Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sued for Conserving Water?

Photo courtesy: Care2

It's one of those snafus that only government authorities can create. One that causes you to shake your head and wonder how red tape can promote such idiocy.

Governor Schwarzenegger has always tried to do the environmentally-friendly thing when it comes to making decisions that affect Californians. Now it would seem that the bureaucrats in Orange, California are determined to undo a bit of the progress the Governor has made conserving some of the Earth's precious resources.

Quan and Angelina Ha recently had a baby girl. Along with the baby came a change of thinking for the Has. They started re-evaluating their lifestyle, their priorities, and their personal responsibilities in trying to halt global warming. Mr. Ha explains: "We've got a newborn, so we want to start worrying about her future."

Commendable, one would think. However, the city of Orange has threatened them with a lawsuit over the state of their lawn. What could they have possibly done to their lawn that would cause the city to consider a lawsuit against them, you ask. The answer will surprise you.

Angelina and Quan Ha walk through their frontyard with daughter Zella. After the city informed them that their property was not up to code, they added bark, fencing and drought-tolerant plants. Photo courtesy: Los Angeles Times (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times / February 25, 2010)

It all started two years ago when the Has decided to remove all the grass in their yard in an effort to help safeguard their daughter's future. The city complained - the dirt was unacceptable. The Has, conscientious citizens, covered the entire yard with wood chips in an attempt to comply with the city's request.

Not having to water their thirsty yard had the potential to save tens of thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars a year. It seemed the environmentally responsible thing to do. After all, California is one of the most drought-affected states in the USA. Three years of successive drought has lowered the reservoirs to a critical level.

Water is a key political and economic issue in California, as in other parts of the Southwest. There is ongoing wrangling between agricultural and residential water interests, and concern grows that water will be the new oil, a conflict-prone linchpin and threat for the long-term viability of the state.

But city officials determined the wood chip fix was not acceptable. They pointed to a city ordinance that says that 40% of the yard be landscaped predominantly with live plants.

"Compliance, that's all we've ever wanted," said Senior Assistant City Atty. Wayne Winthers.

Last summer, the couple tried to appease the city; and, still maintain an almost water-free yard by building a fence around the yard and planting drought-tolerant greenery -- lavender, rosemary, horsetail and pittosporum, among others.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Quan and Angelina Ha reduced their annual water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009: an 80% savings. Quan Ha pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor for violating county codes.

Now, here comes the rub. A California Public Policy Institute report estimates that more than half of all residential water used is wasted on lawn and outdoor plant care. California's Water Use Efficiency website urges conservation efforts, including: "Water-efficient landscape designs using low water-use plants" and "Minimized turf areas."

Ironically, by abiding by the recommendations of the state water agency, the Ha family leaves itself open to prosecution by the city.

I wonder what Governor Schwarzenegger would think?

Via Care2 and Los Angeles Times

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feeding the Eagles

In January, 2010, the weather got so cold in parts of British Columbia, Canada that the bald eagles were cruising over houses looking for helpless cats to make a quick meal. Some kind souls, in Comox, BC decided to feed the eagles at an area known as Goose Spit so they would survive the cold spell.

There were no zoom lenses used to take these pictures - the photographer got close enough to take these photos without a zoom of any kind. The men seen in the last photo are the men who fed the eagles.

Feeding the Eagles
Comox, B.C., Vancouver Island

Friday, February 26, 2010

Make Your Bath a Calming, Healing Experience

Here are a few bath ideas with specific concerns in mind.

Apple Cider Vinegar Bath: This helps relieve sore muscles, itchy skin, and sunburn. Vinegar helps draw pollutants out of the body. It is an acid medium and contains alpha hydroxy acids. It is also mildly antiseptic, antifungal and naturally deodorizing.

Athlete’s Bath: Use these ingredients to relax sore aching muscles. Bay leaf, Epsom salts, eucalyptus leaves, ginger root, juniper berries, lavender flowers, marjoram herb, mustard seed powder, rosemary leaves, and sage herb.

Baking Soda Bath: This alkalinizing and detoxifying bath can help calm allergic reactions, chicken pox, eczema, hives, itchy skin, insect bites, poison ivy, sunburn, and fungal infections. Use one pound per bath.

Cold and Flu Bath: Try these bath additions when you want to soothe deep muscle aches that often accompany viral infections. Epsom salts, ginger root, marjoram, mustard seed powder, pine needles, and thyme leaves.

Dry Skin Bath: Herbs can have a soothing lubricating effect from the outside. Moisturize with calendula flowers, chamomile flowers, comfrey leaves, elder flowers, fennel seed, jasmine flowers, lavender flowers, oatmeal, rose buds, and violet leaves.

Epsom Salts Bath: This method is lymphatic cleansing, relaxing for sore muscles, softening to the skin, and detoxifying after bodywork. Epsom salts help to get drugs, chemicals and pollutants out of body. Those with diabetes, hypertension or heart disease should rinse off after the bath.

Itchy Skin Bath: To calm itchy skin, resulting from insect bites, chicken pox, and poison ivy, use with apple cider vinegar, baking soda, chickweed herb, lavender flowers, oatmeal, red clover blossoms or violet leaf. Essential oils to use in an itchy skin bath include cedar wood, Roman chamomile, lavender, peppermint and sandalwood.

Oatmeal Bath: This calms irritated skin, poison ivy, dermatitis, high blood pressure, and stress, It is very simple to whiz plain uncooked oatmeal in the blender to make a bath powder. Or tie 1/2 cup into a bath bag.

Relaxing Bath: Take the edge off a stressful day with calming botanicals such as catnip herb, chamomile flowers, Clary sage flowers, hops strobiles, jasmine flowers, lavender flowers, linden flowers, neroli flowers, and rose buds.

Sunburn Bath: Adding black tea, or apple cider vinegar to a cool bath eases burns.

It is easy to create your own Bath Salts by mixing together 1 cup each of sea salt, baking soda and Epsom salts. Add 1 teaspoon of any combination of essential oils. Mix well and store in a glass jar. Add 1 handful per bath.

Via Care2

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Odd Blog (I warned you about)

Talk about unlucky! German police detained a nightclub partier they caught trying to snort amphetamines off the top of their unmarked patrol car. The 26 year-old began lining up the powdered drugs on the roof of the car in a disco car park, when the two police officers surprised him, a Nuremberg police spokesperson said yesterday.

The man had no idea the normal-looking vehicle belonged to the police; and, it was coincidence that the officers – who were walking by their parked car – discovered him just as he was about to take the drugs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Did You Know That...

The cow has one stomach with four parts, each holding the cow’s dinner through various stages of digestion. The four parts are the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abosmasum.

In Peru, archaeologists found 1,000 year-old popcorn in graves, and the popcorn was so well preserved it could still pop. Outdoing even that, popcorn that is 5,600 year-old was found in Bat Cave, New Mexico.

The golden orb-weaver spider, found in Papua, New Guinea, spins the biggest and strongest of all webs. Its web can extend five feet across.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quotable Quotes

"The real leader has no need to lead, he is content to point the way."
– Henry Miller

"Those who would attain to any marked degree of excellence in a chosen pursuit must work, and work hard for it, prince or peasant."
– Bayard Taylor

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Odd Blog (I warned you about)

Having a routine MRI caused a 72-year-old man in California severe pain. Soon the Old Colorado City resident coughed up a one-inch nail that had been lodged in his sinuses for over three decades. The magnetic field in the scanner had pulled the nail loose, which was a huge surprise to the retired carpenter who never realized the nail was there. Health workers at the clinic were surprised by the discovery, too. He figures he must have inhaled the nail while on the job. He is planning to frame the nail.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

67 Million-Year-Old Fossil Shows Snake Eating Baby Dinosaurs

Recreation of fossil.

