Body dysmorphia: Bigorexia leading to depression in gym-goers

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‘The Crown’: The History Behind Season 4 on Netflix

In 1985, Diana surprised Charles for his birthday by dancing onstage to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” at the Royal Opera House. “The audience gasped when Diana appeared, as if they’d all taken one huge breath,” her dance partner, Wayne Sleep, remembered in the British newspaper The Guardian in 2017. “At one point, I pirouetted and she pushed me down; then I carried her across the stage. I remember thinking, ‘Don’t drop the future queen of England.’”

We do not know how Charles really felt about the performance, but in the episode, he is horrified, calling it a “grotesque, mortifying display.” At the time, rumors were already circulating about their marriage. The same year, The New York Times said there were “rather unkind” reports “that the royal couple argues a lot, that he is eccentric and henpecked, and that she is obsessed with clothes and diet.”

The BBC called it “the resignation that toppled Thatcher.” In 1990, Geoffrey Howe, Thatcher’s longest-serving cabinet member, stepped down with a speech encouraging others to break ranks with the prime minister.

The Times obituary for Howe in 2015 described him as “a roly-poly avuncular man with shaggy white hair” and “little charisma or flair for public speaking.” But Howe’s resignation did huge damage to Thatcher, and she was out within weeks.

The episode also shows a solo trip to New York that Diana took in 1989, which included a visit to the pediatric AIDS unit of Harlem Hospital. In real life, Diana changed public attitudes toward the disease, touching AIDS patients at a time when many people were afraid to do so. In the Harlem hospital, she hugged a little boy who had the illness, as she does in the show.

A Times article about the trip quoted Dr. Margaret Heagarty, pediatric director at the hospital, who told Diana, “Your presence here and in Great Britain has shown that folks with this disease can be hugged, can be cared for.”

How to Cook a Turkey


Free-range: This is a bird that is not raised in a cage and is free to graze on any grasses or grains it can find in its pen, which is generally considered a more humane and healthy poultry farming process.

Organic: The U.S.D.A. requires that all turkeys sold as organic must be raised free-range, without the use of antibiotics, and fed an organic and vegetarian diet that has not been treated with pesticides.

Natural: Natural turkeys are generally less expensive than organic, and are often of a comparable quality. But there is no government guarantee to back up the word “natural” on a label. You must read on to find out if the bird is antibiotic-free, free-range and/or raised on a vegetarian diet.

Kosher: Turkeys with the “kosher” label have been farmed and slaughtered according to Jewish dietary customs, with rabbinical supervision. They also undergo a salting process after slaughter that gives the meat a juicy texture. (Don’t brine a kosher bird.)

Conventional: This is the standard supermarket turkey. The variety is the Broad Breasted White, which was bred to have a plumper, broader breast. A conventional turkey should be brined; it will noticeably improve the texture. And use an open hand when it comes to seasonings, since the turkey won’t offer much flavor of its own.

Heritage: Heritage turkeys are old-fashioned varieties of birds that were common in America until the 1920s. They have a richer, more distinct flavor, more like a game bird, and have a greater proportion of dark meat. Breeds include Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red and White Holland.

Wild Turkey: It is illegal in the United States to sell a truly wild turkey that’s been shot by a hunter, thus most “wild” turkeys on the market are pasture-raised — often free-range heritage birds. To procure a truly wild turkey you will need to either shoot one yourself or befriend a hunter.

Self-basting: These turkeys have been injected with a solution generally consisting of butter or oil and salt, and sometimes herbs, spices and preservatives. Self-basted turkeys are sometimes not labeled as such, so make sure to check the ingredients list. If you see anything other than “turkey,” chances are it is a self-basting bird. Do not brine it.

Are Schools Teaching Kids to Diet?

“The vast majority of our multilingual students are the first in their family born in America, so their parents have very different ideas about nutrition and cooking. I think they often see the nutrition information coming home and don’t know how to even begin to cook that way,” Reikowski said. They may also have different ideas about “what a healthy kid looks like,” which can make lessons around body weight troublesome.

On the flip side, Reikowski discourages the teachers she works with from holding up students of color as food role models. “You can’t read ‘Too Many Tamales’ and call on the one Latinx kid in class and ask him to tell everyone about tamales,” she said. “If kids always feel like what they’re eating at home is either being judged as unhealthy or held up like it’s in a museum, it’s really hard for them to talk about what’s actually important to them about food.”

In a perfect world, these advocates say, school nutrition classes could help foster an appreciation for and curiosity about all sorts of foods, while also educating children about issues like food insecurity and disordered eating. Instead, many curriculums seem poised to exacerbate disordered eating, by increasing children’s anxieties around food and body weight.

