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22 Jan 17:26

The 5,525-mile Slash

by Miss Cellania

The US-Canadian border along the 49th parallel is the longest national border in the world at 5,525 miles. You'd think such a long border would be fairly invisible, especially since it runs through forests for much of its length. But there's a straight line running through those woods in which a 20-foot-wide swath of trees have been cut down. In fact, they call it the Slash. It's visible in satellite photos.

Stripped of trees, this slice runs through national forests and over mountains. It is too long and remote to be continuously cut down, but every few years (longer on the Western sections, where growth is slower) workers freshly deforest the greenery that grows back.

It might seem unnecessary, but there is a reason for this intervention: a person on either side wandering close to the border can see it and recognize they’re approaching the line. So each year, American taxpayers pay around half a cent each to the International Boundary Commission (IBC) to help periodically maintain this dividing void.

Learn more about the Slash, particularly how the two countries maintain it, at 99% Invisible. -via Digg

(Image credit: Flickr user Carolyn Cuskey)

22 Jan 17:23

Land Rover Finally Makes the Perfect Defender for America

Just when you thought Land Rover was done building the old-school Defender, it goes and springs this surprise on us.

22 Jan 14:32

5 Uncomplicated Note-Taking Web Apps to Be More Productive

by Mihir Patkar
Simple Note Taking Apps

These days, note-taking apps tend to add a whole lot of features. Most OneNote or Evernote users aren’t utilizing half of those features. In fact, these simpler, uncomplicated notepad apps can actually make you more productive. A lot of productivity is about discarding unnecessary things that you think are necessary. Strip the useless bits of note-taking apps and you’re left with lean and mean productivity tools, ready to get things done. It’s something that the Notes app on macOS and the ever-popular Simplenote app do well. And that’s the philosophy that more apps have taken up. So try out these...

Read the full article: 5 Uncomplicated Note-Taking Web Apps to Be More Productive

19 Jan 17:23

1952 Ferrari 212 Europa

Made from 1951-1952, this Ferrari 212 Europa is extremely rare, even by early Ferrari standards. One of only eleven 212 coupes bodied by Pininfarina, this 212 was used by the...

Visit Uncrate for the full post.
19 Jan 17:04

Carroll Shelby's 1966 GT350H Fastback

This GT350H is straight from the black-hatted Texan's own stable. One of the legendary GT350 "rent-a-racers" delivered to Hertz for duty as a rental car, Carroll Shelby wasn't even the...

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19 Jan 16:19

Beau Lake Great Lakes Chair

Inspired by Adirondack chairs, the Beau Lake Great Lakes Chair is the modernization of a classic. It retains the original's seat, back, and arms.Wide front legs and a curved back...

Visit Uncrate for the full post.
19 Jan 13:23

I Need An Affordable Adventure Vehicle To Travel Cross Country! What Car Should I Buy?

by Tom McParland on Jalopnik, shared by Melissa Kirsch to Lifehacker

Nicholas has wised up and decided to get the heck out of NYC. He wants to take a cross-country road trip with his girlfriend, see the sights, make new friends and find a new place to live. But he needs the right car to make the journey, what should he buy?

Read more...

19 Jan 13:20

Use This Travel Time Map to Pick Your Next Hotel

by Nick Douglas

When you go on a trip, you usually want to stay somewhere central, with easy access to a few local destinations: a conference center, a few restaurants, a fun neighborhood. You can’t just eyeball a map. Travel times depend on more than just distance; they rely on street layout, highways, and public transit. You could…

Read more...

18 Jan 18:11

Your Position, Triangulated

by Ernie Smith
Your Position, Triangulated

Today in Tedium: Last month, a blog post caught my attention, because I’m the kind of person for whom blog posts catch attention. The piece, by onetime Apple Maps cartographer Justin O’Beirne, noted how Google, objectively, has maps better than every one of its competitors, because it captures levels of detail that no other mapping system does. For one thing, it tells you where buildings are, using a mixture of computer visioning and aerial photography. O’Beirne at one point ponders: “At the rate it’s going, how long until Google has every structure on Earth?” Nearly as impressive at this feat is the fact that GPS, the secret sauce of modern mapping, exists in the first place. It’s perhaps the most impressive thing we’ve ever done, and it’s getting better daily. Today’s Tedium tells you how we got from point A to point B. No map necessary. — Ernie @ Tedium

1973

The year development of the Navstar Global Positioning System program was approved by the U.S. Department of Defense. (The system would be built out starting in 1979 but wouldn’t see completed form until 1995.) This program, which would eventually just become known as GPS, made it possible for a person to figure out their the current location on the planet, something that would have been considered impossible just a few decades prior.

Your Position, Triangulated

The second Transit satellite gets inspected.(Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Smithsonian Institution)

The system that directly inspired the GPS system

As you might imagine, solving a problem like mimicking the shapes of trillions of individual structures on maps around the world is tough.

But starting from scratch, it doesn’t sound quite as hard as the problem researchers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory were trying to solve.

The U.S. military needed a way to track the location of submarines, which, by their very nature, are submerged, sometimes for months on end. Being deep in the ocean, of course, has its limits based on what kinds of equipment you can use.

But while researchers at Johns Hopkins had a challenge, they also had ideas to be inspired by—particularly due to the Space Race and the competition brought forth by the Soviet Union.

When the satellite Sputnik launched into orbit in 1957, it took the already-budding inventiveness of the early computer era and turned it into a catalyst to innovate. And that directly helped to inspire the work of Frank T. McClure, the inventor of the Transit Navigation System, the direct predecessor to GPS.

After the satellite first went into orbit, two researchers at the university, William H. Guier and George C. Weiffenbach, tracked Sputnik using the Doppler effect to figure out its exact orbit. After talking to the two scientists, McClure realized the idea was translatable to navigation in general.

“Yesterday I spent an hour with Dr. Guier and Dr. Weiffenbach discussing the work they and their colleagues have been doing on Doppler tracking of satellites,” McClure wrote in a memo to Ralph E. Gibson, the director of the laboratory, in 1958. “The principal problem facing them was the determination of the direction which this work should take in the future. During this discussion it occurred to me that their work provided a basis for a relatively simple and perhaps quite accurate navigation system.”

This spark inspired the launch of the Transit system, which had the support of the U.S. Navy and was developed in tandem with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), eventually went live around 1964, after years of prototyping.

The system, also known as NAVSAT, would remain active for more than 30 years, only getting retired from its primary navigational use in 1996.

By that point another, by then better known, technology had usurped it.

Your Position, Triangulated

The TIMATION I satellite, a key turning point in the history of the GPS. (Naval Research Laboratory)

The guy who figured out that GPS was really a matter of good timing

While Transit was a huge leap forward as a tracking technology, it was not without its limitations. It was not an easy to use system and required the user to know where the satellite was, as well as the vessel’s position on the ground. This ensured Transmit wouldn’t be taken up by the masses, though it did see some commercial use.

It left opportunities open to improve on the navigation capabilities, something that Roger Easton of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory was well-positioned to do. (I swear I didn’t realize how punny “well-positioned” sounds in a story about GPS until I wrote it down.)

Easton was already well-versed in satellite technology, having helped developed MINITRACK, the first satellite tracking system, as well as the Naval Space Surveillance System, which allowed the U.S. to keep track of any satellites that had entered the Earth’s orbit.

This work inspired Easton and put him on the path where he was in a position to build a navigational system based on time navigation, or timation. The concept of ensuring perfect timing between multiple satellites helped to allow satellites to synchronize and triangulate a specific location—effectively automatically figuring out things that Transit Navigation System required a person to know manually. On top of that, the satellites would be able to offer up their exact coordinates passively, allowing for many people to grab the information from a satellite at once, with no distinct lag.

Easton’s ideas were put into practice with the two TIMATION satellites, launched in the late 1960s. In an essay on a website dedicated to his work, the late Easton noted that atomic clocks were necessary for exact accuracy, but initially were too large for use in satellites, so they initially had to use quartz.

“The problem with the quartz oscillators was that they were of marginal accuracy and that they could be affected by space particles,” he wrote. “Never-the-less crystal clocks were used in the first two TIMATION launches and valuable information was obtained from them.”

These experiments, which took place despite the existing Transit program, helped lead to rethinks of how satellite navigation could be done, and it was done on a budget: TIMATION received a modest budget of just $35,000, the most it could receive without regulatory approval, and the first satellite entered orbit by piggybacking on a rocket with another satellite.

