Weekend Reading 2/14/14

Top 40 love songs, how children really succeed, and more.
This post is 141 in the series: Weekend Reading
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.


Exempting bike-share programs from mandatory helmet laws? Still a great idea.

Sightline Fellow Valerie Tarico tells what getting thin taught her about being fat, and it’s amazing.

Sure wish I had read this book before raising my kids. Sorry, guys! It turns out, according Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed, that cognitive skills such as math and vocabulary are less important to personal fulfillment and success in life than character traits such as perseverance and grit. The book summarizes a flotilla of studies looking for clues to fighting poverty through better education and other youth service programs, intriguingly including chess teams. It carries the reader forward, however, on one story after another about kids and those who are figuring out how to help them through the insights of the new research. It’s the best thing I’ve read on education in years.

Another optimistic view of self-driving cars, this time with computer models and such. Fascinating! But I found Jon Geeting’s piece in Next City a more realistic appraisal, because it considered the politics, not just the tech.


I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent two-part New Yorker essay on our upcoming sixth mass extinction with both rapt attention and a constant pit in my stomach. Yet there’s also something eerily calming about her writing, something that lulls you into a longer-view geologic sort of perspective that for me elevates both my awe at nature and my wonder at humanity. I look forward to reading her book on the subject, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, which has already garnered plenty of attention and interviews in the media: NPR, NYT (review by Al Gore), Washington Post, Democracy Now!, and even The Daily Show.

I also just stumbled on this: what Vancouver’s Coal Harbour looked like 116 years ago.


It’s Valentine’s day. There are so many sustainable ways to show your love—many of the best of which involve buying no stuff at all (well, if you don’t count sustainable, locally-made chocolate). But if you’re buying jewelry for your sweetie, here’s a guide for steering clear of “dirty” gold.

Robert Reich talks to Bill Moyers on how the heck we’ve forgotten or ignored the 3 biggest economic lessons we’ve learned in the last 30 years.

Harvard alums bought a full page ad on fossil fuel divestment in the Crimson this week, asking the president and the Harvard Corporation to “rethink what fiduciary responsibility means” (h/t KC Golden).


After this, I promise to stop linking to stories about football, but I loved Stephen Crockett’s take on Seattle’s championship, Black Quarterback Wins the Super Bowl: Where’s the Fuss?

Floyd McKay has a detailed look at what’s next for the proposed coal terminal at Longview.

KC Golden had a refreshing take on the worrisome noises we’ve been hearing about the Keystone XL Pipeline: the State Department’s reasoning has a peculiar kind of circular and destructive logic.

At the NYT, Andy Revkin takes up a conversation about the moral analogy between tobacco and coal exports.

Just in time for Valentines Day, KEXP’s Marco Collins compiles his top 40 Seattle love songs.


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  1. John Abbotts says:

    Yo, Eric,

    As one of the few people who will talk sports with you in the office, I encourage you to continue to discuss sports with a sustainability/diversity connection. After all, Rush Limbaugh was first outted as a racist based on his public comments about Donovan McNabb, an earlier quarterback quoted in your linked article. [And here I note my standard disclaimer that these opinions are my own responsibility, not Sightline’s]

    Now, you know that my game, when my legs would allow it, was soccer, or what the rest of the world calls Football (cept for NA f.b., including Canada; and Aussie Rules, whose SoccerRoo team of that country has sometimes made it into the real Football World Cup)

    And yes, NA F.B. is a “brutal violent contact sport,” as folk singer Christine Lavin has noted. But c’mon, these are the Seattle Seahawks. And with regard to Alan’s comments above about perseverance and grit, another example in addition to QB Wilson is the named Super Bowl MVP, Malcolm Smith. In summary, he played for Pete Carroll at USC, was a seventh-round draft pick, played mostly on special teams for the Seahawks, got a chance at linebacker when someone else was suspended, then again when someone was injured, and he received the “tip heard round the world” (to mix my sports metaphors) from the illustrious Richard Sherman against the 49ers. Then in the big game, made a 69-yard TD interception that broke the back of the Denver offense. Details can be found at http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/10394574/super-bowl-xlviii-seattle-seahawks-lb-malcolm-smith-earns-mvp-honors

    Sports, I believe, also are related to more global issues, such as one of the reasons people of color are noticeable in sports is that they have found their opportunities limited in other endeavors. And as one famous example, Jackie Robinson played in the Negro Leagues (as they were named at the time) before the Dodgers “broke the color line,” and he was named Rookie of the Year in 1947, and is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And I believe that his “42,” a high number he was assigned because white starters had all the lower numbers, is the only number that has been retired from all of baseball, not just by individual teams.

    To return to Alan’s observation, I cannot help thinking that one sign of educational equity will come when as many scholarships are awarded to people of color for playing chess and succeeding academically, as are offered to them for playing sports.

    Back to the Seahawks in this stream-of-consciousness comment, I also
    cannot help thinking that the “We Fight” Seahawks theme song must have at least some connection to the corresponding theme in the movie “Red Tails,” link at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwsI_-MQNTo

    To be clear, the Tuskegee Airmen faced dangers orders of magnitude greater than a football game: Nazis in jets who wanted to kill them, and racism in the U.S. Army. But in my opinion, that they overcame those obstacles makes their story all the more compelling, and the U.S. Army even changed, by recognizing their heroism with medals.

    And if Sightline’s editors will tolerate one more sports reference, if there is any doubt about connections between football and the military, I refer readers to George Carlin’s philosophical discussion, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIkqNiBASfI

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