Currently Listening to:

Heartless Bastards: “Hold Your Head High”

After celebrating the wedding of two dear friends I’m feeling the truth of those early lines: “But I have some really good friends / I’ve been fortunate to find.”

RIP Donald J. Sobol

Donald J. Sobol, author of the Encyclopedia Brown series of books passed away at the age of 87 on July 11th from natural causes. Some of my earliest memories of reading involve Encyclopedia Brown books. I loved them when I was younger and they helped instil a love of reading that has stuck with me.

Resurgent Black Lung

NPR, the Charleston Gazette and The Center for Public Integrity have compiled a series of important stories about resurgence of Black Lung Disease among coal miners and miners operating in Appalachian regions of Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia in particular. There is a lot of overlap in the stories I’ve linked above, but the information compiled in these stories is damning. In short, the resurgence of Black Lung points towards inadequate regulation and enforcement of worker safety laws in the mines. The newfound prevalence of this issue rams home once again the dangers in mining and the numerous ways these dangers are exacerbated through negligence by mining companies and government programs. Black Lung is the long debilitating disease that eventually kills its victims by destroying their ability to breathe. You can get a feel for the nature of the disease in the quote from Mark McCowan in the NPR article:

“Now it feels like I’ve got a heavy wet sack on each lung,” McCowan says, between long, deep breaths. “Breathing has become a conscious effort. … It seems like I give up a little bit of my world each day, that it gets smaller and smaller.”

Black Lung is a symbolically fitting as a disease tied directly to mining. Like our societal dependence on coal itself, the continuing presence of Black Lung reminds us that coal is a killer in the long term no matter what our efforts to “clean up.” In the immediate future, the issue of Black Lung should be addressed on a legislative level, but as Ken Ward Jr. reports, easier said than done. (This may sound like I’m drawing a hard line on coal, and to an extent I am. Still I want to be a bit more nuanced. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t believe there’s a complete answer to our dependence on coal yet, but that any answer that we come up with needs to take into account the economic stability of regions that have historically suffered the boom and bust cycles of mining. Moreover, my immediate focus is on worker safety issues.)

In other coal related news, the New York Times recently ran an op-ed by Jason Howard about the civil war raging in coal country regarding mining and MTR in particular. It serves as a good introduction to the stakes in this issue. (Thanks to Marcus for the link.)

For readers in Oregon, I also point to some coal issues closer to home via the Register Guard.

Links 7/6/12

Here’s a backlog of stuff I’ve been meaning to link:

– I came across an old article form the Atlantic by  Paul Fussel after his death was announced back in May. Warning: It’s a bit of a gruesome read. Given its subject matter – getting past the propaganda and examining the World War II without rose colored glasses – it needs to be. Here’s the link.

– An article on Stephen Hawking’s lost bet about Higgs boson over at MSNBC.

– Lynn Parramoore Alternet has an interesting article about job insecurity as a new American epidemic and the health problems that’s causing. It’s an intriguing subject and I know a lot of hard working people working under this sort of stress.

– Ages back Io9 ran some pictures of Pittsburg in the 1940s and 50s. I’ve tried to think of how to describe it, but it all sounds lame when I type it. You’re better of just taking a look for yourself.

– Finally, in the irony category: Karl Marx on a MasterCard.

What I’ve been up to…

Things have been a bit busy lately and I thought a quick update was in order. So, what’s been going on? Nothing big.

I suppose I did graduate with my PhD and got all the pomp, circumstance, and fancy hats that comes along with it. As did C (though the outfit looked better on her). The best part about it was having so many of our family and friends here to celebrate.

I also went to Santa Cruz for some job training for my new job.

The training was pretty interesting and I had a lot of fun wandering around Santa Cruz in my free hours. The best bit was the early morning four mile run I along the bike path where the picture above was taken (though the picture’s from the evening before).

I made some friends while I was there.

They didn’t get to go to the training session though.

The rest of the brief trip to CA was spent visiting family and moving firewood. My parents had to cut down some trees on their property since they were endangering the house. Saying these trees were big is a bit of an understatement. Let’s just say I got there after a lot of the work was done and I still spent about four or five hours moving the wood my dad was going to keep. He ended up giving the biggest tree away to some guys willing to cut it and move the logs themselves. Still, I was happy to help though and I only dropped a wheelbarrow on my ankle once! That was enough to convince me not to do it again. Guess that means the PhD is paying off.