Category Archives for Mushrooms

These Photos Will Build You Understand Detroit’s Education Crisis

Detroit has shut more than two-thirds of its public schools in the last 15 years, shortchanging students, neighborhoods and the district itself, find a report released as educators protest conditions at the schools that remain open.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers union filed a suit Thursday against Detroit Public Schools over “dangerous” and “deplorable” classroom environments that it says deprive students of a “minimally adequate education.”

A School District in Crisis, ” a report published last week by property mapping company Loveland Technology, dedicates a fuller picture of the district’s deterioration and the consequences for students.

The company surveyed the city’s schools and researched others that have been demolished since the district was formed in the 1800 s.Just 93 school buildings are currently in operation, Loveland discovered. Of the 195 houses shut since 2000, some have been demolished or repurposed, but more than a third stand vacant.

Loveland Technologies
Jackson Elementary has been boarded up because this scene was taken.

Those 81 vacant schools are disintegrating. Fires have been set at a couple dozen; most are open to intruders and copper thieves have started stripping metal from all but one, Loveland found.

“They make up some of the largest and most problematic blight properties in the city, ” John Grover, co-author of the Loveland report, told The Huffington Post.

Loveland Technology
Grant Elementary closed in 2007.

Apart from the toll they have on buildings, the closures deeply impact surrounding communities.

When schools were constructed they were essentially the center of a neighborhood, ” Grover said. “The neighborhood grew around it and when the school left, it left a hole.”

That’s what happened to Mason Elementary. Fifth-grade teacher Emma Howland-Bolton remembers the positive ambiance when she started working there in 2011 — children filled the hallways and their artwork lined the walls.

A few months later, they were informed at a session that the school would be closed, despite resistance from the community, due to declining enrollment.

“I stood up and talked about the narrative of an abandoned build and the message that that sends to kids, what it’s like to walk by, ” Howland-Bolton said. “It was a thriving hub of the community, so it was particularly painful to go back and see it and realize that all of that had come to pass.”

Emma Howland-Bolton
Emma Howland-Bolton taught at Mason Elementary in Detroit before the building was closed in 2012. On the left, her fifth-grade classroom while she was teaching; on the right, the roomshowswear three years after the closure.

Howland-Bolton, who now teaches at another local school, returned to Mason for the first time in November.

“The doors are actually still nailed shut, but there were no windows, ” she said. “It’s entirely torn apart. There were actually children playing basketball in the totally dilapidated gym.”

The school has since been boarded up, Loveland surveyor and photographer Yvette van der Velde said, but the exterior still had openings the last time she was there.

Loveland Technologies
The auditorium at Carstens Elementary, closed in 2011.

The entire district’s enrollment has shrunk dramatically, reflecting the city’s overall population loss. Enrollment has declined by about 85 percent since its 1960 s peak, to just 46,000 children. In recent years, many students who live in Detroit have left the public school system for suburban districts or one of the growing number of charter schools. State funding has run with them.

While under-enrollment is often the reason to close a school, closures don’t help the issue — they may actually contribute to district losses. When a school closes, an average of 30 percentage of the displaced population students leave the district altogether, a Detroit Public Schools report from last year found.

“The impact that those closures have had in recent years has been devastating, and we’re just now starting to understand the repercussions, ” Grover said.

They also haven’t staved off financial crisis. The district has $3.5 billion in total debt, and officials alert they could run out of cash in a few months. They’re dealing with teacher shortfalls while spending an unusually high quantity on lingering debt payments compared to classroom expenses, and paying executive salaries that rank as some of the highest nationally, according to WXYZ.

Howland-Bolton insures the school closures as a disinvestment in education, rather than a viable cost-cutting measure.

“Using fund as an excuse to harm children is truly frustrating, ” she said.

With the district’s future in jeopardy, teachers are calling attention to conditions in their schools that in some cases aren’t much better than those in the crumbling vacant buildings — mold, falling ceiling chunks, extreme temperatures, bullet pits, mushrooms growing indoors and cockroach infestations, to quote a few of the complaints. Since November, teachers have staged frequent “sickouts, ” where they intentionally stay home and school closes.

Earlier this month, DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Earley accused the teachers of “using students as pawns to advance a political position, ” in agreement with the Detroit Free Press. He took some of the educators to tribunal to force an end to the sickouts, but was denied twice.

Teachers argue that systemic problems pose greater hazard to their students than missing a couple days of class and that they have exhausted other options for get people to pay attention. Many households support the sickouts, and students at three high schools walked out of class last Monday to show solidarity with their teachers.

“We deserve volumes, we deserve money, we deserve better education and we’re not get it, ” Jalon Nelson, senior class president at Communication and Media Arts High School, told Fox 2.

Bill Pugliano/ Getty Images
Kids hold signs during a protest at a hearing in Detroit over teacher sickouts that have regularly shut schools since November. Teachers have been calling attention to hazardous conditions in their school buildings as the district faces staggering indebtedness.

DPS has been under state control since 2009, run by a succession of emergency managers appointed under a law that’s supposed to prevent financial crises but hasn’t significantly improved the school district’s finances. Critics say emergency directors, who have primarily come into poor and black communities, put cost savings over residents’ long-term interests while stripping elected leaders’ powers.

Before Earley was appointed to DPS last year, he served as emergency director in Flint, where he oversaw a disastrous plan that left the city with toxic, lead-filled water that has had severe effects on children’s health.

In its lawsuit, the teachers union asks for Earley to be removed from power.

Meanwhile, some of the Detroit school district’s deep-seated problems are now being treated with urgency, thanks in part to the teacher protests.

