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For about five years or so - from early 2009, as I recall, until April 2014 - I blogged regularly for Discovery News. It was one of my favorite gigs, as it gave me a platform to write about pretty much anything I wanted, from climate change to whaling to the great hedgehog rescue . Then budget cuts hit, and I was writing for them no longer. Suddenly, in late October, I was asked if I could come back, at least for two months, and I enjoyed writing a preview and review of the Paris climate talks, a tie-in with an HBO expose of elephant poaching, a wide angle view of polar bears and climate change, and a slideshow of optimism on ocean issues.

And then the two months were up and I was told there would be no budget for me to return. And I was sad. But just one day later, that position changed, money was found, I was told I'd be hired through 2016, and I was happy. I'm genuinely thrilled to have this gig back, and am looking forward to writing some fun pieces next year.  Read More 
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Ace of Spades

I was a bit of a sad sight at school dances when I was at boarding school. For one thing, I was tiny (not that I'm exactly statuesque now), and what might be called a late developer, which could be difficult when living in a world of raging hormones. So I was a little bit of an outsider, unlikely to be dancing with the hottest girl - or, for that matter, any girl.

So there I'd be, me and a smattering of other freaks, and we'd stand off to the side of the hall while all the dancing and furtive making out was taking place, except for maybe twice during the evening when the DJ would put on some metal. Then we'd shuffle toward the center of the floor, stand in a circle, headbang until the track ended, and then return to our places off to the side. I can't remember what music it would be that they played - probably Status Quo or some such - but I like to picture it being Motorhead. They didn't come any louder than Motorhead, and they didn't come anything like Lemmy, with his Jack Daniels voice shouted into a downward-tilted mic. Alas, Motorhead is no more, after Lemmy died the other day, taking another piece of my youth with it. Rest in Noise.

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Anticipating a Car That Smells Like a Tiny Wee Corpse

Hey kids, ain't country living the BEST? So I'm setting out this morning on my 4ish hour drive to Turning Stone, and turn on the heater just to take off the morning chill. Rattle, rattle, rattle, burning smell. Hmmmmm. Pull in to Thad's to ask him what he thinks is up. "I think you've got a mouse nest in there," he says. "I have to take care of that all the time. It'll probably take me an hour or so to open it up, dig out the nest and put the blower back." I'm kind of on a schedule - because of course, I'm leaving an hour later than I had hoped to because of course I HAD to have one more drink before bedtime last night.

So we figure, what the heck, I'll just bring it by on Monday when I get back. Ah well, I think, as I set off; it's going to be a little bit of a chilly trip, but at least winter hasn't really arrived yet. But I'm not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. I'm a good 90 minutes into my drive when I suddenly realize that Mickey (or Minnie) was probably in the nest when I turned on the heater, including when Thad and I turned it up to full blast to check it out. In which case, we probably chopped him (or her) up real good. In which case, I'm going to have a cold and stinky journey home. And I am going to have to tip the hotel valet sooooo much money. Stoopid nature.  Read More 
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Einstein, Eddington, and Me

There has, and quite rightly, been a fair bit written about Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, which he published 100 years ago yesterday. The man whose observations confirmed the theory was Arthur Stanley Eddington, who spent many of his formative years in my hometown of Weston-super-Mare; many times, as a wee young thing, I would walk past his house on Walliscote Rd, where, I assume, a commemorative plaque remains. (A plaque commemorating Eddington having lived there, rather than my having periodically walked past it.) In fact, it was here that, as I walked home from school one day, a large tile slid off the roof and crashed into the sidewalk just in front of me. This rather shook me up; what if I had left school a second earlier? I was, I recall, quite upset that none of the adults I later told quite grasped the near-calamitous nature of what had happened. Forty years later, I find it ironically amusing that gravity, at the house of the man who confirmed general relativity, nearly snuffed me out (or, more likely, nearly cut my head and gave me a headache). Tl;dr: the general theory of relativity is all about ME, dammit. Read More 
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My New Friend

Tundra Buggy One, near Churchill, Manitoba, November 2, 2015.
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Live from the Tundra

Thanks to my friends at Polar Bears International, I've been back in Churchill and on Tundra Buggy One, studying polar bears, shooting videos and writing blogs. Here are some webcasts I hosted with PBI's Steven Amstrup and the excellent Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech.

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The Great One

Not Mt. McKinley
When I lived in a tiny cabin in Anchorage, on the shores of Alaska's Cook Inlet, I could sometimes - if the day was perfectly clear and I squinted a little - see the peak of the continent's tallest mountain in the far, far distance. And when I did, I would tell friends, "I could see Denali today," and everyone understood. When we spoke of the mountain - as, this being Alaska, we did quite often - it was always Denali. Always. Denali - supposedly, although perhaps not in fact, Athabascan for "The Great One" - is a defining feature of the 49th State, and its name and putative English translation are ingrained in the state's vocabulary. Although there were outliers - deliberate contrarians and establishmentarians - virtually nobody in Alaska would refer to it as Mt. McKinley, its official name. Indeed, that imprimatur offended: McKinley, an undistinguished president, never visited Alaska not had any particular connection to it, yet efforts to have the insult removed repeatedly ran into roadblocks from the congressional delegation of McKinley's native Ohio.

Now, President Obama has taken executive action to write a 98-year-old wrong, and ensure that Denali is henceforth known officially by the name to which it is referred by all Alaskans. In the Great Land, the news was met with overwhelming enthusiasm and gratitude; to judge from the reactions of Ohioans, GOP presidential candidates and the multitude of social media users whose knee-jerk reaction is to oppose everything the president does simply because he does it, he might as well have announced that he was reversing the result of WWII. There are many reasons why perusing Twitter is enough to give a rational person reason to despair for humanity, and it seems strange that this particular explosion of faux outrage above all others has depressed me so. But is a topic that is close to my heart; personally, I am grateful to the president for his symbolic but significant gesture, and in time I hope the wailing and gnashing of teeth will find another target, as Denali continues to stand tall and imperious above the fray.  Read More 
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For a bunch of reasons, this song is very much on my mind right now. Not much in life more depressing than losing a great thing.
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Kieran and Miguel

I've long been a fan of Miguel Cotto. He's the first fighter I've followed ringside all the way from prospect/contender status to veteran champion. I enjoy interviewing him, too. Here I am, talking with him and with Daniel Geale, his opponent at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on June 6.

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Back to the Tundra

I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be heading back to the frigid shores of Hudson Bay later this year, at the invitation of Polar Bears International, who have asked me to host some of their live programming direct from the tundra. It has been seven years since I was last in the Polar Bear Capital of the World; it will be great to see some old, furry friends - and join up with some old, less furry, bipedal friends too. More updates as I have them. Read More 
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