The smaller-scale effort, however, helped to prove out Easton’s ideas, and in 1973, Deputy Defense Secretary William P. Clements, Jr. approved a more elaborate version of the idea, called GPS, that was said to accurately nail down a location to within 30 feet. The cost of the project at the time of its announcement was $150 million, though the cost would go up significantly in the years to come. By 1995, when the final satellite of the 24-satellite build went online, the total cost of the project was estimated at around $14 billion, according to a Department of Defense estimate, not including the launch of the satellites into space.

If the interstate system and the internet were the United States’ two greatest investments for the benefit of the public at large, GPS is an easy third—and, considering it makes both interstates and the internet better, it might actually be even better than that.

And for his work, Roger Easton lived the final years of his life getting compared to Thomas Edison. What a way to go out.

$908M

The amount that was appropriated for the federal GPS program in the federal budget for 2017, according to the GPS.gov website. The program, while paid for by U.S. taxpayers, is freely available for civilian use for people around the world. (There are other competing systems, of course, but GPS is probably the best-known globally.) Currently the system is mostly budgeted through the U.S. Department of Defense, but the U.S Transportation Department is also responsible for some of its funding.

Your Position, Triangulated

A soldier holds an early handheld GPS device during the Gulf War. (U.S. Air Force)

The turning point for GPS technology came at the tail end of the Clinton administration

Early on, GPS got something of a bad rap—as a technology considered too expensive and too inaccurate for mere mortals.

The cost factor was organic, of course, but the accuracy issues were artificial. See, the U.S. government got a lot of miles, as well as a lot of direction from the Global Positioning System, but for years, it was treated as a competitive advantage by the military, rather than as something with broad cultural benefits.

Over time, this started to change, particularly in 1983, when an incident involving a Korean Air Lines flight that dipped into Soviet air space led to the deaths of 269 passengers and crew members. Knowing that commercial access to the GPS system might have helped prevent the deadly incident, Ronald Reagan two weeks later opened up global access to the system.

However, that access came with intentional limits. While the U.S. military allowed basic access to the system on a consumer tier, it chose to block the most fine-toothed results from public consumption through the use of a scrambling device. This approach, called “selective availability,” helped ensure the military could use GPS as a strategic advantage, but it also had the effect of making civilian GPS devices less useful, by ensuring that basically limited the effectiveness of GPS for the broader public, as while you could learn the general location you were located in, it would only narrow your location down to within 300 feet or so—a distance that’s manageable for, say, flying a plane that’s already in the air, but would make it really difficult to use for actually landing that plane.

Despite the Defense Department’s claims of military necessity, when the U.S. government actually had a war on its hands—the first Gulf War in Iraq—it actually turned the GPS scrambling off. Due to a lack of GPS devices, the public was sending military members versions of the system that could only read the scrambled signals. The military responded by turning the system off, because it wasn’t like their opponents had GPS, anyway.

The 1991 Norman Friedman book Desert Victory: The War Far Kuwait broke down how the public perceived the oversight:

GPS can be switched to coded transmissions that can be used only by special receivers. In the event, not enough special receivers were available, so the GPS network could not be switched to the coded mode. That meant anyone, including the Iraqis, who had a standard GPS receiver (which is widely available commercially) could use GPS to find his own position. Considerable publicity was given to this apparent lapse in U.S. equipment, but it made little difference, since the GPS itself does not give away the positions of attackers.

Not long after the war, pressure started to mount from both the civilian world and from other parts of the executive branch (specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration) to remove the scrambling technique for good.

The scrambling technology also proved susceptible to disruption. Avionics noted that the effect of slowing down the signal could be beaten by a differential technique that would be able to correct the errors intentionally added by the selective availability technique.

By the late ‘90s, the Clinton administration had seen enough and started taking steps to disable the the scrambling technique, first announcing steps to support consumer use of the GPS system in 1996 and, in 2000, shutting off selective availability entirely.

“The decision to discontinue SA is coupled with our continuing efforts to upgrade the military utility of our systems that use GPS, and is supported by threat assessments which conclude that setting SA to zero at this time would have minimal impact on national security,” President Bill Clinton noted in a press release from the era.

Your Position, Triangulated

A Magellan Explorist handheld GPS. (Rogiro/Flickr)

In 2007, when the GPS system was getting an upgrade, the ability to scramble the data was removed for good.

Like the internet, GPS was simply too awesome of a technology to leave in the hands of the military-industrial complex. And soon enough, the technology was in everyone’s phones—where it’s used for every piece of technology imaginable.

The network of satellites that make up the modern GPS system have fallen into the mundanity of modern life. They simply work a lot of the time—and at even closer distances now than they did in 2000—and without them we wouldn’t have ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

(That said, GPS is far from 100 percent accurate, and part of the problem is often the device. It’s not entirely uncommon for some poor Uber driver with an outdated Android phone to have trouble properly presenting his or her location in the app with GPS.)

Still, this technology changed the world and moved far from its military roots. But skepticism of GPS still runs deep for some, due to its roots as a military product.

Most infamously, in 1992, two activists who opposed military activity broke into a facility owned by the then-major industrial conglomerate Rockwell International, which we last mentioned in our story on the history of call centers.

Peter Lumsdaine and Keith Kjoller entered Rockwell’s Seal Beach, California, facility and smashed parts of the satellite intended to go into orbit. Lumsdaine reportedly hit the satellite with an axe around 60 times, causing $2 million in damage. The duo called themselves the Harriet Tubman-Sarah Connor Brigade, because why not.

Since then, the U.S. military’s use of satellite positioning has made way for the public as a whole to use satellites for things like looking at maps online and requesting car service.

In a 2015 interview with The Atlantic, Lumsdaine said he had no regrets about what he did, emphasizing that the system is still “military in its origins, military in its goals, military in its development and [is still] controlled by the military.”

Sure, maybe that’s technically true. But for the hundreds of millions of people who have benefited from this technology over the years, it’s likely to never even be considered in this way.

It’s a point that feels a little off the mark in the modern day.

18 Jan 18:05

10 Fascinating Internet of Things Devices You Should Try in 2018

by James Frew
iot-gadgets-2018

It’s predicted that by 2020, there will be 30 billion devices connected to the internet, with 250 new devices added per second. That works out to be almost four internet connected devices per person. While some people do have multiple phones, the enormous growth isn’t fueled by smartphones. Instead, it’s being driven by a range of gadgets known as the Internet of Things (IoT). It was once the case that only the (now-laughably) large home computers could connect to the internet via dial-up. These days, even miniature devices strapped to your wrist can access the world wide web. Thanks to...

Read the full article: 10 Fascinating Internet of Things Devices You Should Try in 2018

18 Jan 15:37

The 50 Best American-Made Style Brands

Made in America matters, now more than ever. We've collected the best footwear, apparel, denim, bags and EDC, all made here in the USA.

18 Jan 14:23

Top 10 Faux Pas Committed By US Presidents

by JFrater

Being the leader of a country like the United States requires a vast and diverse skill set. Chief among them would arguably be that ever-vaunted talent known as people skills. A US president will inevitably engage in an endless array of social functions, many times with the heads of state of other world nations. Mastery […]

The post Top 10 Faux Pas Committed By US Presidents appeared first on Listverse.

18 Jan 13:54

Come for the Ride!

by Miss Cellania

(Image credit: Flickr user Travis)

Six destinations where getting there is all the fun.

1) ALASKA’S DO-IT-YOURSELF TRAM

In the winter, hikers at Alaska’s Chugach National Forest have to walk across Glacier Creek. But when the water is high in the summer, a hand tram dangling above is a safer alternative. Hikers climb into the cable-suspended box and pull ropes to get across.

2) LONDON’S ROLLING BRIDGE

(YouTube link)

England is stuffed with a smorgasbord of moveable bridges, from castle drawbridges to Tower Bridge’s bascules—but London’s Rolling Bridge takes the cake. Sitting over a small inlet at the Grand Union Canal near Paddington station, the footbridge curls into a ball like a caterpillar. Whenever a boat needs to get out, hydraulics lift and squeeze the bridge—which is made of eight hinged triangles—into a circle.   

3) GERMANY’S WATERY ROAD

(Image credit: Flickr user Pierre Lesage

Bridges aren’t just for cars and pedestrians—boats need the occasional lift, too. At 3,011 feet long, the Magdeburg Water Bridge is the longest navigable aqueduct in the world. It was a long time coming: Planning began in 1905, but two world wars and the Cold War halted progress. Today, it gives canal ships easy passage between Rhineland and Berlin.

