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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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The federal government wants to pay for your electric bicycle

Electric bikes and electric motorcycles are awesome. They help you go up hills. They help you reach your destination with a minimum of armpit sweat. And they do this while dumping less carbon into atmosphere than their gas-powered equivalents. (Yes, there is such thing as a gas-powered bicycle. Yah. It's stupid. We know.) The only problem with e-bikes is that they're expensive as hell. But it’s your lucky day, because the federal government wants to help you buy one.

Technically, what the government wants to do is give you a break on your taxes for buying an e-cycle of any sort. The Senate Finance Committee just okayed a 10 percent tax credit, worth up to $2,500, for e-bike and e-motorcycle purchases. Thanks, Senate Finance Committee! You were always our favorite finance committee.

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This jawfish is a more dedicated parent than any human will ever be

This fish will gestate its babies in its mouth. He doesn't eat while they're developing. Would you do that for your babies?

Photo by Jim Chambers.
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At Etsy, even the trash travels by bike

If a Manic Pixie Dream Girl were a corporation, she’d be Etsy. The offices are full of twee decorations, they all eat home-cooked lunch together, and apparently at the end of the day they load up their compostable trash on a cargo bike and haul it to an urban farm in Red Hook. If this were a Portlandia sketch, you’d think it was too unrealistic.

Treehugger explains:

Rather than simply contract with a recycling firm, or hiring waste management consultants, ETSY's staff have decided to get their hands dirty -- collecting over 600 lbs of biodegradable waste and sending it to Red Hook Community Farm for composting.

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This is what four decades of Amazon deforestation looks like. (Spoiler: It’s bad)

NASA satellites might capture some amazing images of the Earth's surface, but they capture some incredibly depressing shots, too. On the left, above, is the Amazon rainforest as it existed in 1975 in Rondonia, a region in western Brazil. On the right is that same stretch of rainforest in 2012.

As MNN points out, it's encouraging that deforestation has slowed, but huge damage has already been done:

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If this photo doesn’t make you want to live in a tiny house, nothing will

We love us a good tiny house, but you know what is better than your run-of-the-mill tiny house?

A tiny house on a tiny rock.

A tiny house on a tiny rock in the middle of a river.

With a kayak your only connection to land.

Photo by Irene Becker, My Shot/National Geographic.
Read more: Living

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Awesome idea: Require a cycling test to get a driver’s license

As a cyclist, sharing the road with cars is scary, for obvious reasons: They're gigantic metal objects moving fast enough to kill you. But as a driver, sharing the roads with cyclists is also kinda scary. Most drivers are good people who don't want to kill anyone while they're out doing errands, but they don't really understand the logic of how cyclists behave.

At the Guardian, Tom Richards has a simple suggestion to ameliorate this problem and to make the roads safer: Make sure that people driving cars on the road have had experience biking on the road, too.

Read more: Cities

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These bands are ditching tour buses for tour bikes and tour trains

Tour buses are basically synonymous with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, and also that scene in Almost Famous that guaranteed you've still got “Tiny Dancer” in your head. But now some bands are ditching buses altogether. It doesn't matter if you're just a guy with a guitar who wants to get up on that stage and sing your heart out or if you're a 10-piece band with the show to match -- you can pull off a whole tour minus the gas-guzzling groupie machine.

Ben Sollee and his band, for example, are on a Ditch the Van tour this summer -- they're biking from gig to gig, and hauling their gear, including drums and a cello, behind them.

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Crowdfund your community project with Brickstarter

Bryan Boyer and Dan Hill may be saints, sent down on high by the God of City Planning. They have come up with a tool that may actually make the process of improving a neighborhood less tedious, less difficult, and less prone to 10-hour-long community meetings in which everyone has to say what they think. It's not finished yet, but if Brickstarter, a crowdsourcing tool for community projects, does what it promises, starting a community garden or a co-working space may no longer take years off your life, both in time and in stress.

Wired explains:

People can propose projects, with all the usual trappings of video pitches, text updates, funding goals, and deadlines. The big difference is that it is focused on projects run at a neighborhood level, to be conducted in public, and to be connected with civil services and bureaucracy.

Read more: Cities

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Even fish are getting skin cancer now

For the pale-skinned among us, the ocean is one of the most dangerous places to be. There's no place to hide from the sun, and the water is so frickin’ reflective that even if that SPF 45 sunblock weren't being washed off by waves and spray, it wouldn't do much good anyway.

But for the fish, the ocean should be a safe place. At the very least, they shouldn't have to worry about the sun. However, we humans have made a gigantic hole in the ozone (remember that thing? Still there!), and part of that hole is over the ocean. With the increase in UV exposure, the ocean is no longer a place for fish to happily soak in the rays. Instead, like me, they have to worry about getting skin cancer.

New Scientist reports:

The local fishermen call them the Rambo fish: their scarred, blackened skin makes them look as if they have survived wars. In fact, these are the first wild fish known to have skin cancer.

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The mother of all rides: Biking across America on the old Route 66

Photo by Hannah Swithinbank.

When cyclists travel down U.S. Bike Route 66, heading west out of Texas and into New Mexico, they’ll come off the high plains and pass through Tucumcari and Santa Rosa, then head north to Las Vegas -- not the Vegas in Nevada, but the one that was big in the 19th century, when the Santa Fe trail passed through and the hot springs were a draw. From there, they’ll head into the Rocky Mountains, pedaling past Pecos, where they’ll find the ruin of a pueblo relinquished 200 years ago. At Glorieta Pass, they’ll pass the site of a Civil War battle, one of the most important in the western states, where the Union army pushed the Confederates back into Texas. Then they’ll roll into Santa Fe, where they can spend the night in one of the old motor lodge hotels, now restored, from the glory days of Route 66, a road that drew out the dream of getting into a car and driving west.

U.S. Bike Route 66 doesn’t exist quite yet. Like the old Route 66, Bike Route 66 is more an idea right now than a reality. But while the old road, which was decommissioned in 1985, has disappeared under Interstate 40 in some parts and beneath overgrown fields in others, the new bike route is being mapped now, on top of the old route and the newer interstate.

Bike Route 66, which will stretch from Chicago to Los Angeles, is part of the first big push to establish official national bike routes, the cycling equivalent of interstate highways. The project has been in the works for two years already, and it will be at least two years more before their work is done -- the product of touring societies, volunteer cyclists, state transportation coordinators, local city officials, cartographers, and the nonprofit Adventure Cycling Association, which creates some of the best maps for long-distance cycling in the country.

Read more: Living