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Dietribes: Gum Control

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"¢ "Chewing gum may be a $19 billion industry, but it's not a universally accepted practice. Chewing gum is a crime in Singapore, and, in 15th-century Meso-America, it was the mark of a prostitute." And how!

"¢Â Early conceptions of chewing gum got a boost from a former Mexican President looking to return to power and get the funds to do so by re-inventing a rubber substitute, which explains a lot of things.

"¢Â Unfortunately, the first "gum" stuck to the face - so much so that it had to be removed by turpentine (yikes). Bubble Gum as we know it was invented in 1928, by Walter Diemer, an accountant at Fleer Chewing Gum Company. He developed a formula that didn't stick to the face and had enough elasticity to blow bubbles. Pink was the color on hand for the first batch and so it has doth sacredly remained.

"¢Â The process of making gum is probably really difficult to comprehend, but this cool animation breaks it down in simple terms.

"¢ So what really happens when you swallow your gum? Does it sit undigested in your gut until you die? Or does it simple pass on through?

"¢Â If you can't swallow gum, by George, what are you to do with it? Well you can place it in the shrine of Bubble Gum Alley, or Philadelphia's Gum Tree (actually it was cut down in 2008 ... BUT ...).

"¢Â Whatever you do, just don't spit your gum out in Singapore, where chewing gum is against the law (although they do allow Nicotine gum thanks to Rep. Philip Crane from Illinois ... the home of Wrigley) who applied pressure to lifting the ban as part of a free trade agreement.

"¢ That might change one day, however, since the first biodegradable gum is set to be introduced this year (though I wouldn't recommend spitting it freely).

"¢Â Maybe gum's not all bad - after all, some claim that it improves concentration. It also has a place in national history.

"¢ Gum is often associated with Baseball. Since dip and chew is often frowned upon by teams, some players chew gum instead. And some mix the two together - ew.

"¢ Finally, for those of you who haven't gotten a good night's sleep since asking yourself this question: how did Bazooka Joe lose his right eye?

"¢ I once had a teacher swear that in the future the Surgeon General would ban gum for causing jaw problems. So far so good on that front. What kind of gum is your favorite, Flossers? Do you mainly chew it for the minty tasty or get a big pink wad to blow into a bubble?

For more food and frivolity during the week, I am on Twitter.

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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University of Pittsburgh
Researchers Create Motorized Wheelchair Made for the Water Park
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University of Pittsburgh

Despite advances in technology, there are many aspects of the world that remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. But researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working to make one activity easier for people who use motorized wheelchairs: navigating water parks.

The average motorized wheelchair has a number of electrical and battery components that can’t get wet, limiting who can access the joys of splash parks and pools. But a new wheelchair that uses compressed air instead of a heavy battery could change that, Gizmodo recently reported.

Created through a joint research project between University of Pittsburgh engineers, the university’s medical center, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PneuChair is lighter and quicker to charge than traditional motorized chairs. It can also be repaired with basic hardware tools if something breaks in the midst of all the splashing.

The 80-pound chair (a traditional device can weigh up to 400 pounds) can travel about three miles on one charge, about a third of the maximum distance of an electric mobility device. Another benefit: It only takes 10 minutes to recharge rather than eight hours.

The university's Human Engineering Research Laboratories is also working on a scooter version for people who don't need the assistance of a full chair. “The potential to open opportunities for people with disabilities who need powered mobility to access splash parks, water parks, beaches or pools is transformative,” lab director Rory Cooper told the university's press service.

The PneuChair was designed in part for use at Morgan’s Inspiration Island, an upcoming water park in San Antonio that’s designed for people with disabilities. The accessible splash park—which is part of Morgan’s Wonderland, a fully accessible theme park—will initially offer 10 of the chairs to its guests for use while they’re there.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Dietribes: Cabbage
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• Cabbages are derived from the wild mustard plant of the Mediterranean region, and have been popular since ancient times. Cato the Elder praised the cabbage for its many medicinal uses.

• Cabbages are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of Vitamin C, folate and fiber. That and its low calorie count is why some people use cabbage on weight-loss diets.

• However, the cabbage is also known to have a certain undesirable gastric side effect. As Nicholas Culpeper said in A Complete Herbal (1653) "Cabbages are extremely windy, whether you take them as meat or as medicine, as windy meat as can be eaten, unless you eat bag-pipes or bellows."

• Remember "freedom fries"? That wasn't the first time the name of one of our foods has been attempted to be changed because of political fervor. During World War I, Americans renamed sauerkraut "liberty cabbage."

• No one knows exactly how the Cabbagetown neighborhood in Atlanta got its name, though stories include the idea that the original poor Scotch-Irish residents (workers at the nearby cotton mill) would grow cabbages in their front yards, and that the smell of cooked cabbage was a nuisance (and later a point of pride). Other apocryphal suggestions include a train derailing or a Model T car overturning and spilling cabbages everywhere for people to snatch up, shouting "Free Cabbages!"

• Georgia has another cabbage connection - Cabbage Patch Kids, which were originally called Little People. In the late 1970s, art student Xavier Roberts started creating "soft sculptures," which he later expanded on by giving them birth certificates and allowing "adoptions." In 1982 the name changed to Cabbage Patch. By the mid-80s, the dolls went on record as having the most successful and in-demand introduction of a toy ever.

• Though cabbages have often been thought of throughout history as a cheap food, that's certainly not true in Northern Canada, where a cabbage can cost $28. The northern Canadian territory of Nunavut is so remote that anything not a product of hunting and gathering must be flown in.

• By the way, that corned beef and cabbage you cook up for St. Patricks Day? Not actually Irish. Though corned beef was made in Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, most Irish families were too poor to eat it. Instead it went to British citizens as well as the British and U.S. military. These days, the Irish reportedly find the dish just plain boring.

• Cabbages can have a killer instinct - genetically modified cabbages can produce scorpion poison that kills caterpillars when they bite leaves. But don't worry, the toxin is modified so it isn’t harmful to humans. (I like that the title of the article is "Venomous Cabbage"!)

• Another way to get rid of pests in your cabbage? Er, human urine. According to a 2007 study, "Our results show that human urine could be used as a fertilizer for cabbage and does not pose any significant hygienic threats or leave any distinctive flavor in food products." Good to know?

• The largest cabbage on record was called "The Beast" and weighed 127 pounds. Reportedly it wasn't actually particularly tasty, so it ended up as compost rather than on anyone's plate.

• How do you like to eat your cabbages, Flossers? And have you found a way to counteract their less-desirable side-effects?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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