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We want the funk

This beer tastes like crap, and that’s a good thing

sanctification-russian-river-the-great-beer-quest
The Great Beer Quest

If you’ve had a French, barrel-aged red wine, you’re familiar with the earthy (some say shitty) taste of Brettanomyces. Now the strain of wild yeast is slipping into craft beer.

Brettanomyces, or Brett for short, has a distinct “barnyard” flavor that reflects the soil it’s from. So Brett in beer could be a cool way of tasting the brew’s connection with the earth. It’s even central to some lambics and saisons. Santa Rosa, Calif., brewery Russian River makes a 100-percent Brett beer, “Sanctification.” (Forgive us, St. Brett, for the PBR we have imbibed!)

UC Davis viticulture professor Linda Bisson is one fan of the funk, according to Modern Farmer:

It can give you a nice spiciness, sometimes a clove character. To me there’s a little bit of leather -- new leather, not sweaty leather.

Read more: Food, Living

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U.N. climate report was censored

blindfolded dangerously
Shutterstock

Keep walking past the earthly conflagration, folks. There's nothing to see here.

When the latest installment of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report landed over the weekend, only a 33-page summary was published. The full report, which details the radical steps we need to take to reduce greenhouse gas pollution if we are to succeed in capping warming at 2 degrees Celsius, wasn't published until this morning. So that summary was the basis for hundreds of media reports beamed and printed all around the world.

And it turns out the summary was watered down -- diluted from an acid reflux–inducing stew of unpalatable science into a more appetizing consommé of half-truth. The Sydney Morning Herald has the details:

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This guy is taking the world’s longest road trip in an electric car

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Norman Hajjar
Click to embiggen.

Have you ever driven cross-country? What about twice, AND down both coasts? That’s what Normal Hajjar is doing in a Tesla Model S: covering almost 12,000 miles in an EV, just to prove it can be done.

You’d think it’d be a pain, what with charging it all the time, but he told Fast Co. Exist the infrastructure is there:

“The reality is that it’s not difficult at all, other than the whole ordeal of driving which is the same with any gasoline vehicle. The key to this is fast-charging infrastructure.”

But the varying availability of permits, land, and electricity means charging stations are often located conveniently for the automaker, rather than strategically based on potential drivers’ routes. Tesla is one company Hajjar thinks is doing it right:

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The tiny house documentary is finally (almost) here! Peek inside the result

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Christopher Smith had never built anything before, so he figured documenting the process of building a tiny house would be interesting at the very least. The resulting film, TINY, was supposed to come out two years ago, and now it’s finally almost here. You can bring TINY to a local indie theater or wait til early summer to snag a DVD -- OR you could peek inside the house right now! [Claps eagerly like a deranged seal]

Apartment Therapy recently ran a house tour of the 127-foot space, which Smith and his partner Merete Mueller built without a plan (GUTSY!). They used recycled materials from thrift stores and junkyards, as well as supplies from hardware stores and IKEA.

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Ashley Poskin
Read more: Living

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"A major internal flood"

There’s something worse than phosphates in England’s wastewater: A dildo

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2 dogs

There’s actually something worse than phosphates, antidepressants, or birth control in the wastewater: your old dildo. We're not sure why someone flushed an unidentified sex toy down the sewers of Devon, England, but it sure made a mess.

According to the Exeter Express and Echo, a sewage company in southwest England has found some pretty crazy items in the waste system, beyond the usual cotton balls and condoms clogging things up:

Some of the more unusual items that have been found by our network crews include false teeth, mobile phones, plastic toilet freshener hangers, underwear, a 12-inch kitchen knife, and sex toys.

REALLY, people?! Have you not heard of Goodwill?

Other items found down the drains by technicians have included steel rods, children's toys including bicycles, a dismantled greenhouse, and a dead sheep ...

Read more: Living

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U.N. climate report: We must focus on “decarbonization,” and it won’t wreck the economy

Rajendra Pauchari, chair of the IPCC, tells us to get a move on.
Kris Krüg
Rajendra Pauchari, chair of the IPCC, tells us to get a move on.

So far, climate change is following the plot of an epic disaster movie.

In the last few years, giant megafires have burned out of control, we’ve been hit with superstorms, our fields have wilted, and there’s barely any ice left at the North Pole. Despite all we think we’ve done so far to change course, emissions are still increasing.

We’ve now advanced to the part when the world’s best scientists emerge from their conclave to announce a range of possible plans that could save us from going over the climate cliff.

On Sunday, they made their announcement, calling for a “fundamental decarbonization” of the world economy. Sounds daunting, but overwhelmingly the message from scientists to the world was one of hope.

Unlike so many previous climate change reports, this time there’s significant good news: The world doesn’t need to sacrifice economic growth to get the job done. The task can largely be achieved with existing technology. And hey, we’ll end up with a better planet at the end, too.

