The Sock Barometer

    I’ve been losing socks lately. One at a time. I correlate this with my state of life and work: picking up and dropping off kids, scheduling plane flights and cross-country drives, article deadlines, a final book manuscript due tomorrow, a blog post tonight. This week, I’m teaching 15 high school classes on the writing process, why we […]

Redux: You’ve got mail, you idiot!

This post originally ran on October 26, 2011, back when Donald Trump was relentlessly propagating an easily debunked conspiracy theory about President Obama. As we ponder the triumph of “alternative facts,” it’s worth considering what makes bullshit so appealing and why it’s so hard to debunk.Earlier this month, I gave an Ignite talk at the National Association of […]

Sexist for All I Know

Last night I ran through quotes in my new book manuscript, making sure they were all amply annotated, meaning I spelled the names right. There were a lot of women in this run. For a book on the Ice Age and paleo sciences, mostly archaeology and paleontology, I’d had no trouble finding female researchers to write […]

The Problem with Good People

Writing about people who are a normal mixture of good and bad is already hard.  Writing about good people is close to impossible. I wrote a profile once about a doctor who was just plain good.  He wasn’t a do-gooder – “I’m not a missionary,” he’d say; he was just a man who needed to […]

When America was Great, the First Time

We were great in the Ice Age. Big weapons, big animals, big land. While parts of the world were crawling with hominids for a million years or more, this side of the planet was off limits. Getting here was never easy, not in the late Pleistocene, not now. The Americas are bookended by the world’s two […]

No Rings, Pops, or Bells

I don’t know what to do with my phone. It makes noises that I don’t understand. Sometimes it sounds like a jackpot machine and I want to throw it as far as I can. The last few days I found myself out of range while driving across southern Utah, trying to call my boys to […]

The trouble with abundance

There are several things you’re likely to notice if you fly over Southeast Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago on a clear day. If you’re an alpine junky like me, the first will be the snowcapped mountains that stretch seemingly without end from near the coast to the eastern horizon somewhere in Canada, their white-and-gray-tongued glaciers pouring all […]

Just Have Lunch

I wish I could remember – but I can’t  – the woman who told me a story about how she and other women in her profession had regular lunches, casually, unofficially, no agenda.  Was she a lawyer? A writer? An astronomer?  Just don’t remember.  The thing I’m sure about is that the point was not […]