A day in the life of a warming planet (5×8 – 7/23/12)

A postcard from winter, word of the day: Derecho, the gay anchor, the drive-in, and the worst in workplace jargon.


1) A POSTCARD FROM WINTER

Back in the mild winter, you might’ve been one of those people — like me — who said, “July is going to be rough.” Welcome to July.

Here’s a little something to watch while we’re waiting for the highway pavement to explode…

More than 40,000 daily heat records have been broken around the country so far this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last year was the ninth warmest on record, and only 25,000 local records were broken then, LiveScience.Com says.

New record highs are outpacing new record lows in the U.S. by a two-to-one margin.


Dry soils, in part a product of the dry winter, exacerbate the heat. “If the soils were wetter, more energy would be absorbed by the water and the daily high temperatures wouldn’t be as warm,” (climatologist Jake) Crouch told OurAmazingPlanet. For example, southern Georgia and Florida, drenched by Tropical Storm Debby, haven’t been as hot as areas to the north in the last week or so.

Unfortunately, the heat doesn’t look likely to dissipate soon, with the National Weather Service expecting warmer-than-usual temperatures to continue for the remainder of the summer across much of the country. The southwest and Rocky Mountains could be in for a reprieve soon, however, thanks to the beginning of the North American typhoon, which is predicted to start bringing moisture and cooler temperatures into the area later this week, Weber said.

In his Washington Post column today, Eugene Robinson says it’s time for the most ardent non-believers to believe what’s happening…


As repair crews struggle to get the lights back on, it happens to be another sunny day. Critics have blasted the Obama administration’s unfruitful investment in solar energy. But if government-funded research managed to lower the price of solar panels to the point where it became economical to install them on residential roofs, all you global warming skeptics would have air conditioning right now.

This would be a good day to practice science…

Meanwhile, the initial photos from Jay Cooke State Park in the wake of the flash floods there last months suggested there was no way one of the most popular state parks in Minnesota could reopen this year. The photos appeared to be right. The park manager says it will be closed for the summer. Reporters will get their first look at the damage later today; look for more photos.

Related: The climate scientist who basically “discovered” climate change, is running out of time.

2) THE WORD OF THE DAY: DERECHO

Meteorologists like to use words nobody really understands and this week’s favorite word is derecho. Pronounced: “de-RAY-cho.” What is it? Remember the Boundary Waters blowdown? It was 13 years ago tomorrow…

3) THE GAY ANCHOR

Anderson Cooper revealed yesterday that he’s gay, a fact that doesn’t surprise a lot of people and the importance of which is certainly up for debate.

I work with several people who are gay and there’s no possible way I could care less and the big question is why should you? Do gay journalists have any responsibility to reveal their sexual orientation to the audience? That, too, apparently is a debatable point this morning.

On the Poynter blog, Kelly McBride says a reluctance to reveal personal information to you is an example of “old school” journalism, suggesting it’s an outmoded practice…


There were also darker reasons that journalists didn’t talk about their personal lives. We wanted audience members to attach to their anchors with a level of commitment. It’s a lot easier to feel a close relationship to someone who is Just. Like. You. And if you don’t know anything about that person on the screen, then you’re likely to fill in the blanks with your own assumptions.

In the LFPD, no one is divorced or widowed, let alone gay. Everyone has 2.5 kids, who are all “above average” and play piano and baseball. No one gets cancer, suffers from addictions or even a bad sunburn. Nothing that could be moderately unappealing to anyone is ever acknowledged.

The Land of Few Personal Details was a deliberate device meant to lull the viewer into a false sense of camaraderie. It is a vestige of a time gone by, when we assumed the audience was in fact a homogenous group that could be reduced to its lowest common denominator.

“The great thing about Cooper being out and on the record, is that it really doesn’t mean anything at all,” McBride says. Irony.

4) THE DRIVE-IN

Get it while you can. The Cottage View Drive-In isn’t much longer for this world…

Cottage View Drive-In’s Back to the 50′s Night from SWCTC on Vimeo.

5) “TAKE THE INFORMATION SILOS AND ELASTICIZE THE BUNDLES”

The bosses are all off on vacation, so the rest of us can drill down on the issue of workplace jargon. Boston.com gives us a boost. Yes, it’s page-view streetwalking, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Add your own below.

Bonus I: Ten ads that really love America.

Bonus II: The publisher of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal says the health care law is a snoozer.

