I don’t think many readers will find much controversy in the assertion that things have been hard over the past few years, and 2010 and 2011 were especially hellish in my neck of the woods. So it’s no surprise to find artists focusing on the difficulties they see (and often live themselves). It’s rare, though, to find someone who’s singing about the bad times with as much depth and empathy as we find in Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’sHere We Rest, my 2011 CD of the Year. Continue reading →
On January 27, I wrote an “open letter” to Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer and former CEO of Scaled Composites, expressing my disappointment that he would co-sign a commentary in the Wall Street Journal that contains incorrect and misleading information on climate science and economics. On January 28th, Rutan responded in the comments. He also CCed his response to Anthony Watts, who published Rutan’s response on Wattsupwiththat.com. What transpired is a huge number of comments that essentially drowned Rutan’s and my exchanges.
This post extracts from the original comment thread just Rutan’s and my responses, ignoring all the other comments, good, bad, or ugly.
Comments on this post are closed, and any further exchanges between Rutan and I from the original post will be posted here for clarity. If you have something to say about what we’re talking about, please comment in the original post’s comment thread instead – everything here is also there. Continue reading →
Keith Hurgess’ consistent punctuality was the sole reason he hadn’t been fired from his job as cashier at Billy’s Place. He parked his car in the Billy’s Place parking lot at 11:53 AM on a Saturday in the middle of August and took a deep breath, attempting to make his 12:00-20:00 shift sound more bearable. In militant preparation of miserable customers, an insatiable manager and the putrid stench of the restaurant, he placed his black work hat on top of his semi-wet hair, pinned his name tag on his shirt, switched on his verbal filter, etched a placid expression on his face, and courageously stepped out of his car.
Outside the restaurant a poster depicting a monstrously large hamburger proclaimed: “Home of the Famous McBiggy Burger! One Billion (And Counting) Sold!” Under read the microscopic fine print: “560 calories. Billy’s Place and its affiliates are not responsible for diabetes, heartburn, unexpected surgery, or sudden death”. Keith couldn’t fathom that at one time, he was proud to serve these burgers to the populace. When he started working at Billy’s place the year before, he vowed that not one customer would have to wait more than five minutes for their food. But after successive careless mistakes and complaints, Keith’s reasons for staying at Billy’s Place dissolved to a lack of other places hiring, and a steady paycheck. As measly as his hourly $7.75 was, it remained an income. Continue reading →
The Institute for Science and International Security is dedicated to preventing nuclear proliferation and its president, David Albright, is often quoted in the mainstream media. Much of its energy is spent in raising the alarm about Iran, though — thank goodness for small favors — it doesn’t call for an attack.
For example ISIS declared that the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran contained “the most comprehensive detail and analysis to date [of] evidence of nuclear weaponization-related activities conducted by Iran.” Nevertheless, it concluded, “Notably absent … is any assessment by the IAEA of Iran’s capability to make a nuclear explosive device based on what it learned through these activities.” Continue reading →
Update: To read other articles in this series, click here.
Climate scientists who study the history of the Earth’s climate (also known as paleoclimatologists) know that modern carbon dioxide levels are at their highest level in the last 800,000 years. They tell us this because they’ve been able to measure the carbon dioxide in air that is actually 800,000 years old. So how do they do that?
Scientists know how much carbon dioxide was in the air hundreds of thousands of years ago because they actually have small samples of ancient air stored in glacial ice. To get a feel for how this works, consider the following examples. Continue reading →
Actress and lesbian Cynthia Nixon has caused a firestorm in the gayosphere by saying that for her, sexual orientation was a choice.
Obviously, this view undermines the arguments of gay political orthodoxy, and gives the right wingnuts who run “gay rehabilitation prayer camps” support that they were right all along–”See Harold, I told you he was just doing it to be ornery.” Of course, the truth is probably like most things: The truth is somewhere in between. It may be for her, but it isn’t for most gay people.
At any rate, this becomes pretty scary when coupled with another news item from the week, news that conservatives are conservative because they are stupid.Continue reading →
[Update: My original post, Burt Rutan's comments, and my responses to his comments have been copied here. That post has closed comments and will be updated with any further discussion Burt and I have, either in the massive comment thread below or independently. If you're interested in just Burt's and my discussion to date, minus the mass of additional commentary, please feel free to read the new post.]
Dear Mr. Rutan,
Ever since you won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 you’ve been a minor hero of mine. I’ve felt that the development of private human spaceflight was the critical next step toward moving humanity off our small blue marble since I was in high school, and SpaceShipOne was the first major step in that direction. The commercialization of space travel is a large part of why I work in aerospace myself designing satellite and space vehicle electronics.
This is why I was disappointed to find that you had co-signed a Wall Street Journalcommentary regarding human-caused climate disruption along with 15 other scientists and engineers. The commentary was replete with incorrect and misleading information. So much so, in fact, that I was surprised that you, as an engineer, would attach your name to it. Continue reading →
“If all we feel is outrage, then we have not found a remedy.”- Jim Geringer, Governor, State of Wyoming, following Matthew Shepard’s death
Since I was a young girl and old enough to understand who I was, I have known discrimination. It hardens your heart and dampens your soul until you conquer the fear. Some don’t make it and commit suicide. To have the media, family, co-workers and friends tell jokes and make hurtful remarks is the life of a GLBT person. Unless you are a person of color, you likely don’t know what it is like to live a life of separation. As a GLBT person you are not allowed to do basic things like date, or attend the prom. You can’t hold hands or show affection in public for fear of retribution, or get relationship advice, or bring your boyfriend or girlfriend home to meet the parents. If you do, then you risk abandonment, ridicule, or even physical harm. There are churches who condemn us, and even reject us from attending. We are made to seem sub-human, and even demonic. You can’t experience the life you were born to live….freedom to choose, freedom to live, freedom to marry.
