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my 30s: a look back

I turn 40 today. Frankly, it’s not a birthday that’s weighing on me like my 30th did – it’s just another day to me, this time around.

But a lot has happened to me over the past decade, and since I’m feeling a bit put out by other things in life right now, I figured it would be worth a trip back through time to see where I’ve been and what I’ve done, just as a reminder.

  • Settled into DC (2003)
  • Settled into Georgetown U. (2003)
  • Helped two presidential campaigns (2003-04)
  • Run for political office – and won (2004)
  • Traveled to England and Wales (2005)
  • Traveled to Austria and Germany with my mom (2007)
  • Rode up Mount Shasta (2008)
  • Ski trips to Colorado (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
  • Cut off my long hair (2008)
  • Traveled to France (2008)
  • Rode from Boston to Windsor for a beer (2009)
  • Testified in front of City Council (2009, 2011)
  • Traveled to Iceland (2011)
  • Chaired my favorite bike club, Potomac Pedalers (2011)
  • Traveled to Louisiana (2012)
  • Groomsman in two weddings (2005, 2013)
  • Many concerts: Simon & Garfunkel, U2, Thomas Dolby, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Brian Wilson, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Paul Simon (solo), Pink Martini, The Beach Boys, Retro Stefson, Erin McKeown, Nellie McKay, Sloan, The Pipettes, Polyphonic Spree, Elvis Costello, and many, many more
  • Seeing awesome plays written by my friend, Michael
  • Excellent beers, including the rebirth of brewing in DC
  • Birthdays, holidays, picnics, and other random occasions hanging out with friends

So a lot of things – a lot of great things – have happened over the past decade. Yes, there have been setbacks and sadness, but the good has outweighed the bad, all in all.

foiled and frustrated

A quick update from Utah:

Firstly, this trip has been the pits. Lots of arguments with my mom, a lot of bruised egos. Yes, there have been positive moments, but for the remainder of the trip I’m biting my tongue so I don’t fan the flames that ignite when we argue. Our personalities are similar, and right now, she has a hard time separating the adult I am from the child she raised.

Work I’ve wanted (and needed) to do? Only partially done. Nerves? Frayed. Patience? Gone, just gone.


I rode last weekend, but it wasn’t great. On Saturday, I crashed 2.5 miles into my afternoon training ride, which caused a great deal of road rash on my left side, some deep contusions in my pectoral and iliac crest regions, and gave my weak shoulder a really painful whack.

It also broke my saddle and tore up my brake lever hoods, which are things that can be repaired (and I was due for a new saddle, in all fairness), but are a drag, all the same.

My friends rode a flat-to-rolling metric century with me the next day (I’m stubborn – what can I say?), and that was good riding, if not good training for the upcoming Mountains of Misery event. I was sore, but the ride was good for allowing me to keep moving – and luckily my backup bike (the Jamis) was ready to go.

Wednesday evening had me ride the “Downtown Breakaway,” and I was definitely slower than normal, with less punch up the short, steep hills we ride. I stopped to help a rider who broke a spoke, which had me riding a bit behind the group with Mark. It was great riding, from a social sense, but wasn’t the best training for me.

And now I’m in Utah. I took off Tuesday (redeye flight back to DC tonight), hoping to get in a ride on Skyline Drive in the afternoon. The only problem? It’s going to rain all day, and Skyline Drive isn’t fun (or, frankly, that safe) in the rain. So I’m resigned to some bike maintenance and… well, some kind of workout to keep me moving (and no, I don’t ride an indoor trainer – a task I find somewhat pointless and non-motivating).

So I will ride this coming weekend, weather permitting (and possibly in spite of the weather if there are scattered showers). None of the official Pedalers rides sound that inviting, so I’ll need to figure out what to do.

Do I sound crabby? I am crabby. I can’t help it, as this trip has made me very, very frustrated with almost every aspect of my life.

citius, altius, fortius (10 years ago)

Ten years ago, this month, I stood on a hill at 4:30 in the morning, wearing my skis and uniform, carrying a shovel over my shoulder, and pushed off down a slope lit only by moonlight and the occasional spark that shot off one of my friend’s ski edges.

Yup: I volunteered at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah.

My official position there was FIELD-OF-PLAY | SPORT | ALPINE SKIING | SNOWBASIN – quite a mouthful. What it meant is that I was part of the course crew at the Alpine Skiing speed venue at Snowbasin, Utah, about an hour north-northeast of Salt Lake City (my hometown). My job was to help keep a section of the women’s downhill, super-G and combined slalom course as fair as can be from racer to racer. It involved buffing snow, setting up and maintaining safety fencing, and making sure that my colleagues were all on the same page, and that we, in turn, were on the same page as the chief-of-race.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And there were hundreds of us on the mountain for these events.

It meant getting up at 2:30 in the morning on event days (3:30 on training days), meeting my carpool to drive up to a remote parking lot around 10 miles from Snowbasin, hopping on a bus (often a loaner WMATA MetroBus) still bleary eyed, getting off at the resort, going through “mag-and-bag” supervised by the National Guard, meeting my crew chief and fellow crew members in the base lodge, putting on my ski boots, grabbing my skis from overnight storage, hopping on the lift at 4:20am (5:20 on training days), getting to the summit, grabbing a shovel or rake (or sometimes 2 or 3), and skiing in the dark to my section of course.

As my course section was smack dab in the middle of the mountain, my crew didn’t have the luxury of skiing under the floodlights that covered the venue. We skied “by feel” down to our section and immediately got to work on the day’s task. We moved fences. We shoveled snow. We boot-packed loose snow, then raked and shoveled it into a smooth consistency. We talked with coaches and officials from all over the world (I had a “side business” of trading official start lists with coaches, in exchange for unique and rare pins). We would occasionally get to talk with athletes (including Picabo Street, an old mate from junior racing days).

And we had a TON of fun.

We did this for two weeks straight, as our events vied for time with the figure skating, hockey, bobsled, luge, curling, nordic skiing, jumping, biathlon and other events. Our work day was usually wrapped up by 3pm, so the volunteers could take advantage of what the Olympics had to offer from an entertainment standpoint.

And there was a lot to do during this “downtime!”

Downtown Salt Lake City was transformed into a 24-7 party. Concerts were held in conjunction with the medal ceremonies. Each Olympic committee from each participating nation had its own “house” with food, drink and festivities. The locals were almost all in good spirits (even those who fought, tooth and nail, to prevent the Games from coming to SLC), and the out-of-towners each brought their own enthusiasm to the mix.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at my box of memorabilia from the Games. I still have the uniform, even if it’s a bit too big these days (I discovered long-distance road cycling in the intervening years). I have a large pin collection, populated not only with team pins but also pins that refer to Utah’s quirks, as well as ones that were only issued to the volunteers. I still have the commemorative watch, though I need to get its band repaired. I have a stack of newspapers from the Games and the previous year’s World Cup, where I also volunteered. I have a couple of “spectator kits” from the opening and closing ceremonies (neither of which I attended, though I was at the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony). There’s a pile of ticket stubs from various events and concerts I attended. And I have a lovely bronze medallion, minted by the same jeweler who made the athletes’ medals – it’s lovely.

You can see pictures snapped by my fellow volunteer, John Risley, here (I’ll also be posting pictures of other memorabilia in this set – keep checking for that). And just to show that I still have (and occasionally wear) the uniform, click here.

of parents and mentors

As I sit on a flight back to DC, my mind reflects on the past week spent in Utah. The trip featured two dominating factors: visiting my mom and reuniting with former ski teammates to honor our common friend and mentor.

First things first: sprite was a trooper through the entire journey. She didn’t have the best time, and had to endure a lot of boredom and frustration due to myriad reasons. I owe her a ton for this trip.

Visiting with mom for the first few days was trying. Our trip originally had us getting into Salt Lake City the night before surgery to repair damage from an injury sustained the previous winter. We planned to help her around the house for a few days as she recuperated.

However, at the eleventh hour she cancelled the surgery due to a lingering lung ailment, which caught sprite and me off guard. We had planned to do some much-needed cleaning of her house, to try and get her a leg up on typical spring chores – a task far easier to do without parental micro-management. So both sprite and I were a bit purturbed about the change of plans.

That said, we did get some housework done. Her bedroom got a bit of tidying. The front hall and kitchen received a bit of cleaning and sorting. I planted a cherry tree in the yard and we had her car washed from stem to stern. We also set up her new, flat screen TV, which is a big improvement over her old CRT unit.

And through all of this, she was amazingly cooperative compared to the usual routine. It was still draining on both of us (all of the dust was trying on our allergies, which is a workout on top of the housework). But she’s my mom, and I’m her only child – it’s just one of the truths of life, and truth isn’t always pretty.

The latter half of the trip had me at “OlleFest,” a retirement party for my former ski coach and mentor, Olle Larsson. After 28 years at Rowmark Ski Academy and many more years coaching for national and college ski teams, he has decided to hang up the coaching hat. And this retirement party brought out many former pupils, fellow coaches, family and friends to honor his years of service.

Olle was a wonderful coach who taught me a lot about not only skiing, but life and overcoming its challenges. His outlook on life is summed up in two key things: his telltale and infectious laugh, and his personal belief that every day is a gift. And by the huge turnout at OlleFest, it’s easy to tell that his footprints are woven into the lives of many people.

Since my relationship with Olle was forged through skiing, it was fitting that the best part of the reunion was skiing and hanging out with many fellow Rowmark alumni, both racers and coaches. On Saturday, we raced against each other in dual-slalom courses, followed by free skiing with Olle. And as a final act of coaching, he led his “old fart rust corps” of alumni through drills.

Yup, drills. You know, the basic lessons on the fundamentals of a sport. All Rowmarkers know the old drills: javelins, cardboard turns and the like. But with the new, shorter, more shapely skis, all of the old drills have been retired as the essential skills have evolved.

So a group of thirtysomething and fortysomething Rowmarkers, including former World Cup and Olympic skiers, did basic “ski racing 101” exercises on a bluebird day at Park City Mountain Resort.

And it was hilarious: all of us are still great skiers, but the new tricks didn’t come easily to many of the old dogs. And Olle, ever the critical analyst of technique, doled out his advice to one and all until we all got it right.

(And I was totally pleased to find out that my own analysis and adaptation to modern racing and ski technique was spot-on – as I said to Olle, the master taught his pupil very well.)

The evening’s banquet was great for catching up with still more friends, and while it was a bit long at times, it also brought back a flood of memories. Especially fun was a slideshow retrospective of Olle’s life and the racers whose lives he touhed. Seeing me as a teenager, acting all cool, looking every bit the young pup I was, made me feel both old and young at the same time. And sprite got to see slices of my life as viewed through Olle’s ever-present camera lens (did I mention that he’s one of the best sports photographers in the world?).

Sunday’s free skiing a Park City was a bit more free-spirited and casual. I skied with fellow alumni and we shared stories of youthful indiscretion and adventure between runs skied with reckless abandon. There were a lot of shared laughs, a lot of Olle stories and an excess of positive memories. New friendships were forged and old ones refreshed.

But the best part was realizing that Olle still is a mentor. He’s a Ph.D in the school of life, embracing every moment and inviting others to share the joy. And while he may not be coaching any longer, I can’t see him slowing down. Rather, I think hs simply changing course, trimmig his sails for the next challenge in his vast ocean. I can’t wait to see what comes next for him, as it’s bound to be interesting.

Both my mom and Olle helped forge who I am. Both provided challenges for me to face, both helped me up when I was down and celebrated when I was victorious. And this past week reminded me of how my own life shares the challenges and achievements they both brought to my life.

zion’s land

Back in Utah this week, partly for a visit to my mom, partly for a reunion-cum-retirement-party for my ski coach and mentor, Olle Larsson. This weekend will be the fun time – skiing, hanging out with old friends, getting to spend some time in Park City – but right now it’s the tug-of-war that is “mom time.” It’s trying on the senses, to say the least.

So for the most part, this is not a vacation, not a restful break from the day-to-day. It’s stressful. It’s frustrating. There are times of happiness and humor, too, but the rules are different when it’s time spent with a parent.

For those who like reading about my cycling, there’s a post coming on that, too. But my internet connections are fleeting (mom has no internet access – there’s a general fear of tech in her house), but it’ll be worth the wait (I hope).

tuesday thoughts: stuff that makes me scratch my head and say “wha?”

Here are a few things that have me asking what’s the matter with society:

  • Please, please, please send Marion Barry to the political pasture – preferably to jail! His continued “devil could care” attitude toward paying back taxes sets a ridiculously bad example, and violates his current probation. That the people of Ward 8 continue to vote for this guy – who brings zero to the table in terms of valid, progressive legislation – is simply sad.
  • If politics between the United States and Russia have devolved to this level, I hope President Obama knows what’s in store with U.S.-Russian relations. The world is too small for such silly arguments – especially when the entire “functional world” is barely bigger than two city buses!
  • Then again, right now is as good a time as any to ponder the other G20 – the one in Glasgow.
  • We’re still dangling the bailout carrot in front of GM and Chrysler – why, exactly, I do not know. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see the business cycle actually play out, where big companies can – and do – fail every so often? If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that past failures of giant corporations have often brought about new creativity and innovation that, in the long run, has helped the economy diversify, grow and prosper. So let’s stop propping up these ancient Goliaths, Mr. President, and let them fail and rise from the ashes as new, fleet, innovative and future-looking enterprises. The Big 3 are dead! Long live their progeny!
  • And while I commend the newly-enacted changes in Utah’s liquor laws that abolish the arcane and less-than-welcoming “private club” system, one of the other plans of the newly-signed legislation is simply baffling: the requirement that all mixed drinks be prepared “out of sight of persons under the age of 21.” What the hell? This is progress? This is obviously the direct result of the meddling of the LDS Church, to whom I say this: remember that those things you repress become your secret vices (read: internet porn, betting on horse races, high-stakes gambling, lottery, et al).

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the coming of spring to the District. The grass is no longer dormant, the daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are rising from their winter slumber in the soil, and the magnolias and cherry blossoms are quickly reaching peak beauty.

And with all these wonders come the things that we DC residents both love and hate: the tourists who can’t buy a clue. They block the escalators at Metro stations and stop to gawk and talk in the middle of busy sidewalks. They overrun areas that are usually the domain of DC locals (e.g. Hains Point during the Cherry Blossom Festival) and take away all of the elusive parking places throughout downtown and Georgetown. They cut off cyclists and pedestrians as they try to navigate our sometimes baffling streets, and get confused when locals give them directions that wouldn’t make sense to non-locals.

And they bring us the money that we desperately need to keep our city going. So welcome, fair tourists! Enjoy your stay, but keep an eye on how the locals do things, and try to emulate us. We all learned the hard way, in the beginning, so a bit of copycat behavior might save you some awkward humiliation.

out out, brief candle (r.i.p. tony)

Emmet “Tony” Larimer died last night, aged 79.

And for the past 27 hours, I’ve been at a loss for words.

Tony was more than a teacher to me. He was a friend and mentor, a role model for conducting one’s self at all times. He was a gentleman among giants, a kind Grinch, a master thespian and constructive acting coach, a master of two bards (Shakespeare and Seuss), and an icon to everybody who had the chance to work with or learn from him.

When I first learned he’d developed lung cancer, I posted about it. And those words still apply – all of ’em.

But there’s one other thing that Tony taught us all in his English classroom all those years ago, another one of those things that’s impossible to forget:


According to Webster’s, metonymy is:

A trope in which one word is put for another that suggests it.

It’s not one of the most often-used terms of the English language, but Tony made sure we never, ever would forget it. And why? As Tony would say:

“It contains my three favorite words: ‘me,’ ‘Tony’ and ‘my.'”

How can you argue with that? Three easy words for any of his students to keep in mind for a bit of grammar that is used every day (search the ‘net for examples if you need a refresher course – I’ll wait).

So to use a metonymy here that only fellow Winged Lions will recognize: the Lincoln Street Marching Band & Chowder Society raises a glass to a fallen comrade, mentor, leader and friend.

So Tony is no longer giving the cancer hell – he’s moved on to a new journey.

He fought the good fight, and we fought it with him. It can be seen in the outpouring of kind words on Tony’s Facebook page just how much he meant to his students, colleagues and friends.

Tony’s death strikes a chord within me and leaves a tangible void. He respected me, warts and all. He allowed second chances, but not without a lesson involved. He loved unconditionally, and triumphs of his students actually meant something to him, whether or not they were in his class. And I know he always marveled in what his pupils went on to do after graduation – he would live through them, and continues to live on through them.

His face conveyed a range of emotions that could run the gamut from elation to despair, fear to aggression, fatigue to hyper within a matter of seconds (and the eyebrows always played a role – who can forget them?). His voice – oh, that voice – resonated around the halls of both RHSM campus locations, becoming an intrinsic part of the bricks, boards, books and desks.

It’s impossible for me to think about RHSM without Tony in the hall, or in his office, or in the auditorium asking for the 14th take of a scene from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, or walking between Van Evra Hall and the main lobby at the old Avenues campus, or playing the Grinch for generations of students and colleagues.

And his impact reached far beyond the school, deep into Utah’s arts culture. That community grieves, as well.

Tony, yours was certainly not a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Yours was a tale told by a kind and wise master, signifying much more than you will ever know.

I will never forget you – or your loving, caring wife, Marie, who always comes to mind when I have a biking mishap and have to crack open the first-aid kit.

Tony, you were, and are, my Captain.