Loveland Technology
The side entrance of Grant Elementary, which had not been secured when Loveland Technologies visited the site.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan lately called for inspections of all schools; the first batch of the report of the working ordered violations be fixed in a month( one issue: “evidence of vermin infestation, including fecal matter and carcasses” ). At the nation level, lawmakers are considering bills that would restructure different districts and address its looming insolvency.

“It’s going to take major intervention to fix the school district, ” Grover told. “But it’s worth it if it stops this gradual educational disintegrate that’s happening in the middle the city.”

Loveland Technologies
The former Cooper Elementary building before it was demolished in 2011.
Loveland Technology
Hutchins Intermediate’sgymnasium.
Loveland Technology
A hallway in Coolidge Elementary.
Kate Abbey-Lambertz covers sustainable cities, housing and inequality. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter .

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“Death Suit” That Turns Your Body Into Mushroom Food Will Be Commercially Available This Year

For many people, what happens to their body after they die is very important to them. And with the help of science, we have come a long way from burials and cremations, with rather revolutionary alternatives arriving on the scene for the more unconventional. You can have your body cryogenically frozen, turned into a diamond, and even help restore coral reefs. But if tradition is your thing, inventor Jae Rhim Lee wants you to go about it in an environmentally friendly route, by turning you and your pet into mushroom food.

Co-founder of New York-based startup Coeio, Lees quirky concept is designed to get us thinking about death in a different way and start addressing the potential environmental impacts of ones passing. To do so, Coeio is coming up with a range of Infinity Burial products, which the company suggests have minimal environmental repercussions. Think harsh embalming chemicals, coffin materials, carbon dioxide emissions from cremation, and so on.

But Coeio is going further than only biodegradable caskets: Theyve come up with a demise suit to help you decompose. Theres even a version, which is more like a sack, for your companion animal. This devotes the phrase doggy bag an entirely new meaning.

Basically, the suit is laced with spores of what the company has coined infinity mushrooms. According to the website, this will be a unique stres( s) of fungi that will be trained to decompose bodies and remediate the industrial toxins in bodies. Starting off the project with shiitake and oystervarieties, Lee has been feeding the fungi bits of her body to encourage them to start using human tissue as an energy source. Were not talking severed thumbs, of course she used hair, fingernails, scalp, etc.

The idea is that the mushrooms break down any nasties that have built their route into and amassed within your body, which we dont want to go back into the environment. This proposal isnt altogether bonkers: mushrooms have been shown to break down petroleum and even plastic, so there is science to back up the concept.

While this ninja death suit was first announced five years ago during a TED talk, TakePart reports that it is due to be made available the summer months, with the pet alternative arriving slightly earlier in March. If you imagination one for yourself, it will set you back $999.

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I Did The Keto Diet Where I Ate All Fat And No Carbs& It Went Better Than You’d Expect

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Fad diet Diary: a series of experiments, where I willingly set myself through diets that range from is difficult to questionable to downright loathed by the medical community and then record my experience so that other people can learn from my mistakes. Both my doctor and my metabolism are thrilled.

While in the past I’ve tested out crash cleanses, obscure 90 s fad diets, and completely arbitrary food challenges, set by people at, this round of dieting was a truly unique experience. Why? Because it was kind of healthy.

For the past two weeks I have been living the ketogenic lifestyle, which I’ve been describing to people as Atkins on Crisco. It entails cutting out basically all carbs and sugars and sustaining yourself on a diet of high-fat foods. If this sounds like a dream to you, it’s because it kind of is. For instance, if you’ve ever received yourself in bed at 10 pm on a Thursday night, wishing you had a bowl of sour cream and carnitas in front of you, you’ll want to keep reading.

The purpose of this diet is to put yourself into a metabolic nation called ketosis, which is a natural process that your body initiates when carb intake is low. Essentially, instead of burning carbs for energy, your body is burning fats. You are quite literally eating fats to burn and lose weight, and it voices fake until you suddenly fit into a pair of pants you haven’t been able to wear since junior year of college.

This website will explain the scientific side of this better than I will ever be allowed to and serves as a really great introduction for people who are looking to dive into a keto lifestyle.

While keto is more of a lifestyle than a fad diet, I’ve decided it falls into the realm of this series, because people won’t stop talking about it. Originally promoted as a style to assist regulate epilepsy and diabetes, keto is receiving a seal of approval from fitness fanatics, professional athletes, and people who just really like high-maintenance diets. On the other end of the spectrum, you have your usual skeptics and assorted doctors who really wish that people would stop generating fad diet so that their patients will stop coming in quoting Dr. Oz. This sounded like an argument that I wanted to fell myself immediately into the middle of.

The diet breakout appears something like this: 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs. You can get your own specific macros calculated on any number of online keto calculators, which induce you do inhumane things like try and figure out your body fat percentage. My requirements were 1,531 calories a day, 119 g of fat, 95 g of protein, and a mere 20 g of carbs.

For reference, there are 48 g of carbs in one bagel. Half a bagel would max out my entire carb intake for one day and likely destroy any ketosis that I had established. I know the majority of members of you likely just checked out, but stay with me here.

And the thing is, the allowed 20 g of carbs aren’t fun carbs like bread or apple cider donuts that a girl in your office had shipped fresh from New York on day two of your diet. They’re concealed carbs that live in foods you thought were safe, like arugula and mushrooms. What I began to refer to as “sleeper carbs” were nearly my downfall and the cause of one of the most dread-filled Sunday nights of my entire life. Don’t worry, we’ll get there.

In order to ensure that you’ve reached ketosis, you get to pee-pee on these little strips that tell you if your body is expelling high levels of ketones with a colour scale that quite easily allows you to mistake one level for another, and will have you sitting and examining a strip of newspaper, covered in your own urine, for longer than you’d like to admit it. Accept this as your new normal.

