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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ten Things You Should Know About Scooters

By: Sasha Pave (View Profile)
Americans are learning quickly what took Europeans decades to learn—how to cope with high gas prices. Automakers aren’t reacting quickly enough, so many of us are left to fend for ourselves. This has led many Americans to consider buying a scooter.

In Western Europe, scooters are everywhere. In cities like Barcelona, they swarm around cars like a school of fish surrounding a whale. Americans are shedding our machismo “Chopper” aesthetic and finally accepting the small plastic wonders.

If you're thinking about buying a Scooter, here are some things to consider:

1) They get amazing gas mileage. For example, a champion performer, the Honda Metropolitan 50, gets 100+ MPG. Small scooters (50–150cc) naturally get better mileage than bigger ones (200–700cc). Even the largest scooters, like the Honda Silverwing, get 52 MPG.

2) They're cheap. You can pick up a Kymco Agility 50 for $1,599 new. If you buy used, you can save even more. Most used scooters have low mileage because they were just used casually.

3) Sales are up. Scooter sales are up nearly 24 percent for the first quarter of 2008 (compared to 2007), so you won’t be alone when scooting.

4) They're free to park (or nearly free). More cities are accommodating the increase in motorcycles and scooters on the road. In San Francisco, new motorcycle-only parking meters are sprouting up in downtown areas and they only cost around $3/day, compared to $30/day for a car. Many parking lots offer free parking for bikes and many meter maids turn a blind eye to illegally parked scooters. You can usually park very close to your destination. Scooters also fit nicely between cars—just leave the cars enough room to get out.

5) They're cheap to insure and maintain. My personal scooter insurance is $90/year for basic liability (USAA). My motorcycle’s coverage? It’s $500/year—for the same coverage.

6) Some actually look cool. The Italian scooters—Vespa and Piaggio—have some nice-looking models. Fans of the Quadrophenia will especially dig Vespa’s “S” model, with its Euro square headlight and chrome trim. If you are searching for a more modern look, the Piaggio MP3 has a nice, aggressive stance complete with crash bars.

7. You will get the bonus of weather protection. When it rains, you stay unusually dry on a scooter and you aren’t affected by most puddles because of the leg shields. There are even accessories like the “scooter skirt” that increase protection.

And some of the disadvantages:

8) Small wheels aren't stable. Smaller scooters especially suffer from small wheel diameters and widths. Many scooters have 10-inch wheels, which are fine at low speeds, but above 40 MPH, things can get unwieldy. Even the larger-diameter scooter wheels have narrow tires. (For comparison, motorcycles often have 17–21-inch wheels.)

9. Might not the best choice for freeway commuting.
Some scooters might claim high top speeds, but that doesn’t make them stable at those speeds. The geometry and weight of scooters make them unstable for high-speed driving; most scooters under 150cc aren’t even legal for freeway driving.

10. Are still perceived as “wimpy.” Unfortunately scooters still have the stigma of being “wimpy” compared to motorcycles and many men find them emasculating.

Taking it a step further: Electric and Hybrid scooters.
Italian scooter manufacturer Piaggio recently announced a line of hybrid scooters that will achieve upwards of 150 MPG for large freeway-legal models.

There are already a handful of manufacturers producing electric scooters. Vectrix scooters are designed in the U.S. and built in Poland. They offer a large zero-emission scooter for $11,000. It’s a bit steep, but a nice offering considering it gets a 60 MPH top speed and sixty miles between charges.

A smaller electric scooter, the "Zapino" rings in at $3495 and offers 30 miles between charges with a top speed of around 30 MPH.

Even more affordable, EVT offers a line of electric scooters starting at $2499 with a 45-mile range and top speed of 45 MPH.

Why you might consider a motorcycle instead:
Many scooters appeal to first-time bikers because they’re cute and approachable. However, motorcycles are safer in nearly every regard. Unlike motorcycles, scooters suffer from small and thin tires, poor brakes, slow acceleration, twitchy handling, high-speed instability, and uneven weight distribution, which results in less effective front brakes.

A motorcycle can be purchased for nearly the same cost, offer nearly the same gas mileage and other benefits, yet it offers much greater safety and visibility over most scooters. But many people wouldn’t make the leap to two wheels if it weren’t for scooters, so they're still an important first step for getting a bike.

The most important part of buying a scooter:

If you’re a first-time biker, please consider taking a MSF Rider Safety Course. It’s easy and fun, and chances are there is one near you. Also, please consider proper safety gear as an essential part of riding. Armored jackets and pants, boots, gloves, and a full-face helmet are essential for surviving even a low-speed crash. Any scooter dealer worth his salt will offer good gear to go along with your scooter. And please stay away from open-face helmets—they offer much less protection than full-face helmets. Nobody wants to rub his face on asphalt at 50 MPG.

Scooters in America are bound to enjoy a resurgence and I hope the trend continues. Whether or not they’ll gain the acceptance of Europe is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure—we’re going to see a lot more buzzing around the streets in months to come.

Original here

The Birth-Control Extremists

Young, single men terrified of unwanted pregnancies, and sick of condoms, are turning to vasectomies for liberation.

-By Richard Morgan
-Photographs by Paul Graves

Pv1

Sex scared Marcus Whitlock. It was a tense, fraught ordeal. He couldn't get through it without being gripped by panic that it would lead to pregnancy. Then one day in April, Whitlock, an athletic 23-year-old college student in Illinois, says he walked into a doctor's office, told the receptionist he was 30, and had an hour-long consultation. A week or so later he returned, paid $850, and walked out after a 15-minute vasectomy. The way Whitlock saw it, he was free. He wouldn't have to worry anymore about whether his partner was on birth control.

About a hundred years ago, slash and yanks—so called because the original method involved cutting the scrotum and pulling out as much of the vas deferens tubing as possible before stitching it back up—were used mainly as supposed cures for tuberculosis and as part of eugenic schemes to sterilize men who were labeled crooks, cripples, or crazies. Even much later, after a less invasive no-scalpel technique was introduced in the United States in the mid-eighties, the surgery was considered an extreme measure. But lately, vasectomies are becoming the province of young, single men who claim to be tired of worrying about their partners' vigilance with the Pill. So rather than use condoms—less than ideal in terms of pleasure and, compared with vasectomies, which have an estimated 1 in 2,000 failure rate, only so-so on the contraception front—they're opting for a permanent fix.

"Now I can never have a girl say I made her pregnant," Whitlock says. "I don't have to worry about being tricked."

