My love-hate relationship with e-books

Ever since I read a New York Times article about the possibility of bedbugs spreading through library books, I’ve been too paranoid to check out a book from my local library. (Yes, I know people have argued that the article was way overblown. What can I say? I have an irrational fear of the bedbug.) […]

The Rime of the Ancient Astronomers

I received an email the other day from Nicholas Suntzeff, the director of the Astronomy Program at Texas A&M as well as a friend. (Readers might remember that he has published two guest posts with LWON.) His email was in fact a series of emails that he thought I might enjoy. It started with a […]

Big Brother Science

I’m eager to read Dave Eggers’ new book, The Circle. In this novel, a mega-tech company seeks to make the world as “transparent” as possible by encouraging people to place cameras everywhere and share the details of their private lives. The company declares that “ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN” and “SECRETS ARE LIES.” In […]

En Garde..Touche

“So, this goes…under the bra?” I stare dubiously at the hard plastic bowls. “Yup,” says the 27-year-old Black Irish firefighter who somehow strikes me as unlikely to know, even though it is he who handed them to me in a sealed package upon which he has printed my name. The trouble is I already have […]

Guest Post: A new love for the very old

When I was young, my brother and sister and I caught salamanders in my grandparents’ garage and chased cats through the barn. The family farm was a big private playground, where we could poke at tadpoles in Nelson Lake (more like a large pond) and occasionally ride around on a giant lawnmower. More often than […]

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 […]