When Julie Ralston’s daughter struggled to calculate calories for her food log assignment, Ralston took a deep breath and showed her how to download a calorie counting app that would make it easier. “These are apps I’ve deleted off my phone because I know they aren’t good for me. To show her how to use one felt like teaching my child to do the most horrible, dangerous thing,” Ralston said. Even a few weeks after the assignment, Ralston said she was aware that Katie was still occasionally checking the calorie count on foods in a way she never did before.

In a year when teachers are so overburdened by the pressures of pandemic schooling, it can feel awkward for parents to speak up when we hear a stigmatizing comment or see an assignment that promotes restrictive dieting. But these advocates say it’s worth the effort. After Ganginis discussed her concern about the school’s nutrition curriculum with her daughter’s classroom teacher and principal, she testified at a county health council meeting, and was advised to find out who wrote nutrition curriculums at the state level. She found the state’s Health Education Specialist, who welcomed her suggestions, and two years later, Maryland’s newly revised state health curriculum includes no mention of weight and takes an “all foods fit” approach to nutrition rather than labeling foods as good or bad.

“The tough part now is waiting for this to trickle down, because whether the curriculum says it or not, teachers will talk about their own experiences,” she said. “The next step is to educate teachers directly and establish more rules, like we are not allowed to talk about weight or dieting in the classroom.”

Ganginis acknowledged that her advocacy was likely successful because of her professional expertise, but encourages non-dietitian parents to speak up as well. “I didn’t feel heard until a change was made,” she said. Start, as Ganginis did, by speaking with your child’s teacher. In order to foster a conversation, acknowledge how hard they’re working and share what you’ve observed, without insisting on a solution.

Multiple Apple Watch SE models have dropped below $300 on Amazon

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The Apple Watch SE is like the diet version of the Series 6 — and it would make a great, budget-friendly gift.
The Apple Watch SE is like the diet version of the Series 6 — and it would make a great, budget-friendly gift.

Image: mashable photo composite

Save up to $49.01: The Apple Watch SE has quietly been put on sale at Amazon, with the cheapest model on sale for just $259.99. As of Nov. 10, save up to 15% depending on size and cellular data. Find links to each model on sale below.

Holiday wishlists are always rife with Apple Watches. If you think about it, it’s basically the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: We all know someone who wants an Apple Watch, know someone who’s trying to gift an Apple Watch, and so on and so forth.

The obvious dilemma: An Apple Watch isn’t exactly a budget-friendly gift. Things get especially tricky when a kid asks for one. Are they ready for a $400-something smartwatch? No. Will they be satisfied with a smartwatch directed at kids? That’s like asking a teenager if Nalgene is OK when they specifically asked for a Hydro Flask.

In Sept. 2020, Apple finally answered the call of the people and released a diet Apple Watch. The SE’s $309.99 to $359.99 price range was already remarkable, but an early Black Friday at Amazon has made them even more palatable. Discounts of up to $49.01 (15% off) have been tacked onto various models, depending on size, color, and GPS versus GPS + Cellular configurations. The cheapest is a 44mm for $259.99, which is officially cheaper than its 40mm sibling. Links to each model on sale are below.

In years past, finding a decently-priced Apple Watch usually meant downgrading to an older, slower model that’s permanently on sale. The Apple Watch SE takes the best features from under the hood of the Series 4 and Series 6, then compromises on price by ditching a few high-end features that the average wearer probably won’t notice. The biggest thing missing is the separate electrical heart rate sensor required to run an ECG. 

The list of what the SE does possess is much longer. Apple’s decision to power it with the same optical heart rate sensor as the Series 6 means that it’s just as accurate (fitness-tracking wise). Compared to the Apple Watch 3 (a model from 2018 that’s somehow still in circulation), the SE charges faster, has less clunky bezels, and won’t face the WatchOS 7 slowdowns that older models fall victim to.

These are all of the models on sale:

Explore related content:

S16 Angel Fund launches a community of founders to invest in other founders

Ten years ago a group of young tech founders in Moscow decided to get an apartment together, at Shmitovskiy lane 16.

In time, the ecosystem around the group swelled to the point where today it now encompasses 300 entrepreneurs, executives, artists, and many other industries. The group now organizes the annual ‘Founders for Founders’ conference, in Russia and other locations. Just as in other places around the world, the members decided to help each other.

So they formed the Shmit16 Founder Community, and today they launch the S16 Angel Fund to invest in startups globally. Although tiny by investment standards (the funds first close will be $5 million) firm will focus on ‘founder-in-founder’ investments and has already backed 5 companies under this model. The fund plans to invest in five more companies in the next six months with an average of $250k ticket.

So far the Angel group has invested in AppFollow, Lokalize Simple, a fasting and diet management mobile app, and Anytype, a new operating environment for the modern internet.

The driving ethos of the S16 Fund is a focus on developing human potential and creating a productive peer context where information flows freely and participants can learn from each other.

