Racy Meals

Our Next Course May Be
Bugs & Invasive Species

Not to spoil your appetite but with almost 800 million starving in the world — despite producing more food than ever  — and climate change squishing us away from the water, you may not care much for what’s for dinner.
Indeed, the main source of nourishment of tomorrow’s meal may be something you’re used to squash: insects. And if you’re not up to the crunch, and by flies, got the means to turn down all that protein, do everyone a big favor and go after some invasive species.
Any way you slice it, our meat and grain industry won’t cut it. Since stomachs are made to be filled, let’s hope that, rather than dirt and junk food, we develop a knack for recycling and regurgitating what we’re so used to toss. Bless our prophets, the Dumpster Divers.
To be sure, many already survive on a diet rich in crawling critters and hairy creepers, and one can tell by the way we say it, how deluded we still allow ourselves to be. But the time will come when we’ll learn or starve, and for the majority, it may be as simple as that.
It’s one thing, though, to eat what dwindling forests still have plenty to offer. It may take guts to pick one up and swallow it whole, but with time, anyone can be a forager. It’s an entirely different affair, though, for those living in the cities, just like most of us.
Again, we hope your stomach is strong, but that disgusting creature that just moved its antennae and scurried up behind your sofa may be on tomorrow’s menu. Along with the fat subway rodents and the unsanitary geese that no longer migrate away from that fetid city pond.
That’s when grown men will cry like inmates, to no one’s sympathy, and children will dispute with feral pets the scraps of civilization. Just like the increasing millions of landfill dwellers, we may need to engage into a higher survival gear, so the pickings won’t be slim.

CRUNCHY DELIGHTS
The first two, arguably most important things anyone needs to know about eating bugs is, one, that it’s good for the planet. And two, that you may be already eating them, without knowing it. That’s not the case, of course, of indigenous peoples in pretty much all continents, who’ve been eating them from time immemorial.
Ants, locusts, beetles, worms, crickets, water… boatmen (we’re not quite there yet), flies and stinkbugs, are central to the protein (more)

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Read Also:
* Not Food
* The Food Report
* Sleeping With the Fishes

Continue reading

Petty Crimes

t seems like it was just yesterday. 2012, as a matter of fact, when all our concerns were about a bullying culture taking over the Internet. Hardly we knew that four years later, we’d elect a major offender to the White House too. Or should we have expected that to happen?
Not to engage in self-flagellation any more that’s already due, at least to some of us, here’s an old post to evoke a bygone era when it was still possible to believe we were going to get better, and trolls and conspiracy nuts would hit their expiration date soon enough.
For it’s actually a hopeful article, and brief too, let us add, lest not let any dragging feelings of defeat cloud our already sore horizon. But we did get to a dangerous point when it seems impossible to get any worse and, at the same time, perfectly natural if it really does.
For on the first anniversary of Trumpism, things look so bleak that many of us will do the only thing that still brings relief to the overall doom proceedings: we’ll be screaming out loud tonight, at the nearest public place and along a crowd of dissatisfied customers like us. We do hope someday you won’t need to join us but for now, all are invited.

When the Rude, the Offensive & the
Inconsiderate Get to Pay Their Dues

Now for something completely different. For many a poor old devil, there’s been a thousand times plus one, when happiness has stood farther apart than ever, just because some idiot was blocking the way. More often than not, help was not forthcoming, and the troll won.
That’s not what’s these stories are about. Have you been annoyed lately by talkers at the movies? people who curse right in front of your little niece? neighbors worshiping loudly on the front yard? Good news: people in England, Belgium and the U.S. have just had about enough.
Even if these effective techniques involve a measure of confrontation, or the ever so slow work of the legislator, none is violent or unreasonable. They’re all solidly based on the democratic tenet that my freedom to act like a douche ends when your own stupid stunt starts.
Obviously, we shouldn’t have to be getting to this to placate our torments. On the same token, no one needs to place anonymous rants in some comment stream to vent their frustration. Or worse, getting so self-righteous about it, as to justify blood and dismemberment.
In most cases, we shouldn’t be bothered. When Brazilian bestseller author Paulo Coelho said that ‘if you dissect ‘Ulysses,’ it gives you a tweet,’ he was expressing his opinion, even if most who read James Joyce’s masterpiece couldn’t disagree more. Ultimately, though, his own admission of ignorance may’ve set in motion the erosion of any credibility towards his own self-aggrandizing work.
In others, you may be annoyed, it may be inconvenient, but it’s not hurting you, and it’s bound not to last more than a brief moment in your long, fruitful life. That’s the case of a New Yorker, so thrilled by his own singing abilities, to the point of having an entire subway (more)
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Read Also
* When Beast Attack
* Teach Your Children Well

