• Taste Test: Durian

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    Durian. Its flesh is so stinky that it's banned from some restaurants and hotels. The fruit is native to southeast Asia and has been part of the regional diet since prehistory. It's rich in vitamin C, potassium, and good fats and proteins. In Java, durian is believed to be an aphrodisiac (if you're not sure about this, maybe try one of these durian-flavored condoms!).


    19th century British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace described the taste of durian as "a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, sherry wine and other incongruous dishes." Delicious! But be careful not to eat too much durian at once — it is super high in calories and can cause adverse health effects. (Last week, one Malaysian Parliamentarian ate so much durian that he almost passed out at a banquet.)

    I've never tried cooking with durian, but this recipe for Laotian sticky rice with durian looks delicious. Will someone try it and let me know how it turns out?

    Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

    Image via Amani Hassan's Flickr

  • The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us, a book about mother-daughter relationships

    000001857.jpgIn between blogging and exercising this summer, I've been reading chapters from a book called The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us by Patti Davis, who is the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The book is based on the idea that mothers and daughters are inextricably linked and that, around the age of 40, most daughters come full circle in accepting the parts of themselves that were formed by their moms. She explores this realization through the stories of two dozen women, mostly actors and authors, including Whoopi Goldberg, Alice Hoffman, Judy Garland's daughter Lorna Luft, and Anna Quindlen.

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  • Gangs of women in rural India fight abuse with bamboo sticks

    Slate has a fascinating story about gulabis — gangs of women in rural India who wear pink saris seeking justice for abused wives. 40-year old Sampat Pal Devi started the movement with a few friends in 2006. They began by visiting a few husbands who refused to stop beating their wives, intimidating them into changing their minds by brandishing bamboo sticks. The movement now has more than 200,000 members; Pal travels from village to village on a bicycle to keep the momentum going.

    100716_XX_SampatPalDeviTN.jpgPal has a long list of criminal charges against her, including unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking a government employee, and obstructing an officer in the discharge of duty, and she even had to go into hiding. Her feistiness has secured notable victories for the community, however. In 2008, the group ambushed the local electricity office, which was withholding electricity until members received bribes or sexual favors in return for flicking the switch back on. The stick-wielding gulabi stormed the company grounds and proceeded to rough up the staff inside the building. An hour later, the power was back on in the village.

    As the article points out, women who suffered from human rights abuses like honor killings, infanticide, and child marriages would take their own lives to escape their fate. But recent progress in the political arena — like an affirmative action bill passed in March that would reserve 33% of parliamentary seats for woman — has made women realize that they can find power in numbers and fight back.

    The silver lining here is that while Indian democracy is too weak to deliver on the gender equality that is inscribed in its constitution, it is strong enough not to crush movements like the pink gang. This is also thanks to the free media, which has boomed since the '90s and which glorifies the work of the gulabis.

    The women's gangs of India [Slate]

  • The Bechdel Test for women in movies

    After watching the delightfully awkward new Duplass comedy Cyrus last night, a couple of friends and I started talking about the Bechdel Test for women in movies. The test, named after 80s lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, asks three questions: 1. Are there two or more women in it that have names? 2. Do they talk to each other? 3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man? As this video from feministfrequency.com points out, a LOT of popular movies fail miserably. "The entire industry is built upon creating films and movies that cater to and are about men," the woman in this video says. It's a really interesting observation that I hadn't given much thought to before.

    (Thanks, Joe!)

  • Coffee table made from old computer parts

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    This coffee table made from old computer parts is both pretty and geeky.

    It's mainly made up of boards/drives from old Intergraph 6000 series machines built in the late 80s early 90s. They had nice big boards. It was a good way to keep around my first real computer after I could no longer find parts to keep it working, an Intergraph 6880 with Edge II graphics. I learned computer modeling, rendering and animation on it and think of it as a mentor. There are also old 2800 baud modem parts and other random parts collected over the years.

    No real pattern other than just getting it all to fit together like a puzzle. The LED lights along the perimeter worked out better that I had hoped. I have it wired so it automatically goes on when it gets dark.