The test strips are a bit controversial in that they don’t work for everyone, and for some, are less of a measure of your level of ketone creation and more of a litmus test for simply whether you’re in ketosis or not. If you’re a die-hard adherent and want the real measuring, the best route is a blood exam, for which you can buy a handy gadget and perform at home. My needle-phobic ass will stick to investigating my own pee, thanks.

Other things that will become your new normal: consuming 100+ grams of fat a day, drinking butter, having meltdowns at 8: 30 pm when you realise you’re still 60 grams of fat short of your daily objective, being that asshole at a eatery who orders deconstructed burgers with every imaginable sauce removed, and in a moment of weakness, spending $30 on the most pretentious ingredients you can find at your nearest New Seasons, so you can splurge on a keto-safe cookie dough concoction that you’re really going to abhor yourself for eating.

The hardest part of this diet wasn’t necessarily following it, but get into the mindset that not only is it okay to be feeing fats, but that you have to do it to keep yourself going.

I, like most women, have grown up in a body-shaming, lady-hating, diet-purporting society that has conditioned me to avoid fats like my life depended on it. In fact, we’ve been taught that our lives do actually depend on it, lest we fall victim to such horrors as high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, or, God forbid, being bigger than a sizing 6.

But I only expended the last two weeks indulging in eggs fried in butter, bacon, cream cheese, and all the avocado my heart desired, and guess what? I lost nine pounds, went down an entire pant size, and suffered what can only be described as an existential crisis, when I realized that I don’t know how the fucking food or my body works.

If this sounds equal parts enjoyable, eye-opening, and wholly overwhelming, that’s because it was. I know I’ve painted the whole experience as a dream come true, but there were considerable downsides as well. For one, in order to live as true to the lifestyle as possible, I committed to tracking my macros to ensure I was satisfying my daily requirements( spoiler alerting: I rarely did ). This entailed painstakingly measuring out–or in my instance, wildly estimating–the exact quantity of each individual ingredient I was ingesting and putting it into an app that would tell me whether or not I was failing.

Is failing the right term to use, considering I still lost weight and reaped the benefits of a keto diet? Probably not, but that’s certainly what it felt like. While the food was enjoyable, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the end results, a diet shouldn’t make me feel the style that AP Tests and the SAT did; I shouldn’t be having stress dreamings about eating an entire cake and instantly hurling my body out of ketosis.

A regular diet is stressful in its own right, but one that induces you meticulously track everything you put into your mouth is a giant endeavour. There were days that I simply opted not to eat, because the believed to be recording a dinner voiced exhaust.

Other negative side effects that one could experience include: muscle cramps due to lack of magnesium( check ), sudden drop-offs in energy while your body adapts to this new reality( check ), the keto flu–a period of during the course of its induction stage where one might suffer flu-like symptoms due to a lack of electrolytes( thankfully avoided ), and zero tolerance for any bullshit from anyone( potentially merely me ).

What was shocking was how quickly I adapted to this new way of life. Unlike most of my diets where each day brought a new hurdle, either physical or emotional, the reality of keto set in speedily. The second half of the journey moved along smoothly, and I didn’t even find myself wishing for it to end, but that first week was a whirlwind of discovery.

Day One

This first day was exciting in the way these experimentations always are in the beginning. I’m out here trying something entirely new and haven’t stooped to the phase of disliking myself for it yet. Everything is still a novelty, and I haven’t had to embarrass myself at a eatery by asking for the sugar content of the house Bloody Mary Mix. Everything was bright and shiny.

I learned a couple things really quickly, both through the route I felt and the sage wisdom of my keto coach-and-four, a friend who willingly lives like this as an actual predilection and not just so she can publish a bunch of gags about it online. Some people are just enlightened, I guess.

The first lesson: Bodies in ketosis require almost double the amount of water as normal, because your liver is doing a lot more work than usual. This was rough to hear, considering that, on a good day, I drink about half as much water as an adult human should. In illuminate of this news, I downloaded an app to remind me to drink water, because I’m the kind of person that needs technology to remind her to meet the baseline requirements for survival. All in all, things were off to a good start.

Day Two

On day two, I discovered butter coffee, which is exactly what it sounds like: a tablespoon of grass-fed butter and sixteen ounces of black coffee, hurled into a blender. What comes out savor more like a latte than anything else, and drinking it for the first time felt like what I would imagine it’s like to live life in all caps. I don’t suppose I’ll ever again reach the level of euphoria that I experienced that first buttery morning, but I’ll dream of it for the rest of my days, chasing that butter coffee dragon.

To be clear, there’s a method behind the madness of drinking a tablespoon of butter first thing every morning. First and foremost, as previously mentioned, I had a hard time squeezing all recommended 119 g of fat into my diet, so starting out my day with a steaming beaker of butter was actually really helpful. Beyond that, your body takes longer to metabolize fats, which means butter coffee is supposed to keep you energized longer, rather than offering a spike of caffeine in the morning and dropping off by lunch. I received this to be true, because I no longer required my usually mandatory 2pm beaker of coffee to make it through the work day.

If a 7am butter coffee was the high of day two, then you could say the low was a mere 12.5 hours later, when I found myself sitting on my patio in the dark, feeing rotisserie chicken directly out of the bag, an event spurned by the fact that I had finally checked my macros for the day, and find I was insufficient in just about everything but carbs, which I’d already maxed out at 20 g.