4) SOUTH AFRICA’S SPINNING CABLE CAR

(Image credit: Pete Stewart)

Until 1929, hiking was the only way up Cape Town’s 3,500-foot Table Mountain. The accident-free cableway has been updated three times since. Rotair cars introduced in 1997 feature rotating floors, giving passengers a panoramic view—and maybe a minor heart attack—on the way up and down.

5) SCOTLAND’S NAUTICAL FERRIS WHEEL

(YouTube link)

For decades, boats had to use 11 locks to navigate the 115-foot drop between the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. It took all day. In 1994, engineers started dreaming up schemes to make it faster, from overhead monorails to giant seesaws. Ultimately, they chose this two-armed propeller, the Falkirk Wheel, which lifts one boat as it lowers the other.  

6) INDIA’S AU NATUREL BRIDGES

(Image credit: PJeganathan)

Most infrastructure grows weaker with time, but not here. The root bridges in this Indian town were built by Meghalaya’s War-Khasi tribe centuries ago, guiding rubber tree roots across rivers and letting time and rain finish the job. Some are over 100 feet long and can hold up to 50 people at a time.

________________________________

The article above by Amanda Green appeared in the November 2015 issue of mental_floss magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.

Feed your brain by visiting mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog today for more!

17 Jan 15:56

The Psychological & Neurological Disorders Experienced by Characters in Alice in Wonderland: A Neuroscience Reading of Lewis Carroll’s Classic Tale

by Josh Jones

Most reputable doctors tend to refrain from diagnosing people they’ve never met or examined. Unfortunately, this circumspection doesn't obtain as often among lay folk. When we lob uninformed diagnoses at other people, we may do those with genuine mental health issues a serious disservice. But what about fictional characters? Can we ascribe mental illnesses to the surreal menagerie, say, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? It’s almost impossible not to, given the overt themes of madness in the story.

Carroll himself, it seems, drew many of his depictions directly from the treatment of mental disorders in 19th century England, many of which were linked to “extremely poor working conditions,” notes Franziska Kohlt at The Conversation. During the industrial revolution, “populations in so-called ‘pauper lunatic asylums’ for the working class skyrocketed.” Carroll’s uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, happened to be an officer of the Lunacy Commission, which supervised such institutions, and his work offers “stunning insights into the madness in Alice.”

Yet we should be careful. Like the supposed drug references in Alice, some of the lay diagnoses now applied to Alice’s characters may be a little far-fetched. Do we really see diagnosable PTSD or Tourette’s? Anxiety Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder? These conditions hadn’t been categorized in Carroll’s day, though their symptoms are nothing new. And yet, experts have long looked to his nonsense fable for its depictions of abnormal psychology. One British psychiatrist didn’t just diagnose Alice, he named a condition after her.

In 1955, Dr. John Todd coined the term Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) to describe a rare condition in which—write researchers in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences—“the sizes of body parts or sizes of external objects are perceived incorrectly.” Among other illnesses, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome may be linked to migraines, which Carroll himself reportedly suffered.

We might justifiably assume the Mad Hatter has mercury poisoning, but what other disorders might the text plausibly present? Holly Barker, doctoral candidate in clinical neuroscience at King’s College London, has used her scholarly expertise to identify and describe in detail two other conditions she thinks are evident in Alice.

Depersonalization:

“At several points in the story,” writes Barker, “Alice questions her own identity and feels ‘different’ in some way from when she first awoke.” Seeing in these descriptions the symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder (DPD), Barker describes the condition and its location in the brain.

This disorder encompasses a wide range of symptoms, including feelings of not belonging in one’s own body, a lack of ownership of thoughts and memories, that movements are initiated without conscious intention and a numbing of emotions. Patients often comment that they feel as though they are not really there in the present moment, likening the experience to dreaming or watching a movie. These symptoms occur in the absence of psychosis, and patients are usually aware of the absurdity of their situation. DPD is often a feature of migraine or epileptic auras and is sometimes experienced momentarily by healthy individuals, in response to stress, tiredness or drug use.

Also highly associated with childhood abuse and trauma, the condition “acts as a sort of defense mechanism, allowing an individual to become disconnected from adverse life events.” Perhaps there is PTSD in Carroll’s text after all, since an estimated 51% of DPD patients also meet those criteria.

Prosopagnosia:

This condition is characterized by “the selective inability to recognize faces.” Though it can be hereditary, prosopagnosia can also result from stroke or head trauma. Fittingly, the character supposedly affected by it is none other than Humpty-Dumpty, who tells Alice “I shouldn’t know you again if we did meet.”

“Your face is the same as everybody else has – the two eyes, so-” (marking their places in the air with his thumb) “nose in the middle, mouth under. It’s always the same. Now if you had two eyes on the same side of the nose, for instance – or the mouth at the top – that would be some help.”

This “precise description” of prosopagnosia shows how individuals with the condition rely on particularly “discriminating features to tell people apart," since they are unable to distinguish family members and close friends from total strangers.

Scholars know that Carroll’s text contains within it several abstract and seemingly absurd mathematical concepts, such as imaginary numbers and projective geometry. The informed work of researchers like Kohit and Barker shows that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland might also present a complex 19th century understanding of mental illness and neurological disorders, conveyed in a superficially silly way, but possibly informed by serious research and observation. Read Barker’s article in full here to learn more about the conditions she diagnoses.

Related Content:

Lewis Carroll’s Photographs of Alice Liddell, the Inspiration for Alice in Wonderland

See The Original Alice In Wonderland Manuscript, Handwritten & Illustrated By Lewis Carroll (1864)

See Salvador Dali’s Illustrations for the 1969 Edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

The Psychological & Neurological Disorders Experienced by Characters in <i>Alice in Wonderland</i>: A Neuroscience Reading of Lewis Carroll’s Classic Tale is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

17 Jan 15:48

If Selling Makes You Feel Sleazy, You're Doing It Wrong

by Pia Silva, Contributor
We all know how gross it feels to be sold to. But convincing others, talking people into things, is bad sales. The good kind of sales—the kind that has you working with dream clients and making lots of money—feels better. This week, I take a look at how you can stop selling, and still sell a ton.
16 Jan 18:07

How Not to Manage Your To-Do List: 8 Mistakes You Must Avoid

by Kayla Matthews
manage-todo-lists

You may have read countless blog posts, magazine articles, and books about to-do lists. They certainly exist, but many of the articles you read often present them as the magic tools necessary for enjoying consistent productivity. They could be that magic tool but, the thing is, merely making a to-do list is not enough. Many people unknowingly make mistakes that limit the overall effectiveness of their to-do lists. The blunders may even hinder their potential. Below, we’ll look at some of the most common mistakes associated with to-do lists. You’ll also get solutions to these mistakes, so you can remedy...

Read the full article: How Not to Manage Your To-Do List: 8 Mistakes You Must Avoid

16 Jan 18:06

You Can Now Find Your Art Lookalike Using Google

by Dave Parrack

The popularity of the Google Arts & Culture app has exploded overnight thanks to a rather cool new feature. Essentially, you take a selfie, and Google will match you with your lookalike from the artworld. Just don’t expect to find your doppelganger in a famous painting from yesteryear. In 2016, Google released an app designed to let anyone, anywhere explore museums and art galleries. In June 2017, Google brought that information into the mainstream by delivering information about artists and their work through Google Search. Unfortunately, no one cared. Google Finds Your Doppelganger Now, Google has updated the Arts &...

Read the full article: You Can Now Find Your Art Lookalike Using Google

16 Jan 18:05

How to Contact Google

by Dan Price
google-new-apps

If you’ve had an issue with almost any web-based company, you know how hard it can be to get in contact them. Some seem to believe Twitter is an acceptable front for their customer service team, while others like Facebook are almost impossible to reach on any platform. How does Google fare? In the last few years, the search giant has made it easier than ever for users and customers to open a dialogue with them. If you need to contact Google, here are your various options. How to Contact Google Let’s begin with a postal address. Google might be...

Read the full article: How to Contact Google

16 Jan 18:05

3 Awesome Windows Notepad Tricks You Must Try

by Ben Stegner
notepad-tricks

You probably don’t think much of Notepad in Windows. Compared to tools like Microsoft Word and third-party text editors and IDEs, it doesn’t really shine for any particular purpose. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless! In fact, with a little bit of old-school code in VBScript or even DOS/shell commands, you can write some fun mini-programs. Let’s take a quick look at three of the more interesting ones. Notepad Trick: Enter the Matrix Want a budget re-creation of effects from The Matrix on your PC? You can do it with just a few lines. Open up a new Notepad document, then paste in...