Or "oopsed," as some advocates of vasectomy put it—as in "Oops, I guess that was a breath mint, not a birth-control pill." The guy who views a vasectomy as a preemptive strike looks at certain tabloid stories through a twisted lens: When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady broke up with the actress Bridget Moynahan in 2006 and she announced shortly thereafter that she was having his child, this guy thought to himself, Sucker. He also likes to relate the story of Anna Cladakis, a Hooters promoter from Florida in her late thirties who's collecting $7,500 a month until the 18th birthday of the child she had by one of the founders of Outback Steakhouse. And if he had it handy, he'd point to a statistic like this one from a 2006 report by the Guttmacher Institute, a national think tank that focuses on reproductive issues: 3.1 million pregnancies—nearly half of all in the United States—are accidental.

But men opting to get vasectomies before the age of 40 aren't motivated only by an irrational fear of sneak pregnancies. They're also spurred by a philosophical argument: Why should women be in control of when—and if—they have children?

"A guy can tell an angry grandfather-to-be 'Look, here's money to take care of this at the clinic right now instead of dealing with this mistake for 18 years,'" says Doug Stein, a doctor in Florida who has performed more than 17,000 vasectomies over the past 30 years. "But only the woman's opinion matters. And some guys are sick of that."

Pv2

Tim Vass, a 34-year-old technical writer in Florida, got snipped in May 2007 after a half-dozen pregnancy scares, including what he says were two attempted oopsings. Both of the latter were one-night stands; he says one woman admitted she didn't know who the father was and the other demanded a DNA test that proved her wrong. After his procedure, Vass experienced swinging-from-the-chandelier sex for the first time. "It's like eating junk food and knowing you're not going to get fat," he says.

It's the whiff of that kind of liberation that, according to testimonials on vasectomy-information sites, has guys throwing themselves post-procedure celebrations.

Elation, though, often gives way to regret. Although vasectomies are reversible—half of America knows Michael Scott of The Office got his reversed (and then got another one)—undoing them doesn't always restore fertility. And the likelihood of failure is greatest in those who have the procedure done when they're young and change their minds years later: Reversals are up to 80 percent successful, but if they're done more than 15 years after the vasectomy, that rate drops significantly. Of all snipped men, about 6 percent end up having reversals; according to Jay Sandlow, president of the Society for Male Reproduction & Urology, studies indicate that men who have vasectomies before the age of 30 are much more likely to want reversals than men who have them after that age.

The godfather of vasectomy in the Western World is Marc Goldstein, who brought the no-scalpel technique to New York after learning it in 1985 from doctors in central China's Chongqing Province, who developed it during the early years of the country's one-child policy. Every Friday he performs about three vasectomies at Weill Cornell Medical College on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Each one costs $2,500 and takes around seven minutes. Before the procedure, patients go through a rigorous consultation, most of which consists of warnings. Warning: You'll have an ice pack on your balls for 24 hours. Warning: You also must wear a "scrotal supporter" for 48 hours. Warning: Your first postoperative ejaculations might be bloody. Warning: There may be heavy bruising and/or swelling. Warning: You will not be sterile right afterward; it takes 6 to 12 weeks or 15 to 20 ejaculations to clear out old sperm. Warning: According to Goldstein, you should consider your new infertility permanent.

And while the prospect of all that might be enough to deter some guys who are considering a precautionary vasectomy—even those susceptible to sneak-pregnancy hysteria—that could be about to change. According to Vincent Ciaccio, a spokesman for a social club for the child-free called No Kidding who got his vasectomy when he was 23, there are rumblings of experiments in China with a simple surgical procedure in which tubes are added to and removed from the vas deferens, which would allow for fully reversible infertility. If that happens, any perceived inequality between the genders when it comes to who's in charge of birth control could be eliminated. Get ready for equal-opportunity irresponsibility.

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Why Americans Are Ignoring HIV and AIDS


By: Emily Goligoski (View Profile)

Frika Chia Iskandar’s stature and personality suggest she’s more likely to be a bubbly seventeen year old than a twenty-six year old HIV-positive activist. The Indonesian woman was barely able to see over the podium at a recent conference while retelling stories about her family’s reaction to her positive status, including a story about them buying her a separate set of utensils because they feared she could infect her siblings.

“I’m the new face of AIDS. I’m young and Asian,” said Iskandar, who was born in 1981, the year the disease was first recognized in the U.S. “This isn’t something that’s only happening in Africa.”

Iskandar, who works as an advisor to the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV, got me thinking seriously about Americans’ perceptions of what many consider a disease that primarily affects other continents and has little impact on our daily lives. After hearing her recent speech at the thinkBIG Conference on International Women’s Health and Human Rights at Stanford University, I started thinking about how there seems to be a sense among young women I know that HIV is a problem in India and Africa, but one that doesn’t necessarily affect our lives here in America. Are we as young women thinking about the HIV/AIDS and protecting ourselves enough?

The largest number of new HIV/AIDS cases in American women is now among those between the ages of fifteen and thirty-nine, and that group seems to approach the issue with attitudes of “it won’t happen to me” or “I already know about it, so leave me alone.” These indifferent approaches are frustrating given how easy it is to take a more active role in protecting ourselves and getting tested when finding free confidential testing locations is but a few clicks away. And one of the most influential things we can do doesn’t require money or even much activism; it’s simply starting more conversations with friends.

The lack of dialogue about infection and treatment for HIV/AIDS is sadly confirmed in talking with women my age. Not only are they having few conversations about the global pandemic, but most of the women I asked said they haven’t talked about the disease or how to prevent it in more than a year.

Pooja Bhatia, a twenty-four-year-old strategic planner, explained, “I think people our age talk about HIV/AIDS in the context of developing nations. I rarely hear someone talk about how HIV/AIDS affects them personally.”

Social justice documentary filmmaker Alley Pezanoski-Browne, twenty-four, added: “I don’t think there is a ton of dialogue about HIV and AIDS among people our age. We know it exists and we need to take precautions, and then we don’t worry about it because I think very few of us actually know anyone our age who has HIV or AIDS.”

But we do know people who we may not realize have HIV/AIDS, and certainly not everyone who’s infected knows their status. While life-saving anti-retroviral drugs mean that HIV-positive people are living longer, more than 126,000 American women are currently infected.

I’m not suggesting women scare their friends into thinking their chances of infection are much higher than they actually are, or that they spend their next paycheck on (Product) RED wares sold by Apple, Gap, or other retailers. But we owe it to ourselves to pay more attention to the havoc the disease is wreaking on women worldwide and practice methods that will decrease our own risks. When we so carefully select our sunscreen and birth control medications to protect our bodies, why are we being so passive in finding out how we can keep from becoming infected?