Continue reading

Meat Market

The Gruesome & the Murderous in
the Global Demand for Body Parts

At the end of the day, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. There are at least two ways to consider the subject of today’s post: with outrage, shock and disgust; or with the detached POV of a fly on the wall of a possible future. Someday, the human body may be treated just like animal parts are now, and the same obliviousness, to serve as a harvestable source of replacement organs.
We’ll give a few for those on the front row seats to leave. Thanks for coming and come back soon; we’re working on a story about butterflies you may be interested. For those cold-bloodied enough to stay – you know who and what you are – boy, do we have a treat for you today. We may touch issues about free will, ritualistic killings, and fabrications of the pro-life movement.
Let’s get something out of the way, though: as long as you’re not doing anything to physically harm someone else, your body is yours for the taking. So you may stuff it, loaded with chemicals and smoke, starve it, mistreat it, twist it, or tattoo it, and negatively impress the kids by the way you abuse it.
It may not be nice, or healthy, or polite. Your neighbors may file complains against you. Family and friends may hold heated interventions about your rotten ways. You may find yourself in jail or having become the scorn of your generation. That’s terrible, we know, really ugly. But still, well within the confines of your right to inherit and dispose of your own body.

WATERBOARDING YOUR CONSCIENCE
It’s what some people do to other people’s bodies, though, specifically when done to those who are not in agreement with the proceedings, however the justification being used, that may deserve the full (more)
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Read Also:
* Scapegoats
* Kicking Ash
* Before Afterlife

Continue reading

Racy Meals

Our Next Course May Need to
Add Bugs & Invasive Species

Not to spoil your appetite but with millions threatened to die of starvation — never mind the records amount of food we’ve been producing — and climate change squishing us and one another, away from any bodies of water, you may not like what’s for dinner.
Indeed, the main source of nourishment of tomorrow’s meal may be something you’re used to squash yourself: insects. And if you’re not up to the crunch, and by flies, have the means to turn down that protein, do everyone a big favor and go after some invasive species.
Any way you slice it, our meat and grain industry won’t cut it. Since stomachs are made to be filled, let’s hope that, rather than dirt and junk food, we develop a knack for recycling and regurgitating what we’re so used to toss. Bless our prophets, the dumpster divers.
To be sure, many already survive on a diet rich in crawling critters and hairy creepers, and one can tell by the way we say it, how deluded we still allow ourselves to be. But the time will come when we’ll learn or starve, and for the majority, it may be as simple as that.
It’s one thing, though, eat what dwindling forests still have plenty to offer. It may take guts to pick one up and swallow it whole, but with time, anyone can be a forager. It’s an entirely different affair, though, for those living in the cities, just like most of us.
Again, we hope your stomach is strong, but that disgusting creature that just moved its antennae and scurried up behind your sofa will have to be on the menu. Along with the fat subway rodents and the unsanitary geese that no longer migrate away from that fetid city pond.
That’s when grown men will cry like inmates, to no one’s sympathy, and children will dispute with feral pets the scraps of civilization. Just like the increasing millions of landfill dwellers, we may need to engage into a higher survival gear, so the pickings won’t be slim.

CRUNCHY DELIGHTS
The first two, arguably most important things anyone needs to know about eating bugs is, one, that it’s good for the planet. And two, that you may be already eating them, without knowing it. That’s not the case, of course, of indigenous peoples in pretty much all continents, who’ve been eating them from time immemorial.
Ants, locusts, beetles, worms, crickets, water… boatmen (we’re not quite there yet), flies and even stinkbugs, are central to all the protein
Continue reading

Nuke’s for Nuts

Nun’s Jail Sentence Indicts
Risky Bet on Nuclear Power

How much of a threat is an 84-year old nun to a multi-billion dollar facility that’s been enriching weapons-grade uranium since WW2? Why, a lot if it’s run by a join venture of two government defense contractors that are embroiled in a $22 billion award dispute.
Enough also to sentence Megan Rice last Tuesday to nearly three years in prison, allegedly for breaking and vandalizing the facility, but most likely for her long and distinguished career as a pacifist, critical of the U.S.’s production of weapons of mass destruction.
It was only the latest scuffle between an anti-nuke activist group, in this case, Rice and two other peace protesters, and powerful recipients of fat government defense contracts, Babcock & Wilcox Co. and Bechtel Group Inc., that’s been the currency of the American option for nuclear power.
The disproportional sentence was slapped on the fearsome threesome after they exposed serious security flaws at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Y-12 National Security Complex, by staging a two-hour occupation of a $500 million storage bunker, which they splattered with red paint and scribbled with anti-war slogans.
Such scandalous ‘crime’ of trespassing seemed more important to U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar than what the act was supposed to call attention to: that a plant producing a lethal compound, capable of wipe out a small country if ignited, would be so poorly guarded that an elderly person could easily gain entry.
Thus, the recent tradition of shooting the messenger, never mind the message, that the Obama administration has been particularly keen in pursuing, got another notch up the yardstick. And for now, let’s not even get started with how unsafe uranium processing has been since, well, Hiroshima.
BIRTHPLACE OF THE FAT MAN
Y-12 was part of the Manhattan Project, and thus, its history arc can be traced back to the bombing of the Japanese city, that effectively ended the war but also opened a scary can of radioactive worms, all the way back to Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Between those two brackets, there was Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, plus a dozen frightening misses. Although we haven’t yet reached critical mass, at least in number of casualties, there’s been one constant related to nukes since their inception: the world holds its breath whenever they malfunction.
In fact, behind all the spin and justification those with invested interests in nuclear power are always ready to invoke, there’s a consensus that such technology remains a monster that, once Continue reading

