A Not-So-Fantastical Plan To Save California From Drought With Cacti

A Not-So-Fantastical Plan To Save California From Drought With Cacti

Imagine the Central Valley of California not as a patchwork of drought-vulnerable crops but as a network of farms that use almost no water. Not only that, these farms can also filter existing water while providing acres of food for Californians. Imagine that thirsty alfalfa no longer reigns: Cactus is king.

This is one potential future scenario for California according to a winner of Dry Futures, a competition sponsored by Archinect to unearth design solutions to the state’s drought. There are plenty of intriguing solutions but this one in particular caught my eye as it’s one we’ve talked about here: The power of the prickly pear cactus.

A Not-So-Fantastical Plan To Save California From Drought With Cacti

Grassroots Cactivism” is the name of the concept by Ali Chen, which taps the prickly pear (commonly called nopales when humans are eating the paddles, but you can also eat the bright pink fruit) as a renewable centerpiece of a water purifying system, something it’s been used for informally for centuries:

Locals in Mexico have often dumped the water used to cook cactus into polluted rivers and streams. The ‘mucilage’ or inner cactus pulp has also been tested and used in oil spills. Cactus pulp was found to disperse crude oil efficiently at much lower concentrations than synthetic dispersants.

In this concept, farms of prickly pear cactus would replace traditional “treatment plants,” helping to recycle wastewater without using additional energy, while producing a water-efficient crop that can feed local residents. Assuming the cactus can effectively act as a cleaning agent as described, this seems like a brilliant idea.

A Not-So-Fantastical Plan To Save California From Drought With Cacti

Curiously, this concept won the speculative category but it’s clearly not that far-fetched. We reported earlier this summer on a study by Oxford scientists which highlighted the prickly pear as an important water-efficient source of bioenergy. And of course the part where you can eat both the energy source itself if necessary as well as its highly nutritious fruit as a byproduct is a huge bonus. Can’t say that about coal.

With all this talk about what food makes sense to grow where, and which plants are simply converting tons of water into empty calories, cactus appears to be a clear winner as far as agriculture goes. The fact that it can also clean water makes it seem like a super-crop. Who can help make cactus the next kale?

[Check out Grassroots Cactivism and the rest of the Dry Futures winners]

Follow the author at @awalkerinLA

via Gizmodo http://bit.ly/1VghGBf

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies
<p>If there is a Hall of Fame for cookies, peanut butter cookies hold a place of honor, along with chocolate chip and <a href="http://bit.ly/1J6XeSN">oatmeal raisin</a>. They also happen to be my mother’s favorite cookie, the one cookie she requests when I’m in a cookie making mood.     <p><a href="http://bit.ly/1Ph63IX">Continue reading &quot;Peanut Butter Cookies&quot; »</a></p><br><br><a href="http://bit.ly/1Ph63IX">via SimplyRecipes.com http://bit.ly/1Ph63IX</a>

Kansas City Evening by K S

Kansas City Evening by K S

Taken from World War Memorial, overlooking Union Station and the Kansas City Skyline during the sunset hour. I love going to this spot in the evening when I am in Kansas City. It is my favorite place to watch the sun go down over the skyline and see the lights come on! In my opinion this is one of the best places to take a panoramic shot of this beautiful city. (Best seen on full screen with black background by clicking onto the picture then going to full screen… there are so many details that can only be seen in full screen) Kansas City just celebrated the 100 year birthday of Union Station.

K S: Photos

via 500px: http://bit.ly/1HlnpyW

The Difference Between Road Rage and Regular Rage (and Why It Matters)

No matter how calm of a person you are, driving has a tendency to bring out the worst in us. Perhaps it’s the personal armor of being in a steel case on wheels, but road rage feels different than regular old rage. Let’s take a look at why that is.

We’ve talked a lot about managing rage in the past, but like video game anger, road rage is its own special beast. Traffic can induce tantrums even in the most calm among us. Unlike normal anger, you can’t leave, zone out, or take a break to de-stress. When you’re in your car, you just have to continue paying attention. Plus, there are all kinds of stresses that can lead to road rage. Perhaps you’re just having a bad day. Sitting in unmoving traffic makes you realize just how much of your life is slipping away while you’re waiting in a line. Road rage evokes something totally different that’s because it puts us in uncommon situations.

We Feel Anonymous In Cars

We know that anonymity makes antisocial behavior a little easier because of an effect called “deindividualization.” In short, deindividualization is when a person loses a sense of individual identity. This can happen when you’re anonymous, or when you’re a part of a large enough group that it’s hard to pinpoint you as an individual. Traffic facilitates both of these situations pretty well, and this can lead to more aggressive behavior.