Founding partners of the fund and community members include serial entrepreneurs Anatoly Marin, co-founder of Payment Systems (a mobile fintech in Eastern Europe); Aleks Shamis -partner at Dostavista (a crowdsourced same-day delivery service operating in 10 countries), Mikhail Peregudov, founder of Partiya Edy, recently acquired by Yandex ($YNDX), Oleg Bibergan, former Executive Director at Goldman Sachs, and others. Prior to this, the partners have invested in over 30 companies as individual angels.

S16 cofounder Anatoly Marin says: “There is a difference between helping a founder as someone whom you relate to on a human level, because you’ve been in these difficult places yourself, and helping a founder to get an ROI on your capital. The former helps shape relations where founders are open to share the most difficult subjects and get help. It is handy here that we’ve founded companies in different areas and can look at things from diverse perspectives.”

“The relationships in our community have always been about friendship, trust, and personal growth, with financial gains being an organic second-order outcome,” says S16 Angel Fund co-founder Aleks Shamis. “After 10 years, starting a fund was a natural next step in helping founders like ourselves.”

Beyond investment, S16 offers access to its network to help founders solve problems, find mentors and operators with business domain expertise such as go-to-market strategy, pricing, coaching for the executive team, and others.

Will It Ever Be Possible to Share Dreams?

Illustration for article titled Will It Ever Be Possible to Share Dreams?

Illustration: Angelica Alzona/Gizmodo

Giz AsksGiz AsksIn this Gizmodo series, we ask questions about everything and get answers from a variety of experts.

People say other people’s dreams are boring, but what if the problem is technology? As a sense-conveying device, human speech is subpar, prone to gaps, stutters and falsifications, intentional or otherwise. If you could just literally show someone your dreams—suck them out of your skull and toss them onto the nearest screen—people might not roll their eyes when you tried to talk about them. Dream-movies have of course been sci-fi fodder forever, but with so many sci-fi staples verging on (or already present in) reality, it’s worth wondering if we’re any closer to experiencing them. For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts to find out.

Susana Martinez-Conde

Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Physiology & Pharmacology, whose research bridges perceptual, oculomotor, and cognitive neuroscience

There is no theoretical barrier to the possibility of accessing the contents of someone’s dream, and reading it out, and providing data—visual and emotional content. Our dreams are neural activity in our brain; there’s nothing special about them that doesn’t affect every other emotional or perceptual experience we have in our waking lives. There is no particular circuitry or brain region that is activated during dreams but not in waking life.

The big caveat is not the technology, but the fact that we still don’t really know the neural code; we still don’t know how conscious experience is encoded in the brain. The limits that make it impossible to share dreams today are the same ones that make it impossible to say, download our consciousnesses onto a computer. It doesn’t matter how fast technology progresses if we still don’t really understand the underlying neurophysiology. We still can’t really decode experience.

There are theories, but fundamentally we lack consensus. There’s still significant debate in the field about whether, say, the prefrontal cortex is critical for conscious experience. We’re really far behind—I think we’re talking about decades here, rather than years.

But one day, if we do understand what’s going on with the biology, and the technology exists, there’s no reason why we couldn’t download our consciousnesses onto a computer and live forever—or, alternately, share our dreams.

Robert Stickgold

Professor, Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, whose research focuses on sleep

“Ever” is a very long time, but I think the answer, at least for the lifetime of anyone visiting your website is, “Nah, not a chance!” Think about it—it’s almost impossible to share your thoughts with someone else verbally. As soon as you get started, twenty new threads open up, and you have to choose just one. But they’re all there as part of your “thoughts.” The best they’ve been able to do with fully awake individuals is put them in an fMRI scanner and figure out whether they’re looking at a face or a tool.

On a more philosophical level, your thought, and your dreams, are always embedded in your overall memory networks and life experiences. You can’t “walk in someone else’s shoes” by just putting them on and hiking on down to the mall.

Adam Haar Horowitz

Research assistant at the MIT Media Lab, whose work focuses on brain science

Like so much of science, the question is a door to more doors. To share dreams we have to first define them, draw some kind of boundary around the dream—is it the visuals that define the dream, is it sight we want to share? If so, does a co-occurring image of my mother in both of our minds satisfy the notion of a shared dream? I don’t think so. Dreams are an amalgam of memory, they’re internal explorations of our networks of meaning, they’re concepts always embedded in personal context. So the same sensory stimulus in two minds may be an entirely different experience. That being said, we could ask if we’re ever watching the same movie, even while awake and sharing a couch… philosophically it’s a messy question

Practically, it’s less messy. There have been strides already at decoding the visuals from a dream using brain imaging. Others have shown we can communicate from within a lucid dream, using eye movements to communicate across states of consciousness. And our work at Fluid Interfaces has shown we can incubate specific themes in dreams. On the surface level, we are closing the gap between the personal space of the dreamscape and the outside observer. But I think that gap remains a kind of Zeno’s paradox, because ‘experience’ is always going to be there, pestering scientists even as we create objective tools to capture, observe and recreate the dream. We cannot share a whole dream without sharing a whole self.