Best Byes

Sendoffs, Farewells
& the Far Side of 2013

In many quarters of the globe, the departing year had its fair share of kooky dishes, strange brews and no small amounts of heart burn. Just like the number that hitched the millennium over 300 days ago. Much of it is forgettable, but some are worth revisiting.
In no particular order, and little if any sense, we’ve collected some of these gems for your consideration. You may come out nurturing the feeling that somehow you’ve missed a lot, but not to worry: just enjoy it like it’s your second and very last chance.
A mechanic’s invention to help safely suck babies into this world. A presidential party favor that the host, a former spymaster himself, graced his powerful guests. From brew to brick, to bricks made of blood, beer has certainly had a grip over the year.
From Bowie in space to cats on a subway track, 2013 was also a year of tearful animal goodbyes, and the two leading the bunch out of this world were unquestionably a special breed: a polar bear with a severe case of neurosis and a pig, with a weakness for booze.
But what on Earth, you may ask, have these far out events to do with anything or even each other? All we can invoke in defense of stringing together such insane chain of recollections is that each and every one of them was a rare gift, squeezed among the terrible headlines inflicted on us throughout the year.
After all, we’re sure that you’re being bombarded everywhere by that kind of recollection, and how we’ve reached yet another notch downwards, for all we’ve done to the planet and to each other, and for the lot we didn’t even consider doing to redeem ourselves.
End-of-the-year lists have this way of making us all feel so guilty and miserable that if one checks one, all the others get checked as well. Thus, as we struggle to find ways to wrap up the proceedings, we also humbly aim at bringing some vain comfort to our sore readers who’ve been through a lot.
So has The Remains, a band with a heartbreaking story that reunited last June after a 47-year hiatus. In 1966, they went into a 14-city tour, opening for a quartet from England. But while The Beatles’ last live performances are the stuff of legend, they wound up in Gowanus, Brooklyn, recollecting. Life’s definitely not fair.
Talking about the 1960s, another legend that will fold coming Dec. 31, is the Volkswagen bus, icon of summers of yore, and if we’re calling it Continue reading

Alt-Pace Makers

Green shoot in the desert - growth in adverse conditions

When Simple Gadgets
Solve Complex Problems

Every once in a while, we choose to focus on small, alternative branches of scientific research, dedicated to our survival on this planet as a radically different, more benign species; works of wonder highlighting the ingenuity of the human spirit… Just kidding.
We do, however, come across examples of brilliant ideas, of simple but effective ways of overcoming the appalling conditions faced by billions, depleted of the most vital needs, such as breathable air, drinkable water, and a reliable charger for their cellphones.
The curious thing is, these inventions are all around us, and many seem interconnected, as if the same drive to develop a greenhouse in the middle of the desert, irrigated by desalinized seawater, also brought about a bottle that does all the desalinization on its own.
From a sterilizer that draws its power from the sun, to a shirt that can turn into a battery. There’s also ways that may enable manholes to charge electric cars, and yes, a cellphone charger powered by another bottle, actually any bottle. If there’s a want, there is a wheel, or something to that effect.
For now, though, we’ll restrain from reporting on the latest uses of body fluids as an alternative way to fossil energy. Yes, you’d be surprised about how much there is out there to report. Almost as much as what’s been generated as we speak. But we’ve done that before, so we’ll leave it for another time.
If there’s one common denominator of all these ingenious contraptions is that they’re deceptively simple but reach out to the needs of millions. While we agonize whether our stay on this planet is still viable, without detonating it first, some are busy making amendments with humanity and treating nature as an ally.

