Earth Day Caption Contest

 

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Find out where you fit on the global income spectrum

Anna Rosling Rönnlund, co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, asked Swedish students where they thought they fell on the global income spectrum. They guessed somewhere in the middle; they were wrong. After having 264 homes photographed in 50 countries and collecting 30,000 photos, she made this tool to help everyone understand the world – and how they fit in – a little better.

Want to see how people at your income level live in other countries? Of course you do.

It's the perfect antidote to Instagram-induced envy. Actually, I'd like to see someone curate a Selby or Apartmento-style lookbook from these images. Anyone? Read the rest

Your body has been outsourced

What follows is the most mind-altering first chapter I've read in a long time, from biomechanist Katy Bowman’s latest book Movement Matters: Essays on movement science, movement ecology, and the nature of movement

These items —an electronic car unlocker and a tea bag— are convenient. But what I’ve realized is, when we say or think “convenience,” it’s not as much about saving time as it is about reducing movement. We can grasp sedentary behaviour as it related to exercise because it’s easy to see the difference between exercising one hour a day and not exercising one hour a day. My work, in the past, has been about challenging people to also be able to see the difference between exercising one hour a day and not exercising the other twenty-three. More subtle still—and what I’m asking you to do now—is to see how the choice to move is presented to you every moment of the day, but how most often we select the most sedentary choice without even realizing it. 

Our daily life is composed of a lot of seemingly innocuous ways we’ve outsourced our body’s work. One of the reasons I’ve begun focusing just as much on non-exercisey movements as I do on exercise-type movements is that I feel that the ten thousand outsourcing a day during the 23/24ths of your time hold the most potential for radical change. Be on the lookout for these things. To avoid the movements necessary to walk around to all the car doors, or just to avoid turning your wrist, or to avoid gathering your tea strainer and dumping the leaves and cleaning the strainer (in your dishwasher?), you have accepted a handful of garbage, plastic (future landfill), and a battery.

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How babies get here

If you only watch one childbirth video in your life, consider this popular one. It’s completely safe for work (and for the faint of heart), featuring ping pong balls and a balloon. I’ve already given birth, and I learned a lot. Read the rest

Black Rock City, NV: The New Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man by Philippe Glade

Photographer and 21-year playa veteran Phillippe Glade saved me about a grand for a ticket (plus expenses and brain damage) with this beautiful, cloth-covered photo book surveying the domestic and communal architecture of the annual temporary city of 60,000 souls in the Nevada desert.

I've been following Glade's blog for a few years, and bought his book, Black Rock City, NV The New Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man ($40), because I live in the Southern California desert and have a more than casual interest in durable shade structures. However I was just as fascinated to learn about the urban planning of the city, with its fantasy-novel semi-circular grid of streets: [its designer] "Mr. Garrett was one of a short list of city planners who get to see their ideas realized in their lifetimes".

The book contains almost 200 photos spanning several years, with useful captions, interior shots of many structures and a handful of informative essays.

Glade writes about the most common types of personal shelter – tents, hexayurts, monkey huts, parachute shades, domes, etc – and discusses the pros and cons of each:

"...parachutes are tempting [but] they wear out quickly on even dull edges and balloon with the slightest breeze [...] they exert tremendous wind pressure on the structures and trap heat without any UV protection".

Glade contends that the harsh conditions of the Playa have created a "vernacular architecture that rejuvenates the world of camping" and is relevant to those designing emergency shelter.

Despite favourable reviews in Wallpaper, Architectural Digest and Wired, only around 300 copies have sold. Read the rest

The terrible power of plastic is that it quickly becomes useless but never goes away

There’s a scene in the movie Samsara (2001): a young monk is struggling to focus on his meditation, and an older monk shows him some erotic scrolls. When he holds the images up to the firelight, an underpainting reveals grotesque decaying skeletons in place of the lovers.

I often think of this scene when I look at plastic things. I moved to the Mojave desert of Southern California six years ago. Living here has taught me about the impermanence of plastic in a visceral way.

Most common plastic items -- bags, toys, clothespins, tarps, ropes, small appliances - - will, if left outdoors, degrade from brand-new to useless over the course of one or two of our six-month-long summers, thanks to the deserts baking temperatures and relentless sunshine.

Plastic bags shred into tiny fragments and blow away on the breeze. That “bomb-proof” webbing on your backpack turns to powder and sticks to your fingers. Milk crates and five gallon buckets shatter and collect in the sand. Toys crack, cave in, leaving residues of powdered color on your hands. Elastic in clothing quickly loses the power to rebound if stored in a shed. Our harsh climate accelerates the inevitable.

Poor folks take their garbage out to the desert and dump it rather than pay fees at the landfill. It’s illegal –- and reportable -– but judging by the piles of trash I find whenever I go for a walk out in the desert, it’s also fairly common.

