Tires from dandelions, long hair, and proliferating wonder drugs

Odds and ends as we hurtle headlong into new year 2015 (and given that every other publication under the sun has been cobbling together year-in-review articles, which nobody ever reads, to fill space so editors could have some holidays time off):

• Just when we think there are no worlds left to conquer in terms of crops, Mitas, a European tire manufacturers, says it will make agricultural tires (or tyres) from a combination of latex from rubber trees and Taraxacum koksaghyz (Kazakh dandelions for non-Latin/botanical scholars).

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The Kazakh variety isn’t exactly like the dandelions that will be cluttering our lawns ere long — it has long, slender leaves, but it has the bright yellow flowers that quickly become puffy seedheads. One can imagine large acreages of dandelions producing enough seed to waft o’er all of Europe.

Mitas is one of several tire manufacturers researching the benefits of the Kazakh dandelion in producing more sustainable rubber for tires.

• In a nation that emphasizes uniqueness and individuality, one can only wonder that in recent years, almost overnight, 99.9999 percent of all women under age 50 decided to grow long hair — lots and lots of really, really long hair.

Hairdressers and manufacturers of hair care products have no doubt been rejoicing at their good fortune (as have plumbers called upon to minister to drains clogged with hair). The trend shows no signs of abating. Interestingly, at the same time, more men have adopted the chrome dome, shaved head look.

• And how is it that TV news and pharmaceuticals became such bosom buddies? The vast majority of the ads on evening news programs are for very expensive prescription (“Ask your doctor”) drugs with names only a computer could love, promising relief from this, that, or the other malady — if one can escape a laundry list of side effects, many as horrible as the condition itself, often including “thoughts of suicide,” or even the ultimate side effect: death.

In last night’s 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. network and local news programs, miracle pills and potions included: Tamiflu, featuring a grungy guy groping around in a doll-size house while suffering the agonies of flu; Prolia, an osteoporosis drug with potential “serious side effects that may require hospitalization”; Chantix, a quit-smoking drug (changes in behavior, mood swings, trouble sleeping, nausea, suicidal thoughts, “some of which could be life-threatening”); Linzess, “when you have trouble going” (a long list of yucky side effects); Cialis, uhhh, well, you know (and what’s the significance of the his ‘n’ hers bathtubs?); and Enbrel, Spiriva, Farxiga, Viagra, Humira, and Jublia, and seemingly new ones every day — all with side effects galore.

The majority are aimed at senior citizens — who one surmises, are the only people in the Internet age who watch (or read) news any more — and feature a preponderance of unshaven men with their wives/significant others, leisurely tooling around in ‘50s-‘60s automobiles (in the Spiriva commercial, an elephant joins the happy couple in their antique convertible and at, where else, an old cars show). The happy oldsters smile a lot at each other, the inference being that their blissful state is a result of the expensive prescription drugs they are ingesting.

A year or so later, most of the wonder drugs will be featured in law firm ads involving class action lawsuits.

• Finally, a press release announces that “A dedicated team of Ukrainian dairy farmers worked ‘round the clock to set the new record for manure spreading — 4,217 metric tons of manure across 548 acres in 24 hours. (Please, no comparisons to this column.)

The record-setting haul, we’re told, “was an epic test of cutting edge agricultural technology — including a high-capacity spreader, a durable tractor, and high-speed tires.” To achieve the record-setting feat, a 50-ton Brochard Constructeur spreader, pulled by a New Holland T9.615 tractor, was stacked with a wheel load of 65 tons. Brochard selected Alliance A-380 flotation tires — rated for speeds as high as 40 mph, fully loaded — to handle the heavy loads and high speeds required to set the record.

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