Y’all I’ve been reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and it’s getting me down a bit. Extinction is like death squared. So sad.
The premise, which will likely be familiar to you, is that there have been five times of Serious Extinction in the geological past (most famously the dinosaurs – I’m not sure being extinction rockstars counts as a success or not.) And then there’s a sixth act which is happening now and totally our fault. This is a pretty Big Idea, so she mostly focuses on examples like frogs, rhinos, mastodons. (You will note from the mastodons that this sixth extinction thing has been happening for a while.)
It’s sad, but also fascinating. I’m fascinated in particular by the idea that in olden times extinction wasn’t an obvious possibility. Scientists argued over whether it could happen and concocted elaborate theories to account for all those fossils that clearly weren’t the remains of any currently living animal. I try to be sympathetic to people who lived in different times and roll my eyes a bit at people who insist on judging historical figures by modern standards. (Dude, no one from the Middle Ages is even listening to you.) But seriously Victorian naturalists, when you shot all the birds what did you think would happen?
I’m a bit weirded out by collections of pinned insects but I might be thinking of gathering a few live animals into my apartment. You know, just for safekeeping, a la Noah’s Ark. Alas, most bathtubs won’t accommodate even one whale, let alone a breeding pair. Still some details to work out…
A couple of train rides and a bit of TV equals
I need another weekend trip to finish the other one, right? Where should I go?
Are you a worrier? Have plans for flood/earthquake/zombie apocalypse? I’m not at all so inclined because I’m too busy worrying that I might forget my keys. My disaster plans are mostly along the lines of “have some liquor in the house.” There was a blackout a couple of years ago and I was only able to light a candle because I happened to have a book of matches from a bar. So Mitchell Zukor the protagonist of Nathaniel Rich’s The Odds Against Tomorrow, a New York financial consultant who obsesses about worst case scenarios professionally is totally alien to me.
Being a math nerd, Mitchell is all about the equations and maybe this is where I get off this train because this tends to be the kind of math I find not all that convincing – you add up some probabilities but I’m never sure you’re starting off with the right probabilities. Like, an example in the book to predict the chances of a nuclear war in the next year:
λCMTC = λIEP1P2P3
Where λIE is the probability of an event occurring that could kick things off, P1 is the probability such an event actually causes a nuclear showdown, P2 is the probability that the crisis leads to the launch of a nuclear weapon and P3 is the probability that the initial bomb leads to a global nuclear war. Now Mitchell thinks this tells you that every year there’s a 10% chance of nuclear annihilation. Me, I think all the variables could be pretty much whatever you want, a la Drake equation. Sure, it’s a way to think about “well, if X then maybe Y…” But it doesn’t give you An Answer. You will note that 10% aside, many years have passed and nuclear armageddon has not yet occurred. I might almost begin to suspect it’s not that likely. Whereas I have actually forgotten my keys more than once.
Going back to the book, a non-nuclear disaster does indeed happen. There’s destruction and canoeing through the streets of New York. I learned to paddle a canoe at summer camp years ago and I don’t know how I expected my life to go but I thought that would be a useful skill that would serve me well. I can’t say that it has so far, but I wonder what the odds are like for that one. Because you just never know….
Y’all! I think I used to have a blog or something? I wish I could tell you I’ve been off doing top secret spy stuff but actually I’ve been having a bit of a personality clash with my laptop. (Hey, that sounds a lot like something I might say to cover up my top secret spy stuff. Kindly disregard the coincidence.)
Were you wondering if I sewed on those buttons like I promised? Because I did!
Promptly too, though alas I guess I missed the opportunity to brag about that on the internet. And isn’t that one of the highlights of modern life?
Specs: Antler Cardigan knit in Diamond Luxury Collection Lima. No serious mods.
Then I knit another sweater:
(Today’s photos are brought to you by the lazy selfie, another perk of modern life. What a time to be alive!)
I cast on with the assumption that spring was just not happening this year then it warmed up the day I cast on. Magic!
Specs: Alison Pullover knit in a wintery tweedy green shade of Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran, which is sadly discontinued. I knit the sleeves top down in the round because why not?
I’ve also been on a bit of an Agatha Christie jag. I might quit my job and become Poirot. Or, failing that, Hastings which a friend of mine pointed out is perhaps a more realistic goal. I might not be able to pull off famous detective but I’m sure I can manage well meaning and inept.