Great guest features of 2011

Here's just a sampler of the many fabulous stories, features and oddities we published last year from guests, freelancers and friends. May 2012 bring forth just as many excellent words!

Air Space: a trip through an airport detention center

The Iceland Air lounge has helpful staff—the welcome desk offers helpful tips on avoiding
airport hassles and even provides free internet access. They'll help
you read your boarding pass and even answer questions about all its
confusing symbols. Should one ever be
in the unfortunate position of having the dreaded 'SSSS' marked upon it, the help desk will suggest you wait
until the exact boarding time before even approaching customs. They'll
even apologize, as if they had any hand in the process. And that was their
recommendation to me, when I had it clearly printed on mine. It was not my lucky day.

Incredible journey: Can we reach the stars without breaking the bank?

In expanding outward into space, patience, not velocity, may be the greatest virtue. After all, we're already on an interstellar spacecraft called the Earth, sailing with the Sun and its retinue of other planets around the Milky Way in circuits lasting 250 million years.

Coffee Common launches

"As an enthusiast, I'm constantly annoying my local baristas with questions. As an advocate—well, my advocacy work to date has consisted mostly of caffeinated rants to friends. But a few months ago, the opportunity to explore that a little deeper presented itself."

The Graffiti of War

From war, art. This is the basic premise of The Graffiti of War , a project from two combat veterans that features the unconventional military art that soldiers, seamen, marines, and airmen (and women) create during deployments

Rejected by Bahrain

Thumbing through my passport, he suddenly stops and looks me in the eye. "Wait, where are you from? Who do you work for? … Please have a seat – over there." I can't be sure if it was the Iraq visa, the India visa, or the numerous Qatar & Saudi visas in my American passport he found suspicious. Or perhaps it was my telling him in Arabic that "my origin" is half Indian, half Hispanic.

But can they suffer?

Plants cannot think, and you'd have to be pretty eccentric to believe they can suffer. Plausibly the same might be true of earthworms. But what about cows?

Discretion please, not rulebooks

The prohibition against taking more than very small quantities of liquids or unguents on planes is demonstrably ludicrous. It started as one of those "Look at us, we're taking decisive action" displays, the ones designed to cause maximum inconvenience to the public in order to make the dimwitted Dundridges who rule our lives feel important and look busy.

Ghost Babies

On Ebay, "Poignant" is a pet word in the collectible postmortem photo category. As in: "POIGNANT POST MORTEM BABY," an antique photograph of an infant, asleep forever in her toy casket. Her arched eyebrows give her a fretful look, querulous but a little quizzical, too, as if she's startled to realize that death, unlike gas, doesn't pass.

Sunset of a Blog

"Everything has its season, and the paucity of visitors corresponds both to the level of competition from general technology reporting and gadget sites, and to the ease with which Wi-Fi now performs. When Wi-Fi was hard, my site was useful; when it's like breathing air, not so much."

Predators I Have Known

A selection of novelist Alan Dean Foster's favorite encounters with dangerous beasts.

Interview with Ted Molczan, citizen satellite tracker

The skies have stories to tell. Some of the stories make for interesting puzzles, particularly sightings of previously unseen objects in earth orbit.

Does the pharmaceutical industry exaggerate their R&D costs?

One of the principle claims for allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue their hold on current patent practices, is that research and development (or R&D) is very expensive. It just keeps coming up, and seems to be all the rage when arguing against regulation.


Inteviews with Robert Sapolsky, William O. Stephens, Jack Zylkin, David Eagleman, William Powers, Michael Greer, Al Worden and many more.

Aftershock: A New Yorker on the dark side of Japan

The only thing more disconcerting than the typical calm Japanese people so often exhibit in the face of all manner of outlandish occurrences is actually seeing the normally buttoned-up, retrained populace lose their cool en masse. That is truly scary.

AnonyMiss, the yin to the Anonymous yang

Anonymous seems to be everywhere. But percolating below the surface is an inchoate group of women working under the Anonymous banner: They're called AnonyMiss.

The Pale King

Like Infinite Jest, DFW left things messy in Pale King. It's frustrating. Nothing was neatly tied up, he left too much for us to do ourselves. Nothing is whole, and catharsis isn't delivered to you, you have to go in and grab it and tear it out of the text.