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Only in Boulder: Tubing to Work

File this one under "Only in Boulder." Today marks the seventh annual Tube to Work Day for the outdoorsy metropolis at the foot of the Flatirons.

The adventurously employed gathered this morning at Eben G. Fine Park clad in various interpretations of "business casual" and set off into Boulder Creek, ensuring they would arrive at work a little wetter than usual.

Tube to Work Day has previously been held in June as an aquatic component of Colorado's annual Bike to Work Day, but high water levels in Boulder Creek led organizers to postpone the event this year.

The main requirement for TTWD participants (other than, presumably, having an understanding employer) is to get yourself to Eben G. Park by means of "alternative transportation"—that is, sans car. Which raises the question: If you cycle there in the morning, how do you pick up your bike at the end of the workday?

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Not Your Average Bear Cam Video

Right now, you can watch a livestream of brown bears going about their daily business in Alaska's Katmai National Park, thanks to Explore.org's nature webcams. Charles Annenberg Weingarten, the founder of Explore, told Mashable he hopes the streams will "give you refuge and help you slow down." Or allow you to see natural drama in all its glory. This morning, USA Today shared footage of a mama bear's rescue effort that would probably give David Attenborough an adrenaline rush. 

There's the moment of panic when two of the mom's cubs plunge down a waterfall and straight into a pool at the feet of another large bear. Tensions rise as the prowling bear approaches the babies, but mom swoops in with teeth bared. An admittedly brief battle ensues, but it's nearly as dramatic as the climactic scene in any animal-themed children's movie. And yes, mama bear emerges victorious and tends to her soggy cubs while the other bear retreats, chewing on a fish. Nature is really something.

This is the third year the cameras have made their appearance in Katmai, and the streams have a growing fan base because it really is that entertaining to watch brown bears do their thing. If you need additional proof, take a look at what it's capturing right now.

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The Test of Time

From the $100 surf-ready Mariner Tide to the $1,750 super-powered Astron, these are the season's most exciting new watches. They're ready for anything nature throws at them. Are you? 

Nixon Tangent ($500)

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The Tangent is made from the same burly material used in the fins of big-wave surfboards. It comes with a simple tide dial, and Nixon smartly moved the crown to the nine o’clock position to reduce wrist bite while paddling out.

Seiko Astron ($1,750)

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This titanium-body watch uses GPS to calibrate the exact time, zone, and daylight-savings status. And because it doesn’t use atomic clocks, it can also set itself—precise to one second every 100,000 years— at any point on earth. The only caveat: it uses solar power to take a daily reading, so you do need to be outside at least once in a while.

Freestyle Mariner Tide ($100)

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This easy-to-read watch takes Freestyle’s Mariner sailing model, turns it into a great tool for surfers, and still keeps the price within reach. Programmed with tidal direction, time, and height for 150 beaches worldwide, the Mariner Tide does the thinking for you, so you can watch for the next swell.

Luminox SXC 5127 ($795)

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When the first clients of Space Expedition Corporation launch into orbit, they’ll all be wearing one of these. Basically a spruced-up aviation watch, it can handle G-forces and has a GMT hand, in case you splash down in another time zone.

Reactor Gryphon ($350)

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For the optimal balance of tough-as-nails and light-as-feathers, the survivalist-minded Reactor houses a stainless-steel body inside a frame made of weapons-grade Nitromid polymer. Even the K1 hardened, high-ceramic glass crystal is more impact-resistant than most watches. Its slim profile minimizes the chance of breakage, and it stays illuminated all night.

Suunto Ambit2 R ($249)

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Running watches just keep getting better. The Ambit2 R takes readings for speed, distance, and heart rate and features interval timers and a Backtrack function that’ll guide you on unfamiliar trails.

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A High-Tech Radio with an Old-School Look

Growing up in Sedona, Arizona, my friends and I were true pros at shirking responsibility. We spent entire days in the national forest building BMX trails, and in the summers we’d hang around swimming holes.

One of the best was Grasshopper Point, a couple of miles up Oak Creek Canyon. The place has since been recarved by floods and placarded with warnings so the tourists won’t sue, but at the time it was our secret slab of rock, a place where the world couldn’t catch up to us.

So the day we graduated from high school, we did what countless teenagers had done before us: we stole some Coors from our parents’ refrigerators and went to Grasshopper Point. We popped an Oingo Boingo tape into our Pioneer boom box—the one that would get moody and cause Danny Elfman’s voice to quaver—and, naturally, we played our music loud, singing along in the most unskilled way, and waited for the nearby girls in string bikinis to come talk to us.

The digital age might have rewired our brains, but the world still has its swimming holes. And like a campfire without marshmallows, a creek just isn’t a creek without good friends and music. Now, however, we have iPhones that hold five billion of our favorite songs and Bluetooth speakers that can play them all day.

Like the rechargeable Tivoli Audio PAL BT ($300). It weighs less than two pounds and sounds as clear as our creek was back in the day. Plus, you don’t have to toss out a bunch of D cells, you won’t risk mangling your Dire Straits cassettes, and, as you can see here, the throwback design is timeless and sexy. I can almost picture it back on Oak Creek—although, I now realize, those girls were never going to talk to us.

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Fad Food Nation

Walmart, already one of the country’s largest distributors of organic foods, will gobble up additional market share this summer, thanks to a deal it struck with Wild Oats to carry more than 100 of the natural-food chain’s house-branded products.

The agreement, coming on the heels of Target’s Simply Balanced line, which is 40 percent organic, marks a new era. One obvious benefit is that prices for organic foods should drop nationwide as production increases and competitors are forced to match big-box discounts.

But the supersizing of organic comes at a cost. When the term first gained traction, in the 1980s, it was mainly used by small farms supplying local markets. In 2000, when the Department of Agriculture created the USDA Organic label, its standards included a list of roughly 100 substances, including some synthetic chemicals, that would be allowed in the farming process. The list is picked over incessantly, but in September of last year, the USDA made it more difficult to remove pesticides and herbicides it had already approved.

All of which means that, for consumers, shopping is more complex than ever.

Straight Talk on the Organic Frenzy

“It’s better for you”
Not necessarily. Thousands of studies show no clear consensus on the nutritional benefits of organic over conventional foods. However, studies found fewer pesticide residues and fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria in organic foods.

“It’s better for the environment”
True. Studies show that organically farmed soil has greater microbial diversity, in large part because of crop rotation, cover crops, and the use of compost, required for certification. Organic crops usually have greater drought tolerance.

“It’s better for the animals”
Probably. There is no conclusive evidence that organic meat or dairy is healthier, but most animals are required to have access to pasture and are exposed to far fewer antibiotics.

“It’s better for the farmers”
Definitely. Laborers on conventional farms are exposed to hundreds more agrichemicals than those on organic farms. Consequences range from headaches to birth defects to cancer.

The Local-Versus-Organic Question
In terms of nutrient value, fresh almost always trumps organic, which is why local is usually better. But a local farmer could be spraying his crops with every chemical in the book. Don’t stress out about which chemicals to avoid. Find a farmer you can trust and ask if the produce is certified organic. If he says yes but his stand isn’t labeled, be skeptical. If he says no but is eager to talk about how he grows his crops, that’s probably the best indicator. The certification process is time consuming and expensive, and many local vendors skip it.

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