It was at this point that I realized that this diet had a definite learning curve, something that I truly wasn’t accustomed to. Rather than depriving myself and accepting the suffering, I needed to plan my entire day around fulfilling dietary requirements that I couldn’t really even fathom. Luckily, there are hundreds of forums, Facebook groups, and Pinterest pages dedicated to this very notion. Did I check any of those? Absolutely not, but it probably would have been a good idea.

Day Three

Day three was when current realities of what macro tracking meant truly set in. I am but a simple American, who barely has a grasp on our criterion system of measurement, let alone the metric one. Keto does not care about my mathematical inadequacies. This diet is out here asking me to calculate the number of grams of salmon I’m consuming in a single day.

“Idk, like a handful of spinach” isn’t an option on my tracking app, and my kitchen is sorely lacking in basic measurement tools, which left me often Googling conversion calculators and trying to rationalize quantities of food by comparing them to items that had their weights listed. In short, it was a fucking train wreck.

After the great rotisserie chicken debacle of the night before, I vowed to never fall victim to macro deficiency again and grabbed a pack of bacon on the way home from run. The second major impediment of this diet was the fact that I had to expend a substantial amount of time cooking every night. Although it’s been covered in every installment of this series, it probably bears importance in repeating that I am not a cook by any stretch of the word, and any snack that takes more than 15 minutes to prepare just seems exorbitant.

And yet, I discovered myself that night spending 45 minutes frying up an entire pack of bacon. Should it take that long to cook bacon? Probably not. But things like logic and cook hours have never applied to me, and they weren’t about to start this week.

My next lesson was in sleeper carbs and the fact that even if you’re positive you haven’t touched a single carbohydrate all day, you can still rack up about 12 g too many of them. The perpetrator? Vegetables, whom I’d always considered to be a safe and dependable friend, were secretly carrying carbs and betraying any trust established between us. Et tu, arugula?

Day Four

Day four was a turning point, one of the first times I thought to myself, “Maybe this should be something I merely do all the time.” What are potentially drive me to consider a lifetime without carbs and sugar? It’s simple truly: natural energy, something this body hasn’t experienced since the tender age of 12.

On this momentous day, I woke up on my very first alarm. To some, this is just a mundane requirement of being an adult and constructing it to work on time, but for me? Unheard of. I am a five alarm girl, set at five-minute intervals for optimal agony. I usually drag my lifeless body out of bed about 10 minutes after that fifth alarm and proceed to caveman around the house until I’ve deemed myself presentable enough to wander into work and immediately to the coffee machine.

But on day four, I sprang out of bed at a chill 6:40 am with a sizable craving for butter coffee and the drive to get out of the house as soon as humanly possible.

Improved energy is, in fact, a side effect of this diet. Fat is the body’s largest and most efficient source of energy, and you’ve just about doubled your uptake of it. The result is that you aren’t spending day working through heavy carbs anymore, just burning through these high-energy molecules, which are inducing “youre feeling” genuinely awake for the first time in your cursed life.

In my suit, it was also making me second-guess a lot of things that I had never questioned before. For instance, I am now virtually 99% sure that I’ve spent my entire life mistaking the signs of dehydration for anything but that. On my style to work that morning, I believed, “Hm, I’d really love another cup of coffee, ” and then stopped myself, because that wasn’t actually what I wanted at all. I was thirsty and finally recognizing it for what it was. Natural selection is genuinely slacking in my case.

You might be asking yourself how I’ve stimulated it a full 25 years without being able to tell if my body was in need of water or not, and I’m here to tell you that I have no idea. But now that I’m drinking 2.5 liters of water a day, I’ve ultimately begun to understand what a baseline craving for hydration feels like. Let me tell you, it’s wild.

Day Five

I had built it to Friday and had done pretty well for myself, so on day five, I decided it was time for a treat: professional butter coffee. It’s actually called Bulletproof Coffee, and it’s basically butter coffee with the addition of MCT oil, a naturally occurring petroleum that is supposed to boost energy and burn fat like crazy.

Was it weird at first? For sure. I had grown accustomed to my butter lattes, and this was less of a soothing morning ritual and more so on par with what I would expect it’s like to do angel dust for the first time. I didn’t actually has been able to process it until I was about a third of the route through and my body took over. Suddenly, I needed to drink the rest of it, and it needed to happen as quickly as humanly possible.

It was like I had transcended mundane things like taste buds in favor of becoming omnipotent. I could see new colours. Conversations around me slowed down. I got more work done on that single day than I had all week, and it was all due to this$ 6 oily, buttery, bitter concoction that I will never stop thinking about. I was riding on an absolute high, ready to adopt a keto diet for life, until abruptly I wasn’t.

There was a flurry of reasons for that abrupt turn of events that all culminated in one thing: alcohol. Naturally.

Maybe it was the Bulletproof coffee, or my intense focus, but I didn’t drink almost as much water as I should have on Friday. Realizing this around 4pm was the first red flag that put me off-kilter. A run happy hour led to a birthday party, which led to a bar, which led to another bar, which ultimately led to me standing in front of a Mediterranean food cart at 2am trying to rack up the 1,000 calories I was supposed to have devoured throughout the day, while explaining to a confused, bemused, but accommodating Middle Eastern man what exactly ketogenic diets entail.

All week I had been shaping my schemes and schedule so specifically around this diet, but day five was the first day that life intervened. Sometimes, you’re going to be out and about and won’t be able to find a high-fat, moderate protein snack that adheres precisely to your needs. Sometimes you’re going to fall off the wagon, because you’ve had a shitty day and you need to. Sometimes you’re going to accidentally get super drunk on a Friday, because you would have been racked with FOMO if you hadn’t gone to the cool rooftop happy hour.

And all of that is okay! You can have those off days, as long you wake up the next morning and rededicate yourself to your goals.