Scientists have found a 67 million-year-old fossil of a snake coiled around dinosaur eggs and a hatchling. This is the first evidence of snakes eating dinosaurs.

“It’s a stunning, once-in-a-lifetime find,” said paleontologist Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study. “We’ve caught one of the rarest moments in the fossil record, which is prey and predator, together.”

Geologist Dhanajay Mohabey of the Indian Geological Survey first unearthed the fossil 26 years ago in a rocky, limestone outcropping in the northwestern Indian village of Dholi Dungri. He thought all the bones at the site were those of dinosaur hatchlings.

But in 2001, University of Michigan paleontologist Jeff Wilson, took a second look at the fossils. The team then recognized they had actually found a snake coiled around a broken egg, with a hatchling and two other eggs nearby. The findings appeared Mar. 1 in Public Library of Science Biology.

The newly-discovered species of snake, Sanajeh indicus, measures about 11.5 feet long. The hatchlings, part of a group called titanosaurs, measured about a foot and a half long. Titanosaurs were the largest animal to ever walk on land, with adults that could reach up to 100 feet long.

Unlike modern snakes, S. indicus lacked jaw joints that allowed it to open its mouth incredibly wide, so it relied on its large overall body size to prey on the fledgling dinosaurs. Luckily for the snake, the titanosaur hatchlings had soft skeletons that “may have been somewhat collapsible, so you can fold their ribs up a bit and get them in your mouth,” Wilson said.

It’s likely a slow-rising flood or a storm caused adult titanosaurs to flee, abandoning their nests. The snake then slithered into the nest.

Once the babies start hatching, they begin to “pop their leg or arm out. There will be some kind of activity, and the snake is attracted to that. It will coil itself around the egg,” he said. “As soon as it came out of the egg, there’s a snake waiting for it.”

Unluckily for the snake, that moment was frozen in time because a landslide buried the site right then, Wilson said.

The team has found three or four other spots at Dholi Dungri where snake fossils were uncovered near dinosaur eggs, Wilson said.

The findings may offer insight into the origin of snakes. The reptiles first appear in the fossil record around 98 million years ago, Wilson said. But finding such a complete snake fossil is rare, with only a half-dozen well-preserved specimen from this period. “A lot of their early origins are uncertain. More fossils from an early time help put together a picture of snake evolution,” said Wilson.

The fossil find shows some modern animal behavior has very old roots, Sereno said. “Snakes have been at this eating egg-thing for a hundred million years. Before birds fell prey to these things, their ancestors did.”

Via Wired Science

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kale - A Protein Powerhouse

Photo courtesy: Care2

Reprinted from Care2:

In the color spectrum, green is at the center of the rainbow, representing balance, healing, emotional stability, love, peace and rejuvenation. Green foods are power packed with nutrients, energizing, detoxifying, rebuilding and immune strengthening. As greens grow, they provide oxygen for people and the planet. Green foods are rich in chlorophyll, a potent collector of solar energy.

One supergreen is kale (Brassica oleracea), a member of the Brassicaceae (Cruciferous) family, making it a relative of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Native to Asia Minor, it is considered the closest relative to wild cabbage. The species name, oleracea means “a garden herb used in cooking.”

Kale and collards are very similar, but kale often has curly leaves, and where collards thrive in warmer climates, kale survives in a cooler one. Flowering kale is edible, but not as tender as other varieties (There are no poisonous members of the Brassicaceae Family!).

Kale benefits the stomach and helps relieve lung congestion. It has been used to treat constipation, obesity, dental problems, pyorrhea, arthritis, gout, skin disorders, ulcers and to rejuvenate the liver. All members of this family contain antioxidant indoles, which protect against colon, breast and lung cancer. Kale also has antiseptic properties.

Kale is considered warming, sweet with a slightly bitter-pungent flavor, similar to cabbage. Kale is rich in calcium, iron, potassium, sulfur, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and folic acid. One cup of kale has more calcium than one cup of milk. Many greens are high in oxalic acid, a chemical that can bind with calcium, forming calcium oxalate, which if consumed excessively can inhibit calcium absorption. However, kale is low in oxalic acid.

Select tender, dark green, or even bluish-green leaves, avoiding those that are yellowed. You can cut off the bottoms and large middle ribs, as they are quite fibrous. Kale can be added to vegetable juices, chopped fine and added to salads as well as steamed, stir fried or made into soup. Some may find that kale is cleansing. The addition of a bit of ginger, cumin or caraway can ease it’s digestibility.

Kale is easy to grow, tolerates cold weather and is quick to harvest. They are best when young and tender. According to traditional folklore, eating greens promotes prosperity. Now will you eat your greens?

Kale Salad
(Ready in a minute!)

1 bunch kale, washed and chopped fine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Celtic salt
1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)

Toss everything. Then “massage” the seasonings into the kale. (Serves 2-4)

For a complete meal, add an avocado, tomato or a few nuts or olives. You’ve got lunch!

Check out the video to learn about kale and massaging the seasonings into it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Benefit Found in Green Tea

Photo courtesy: Care2

This is reprinted from Care2.

It’s old news that a mug of green tea is a potent pro-health powerhouse. From lighter more cosmetic perks like keeping skin youthful and toned to more serious preventative care like fighting Alzheimer’s and cancer. All of these benefits are obtained from the absorption of green tea catchetins and other anti-oxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein into the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.

What scientists didn’t discover until now is that these very same anti-aging goodies from green tea also pass from the gastrointestinal tract into the tissues of the eye. This was concluded after giving lab rats some green tea to drink and after, analyzing their eye tissue. The anti-oxidative effects of the green tea lasted as long as 20 hours! This recent finding confirms green tea’s potential ability to support healthy peepers by preventing glaucoma. A seriously exciting discovery since the optic nerve damaging-disease often leads to loss of vision.

So whether you like your brew spiked with local, organic honey, splashed with a squeeze of lemon or simply plain and strong like my perfect cup–drink often for good health and good sight!

Make green tea even greener by looking for the all-important fair trade label. Equal Exchange, for example, offers excellent and tasty fairly traded green tea bags.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Sack Gardens of the Kibera Slums

One of Kibera's artificial sack gardens. Photo courtesy: The Standard

Approximately 1.5 years ago, I wrote a blog on the first farm ever in Kibera, Kenya. The reclamation process that brought this organic farm into being is nothing short of inspiring. Now the women of Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya are taking the initiative in supporting their families by growing fresh vegetables in sack gardens.

The Kibera slum located in Nairobi, Kenya is possibly the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa. There is somewhere between 700,000 - 1,000,000 people living in 400 hectares - approximately one-half the size of Central Park in New York City.

The many challenges that people face in Kibera include overcrowding, a lack of water (clean or otherwise), practically no sanitation services; and, a lack of land ownership. Despite these hardships, some residents are managing to thrive.

These residents are an enterprising group of mainly female farmers who are growing food for their families; and, managing to grow enough to sell some to their neighbours as well. These "self-help" groups are springing up all over Kenya giving youth, women and vulnerable people the opportunity to organize; share information and skills; and improve their well-being while giving them a voice that would not be heard otherwise.

These women are growing vegetables in what they call "vertical farms or vertical gardens". These farms are tall, recycled sacks filled with soil. The women grow crops in them on different levels (vertical farms) by poking holes in the bags and inserting seeds and/or seedlings at different levels. The crops planted are usually spinach, kale, sweet pepper and spring onions; but, there are other choices of veggies available.

The women’s group received training, seeds, seedlings and sacks from the French non-governmental organization (NGO) Solidarites to start their sack gardens.

