6/29/2011 12:52:42 PM
Unless you are a very conscientious consumer or a vegetarian, you’re implicit in the industrialized slaughter of animals. Many of us are (myself included). It’s easy to forget that the Sunday morning bacon was once on the hoof, and easy to imagine that the animals are treated humanely until their deaths. Recent journalism, like Robert Kenner’s documentary Food, Inc., and the ongoing activism of PETA, PCRA, and ASPCA has cast light on many of the otherwise hush-hushed commercial practices of meat-processing plants.
Ted Genoways, reporting for Mother Jones, covers the history of the modern meat industry in his profile of the Quality Pork Processors, Inc. plant in Austin, Minn. But what really stands out in his writing is the description of how the bloody work of slaughter is done in the post-butcher economy. (Warning: The following quotes are exceptionally graphic.)
On the other side, Garcia inserted the metal nozzle of a 90-pounds-per-square-inch compressed-air hose and blasted the pigs’ brains into a pink slurry. One head every three seconds. A high-pressure burst, a fine rosy mist, and the slosh of brains slipping through a drain hole into a catch bucket. (Some workers say the goo looked like Pepto-Bismol; others describe it as more like a lumpy strawberry milkshake.) When the 10-pound barrel was filled, another worker would come to take the brains for shipping to Asia, where they are used as a thickener in stir-fry. Most days that fall, production was so fast that the air never cleared between blasts, and the mist would slick workers at the head table in a grisly mix of brains and blood and grease.
Tasks at the head table are literally numbing. The steady hum of the automatic Whizard knives gives many workers carpal tunnel syndrome. And all you have to do is wait in the parking lot at shift change to see the shambling gait that comes from standing in one spot all day on the line. For eight hours, Garcia stood, slipping heads onto the brain machine’s nozzle, pouring the glop into the drain, then dropping the empty skulls down a chute.
Genoways describes how the “fine rosy mist” at QPP has caused a viral outbreak that attacks the workers’ brains—leading to, in some cases, paralysis—after it is inhaled during work.
Taking a more literary angle to the abattoir, Bookslut’s JC Hallman writes about his obsession with dead chickens and unheeded predictions about their treatment in “The Chicken Vault.” Here’s his second-hand description of an industrial chicken farm in New Jersey that left 50 tons of meat unrefrigerated for most of a summer. (Again: graphic description.)
They made for the main cooler, where the bulk of the 100,000 lbs. of processed meat had been stored. The cooler was like a huge vault: its hydraulic door stood eight feet high. Jim and Frank [two Environmental Protection Agency officials] set up a battery of floods to illuminate the chamber, and then cracked the door. Something like steam puffed out from the vacuum suck of the room and rose up heavy and thick, like a plague from God. It fogged the lens on the camera until Jim figured a way to clear it. The vault stretched back forty feet and stood half as high. Racks for boxed meat rose on opposing walls. Most of the product had come down by then, rotting through the cardboard containers, an opaque matter the consistency of jelly that had flooded the floor of the room and hardened there. The meat and the fat of the chicken didn’t mix; there were marbled streaks of color. The racks continued to drip even as the men watched, like trees after a heavy rain. After a moment, Jim moved in for a close-up: maggots digging into the muck to escape the light, and a collection of chicken bones like the skeleton of a dinosaur caught in a tar pit.
Sorry for ruining your delicious lunch.
Sources: Bookslut, Mother Jones
Image by Ordered Chaos, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/27/2011 1:01:09 PM
Necessary ingredients: lighter fluid, painkillers, industrial cleaning oil, and iodine. Equipment: syringes, vials, and cooking implements. Boil, distill, mix, boil, distill, mix. Next take the hypodermic needle and plunge up some of the amber-colored liquid. Inject it into a prominent vein, if you have any left. You’re now tripping on krokodil, a heroin substitute popular in Russia that is as deadly as it is cheap. Using over-the-counter codeine and iodine, reports The Independent’s Shaun Walker, Russian junkies hard-up for heroin have turned a basement chemistry experiment into a country-wide epidemic in just four years.
“It is a drug for the poor, and its effects are horrific,” writes Walker,
It was given its reptilian name because its poisonous ingredients quickly turn the skin scaly. Worse follows. Oleg and Sasha [two krokodil users] have not been using for long, but Oleg has rotting sores on the back of his neck. . . . Flesh goes grey and peels away to leave bones exposed. People literally rot to death.
