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America’s worst food deserts: Map-lovers edition

Pablo PecoraKhongoryn Els-Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Both a literal and food desert. Food deserts are officially defined as low-income neighborhoods far away (a mile or more) from grocery stores. But distance, as the crow flies, isn't that relevant, since only a few mutants and drone pilots navigate their cities that way. What actually matters is the time it takes to walk to the grocery store. The website Walk Score has the data to account for the hills and railroads and warehouses that separate you from food, and it has used that information to rank U.S. cities by food access. Compare the difference between New …

Read more: Food


Slick Vid

Here’s a shorebird’s-eye view of the Galveston oil spill

When an oil barge collided with a container ship on Saturday in Galveston, Texas, as many as 168,000 gallons of fuel were spilled into the estuary, threatening wildlife and shutting down the busy port for days.

Yadda yadda. Different spill, same old spill news.

Here’s a slightly different view than you might be used to, from Project Survival Media. Turns out that oil is less beautifully troubling, and more palpably gross, from the shorebird’s-eye view, where it churns in the waves like salad dressing gone wrong.

That lumpy goodness is probably IFO-380, or what's left after all the gas and diesel and kerosene have been taken out of crude oil. “It’s commonly referred to as bottom of the barrel stuff,” as Greg Pollack, a local oil spill prevention commissioner, told the Galveston Daily News. It usually floats near the surface, which is good for cleaning crews, but sometimes sinks when it gets close enough to shore to start picking up sediment. Unlike crude oil -- which is what spilled the last time this area got slicked, by Deepwater Horizon in 2010 -- this heavy fuel oil won’t evaporate, so leftovers may circulate far and wide.


Why do we work so hard? Cadillac and Ford have very different answers

In an ad that aired during the Super Bowl, Cadillac shared its version of America and electric car drivers by having actor Neal McDonough ask, "Why do we work so hard when other countries take August off?"

For those shouting about the crumbling middle class, stagnant wages, and the death of unions (shh, Kevin Drum!), here's the real answer: Stuff. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

But if you can take a break from gently cradling and kissing all of your precious stuff instead of the children you never get to see, you'll want to see Ford's wonderful response to it.

As a refresher, here's that one guy from TV selling Cadillac's vision:

Now watch Detroit Dirt founder Pashon Murray give her version of the American dream:

So which America do you believe in? The one where stodgy rich white dudes known for playing psychopaths on TV fill the emotional void with underused swimming pools or the one where awesome urban farmers rebuild Detroit with their bare hands? We don't have the desire or dough to trade in our bus passes and walking shoes for electric cars, but in this case we're going with Ford.

N'est-ce pas, Pashon? Indeed.

h/t Stacy Mitchell


Cycle Paths

Why is New York’s Citi Bike losing tons of money?

Citi Bike_NYC

New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down. It's only been 10 months since the Citi Bike program started, and already the "most visible bikesharing program in the world" is in trouble. Not just the can’t-get-out-of-first-gear kind of trouble -- we're talking losing-millions-of-dollars-very-rapidly kind of trouble. On top of all that, their general manager just quit.

With over 6 million trips taken and more than 400,000 memberships and passes sold, everything seemed like it was going so well. What happened?

Trouble started with software glitches in the Citi Bike map and $10 million in flood damage from Hurricane Sandy. Alta Bicycle Share, the Portland-based company that operates Citi Bike program, hasn't been so great at maintaining and repairing vandalized docking stations and damaged bikes.

Read more: Cities, Living


Samuel L. Jackson thinks going vegan will make him live forever


If there's anyone who should know about superhero shit like nigh-invulnerability, it's Nick Fury. So please take note: Samuel L. Jackson's stated goal in adopting a vegan diet is "trying to live forever."

OK, we're going to go out on a limb and say that Jackson doesn't actually think going vegan will make him immortal. Dude is real smart, in case you didn't know; you have to be smart to deliver a line like "I have had it with these monkeyfighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane" with conviction.

