A good friend of mine, Jim Cossaart, is a rabid (I think he'd accept the adjective) fan of IndyCar. The other month, he suggested I accompany him to a race at Watkins Glen, New York. It was my first such experience and made all the more memorable by the fact that Jim and I were furnished, courtesy of Pat Caporali and Kate Guerra of IndyCar, not only with pit lane passes, but also the opportunity to take a pre-race ride around the track in a custom-built two-seater with none other than Mario Andretti.
Growing up in the United Kingdom, I became as a youngster a big fan of Formula One, and the first year in which I truly became invested in it was 1978, when Mario won the championship driving the now-legendary Lotus 79. So I didn't know much about IndyCar (at least not only Jim began indoctrinating me) but I certainly knew about Mario.
Long retired from active racing, Mario Andretti is still an ambassador of sorts for IndyCar, driving guests at 160 MPH every race morning. Mario Andretti, by the way, is 77 years old.
I'm not used to traveling at such speeds, nor am I used to wearing a helmet. I've never even ridden a motorcycle. So, somewhat embarrassingly, you can see in the video that as we pick up speed, I actually hang on to my helmet in case it flies off. Of course it wasn't going to fly off - but, well, it isn't always easy to think straight when racing along at 160 MPH.
It had been raining overnight, and there were wet patches on the track. Mario hit one, and as you can see, we went for a spin. It's amazing how many thoughts go through your head when you're in a car that's spinning at that speed. In my case, my very first one was, "Wow, that's so cool that Mario pretends to spin!" Then, when I realized it had been a legitimate spin and when it took a few seconds for driver or car to respond (or so it seemed to me in the back) I worried that I'd broken Mario Andretti and that I was going to be in so much trouble.
Fortunately, he restarted the car, got it into gear and raced us back to the pits - where the other guests lining up for a ride were buzzing and, frankly, jealous over my unscheduled detour.
Quite a few folks are fortunate enough to go for a ride with Mario Andretti during IndyCar season. I'm the only one I know who literally went for a spin with him. Read More
Last month, I was able to join my friends and colleagues Krista Wright and Geoff York of Polar Bears International on board the nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Years of Victory to the North Pole.
It was, as one might imagine, a singularly unique experience. I wasn't quite sure what to expect: I've been to the Arctic plenty of times, of course, and I've been on board icebreakers that have crunched their way through sea ice. But I had never been on a ship as a passenger before, let alone among a large number of paying passengers, which was the case here: for much of the year, Victory breaks pathways through the thick ice of the Northeast Passage, but during the summer, it is chartered by adventure tour companies - in this case, Quark Expeditions - to go to the North Pole.
I wrote about the voyage here - unfortunately, truth be told, the editorial process surrounding that blog post was fairly awful. (See that correction at the bottom? It's wrong. Not coincidentally, I'm now looking for a new gig.) Fortunately, I am hopeful to get another bite of the apple with a real outlet, the Washington Post Magazine, and I will also post some blogs that I'll be writing for PBI. Meanwihile, I also got the chance to return to "Watching the Hawks" on RT America, and talk - albeit remotely - with the always-excellent Tyler Ventura and Tabetha Wallace. Read More
There's so much that is telling about this exchange between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota over the subject of climate change. Perry had, earlier, in the week, stated that he did not believe carbon dioxide is the primary factor in the warming climate, attributing it instead to "the warming of the oceans." Franken calmly dissected Perry's assorted points and claims until at the end, Perry simply couldn't hide the fact that, rather than being a skeptic as he asserted, he is a flat-out climate change denier.
When Franken posits that human activities are solely behind rising global temperatures, Perry states his outright refusal to believe it. It isn't because he takes issue with any of the scientific evidence or with the laws of physics; it's that he is unable to comprehend and unwilling to accept that such a thing could be the case. It's an excellent example of what the likes of Katharine Hayhoe have pointed out; that as much as we might like to repeat facts until we are blue in the face, facts alone simply will not budge deniers when they so utterly threaten their worldview. Read More
David Spagnolo, the photographer for boxing promotional company Main Events, caught this great image of light heavyweight boxer Sergey Kovalev and I enjoying a light-hearted moment during a livestream prior to Kovalev's bout with Andre Ward last weekend. Part of me blushes at it a little; the really good interviewers shouldn't allow themselves to get caught up in the jokes of a specific participant. But I let the mask slip here; although he's a divisive character, I enjoy Sergey. I have probably interviewed him and Gennady Golovkin more than any other boxers for HBO. It was to cover a Kovalev fight that HBO sent me to Russia last year. At this particular moment, he was cracking a joke about "shooting" Ward in the ring (he was partly trained by a biathlon coach), and just previously he had openly laughed when I told him that Ward's trainer Virgil Hunter said he had trained Ward to knock Kovalev off. But boxing has a great way of humbling you and making you look foolish, particularly if you are not 100% prepared, and that's just what happened last Saturday night. Although there was some controversy about the fight and the moment of the stoppage, centered around some low blows landed by Ward, the American did indeed knock out the Russian, hurting him badly with a booming right hand in the eighth round, and then launching an all-out assault until referee Tony Weeks stopped the contest. Read More
Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said: “I think the Comey operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives, and this was an effort to slow down the investigation.”
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, added: “If there was no ‘there there’, James Comey would still have a job.”
I'm not so sure. Read More
I recently revisited the story of the "loneliest whale in the world", a topic I first wrote about in 2012, in an article for The Washington Post Magazine. The other day, I was interviewed about the article, and about this whale specifically and whales more generally, by Tyrel Ventura and Tabetha Wallace on "Watching the Hawks" on RT America. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable interviews I've done in a long time. Read More