T W C Stoneham

Professor, Philosophy, University of York, whose research focuses on dreams, among other things

R A Davies

Research Associate, Philosophy, University of York

Besides the innocuous sense in which we communicate our dreams, there are at least two interesting senses of dream-sharing: to have the same dream (co-dreaming); and to view another’s dream, perhaps through advanced technology (dream-scanning). Examples of dream-sharing can be found in some contemporary African cultures, where one can ‘dream for’ another person, or even ‘triangulate’ (in dreams that relate messages from one party, through the dreamer, to a third). They also appear in ancient civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece), including cases in which the same important dreams would occur in both patient and priest on the same night (symptoma).

On the prevalent view in contemporary Western cultures, dream-sharing in these ways seems impossible, barring coincidence, suggestion, or dream-scanning. On that view, dreaming is a fundamentally private (sleeping) experience that can only currently be shared through (waking) communication: the experience itself occurs in isolation.

Our research suggests that the prevalent Western view of dreaming is wrong. It doesn’t easily explain familiar sleep phenomena such as pre-cognitive (‘alarm-clock’) dreams; the incorporation of low-level perception and interoception into dream content; or even how common foods can cause bad dreams. Instead, we think dreams are constructed from a number of sources—cultural and social effects, bodily sensations, and perception—primarily as one wakes up. On this alternative view, there is no fundamentally private experience behind our dream reports.

If we are right, dream-scanning wouldn’t reveal much. We predict that information one might gain from scanning the brains of sleeping people will only correlate very loosely with their dream reports because what people report dreaming is influenced by so many other factors, such as cultural norms and social expectations.

There is hope for the other sense of dream-sharing, though. In principle, to initiate a ‘similar’ dream in more than one person one might try to induce the same physiological and environmental changes in those persons while they sleep. But differences in age, health, diet, social factors and cultural associations might still lead to differences in dream content, so one would have to pick one’s subjects carefully.

Do you have a burning question for Giz Asks? Email us at

Heres How Californias Prop 24 Could Better—or Break—Our Privacy for Good

Illustration for article titled Heres How Californias Prop 24 Could Better—or Break—Our Privacy for Good

Illustration: Jim Cooke

In case this election wasn’t stressful enough, a confusing, controversial ballot measure in California is creating a rift among civil liberties advocates over whether the legislation is truly good for people’s privacy—or a half-step in the wrong direction.

The California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act, also known as Prop 24, or CPRA, is an update to the lackluster privacy law that California first put into place in 2018. Supporters say this measure ties up the many, many (many) loose ends that let data-mining companies run rampant under that first legislation, the California Consumer Privacy Act. But you’ll also find just as many people who argue Prop 24’s sanded edges discount the people who arguably need privacy the most.

On one hand, you have parties like the American Civil Liberties Union arguing that CPRA’s current iteration would cripple the basic data privacy rights for communities of color. On the other hand, you have the NAACP’s California branch shouting back saying that, actually, the measure is specifically built to protect the data of people of color.

You also have a New York Times op-ed, published last week, suggesting that Prop 24 in its current state is too flawed to actually be worth voting for. Then again, this piece was also immediately subtweeted by one of the Times’s own engineers, who pointed out that some of the flaws the writer pointed to didn’t actually exist. Even the people who worked together on the original 2018 law have spent months getting into a public, messy brawl over the update.

At the center of this divide is the ballot measure itself (you can read it here). Warning: It’s dozens of pages of murky legalese discussing the specifics of the digital data mining industry—a field that’s boring and arcane to the point that explaining how it works often takes stacks of diagrams.

We have no diagrams here, but there sure is a lot of jargon being taken out of context—or flat out misunderstood—by folks on both sides of Prop 24, which partially explains how a single document could pit people against each other, even though they’re ostensibly fighting for the same thing. Making everything worse is the fact that tech companies in the data space have offered half-assed explanations of how their software actually earns them obscene amounts of money—and far too many people have learned to accept these bullshit talking points as fact.

Prop 24 isn’t just a badly written privacy law, but a badly written privacy law about a subject few people truly understand. And that’s one of the big reasons we ended up with it at all.

“How did Prop 24 even end up on the ballot?”

In short, California shit the bed with their first attempt at passing a major privacy law. In the mad dash to get this bill signed into law two years ago, The California Consumer Privacy Act was filed—typos and all—to lawmakers who were incentivized to get this thing out the door and into the hands of Governor Jerry Brown as fast as humanely possible, in an attempt to pre-empt the then-impending November ballot. By the time Brown gave his stamp of approval on the CCPA back at the end of June 2018, it was after barely a week of debate from the legislators and proponents involved.