While 12,000 new infections annually among American women doesn’t sound very high, Iskandar left me with an unnerving consideration. “We don’t have to wait until other regions more similarly resemble those that are most devastated. Even though prevalence rates are still low here, they are still numbers. They’re still lives.”

Hearing about AIDS in America as major milestones are reached, such as the twenty-fifth anniversary of the epidemic, but not frequently in day-to-day news coverage, tricks us into thinking that the disease isn’t very worrisome. I thought Hung Nguyen, a twenty-six-year-old MBA student, did a good job identifying the reasons why our peers are more likely to talk about STDs (and many times more likely to find themselves discussing Oscar fashions) than about HIV/AIDS. “There’s not a lot of perceived relevance for us,” said Nguyen, who came to the Stanford conference in preparation for a consulting trip on human trafficking in Cambodia and Thailand. She said that while she’s always been interested in women’s issues, her knowledge about HIV/AIDS has primarily been academic. “My friends and I read about the disease when there’s a major piece in the New York Times or when events related to it come up, but we don’t talk about it very often.”

In the U.S., we are fortunate to have access to testing and drugs that aren’t available in many parts of Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and East Asia—places the World Health Organization reported have had the steepest infection increases this decade. Protecting our sexual health is only part of what we can do when it comes to preventing the devastating effects that AIDS has on women globally. The national women’s partnership, Women Engaging Globally, summed it up best: “American women must continue to demand comprehensive and medically accurate sexuality education programs, access to the full range of contraceptives, and full funding for global HIV/AIDS programs for the well being of all women at home and abroad.”

People seem quick to react with pity for those suffering and dying thousands of miles away—something they can feel momentarily sad about and then tune out. But there is a corresponding—and baffling—sense of disaffectedness about the effect HIV and AIDS continues to have domestically, where AIDS is the number one cause of death among black women age twenty-five to fifty-four

When asked about other factors that affect the amount of risk women our age face, Pezanoski-Browne said: “I think the fear of HIV and AIDS has subsided because we are pretty informed about how to protect ourselves, but that might cause us to be not as vigilant about protecting ourselves as we should be.”

I was surprised to find that unprotected heterosexual sex is the cause of 80 percent of infections, with intravenous drug use a distant second. This provides plenty of incentive for limiting the number of sexual partners we have. Since the risk of infection increases exponentially with each, communication about status and condoms is imperative with every partner.

But some other prevention tips don’t seem to be such common knowledge. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a helpful list, including some common sense reminders worth hearing again, such as using a male or female latex condom correctly and consistently.

There’s a wide range of actions we can start taking immediately that vary from simple (talking to our partners and friends) to more involved, but just as important (advocating for more news coverage and attention for women living with HIV/AIDS). “There is too much at stake to be indifferent,” Dr. Stephen Lewis, former United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said as he closed the Stanford panel. In talking about young Americans’ consciousness of the disease, I couldn’t have said it better: “It’s so important to make these issues a part of your life because God knows they will make a permanent impact on it.”

Original here

Smoke has cleared, but Chicago bars still smell

RedEye

Now that the cigarette smoke has cleared, thanks to the ban that went into effect in January, bar goers are sniffing some bad odors.

"When it's emptier, [a bar] smells like stale beer, spilled alcohol, frat house," said Brittany Allan, 21, a student living in Gold Coast.

While taking a break from work downtown, Rahim Slaise, 32, recalled smelling scents of "overbearing cologne, a musk and body odor" at clubs recently.

Using odor-gauging equipment called a Nasal Ranger field olfactometer, smell expert Dr. Alan Hirsch identified 46 different odors at a Gold Coast bar in May for a study sponsored by Axe, maker of body sprays. The top odor contributors were a musty/earthy/moldy smell that tends to come from wood, a urine-like scent, a sour/acid/vinegar odor that could come from residual alcohol, and of course the odors of sweat and beer.

"The bar is a three times more intense smell than the McCormick Place men's room, or 15 times more or 16 times more intense odor than a coffee shop, and was almost twice as smelly as an animal shelter," said Hirsch, founder of Chicago's Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, citing odor intensity levels.

While secondhand smoke is hazardous to our health, the smoke hid some of the stink.

"You could think of the smoke being background noise and the music playing and you turn it off and all of the sudden other noises in the bar would pop up," said Dr. Robert Kern, professor and chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Indeed, smoking bans are having some unintended consequences, said Avery Gilbert, author of "What the Nose Knows."

Smoke masked other scents in bars and restaurants. Without that smoke, you're left with odors of "fry vat if it's a tavern place, hamburgers if there's a grill.

And you're getting exposed to all these other things: body odor, perspirants, and deodorants and body sprays like Axe and smelly clothes," said Gilbert, who was not involved with the Axe study. "If you're in a club dancing and sweating up a storm, and if you're there long enough, your clothes will smell a bit."

To get rid of bad odors, bars should maximize ventilation or even inject a scent into the air, said Hirsch, the smell expert. "You could place an aroma at a bar that people like. They will perceive the environment to be more friendly, be happy at the bar and meet more people at the bar," he said.

At least one local bar is doing just that.

The Crimson Lounge at the Hotel Sax downtown developed a signature scent even before the smoking ban called suha, a fusion of pomegranate, cinnamon, nutmeg, patchouli, sandalwood, cypress, cedar and vanilla.

Dispensed through a programmed and timed device, the scent was created to evoke the dark yet cozy lounge feel, said Adam Kaplan, hotel marketing director. "We wanted to create an experience that we're an upscale, musically driven lounge," he said. Still, many bar hoppers in Chicago say they'd take bad odors over smoke.

"When you go home, you don't smell like all those things at the club," said Slaise, a business analyst who lives in South Shore. "They don't retain on the clothing like smoke does."

Original here

Good and Evil: A Cancer Vaccine from Tobacco Plants

tobacco plant cancer vaccine

CANCER VACCINE?: Researchers used tobacco plants as manufacturing facilities to make protein to combat cancer.
© ISTOCKPHOTO/MICHAL HRNCIR

In the first human trial of its kind, a vaccine grown in genetically engineered tobacco plants has proved to be safe, paving the way to one day use it to help combat a potentially fatal form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that the experimental vaccine triggered the immune systems of 11 of 16 volunteers (with so-called follicular B-cell lymphoma) to attack their tumors without any apparent dangerous side effects.

Some 18,000 Americans, typically between the ages of 60 and 65, are diagnosed annually with this incurable, slow-growing type of cancer. Study coauthor Ronald Levy, an oncologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, says that physicians generally take their cues from the disease, waiting to see how fast it is moving—and treating it with toxic chemotherapy (sometimes with radiation) only if it becomes aggressive.