Read the full article: 3 Awesome Windows Notepad Tricks You Must Try

16 Jan 16:47

Will CLEAR or TSA PreCheck Make Your Travel Easier?

by Johnny Jet, Contributor
If you’re looking to whip through security faster both TSA PreCheck and CLEAR can help you do so. Both services can make your travels easier and less frustrating than ever.
16 Jan 16:06

Alton Brown’s Atlanta

by Liz Mitchum

Alton Brown—Food Network host, author, and variety-show star—doesn’t slow down much (he’s now working on a Good Eats reboot for 2018). When he occasionally hits the brakes, you can find him at home in Marietta, just north of Atlanta. “It’s still a small town—a real town,” Brown says. But the big city—Brown moved to Atlanta in high school—has its charms, too. Follow along with Brown on a dream day there.


6:45 a.m.  “The perfect day—maybe my last day on earth—would have to include a Dough in the Box apple fritter.”


photo: Greg DuPree

Biking the BeltLine.

9:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.  “New York has the High Line. We have the BeltLine. It’s the walking path of Atlanta, and it’s lovely to watch all the art installations that are going up around it.”


12:00 p.m.  “This is critical: If you’re going to come to Atlanta and have only one thing for lunch, you get a Ghetto Burger at Ann’s Snack Bar.” (1615 Memorial Drive; 404-687-9207)


1:30 p.m.–4:00 p.m. Cover Books is literally a bookstore inside an art gallery. The books are so beautifully curated that you could spend hours there. If you need to pick up some original midcentury chairs and also some late-nineteenth-century anatomical charts, Brick+Mortar is your place.”


4:30 p.m.  Brash Coffee is housed in a shipping container. And although that sounds super hipster, its cortados are really solid—and they’re my jam.”


6:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m.  “I love Little Trouble because it’s kind of sci-fi themed, and I always feel like I’m an extra in Blade Runner. They also make this great variation on a martini called Save Me Again.”


8:00 p.m.  “I’m a huge fan of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I buy single tickets all the time.”


11:00 p.m.  Marcel is my favorite restaurant in town and has late-night service on weekends. It’s this cool French steak house–hangout that is completely unfussy but also completely elegant.”

photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

L’Entrecote at Marcel, served with sauce verte and frites.

The post Alton Brown’s Atlanta appeared first on Garden & Gun.

16 Jan 16:02

Trolling for Crappie

by Florida Sportsman Editor
Crappie

Jared Leverette reels in a speckled perch, or black crappie, on north Florida’s Lake Tarquin.

On lakes big and small, in rough water or calm, trolling is a great way to catch speckled perch, a.k.a. black crappie. It’s a staple of Florida guides like Jared Leverette, whose family owns and operates the Lake Talquin Lodge, on the reservoir of the same name, west of Tallahassee.

I fished with Jared on a cool winter morning and took notes. His boat was equipped with four Troll Max stainless steel rod holders. These may be adjusted to infinite angles and accommodate eight or more rods. Jared fishes two 16-foot and two 14-foot crappie rods from the bow of the boat and four 8-foot rods from the stern. The rods, equipped with small spinning reels and 6-pound-test monofilament, are staggered at varied angles to fish at different depths and to avoid tangles. The rods are carefully selected to provide just the right amount of flex while still having enough backbone to set the hooks.

We made a short run across Lake Talquin. Jared noted the water temperature was between 60 and 63 degrees, ideal for crappie spawning. There were several boats in the area Jared had planned to fish. To reach what he felt was the optimal depth of 8 to 14 feet, Jared tied on 1/16-ounce jigheads and pinched a No. 7 splitshot onto the line above each jig. Had he wanted to fish even deeper, he would have switched to a diving-style jig with a sloped head.

Crappie

Colorful, flexible grub tails fitted to lightweight jigheads are trolled slowly.

Jared trolls with a 36-volt remote-controlled Minn Kota motor that enables him to set a course and then regulate the depth of the jigs by changing the trolling speed. When we fished, he maintained a 1 mph trolling speed that he frequently checked on his GPS. The speed he uses most often is between .8 and 1.3 mph, depending on conditions and depth. Sometimes, if the bite is slow, Jared turns the boat in an “S” course that immediately makes the jigs run slightly shallower. If this improves the bite, he decreases his trolling depth by increasing the motor speed.

He also uses boat speed to good effect when he has to alter course or turn around. Speeding up in a turn raises the jigs. After the turn, when the lines straighten out, he reduces boat speed again. This procedure reduces tangles in the lines.

Jared typically fishes jigs in a variety of color combinations to find out what the fish prefer on a particular day. He often chooses from several dozen combinations, settling on colors such as Acid Rain, Stardust, Wildcat, Blue, Black and Chartreuse, K-Bait and AWD. When one color combination seems to get most of the bites, he switches. Jared prefers jigs with lighter hooks for fishing Talquin because of the extensive structure in the lake. Heavier hooks can be used on other lakes with fewer snags.

Lake Talquin has had a 10-inch minimum size limit on speckled perch for a number of years. According to Jared, this has definitely increased the size of the fish being caught. The largest he has caught on Talquin was 2.15 pounds and from his experience, fish usually gather by size. If Jared starts catching a lot of small fish, he moves. If the bite is slow during the day, he suggests fishing at night around docklights where jigs in dark colors and minnows work well.

Where and When

The best speckled perch fishing on Lake Talquin is between October and the middle of May; after that, the larger fish move to deepwater structure. Phone number for Talquin Lodge, which has cabins, RV park, covered boat slips and other amenities, is (850) 627-3822. The trolling technique described is useful on many lakes—Jared Leverette gave nods to the Harris Chain of Lakes in Central Florida, as well as Lakes Monroe and Crescent, part of the St. Johns River system. For more on crappie fishing in Florida, see myfwc.com/fishing/freshwater.

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16 Jan 16:01

Beginner’s Guide to Florida Snipe Hunting

by Florida Sportsman Editor
Beginner's Guide to Snipe

Hunter shows off his yield after an early morning walk for snipe.

Bird hunting is an exhilarating and great way to spend time outdoors. The quote “You only get out what you put in” is very fitting to bird hunting though. It becomes an obsession for most, with countless hours of preparation and lost sleep to be successful. Albeit, it is very rewarding, but if you are just dipping your toes into bird hunting, snipe are a great opportunity to have some fun, harvest a few birds, and hone in your shotgun skills. Here are five tips that will help you shoot your limit next time in the field.

Find the Right Habitat

Snipe are small birds, brown, white, rust and black in color, with elongated beaks. The key to finding these birds is finding mud filled, wet, dark soiled areas. Using their long, skinny, beaks, snipe are able to root through this saturated soil with ease, digging out bugs and worms with ease. Flag ponds, marshes and anywhere with soft soil will hold snipe.

Walking through these areas is all it takes to flush these birds. With a quick and erratic zig-zagging escape, snipe make a very distinct “mreenk” sound, when flushing. If you didn’t hear that, or the bird is flying slower than average, chances are it’s not a snipe, rather a killdeer or sandpiper, don’t pull the trigger on those.

Attire

Beginner's Guide to Snipe Hunting

Waterproof boots are essential when hunting snipe.

Now that you have found where the snipe live, you better gear up accordingly. Waterproof boots are essential for hunting snipe. I prefer to wear my Xtratuf Legacy 2.0 15-inch waterproof boots, as they work great for both fishing on the boat and stomping through the snipe field. Pants are a good idea as well, as you will most likely be walking through higher grass and shrubs that are quick to tear your legs up. Camo isn’t necessary, so whatever shirt you feel comfortable in will do the job. A bird vest is a necessity though. This will hold your shells, killed birds and water bottle for those long walks. DO NOT forget water, especially on the warmer days.

Keep Your Eyes on Them

Once you have shot a bird, be sure to keep your eyes on where it landed. With the snipe being a professional when it comes to camouflage, it’s VERY easy to lose a bird, especially in the taller grass. If you can’t find them after a , and you know you hit it, it is only right to count it towards your limit. Often times a bird will get winged by the shot and go down, but continue to run on the ground, dying later on.

Eyes to the Sky

So you flushed a nice covey of birds, but you just couldn’t connect. Watch what they do. After a their low escape, snipe will take to the sky, in search of their next spot. Countless times have I had these birds make a loop, flying directly back over me, giving me an easy shot. They typically land within a minute or so of flushing, so even if you don’t get a shot, you can see where they land and stalk them again, if you’d like.

