Jan 162015


February 1985 was the last time global temperatures fell below the 20th-century average for a given month, meaning that no one younger than 30 has ever lived through a below-average month.

 January 16, 2015  Scratch File
Oct 302014

With the pace of change these days, public figures coming out can seem like a small thing. It’s not. It matters and remains incredibly difficult. But when they do I honestly believe that it helps regular people who are trying to do the same thing in their ordinary lives.

So I’m happy to read Tim Cook’s coming out text and even happier to see him work in two subtle but queenly references to the Wizard of Oz in the process. On purpose? Who knows, but he scores big points in my book for managing it.

 October 30, 2014  Scratch File Tagged with: , ,
Sep 232014

Steven Soderbergh has posted a black and white “silent” version of Raiders of the Lost Ark. His reason?

I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is.

He’s trying to (make us) understand and appreciate a work by paying close attention to specific choices involved in making it. Fascinating–and yes, fun–stuff.

 September 23, 2014  Scratch File Tagged with: ,
Mar 072014

A documentary about nuclear power, and the environmentalists who have decided that, despite our fears, it is the safest way to combat the climate change caused by fossil fuels.

Two segments caught my attention. In the first, the filmmakers take natural background radiation readings in various cities and in wild landscapes around the world. These vary widely, are often quite high and no correlation has been found between the variations and illness. Then the filmmakers take readings at Fukushima and at Chernobyl. They are among the lowest shown. In the second, a scientist talks about a breeder reactor project that was constructed, was functional and was tested. It could not meltdown, could not explode, and it was a closed system recycling its own waste a fuel for decades. And blanket opposition to nuclear shut the project down leaving less safe plants–like the ones at Fukushima–to be built instead.

I came away realizing I don’t know enough about nuclear energy to have confidence in my opinions or in what I learned here. But I’m curious and need to track down more information.

 March 7, 2014  Movie Logs, Scratch File Tagged with:
Dec 312013

Paul Krugman finally drops the source for the line he often cites about J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand!

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

My question for Kung Fu Monkey is, What is a “serial hobbyist”? It sounds awesome and fun.

 December 31, 2013  Commonplace Book, Scratch File Tagged with: ,
Dec 272013

Mark Bernstein talks football for a moment on his blog.  What caught my eye was this:

In much of Red State America, the highest-paid public official in the entire state is the coach of the university football team.

This should be an incredible claim but isn’t really. I mean does anyone else on  state payrolls receive high-six or low-seven figure salaries? Certainly not any of the people hired to govern.

So is Bernstein right? In a better world he wouldn’t be.

 December 27, 2013  Scratch File, Teaching