COOL PLANT IN THE DESERT
How can you grow food in the middle of the Sahara? Try using saltwater, wind and solar power, and some new technologies and you’re halfway there. The curiously named Sahara Forest Project has done just that, Continue reading

The Heat & the Mordant

New Ways New Yorkers Find Bikes,
Mosquitoes & Flip Flops Annoying

If you live in this city, you’re bound to be a five-borough complainer. And if it’s about the weather, in itself a subject capable of making a screeching whiner out of even the most pious nun, any unexpected change is greeted here with grinding teeth and clenched fists.
That’s how last week’s heat wave brought together three predictable features of the season to an unhealthy boil, as this fair town bubbled with nasty epithets galore and vituperative profanities thrown at flying biters, fatigued riders and unwashed walkers alike.
For even though there aren’t many redeeming qualities about mosquitoes who show up uninvited at outdoor cookouts and private cocktail functions, they should be expected to be an integral part of this town’s ‘gorgeous mosaic.’ Still, thank goodness someone always finds a new way to get rid of them.
As for New York’s tardy entrance in the row of world-class cities with a liberal tilt towards biking, as with everything else here, it got kind of complicated. And many blame Mayor Bloomberg, a man who’s yet to see a corporate logo he doesn’t like, for turning this green idea into a factory of another kind of green for its sponsor.
On top of that, or rather, underneath it all, there are those distraught by someone else’s exposed toes, which let’s face it, after a few miles of accumulated street grime, are indeed an unflattering sight. But to drive pedestrians to loudly make deleterious observations about each other’s personal hygiene? Who knew?
It’s all part, of course, of the unduly sense of entitlement and delusion shared by Manhattanites and their kin, who wish to believe they preside over whatever happens around, and have no qualms saying something about it; the do-you-have-a-problem-with-that? kind of attitude that we all so dearly embrace and like to brag about.
As we approach the zenith of the season, baking sidewalks and sweaty subways included, we thought that now would be as good a time as ever to, what else? complain a little about things we have absolutely no Continue reading

Safe Arbor Clauses

Three About Trees &
a 5,000 Year Old Truck

Buddha sat under one. Sumerians have crossed oceans on ships built with them. Many species disappeared, or exist only in old depictions, paintings predating the modern era. Yet defying all odds, trees still grace our world, and stun us with their girth, height, and vigor.
That’s why a man in India has planted whole forests of them, and the Brazilians plan to count those in the Amazon. Now, as the world’s biggest trees continue to grow, according to botanists, an editor at NOVA begs new architects: please, stop placing them in skyscrapers.
In New York City, where the latter thrive, though, trees are subjected to more mundane afflictions of street life, such as dog pee, rusted chains, and cigarette butts. That’s why the Treedom Project is halfway through a quest, which ends May 26, to ‘liberate them’ from such indignities.
But without being the cradle of ancient trees, or having a forest to call its own – never mind the woody wilderness of upstate New York – the city is still home of one of the gems of modern urban green architecture: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Central Park.
Carved and carefully planted at the heart of the city, it’s a wonder that neither its 800 acres plus nor its incredible variety of species haven’t felt to the axes of powerful real estate moguls. If the park’s been the setting of a few bloody crimes, it’s also been the very reason many a resident haven’t yet lost his or her mind.
Still, for all their majestic and soothing presence in Manhattan, no Central Park tree comes close in age to Methuselah, a fittingly-named truck which, by some accounts, is the world’s oldest. The bristlecone is said to be 4,844 years old, a thousand years older than any other on Earth, and it’s been living all this time at a pine forest in California.
The good news, at least if you’re a tree, is that many of the big species are still growing, just like what you’d wish your mind were doing right now. A Humboldt State University research team found that 3,200-year old giant sequoias, for instance, actually grow faster later in life than in their ‘teenage’ years, when all they’ve got is a few hundred summers imprinted on their rings.
One of nature’s best recordkeepers, trees can report back to us our entire walk on this planet, better that we ever could. They may not Continue reading

Furry Tales

Rats vs. Nukes, Stray Cats vs.
Florida & a Dog Lovers’ Bacteria

For thousands of years, no other trio of animals have been so close to us. Whether you love or abhor their company, most of us have at least one funny story to share about a rat, a cat, or a dog we’ve met. But behold, for furs always fly when one fails to recognize their own stripes.
Some stories may start with a flamboyant set up: so a rodent, a feline, and a canine walk into this bar and… We’d rather tell you about the environmental bent of Japanese rats; the furious fight over southern feral cats; and a bacteria type that only people who love dogs carry.
To be sure, that’s not a threesome that you’re used to seeing mentioned in the same sentence either. Except, maybe, as the title of some obscure flick. And cats’ undisputed dominance of the Internet, viral video division, is inversely proportional to our own aversion, or general failure to fully understand, rats, mice, and the vermin attracted to our provisions since immemorial times.
With dogs, though, it’s another story, one that usually invokes feelings of companionship, loyalty, and not a small penchant for being subservient to our most spurious interests. It all points to our bottomless guiltless ability to subjugate animals in order to prevail in our daily grind against our own species.
If we could, for a moment, see the natural world through unbiased eyes, perhaps we’d have the clarity to recognize that having been bestowed with a sense of moral, we’re the first ones to betray it. And all other living beings are muted witnesses to our nefarious sense of supremacy and self entitlement.

