The Ghosts Of War

Happy Halloween, I suppose. Here is the October Zaleski Minute. You know the drill: If it takes you longer than 60 seconds to get through this, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For MIT Technology ReviewMeet Ray, the first war veteran to receive a full penis transplant. The surgery resides at the radical frontier of organ transplantation. (It’s been successfully performed just four times.) But bomb blasts from below, like those experienced by thousands of American soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, leave more men than before with major genitourinary trauma — and feeling like specters of their former selves. “This was actually something that could fix me,” says Ray. “I could go back to being normal again.”

  2. For Elemental: A dangerous dietary supplement. More than $400 million in profit. A trail of fraud and misdirection. And a handful of deaths. The inside story of the rise and fall of USP Labs, a Texas supplement manufacturer tracked for years by the federal government before it was finally taken down in 2015.

  3. For Curbed: So you’re thinking of buying a new RV? Well, you should maybe, probably, most definitely not do that: “The rule, typically, is don’t buy a new RV. If you buy a new RV, you’re going to be sitting in a dealership for two years getting it fixed.”

And Now For Something Different:

Read this delightful profile of Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren), Hollywood’s newest leading man: “Despite his stolid presence, his characters are often thwarted and befuddled—high-strung alpha males driven by an ancient code of valor but tripped up by contemporary frustrations, like a Cro-Magnon man airdropped into Bed-Stuy and handed the wrong person’s latte.”

Salt Of The Earth

Greetings, friends. It has been two months, but I promise that some of the articles I have coming out over the next two months will justify my absence. Here it is, September’s Zaleski Minute.

Normally I’d hit you with the usual asseveration: If it takes you longer than 60 seconds to get through this, complain to management. This time, however, it’s going to take you longer than 60 seconds. So … send your best recipes along with your complaints; I need new ideas for dinners to cook.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For ElementalAre you familiar with the “slow morning” movement? Gripped by the luminal abyss of their retina displays, a concerned folks are deliberately waking up earlier and carving out several hours of time to do nothing technologically abetted whatsoever. Drinking coffee. Exercising. Reading a book. No phones; no computers; no social media; no emails. Perhaps this is the way to better manage our frenetic, 24/7 digital alerts.

  2. For Bloomberg Businessweek: Check it out. This year marks the 150th birthday of the Periodic Table of the Elements, and the entire new issue of Businessweek pays homage to the elements, all 118 of them. For this issue I tackled Na, and wrote about Ben Jacobsen, a salt maker who’s the first to produce briny, crisp, flaky sea salt on Oregon’s coastline since the days of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Your Lanternfly Update:

Remember the spotted lanternfly? My first feature for Bloomberg Businessweek was a tale about the arrestingly creepy spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest from Asia devastating the farms and sawmills of southeastern Pennsylvania. At the time of publishing, October 2018, 13 counties were under quarantine. Now 14 counties are quarantined.

Above is a scene from the vineyards at Beekman Orchards, a fourth-generation farm run by Calvin Beekman in Berks County, Pennsylvania. In the past two years alone, Beekman has lost $390,000 to these bugs, which feast on grape vines, fruit trees, and timber trees. Earlier this summer, Calvin texted me a disastrous update: His vineyard of 40 acres has been wiped out by these bugs.

Penn State scientists are hoping a new biopesticide will halt the spread of these insects. It’s crucial to kill these bugs if you see them. Evidently, they have finally made their way into downtown Philadelphia. (See the tweet I’m quoting.) Just step on the things, and do it quickly — they have a tendency to hop around before they take flight.

And Finally:

Please enjoy this Italian man who is very defensive of bolognese sauce.

Learn To Code

June is at an end, which means it’s time for the latest Zaleski Minute. (Yes, I know I skipped May.) Remember, if it takes you longer than 60 seconds to get through this, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For PostindustrialI previewed this story in April’s Zaleski Minute: It’s the tale of Mined Minds, a nonprofit that promised jobs in tech to out-of-work coal miners and underemployed folks in Appalachia. All they had to do was get through a free, 32-week boot camp to learn to code. But after a trail of layoffs and a lawsuit, former students say the camp was a far cry from what they were promised.

  2. For OneZero: Toxic nitrogen runoff is poisoning our drinking water and killing off marine life. Most of it comes from America’s Corn Belt, a geographic area of 97 million acres in the middle of the U.S., where more than 6 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer is used each year. But what if farmers didn’t need to use fertilizer? What if corn could grow itself?

  3. For Popular Science: Gene DeSantis has spent the predominant part of a textured life planting trees — 15,223 of them, to be exact. Meet the Johnny Appleseed of Baltimore.

Happy Independence Day, everyone. See you at the end of July.

It's April ... What Do You Expect?

The forecast: It’s April. Which means it’s time for the next Zaleski Minute. And remember: If it takes you longer than 60 seconds to get through this, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For ElementalButter in your coffee? All-meat diet? How about fasting for 60 hours straight? A peek into the wild dietary world of eating for mental clarity and battling that 2:30 feeling.

  2. For Curbed: According to some in the self-driving industry, the future of autonomous transportation in America’s cities will arrive in the form of pint-size buses traveling at 11 miles an hour. Giddy up.

  3. For Washingtonian: You might know Paul Reed Smith as one of the most prolific luthiers in the U.S. today. But when he’s not making guitars for the likes of Carlos Santana, he’s developing technology now in use by America’s intelligence agencies.

Can You Spare A Dime?

I have a big feature out in print next month in a brand new magazine: Postindustrial. It’s a publication that reports exclusively on Appalachia and the Rust Belt, and it’s already putting out a weekly newsletter and articles online. On Kickstarter it has raised more than $23,000 on its way to its $30,000 fundraising goal. If you care about journalism in between the coasts and have a few bucks to spare, I’d appreciate it if you tossed a few Postindustrial’s way.

Back To The Future

Sneaking in just before the deadline here with the March edition of The Zaleski Minute. If it takes you longer than 60 seconds to get through this, you know the drill: complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For Popular ScienceWhere are all the jetpacks, self-driving cars, and other modes of transportation we were promised? Still years away, despite Popular Science writing — in 1924, mind you — that flying cars were only mere decades from touching down in the driveways of America.

  2. For CityLab: Some 80 people in this country not only have purchased their own railcars, but they’re also Amtrak-certified to run them on passenger rail. Meet the folks with their own trains.

  3. For CNBCA handful of plucky startups are waging a battle to develop a better battery, one more powerful than current lithium-ion technology that will help usher in an all-electric future.

Spend Some Time With…

This Doug Bock Clark story of the massive and complicated (in route and in makeup) secret system that assists people set on escaping North Korea.

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