Let me tell you, that is exactly what I did.

Day Six

I don’t know how to explain the way I felt Saturday morning. I woke up … energized?

The three tequila Diet Cokes( it aches me to write that) and two vodka sodas I ate the night before? Gone.

Any exhaustion that may have stemmed from the fact that I went to bed at 3am and woke up naturally at 8am? Gone.

A sudden need to grocery shop, clean my room, do the dishes, buy a wall calendar to map out the rest of these diets, and only generally get my life together ARRIVED.

Here I was, inducing the most of a Saturday morning, planning for my week ahead and feeling slightly guilty for consuming alcohol. It wasn’t even the “I blacked out and embarrassed myself” guilt but a wholly foreign “I didn’t truly need to drinking alcohol at all last night” kind. It was during those extravagantly productive hours that I first questioned whether this diet was turning me into a functional adult. Or at the very least, someone who could pass for one. I bought a relaxing nighttime tea, for God’s sake. What next? Learning how to stimulate sous vide eggs?

Day Seven

All the tranquility of Saturday was wholly spent by the time Sunday rolled around. I was coming up on one week of this diet, and the only thing I really felt was stressed out. Well, skinny and stressed out. I had yet to figure out a solution to sleeper carbs and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, trying to reconcile this newfound, entirely one-sided feud with vegetables that I was harboring.

I hadn’t experienced a Sunday night woe like this since high school, at which point I consulted my keto coach who encouraged me to hurl caution to the wind and indulge in a snack consisting solely of eggs, butter and meat. Decadent doesn’t begin to describe the way I felt.

Sunday night was a true breakthrough in both keto and probably just my adult life: I had finally let myself to eat something that a past me would have deemed wildly unacceptable. I’d dismantled the mental block that told me a meal wasn’t complete if it wasn’t 50% green and leafy. I wasn’t “treating myself” or “having a cheat meal.” I was feeing fucking dinner, and it was glorious and liberating, and I was evolving my relation with food.

From that moment forward, I was a new person. I no longer shied away from the high-fat foods, that I was supposed to be espousing. I committed to drinking water , not just for the diet, but also for myself. I slowly began to relax my snack planning, permitting myself to eat out and not slave over tracking subtleties. I ate a shit ton of bacon. And come the two-week mark, I’d lost nine pounds.

Every diet in this series has taught me something about myself: that I am capable of superhuman high levels of self-control when I need to be, that I can eat an inhumane amount of ice cream and still kind of function, and that I can achieve just about anything that I set my mind to, even if my body is imploring me not to.

But this is the first diet to show me that maybe my regular habits aren’t all that much better than the ones I force upon myself, for the sake of these articles. Feeing healthy is all well and good, but not if you’re penalise yourself after a moment of weakness. Hell, perhaps they shouldn’t be called moments of weakness, but moments where I genuinely wanted a muffin, and so I eat a goddamn muffin.

Does this mean I’m fully committed to a keto lifestyle from here on out? Not necessarily. Lazy keto, a diet that still follows ketogenic rules but doesn’t force you to track your macros or anxiety over vegetable carbs, seems more up my alley and is something I could see myself adopting between diet ventures. But I’m also acutely aware that fall is here and with it the great love of my life: kettle corn. I won’t deprive myself of that, and I also won’t ravine myself with it. I’ll enjoy a responsible sum and determinedly not feel bad about it.

In the end, the ultimate irony is that a high-fat, indulgent diet has brought a sense of balance to my life that I hadn’t realized I was missing. Somehow, on this never-ending quest to test every possible restriction my body possesses, I’ve managed to stumble upon something worthwhile.

No promises that it will ever happen again, but I’m fairly happy with myself in the meantime.

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A Young Chicago Chef Pursues Wood-Fired Perfection

The James Beard Awards are often referred to as the “Oscars of the food world, ” and while Chicago chef Erling Wu-Bower has been nominated for three of them, he &# x27; s lost all three.

“I &# x27; m like Susan Lucci! ” he jokes, referring to the soap opera superstar who didn &# x27; t pick up her first Emmy until she &# x27 ;d earned her 19 th nomination.

At the Windy City &# x27; s Experimental Station, a space which Wu-Bower uses as a test kitchen and where he hosts pop-up dinners, he gives me a preview of the food that will end up on tables at his soon-to-open restaurant, Pacific Standard Time. There will almost certainly be more nominations in his future, but really, I just want to be there when the doors open.

PST &# x27; s opening will mark a big departure for the chef; he &# x27; s switching from chores where he was a precision-cooking follower to work with notoriously fickle wood-fired fireside and pizza ovens.

Chef Erling Wu-Bower.

Lyndon French

“I &# x27; ve done the precise thing, ” he tells, referring to sous vide cooking. “You espouse technology so as not to waste money.”

Wu-Bower was a follower of cook Thomas Keller &# x27; s teaches in his landmark sous vide cookbook, Under Pressure . That kind of cooking played a big part in Wu-Bower &# x27; s career where he worked his style up through top-notch Chicago establishments like Avec, Publican, and Publican Quality Meats. He racked up those Beard Award nominations in the Best chef: Great Lakes category three years in a row for his run as cook de cuisine at Nico Osteria.

At Publican, he employed sous vide for foods like pate, terrines, and pork belly. The technique allows him to nail dishes again and again, and it is forgiving enough that something could cook half-hour longer than planned and still taste great. Still, he had an itching to scratch.

“A hearth encourages conversation–you &# x27; re sitting around a flame, you &# x27; re having fun, ” he tells, making me think of exactly zero amazing conversations I &# x27; ve had with the gurgle of a sous-vide machine in the background. “There &# x27; s something innately good in burnt edges, the thin side of a steak, and the things that aren &# x27; t perfect. Cooking with flame is route harder, but it savors better.”