And all things considered, the law is… okay. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had been enacted in the EU not long before the CCPA was ready to make its debut in California, so it was easy to make comparisons at the time, with some folks dubbing the CCPA the diet version of GDPR. Like its European counterpart, the CCPA was put into place to give citizens (Californians, specifically) a better sense of the players hiding in plain sight. It was pitched as giving Californians the chance to pry their data back from these companies and, in some cases, have those companies legally required to erase that person’s data entirely. Aside from that, it promised to make maintaining our privacy less of an inconvenient nightmare by creating a “global-opt-out” system that would allow Californians to purge the trackers from every site they visit in one fell swoop, rather than being forced to opt-out on every page they visit.

That’s how it was supposed to work, but there’s only so much good intentions can do when you end up passing a law like CCPA that both promises to protect all of California’s personal data while barely bothering to define what “personal data” actually means. Other notable bungles include telling Californians that they could opt-out of companies like Google “selling” their data under CCPA, while ignoring that the tech giant doesn’t “sell” your data as much as “share” it with interested third parties. Tech players are given ample excuses to outright ignore any data deletion request they get. And because Facebook, Google, and Amazon lobbied like hell to keep CCPA-based suits to a minimum, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra is the only person who’s authorized to actually launch any CCPA-suits right now, even though he’s the first to admit he has no time to really pursue that.

“So Prop 24 plugs all those loopholes, right?”

Well, it closes a few of the biggest. First, it expands the CCPA’s “do not sell” provision to something that’s closer to “do not share,” which makes it that much harder for the Facebooks and Googles of the world to ignore opt-out requests on the grounds that they don’t technically “sell” user data. Second, the legislation cuts targeted ads from the list of approved “business purpose[s]” used by data brokers and ad middlemen to ignore the average opt-out request on the other end. The CPRA also moves the burden of chasing the tech giants from the AG’s office a new California Privacy Protection Agency that will require $10 million in funding to be pinched from the state legislature annually in order to survive, unfortunately.

It also finally cements what kind of “personal data” is actually personal. “Sensitive Personal Information,” according to the new ballot, includes everything from a person’s precise location to their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and union memberships, along with much, much more. If CPRA comes to pass, apps and sites that collect the data under this umbrella are required to disclose exactly what they’re collecting, why they’re collecting it, and with whom—if anyone—they’ll be “sharing” or “selling” that data.

This in itself is huge. Data related to race and ethnicity has been abused by companies like Uber to shift its pricing algorithm, and data related to someone’s sexuality is regularly pawned off by the companies behind apps like Grindr and OKCupid. Meanwhile, the types of telemedicine services that many of us have come to rely on during the current pandemic have been caught exploiting legislative ambiguities surrounding our health data to share sensitive intel with their own third-party partners.

Ideally, CPRA would allow Californians to opt-out of this sort of data collection before it happens, or at the very least know what kind of sensitive data might be at stake before they hit “download” in the app store.

The last particularly interesting tidbit is that the CPRA explicitly clamps down on any efforts to weaken the law’s privacy protections moving forward, stating that any amendments need to actually bolster the state’s privacy chops. A stipulation like this would have come in handy back in 2018 since it’s exactly this type of scuttling that helped turn the CCPA into a sad, watered-down mess.

“And Prop 24 is controversial because…?”

It’s far from perfect. Even if CPRA does end up winning the California vote this election, it wouldn’t be enacted until 2023. The measure also means less scrutiny for smaller companies since it excludes many businesses that made less than $25 million a year in revenue the year before and collect data on fewer than 100,000 Californians per year—twice the data-collection threshold of the CCPA. Given that the digital data industry is full of tiny players that are already barely regulated, the idea of targeting only the big fish doesn’t sit right with me here. Neither does the somewhat hands-off approach California plans to take regarding data companies collect about their employees, which is kind of icky for all sorts of reasons.

Also, both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU say that CPRA would allow advertisers to run pay-for-privacy schemes through their loyalty programs, withholding discounts or potential perks unless a user coughs up some data. As the ACLU’s Northern California branch pointed out in a statement, this kind of pricing model encourages the people who need these sorts of perks most shouldn’t be goaded into giving up their data to do so. It’s not that these schemes are banned under CCPA—they’re not. It’s just that Prop 24 explicitly allows them, codifying a CCPA loophole privacy advocates find problematic.

There are other examples of people whose gripes are less about the CRPA’s shortcomings than the shortcomings of digital data writ large.

Beyond the pay-for-privacy exemptions, there’s also the fact that the credit-reporting giants like Experian and Equifax fought hard—and succeeded—in keeping themselves exempt from the CCPA update. That means that as long as they oblige with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, these agencies are free to share data gleaned from your report with anyone who’s willing to pay for it, including advertisers and data brokers. These same brokers are also allowed to keep scraping any personal intel they’re able to find on public records and social media profiles under the new mandate—that is, if Facebook doesn’t sue them first.