The International Committee of the Red Cross recognized sack gardening as a solution to food security in urban areas during the 2007/08 political crisis in the slums of Nairobi. For approximately a month, no food was allowed to enter any of the slums from rural Kenya; but, thanks to the number of women growing food in sack gardens; and, on public land (railway lines, river banks), most residents didn't go without food.

These unassuming-looking sack gardens provide big benefits both to the family and the rest of the community. The owners of the gardens enjoy better nutrition, food security; and, possibly some sort of additional income. Any surplus produce these farmers have is sold to their friends and neighbours who enjoy the benefit of incredibly fresh produce. It doesn't get any fresher than being bought the same day it is picked. All the women who own sack gardens swear that their home-grown vegetables taste better because they are grown without chemicals; and, are eaten at the peak of freshness. The pride of eating the fruits of their own labour probably adds a certain spice that other veggies don't have.

Solidarites has pledged to continue providing seeds and/or seedlings to the urban farmers free of charge as well as the sacks and other necessities. In addition to providing the physical necessities for the gardens, they teach new gardeners how to get the most out of their sack gardens. The urban gardeners of the Kibera slum go to the Solidarites site where experienced gardeners just pick the seedlings they want; and, inexperienced gardeners receive valuable information, hints, tricks; and, the materials to begin their gardening.

Unfortunately, they have found that there are two problems with their sack gardens. The first are goats. The goats love the fresh greens as much as the families who own the gardens do; and, goats go to great lengths to gain entry to the garden area so they can eat their fill. The other problem is human. They are called the "midnight harvesters" by the gardeners because they come in the middle of the night and raid the sack gardens taking the produce.

These gardens in the alley may be vulnerable to the "midnight harvesters".

The residents of the Nairobi slums are creative, inventive and determined if nothing else. Mary Mutola has farmed "her" land for over two decades. She and other farmers, mostly women, have divided the land and farm it together. The land is legally not hers nor does it belong to any of the other farmers who use it. In reality, the land is owned by the National Social Security Fund which has allowed the women to farm the land through an informal arrangement. The most popular crops to grow are spinach, kale, spider plant, squash, amaranth and fodder.

Unfortunately, the farmers have no legal right to farm the land (or even be on the land); and, consequently have been forced to stop farming several times over the years. The harassment has slowed; but, the challenges to continued farming persist.

One of the more recent challenges these women face is the loss of their unofficial irrigation and fertilization system. The women had been using untreated wastewater - sewage from a sewer line they had tapped into - to feed and water their crops. While wastewater can contain alot of viruses, bacteria, pathogens, contamination from heavy metals; and, other undesirables, it provided a rich, free source of fertilizer to farmers too impoverished to buy them. The other benefit was that the farmers didn't have to depend on rainfall to water the crops. Good thing because in sub-Saharan Africa, droughts are getting longer and rainfall is getting scarcer.

However, the city didn't see any of the benefits; just the drawbacks. Despite this, Mutola and the other women are continuing to problem-solve by finding new and creative ways of growing food crops for their own use or sale.

The farmers, in partnership with Urban Harvest, are managing not only to grow enough food to eat and sell; but, amazingly are also becoming seed suppliers of traditional African leafy vegetables. The traditional vegetables include amaranth, spider plant and African nightshade. They are doing so well they are able to supply Nairobi with these high-demand vegetables and grains.

While these farmers have always grown fodder for livestock for both the urban and rural farmers, their establishment of a sustainable source of seed for traditional African vegetables is helping to break down the commonly-held belief that only the poor living in cities benefit from urban agriculture.

The farmers have developed a technique of using very small plots (about 50 sq m {538 sq ft}) and double beds to raise seeds quickly. Some of the fast-growing varieties like amaranth and spider plant can be raised from seed to seed-producing in as little as 3 months. These seeds are worth roughly 30,000 Kenyan shillings ($40 US) in profit for the 3 months work. One of the bonuses of this type of farming is that because the plots are small, they take very little additional type to weed and manage.

To put this in perspective, rent for a family can range from $6.00 - $10.00 a month; so, we can see that while this may be rent for 3-4 months, nothing else is covered like food, clothing, or any other necessity of life. They dare not even think of a luxury item.

These landless farmers are gardening on the edge. The land they use can be taken from them at anytime, the drought can eventually win the fight for their crops; and/or, the loss of access to wastewater for irrigation and fertilization could prove insurmountable.

Photo courtesy: Care2

I'd like to end with a quote from one of the ladies who is benefiting from the sack garden program:

"With this project, nobody, especially among the womenfolk, has any excuse to be idle," Agnes Ndalo, one of the beneficiaries, says. "The traditional housewife who would spend hours on end in a neighbour's house in fruitless banter is no longer here. Women are busy tending their sack gardens, replacing dead seedlings or watering them."

A video produced by Solidarites:

Via allAfrica

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

57 Ways to Cure Your Headache (final)

Final installment of 57 Ways to Cure Your Headache. Reprinted from MRI Technician School.

Zen Ways To Cure A Headache

From meditation to yoga, these practices have been around for centuries. Take a look at the below for some help in curing your headache.

25. Meditation Can Boost Your Gray Matter : If helping cure your headache isn’t enough of a reason to meditate, how about increased brain power? This report from Live Science and MSNBC chronicles a study that shows just that. Published in “NeuroReport,” the study showed that people who meditate 40 minutes a day can actually change your gray matter.

26. Meditation Handbook : Get a more comprehensive guide to meditation by stopping here. Several types and techniques of meditation are used. You can try the more traditional like sitting or reclining and move onto sweeping and cathartic dancing.

28. Meditation Station : If you’re ready for something a little more advanced to help cure your headaches, stop here. In addition to tools for beginners, there are also more advanced practices. Of note are the over 100 techniques featured, a message board, and much more.

29. Gi Gong For Headache : This meditation is specifically designed to cure headaches. Master Jason Park shows you how in this YouTube video. Simple exercises and more are shown.

30. Daily Meditation : Keep headaches away by taking part in a daily meditation. This YouTube video is ten minutes long and contains help for mediation. Music and images are featured.

31. Breathing Relaxation Exercise : Developed by health and wellness professionals, this exercise provides an easy self-help technique that has been proven to be highly effective in battling stress and sleeplessness. It has also helped people who suffer with headaches and anxiety. A soothing voice guides you through the four minute exercise.

32. How To Get Rid Of A Headache Fast : In this seven minute video, a hypnotist helps a woman cure a headache. Teaching that headaches can be based on emotional expressions, he shows how to heal your body. There are also hypnosis for other ailments.

33. Hypnosis Relaxation : Avoid headaches by using this hypnosis to help you relax. This free video includes binaural beats and hypnosis relaxation. Other parts of the video and related ones are also available.

34. Yoga Poses For Headache Relief : Elizabeth Rose is a registered Hatha yoga teacher who teaches all who watch this video how yoga can cure headaches. Sufferers of tension headaches will enjoy this. There are also many other related videos from her.

Massage Ways To Cure A Headache

Massage is a common method of relieving headaches and can be done by yourself or a loved one.

35. How To Massage Migraine Headaches : This entry from Ezine shows exactly how to massage to cure a migraine headache. Pressure points and techniques are defined. They even feature five pressure points to focus on.

36. How To Massage Away A Headache : If looking for a simpler guide than the above, check out this one. It is provided in a few simple steps by eHow. You can also find many related guides.

37. Massage That Tension Headache : In a lengthy article, Associated Content tackles the subjects. Types of headaches and their causes are also discussed. They even include a few instructional videos.

38. How To Massage A Headache Or Migraine Away : The holistic science and spirit expert at The Houston Examiner gives new age tips on how to cure headaches. The art of reflexology is also discussed. She also tells how to follow up and gives other tips.