Wu-Bower cooks a wide range of dishes in PST’s wood-fired oven. “Cooking with fire is route harder, but it savors better.”

Lyndon French

To make amazing and consistent wood-fired food from the get-go, he &# x27; s leaning on two crutches: tons of practise, and a devoted application of the scientific method.

Wu-Bower get up to stoke the flames of the Experimental Station fireside oven he &# x27; s use for his recipe testing until the hearth and pizza ovens at PST are ready to roll.

“This is the only oven I trust in Chicago, ” he tells. It &# x27; s a monster–big and beautiful, and there &# x27; s been a fire going inside it for hours.

I can &# x27; t assistance but notice a hairline cracking that widens several feet across the front of the oven.

“That was me. That was the day I learned the thermostat was off by 400 degrees, ” he tells, estimating that it got up to around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit when the rift appeared

It was in this fireside that he and his partner in crime, Greg Wade, worked through what they call The Six-Week Pizza Dough Experiment.

Wade is the head baker at Publican Quality Breads, a current James Beard Award finalist in “the member states national” Outstanding Baker category, and Wu-Bower brought him in as part of his quest for pizza perfection.

The two of them explain that while a wood fire makes more variability in an oven, a dependable dough helps a chef control what &# x27; s happening. For as much as individuality is a romantic notion, if something is really good, clients don &# x27; t necessarily want change. In fact, if the working group &# x27; s change in the loaves he cooks at Publican Quality Breads, Wade hears about it.

This would be the point where the purists might want to get down the ride, and that &# x27; s penalty by me as long as I get their slices.

“I get telephone call if the bread is not the same every time, ” he says. “You &# x27; ve got to control fermenting, control hydration. If a new plenty of flour be coming back, the absorption rate might be off by percentage points, so I &# x27; ll increase the amount of water by about a percentage. You construct checks and balances so that cooks can recreate it every day.”

Wu-Bower and Wade wanted to come up with a better flavor and ideal texture for their pizza dough. For six weeks, they went full scientific method on it, tweaking one variable–type of flour, additional flour for more flavor, dough hydration, proofing periods, or pre-fermentation–per week. One at a time, they sought incremental improvements before moving on to the next variable.

They get several weeks in before they realise they &# x27 ;d driven themselves down a dead end.

“We &# x27 ;d gotten too complex. We maintained changing all these variables but I couldn &# x27; t get it consistent, let alone get it to where a sous chef could do it over and over again, ” says Wade. “It &# x27; s got to be replicable for someone who &# x27; s not making it night after night.”

They backtracked, recalibrated, and focused, homing in on classic Caputo Americana flour with a little Spence Farms wheat flour for extra flavor, then slowly introducing variables and retesting again and again. More than two months and 45 recipes after they started, they found what they wanted.

Wu-Bower works a dome of this dough into a disc and layers on toppings for what he refers to as his “mushroom pie.” It &# x27; s got stracchino cheese, cremini mushrooms, ogre snowflakes of Parmesan, and, standing in for a more traditional chili oil, a brushing of bagna cauda stimulated with olive oil, anchovy, garlic, lemon, and chives. On top, he sprinkles what &# x27; s essentially a dried XO sauce–smoked ham, dried scallops, dried shrimp, and aromatics–all cooked down in oil.

Lyndon French

“We like to sneak in funky fish whenever we can, ” says Wu-Bower, sliding the pizza into the hearth.

This would be the point where the purists might want to get off the ride, and that &# x27; s penalty by me as long as I get their slices.

Set close to the oak embers in the 700 -degree hearth, the dough cracklings almost instantly as it settles on the oven floor. A few Parmesan snowflakes that have fallen over the leading edge sizzle for two seconds before they carbonize. Moments subsequently, the dough begins to rise around the edge and the heat in the oven is intense enough that just seconds later, the part of the rim closest to the flame shows the desirable bubbles of char called leopard spotting. Utilizing the peel, Wu-Bower spins the pizza for even colour, then runs it out toward the oven door where it &# x27; s cooler so that it cooks through without scorching.

Lyndon French
Lyndon French

As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven, in goes a dinged-up sheet pan with six pieces of cod marinated in the Shabazi mixture concocted by NYC spice guru Lior Lev Sercarz, plus Wu-Bower &# x27; s addition of burnt Fresno chile, lemon, fish sauce, and roasted garlic. He nudges the pan towards the flame with a four-foot iron poker. Once cooked, each piece of fish goes on to crown a bowl of smoky oven-roasted vegetables. The flavors are farther heightened by a ladleful of fumet built with fish heads, chives, onions, mushrooms, fish sauce, shiso, dashi, and a funky-spicy fermented flavoring called yuzu kosho.

We sit and eat and talk by the flame and I have a bite of the pizza and a spoonful of that fumet and I see that these are the deep, thought-out, and well-balanced flavors of a chef who is opening his first place right where reference is should be. The PST team draws inspiration from what they call “California coast soul, ” which sounds vague, but fish heads, fish sauce, fermented seasonings, and Fresno chiles, all in one bowl make a very precise demand for all of your attention. Combining all of those ingredients are not timbers you wander into without having not only memorized the map but internalized it.

A thousand things can go wrong when you open a new eatery, but I don &# x27; t think that &# x27; s going to happen at Pacific Standard Time. In fact, my fund &# x27; s on Wu-Bower strolling off the stage with a Beard Award the next time he &# x27; s nominated.

Food writer Joe Ray( @joe_diner) is a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of The Year, a eatery critic, and writer of “Sea and Smoke” with chef Blaine Wetzel .

