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Sarah Laskow's Posts


Giant pythons are taking over the Everglades

Screenshot via CNN.

Last week, researchers at the University of Florida got a present -- a gigantic Burmese python, the largest anyone had ever found in the Everglades. The good news: It was dead. The bad news: It weighed 164 pounds, measured a record 17.5 feet in length, and was a foot wide. For context, that’s as long as a medium-sized U-Haul, and as heavy as Tom Daley. It also had 87 eggs inside it that could have grown into 87 more monster pythons. CNN reports:

The snake was so big that researchers had to pile it on top of itself and wheel it into the examination room on a flat cart. They laid it on a series of tables lined up end to end, and then five researchers worked side by side to dissect the length of the snake.

Read more: Uncategorized


Tick bites can make you deathly allergic to meat

Photo by The Adventures of Kristin & Adam.

If there weren’t enough reasons to be totally terrified and grossed out by ticks (they drop on your head from the trees, they suck your blood, they burrow into your skin, they transmit a terrible disease you’ll never be fully rid of), the bite of a lone star tick can trigger allergies that mean eating a hamburger can lead to anaphylactic shock.

Helen Chappell writes in Discover Magazine about her experience with this relatively unknown danger, and her account is pretty dire:

Tick saliva is “a really good provocateur of an immune response, even outside of an infection,” Commins told me, though they are not yet sure whether it’s bacteria carried in tick saliva or the saliva itself that is responsible. But they believe that something in some ticks’ saliva stimulates the human immune system to produce antibodies to a sugar present in mammalian meat, though not poultry and fish, called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal for short). The next time an unsuspecting meat lover chows down on a hamburger, those antibodies could rally a systemic allergic reaction.

Except not right away. Maybe not until hours later.

Read more: Uncategorized


Gummi bear bratwursts are a crime against nature (but apparently taste sort of OK)

This should be a rule about food: If you wouldn't put two things in your mouth at the same time, they should not be combined into a single food. E.g., chocolate and peanut butter: good! Chocolate and mayonnaise: Bad! Therefore, a peanut butter cup is a good idea, and a mayonnaise cup is not. Here is a case study in why we need this rule: Bratwursts stuffed with Gummi Bears.

These abominations originated in Minnesota, Forbes reports:

Grundhofer’s Old Fashioned Meats has been around since 1983. Its menu boasts 29 flavors of brat—all for $5.49 a pound—including (brace yourself) Bloody Mary, Cherry Almond, Blueberry, Pizza Brat, Chicken Bacon Ranch and, of course, Gummi Bear (followed by the word “seriously” in parenthesis).

Now, see, Bloody Mary and bratwurst: yes. Go for it. I would sip my Bloody Mary while I still had meat aftertaste in my mouth. Gummi Bears and bratwurst: LESS SO.

Even the proprietor of this shop, Spencer Grundhofer, was skeptical of the Gummi Brats idea.

Read more: Food


Meet the 82-year-old nun who just committed the worst nuclear security breach in U.S. history

Turns out nuns have more up their habit sleeves than knuckle-rapping rulers and twee songs for Austrian children. Sister Megan Rice, 82, is an anti-nuclear activist who just broke into the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation, site of the country’s main supply of enriched uranium -- an operation which experts call "the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex," according to The New York Times.

This New York City-born nun, who taught school in Africa for years, has already been arrested more than 40 times for civil disobedience. But this latest operation required her to complete tasks worthy of James Bond: Rice and her two partners made their way through the wooded Oak Ridge compound in Tennessee, using bolt cutters to get past fences and dodging armed guards and motion sensors.

Read more: Politics


Kobe Bryant and LeBron James use public transit at the Olympics

The members of the American men's Olympic basketball team are on their way to a gold medal. They also ride public transit:

Read more: Cities


This couple moved all their worldly possessions using only bikes

Screengrab from Greenbelt Bike Videos.

