Shoveling Steam


I snapped this in Nederlands, Colorado last summer as I was leaving town.  I’m not sure if it was actually a steam shovel.  It’s hard to see from this angle if it has the telltale smokestack.  Regardless, it is the metaphor I am chasing. When I came across this photo, it made me think not of a steam powered shovel, but rather of the title of this post: shoveling steam.

Picture it in your mind, some sort of bowl or depression in the earth, full of steam, possibly made by tossing some bricks of dry ice into it.  Up drives a steam shovel, and proceeds to attempt to empty the bowl, dipping its scoop deep into the steam and then raising it up. At first it seems to be succeeding. As the scoop rises, it is indeed full of steam, but its very motion creates a downdraft. Air pushes down into the scoop, displacing the steam, and sending it cascading back into the bowl.

This is what arguing politics online is often like. You can shovel steam all day, but in the end, the bowl is still full of it, and you have exhausted your fuel. The trick is to find a bowl that is full of more than steam and dig into that.