CATEGORY: WordsDay

Book Review: Mercedes Wore Black, by Andrea Brunais

Mercedes Wore Black is either a romantic political thriller or a political thriller romance – that’s for the reader to decide…

Mercedes Wore Black by Andrea Brunais (image courtesy Goodreads)

Andrea Brunais is a highly decorated former investigative reporter in Florida. Her new novel, Mercedes Wore Black, reflects her knowledge of Florida politics,investigative journalism, and the changing media climate for reporters who want to write – and writers who want to report.  It’s an interesting book, always lively, at times funny, at times deeply troubling, at times a little frustrating.

Like the Florida politics it depicts with pointed insight, it’s kind of a hot mess.

The novel concerns an investigative journalist, Janis Hawk, who is fired by her newspaper – seemingly as part of the wholesale downsizing of newspapers that goes on apace – but Hawk’s firing has, as one would guess from the introduction, political motives. She’s been stepping on the toes of the rich and powerful: developers who want to ruin delicate sea grass beds to gouge out a deep water docking area at a port only a few miles from plenty of deep water anchorage; an unscrupulous gaming management company trying to take over the Florida lottery business; and, of course, politicians whose greed, lust, and general smarminess they would prefer not to have discussed in public.
Luckily – for both Hawk and the plot – Janis has a wealthy and powerful 2nd wave feminist mentor and friend who puts her into business as a journalist blogger which allows Hawk to continue her investigative reporting. This brings her into contact with both friends (the Mercedes of the title, for example, is an old college friend working for the gubernatorial campaign of a maverick politician with high ideals) and enemies (see above).  From those connections, as the old saw goes, things get interesting.

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Conspiracy

Conspiracies against progress: why the rise of the modern conspiracy theory should concern us all

by David Lambert

Contrails are the wispy white clouds of frozen water vapor that streak across the sky in the wake of jet engines. But according to 17 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds—my generation—contrails are actually “chemtrails,” poisonous chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons. As the world becomes an increasingly scary and complex place with no simple answers, the temptation to create narratives explaining all of its evil will grow. And here lies the heart of the modern conspiracy theory. Yet when fantasy overtakes reality, progress suffers.

Whenever anything bad happens in the world today, from September 11th to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there is a growing gaggle quick to cry, “wake up sheeple!” Continue reading

Energy

What rough beast slouches toward Yellowstone?

Pop quiz: where is just about the last place you would like to punch a deep hole in the earth’s crust?

Drat. The headline gave it away, didn’t it? Well, yes. I would think Yellowstone would come readily to mind. As it turns out, if we’re worried about triggering the eruption of a supervolcano, we’re probably worried too much. For that matter, it seems there must be plenty of places to drill that don’t even involve the Sisyphusian futility of trying to drill through earth so hot it just seals the well, else this wouldn’t even be an issue. Oil giants don’t get to hoard obscene wealth by squandering it stupidly. It’s the environment they squander, and that, rapaciously. Continue reading

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Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive? – Renewable Journal for 7/14/2014

Electric motors provide instant torque. So yes, the Leaf is one hell of a lot of fun to drive.

leaf-dash-display-610.jpgFor more posts in this series, please click here.

FAQ #1: Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive?

Hell yes. In fact, it’s by far the zippiest car I’ve ever owned. Able to go 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, it is more than capable of getting out of its own way merging into traffic, unlike some cars I’ve driven and/or owned in the past.

Having a car that could accelerate into traffic was important for me. At this point there’s so much road construction on my commute every day that I wanted to be able to put my foot down and fit into traffic going at 55+ MPH even when contending with a short merge lane. I had to do that this morning, in fact, since I got stuck behind two big trucks and needed to get out and around them and then up to highway speed quickly.
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Talking about my electric car – Renewable Journal for 7/11/2014

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I was eating lunch with some coworkers recently when the topic of cars came up. As someone who has recently purchased a new car, I mentioned that I had bought an all electric Nissan Leaf, and that kicked off a 10-15 minute discussion of the particulars of charging, the economics of it, pollution, how quiet it is, why I bought it over a Volt or some other electric, expectations for bad weather driving, the confusion between a 100% electric vs. a hybrid, and so on. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Climate

BBC wises up on Climate Science

Last year we bemoaned the fact that the BBC, which we do love dearly in spite of its occasional faults, was consistently blowing it on its climate change coverage. This has been, in the past, for reasons of “balance.” It may also have been the direct or indirect result of the political and “scientific” views of David Jordan, the BBC’s head of editorial standards, reputed to be a climate change “skeptic.” At least this was the theory put forward by Guardian commentator John Ashton. Whatever the case, it was embarrassing, and starting to compromise the BBC’s reputation for scientific coverage.

Hah. It turns out some folks at the BBC Trust seem to feel the same way as we do. And The Telegraph, in a story that Science Correspondent Sarah Knapton obviously enjoyed writing, and that the headline writer had a fun time with as well, provides us with the scoop: “BBC staff told to stop inviting cranks on to science programmes.” 200 staffers are now going to training on issues where the scientific consensus is settled, and to learn “not to insert ‘false balance’ into stories when issues were non-contentious.” And the BBC trust was not alone. In April, the British Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee came to a similar conclusion—the BBC’s coverage of climate change science was lamentable. As Jim Meyer over at Grist points out, the British Government has long accepted climate science, and the BBC was out there looking foolish.

