Bee Lines
The Last Word On Nothing
by Helen Fields
8h ago
I’m on an email listserv for people who study bees. Not honeybees (goodness, no, not honeybees). All the other bees. There are some 20,000 species of bees in the world. Tiny metallic green ones, big fuzzy ones, and everything in between. I rarely read the emails – it’s more fun to imagine what they might be based on the subject lines. So I share, for your delight, a few from the last year. When did bumblebees arrive in South America? Multi-egg days Bees on a vacation to Egypt Bees on American chestnut Bumble bees sleeping in flowers Alaska bumble bee guide Bees in space Hylaeus defending flow ..read more
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After the Rain
The Last Word On Nothing
by Cameron Walker
3d ago
It is still January, but the plants here don’t seem to know it. The evergreen pear trees along my street burst into flurries of cloud-colored blossoms last weekend. Along my neighbor’s garage, the hedgehog aloe shows off its orange flowers. Elsewhere, there are fingerprints of the recent storms’ destruction: beaches scoured of sand, roads crumbling like pie crust, water-logged homes and sealed-off harbors. But along this strip of road, everything the rain brought seems soft and spring-like. This goes, too, for the giant spike of agave flower that has risen up in my backyard. I wish I was sure ..read more
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Ratcheded Down
The Last Word On Nothing
by Richard Panek
5d ago
I was having an email exchange with a longtime friend a few months ago, and we got to talking about our long-ago youth—specifically, the workplace where we met, when we were both in our teens. As is often the case in these late-evening conversations, the discussion turned to the subject of who else among us has survived from that ancient era: 1974 to 1978. No, that’s not quite right: The discussion turned to who hasn’t survived: a roll call we occasionally catalogue and, now and again, update. In this case, the subject in question was that guy a couple of years older than us who worked in a ..read more
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January Is Not Our Friend
The Last Word On Nothing
by Ann Finkbeiner
1w ago
January is such a bitch. I have personal reasons to feel this and so do most of the people I talk to: bad things are happening or anniversaries of bad things have come around again. People are losing their jobs; they’re having non-trivial surgical procedures; kids are having urgent psychiatric problems; relatives are seriously sick; people’s mental abilities are slowly sliding away; people are dying before they should or even when they should. These are terrible things. They are no one’s fault and under no one’s control, and I can’t do a thing about them. January actually has a range and incl ..read more
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Overflow
The Last Word On Nothing
by Sarah Gilman
1w ago
I saw a bucket of yeast at the brewery last week and I thought it looked like joy. Not because beer is delicious (though it is), but because it could not be contained. As the beer fermented in a giant tank, the yeast dribbled from a pipe into the five-gallon bucket, bubbled and pulsed like a heart, rose to the brim, and—in frothy streams that left a growing puddle on the floor—overflowed and overflowed and overflowed. Sometimes, in cold places, a river will overtop its ice and wend for awhile across its winter shroud before diving again. This is called overflow. Perhaps you are lucky enough t ..read more
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Happy 10th Birthday Finkbeiner Test!
The Last Word On Nothing
by Christie Aschwanden
1w ago
Yesterday I was interviewed about the Finkbeiner Test for the Change Artist Podcast (episode will go live at a later date). While gathering up some links to share, I realized that it was exactly ten years ago — January 17, 2013 — that Ann wrote the LWON post that would become the world-renowned Finkbeiner Test.  Time flies. And yet, the Finkbeiner Test persists. Ann and I were recently interviewed about it on the podcast Lost Women of Science. Spoiler, the episode starts by saying that the show “fails that test all the time.” The hosts, Carol Sutton Lewis and Katie Hafner, felt attacked ..read more
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Fear of Mountain Lions
The Last Word On Nothing
by Craig Childs
2w ago
My wife pieced together a kill in our driveway, sending me pictures of deer tracks posed in a casual walk followed by a sprawl, deer fur in the snow, and faint signs of melt, a couple hours old at most. The next picture was of cat tracks the size of an adult human palm, a good sized mountain lion dragging the deer. A path like that of a saucer sled was left down the drive where the mountain lion gripped the deer’s throat in its teeth and pulled it a couple hundred feet to the canyon’s edge below our house. My wife took pictures and video all the way, and where it hauled the body over the snow ..read more
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Where ideas come from (wrong answers only)
The Last Word On Nothing
by Jane C. Hu
2w ago
Definitely an idea. (In my mind, ideas look like the Ghostwriter.) First: what is an idea? Its physical manifestation must be some clump of brain cells activating in some very specific pattern, but the result feels like something more. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes ideas as beings that travel from person to person, bestowing their gifts upon an individual. She describes an idea she had for a novel that never got off the ground, which she discovered, years later, had worked its way to her friend, the writer Ann Patchett. Their theory was that the idea was transmitted by a kiss on th ..read more
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Hope for the Alarmed: An Interview with Madeline Ostrander
The Last Word On Nothing
by Kate Horowitz
2w ago
Madeline Ostrander is a passionate and talented science journalist and a good friend. Her must-read book At Home on an Unruly Planet: Finding Refuge on a Changed Earth is on shelves now. KATE: What initially sparked this project for you? MADELINE: Like most people who’ve been writing about climate change for a long time, I’ve dealt with a long sense of frustration about how difficult it is for people to grasp the subject, how divisive it’s been, and how even people who understood the concept didn’t seem to understand why it was urgent or what it had to do with their lives. I was always search ..read more
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Roaring Lion Uncaged
The Last Word On Nothing
by Jessa Gamble
3w ago
On the eve of 1942, Winston Churchill was in Ottawa on a Zelenskyy-style rally-the-allies speech in the Canadian parliament before the next “invasion season” of WWII was to arrive, having come straight from doing the same in America (you can watch the speech here, known best by its closing line, ‘some chicken, some neck’). He still had his speaking notes in hand when he met with his next appointment, the photographer Yousuf Karsh. In Karsh he met a man quite used to commanding in a more subtle way, and the two did not strike up the kind of rapport for which photographers often hope with their ..read more
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