What's New @ Wes Jones

What's new in the world?
Here are some things that I am interested in.

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Note: I sometimes provide a link to a commercial site where a book or article is available. 
This is in no way an endorsement or promotion of such a site. 
I receive nothing for providing these links; they are just for the readers convenience.



The Dystopians - 01/27/2009

An interesting essay from The New Yorker about some "dystopians" and their views of the future, how they're preparing for it, and why we should do so now.

Robot Armies - 11/29/2007

We've all heard of the unmanned aircraft the US is using in Iraq, and who hasn't see the cyborgs in the Terminator movies? Here's a report on the development of robots for use in warefare by Steve Featherstone. From Harpers Magazine. A related item: here is a web site for a company that claims to have developed software to let kids playing online video games actually run these robots on a real battlefield.

Green Gold - 11/13/2007

Who hasn't read of Toulouse-Latrec and his absinthe-containing cane? I always wondered what this famous liquor tasted like, and bought a bottle a few years ago as a gift to some friends. Jack Turner writes about some of the modern absinthe distillers in this essay from The New Yorker. Here is a source for absinthe (please note, I am not endorsing this company, just giving a link)

The Medicine Ship - 02/21/2007

I was in the Delaware Art Museum a few weeks ago, and saw a painting by NC Wyeth, The Medicine Ship, that I hadn't seen in 20 years. I had never read the story this painting was executed for, so after a trip to the University of Delaware library, some photocopying, scanning, OCR, formatting, etc., here it is. Connelly has written in a difficult dialect style, but stick with it for a funny story. Here is a link to the painting in the museum.

God or Gorilla - 03/30/2006

Another report from the Kitzmiller trial. Matthew Chapman, in an essay from Harpers, talks more about the people involved than the scientific merits of Intelligent Design. Read about Chapman in the Philadelphia Inquirer here. Chapman has a new book which expands on this essay, 40 Days and 40 Nights.

Darwin in the Dock - 03/24/2006

Margaret Talbot reports on the recent evolution v. intelligent design court case from Dover, PA ("Kitzmiller"). This essay is from The New Yorker. Check out this interview with Talbot here

Political Science - 03/08/2006

Michael Specter, in another hard-hitting essay, takes on the Bush administration's anti-science policies. In this piece from The New Yorker, Specter decries the government's attack on science in the name of corporate greed and morality. If you're a woman, be aware that your government would rather have you die from cervical cancer than (maybe) have sex. Check out this interview with Specter here. While at his site, check out all his writings.

Hogs Wild - 01/04/06

Ian Frazier's essay about feral pigs, from the Dec 12, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. While a one-sentence account of the correspondence of pig domains and red/blue states would be amusing, his extended explanation is just silly. However, the thought of seeing a feral hog outside my plant is exciting - I hope they make it to Delaware soon. Kenneth Brower wrote about feral pigs in Hawaii in The Atlantic about 20 years ago.

Brokeback Mountain - 11/20/05

Ang Lee's movie (from the Annie Proulx short story of the same name) is about to open. Much controversy - gay cowboys! Career wrecker for the stars! I found the text of the story on Amazon a little while ago - I don't think it is available now. It is drawn from Proulx's book Close Range: Wyoming Stories. (Note from 01/13/06:  I received a nice cease-and-desist email from a law firm representing Simon and Schuster, the publishers of this book, so I removed the story from my site. You can still find in online here, here, and here. Interesting how the lawyers go after the little guy, but ignore Barnes and Noble.) (Note from 02/18/2006: I see now that Barnes and Noble have taken the story down, but the other two links above are still active.) (Note from 03/24/2006: I see that the lawyers are still after us; another of the above links is down. Just email me.)

Fortress America - 09/26/05

An article from The New York Times magazine (2003) by Matthew Brzezinski about the changes we will see in our country as the war on terrorism becomes fascism and terror at home. Brzezinski has written a book, with the same name, on this topic. On a sort-of related theme, there is a essay in The Nation, by Jeremy Scahill, about the government's use of mercernaries in this country, particularly in New Orleans after the recent floods. 

The War Business - 09/26/05

An article from Harpers by Chalmers Johnson about war profiteering.

