Category Archives: News flash!

Bozeman Explosion: this is not a metaphor

I've removed the slide show (put together by local news stationn KBZK) that used to be at the end of this post, as it was making everything else run ver-ry s-l-o-w-l-y. You can link to it here, though.

 Picture 1

I was going to write a post celebrating the big snowfall we had last night, but given that a big chunk of Main Street blew up this morning, that seemed a little crass. Six inches of heavy, wet snow can’t be making things any easier for the dozens and dozens of emergency personnel trying to put out a gas-main fire, figure out if anyone was in the three buildings destroyed, and rescue them if the answer turns out to be “yes.”

I was driving to a doctor’s appointment around ten this morning when I saw the big, dirty plume stretching across the sky from—where? Somewhere downtown? Further west? I couldn’t tell. But something big must be burning. At the office one of the staff, who was following the story online and on the radio, told me that “Boodles exploded.”

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Acidic Oceans? Keep Gardening!

(Scroll to the bottom for today's featured black artist, politician, or gardener, all in honor of Black History Month.)

I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s weekend, so I saved this one, but on Friday the NY Times reported that carbon dioxide is making the oceans so acidic that shellfish, coral reefs, and the balance of life in the ocean in general is threatened. This from a panel of a hundred and fifty-five (155) scientists from twenty-six (26) countries.

The carbon dioxide, of course, comes primarily from burning fossil fuels, and the acid comes from what happens to that CO2 when it dissolves in the ocean: it becomes carbolic acid, a.k.a. phenol, a poison so potent and so easy to produce that the Nazis used it in their extermination programs.

The world’s oceans serve as a wonderful carbon sink, removing a quarter to a third of the human-produced carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but apparently even they have a limit.

Moral: KEEP THOSE GARDENS GOING, and compost like a maniac. Photosynthesis and soil are the other two great carbon sinks besides the oceans, so the more green things we can grow, the better. Organic matter (compost, in case you didn’t get it) also sequesters (stores) carbon in the soil. The best, as in longest-term, form for these purposes is humus, the enormously complex organic (as in, containing carbon) molecules that help stabilize soil, improve water retention, and perform dozens of other things that are good for your garden. They last for hundreds of years, so the carbon they contain is locked up for a long time. Oh, and yes, composting does produce humus!

Original article:
Rising Acidity Is Threatening Food Web of Oceans, Science Panel Says
Published: January 30, 2009


Oscar Micheaux

African-American of the Day: Drawn at random from Molefi Kete Asante’s list of 100 Greatest African Americans. (Asante, a prolific professor of African-American studies, started the first PhD program in that field at Temple University in1987.) I downloaded the list from the Wikipedia article on it, checked off the 40 or so I know (gulp) and am curious to see who some of the others are. I don’t know much about his list—it’s also the basis of a book by the same name—but what the heck.

Oscar Micheaux, (1884-1951) turns out to be one of the most—if not the most—prolific film makers of the silent era, producing and directing forty-four full-length films over the thirty years ending in 1948. A controversial figure, he focused on race issues in his films, even taking on the racism in D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. He was the first black filmmaker whose work was shown in mainstream (i.e., “white”) theaters, and he gave the great actor and basso profundo (the lowest of all singing parts) Paul Robeson his first film part, in his 1924 Body and Soul.

Transforming Black Friday

Jdimytai Damour NYT 11:29:08
Jdimytai Damour
NYT 11/29/08

There's been a lot of activity in the blogosphere in reaction to Jdimytai Damour's terrible death on Black Friday. Damour had been working at the Long-Island Wal-Mart for only a week or so when he was trampled to death by out-of-control shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. Amongst garden bloggers, Bamboo Geek, for instance, suggested that we “Dump the "Black Friday" Tradition." I wish we could, but that's probably too much to hope for, so here's a distant second best.

Imagine this: people outside big shopping outlets carrying signs that say, "Remember Jdimytai Damour" on Black Friday next year–and the year after—and the next. We could hand out black armbands to remind people to remember that man and to be kind to one another.

There’s a chance, just a chance, I think, that people wearing these bands, seeing them on other’s arms, would slow down a little, just enough to see one another’s faces, and in those faces, their shared humanity.

Is this possible? Can we do it?

Montana’s big moment–and big tree (revised)

Er–Note: This post contains several errors. Consult the next post, "Eating Crow," for details.

White House tree, KPAX
KPAX Montana's News Station

Read carefully, then answer the questions in the quiz at the end of the article.

My home state is apparently just about bursting with pride, having been chosen for the singular honor of supplying the nation's Capital Christmas Tree this year. It's a rotating honor; Vermont, a five-time winner, is still recovering from its stint last year; Arizona is doing deep breathing and multiple push-ups to prepare for its turn next year.

The tree's vital statistics are widely and variously reported, being critical to its role. There's near-complete unanimity about the age of the tree: a hundred and forty-four years, give or take a few. However,  sources demonstrate an odd inability to agree on what you'd think would be the simplest of facts, the height of the tree. Some sources say it measures 78 feet, but a cbs2 reporter who must be wearing two push-up bras confidently reports 68. One overenthusiastic Montana TV website says it's a hundred feet long. As a loyal Montanan, I am going with a hundred and fifty.

With a reporter's typical reluctance to reveal sources, the cbs2 reporter remains circumspect even about the tree's source, saying, "That tree, we are told, was grown in Montana." Well, she's being careful; the people, whoever they are, who claimed that the tree came from Montana might have been wrong. Or lying. There's been quite a rash of lies about tree sources recently. I'd tell you how I know, except I can't reveal my sources.

The Montana tree arrived at the White House yesterday, having traveled over 4,000 miles on what's more like a victory tour than a straightforward journey. Either that, or it got lost shortly after being cut in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest, because it put in 2,000 miles in Montana alone.

On Nov. 15, ten days before the tree got to D.C., The New York Times reported that the cost had reached about $400,000. Relax, though; it's covered almost entirely through private donations. I find this both charming and appalling.

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News Flash: Pine Beetles devastating US Forests


New York Times, Nov. 17, 2008–Montana campground.

Clint Kyhl, a Forest Service employee working out of Laramie, Wyoming directs an “incident management team” that focuses on managing fire threat in dead forests. Dead forests? Yes. Because more and more, up and down the Rockies, that’s what we’ve got: dead forests.

I don’t need a newspaper to show me this; I can see it when I look at the foothills of the Hyalite Mountains just south of Bozeman, and when I go skiing in the Bridgers to the north.

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