Author Archives: vserko45

Oh Baby! 7 Steps To Design A Healthy Nursery


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Oh Baby! 7 Steps To Design A Healthy Nursery

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90 Percent of US Could Live on Food Grown Entirely Within 100 Miles

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90 Percent of US Could Live on Food Grown Entirely Within 100 Miles

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Educated Liberal Journalist With Friends Pays Money to Join Bike Cult

Mother Jones

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Last year, a SoulCycle opened up in our office building. There were dozens upon dozens of bright young things lined up around the block for days. I don’t mind admitting that I thought they were lunatics. They looked like lunatics—albeit attractive lunatics. In the months since, the lines have faded away, but every day I have walked past a robust collection of SoulCyclists constantly milling about on our sidewalk.

I have had a gym membership in one form or another since I was a #teen. For most of that time I was paying $120 a month to “go to” Equinox. Occasionally when I’d be overcome with guilt about wasting money on a membership that I always found an excuse to avoid, I would go to the website, hover my cursor over the CANCEL MEMBERSHIP button…but then stop. This will be the month I get serious about going. That was a fantasy. (Let the record show that I have finally let it expire. This is progress.) Anyway, gyms and personal fitness are a constant thing in my mind if only because I am acutely aware how ridiculous it is that I spent many thousands of dollars to go to a gym all together like 50 times. This guilt and shame keeps me up at night.

Last week, Alex Abad-Santos published a post at Vox called “I used to make fun of SoulCycle. Now I’m an addict.” I immediately mocked it.

Then something terrible and predictable happened.

Then came the inevitable.

A friend agreed to go with me at 7:30 pm last Monday. This is perhaps a good time to point out that SoulCycle is ridiculously expensive. Your first class is $20. After that it goes up to $30+. Twenty dollars poorer, I prepared to feel like an idiot and huff and puff and hate it, but I figured I would then write about how dumb it was. “Local Man Proclaims Vox Wrong” would be the headline.

So Monday comes and my friend flakes because friendship is just a construct. Going alone seemed far more daunting than going with her, and by 5 pm I was convinced I’m not going to go. My ankle hurts! I’m tired. Work work work. But I had paid that $20! I wasn’t going to let this be like Equinox. Not again. So I drag my lazy, crazy ass down to the first floor of our building.

I walk in and am immediately embarrassed. There are lots of women there waiting for the class to begin, and at first I see not a single other man. I approach the lady at the counter.

“Hi, I’m here for my first class and I’m very embarrassed and scared and please don’t laugh at me but if that’s a part of the ritual of the first time I understand.”

“OK, don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”

She directs me into a unisex locker room which immediately makes me wonder if I am the first straight man ever to do SoulCycle. (I am not.) I get into gym attire and put on cycle shoes. Cycle shoes are weird. There are like stupid clips on the bottom and you can’t walk properly with them. You walk like an idiot. I walked like an idiot, is what I’m trying to say.

We—maybe six men and 60 women—wait to go into the spin room. I do not make eye contact with anyone. The doors open and out comes the previous class. They are drenched in sweat. We enter—I apprehensive, they eager—and find our preassigned bikes. A second nice lady comes and asks if it’s my first time and helps me click my dumb shoes into the dumb bike. The room is very dark. She tells me that there are hand-weights under my seat. I do not know why I will need hand-weights. I babble on about how a friend was supposed to come with me but bailed. She does not believe my friend exists.

The music starts and the instructor, Kelly, arrives.

“Is it anyone’s first time?” Kelly shouts. I am too shy to acknowledge that it is my first time. “Great! So we all know what we’re doing.” I’m going to die. For the next 45 minutes we pedal to EDM while Kelly shouted inspiring buzzwords at us.

Some inspiring new age bullshit. Soulcycle

But it isn’t just pedaling. Remember the hand-weights? You do moves with them. You also do moves without hand-weights. A lot of it has a rhythmical dancing quality.