Death of a Mountain - 09/19/05

An article from Harpers by Eric Reece about strip mining coal in Appalachia. Note: Reece has written a related article for the Jan/Feb 2006 issue of Orion. Read it here. Note: As of 05/13/2007, Reece's book Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness is available.)

The Climate of Man - 08/19/05

A three-part series by Elizabeth Kolbert that discusses man's effect on climate appeared recently in The New Yorker. The article appears in three parts: Part I, Part II, and Part III. An interview with Kolbert appears here. (I noticed on 01/06/06 that The New Yorker articles might not be available online. See them here.)

The Case Against Intelligent Design - 08/19/05

This is a review, by Jerry Coyne, of a book called Pandas and People. This is the textbook that is being referenced by the Dover, Pennsylvania school system. The school board earlier this year mandated equal time for teaching of "Intelligent Design" in science classes. This article is from The New Republic. There is lots of material available on the web about ID; proponents and opponents square off in this article from Natural History magazine (with lots of references).

Climbing the Redwoods - 07/25/05

This is a very interesting essay from the February 14 & 21, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. Richard Preston hooks up with a couple of scientists who climb into and work in the canopies of the largest redwoods. 

Letter Found in a Book - 05/30/05

This is the transcript of a letter I found in a used copy of The Handmaid's Tale I bought in Seattle about 1990. The original scans are here and here.

The Most Dangerous Game - 05/17/05

A classic story by Richard Connell, "The Most Dangerous Game" has it all: suspense, danger, a hero, a sinister villain... This is published completely without permission. In XML format.

The Fall of Edward Barnard - 05/06/05

One of my favorite Somerset Maugham stories. Of course, he has the early 20th century British disdain for people of color, and describes them using a word that I find offensive, but that's the way it was when he was writing; you can't apply contemporary morés to historical attitudes. This is published completely without permission, but hopefully it will spark your interest in Maugham's short stories.. In XML format.

America's #1 Cash Crop - 04/26/05

An article by Michael Pollan about marijuana cultivation, and how the government's anti-drug efforts of the 80's forced growers indoors. This article was the basis for his chapter on marijuana in The Botany of Desire. A few years ago I met a college student studying and working with hydroponic farming (in Anguilla); he mentioned that all the best indoor farmers read High Times magazine, since the pot growers are at the front of technology.

Isaac Asimov - 04/16/05

An interview with Isaac Asimov, the incredibly prolific writer, from Bill Moyers' World of Ideas. I especially like his observation that, prior to the industrial revolution, everyone expected that life would always be the same, just with new faces.

Nature's Bioterrorist - 04/11/05

Is the world prepared to prevent or at least defend against an outbreak of avian flu? Michael Specter discusses this in an essay from The New Yorker. Be sure to check out all his articles on his site.

Ferret Legging - 12/13/04

Meet Reg, the foremost competitor in the somewhat obscure sport of ferret legging.

The Sweet Hereafter - 12/10/04

Paul Roberts, who has just published The End of Oil, about the coming reductions in global oil production, and the consequences, wrote this essay about sugar. Published in Harpers magazine, Roberts describes why sugar costs three times as much in the US as it does on the world market, the price protections that keep the domestic sugar barons profitable, and the payoffs they make to government officials to keep the protections. Listen to an interview with Roberts on NPR here.

A Glass of Handmade - 11/12/04

This essay by William Least Heat Moon, from The Atlantic in 1987, is about the renaissance in brewing that was then occurring. I remember when my friends Ken and Kathy came to Seattle to visit me that year I had them buy this issue of the magazine to read on the plane, so they would be psyched to drink a few beers when they arrived. We quickly filled their Westin hotel refrigerator with a case of assorted Redhooks, Hales, Grants, and any other microbrews we could find, and, alas, just as quickly, emptied it.

Note: removed by request of the copyright holder, 12/17/12.