He says that if future trials are successful, the experimental vaccine, which can be made relatively quickly and cheaply, could become a short-term therapy administered immediately after diagnosis to try to keep tumors in check.

"This may not be a replacement for chemotherapies, but a supplement for them," Levy says. "A technology that is fast, like this one, is more amenable to a watchful waiting approach than a technology that is slow to produce."

This and other anti-cancer vaccines work by pumping a patient full of the same protein or antigen that is on the surface of tumor cells. Researchers believe that if the body contains enough of the protein, the immune system will recognize it as a potential danger and send out armies of disease-killing cells to seek and destroy tumors harboring it.

To make the vaccine, researchers took a sample of a patient's tumors, which in this trial were made up of B cells (white blood cells that help the body battle disease and infection). They then extracted the gene from the cells that coded for the antigen they needed (to help the immune system recognize the tumors as threats). The key, researchers say, was to make enough of the protein quickly to prompt an immune response.

In this case, the scientists achieved this by inserting the gene into a plant microbe known a tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). Plants are infected with TMV simply by scratching their leaves and depositing the virus into the tears. Researchers discovered that the virus spreads throughout tobacco plants within a week, in the process cranking out a surfeit of the coveted proteins. The scientists ground the leaves and separated out the antigen, which they then injected into volunteers.

They found that the immune systems of 70 percent of participants perked up when blasted with antigens specific to their cancers. The researchers report mild side effects, such as swelling around the injection site and mild to moderate flu symptoms in some participants within a week of getting the vaccine. Of the original group of 16—who ranged in age from 30 to 64—three died (from the disease, not the vaccine), but 13 are still alive and their diseases are in remission up to eight years since being given the vaccine.

All of the patients also received chemotherapy, so researchers cannot be certain what role, if any, the vaccines played. Levy says more work is being done to assess the vaccine's effectiveness.

Charles Arntzen, a plant biologist at the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute, says a major plus is how fast the vaccine can be whipped up. "I think without the speed," he says, "it would be hard to convince a cancer patient to wait for a vaccine to be developed, rather than going on some other therapy."

Levy is trying to find a new biotech company to begin efficacy trials on humans as soon as possible. He says that a vaccine like this one could be on the market as soon as it proved effective and safe.

Original here

Rock drummers 'are top athletes'

Clem Burke
Blondie's Clem Burke took part in the study

Playing the drums for a rock band requires the stamina of a Premiership footballer, research suggests.

Tests on Clem Burke, the veteran Blondie drummer, revealed that 90 minutes of drumming could raise his heart rate to 190 beats a minute.

Despite rock's reputation for unhealthy living, Dr Marcus Smith, from Chichester University, said drummers needed "extraordinary stamina".

A hour in concert could burn between 400 and 600 calories, he said.

Clem Burke, who provided the beat for hits such as "Heart of Glass", "Atomic" and "Call Me" was invited to take part in the eight-year project by Blondie fan Dr Smith.

It is hoped that the results could help develop outreach programmes for overweight children who are not interested in sport.

It is clear that their fitness levels need to be outstanding
Dr Marcus Smith
Chichester University

Burke was connected to equipment to measure his heart rate and oxygen uptake, and the levels of lactic acid in his blood.

He found that during a performance, his heart averaged between 140 and 150 beats a minute, peaking at 190, levels comparable to other top athletes.

However, Dr Smith said that while top footballers were expected to perform once or twice a week, drummers on tour would be doing it every night at a different venue.

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Drummers burn 4-600 calories per hour

He said: "Footballers can normally expect to play 40 to 50 games a year - but in one 12 month period, Clem played 90-minute sets at 100 concerts.

"Footballer find playing a Champions League game once every two weeks a drain, but these guys are doing it every day when they are on tour.

"It is clear that their fitness levels need to be outstanding - through monitoring Clem's performance in controlled conditions, we have been able to map the extraordinary stamina required by professional drummers."

The project was conducted jointly by the University of Gloucestershire and the University of Chichester.

A dedicated "drumming laboratory" is now being built at the Gloucester campus and it is hoped that other professional drummers will be tested.

Dr Steve Draper, from Gloucestershire University, said: "This is the first facility of its kind in the world."

Professor Edward Winter, a specialist in the physiology of exercise at Sheffield University, said that the challenge of playing the drums should not be underestimated.

He said that at 190 beats per minute Clem Burke was probably exceeding the maximum heart rate predicted for a man of his age.

"Rock drumming in particular is very energetic, and to add to this, these guys are playing in a hot environment - you'll see them literally dripping with sweat."

Original here

Maximize Farmers' Share of Food Dollar


Ever wonder how much of your food dollar actually goes to the farmer? Take a guess at the farmer's share of the following items purchased at your typical conventional grocery store (most of these prices come from Safeway). The answers are after the jump.

Lays Classic potato chips: $3.79

Head of iceburg lettuce: $1.99

One pound top sirloin steak: $7.99

Pound of bacon: $3.29

Loaf of sliced bread: $2.99

One gallon skim milk: $3.99

Six-pack of beer: $5.05

Five pounds of flour: $2.89

On average, farmers and ranchers only receive 20 cents of every dollar that consumers spend on food.

Lays Classic potato chips: $3.79 = .08

One head of iceburg lettuce: $1.99 = .37

One pound top sirloin steak: $7.99 = .92

Pound of bacon: $3.29 = .55

Loaf of sliced bread (one pound): $2.99 = .17

One gallon skim milk: $3.99 = 1.55

Six-pack of beer: $5.05 = .12

Five pounds of flour: $2.89 = .86

Surprised? Or perhaps this was a depressing reminder of what you already knew.

USDA estimates that off-farm costs -- marketing, processing, wholesaling, distribution and retailing -- account for 80 cents of every food dollar spent in the U.S.

So keep those dollars in your farmer's pocket. By buying directly from farmers at markets, road stands and through community supported agriculture (CSA) shares, these off-farm costs become nominal and farmers' share profitable. And buying directly from farmers keeps the price of fresh, nutritious produce down as well, especially in the face of historic fuel prices. In other words, it's the way it should be: a distribution system that works for farmers and consumers both.

Original here

Real Reasons Why We Should Buy From Local Farmers


Some people say the key to freedom is empowerment and self-sufficiency. Not everyone agrees, but most people who are concerned about the environment at all see that there really is a need for people to buy and use food from local growers.

Buying local is the first step in going organic. Many local growers don’t use the kinds of chemicals that big commercial farms use. What you’re eating is all natural, and when you purchase local organic, you don’t have to worry about the chemicals and pesticides that you’re putting into your body and into the bodies of family members – especially children who don’t need all those hormones and compounds. At the very least, you will be able to talk with the local farmer and ask what was used to grow the vegetables or what they fed their cattle.

