Here are two myths you need to let go of:
The solution to high gas prices is more oil.
Climate change is something that happens to polar bears and people from Kiribati.
The truth is that fossil fuels are extremely useful and valuable. And, by their very nature, the supplies are limited. Likewise, climate change isn't just something that's going happen—it's already taking place, and you can see the effects in your own backyard.
Too often, I think, we talk about the risks of fossil fuel dependence and climate change in ways that make them seem abstract to the very people who use the most fossil fuels and create the most greenhouse gases. That's a problem. There are lots of reasons to care about energy. But I think that fossil fuel limits and climate change are the most pressing reasons. And I think it's incredibly important to discuss those very real risks in a way that actually feels very real.
This isn't about morality, or lifestyle choices, or maintaining populations of cute, fuzzy animals. (Or, rather, it's not just about those things.) Instead, we have to consider what will happen to us and how much money we will have to spend if we choose to do nothing to change the way we make and use energy.
Over at Scientific American, you can read an excerpt from my upcoming book, Before the Lights Go Out. In it, you'll read about the energy risks hanging over the Kansas City metro area—a place that, in many ways, resembles the places and lifestyles shared by a majority of Americans. Read the rest
Here's a sentence I never expected to type: You should really read the Grand Forks Herald's review of The Olive Garden.
This is in North Dakota, for those not familiar. With almost 100,000 people in the metro area, it's the third-largest city in the state. It recently got its first Olive Garden and critic Marilyn Hagerty got in ahead of the lunch rush.
The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting ...
At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken Alfredo, and I went with that. Instead of the raspberry lemonade she suggested, I drank water.
She first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, peppers, onion rings and yes — several black olives. Along with it came a plate with two long, warm breadsticks.
There are several things to love about this review. For me, it's about the nostalgia. If you grew up in places where Olive Garden and Red Lobster really were the best restaurants in town, you can't help but feel a warm twinge of homesickness reading this. It's not judgement. I can't judge. I chose to go to Applebee's for my fancy high school graduation dinner.
But the best part about this review comes from some background information dug up by intrepid Duluth News reporter Brandon Stahl. In the course of verifying that this was, in fact, a real review, he uncovered something wonderfully upper-Midwestern. Read the rest
Before the Lights Go Out is Maggie's new book about how our current energy systems work, and how we'll have to change them in the future. It comes out April 10th and is available for pre-order (in print or e-book) now. Over the next couple of months, Maggie will be posting some energy-related stories based on things she learned while researching the book. This is one of them.
One of the things I loved about researching my book on the future of energy was getting the opportunity to delve a little into the history of electricity. Although I'd heard plenty about the Tesla vs. Edison wars—the "great men doing important things" side of the story—I was pretty unfamiliar with the impact their inventions had on average people, and how those people responded and adapted to changing technology.
What I found in my research was fascinating. I spent a lot of time in the archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society, turning up letters and documents that introduced me to a perspective on history I'd not previously known. I learned about the skepticism and fear that surrounded electricity in the 19th and early 20th century. I found out that many, many of the early electric utilities went bankrupt—unable to make enough money selling electricity to cover the costs of building the expensive systems to produce and distribute it. I learned that, outside the hands of a privileged few geniuses, electric infrastructure and generation was a slapdash affair, focused more on quick, cheap construction than reliable operation—a reality that still affects the way our grid works today. Read the rest
Earlier this week, Mark told you about a couple of the cool art projects happening on a frozen lake in Minnesota. The Art Shanty Projects are a semi-annual wintertime tradition up here. And it's a sort-of send up of a much older tradition.
Every winter, there's a lot of ice fishing that happens in Minnesota. On the smaller lakes in Minneapolis, people set up temporary tents to shield themselves from the wind while they drill through the ice and wait and drink. But out on the larger lakes, the shelters become a lot more elaborate. Ice fishing "shanties" might come with bunk beds, carpeting, satellite TV, and kegarators. They're left on the lakes—which turn into temporary neighborhoods—all season long. From the outside, some of these fishing shanties just look like a trailer camper, or a plywood box. But it's not unusual to see fishermen get creative—decorating their shanties with tropical paint jobs, designing them to be fish-shaped. There's even a fish shanty parade in a small town in northern Minnesota.
This is where the Art Shanty Projects come in. Basically, they build on things Minnesotans have been doing for years, but with the priorities flipped. At the Art Shanty Projects—which run through this weekend on Minnesota's Medicine Lake—the emphasis is on art and creativity, rather than fishing. It gives artists, makers, and groups of friends with a good idea the chance to build something wild and whimsical and wonderfully interactive.
Twin Cities Boingers will be meeting up this Saturday afternoon. The meetup is ostensibly scheduled around the Art Sled Rally in Powderhorn Park, but will still happen even if there isn't enough snow on the ground for the sleds to, you know, sled.
Emily Lloyd has graciously volunteered her house, across from Powderhorn Park, as the location of the meetup. We'll meet at 3216 10th Ave South at 1:00 — BYOB and a snack to share. Then, at 2:00 (King Boreas willing) we'll cross the street to watch some awesome sledding action!
See you there! Read the rest
We all probably had at least one friend who attempted to reinvent themselves after high-school in a way that was so not them that it just made you feel pity. You know what I'm talking about. Like the goody-goody who tried so hard to change their squeaky clean reputation, but would clearly never be a badass cool kid, no matter how many times they told you that they got "sooooo drunk" last weekend.
That's what this ad reminds me of.
Somehow, North Dakota has managed to create a tourism ad that is simultaneously offensively sleazy and desperately uncool. It's trying to make a wink-wink, "women are objects" lad mag joke. But it looks like your really dorky, incredibly square uncle's idea of a wink-wink, "women are objects" lad mag joke.
It's sleaze as designed by people who have no idea what sleaze is supposed to look like. They've just heard about it third-hand from someone who went to Vegas once. Read the rest
Mark your calendars, Twin Citians. The Powderhorn Park Art Sled Rally is January 28. If you've never been, you're missing out. It's a Happy Mutant-filled fun fest of creatively themed homemade sleds careening down a steep hill, ridden by costumed characters. It's also the perfect way to cure some depth-of-winter blues. Check out the video to see, among other things, a sled shaped like a 20-sided die.
I'll be joining BoingBoing readers for a meetup before this year's rally. Hopefully, you can come! We'll meet at 1:00. Reader Emily Lloyd has graciously volunteered her home, across the street from Powderhorn Park, for the meetup location. Bring what you'd like to drink. Bring a snack to share. At 2:00 or so, we'll walk to the park to watch the sledding. More details are on the BoingBoing Meetup page. See you there! Read the rest
The Aitkin, Minnesota, Fish House Parade is a post-Thanksgiving tradition. People dress up their snowmobiles, Sno-Cats, and fish houses—portable cabins used for ice fishing—in silly costumes and roll them down Aitkin's Main Street to cheering throngs. It's meant to mark the kick-off of the ice fishing season on Mille Lacs, a particularly large lake in north-central Minnesota. This year, however, the arrival of Thanksgiving has not really coincided with the arrival of thick snow and solid lake ice. It'll be a while yet before any of the fish houses are being used for fishing.
One other oddity brought on by the relatively warm November: If you browse through the photos taken by Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Collins, you'll see that many of fish house floats are towed by snowmobile. But, lacking much snow, the snowmobiles all have little, temporary front wheels attached.