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Colony Collapse Disorder; or Oh Shit, All the Bees Disappeared

Colony Collapse Disorder is a terrifying name for an interesting phenomenon. Over the last few decades, honeybees have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Not dying, disappearing.

As of Spring 2008, nearly a third of commercial bee colonies have disappeared. They fly somewhere and never return.

Another important third fraction: these bees are responsible for pollinating over a third of the United States food crop species. In 2000, the total US crop value that was entirely dependent on honeybee pollination was estimated to be $15 billion. Oh no!

This is also the reason your mother has been telling you about the recent honey shortage. If your mother hasn't told you about it, then perhaps your young, hip friends that are really into food and restaurants have told you. My mother also tells me honey is good for hangovers. Especially in strawberry juice. My mother is never wrong.

Anyways, who knows where all these bees are going. My hypothesis? China North Korea.

Terrifying, isn't it.

The Cliff Notes:
  • Bees are disappearing, billions of them
  • No one knows to where or why
  • Bees are important for crop pollination and honey
  • Mom is always right




The origin of the dollar sign has had several different theories. Some are certainly wrong, such as the explanation given in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, The overlap of US became the dollar sign. The dollar sign was in use before the creation of the United States.

The most historically supported explanation is that the dollar sign originated from the marking "ps", which was used to label Spanish / Mexican pesos. Eventually, the p and s overlapped and became the dollar sign.


Penny Loafers

Penny loafers, yo. Loafers have been a mainstay since the 1930's, when Esquire magazine featured photos of Norwegian farmers wearing them.

Penny loafers, with their distinctive straps, were invented by GH Bass & Co, who called them Weejuns. Norwegians... Weejuns... get it? They became part of the prep look during the 50's and 60's. During that time, some people actually stuck pennies in the straps. Thus, the term penny loafer was born.

Well, nowadays the Bass Weejuns are of miserable quality. Instead, I'd recommend getting a pair from Alden. Good prices, available in cordovan, and made in the USA, yo.


The Diners' Club

While discussing the virtues of various credit card companies with my friends, it turned out that one of them had a Mastercard. Who uses Mastercard anymore? For that matter, who uses Diners' Club?

Well suprise mofos. Diners' Club should not be forgotten because it was the world's first credit card. So, if you still use a Diner's Club card, now part of the Mastercard network, hold your head up high. You've got one of America's most important innovations in your wallet.


Why so S.A.D.

When Persephone goes to Hades, it means winter. When winter means no sun, I become SAD, as in seasonal affective disorder. I used to live in Seattle and got very sad. Now, I live in southern California and have pool parties. Come visit!

I took these photos with a Polaroid SLR 680, which I talked about in an earlier post. Click on the pictures for a big version.


Why Isn't Everything Made of... Cork

Yeahhhh. Cork. The renewable, fire-resistant, impermeable substance that few people ever stop to think about. Well I did.

Most people think cork is only good for wine stoppers. Well, cork is the best material for it. Its sponginess allows it expand to fill a bottle neck perfectly. It has the lowest environmental footprint of any stopper material. And they allow just the right amount of oxygen to pass to help the aging process.

Cork is often used to wrap bicycle handlebars. It does not absorb sweat or rain. It is soft and comfortable. It is good for the environment, like bicycles. While these are all franco-centric examples, there are many applications for Americans.

Cork's ability to resist water and fire could've made it the Planeteers' greatest enemy. Instead, it helps America build rockets. Cork panels are used to insulate the rockets against heat. Good job, NASA.

Portugal is our greatest competitor for cork superiority. Portugal has already used cork to make a building! What will be next???


Tick Talk: Seiko

Seiko is one of my favorite watch makers. While they do not have the history and beauty of someone like Patek Phillipe, Seiko watches have many admirable qualities.
  • Well priced; from about a hundred USD to a few thousand at the highest end
  • Reliable; the accuracy and durability of their movements have been well documented
  • Easy to find; this takes much of the chore out of servicing your watch
  • Handsome; only my own personal opinion
  • Many types of watches; divers, dress, mechanical, quartz
Seiko vs Rolex
I often compare Seiko to how Rolex used to be. Rolex watches were not always as expensive as they are now. In the last couple decades, they have significantly increased their prices in real dollars. In the past, they were not overly-expensive, very durable, generally undecorated, and sporty. This made them the perfect sports watch. Rolex's used to be used in Navy SEAL training. However, now the cost of Rolex watches requires most people to treat them as decorative jewelry. I do not want to make it sound as if Rolex's are not good watches, they are excellent watches. However, I think they have become too expensive. In contrast, is the extremely affordable Seiko Monster.

