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Photo: Smartshots International/Getty Images
A reader of the
Guardian wrote to the newspaper about this bicycle lane in Bucharest, Romania, where a huge tree blocks the entire path.

Do you need a laugh today? I did. Twitter provided it with a link to this June story in the Guardian about many horrendous (and a few great) bike lanes. The photos were provided by readers.

“Bike lanes blocked by bollards, potholes, contradictory signs and ‘the world’s shortest bike lane’: when we asked for examples of the best and worst cycle infrastructure in cities the submissions came in thick and fast.

“Readers around the world shared photos of bikes lanes that were impossibly narrow, that led nowhere or were blocked by parked cars, even police cars. On the upside there were also cycle networks and paths that were a joy for people on bikes. Here are some of the best (and worst).”

The Guardian shares a little background for each photo. For example, the text for the one below says, “Istvan sent in this photo taken in Queen Street, Edinburgh, and says: ‘Do I risk it? … Mmm, not today … Each traffic light on Queen Street has this very narrow bike lane to lead you to a bike zone in front of the traffic (usually used by cars, taxis and buses). There are many of these useless lanes everywhere in Edinburgh, and many many used for parking (when they don’t have a double yellow line above the bicycle sign).’ ”

Read all the funny commentary from Guardian readers and see their amazing photos here.

Photo: Istvan/Guardian Community
Istvan sent the
Guardian this photo of a dangerously skinny bike lane on Queen Street in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Shared interests can bridge cultures. The Guardian‘s Jim Cable offers up a nice example in his report on “two plantsmen in Israel – one Jewish, the other Muslim – [and their] mission to save their region’s rare native species.”

He writes that Oron Peri, a Jewish garden designer who lives halfway between Haifa and Nazareth, has long partnered with Mansour Yassin, a Muslim, on landscape work. Now they are collaborating to share a large collection of Eastern Mediterranean native species with other plant enthusiasts. He says their affiliation is perfectly natural in the part of Israel where they live.

“Yassin adds, ‘We have the same ideas about relationships between Christians, Jews and Muslim people. We don’t hold to stereotypes about where you come from.’

“Peri realised the time had come to formalise the way he shared plants with other enthusiasts. So Seeds of Peace was born; a scheme where seed sales of garden-worthy bulbous plants support conservation of rare species. Yassin is gradually matching up botanic names with the Hebrew he naturally uses for plants he has known since playing in the mountains as a boy. …

“For Peri, the collection represents 20 years of travel and botanising, specialising in plants from the Mediterranean and Middle East. Indigenous populations have suffered due to tourism (particularly on the Greek islands and Cyprus) and illegal harvesting for the bulb market. Some plants are endangered in the wild, with no conservation scheme to protect them in their native country. They give these refugees, as Peri refers to them, a place to thrive and set seed.” Read about the work here.

Photo: Yadid Levy
Oron Peri, left, is Jewish and his Seeds of Peace partner, Mansour Yassin, is Muslim. Here they examine cyclamen in their beds in Kiryat Tiv’on.

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My husband’s new favorite news source is the US edition of the Guardian, and I can see why. It covers national and world affairs well and has some really unusual articles.

This one by Johanna Derry on Native American cuisine appealed to us both because of several years spent in Minneapolis. Back in the 1990s, there was no Native American food truck, but there was a nice restaurant on Franklin Street next to a Native American store, and we ate there a few times.

Derry writes, “Travel across the US and the cuisine doesn’t change much from state to state. It has a reputation for being sodium-filled, sweetened and glutenous (though, arguably, delicious) food. But chef Sean Sherman, known as the Sioux Chef, is hoping to redefine what we think of as ‘American’ food.

“At his newly launched Minneapolis food truck Tatanka, named after the American bison, dishes are made with ingredients that could be found living or growing locally before the arrival of European settlers. So you can forget processed sugars, wheat flour, beef, chicken and pork, Sherman serves wild rice and taco-style cornflour cakes with bison, turkey or rabbit, topped with wild greens and washed down with maple water. As well as being truly American, the food is super-healthy, organic – and local.

“ ‘We’ve worked with a couple of native-run farms to grow back some heirloom varieties of beans, squash, melon and corn,’ says Sherman.

“As well as introducing Minnesotan foodies to indigenous foods, the truck – which is supported by Little Earth, an urban Native American community – will head out to reservations, too, to reintroduce native populations to the healthier diet of their ancestors.”

Read more at the Guardian.

Photo: The Guardian
Tatanka Food truck, Native-American cuisine in Minneapolis

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Not me. It’s a story about a man in Detroit who was so determined to get to work after his car gave up the ghost that he walked 21 miles — and attracted some unexpected blessings for doing it.

I learned about him by way of The Guardian.

“The Detroit Free Press reports that James Robertson rides buses part of the way to and from his factory job in suburban Rochester Hills. But because they don’t cover the whole route, he ends up walking about eight miles (13 kms) before his shift starts at 2 pm and 13 miles (21 kms) more when it’s over at 10 pm. …

“After the newspaper wrote about the 56-year-old’s situation … multiple people started crowdfunding efforts to help him buy a car and pay for insurance. Some have offered to drive him for free and others have offered to buy or give him cars.

