Several of you pointed out my Irene typo. In one place, I said she cost $160 million; later, $160 billion. Which is it, you wanted to know. Just goes to show how numbed we’ve become to big numbers. The answer: $160 million. For $160 billion, you could buy every plane American, Delta and United own. You could build a chunnel between England and France. You could pay off the 1997 federal deficit. I knew that, but one of my index fingers (I type with both, so it’s hard to fix blame) did not.


“Can you imagine what the next 150 [years] will be like?” I asked rhetorically at the end of that same flawed comment. To which Mark Gorman replied: “Actually, no. If I could, I would have a much better idea of where to invest. But the cynic in me foresees a world where power (lawmaking, regulatory, financial, and the media) increasingly rests with people who have NEVER had direct contact with the industries and activities they are controlling. The people in positions of power will not only never have worked on an oil rig, they will never have had a friend whose father worked on an oil rig. They will expect to buy meat inexpensively at the supermarket and benefit from medical research, while voting for increasingly restrictive animal rights laws. In other words, they will be increasingly cut off from the ‘real’ world. I am enough of a cynic to realize that this sort of thing has been going on since the dawn of civilization. Furthermore, specialization is necessary in a complex society. It just seems to be getting worse, and I fear the consequences. More people should have experiences such as yours on Irene.”

Being more of an optimist than a cynic myself, I’m not particularly fearful. But I’d recommend climbing around Irene to anyone. There’s nothing like actually getting out and seeing things. I’ll never forget our class tour of the Wonder Bread factory when I was in the third grade. Or last week’s in-depth tour of Asia.

Tomorrow: Asia — The Saga Begins



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