    The News is Broken [via Make]

  • A spelling bee for cheaters

    Dave Eggers' 826LA is hosting a fun event on August 14th — it's a spelling bee fundraiser that encourages cheating. The more money you raise, the more ways you'll be allowed to cheat. For example, $100 will get you a letter hint, but $1,000 will let you switch places with a team member when you're stuck in a rut.

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    The contest has some celebrities signed up, too, like Dianna Agron from Glee, John Krasinski from The Office, and Spike Jonze. Sounds like fun! Read the contest rules after the jump. (more…)

  • World Bank study shows that giving cash to girls may prevent spread of HIV in Africa

    At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna this past weekend, the World Bank announced the results of an unusual study on HIV/AIDS prevention — it gave cash to girls in Malawi just for staying in school. Girls between ages 13 and 22 in the southern district of Zomba were paid $15 a month for a year; their behaviors were compared to a control group that was not paid at all. Results showed that the girls who were paid to stay in school seemed to make wiser choices about when to have sex with and with whom:

    18 months after the program began in January 2008, biomarker data show that HIV infection rates among girls who received cash was 1.2% versus the control group's 3%. This translates to 60% lower prevalence. Girls in the cash group also had a lower infection rate of herpes simplex virus type 2, the common cause of genital herpes (0.7% vs. 3%). Those findings hold even for a third group of girls who got cash without any schooling or other strings attached.

    How did it happen? The key seems to be an "income effect" on the sexual behaviors of young women receiving cash payments. A year after the program started, girls who received payments not only had less sex, but when they did, they tended to choose safer partners, says Berk Özler, a senior economist at the Development Research Group who conducted the study with Sarah Baird of George Washington University and Craig McIntosh at the University of California, San Diego. In fact, the infection rate among those partners is estimated to be half of that of partners of the control group.

    The cash transfers may have led to a drop in the so-called "transactional sex." At the beginning of the study, a quarter of sexually-active participants said they started relationships because they "needed his assistance" or "wanted gifts/money." Meanwhile, among the sexually-active schoolgirls in the control group, 90% said they received an average of US$6.50 a month in gifts or cash from their partners. Such "gifts" are significant, given the country's GDP per capita was $287.5 in 2008.

    After a year, schoolgirls receiving payments from the cash-transfer program seemed to avoid older men, who tend to be wealthier and are much more likely to be HIV positive than schoolboys. The sexual partners were two years older on average than the girls, compared with three years for the control group.

    A similar study was conducted simultaneously in Tanzania, where young adult women were paid up to $60 a year for avoiding unsafe sex and tested against a control group for new STI infections.

    Malawi and Tanzania research shows promise in preventing HIV and sexually transmitted infections [World Bank]

  • Cow choreography set to electronic music by Cyriak

    The latest music and choreography from British animator Cyriak = cows getting down. He writes: "No cows were harmed during the making of this video, though their future prospects probably aren't as optimistic." Video link.

  • Parkour video from the 1930s

    In this video from the 1930s, a man hops away from the dinner table and goes on an amazing adventure up building walls, out of windows, and inside a car tire. The part where he's clambering up the wall with a kid on his back made me a bit nervous!

    I know there's some debate as to what should be called parkour v. freerunning — I'm not exactly sure which this qualifies as, but nonetheless it's totally cool and enjoyable to watch.

  • Stylish car charging stations by Yves Behar and GE

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    SF designer Yves Béhar has teamed up with General Electric to come up with a cool new concept for car charging stations.

    The WattStation comes imbedded with GE's Smart Grid technology which enables the station to charge a vehicle in 4-8 hours compared to the typical 12-18. By communicating wirelessly with digital platforms and mobile devices, users will be able to remotely locate, operate and monitor the unit. The WattStation is also the very first charging station with a self-retractable charging cable, keeping streets tidy while protecting the cable from weather elements. All of these innovations are jammed tight into a compact metal shell, which is solidly constructed to withstand any harsh weather and usage conditions. It even has a built-in heater to defrost the snow!

    fuseproject [via Dezeen]