When you buy from local growers, you’re also not contributing to the use of gasoline and other fuels that were needed to truck produce thousands of miles so you could buy it at the market. Sure, the local growers have to drive their products to the market, but it’s a much shorter distance!

It also costs about the same to buy local produce, so you really can’t argue that you can’t afford to buy local – and in most cases it tastes better, too. Of course it does, because it’s fresher. It came from the field to the market to your table, instead of spending several days in trucks and warehouses. If you had to do all that, you wouldn’t be quite as fresh either.

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I’m Sorry, I Don’t Know, I Can’t …


I find myself blurting out I don’t know as an instant answer to questions I don’t have immediate answers for. Lately, I’ve been noting how these simple words made me feel, and I’m starting to take notice that on some level, these casual words are effecting my emotions and self-esteem.

Saying I don’t know, I’m sorry, I can’t and “I don’t want to but have to” are slowly changing my mindset. Through my observations, I’ve noticed how common it is to use these popular phrases without giving them a second thought.

Do you find yourself saying the words I’m sorry or I don’t know often? Did you know that this over-sighted language pattern is actually limiting our potential to happiness and ultimately getting what we want?

Let’s have a closer look at each one and notice their effect in our internal mental space. Let’s, also, consider some alternative phrases we can use in their place, which are more conducive to our personal growth.

Before diving in, let’s point out a few things about our unconscious mind.

Our Hidden Gold Mine: The Unconscious Mind

We function as a result of the beautiful harmony between our conscious and unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is the master mind hidden away from our awareness. It is a powerhouse of unlimited potential. Our unconscious mind stores the majority of information in our brains, and can process much more data simultaneously (about 2 billion times more) than the conscious mind.

We believe that our conscious mind controls everything, because it is the only brain we are acutely aware of. And we commonly associate our conscious mind as “me”.

If our conscious mind is indeed “in control” as we believe, then why do we sign up for gym memberships after new years and never go? Why it is that even after we’ve decided on something we really want (like a new hobby), we fail to take action on it?

While our conscious mind is the captain of our ship, our unconscious mind is the guys in the engine room, making the ship run. The ship moves because of the work done by these engine room guys. They listen to the commands from the captain, without question. They are exceptional at taking commands and executing them.

Since the conscious mind has limited capacity and can only become aware of a very limited set of information, our unconscious mind only surfaces what we consider important. How does the unconscious mind know what’s important? It doesn’t. The unconscious mind determines this based on the frequency of commands it receives of the same topic from the conscious mind.

Each time we have a conscious thought, or we verbalize words aloud, or see a scene in our imagination, it gets fed into our unconscious mind. Like a command from the captain, whether it is our intention or not, the command gets executed in some form; it leaves an impression on the unconscious mind.

This explains why when we are shopping for a particular type of car, we start to notice it everywhere. We have given this car repeated conscious attention. Our unconscious mind noted it as being important and begins to surface this information whenever possible.

In summary, what we say gets noted by our unconscious mind, all the time. It then shows you more evidence to back up those thoughts. This is true for both thoughts which are conducive and un-conducive to our wellbeing.

Okay, let’s dive in!

I’m Sorry

We’re all familiar with and have casually used this in our daily communications. Here are some variations:

  • I’m Sorry but…
  • I’m Sorry
  • Sorry about that

When we reply to an email two days after receiving it, many of us insist on starting the email with I’m sorry. Now consider this: have we done something wrong? Do we really feel sorry? Or are we just repeating a popular saying? What are we gaining as a result of saying this?

Try this: close your eyes. Repeat the words “I’m sorry” in your imagination. You can even say it out aloud. Now, observe your feelings. Do you feel a tightness subtly bunching up in the pit of your stomach? Or a light pull along your inner throat? Do you sense feelings of guilt?

Now imagine that this feeling of guilt is triggered in us each time we say the words “I’m sorry”, even when casually used. Remember how our unconscious mind takes orders of what we say? If we repeatedly tell it that we are sorry for trivial things, then it will note down that we have done something wrong, thus polluting our internal space, unnecessarily.

Additionally, we’ve created an association between that feeling and the action taken. So, if we repeatedly say I’m sorry each time we reply to emails after 2 days, then we’ve programmed ourselves to feel guilt whenever we do not respond to emails immediately.

Lastly, the more we repeat these words, the more we dilute their meaning. People are incredibly sensitive creatures, and can sense when we don’t genuinely feel sorry. This may come off as insincere to them. So we’re better off by not saying it. I recommend we reserve the words I’m sorry to situations when we really mean it, and need it to express our genuine feelings.

Suggested Action Items:

  • Observe yourself in your daily life and see how often you want to say “I’m sorry”.
  • Each time you type “I’m sorry” in an email or catch yourself saying it, ask yourself, “Do I really feel sorry? Or am I just saying it?” If the answer is “I’m just staying it to sound good”, erase it from the email.
  • Try to reduce the frequency of saying I’m sorry. Reserve it for when you really mean it. Reserve it for when you truly feel sorry for something you have done that may have hurt another.

I Don’t Know [Part 1]

When it comes to making a decision, we are often caught saying I don’t know. It’s a popular answer because we get lazy and we have conditioned ourselves to the habit of saying it. Here are some variations:

  • I don’t know where it is
  • I don’t know what to do
  • I don’t know which to choose
  • I can’t decide
  • I don’t know

Photo by Kara Pecknold

There is a difference between truly not knowing something and believing that you don’t know something. There’s also the connotation that you do not have the ability to decide or to learn something new. These words are repeated so causally that we start to rely on them out of laziness and habit.

At times, even for the smallest decision, we would shrug and say “I dunno”. Why? Because it’s an easy answer. We don’t have to think.

Trivial decisions like, “Which type of pasta should I order for lunch?”, “Which color should I get?” I have personally been caught saying I don’t know during similar scenarios. You’re not alone.

While saying this is the easy way out, it is also conditioning us that indecision is okay. We end up leaving decisions open, while it consumes our mental energy, unnecessarily.

Often times, we have the answer, but we are hesitant to repeat it out of fear that it might be the wrong decision. So instead, we say “I don’t know”.

Each time we use this casually, we are telling our unconscious mind that “I am an indecisive person. I am not very intelligent, because I cannot even decide on the simplest of choices. I am not capable of making a decision on important issues. I am not important.”

I am exaggerating here, but you get the point.

What we repeatedly do becomes our habits. And if we make a habit out of indecisiveness on small decisions, how will we react when we need to make important decisions in life, in business, or in relationships?