Bonus III: Wind farms often have to pay to have electric companies take electricity they don’t need. (Midwest Energy News)

TODAY’S QUESTION

Most of the state will experience dangerous heat index levels through Thursday coupled with high humidity. Today’s Question: How is the record-setting heat affecting your life?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The benefits of more “dirt” in the diet.

Second hour: The business of supplying blood to hospitals.

Third hour: How have sports been a positive or negative catalyst for change over the years?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival: David Rubenstein on why we should celebrate Independence Day on July 2.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The music of coming to America. All this summer, NPR is digging into parents’ record collections, to hear how the music of moms and dads shaped our tastes and our lives. Next in the series: a listener who left South Africa to live in the United States, and the well-worn record his father played for the sendoff.

  • Bob Moffitt

    When the journalist (or anyone else) is a nationally-known public fugure like Cooper, it probably matters a little more. But it’s their business if they want to come out, not ours. Or as Sienfield famously said, “…not that there’s anything wrong with that…”

  • Sam

    “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” is actually exactly what’s wrong with that. With all respect, Bob, to you and the millions of other straight but tolerant and loving workplace colleagues in America, “I don’t care who you sleep with” sounds to gays and lesbians less like a statement about equality than a desire for everyone to just shut up about it. Which basically equates to requesting that everyone go back to assuming we’re all heterosexual and hiding in the dark if we’re not. I know that’s not how you meant it, but that is what a lot of other people mean when they talk about not caring about sexuality, and it’s become one of the last barriers to acceptance of the LGBT community.

    Yes, we all knew Anderson Cooper was gay. Anderson Cooper knew that we all knew Anderson Cooper was gay. Anderson Cooper thought for years that it was stupid that he should have to make some big public announcement when everyone already knew he was gay, especially because he’s a journalist, and that sometimes means keeping your personal life out of public view so as to preserve the idea that you’re impartial.

    But after years of keeping one foot in the closet, he realized the potential value of actually making the big announcement: presenting himself to America as just one more respected, admired, and not-in-the-least-scary-or-threatening individual who happens to be attracted to others of his same gender. And whether it annoys you or not, Bob, that kind of announcement breaks down barriers, and allows some who are still on the fence about gay rights to slip gracefully into acceptance.

    So yes, Twitter had its fun with Cooper’s big non-revealing reveal. But he did a powerful thing yesterday, and it probably swung a Minnesota vote or three to the correct side of this fall’s marriage amendment.

  • jon

    As usual I really appreciate the 5×8 post bob.

    @bonus III : Wonder what will happen to wind farms when they get rid of the energy credit.

    Either way I suspect that energy storage is going to have to be a large part of any future energy plan.

    Seems local energy storage facalities would do away with the need for increased transmission capacity, and help level off the price of energy through out the day, and have the added benefit of keeping the lights on when other transmission options are removed.

    For instance a hydrogen fuel cell working in reverse during off peak hours when transmission lines are well below capacity, and then switching power generation mode when the transmission lines are at capacity. keeping these locally in a community would negate the need for a large transmission line coming in (as the fuel cell will cover the increase demand locally) and would still keep the transmission lines at a more steady level of use during off peak hours.

    There was talk of doing something like this with electric cars (feeding power back to the house during times of high demand) but the scale needed for some of these items seems like it’d be better to put the onus on communities and cities to provide this service as a local utility.

  • Bob Collins

    If you know that’s not how I meant it, why do you think it sounds like I did? You can’t have it both ways.

    See, this is the problem with the discussion right now, is it starts off with everyone heading to their respective corners, with a bucketload of hyperbole and ridiculous accusations that we want people to stay in the closet, even though people know we didn’t take it at that way. You can’t simultaneously acknowledge an understanding of something, and then claim you could understand it to mean something entirely different.

    You know what “I don’t care who you sleep with” should sound like to you? It should sound like “I don’t care who you sleep with.” And that should be good enough for you if you truly acknowledge that understanding.

    It’s not a question of whether Anderson Cooper should/shouldn’t announce he’s gay. It’s about society moving along a bit on the other side of the equation and individuals — not to mention newspeople — changing the way we react .

    At SOME point, that’s what acceptance looks like. It looks like people not caring any more about who you’re sleeping with than anybody else on the planet, and others being respectful of that and accepting it — there’s that word again — simply for what it is.