People who start cooking krokodil, technically called desomorphine, don’t have long to live—Walker reports that regular users have an estimated life-expectancy of just one year. Nearly 30,000 people die from heroin use in Russia each year, and now the country’s heroin-treatment facilities are seeing as many as half of their patients addicted to krokodil. Not everyone succumbs to the addiction, but those that manage to escape its clutch pay a high price. Walker spoke to a former krokodil user named Zhenya: “He managed to kick the habit, after spending weeks at a detox clinic, experiencing horrendous withdrawal symptoms that included seizures, a 40-degree temperature and vomiting. He lost 14 teeth after his gums rotted away, and contracted hepatitis C.”
Source: The Independent
Image by CrashTestAddict, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/23/2011 12:59:28 PM
It has been raining off and on in Minneapolis for five days straight. Last night the city dipped into the low 50s, which exacerbated the needling wind and drizzle. It’s the end of June. What happened to the glorious summer? Weatherman, if we’re going to have the few tolerable, fleeting months stolen, could you lie to us? Or at least pretend to be a little optimistic?
That’s the motivation behind Optimistic Weather, a new Android application designed by Nation that glosses over the daily forecast’s more disheartening details. And what’s more, whenever you scope out the next day’s forecast, the app always predicts a splendorous sunny day.
“The idea for the app came out of a conversation we were having in the studio about how wrong some online weather services appeared to be, and that it would be interesting if there was a service that lied to you when the weather was going to be rubbish,” Nation designer Tom Hartshorn told Fast Company. The design firm is fittingly based in London, a city known for its dismal weather, dry wit, and delusional positivism.
When a massive thunderstorm is on the way, for example, the app muses: “What? Is this the end of the world? Any chance the thunder gods will get tired and this will just go away?”
You can download Optimistic Weather for free from the Android Market.
Source: Fast Company
Images courtesy of Nation.
6/21/2011 5:33:59 PM
Where does the story begin? Perhaps in the delivery room, when the doctor hands the newborn baby, still slick with blood and mucus, to the ecstatic parents but isn’t able to say definitively, “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” Or it could start earlier, in the womb, when the cells are dividing like mad to create the many complicated and wondrous parts of a new human being. Perhaps the story really gets going later, when the surgeon slices into the baby’s phallus—considered either a micro-penis or an overlarge clitoris—in the first of many treatments to cosmetically assign a crystal-clear gender. Or maybe the heart of the story is the slow cultivation of shame that comes from the years of secrecy and misinformation that follow infant gender reassignment.
By far the happiest place to dive in, for this particular rendition of the story, is when Jim met Alice Dreger a few months ago and told her: “You saved my life.”
Jim is a 50-year-old man who was born with a disorder of sex development (DSD), formerly known as intersex, formerly known as pseudo-hermaphrodism. Alice is a bioethics professor and advocate of the basic human rights of DSD patients: the right to grow up without devastating cosmetic surgeries that take away sexual sensation or, in some instances, the ability to experience orgasm; the right to know one’s own medical history; the right to make one’s own medical choices.
Alice tells Jim’s story in Bioethics Forum (02/14/2011):
[Jim] was born with ambiguous genitalia—with hypospadias (where the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis), with a smaller-than-average penis, and a herniated testicle. Against doctors’ advice, his parents raised him as a boy. The docs of course had recommended sex reassignment, as was standard. His parents did not resist because they were radical; they resisted because they were terrified and young and I’ll bet they didn’t understand why you would take a baby with testicles and make him a girl.
Of the 2,600-some babies born with ambiguous genitals each year in the United States, Jim is among the rare few from his generation who escaped having his sex organs resculpted to look like a vagina. And because of social activists such as Alice and others with Accord Alliance (previously the Intersex Society of North America), he eventually learned that he was not alone—a priceless gift.
Today Jim has some really beautiful things in his life: A wife. A daughter. A doctor who listens to his concerns and helps him make the right choices for his body. And he had the honor of meeting Alice and telling her his story:
He said that he knew, from my Web site, that some people had objected to the move from talking about “intersex” to talking about “disorders of sex development.” But, he said, “I love the new term, DSD.” He said it captured his experience—that what he has is a medical condition. He doesn’t have double sex, or double gender, as people seem to think when they hear the term “intersex.” He has a DSD.
Source: Bioethics Forum
Image by clevercupcakes,
licensed under Creative Commons.
6/17/2011 2:40:31 PM
What makes a bike stay upright? Many of us can repeat the conventional grade-school wisdom that the gyroscopic effect is the magical stabilizer of the spinning bike wheel—but scientists are finding that the physics of biking are much more complex than this, reports Science News. They are learning this in part by trying to knock over moving bikes.