Your Vote, 2004  - 09/02/04

Planning on voting this November? Think your vote will count? Think again. Here are links to some articles, essays, and some solid investigative work on the problems with electronic voting machines (and their manufacturers) and how they can, have, and will be manipulated to determine the elections this fall. In fact, if you live in Maryland, today a judge disallowed protests against voting machines by saying that since all voting systems are corrupt, to try to control them would cost too much and be too confusing. Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

The Coldest War - 09/02/04

An essay from Outside magazine about the quiet war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, being fought in the mountains at elevations greater than 15,000 feet. 

The End of History? - 09/01/04

This is the famous and classic essay by Francis Fukuyama, which appeared in the Summer 1989 issue of The National Interest.  I can still remember the excitement and the controversy when this essay appeared, and there was a line at the Poly Sci library at UW to photocopy it. (I found my photocopies during a recent archeological dig at my house.) Fukuyama later expanded this essay into a book of the same name, but pretty much said nothing new. You have to be suspicious of these guys who publish in this journal, however, since they are essentially think-tank employees who take turns writing essays for each other (and their resumes). They are not unlike the so-called "policy wonks" who show up on the Sunday talk shows each week spouting the party line. Whatever. I have included the responses to this essay, published in the same issue, and some related papers, published later. I have also included George Kennan's testimony before the Senate Foreign Affairs committee in April of 1989; Moynihan refers to this testimony in his response to Fukuyama. 

Farewell to the Master - 08/09/04

A classic SF story by Harry Bates, on which the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still was based. This is published completely without permission. Everyone who knows the movie should read the story. In XML format.

Against School - 08/09/04

An very interesting and very angry essay by John Tayler Gatto about the purpose of schooling. Gatto, a former teacher, sees schools as "virtual factories of childishness" for their dumbing-down of both students and teachers.  From Harper's Magazine, September, 2003. You can reach Mr Gatto here.

Lie Down for America - 08/09/04

An essay by Thomas Frank about the state of Kansas, the people who live there, the "Great Backlash", the myth of the divided country, and more. From Harper's Magazine, April 2004. This essay is drawn from his new book, What's the Matter with Kansas?.

The Prince of Possibility - 07/08/04

An essay by Robert Stone about his memories of Ken Kesey. When I was in high school there was a small cadre of us who loved Sometimes a Great Notion; hard to believe Kesey would be 70 now. From The New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2004.

The Oil We Eat - 07/08/04

An essay by Richard Manning about the calculus of food production - among other things, about how much petroleum it takes to generate our breakfast cereals and hamburgers. From Harper's Magazine, February 2004. If you like this essay you should check out his newest book, Against the Grain, which enlarges these ideas. Here is an interview with Manning in The Atlantic.

The Big Front Yard - 07/07/04

One of my favorite SF stories from my youth, by Clifford Simak. This is published completely without permission, but probably good advertising for Simak. In XML format.

Opium Made Easy - 07/06/04

A reader called my attention to the fact that this essay by Michael Pollan, from Harper's Magazine, had a few typos, so I proofread and republished it here. This is a very interesting account of the author's experiences growing opium poppies in his garden, and the people he meets. (Note: as of 02/01/06, this essay is online here on Michael Pollan's personal site. Please check it out). If you like reading about opium and want to know more about how to grow it and make morphine and heroin (who doesn't?), here is an official US government publication on the subject, along with a little commentary from Jim Hogshire. (As of 12/27/04, the above link is not working, so here is my transcription of this web page. I make no claims about the accuracy of the information on this page).

A Comet's Tale - 01/27/04

I'm not sure how to describe this essay by Tom Banks - he discusses the science of comets, what they would do if they hit the earth, and how various people think about this. It's interesting - that's the only thing I am going to say about it. How about that. From Harper's Magazine.

Rolltop Mantra of the Outer Banks - 01/24/04

A funny essay by Mark Richard about revisiting and remembering  the Outer Banks of North Carolina. From Harpers.

Anarchy at Sea - 01/24/04

William Langewiesche has written about pirates, mysterious and dangerous ships, and the problems of defending against attack by merchant ships. This essay is from The Atlantic, and is not available online. I think Langewiesche is writing a book about the shipping industry - see the essay below on shipbreaking.