Here’s how the more seasoned Abad-Santos describes the experience:

The moves vary from crunches (while riding, you drop your elbows and support yourself through your abs) to tap-backs (you thrust your hips backward while riding out of the saddle), and many of them hit weird muscles you didn’t know existed. You’re also told to position yourself in a certain way (hips back, arms tucked close to your body, shoulders locked down, etc.) that ensures you’re getting a good workout.

There are “hills” — intervals where you crank up the resistance and pedal against it — where it feels like you’re moving your legs through thick mud. There are fast sprints that will make you gulp oxygen and feel like your lungs are leaking. There’s even an arms section where you curl and press your biceps and triceps until they fail, all while pedaling. You never stop pedaling; if you stop pedaling, a cannon sounds and you’re airlifted out of the arena. By the end of every class, I’ve left a small puddle of glistening sweat beneath my bike and my shirt is soaked through.

For some reason, I find all of this thrilling.

Here is the thing about SoulCycle: It totally is new age weirdness. It totally is a therapy session. It totally is a cult. It totally is really hard. But I get it! I get the allure! It’s fun. It’s releasing. It’s cathartic. It pushes you more than I’ve ever been able to push myself. Even those dumb cycle shoes shoes proved pretty cool! (They make it really hard to fall off the seat!)

Ivylise Simones

SoulCycle is like working out in a nightclub while someone tells you “it’s not your fault.”

And after you feel pretty great!

It’s probably not for everybody. But I like it. I’m going back. I bought the five class pack. I’m a cultist.

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Educated Liberal Journalist With Friends Pays Money to Join Bike Cult

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Get off my lawn! Organic farmers just can’t get along with GMO-growing neighbors

Get off my lawn! Organic farmers just can’t get along with GMO-growing neighbors


Another day, another bunch of old, white guys complaining about their neighbors screwing up their property – except this time, it’s quite warranted.

A new survey from Food & Water Watch has found that over 80 percent of organic farmers across the country are worried about how genetically modified crops in nearby fields are affecting their own. These farmers have incurred significant financial losses due to GMO contamination and the measures taken in attempts to prevent it.

It turns out that keeping organic crops and GMOs sufficiently separate is not cheap. To create a “buffer zone” around their fields, as required by USDA organic standards, the farmers surveyed said they set aside a median of five acres at a median cost of $2,500 per year. In some instances, the cost was more than $20,000 per year.

Organic farmers have also begun to delay planting, so that their crops won’t pollinate at the same time as neighboring GMOs and risk having their gene pool sullied. This results in further losses of about $5,300 a year for corn crops, and $3,300 for soybeans.

And even with these precautions, one-third of farmers are still seeing problems caused by GMO contamination, with more than half of them reporting that they’ve had crops rejected by buyers because of it. The median cost of each rejected load, which contains approximately 1,000 bushels, is $4,500.

To the typical organic farmer, these losses are no heirloom fingerling potatoes. They’re a significant percentage of their incomes.

It’s not all about the Benjamins, either. Animosity between organic and conventional farmers has noticeably mounted. The report notes:

The survey asked farmers if they had any non-monetary costs from the threat of GMO contamination. Several responses described strain between GMO and non-GMO farmers. One farmer wrote that, “…every time I walk into the local co-op they grit their teeth.” Others wrote that “conventional farming neighbors do not respect us,” that non-organic “neighbors feel that our farm is a thorn in their sides or a nuisance,” and that they “are considered to be a problem to them because we are not GMO like the rest of them.” Some relationships have gotten so strained that “neighbors get bent out of shape” when approached about GMO issues, and “some neighbors will no longer tell us what they plant.”

Food & Water Watch was inspired to conduct its survey after sustainable agriculture advocates across the country were disappointed by a 2012 report on the same topic from a USDA biotech advisory committee. That group, which was heavily loaded with Big Ag interests, declined to make any policy recommendations that would help stop GMO contamination of non-GMO fields and was widely attacked by organic farming groups.

“Can’t we all just get along?” is proving to be an unrealistic approach for an increasingly divided farming sector. Here’s hoping the USDA catches on to that soon.