RATS HATE NUKES
The final and sad toll of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which struck Japan’s Pacific coast in March of 2011, was close to 16,000 dead, with thousands more injured and officially missing. To that, one may add now a few rats, unsung heroes of an ongoing battle between environmentalists and government bureaucrats.
Along with death and destruction, another scary consequence of the catastrophe was the meltdown at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex provoked by the tsunami. It not just disabled the plants, but to this day it’s still generating radiation to Continue reading

Blowing in the Wind

Selling Air Bottles, Flying With
Bacteria & Hiring Fake Protesters

As the climate changes and pollution rises, people and corporations scurry to seize positions on all sides of the wind energy debate. While it’s getting harder for humans to grasp a breath of fresh air, it’s just fine for bugs and bacteria, flying in upper layers of the atmosphere.
But even the threat of chocking to death might mean opportunity. Thus an entrepreneur in smog-filled China is selling bottles of air, while a mysterious company would give $20 to anyone who’d show up in Midtown Manhattan, to rally against wind turbines.
Just when you thought that there’s not much going on around you, right? At least not with the air, this constant soothing ghost of a breeze that envelops and kisses our skin ever so gently, but that it’s also the fastest element to mercilessly kill us, whenever it’s short or absent.
Then again, we’ve been stuffing it with some much dirt and soot, chemicals and heavy metal particles, heat and all sorts of flotsam, since at least the Industrial Revolution, no wonder we seem to be reaching critical mass. For millions, the act of breathing in itself is an all-consuming activity.
Billions are routinely spent to support industries and human activities that have a brutal effect on the environment. It’s now a cliche to call it our ‘addiction to carbon fuels,’ but the fact remains that man-made pollution it’s the single greatest factor wreaking havoc with earth’s climate.
THE BUG & BACTERIA EXPRESSWAY
But not all is garbage circling the planet, of course. A couple of years ago, a study found out that millions of moths and other bugs travel regularly overnight at some 60 miles an hour, which is faster than many birds migrate. Just like windsurfers, they seem to follow an internal Continue reading

Seeing Double

New Class of Glasses Brings
A Clearer Sight For Sore Eyes

Here’s something that Google can’t control: ‘reality augmented’ glasses. Even before its wearable contraption is out, there’s already been challengers to it. And not just to simply enhance what we see, but also to reveal, educate, even warn us about what we may be missing.
Then again, glasses have been around pretty since humans have ears and noses to hang them, so it’d really be rich for the giant search engine to claim that too. But try they do. Thing is, for all the hoopla, the very concept of glasses as a vision enhancer may be on its way out.
There are now glasses that act as computers, smartphones, designing tools, interactive gadgets, revealing devices, and if you’re concerned about all that privacy-busting array of needed connections for these things to work properly, even an infrared visor that blocks facial recognition software.
The possibilities are not just endless, but actually encouraged. In a clever way to market its interactive-able set of lenses, one company is explicitly asking for input from anyone who may have an idea they don’t already own, on how to outfit your shades with that special juice. Quite challenging, really.
But there’s a reason why we don’t sound too jaw-dropping enthusiastic about these next wave of ever shrinking props, which seem ready to become as common as iris biometric identification systems and thought-activated computers. Or rather, a few reasons: the first one is Continue reading

Ah, Those Brazilians

Crab-Killer Waxing, Showers and the
Economy, & Fake Facebook Girlfriends

Blame it on Carnival. If you were in Brazil right now, you couldn’t possibly miss the countrywide preparations for the pagan celebration-turned-to-multi-billion dollar extravagance, which starts in a month. Since it impacts the whole country, why not its news cycle too?
It remains arguably the biggest Brazilian cultural export, and also the annual excuse for wackiness in the streets, and dreams of redemption and glory in people’s imagination. Either that or something else. Otherwise, how to explain the three themes of today’s post?
We exaggerate, of course. The expensive pre-fab debauchery now known as Carnival has little to do with what was once the cultural confluence of African slaves and their dizzying beat-driven music, and over-dressed Europeans, wishing to get lost (see: Veneza, Carnevale).
If it all sounds like a colonizer’s idealization of an ancient rite he could not understand, preserved by the official story as something the ‘natives’ used to amuse themselves, well, that’s because it sadly was. What’s left of it now is a sumptuous but ultimately kitchy visually massive parade of costumes, best experienced with an American Express expense account card.
So, what does Carnival have to do with the latest news sporting the word ‘Brazilian’ on their headlines? Not much, really, except for the general feeling that if you were in Rio at this time of the year, it’d all make sense. Since you’re apparently not, let’s hope these three stories set you up with the right mood, just in case.

