A “Lot” To Complain About

A PARKING LOT!

Not a specific one, but parking lots in general. At least the ones I encounter in my daily life which are in front of business open to the general public (stores, restaurants, etc)

I am no spring chicken, so I can compare today’s parking lots with those that go back as far as the mid-1950s, going forward.

I have come to the conclusion that you can judge a society and more specifically, a neighborhood, by its parking lots. For example, if many of the parking lots in an area are showing age and need some major pot holes filled, the area is probably distressed and the store owner probably leasees instead of owns the building and lot.

If cops consider the parking lot as part of their patrol area (beat) its probably a distressed neighborhood with more than average shoplifting and holdup events.

In my lifetime I have seen many changes to parking lots over the years. Some changes were for the better. Other changes are indicative of a society going wrong. Let me explain…

Handicap spaces:
The most obvious change to parking lots is the addition of handicap parking spaces for vehicles that display a handicap logo. In the United States, this change came about in 1973. Every parking lot in this country is required to set aside handicap parking spaces. Unfortunately, there is abuse associated with these spaces. Drivers who have a sticker because of a family member’s handicap can get away with parking in a handicap space. But it is difficult to identify the perpetrators. This is a moral issue, as well as a legal issue. If you use someone’s sticker because you’re lazy, you have just interfered with a handicapped person’s access rights.

Speed Bumps
These annoying bumps in the road were introduced in the 1980s. I supposed there were drivers speeding in parking lots, but I just don’t remember too many incidents of that, not even in the student parking lot in high school (class of ’72), where all the immature, stupid, daredevilish drivers parked.

Patrol Cars:
If I saw a cop car in a parking lot in 1960-something, the cop would be writing a ticket for speeding. But, now days many of the bigger parking lots are considered a “beat”. I imagine the cops draw straws to see which one will get the job of sitting in his patrol car all night in a far corner of the parking lot ready to spring into action when the store reports a shoplifter. I wonder if there is a direct emergency line between the store and the cop.

BagBoys:
When did the bag boys stop bringing the groceries to your car? When my mom bought a weeks worth of groceries for a family of eight, two cats, and a german shepherd, there were a lot of bags. The bag boy packed your groceries, put them in the cart, and then offered to bring them to your car and pack them in the trunk. Mom gladly accepted the service. Now, in the big box stores, a bag carousel has replaced the friendly bagboy. But even those stores that still hire bagboys don’t offer to bring your bags to your car and put them in your trunk.

Shopping Carts:
When I was a kid, I was taught to put everything in its place when you were done with it. To this day, I push my cart into the cart corral, making sure to add it to the line of carts. However, it seems that people have forgotten that these things were meant to be pushed together, or stacked as I call it. This is such a pet peeve of mine that I will take an extra minute or two to straighten up the mess of carts. I know that the cart wranglers who transport them back to the store with that motor driven cart pusher appreciates the work I put into it.

Maybe these observations are unique to where I lived then and where I live now. When I was growing up, I lived in San Jose, California. And, now I live in semi-rural North Carolina, within commuting distance to Greensboro, a mid-sized city.

Maybe I am comparing apples to oranges. That reminds me, I need to go shopping.

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Is This The Extinction Event We Were Warned About?

Geologists have been talking about peak oil for quite a while now. Yet, there are still oil deposits that haven’t been tapped. And in some places fracking has been implemented to squeeze more out of the ground.

But, even if we use up all the oil in the world, it won’t be the end of life as we know it. There are substitute fuels and technologies waiting in the wings, waiting for that day when the powerful oil companies become redundant.

But there is another natural resource that is reaching its peak, and there are no substitutes for this resource, and most importantly, without it, all life on earth would perish.

If ever there was a potential extinction event it would probably be the depletion of phosphorus. Why is phosphorus so important? Every living thing (whether plant, animal, or human) needs phosphorus to produce healthy cells. So, the fact that the world’s reserves of phosphorus are dwindling fast is really bad news. Unlike oil, which is found in many areas of the globe, phosphorus is not as ubiquitous.

An estimated 85 percent of the globe’s phosphate reserve is controlled by Morocco’s royal family. Much of it is located in the Western Sahara. Jeremy Grantham, cofounder of the prominent Boston-based global investment firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., called this “the most important quasi-monopoly in economic history.”