Moving is stressful, and most of us deal with it by renting a ginormo truck, dumping our stuff in it (or bribing our buddies to dump our stuff in it), and hoping that nothing in our newspaper-packed boxes breaks. But Anthony and Jess Reiss decided to take a chance on a potentially really, really stressful alternative: They recruited a bunch of a friends and moved by bike. The Washington Post reports:

Bicyclists from the community offered to help. A church group offered to help. A bike messenger from the District offered to help — a big coup because he had a trailer that could haul 300 pounds.

All told, about 25 people and bikes showed up.

“It took two hours,” Anthony said. “I thought it would take two days.”

Read more: Living


New walk-scoring tool finally acknowledges that walking in the suburbs sucks

At Atlantic Cities, Sarah Goodyear puts her finger on a truth universally acknowledged by everyone in the world except WalkScore: "A mile in an American suburb is a lot longer than a mile in Rome." In other words, walking 10 city blocks is very different from walking a mile up the side of a highway with intermittent sidewalks. A new tool, Walk Appeal, is trying to take that very real difference and quantify it.

Steve Mouzon, the tool's creator, explains that distance is only one of the factors that determine how far people are willing to walk. Imagine, for instance, that you're at a parking-lot-heavy shopping center:

As we all know, if you're at Best Buy and need to pick something up at Old Navy, there's no way you're walking from one store to another. Instead, you get in your car and drive as close as possible to the Old Navy front door. You'll even wait for a parking space to open up instead of driving to an open space just a few spaces away… not because you're lazy, but because it's such a terrible walking experience.

Read more: Cities


9-year-old’s lemonade stand raises over $3,000 for Detroit parks

Detroit's Joshua Smith, 9, just wanted to play in the park in the summer. But Detroit, you might have heard, is a little short on cash right now, and one of the consequences of that budget gap is that parks like the one in Smith's neighborhood do not get mowed all that often. With the grass so tall, the park had become a bit of a trash dump, and Smith's mom didn’t want him playing amidst god-knows-what garbage.

Instead of moping and watching TV, though, Smith took matters into his own hands. He started fundraising, using an age-old childhood entrepreneurship tactic: the lemonade stand. The Detroit Free Press reported last week:

Joshua set a $1,000 goal. By Wednesday, he topped it.

Then he set a $2,000 goal. By Thursday, he topped that, too -- gaining $2,175.64.

By the end of Friday, Joshua had made a $3,392.77 profit, and donations continued to come in Saturday, said his mom, Rhonda Smith.

Read more: Cities


Activist group sends Obama a message by carving it into a cornfield

Hot tip from an ex-resident of D.C. to all you activists out there: If you want to get the president's attention, standing outside the White House with some signs and bullhorns is not going to do it. Everyone does that. You have to get creative. Like these guys, who cut their message into a field of crops, in hopes that the president would see it from Air Force One as he flies into Grand Junction, Colo., on a visit:

Read more: Politics


In Brooklyn, even the factories are artisanal

Manufacturing is back in Brooklyn! But only in a Renaissance Florence sort of way, where skilled artisans produce craft-objects for wealthy patrons with finicky desires.

The New York Times reports that there are, against all odds, still factories in Brooklyn, although they've morphed from behemoth plants stamping out assembly-line goods to smaller shops:

This building, at 1205 Manhattan Avenue, has been sliced and diced into several dozen small factories, each with a niche clientele. One forges exhibits out of wood and metal for the city’s museums. Another makes props and models for advertisers of products like Absolut Vodka to use in their magazine photo spreads. A third restores stained-glass masterpieces for museums like the Cloisters.

This, my friends, is "the future of urban manufacturing," according to Brian T. Coleman, a man who we imagine has quite a bit of money sunk into that belief, given that his nonprofit has bought four buildings to convert into "lofts for small factories." I know you're thinking right now that these factory lofts must be in Williamsburg, but in fact they are in Greenpoint, because Williamsburg is no longer as hip as it once was and is full of condos.

To be honest, I'm not even sure it's fair to call these shops "factories," given what they make:

Read more: Cities