Weird things we do to food plants (other than genetic engineering)

It's Not Easy To Be Green

Mutant carrot. Photo credit: Joebeone

Here’s an embarrassing confession: when I was eight, the cartoon Attack of the Killer Tomatoes gave me nightmares. Seriously, what could be scarier than giant mutant tomatoes with teeth? (Don’t answer that.)

I’ve been thinking about these killer tomatoes a lot recently in the context of GMOs. Genetically modified organisms probably do seem about as unnatural and just as frightening (if less overt) as these tomatoes. It is scientists playing God. It is taking genes from one organism and sticking them into another. It is definitely unnatural.

But is it significantly more unnatural than other things we do to food plants?

I wanted to talk about some of the other weird s*** humans do to plants in this post, because I think there are a lot of misconceptions about how we develop crops. Unless you survive strictly off foraging, we all eat mutant plants every day…

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Review: The Subprimes is Primo Satire

J.G. Follansbee

The Subprimes cover Karl Taro Greenfeld’s The Subprimes is first-rate satire. I read Karl Taro Greenfeld’s The Subprimes in the midst of Seattle’s hottest summer in a century, so it was easy to imagine the characters in this laugh-out-loud satire surviving the burning dust of an expired exurb. I have a specific interest in climate change as a narrative force, and the novel’s slow strangulation of the environment makes for a lot of black humor. For instance, endangered whales beach themselves on both coasts, and they become a kind of living—and dying—parentheses enclosing an America gone crazy with Ayn Rand ideology.

Greenfeld’s near-future is an economic dystopia, but most dystopias are utopias for someone. In The Subprimes, the beneficiaries are in-power libertarians led by the inheritors of Republican Senator Paul Ryan, the failed vice-presidential candidate who lends his name to “Ryanvilles,” squatters camps of individuals and families—the eponymous “subprimes”—who lost their homes after…

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History of Ōuzhōu as compiled by the Imperial Archaeologists

James Calbraith

For the education and enlightenment, we, the Council of Imperial Archaeologists, hereby present a compilation of our knowledge of history of the region of Ōuzhōu, which in ancient time lay between the Bōsī and Èluósī Empires, and the Great Western Sea.

The dates given are numbered from the birth of the exalted Kǒng Fūzǐ (AC).

0-300 AC: The Archaic, or Dayuan Dynasty Period. These are the same Dayuans who, after defeating and briefly subjugating the Bōsī, established trade relations with the Han Emperors in 420 AC, the first of the Ōuzhōu peoples to do so.

300-850 AC: The Classical, or Dàqin Dynasty Period. The Dayuans are supplanted by the Dàqins. The Dàqins spread throughout most of the southern and western Ōuzhōu, and establish trade with the Han Emperors. To the east, they border with the Bōsī. To the north of their lands lay the forests of the Dé and the…

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The Lessons of Porn, Expanded

Brave Lucky Game

Referring back to this post on the effects porn had on my sexuality and particularly how I perceived “sex” and the narrowing of what was pleasurable for me, I wanted to write another post about stimulus and conditioning. Especially since people seem to believe that this is some isolated phenomenon, and it’s just not.

One of the things I noted about pornography was that it actually limited the pleasure I could find in sex or masturbation when it wasn’t “aided” by porn, and that it warped my definition of sex so that it consisted almost entirely of penetration, performed pretty mechanically by two or more partners—it could have been anyone, not just me; all that mattered was that penetration happened. It was really about as sexy as a hammer striking a block repeatedly: if you have a healthy sexuality, not at all.

Carnism warped my perception of what “filling” food…

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Shelter Pet of the Day – Memphis, TN


Dog ID #281205 at the Memphis pound. Dog ID #281205 at the Memphis pound.

Based on the number of animals the Memphis pound currently has listed on PetHarbor, there appear to be more than 350 empty cages at the facility today.

Screengrab from PetHarbor showing 192 animals listed by the Memphis pound on September 15, 2015. Screengrab from PetHarbor showing 192 animals listed by the Memphis pound on September 15, 2015.

But dog ID #281205 can’t be allowed to live in one of those empty cages because he is “past his review date”.  And no one has applied to adopt him because he is being kept in a cage behind locked doors at the Memphis pound.  The public is barred from seeing him because, as one supervisor told rescuer Jody Fisher, “This is not a dog that should be in the adoption area – we would catch flack for having him out on the floor in his condition.”  He is not listed on PetHarbor either.  As usual, MAS is concerned about appearances, not lifesaving.

This fellow…

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Controversy, thy name be Smithsonian

Johns Hopkins University Press Blog

Guest post by Robert C. Post

Who Owns America's Past? $20.97 (reg. $29.95)

The Smithsonian Institution is currently wrapped in controversy involving an exhibit at its National Museum of African Art, Conversations: African and African Amercian Artworks in Dialogue. Nobody doubts the exhibit’s noble purpose, displaying art with “the power to inspire.” But one-third of the works are from the collection of Bill Cosby and his wife Camille, and the Cosbys donated $716,000 “to assist with the cost.” Moreover, the exhibit is partly about Cosby himself, about his fame, his geniality. Near a display of quilts there is a quote about these quilts telling a story “of life, of memory, of family relationships.” To many people steeped in the 24-hour news cycle, this seems beyond irony.

But we must remember that the Smithsonian Institution was born 170 years ago amid controversy and no little irony. When the bequest of an eccentric Englishman, James Smithson, arrived in…

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The girl WITHOUT the dragon tattoo:

Armada Is Fucking Terrible

Andrew Liptak

Ernie Cline’s novel Armada dropped last week with an enormous publicity campaign that’s sure to get this book selling exceptionally well. Cline has been riding high on his debut novel, Ready Player One, an Easter-egg infused novel that hit the nerd sweet spot with a hefty dose of references and nostalgia. The problem with Armada is that it’s absolutely, fucking terrible.

The plot is basic. A spacecraft drops by the school of one high school gamer, Zack Lightman, and tells him what absolutely every gamer wants to hear: Aliens are about to attack Earth and a secret military organization has shepherded video games, movies, novels and television shows to help attune humanity into fighting back against the alien invaders. On top of all that, Lightman’s one of the top gamers in the world, and that because of his scores in Armada, he’s one of the last best hopes for humanity. He’s brought…

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The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman

Thrice Told

The Magician's Land (The Magicians, #3)The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m offended. I really am. I actually take pride in my ability to let most things go and actively shrug off offense where ever I might find it, but I am making an exception for Lev Grossman and his ugly novel.

Let’s start with the story as a whole: Quentin’s life after Fillory and what he might do with. Four hundred plus pages of telling, telling, telling later with some random point of view switches and nonsensical demi-deus-ex-machinas. I kept waiting for the phoning it in quality to fade away, but it never did. Maybe it’s too pet peeve of me, but I cannot stand a story where the author clearly can’t decide what the primary narrative is. And Grossman one-upped his previous back-and-forth mish-mash of stories here. Quentin’s there, but then there are a bunch of flashbacks…

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