Oddly, peak phosphorus doesn’t get the attention that peak oil gets and yet it is far more important. In a recent essay in Nature, Grantham, who also runs an environmental foundation, put the case bluntly: Our phosphorus use “must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve.”

The United States imports about 10 percent of our phosphate from Morocco. We also have some phosphorus mining operations in the U. S. The largest mining operation is in Florida.

Florida's strip mining operation solves one problem adn creates another.

Florida’s phophorus  mining creates a huge environmental problem.

Mining for phosphorus is environmentally devastating. It requires stripping large areas of land. It also creates massive amounts of phosphogypsum, an undesirable and toxic waste product. Phosphogypsum contains low levels of radiation and several heavy metals.

To date, these waste products have not been dealt with. There are huge piles of the stuff  in mining regions. The EPA estimates that central Florida houses nearly 1 billion metric tons of toxic phosphogypsum and it keeps growing to the tune of 32 million metric tons each year.

As the toxic waste piles grow, the phosphorus reserves dwindle. It is estimated that within 25 years Florida’s phosphorus will be depleted.

Is this a hopeless situation? No, there are ways to extract phosphorus from waste products, but to date no one is recycling waste products. Currently, phosphorus is allowed to fallow in the fields or wash away into waterways and eventually into the ocean. Animal manure and human urine are excellent sources of phosphorus. But there isn’t any infrastructure in place to recycle these waste products.

There is no simple solution, but its crucial that something be done soon because our other option is to pay outragious prices to the King of Morroco,  and eventually use up all the phosphorus.

Hey Kids! Let’s Roundup All the Essential Minerals

crop-duster

Thanks to Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, these crops can be sprayed with Roundup Weed Killer multiple times throughout the season.

If you haven’t heard of GMO corn or RoundUp-Ready Corn, you have probably been spending too much time on a mountain-top in Tibet. I suggest that you might want to stay there.

The first thing you need to understand about GMOs is Monsanto’s patented weed killer, marketed as RoundUp. The active ingredient in RoundUp is glyphosate. This product is widely used by mega-corporate farms to keep weeds from growing among their crops.

What many people don’t know is that an earlier version of RoundUp was originally developed as a chelator agent for use in cleaning the mineral buildup that accumulated in industrial pipes. Glyphosate bonds to minerals at the molecular level—most all minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium & manganese. Once bonded to the mineral buildup, it is then flushed out, leaving a clean pipe.

But now, glyphosate is used in herbicides. The same chelating process that cleans out pipes, also kills weeds because, like every living organism on Earth, they need essential minerals to thrive. For this reason, RoundUp cannot be used near natural farm crops, grazing land, hay fields, or even flower gardens, because it doesn’t play favorites. It can and will kill any green, leafy plant it encounters. In years past, farmers would spray their plowed fields a few weeks prior to planting their crop. But, once the seed or seedlings were planted, they couldn’t use RoundUp again until the next growing season.

Monsanto realized if they could develop a strain of corn that was immune to the chelating action of Roundup, they could multiply their sales to farmers by up to 10 times. The plan went like this: Charge the farmer a premium price for their special patented RoundUp -immune corn, then sell even more RoundUp for supplemental sprayings, because now farmers can spray their crops as often as they need to. The farmers will be thrilled to finally have a way to keep those pesky weeds out of their cornfields.

The plan worked beautifully. Now just about everything we eat has some level of Roundup-immune corn. Nearly all boxed, bagged, canned, and frozen products include some corn products, the most common being high fructose corn syrup.

Laboratory tests performed on Monsanto’s genetically modified corn indicate that Monsanto’s patented corn is as safe and nutritious as Mother Nature’s version. These conclusions should not surprised you at all. Anyone could plant it in their own backyard and it would be a good healthy source of food. But, the study does not indicate that the corn was subjected to multiple applications of RoundUp, this study means nothing. It is not the corn itself that is a danger to our health. corn

The danger lies in the fact that this strain of corn tolerates sprayings of RoundUpthroughout the growing season, at every stage of the corn’s growth cycle. It saves the farmer a lot of work and money. Instead, of hiring many farm hands and purchase expensive machinery to tackle the weeds, he hires one crop duster to spray the corn every couple weeks.

Maybe you remember, back in 1989, the controversy surrounding the plant growth regulator known as ‘Alar’. It was sprayed on apples, pears, and other tree fruits in the United States. It was determined that, even though these fruits were washed before processing, traces of Alar were still detected in juice and other products made from the sprayed fruit. As a result of these findings, the product was voluntarily withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer, Uniroyal Chemical Company.

But, Monsanto has too much invested in this project to pull their products off the market. This is not just a single chemical, this is a catalog of patented strains of corn and a growing catalog of other farm crops, that only have the benefit of tolerating their weed killer.

Yes, Glyphosate is being sprayed on our food in massive quantities, and like the Alar that stayed with fruits even after washing, has a huge potential of remaining within the food itself. When we ingest food containing corn products the likelihood that we are ingesting Roundup is quite high.

Everything we ingest, eventually ends up in our blood stream—the good, the bad, and the ugly, the same place where essential minerals are found. The only question lingering is, what does ingesting foods that have been sprayed multiple times with an industrial pipe cleaner do to our health?

That’s the study that needs to take place (and not by Monsanto or any lab they select)

Who Would You Like to Eat Today?

In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted a future in which all the world’s meat would be grown in labs. Churchill asked, “What, was the sense in raising a whole chicken merely for the sake of its wings or breast meat?” Where did he come up with that idea? What kind of mad science was he privy to in the early 1930s that caused him to predict lab-produce meat? Can you imagine the funny looks and the gossip that followed such a statement?

That would be the equivalent to President Obama predicting that in the future we will be visiting cantinas on Mars and taking honeymoon trips on the actual moon.

Its been 84 years since Churchill’s odd prediction, but he has finally been vindicated. He wasn’t crazy after all, he was quite the visionary. Because, right now, there are several labs working on that exact problem. The world’s population is growing, yet the earth has only a finite amount of land. 30% of the Earth’s inhabitable land mass is used for the production of meat. If we could reduce that to 5%, new villages, towns, and cities could take the place of factory farms.

Most people who witness the way animals are treated in factory farms would categorize it as cruelty. These farms also have a measurable negative impact on the environment. Antibiotics are used on these animals to reduce loss from disease. Growth hormones are given to animals to fatten them up so they can get the to market quicker. As consumers of this meat, we also ingest these antibiotics and growth hormones to the possible detriment of our own health. On the other hand, lab grown meat removes all these issues. The amount of land needed to produce the same amount of meat is drastically reduced and other environmental issues are eliminated.

The process of growing meat in the lab still requires an animal, but the animal is not killed. One cow would replace many thousands. The process starts with a small biopsy of a cow’s myoblast cells (also known as stem cells). The cow is not slaughtered. These myoblast cells multiply, increasing in volume until they have reached the desired mass. Once the first batch of meat is grown, the next batch could be started with a sampling of the first.

This method of growing meat in a lab can offer so much more than just replicas of beef, pork, and chicken. Imagine tasting the meat of a rare species, like Polar Bear or Python. Artisan blends created by famous chefs could be developed.

One of these meat producing companies, Bitelabs, is adding an even wilder twist to this concept. And to be honest, it is a little creepy. Bitelabs is going to offer celebrity meat. That’s right, meat cultured from a biposy from a celebrity donor. I am not aware of any celebrity who has signed up for this, yet. But Bitelabs is urging tweeters to tweet their favorite celebrities and urge them to offer a little of piece of themselves in the interest of science.

This idea may have the unintended consequence of shining daylight on vampires, cannibals, necrophiliacs, and Jeffrey Daumer wanna-bes. We may be sorry we opened up that can of worms.

If you decide to tweet some celebrities about this novel way to connect with their fans, make sure you are selecting the right celebrity. I would personally not tweet the likes of Charlie Sheen because of all the bad stuff he puts into his body.

It might be a better choice to convince someone like Ellen DeGeneres who became a vegan after watching footage taken at slaughterhouses and dairy farms. Since she is so opposed to the way livestock is treated, she might be the first celebrity to get behind this science. She could go down in history as the first edible talk show host.

If Bitelabs is looking for a catchy product name they might consider “Soylent Green”. That’s the title of a 1973 sci-fi movie, starring Charlton Heston. It takes place in our not too distant future (the year 2022) and portrays an overpopulated world facing food shortages and starvation.

With our global population tipping the scale at 7-billion people, the dystopian world depicted in this movie may be predicting our real future, which includes a bio-engineered food source called Soylent Green that is distributed to the population on Tuesdays only.

Below is a very short clip showing Charlton Heston’s character revealing the secret ingredient in the government-supplied food, Soylent Green.