Seiko Monster Dive Watch (SKX779K)

The Seiko Monster is a modern classic. It has an extremely durable movement, excellent finishing on the case, and an beautiful bracelet. Seen in person, it is difficult to believe the Monster only costs about $150. At the heart of this beast is the automatic 7s26 caliber movement.

It is rugged, durable, and accurate. It is not adorned with hand-engravings or precious metals, but it does its job extremely well. The bracelet also gets quite a bit of praise. Many have said that it is the nicest steel bracelet they have ever seen, regardless of price. All of these attributes make the Monster one of my favorite sporting watches.

Seiko Spirit (SCVS013)

This Seiko spirit is an example of how nice Seiko dress watches can be. Automatic movement, sapphire crystal, cordovan strap; all for a few hundred dollars. The blue hands are also a nice touch.

So.. these are just two examples of the great values Seiko offers. You can get some bomb ass watches with the sweet sweet sweeping hands of a mechanical watch for just a few hundred. But, if you're thinking, "What is this peasant-people Seiko shit? I already have a Rollie." Then I am jealous and can only suggest that you get a bottle of champagne and do the Rolex Sweep, cuz that's what I would do.


Why Isn't Everything Made of... Kangaroo Leather

Now before discussing Kangaroo leather, let us establish something; Kangaroos are not very nice. In fact, they are quite mean. They punch people and cause car accidents. Observe:

Now then. Kangaroo leather is so dank because of its strength. It is much more resistant to tearing and abrasion than calf. It is also much more supple and comfortable because it breaks in faster than calf. These properties have led it to be used in sports applications, such as motorcycle suits.

The thinness and abrasion resistance makes it suitable for protecting riders as they fall at speeds they shouldn't be going at anyways. Everything should be so safe as kangaroo leather. Roo leather is also used to make the most iconic football boot of all time, the Adidas Copa Mundial.

I can't really explain why football boots need to be made of Kangaroo leather, but people can't really explain why these boots are the best ever, either. So, I have no choice, but to assume the Kangaroo leather has something to do with it. People comment on the Copa Mundial's comfort and suppleness as parts of its greatness. These attributes are definitely due to the use of Kangaroo leather.

Kangaroo is also starting to be used to non-sporting applications. RM Williams makes some of the world's best Chelsea boots. They make them in Kangaroo leather, too. Many reviews note the comfort, toughness, and beauty of the Kangaroo model.

Well now, can you say Kangaroo leather is not dank? I thought not. I'll bet for at least 3 minutes you'll be thinking, "Why isn't everything made of Kangaroo leather?".


Sony MDR-V6 Headphones

The Sony MDR-V6 headphones are bomb because they are:
  • Cheap
  • Sound good
  • Comfortable
  • Durable / Time-Proven
These bad boys have been around since the 80's. Unlike most headphones today, the enclosures are made of metal, not plastic. Their durability shows in 20+ year old examples with no degradation in sound quality.

They also are really comfortable and isolate pretty well. I needed a new pair after I lost my old DJ.ing headphones, leaving me with only a set of Grado's. While Grado headphones sound great, they get pretty uncomfortable after a while and it is difficult to appreciate their output because they do not block any other noise.

While the MDR-V6 was originally intended for studio monitoring, they can also do double duty for DJ.ing. They are pretty loud and the ear cups swivel. Also, that ugly "For Digital" sticker comes off easily, leaving you with a very handsome set of headphones.

If you're looking for a pair, Sony recently renamed them the MDR-7506 to be mean and confuse people. You can find them online for about a $100 or less.


Why Isn't Everything Made of... Titanium

In case you didn't know, titanium is pretty pretty sweet. It's probably tied with gold for my favorite metal.
  • Resistant to corrosion
  • Highest strength-weight ratio of any metal
  • Non-magnetic
  • Biocompatible; non-toxic, not rejected by the body.
Titanium saw its first major applications in the military. Russia made submarines with titanium alloy hulls during the Cold War. These submarines were the deepest diving and fastest of their day. However, most people don't get to ride around in submarines. They do break bones though.

Titanium lets your grandma get a brand new hip. Cuz her body is chill with having titanium in it. The biocompatibility of titanium also makes it useful for jewelery, specifically piercings. I don't really like Frank Gehry, but he can't be all bad. He uses titaniums for buildings.

So, obviously, titanium is used for many things. And most of those things are very popular and good. While correlation is not causation, it's something to consider. Since by now you must think titanium is awesome, you must be wondering. "What other useful applications have been found for titanium?"
  • Hikers' cookware
  • Eyeglasses
  • Golf clubs
  • Bicycles
  • Armour plating
  • Airplanes
  • Watches
  • Pens
  • Car parts
With so many things already blessed by the glory of titanium, why stop there? Why isn't everything made of titanium?



The theremin is the world's first electronic musical instrument. It was invented in Russia, practiced by Lenin, and was Bob Moog's introduction to the world of electronic music.

The theremin is played by positioning each hand relative to the two antennae. One antennae controls volume, the other controls pitch.

Theremins have a very unique sound, similar to the human voice. For that reason, it has generally been used by soloists. It has mostly been forgotten, which is unfortunate, considering its impact on Moog and music in general.

The theremin was first produced in the USA by RCA, but they no longer produce them. However, Moog Music still sells theremins.

For a good example of theremin music, watch this video. With enough practice; you, too, could become one of the coolest old people I have ever witnessed.


Cast-Iron Cookware

Cast-iron cookware is a great tool in the kitchen. It has several strengths:
  • High heat retention
  • Even heat distribution
  • Naturally non-stick
  • Cheap
  • Adds iron to the diet
The heat distribution and retention make cast-iron a great option for anything from frying eggs to baking cornbread. Cast-iron can be used on a stovetop, in the oven, or even over a grill.

The non-stick properties of cast-iron come from 'seasoning'. Seasoning cast-iron involves bonding fats to the surface the cookware. This can be intentionally to speed up the process or it also does it all by itself with regular use. To maintain seasoning, wash cast-iron while it still hot with nothing but a brush and water.

The last bullet is not a joke. Cast-iron cookware actually leaches small amounts of iron into your food. This can be a benefit for those with low levels of iron.

Lodge Cookware is an American company founded in 1896 that still makes cast-iron cookware. They are still family owned and produce their bare cast-iron cookware in the USA.

So, next time you order a breakfast skillet at 3:00am, stop to appreciate the magic of cast iron cookware.

Vac-pot Coffee

The first cup of coffee I ever drank was brewed in a vacuum pot. I was very young and it gave me a very bad stomach ache. But now I am a grown up.

Vacuum brewing is a method that was popular back in the day, but fell out of popularity when home drip brewers were introduced to the market. They have had a small resurgence among coffee aficionados. The ten thousand dollar coffee brewers used at Intelligentsia are basically high-tech vacuum brewers.

The coffee they produce has less sediment than a french press, but retains all the oils important to flavor. The brewing process also helps to ensure optimal temperatures.

Combined with fresh ground coffee, a vac-pot could the best way to brew coffee at home. Also, it looks bad ass.


Pilot Precise V7

The Pilot Precise series of pens are my favorite note-taking pens.
  • Opaque gel ink
  • Quicker drying than the G2
  • More consistent stroke than the G2
Basically, makes the G2 look bad.


Polaroid 680 SLR

Polaroid 600 film is fun and rewarding. And the Polaroid SLR 680 and 680 SE are the best cameras for that film.

It features an auto-focus system for the lens and flash angle, is made for 600 film (unlike the SX-70), and probably has the best lens Polaroid made for a 600 film camera.

It's not as small and compact as the SX-70, but there's no need to darken the lens (making the viewfinder useless in the dark). It also has a regular flash, no need to search for flash cubes.

I picked up a mint condition 680 on losangeles.craigslist for only $90 last week.



Monument to the Conquerors of Space

'Monument to the Conquerors of Space'
Moscow, Russia

I'd like to give a shoutout to titanium and modernism.