Ear to the ground

“It was so smoky you couldn’t even see all the hippies and recycling bins.”

– A Boulder woman relating the on-the-ground realities of last week’s Fourmile Fire

Interstellar Durango

Durango has a new alter-ego, and he is quite literally out of this world. David Macinnis Gill has penned a new young-adult science fiction novel, and Gill’s Martian hero just happens to go by the name of Durango.

Durango is 8.5 years of age, the equivalent of 17 on earth, and he splits his time between scraping together a living as a mercenary and fending off mutant cannibals. Like many of us, Durango owes it all to dad – who just happens to be a deposed corporate dictator who’s serving time in the interstellar big house. But Durango gets by and blasts space zombies when he’s not chatting with his ex-commanding officer – a deceased female who has been surgically implanted as artificial intelligence in his brain.

Like his namesake, Durango struggles with a serious dating imbalance as well as delusions of physical glory. “You’ve got a crush on this girl, but you’re both bound to celibacy, because you’re both trained Regulators, warriors who are kind of like the Jedi.”

Gill is an associate professor of English education at the University of North Carolina, and according to a review in Star News, he has the adolescent male psyche dialed. “The dialogue is clipped, razor-sharp and dripping with so much sarcasm it makes ‘Robot Chicken’ sound like Sesame Street,” the review quipped.

The magic number

Money can buy happiness, but only if you’re making $75,000 a year. A new study indicates that personal bliss does improve as household income grows, but only to a point. As it turns out, happiness peaks at $75 large.

Social scientists used data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for the study, which was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Gallup Index surveyed 450,000 Americans in 2008 and 2009, gathering data about their income, emotional state and overall satisfaction with life.

They found that happiness does tend to increase as income rises. However, the authors found that when household income passed $75,000, more money has no effect on well-being.

The good news is that most of us have room for improvement. According to 2008 numbers, the median U.S household income was about $52,000. Durango families still have a great deal of happiness to strive for. Local median income is just $50,814.