I had to leave a job I loved in my early career for fear of being found out. Continue reading →
After feeding twenty-six books into my head in thirty days, I’d like to say that I’m letting my brain decompress, but I’ll be honest: I’m still reading. In fact, I have two books going right now, Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself and Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson. I want to hit up Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams and Wendell Barry’s agrarian essays, too, and I want to spend some time with David Cushman’s book on The Wilderness, Bloody Promenade. Maybe then I’ll be done. Maybe.
But there’s David Gessner’s Sick of Nature. There’s Susan Jane Gilman’s Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven. There’s George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier. And there’s still John Muir looming over everything, a backdrop to much of what I’ve read, as significant as the Sierra Nevadas, as significant as Thoreau and Walden.
I’m in my second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m a Republocrat. I like the job. It pays $174,000, has great medical benefits, provides a really nice private gym to use, and lots of people have to be nice to me. And there are those $110,000 in taxpayer-funded fringe benefits I get (including plush retirement plans, paid time off, and contributions to Social Security and Medicare taxes). I’ve got a staff to answer the phone and email, run my Twitter and Facebook stuff, and deal with those damned constituents. And I’m in a relatively safe district, thanks to that Republocrat-friendly redistricting bill passed in my state last year. Hey, sometimes people let me use their corporate jets! (Well, as long as I keep quiet about those trips and pay commercial airfare for it.)
Yeah. This is a sweet gig. I want to stay here. In fact, I want to … move up. Be in the leadership. Be a mover and shaker. Now how am I gonna do that beyond kissing the speaker’s ass (and those of his damn deputies, too) and voting however he (or she) tells me to?
It will take money for that Republocrat to ascend higher in the House’s toadying ladder of leadership. Lots of money. And as we know, House members (and senators) have a vehicle to collect and dispense money to other House members — the leadership political action committee. A principal reason for the existence of leadership PACs to is buy friends and influence on Capitol Hill. Apparently, hard work and intelligence are insufficient. Continue reading →
I predicted Romney to win and I am sticking to it. Let the kids at the Tea Party sleepover have their fun, sooner or later the grown ups are going to come upstairs, turn off the music, make everyone get back into bed and cut out the lights, just like they always do. Post-Eisenhower, the Republican Party has worked on the principle that the great unwashed should just shut up and do what their betters tell them to do. And when push comes to shove, they will.
So what do the results really tell us?
Three things, I think.
First, the average IQ of any large group of randomly selected people should be a hundred, but it may be quite a bit lower than that in South Carolina. Continue reading →
The Platinum LPs, awarded for exceptional artistic merit, are always the point where this process begins to wear on me. I want to make sure I have included all the worthy bands and that my words do those acknowledged justice. I never feel like I have succeeded on either count, and this year seems even worse than usual. So my apologies to the artists here: my remarks are in no way up to the standards of the music you produced last year.
#26: Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism by Thomas B. Kohnstamm (2008)
I don’t know much about Brazil beyond the fact that the Creature from the Black Lagoon lived there on some branch of the Amazon. I also know that a different branch of the Amazon, the River of Doubt, nearly killed Teddy Roosevelt. And I know Rio is there, but what happens in Rio stays in Rio, so I don’t know many details.
So when I stumbled across Kohnstamm’s book about being a travel writer in Brazil, I thought it would be a good chance to learn something about the country. The book looked interesting, too, because it implied a good ethics lesson: Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?
Well, I didn’t learn much about Brazil, and I didn’t get to ponder writerly ethics so much as a get a pretty explicit lesson on what not to do, but Kohnstamm kept me entertained with his Thompsonesque antics. This was “travel hedonism” at its gonzoest. Continue reading →
Joe Paterno is dead. Lots has been written and more will be added to the pile in the coming days and weeks. So let me add my two cents while the thoughts are fresh in my mind.
Had the last few months not happened we’d now be anointing JoePa for sainthood. As you’ve been told so many times before, and are now hearing all over again, he was all that was good and true in collegiate athletics, a man who did things the right way, etc. The thing is, that’s a woefully simplistic commentary on Paterno and how he did business. Also, the last few months did happen. So we now find ourselves needing to address Paterno’s legacy in two parts. Let’s do the ugly bit first. Continue reading →
The heat continued. With it came horrendous Santa Ana winds and subsequent allergic reactions. In order to steer clear I would have to stay inside with windows and doors shut. But it was sweltering and this was not possible. I took a stiff hit of Gale’s old nasal spray and felt the sting and uplift that halted my sneezing spell. There was the sound of a dog yelping at his owner, and the owner’s dangling keys as he shouted, “Good boy! That’s a good boy!”
The phone rang and it was Alexandra panicking that her father wasn’t home.
“He’s a big boy. Leave him alone,” I said, going outside and taking a seat on the deck.
“Hank, you must know where he is,” she said in her throaty smoker’s voice.
“What am I, his mother?”
“You’re his brother. You’re like the Hardy Boys but a century older.”
After visiting Nashville, Tennessee on the fourth night of our road trip, my sister, Julie, and I geared up for a day of historical site-seeing along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Our brother, Dan, and I attempted this drive once last summer after receiving a recommendation to take the famous byway from Nashville to Southern Mississippi before cutting South to New Orleans. Not 30 miles into our trip, we crossed a park ranger who threatened us off the parkway with a ticket and authoritative scolding. Unbeknownst to us, a 14-foot yellow Penske truck is considered a “commercial vehicle” and eyesore on a scenic byway.
Though Dan could not join us on this road trip, Julie and I took advantage of having our compact Toyota Camry and picked up where Dan and I left off. Continue reading →