THE INTIMATE ITCH
In public health arenas, the past couple of decades have seen a spate of stories about the supposed negative effects the cosmetic technique known as Brazilian Waxing may cause. Mainly risks of infection, since as it totally removes pubic hair, it can also leave the body open to all sorts of parasites and micro pests.
Allegedly. There’s also a certain resistance to the very concept of going through such an extreme procedure, just to be able to publicly flaunt Continue reading

Quantum Leak

Urine To Power Generators
May Also Create Brain Cells

News about bodily functions hardly excites us. More than a matter of taste, there’s not really much point into reducing our humanity to its mechanical underpinnings. Unless, of course, you’re part of the medical community. Or make crass jokes for a living. Or are in high school.
But amid the flood of depressing news, 2012 had at least two stories worth our urge to celebrate: one, about four African girls who developed a urine-powered electricity generator; the other, about research to reprogram cells found in urine into neurons to fight disease.
While the generator is ready and, depending on funding, may fulfill a huge huge gap in clean energy, the research is still in its initial, albeit promising, stages. Both, though, beat anything a teenager, or a comedian, or both, could possibly do with such lowly source of material.
The year had, naturally, its share of sophomoric stories about er… bladder discharges. Such as the boxer known for drinking his own ‘product,’ who scored a major victory on the ring, just a few weeks ago, and a publicity stunt in Brazil, for a urinal that sounds like an electric guitar when used.
For the record, we’re not uptight about it, if there’s a point about even mentioning urine. Two years ago, some bars in the U.K. had a game of ‘hit the spot‘ and watch it power an ultra-quick video game on the screen in front of the user. Those who enjoy spending time in the restroom, liked it.

By far, though, the most depressing news about it was Michael Phelps‘s confession (as if we needed to know) that most swimmers (that means, he for sure, and others he wouldn’t mention by name) have the habit of peeing in the pool before competition starts. So much for telling our kids how gross that is.
That’s right, the winner of a record 22 Olympic medals, is not nearly as accomplished as a public role model outside the water. His golden opportunity to remain silent was not just missed, but also enough to Continue reading

The Food Report

Oregano, Grapefruit, Edible
Wrappers & the End of Pasta

One of civilization’s most precise markings is what we eat and what we don’t. We’re not about to summarize that here, though. But some curious food news did catch our fancy, despite the barrage of sensorial and taste stimuli with which we stuff ourselves as the year closes shop.
We’re intrigued, for instance, with what they’re doing with oregano. Or how grapefruit-haters may have a point, after all. Or that some burger-lovers may eat the wrappers too. Plus a few snacks sprinkled here and there. Oh, and then there’s that bit about pasta.
Even amid the unappetizing news about the world, circa 2012, which, let’s face it, makes us all nauseated, there are some tasty scraps about food to make us feel hungry for more. A little bit of ingenuity may take us a long way, and heaven knows we’ll need to be way more creative from this century onwards.
What, haven’t you heard? It may have taken the world 2.5 million years to reach the seven billion people walking around, but the next billion may happen within less than 20 meager years. We don’t want to sound alarmist, but if you needed a reason for it all to end last week, that wouldn’t be an unreasonable one.
We’re exaggerating but just a bit. Even if the most of the current mix of technology and food has been scarier than the prospect of hordes of the famished roaming the streets, both are already here. The fact is, while this planet has no expiration date, its natural resources can be depleted to extinction.
By the way, do you know the difference between yams and sweet potatoes? Although both are rich in potassium, magnesium and Continue reading

Spinning Wheels

Baby, You Can’t Drive
My Car. Nor Should You

Well, it was a good run. From its late 1600s invention to its 20th century mass production, the car enjoyed a fast, risky, and racy love affair with people. But alas, it may be over. And the signs of a probable popularity crash are coming from some quite unexpected places.
Mainly, its evolution. See, once we begin traveling in driverless, accident-proof, shape-shifting vehicles, what can possibly come next? The quicksand of moral considerations, of course. Or, rather bluntly, will your model choose to save your life or those in the school bus?