39. Headache Treatment : Massage Nerd provides many free videos on the subject. In this three part series, he shows how a deep tissue massage can help a headache. For best results, have a loved one watch while performing on you. There are also massages for other ailments.

40. How To Massage Away A Headache : Expert Village is another place to turn to on YouTube for useful videos. In this one, expert Sundae Tomas shows how to massage away a headache. Although she is performing it, you can do on yourself.

41. Swedish Scalp Massage : If looking for a more exotic way to cure your headache, check out this video. Nicole graduated from the Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy and shows how the scalp massage can be the most relaxing part. An excellent way to relieve tension.

Alternative Ways To Cure A Headache

If your mind is more open than your head is pounding, check out these alternative ways to cure a headache.

42. Acupressure : If sticking needles into your skin sounds more painful than your headache, this may not be for you. However, results can be impressive. However, acupressure therapists are also known to use their hands, elbows, arms, or fingers in order to stimulate the flow of blood throughout the body.

43. Acupuncture : If looking strictly for needles in the skin, this is the place. It is based on the principle of using the bodies own natural healing powers. This article even uses studies to show how acupuncture can cure headaches.

44. Fumes : If some smells can cause headaches, why can’t others help them? In this folk home remedy, headache sufferers put five drops of ammonia in a half glass of water. Inhaling the fumes is said to help.

45. Ice Pack : If you have a migraine headache, give this a try. Putting an ice pack to your head cools the blood vessels, relieving pressure on the nerves. Also useful if you put the ice pack on the back of your neck.

46. Eucalyptus Oil : Add this to your next headache massage for best results. If you put a few drops in a carrier oil and massage on your forehead, it should help. The scent is also effective against tension headaches.

47. Feverfew : This plant is a member of the sunflower family and has been used for centuries as a home remedy. Take a few leaves and chew. It is also useful for arthritis, fevers, and menstrual pain. Not recommended for pregnant women or young children.

48. Menthol : No, smoking won’t cure your headache. However, menthol sold at health stores can be helpful for curing headaches. Massaging it into the temples can have a calming effect.

49. Foot Bath : Soaking your feet in warm water does more than relieve aches and pains. It can also cure a headache. Try adding some Epsom salt if it doesn’t work.

Best and Surprising Ways To Cause A Headache

So you don’t have to cure a headache, avoid the below triggers, both well known and uncommon.

50. Stress : We all know that stress causes many health issues. In fact, there is even a special designation for headaches causes by stress. Also known as tension headaches, it is estimated that over one third of adults experience them one or two times a month. If you fall into this category, that overbearing boss or bickering with your significant other may be the cause.

51. Dehydration : As discussed earlier, a simple glass of water can be the cure to a headache. According to this site, three out of four Americans don’t drink enough water, and it is a major cause of headaches. Because dehydration leads to lower electrolytes and off balance pH levels, they can trigger even migraine headaches.

52. Teeth Grinding : Since it is done at night while you sleep, it can be a surprising cause of headaches. Grinding your teeth at night can be a sign of stress, vitamin deficiency, and other causes. Health 911 recommends supplements and even a custom mouth guard. If you feel this may be the cause of your headaches, try seeing a dentist first to see if they agree.

53. Being A Woman : Another of life’s perks to being a woman is the added headaches. It is estimated that 15-17% of women suffer from headaches, whereas men come in at the five percent range. A common factor of this is the premenstrual migraine headache. At this time of the month, women experience a drop in estrogen that can lead to a headache. The best thing to do is reach for one of the above treatments.

54. Your Hairdo : Sure that ponytail may look nice and was convenient, but did you know that it could be causing your headaches? If a frequent ponytail wearer and headache sufferer, try taking it down to see if that helps. Earrings and headbands can also cause headaches.

55. Weather : It isn’t that common, but changes in air pressure can trigger pressure in your head. Changes in air pressure can also have adverse effects in many other health aspects. “USA Today” has more.

56. Cologne : If feeling good is more important than smelling good, why not try skipping your daily dose of cologne for a few days to see if it helps your headaches? Although it isn’t known exactly which scents cause what, it is a good idea to avoid as many as you can if you experience chronic headaches. This includes switching to unscented detergents, soaps, and related products.

57. Sex : It has been shown to relieve stress, but can it also cause headaches? Yes, according to Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee. The coital headache can occur during foreplay or right before orgasm, and this blog entry has much more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

57 Ways to Cure Your Headache (part one)

Reprinted from MRI Technician School.

Best Over The Counter Ways To Cure A Headache

Grabbing a pill is one of the most common ways to treat a headache or any other pain. Below are some of the most known. Make sure to read the label and follow the instructions before taking. If on any prescription medication, be sure that they don’t interfere with each other.

1. Ibuprofen : This drug is more commonly known as Motrin or Advil. It works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. Highs include a smaller dosage and longer lasting relief. Lows include the ability to cause gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn or constipation in a small amount of patients.

2. Naproxen : You may know this drug as Aleve or one of its counterparts. It works by reducing the levels of prostaglandins, chemicals that are responsible for pain. As a result, those who take this drug may experience reduced inflammation and fever as well. However, side effects from this drug can include rash, ringing ear, and even headaches.

3. Aspirin : One of the oldest over the counter remedies, one of the most popular brand names is Bayer. In addition to treating headaches, it is taken for flu, fever, and even for heart health on the recommendation of a doctor. Aspirin reduces substances in the body that cause pain, fever, and inflammation. Side effects are similar to that of Ibuprofen.

4. Acetaminophen : Best known as Tylenol, those who have a sensitive stomach may turn to this. Acetaminophen relieves pain by requiring a greater amount of pain to develop before a person feels it and even reduces fever. However, those who take more than eight pills a day for more than a day or two can experience liver damage.

5. Headache Powder : By using a material that dissolves in water, some headache sufferers may experience relief faster. This popular brand contains 650 mg of aspirin, 33.3 mg of caffeine, and 195 mg of salicylamide. Those who have allergies, asthma, ulcers, or stomach issues should consult a doctor before using.

6. Alka Seltzer : Similar to the above, this product uses medicine dissolved in water to treat headaches. Aspirin is usually the main ingredient. However, there are many varieties for flu, morning headaches, and more.

Best Diet Ways To Cure A Headache

Because you are what you eat, try these foods to help out your headache. A simple dietary switch may be all you need to prevent future headaches.

7. Keep It Fresh : Because packaged and frozen foods can be loaded with additives causing various unknown effects, chronic headache sufferers should switch to fresh. A diet lower in meat, especially red, can also help with headaches. If possible, try a switch to organics.

8. Switch to Decaf : No surprise here. The energy caffeine produces in the body may not match output, causing headaches. Caffeine also is a stimulant that can have unknown causes on your brain, which can also lead to headaches. The added side effects of restlessness and insomnia don’t help either.

9. Ginger : This herb can actually be used to treat a migraine headache in progress. It contains a substance called thromboxane A2 that prevents blood vessels from dilating. Use fresh, powdered, or pickled.

10. Honey : This is another entry in the take-as-you-feel-a-headache-coming-on category. Honey has both potassium and magnesium which relax arteries, allowing more blood to flow to the brain. Two teaspoons three times a day should do it.

11. Omega 3’s : An essential part of any diet, they can also help prevent headaches. These fatty acids found in fish or supplements can help reduce inflammation and help the brain function. Omega 3’s are also useful if you have heart issues.

12. Wheat : Do you have Celiac disease and don’t know it? If stomach problems accompany your headaches, it might be the reason. Because seeing a doctor can take weeks, try a gluten free diet while you wait to see if it cures your headache.

