Sunday, August 31, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
How can we not be talking about trains? In November,
In the not-so-distant past, questioning the absence of high-speed, or at least mildly efficient, passenger rail in the
Kiss those days goodbye. Gas prices and airfares are killing us, as are worries about greenhouse gas emissions and continued dependence on oil purchased from countries not named
States and citizen coalitions are taking matters into their own hands. Once ignored regional proposals for more sophisticated railway systems are now seeing a surge of interest, most prominent of which is the California High-Speed Rail that would run from Sacramento to San Diego (connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles in a mere 2.5 hours), and which recently earned the support of the Governator. Other, admittedly smaller, initiatives are bubbling up as well, in Florida and the Southeast, as well as in the Midwest and Texas. But it’s not all about high speeds. Local governments and grassroots groups want improved service on existing lines, better light rail in urban areas, more R&D of next-gen technologies such as Personal Rapid Transit, and overall infrastructure investments that go beyond fortifying bridges in
The encouraging news is that we have the technical, and even political, capability to make efficient rail a reality. The
Saturday, August 16, 2008
More on this later, though. I have to jet to jury duty.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I recently spotted some graffiti posing as "clever" ad/art, splashed across the side of a couple of buildings in my northeast Portland neighborhood. The company: Converse, as in the shoes. It's amazing, really, that people can so easily convince themselves of uncool ideas, in this case the idea that defacing another person's property is somehow cool or, better still, "creative." I suppose I'm falling into Converse's trap by a.) discussing the ad strategy in the first place and b.) cutting and pasting one of the images, thus augmenting the company's overall Internet visibility, if only by a nano-ounce. After all, I'm sure some company whiz did the math and determined that the PR value of this campaign surpasses the cost of any fine(s) that Portland or other cities might levy. Still, sometimes griping feels good, and perhaps calling the company out on this garbage will at least hasten the cleanup.
In other miscellaneous news, a friend recently sent me a link to this article from the Daily Mail, about more liberal views on spelling, or at least one university lecturer's more liberal views on spelling. The rebellion, infinitesimal as it may seem, continues.
But last spring I wrote a story about autism for Wired. That reporting experience, as well as a terrific book on the subject, Not Even Wrong, written by my friend Paul Collins, have put me on the lookout for autism articles, or at least programmed my too-often-skimming eyeballs to slow down a little when they see the letter string a-u-t-i-s-m.
One of the perpetually striking aspects of the autism labyrinth is just how susceptible we are to quick and concise explanations for a condition--technically a set of behaviors--that is anything but easily explainable. (Diction digression: I try not to use the word puzzle when talking about autism. Not for any high-minded purpose, but because the descriptor is just too pithy to stomach, not to mention the puzzle pins, logos, journal cover art, posters, necklaces and other movement-associated objects and images that, I think, tend to reduce this wide spectrum of human experience--and the complex emotions that go with it--to a trinket, a la the pink ribbon. Besides, I can't forget what one interviewee once told me: I'm a person, not a puzzle.)
In the past couple of days--hence the urge to blog--I have run into a claim that pesticide exposure "links to" autism; a Yale study about babies breaking off eye contact and a possible connection to autism; and a piece from Slate with the inevitably uber-grabby headline: "TV Really Might Cause Autism." (The Slate article is two years old, but I never saw it so it's new to me.) I asked one scientist what he thought of this theory and he responded by way of asking: "Is there a word just after bullshit, in terms of vulgarity?" What do I think? I don't know what causes autism, and I think a lot of scientists don't even know exactly what autism is, let alone have a handle on what might cause it. But what I do know is this: News about autism research often caters to, and showcases, our failure to be leery of the theory of the week. This complaint and concern about the disappearance of critical thinking isn't new, but it's increasingly alarming. Much more so, one might argue, than issues like rising rates of autism.