Thursday, October 31, 2013

Snapchat: Live your Life in Real Time

Snapchat is trying to bring social media to a healthier place:

"The social media profile attempts to convince us that life, in all its ephemeral flow, should also be its simulation; the ephemeral flow of lived experience is to be hacked into a collection of separate, discrete, objects to be shoved into the profile containers. The logic of the profile is that life should be captured, preserved, and put behind glass. It asks us to be collectors of our lives, to create a museum of our self. Moments are chunked off, put in a grid, quantified, and ranked. Permanent social media are based on such profiles, with each being more or less constraining and grid-like. Rethinking permanence means rethinking this kind of social media profile, and it introduces the possibility of a profile not as a collection preserved behind glass but something more living, fluid, and always changing."

First becoming popular in September, CNN already predicts Snapchat is here to stay.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How the USA Shutdown Effects Food Safety

Warning! You will probably need to check your groceries extra-carefully before purchasing and eating for the next month or so.  And forget about eating in restaurants where you can't see the rare food before they cook it.  Since the FDA shutdown, no one is checking imported food, to turn away the "filthy, putrid, or decomposed substances" in food imports that normally get rejected hundreds of times per month!

The situation is "pretty bleak for consumers, most of whom aren’t in the habit of asking questions about where their food comes from and don’t realize that they might suddenly need to start self-regulating their groceries when the government stops doing it for them."

Normally, only 1% of incoming food is inspected (at random) but that check means any importer risks losing product if they send something unacceptable.  Now that news of our shutdown has had plenty of time to spread around the globe, I can only imagine how food exporters are responding.

Safety Tips:
  • avoid imported seafood, leafy greens, tomatoes, and cantaloupe, as these are the most likely to be contaminated. 
  • Thinking of eating local produce instead ? Check this guide out: 

  • And DON'T read THIS, unless you want to hear about even more nightmarish USA food problems. 
  • And look out for the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will impose more proactive food safety checks for imported foods. This will start in November, if our government can get its act back together.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lobster Economics: It used to be cheap

Did you know that before 1950, lobster was considered "trash food" for the impoverished, so undesirable that prisoners and military troops were forced to eat it, while regular citizens had job contracts making their employers promise not to serve them lobster more than 3 times a week?

Yep, according to Pacific Standard: "Lobsters were so abundant in the early days—residents in the Massachusetts Bay Colony found they washed up on the beach in two-foot-high piles—that people thought of them as trash food. It was fit only for the poor and served to servants or prisoners."

And you can thank railroads for making lobsters expensive: "when the railways started to spread through America, transportation managers realized something interesting: If no one knew what lobster was, trains could serve it to passengers as if it were a rare, exotic item, even thought it was very cheap for those running the railroad to procure it. Inland passengers were intrigued. This lobster was delicious. Passengers, who didn’t know lobster was considered trash food on the coast, started to love it and began to ask for it even after they left the train."

Chefs started to realize that lobster was tastier if cooked alive at this time, and from there prices really took off.  Prices rose and lobster populations dwindled until the Great Depression, when no one could afford to buy lobster in restaurants anymore and it went back to being cheaply canned and served to military troops for World War I and WWII.  But as food grew short in WWII, Lobster wasn't rationed, so it became popular again, and prices went back up.

So, there you have it.  A cheap abundant food, that people thought was gross because it resembled giant insects, became expensive because of railroad marketing and war-induced rationing!   Funny how economics can change things like that.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How the USA Shutdown Killed Science

An anonymous scientist talking to Wired tells us how shutting down the United States government even for 1 day destroys most live biomedical research experiments:

"Scientists are hardworking people. They work long hours, on weekends, and they do that because it’s necessary. The schedules they follow aren’t like an industrial plant’s. If you interrupt them, they can’t pick up and start again. It’s an enormous waste of money and resources to interrupt this and have it abandoned."

Then he goes on to talk about "mercy killing"  their lab animals and it gets a bit creepy, but he ends with this gem:

"It’s ironic that factions with names like Tea Party and Patriot engage in anti-American behavior: shutting down the government because they don’t agree with a vote passed by the majority."

Ironic?  I'm not sure that's the right word.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Media Education

Just read about a great kids program being run in Washington, DC:

It's called the Kids World Film Festival, and it teaches kids to become thoughtful consumers of media and resist oppressive thinking: "The media literacy sessions help teach the students to utilize their critical thinking skills in order to understand how messages are created through film. The program is also designed to demonstrate the value of becoming savvy media consumers."

"The Kids World Film Festival exposes elementary-aged children to short films that promote cultural understanding, tolerance, reconciliation, unity and peace. "

It's only in DC now, but I wish this was a part of elementary schools everywhere.  As my friend said this morning, "Maybe the members of Congress can watch this while they're on their collective vacation."

Some films they feature: