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Airlines Start Selling On-Flight Food to Cope with Corona

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  • We want to say airplane food can’t be any worse than other ready-made meals, but…

The coronavirus pandemic has given the global travel industry, particularly airlines, a real punch in the gut. Some of the recent controversies certain flight operators have run into probably don’t help either.

To try and remedy the situation, airlines have started getting creative in trying to keep themselves afloat during hard times. For example, Qantas recently started offering flights to nowhere that have been selling out in record time.

These bizarre campaigns are targeting travel-hungry globetrotters who have been confined within four walls for months now. To a good portion of people, traveling is almost a second nature, and you can imagine why they’d be itching to get a taste of flying again.

It now seems that airlines are starting to take note and have begun to give the people what they want. Namely, they’re trying to give you a taste of traveling by making airplane food available for the general public.

It’s not an isolated incident either. The aforementioned Qantas, the Finnish airline Finnair, and Singapore Airlines have come up with their own ways to put their food for sale.

It sounds like a decent idea on paper, until you realize how notoriously terrible airplane food is. You don’t even have to take our words for that. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey sure didn’t mince his words in criticizing plane food.

“There’s no ****ing way I eat on planes,” he told Time Magazine in 2017. “I worked for airlines for 10 years, so I know where this food’s been and where it goes, and how long it took before it got on board.”

Still, we suppose airlines have to try and make ends meet somehow. So if you’re hungry for that dry piece of chicken and questionable pasta, here are some options that are open for you.

Photo courtesy of Finnair.

International Flavors

Let’s go alphabetical, shall we? Finnair, which operates flights from Finland to all continents, is bringing its ready-made flight meals to the Nordic country’s convenience stores.

In a statement, the airline said its Taste of Finnair meals are only available in a single store. Other locations in the Finnish K-Market chain could soon also opt to put them on the shelves.

“We want to offer people a chance to have a Finnair experience and bring some luxury to their everyday lives at home now that travel is restricted,” said Marika Nieminen, Finnair Kitchen Vice President and Head of Kitchen.

“At the same time, this is a new business venture for us and helps us keep our cooks employed.”

The Finnair meals – including dishes like reindeer meatballs and beef in teriyaki-daikon sauce – are set to go on sale on October 15. Nieminen says that the meals, inspired by Nordic and Japanese cuisines, are in line with those offered on Business class flights.

“Our food cultures share a common appreciation for and emphasis on the natural flavors of the ingredients. That’s what we’ve wanted to bring to our meals,” said Finnair Kitchen Head of Product Development Jukka Stenholm.

The offered meals are on a rotating menu that changes after every two weeks.

Not Enough for You? Buy the Whole Cart

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Australian Qantas Airlines is taking things a step further. They are not only selling meals, but 1,000 entire 747 galley carts.

The carts, which went on sale on September 24, come from Qantas’ Boeing 747 planes. The airline retired the jumbo jets in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic as a cost-cutting measure.

“These pre-loved carts served Qantas and our customers well during their world travels from London and Los Angeles to Singapore and Santiago, with each one averaging around 2,000 flights,” said Phil Capps, Qantas Executive Manager of Product and Service, said.

“While we no longer have use for them, they still have life in them, especially for those with an appreciation for aviation collectables and an eye for design.”

Were you to purchase one of the carts, not only do you get the cart itself, but all of its contents. That includes, among other things, champagne, 80 mini bottles of white and red wine, candy, pajamas, and a Qantas-exclusive blanket.

The whole shebang sells for a bit over $1,000.

Restaurants on Grounded Wings

Last, but not least, Singapore Airlines has taken yet another approach into the catering business. Instead of selling their food to the outside markets, they have basically turned their airliners into restaurants.

A meal on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 costs a whopping $496. Who in their right mind would pay that much for airplane food?

Well, quite a lot of people, as it turns out. Singapore Airlines sold out its first two seating dates within 30 minutes after they went on sale, reported the BBC. Due to demand, they are also offering home delivery

Diners will get to pick their cabin class, just like they would on an actual flight, and to use the onboard entertainment system while they eat. So the whole thing is as close as you can get to a genuine on-plane meal, with cramped seating and airline-quality food.

Sounds like a real treat for half a grand. But hey, who are we to judge?

If it helps airline cooks keep their jobs and scratches the traveling itch of would-be passengers, what’s the harm? Sounds like everybody wins.

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Stores Drop Coconut Milk Products After PETA Accusation of Monkey Slave Labor

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  • Your coconuts are drenched in the blood of a thousand monkeys! Or so they say.

It seems these days the consumers are growing more health-conscious by the minute. That’s especially true if you look at the amount of plant-based alternatives to animal-sourced products that are flooding the marketplace.