These indignities flash before my eyes as I roam the fluorescent lit aisles of big box stores, or browse Amazon. Read the rest

Are your cells sedentary?

Biomechanist Katy Bowman uses the metaphor of nutrients – and nutritious movement vs. junk food movement – to unpack what’s not working for most of us about our modern lifestyle.

Turns out that even those we consider “active” spend most of their time sedentary, according to research. And our shoes, furniture, pillows and other props mean that we are not getting the full range of motion – the essential movement nutrients – out of the limited activity that we do.

This video is a decent entry point into Katy Bowman’s eco-system. She’s also written eight books and published piles of free content on her blog. You can even watch a video tour of her house showing the movement-hacks the family has made around their home.

Once you start thinking about movement from an ancestral point of view – what our bodies evolved to expect – you won’t be able to go back to the exercise/not exercise dichotomy. Read the rest

Is hooking up feminist?

Lisa Wade is the author of American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. Shankar Vedantam interviewed her on a recent episode of the Hidden Brain, and her assessment of the state of American feminism is, for me, a game changer:

So part of the reason we see hookup culture on college campuses can be traced back to the sexual revolution and the women's movement.

The women's movement wanted two things for women, both sexually and otherwise. They wanted women to have the opportunity to do the things that men do and to embody masculine traits and interests. And they wanted everyone to sit up and notice that the things women had been doing all along and the traits and interests that they were believed to have were also valuable.

And we really only got half of that.

Feminists succeeded in convincing America, for the most part, that women should be allowed to do what men do and even have masculine traits. But we never really got around to valuing the things that we define as feminine. So a young woman who's growing up in America today is going to - she's going to be told by most - not all parents are like this. But most parents are going to encourage their daughters to mix in masculine traits and interests into her personality.

And they're even going to encourage her to do so and perhaps reward her more so when she does that than when she incorporates feminine personality traits. Read the rest

How to avoid (accidentally) raising a racist kid

The Longest Shortest Time is an excellent storytelling podcast about parents and kids. They’ve recently made two episodes aimed at helping white parents figure out how talk to kids about race, and thereby avoid “(accidentally) raising a racist.”

We know that avoiding the topic (“colorblind” parenting) leaves a void in which kids are left to absorb the biases of culture at large. So what do we say? That’s the territory Longest Shortest Time explores in these episodes.

My favorite of the two is #135, White Guilt and other Crazy Sh*t, with Eula Biss.

According to the episode blurb, “Eula Biss is a writer and professor who has made a career out of embracing her own discomfort when talking about race.”

Biss impressed me with the subtlety and clarity of her thinking. She talks about the conversations she has with her own kid and ways she’s changed her behaviour, as well as common pitfalls of white guilt. She wrote a popular New York Times article called White Debt that's also worth reading.

Image via Peakpx Read the rest

There's No Getting Off (The Grid)

Calling a gas-powered engine an “off grid” technology is like “unplugging” from the internet by using cellular data instead of an ethernet cable.

Trailer homesteading in the Mojave

There’s a move to redefine “homesteading” in a way that makes it available to anyone who wants to take part. But what does it mean to homestead in the desert? By Reanna Alder

I ate roadkill raccoon. This is what it tasted like.

Last weekend, Janica and Joel picked up six roadkill raccoons and a feral cat on a round-trip to Courtenay. It was Thanksgiving weekend. They made raccoon burgers, served the cat up stuffed, and tucked the rest away in the freezer. By Reanna Alder

Almost 150 quilts you won’t find on Pinterest

A micro-review, in bullet points:

1. Almost 150 quilts you won’t find on Pinterest.

2. The essays are good.

3. When seeking visual pleasure and inspiration, a curated and finite set (like a book) can be more useful than an infinite set (like the internet).

Slightly more detail, if you’re still on the fence:

This book is not about formal, precision-pieced quilts but rather represents the growing interest in the improvisational and often surprising “everyday” quilts. Those depicted here are of the vintage (rather than antique) era. Most are by unknown makers. Collector Roderick Kiracofe has commissioned ten essays to offer context for the anonymous textiles.

Quilt historian Janneken Smucker smacks down the “myth of the scrap bag quilt.” Natalie Chanin (of Alabama Chanin) describes the class messaging of whole cloth vs. patchwork quilts when she grew up in the South. Texas quiltmaker Sherry Ann Bryrd explains the distinction between “precision”, “M-provisational” and “throw together” as quilting “languages” with different functions. Textile curator Amelia Peck writes about the challenge of curating anonymous work for an institutional collection. All worth reading. But mostly it’s about the pictures.

Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950-2000, by Roderick Kiracofe

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