“Robertson began making the daily trek to the factory where he molds parts after his car stopped working ten years ago and bus service was cut back. He’s had perfect attendance for more than 12 years.

“ ‘I set our attendance standard by this man,’ said Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. …

“Evan Leedy, a 19-year-old student at Wayne State University, read the story and started a GoFundMe site with the goal of raising $5,000. [In no time,] he had raised more than $90,000. …

“Asked about a federal program newly available through Detroit’s bus system that might pick him up at home and drop him off at his job, Robertson said, ‘I’d rather they spent that money on a 24-hour bus system, not on some little bus for me. This city needs buses going 24/7. You can tell the city council and mayor I said that.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ryan Garza/AP
James Robertson, 56, of Detroit, walked 21 miles every day until a well-wisher’s fundraiser helped him get an apartment closer to the job.

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Thanks for the nice comments yesterday. I’ll have more anon on hanging out with Suzanne’s family this week, but for now, I’m back to quirky stories from near and far. This one is about do-it-yourself theater in England.

Lyn Gardner covers at the topic at the Guardian theater blog.

“A great deal of the most interesting theatre being made at the moment might be called DIY. But what do we really mean by that term? It’s a question explored in a great little book DIY (Do.It.Yourself.) curated by Bootworks’ Robert Daniels and appropriately enough self-published by the University of Chichester. …

“DIY is often associated with an aesthetic that celebrates the imperfect and the make-do-and-mend mentality. But that’s not to mean that it is inexpertly crafted or just throwing a show together and plonking it down in front of an audience and hoping for the best. In times of financial hardship or when buildings and programmers act more like gatekeepers than midwives, DIY can be born of necessity. … DIY is not just about doing it yourself, but also about doing it together and in the process enabling other artists, audiences and institutions through the spirit of generosity.” More here.

Photo: Murdo Macleod
Squally Showers by Little Bulb at Zoo Southside in Edinburgh in 2013. 

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Erik, this one’s for you. I saw a book on 100-year-olds in your kitchen, and I know you and your company aim to enable us all to be centenarians.

Sally Williams writes in the Guardian, “Three score and 10 may be the span of a man, but no one has broken the news to David Bailey who, at 76, still behaves like someone turning one score and eight.

“Last month he walked into a studio in London (not his: too many stairs) to photograph some of Britain’s oldest people. The youngest was just 100; the oldest 107. Dressed in a baggy polo shirt and a pair of old combat trousers, small but physically imposing, Bailey flirted, flattered, insulted his subjects in order to get the picture he wanted.

“ ‘We’ve been married for 62 years,’ Shirley Arkush told Bailey of her husband David, one of the centenarians waiting to be photographed. ‘Same as me,’ he replied, ‘but not to the same wife.’ And he gave a combative, high-pitched laugh. (Bailey’s marriage to his first wife, Rosemary Bramble, lasted three years, and his second, to Catherine Deneuve, two; he was married to Marie Helvin for 10 years, before marrying Catherine Dyer in 1986.) …

“He worked at an incredible pace – nine portraits in four hours, and on subjects with a collective age of 917 years. ‘I’ve always wanted to photograph old people,’ he said at one point, after pinning one centenarian in forensic close-up (he had requested no makeup, only ‘a tidy-up’ for the women).

“Not everyone was happy. Joe Britton, 103, Chelsea Pensioner and horseracing enthusiast, said he knew Bailey and had been looking forward to seeing him again. But, ‘That’s not David Bailey,’ he said with disappointment after the shoot – his David Bailey is the horse trainer.” More pictures, more story here.

Photograph: David Bailey/Guardian
Violet Butler: ‘I’m no paragon. I used to smoke and drink, but not to excess.’

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The independent bookstore where I live is assuming the whole town knows that the publisher Hachette is fighting with Amazon. I say that because it has devoted a whole window to Hachette books, with a statement about carrying any book you want but no statement about the Amazon fight.

Amazon may finally have gone too far. People are fighting back against its absolute power. Asakiyume, for example, is practically a one-woman campaign to get its warehouse staff better working conditions.

And there are other initiatives. Jennifer Rankin writes at the Guardian, “Independent booksellers are being sent reinforcements in the battle against Amazon …

“My Independent Bookshop, a social network for book lovers from Penguin Random House, [is] an online space where anyone can review their favourite books and show off their good taste on virtual shelves.

“Crucially, readers can also buy books from the site, with a small proportion of takings going to support scores of local independent book stores. …

“A reader’s nominated home store – which doesn’t have to be geographically close – will get 5% of the revenues from every physical book they buy and 8% on an ebook. The site is a tie-up with the e-commerce website Hive, which has been offering a similar service to local shops since 2011.”

Read more at the Guardian, here. Check out the lively comments there, too.

Photo: Sarah Lee for the Guardian
The new Penguin Random House may give independent booksellers a boost in online sales. 

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