Now, we just need to take action. World, this is our Ben Affleck moment.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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It takes no tillage

Conventional farmers drop their plows in favor of conservation

Michael and Adam Crowell

The Michael and Adam Crowell duo works this way: Michael handles the crops, and Adam handles the dairy cows; Michael is the colorful wisecracker, and Adam is the straight man; Michael casts about for a word when his tongue outpaces his memory, and Adam fills it in; Michael is the father, and Adam is the son.

I visited their dairy farm near Turlock, in California’s Central Valley, to get a look at the growing trend of conventional farmers adopting ecologically friendly techniques. In the Midwest, where farmers grow a small number of grain crops, this transformation has led to a new normal, with the majority of farmland under some form of conservation management.

Farmers in California’s Central Valley, by contrast, grow more than 200 different crops, and as a result there's a greater challenge to figure out techniques that work for all this diversity. On the other hand, if the diverse Central Valley farmers can figure out how to grow their food while working in greater synchronicity with natural systems, then it means that people growing just about anything can do it.

The primary innovation that Michael and Adam Crowell have adopted is to simply stop plowing their fields. They grow a mix of grasses for the cows in the winter, then cut that hay and plant corn directly into the sod in the summer. When I asked the Crowells what had convinced them to experiment with these newfangled conservation techniques, Michael gave me a one-word answer: “economics.”

Read more: Food

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Share and share a bike

Montreal, Boston, NYC: Which city has the best bikeshare program?

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Peter Kudlacz | mvcav | Bex Walton

My life as a bikeshare tourist began three years ago. Before, whenever I visited a new city, I felt like it was hard to get a sense of the local geography. Traveling by subway was fast and provided an excellent opportunity to check out what other people were reading. But the experience of going down into the subway and reappearing in a different location was disconcerting. I felt like I was teleporting, or a prairie dog.

When it works, bikeshare is like the Sesame Street of urban cycling: The bikes are big and cartoonish and comfortable. Cars seem to give you more space on the road, possibly because you look like a total n00b and they don't trust you to know what you're doing. And moving from neighborhood to neighborhood gives you a sense of how the city fits together.

I've only used bikeshare in three cities, but hope to use more. (Cleveland, I'm looking forward to it. San Francisco, can't wait 'til you've got enough of a network to bike to more than just the shopping malls downtown.) Here, I give you: what I've learned so far.

Boston: Hubway

The first time I used a bikeshare was at a conference in Boston. At the end of the day there, I felt as though I had spent hours paddling a tiny boat through a howling vortex of schmooze, unsure of where or how I might come ashore.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Fighting dirty money with clean

Enviro groups team up on new campaign funding alliance

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Since 2008, two major shifts have occurred in American politics: The amount of money being spent to influence elections has boomed, and Republicans have stopped believing in climate change. While we can't blame the former entirely for the latter -- after all, Republicans oppose anything President Obama supports -- it would be naive to think these two developments are purely coincidental. Fossil fuel industry magnates donate heavily to Republicans and to political action committees spending on their behalf. More of that money means more incentive for Republicans to ignore the scientific consensus on climate change.

Between 2008 and 2012, independent expenditures -- meaning money spent on campaigns by outside groups, which can get unlimited donations -- for House and Senate races increased tenfold, from $46 million to $445 million. For that you can thank the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which removed limits on corporate expenditures to influence elections.

Big donors who have strong opinions about climate and energy issues tend to want less regulation and less environmental protection. Think oil, gas, and coal companies and their executives. The Koch brothers alone directed some $400 million to affect the 2012 election. (This figure includes presidential, congressional, state, and local races, plus money spent by Koch-sponsored groups, not just the Kochs’ personal and corporate contributions.) The oil and gas industries keep pouring more and more money into elections. In 2012, they gave $73.1 million, including $16.5 million in outside expenditures, up from $39 million in 2008.

This spending dwarfs that of clean energy advocates and climate hawks. In September of 2012, The New York Times estimated that “spending on television ads promoting coal and more oil and gas drilling or criticizing clean energy has exceeded $153 million this year ... nearly four times the $41 million spent by clean-energy advocates, the Obama campaign and Democratic groups to defend the president’s energy record or raise concerns about global warming and air pollution.”

Now environmental groups are beginning to push back. The Washington Post reports on their latest effort:

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Busted ant farm or bikeshare? Watch Citi Bikers swarm NYC streets

If you live in NYC, you've probably seen your fair share of Citi Bikes whiz past. But do you ever wonder where all those riders are actually going? Now that Citi Bike has released a heap of data on who's been using its system, data visualization buffs have come up with all sorts of ways to answer that question -- like a map that correlates weekend data with where to find NYC's best nightlife, or this project, which sketches out 5.5 million bikeshare trips over eight months, showing the most popular routes.

But if you really want to trance out, watch this video from Jeff Ferzoco, which traces rides through time as the city morphs from lonely ambling 2 a.m. partiers to the full-fledged ant hive of 8 a.m. commuters to clusterfucks caused by traffic delays -- till everyone goes back home, and does it all again.

Read more: Cities, Living