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Archive for the ‘Personal Entry’ Category

The End is Come.

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Farewell, my friends.

I have realized that TRC has run its course, and your humble blogger has decided to end the project. This is the second blog that I have kept faithfully and the readership that took 4 years of blogging to build on Remember the Midwest took only about 7 months at TRC.

So thanks to all of you readers who have made this time as pleasant as it has been.  It has been exciting to see readers join and page links grow all why maintaining the derisive comments of my closest friends who were there from the start. You know who you are.

Anyway. I love blogging. And already have begun thinking about what my next project will undertake*, whenever that happens.

But it is time for TRC to come to a close. My weekly column at Precipitate will continue to show up on Tuesdays, so I hope to see you over there.

*Hint: It will not be politics.

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Written by Christopher ZF

March 19, 2012 at 09:35

Posted in Personal Entry

Running against Malaria with Nothing But Nets

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I’ve never fund-raised at TRC before. But here I am.

I’m raising money for Nothing but Nets in coordination with my training for the Twin Cities marathon. $10 buys 1 bed net, delivers it and educates the recipient on how to use it. Or, $10 means 1 life lived malaria free.

I know TRC can be a political environment, but even if you hate my politics, my environmentalism, and everything about what goes on here, we can all agree on the need to end malaria.

Donate, please.

We can achieve a world without Malaria.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 7, 2012 at 14:49

Posted in Personal Entry

Deserts on Mars and an old TRC essay.

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I wrote an essay a few years back about deserts that I am particularly fond of, which considers the notion of deserts on Mars. That essay opens:

 Deserts frighten me. I come from the Midwest, and with the exception of the anomaly in Wisconsin, we have no desert; we have trees and grass in abundance. As a natural landscape, deserts push against the forests I am familiar with and do not make sense beyond a raw, rudimentary notion of scarcity. I’ve been in deserts and I can not see them clearly; I want a way to see the desert clearly. With this hope in mind, I have been turning to the Encyclopedia of the Solar System. My human view may be too intimate. How does the place look from space? Discussing the terrestrial geomorphic process of weathering, the Encyclopedia reads:  “Aeolian, or fluvial, transport of fine material can only occur if a source of fine material is available to be transported.” Weathering is the process that produces fine material for transport. As consolidated materials are broken down into fine materials via weathering, the fine material is moved throughout the terrestrial landscape via the fluvial and aeolian transport systems.
Or, sand is moved by wind and water.

Is that it? Sand, wind, water. Is there something to fear here? The Encyclopedia relates that such Aeolian transport of grains on Mars provides “important information on current wind regimes and on the constitution of fine material based on observations and modes of terrestrial dune morphologies.” Those words don’t mean much to me, but I learn there is desert on Mars, and the prospect of alien deserts, like terrestrial ones, is frightening. The cosmic view, after all, cares little for my dread.

I thought of it today as I made the morning blog round-up and landed on a Bad Astronomy post about the dunes of Mars. It included this stunning picture which in my mind accompanies well that old essay.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Not only does the image itself address content of the essay, but the blue frost on the sand dunes of the red planet seems to coincide well thematically, and thus I thought I would package them together. You know, for my own self-promotion.

Written by Christopher ZF

February 27, 2012 at 12:00

Posted in Personal Entry

There’s only one acceptable use of the word “Gotcha”

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There should be a new law that states,

Pursuant to TRC rule no 1: a law relating to public self-justification following self-inflicted character damage, effective immediately upon passage January 25, 2012.
No politician or public figure in the United States, be they elected representative, hired employee, appointed official, or formerly held any such position, may use the term “gotcha” to reference a question posed or reference made when speaking publicly, before cameras, or before a crowd of citizens, media figures, or when responding via written format. Any use of “gotcha” or “gotcha question” to attempt to justify one’s own racism, sexism, stupidity, irrationality, douche-baggery or any other shortcoming, will be immediately recognized as an omission of one’s fault in this matter, and an acknowledgement that you are in fact a racist, sexist, irrational idiot, bigot, douche-bag, etc.

This law excepts any reference to the 1985 film Gotcha!, the classic story of  student paintball games turned all too serious, starring Anthony Edwards. References to Gotcha! are in fact encouraged. 

Written by Christopher ZF

January 25, 2012 at 15:30

Posted in Personal Entry

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New Gig: Weekly Column at Precipitate

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A quick self-promotion.

I have started blogging a weekly column at Precipitate: Journal of the New Environment. It’s a great collection of talented writers exploring this place through language and visual arts. Or, as they say for themselves: “Precipitate explores non-traditional perspectives of the physical world, and within these pages we invite writers, artists, and readers to investigate and destabilize ideas of place.”

Check out the journal, published three times annually, and the blog, featuring some excellent writing on all things environment, book reviews, horror movies, nature and culture and art. You name it.

My weekly piece on climate science and mystery and reality and other nonsense that keeps me awake at night will be published on Tuesdays.

Written by Christopher ZF

January 19, 2012 at 11:56

What does it mean to support a politician?

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A friend of mine recently asked what it would take to decide to pull my support for President Obama in 2012. I don’t know what the answer is, but there is one. He was essentially asking: What does it mean to support a politician? This is a serious question. No person is right on all the issues, of course. And whether you know it or not, no politician gets all your views right. We have to make compromises in our lives all the time, and supporting politicians is an area where no one can walk without compromise.

Ta-Nehisi Coates took this up yesterday, continuing a conversation he’s been having about Ron Paul (among other things), in a post titled Saviorism. Coates speaks candidly about what it means to support Obama (citing Glenn Greenwald), what it means to support Paul, and what compromises he cannot make. Here’s Coates:

In this democracy we take the things we like about a candidate, weigh them against the things we don’t and then compare them to the field. Calculations, even among ostensible allies differ. This is understandable. In that vein, it is not the fact of supporting Ron Paul that gives me angst–it is the notion that his long record of statements on minorities (from the newsletters to the King holiday to the TSA workers) somehow have very little political import or meaning.
I obviously like a lot of what Ron Paul says on the drug war, on wars period, on national security policy. But I can’t really support a president who is dangerously ignorant of the basic facts of American history (watch the video.) I can’t ever support a president who is pro-life. (I have explained why here.)  I can’t ever support a president who thinks America would have been better without the Civil Rights Act. To be blunt, I just don’t have that luxury.

I like this. This is the kind of honesty that is lacking in the theater we put on in American Politics (and often at TRC). At the end of the day, disaffected liberals, can you support Obama or not? Can evangelicals put off by Romney come to support him or not? We weigh these things constantly, and we come out somewhere on the scale. Some people rationalize such a compromise, and make an acceptable candidate the longed for savior of the Nation. Obviously this occurred with Candidate Obama, but it was not new to 2008. Why put such effort in? Anyone in politics is going to have baggage, is going to have a different view than you on some of your important issues. At least, if they are honest, they should.  And we all stick to our guns when we have to. At least, if we are honest, we should.

For example: A lot of people could never, ever vote for a candidate that is pro-choice. Abortion, for a lot of Americans, is the end-all issue. But those voters will often support candidates who favor capital punishment. I don’t get that. I find that highly contradictory. But I don’t really have to get it. Why does that matter in their political worldview?

Likewise, I wouldn’t vote for a candidate that supports bringing religion into government in a way that blurs the already too blurry lines between church and state. Someone that further creates a theological argument for educational policy, or wants to see religious beliefs enshrined in constitutional amendments. That’s a line I wouldn’t cross. Well, probably. If I’m honest with myself in the voting booth, it still might come down to who the alternative is.

At a recent birthday party for Mrs. TRC, I had a loud argument about how dissatisfied I am with President Obama’s eagerness to engage in military conflict, especially in the use of unmanned drones to bomb nations where people live, but don’t get on television. I find that a terrible practice. But I can support Obama for president, and write about why I admire his presidency, and support his reelection. I am perfectly content holding those two positions at the same time. Because Obama was never going to be a savior, and he was not the prophet of a new America. If you thought he was, that is as much your own fault as it is his.  You chose to ignore the political, and actual reality of life: the world is really fucking complicated, and we have to live in it anyways.

As Coates puts it: Those are my calculations. You have your own to make. I urge you to them with wide-eyes, without equivocation and minimization of your candidates flaws, and away from expectations of prophecy and the messianic. All the prophets are dead.

Written by Christopher ZF

January 5, 2012 at 14:11

another affirmation of the I: The Catholic Church changes the Nicene Creed

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I have long been a supporter, for my part, of the Catholic Church. At least, symbolically. The Church is The Church, and has represented the best and the worst of Western Humanity.  And though I am no believer, I take heart and put stock in much of the Christian Church. Maybe that’s why I have been so critical of it lately; I just can’t thrust it off completely. Merton has left a footprint deep in my soul. But it’s getting pretty close.

Last night, I heard the story of how the Catholic Church unrolled its linguistic changes to the Mass. The language we use to express our beliefs, religious or not, is of the utmost importance. We communicate through the tools we have, and changes from the Vatican handed down to the Catholic body should be taken seriously by that body. (see all the changes here)

But I’m not Catholic, and most of these changes are of no interest to me. I do not care, for example, if during the Penitential Act, the words “Lord, show us your mercy and love” are changed to “Show us, O Lord, your mercy.” There is one change made, though, that seems highly significant. And, to me, as someone who looks back fondly to the Church at times, is very sad.

The word “We” has been removed from the Nicene Creed and supplanted with the dreaded word: “I”. Thus it is that We no longer believe in One God, the Father, Almighty. Now, rather, I believe in One God, the Father Almighty. It just doesn’t mean the same thing.

We is what Church is, isn’t it? It is what the Church meant for me, anyway. In a real way, does not the gathering of the congregation mean We? Does not speaking out loud, together, mean We affirm as one, together, that which we believe? It is We that held me tightly to church for many years, well beyond the point when the content lost its importance. And it is the We that makes me, in those times that I do, miss it.

I’m sure there are arguments for why this occurred, and if I were to have this out with someone within the Church there are probably myriad reasons to support the change. But as on-looker, as an outsider, I don’t know those reasons. And to individuals who made such choices my little response is inconsequential. A criticism from a person who criticizes Christianity regularly. Big whoop. Still, I’m saddened.

And so with the Vatican’s removal of We from the Nicene Creed and the move to affirm the I, there accumulates one more simple, significant step in the direction of a new We that has come to mean more to TRC than the old.

Written by Christopher ZF

November 28, 2011 at 12:01