is a beautiful, thoughtful meditation on his time in the wilderness. He observes nature with a scientist’s eye and intention, he understands it with a naturalist’s hearts, and he writes about it with a poet’s grace. Continue reading →
I’d like to offer up a theory. Tell me what you think.
I’ve written some lately about the NBA, which despite all its flaws is still my favorite North American professional sports league. (My favorite pro league anywhere, of course, is the English Premiership, the greatest soccer league in the world.) In particular, I’ve pondered The League’s structural issues vis a vis its big vs. small markets, and let’s be clear in understanding that the new labor deal did not fix those problems. It merely swept them under the rug for a few years where they can fester, multiply and grow really big teeth. Continue reading →
Good friends Dotsun Moon and The Lost Patrol squared off in our first semi-final. TLP surged to an early lead, only to have DM mount a furious comeback. In the end, though, TLP was a little too much, holding on for the win and a spot in the Tournament of Rock finals. They await the winner of….
Doco: ”Short version: a fusion of funk, rock, rap, white-boy reggae and blues from three kids who can by god play their instruments. I once wrote, in a ten-second music review for my mobile content service, that they ‘burned with an intensity no single genre could contain.’” - Scholars & RoguesLISTEN Continue reading →
As everyone knows, the United States initiated its nuclear-weapons program in response to Nazi Germany’s. Though getting off to a strong start, just like the U.S. Manhattan Project, it may have become dispersed over too many departments. As well, nuclear physicists were skimmed off by the Wehrmacht’s draft; others were Jews who fled Germany.
In The Diminishing Justice and Utility of Nuclear Deterrence, his contribution to Thinking About Strategy, A Tribute to Sir Michael Quinlan, George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace addresses Adolf Hitler’s position as a driving force in the development of nuclear weapons. (Michael Quinlan served in the British government and was an academic and writer who believed in both nuclear weapons as well as just war and eventual disarmament.) Continue reading →
#4:Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams (2009)
Reading Terry Tempest Williams’ Finding Beauty in a Broken World following David Gessner’s My Green Manifesto proved to be a fortuitous coincidence. The two books work well in conversation with one another because both authors come to realize the importance of thinking local as an approach toward solving larger problems.
Williams sums it up best for herself in a quote from Mother Theresa: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
Whereas Gessner comes to his revelation during a trip down the Charles River, Williams comes to hers by visiting several places and then pieces together her experiences into a literary mosaic—a key conceit that affects both the structure and content of her book. “A mosaic,” she says, “is a conversation between what is broken.” Continue reading →
Considering Bryan Fischer makes so much hateful noise, is it any wonder that it’s relatively difficult to get in touch with him? More’s the pity. I had hoped to correct him for his error and apprise him of a little bit of his own scripture. Maybe this post or one like it will come to his attention, not that I think it will actually do any good. Meanwhile, this post is reaching you. That is what matters.
Disclosure: I, myself, am not an adherent of any faith. I am an agnostic. Continue reading →
#3: Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure by Julian Smith (2010)
To prove himself to the woman he loved and her skeptical stepfather, Ewart Grogan traversed Africa, four-thousand miles from south to north. It took him two and a half years. The year was 1897.
One hundred and eight years later, Julian Smith retraced Grogan’s path in an effort to prove something to himself—although he was still trying to figure out what that “something” might actually be. In Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure, the heart Smith needs to cross is his own.
Just in case you want in on the awesome, and you want to celebrate Christmas in an unconventional way, check out Marvel Comics’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol—with zombies!
Zombies Christmas Carol, published in September, might at first blush seem like yet another adaptation of a classic tale with zombies thrown in, a trend kicked off a couple years ago by Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. Zombies Christmas Carol seems particularly well-suited to the zombie treatment, though, and not just because the story is already filled with supernatural creatures.
#2: My Green Manifesto: Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism by David Gessner (2011)
David Gessner’s journey down Massachusetts’ Charles River may not be Marlowesque in its scope or scale, but it’s nonetheless a trip into his own heart. He undertakes his canoe trip as a way better understand his own connection to the natural world, which he hopes will help him clarify his own conflicting ideas about being environmentally conscious.
The result: My Green Manifesto: Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism. He writes:
most issuers of manifestos begin with their conclusions concluded, their concrete hardened, and their intentions, motives, and views firmly in mind, or in hand, fit to bash you over the head with. I began, on the other hand, with nothing more than questions—questions as numerous as the sources of the Charles River, and as meandering as the river itself. But trust, dear reader, that though these questions do wander, they also reach the sea, moving toward answers if not the answer.