Dairy products are one of the areas where alternative products are increasingly popular. That’s not necessarily because of any animal welfare-related concerns, either. A lot of people (like your humble author) simply can’t drink regular milk without a seriously upset tummy.

From almond to soybeans, milk alternatives are varied and plentiful. Among them is the ever-so-popular coconut milk.

Which brings us to a dose of bad news for those who have adopted coconut milk as their go-to replacement for real dairy. A number of major U.S. grocery store chains are pledging to not stock coconut products from Thai suppliers accused of using slave labor to harvest their coconuts.

But it’s not people the producers are enslaving. Instead, they are using monkeys to pick the nuts from their palm trees.

Such big name grocers as Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food, and Stop & Shop have all stopped stocking coconut products from the accused producers. Now, Costco has also joined their ranks, reports USA Today.

Monkey slavery. Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder. What’s next, snail labor camps?

Let’s see what this whole hubbub is about, shall we?

Labor Like Pulling Teeth

The monkey slavery accusations are made by none else than by the notorious People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA. According to an investigation by the organization, Thai coconut producers are using questionable monkey labor to harvest the nuts.

PETA claims that upon visiting eight coconut farms – including those owned by Thailand’s largest coconut producer Chaokoh – it found disturbing proof of how the animals are mistreated.

“Terrified young monkeys in Thailand are kept chained, abusively trained, and forced to climb trees to pick coconuts,” the report bluntly states.

“According to an industry insider, most coconut that comes from Thailand was picked by monkeys.”

The organization also claims that the monkeys face harsh punishments if they try to resist the training. Among the punishments is the forceful removal of their canine teeth to make them less likely to harm their handlers.

Additionally, the monkeys allegedly participate in “circus-style shows” in order to raise further profits from tourists.

“An investigator saw monkeys being transported in cramped cages that were barely large enough for them to turn around in and others left in locked cages in the back of a pickup truck, with no shelter from the driving rain,” PETA reports.

Questionable Claims

PETA itself has a somewhat dubious reputation as an animal welfare organization. As such, some may be inclined to take this news with a grain of salt. And by all means, it’s always healthy to be critical about your news sources.

Among the accusations piled against PETA, it allegedly kills a staggering number of animals housed in its animal shelters. PETA associates have also stolen animals straight from people’s yards, only to kill them hours later.

This time around, though, PETA may be on to something. Tourism Thailand, for example, lists the Samui Monkey Center as one of the attractions to see in the country.

“In the center, the monkeys will be trained to collect coconuts. Each training session takes about four months and requires a trainer and a student,” the site says.

The site also says that there are other “monkey shows” to see at the center. Among the listed monkey activities are jumping through hoops, memorizing numbers, playing guitar, and untying knots.

Whether the monkeys are mistreated as part of their training, we don’t know. But at least it seems that the monkey training and labor PETA is talking about actually takes place in Thailand.

Companies Taking Action

Costco, and many of the other chains, take PETA’s claims – if not at face value – then at least seriously enough to take action. In a letter to PETA, Costco vice president and general merchandise manager of corporate food and sundries, Ken Kimble, explained the company’s reasoning for dropping Thai coconut products.

In the letter – dated September 29 – Kimble said Costco has stopped buying products from Chaokoh.

“We will continue to monitor the implementation of the harvest policies and once satisfied will resume purchasing,” Kimble said according to USA Today.

“We have made it clear to the supplier that we do not support the use of monkeys for harvesting and that all harvesting must be done by human labor.”

According to Kimble, Chaokoh has said that it is reviewing harvest policies at its coconut farms.

Kroger, another U.S. grocery chain that operates the Fry’s brand supermarkets, said it’s also reviewing the monkey labor situation.

“We have re-engaged our suppliers, as well as other stakeholders, on this issue to re-confirm they are also protecting animal welfare,” Kroger told USA Today.

On its part, the Chaokoh brand’s owner Theppadungporn Coconut, denies knowingly using monkey labor.

“It is not only our duty, but our integrity to take care of nature, human and wildlife, as a whole,” the company’s managing director Aphisak Theppadungporn told FOX Business.

“We have a clear-cut policy on this issue to ensure that our business will not tolerate any sign of animal and wildlife labor or abuse.”

Are the Thai coconut farms engaging in monkey slavery, or is this a case of PETA hyperbole? We at Oddee fully encourage you to look into the facts and make your own determination. Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Engineer Designs Bot to Check if McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are Broken

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  • It brings a tear to our eyes to see such selfless work for the benefit of the greater good.