Know Your Season

This is a given for any hunter. Snipe are allowed to be harvested in Florida from November first, to February 15th, with an eight bird bag-limit. This differs from other migratory bird species, such as dove and coot. Knowing these dates is very important, incase an opportunity arises at other species.

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16 Jan 16:00

Shoreline Casting Tips

by Florida Sportsman Editor
slip cork

Slip bobber rig, explained in the article, enables accurate, low-angle casting of live bait into the strike zone.

If you fish the backbays of the lower Florida peninsula for redfish, snook, snapper or sheepshead, you’ve likely found that the high percentage zones, fish-wise, are the cavities below the mangrove canopy.

You can lure some fish out of the mangroves with chum, rattles or flash, but in my experience, your strikes drop 50 to 70 percent when your bait is several feet out from the canopy. Don’t think of this as horseshoes or hand grenades; close doesn’t count.The best bet is to put your baits where the fish live.

Bait is a matter of convenience or peronal preference. I keep it simple: live or frozen shrimp, cutbait or pinfish. The key is to put those baits in the strike zone to optimize your time on the water.

One technique is what I’d call a “chip shot cast.” The chip shot cast is simply a very low trajectory sidearm, sweeping motion. In some ways, it’s modified golf swing. You can practice it at home using a lowered garage door or a plank across two trash cans. Lower the plank until you’re con dent you can skip your offering into an 18 to 24-inch space. The margin between the surface water and the mangrove understory varies with the seasonal tides and daily winds, but 18 to 24 inches is pretty darn good for under the bushes. This discipline is useful on other fronts as well, for instance fishing docks and under low bridges.

The chip shot stroke is a good wind beater approach, as well. Learn to feather your chip shot and develop line-stopping skills to avoid over shooting and ending up in the mangrove prop roots. This is much less demanding than it sounds. Your chip shot cast should be a soft, smooth, relatively close presentation; so feathering and cutting of the cast with your index finger can be easily learned. “Sky hook” casts won’t get you anywhere but in trouble in the bushes or at best a few feet of the canopy; leave your driver mentality home.

Set up a rod, preferably a medium light-action spinning outfit on a 7-foot or so fast taper rod, a very typical inshore rig. Load your reel with 15- or 20-pound braid; I don’t like 10-pound for this application because you’re going to be battling “who knows what” under the canopy. Leaders should be 24 to 36 inches of mono or fluorocarbon; remember you’re fishing only in maybe 18 to 36 inches inches of water typically. Fluorocarbon leaders are optional unless the water is super clear but again it’s your preference.

I like the old timey popping cork and jig setup with brightly colored jigheads. My people get a kick from watching the strike indicator and it keeps ’em from reeling in every 30 seconds, thinking they got a bite. Learn to observe your strike indicator, i.e. bobber!

If you’ve got the patience, set up slip bobbers. They’ll making casting easier everything at the fighting end for easily loading your rod, just like plugging. You can skip the whole rig in under the canopy, delivering your baited jig or livies into the strike zone.

1: Thread the leader through the channel in the green keeper stick.

2: Tie in a stopper knot above the keeper stick.

3: If you’re confident in the depth range you’ll be fishing, you can go sans keeper knot; the leader to line connection will suffice as a stopper knot.

4: Tie on your jighead or hook. Use your favorite knot; I like a Rapala Loop Knot.

5: Crimp the end of your green keeper sticks, with pliers, to make the end smaller, keeping the hook from jamming and encumbering the slipping action.

6: You may want to lengthen your lead- er to suit the varying depth under the canopy and adjust the stopper knot accordingly. This is useful when fishing feeder creeks and deeper docks near passes.

7: I use braid or yarn for my stopper knot. Both are small in diameter and tighten nicely on the leader, making a formation slight enough to pass through the guides without choking your chip shot cast. The stop can be moved and secured with a dab of super glue if desired.

Slip sinker setups are even easier and are useful when the tide is running a tad strong. It’s a sure shot rig when easily plunked side arm into that honey hole. Cutbait can be a mess of shrimp placed on a circle hook, your choice of pinfish or a brown back minnow “primo” placed in harm’s way. Another favorite, especially for redfish, is a cut chunk of ladyfish. FS

First published Florida Sportsman January 2016

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16 Jan 15:58

Inshore Livebait Tips

by Florida Sportsman Editor

Red Livebait Tips

Could it be that your vision of livebait fishing is too limited? You recoil at the idea of committing much time to the perimeter of an egg sinker or bobber. You’d rather whirl around the bay with a trolling motor and cast lures until your elbow says quit. But what if you simply let that live bait swim where it wants to go? Let your bait do the walking, so to speak.

Last spring, I watched Capt. Scott Crippen of Fort Pierce turn in the fastest inshore slam (snook, trout, redfish) maybe I’ve ever seen. He did something with his live baits that was perfectly suited to the environments he fishes—open grassflats, spoil island points—but I’m confident the technique would work in many other places.

What Crippen does is hook a sardine or thread herring through the meaty, top side of the tail—just below the adipose fin and above the spine. He casts the bait in the general direction of the area he wants to fish, and then he just lets it swim. And swim. And… swim… until it has a head-on collision with spotted death, which happens pretty often during the springtime in Crippen’s neighborhood.

Hook Livebait Tips

Sharp live bait hook is placed into freeline bait. Baits to be fished in one place with corks or sinkers are more often hooked through the lips or nose.

There are a few things at work here. One, the tail-hooked bait is quite aerodynamic. The head leads the way on the arc of the cast. Two, the bait is securely affixed to the hook, much more so than a bait that’s passed through the nostrils or lips.

But the biggest advantage is that a bait hooked in the tail will tend to swim away from the pull of the line. That means the baitfish will embark on an odyssey of exploration. Essentially, that oily, smelly, reflective baitfish will do what you would’ve done with your plugs and jigs. It will cover the water and find the fish.

Crippen, who guides on a 24 Billfish bayboat, uses 7- to 7 ½-foot spinning rods hook for most of his livebait duties. The Fort Pierce-Vero corridor of the Indian River Lagoon, where Crippen fishes, is perhaps best-known for producing big seatrout; the all-tackle record, 17 pounds, 7 ounces, was caught here in May, 1995. If Crippen and his anglers are primarily chasing seatrout on open-water flats or channels, he’ll use 15- or 20-pound braided line with a 20-pound-test fluorocarbon leader or three or four feet, terminating with a loop knot affixed to a 3/0 or 4/0 Owner shortshank livebait hook. The time of year when seatrout are at their largest, the spring and early summer prespawn period, also coincides with clear water. This grants a bit of an advantage to the angler using light fluoro leader. However, there are other considerations to weigh.

Snook Livebait Tips

Pre spawn snook feed heavily around bait schools in shallow water.

If fishing around mangroves or other structure, Crippen bumps up to 30-pound leader to provide some protection against not only an abrasive environment, but the rough jaws and sharp gill plates of snook. If tarpon are in play, 40- or 50-pound leader is a good choice, he said.

“March through May are about the best months for the flats here,” said Crippen. “When the big snook are moving out of the bridges and inlets and up onto the flats and spoils islands, is also when the big trout are up there. And naturally, we always have redfish. This is a time of year when you can fish lighter stuff—4000-size reels—and hook 20-pound snook in a couple feet of water.”

Crippen described his technique:

“It’s kind of the same type of fishing for all these species,” he explained. “The tail-hooked bait always swims away—you can jig the rodtip a little bit, and that fires up the bait and it takes off. A nose-hooked bait tends to stay where you throw it, maybe swimming in circles.”

This type of bait-fishing is far more active than what many anglers might expect. There’s no resting a rod in a holder and waiting for something to happen. Less casting than with artificial lures, yes, but still, the angler has to stay engaged with the bait.

“Leaving the bail open, I’ll keep my finger on the spool—if I get a bite, I’ll let the line run a few seconds, then close the bail and reel up to set the hook.”

If the bait turns toward the boat and Crippen loses touch with it, he’ll close the bail, reel up the slack, bump the rodtip and let the bait swim away again.

The first spot we fished with Crippen was a mangrove shoreline on a spoil island, one of many such spots that line the Intracoastal Waterway in the southern Indian River Lagoon. The tide was incoming, sweeping gently left to right across our bow. We had staked the boat from the stern using twin Power Poles, which enabled us to hold position perpendicular to the current.

Hooked Up Livebait Tips

Chippen, a guide and also owner of White’s Bait and Tackle, works on one third of a red-trout-snook slam boat side.

