Don't eat the black snow either ...

A shroud of eerie black snow has covered several towns in the Siberian region of Kuzbass, with one of the world's largest coal fields spanning 26,000 square kilometres. You don't have to be a environmental science expert to work out what's going on. According to the Siberian Times, the snow is tainted with toxic black coal dust that was released into the air from open coal pits and badly maintained factories in the region. One coal plant official told the local media that a shield meant to prevent coal powder from escaping out of the factory had malfunctioned. It's harder to find white snow than black snow during the winter," Vladimir Slivyak, a member of the non-profit environmental action group Ecodefence, told the Guardian. "There is a lot of coal dust in the air all the time. When snow falls, it just becomes visible. You can't see it the rest of the year, but it is still there."

Bottle drive worth a toast

Remembering news of New Zealand's biggest ever bottle drive seems fitting after Sideswipe's stories about old bottles. A reader writes: "It was held throughout West Auckland in 1972 to support the newly formed Western Districts Community Foundation, a charitable trust assisting community projects in the area. It was solidly supported with man power from the local service clubs and widely considered to have involved over one million bottles shipped out free to recyclers due to the generosity of locally based carriers. It was a shrewd operation as West Aucklanders at that time lived in a 'dry' area with no liquor outlets — wholesale or retail — so taking supplies home from the nearest wet areas at Karangahape Rd and Huapai often resulted in an accumulation of empties under the houses. It raised $24,700 in today's dollars for the foundation, a sum which was matched by the late Berridge Spencer."

Our pet duck called Zucchini

Our pet duck called Zucchini.
Our pet duck called Zucchini.

Knowledge gaps

"My fiancee was setting up for my 30th birthday at a bar. She was blowing up balloons with her mouth and taping them to the wall on the outside deck the bar had. She asked me, 'why aren't they floating up'?"(Via

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