13. Diet Your Diet : Many diet products that use artificial sweeteners include aspartame. Those who consume regularly and go prolonged lengths of time without it can experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms, including headache. Try consuming these products in moderation or stopping altogether to see if it cures your headaches.

14. Skip The MSG : Often found in Chinese food, this chemical can trigger pain receptors, increasing your odds of having a headache. Other pain sensitivity can also be cause by monosodium glutamate. It can even be found in other fast foods, along with packaged ones.

15. Elimination Diet : If you have tried the above, and it still doesn’t work for you, consider the elimination diet. If you think your headaches are being caused by your diet, this one helps you cut out all but essential foods. Dr. Sears recommends this for babies with unexplained symptoms. Try for two weeks to see if it helps.

Best Drinks To Cure A Headache

If your medicine cabinet is bare or you don’t feel like any drugs, try the below for a quick and easy fix to a headache.

16. Water : Could a case of dehydration be causing your headache? It doesn’t take running a marathon to cause a headache. If you have a headache and can’t remember the last time you rehydrated, try drinking a simple glass or two of water.

17. Sports Drink : If you suspect your workout may be causing your headache, you may be right. The loss of electrolytes can lead to many symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and headache. Grab your favorite flavor to see if it cures your headache.

18. Apple Cider Vinegar : A leading home health remedy, it is no wonder it can help fight a headache. Headaches caused by an off pH level can be returned to normal with this fix. Add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink.

19. Cayenne Pepper : Not just a cure for stopped up sinuses anymore. This spice helps dilate blood vessels and improve circulation, helping your headache. Put a half to one teaspoon into a glass of water and drink slowly.

20. Tomato Juice : There’s a reason that the Bloody Mary is the hangover cure of choice, and it isn’t the vodka. The tomato juice found in it can actually rehydrate the body. Vodka can counteract this, so stick to just the juice.

21. Peppermint Tea : If you think your headache may be triggered by a stomach issue, try drinking a cup of this. It can soothe many gastrointestinal problems, curing the headache that was caused by it. A few cups throughout the day should do it.

22. Lemon, Ginger, and Honey Tea : This tea is useful for treating many health problems, including headaches. The three ingredients, when combined, provide many natural healing properties. Best of all, this blog entry shows you how to make your very own at home.

23. Hot and Sour Soup : Because spices can help headaches, this soup can do wonders. Also, the act of relaxing and sipping slowly can be a cure in itself.

24. Chicken Soup : It’s not just for cold and flu, either. The healing properties of a simple chicken broth are unknown, but having a bowl can help your headache. Other health issues can also be helped with chicken soup.

Monday, February 15, 2010

First Monogamous Frog Found

Photo courtesy: ghastly152

While there are some well-known cases of monogamy in animals - swans, wolves, beavers, and the Malagasy Jumping Rat. However, frogs have long been considered among the most promiscuous of animals mating with whoever happens to be handy at the time. Now a new BBC documentary reveals that at least one species of frog mates with one partner for life. So, what is the secret that keeps these guys and girls together for life?

The frogs, Ranitomeya imitator (Mimic Poison Frog), native to Peru, were discovered to be monogamous. A series of paternity tests were conducted to determine how the frogs raise their offspring; and, the proof of the monogamy was in the DNA.

The female lays her eggs on a leaf; and, the male collects the individual tadpoles as they hatch. He tenderly moves each tadpole to its own private reservoir of water where it can grow and develop in safety. These tiny tadpole-sized water basins are collected rainwater found in the crevices of leaves high above the forest floor. When the tadpoles need food, the males informs his mate who then deposits an unfertilized egg into each pool for her young to eat.

Wow!! This sounds like love, doesn't it? Well, it's not according to scientists. Researchers claim this unique cooperation between the male and the female for the benefit of their offspring is what makes them so inseparable - not love.

Biologist Jason Brown told the BBC:

"This is the first discovery of a truly monogamous frog."

Brown and his team performed genetic tests on twelve of these frogs and found that eleven were completely loyal to their partner. Personally, I was not surprised to find that the lone frog caught "cheating" on its mate was male.

Via TreeHugger and BBC News(written in Portuguese)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Storks Bring Good Luck to Rice Farmers in Toyooka

Frogs or fish?: Two Oriental storks are seen in a rice paddy in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, in July 2007. Photo courtesy: Toyooka Municipal Government

There have been many fables about storks, the most popular being that babies were delivered by storks who dropped them down the chimneys of the prospective parents. Children are sometimes born with reddish marks on their faces that eventually disappear. These marks have become commonly known as "stork bites" alluding to the stork's beak irritating the newborns skin during the flight to their new home. Some cultures, believe that the yearly arrival of the stork back to their nesting grounds also brings good luck; and, this is certainly the case in Toyooka. Toyooka is located in Japan, in Hyogo Prefecture, where storks have brought good fortune to the rice farmers there.

The amazingly beautiful wild Oriental stork population has been rapidly declining for years. At one time, the Oriental Stork could be found in Japan, China, Korea and Russia. It is now almost extinct in Japan and on the Korean peninsula.

Toyooka is the last area in Japan where wild Oriental storks are living wild and natural lives due to the efforts of the local community. In 1989, the began to artificially breed the birds and release the offspring back into the wild.

Miraculously, in May 2007, a hatchling was reported in Japan for the first time in 40 years in the wild. It was the offspring of two storks who were bred in captivity as part of the effort to bring the storks back from the brink of extinction.

As part of the effort, local rice farmers were approached and asked to cooperate by reducing the amount of agricultural chemicals they used. After some initial resistance by many farmers who feared the switch to fewer chemicals would greatly increase their work load; and, possibly decrease their harvests. Eventually, they were won over by the government promises to provide subsidies.

In 2003, they started using less agricultural chemicals in the growing of their rice. This was the beginning of the efforts to preserve the frogs and fish in the area - the main prey of the storks.

Various methods were used to help reduce the use of chemicals. Two of the major changes are:

1) Higher water levels were maintained in the paddies so fewer weeds could grow.
2) The farmers have dug channels which connect their paddies to their water channels. This allows loaches to move freely around the growing rice seedlings. Loaches help the rice grow by eating harmful insects and organic debris.

This switch to fewer chemicals and more environmentally-friendly growing methods has not only helped the storks; but, it has had an unexpected bonus for the rice farmers. The cost of Koshihikari rice grown in the area is now 30% - 50% more expensive than any other rice. The reason - more and more consumers prefer organic produce and are willing to pay the price if necessary.

"This rice has grown in the environment. It is very good to human health," said rice farmer Ichio Narita, 53. "We want to continue farming this rice down the generations."

Via The Japan Times

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Animal Oddity

Photo courtesy: Oddee

I was looking around the web for some ideas when I ran across this picture of the largest bunny I have ever seen. Just had to share.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sana'a, Yemen: First Capital City in The World to Go Dry

Photo courtesy: VirtualTourist

What an absolutely breathtaking city! The capital city of Sana’a in Yemen is an extremely ancient city filled with history, home to architecture that shouts of times gone by; and, quite probably will be the first capital city to die of thirst.

The nation of Yemen has been under siege from an on-going drought for many years now. A short time ago, I wrote about the water riots in Yemen and the drought in Kenya. Now it would appear that the capital city, Sana’a, could become a ghost town in a mere 20 years.

A recent Reuters' investigation into the water crisis in Sana’a profiled a Yemeni water trader that complains that even though his well is 1,300 ft. deep, he’s hardly pumping out any water at all. His well is not unique in Yemen’s mountain-top capital of Sana’a. Even wells that are 2,000 ft. or 3,000 ft. deep are having trouble producing enough water to supply the demands made upon them.

