From the archives…

Anopsology

The raw facts about the raw-food movement

I’ve always liked the expression “all things in moderation.” I’m not sure it represents some sort of universal law, but it seems to be a reasonable attitude with which to approach most situations in life. It suits my personality, too, because I like novelty and variety while I resist both excesses and prohibitions. When it comes to food, this sort of mindset means I wouldn’t categorically say no to any class of food—vegetables, meat, dairy, alcohol, junk food, and genetically modified organisms are all valid options. However, I try to be aware of the nutritional properties and likely health implications of what I eat, and to make food choices deliberately. So I’ll eat that occasional crème brûlée without guilt, but I’ll probably also back off on sugars and carbs the next day.

The problem is, I can’t always figure out whose opinions about nutrition and health I should believe. Among the many paths to optimal health I’ve heard are these: avoid all carbohydrates and eat mostly protein; eat only plant products; eat only fruits; eat just one particular fruit; take vitamins; stay away from vitamins. I’ve heard that eggs are bad for your health; I’ve heard that they’re great for your health. Ditto for coffee and wine. I’ve heard that foods like honey and tea will help you live to be 100 and that they’ll lead to an early grave. Many of these contradictory claims were made by trained health professionals with years of experience, and have a stack of studies and anecdotal reports supporting them. For this reason, I take any proclamation about a particular diet’s virtues with a large pinch of kosher salt. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

The Dalahäst

Symbol of Sweden

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

I confess that I am something of a fan of the Swedish home furnishings store IKEA, having spent countless hours wandering its shiny showrooms in three different countries (Canada, the U.S., and France). As evidence of this, you need only stand in the middle of my apartment and look around; you can’t help but see an IKEA product anywhere you look.

Although some may decry its mass marketing approach, I like that there is a consistency to the IKEA shopping experience. Whether I visit a store in central France or the suburbs of Vancouver, I know that I will see the same kinds of products, laid out in the same way, according to the same floor plan. This sameness might bother me in other settings, but there is a quirky charm to the world of IKEA that counterbalances the monotony. From its amusing product names to the ubiquity of kitschy Swedish foodstuffs, I always feel like I’ve found a tiny corner of Sweden wherever I happen to be in the world. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

Micronations

Starting your own country

I know plenty of people who generally approve of the current U.S. government and plenty who don’t. But I’ve never met anyone who agrees with and supports every single government policy and regulation—in this country or any other. The very nature of democratic government makes this virtually impossible, and I think it’s fair to say that every legislator could produce a long list of things he or she might wish to be different. We all accept certain laws and taxes in exchange for the considerable benefits government provides in the way of economic structures, a justice system, education, public works, national security, and so on. For most of us, that’s a reasonable trade.

But what if you could tailor a government to your exact specifications? Exercise strict control over the currency, imports and exports, immigration policies, defense programs, foreign relations, and everything else? What if you could tailor laws to support those things you care about most and disallow the things you’re against? What if, in fact, you had your very own country, in which you—along with, perhaps, your family, friends, or business associates—ran the whole place from top to bottom? [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

Churchill, Manitoba

Polar bear capital of the world

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

When I was in college, I went hiking with a group of friends in Riding Mountain National Park, located in southwestern Manitoba. We decided to hike quite a distance into the park before making camp for the night. Having had some camping experience, I looked forward to the adventure, but for one fact: the certain presence of black bears.

Compared to grizzly bears, black bears can be relatively harmless, and I had seen them from a distance many times, most often scouring the garbage dump near our family cabin in northern Saskatchewan. But I had never gone this far from civilization, into the bears’ territory, surrounded by the wilderness. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

The Swedish Ship Götheborg

Rebuilding history

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Not long ago I had the chance to view an exhibit of artifacts raised from the wreck of the Titanic. These artifacts included personal possessions of the passengers, such as glasses, hats and jewelry, as well as glassware and plates from the ship’s stores. To give context to these items, the exhibit’s creators had reproduced different parts of the ship, including the Dining Room and the Grand Staircase.

The centerpiece of the exhibit was a colossal piece of the ship’s hull, weighing 30,000 pounds, and taking up the majority of the large room that housed it. Although it seemed enormous, diagrams indicating its position on the intact ship showed the piece to be just one tiny part of the whole. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

The Golden Spruce

Tragic fall of a legendary tree

During the three years I was living in British Columbia, Canada, I worked in an office overlooking the Fraser River. Just a few doors down from our building was a Weyerhaeuser lumber mill, and I regularly saw logs being towed down the river and floating in a holding area just off the river bank. I was vaguely aware of various political issues involving the wood, such as the ongoing conflicts between loggers and environmentalists and the tariffs imposed by the United States on imported soft wood lumber. But as I was a temporary resident, these problems held little interest for me, and I never formed much of an opinion one way or the other. The only thing that truly puzzled me was the fact that the logs sometimes went in the direction of the mill and sometimes in the opposite direction. I never did figure that one out.

What I did not know at the time was that in 1997, less than two years before I’d arrived, one particular tree in a distant corner of the province had been at the center of a huge news story. One way of framing the story was that an important cultural icon had been destroyed by an ecoterrorist, who may still be at large today. Whether or not that’s an appropriate spin on the tale is open to debate, but it’s certainly true that an old tree known as the Golden Spruce met an untimely end for reasons that are dubious at best, sending an entire community into an uproar. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

Doble Steam Cars

The steam engine’s last stand

Back in the mid-1980s when I was in college, I had a car whose gas mileage routinely reached 40 miles per gallon. At that time, most people assumed that as technology advanced, cars’ average mileage would steadily improve. But of course, that didn’t happen, and today, except for hybrids and a few other small cars, the sort of fuel efficiency I got 20 years ago is the exception rather than the rule. I’m well aware of all the technological, political, and financial issues that have combined to create this reality, but every time I think about it I just shake my head. History could have unfolded differently, and high-mileage, low-emissions vehicles might have been the norm today.

More than 80 years ago, you could buy a car that was highly fuel-efficient (even by today’s standards), produced almost no pollution (again, even by modern standards), required very little maintenance, and was virtually silent. It used kerosene as fuel to power a steam engine, and even though the car weighed more than today’s average SUV, it accelerated rapidly and handled smoothly. The car would have been one of several Doble steam car models designed and manufactured by Abner Doble and his three brothers. [Article Continues…]

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