At the very least, that’s what we get when we aim at convenience: we’re so willing to trade our hands-on approach to driving with the exactitude of machines, that they may as well make decisions against our best interests. Meaning, save the kids, and dump you down the ravine.
With the vexing plus of such an artificial intelligence, now capable of safely handling a one-tone speeding vehicle among hundreds of others, not being even that intelligent. For the technology that allows a car to go from point A to point B is as old as that which built the pyramids. Just like pushing blocks onto a prefab grid.
We’re not trying to knock the brave new world of computer research, and the wonders of making such a complex piece of engineering to be able to relate to its environment so well. An evolutionary leap that, in less than a century, rendered the human factor nearly obsolete, as far as it’s moving parts are concerned.
And yes, thanks to those who came before, to Ferdinand Verbiest, to Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, to Gustave Trouvé, and to Karl Benz, as well as to the man many Americans erroneously believe has invented the automobile: Henry Ford. We’ll give you a minute for you to check these names out.
Ford did leave an indelible imprint on this evolutionary arch, but Continue reading

Petty Crimes

When the Rude, the Offensive & the
Inconsiderate Must Pay Their Dues

Now for something completely different. For many a poor old devil, there’s been a thousand times plus one, when happiness has stood farther apart than ever, just because some idiot was blocking the way. More often than not, help was not forthcoming, and the troll won.
That’s not what’s these stories are about. Have you been annoyed lately by talkers at the movies? people who curse right in front of your little niece? neighbors worshiping loudly on the front yard? Good news: people in England, Belgium and the U.S. have just had about enough.
Even if these effective techniques involve a certain level of confrontation, or the ever so slow work of the legislator, none is violent or unreasonable. They’re all solidly based on the democratic tenet that my freedom to act like a douche ends when your own stupid stunt starts.
Obviously, we shouldn’t have to be getting to this to placate our torments. On the same token, though, no one needs to place anonymous rants in some comment stream to vent their frustration. Or worse, getting so self-righteous about it, as to justify blood and dismemberment.
In most cases, we shouldn’t be bothered. When Brazilian bestseller author Paulo Coelho said that ‘if you dissect ‘Ulysses,’ it gives you a tweet,’ he was expressing his opinion, even if most who read James Joyce’s masterpiece couldn’t disagree more. Ultimately, though, his own admission of ignorance may’ve set in motion the erosion of any credibility towards his own self-aggrandizing work.
In others, you may be annoyed, it may be inconvenient, but it’s not hurting you, and it’s bound not to last more than a brief moment in your long, fruitful life. That’s the case of a New Yorker, so thrilled by his own singing abilities, to the point of having an entire subway Continue reading

School’s In

The Quirk & the Beauty of
A Vanishing Classroom Trio

As millions of children (reluctantly) return to school this week in the northern hemisphere, many will be familiar with what they’ll find in class: laptops, the smart whiteboard, LED displays. What they probably will have no use for are pencils, erasers and chalks, first grade staples of bygone centuries.
Those who grew up mastering their use may be now more concerned about incontinence and memory loss, but artists still rave about these relics. For them, the smell, taste, and feel of those things are indelibly connected with the wonders (and miseries) of childhood, and should not be missed. But alas, we’ve already seen people declaring their love for the smell of computers.
We consider those, who’re already fully immersed in the high-tech realm of interactive learning, children of privilege, to be sure. They’re still in the minority of school age kids throughout the world, where most would be very lucky if they could have a decent breakfast when they get up in the morning, let alone a class to attend.
Our priorities as a society are indeed screwed up, and deep in slums and miserable places of this Earth, one can still find a HDTV or a multitude of iPhones. But we remain hopeful that at least some of the good aspects of living in the future will eventually trickle down and find their way to the kids.
So back in the printed book-free environment of today’s rich schools, preteens are already masters of the digital world, at easy with complex software, and ready to access our whole civilization at the touch of a key. Still it’s too bad they will do it without having ever smelled graphite or eraser crumbs, or heard that cringing-inducing sound of chalk tracing on a blackboard.
So before we all forget what many have never learned anyway, about pencils, erasers, and chalk, let’s get a primer on some quirky facts Continue reading