    I think it’s great that you have a desire for gays to slip “gracefully into acceptance,” but at the same time, it’s illogical — at least to me — how the other half of that equation — the people doing the accepting — get singled out when they do as “the problem.”

    Anderson Cooper deliberately came out in a matter-of-fact way, which suggests that he’d rather see a state of affairs where his announcement is not that big of a deal.

    So at some point, people are going to have to see it as not that big of a deal. Is that somehow up to somebody else to decide when that is? Will there be a pronouncement so we all now when it’s acceptable not to stop the presses on a matter-of-fact announcement? Who will do that?

    “The tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible,” Anderson said. I agree. Which is why I’m making my self fully visible that I don’t give a damn what your sexuality is, I don’t care whether you announce it or not, I don’t care whether you insist anyone else announce it or not.

    At some point, that’s part of the acceptance that people claim to want.

    So at some point, people are going to have to see it as not that big of a deal. I’m there. I’ll be happy to wait for the rest of you to catch up.

  • Sam

    So at some point, people are going to have to see it as not that big of a deal.

    I’m there. I’ll be happy to wait for the rest of you to catch up.

    Right, exactly. But that amendment on our ballot this fall (and the similar actions in lots of other states) proves that a huge percentage of Americans aren’t there with you yet. And until they are, it’s still important for prominent LGBT people to be visible enough to show the less-enlightened-than-Collins segments of the population that we’re not so different.

  • Bob Collins

    .// And until they are, it’s still important for prominent LGBT people to be visible enough to show the less-enlightened-than-Collins segments of the population that we’re not so different.

    I prefer to think of it as caucus, actually.

    Seriously, I think it’s important for LGBT people to make themselves as visible as they want. That means fully out of the closet, or in it; that’s their choice. I simply honor the choice by not giving a damn which one they make.

    ( By the way, there’s two “Bobs” here. I’m the one who didn’t say “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” )

    I’m not annoyed by Anderson Cooper’s announcement — I am annoyed with his pathetic sense of journalism as evidenced by his crappy morning talk show, but nobody wants to talk about that today — I am simply filing it away in the same place I file celebrity divorces.

  • Suzanne

    #3: I’m with Sam. While it is not relevant to his viewership and the general public that AC is gay, his coming out is great for the gay community, especially those who are still in the closet and may feel even a bit of encouragement from his step. He said in his email to Andrew Sullivan that he could stay silent because it’s nobody’s business, but that he also wanted to be very clear that he wasn’t ashamed or trying to hide anything. I think it matters that he came out, and it matters in a very beneficial way for the gay community.

  • Bob Collins

    // and it matters in a very beneficial way for the gay community.

    I’m certainly not arguing otherwise. I do go back to the original question of whether other journalists have some responsibility to come out. If they’ve chosen not to — as the Poynter post today claims — is it really because they’ve subscribed to an outmoded sense of journalistic sensitivity? Or is it just none of our business?

    Do other journalists have a responsibility to make it a news story? Where do they place it? For how long? Under what prescription? Presumably, over time, it moves farther and farther to the back page and eventually ends up on the page of showbiz news (OK, page two if you’re a Star Tribune editor, but there’s no explaining that). When should it start going right there and not — as today — on page one. Who will decide this?

    The Poynter journalist says “it doesn’t mean anything at all.” Where do other stories that “don’t mean anything at all” end up?

    In many ways, this is reviving an old debate that I haven’t seen in about 20 years, which is fascinating to me.

  • Kurt Nelson

    Re #2,

    I was fortunate to have had Dr. Frelich as a guest lecturer in a Forest Ecology class a couple of years ago at the U. He spent the better part of two hours talking about the life cycle of the 1999 derecho that started in northwest Minnesota and finally died out after over 9000 miles of devestation.

  • BJ

    I’m with BC on the not caring if your gay or not thing. I equate it to the not caring if your into some other activities in the bedroom. If you want to tell me you are a furry, fine but I didn’t “want” to know. I don’t think less of you for telling me, but I don’t think I’m overly empowered by it either. If I to was also a furry I might feel different, as I’m sure gay people feel different about AC coming out “officially”.

  • Sam

    I do go back to the original question of whether other journalists have some responsibility to come out.

    That’s certainly a tougher question, especially if the journalist in question is actually reporting on gay rights issues. To my knowledge, Cooper hasn’t done a lot of reporting on those issues, but NPR’s Ari Shapiro has, notably this week with his stories on “gay money” in the presidential campaign. Shapiro is openly gay (and legally married,) but I’ve never heard him actually say that on the air. Which perhaps he shouldn’t – it would have the ring of a disclaimer, which he shouldn’t need any more than a black or Hispanic journalist should when reporting on issues of race.

