Wednesday, July 20th, 2022


Junk in the Trunk

In Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, a tree gives everything it has to a boy until all that's left is a stump. While the meaning of the story is a point of some controversy, its metaphor for today's climate change fight couldn't be more clear. Still stumped? Humans are worsening climate change and nature is taking a hit. But like the tree in the story, our real trees are still giving by telling us the story of what we've done—and what, even in the face of obvious ramifications, we seem determined to keep doing. Daniel Griffin studies climate and ecosystem change through data collected from tree rings. And what he's found is that humanity's bite is worse than its bark. Here's a really interesting interactive piece from the NYT (Gift Article): This 500-Year-Old Tree in California Has a Story to Tell. (I don't want to give a sappy stump speech or branch off into a deep timbre diatribe, but this story lets you see the forest through the trees and leaves you with no other conclusion than we're risking life and limb and the root of the problem stems from our determination to take a chainsaw to the future. Sorry to pine away with evergreen bad climate stories predicting when the bough breaks. What can I say? Life's a Birch.)

+ "When I asked Simon Lee, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University, just how unusual this heat is, he explained that the question is, in one sense at least, all but impossible to answer. Compared with the past? Clearly unusual. In the context of our present climate? To establish the baseline we're measuring against, Lee said, we would ideally rely on years of somewhat consistent observational data. But the climate is simply changing too rapidly." The Atlantic: The World Is Burning Once Again.

+ Biden announces new climate change programs, but no emergency declaration.


Flying A La Mode

It's weird that several years into the pandemic we're still getting piecemeal advice from journalists while the CDC has all but halted public advisories. But this seems like a damn good compromise for those who hate wearing masks. Saahil Desai in The Atlantic: Put Your Face in Airplane Mode. "Here's the cheat code: Instead of masking up for your whole flight, just cover up at the start and end of it. Those crucial few minutes—first when you're boarding the plane, and then after you've landed—account for only a sliver of your travel time, but they are by far the riskiest for breathing in viral particles."


Secrets and Lies

"The agency, which made this determination after reviewing its communication databases over the past four days, will provide thousands of records, but nearly all of them have been shared previously with an agency watchdog and congressional committees, the senior official said. None is expected to shed new light on the key matters the committee is probing, including whether Trump attacked a Secret Service agent." WaPo: Secret Service cannot recover texts; no new details for Jan. 6 committee. (I don't think we need these texts to get to the bottom of Trump's Jan 6 behavior. We saw it with our own eyes. But this story puts one more dent in our trust in institutions, and that's a big deal.)

+ 60% of Americans approved of the Supreme Court last July. Now, it's 38%.

+ Arizona Republican Rusty Bowers censured by party over testimony on resisting Trump. (This is equal parts unsurprising, disturbing, and sad.)

+ A bipartisan group of senators reached a deal to make it harder to overturn a certified presidential election. (The lesson of Trump: We need fewer norms and more laws.)


A Cure for Boardom

"I would like to say that I didn't think about my own coolness at all in this process, but that would be a lie. Even if paddleboarding itself was not cool, the idea of becoming someone comfortable on the river seemed cool. But it was also not the kind of thing that I usually did; I am indoor-oriented. And it often seems like the only form of cool with any currency in middle age is a certain stalwart consistency of style, Haruki Murakami and his t-shirts or Grace Coddington's red hair. Paddleboarding was the opposite of that." A Middle-Aged Person Takes Up A Hobby. (I've been researching kayaks for 4 years. Seriously. But I can't pull the trigger, in part because my hammies are tight, but mostly because this is my nature. My wife says I should row instead, so I've started researching row boats. This article makes me realize that maybe I should have been researching paddleboarding all along.)


Extra, Extra

A First Lady First: "This is really important for me and for my country, and today I want to address you as politicians and party representatives as well as mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, daughters and sons." Yahoo News
Ukrainian first lady Zelenska addresses Congress: 'Russia is destroying our people.' Meanwhile, Russia's Lavrov says ready to expand war aims. And the world is picking sides. Putin, in Tehran, gets strong support from Iran over Ukraine.

+ Gov and Marriage: "The House easily passed the Respect for Marriage Act — a bill establishing federal protections for same-sex marriage — on Tuesday, with 47 Republicans voting in favor of the bill, a bipartisan accomplishment that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago." The move is aimed at the Supreme Court. Same-sex marriage could get historic protections — if the Senate votes on it.

+ Red October: "Elon Musk Just Lost His Bid To Delay The Twitter Trial, Which Starts In October." (Elon wants to add an edit button to legally binding agreements.)

+ Walking the Plank: "Cruise stocks jumped today after the CDC ended its Covid-19 program for cruise ships."

+ Pablo Won't Cruise: "It never changed. Baseball means a lot for me. It's my life, my career. It's one of the things that I still do with love and passion because that's the way they teach me when I was young. People don't realize that when you lost that, it's the time to walk away. But I'm never gonna lose that, because I love this." GQ: The Last Licks of Pablo Sandoval, Baseball's Kung Fu Panda.


Bottom of the News

"Nobody is born with freckles. So why do some people get them — and how?" (As one who has them, it's nice to know they're now so popular, fake freckles are a thing.) The Fascinating Science Behind Freckles.

+ A mysterious radio signal has been detected from a distant galaxy, MIT says. (Even the aliens launched a podcast.)