Weekend Reading 1/18/13

Three days without electricity, battle with a horse-sized duck, and more.
This post is 90 in the series: Weekend Reading

Eric:

Okay readers, I could use your help here. I have not, so far, been able to convince Alan that this is a worthwhile professional development opportunity for me.

Al Jazeera has a good segment on the growth of bicycling in Seattle.

Is fish oil really just snake oil?

I’ve got two coal-related pieces to recommend. First, at Crosscut, Daniel M. Kammen and Michael Riordan have a good piece on the lousy job growth that the proposed coal export terminals would produce. Second, the fine folks at EarthFix (Bonnie Stewart and Amelia Templeton this time) rolled out another informative and timely contribution to the coal export conversation:10 Things to Know About Coal Leasing on Public Land.”

I just finished streaming the second season of Portlandia on Netflix. I think this was my favorite sketch, particularly the very end.

Alan:

My favorite piece from Sightline Daily recently is by Seattle Times economic columnist Jon Talton. It covers a lot of ground about climate and how humans respond to change, but my favorite section was this, where he lays out his prescriptions:

Second is regaining effective self-government in the United States. This challenge goes beyond a partisan divide that is the worst since the eve of the Civil War. . . . an oligarchy has taken over our government. The “financial services industry.” The Military-Industrial Complex. Big Oil and King Coal. Highly consolidated industries that have created proto-monopolies and cartels. . . . they firmly control Congress and most state legislatures. They heavily influence regulation and the courts, gaming the system for their benefit and calling it “the free market.”

There is really only one thing you need to read this weekend, if you haven’t already. It’s this fascinating, informed, and hysterical article about whether the president should choose to fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses. Leave here now and go read it. Read it aloud to a wonky friend. It’s good. Between the chuckles, you’ll be reminded of how incomprehensibly amazing it is that animals can do the things that they do.

The most important thing that will happen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in the next two years will happen this coming week: will the Senate reform the filibuster. I’ve written extensively about this in the past and Grist’s Dave Roberts is my intellectual doppelganger on the theme. Here’s the best update I’ve seen on the behind-the-scenes shifts and turns in the quest for filibuster reform.

Val Tarico has published a deeply thoughtful essay on abortion. Is abortion in fact a sacred gift—a part of the solemn responsibility of parenting well? It’s a provocative question and a morally insightful piece.

Serena:

The whole office was privy to my electricity-less saga this week, so you may as well be, too. My landlord forgot to pay our utilities for, ohhh, six months (!!!). Therefore, our power was shut off Monday morning… and stayed off for the following three days until Seattle City Light finally came around some time Thursday afternoon to power us back up. Realizations: 1) I depend on electricity for everything. 2) If a few days without electricity is the worst of my problems, I’m really doing just fine. 3) I love electricity!

Now for some reading: on a related note, I thought this analysis of the #firstworldproblems ad campaign to be thoughtful and engaging. The author quotes Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American writer and artist, whose fuller reflection on the hashtag’s phenomenon is worth copying here:

I don’t like this expression ‘First World problems.’ It is false and it is condescending. Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems. All the silly stuff of life doesn’t disappear just because you’re black and live in a poorer country. People in the richer nations need a more robust sense of the lives being lived in the darker nations. Here’s a First World problem: the inability to see that others are as fully complex and as keen on technology and pleasure as you are.

Finally, despite the inconveniences I managed this week at the hands of one Seattle agency,  I was cheered at the hands of another and its newly released video celebrating the city’s green programs. (Spoiler: music by The Presidents’ Chris Ballew, a.k.a. Caspar Babypants.) Thanks, Seattle OSE!

Anna:

This is just plain cool. Totaling 31, there are a record number of Hispanic members in the 2013 US Congress.

Shockingly (or maybe just sadly), more than 3,500 US weather records were smashed in 2012. Scientific American has an interactive map showing extreme temps, rainfall, snowfall, floods, wildfires, and droughts.

I enjoyed Lloyd Alter’s ideas for making 2013 The Year of Moderation. Not everybody can up and move to a more walkable neighborhood, even if we wanted to, so some of this may feel unrealistic. But we’d all be better off if we found at least a couple ideas from this list to simplify and pare down (e.g. eat less red meat, do the simple “low hanging fruit” things around the house that are cheap or free, like lowering your water heater temp by a few degrees.)

Finally, this song’s been in my head for over a week. It’s been fun; it’s a favorite. But, maybe if I share it here, it’ll go away for a while. Ear worm! Tag, you’re it!

 

We are a community-supported resource and we can’t do this work without you!

Leave a Comment

Please keep it civil and constructive. Our editors reserve the right to monitor inappropriate comments and personal attacks.

*

You may add a link with HTML: <a href="URL">text to display</a>