So we’re glad to see that the old regime, if that’s actually what it was, will longer be acceptable, at least at the BBC. This has led to more hilarity, of course. Nigel Lawson, who used to routinely make an appearance to challenge climate scientists, is now complaining that the BBC not inviting him around any more to prattle away is censorship, dammit. Really, just shut up, Nigel, you old crank. You’ve still got The Mail.

CATEGORY: AmericanCulture

Rollin’ coal: a trend that must, nay, will end

If poisoning is the answer, I don’t want to know the question.

There’s this thing going around now called “rollin’ coal.” You’ve probably heard of it. On a small scale I don’t think it makes that much of a difference, but here’s what those folks think is funny…pouring out thick carcinogenic diesel exhaust at people they don’t like.

Not liking people I understand. Bumper stickers mocking people you don’t like I understand. Essentially fumigating them with poison because you don’t like them? That I don’t understand.

With great freedom comes great power. With great power comes great responsibility. One of those great responsibilities is to engage in civic life like civilized people. Freedoms abused should absolutely be restricted since the people abusing them are clearly not to be trusted with the power they were born into. What one does on their own land and behind their own doors is of no concern of society’s unless and until that behavior affects someone else in an infringing capacity. Continue reading

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Why I chose the Leaf over the Jetta TDI – Renewable Journal for 7/4/2014

Tax credits and rebates, low cost of operation, and reduced air pollution all made the Leaf the better choice for my family.

[MotorTrend]For more posts in this series, please click here.

I know I’m going to get asked why I spent over 30k (before all the crazy tax rebates) on a car that only goes 80 miles. My father especially will ask at some point, and he’s already called it a “toy” car.

He’s not entirely wrong, either. I’m in my 40s now, and it’s actually quite a bit of fun to drive around in a car that can go from 0 to 60 in just a tad over 6 seconds. I’ve never had a car that has this kind of acceleration. Continue reading

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Electric vehicles are everywhere! – Renewable Journal for 6/28/2014

Tesla Model S [from Motor Trend]For more posts in this series, please click here.

Actually, they really aren’t everywhere. The fact that I’m seeing electrics all over the place now is actually a simple psychological phenomenon related to familiarity. I own an electric car, and so I’m more in tune with what other electric cars look like, and so simply happen to notice them more.

I did drive by a nice red one on my way home from the dealership, however – the two twenty-something women in it were laughing and pointing at mine as I zipped by them. Continue reading

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Two weeks of owning an electric car – Renewable Journal for 6/21/2014

NissanLeafBAFor more posts in this series, please click here.

Today I had what can only be described as an “electric car moment.” I was driving back home from my kung fu lesson and passed by a gas station that’s under construction. As I passed it, I thought was “hey, that’s getting close. I’ll be able to get gas there… wait a second….”

No. No, I won’t need to get gas at that station. Continue reading

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The Nissan Leaf and SolarCity – Renewable Journal for 6/8/2014

On June 7, one Colorado family took a leap into unfamiliar waters with both solar panels and a Nissan Leaf.

NissanLeafBAFor more posts in this series, please click here.

Yesterday morning, my wife and I bought a new Nissan Leaf. And yesterday afternoon, after careful review of the terms, we signed a solar power lease contract with SolarCity.

Talk about diving into renewable energy head first. What the hell are we – I – doing? Continue reading

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American playhouse…

A playhouse with a flag in a cold concrete front yard. Seems like the perfect analogy for our country these days…

(Picture taken on Chestnut Avenue in South San Francisco, California on June 2nd, 2014)

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Hornstra Farms: local hero, redux

Local, natural, community focused: Massachusetts’ Outstanding Dairy Farm is thriving.

IMG_0412When we last visited John Hornstra five years ago, he had just bought a local farm here in the pretty affluent suburbs south of Boston, and had grand plans. Hornstra had delivered our milk (in glass bottles!) for years when we lived in Massachusetts, and he still delivers the same milk (and chocolate milk, and egg nog at Christmas) to my daughter’s family. But he had plans—to build his recently purchased farm into a local community place, a place for kids (and not just kids) to see how farms work, and to get real food. Most important was his plan to bring dairy farming back to the area that his family had lived in, and been dairy framers in, for several generations. So how’s that working out? Continue reading

Global warming

Is the climate change fight better off without Joe Q. Public?

If global warming was shifted to the backburner, fighting it might generate less opposition.

Global warmingIn an opinion piece at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dawn Stover recently wrote:

Apparently most Americans have not only lost interest in learning about what’s happening to our world, but are actively repelled by the very mention of this world. Continue reading

Baggy Point

North Devon diary

The Southwest of England is quiet, but it boasts an active cultural life.

Gnomes reading, Gnome Reserve

Gnomes reading, Gnome Reserve

One of the many enjoyable things about living in England is that, no matter where you are, if you drive for an hour you’ll likely end up in a completely different microclimate. So driving from London to North Devon, in the southwest of England bordering on the Irish Sea, can be discombobulating this time of year. Spring in this part of the country is a good two to three weeks behind London. Or London Spring is two to three weeks ahead of where it should be—it depends on your perspective. But being out here for nine days, with nothing to do except for walking and reading, lets me experience early spring for a second time, and it’s just as good the second time around.

Of course, out here they had a very wet and stormy winter—London was relatively peaceful by comparison. Continue reading