Among all the huge names in the American fast food business, one stands above the rest. McDonald’s is such a ubiquitous presence around the world that it needs no further introduction.

The burger chain is so omnipresent that The Economist uses the price of a Big Mac as a way to measure the purchasing power of different global currencies. That’s right, it’s called the Big Mac Index and it’s a real thing.

In addition to the Big Mac, McDonald’s also offer other iconic dishes on its menu. Among those are the Quarter Pounder (with cheese), the Chicken McNugget, and the McRib. Well, that last one is there only whenever it seems to feel like it.

But the McRib is not the only temperamental McDonald’s menu item. There is one that taunts us with a promise of a frozen treat that may or may not ever come… The McFlurry.

Now don’t get us wrong, the soft-serve ice cream is a staple of the McDonald’s menu. The problem here are those ****ing ice cream machines.

The Mickey D’s ice cream machines are notorious for never, ever working. The restaurant itself even recognizes that there’s just something about them that always breaks.

How many late night snack cravings have been ruined by a non-functional McFlurrinator? Oh, wouldn’t it be grand if there was some way to know whether your location has a working machine?

Welp, take your hat off for a 24-year-old German software engineer. He’s devised a way for you to check just that.

McBroken Dreams

The man in question is Rashiq Zahid, resident of the Kreuzberg district in Berlin, the German capital. On October 22, he launched McBroken.com, a website that tracks whether or not a McDonald’s location’s ice cream machine is working.

The spark to launch the site came to Zahid in July. He was craving something cold and sweet so he popped into a Kreuzberg McD’s to order a McSundae.

If the name sounds weird, it’s a European trademark that the company has. Basically, ice cream with a drizzle of one or other kind of sauce.

Zahid tried using one of the automated kiosks to order the ice cream, but received only an error code. He then tried a mobile order. Same thing happened.

His dreams had been McBroken.

“I was like, there must be something that can be done about this,” Zahid told The Verge.

And, just like mom used to say, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. That’s just what Zahid set out to do.

$18K Worth of Ice Cream

McBroken relies on the McDonald’s mobile order system to check whether the ice cream is available at a given location. The online order system will tell you that the ice cream is “currently unavailable” if the restaurant has no working machine to produce it.

Based on whether the cart addition was successful, the program will then place a marker on a map of McDonald’s locations. A green dot means ice cream is plentiful; a red dot tells you to not even bother trying.

“I reverse engineered McDonald’s internal API and I’m currently placing an order worth $18,752 every minute at every McDonald’s in the U.S. to figure out which locations have a broken ice cream machine,” Zahid tweeted upon launching McBroken.

Of course, the bot that he uses doesn’t actually finish the order. Otherwise, Zahid’s daily maintenance costs for the service would reach a fascinating amount of money.

After launching McBroken, however, Zahid soon found out that the one-minute interval for the check was too much. The McDonald’s app recognized McBroken as a bot and blocked its access.

So, Zahid changed the frequency of the check to 30 minutes. Now, the system works without interruption.

McBroken’s information is reliable, too. To verify the accuracy of his bot, Zahid biked to every McDonald’s location in Berlin to try and order ice cream manually.

Everywhere he checked, the bot’s report was correct. Satisfied with the results, he then expanded the system’s scope to cover the U.S. as well.

‘Such a Great Sport’

Within 20 minutes of its U.S. launch, McBroken crashed. More than 10,000 visitors flocked to the service as soon as it became available.

“I’m running this on a server that costs $5 a month, so it was bound to crash,” he chuckled. He brought the website after some troubleshooting and fine-tuning, and it now works as intended.

“I just made it for fun, but people were like: ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve seen this entire week’,” he said.

While McBroken provides a useful service, it operates in a bit of a gray area. Zahid reverse engineered the McDonald’s mobile app, and as such the company could have McBroken shut down if so wished.

At the moment, though, that seems unlikely. We’re saying that because a McDonald’s hot shot has recognized the value of McBroken.

“Only a true McDonald’s fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream! So, thanks!” tweeted McD’s vice president of U.S. communications David Tovar.

“We know we have some opportunities to consistently satisfy even more customers with sweet treats and we will,” he added.

That’s marketing speech for “we know our machines break every five minutes, so this will actually probably be profitable for us”.

Zahid, on his part, appreciated the official recognition. He tweeted Tovar back, thanking him for being “such a great sport” about McBroken.

So, thinking of going out for some McFlurries? You now know where to check first. And if you want to support McBroken, Zahid has an option for you buy him an ice cream on the website!

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Fossilized Butthole Answers Long-standing Questions about Dinosaur Sex Life

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  • Dinosaur genital expert is one of those jobs you’d never think exists, but here we are

If you haven’t caught our last week’s article about the world’s first robot to operate inside a living butthole, you should go check it out. Then you can return here for some more butthole-related news!

Well, we suppose technically it’s not about buttholes. That particular piece of anatomy is really more of a mammalian thing, and today we’re talking about dinosaurs.

In any case, it’s a great day for any prehistoric butthole or butthole-like orifice enthusiasts. Scientists have discovered a fossil that contains the first preserved dinosaur cloaca.

In case you’re not clear on what a “cloaca” is, think of it as the Swiss army knife of orifices. It’s a single multi-purpose bodily hole used for excretion, laying eggs, and mating.

Out of animals that still exist today, reptiles and birds have cloacas. Considering that they’re either more or less related to dinosaurs – or directly descended from them as birds are – researchers have long speculated that dinosaurs, too, had these organs.

Those days of speculation are now over, though. We finally have confirmation.

“Eyes up here, buddy.”

A Rare Discovery

The preserved butthole belongs to what’s known as a Psittacosaurus, or “parrot lizard”. This 6.5-foot-long creature lived in what is now Asia some 125-100 million years ago.

As a ceratopsian dinosaur, it’s related to the well-known three-horned Triceratops.

The discovery of the cloaca is particularly significant because it is soft tissue. While bones fossilize easily, it’s exceedingly rare to find preserved organs and skin is pretty much like winning the lottery for a paleontologist.

“The reproductive biology of extinct non-avialan dinosaurs is rarely interpreted from the fossil record,” the team behind the discovery says, in more sophisticated terms.

“To date, exceptionally well-preserved remains and the extant phylogenetic bracket have clarified details including their brooding behavior, nesting style and timing of sexual maturity. However, the anatomy and function of the cloaca has continued to remain elusive.”

A Window to the Past

What’s left of the cloaca gives at least the scientists a pretty good window into what its function was for the Psittacosaurus. The organ is just under an inch in length, doesn’t protrude out of the body like it does in some modern animals, and it has darker pigmentation than the surrounding area.

Unfortunately, only the external opening of the cloaca has survived to this day. The internal parts have been lost to time and decay. The precise functionality of the dinosaur butthole remains an enigma.

With that being said, even the outer parts give those in the know about such things a good platform to make educated guesses based on the anatomy of similar animals that are alive today. The scientists were glad to note that the dinosaur cloaca closely resembles that of current crocodiles.

“The gross morphology of the vent in Psittacosaurus, which combines a longitudinally opening vent with a rosette pattern of cloacal scales and transverse rows of quadrangular ventral scales, most closely matches that of crocodylians,” the researchers say.

The discovery makes sense. Crocodiles are ancient beasts that existed already at the same time as dinosaurs. They’re both reptiles, so it stands to reason that they would have similar private parts.

Speaking of private parts, there’s more knowledge to glean from the fossilized butthole in that regard…

What’cha Packing?

One question that has haunted both scientists and those with freaky-deaky interests is how did dinosaurs mate. Looking at their skeletal structures, it seems that the process of baby-making may not have been particularly easy for a lot of species.

Dinosaur intimacy has been a contentious topic in the paleontologist community. Some of them have posited that they did the deed like birds do.

That is, they just sort of… Rub their orifices together.

The act is known as “cloacal kissing” and we’ll leave it at that. You can do your own googling if you’re interested.

However, like we said, the crocodile-like Psittacosaurus cloaca now gives scientists ample opportunity to make educated guesses of what the dinosaur was packing. And their educated guess is as follows:

“The crocodilian-like vent of Psittacosaurus implies that, unlike lizards and later-diverging birds, Psittacosaurus probably had a muscular, unpaired, and ventrally-positioned copulatory organ and a ureter that was decoupled from the copulatory organ.”

In more colloquial terms, the dinosaur probably had a penis. Or at least some kind of a dong-like organ.

This seems to confirm the second prevailing theory about dinosaur sex, which is that they had penises. It’s a reasonably theory, particularly when you think about species like Stegosaurus or Diplodocus.

Seems like it’d be difficult for them to get busy without a… Yeah.

Unanswered Questions

Whether the long-since expired owner of the fossilized cloaca had a dong, though, we will never know. The scientists say that it’s impossible to determine the specimen’s sex from the parts available to them.

“In crocodylians, sex determination is entirely dependent on the inspection of the genitalia and has no relationship to the external morphology of the cloaca/vent,” they say.

The researchers note that there are some features that might suggest that the Psittacosaurus in question was female. That, however, is just a guess with no statistical support.

We suppose some things will just be forever lost to time. In any case, whether it be Sir or Madam, we thank this particular dinosaur for its contribution to science.

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