Thursday, April 19, 2007
Today’s leading headlines from
On a separate note: Today, 4 days after the Virginia Tech tragedy, I made the mistake of watching Larry King on CNN, asking students with now-dead friends about whether or not the shooter's photos and videos should have been aired by the media. The whole thing was nauseating. Cut to commercial break, where I was treated to yet another ad for the special program “celebrating Larry King’s 50 years in showbiz” (my emphasis). How fitting.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
When I woke up this morning, I noticed that the crackpot fairy had slid a little present under my door here at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne: A leaflet of sorts called The New Citizen, with the blaring headline: “Global Warming is a Fraud!” and a colorful graphic illustrating the “Global Warmers’ Fabrication.” Inside, lots of scattered texts and head shots of Queen Elizabeth, a crocodile, and Tony Blair. At breakfast, I enjoyed looking over the–ahem–articles titled, “Global Warming Hoax = Genocide” and “Why ‘Scientists’ Lie.” I imagine the rest of the visitors here at the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists were similarly amused. The same can't be said of hotel management, however, who quickly followed up with an official apology for last night's "security breech."
Friday, April 13, 2007
Snapped this shot from my window seat at Sydney Int'l. Nothing special, really. Yet it illustrates a point I've been mulling lately. As far as climate change goes, the notion of addiction to fossil fuels doesn't quite cut it. It's that everything out there, out your window almost anywhere, is made, and most manufacturing processes involve greenhouse gas emissions. The guardrail, paint, jetway, truck, advertisement -- delve into how these things come to be, and more likely than not the process is one that produces CO2. The same is true of hybrid cars and solar panels. Of course that doesn't mean these promising technologies are a waste and one might as well drive an SUV or support coal-fired power plants. But the ugly reality of the made world's relationship to greenhouse gases makes it hard to feel encouraged about a small up-tick in automobile emissions standards. I suppose the headline writers aren't wrong to use the expression "life as we know it" when referring to the causes of global climate change and what would have to change to mitigate it.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Somewhere over the Pacific now, en Route to Sydney and on to Melbourne. Before departing, not one but four friends asked me to report back about the direction water flows when flushed down a toilet in the southern hemisphere. (See this site to learn about the urban legand they're referring to, a.k.a the Coriolis Fairy.)
Now, a brief dispatch, written from within the high-altitude hazy-brained bleary-eyed hallucinatory otherwold of jet lag. Wherever you go, there you are. I don't know who coined this phrase, or whether it's just one of those thoughts that has made the rounds, but the person who recently said it to me was my brother in law, who's also a pilot. Meanwhile, the guy in the seat in front of me has spent a lot of time with his forehead to the window, staring out at the darkness. What's on his mind?
However many hours later, my in-flight map says we're between Hawaii and Fiji. The only other cities labeled on the video map? Sapporo and Apia (Western Samoa).
Around Sydney, things look so verdant. But not for long. Connecting on to Melbourne, looking off the right side of the plane I get a hint of just how brown and dry most of this continent is.
Friday, April 6, 2007
The upside to writing about a variety of topics is that it caters nicely to ADHD. The downside, I think, is a sort of drive-by-shooting effect, or maybe the more apt and less violent metaphor is the one night stand. That is, you intensely study a topic, interview the right people, and work your tail off crafting and polishing the article. And then snap. It's over. You're on to the next thing.
For smaller assignments it's not a big deal. But with bigger subjects, be it oil and gas drilling in far-eastern Russia, the economics of environmental conservation, or the Department of Energy's favorite nuclear reservation, there's so much more to be written. Yet because the article I've been assigned to write for whatever publication has been printed, I find it difficult to justify futher time investment pitching new angles on the same subject because they can be tough to find and even tougher to sell editors on, as compared to a fresh topic altogether.
All of that is to say that yesterday at Stanford, I appreciated the chance to touch base with Gretchen Daily, the key source for a piece I recently wrote for West, the Sunday magazine for the L.A. Times. There was still a transaction to be sure: I'm listening for new story possibilities and she's trying to deliver them. Nevertheless, we also debriefed about the overall reaction to the first story, the editing process, what's up next--that sort of thing.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
I'm in the Bay Area this week for a couple of book-related interviews. At the same time, I've been mulling over my most recent essay assignment. Topic: the absence of, and prospects for, high-speed rail in the U.S. After flying into Oakland, taking the bus to BART, then riding BART to Berkeley, one can't help but wonder whether travelers 20, or even 50, years from now will be able to ride speedy trains up and down the coast. I know, I know, there's Amtrak Acela in the northeast. But that barely counts.
On the plane this morning, I sat behind a bald Rastafarian from Eugene, Ore., who was having a loud and long-winded conversation about religion with a Pakistani high-tech engineer. Amusing.