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exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

How my novel, mapping Utah, came to be — and what it taught me

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In November 1989, I asked a remarkable woman to marry me.

That didn’t go well.

So I drank myself into a stupor deepened by self-pity and hacked away all night long at a Macintosh SE (Remember those? Two floppy drives?). In the morning, I had an evil headache, more questions about women than I could ever answer, and a 30-page short story.

Such was the sulking, ignoble, drunken genesis of mapping Utah.

That story lay dormant for half a decade, buried in a chaotic array of papers accumulated during study for my master’s degree. It emerged from hiding in 1994 during research for my doctorate. I’d just finished my course work and was supposed to be working on my dissertation.

As all doc students know, aptly timed and brilliantly executed procrastination is a requirement for a successful dissertation. So I procrastinated. (May my adviser, Trager, forgive me.) The short story beget a longer story, about 100 pages. That, too, slunk into hibernation among copies of mass communication research articles I never wanted to face again.

In 1998, the longer story crept unbidden out of a box I had not unpacked since arriving at St. Bonaventure University in 1996. Hmm, I thought. Beats grading the inept writing of freshmen. So, night after night, I wrote more.

Thus begat Lesson No. 1: Don’t over think it. I had written as far as Kara’s desperate flight on her mountain bike from a rest area just west of Green River. Noah had yet to appear in the sky above her unconscious body in his ultralight aircraft.

But I kept rewriting and editing this first third of the book. My logic: Have to get it just right. It had to be perfect before I could continue. My friend Greg Stene intervened: “Why?” he asked.

Greg knows me well. He pressed me: “Why haven’t you moved on to introducing these two people?” I admitted I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what Noah would or should say to Kara and what Kara would or should say to Noah.

“Denny,” Greg said, “You’ve thought about these people for years. Just put them together and get the hell out of their way.”

He was right. I did not write the last two-thirds of mapping Utah. Kara and Noah did.
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When a company cuts jobs, it shouldn’t spin that reality with corporate bullshit

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Time magazine’s first cover

The owner of the grandparent of weekly news magazines, Time, has decided to shed 300 jobs through layoffs and buyouts to reduce its costs.

A media corporation whacking jobs to save money? That’s not surprising news in the digital era. But what continues to aggravate and irritate is the lame corporate-speak executives use to explain the “downsizing” and to insist better, more profitable days lie in the future.

Consider remarks in a memo to staff from Time Inc.’s chief executive officer, Rich Battista:

[O]ne of the key components of our go-forward strategy is reengineering our cost structure to become more efficient and to reinvest resources in our growth areas as we position the company for long-term success. Today we took a difficult but necessary step in that plan as approximately 300 of our colleagues throughout Time Inc.’s global operation will be leaving the company. …

Time Inc. is a company in rapid transformation in an industry undergoing dynamic change. Transformations do take time and patience, but I am encouraged by the demonstrable progress we are making as we implement our strategy in key growth areas, such as video, native advertising and brand extensions, and as we see positive signs of stabilizing our print business, which remains an important part of our company. [emphasis added]

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 14, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Democrats need a lesson in humility. Consider what Mike Dukakis learned.

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Donald won. Hillary lost. Now the Democrats face what The New York Times called “a widening breach in their party.”

Fashion Consistent CandidatesPerched ever farther on the left is Bernie Sanders, perhaps still smarting from being stiffed by the Democratic National Committee while leading revival-style rallies of millennials and urging stiff resistance to the Donald agenda — and to the DNC’s approach to political reclamation. Then there’s the DNC and the party’s elected leaders demanding a more conservative, data-driven approach to finding votes where Hillary didn’t get them.

Oh, well. Good luck with that, Dems. Neither approach is destined for electoral redemption. Professional Democrats have tended toward elitism when selecting and supporting candidates. The national party assumed (as did virtually all media and pollsters) Hillary had an easy road covered with rose petals to the White House. The 2016 version of the Democratic Party continued its longstanding march away from those who had always supported it. The party’s elites oozed a “father knows best” attitude. Cockiness ruled after Donald became the GOP standard bearer.

Perhaps the Democratic Party, and especially the DNC, ought to consider … humility. Consider the example of Michael Dukakis as a Democratic candidate. No, not presidential candidate Dukakis of tank-driving infamy. Look at gubernatorial candidate Dukakis.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm

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Who really pays for cutting back rules limiting toxic emissions?

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President Donald’s administrative minions, since day one, have been “reviewing” federal regulations they argue are so costly they curtail growth in American manufacturing, and worse, pPollution Free Zoneut American jobs at risk. Thus they are focusing on rules that govern environmental reviews in permitting processes and regulate impacts on worker health and safety.