Families all across Yemen have reported being unable to access water for days or even weeks. On days the tankers are due to arrive with water, women are lined up with plastic jerry cans hours before the scheduled time. As the tankers get closer, the women begin to jostle and shove. Some of them have been without water for days; and, they are determined to get water this time. Sometimes all-out fights erupt and three people have been reported to have lost their lives during “water fights” to date.

Sana’a has the infrastructure to support approximately 80,000 people; but, the population has grown to 2 million. Add to this that Sana’a is a mountainous city with a low water table; and, you have the recipe for a ghost town.

Yemen has 21 aquifers. Wikipedia explains: “An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, silt, or clay) from which groundwater can be usefully extracted using a water well. The beach provides a model to help visualize an aquifer. If a hole is dug into the sand, very wet or saturated sand will be located at a shallow depth. This hole is a crude well, the wet sand represents an aquifer, and the level to which the water rises in this hole represents the water table.”

The problem in Yemen and surrounding areas is that demand is far outstripping supply and the water table is being lowered year after year. Eventually, the water table will be so low that the tiny amount of water remaining will be inaccessible.

Global warming has already created the first “environmental refugees”, now with the water crisis in Yemen; the world may have to deal with the first “water refugees”. As water becomes more and more inaccessible in Sana’a and other highland cities, millions of inhabitants will be forced to move into neighbouring Gulf States or Europe.

At the heart of this crisis is what many refer to as Yemen’s “national drug habit”.

Drivers wait at Al-Suhaini Well, near Al-Saleh Mosque in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, for three to fours hours to have their trucks filled with water. © Adel Yahya/IRIN Photo courtesy: Humanitarian Futures

The cultivation of qat (khat) is considered to be root of the water crisis. Qat production siphons off a massive 37% of the 90% of all water used in Yemen for cultivation. Let’s think about these statistics.

If 90% of all water used in Yemen goes toward agriculture; that, leaves only 10% of the water for human consumption, cleaning, cooking, hygiene and everything else. So, the cultivation of qat (a narcotic) is allocated nearly 4 times more water than Yemen’s human population. That does not say much for priorities.

Qat is immensely popular in Yemen and is chewed by Yemeni men throughout most of the day regardless of where they are or what they are doing. Despite the fact that qat contains the alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant which causes excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria, it is not only legal in Yemen; it is socially acceptable. It is chewed everywhere – at home, at work, on the street, at social gatherings, anywhere at all. In some cultures, the chewing of qat predates the drinking of coffee.

There are several obstacles to reducing or eliminating the qat crops. First and foremost, the government subsidizes and encourages qat cultivation. It is hard for the people to believe a crisis is real when the government is encouraging the growth of what is supposed to be the main cause of the problem.

Combine this with the fact that many Yemeni make a living from growing qat; and, the problem becomes even greater. How do you ask a man to give up the job that feeds his family?

The final difficulty is the feelings surrounding qat and the lackadaisical attitude many Yemeni have towards water and water conservation. As one qat merchant told Reuters, "It's true that qat uses much of our water; but, Yemen cannot live without qat." Another said, "We depend on qat. Without it, Yemen is impossible. God will help us find new water."

A Yemini qat seller. Photo courtesy: TreeHugger

Many Western governments fear that the instability that would arise from an exacerbated water crisis would not only be devastating to the population in Yemen; but, make it a ripe target for terrorist recruitment.

The population of Yemen stands at 23 million people; and, the population is expected to double within the next 20 years. If no sustainable way to manage their remaining water supply is found, there will be massive repercussions. The area will become unstable with violent conflicts over what little water remains. The Northern provinces have already experienced conflicts over the dwindling water supplies.

If the residents of Sana’a and other hilltop cities have to migrate into the Gulf States and Europe in order to gain access to water, these countries could become overburdened with the huge influx of people in such a short amount of time.

If not properly managed, this could be one of the world’s most challenging crises to date.

Excellent, excellent video explaining the water shortage in Yemen, the misuse of the water that is available; and, the problems of supplying the people with clean, drinkable water. Definitely worth watching.

Via TreeHugger and Reuters

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Coming Soon to Birmingham, England

Photo courtesy: BBC News

Wow!! And this one isn’t even full grown!!

The Japanese Spider Crab is the biggest arthropod on Earth. While no one is sure exactly how large these crabs can grow to be, it is known they can attain a leg span of 13 ft. (4 m), a body size of 15 in. (37 cm); and, weigh in at a hefty 44 lb. (20 kg). They are believed to be able to live as long as 100 years.

The crab lives on the bottom on the Pacific Ocean feeding on dead animals and shellfish. They are considered a delicacy – eaten steamed and salted.

One of these crabs is going to be put on display at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham, England. This will be the biggest crab ever seen on display in Britain.

Curator Graham Burrows said: "It is rumoured these crabs can grow as big as four metres, big enough to straddle a car. He will absolutely dwarf the other crabs in there, but he's not aggressive and they should have nothing to worry about."

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Via TreeHugger and BBC News

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is it Bamboo or is it Rayon?

Photo courtesy: Care2

The following is a reprint of the Press Release the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). I have copied it in its entirety complete with all links.

Seventy-eight companies nationwide have received Federal Trade Commission letters warning that they may be breaking the law by selling clothing and other textile products that are labeled and advertised as “bamboo,” but actually are made of manufactured rayon fiber. The letters, which the agency’s staff sent last week, make the retailers aware of the FTC’s concerns about possible mislabeling of rayon products as “bamboo,” so the companies can take corrective steps to avoid Commission action.

“We need to make sure companies use proper labeling and advertising in their efforts to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers,” said David C. Vladeck, Director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Rayon is rayon, even if bamboo has been used somewhere along the line in the manufacturing process.”

The FTC sued several companies last year for allegedly selling products labeled or advertised as “bamboo” that in reality were made of rayon. Rayon is a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees and processed with harsh chemicals that release hazardous air pollution. Any plant or tree – including bamboo – could be used as the cellulose source, but the fiber that is created is rayon.

“While we have seen action by some retailers to correct mislabeled clothing and textile products, our hope is that these warning letters will serve as a wake-up call to all companies, regardless of their size,” Vladeck said.

The FTC staff letter outlines the requirements for proper labeling and advertising of textile products derived from bamboo. The letter states, “Rayon, even if manufactured using cellulose from bamboo, must be described using an appropriate term recognized under the FTC’s Textile Rules. . . . Failing to properly label and advertise textiles misleads consumers and runs afoul of both the Textile Rules and the FTC Act.”

In the letter, the FTC tells the companies they should review the labeling and advertising for the textile products they are selling and remove or correct any misleading bamboo references.

Along with the warning letters, the agency sent each company a synopsis of FTC decisions finding that the failure to use proper fiber names in textile labeling and advertising was deceptive and violated the FTC Act. Under the Act, the FTC can seek civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation against any company that receives this information but fails to correct its advertising and labeling.

A complete list of the companies sent warning letters can be found on the FTC’s Web site and as a link to this press release. They include small and large retailers, with both online and brick-and-mortar stores, and firms selling textile products labeled or advertised as “bamboo” that may be made of rayon. The more commonly known retailers include:, Barney’s New York, Bed Bath & Beyond, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Bloomingdale’s, Costco Wholesale, Garnet Hill, Gold Toe, Hanes, Isotoner, JC Penney, Jockey,Kmart, Kohl’s, Land’s End, Macy’s, Maidenform, Nordstrom,, QVC, REI, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears, Shop NBC, Spiegel, Sports Authority, Target, The Gap, The Great Indoors, Tommy Bahama, Toys R’ Us, Wal-Mart, and

Recent Enforcement Actions. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of four FTC enforcement actions brought against companies selling rayon products that were misleadingly labeled and advertised. According to the Commission’s complaints, filed in August 2009, the companies falsely claimed that their rayon clothing and other textile products were “bamboo fiber,” marketing them using names such as “ecoKashmere,” “Pure Bamboo,” “Bamboo Comfort,” and “BambooBaby.” The complaints also challenged a number of other deceptive “green” claims, including that the products retained the bamboo plant’s antimicrobial properties, were made using environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, and are biodegradable.

