This is the nitty gritty

Finally getting around to reading some of those articles that have been lying around for months … Like this, for instance, by John Seabrook in The New Yorker on the Antikythera Mechanism, which I got halfway through before I was finally convinced it wasn’t just some elaborate hoax, like the archaeological equivalent of Sidd Finch. [Read More...]

Nothing is cool

Huzzah! * * * * * * * * * Last week, Little Steven read Al Aronowitz’s “August Blues”: August is the month when wars start. It’s when the water dries up and the spirit begins to wither. Insomniacs pull down their shades and lock themselves in their rooms in August. Lifelong friends have fist [Read More...]

Dark places

Jane Mayer’s meticulously researched New Yorker report, “The Black Sites: A rare look inside the CIA’s secret interrogation program” sent me back to hilzoy’s earlier Obsidian Wings post on those Black Sites. Hilzoy’s conclusion provides a good introduction to Mayer’s longer report: Whenever I write a post like this, someone pops up in comments to [Read More...]

Cossacks again

“Man is born free,” Rousseau said, “but everywhere he is in chains.” I’m down with that. Free good; chains bad. Yep. Stands to reason, then, that freer is better. So any boundaries to freedom are worse, right? Well, not quite. Boundless freedom cannot be contained. Or sustained. In practice, it works about as well as [Read More...]

Cossacks and Prairie Muffins

If you believe that every human being has the right to self determination, then how do you cope with people who claim not to want that right? The BBC’s Steven Eke had a fascinating report last week on Russia’s Cossacks. The radio broadcast version of this story, ended with the man pictured at that link, [Read More...]

The sin of despair

I suppose I should start with what it is not. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on despair is exuberantly Pelagian: Despair … is the voluntary and complete abandonment of all hope of saving one’s soul and of having the means required for that end. Whoever wrote that was less interested in defining “despair” than he was [Read More...]

Inspection notices

The collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis seems to have prompted a wave of bridge inspections. The paper reports today that: Four of Delaware’s most vulnerable bridges will be inspected every six months instead of every year as a precaution in the wake of last week’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Sixteen other Delaware bridges [Read More...]

Pessimistic hope

Bill McKibben has been warning us about climate change for nearly as long as Al Gore has. He addresses the subject with a kind of hopeful pessimism. McKibben is a Methodist — the sort of Methodist who would’ve made John Wesley proud. As such, he regards despair as a sin and hope as a duty. [Read More...]