Industry groups oppose one particular regulation — the rule tightening ozone emissions under the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

According to a Reuters story by David Lawder, “The National Association of Manufacturers said the EPA’s review requirements for new sources of emissions such as factories can add $100,000 in costs for modeling air quality to a new facility and delay factory expansions by 18 months.”

According to Lawder, “Several groups argu[ed] this would expose them to increased permitting hurdles for new facilities, raising costs.” [emphasis added]

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 12, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What he promises, and what his budget does, differ markedly on fixing waterways

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trump speechPresident Donald stood this week on the bank of the Ohio River before 400 steelworkers, coal miners, and construction workers with barges of coal parked behind him. Amid departures from his text to chastise those he called “obstructionists,” President Donald touted his plan to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the nation’s airports, roads, bridges and tunnels and all other elements of American infrastructure.

With barges as his background canvas, he told of lapses and collapses in the nation’s inland waterways. He cited a gate failure at the Markland Locks on the Ohio River that took five months to repair. He pointed to a massive section of a canal wall that collapsed near Chicago, delaying shipping. [See speech video.]

A release from the White House press office coincided with President Donald’s remarks. Regard inland waterways, the release said:

The infrastructure of America’s inland waterways has been allowed to fall apart, causing delays and preventing the United States from achieving its economic potential. According to [the American Society of Civil Engineers], most of the locks and dams needed to travel the internal waterways are past their 50-year lifespan and nearly 50 percent of voyages suffered delays. Our inland waterway system requires $8.7 billion in maintenance and the maintenance backlog is only getting worse.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 8, 2017 at 3:57 pm

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A daring young man … and a documentary dependent on his survival

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Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold is a remarkable young man. He may be the foremost rock climber in generations. That his most recent feat was done entirely ropeless — meaning he’d die if he fell — adds to his impressive résumé.

Honnold, 31, climbed the Freerider route on the 3,000-foot granite monolith El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in just under four hours. (See the illustrated route map in The New York Times.) Just try to imagine it: He scaled vertical, sometimes overhanging granite, often using fingernail-sized handholds, with only his talent, control over fear, and sheer will protecting him from a fatal fall.

A life as a full-time, professional rock climber, such as Honnold, requires financial support. Honnold’s website points this out: “These are the companies that allow me to climb all day every day,” he writes. His sponsors include mountaineering equipment suppliers Black Diamond, Maxim Dynamic Ropes, La Sportiva, and North Face as well as GoalZero and Stride. (Ironic, isn’t it, that a climber who shuns the protection of a rope has rope manufacturers as sponsors …)

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Don’t worry: The rich will save the federal government. No, really. Right?

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Imagine you’re filthy rich. A one-percenter. You’ve got tons of investments and other sources of interest-based income. Yes, I know, you’ve got that vacation house in Aspen and that skiing chalet in Zermatt. But those, and the house in the Hamptons, are getting a little pricey for upkeep and paying the household staff a livable wage.

Image result for tax images creative commonsYou’re tempted to sell off some of those investments to bring in some cash because the market’s pretty good right now. Besides, your Bentley is now three years old. Time to replace it with a new, $310,000 Mulsanne.

But your  team of crack accountants tells you to hold off selling anything: “Remember, President Donald says he’s gonna push serious tax reform through Congress real soon.” In fact, the president’s treasury secretary said the new tax plan would be “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of this country.”

You, of course, salivate, thinking of all the money you’ll save if your top income-tax rate falls from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, to say nothing of the cut to 15 percent applied to all the businesses you own. (You know, of course, that team of crack accountants has for years kept you from paying anywhere near the top rate.)

So you indeed hold off selling. You tell all your one-percenter and one-tenth-of-one-percenter pals to hold off, too. So they do.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 2, 2017 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

President Donald on coal: ‘Yes.’ His chief economic adviser: ‘No.’

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Is there a sane mind in the White House, one who believes the resurgence of coal promised by President Donald is a fiction concocted to garner November votes? Or who at least believes the coal industry is dead on its feet?

EnergyEven after his election, the president continued to promise coal renewal. In an address at the Environmental Protection Agency in March, he said:

We will unlock job producing natural gas, oil and shale energy. We will produce American coal to power American industry. [emphasis added]

President Donald has taken steps to unleash coal. He’s rolled back clean-air policies and regulations of previous administrations. He’s taken aim at President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the goal of killing it. He has ordered the lifting of a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

But so many reasons exist to deny coal its presidentially desired comeback. S&R has detailed these reasons in the past.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 30, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized