ROKIT, MOTOWN and NIMOY: How Aviation Waypoints Get Their Names

Route map of the world's scheduled commercial airline traffic, 2009. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Route map of the world's scheduled commercial airline traffic, 2009. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Then there is the intriguing way airways are navigated, using radio beacons and “waypoints”, spots defined by geographic co-ordinates or their bearing and distance from a beacon. These waypoints are typically given five-letter capitalised names that are supposed to be simple enough for any controller or pilot to recognise them, regardless of their first language.

Europe’s sky-mappers turn out to have taken a fairly business-like approach to naming their waypoints, though there is a TULIP off the Dutch coast and England has a DRAKE, for Sir Francis. Australians have had a bit more fun, naming points off their west coast WONSA, JOLLY, SWAGY, CAMBS, BUIYA, BYLLA, BONGS, in honour of the opening lines of the country’s unofficial national anthem, “Waltzing Matilda”. The Americans have just gone mad. Detroit has MOTWN and WONDR (Stevie was born in Michigan). Houston has a ROKIT for its Space Center. There is a NIMOY in Boston (where Leonard was born) plus several local culinary references (CHWDH, LBSTA and CLAWW) and SSOXS, STRKK and OUTTT for the Red Sox baseball team.

Pilita Clark writing in the Financial Times about the future of flying.

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See Also: “The Secret Language of the Skies” (Deborah Fallows, The Atlantic, 2013)

Graves of the Dead

Photo via Flickr
Photo via Flickr

Ken Otterbourg | The New New South | April 2015 | 10 minutes (2,439 words)



After starting in Pittsburgh, the Ohio River heads north and then quickly loops south, as if realizing the error in its ways. It is a place to get lost and to get found. The river bends and twists here with energy, like a snake caught by its tail. There is an optimism in the current, movement and ambition, married with the skeletons of our built world and those worlds that came before that rise out of the fields and hills along the banks. Sometimes in the grace of dawn these structures appear as nearly flesh and blood. But that hope recedes as the sun climbs over the hill, past the chestnuts and maples. Time and gravity wait to do their parts. Read more…

The Bestseller That Warned Us About California’s Water Problem

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

When most of us think of California’s irrigated acres, we visualize lush fields growing tomatoes, artichokes, strawberries, and grapes. But in California, the biggest user of underground water, more irrigation water is used for feed crops and pasture than for all these specialty crops combined. In fact, 42 percent of California’s irrigation goes to produce livestock. Not only are water tables dropping, but in some parts of California the earth itself is sinking as groundwater is drawn out. According to a 1980 government survey, 5,000 square miles of the rich San Joaquin Valley have already sunk, in some areas as much as 29 feet.

The fact that water is free encourages this mammoth waste. Whoever has the $450 an acre needed to level the land and install pumping equipment can take groundwater for nothing. The replacement cost—the cost of an equal amount of water when present wells have run dry—is not taken into consideration. This no-price, no-plan policy leads to the rapid depletion of our resources, bringing the day closer when alternatives must be found—but at the same time postponing any search for alternatives.

—From 1991’s twentieth anniversary edition of Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, the bestselling book first published in 1971. She argues hunger is “human made,” and highlights the environmental effects of livestock production, noting it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of steak.

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The Origins of Lilly Pulitzer

Photos via Lilly Pulitzer, Instagram

[Lilly Pulitzer] Rousseau’s story has been oft-told over the years: Born the middle of three daughters into a socially prominent family in Roslyn, New York, Lilly McKim attended all the right schools (Chapin, Miss Porter’s) with all the right people (Jacqueline Bouvier was a schoolmate at Miss Porter’s) before eloping in 1952, at age 21, with newspaper scion Peter Pulitzer. The pair moved to Palm Beach, where Pulitzer operated a successful citrus grove business, and his bride quickly had three children: Peter Jr., Liza and Minnie. The couple threw fabulous parties, famously tossing water on the tiled kitchen floor of their great big house overlooking Lake Worth so that everyone could do the twist after dinner. Lilly herself became known for “not giving a whit,” according to her longtime friend Susannah Cutts, accruing a menagerie of dogs, cats, monkeys and even a calf (“those awful animals,” Rousseau says now). But then, in 1958, Lilly’s sunniness began to fade. “I had terrible anxiety attacks,” she says, “so I went to the nuthouse.” The nuthouse was a psychiatric hospital in Westchester County, New York—“I can’t really remember how long I was there, but my cousin was there too, so that was nice”—and she returned home armed with but one piece of medical advice: Get a hobby.

“Peter said, ‘Well, why don’t you sell my oranges?’” recalls Rousseau, who promptly started pulling her station wagon up her tony neighbors’ driveways, delivering fruit. The stand quickly followed, though Lilly discovered her crisp white shirts and shorts were becoming ruined with juice stains. “So I went to the five-and-dime, bought some fabric, took it to the seamstress, and she did it up,” Rousseau says, noting that she wanted dresses that were “colorful and cotton and cool,” with slits up the sides for bending over. She even hung a few up in the stand, selling them for $22.50 a piece.

The town went wild. “I couldn’t keep up with all the orders!” she marvels. Soon Lilly was flying regularly to Key West, where she created the prints along with a “gay as your hat” designing couple who ran a textile business called Key West Fabrics.

Sarah Haight profiling designer and Palm Beach doyenne Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau in the December 2008 issue of W Magazine. Pulitzer Rousseau died in 2013.

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See Also: “Palm Beach’s Barefoot Princess” (Laura Jacobs, Vanity Fair, 2003)

Bill Withers Has Been Out of the Spotlight for So Long That Some People Think He Died

Bill Withers in a 1976 promotional shot. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Bill Withers in a 1976 promotional shot. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Withers has been out of the spotlight for so many years that some people think he passed away. “Sometimes I wake up and I wonder myself,” he says with a hearty chuckle. “A very famous minister actually called me to find out whether I was dead or not. I said to him, ‘Let me check.’ ”

Others don’t believe he is who he says: “One Sunday morning I was at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. These church ladies were sitting in the booth next to mine. They were talking about this Bill Withers song they sang in church that morning. I got up on my elbow, leaned into their booth and said, ‘Ladies, it’s odd you should mention that because I’m Bill Withers.’ This lady said, ‘You ain’t no Bill Withers. You’re too light-skinned to be Bill Withers!’ ”

Andy Greene, profiling Bill Withers for Rolling Stone. 

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Celebrating Singlehood and Reclaiming the Word ‘Spinster’

Photo: Willy Somma
Photo: Willy Somma

Jessica Gross | Longreads | April 2015 | 19 minutes (4,797 words)


In 2011, Kate Bolick charted the sea change in our cultural attitudes toward marriage in her Atlantic piece, “All the Single Ladies.” Interweaving personal experience—she was 39 and single at the time—with reporting, Bolick posited that we are marrying later or not at all, with many women exercising their ability to have children without partners or, again, not at all.

The piece generated a huge response. In Bolick’s new book, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, she approaches single adulthood from a slightly different angle. The book is part memoir: Bolick describes breaking away from a serious, cohabitating relationship in her late twenties, exploring her ambivalence about partnership, and wholly reconsidering her view of marriage. Along the way, she presents the stories of her five “awakeners,” the historical single women who shaped her thinking. These were the essayist Maeve Brennan, the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, the columnist Neith Boyce, the novelist Edith Wharton, and the writer and activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman. By considering these women’s biographies and cultural contexts, Bolick began to better understand her own.

I’ve been single for most of my twenties—I’m almost thirty now—and I’ve tended to think of it as some kind of flaw. Reading Spinster, I not only saw clearly this underlying belief, which wasn’t totally conscious, but also realized that being single was actually a choice I had made. Does that ring true to you as the heart of what this book is about?

Yes, without a doubt. The book started for me when I was in my late twenties and living with my boyfriend and we moved from Boston to New York so that I could go to graduate school. I started wondering, what does a life look like if you’re not married? I was really struck to realize that there were no positive depictions of single women in popular culture. At that moment in time, in 2000, it was either Carrie Bradshaw or Bridget Jones. You were either frivolous and fabulous or desperate. And either way, you were definitely trying to get yourself coupled. Sex and the City was in a way celebrating singlehood, but it was also singlehood as long as it’s a way station to something else. And so it began that way, with becoming interested in at least learning more about a different way of being that I wasn’t seeing reflected around me anywhere. Yet I knew that culture had given us positive examples in the past, particularly during the second wave of the women’s movement. So where did that go?

It was during that sort of amorphous period of wondering that I came across Neith Boyce, who felt like a profound discovery: I hadn’t even known people were talking about this in the late 1800s. The clarity of her voice at a time that I thought of as being so repressive for women made me see how much we’re shaped by the time in which we live and the assumptions that we grow up with.

So that’s a long way of saying yes, but it was more this kind of internal questioning, and then smacking up against this external example from history. Read more…

What It Was Like Working with the Junk Bond King

Michael Milken. Photo by Larry Weisenberg via Wikimedia Commons
Michael Milken. Photo by Larry Weisenberg via Wikimedia Commons

Mark Attanasio: The day started at 5, not 5:01. …You got in between 4:30 and 5 and got yourself situated. … Often clients would show up early to man up and show Mike, “Hey, I’m here, too.”

G. Chris Andersen: We financed Ted Turner. We financed John Malone.

Mark Attanasio: Within a year I was in front of guys like Ron Perelman and Steve Ross at Warner Brothers.

Lorraine Spurge: And then, at some point, we met a gentleman named Steve Wynn.

Ken Moelis: Steve came to me in 1986. And he says, “Look, I got this idea. We’re going to build this casino for $800 million, and it’s going to have a volcano that goes off every 15 minutes.”

—from “Renegades of Junk: The Rise and Fall of the Drexel Empire”, an oral history by Bloomberg News reporters Max Abelson, Jason Kelly, and David Carey. Interviews trace the trajectory of former investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, where Michael Milken helped popularize junk bonds before the firm filed for bankruptcy 25 years ago.

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In the Khmer Language, the Verb ‘to Eat’ Literally Translates as ‘Eat Rice’

Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay

In Khmer language, the verb “to eat,” yam bai, literally translates as “eat rice.” Klean bai, which is how you say you are hungry, literally translates as “hunger for rice.” Rice is the staple accompaniment of every meal in Cambodia, and a driving force behind the economy. The grain is an accompaniment to a variety of meats—mostly fish from the abundant Tonlé Sap and Mekong Rivers—usually spiced with some combination of lemongrass, soy, and ginger. Popular dishes like amok (fish curry) and salam machu (sweet-and-sour fish soup) employ simply prepared ingredients and bright, fresh flavors to produce some of the most delicious, healthy—yet relatively unknown—peasant food the world over.

Richard Parks, writing in the Summer 2012 issue of Lucky Peach about “Khmerican food”—the fused cuisines of America and Cambodia. His piece finds an unlikely subject as its driving force: doughnuts, specifically Cambodian-owned California doughnut shops. A recent count found that 90 percent of all independent doughnut shops in California are owned by Cambodians.

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