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Kyushu island, Japan: shrines and shugendo on the Kunisaki peninsula

A walking vacation on the Japanese island takes in rice-covered valleys, woodlands of cedar and bamboo, and the spirit of shugendo though fortunately not its testing rituals

As Japanese lifestyle fads run, the ancient art of shugendo isnt going to knocking Marie Kondo off the bestseller listings. Its secret rituals, practised in the mountains of the Kunisaki peninsula, include treacherous climbings on rusty chains and regular dowsings in freezing cold waterfalls. Its adherents expend days and nights on the mountainside with little more than a blanket and an occasional bowl of rice. It makes that Tough Mudder your mate bangs on about look like an egg and spoon race at a church fete.

Kunisaki, Japan, map .

There are, however, less penalise ways to explore this awe-inspiring and undervisited region of northern Kyushu, one of Japans four main islands. Walk Japans guided tour of Kunisaki is for those who want to spend a week stretching their legs, but have no intention of yomping the working day with a heavy pack. Now FinnAir has launched a flight to Fukuoka from Heathrow, its an attractive introduction to the regions rice-covered valleys, woodlands of cedar and bamboo, and 6,000 years of history.

There are nine in our walking group, a mix of couples and friends and solo travellers, as well as our guidebook Llew, who is a typeface of Japanese history. Mount Futago, the volcano at the centre of the Kunisaki peninsula, made an remarkably symmetrical pattern of valleys when it erupted, and early practitioners of Buddhism, who arrived in Japan in the 7th century, consider in it the auspicious emblem of the lotus mandala. As a outcome, the surrounding hills are full of ancient shrines and statues folklore has it that one clergyman called Ninmon engraved 60,000 Buddhas alone.

Cloud back-up Emma John enjoys the opinion.

An hour-long climb brings us to a small teahouse where Mr Imakuma, an art-loving monk, serves us tea and buns and satsumas, and enthuses about Antony Gormleys visit here two years ago, when he left behind one of those naked cast iron men with which he likes to populate the world. There was a bit of controversy, acknowledges Imakuma, because some people didnt like the idea of a naked figure on this sacred pilgrimage route. But his artwork is all about the relationship between humans and their environment and thats what this place is about.

Gormleys figure juts out from a peak that seems miles away, yet within 40 minutes were standing next to it, gazing over the valley. Clouds hover like spaceships above the ridge opposite, then roll down the mountains, their arrival sprinkling us with rain. When they clear, you can see east to the Inland Sea.

Its no wonder this place inspires reflection. When we discover, at one of the ryokans we stay at, that our chef Junyo is also the clergyman of the temple next door, I surprise myself by get up at 7am to join him for a short bout of silence. After 20 minutes of listening to the voice of the rainfall as it beats the lumbers around us, Junyo dings a buzzer, changes out of his priestly robes and whips up breakfast. His cold soba noodles are the perfect return to earth.

Peaceful retreat meditation to start the day. Photograph: Tani Kun/ Walk Japan

There is no danger of asceticism on our trip. Our kaiseki dinners are multi-course wonders, a progression of lacquer bowls and boxes amazing us with local seafood, fish and vegetables. At the other end of the scale theres crisp tempura and deep rich miso for lunch in roadside cafs. The omnipresent savoury egg custardtakes a bit more getting used to, but by the end of the trip Ive come to love its indulgent creaminess. The Oita prefecture renders 40% of Japans shiitake mushrooms, spored in the trunks of sawtooth oaks.

While we insure plenty of evidence of agriculture half-harvested rice paddies, pilings of corn husks we ensure few people running the land; rural depopulation is a major concern here. In many places, clumps of scarecrows are arranged in tableaux of village life, part of an official programme to build them seem less devoid of life. Well pass a park bench and realise that the two old dames sitting on it have faces drawn in marker pen and plastic bags over their heads; or that a embarrassing sense of being watched is caused by the creepy straw-stuffed man lurking next to a nearby wall. Stephen King would have a field day.

As a company, Walk Japan is keenly aware of the problems of depopulation. Part of its mission is to help revive the local community in Kunisaki through farming, forest regeneration and education projects. Theyre less interested in demonstrating you the culture of rural Japan than immersing you in it literally, in the case of the hot baths that become part of our nightly routine.

A kaiseki dinner. Photo: Tani Kun/ Walk Japan

Theres nothing that will bond a group of strangers as quickly as hurling them together, naked, in an onsen although requiring them to come to dinner each night wearing traditional yukata robes comes a close second. By our final night, in the lively spa town of Yufuin, we were comfy enough to head to a karaoke bar in their own homes. We determined ourselves sharing the bar with a group of suited businessmen, who duetted with us into the small hours.

In the morning the group split up. Inspired by the weeks walking, I made a solo climb of Mount Yufu( 1,583 m ). I had a hangover and I forgot to take snacks. It was the closest Im ever going to get to shugendo, and for that, Im grateful.

Way to go

Finnair flies direct from Helsinki to Fukuoka from 27 April to 28 October; return from Heathrow to Fukuoko via Helsinki from 579( ). Walk Japans five-day, four-night fully guided Kunisaki and Yufuin Stroll costs from 1,600 pp( )

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A vegan coffeehouse in meat-mad Mexico City

Los Loosers restaurant and delivery service is a product of its owners passion for vegan food( and cycling ), offering animal-free versions of some classic dishes

One of Mexico Citys most popular street snacks is tacos de cabeza corn tortillas stuffed with beef carved from the animals skull. This is a city of meat fans, and may seem an unlikely spot for vegan eatery Los Loosers.