    The 20-year-old debate you referenced, Bob, was primarily about the practice of “outing” closeted gays in the public eye. Then and now, I’ve not been a fan of that practice, unless the closet case in question is actively working to suppress equal rights. It’s probably a sign of progress that the debate has evolved to whether individuals have a responsibility to out themselves.

  • Bob Collins

    That’s certainly a tougher question, especially if the journalist in question is actually reporting on gay rights issues.

    I wouldn’t have any problem at all with a gay journalist reporting on gay rights issues, any more than I would someone who pays the gas tax reporting on a proposal, for example, to raise the gas tax.

    But, of course, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms — the fallacy of the objective journalist etc., which I’ve probably written about a few hundred times.

    I’ve never talked to gay colleagues about whether they’ve been conflicted about coming out to the public, mostly for the same reason as me not caring whether someone is gay, but also because I didn’t — and don’t — want to leave an impression I think they should (or shouldn’t). Most of the ones I know don’t keep it a secret — they don’t hide the existence of a partner in public, for example — they just haven’t told the general public in any sort of grand way. Their approach mirrors that of the heteros, I guess.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Oh goody. A contentious discussion on homosexuality :- ).

    My turn: As long as there are people being abused based on their sexual preference/tendencies, it is of vital importance for EVERYONE of similar preferences/tendencies to come forward.

    Not to do so is ultimately selfish cowardice. Confusing privacy with secrecy is a comfortable rationalization.

    Cooper’s decision will not be attitudinally sea changing, but every bit helps.

    When a popular NFL quarterback displays some moral courage in addition to physical toughness is when the walls of ignorant prejudice will really come tumbling down.

  • boB from WA

    Gee, I was going to comment on the whole heat thing, and invite you all out to the Pacific North Wet. Guess that ain’t happening now.

  • Jim Shapiro

    boB from WA – I was gonna mention the climate too, but why talk about the weather when you can talk about sex?

    Plus, it’s pretty hard to same something controversial about the climate when even the majority of the flat- earthy conservatives have stopped moving the goalposts on climate change.

  • Bob Collins

    // Not to do so is ultimately selfish cowardice. Confusing privacy with secrecy is a comfortable rationalization.

    So everyone who does not wish to make their sexuality a matter of public discourse has confused privacy with secrecy?

    Here comes one of the least used but most powerful questions in all of journalism. How do you know this?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – “Here comes one of the least used but most powerful questions in all of journalism. How do you know this?”

    Good question, as usual. I find it useful in all spheres where there is potential for disagreement. (Except for religion, of course, which by definition is irrational.)

    In the words of Donny “never met a war he didn’t like” Rumsfeld, some things are just unknowable.

    “Everyone” is an awful lot of people. Of course there are always exceptions. As was pointed out well previously, journalistic objectivity is one potential case.

    My intended point was that as long as there are people suffering needlessly, and others who can help alleviate that suffering by simply being honest about who they are,

    we as a society and well as the effected individuals need to do the right thing and stop making excuses.

  • kennedy

    If someone is going about their life and they are perfectly content, why do they have a duty to publicly announce allegiance to some cause? If I prefer the metric system, is it my duty to publicly announce my membership in the USMA? How much time/money is it my duty to spend advocating the cause?

    The problem comes when one person dictates what should be a priority for someone else.

    re#5: I am not a fan of the phrase “Bubble that up to management”. Makes it sound like an idea is an inconsiquential gathering of vapor that will dissipate when it reaches the surface.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Kennedy – interesting attempt to make a relevant analogy between a choice of measurement systems,

    and whether or not to be honest about who one is, if being honest can potentially lessen the suffering of another human being.

    That’s great.

  • Jamie

    #5. “TAKE THE INFORMATION SILOS AND ELASTICIZE THE BUNDLES…”

    That one is just bizarre. I’m thinking she might have had some kind of personality disorder or something.

    MY least favorite jargon, or phrase of any kind: “It is what it is.”

    It means something different to everyone who says it, and many probably don’t know WHAT they mean when they say it. To me, it’s like saying to someone, “Whatever.” It’s rude and dismissive. Even if I liked the meaning, if it HAD a specific meaning, I’d hate it because it’s so over-used.