The current was just strong enough to carry our tail-hooked pilchards down the shoreline. We’d cast toward shore on our left, and monitor the line for a strike as the baits drifting downtide, all the while pulling toward deep, dark cavities beneath the mangroves. Within minutes, Crippen, Ralph Allen and I each notched a couple of snook releases. The guide had a spot not far away that promised much larger snook.

The next “spot” was less of a spot and more of a football field of seagrass. The main area of the guide’s interest was a strip of rocky shoreline on a spoil island. A school of mullet rippled the surface and flashed enticingly there. But off to the north stretched a wide expanse of good-looking grass, with vague light-colored potholes visible as far as I could see.

Here again, the tail-hooked baits worked out perfectly. On back-to-back casts, Crippen—who’d left the snook biting only moments ago–pulled in an upper-slot redfish and a seatrout. It was as if he’d been hired by the area’s chamber of commerce to put on a display of the region’s sportfish. (Actually, in a round-about way, he had… but that’s another story.)

Anyway, Crippen uses these tail-hooked baits to catch not only the inshore slam species, but also tarpon. We didn’t hook any on our trip with him, but I immediately saw the practicality of his method. The Indian River doesn’t have much in the way of deep water, besides the ICW and some other dredged channels. Tarpon often spread out over the grassflats adjacent to such canals. In shallow water, tarpon are spooky—running even an electric motor near them can put them on guard. They probably won’t hump up and flee like seatrout or snook, but they likely will clam up and refuse baits or lures.

Crippen locates a rolling school of tarpon, sets up his boat for a drift (or stake out) and then fires a long cast with the tail-hooked bait, letting it swim into range or paddle about until a hungry fish finds it.

One drawback to this free-swim method is that it doesn’t work especially well around snaggy structure such as high-tide mangroves or docks. Here, it’s better to contain your bait so that it doesn’t hang you up. Still, there’s a good argument for letting that bait swim on its own. Simply add a slotted foam popping cork to the line so that you can track the bait. The cork will burden and slow the bait a little, which is one reason to leave it off in open water.

A cork placed a few feet above a tail-hooked mullet, for instance, is a terrific rig for pursuing snook around seawalls and jetties. The fireworks of the fall mullet run are lodged at the forefront of many anglers’ minds, especially in Southeast Florida, but there’s another “run” in the spring that gets big fish wound up. Silver mullet (identifiable by the black trailing edge of the tail fin) of 7 to 10 inches are a welcome mouthful for snook fattening up for the summer spawn. These are hard-swimming baits, and if you want to keep one confined to a strike zone—tight up against a wall, for instance—it’s best to tail-hook the bait. Much as Crippen handles the sardines and herrings on the trout flats, if you put a little tension on the line, you can redirect an errant mullet that may be swimming for open water.

First Published Florida Sportsman Shallow Water Angler Special May 2016

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16 Jan 15:48

When the Soviet Union Paid Pepsi in Warships

by Anne Ewbank

On April 9, 1990, American newspapers reported on an unusual deal. Pepsi had come to a three billion dollar agreement with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had long traded Stolichnaya vodka in return for Pepsi concentrate. But this time, Pepsi got 10 Soviet ships.

This wasn’t the first time that Pepsi sold soft drinks in return for a flotilla. The previous year, the company even received warships. This situation—a soft drink conglomerate briefly owning a fairly large navy—was the unusual result of an unusual situation: a communist government buying a product of capitalism from the country it considered its greatest rival.

It began with a rare exchange of culture. In the summer of 1959, the U.S.S.R. held an exhibition in New York, and the United States reciprocated. The American National Exhibition in Sokolniki Park, Moscow, featured American products: cars, art, fashion, and an entire model American house. A number of still-familiar brands sponsored exhibits and booths, including Disney, Dixie Cup Inc, IBM, and Pepsi.

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That month, many Russians got their first taste of Pepsi. One of them was Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. On July 24, then-Vice President Richard Nixon showed Khrushchev the exhibition. It became the scene of the infamous Kitchen Debate. While standing in a mock-up of an American kitchen, Nixon and Khrushchev traded barbs about communism and a recent American resolution on “captive states” under Soviet power. Nixon also led Khrushchev towards a display booth that dispensed nothing other than Pepsi-Cola. Symbolically, the booth offered two batches: one mixed with American water, the other with Russian.

It was a set up. The night before, a Pepsi executive, Donald M. Kendall, had approached Nixon at the American embassy. As the head of Pepsi’s international division, he’d defied the company’s leaders in deciding to sponsor a booth and attend the exhibition. To prove that the trip was worthwhile, he told Nixon, he “had to get a Pepsi in Khrushchev's hand.”

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Nixon delivered. A photographer caught Nixon and Khrushchev together as the Soviet leader gingerly sipped his cup of Pepsi. Kendall stands to the side, pouring another cup. Khrushchev's son later recalled that many Russian’s first take on Pepsi was that it smelled like shoe wax. But, he added, everyone remembered it, even after the exhibition was over.

For Kendall, the photo was a triumph. He had big plans for the brand’s expansion, and the Khrushchev photo op catapulted him up the ranks at Pepsi. Six years after the American National Exhibition, Kendall became CEO.

The U.S.S.R. was Kendall’s land of opportunity, and his goal was to open it to Pepsi. In 1972, he succeeded, negotiating a cola monopoly and locking out Coca-Cola until 1985. Cola syrup began flowing through the Soviet Union, where it was bottled locally. It was a coup: As the New York Times put it, the soda was “the first capitalistic product” available in the U.S.S.R. Pepsi had become a pioneer. But there was one issue: money.

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Soviet rubles were worthless internationally, with their value determined by the Kremlin. Soviet law also prohibited taking the currency abroad. So the U.S.S.R. and Pepsi resorted to barter. In return for cola, Pepsi received Stolichnaya vodka to distribute in the United States. By the late 1980s, Russians were drinking approximately a billion servings of Pepsi a year. In 1988, Pepsi broadcast the first paid commercials on local TV, starring none other than Michael Jackson. The bartering worked well—Stolichnaya was popular in the United States. An American boycott in response to the Soviet-Afghan war, however, meant that Pepsi wanted something else to trade.

So, in the spring of 1989, Pepsi and the Soviet Union signed a remarkable deal. Pepsi became the middleman for 17 old submarines and three warships, including a frigate, a cruiser, and a destroyer, which the company sold for scrap. Pepsi also bought new Soviet oil tankers and leased them out or sold them in partnership with a Norwegian company. In return, the company could more than double the number of Pepsi plants in the Soviet Union. (It also ignited jokes that Pepsi was taking the Cola Wars to the high seas.) “We’re disarming the Soviet Union faster than you are,” Kendall quipped to Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser.

But that was nothing compared to 1990’s three billion dollar deal. (A figure based on Pepsi's estimate of how much sales of cola in the Soviet Union and vodka in America would net them over the next decade.) It was the largest deal ever brokered between an American company and the Soviet Union, and Pepsi hoped it would spur more expansion. Pepsi even launched another American institution in the country: Pizza Hut. The future looked bright.

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Instead, the Soviet Union fell in 1991, taking with it Pepsi’s deal of the century. Suddenly, their long balancing act turned into a scramble to protect its assets in a free-for-all made more complex by redrawn borders, inflation, and privatization. The LA Times described how the new Pizza Huts were hobbled—their mozzarella was sourced from Lithuania. The company had hoped to pivot from heavy glass bottles to cheaper plastic, but the plastic company was located in Belarus.

Similarly, Pepsi’s partially-built ships were stranded in newly-independent Ukraine, which wanted a cut of the sales. Kendall, who had since retired, lamented that the Soviet Union had essentially gone out of business. Over several months, Pepsi pierced parts of the deal back together. But instead of dealing with a single state, they had to broker with 15 countries. Worse, Coca-Cola aggressively entered the former Soviet Union, and Pepsi struggled to keep its advantage. Among other marketing strategies, it launched a giant, replica Pepsi can up to the Mir space station for a commercial, and erected two iconic billboards over bustling Pushkin Square in Moscow.

Russia is still Pepsi’s second biggest market outside of the United States. But their pioneering luster has faded. It didn’t help that Pepsi had been around for so long that other sodas seemed novel by comparison. After only a few years, Coke beat out Pepsi as Russia’s most popular cola. And in 2013, even the billboards over Pushkin Square came down. Maybe Pepsi should have held on to that destroyer.