Being in a car, of course, doesn’t make us anonymous, but we’re also not face to face with another person. When we’re driving, we’re surrounded by others in a group, but we’re also enclosed in our own shell. In short, when we’re in traffic, we feel less human. This series of studies produced by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, measures anonymity and a driver’s likelihood to honk. The studies concluded is that people were less likely to honk at another driver if they were in a convertible where the honker could actually see them. This was further shown in a study where a curtain blocked out the driver, similar to how tinted windows would. When the people behind the driver holding up traffic couldn’t see them, they honked quicker than when they could. Basically, if you can see another driver as an actual human being instead of a hunk of metal, you’re less likely to honk.

This anonymity can also mean that as drivers, we’re more likely to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Cut someone off? Sure, why not? They’re never going to see you again. Speed through a neighborhood? Sure, you don’t live here.

We Can’t Communicate with Other Drivers

Another way we feel less human is the fact we can’t communicate with each other. Sure, we can use a handful of signals to attempt to communicate with other drivers, but it’s a one-way line of communication. This inability to talk upsets us more than you’d think. Writer Tom Vanderbilt explains how this works in his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do:

Being in a car renders us mostly mute. Instead of complex vocabularies and subtle shifts in facial expression, the language of traffic is reduced—necessarily, for reasons of safety and economy—to a range of basic signals, formal and informal, that convey only the simplest of meanings… Even formal signals are sometimes hazy: Is that person who keeps driving with their right turn signal on actually going to turn or have they forgotten it’s still blinking? Unfortunately, there’s no way to ask the driver what they mean. This may lead to a rhetorical outburst: “Are you going to turn or not?” But you can’t ask, nor would there be a way to get an answer back…

Being muted and unable to communicate makes us mad. When one driver cuts off another, it’s perceived as rude, but there’s no way for the offended driver to defend themselves. We don’t even have someone to complain to about the problem, because usually we’re alone in our cars. So, we get angry, because we have no other outlet. That leads to all sorts of behaviours we wouldn’t normally do, like following that person closely and riding their tail, honking at them, speeding up to cut them off, or taking it out on the next person we see. That’s not to mention the fact we usually get irritated and shout in our car.

The Affect Heuristic Causes Us to Make Snap Judgement Based on Emotion

The affect heuristic is a mental shortcut where we rely on emotions to tell us when something is good or bad. Essentially, we have a first impression of a situation, then we tend to stick it with it regardless of new data. We make snap judgements and don’t think much about them beyond that. We do this all the time, but as Wired points out, this potentially has an impact on how we view traffic because that first impression is never updated.

When you see someone in traffic do something stupid, your first reaction is usually to call them an idiot. If they cut you off, you don’t think about why they cut you off. Maybe they were avoiding debris. Maybe there’s an accident on the side of the road. Maybe you were just sitting in their blind spot. Which is to say, try to remind yourself that it’s a person in that car and there’s a myriad of reasons as to why they’d make the mistakes they make.

The affect heuristic prevents those possibilities from ever crossing our minds, so we end up being illogically upset. Essentially, another reason we get road rage is because we’re not thinking about why other people do what they do, we only think about how what they do makes us feel.

When We Follow the Rules, We Hate When People Break Them

Driving has rules and the only reason most of us get where we’re going safely is because most of us follow those rules. There’s a moral order to driving, and when we see people break those rules, we get upset.

Speaking to that point, BBC Future points to the anger induced by cyclists on the road, but their argument can apply universally to anyone who’s breaking the rules of the road:

Deep within the human psyche, fostered there because it helps us coordinate with strangers and so build the global society that is a hallmark of our species, is an anger at people who break the rules, who take the benefits without contributing to the cost. And cyclists trigger this anger when they use the roads but don’t follow the same rules as cars.

We’ve all collectively agreed on a set of rules and when people break those rules, it makes us angry. In this case, BBC Future is referring to cyclists rolling through stop signs or ignoring traffic lights, but the same goes for drivers who do the same. Ever get mad because someone hops over onto the shoulder on the highway to bypass standstill traffic? It’s the same thing. If we’re on the road and we have to follow the rules, we want everyone else to also.

via Lifehacker http://bit.ly/1CEr4pJ

Foreigners fighting Islamic State in Syria: who and why?

DERIK, Syria (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – While illegally crossing the Iraqi-Syrian border, Canadian Peter Douglas was adamant that his incursion was for humanitarian reasons – to help the people of Syria.

from Reuters: Top News http://ift.tt/1xs8wtw