A bicycle in motion, even riderless, can coast for long distances without falling. The bike-abusing researchers are learning that neither the gyroscopic effect nor another long-accepted explanation, the “trail effect,” entirely explains the bike’s stability. Writes Science News:
Bicycles, the team suggests, are more complicated than previously thought. While gyro and trail effects can contribute to stability, other factors such as the distribution of mass and the bike’s moment of inertia can play a role as well. Computer simulations that take all of these factors into account could lead to improved designs for folding bikes with small wheels or bikes that carry cargo, [scientist Andy] Ruina says.
So remember, bikers, whether you’re keeping it pure on a fixed-gear or geeking out on a slow-rolling “comfort” bike, many of the same physical forces apply. And as for the oft-maligned weird cousins of the bicycle world, recumbent bike riders? They are no less than the fearless test pilots of the future.
Source: Science News
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6/14/2011 11:06:53 AM
How many Oreo cookies have you eaten in your lifetime? If you are anything like me, you probably don’t want to know that question’s answer. More than 491 million bags have been sold to date—a generous fraction were probably purchased by me. But for all the gustatory pleasure given by the cookies, have you ever slowed down and appreciated the intricately “embossed” design on the cookie biscuit? I hadn’t either. Apparently there’s quite a back story.
Edible Geography blogger Nicola Twilley published an interesting history of cookie-embossing through the lens of Nabisco’s ubiquitous, twisty, chocolate-and-crème cookie. “[W]hen the Oreo was first introduced by Nabisco in 1912,” begins the cookie’s biography, “it used a much more organic wreath for its emboss, later augmented with two pairs of turtledoves in a 1924 redesign. The contemporary Oreo stamp was introduced in 1952, and it has remained unchanged.”
As with every cornerstone of American culture, the Oreo’s design is subject to criticism—and even conspiracy theories. Twilley summarizes:
[T]he Oreo’s geometric pattern of a dot with four triangles radiating outward is either a schematic drawing of a four-leaf clover or—cue the cliffhanger music from Jaws—the cross pattée, also associated with the Knights Templar, as well as with the German military and today’s Freemasons.
Twilley also explores some of the industrial, cultural, legal, and spiritual dimensions of cookie-embossing. Sweet!
Source: Edible Geography
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6/1/2011 1:34:29 PM
Whenever I’m trying to recover from a raging party or a six-pack of gin and tonics, my body craves Taco Bell. Burritos, quesadillas, refritos—it hardly matters as long as the beef is mostly made of soy byproducts and warmer than goulash. Despite the instant-gratification-endorphin-rush of fast food, by mid-chalupa I typically recognize that I’m really just compounding poor dietary choices instead of effectively curing my hangover. Alexandra Spunt, writing at Good’s excellent wellness blog No More Dirty Looks, compiled a list of 10 ways to bounce back from a bender that are actually healthy. Obviously Taco Bell isn’t on Spunt’s list, but drinking kombucha tea, lying down for a massage, and popping some omega-3 vitamins certainly are. Here a few of her other pointers:
Have sex or just a good cuddle. We’ve said it lots of times: Physical contact releases oxytocin and other happy-making hormones. And feeling cuddly and warm about the world beats out feeling glum and self-punishing. The trick is you have to do it with someone you like because, most of the time, sex with someone you don’t like is probably not going to help anything—and definitely not your hangover.
Do some exercise—but just a little bit! The camps are divided on this, but here’s our take: If exercise makes you feel better then you should do it. Again though, hydration is key here, and it is important that you not overdo it. Exercise increases circulation, helps elimination, and releases a cocktail of mood-boosting hormones. The few times I’ve forced myself to do it with a hangover, it’s totally helped. From a psychological point of view, if you’re a bit of a type A, it will also let you feel more OK about taking the rest of the day to chill (which we encourage).
Have a banana/blueberry/kale/lemon smoothie. Antioxidants. Potassium. Natural sugars. Vitamins. Digestive enzymes. These are things that actually really help heal a hangover. Get thee to a green smoothie. It has to be made fresh though, not one of those plastic bottles of green stuff next to juice in the grocery store.
Maybe after you’re composed again—no longer nauseous, no longer headachey, no longer ashamed—you might even consider shooting for another hangover. “There are some great reasons to have a hangover,” Spunt argues:
You needed a break anyways. You haven’t taken a sick day in months. You can’t remember the last time you watched daytime television. There’s nothing you have to do that can’t wait until tomorrow. You still haven’t watched Country Strong. Sundays are for rest anyways. Nothing important ever happens on a Tuesday. In other words: Let yourself off the hook. Besides, the only person mad at your hangover is you.
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