16 Jan 15:45

Why All Beer Once Tasted Like Smoke

by Jim Clarke
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Today’s brewers can add any number of flavors to their beers. Some are newfangled, such as chili pepper or pumpkin; others are deeply traditional. Smoke is one of the latter, with a long and widespread pedigree. All across Europe, a hint of barbecue was once pervasive—until the Industrial Revolution, the flavor was the inevitable result of the brewing process. Malt is one of beer’s primary ingredients, and a change in how it’s made brought beer out of its smoky past.

Grains, unlike wine grapes and cider apples, don’t contain sugars. They have starches, which can’t be fermented until they are accessed and converted into sugars. Malting is the process of accessing those starches by steeping the grains in water.

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Malting makes the grains begin to sprout, but this process must be stopped by drying the grains before they mold. In most of Europe’s beer-producing countries, a fire was the only way to do this. “Basically you’d have a firebox below and either a fine screen or something of that sort, on top of which was a bed five or six inches deep of sprouted malt,” says Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table. Hot air, and with it, smoke, rose up through the malt, drying it and imbuing it with a smoky flavor.

Change came from England, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Over the course of the 17th century, cheap, efficient coal came into use, which gave maltsters the opportunity to jigger their process. Coal gave them a more even, controllable temperature than wooden fires. But coal smoke may not have been as pleasant as wood-fired smoke. Once they began using coal, Oliver says, the English could use heat exchangers that took consistent, well-regulated hot air to the malt and directed the smoke away and up through a chimney. As a result, smokiness was no longer a default component for beers.

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Pulling back the curtain of smoke meant beer drinkers could enjoy the cleaner, crisper flavors of malt and hops. The “new” beers were also lighter and more consistent in their color; beers made with smoked malt would vary in their color and flavor depending on how much wood was used, how seasoned the wood was, and ambient temperatures. Oliver says that while the smoky beers might have been flavorful, they generally wouldn’t have been “refreshing” in the way beers made with unsmoked malt were.

Refreshment isn’t the only reason to drink beer, of course, and some beer drinkers didn’t want to give up their smoky brews. Certain areas in Norway and Poland clung to a smoky style. Grodziskie, a smoked Polish wheat beer, persisted until the 1930s, and has been resurrected by some American craft breweries. Homebrewers in Norway shared communal malting houses using the old, smoky malting process until the 1970s. Homebrewer John Morten Granås resurrected the traditional malt house a few decades ago, and now the Stjørdal area east of Trondheim is home to a few dozen.

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Commercially, only in Bamberg, Germany, have several brewpubs persisted in making smoke beers (Rauchbier, in German) since the Middle Ages. Much of the move to pale, smoke-free malts was tied up with industrialization, and bucolic Bamberg, in the heart of Franconia (the northern part of Bavaria), missed out.

“Bamberg is, by German standards, far away from any industrialized areas,” says Matthias Trum, the sixth generation brewmaster and owner of Aecht Schlenkerla. “We never had much industrialization here, especially no coal or steel industry. Coal was somewhat hard to acquire here, and it was easier for brewers to stick with wood as fuel."

To continue making Rauchbier, Aecht Schlenkerla and Spezial, a competitor across town, make their own malt in-house. This had been the norm, but coal-firing meant malting could be done at a much larger scale, making it more affordable for most breweries to outsource it. Both breweries use wood from local beech trees, although Aecht Schlenkerla recently introduced an oak-smoked beer, which has a softer, sweeter smoke character. The disappearance of smoky beers in other places means the variety of characters imparted by local woods was lost as well. Grodziskie was made with oak; in Norway, alder and birch was the norm. Many Scotch whisky distilleries used and still use peat, which puts its stamp on their whiskies in just the same way as different woods do on these beers.

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With such a small set of examples to draw from, it’s hard to know how modern, smoky beers compare to those of the pre-industrial past. Trum says that Aecht Schlenkerla brewers have held closely to the old ways, and he isn’t convinced that the “new” smoked beers shed much light on history, enjoyable though they may be. “Today’s craft breweries’ smoked beers use industrially made and smoke-flavored malt, so it's not the traditional way of doing it. They are likely to be further away from the original flavor.”

In any case, smoke may be due for a comeback. “I think of smoke as one of the primary characteristics of human food,” says Oliver, one which distinguishes our diet from that of animals. He argues that, with millenia of open-fire cooking behind us, smoke has a primal appeal that almost every human has enjoyed. Technology may have removed smoke from beer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss it. “I think that there is an interest in getting back these dimensions of food and drink that have been lost and can be really pleasant.”

16 Jan 15:42

The Iconic Windmills That Made the American West

by Ryan Schnurr
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The Mid-America Windmill Museum, in Kendallville, Indiana, exists almost entirely outdoors. Its 53 specimens, most of them metal, are dropped like jacks across a patch of grass a few miles north of State Road 3, and represent one of the largest collections of vintage American self-regulating water pump windmills anywhere.

You have probably seen windmills like these before, if not in person, then in pictures or on television. Sometimes known as “windpumps” or “wind engines,” they power a mechanical apparatus that draws water out of the ground. They share a general silhouette—reinforced tower, slatted fan wheel, rudder-like tail—and most are around forty feet high. They have names like Butler Oilmatic; Dempster 12A; Baker Direct Stroke; Southern Cross; The Whizz; Fairbury No. 33; Aermotor 602. In 2018, these windmills have a quaint, decorative sort of feel, like something you would find at an antique mall. But they are in fact technically profound pieces of equipment with a history of powering American expansion.

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In A Field Guide to American Windmills, the historian T. Lindsey Baker writes that “the first commercially successful self-governing [or self-regulating] American windmill” was developed in New England in the mid-1850s, by a salesman named John Burnham and a machinist named Daniel Halladay. Unlike more traditional European-style windmills, The Halladay Windmill Company’s product was nimble; it could swivel to face the changing wind and angle its blades to adjust speed and avoid cracking in powerful gusts. Most importantly, it could do all of this mechanically, responding to the power and direction of the wind without the help of people.

It was a brilliant innovation, but the company was poorly located. Demand for water pumps was marginal in the stream-rich Northeast. The real action, Burnham and Halladay realized, was in the Midwest and West. Settlers lighting out to cover the prairies and flatlands of the country were in need of a reliable, independent water source. To better access these expanding markets, Burnham eventually moved the operation, now called the U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company, to Batavia, Illinois, outside of Chicago.

Self-governing water pump windmills soon became a staple of the American homestead. They were simple, well-constructed, and dependable, the windmill equivalent of a pair of denim jeans. At first they were mostly wood, but metal varieties became more and more common. Almost every farm had one. Some people, unable to afford a professional windmill, fashioned their own using manufactured versions as models. According to an article in the journal Wind Energy, more than one million such windmills had been erected across the United States starting in the mid-19th century.

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Railroads were another important customer. Steam locomotives had to be watered at regular intervals, which was accomplished with a string of tanks and pumps. On the first transcontinental railroad, tanks occurred about every twenty miles. Self-regulating windmills, some of which were also self-oiling, required little to no maintenance and could operate unattended, making them ideal for long stretches between towns. Manufacturers started putting out windmills that had wider bases and could pump greater quantities of water. These came to be called “railroad pattern” windmills. The most common version—and one of the biggest and most powerful—was called the Railroad Eclipse. Eventually, some communities used railroad pattern mills for municipal water supplies.

The primary element in a windmill water pump was an underground pumping cylinder fitted with a sort of plunger. As the plunger moved up and down, piston-like, it captured water (on the downstroke) and pulled it toward the surface (on the upstroke). “The key was the system of valve leathers, made of cowhide, that captured and released the water from the cylinder,” says Larry Poppy, a docent at the Mid-America Windmill Museum.

Poppy says that his family had a water pump windmill when he was growing up, and that the water was stored in a stock tank in a special stock-tank-sized room on the second floor of the house. “That was our drinking water,” he says. “It had to be partially uncovered so the air could get in. My parents put a pan underneath it because in the summer it would sweat, and you didn’t want the water sitting there on the floor because it would have rotted through.”

Windmills of varying design were produced in hundreds of facilities all over the Midwest and elsewhere. At one time, there were more than 94 windmill manufacturers of varying size within 80 miles of Kendallville. One of them, Flint, Walling & Co. (later known as Flint & Walling), operated just a few miles from where the museum is now.

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“Aermotor, out of Chicago, was considered the Cadillac of windmills,” says Mike Harkey, another museum docent. “They only made three models. Of course, Flint & Walling made 11. It was right up there in quality. Eventually Aermotor moved to Texas, and they’re still around. They’re the only major company left who still makes water pump windmills.”

