Why Your Supermarket Sells Only 5 Kinds of Apples

Why Your Supermarket Sells Only 5 Kinds of Apples (Mother Jones, Mar/Apr 2013)

“In the mid-1800s, there were thousands of unique varieties of apples in the United States, some of the most astounding diversity ever developed in a food crop. Then industrial agriculture crushed that world. The apple industry settled on a handful of varieties to promote worldwide, and the rest were forgotten. They became commercially extinct—but not quite biologically extinct.

Even when abandoned, an apple tree can live more than 200 years, and, like the Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s book, it will wait patiently for the boy to return. There is a bent old Black Oxford tree in Hallowell, Maine, that is approximately two centuries old and still gives a crop of midnight-purple apples each fall. In places like northern New England, the Appalachian Mountains, and Johnny Appleseed’s beloved Ohio River Valley—agricultural byways that have escaped the bulldozer—these centenarians hang on, flickering on the edge of existence, their identity often a mystery to the present homeowners. And John Bunker is determined to save as many as he can before they, and he, are gone.”

I found this wonderful read in a comment thread under the also great (and recommended) article, The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious. I think what John Bunker is doing is absolutely amazing, and now I want to learn more about apple trees.

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Real women belong on a pedestal in New York’s Central Park

Real women belong on a pedestal in New York’s Central Park (Reuters)

“There are 50 statues in New York’s Central Park, one of the world’s most visited spots. Not one of them is of a woman who exists outside of fiction.

There are marble monuments to dozens of men, most of them real, but not a single statue commemorating the life or contributions of a real-life woman. Even the fictional female characters – Alice in Wonderland, Juliet Capulet and Mother Goose – were created by men. Among the marble and bronze population of Central Park, you’ll find Shakespeare and Beethoven, Simón Bolívar and Alexander Hamilton. You’ll even find Balto, the hero sled dog who delivered diphtheria medicine to the town of Nome, Alaska, in 1925.

To be clear: you can find a statue of a real-life dog, but no statues of real-life women.

This is not simply a Central Park problem, nor is it a New York City problem. Across the United States, women are staggeringly underrepresented in our tangible and visible efforts to mark significant moments and people in American history. Nationwide, fewer than 8 percent  of the public outdoor statues commemorating individuals are of women. Of the 100 outstanding citizens memorialized in Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building in Washington, only nine are women.

Lynette Long is the founder of Equal Visibility Everywhere, an organization dedicated to solving the statue problem. She sees it more than a matter of how we tell our history but also how we shape generations of future leaders. The invisibility of women – the overrepresentation of men – Long argues, ‘inflates male entitlement and diminishes the confidence of women. When girls and women don’t see themselves on our currency or our stamps, or memorialized in our statuary, the message is clear: You are invisible. You don’t matter.'”

Even as women and minorities are advancing in society, they need to be able to see how they relate to the past. We tell our children they can be anything they want when they grow up, but they need to see themselves reflected in their idols. It’s not just about statues; it’s about what students are learning (or not learning) in their history classes. White men were not the only heroes.

Why do we have blood types?

Why do we have blood types?

“Why do 40 per cent of Caucasians have type A blood, while only 27 per cent of Asians do? Where do different blood types come from, and what do they do? To get some answers, I went to the experts – to haematologists, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, virologists and nutrition scientists.

In 1900 the Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner first discovered blood types, winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research in 1930. Since then scientists have developed ever more powerful tools for probing the biology of blood types. They’ve found some intriguing clues about them – tracing their deep ancestry, for example, and detecting influences of blood types on our health. And yet I found that in many ways blood types remain strangely mysterious. Scientists have yet to come up with a good explanation for their very existence.”

Super fascinating stuff. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!

The Day We Set the Colorado River Free

The Day We Set the Colorado River Free

“It’s been more than 50 years since the Colorado River regularly reached the sea. But this spring, the U.S. and Mexico let the water storm through its natural delta for a grand experiment in ecological restoration. As the dam gates opened, a small band of river rats caught a once-in-a-lifetime ride.”

The story of the Colorado River is about as American as it gets; history, adventure, and politics all play a role. This is a tale of rebirth, but the ending isn’t exactly happily ever after. It’s happily for a little while, at least.

Twilight of the Assholes: Goodbye to Dov Charney, Terry Richardson, and Hipster Misogyny

[Note: For more on why Terry Richardson is a giant jizzbucket/douchecanoe, check out my previous post here.]

Flavorwire

“We take no joy in this,” said American Apparel co-chairman Allan Mayer yesterday of the company’s decision to fire its founder, CEO, and card-carrying asshole Dov Charney. Mayer’s pretty much the only one, though — anyone else who’s followed Charney’s career will be taking unbridled joy in the fact that he’s finally been shown the door. And with Charney’s soul bro Terry Richardson also in the news again over his general ghastliness, it’s been a bad week for the patron saints of ’00s semi-ironic misogyny. The only real question: why has it taken this long?

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In The 1870s And ’80s, Being A Pedestrian Was Anything But

In The 1870s And ’80s, Being A Pedestrian Was Anything But

We may think of baseball as America’s national pastime, but in the 1870s and 1880s there was another sports craze sweeping the nation: competitive walking. “Watching people walk was America’s favorite spectator sport,” Matthew Algeo says in his new book, Pedestrianism.

“In the decades after the Civil War there was mass urbanization in the United States [with] millions of people moving into the cities,” Algeo tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “And there wasn’t much for them to do in their free time, so pedestrianism — competitive walking matches — filled a void for people. It became quite popular quite quickly.”

Huge crowds packed indoor arenas to watch the best walkers walk. Think of it as a six-day NASCAR race … on feet.

“These guys were walking 600 miles in six days,” Alego says. “They were on the track almost continuously. They’d have little cots set up inside the track where they would nap a total of maybe three hours a day. But generally, for 21 hours a day, they were in motion walking around the track.”

I can’t tell you how much joy knowing that pedestrianism was a sport has brought me today. Just imagining people lining up, eating snack, and gambling, all over long-distance walking matches… it’s pretty fantastic. How is this not a movie yet?!

For related old-school fun, be sure to check out an article I linked to a while back about Hippopotamus Ranching. No, really.

Adventures in Hippopotamus Ranching

Lake Cow Bacon. That’s all you really need to know.

Things I read when I procrastinate

Hilarious and amazing article in Wired-Science: The Crazy, Ingenious Plan to Bring Hippopotamus Ranching to America.

“In the early years of the last century, the U.S. Congress considered a bold and ingenious plan that would simultaneously solve two pressing problems — a national meat shortage and a growing ecological crisis. The plan was this: hippopotamus ranching.

Hippos imported from Africa and raised in the bayous of Louisiana, proponents argued, would provide a delicious new source of protein for a meat-hungry nation. In the process, the animals would gobble up the invasive water hyacinth that was killing fish and choking off waterways. It would be an epic win-win. A bill was introduced in Congress, and newspaper editorials extolled the culinary virtues of ‘lake cow bacon.'”

Long story short: I have a new life plan.

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