Relieve Yourself

Ask Umbra’s pearls of wisdom on stress

Dearest readers, Achy muscles from hunching over your computer? Tumultuous tummy from crazy deadlines? Tension headache from staring at that tiny cell phone screen too long? Well, April is National Stress Awareness Month and today is National Stress Awareness Day, so step away from the laptop, the calendar, and the phone for some deep breathing and your fave anxiety-reducing activity. Otherwise, stress may land you in the doctor’s office, and then you’ll just be fretting about all the pharmaceuticals you’re popping (and leaching into our waterways), and medical bills piling up, and time lost from work, and and AND! That’s …

pie in the sky

Bundles of balloons a new form of carbon-free travel?

Move over Balloon Boy. Cluster ballooning’s as real as it gets.Photo: omnibus via FlickrIt’s carbon-free, it flies, and it has lots of balloons. How are cluster balloons not catching on? Well at least one man is getting around the way Balloon Boy pretended to do and the way the old man in UP does. Last weekend, Jonathan Trappe flew “The Spirit Cluster” — 57 helium-filled balloons and a small harness — 109 miles in 14 hours above his home state of North Carolina, AOL News reports. “Flying a gas balloon is unlike any other experience. There is no sound. No …

Gangsta Wrapper

But can you dance and chew gum at the same time?

Photo: KIMTI wore a purple lamé dress to my junior prom, which I attended with my best friend, Jessica, because we were both too dorky to actually have dates. (Sorry, Jessica, I should just speak for myself. I was too dorky, and Jessica was my faithful best friend. Thank you, Jessica. And thanks for driving us in your mom’s car.) Anyway, I’m stoked to see that shiny fabric is still in for prom—wait just a minute. That’s not fabric. It’s a gum wrapper. A shitload of gum wrappers. Yep, high school junior and proud Iowan Elizabeth Rasmuson, inspired by all …

Peeing on a jet plane

Everybody poops…for a price

While it’s true that an airplane bathroom isn’t necessarily anyone’s idea of a five-star restroom experience, it does come as a welcome relief 30,000 feet above the ground after two in-flight club sodas. So imagine your surprise when, after scrambling over your fellow passengers and down the narrow aisle with a full bladder, there’s a flight attendant there with an outstretched hand, not to somehow assist you with your bathroom experience (you’ve been doing it quite well for years now all by yourself), but to collect the toilet tax. Yep, that’ll be one euro to use the airplane bathroom if …

Funny like a clown

Insane posse of climate deniers?

I know you were probably a little worried that these guys had gone extinct, so I have some excellent news: Insane Clown Posse just came out with a new song! And that’s not all. It teaches us about science—with a twist—so no need to fret any longer about our flagging education system. It’s a little ditty called Miracles. And I suppose the takeaway here is that ICP doesn’t believe in science, per se, since, as the band sings (sort of), “I don’t want to talk to a scientist. Y’all motherfuckers lying and getting me pissed.” Do I smell climate deniers? …

The proof is in the soda

HFCS, the precautionary principle, and the myth of absolute certainty

This is Part 2 of 2 posts of in-depth analysis into the breakthrough work on High Fructose Corn Syrup and weight gain by Princeton researchers. _______________ How much “proof” do we need that the pervasiveness of cheap, HFCS-sweetened junk is making us ill? As a follow-up to my email exchange with Princeton HFCS study lead author Dr. Bart Hoebel, I thought I might dig into some of the underlying issues surrounding the HFCS Wars. I understand and accept that a healthy skepticism is necessary in scientific debate. But reading the responses from “independent” voices (i.e. people not affiliated with Big …

Oh baby

Ask Umbra on birth control, single-serve coffee, and sanitizing countertops

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, In light of Lisa Hymas’ current series on GINKing, can you fill us in on the most eco-friendly forms of birth control currently available? Keeping It Kid FreeSeattle A. Dearest Kid Free, Indeed the “green inclinations, no kids” (GINK) posts have caused quite the stir. I’ve only dared to poke the issue with a 10-foot pole a few times in the past, but I think it’s a topic that deserves its place in the sun. I’ve also broached the subject of contraception previously, but it’s been several years and is totally worth …

The final countdown

Ask Umbra’s Book Club: Are you a possum?

Dearest readers, Thank you all so much for joining me this week as we got down and dirty with our first book club selection, Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money, hitting all the hot buttons like leaving the rat race, eating meat, and bucking the education system. We’re in the homestretch—let’s make Dolly Freed proud with our last day of discussion. So do you think there’s something to this whole possum living thing? And if the lifestyle is as simple as Freed says it is, why aren’t more people doing it? Is …

Circle of live(savers)

Wal-Mart stores are littered with wasteful products this month

This month, in honor of Earth Day, Wal-Mart is selling garbage next to the garbage already on the shelves. The only difference is that these new products have been reincarnated into useful items thanks to the upcycling company TerraCycle. Until April 29, these kites, pots, and bags made from waste are being sold right next to the products they come from. For example, this Oreo-branded backpack is on sale next to boxes of real Oreos:               As an added bonus, some kids might even pick up the backpacks thinking they’re full of Oreos. (The …

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