Britain has a new prime minister, but before we get depressed let’s change the subject and talk about the man in Hampshire who grew the world’s longest cucumber–3’ 8”, or 1.12 meters if you prefer. It weighed 17 pounds, or 7.7 kilos. Or quite possibly both.
What’s the point of growing a vegetable that big? Well, you could make 400 cucumber sandwiches out of it, but only if you like cucumber sandwiches made with tasteless cukes and have a few hundred close friends who do.
How do I know it’s tasteless? I don’t. It could be bitter. It could have the texture of cardboard packing material. What I do know (since the article I stole this from said so) is that it’s destined for the compost heap, not the table.
In the meantime, we still have that new prime minister. The last one’s been dumped on the compost heap, but only because we didn’t have the heart to deposit him where he belongs. The current one, I predict, will be as much use as a three-and-a-half-foot cucumber and do considerably more damage. Already she’s put someone who talks about “climate alarmism” in charge of energy and climate change. But then, to be fair, I don’t know that the job description specifies working against climate change. It may not.
What goes into a cucumber sandwich?
Sliced cukes, preferably with the rind cut off. Butter (or cream cheese). Something herby or some black pepper. One recipe (not the one I’m linking to; it had too many popups) suggests a squeeze of lemon, which sounds like it’ll give you soggy bread, but hey, it’s your sandwich so do what you like.
Put all that on white bread–lots of white bread–preferably with the crusts cut off so you don’t mistake your 400 sandwiches for anything colorful. Then cut them into triangles, giving you, um, 1,600 sandwich pieces, and you make a huge pot of tea.
If you arrange the triangles on tastefully bleak white plates, they will be practically invisible.
But forget that. Let’s introduce the bike bus
Kids in a Glasgow primary school can ride the bike bus to school on Fridays.
A bike bus is basically a group of kids and parents moving through traffic like a school of fish. It was started by a parent who’d read about something similar in Barcelona. Because impatient drivers were becoming a problem, the lead bike is now rigged with a gizmo that changes the traffic light at a particularly messy intersection for long enough for 50 or so riders to cross.
Interviews with the kids were predictably informative. One likes ringing his bell. Another likes talking to her friend on the way to school. And a third has a new bike and it’s red and orange.
What’s happening in the rest of the world?
Well, researchers at the University of Michigan (which is not in Britain) have developed a wind turbine blade that can be recycled into gummy bears.
I’m tempted to stop there, leaving you with an image of gummy bears mysteriously falling from the sky in a disorganized gummy rainbow when the blades reach the end of their first life. But (however briefly) I’m having a responsible moment, so I’ll explain.
The blades are made from a mix of glass fibers, a plant-based polymer, and a synthetic polymer. When the blades are ready to be replaced, instead of joining that great wind turbine in the sky, they break down (with a little help from an alkaline solution) into their component parts, which can be used to make new turbine blades, or tail lights, or gummy bears, or sports drinks. To demonstrate how safe that is, one of the researchers, John Dorgan, publicly ate a gummy bear they’d made.
“A carbon atom derived from a plant, like corn or grass, is no different from a carbon atom that came from a fossil fuel,” he said. “It’s all part of the global carbon cycle, and we’ve shown that we can go from biomass in the field to durable plastic materials and back to foodstuffs.”
Turbine blades can be as much as half the length of a football field, making them an awkward addition to a landfill.
Is that a US football field or what the rest of the world calls a football field and Americans insist is a soccer field? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure how the sizes of the two fields compare. What I do know is that the new blades can be recycled endlessly. Unless you eat them.
The urine of the Southeast Asian binturong smells like buttered popcorn. Why is that true? Because they both contain 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, which smells the same whether it’s at the movies or being excreted onto dead leaves.
Did you need to know that? Probably not, but now that you do you can’t unknow it–at least not unless memory does its loving job of erasing it for you.
You can thank the Encyclopedia Britannica’s “One Good Fact” email newsletter for that gem, and I can’t give you a link because it doesn’t work that way. You’ll just have to trust me on this.
The copyright’s expiring on some of the classic modern novels, and that means you can buy cheap editions online.
What do you get for your money? Less than you’d expect, according to a recent (if February is recent) article. An edition of The Great Gatsby ends mid-paragraph and three pages before the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, thought it did.
Another edition is dedicated not to Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, as the original was, but to “Logan and Olivia Barbrook / May your lives be filled with wonderful stories, great adventures and happily-ever-afters, Love Mummy.”
Which somehow doesn’t sound like Fitzgerald.
One edition changes Fitzgeralds line “At any rate, Miss Baker’s lips fluttered” to “Anyway, Miss Baker’s lipped frizzed.”
Then there’s the cover. One edition showed a couple next to something that looks more or less like a 1980s Dodge Charger. That’s prescient for a book first published in 1925. It’s enough to make your lips frizz.
Let’s go back to oversize vegetables
In Nebraska, Duane Hansen paddled 38 miles down the Missouri River in the hollowed-out 846-pound pumpkin that he grew.
“I probably won’t try this again,” he said, since it was a little cramped in there. However, no politicians were harmed in the setting of what is unquestionably a world record.
In which we see humanity at its best
Somewhere above Europe, two Air France pilots got in a fistfight in the cockpit. The cabin crew heard the noise, went in, and broke up the fight, with one of them staying in the cockpit until the plane landed to keep the pilots in their seats and flying the plane.
The BBC tells us that France’s air investigation body said the airline’s culture “lacked rigor when it came to safety procedures.”