Bless you and thank you, Tony Larimer.

easter skiing in utah

Rudi at SnowbirdI spent a lovely Easter weekend out in Utah, visiting my mom and skiing the Wasatch.

It was fun to ski back in the hills where I learned the sport – and this year was especially great, as the snowfall in Utah has been record-setting this year. So I brought my new skis (Head Supershape Magnums) with little fear of “mineral interference” (a.k.a. hitting rocks).

And I’m glad I brought ’em, as the first day’s journey to Deer Valley dawned cold, with some clouds and hanging snowflakes (see this photo to see what I mean). As the previous days had been warm (save for a small snowstorm that dropped 7 inches of fresh powder), the base was hard-set and very “eastern” in feel. Thus, my carving skis, which excel on the boilerplate ice we get in the east, were just the trick for the buffed-out surfaces at Deer Valley. I also had some fun in the bumps and the trees, though the non-groomed surfaces either had the consistency of a concrete-set rockslide or porridge (depending on sun exposure).

Over the past few years, Deer Valley has shored up what was once its biggest weakness by adding expert terrain in Empire Canyon. The Daly Chutes are some of the most rugged of their kind in the greater Park City area, and they often retain fresh snow longer than similar terrain at other areas due to the relative paucity of expert skiers. And they added more to the equation with the opening of the Lady Morgan chair, which serves steep glades and rocky outcroppings that provide a good challenge. It’s too bad that there wasn’t much soft snow in these areas – had I been on longer, wider skis, I might’ve given them more time for exploration.

But it was fun, and the food, as is always the case at Deer Valley, was top-notch. There’s a good reason that they get written up in Gourmet, Food & Wine and Zagat’s: the food is that good.

Day two took me to Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the neighboring resorts of Snowbird and Alta. For the past few years, skiers have had the option of purchasing a ticket that is good at both resorts. To cross, you pass through a gate that’s perched on Sugarloaf pass, between Alta’s Sugarloaf lift and Snowbird’s Baldy Express lift. This meant that I had over 7,000 skiable acres of terrain to explore.

And explore I did. I started my day with some fast runs on the Peruvian quad, which was the easy way to get to the spectators’ gallery for the US Freeskiing Championships (simply put: insane skiers doing incredible feats as they ski down some of the craziest terrain at Snowbird). But I really wanted to explore the Mineral Basin side of the Bird, as my last visit featured some nasty weather and thin snow that made Mineral Basin a poor choice of places to ski.

So I rode the conveyor belt through the tunnel at the top of the Peruvian chair (called the “Basshole” by locals) and proceeded to ski into a cliff-laden area between the two chairs that serve Mineral Basin. I made my way down, dropping off an 8-foot cliff in the process, and enjoyed some perfect corn snow in the lovely, open southern exposure. Mineral Basin is relatively treeless, very European in feel, and has some great, steep, rolling terrain.

After sampling Mineral Basin, I decided to cross over to Alta via their connector gate, and cruised down Sugarloaf and over to the Supreme lift. After a quick run down Challenger, I went back up the Sugarloaf lift and decided to go on a hike. I hiked up to the top of Mt. Baldy, along with three other easterners, and after checking out the view from the top, I took the plunge down one of the Baldy Chutes. What a treat! The chutes were in the shade for most of the day, and as the rope had only been dropped on this area earlier in the day, there was still fresh powder to be found. After a small leap into the chute, I skied some fun turns down to the Ballroom area, and then to the Watson Shelter for lunch and rehydration.

I then returned to Snowbird, skiing a run off the Little Cloud lift, then heading down to Wilbere Ridge and remembering all of the races I had on said trail when I was a kid. I knocked off a couple of runs off the Gadzoom chair, and I returned to Peruvian to enjoy a few runs down Primrose Path (another race trail) and watch some of the incredible freeskiers compete at West Baldy.

Two days, three areas, magnificent skiing all around.

(You can click on the photo of me skiing at Snowbird to see more pictures from the trip.)

give ’em hell, tony!

I learned today that one of my favorite high school teachers, Tony Larimer, is battling lung cancer. He’s currently in hospital back in Utah, trying to overcome a bout with pneumonia.

Tony always loomed large to me. He is one of my most vivid memories of my time at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School: a tall man with distinct, owl-like eyebrows, a wide smile and a deep, commanding voice. He was easily the tallest person on campus back in the days when RHSM’s entire student body (pre-K through grade 12) was shoe-horned at 205 First Avenue. And he must’ve been something, because he was the one who married Mrs. Newman – the “Band-Aid Lady” – and created the power couple of acting on the school campus.

