Abstruse Goose: the Snoopable Internet

This subject is dear to me at the moment:  I’ve been working forever on a short, cheap news story on the National Security Agency.  One thing I’m learning — or I think I’m learning, with this stuff you can’t be sure — is more or less what AG  is saying, that an internet without back doors […]

How to conjure a forest out of thin air

This summer, I became slightly obsessed with the Ring. Not the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, not the Japanese horror movie (which I have vowed never to see), but the epic four-opera series by Richard Wagner. Der Ring des Nibelungen spans about 17 hours and features a cast of gods, dwarves, giants, mermaids, and a dragon, all […]

Let a Vast Assembly Be

In 1908, a young Lithuanian immigrant named Pauline Newman got a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, then one of New York City’s biggest garment factories. She worked as a “cleaner,” trimming threads off the new clothes and boxing them for shipment. It was dull, tiring work, with bullying bosses who forced the workers to […]

Remembering Randy Udall

Late last month, 61-year-old Randy Udall shouldered a backpack and set out, alone, into the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. It was a habit of his: Randy was an experienced outdoorsman, and he periodically retreated from his busy, public life into the solitude of the Wind Rivers. He told his family that he would be […]

Plugging In

Two weeks ago, for the first time in 15 years, I flushed the toilet inside my house. This — and by “this” I mean the 15 years of non-flushing — was not quite as gross as it might sound. Until very recently, my family and I lived off the electrical grid in rural Colorado, in […]

Conversation: Girls Reading Boy Books

Ann:  May I introduce my friend and colleague, Sharon Weinberger. She once wrote a book about her trips to the world’s various nuclear test sites and it sold reasonably well, probably to boys.  But recently somebody else’s book, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold History of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, […]

Your Guide to the Future

I used to think M.T. Anderson was prescient. Now I’m convinced he’s psychic. Anderson is the author of the young-adult novel Feed, a very funny — and deeply disturbing — book about the seductive power of social media. In the world of the novel, the fortunate have a “feed” implanted in their brains at birth, […]

Soap Operas versus the Population Bomb?

It’s early morning in a Mumbai train station. The video is grainy, but you can clearly make out a dense swarm of humanity along the platform.  By my count, the crowd stands at least ten or twelve people deep, males for the most part, many dressed in light short-sleeved shirts, the kind you’d wear in […]