Webstalker - 01/24/04

Katha Pollitt writes about using the Internet to spy on her ex-lover in this essay from The New Yorker. Pollitt's previous article, Learning to Drive (also from The New Yorker), is a blend of her driving lessons and lessons from her lover leaving. Read it here. If you don't read The Nation (hey, if you are reading this page you should be reading The Nation), here is a link to Pollitt's column.

The Kingdom of Apples - 01/21/04

An essay by David Guterson on the apple business in Washington State. Eastern Washington, starting near the Columbia river, is nearly a desert, brown and dry, except for the irrigated apple orchards. I've stopped at many roadside fruit stands there to find strange apples that taste like watermelon or banana. From Harpers.

Winter Blues - 09/25/03

An essay by Adam Gussow, half of the blues band Satan & Adam, about touring the East coast in the mid-90s. I first read this in Harpers magazine in 1995 - hey, it took me a while to scan and transcribe.

The Bush-Saudi Connection - 09/24/03

This is the article ("Saving the Saudis") from Vanity Fair (10/03) by Craig Unger that has been so much in the news lately, detailing how the family of Osama bin Laden and other important Saudi Arabians were helped by the US government to flee the US after the 9/11 attacks, even as all other air travel in the US was banned. This essay was drawn from Unger's book House of Bush, House of Saud.

The Pinhole Camera - 09/09/03

An article from Scientific American about pinhole photography. I made my own pinhole camera several years, while I was killing time in grad school. I will post some photos when (if) I can find them.

The Radioactive Boy Scout - 09/09/03

An amusing essay from Harper's Magazine (05/97) about a boy scout's experiments with nuclear energy. 

Finally! My new web site: "Trees from Seeds" - 08/20/03

Check out my new web site, www.treesfromseeds.org. I have tried to describe and photograph my tree-growing efforts. There are tips on collecting and growing trees from seeds, as well as some photos of the process, and tips on finding seeds.

The Shipbreakers - 08/20/03

The cover essay from The Atlantic magazine (08/00). William Langewiesche reports on the "shipbreaking" industry in India, and how obsolete ships are disposed of. This essay is no longer available online from The Atlantic (I think he is writing a book), so read it here before they make me take it down.

Someone There Is Who Loves a Wall - 08/20/03

An essay from The Atlantic magazine about the stone wall building talents of Steven Allen, a dry waller from Great Britain who builds walls for a living during the week, then enters contests on the weekend. The author is Michael Finkel, who was fired from the New York Times a few years ago for fabricating a story, so this might be fiction; I haven't done the research to verify it.

The Botany of Desire - 03/30/03

Terry Gross interviewed Michael Pollan, the author of The Botany of Desire, about his thoughts on the interaction of people and plants. In his book Pollan talks about 4 plants: tulips, apples, potatoes, and marijuana, and how their cultivation has changed both people and the plants themselves. The interview appeared on Fresh Air.

Power Steer - 03/30/03

Like most people, Michael Pollan eats beef. Unlike most people, though, he has actually wondered about how a cow is turned into food. He bought a calf, followed it through the feedlot to the table, and wrote about it for The New York Times Magazine.

He was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex - 03/30/03

Michael Pollan's essay  from The New York Times Magazine on what exactly is organic produce and food, and how the market has changed now that the big food companies are in the business.

Cool War: Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction - 01/08/03

An account of the effect the economic sanctions against Iraq have had on the civilian population, and the role of the US government in this UN-sanctioned genocide. This essay by Joy Gordon, a professor at Fairfield University, appeared in the November, 2002 issue of Harpers magazine. 

An interview with the author is available on line at: 


Then and Now - 11/02/02

Some crazy kid on wheels.

I Sing the Meadowlands - 11/02/02

Robert Sullivan's essay from The New York Times Magazine (February 15, 1998) about his adventures in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. He has expanded this essay into a book

He was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air on 10/20/99 - listen to the interview here.

Your Tax Dollars at Work - 09/05/02

Three essays by Eric Schlosser from The Atlantic; a mid-nineties view of marijuana and the absurd drug laws in our country. Have things changed since then? Note that these three articles form the basis of his book Reefer Madness.