Also exempt are companies that collect biometric information, as long as that information can’t be used to narrow down someone’s “individual identity.” But the term “individual identity,” like “personal data” under the CCPA, is hand-wavey enough that companies could undoubtedly exploit it to continue collecting people’s fingerprints and face-pictures with minimum scrutiny. While these sorts of biometrics is explicitly listed under the CRPA’s definition of “sensitive” data—which should imbue it with extra protections—this little carveout arguably negates it.

“So, should I vote for it or what?”

I truly don’t know, dude!!! CPRA closes some big loopholes and adds clarity to the opaque space of data collection. But that clarity comes at the cost of codifying some problematic practices, and it carves out space for bad actors to continue to operate with impunity. It’s an imperfect piece of legislation, to say the least. And passing it may eliminate the incentives to pass something better in the future—or, possibly, give California lawmakers a better starting point to improve the law going forward. Like the data industry itself, the CPRA gives us no clear answers.

Get a 23andMe test kit for half off ahead of Black Friday

All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.
Learn about your genetic traits and get insight to your health.
Learn about your genetic traits and get insight to your health.

Image: Mashable Photo Composite

SAVE $100: Learn where your DNA comes from, health predispositions, and more with a 23andMe health + ancestry test kit, on sale for $99 as of Nov. 6. 

Do you have some secret family ancestry history that you’ve always wanted to know about? Or, do you just want to learn about health conditions you may be predisposed to? Either way, a 23andMe health and ancestry test kit can give you all the answers you want to know. 

If you have a friend or family member that has always been into family history, the test kits make great gifts, too. They’re on sale ahead of Black Friday for 50% off, giving you just enough time to grab one as a holiday gift for a loved one (or for yourself, we don’t blame you. 23andMe is pretty cool). 

After you spit in the test kit tube and return it for processing, the 23andMe kit does more than just tell you what part of the world your DNA is from (although it does that, too). 23andMe also tells you how your genes impact your chances of developing health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, celiac, and more. The kit also tests you for carrier status of certain diseases — like sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis — which can be helpful if you’re planning to have children.

23andMe also breaks down your gene’s predispositions for weight and muscle composition, so you can find out if your genes influence being over or underweight, or if your muscle composition is commonly found in elite athletes. These stats will give you some of the data you need to adjust your diet and exercise for what’s best for your body. You also get access to your family tree once you receive your results, so you can find close and distant distant relatives alike. 

Save 50% on 23andMe health + ancestry test kits, and grab one for only $99 before this deal expires. 

Explore related content:

A beginners guide to urban foraging

Moving forward requires focus. Mashable’s Social Good Series is dedicated to exploring pathways to a greater good, spotlighting issues that are essential to making the world a better place.

Ever walk down the street and spot a particularly delicious looking weed growing in a parking lot? Or walk through a park and think to yourself, “Those dandelions would make some dang good fritters!” No? Then maybe it’s time to rethink the way you interact with the (surprisingly edible) species that make up your urban landscape.  

Urban foraging is the practice of identifying and collecting the wild foods (think tree nuts, plant roots, mushrooms, and even flowers) growing freely around your city. It might also be one of the easiest ways for consumers to start engaging with larger discussions of environmental land use, food justice, and the effects of climate change. The practice is accessible to everyone, and doesn’t require leaving your neighborhood. You just need keen senses and a brave stomach. 

Marla R. Emery, research geographer for the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, has documented the practice of urban foraging in various communities for a decade, and has studied its role in Baltimore, Black communities in Atlanta, and immigrant communities around the world.

“Foraging is basically a universal and ubiquitous practice,” Emery said. “And that includes foraging in cities. We’ve identified [foraging] basically on every continent.”  

More recently, urban foraging has found its way onto the pages of young social media users. On TikTok, videos with the foraging hashtag have accumulated more than 72 million views, and are tied to the growing #cottagecore and #goblincore trends that emphasize the aesthetics of old American homesteads. Many users have also embraced the practice as a supplement to their diet, and share tips to thousands of followers, from learning how to process yard acorns for eating, to spotting edible mushrooms under pine needles, to using wild seaweeds as a gelatin substitute in pudding. Take urban forager and TikTok creator Alexis Nikole Nelson, also known as BlackForager on Instagram, who teaches her cumulative 479,000 followers how to find, process, and cook wild, edible food found around her home in Columbus, Ohio. Another user, TikTok user Gordon Walker, aka FascinatedByFungi, shares mushroom identification tips to more than 238,000 followers. Then there’s Clueless Bushcraft, an account that shares both foraging and outdoor survival tips to 247,000 followers. 

“Wildman” Steve Brill, a foraging teacher and decades-long enthusiast, explained that all foraging takes is “basic common sense and care.” At 71, Brill teaches socially-distanced foraging classes around the New York City area, runs a blog, and has published books on foraging best practices. “I’ve been doing this for over 38 years and interest has been steadily increasing,” Brill said. “It’s very, very diverse people of all ages and all ethnicities.”