In fact, he was probably mostly poking fun at the fact that he has apparently sold the rest of his life to Marvel:

When asked by a reporter what his secret is, the 65-year-old actor replied, “It’s a new vegan diet.”

“Is it for a particular role?” the reporter inquired.

“No. Just trying to live forever. Trying to finish out my Marvel deal.”

Read more: Food


The Double O bike light is less dirty than it sounds, but still cool

Double O

We’re all about coming and going by bicycle (see: vibrating bike seat), so imagine our disappointment that the Double O bike light will not get you even one O. (Even moreso considering that its creator is our favorite sexily named British designer, Paul Cocksedge.)

The Double O DOES, however, snap easily onto your bike with a magnetic holder -- useful if not as fun as multiple orgasms -- as well as sliding handily onto your U-lock for safe storage. You can plug it into your computer’s USB port to recharge, and its marquee-inspired design, available in red or white, is sure to appease the hipsters.


Exploding trains

Why we can’t seem to stop oil-filled rail cars from going boom

Don't like pipelines? Get ready for rail.

People -- including me -- have written a good amount already about how trains have been exploding lately. In 2008, 9,500 carloads of crude oil were shipped by train in the U.S.; in 2012, that number was 234,000 carloads. The oil is packed into freight cars that date back to the 1960s and that normally carry payloads like corn syrup, then shipped along aging freight infrastructure. When the trains fail, they fail hard, and because freight lines were built to run through cities, rather than around them, they fail around people. Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the Alabama wetlands, and eastern North Dakota are just …


Grocery cartel

Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)


“I could just kill for a margarita right now,” you sigh, apparently ignorant of the fact that it is March, and the consumption of an iced beverage is nothing short of an act of insanity. It’s also probably the middle of the workday, so that in itself should be cause for concern in most circles.

You’re also probably unaware that someone may have actually killed -- as in, committed murder -- for the limes that go in your hypothetical margarita. Cartels are invading the Mexican citrus trade, hijacking trucks, and forcibly taking over farms to sell the now-valuable fruit. Another day, another ring of organized criminals making the transition from eight balls to tasty treats!


Happy hour

Join Grist and SXSW ECO for a Big Idea fest (and free drinks!) in Seattle


Hey, Seattle! Grist is teaming up with SXSW ECO to launch its 2014 conference season. The Emerald City is ripe with ideas and solutions for a sustainable future, so we want to give you the opportunity to help shape SXSW ECO’s upcoming programming.

Come hang out with Grist and ECO staff on April 2 at the beautiful Bullitt Center — the greenest commercial building in the world. Brainstorm for the upcoming gathering, mingle with friends, and get a chance to win a badge to the Oct. 6-8 conference.

And did we mention the drinks?

To attend, you’ll need to reserve a spot here. (Space is limited, so we recommend signing up quick.)

Here are the basics:

When: Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 6-8 p.m.
Where: The Bullitt Center
1501 East Madison Street
Seattle, Wash.

Hope to see you there!

Read more: Uncategorized


NYC wants to turn an old train track into a park with ziplines and ping pong


Queens residents are lobbying for 3.5 miles of a former train line to get new life as a tricked-out public park, complete with ziplines, ping-pong tables, and "a giant slide that would wrap around an old railway tower." (The former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch hasn’t been used since 1962; it’s a mess of litter right now.) Calling themselves Friends of the QueensWay, the group led a community workshop this week to share their vision.

A sunken pedestrian path would be flanked with trees, and one entrance would have space for a dog park or community events. Designers also proposed a shopping area, canopy walk, and a kids’ adventure playground. More mundane perks like bike paths would be present too. Friends of the QueensWay says the park would boost local business, improve the quality of life, and connect different cultures. (Presumably, it would connect them with a zipline.)

Not everybody is so jazzed:

Read more: Cities, Living