The food is cooked from scratch each morning, then either served at this tiny eatery in the Roma Norte neighbourhood or delivered by a team of cyclists. Mushroom tacos with habanero salsa , vegan chilaquiles with blue corn tortillas and black bean dip, and vegan burgers are regulars.

Photograph: PR Company Handout

The greeting space is decorated with fairy lights and lamps repurposed from bike handlebars, and has just one big wooden table. Non-alcoholic aguas frescas ( homemade fruit/ grain beverages ), tea and Oaxacan coffee are available. The daily special expenses less than 4, pudding 1.50. Theres no website( as yet) clients check the Los Loosers Instagram page, then order via direct message on Twitter or Facebook. The cyclists will deliver anywhere, even to parks and hotels. They once journeyed six hours out of sprawling Mexico City to deliver an order, using specially designed backpacks that protect the food from the citys potholed streets.

Los Loosers take on pozole, a traditional Mexican stew. Photo: Clare Wiley

Los Loosers is the brainchild of Mariana Blanco, who quit her job as a journalist in 2011 with no savings or business scheme, only a passion for bicycles and vegan food. The name was inspired by a friend who once teased her for having to be different, cycling everywhere and insisting on animal-free grub. He called her a loser. The double-O represents bike wheels.

Mexico City has a small but growing vegan community, says Blanco. Around 60% of their orders go to locals. And while the delivery-by-bike outfit is surely a welcome addition in one of the worlds most polluted cities, Blanco acknowledges the environment wasnt her first priority.

Specialities include pozole , a popular stew usually constructed with pork. Blancos take employs five types of wild Mexican mushroom in a rich broth, decorated with edible flowers. Mexican ramen weds Japanese mushrooms and poblano chillies, while the Los Loosers burger is made from huitlacoche , a black fungus that grows on corn and is considered a delicacy.

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I Felt Bears That Carry Tiny Worlds On Their Shoulders

I think that Leo would agree that bears are no joke. These magnificent animals are strong, scary and dangerous. Unless they are plush bears.

Jessie Cunningham is the artist behind Past Your Porchlight. Inspired by the beautiful Canadian nature, she makes plush bears with tiny worlds on their backs. These bears, that she calls Forest Spirits, carry woodlands, blooms, mushrooms, houses and even other animals.

The artist tells that her objective is to bring something to life and evoke some of that same wonder she carries for the natural world and she encourages everyone to “don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger”.

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Psychedelic narcotics induce ‘heightened country of consciousness’, brain scans demonstrate

Study records what appears to be the first evidence for mind-opening state experienced by users of LSD, ketamine and psilocybin

Brain scans have exposed the first proof for what appears to be a heightened state of consciousness in people who took psychedelic drugs in the name of science.

Healthy volunteers who received LSD, ketamine or psilocybin, a compound found in magic mushrooms, were found to have more random brain activity than normal while for the purposes of the influence, according to a study into the effects of the drugs.

The shift in brain activity accompanied a host of peculiar sensations that the participants told ranged from floating and observing inner peace, to distortions in time and a conviction that the self was disintegrating.

Researchers at the University of Sussex and Imperial College, London, measured the activity of neurons in people brains as the medications took hold. Similar measurings have shown that when people are asleep or under anaesthetic, their neurons tend to fire in a more predictable route than when they are awake.

What we find is that under each of these psychedelic compounds, this specific measure of global conscious level goes up, so it moves in the other direction. The neural activity becomes more unpredictable, said Anil Seth, a prof of neuroscience at the University of Sussex. Until now, weve merely ever seen lessens compared to the baseline of the normal waking state.

Brain activity with( left to right) psilocybin, ketamine and LSD. The red areas indicate higher levels of random brain activity than normal. Photograph: Suresh Muthukumaraswamy

The research, published in the publication Scientific Reports, appears 74 years to the day after the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman went on the worlds first LSD trip. In one of the most terrifying examples of ego experimentation in the annals of science, Hoffman ingested 250 micrograms of lysergic acid and had to be helped home on his bicycle by his lab deputy. After a local doctor reassured Hoffman that he was not about to die, the scientist began to enjoy himself, writing subsequently about fantastic images surging in on him and explosion in coloured fountains.

The scans determined the most notable consequences in parts of the brain that are known to be important for perceptions, rather than other roles such as speech and movement. And while it is unclear how the altered in brain activity affects consciousness, the result is what the scientists expected.

I suppose people would have the intuitive idea that their experience on psychedelic compounds is somewhat more random, a bit less constrained, that theres a mixing of the senses, and all kinds of connections that are experienced between things that are previously unconnected, Seth said.

Robin Carhart-Harris, a researcher at Imperial College who took part in the study, said the sudden increased number of randomness in brain activity appeared to reflect a deeper and richer conscious state.

People tend to associate phrases like a higher state of consciousness with hippy speak and mystical nonsense. This is potentially the beginning of the demystification, showing its physiological and biological underpinnings, he said. Maybe this is a neural signature of the mind opening.

Beyond corroborating what scores of hippies learned more than 40 years ago, the research could help scientists to understand what neural activity corresponds to different levels of consciousness in humen. Another hope is that by understanding how people respond to the narcotics, doctors can more accurately predict which patients might benefit from having psychedelic drugs to treat mental disorder, such as depression.

Carhart-Harris was among researchers who published a small trial last year into the use of psilocybin to treat serious depression. The results were promising, but more examines are required before the compound can be considered for therapy, and the scientists alerted people off picking magic mushroom to treat their condition.

The evidence is becoming clear that there is a clinical efficacy with these narcotics, told Seth. We might be able to measure the effects of LSD in an individual way to predict how someone might respond to it as therapy.

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