Whether out of nutritional need, curiosity, or the desire to become more environmentally attuned, foraging is an accessible way to start thinking about how and why we eat the foods we do. Here’s how you can get started. 

Research your local flora and fauna

Emery and Brill stress that prior research is the most important step to successful and safe foraging, and suggest foragers consult multiple sources when learning how to identify plants. 

Read regional field guides about wild, edible foods in your state first. For something more accessible while you’re on the go, try a foraging app (but double check your finds with another source, like a second field guide or fellow forager, if you’re unsure). Brill released his own, Wild Edibles, which offers a catalogue of common edible plants, identification tips, and recipes. The California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society created the iNaturalist app for broader information on local flora and fauna, as well a companion app called Seek for identifying species (both recommended on the FascinatedByFungi website). Forager’s Diary is useful for identifying and keeping track of the names and locations of foraged finds.

Foraging classes or guided tours are great for more hands-on learning. While many of these classes have associated costs, free (and donation-based) classes are perfect for learning the basics of local edible plants, Brill says. Classes are sometimes offered by city park departments, depending on local regulations, as well as environmental organizations and independent foraging experts like Brill. Do a google search to find them, or join a foraging group on social media to connect with those offering lessons. 

Brill also suggests beginner foragers start collecting plants that have easily identifiable characteristics and no poisonous lookalikes. “Everything from dandelions to Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, violets,” Brill said. Learning the latin names of plants, versus colloquial names, can help you distinguish plant varieties and lookalikes. For mushrooms, which can be trickier to identify, stick to the “foolproof four” — chicken of the woods, chanterelles, giant puffballs, and morels. They might sound like things you can only find in far away forests, but many grow freely in public parks, front yards, and other urban green spaces. 

Emery’s research has shown that some of the most commonly foraged plants across cities are “weedy” varieties — resilient plants that grow alongside buildings, sidewalks, and in city brush. Dandelions, for example, are frequently eaten raw in salads, brewed into tea, or battered and fried like pickles. Other plants that might not seem appetizing uncooked — leaves, bark, flowers, or hard berries — might work for teas, syrups, or other medicinal properties.  

Location, location, location 

Don’t forage in areas that might be prone to high levels of pollution — areas next to heavy car traffic or near sources of agricultural runoff like farm fields, orchards, and factories — or on lawns that might be treated with pesticides, especially golf courses, says Brill. He also recommends foraging in habitats with diverse foliage, like large parks, thickets, or wooded (but not too dark) forests. Emery has observed foraging in vacant lots, along fence lines, and in areas surrounding hospitals, playgrounds, and schools — places where she says hardy and sustainable foliage have proven to withstand urban disturbances and will not be affected by active foraging.

Check out this interactive, community-generated map of foraging spots, created by the foraging nonprofit Falling Fruits. 

Start foraging close by: your lawn, neighborhood streets, and other public spaces. Be aware of local regulations and pick foliage with discretion. Avoid picking plants on private property or near government buildings, and research regulations through your state’s Department of Natural Resources or land management website. Brill, who started his first foraging tours in 1982, has run into his fair share of angry park officials. In 1986, after an “undercover operation,” Brill was arrested for picking foliage in New York City’s Central Park (he was released shortly after and continues to forage without trouble).

Be aware that the current accessibility of forageable land has roots in systemic racism, and the act is in many ways a privilege — early anti-foraging laws were frequently used to limit the rights of Native American and formerly enslaved people from accessing nutritional foods on colonized land. While some indigenous communities have recently won the right to forage some federal land, there are still restrictions. Take some time to learn more about the work of food sovereignty activists fighting to maintain culturally significant food systems, like the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance

Bring the right tools

Brill suggests that every forager carries these basic items:

  • Large reusable bags or a basket to carry greens 

  • Small containers or jars for berries (so they don’t get smushed)

  • Paper bags for mushrooms (plastic makes them rot faster)

  • A pair of shears or a pocket knife for cutting foliage and digging roots

  • A pen to mark your picks — try to keep each plant separate. Mark your bags with the name of the plant species and where you found it (this can come in handy if you eat something disagreeable)

Any other equipment depends on your local environment. If you’re in a large, urban city — parks, streets, or yards — you won’t need to prepare as much. If you plan to forage in suburban, wooded areas, or in dense forests, make sure you wear closed-toe shoes and long pants to keep off bugs and irritating plants. Bring water, a map (if there’s no cell service), and a whistle if you’re lost (or just find a cool mushroom). Brill also suggests foraging with a group in isolated areas. 

