During our American Futures tour around the country over the past three years, Jim and I have seen libraries, one after another, stretching to engage the people in their communities. They sometimes work in surprising and quite un-library-like ways, at least by traditional measures.
For example, libraries become offices for entrepreneurs and start-ups. They are safe places for children, and sometimes offer supervised homework help and even meals. Librarians learn how to help patrons with health issues and personal financial challenges.
Libraries are hubs of technology, from helping library users print documents to sponsoring Maker Spaces. And they are centers for the community, providing space for citizenship classes or a corner for seed-lending programs for avid gardeners.
This week, more than 250 libraries and organizations around the country, and actually the world, are busy broadcasting the message of the new relevance of libraries in people’s communities and lives.
Outside the Lines is a week-long celebration of creative library events and experiences to introduce, or re-introduce libraries to their communities. The idea grew from a collaboration betweenpassionate Colorado library directors and marketers, including the Colorado State Library and Anythink Libraries, a public library system in Adams County, Colorado, Erica Grossman of Anythink described to me.
In Colorado, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife is partnering with the state libraries so that hikers can check out from their local library a week’s pass to the state’s parks, plus a backpack, binoculars, and park information. That effort began in June.
And my personal favorite, where Jim’s world and mine collide: Vermillion, South Dakota, is hosting a beer-and-books event. Go to the library’s beer garden (!) to grab an craft beer and meet the new library director. It’s Friday; don’t miss it!
During our more than 50,000 miles of flight for our American Futures project, I’ve sat in the “right seat” of our Cirrus SR22. That’s the official term for my spot in the plane, and the right seat like the left carries all the fixtures for a full-fledged pilot: I am equipped with the steering, radio call button, and visual access to all the monitors to fly. I’m not a pilot (a story for another day), but I love being in the right seat.
By now, I am familiar with all the rhythms and quirks of the plane. I know and see the steps to acceleration and take-off. I know how the plane engine sounds as we press for speed and altitude. I can anticipate the degree of bumpiness to expect when we fly into big puffy clouds or little thin ones. I recognize the feel of the steep banking to enter the pattern to land and see the shifting colors of the lights on the field signaling the safe altitude for touchdown.
It is very comforting to know every feel and sound so well, and it is also useful. I could identify the whistling sound when we failed to slam the cockpit door hard enough; it’s not really dangerous to fly with the door just shy of closed, because it’s not going to fly open with all that wind racing across it. I noticed an unusual airy sound when a small protective access plate under one wing had bent and eventually blew off. I know not to be alarmed when we catch sudden drafts, bouncing the plane as we fly over very hot deserts or high hills.
I know enough about the screen monitors to study the interesting details, like the altitude, the outside air temperature, the speed, wind direction and velocity, our heading, and miles to destination. I’m always rooting for tailwinds and disappointed when we encounter headwinds going both directions of a trip. That seems to happen more frequently than odds would dictate. But it is thrilling to catch a really strong tailwind, watch the speed increase, and hope for a personal-best record. We normally aim for about 170 knots, about 200 mph, but we have gotten as high as about 220 knots flying east over Iowa, carried by a really strong tailwind. It felt almost like hydroplaning.
We have our choice of what to listen to through our headsets: the air traffic controllers (ATC) are obligatory when they’re directing us on an instrument flight plan (IFR); they are optional company for us when we’re flying in visual flight conditions (VFR). In busier airspace, even if we don’t need the ATC, we’ll opt for “flight following,” which means that they keep an eye on us and occasionally speak with us if other planes come near. I sometimes do the ATC calls.
We can also listen to Sirius/XM radio. Listening to farm reports over Kansas or truckers’ radio as we fly over I-80 add to the sense of place we feel flying over the land that drowns out the colorless CNN or Fox news. As Jim has described, the controllers are unfailingly unflappable. Mostly, the exchanges are routine and follow strict, scripted language designed for clarity and efficiency. You hear some variations: accents shift to a slow southern drawl as we fly down the east coast. On holidays, some controllers offer greetings. You catch hints of their exasperation when lazy pilots don’t listen well or fail to respond to frequent calls to their tail number. On the other hand, you hear patience behind controllers’ calls when they’re dealing with student pilots.
