We've written before about Mosaic, the California-based company that acts as a Kickstarter for solar-power projects. They've already raised more $5.6 million for solar projects across the country. But every little bit counts, and the minimum investment in a project is just $25.
Now, just as you’re wracking your brains for what to get your weird hippie uncle, Treehugger reports that that the company's about to start offering "gift cards for the $25 incentive that can be used as stocking stuffers." HINT HINT HINT.
Earlier this week, a pod of short-finned pilot whales wandered too far from their home range and started stranding themselves in the shallows and shoals on the Florida Coast. Ten of the stranded whales died, but there were 41 others of their pod still alive and still at risk of stranding themselves. But they wouldn't abandon the members of their pod who had died. The New York Times reports: Rescuers had difficulty on Wednesday trying to persuade the surviving whales to leave their dead podmates and head out to sea. In most cases, highly cohesive species such as pilot whales …
Chris Godfrey, design student, knows what gamers want: to play the games they got as presents on Christmas and not interact with other humans beings who are not currently also engaged in playing video games. Therefore, he created Christmas Tinner -- one can containing all the processed food a person would need to achieve some approximation of eating a traditional Christmas meal. It’s like the gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except hopefully it will not turn you into a sugarplum.
The product consists of nine layers of processed festive food, including scrambled egg and bacon, two mince pies, turkey and potatoes, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts or broccoli (for those who don't like sprouts) with stuffing, roast carrots and parsnips, and Christmas pudding.
Objections to this product: Salt content through the roof, eating home-cooked meals with extended family is sort of nice and occurs only a few times each year, what happens when the broccoli accidentally gets mixed into the Christmas pudding, why scrambled eggs??
If you have 1,000 pounds of cornstarch, some water, and a pretty big tub, you can mix up a batch of quicksand-like oobleck, and, if you're careful, walk across it without sinking. But biking? That's harder:
The makers of this video seem to think they needed to improve on reality by intimating that the emu was dancing the tango with this battery-powered ball. But it’s not necessary to pretend that. It’s amusing enough to watch the emus go: Ball. Ball? Ball! Ball? OMG ball!
Yesterday, the British government announced that it would be exporting more than $73 million worth of pig semen, frozen and fresh, to China, where half of the pigs in the world live. Why does China need pig semen, if it has so many pigs? One government source told the Guardian, "China has an interest to increase the efficiency of their production, while minimizing the environmental impact of increased production."
In other words, as Philip Lymbery, the head of Compassion in World Farming, writes:
Our pigs grow faster, have a lower fat-to-meat ratio and higher reproduction rates than their Chinese counterparts. UK breeders have sows that could produce more than 30 piglets each year, while Chinese sows bear fewer than 16. It takes approximately a year for native Chinese pigs to reach slaughter-weight. Our pigs take just five months. China's rapidly growing urban middle-class has developed a taste for pork and demand for the meat is soaring.
So, with British pig semen in the mix, Chinese pigs will produce more pigs that will get consume even more resources even faster, as more Chinese people get to feed their taste for pork. It’s not great news for the planet or for the pigs, says Lymbery:
Add to this the fact that sows in China are almost certain to be kept in stalls. It is unacceptable that we will be exporting pig semen to a country that keeps pigs in conditions that are illegal in the UK. In addition, the abattoirs in China hugely vary in slaughter standards, but overall standards are far lower, as China has little animal welfare legislation.
You may have heard that people-oriented cities are better than car-oriented cities, and Madrid is buying into this idea in a big way. The Spanish capital, which hasn’t previously distinguished itself as an especially awesome city compared to others in Spain or other European capitals, just published a long-term plan that privileges parks, gives planners flexibilities, and basically gives cars the finger.
The plan calls for 24 major Madrid streets to be radically overhauled, with car lanes removed, bike lanes added and trees planted to make them cool and shady. A new hierarchy will be in place: pedestrians come first, then public transport, then bikes, then cars. Overall, 66 percent of the affected street surface will be given over to people on foot. The irony is that before car-friendly policies reshaped central Madrid, many of these streets were just the sort of leafy, broad-sidewalked avenues the city wants, but they were remodeled to add extra motorist lanes. Now chastened by years of fumes and grime, the city is coming full circle back to its old ways.
On the moon, there's little gravity, little air, little water, and a whole lot of radiation and extreme temperature fluctuations. These are not ideal conditions for gardening. But NASA is going to try. It's designed a tiny habitat -- about as large as a coffee canister, according to NPR — that researchers think will allow plants to, if not thrive, at least exist on the moon:
The plant habitat that [plant scientist Bob] Bowman and his colleagues have designed contains seeds, as well as a nutrient-rich paper and enough air and water for the seeds to germinate and grow. The canister also has features that regulate light and temperature, and cameras that the researchers will use to track the plants' progress over five to 10 days.
The idea, of course, is that one day people will be living off-Earth for long enough periods that living off freeze-dried food will be unsustainable (and possibly cause space madness).
Every year, the MTA gets all misty around the holidays and runs a few vintage train cars. This year, the first four Sundays in December, you can ride the "Nostalgia Special" from Lower Manhattan to Queens on the M line.
There is also, this coming Sunday, a vintage subway dance party on the platform of the 2nd Avenue station from 11:45 to 6 p.m. It's organized by enthusiasts of '30s-era dances, like Lindy Hop and Balboa, which, according to Vanity Fair, are cool again. There will be music on the trains and dancing on the platform. The organizers say:
I just love the faces on people boarding what they think are “normal” subway cars, and see the old trains with wicker seats, fans, advertisements and a car full of people in period dress and bands playing great old tunes. (If you don't have anything vintage, just be creative! The photographers come out in force for this! Give them something exciting to look at!)
There will be two to three bands playing on this platform at the same time. Before the train leaves for its round trip to Queens, at least one band will board the train and play for the entire trip. Another band will then take up a spot on the platform. So there will be music on the trains and platform all afternoon!
It will take six to 10 years, but Christmas is ruined -- and not for the reasons Sarah Palin thinks. Climate change is continuing its rampage through everything you love by threatening Christmas trees. (Actually, maybe this will finally get the GOP on board with fixing climate change.)
This year was so bad for Christmas tree growers, what with heat waves and flash floods and whatnot, that a bunch of them have decided that they're not going to plant new crops. Trees, being trees, take a while to mature, so there are still a few years of tree crops on these farms waiting to get chopping down and trucked to living rooms across America. But once they’re done, that’s it.
Though the young trees -- some growing for a few years -- had been able to withstand the warmer temperatures in late winter, they were unable to hold up to the subsequent flooding in the summer, tree farmer Bob White told the station. “It probably took out as much as half the farm,” he said. “You get used to 20, 30 years of how everything works, and now you don’t know anymore.”
This is the first year that localized extreme flooding has been said to cause a decrease in Christmas tree crop, and scientists have repeatedly linked increased unexpected flooding events caused by a warmer, moister climate to man-made global warming.
So, soon enough, we’ll have fewer trees that are more expensive.