Get Moving

Cars That Fly, Hover, Fold, & 
Get Powered by Compressed Air

You’ve heard that one before. By now, we were supposed to be living in smart cities, with cars flying overhead, and androids doing menial work, so we’d be zipping around, 90 minutes from New York to Paris, or ‘the chance to start anew in one of the colonies of Jupiter.’
Well, enough of that for now. While we’ve wasted our youth complaining about lower-expectations, and the ennui of our times, inventors got busy, and came up with exciting ways to get us in gear. You’d be surprised how close we’re from a new age of cars. And it yes, they all come in black.
A few months ago, we told you about the Terrafugia, a foldable-wing car-slash-small plane, that became the first private aircraft to be licensed by the FAA. Something about its design, though, which resembles a German jeep from the 1940s, low speed, crammed cabin space, and stiff price, didn’t drive anyone to take their shirts off.
But alas, it somehow opened the floodgates, and now pretty much every month there’s a new design being tested in some secluded desert, that promises to take the world by storm. And they’re no longer being developed by the crafty weekend-hobbyist; many heavy weights in the industry are getting in the game early, and often.
It may not happen tomorrow, though, so you too can keep your clothes on for a while. But chances are these things will be coming to mass production even before the 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam four-seater, the world’s oldest still running car, grinds to halt.
If you think that there isn’t enough demand for such a radical change, one that has the potential to literally leave the present in the dust, you may be underestimating the unpredictable factor at the root of most modern inventions. As Henry Ford once said, about his invention: “If I had asked people what they want, they would have said a faster horse.”
Finally, for those who feel that we ought to move faster, and catch up with the sci-fi world already, a word of caution. Despite all laws and heavy penalties, people who should never get behind the wheel, still do, and still cause unspeakable lifetime heartbreak to loved ones and Continue reading

Strange Brew

Our Cup of Coffee May
Be Polluting the Pacific 

Among life’s little pleasures, few beat your favorite brew in the morning. If you’re not into tea, and it’s too early for a pint, then a cup of coffee is just what you need to get out and change the world. Or forget it and go back to bed. Either way, there’s some good and bad news about this precious little rite of yours out now.
The good news is, coffee is not that bad for you. That probably won’t settle the argument about its merits, started when it was introduced in Europe in the 1700s. But there is such a thing as to over drinking the stuff, and we’re doing it. What’s bad about it is that it’s adding acidity to the Pacific Ocean.
Talking about taking away those life pleasures, our healthier-than-thou society has already successfully subdued the once proud, now cast away contingent of smokers. We fear they’ll come for our coffee next. But we’re being paranoid, of course, for every day, this commodity moves markets and gazillions of dollars.
Still, as our voracious appetite and exploding population have been rapidly depleting the planet’s food resources, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to imagine a future when consumption of certain beans Continue reading

Meat Market

The Gruesome & the Murderous in
the Global Demand for Body Parts

At the end of the day, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. There are at least two ways to consider the subject of today’s post: with outrage, shock and disgust; or with the detached POV of a fly on the wall of a possible future. Someday, the human body may be treated just like animal parts are now, and the same obliviousness, to serve as a harvestable source of replacement organs.
We’ll give a few for those on the front row seats to leave. Thanks for coming and come back soon; we’re working on a story about butterflies you may be interested. For those cold-bloodied enough to stay – you know who and what you are – boy, do we have a treat for you today. We may touch issues about free will, ritualistic killings, and fabrications of the pro-life movement.
Let’s get something out of the way, though: as long as you’re not doing anything to physically harm someone else, your body is yours for the taking. So you may stuff it, loaded with chemicals and smoke, starve it, mistreat it, twist it, or tattoo it, and negatively impress the kids by the way you abuse it.
It may not be nice, or healthy, or polite. Your neighbors may file complains against you. Family and friends may hold heated interventions about your rotten ways. You may find yourself in jail or having become the scorn of your generation. That’s terrible, we know, really ugly. But still, well within the confines of your right to inherit and dispose of your own body.

WATERBOARDING YOUR CONSCIENCE
It’s what some people do to other people’s bodies, though, specifically when done to those who are not in agreement with the proceedings, however the justification being used, that may deserve the full extent Continue reading

Skim Vacations

A Few Useful Tips for
Trippers About to Go

Ah, to take time off. The exotic places you can visit, the cultural shocks that’ll enrich your life, the unexpected that may ruin everything. And that’s just the warm half-full bottled of water. Still, if you’re on the planning stages, let us help you with four brief, but oh so valuable, tips we’ve recently came across.
As we know how proud you are of your hygiene habits, we’ve prepared a quick advisory menu to ready you to get there and back in no time, no hidden fees included. Since it’s August, think of them as entertaining stories. But coming Fall, believe us, you’ll be thanking us profusely.
Let’s face it: Americans don’t always make it for the best travelers. So used to the culture of accessibility they take for granted at home, the notion of crossing town to get a regular joe (or as they call it now, americano) can be an added source of distress. Besides, the rest of the world never particularly cared for what we used to call coffee anyway, so don’t complain if you don’t find a decent cup around.
But there’s a mitigating factor that it’s usually grossly overlooked, whenever wary foreigners decide that want you to have done your homework and speak at least a few words on their language: there’s no time. Americans take the shortest time off of all industrialized nations, and as a result, they must do things in a hurry, even when it comes to relaxing. And don’t even let us started with calls and emails from your job.
So take pity on the brave, overworked U.S. citizen, who ventures abroad searchinf for that impossible dream of ignoring crowded airports, long overbooked Continue reading