Today’s Required Reading: Climate Change Arithmatic

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math [Rolling Stone; July 19, 2012]

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

[…] Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida – the earliest the season's fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado's annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs – breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year's harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can't do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we're now leaving… in the dust.

US drought could trigger repeat of global food crisis, experts warn [Guardian; July 23, 2012]

America’s drought threatens a recurrence of the 2008 global food crisis, when soaring prices set off riots and unrest to parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, food experts warn.

Corn prices reached an all-time high on Friday, as the drought expanded across America, trading at $8.24 a bushel on the Chicago exchange. Soybeans were also trading at record levels.

The US department of agriculture meanwhile predicted there would be less corn coming onto global markets over the next year, because of a sharp drop in US exports.

I want you to know that some things are still hard, but a lot is getting better.

My injuries are still significant, though my ankle is almost entirely fixed thanks to a birthday massage session with Doug in May while I was down there for Joe and Drew's wake. He helped my back, too, enough that I can get around again, even if not very well. I'm still going through naproxin like candy, but I'm no longer so regularly bed-ridden. Hooray!

I'm still dreadfully underemployed, which is a huge step up from the chronic unemployment I've been plagued with. I did a few websites for people and I've taken up work as a Social Media Manager for Matthew Borgatti, a new friend that I met through Willow at the Seattle Mini-Maker Faire. You might have heard of him through the Anonymous Guy Fawkes Bandannas he sells through his shop, Sleek & Destroy. So far it's been interesting and I love my work and I adore doing business with him and it's all completely groovy. Even aside from all that, being paid to write again has been intensely satisfying.

Another interesting opportunity: I hand-waved away a free staff ticket to Burning Man back in May, but a different one just landed in my lap that I've accepted, (though I said no to Early Entry), so once again I'm going to be one of the Luminferous, the Processional torch bearers that bring The One Flame to The Man and kick off Conclave on Saturday night. Right in the thick of it, helping make the important things happen, my absolutely favourite place to be.

I don't have the resources to afford the trip yet, but I have no doubt that things will fall together in the nick of time. My knack for survival is ground right in. 

Precambrian oceans on the horizon

NYT: A World Without Coral Reefs:

It's past time to tell the truth about the state of the world's coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world's poor — will cease to be. […]

But by persisting in the false belief that coral reefs have a future, we grossly misallocate the funds needed to cope with the fallout from their collapse. Money isn't spent to study what to do after the reefs are gone — on what sort of ecosystems will replace coral reefs and what opportunities there will be to nudge these into providing people with food and other useful ecosystem products and services. Nor is money spent to preserve some of the genetic resources of coral reefs by transferring them into systems that are not coral reefs. And money isn't spent to make the economic structural adjustment that communities and industries that depend on coral reefs urgently need. We have focused too much on the state of the reefs rather than the rate of the processes killing them. […]

What we will be left with is an algal-dominated hard ocean bottom, as the remains of the limestone reefs slowly break up, with lots of microbial life soaking up the sun's energy by photosynthesis, few fish but lots of jellyfish grazing on the microbes. It will be slimy and look a lot like the ecosystems of the Precambrian era, which ended more than 500 million years ago and well before fish evolved.

the end of an inspiration

Grand Finale 2010-11 from McLean Fahnestock.

I had plans to fly down to Florida to see the very last space-shuttle launch, the one in the bottom right corner, and meet with my best friend from the internet, someone I had never met in spite of a decade of regular correspondence. We were going to watch the ship launch, then road-trip across the American South to New Orleans, stopping along the way to see things like Florida’s Real Live Mermaids and an exotic animal conservatory. It fell through, as many things do – his work schedule changed, the launch was delayed – so the plan changed and I flew to meet him in New York instead. The last star-ship sailed into the sky without us. Now the friendship is dead and so is the shuttle program. We missed out on both history and love and I’m still not sure, a year later, which was the greater tragedy.

a small thing

Though the building I live in has some serious noise problems, (yes, girl-downstairs-with-your-perpetual-marilyn-manson, I’m looking at you), I like that I can hear when the person in the room above me uses their typewriter.

