Getting warmer. May was the third warmest May on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Not only that, it was the 339th consecutive month that was above the 20th century average. The last time May was cooler than that average was 1976. These data are likely to convince more people that we are indeed experiencing global climate change. I know I’m convinced, because I had a class in climatology in college and my professor told me then that the temperature of the planet is constantly changing. What I’m not sure about is whether these changes are caused by man or are a part of natural processes, whether we should do anything about them, whether we can do anything about them, and—indeed—whether these changes are a good thing or a bad thing. Many scientists see as many benefits as liabilities.
Work from home. We’ve heard a lot of debate recently about whether a college degree is worth the cost. Data out Thursday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a college degree helps in one area: It dramatically increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to work from home. Overall, about 23.2 percent of Americans over the age of 25 works from home on any given day. Among college-educated workers, that number is 38.4 percent. This number has grown significantly in recent years. At-home workers rose sharply from 1997 to 2010, from 9.2 million to 13.4 million. One benefit of all these at-home workers: less traffic. In all but the nation’s largest metro areas, the percentage of Americans who work at home now exceeds the percentage who use public transit.
A Monster opening. Pixar’s Monsters University was the top movie of the weekend, with an $82 million opening. It was the 14th consecutive No. 1 debut for Pixar, and it’s second-largest debut weekend ever for the aminator, behind only the $110 million rung up by Toy Story 3 in 2010. Brad Pitt’s World War Z came in a respectable second at $66 million, significantly exceeding expectations. Man of Steel fell to third. Its second-week box-office receipts were just less than 40 percent of its first week. That’s usually a bad sign for a movie hoping for a long theater run. Though I should add that Man of Steel has now cracked $200 million mark, and has done nearly $200 million more overseas, all against a “mere” $225 million budget. Will Smith’s After Earth, based loosely on L. Ron Hubbard’s apocalyptic Scientology vision, did less than $1 million in just its fourth week of release. Its earned a total of just $57 million domestically. Given that its budget is $130 million, you would think that qualifies it as one of the biggest flops of all-time, but you would be wrong. The movie has done almost $120 million overseas. So “Big Willy” and director M. Night Shyamalan certainly didn’t do anything to help their artistic reputations with this mess of a movie, but they’re weeping all the way to the bank. Go figure.
Obama’s schools. President Obama’s speech in Ireland to about 2,000 young people last week seemed to say that private Christian schools were harming the country: “If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs—if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division.” One Irish bishop reacted strongly. Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor said the president’s speech echoed “the Protestant/Catholic caricature that has actually receded into the background in Northern Ireland.” The 1998 accord ending “the Troubles,” McKeown said, “was clear that the core problem in Northern Ireland was a political one. … It is significant that religion did not appear in the agreement on what is primarily a political problem.” He added, “Catholic schools in Northern Ireland that are now actually among the most racially and linguistically mixed.” He also got in a dig at Obama: “While so many young people are very open to new friendships and opportunities, it needs to be stated that it is adults outside schools who promote mistrust for their own political and personal agendas. A simplistic denominational vocabulary fails to do justice to where we are. We all welcome the president’s presence, but would encourage his speechwriters to support a less hackneyed analysis of our situation and prospects.”