Use ALL your senses 

Identifying plants isn’t always easy. Look for visual markers and feel for special textures, according to your foraging guides. Feel for ripeness to help deduce if a plant is edible (in the case of the common elderberry plant, unripe or uncooked berries are toxic, while its flowers and cooked ripe berries are not), and search for signs of rot or pests before eating. If you’re devoted to the mushroom hunt, you’ll need to look at all parts of the mushroom — cap, gills (the fleshy underside of the mushroom cap), and stem — to properly identify the species. Forage different parts of a plant at different stages of growth for the best tastes. If you’re confident the plant isn’t toxic, you can even take a small bite to explore its flavor. 

The Universal Edibility Test, a 6-step process used by outdoor survivalists to test a food’s toxicity, is useful if you’re uncertain.  

Most importantly, Brill urges, use your nose. Take a good sniff for any identifying features (many plants look similar but have very distinct smells). “Members of the onion and garlic family smell like onions and garlic, while similar-looking poisonous lilies are odorless,” Brill explained. “Wild carrots smell like carrots, while similar-looking poison hemlock smells foul.” If you think something is mint, but it doesn’t smell minty, then you probably have the wrong plant. 

Forage in moderation

According to Emery, foraging for local plants in urban environments isn’t proven to have any negative environmental impact — foragers won’t have a greater affect on wildlife than cars, bikes, and pedestrians. She says that most plants that withstand urban environments are extremely adaptive to these disturbances and quickly regrow. “Mostly these are things that are pretty darn good at spreading themselves around,” Emery said. Still, urban foragers should be aware of possibly spreading any invasive species if they’re picked and discarded frequently. 

If you are foraging off the beaten path in forests, wooded areas, or in large city parks, however, experts agree it’s important to pick only what you need. That’s because plant species are often food sources for animals, Emery explained, and over-picking foliage could also add to soil erosion. Brill calls this “intelligent foraging.” He recommends foragers “take common renewable species where they’re extremely common and, on the rare occasions that you find something rare… leave it alone.”

The Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental organization rooted in conservation and climate solutions, also recommends only picking portions of plants to keep the practice sustainable. If the entire plant is edible (leaves, stems, roots, and all), harvest one part at a time or leave behind the portions the plant needs to regrow (like roots or bulbs). 

And when it’s time to eat, moderation is key. Introduce foods into your diet a little at a time to protect yourself against possible allergies or toxins. 

Know foraging’s broader impact 

Urban foraging is about more than finding cool plants and living the #cottagecore aesthetic — its an opportunity to reassess how we access food in a world defined by a climate crisis that equally affects natural environments and global food production. The practice may not be top of mind when discussing our food’s impact on climate change, but as Emery explained, urban foraging rests at “the intersection of climate change, climate justice, food security, and food sovereignty,” as it highlights the need for socially-conscious urban planning, urban green spaces populated by local plants, and universal access to nutritional foods.

The practice doesn’t promise an overarching solution to global climate change, which demands corporate accountability and government action. Individual action alone isn’t sufficient enough to alleviate the problems of climate change and food insecurity.

Still, “hyper local” practices like urban foraging could offer temporary solutions for communities waiting on large-scale changes, and encourages individuals to consider their connection to the food, land, and community around them. “Foragers who forage the same species and, in particular, the same species in the same location year after year, observe at a very fine scale the effects of climate change on the landscape.” Emery explained. 

The local practice also has global implications — studies have shown that continued climate change will exacerbate food insecurity around the world, and disproportionately impacts global communities of color. 

Foraging offers a way to address the local repercussions of failed resource allocation, like food insecurity (the lack of nutritious foods to maintain a healthy diet) and food apartheid (an unequal access to healthy foods and supermarkets, created by systemic barriers on poor neighborhoods or communities of color). And it makes a case to reassess how land is used in city “greening” initiatives. When cities consider repurposing what Emery calls “impervious surfaces” (like former industrial spaces) into environmentally friendly green space, “there’s a real opportunity to think in terms of species that can provide food to people,” Emery said. Reintroducing native plants helps preserve biodiversity, and prioritizing those that are edible can help feed growing populations. 

While waiting for needed policy changes to address food apartheid and chronic undernourishment, foraging could help as a needed nutritional supplement, according to Emery. “If you’re in a food desert, for example, calories are not what you’re lacking, what you’re lacking is nutritious food… foraging is certainly one way of increasing both the variety in a diet and the nutritional quality of a diet,” Emery said. “The kinds of foods that people obtain through foraging tend to be very micronutrient dense foods.” 

With all that in mind, while foraging, be conscious of your community’s access to these benefits. If you already have a diverse, nutritious diet and an abundance of forgeable plants near you, seek out local food justice organizations or community gardens to distribute your extra stores of foraged food. If you struggle to find nutritionally rich food in your area, reach out to a foraging group or food pantry that can connect you to further resources in your area. If you’re concerned about your safety while foraging, make sure you are aware of local laws and forage with a group — if you are privileged enough to not worry about legal repercussions, offer to help others forage.  

The practice of foraging is both practical and human-centered. “There’s this very universal quality to it,” Emery observed. “The act of foraging… satisfies something basic about being human.”