Reflections on ten years working as a fire lookout:
My lookout tower is situated five miles from the nearest road, on a ten-thousand-foot peak in the Gila National Forest. I live here for several months each year, without electricity or running water. Although tens of thousands of acres are touched by fire here every year, I can go weeks without seeing a twist of smoke. During these lulls I simply watch and wait, my eyes becoming ever more intimate with an ecological transition zone encompassing dry grasslands, piñon-juniper foothills, ponderosa parkland, and spruce-fir high country.--A Talent for Sloth
In some ways, it is hard to imagine two paths more different than being a writer and being a spy. It is certainly hard to imagine two careers with more wildly disparate stakes. And yet there are parallels in the underlying qualities of their practitioners: an interest in psychology, a facility with narrative, a tendency to position oneself as an observer, and a willingness to lie and call it something else.--writer Jennifer DuBois explains what it was like to be hired by the CIA.
Take Nothing, Leave Nothing. How Simon Winchester came to be banned from the world’s most remote island, Tristan da Cunha. Previously.
The Imperial Kitchen
Among the kiosks, halls, reception chambers, and harem baths, I suspect that visitors today spend the least time of all in the palace kitchens—unless they have an interest in Chinese porcelain, which is displayed in there. Otherwise there’s nothing much to see, just a series of domed rooms. Outside you can count the ten pairs of massive chimneys, but there’s no smoke. It’s a pity that the building is so quiet, because it was in here, over four centuries, that one aspect of Istanbul’s imperial purpose was most vividly expressed.
We tend to think now of scurvy as mainly a punch line, if anything—“scurvy-ridden rats” is the kind of popular pirate epithet that appears in even the most G-rated family fare. Partly this is because now, fully understanding its mechanism, it seems a particularly ridiculous problem. But ask anyone who's suffered from it: it is a singularly horrid and terrible way to die.- The Spoil of Mariners, Colin Dickey, Lapham's Quarterly.
The bones had been boiled, the skins salted and soaked in formalin, the hoofs and horns measured and labeled, and the disassembled parts crated and shipped to the Upper West Side. There, on Akeley’s production line, the remains were reassembled and processed into a perfect likeness of what had once been, a “real” copy of reality. The animal had become an “animal."[more inside]
"During a summer in the late 1960s I discovered an easy and certain method of predicting the future. Not my own future, the next turn of the card, or market conditions next month or next year, but the future of the world lying far ahead. It was quite simple. All that was needed was to take the reigning assumptions about what the future was likely to hold, and reverse them. Not modify, negate, or question, but reverse." -- science fiction critic and writer John Clute discusses the secret of predicting the future for Lapham's Quarterly's Future theme issue.
But beyond the disgust element was another more important question concerning borax: was it actually safe to eat? This troubling issue was the reason why squad members were imbibing the compound at Christmas, the reason for the Poison Squad experiments themselves. Established by a famously outspoken, crusading chemist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Harvey Washington Wiley, the squads were also meant to answer another, larger question: were manufacturers actually poisoning the food supply?