Archive for December 26th, 2012

December 26, 2012

A writer’s stewardship: green living, responsible reporting


One of the most interesting things I’ve investigated this year while writing about the Bakken oil fields is water.

More specifically, I read about clean water technologies and talked to as many people as I could. It’s amazing how much the new technologies can do to keep groundwater safe.

Even better, these technologies are being used to recycle water used in the oil fields.

  •  One company specialized in a purely mechanical, highly efficient way of separating oil, water and solids. The water was re-used for drilling and production purposes and even the solids were useful as soil buffer zones in landfills.
  • Another company I looked at developed a subsurface irrigation system for farmers who have gas wells close to or on their property. The irrigation systems recycle production water from the gas fields. This technology works more with gas fields than with oil fields, but I believe they did open an office in North Dakota last year.
  • Yet another company has found an extremely safe biocide that can help control corrosive bacteria, thus helping prevent underground spills and leaks from damaged pipes and casings.

I love what these companies are doing.

I’ve lived away from North Dakota for more than a year now. It’s only fair to ask this question: why do I think about these things now, and what does it have to do with writing in general?

First, I think that everyone has an obligation to be a good steward of local resources no matter what career they have. This includes writers; if all we can do is reuse old papers for shopping lists and work more electronically, we’re moving in the right direction. No one has to be a fanatic about it for the world to find clean energy solutions, and green living can happen in small ways everywhere you look.

Second, it’s imperative that writers look on the good side of the issues they write about.

Here’s why: companies who have experienced negative articles become less likely to talk to the press. One or two stories like that makes it so all writers who need to contact them for information suffer, and the readers suffer, too.

From my perspective, this has happened somewhat in the oil fields. For one article I wrote earlier this year, a main source pulled out at the last minute because of bad press experiences. Two other sources requested that if I used their information, I leave their names and the names of the companies they worked for out of the story.

Sure, people should be informed if something goes wrong.

They should also be informed about the good things going on. The issue is getting corporate representatives to talk when they’re afraid all you’re capable of is airing dirty laundry.

I sometimes think writing is a bit like using the Force in Star Wars.

Negative stories tend to be angry and accusatory in tone. They grab attention powerfully, and because of this they might seem easier or more seductive–but these negative articles have headlines that scream in the faces of their readers. Who enjoys that?

Positive stories are quieter…they’re found behind the scenes, working unobtrusively but powerfully to make the world better.  They’re also more common. Writers may have to work harder to find them because they have to fight through the negative voices of the world to get to them.

And yet, by their sheer numbers, the positive stories can yield as strong an effect as the negative ones do. We just have to give them a chance.

The world won’t know the good things going on in any arena—education, politics, or environmentally sensitive areas like the oil and gas fields–unless writers are willing to seek out good information and write positive stories.

That includes the positive things happening in the Bakken. Personally, I’m always happy to write about technologies that recycle water in the oil and gas fields, and I enjoy learning about the oil fields in general. Sometimes I might say too much about the Bakken, about North Dakota, about life in general.

That’s only because I believe all good things should be celebrated. Writing about them is one way to do that.

December 26, 2012

Magic Studies: The Table of Sorceries

Hannah, who writes as Justine, is home from University now. It will be interesting to see how often we’re able to post together like this.

A 'wand' my husband carved for one of our daughters...

A ‘wand’ my husband carved for one of our daughters…

Dear Mother Humphrey,

Did you know that the Hag exams are coming up? This is so exciting. They’re only six months away. I can’t believe that the year that I start to study magic there will be a new Hag.

I asked mother why they only allow one person to become a Hag every thirty years. She said that it is because the members of the Table of Sorceries are a bunch of sick control freaks that need to have control over everything. What do you think?

Oh, and why is the name of our ruling body called something as silly as the Table of Sorceries?

Now, first things first. Mother did destroy the book. I know because I looked everywhere for it. There is no sign of it anywhere. I even went to her office and looked through her things there. All I got was dust bunnies and a near heart attack when mom’s secretary walked in on me. I managed to convince her that I was cleaning mom’s office as punishment after I used her credit with out permission.

That was a close call.

I could have told you that I was not going to find it because mother quit using magic years ago, but I have a feeling that you wanted me to look for the book for a different reason. Am I right?

I also know mother destroyed the book because I was talking to my father and he said that he had to buy mother flowers to apologize for getting mad at her for burning a book. Magic books are the only books that dad thinks should be burned. So you see, the book has been completely removed from my reach. You don’t have to worry.

I have just recently learned that I have a familiar. I know I am not suppose to get one until I am a Sister, but let me explain.

My Aunt Doggerel came for a visit. She brought with her the prettiest black cat you have ever seen. She said here name is Little Miss and that she was mine. I told her that I would have to ask mother and father before I could keep her. That is when my aunt told me that she was already mine and she had been since the day I was born.

I tried to tell her that it was not possible for a cat to live that long, and that is when my Aunt told me that Little Miss is a familiar. I started to argue when my parents walked in and mother told me it was true, that children in our family had familiars bound to them right way.

Daddy was not happy. He asked mom what right she had to do something like that without his permission. Mom said that it was not something she had to discuss with him because it was my right as her daughter to have a familiar. Both of them keep yelling at each other for a good hour before father went fishing. Mother told me to feed my cat, as I would be keeping her. I asked why and mother said, “What is done is done.”

Next: I have the best news ever. I am every good at making happy hour. It did not work exactly the way you said it would, but it sure did work.

That is mostly all that happened this week, I look forward to your next letter.

Your ever constant apprentice,


Dear Justine,

More details on the outcome of Happy Hour, please. To whom did you give it? What were the results? I expect a full description of what happened.

After you have told me more about Happy Hour, read the next chapter in your book on wand maintenance. Then go to Spector’s House of Fortune, which is about a sec and a half from Dunsz’s shop. Spector keeps a wall of fashion wands at the back of the store. I want you to describe and evaluate at least seven of the wands he has on hand. For each wand, tell me whether or not you would choose it and why.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the book was burned. But you didn’t tell me—what were Dork Boy and your mother talking about when he was there? I knew your mother in school, and I can’t believe she completely gave up on it.

Have you tried Happy Hour on your father yet? That might help him get used to Little Missy.

Congratulations, by the way.

Dork Boy has just brought my new Superpoint Concentrator witches hat…the latest model, and it fits perfectly. I can already feel its effects. I’m off to hit the books for a few hours.

Your ever studious teacher,

Mother Humphrey

P.S.- I believe they call the council the Table of Sorceries because they conjure complete Turkey dinners and peppermint ice cream at every monthly meeting. Hag Murtle requires the council to eat at the table now because the last time they ate in front of the entertainment screen, someone spilled cranberry sauce and it got mashed into the white carpet.

There’s a slim chance I could be wrong about the Table. However, you should know that stains from enchanted food DO NOT come out.

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