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Sarah Laskow's Posts


Canadian high-schooler makes her own graduation dress out of old homework

Kara Koskowich is going to take the world by storm. Girlfriend just graduated from high school in Canada, and instead of shelling out for a fancy graduation dress, she decided to reuse old homework and post-it notes to make one herself:

The dress took almost 75 pieces of paper to make, Koskowich said. She started back in March but, in true teenage style, finished it the night before she needed to wear it. She also broke her sewing machine in the process of putting it together and had to hand stitch the last bits.


Americans spend twice as much of our budgets on processed food as we did 30 years ago

As a proportion of our income, Americans spend a lot less money on groceries than we used to. But we're buying crappier food -- a greater proportion of our grocery spending goes to processed foods and sweets. NPR whipped up a handy chart to show how much this has changed in the past 30 years:

The other big change is that we're spending less on meat. Pork chops, chicken legs, steak, ground beef, bacon -- it's all cheaper (and NPR has another handy graph to illustrate that point). We're spending about the same on vegetables, though some of those have also gotten cheaper: lettuce, bananas, and hard, disgusting tomatoes that really should not share a name with the red globes of perfection that you can buy from local farmers. (Peppers, on the other hand, have gotten 34 percent more expensive. WHY DO PEPPERS COST SO MUCH?)

To ground all these statistics in reality, I took a look at the last grocery receipt I could turn up. I think of myself as a person who eats less meat, more vegetables, and less processed food than the average American.

Read more: Food


12-year-old whose awesome speech floored 1992 Rio Summit returns to Rio+20 as a mom

Twenty years ago, at the original Rio Earth Summit, Severn Suzuki, a 12-year-old from Canada, became "the girl who silenced the world for six minutes" by giving a sobering, kick-ass speech to the assembled delegates. You're going to want to watch it:

This is like the climax to the best YA novel of all time (discounting ones with magic and vampires). Really, there's nothing like an incredibly poised middle-schooler speaking up for her beliefs and making powerful adults feel silly. As Suzuki said then:

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us to not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others and to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, not be greedy. Then, why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Catch of the day: Weird blue lobster!

Photo by Angelo Mercado.

A fisherman in Nova Scotia named Bobby Stoddard has been catching lobsters for decades. And in early May, he had a catch unlike any he had seen before: a bright blue lobster.

Blue lobsters are not cold. Well, they might be cold, since they live in the water in Nova Scotia, but that’s not why they look like that. Instead, they are in possession of a genetic variation that makes them a much more exciting color than normal greenish-brown lobsters. (They still turn orangey red when cooked, though.) One in 2 million or so lobsters is blue.

Read more: Animals


Google is making a Street View for hiking trails

Google is speaking our language: "Wheels only get you so far," Brian McClendon, VP of engineering for Google Maps, wrote on the company's blog last week. (We couldn't agree more.) "There's a whole wilderness out there that is only accessible by foot."


‘Himalayan Viagra’ is going extinct

A parasitic caterpillar fungus that grows in the Himalayas has many names, according to Scientific American -- yarsagumba, yarchagumba, yartsa gunba, yatsa gunbu. But we are only going to remember one name: Himalayan Viagra.

This fungus, which leeches off of Tibetan ghost moth larvae, is said to get the fellas going when boiled and consumed in tea or soup. Oh, it also cures cancer and fights fatigue. Miracle drug! (Scientific American -- always with the science! -- notes, "These medical claims have not been borne out scientifically.")

As a result of its awesome properties of making everything sexy and cancer-free and sexy, this stuff is almost worth its weight in gold. (The price per gram puts its worth between silver and gold, Agence France Presse says.) And there's a global market for it worth between $5 billion and $11 billion.


This graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch looks awesome

I'm Not a Plastic Bag is a graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the agglomeration of plastic flakes that is swirling around in the Pacific Ocean. The book follows the journey of several pieces of trash destined to become part of the patch. The images are beautiful, and the story's reminiscent of The Brave Little Toaster, updated for a world in which trash doesn't get to live a second life.

The book is by Rachel Hope Allison, who describes herself as "a white girl with curly hair" who is nevertheless “not Jewish, nor am I Chelsea Clinton.” We can't help but have a little crush on her. Especially after she told Treehugger what drew her to this subject:

All this forgotten stuff, out in the remotest ocean, so far away from the people who created it. It gave me this sense of deep loneliness and geeky wonder by turns, and that's what eventually led me to bring it to life as my main character.

Read more: Living, Pollution


Bereaved husband sues NYPD for failing to investigate pedestrian death

Last summer, 28-year-old Clara Heyworth died while crossing the street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn -- she was hit by a car piloted by an intoxicated driver who only had a learner's permit. The NYPD never conducted an investigation, and the driver received only a violation for driving without a license. Today, Heyworth’s husband, Jacob Stevens, is suing the New York Police Department and the driver in civil court.

Heyworth’s case received basically no police attention. The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad, with its staff of just 19 people (who we assume are extremely overworked), called off the investigation after an hour or so. The squad only investigates crashes where the victim is "likely to die" and in Heyworth's case, they concluded based on one call to the hospital that she didn't fit that category. Stevens said the police who responded to the crash told him from the get-go that Heyworth had little chance of making it, and, in fact, she never regained consciousness.

Heyworth's death alone would be a tragedy, but as Stevens points out, "it fits a pattern." In New York City, drivers in cars routinely kill people and get away with it. Death is just what happens when people drive heavy pieces of metal at blazing speeds down busy roads. No one investigates, and the drivers who kill people get back on the road. The man who killed Heyworth had his car back later that evening.

Read more: Biking, Cities, Family


A report from inside the Shell ‘oil spill’ party prank

It took Grist a hot second to figure out that this too-ironic-to-be-true video of a Shell party gone wrong was a prank. The concept, though, is brilliant -- an "oil derrick" on a cake started "spilling" liquid all over the assembled guests. Pulling it off wasn’t easy, or cheap. Salon has dishy details from a volunteer, who reveals even more layers of clever strategy:

  • The woman sprayed in the face by the supposed booze (it’s soda) was Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray at Occupy Seattle.
  • The guy who presses the button on the soda-fountain-gone-wrong is supposed to be the engineer of the Kulluk, a drilling rig set to go to the Arctic this summer. In fact, it’s Paul Horiuchi, an actor who was once on Northern Exposure (ha!) and who is pretty old (76). The Kulluk is also old -- 29, which is at least 76 in drilling rig years. That was the joke: The rig and its “engineer” are both past their prime.
Read more: Oil


New York kids need a doctor’s note to use sunscreen in school or at camp

Once upon an innocent American summer, sun-kissed cheeks were all the rage for lithe, beautiful children freckling in the clean air. But now we know that evil sun rays will kill you -- not now, but later, with skin cancer -- and that kids should wear sunscreen pretty much any time they go outside for more than five minutes. New York state, though, apparently still has one foot in the 1950s. State law requires that a kid bring in a doctor's note in order to use sunscreen at school or at summer camps, the Democrat and Chronicle reports.

Steve Hendrickson, recreation supervisor for the town of Victor, said children need a doctor’s note to have sunscreen at his town’s summer camp program, in accordance with state law.

“With short programs, like soccer or whatever, obviously they’re only out there an hour or so, so the parent usually applies it. But for summer camp, where they’re out there for a full day, we need a doctor’s permission and you need it in writing,” Hendrickson said.

Read more: Living