You May Never Look At Chocolate The Same Way Again

Abdul, a young Syrian man (not his real name) was trying, once more, to escape the Syrian civil war. He had made seventeen previous attempts to sneak into the U.K. and failed seventeen times. He learned from his mistakes every time he failed, but no two attempts were identical. There was always something unexpected that foiled his plans. He figured by now he had experienced it all. The eighteenth attempt would surely be a success.

Abdul, six other men, and an experienced smuggler all gathered at a truck stop outside of the small village of Coquelles, France. Earlier this evening truck drivers had pulled in, parked their loaded rigs, and settled down for the night, sleeping in their cabs. In the morning, some of these drivers would be delivering their trailers to the train station loading dock where they would be loaded onto flat cars. The freight train would then transport the trailers the rest of the way to England by way of the Channel Tunnel. This routine never changed and that made the smuggler’s job easy.

The smuggler, a Kurdish man, originally from Iraq, had been organizing these refugee operations for years and knew that tanker trucks were never x-rayed for stowaways. So he checked the tanker trucks for their destination stickers and identified a tanker that was destined for the U.K. The smuggler, Abdul, and the six other men quietly approached the tanker so as not wake the driver.

First, the smuggler climbed the ladder to the top of the tank and used a bolt cutter to remove the padlock on the hatch. Then he signaled for the refugees to climb to the top of the tank. The contents of the tanker were not identified. If it turned out to be something dangerous or toxic, they hoped it would be obvious before they ventured inside.

The moment the hatch was opened a familiar aroma permeated the cold night air. Chocolate! Seven men were going to sneak into the UK in a tank of liquid chocolate. It was near freezing that night, so as they climbed down into the warm chocolate it felt great, like a chocolate hot tub. The smuggler then closed the hatch, leaving a little gap so they could breathe and eventually escape.

Abdul stands 6 feet tall, but he still couldn’t touch the bottom of the tank with his feet. They were all holding on to the rim of the hatch with one hand. If anyone had lost their grip and gone under, the others would not have been able to rescue the fallen man.

It didn’t take long for the men to realize the chocolate was becoming uncomfortably hot. The heat was actuallly becoming unbearable. The seven men could do nothing else but cling to the hatch rim in a tight circle, submerged in chocolate up to their necks. They had to keep moving their legs to keep from getting totally trapped in the heavy chocolate.

They naturally began to consider their dilemma. The trip to the train should take no more than 30 minutes. Once they had passed the checkpoints they would be able to escape their chocolate prison. Unfortunately, the truck wasn’t moving. They had now been in chocolate limbo for more than two hours. The men were careful to remain quiet, but under their breaths they cursed the smuggler for putting them in this, now precarious, situation.

Some of the men wanted to give up and escape the chocolate. But Abdul wanted to stay with the original plan. Seventeen attempts under his belt—would he never complete his personal pilgrimage? He felt so close to freedom that he could taste it (and it tasted like chocolate). If just one of them left, all of them would have to leave. Whoever left would leave a trail of chocolate all down the side of the tanker. Anyone staying behind would be discovered, for sure.

The situation was not getting any better. In fact it was becoming serious and two of the men started to cry. In the end it was unanimous. It was time to leave while they still had the cover of dark. The chocolate was heavy and slippery. It was almost like a game of tug-o-war. It took the entire group to help push or pull each man, one at a time through the hatch. The last guy struggled the most. It was difficult to extract against the pull of the chocolate. He finally had to kick off his shoes and allow them to drop to the bottom of the tank.

All seven men, exhausted, but safely extracted from that unforgiving chocolate, began the long, cold, hike to their tent hidden deep in the nearby woods. They were covered head to toe in chocolate and as they walked, they left seven sets of chocolate foot prints, one of them shoeless. In the frigid night air the gooey chocolate hardened and cracked on their clothes and skin. They chipped off pieces and ate the chocolate. They all agreed, it was very good chocolate.

Abdul did eventually make his way to the U.K. He avoided tankers and instead stowed away on a trailer loaded with new truck cabs. He found one that was unlocked and hid inside. He was granted asylum in the U.K. and found a job at an Arabic restaurant in Sheffield.

To this very day, whenever Abdul gets a whiff of chocolate, it reminds him of that cold winter night when he and six other grown men nearly experienced Death By Chocolate!