Being indecisive sends a similar message to the people around you. We tend to trust and rely on people who are decisive. It is a character strength; especially in business.

Suggested Action Items:

  • Replace “I don’t know” when making a decision with an alternative phrase. Come up with a list of such alternatives. Here are some ideas:
    • “Give me a moment, I have not decided yet.”
    • “Let me think about it.”
    • “I am evaluating my options.”
    • “Hmmm. Let me see…”
    • Action: List out the options and their pros and cons.
  • Practice repeating alternative phrases, so that we can internalize them and say them when appropriate in place of I don’t know.
  • Instead of wanting to fill space and silences with “I don’t know” when being asked a question, practice not saying anything immediately. Pause a moment before speaking.

I Don’t Know [Part 2]

The other type of I Don’t Knows, tend to imply our inability to do something. Here are some variations:

  • I don’t know how to …
  • I don’t see …
  • I don’t remember …

Again, we say this, because it’s easy. We throw our hands up in the air and simply declare that we don’t know. Often, we have given up before we even try.

Consider the following scenario:

Person A: “Where is the salt?”

Person B: “On the kitchen shelf.”

Person A: “I don’t see it.”

Person B walks to where person A is standing, reaches over where person A is looking, and pulls out the salt bottle. It was right in front of person A.

Have you been in such a scenario? I certainly have. Did person A truly not see the salt? Or did person A believe that she did not see the salt? Bingo!

Remember that our unconscious mind takes commands directly from our words? When we tell ourselves that we do not see something, we are passing the message to our unconscious mind in the form of a command. It proceeds accordingly and makes a note to stop passing anymore messages to the conscious mind when salt bottles are seen. Isn’t that funny?

Similarly, when we say “I can’t remember”, we are telling our unconscious mind to not let us know the answer, even though the unconscious mind remembers. So, while we have the memories stored in our unconscious mind, we have deliberately sent the command to not bring the memory to our awareness.

Suggested Action Items:

  • Practice rephrasing common non-conducive phrases to wordings that suggest possibilities. Here are some examples:
    • When you hear yourself saying , “I don’t see the salt anywhere on the shelf”, rephrase and ask yourself, “If I could see the salt, where would it be?”
    • When you want to say “I don’t remember where I put the keys?”, rephrase the question to “If I could remember, what would they be?”
    • Instead of saying “I don’t know how to.”, rephrase to “I have not learned how to do that yet, but I can learn.
    • Instead of saying “I can’t open this” rephrase to “If I could open this, how would I open it? Let me keep trying. I know I can do this!”
  • Practice repeating alternative phrases, and use them when appropriate. Turn the alternative phrasing into a habit.

I Can’t

This is such a common phrase that I too catch myself saying it, and it seems to slip out automatically before I even realize consciously. Here are some variations:

  • I can’t find it
  • I can’t do it
  • I can’t get it working
  • I can’t make it today
  • I can’t remember
  • I don’t have time …
Photo by Kara Pecknold

When we say I can’t do something, we’ve just declared impossibility as a definite answer. We are telling ourselves that we will never be able to do it, because we lack the necessary capabilities.

Similar to I don’t know, there is a difference between not being physically capable to do something, and mentally believing that we do not have what it takes to do it.

By saying we can’t do something, we are suggesting that we do not have the ability to learn, that we have given up, that we lack the potential that other gifted humans possess. Also, by saying things like “I can’t do it” or “I can’t find it” or “I can’t get it working”, we are denying ourselves of possibilities and solutions. We blind sight ourselves.

By saying we don’t have the time, we are impressing upon ourselves that we are very busy, making us feel important. It is an illusion. Yes, we may have a very full schedule, but when we say we don’t have time, it usually means that we just don’t want to do it. Not having enough time is an excuse. If it was important enough, we’d find the time. Besides, if we counted the total time we spent browsing the web, checking email, and watching TV, we would have more than enough time to fit in those things we just didn’t have time for.

One of my favorite quotes is, “If I can’t, then I must.” Try it, you’ll find that what you used to consider impossible suddenly becomes probably and very accessible.

Suggested Action Items:

  • Come up with alternative phrasings to popular I can’t phrases. Here are some examples:
    • Instead of saying “I can’t find it”, say “I have not seen it yet, l will keep looking.” or “If I could find it, where would it be?”
    • Instead of saying “I can’t get it working”, consider saying “It is not working yet, but I will keep trying until it works.” Or “I am still working on this. If you have a sec, will you help me?”
    • Instead of saying “I can’t make it today because…”, consider skipping out the excuses and give a firm but honest answer, “I am going to pass on it now, maybe next time? Thank you for inviting me. It means a lot.”
  • Stop telling others they can’t do something. Alternatives to “You can’t do that” are “I prefer you not to do that” or “I don’t recommend doing that because …” or “I tried it last time and it did not work for me, maybe it will work for you.”

I Have To

Saying I have to suggests that we do not have a choice, and that we are not in control of our lives. Here are some variations:

  • I have to finish this
  • I have to go to this event

For starters, you don’t have to do anything! You know that. The world will not come to an end if you don’t do something (in most cases). We feel like we have to for one of two reasons:

  1. It brings you pleasure/benefit. ie. Something you enjoy doing.
  2. It reduces pain. ie. Losing a job or friendship, or an excuse not to do something else.

Similar to I’m sorry, by suggesting that we have no choice but to do something, we introduce guilt in our inner space. For example, we don’t want to go to a party, but we feel pressure to do so, and if we do not go, we feel guilty. This guilt is really unnecessary.

We are in control of our lives, and instead of saying I have to, replace it with I want to, or I am doing something because here are the benefits it brings me. Maybe you don’t want to go to your friend’s baby shower, but you go to it, because it will make your friend very happy for her special occasion. Your attendance benefits you because it makes you feel good that you’ve made someone else happy.

If we have decided to do something that we would rather not be doing, instead of treating it like a chore or dragging it on with unpleasant thoughts, why not shift our perspective so that we can enjoy it? What benefit will it bring us by prolonging the unhappy thoughts and using the “I have to do this” excuse?

Suggested Action Items:

  • Instead of saying “I have to do this“, say “I want to do this” or “I am doing this because (insert benefits to you)”
  • If you don’t want to do something, instead of giving people excuses starting with “I’d love to but, I have to…“, just gracefully say “Thanks for the invite, but I am resting at home tonight.” Or “Thank you. I have plans tonight. Maybe next time.” (Note: a date with yourself at home count as plans.) You don’t owe anything to anybody. Be honest and do so with your head held high.

Parting Words

The language we use is incredibly powerful. It is a direct command into our unconscious mind. Whether we realize it or not, or it was spoken casually or not, our unconscious mind is listening. Your unconscious mind takes notes even when you’re not paying attention.

While this article focused specifically on language, the same principle is applicable to other sensory inputs. Inputs such as the movies we watch, the clothes we wear, the thoughts we repeatedly iterate in our minds, the day dreams we have, the types of books and blogs we’re reading. They all get fed into our unconscious mind as input and treated as commands.

“Your beliefs don’t simply reflect your reality, they create your reality.”

Our unconscious mind is a magnificent tool, and learning to take advantage of its functions can help us achieve our goals and to live the life that we desire. As fluffy as that may sound, it is true. These are all examples from my own life, and I hope you find these (possibly new) ideas useful in your own life. Adapt them, give them your own twist, live it and pass it on.

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Where would we plug in electric cars?

With $4 gas, electric cars look appealing. But can America ramp up fast enough?

|Chicago Tribune reporter
As Ted Lowe envisions his driving future, he'll pull into a parking space and, instead of using a coin-operated meter, he will plug into an electrical outlet to charge his battery-powered vehicle.

"I can see it coming. The writing is on the wall," said Lowe of Wheaton, an electric vehicle aficionado who drives a Chevy pickup converted to run on batteries.

General Motors Corp. can see the future, too, and so can utilities. They have begun to think seriously about the electric car and whether people will become as obsessed with finding outlets as they are with finding low pump prices today.

GM, which intends to be among the first to offer an electric car in 2010, when the Chevrolet Volt is due, on Tuesday announced a partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute and more than 30 electric utilities across the country to consider the needs of drivers.

Among the issues: What happens to the power grid if too many drivers plug in their cars during the day, and how will apartment or condo dwellers juice up if they don't have access to a garage with an outlet?

"When plug-in vehicles are deployed in volume, we want to be sure the infrastructure is ready," said GM engineer Britta Gross. "We recognize that a significant portion of the population doesn't have a garage, and they will still need a charging station."

The soaring cost of gas is moving battery-powered electric vehicles to center stage as automakers turn to battery power to meet rising demand for efficient vehicles and to satisfy more stringent federal fuel economy regulations.

Obstacles remain that could prevent such vehicles from going mainstream, from their cost to questions about how many Americans will be willing to deal with the hassle of recharging.

But the Volt appears to have a lot going for it, including a technology that frees drivers from the fear of running out of power.

Unlike hybrids, which use electricity to supplement a gas engine, the Volt will go 40 miles strictly on electricity, then a small gas engine basically recharges the batteries to take the car another 350 miles.

Many commuters would never need to fill the tank if they have a place to charge up for a few hours. Besides garages, offices and businesses might provide charging stations. That's what's likely to drive demand for electricity.

And this is where the utilities come in. Electric cars would be a boon for them—particularly if consumers recharge at night, when overall power demand is substantially lower.

ComEd wants in

Though Chicago-based ComEd said it was not invited to be part of the GM consortium, it wants to join. ComEd and other utilities want to buy back some of the electricity stored in car batteries during peak demand periods, when utilities have to purchase power at high rates.

"Instead of buying on the spot market, we could buy from our customers," ComEd marketing vice president Val Jensen said. "It saves us from having to buy very expensive power."

That's years into the future, though, when that transfer technology exists and enough electric vehicles are on the roads to constitute a viable market.

Without giving sales projections for Volt, GM expects to sell tens of thousands when it reaches full production. Other manufacturers, including global powerhouse Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., Honda and Nissan, are gearing up to build similar plug-ins and pure battery-powered vehicles. BMW's Mini brand is another that is talking about an electric car.If interest in the Volt is any indication, Americans can hardly wait.

More than 32,000 have signed up at www.gm-volt .com, a site created by enthusiasts that have no connection to GM.

Forecasting firm J.D. Power and Associates predicts GM will sell 70,000 Volts a year by 2014, and Global Insight predicts sales of 68,000 in 2013.

Both see hybrid sales exceeding 1.1 million by then, keeping plug-ins a small part of the picture.

Pricey choice

A drawback besides recharging? Price. GM executives have tossed around a ballpark figure of $40,000 or more, saying the car will require tax incentives to attract more than the well-heeled.

"The industry is moving at lightning speed to respond to what consumers want, but these things aren't going to be cheap," Global Insight analyst John Wolkonowicz said, citing the more powerful but also more volatile lithium-ion batteries in Volt. He said it could take years before the Volt comes down to $25,000 to $30,000, the heart of the market.

Mark Duvall, head of transportation technology development for the Electric Power Research Institute, predicts plug-ins could command more than half of the U.S. market by 2050.

"The price of fuel now is where if you go out and buy a midsize car, over time you'll pay more for gasoline than you will for the car," Duvall said, and plug-ins have the potential to eliminate much of that expense.

"As the cost comes down they'll become mainstream, high volume," he said.

ComEd residential customers pay an average of 11.6 cents per kilowatt hour. But GM estimates the national average cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity at 10 cents, and says Volt can be recharged with eight kilowatt hours, making the average daily cost 80 cents.

"After a week, you've spent $5.60 if you stay within the [40-mile] range," GM's Gross said. "That's what's in it for the consumer."

Said Al-Hallaj, head of renewable energy programs at the Illinois Institute of Technology, also expects demand to grow. Electric vehicles are "the only sustainable solution" because electricity can be generated from solar, wind, coal, nuclear and other sources, he said.

Al-Hallaj said the cost of gas and concern for the environment are rapidly changing the American mind-set, making them open to plug-ins and other alternatives to internal combustion.

"People are driving scooters here now," he said. "You used to see them only in places like India."

Original here

Plug-In 2008: Electric Cars Are Inevitable ... and Essential


SAN JOSE, Calif. - The electrification of the automobile is not only inevitable, advocates and experts say, it is essential because plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles offer our best chance to address global warming, achieve energy security and move us beyond oil.

That isn't to say we'll all be plugging our cars into electrical sockets by the end of this decade, or even the next. But many experts agree plug-ins and EVs will only become more prevalent and could comprise half of all cars sold in America by 2050.

"We can no longer rely on oil to provide the bulk of our transportation fuel. It's just that simple and that obvious," Jon Lauckner, head of global vehicle development for General Motors, said during the opening of the Plug-In 2008 conference in San Jose. "We believe the ultimate solution involves the electrification of the automobile as soon as possible. The discussion has shifted from if this happens to when this happens."

The road ahead is long and marked by technological, political and market challenges, which is why utility companies, battery manufacturers and automakers joined EV advocates at the conference to figure out how we get there from here.