The four companies have settled the FTC’s charges and agreed to modify their labels to ensure their claims are not misleading or deceptive. (One of the cases still needs final FTC approval.) Press releases announcing the complaints and related settlements can be found at: and, respectively.

Business and Consumer Information. The FTC has a publication designed to help businesses that sell clothing and textile products that are labeled as bamboo to market their products in ways that are truthful, non-deceptive, and in compliance with the law. “Avoid Bamboo-zling Your Customers” can be found at The FTC also has an alert entitled “Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?” that provides useful information for consumers shopping for bamboo-based fabrics. It also can be found at

The Commission vote to publicly disclose the warning letters was 4-0. Copies of the letters and a complete list of companies that received them can be found on the FTC’s Web site at and as a link to this press release.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click: or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click

Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs

James A. Kohm
Bureau of Consumer Protection

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Roof-top Garden on Affordable Housing Project

Photo courtesy: BrightFarm Systems

It’s always a bonus when you receive more than one benefit from a single action. There’s an affordable housing project in the South Bronx, NY that promises to accomplish just that.

This affordable housing project is going to turn its 10,000 sq. ft. rooftop into a greenhouse-enclosed vegetable garden. Like many inner city, low income communities, the South Bronx suffers from food deserts, where residents lack access to fresh vegetables at affordable prices. The rooftop farm will make a significant contribution to food access and public health in the neighborhood. A network of rooftop farms could provide jobs for local residents as well as acting as a catalyst for the development of other sustainable food-related businesses in the area, such as new farmers' markets or food cooperatives.

There are those who feel that any of the extremely expensive urban real estate should be used by people only. However, these arguments seemed to be reserved for some of the farm/skyscraper ideas that have been put forth; not, for areas designated for growing that have been incorporated into the design of the building.

This rooftop garden will be incorporating many environmental elements such as harvesting rainwater for irrigation and utilizing the waste heat from the residences below to keep the plants warm. The farm will be able to produce enough fresh vegetables for approximately 450 people, capture 750,000 liters of stormwater, and mitigate 80 tons of CO2. A giant plus for the residents is that they will be able to enjoy this produce fresh from the rooftop above them. How fresh is that?! If interested, the residents may be able to get involved directly with their veggies; if not, it could be an employment opportunity for a neighbour. The garden will also help keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter.

For more rooftop garden reading, check out my blog: Roof-top (Urban) Gardens

Via TreeHugger

Monday, February 8, 2010

Vampire Squid Turns Self Inside Out

The vampire squid can turn itself "inside out" to avoid predators as shown in the above video just released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

The MBARI has released this video in an attempt to emphasize a report that raises a red flag about the conditions of the earth’s oceans. Scientists fear that species such as the Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) could be threatened by human activities.

The vampire squid is a living fossil having changed very little since its first appearance before the dinosaurs about 300 million years ago.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s Dr. Bruce Robison, who authored the report published in Conservation Biology, narrates the institute’s video:

“Vampyroteuthis has very large eyes, because it lives about a half a mile deep in the ocean, where the light is very dim. We took these pictures from a deep diving robotic submarine. And you can see the reflection of our lights in that beautiful blue eye.”

Beside the standard 8 arms, the vampire squid has a long curly strand that serves as a sensory filament.

When startled, the animal curls its web and arms around it body seeming to turn itself inside out. At this time, scientists feel this is a protective move designed to avoid predator attacks by changing its appearance. These cephalopods (they are not technically squid) live in the deepest portions of the oceans with millions of other lesser-known or totally-unknown species.

Robison says human activities threaten all of these.

“They are threatened by ocean warming, decreasing oxygen, pollution, overfishing, industrialization and dozens of other changes taking place in the deep. We have a responsibility to learn all we can about these amazing animals and to protect them from the greatest danger to life in the deep: the human species.”

Robinson’s scientific focus is on the part of the ocean which falls between the points located between 330’ below the waters surface to just above the ocean floor. This area is called the “deep pelagic zones” and can be as deep as 6 miles below the surface.

The zone above the deep floor of the ocean is home to many species that serve as food for the marine species that humans eat such as salmon and tuna. Many whales, turtles and giant squid also rely on this zone for their food.

Via National Geographic Daily News

Sunday, February 7, 2010

17 More Equally Disgusting Food Facts

Here we go with the second (and final) installment of Disgusting Food Facts. Read on and prepare to go "eeewwwww!"

Sweets & Snacks

14. Jelly Beans receive and maintain their shine with Shellac. I remember shellacking new books in our school library. It stank and made our eyes water; but, it dried to smooth, shiny, durable finish. Apparently, it is also used on furniture, guitars; and, even AK-47s. Not grossed out yet? Shellac is made from the excretions of the Kerria lacca insect native to the forests of Thailand.

15. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA and many other governmental bodies worldwide set standards for what is acceptable and not acceptable in certain food products. For example, the FDA has ruled that it is acceptable for an average of 30 or more insect fragments plus one or more rodent hairs to be present in every 100 grams of your morning peanut butter. Eeewww! To find out what other tasty(?) additions may be in your food, here is the link to the FDA Defect Levels Handbook which provides this and other equally scary information.

16. Plain white 100% sugar, what could possibly be the problem with this? Sugar obtained from sugar canes goes through a purification process which uses bone char. Bone char is manufactured by superheating bones from cows that have died of natural causes; and, are usually sourced from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. They are bleached in the hot sun, then sold to exporters who sell them to the gelatin and sugar companies.

17. Natural vanilla is the seed pod from the Vanilla orchid; and, it is addictive. It causes the catecholamine levels in the body to rise. This hormone are also known as epinephrine or adrenaline.

18. Many mass-produced ice creams contain more than the dairy you expect. No, I'm not talking about the added goodness of raisins, chocolate bits, or nuts; I'm talking about seaweed. Check the label on your next ice cream purchase for carrageenan. This is a seaweed extract that is added as a stabilizer to keep your frozen dessert free from ice crystals.

19. Peanuts are not what they seem. While it is usually not the case, peanuts can be used to make dynamite. The peanut oil can be used to create glycerol which is then transformed into nitroglycerin - one of the ingredients in dynamite.

Beef & Poultry & Fish

20. For my friends in the US - about 4 years ago, the FDA allowed the use of bacteriophages to be used in the production of lunch meat, sausages and hot dogs. The bacteriophages, whose general term is virus, are being added to fight the microbes that are found on these meat products. So this means that a number of viruses are being used to fight off one microbe that could be dangerous for consumption.

21. The Great Salmon Cover-up. Did you know that over 90% of the salmon that is sold to us is farm-raised salmon? Did you know that farm-raised salmon can contain as many as 16 more contaminants than wild salmon? Did you realize that salmon are actually grey in colour - not pink? Did you know that farm-raised salmon, deprived of their natural diet, are given colouring agents to obtain that beautiful pinky salmon colour?

22. The waste produced by one chicken in its lifetime can supply enough electricity to run a 100 watt bulb for five hours. I'm sure this significant to someone somewhere, probably with no life.


23. What does the saliva of male pigs, the perspiration of human males, and truffles have in common? O.K...time's up. The same chemical is found in all three things. Yup, the most expensive fungus in the world ($800 - $1500 per pound) is snorted out by female pigs because they recognize the chemical smell the truffle emits as the same chemical smell found in male pig saliva. Coincidentally, this chemical is also found in the perspiration of human males.

24. The largest item on any menu in the world is the roast camel. The camel is stuffed with a sheep’s carcass, which is then stuffed with chickens, which are then stuffed with fish, which are finally stuffed with eggs. This is a rare delicacy and is mostly served at Bedouin wedding feasts.

25. The most toxic fish delicacy anywhere is Fugu. It is made from the raw flesh of the highly deadly puffer fish. The puffer fish must be sliced in a certain manner in order to be edible without being deadly. In order to become a certified Fugu chef, the chef must eat a dish of Fugu that he has personally prepared. If he lives, he passes. It is the only dish officially denied the emperor of Japan unless it will be his last meal.

26. That most humble and lovable of all rodents, the mouse, was considered a great delicacy in ancient China and certain parts of India. In ancient Greece they were sacred to Apollo; but, relished by the temple priests.

27. Casu Marzu is, without a doubt, the most disgusting food product anywhere on the face on the planet. It is a cheese made from sheep’s milk that has cheese flies purposely added. While it is a delicacy in Sardinia, eating it is a health risk. Once the cheese has reached the right stage of decomposition, it is ready to eat. You should wear protective eyewear when eating this cheese because the fly larvae are able to jump 6" in the air; and, have been known to get into peoples' eyes. The taste of the cheese is enough to burn your tongue; and, if you accidentally swallow a larva, you should know that it can live long enough to cause an intestinal infestation which causes vomiting, abdominal cramping, and severe diarrhea.


28. Dairy products that are labelled "cheese products" can be less than 51% real cheese. If the label reads "processed" or "pasteurized" it is usually made with less than 51% cheese. The other 49% is non-food items like flavourings and additives that are manipulated to taste like cheese.

29. The holes in Swiss cheese are formed when the cheese ferments during the cheese-making process. It creates a gas, that when released causes bubbles that eat their way to the outside of the wheel thus making the holes.

30. Counting on your yogurt to be curdled milk filled with smiling, friendly bacteria; and, maybe some fruit pieces? Think again. If the label lists either "glycerin" or "stearic acid", think animal by-products. Stearic acid comes from beef tallow; and, while glycerin comes in synthetic or natural forms, it usually has beef tallow as an added ingredient.

Next time you reach for that package of prepared whatever, think again. Grandma had it right - homemade is best, at least you know what's in it (probably).

Via ForensicScienceTechnician

Saturday, February 6, 2010

13 Disgusting Food Facts

Fast food has always been a bit dodgy in my estimation. Rules seem a bit lax; and, the food is usually cooked by sweaty-looking individuals who may have mopped their fevered brows with their hands and then forgotten to wash them. Oh, face it, I'm paranoid about anyone who prepares my food.

I have developed an incredible distrust of some of the ingredients that are used in prepared foods. Just because something tastes good does not mean it is good for me.

Now it would appear that all my so-called "over-reacting" and "conspiracy theorizing" has proven to be well warranted. I give you the disgusting, unvarnished truth behind prepared foods.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about fast food restaurants. These facts will definitely make you think twice about super-sizing; or, even entering a fast-food restaurant at all.

1. An average person’s yearly fast-food intake will contain 12 pubic hairs. - I don't know about you; but, even one pubic hair is WAY over my limit.

2. Most fast-food chains depend on their fries being crispy on the outside and soft on the inside to draw customers to their place. But how many people know how this is accomplished. The majority of fast-food restaurants dip their fries in sugar before frying them to achieve the crispy/soft interplay on the fries. It's the sugar that gives those fries that lovely golden colour we all love; but, can't achieve at home. Now you know why. So when you order fast-food fries, recognize that you are getting all the fat, all the starch; and, a side of sugar.

3. Do you know how many chemicals it takes to make those "natural" flavours they use in milkshakes, etc? The strawberry flavor contains 50 different chemicals. To make a natural strawberry flavour that would please the customer, fast-food corporations decided that it was alright to use chemicals such as ethyl acetate (used in solvents), phenythyl alcohol, rose, and solvent. Believe it or not - it's cheaper than using real strawberries; and, money (not customer health) is the bottom line.

4. Where's truth in advertising when you need it? Some grilled chicken sandwiches and salads on fast-food menus contain beef. An example of this would be McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. McNuggests contain several beef additives disguised with meaningless secret names like “extract” or “essence”. These secret names do nothing to reveal the true contents of what is being eaten; but, are used to deceive the customers into thinking the food is healthier than it is. Currently, offenders include Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich and KFC’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

5. Hamburgers are made in huge factories with the meat from many different animals combined into one batch. This increases the risk of contamination to many batches; and, prevents the outbreak (if one should occur) from being localized. This makes the point of origin of the contaminated meat very diffult to trace. When mixed with other hamburger into several batches, not only does the risk of contamination increase; but, the area it could contaminate expands as well. Contaminated meat has the potential to sicken hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the country.

6. Propylene Glycerol used in applications such as antifreeze, paint, and detergent is also used to keep the salad bar offerings crispy. This chemical is known for causing skin and eye irritation; and, comes with an official alert. Small embarrassing aside: If you are a user of Astroglide Sexual Lubricant you might want to check the list of ingredients (skin irritants and all that).

7. Unless you are a walking fanatic, you might want to skip the super-sized Coke, large fries and a Big Mac. It would require walking seven hours straight to burn it off.

Beverages & Sauces

You’ll be surprised when you read these facts about the ingredients used in your favorite beverages and sauces.

8. The highest-priced; and, possibly the most revolting coffee in the world comes from civet droppings. Apparently, those who have tried it have declared the taste to be sublime. I would be worrying about the cleanliness of the bean when it was ground. Kopi Luwak is the trade name of these specially-collected beans when ready for use. The civets love the berry and feast on the ripe, aromatic coffee bean fruit. They swallow the partially-eaten berry; and,excrete the pit or bean. The beans are recovered from the civet droppings, cleaned, dried, and prepared for sale. For some reason, the beans are only usable after they have passed through the digestive tract of a civet. The beans sell for $120 - $600 per pound and are primarily sold in the U.S. and Japan.

9. A study of over 900 bottles of bottled water including 100 store brands were tested by the National Resources Defense Council. Synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic was found in approximately one-third of the bottles sampled. So...what does one drink? A glass of good, old-fashioned tap water drawn from the public water supply may contain as many as 115,000 man-made chemicals.

10. Pink grapefruit juice drinks or any other processed food that requires a pink, red or purple hue may contain bugs. These bugs are deliberately added; and, have even received the dubious honour of being labelled as a "food colouring". It is listed by the consumer-deceiving name of chochineal extract, carmine, or carmines acid. The reddish "food colouring" is obtained by crushing an insect named Dactylopius Coccus Costa; and, using the powder in many processed food that require a red, pink or purple tint.

11. Worcestershire sauce is made from anchovies soaked in vinegar until they are totally dissolved. The anchovies are soaked whole; and, when the fish are totally liquefied they are used to give the world-renowned sauce its distinctive flavour.

12. The pH level of phosphoric acid found in cola is so acidic that is equivalent to the pH level of vinegar. Coca-Cola is most acidic beverage ever sold to the public. Amuse yourself - the next time you see a truck carrying a load of concentrated Coke,look for the "highly-corrosive materials" sign.

13. Water is reusable. So basically, an allotment of the water you’ve been drinking has already been drunk by someone else. Maybe even more than once. Delightful, isn't it?

Via ForensicScienceTechnician