Eve Andrews is a Grist fellow and new Seattle transplant via the mean streets of Chicago, Poughkeepsie, and Pittsburgh, respectively and in order of meanness. Follow her on Twitter.Find this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Business & Technology



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Get off my lawn! Organic farmers just can’t get along with GMO-growing neighbors

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How Green Are Those Toys Under the Tree?

Lego has long-term plans to become a zero-waste company. Photo: Stefano Tinti/

While toy makers depend upon children to want their product, they also know that it’s the parents who have the final say in whether or not those toys make it under the tree on Christmas morning. As more parents are turning an eye to environmental concerns, toy makers are greening up their act, not only in the products they use to create toys, but in the policies they’re putting in place for manufacturing them. Knowing that their business is as much about gaining trust as it is about making toys, toy makers are taking some impressive steps to become more environmentally friendly.

Read on to learn more.

Next page: PVC Gets the Boot



How Green Are Those Toys Under the Tree?

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After You Read This Eye-Opening Inside Story, You’ll Never Think About Social Media the Same Way Again

Mother Jones

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In the little corner of the blogosphere that I read regularly, one of the recent hot topics has been viral news sites. I’m not quite sure why Upworthy and its brethren have suddenly become such an object of obsession (and scorn and envy), but they have. So what’s their secret?

Well, they’ve cracked the Facebook code, for one thing, and Facebook is the biggest traffic driver on the web these days. They spend a lot of time scouring the internet for content that people might find intriguing. They keep things simple. The concentrate mostly on videos.

Mostly, though, everyone agrees that they’ve perfected the science of irresistible headline writing. Upworthy is dedicated to promoting progressive narratives, for example, and one of their typical current offerings is a video that’s teased by this headline: “A Surprisingly Simple Way To Know Which Companies Are Cool And Which Are Sorta ‘Meh’.”

Awesome! But it’s also a lie. It’s a video about Wagemark, a foundation that wants every company to maintain an 8:1 ratio between its highest and lowest paid employees. It’s a worthy, progressive topic, I suppose, but certainly not a way to tell if a company is cool or not. Nor is it very interesting. A headline that told the truth about the video probably would have gotten a couple hundred pageviews.

Upworthy’s headline-writing black magic has become endlessly talked about as the apotheosis of our modern, millennial, warp-speed, social-media driven culture. But you know what it reminds me of? Supermarket tabloids.

The supermarket tabs aren’t what they used to be, but back in their heyday this was their meat and drink. Every issue featured half a dozen titillating headlines on the cover that sucked you into a story on page 24 that was….usually kind of meh. They did their best to hide this, of course, but most of the time their headlines turned out to be come-ons that ultimately ended in disappointment. Still, you never knew if the next one might be the real deal. Hope springs eternal, so you kept coming back for more.

Other things in the same category: The New York Post. Modern movie trailers. Ron Popeil infomercials. British tabloids. Porn spam. TED talks.

So will it keep working? Or will people eventually catch on to the scam? Both, of course. People will get bored with Upworthy and BuzzFeed one of these days, but a new generation will glom onto whatever the next slick purveyor of teasers turns out to be. This is not something new. In fact, it’s the oldest profession in the world. Only the details change from century to century.

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After You Read This Eye-Opening Inside Story, You’ll Never Think About Social Media the Same Way Again

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VIDEO: David Corn on Why Obama Is Defending Boehner

Mother Jones

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Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC’s Joy Reid this week about why President Obama won’t paint House Speaker John Boehner as a government shutdown villain and what the chances are for a new supercommittee. Watch here:

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VIDEO: David Corn on Why Obama Is Defending Boehner

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Court Orders Release of Dying Prisoner After 41 Years in Solitary, But Louisiana Plans to Appeal

Mother Jones

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Earlier today, the chief judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana overturned the murder conviction of the dying prisoner Herman Wallace, ordering that the state “immediately release Mr. Wallace from custody.” But the state is appealing the decision.

