A Pint of Sweat Saves a Gallon of Blood

For better or worse, sweatpants have been legitimate sportswear for nearly a century. From NASA astronauts to Sylvester Stallone in Rocky to Patrick Swayze in Road House, sweatpants were worn when there was serious training at hand. When Frenchman Emile Camuset of Le Coq Sportif invented sweatpants in the 1920s they came in one color – gray – because they were intended solely for working out.

Sadly, at some point – maybe in the ‘80s – that sweatpants began to be worn outside the gym an into the world as “active wear.” This allowed people with no intention of sweating to enjoy the comfort of pajamas and the adjustable waist while still pushing the illusion of teetering on the precipice of a tough and sweaty workout.

At this point, we have to accept that people are going to wear sweats outside the gym. But that doesn’t mean we can’t dress them up a bit. Betabrand has accomplished that by creating dress sweatpants that look like any other pair of fine charcoal wool trousers.

They’re actually made from high-end French terry fabric, which has a subtle heather texture that’s similar to fine suit cloth. So while they look sophisticated, they feel like pajamas. The boardroom-style, bedroom-comfort pants are available directly $90.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

While it’s not a craze that’s sweeping the nation exactly, tens of thousands of people take part in polar bear plunges around the world each year. The oldest of America’s winter bathing organizations is the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, founded by Bernarr Macfadden in 1903.

Macfadden was an early advocate of physical fitness, natural foods and physical exercise, and said that “our bodies are our most glorious possessions, that health-wealth is our greatest asset . . . that weakness is truly a crime . . . that every man can be a vigorous vital specimen of masculinity: that every woman can be a splendidly strong, well poised specimen of femininity.” He believed that a winter dip in the ocean would boost stamina, virility and immunity.

Actual polar bears live throughout the ice-covered waters off of Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska with their range is limited by the southern extent of sea ice.

The bad news is that a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature warns that of a dramatic reduction in polar bear habitats over the next 10 to 50 years, due largely to global warming.

The good news is you can create your own polar bear – or penguins – in ice for less than $20 with ice cube molds from Japan’s a2-unit.


All Men Are Equal Before a Fish

At their most basic, fish have eyes very much like people that feature a cornea, iris, pupil, lens and retina. But there some major differences like the ability to see right and left simultaneously and the lack of eyelids. And, as a result of living without a neck to turn their heads, most fish can’t see anything below or directly behind them.

Fish eyes are a delicacy throughout southeastern Asia, and the giant eyes of tuna are offered in most Japanese grocery stores for eating. The eyes are simply boiled and seasoned to taste. Surrounded by muscle and fish fat, it is said to taste like squid.

While the results can sometimes be otherworldly, the use of a fisheye lens is more likely to be met with smiles and enthusiasm. Originally developed in the 1920s as a meteorological “lens for the whole sky,” the fisheye has developed quite a photographic following on account of the unique, unusual and often distorted images they often produce.

While fisheyes lenses are really fun to play with, a quality fisheye for your DSLR can cost well over $500 – a little much for what amounts to a toy for most people. Holga, which make great plastic film cameras, has developed a plastic lens for your digital camera and a fisheye attachment for just $40.

Yes, it’s plastic. And yes, it essentially turns your camera into a toy camera. But it’s a fantastic toy that can produce wall-worthy photos.

To maximize the fun, you’re really going to want the whole kit – for just $109 you get a wide angle, telephoto, macro and the newly released fisheye. And, unlike their plastic cousins, you don’t have to buy any film. Smile!

Good Spirits Will Not Live Where There is Dirt

While they called themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, they were known as  “Shakers” on account of their crazy dancing and talking in tongues. To be fair, they had a lot of pent up energy to get out – they were completely celibate.

Beyond giving up sex, they sought spiritual perfection by living communally, regularly confessing their sins and by separating themselves from the outside world. They also believed in cleanliness, public sanitation and the purity of food.

And what was most remarkable about the utopian society beyond the now highly prized furniture was their strong belief in the full equality of men and women – a revolutionary idea 150 years before women had the right to vote.

At their height in 1840, there were more than 6,000 believers in 19 communal villages across the country. But given the vow of celibacy and the changing time, their numbers had dwindled to around 2,500 by 1875 and down to 1,000 by 1900. While there are a few remaining practitioners, the last sister from the original order died in Canterbury, New Hampshire in 1992.

To be sure, the rest of us still have shakers and they are for our spirits. And one great recent twist on the cocktail shaker is Metrokane’s Fliptop Cocktail Shaker, $29.

The 24-ounce shaker’s double-walled steel keeps condensation from forming on the outside, and the pop-up top with built-in strainer can be lock securely for leak-free mixing. It means having a dry grip, no fussing with that tiny top and no struggles or spills even late into the night.

Time for the Lowest Common Denominator

Is there any doubt, Americans love hot dogs? They love them so much, in fact, that during “Hot Dog Season” – Memorial Day to Labor Day – Americans usually eat about 7 billion hot dogs, or 818 hot dogs a second. Surprisingly, Los Angeles residents consume the most hot dogs of any city. Less surprising, the airport where travelers bite up the most hot dogs – Chicago’s O’Hare International.

There’s just something undeniably delicious about an all-beef hot dog, especially when it’s cook to juicy perfection with a sweet and smoky flavor. One of the best tasting and understandably best-selling bargain hot dogs is the Bar-S Beef Frank. It’s an all-beef frank that can feed a crowd and save money that can go toward buying something important – like higher-quality liquors.

But as much as we love hot dogs, it’s important to be mindful of just how hot dogs can get in the summer. According to the Animal Protection Institute, if it’s 85 degrees out, the temperature inside a car, even with the windows left slightly open, can soar to 102 degrees in 10 minutes, and can reach 120 in just half an hour.

At those temperatures, dogs can easily fall victim to heatstroke and die. Working to keep dogs safe, Denice Pruett has invented an illustrated static cling window thermometer that she says “serves as an educational and safety tool.” The Too Hot for Spot thermometer, $13, is available directly through Pruett’s web site.