To generations of RHSM lower school students, Mr. Larimer is the Grinch, with his wicked facial expressions bringing Dr. Seuss’ character to deliciously wicked life. He was also equally at ease talking to a 6 year-old or a 16 year-old, and always made sure to reassure the young folk that he was, indeed, a kind Grinch.

To similar generations of RHSM upper school students, Mr. Larimer is the man who instilled in them a love of The Bard, who relished sharing his love of acting and marrying it to a love of English literature. For any RHSM upper school student who happened to take Mr. Larimer’s “British Foundations” course, the following Shakespearian passage is permanently etched into his mind:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Macbeth (V, v, 19)

He also was the director of the upper school musical for many years, and I’m honored that I was the set designer and first chair pit orchestra for the last work he directed, The Pajama Game.

And he has always been a vocal supporter of RHSM. As co-chair of the alumni association, Tony and Marie are often traveling cross-country to catch up with alumni who have made homes in other parts of the USA. I’m really glad that sprite got to meet Tony and Marie in Boston a few years ago.

And now Tony is fighting against a most cruel foe. He is strong, he is determined, and he knows that he does not fight alone.

Give those cancer cells hell, Tony!

my $0.02: mining safety, disasters, etc.

It’s been hard to avoid stories of the mining disaster in Huntington, Utah. With six miners still missing and (at this point) presumed dead, and three rescuers killed in a subsequent cave-in, there is a lot of sadness, anger and questions created in the aftermath.

It’s well known that the owner of the mine, Robert Murray, is known for putting profits ahead of safety. In his Illinois mines alone, he’s had nearly 2,800 documented safety violations since 2005. I’d imagine that his track record for the Huntington mine, as well as his other Utah holdings, is equally terrible.

Furthermore, Richard Stickler, chair of the Mining Safety and Health Adminstration (MSHA), was a 2006 recess appointment by President Bush. Bush knew full well that Stickler’s record on safety was abysmal, and that he would never pass the scrutiny of the then-GOP congress in the wake of the then-recent Sago disaster in West Virginia (12 dead, one survivor). So Bush, in his infinite smugness, appointed Stickler during a time where no scrutiny was possible.

Deep level mining is a dangerous trade. Miners put their lives on the line every day, with the short-term danger of explosions and cave-ins a constant sword over their heads, and the long-term risks of exposure to carcinogens (coal dust, radon, lead and arsenic, to name a few) being a floor of surgical-steel spikes on which they have to walk. They work for pay that is very low, often supporting families that can barely scrape by in times of increasing costs of living.

And they do this for owners who seldom care for anything more than profit margins that continue to dwindle as two forces drive the old-school energy market into a tailspin:

  1. Increasing production from foreign countries that have lower operational costs (usually with inherently lower safety standards) and therefore lower market costs; and
  2. A move away from high-pollutant, carbon-rich fuels, which contribute highly to both global warming and low-atmosphere particulant pollution.

This latter factor was used as a point of tantrum by Murray, who blamed the “global warming militants” for the problems that led to the initial cave-in.

Whatever, Mr. Murray, but you’re way off base – by about a country mile, give or take.

Coal mining is a dying enterprise in the United States. It is a form of fuel that is increasingly obsolete due to the very legitimate threat of human-influenced climate change, and the true need to reduce the impact of industry on the ecosystem. While some influential people are still in denial of global warming, the scientific consensus is that it is happening and that there’s precious little time left for mankind to stave off a rapid – and likely catastrophic – increase in global temperature and decrease in air quality.

So rather than cry over lost profits, Mr. Murray, perhaps you should think about looking for clean, next-generation energy sources for your investment. Build a wind farm in central Utah, where conditions are most favorable. Start a solar array. Buy a few thousand acres and grow corn or soy that can be converted to clean-burning oil and petrol. Invest in science that could hold the key to clean energy for generations to come.

And shut down your mines. Do so while educating your miners (through investment in the miners’ pursuit of GEDs and college diplomas) so that they can get jobs in the new economy. And make sure that the closed mines are not eco-disasters in waiting: close up the tunnels properly.

And finally, both you and Mr. Stickler must come clean with your intentions about further rescue operations. You’ve dragged around the hearts of the missing miners’ families for far too long, building up hope and stringing them along for weeks. Simply state your intent, as painful as it may be, and allow the grieving families to start the healing process.

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