Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 10.11.20 AM

How America fell in love with crazy amounts of air conditioning

By the 1950s, as air conditioners became common in the home, family life in the summer moved back inside, and increasingly centered on a new consumer technology called the television. Amusement parks and playgrounds emptied out, and people retreated from their stoops and the streets to their living rooms. Even attendance at baseball games dropped in the 1960s. —The Washington Post

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 9.49.58 AM

Two Cheers for the Middle Ages! by Eric Christiansen

I love good writing. “Even those who doubt that hot air is the best way of defeating hot air will be impressed by the main body of the work…” Prejudice against the medieval runs deep…. Remember those angels dancing on a pinpoint? They still dance for those who believe that the medieval schools were engaged in a wasted intellectual effort. | Unfair! the medievalists have shouted, from the days when…

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 5.57.45 PM

Walking in Another’s Skin: Failure of Empathy in To Kill a Mockingbird

The money quote: “In this essay, I argue that To Kill a Mockingbird fails to aptly demonstrate the practice of cross-radal empathy. As a consequence, readers cannot empathize with the (largely silent) black characters of the novel.” Empathy–how it is discussed and deployed by both the characters in Mockingbird and by the author, Lee–is a useful lens to view the depictions of radal injustice in Mockingbird, because empathy is the…

Pluto Flyby

When I was about 10, I wrote to NASA and got a big packet of color magazines and newsletters on the Space Shuttle and Voyager missions. I loved staying up late watching live PBS coverage of the flybys of Jupiter, and Saturn. At some point I wrote again asking for more stuff, but I got a response saying those materials were now only for educators. I was in college for…

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 12.28.56 PM

Nicholas Winton, “Britain’s Schindler,” Dies at 106

Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who saved the lives of more than 650 children trapped in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, died on Wednesday. He was 106… Working primarily on his own, Winton arranged safe passage for the group of mostly Jewish children, who were placed with foster families in the United Kingdom for the duration of the war. Although he would later be compared to fellow…


‘Star Trek’: The Story of the Most Daring Cliffhanger in ‘Next Generation’ History

Around 1990, when I was studying for my MA at the University of Virginia (and also working as a writer/editor for the engineering school), I sometimes had 30 people over at my place for “Star Trek parties.” The local TV station aired the show at midnight Sunday. My friends and I would rotate through different locations, but I seem to remember the group had gathered at my place for The Best of…