A few times, our exchanges with ATC have been memorable. Once we were caught over upstate New York in unexpected severe weather. The ATC took us as far as he could before handing us over to the next one. While navigating us around storms, he had asked for the number of “souls on board,” which I learned afterwards was the vernacular for “people on board,” but hearing the phrase for the first time was completely unnerving for me. Just before hand-off, he wished us good luck. That was kind, but also scary to me. Once we had a failed spark plug, and two separate times a failed alternator while in flight. For the latter, which is serious, the ATC inquired if we were declaring an emergency, which would signal a different set of actions, essentially giving us precedence over all the other planes in the area. (We weren’t.)
I was paying close attention as we neared Centennial airport a few days ago, as Jim described here, the end of a beautiful and uneventful flight from quiet Dodge City to the Denver area. I was listening intently to the parrying back and forth between what seemed to me like about a dozen planes and a young-sounding ATC. I became acutely aware of our place in the queue – much like sizing up a doctor’s waiting room, sorting out who is ahead of you and how much time you might have to wait.
The drama for me came in the last 10 minutes, as we were flying south to make our right U-turn for the last stretch to landing. That was a long few moments, as we headed straight toward the very black, very looming front that carried the storm. Jim once reminded the ATC we could continue that way for only a few more minutes. I sat quietly, knowing we couldn’t break away and go rogue on our own, away from the storm, although that seemed to me like an attractive option right then. I listened as the ATC ran through the list of planes, waiting for our tail number to be called, hoping that he hadn’t forgotten about us. Which of course he hadn’t. And you know the ending. Our number finally came up, we were cleared for landing, and we turned to make our final approach.
History’s best marathoner has broken a mythical time barrier. But it doesn’t count as a world record.
Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET on October 13, 2019.
Early yesterday morning, in a misty park in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in less than two hours. His time, 1:59:40, is the fastest any runner has ever covered 26.2 miles. Kipchoge carved two minutes off his own world record and became the first marathoner to break the two-hour barrier.
At the event, branded the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, the performance was heralded as a radical, historic leap, his “Neil Armstrong moment,” as one announcer said. Indeed, Kipchoge himself—a soft-spoken 34-year-old Kenyan who dulls the pain of distance running by smiling mid-competition—has repeatedly equated his feat to reaching the moon. That comparison is audacious on the scale of human achievement, but in the galaxy of running, it might actually be an understatement. Running’s original moon landing, the sub-four-minute mile, took place back in 1954. Yesterday, Kipchoge launched running to Mars.
Our unpredictable and overburdened schedules are taking a dire toll on American society.
Just under a century ago, the Soviet Union embarked on one of the strangest attempts to reshape the common calendar that has ever been undertaken. As Joseph Stalin raced to turn an agricultural backwater into an industrialized nation, his government downsized the week from seven to five days. Saturday and Sunday were abolished.
In place of the weekend, a new system of respite was introduced in 1929. The government divided workers into five groups, and assigned each to a different day off. On any given day, four-fifths of the proletariat would show up to their factories and work while the other fifth rested. Each laborer received a colored slip of paper—yellow, orange, red, purple, or green—that signified his or her group. The staggered schedule was known as nepreryvka, or the “continuous workweek,” since production never stopped.
The tech industry is producing a rising din. Our bodies can’t adapt.
Karthic Thallikar first noticed the noise sometime in late 2014, back when he still enjoyed taking walks around his neighborhood.
He’d been living with his wife and two kids in the Brittany Heights subdivision in Chandler, Arizona, for two years by then, in a taupe two-story house that Thallikar had fallen in love with on his first visit. The double-height ceilings made it seem airy and expansive; there was a playground around the corner; and the neighbors were friendly, educated people who worked in auto finance or at Intel or at the local high school. Thallikar loved that he could stand in the driveway, look out past a hayfield and the desert scrub of Gila River Indian land, and see the jagged pink outlines of the Estrella Mountains. Until recently, the area around Brittany Heights had been mostly farmland, and there remained a patchwork of alfalfa fields alongside open ranges scruffy with mesquite and coyotes.
What the Amazon founder and CEO wants for his empire and himself, and what that means for the rest of us.
Where in the pantheon of American commercial titans does Jeffrey Bezos belong? Andrew Carnegie’s hearths forged the steel that became the skeleton of the railroad and the city. John D. Rockefeller refined 90 percent of American oil, which supplied the pre-electric nation with light. Bill Gates created a program that was considered a prerequisite for turning on a computer.