Petroleum accounts for 96 percent of the nation's transportation fuel, a position Lauckner says is untenable given the world's growing thirst for the stuff. The domestic auto market is in the dumps, but sales are booming in the developing world. China is poised to become the world's largest auto market by 2014, Lauckner said, and 15 percent of the world's population will be driving by 2020. "That's over 1 billion vehicles," he said. The only way to ensure all those cars don't destroy the planet is to start giving them electric motors.

Critics argue 70 percent of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels and so plug-ins and hybrids don't reduce carbon dioxide, they just move it around. Not so, says the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Resources Defense Council. Their research shows plug-ins and EVs could cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 450 million metric tons annually by 2050. That's the equivalent of eliminating 82.5 million gasoline vehicles -- about a third of the number currently on the road in America. The benefits will grow as nuclear and renewable sources of power become more prevalent, said Mark Duvall, one of the authors of the study.

Don't look for that to happen anytime soon. "Renewables, nuclear and clean coal will be slow in coming," said Peter Schwartz, a futurist and co-founder of Global Business Group. "So for the next decade or so, coal will be dominant." Still, he says, the environmental and energy security benefits of plug-in hybrids outweigh the downsides to getting our power from coal, and "we need to move aggressively to all-electric ground-based transportation."

The auto industry is beginning to respond, and most of them are working on plug-in hybrids that could be on the road beginning in 2010. But their success is by no means guaranteed. There are concerns about the reliability and longevity of the lithium-ion batteries they'll use, and the cars will be expensive.

Advocates say its time for policymakers to get with the program and ensure plug-ins have a fighting chance. Everyone at the conference has suggestions for what Uncle Sam ought to do, and Dan Sperling -- the chairman of the California Air Resources Board -- laid them out in a sweeping plan. It includes stronger fuel efficiency and emissions regulations, a tougher mandate requiring automakers to build non-polluting vehicles and some serious government spending on battery and alt-fuel research and development.

Of course, interest in electric vehicles could evaporate if gas prices ever return to Earth, which is why Sperling suggests the government adopt policies to establish a "price floor" on gasoline -- a price beyond which it would not fall. It's highly unlikely that'll ever happen, but Sperling says it would encourage the development of green vehicles by assuring automakers and consumers they won't not lose their shirts if gas ever becomes cheap again.

"If we do all of that," Sperling said of his proposal, "we'll see millions of plug-ins on the road."

Photo courtesy Ford.

Original here

Top Gear crashes England's only Nissan GT-R press car


Top Gear has had its fair share of mishaps. There was that time the Stig took the Koenigsegg CCX on an off-track excursion, and of course Hammond's horrific crash in the jet dragster. The latest incident involves the one and only Nissan GT-R press car in Great Britain. Apparently it was involved in a fender bender in the Isle of Man after a photoshoot for Top Gear magazine. It seems that the GT-R wasn't damaged too badly, despite the pic of its naked arse above, and the same exact car ran up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed only a couple days later.

Check out our own just-published review of the 2009 Nissan GT-R. We managed to keep our press car in one piece.

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Making a Bitchin’ First Aid Kit

It’s probably a good idea to keep a first aid kit on hand for any sort of emergency, ranging from a scraped knee to an accidental decapitation. If you’re anything like me though, you don’t want just any first aid kit in your house. You want a first aid kit that looks like it could kick a little ass if it had to. Unfortunately, there just aren’t many of those on the market, but that’s okay, because I’m going to show you how to make your own bitchin’ first aid kit in only a few simple steps.

  1. The first thing you’re going to want to do is run down to the local army surplus store. You know, the one where all the weird survivalists hang out and buy ninja stars to use to fight the communists. Once you get there you’ll need to find the pile of used ammo boxes. They’re probably somewhere in the back. You want to pick out one with as few dings, scratches, and rust marks as possible. Also check to make sure it opens and closes relatively easily. You wouldn’t want your family wasting valuable time trying to get into the first aid kit while you’re on fire due to a freak grilling catastrophe. At any rate, pick one that looks kind of like this:

  2. Now that you’ve got your box, I’ll bet you’re thinking, “But Dave, this doesn’t look a goddamn bit like a first aid kit; the hell?” Well, nice job being observant, guy, but we’re not finished yet. You need to bring that fucker home, remove the lid, and clean it up. Get all the nasty shit off it, and then lightly sand it with some sandpaper or perhaps a piece of steel wool. Once you’ve got it cleaned up, you’re going to apply a coat of automotive primer. Make sure to do so in a well ventilated area, unless, of course, you like a little brain damage with your arts and crafts projects. When you’re done, it should look a little something like the next picture. If it doesn’t, you fucked up. Hang your head in shame.

  3. Next, you’re going to need to let it dry for a while. I suggest a good couple of hours. Once it’s thoroughly dry, you’re going to paint it white. I used a glossy paint, but you can use whatever you want, so long as it works on metal. It might take a couple coats to look good, so don’t be shy about adding another layer. Once you’re done, it’s going to look like this:

  4. With me so far? Great! Now comes the hard part. You’re going to need to MacGyver up some sort of stencil in the shape of a cross. I used an old plastic cutting mat from the kitchen, which seemed to work pretty well. To get the shape, just find a good picture of a cross on Google Images, print it out, and transfer it to the thing you’re going to use for the stencil. Once you’ve got your stencil cut out, place it on the side of the box, and mask the rest of the area off with painter’s tape and newspaper.

  5. Once it’s sufficiently masked, spray that fucker red. Just make sure that none of the edges of the stencil are folding up, otherwise you’re going to get red all over the goddamn place and look like a total failure in front of your friends and loved ones. Give it a good couple of coats, and let it dry for a while.

  6. Once it’s dry, remove all the crap (stencil, paper, tape, etc.) from the top, and take a look at your new, combat ready first aid kit. It should look a hell of a lot like mine (below). If it doesn’t, well, I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re so inclined, you could mask and paint the other side, but I didn’t bother. You could probably throw some clear coat on it too, whatever.

  7. The hard part is done. Now all you need to do is bring your new kit in the house and angrily demand that your wife fill it with life-saving supplies, post haste. If she asks what supplies you need, just tell her to fill it will band-aids and hemostats and shit. She’ll get the message. Now just sit back, and enjoy your hard work. You’re an everyday hero.

Now that you’re safe from most minor emergencies, you can focus your energies on more worthwhile endeavors, like chosing your favorite Hot Pocket, or building a trebuchet to lay siege to your neighbors. Since I cannot be harmed by conventional means, I have little use for a first aid kit myself. I’ll probably just fill mine with chili or Legos instead. You know, just in case.

This has been Dave sayin’: “This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode.”

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