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my give-a-shit spring is about to bust

He has lived here, on and off, for two years, ever since the island was built. How do you build an island to put an oil rig on? You wait until the ocean freezes. You can’t dig water, but you can dig ice. You dig to the bottom and excavate a foundation, about eleven acres in all. You find a source of gravel—in this case, a pit ten miles away—because you need a lot of it. Crews built ice roads and started hauling. They kept hauling, 20,000 truckloads, traveling a total of 400,000 miles, the equivalent of about sixteen trips around the world. They had to hurry. They had to get it all done before the ice roads melted. They dumped gravel, dumped and dumped, sculpted a six-acre rectangle out of it, then got to work on a retaining wall: more gravel—8,000 sacks of it weighing 13,000 pounds each—one on top of the other, bam, bam, bam, a barrier to fight back the summer sea. They had to hurry. They had to connect the island to shore, six miles away. They dug a trench, a crazy-long trench, in which a subsea flow line would carry oil. It cost $500 million to build this island, not to mention the brawn of constantly revolving crews of as many as 600 people working in temperatures cold enough to kill.

Stirring and sad article about oil rigs in Alaska. [Yep, you read that right. They’re already drilling in Alaska in case you missed that part of the argument.] However, it’s not so much a hatchet job on oil companies as a human interest story about the people that go out and do this kind of brutal work.

- 11/23/2008 12:11:23 PM | link

it's just like the great depression

Daniel Gross surveys the financial crisis and finds most comparisons to other economic downturns come up wanting:

In 1933, some 4,000 commercial banks failed, causing depositors to take huge losses. (There was no FDIC back then.) The recession that started in August 1929 lasted for a grinding 43 months, during which unemployment soared to 25 percent and national income was cut in half. By contrast, through mid-November 2008, only 19 banks had failed. The Federal Reserve last week said it expects unemployment to top out at 7.6 percent in 2009. Economists surveyed by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank believe the recession, which started in April 2008, will be over by next summer. (Of course, back in January the same guys forecast that the economy would grow nicely in 2008 and 2009.) But don’t take it from me. Take it from this year’s Nobel laureate in economics. "The world economy is not in depression," Paul Krugman writes in his just-reissued book The Return of Depression Economics.

- 11/22/2008 9:56:10 AM | link

reductio add cheezburger

The lolcats phenomenon deconstructed.

In fact, there’s a whole species of the genus Lol devoted to the tragic: the "lolwalruses," or "lolruses." If lolcats are incorrigible little rascals, lolruses are romantic heroes, born to suffer, whose lives are dominated by the exquisite misery of love lost. The lolrus meme originated with a single diptych. The first panel displays the walrus lovingly cradling a bucket, a look of absurd delight on its face. In the second panel, a trainer is ripping the bucket away as the walrus looks on in helpless panic. And the saga of the lolrus and its beloved bucket takes off from there.

Clearly, I’m moved by these pictures. But what is it about the lolruses and the sad lolcats that is so gut-wrenching?

My former co-workers and I got a lot of laughs out of these pictures at one time. I think there were two levels to the laughter. The first is the gut reaction. Some of these are retardedly funny. But the other was sending around emails with the pictures and having a few people on the list who went from not getting the joke to becoming mildly annoyed. We enjoyed being in on a joke that other people thought was stupid. It was almost as if them thinking this was stupid made it funny in the first place. I’m sure I’m overexplaining the obvious (as I’ve been told I do over and over and over), but it deserves some stating. I had a similar experience at a company called Netpliance. My friend Rob and I started a board with a bunch of absurd quotations and pictures. Every day we’d add some other piece to it. None of it made any sense except to us. But the greatest laughs were generated by executives walking by the board and attempting to discern it. They couldn’t figure out a way to process it. Not only was it not funny to them, but it sort of offended their sense of the universe. What is this meangingless stuff? And yet, at heart, that is what made it all the more funny. I might even go so far as to say that we put stuff up there and laughed at it even prior to them seeing it, knowing what their collective reaction would be.

And, to have the snake fully eat its tail, I think that ultimately there is pathos and shared hope in that experience. The experience of absurdity in the face of ignorance and unknowingness. The experience of having the shared experience that makes death and ignorance and loneliness and desperation something common, something shared, and, ultimately, something that can be triumphed over.

Don’t worry. I won’t get preachy. But I have to say that this sharedness is what I believe the Christian concept of love to be all about. Yes, we’ll all die. Yes, times can be hard. This is not in dispute. What is in dispute is if it means anything at all. And if so, to who?

- 11/19/2008 1:45:44 PM | link


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