At 55, Bezos has never dominated a major market as thoroughly as any of these forebears, and while he is presently the richest man on the planet, he has less wealth than Gates did at his zenith. Yet Rockefeller largely contented himself with oil wells, pump stations, and railcars; Gates’s fortune depended on an operating system. The scope of the empire the founder and CEO of Amazon has built is wider. Indeed, it is without precedent in the long history of American capitalism.
I studied over 100 dual-income couples and found that the ones who managed to create partnerships that felt truly equal had a few things in common.
Although the number of dual-career couples isrising, equal partnerships have not necessarily become the norm. Despite much talk about splitting housework, there is a surprising lack of guidance on how exactly to address the deeper challenges that these couples face, such as when and where to relocate, how to split parenting responsibilities, or how to honor both partners’ ambitions. I have spent the past five years studying more than 100 working couples around the world to learn how they combine two careers and a relationship. Most of the couples I interviewed aspired to split their responsibilities at home and at work equally, but few managed to really do so. For many, resentment and guilt festered, and equality became a mirage.
The largest crowdfunding site in the world puts up a mirror to who we are and what matters most to us. Try not to look away.
In June 2016, Chauncy Black rode the bus from his home in South Memphis to one of the city’s whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. The 16-year-old helped his grandmother pay the bills by doing odd jobs for neighbors, and on this afternoon he was headed for the rich-person Kroger supermarket to try something new: approaching shoppers who’d just bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries and offering to take their bags to the car for a few bucks. It had seemed like a good idea, but in practice it was dispiriting. People ignored him; they wouldn’t even look him in the eye.
Sometime after 9 p.m., Chauncy filled a box with a dozen donuts and approached a tall white man in his 30s. In exchange for buying him this “dinner,” Chauncy told the guy, he’d carry his groceries. Matt White bought Chauncy the donuts—and cereal and peanut butter and toothbrushes and frozen vegetables, too.
The commander in chief is impulsive, disdains expertise, and gets his intelligence briefings from Fox News. What does this mean for those on the front lines?
For most of the past two decades, American troops have been deployed all over the world—to about 150 countries. During that time, hundreds of thousands of young men and women have experienced combat, and a generation of officers have come of age dealing with the practical realities of war. They possess a deep well of knowledge and experience. For the past three years, these highly trained professionals have been commanded by Donald Trump.
To get a sense of what serving Trump has been like, I interviewed officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present and former civilian Pentagon employees. Among the officers I spoke with were four of the highest ranks—three or four stars—all recently retired. All but one served Trump directly; the other left the service shortly before Trump was inaugurated.
Congress and the White House have a tense relationship, and future administrations might well choose to build on rather than repudiate the Trump example of how to respond to a hostile Congress.
More than once since the Democrats captured the House of Representatives in the midterm elections of 2018, President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to express his irritation at “presidentialharassment!” Undoubtedly, he is not the first occupant of the Oval Office to feel that way, but his response has been different. The Trump administration has tended to adopt a posture of maximal presidential obstruction of congressional investigations into the conduct of the executive branch and the individuals surrounding it. That defiance has culminated—for the moment—in White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declaring that the administration will not cooperate in any way with an impeachment inquiry that it regards as “illegitimate” and “constitutionally invalid.”
The candidate seems not to realize that eliminating tax exemptions for certain religious institutions would be catastrophic.
The issue of gay rights and recognition and acceptance of the LGBTQ community has moved at warp speed—in political terms anyway—this past decade.
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage,” said the candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
At Thursday night’s nationally televised forum on LGBTQ rights, candidate Beto O’Rourke showed how far, and how quickly, the Democratic Party has moved. The former Texas congressman caused quite a stir when he said he would support revoking the tax-exempt status of religious institutions—colleges, churches, and charities—if they opposed same-sex marriage.
Though his swift “yes” in response to the CNN moderator Don Lemon’s question received an enthusiastic response from the Los Angeles audience, much of America—including those blue-hued states—might see troubling ramifications of this that go well beyond O’Rourke’s applause line.
Donald Trump’s narcissism makes it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency in the way the Constitution requires.
On a third-down play last season, the Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith stood in shotgun formation, five yards behind the line of scrimmage. As he called his signals, a Houston Texans cornerback, Kareem Jackson, suddenly sprinted forward from a position four yards behind the defensive line.