Reefer Madness - July 1994
Marijuana and the Law - September 1994
More Reefer Madness - April 1997

You can read the transcript of an interview with Schlosser on Frontline on PBS.

NASA's pictures of the universe - 09/05/02

Michael Benson, a film producer,  has written a beautiful essay for The Atlantic (July, 2002) on how he explores the solar system via the photos from NASA satellites.

This picture of Io in front of Jupiter is from the JPL web site.

Are you still eating hamburger? - 09/04/02

Eric Schlosser's bestseller from last year, Fast Food Nation, exposed of the dark side of the All-American meal, highlighting the dangers of the meat-packing industry, and the shortcomings of meat inspection in this country. In a new editorial in The Nation magazine, Schlosser focuses on the recent recall of 19 millions pounds of ground beef produced by ConAgra.

Schlosser argues that America's food safety system has been expertly designed not to protect the public health but to protect the meatpacking industry from liability. 

See Schlosser's full editorial in The Nation: www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020916&s=schlosser

You can read an interview with Schlosser about his book at the web site of The Atlantic magazine: http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/interviews/ba2000-12-14.htm.

Schlosser also wrote about the hazards of the meatpacking industry in January 2001 issue of The Atlantic in an essay entitled How to Make the Country's Most Dangerous Job Safer .

Global Warming - 09/02/02

The EPA has issued Climate Action Report 2002, a report on the state of global warming. This report is a consequence of an treaty signed by Big Bush at the Earth Summit back in 1992 that obligates the US to periodically report to the UN.

The report says that 1) human activities have caused carbon dioxide levels to rise; 2) higher carbon dioxide levels lead to global climate disruption; and 3) the most troubling, there is a lag effect to this disruption, which means that efforts to reduce CO2 emissions now might not take effect for 100 years. These are some awkward truths that neither President Select Bush nor his "environmental" team want to confront, which may explain why the Administration has repudiated the report. Although their staffs helped write it, both EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham claimed they were unaware of the report until the New York Times disclosed its existence on June 3. Bush himself dismissed it as a mere product of "the bureaucracy." 

Mark Hertsgaard reports more thoroughly in The Nation (July 8, 2002). . For a laugh, you can read the White House spin on what President Select Bush thinks of all this at the White House site.

Nuclear v. Coal? - 09/01/02

Washington’s new energy policy barely mention conservation and zero emissions renewable sources (wind, solar and hydro) while emphasizing developing new supplies and technologies for traditional consumable fuels, including oil, gas, coal and nuclear. Given the amount of President Select Bush & the Acting President Cheney's bribes from the oil and power industries, this is not surprising. What is surprising is that there is also a renewed interest in adding new nuclear capacity to our power grid. What is the case for nuclear power?

Nuclear power is considered a zero “greenhouse emissions” technology and currently constitutes 16% of the world’s electrical power generation (~20% in the U.S. and ~75% in France). Fifty percent of U.S. electricity comes from burning coal—a known contributor to greenhouse gases and acid rain. Coal combustion also releases a significant amount of radiation into the biosphere. Typical levels of radioactive elements in U.S. coal are ~1 ppm uranium; ~3 ppm thorium; and smaller traces of radium, radon and polonium. Even with precipitators capturing most particulates, it has been estimated that the effective radiation exposure dose is 100 times greater for burning coal compared to nuclear.  (See the article by Gabbard at Oak Ridge National Lab). Additionally, in 1999 the generating costs per KWh in the U.S. was less for nuclear than for coal.

Status of the Arab World - 09/01/02

The UN has issued the Arab Human Development Report 2002. Written by a group of prominent Arab scholars, it seeks to explain why the Arab world lags the West in economy, science, human rights, and democracy.





Bernard Lewis (the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, at Princeton University) also explores the changes in the Muslim world in The Atlantic (January, 2002).

Women's Rights in Afghanistan - 08/31/02

Human Rights Watch has published this analysis of the state of women's rights in Afghanistan in October, 2001. "HUMANITY DENIED - Systematic Violations of Women's Rights in Afghanistan" describes life under the Taliban, and previews changes after the September 11 attacks on the US. 


Wes Jones
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Last updated: Monday, December 17, 2012