Wallace is one of two members of the so-called Angola 3 who, along with Albert Woodfox, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 41 years. This summer, Wallace was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. He was taken off chemotherapy in September, and currently resides in a prison medical facility. The state’s reluctance to set free an aging and gravely ill prisoner highlights some of the issues covered by James Ridgeway in his award-winning story “The Other Death Sentence,” an article that chronicles the graying of America’s prison population, and the associated costs, both moral and financial.

Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.

Interactive: Inside a Solitary Cell

What Extreme Isolation Does to Your Mind

Documents: 7 Surprising Items That Get Prisoners Thrown Into Solitary

Maps: Solitary Confinement, State by State

VIDEO: Shane Bauer Goes Back Behind Bars at Pelican Bay

Here’s some background on the Angola 3, from Ridgeway’s own extensive coverage of their saga.

Convicted of armed robbery, the men were sent to Angola in 1971. Wallace and Woodfox were Black Panthers, and they began organizing to improve conditions at the prison, which did not win them points with the prison administration. In 1972 they were prosecuted and convicted for the murder of a prison guard named Brent Miller. They have been fighting the conviction ever since, pointing out (PDF) that one of the eyewitnesses was legally blind and the other was a known prison snitch who was rewarded for his testimony.

After the murder, the two—along with a third inmate named Robert King—were put in solitary, where they have remained ever since. (King was released in 2001, after 29 years in solitary, when his conviction in a separate prison murder was overturned.) Several years ago, Wallace and Woodfox were transferred to separate prisons, but they are still held in solitary.

The Times Picayune reports that Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office is now in the process of filing an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court, and will also be asking for a stay of Herman’s release. Maria Hinds, a personal advocate who’s been closely involved in Wallace’s case since 2008, says that for now, the warden at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility, where Wallace is being held, has refused to release him, and that Wallace’s lawyers have filed a motion for contempt of court against the warden for violating a court order.


Court Orders Release of Dying Prisoner After 41 Years in Solitary, But Louisiana Plans to Appeal

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Another drilling blowout in the Gulf, another explosion

Another drilling blowout in the Gulf, another explosion

On Wings of Care

Natural gas billowing around a drilling rig Tuesday before it exploded.

An offshore natural-gas platform burned through the night off the coast of Louisiana following a blowout and explosion on Tuesday.

A drilling company was completing a sidetrack well 115 miles south of New Orleans on Tuesday morning, which likely means it was boring a new hole into an existing well, when gas began spewing uncontrollably from the seafloor. The rig’s crew of 44 workers was evacuated as natural gas formed a sheen in the waters around it and billowed dangerously into the air.

Hours later, while everybody was at a safe distance, the gas ignited, triggering a conflagration that still had not been extinguished as of this writing.

From the AP:

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire, Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told The Associated Press.

She said it wasn’t known what caused the gas to ignite. It also wasn’t clear early Wednesday how and when crews would attempt to extinguish the blaze. BSEE said earlier Tuesday that a firefighting vessel with water and foam capabilities had been dispatched to the scene.

Wild Well Control Inc. was hired to try to bring the well under control. Angelico said Wild Well personnel approached the well earlier Tuesday night, before the fire, but they determined it was unsafe to get closer when they were about 200 feet (60 meters) away from it.

What was the crew up to when it lost control of the well? We don’t know yet:

The purpose of the sidetrack well in this instance was not immediately clear. Industry websites say sidetrack wells are sometimes drilled to remedy a problem with the existing well bore.

“It’s a way to overcome an engineering problem with the original well,” Ken Medlock, an energy expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute said. “They’re not drilled all the time, but it’s not new.”

If only blowouts and explosions at Gulf drilling rigs were isolated incidents. But a blowout is how the Deepwater Horizon disaster got started. And earlier this month, we showed you a photograph taken by nonprofit On Wings of Care of a slick caused by an out-of-control natural gas well.

With the number of deep-sea rigs tapping the Gulf of Mexico for oil expected to nearly double in the next few years, the chances of more such disasters could yet grow.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Another drilling blowout in the Gulf, another explosion

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Do You Have Eco-Anxiety? I Do.

judy s.


Invisible Symptoms of M.S. (video)

3 minutes ago

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Do You Have Eco-Anxiety? I Do.

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