David and I hosted a mellow Sunday Tea yesterday. Not as many people came by as last month, but as it was the first summery Sunday of the year, it was to be expected. (If it weren’t for hosting Tea, I would have been at Wreck Beach, too.) It was still good, though, with people coming in small waves of three or four, staying for a few hours, then drifting out into the golden light again. A drowsy afternoon sort of salon rather than a chattering box of swirling, snacking bodies. We sat on the porch, feet up on the balcony railings. We lounged, we sipped, we shared. It wasn’t exciting, but it was nice. The heat was like honey.

The next tea will be on July 29th.

a conversation with my five year old self

A Conversation With My 12 Year Old Self: 20th Anniversary Edition

Something I have never told anyone: I have a cassette that I recorded when I was five or six years old on my mother’s portable tape-deck. It starts off very sweetly with a terrible, warbling little song I was obviously making up on the spot about how completely, blisteringly great it would be to live in an edible country, where I could eat any time I wanted. I haven’t listened to it in a very long time, but I seem to remember that the ground was made of chocolate, butterflies were made of fried chicken, and all my imaginary trees grew both fruit and candy. Honestly, the song is freakishly adorable. You can practically hear how ash blonde and wide-eyed I was, even if maybe I was a bit too hungry. Then the shouting begins. It’s my delusional father in the background, obviously just in the next room, loud, cruel, and toxic. It gets louder and louder as the recording continues. And I don’t even seem to notice. I wonder, listening as an adult, if the door between the rooms was even closed. Memory says it probably wasn’t. My twee little song continues. Eventually the shouting leads to sounds of violence. I treat it like wallpaper. Something smashes, then, worse, the violence gets quieter, a lot more personal. My father is still loud, but my mother barely makes any sound at all. They might as well be birds singing. I still pay no attention. In fact, I don’t acknowledge them at all until the very end of the recording, which I can barely get to anymore, when I say, cheerful as anything, “Sorry, Me! I have to go. My mommy’s hurt. I hope you like this later! Bye bye!”

365: The month of June

365: 2012/06/15 - ferret foster 365: 2012/06/28 - transparency 365: 2012/06/09 - my better half 365: 2012/06/05 - I miss my chair
365: 2012/06/06 - sing to the memory of light 365: 2012/06/08 - wrecked and broken bridges
365: 2012/06/07 - googly eyed for you 365: 2012/06/02 - the emerald city 365: 2012/06/29 - "now you take one"

365: 2012/06/23 - punk rock princess 365: 2012/06/13 - basin cat 365: 2012/06/16 - expect us
365: 2012/06/22 - I go with the house 365: 2012/06/20 - his father's knife (I know the answer, but not the question)

Near the end of the private wake for friends and family of Joe “Vito” Albanese, 52, (aka Dexter Mantooth or Meshugana Joe) murdered along with best friend and bandmate, Drew Keriakedes, 45, (aka Schmootzi the Clod) at the Cafe Racer killings in Seattle. Both men performed with Circus Contraption and founded the band God’s Favorite Beefcake. This video is my only 365 shot that I am not specifically in. I believe, however, that I am reflected in everyone there. I am that moment as they were that moment. It is still a self-portrait. The best kind there is.

365: 2012/06/11 - innocent when you dream 365: 2012/06/12 - washing out 365: 2012/06/14 - the second child

365: 2012/06/17 - Flower Power 365: 2012/06/25 - here comes science
365: 2012/06/18 - the bath
365: 2012/06/10 - we fight crime

365: 2012/06/27 - if you were here now, what would you see?
365: 2012/06/24 - "as big as my head!"
365: 2012/06/01 - switching hats with sammy 365: 2012/06/03 - late nights 365: 2012/06/19 - familiar
365: 2012/06/21 - solitary 365: 2012/06/26 - politics of desire

like a slice of Oblique Strategies (Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemma

Pixar story artist Emma Coats has been tweeting a series of story writing basics she’s been getting from her senior colleagues. Here’s some of my favourites so far:

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

Also: Author and artist Terri Windling has written a post about the creative process and artistic inspiration that I suggest you give a look. The comments, too, are quite nice.