The business of windmills faltered when electricity and gasoline became cheap—circa World War I—and continued through the Depression. In the late 1930s, rural electrification crashed demand. Manufacturers came out with budget versions of popular models. The Fairbury Windmill Company produced a “New Deal Special.”

During World War II, some windmill manufacturers built war-related products. Afterward, when the market for windmills did not improve, many started turning out other goods, like pipes. Flint & Walling hung on for a while, but stopped making windmills in the 1960s. It still makes pumps.

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When energy prices spiked upward in the 1970s, people became interested in windmills again. The three remaining windmill manufacturers—Aermotor, Baker, and Dempster—went from producing a couple hundred windmills per year each to several thousand. More companies started up. One problem was that there were not many trained windmillers left over. Universities began offering courses in windmill technology to meet demand. Around that time, people figured out how to make wind a commercially viable source of electricity, and turbines began to hog the windmill conversation.

Like many old-but-still-useful technologies, water pump windmills continue to be employed in various niche contexts, often small-scale and rural, sometimes for projects off-grid. Taylor Schafer, business development manager for Aermotor, says one of the company’s major markets is ranchers who use them to water livestock. Aermotor’s current model, the 802, is nearly identical to the classic Aermotor 702. “Our parts are still interchangeable with the 702 mill,” Schafer says. “The design is basically unchanged since 1933.”

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One of the Mid-America Windmill Museum’s prized items is a restored twelve-foot wooden windmill known as the Original Star. The Star was patented in 1878 by Flint & Walling, and set the tone for subsequent Flint & Walling models. It turned counterclockwise, unlike other windmills at the time. The Original Star was painted white with red tips on the blades and red and blue stars on the vane, and soon became one of the most popular wooden windmills in use on the Great Plains.

The Original Star and other windmills at the museum, including the rest of the Flint & Walling fleet, have been put out to pasture. None of them are actually doing any pumping anymore. Many of their wheels are locked in position for maintenance reasons, but a few still spin idly with the wind, recalling an era of westward expansion and agricultural development—history in action.

15 Jan 14:28

It's SAFE to say he he won't do it again


3303 points, 92 comments.

15 Jan 13:48

When Did People Start Making Bread?

by Miss Cellania

The following is an article from Uncle John's Triumphant 20th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.

We hope you get a rise out of this story—it cost us a lot of dough to put it together, but it was the yeast we could do!

RISE AND SHINE

Did you eat a sandwich today? Did you have an English muffin this morning or a slice of pizza last night? Americans eat 34 million loaves of bread per day, not to mention rolls, baguettes, bagels, croissants, pitas, doughnuts, and dozens of other kinds of bread. Bread is thought to be the first processed food in human history, and it’s still the world’s largest single food category—more people eat some form of bread on a daily basis than any other food product.

Most bread falls into one of two groups: leavened, which rises with the help of an ingredient (yeast is the most common leavening agent) and unleavened, which is basically flat. Many flat varieties—for example, Mexican tortillas, Jewish matzo, Norwegian flatbrød, or Indian chapati—have remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years. But the history of bread is really about the flatbreads that did change—and evolved into the leavened loaves we know today.

TIMELINE

The history of bread begins with wild grain. Around 11000 B.C. huge fields of grain appeared in southwest Asia as the glaciers began to retreat. Nomadic people ate the raw seeds (in addition to whatever else they could gather).



By about 8000 B.C., people had learned that the seeds could be planted and cultivated, that they would yield reliable crops, and that families could be fed from those crops. It was the beginning of agriculture; traditional nomadic life evolved into settlements (after all, if you’re going to raise crops like wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats, you’ve got to stay put). And with the introduction of the mortar and pestle for grinding the grain into flour, most of these early agrarian cultures invented some kind of bread—flat, coarse, and probably not very tasty, but they were sustaining and they lasted longer than foods that had to be hunted or gathered daily.

The next few thousand years saw all kinds of agricultural developments that helped make bread a staple food: Farmers along the Euphrates River in the Middle East invented plows and irrigated fields around 4000 B.C.; the Sumerians invented a sickle for harvesting grain; farmers in northern China learned to cultivate wheat and barley strains that tolerated low rainfall; and in eastern Europe, where the growing season is too short for wheat, rye became a major crop.

CIVILIZATION ON THE RISE

Around 2000 B.C., the Egyptians hit the jackpot: They discovered leavening, the ingredient that makes bread rise. The discovery probably came about by accident, when airborne wild yeast spores got into some bread dough. Yeast is a living microorganism that occurs naturally in the environment—on plants, in the soil, and on animals. And under the right conditions (warm liquid, and sugar or starch to feed on), it will grow and produce carbon dioxide, which, in the case of bread, bubbles through the dough and makes it rise. And that’s what makes bread light and fluffy. (Wild yeast was also noted for its ability to ferment the sugars in grain. The by-product of fermentation is alcohol, which made another food possible—beer, which the Egyptians valued highly.)

The Egyptians also figured out how to use two stones for grinding grain to make flour with a much finer texture than the old mortar and pestle had yielded. Egyptians were expert wheat growers, but it was a labor-intensive crop, which made wheat flour expensive to produce. Result: Common people ate cheaper, coarser, darker, flatter barley bread; the wealthy ate finer, whiter, fluffier wheat bread.

One more Egyptian innovation: Flat stones or griddles were used for baking flatbreads, but the Egyptians had a class of professional bakers who used cone-shaped clay ovens, with which they could control the heat for making leavened bread.

SAIL AWAY

Around 600 B.C., Phoenician sailors brought Egyptian flour and bread technology to Greece. The Greeks already had a bread-baking culture, but they quickly adopted the Egyptian improvements and soon Greek states vied with each other in bread-making skill (Athens claimed to be the best). They further advanced the development of bread through the use of a Greek invention: the front-loading oven, an improvement over the Egyptians’ top-opening version.

From Greece, bread know-how spread west to Rome. The Romans considered bread even more important than meat, and it was a stabilizing factor in the smooth running of the Roman welfare state: Grain was distributed to the populace of Rome (later the government even baked the bread), and Roman soldiers were adamant about receiving their full allotment of bread.

MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD

The expansion of the Roman Empire northward took Greek bread-baking techniques throughout Europe. But with the decline of the Empire around 400 A.D., the quality of bread-making skills declined, too, and unleavened bread became the norm again. During the first half of the Middle Ages (400–1000 A.D.) bread history gets a little hazy, but the Normans are believed to have reintroduced leavened bread to England in the 12th century, and by the 13th century all of Europe again had better flour, better bakers, and better bread.



Milling and baking soon became highly skilled professions, making millers and bakers influential and rich. Bakehouses (the medieval term for “bakeries”), with their large ovens, were serious fire hazards, so they were built far from the shops where the bread was sold. The bakehouses usually belonged to feudal lords, who allowed bakers to use the ovens for a fee or in exchange for bread. Gradually bakers began setting up their own bakehouses (sometimes communally owned), and forming guilds to protect themselves from the lords and to regulate bread production.

THE ROLL OF LAW

In 1266 England established the “Assize of Bread,” a set of laws regulating the weight and price of bread. Because bread was such an important staple, bakers were in a position to take advantage of consumers by price gouging. These laws regulated bread prices in relation to the price of grain. If a baker broke those laws (they were in force until the 19th century), he could be punished severely, even banned from baking for life. The penalties were so severe that bakers got into the habit of giving an extra measure of bread (13 instead of 12) so they couldn’t be accused of short-changing customers, which is the origin of the term “baker’s dozen.”

RYE COMMENTS

During the next few centuries, bread continued to be the staple food of most people’s diets, and since the majority of people were poor, it was a heavy brown bread made from the cheaper grains—barley, oats, or rye. But because people had become so dependent on bread, governments and rulers survived and flourished only if they could supply enough bread to their people…or control the rebellions that broke out when they couldn’t. Example: The storming of the Bastille in Paris, which set off the French Revolution in 1789, began with a bread riot.

In the 1800s, most bread was still baked with homegrown (or brewery-grown) yeast. It was time-consuming to nurture, and performed unpredictably. In 1825 German bakers introduced packaged cake yeast that made home baking easier, and made the results more consistent (and tastier). Two Austrian brothers, Charles and Max Fleischmann, brought the innovation to America. In 1868 they opened a factory for the commercial production of compressed yeast in Cincinnati. (Fleischmann’s is still the biggest producer of yeast for home baking, but home baking isn’t what it used to be—by the 1960s almost all of America’s bread was made commercially.)

By the late 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and gas-fueled ovens had replaced wood- and coal-burners. With the European invention of more efficient steam-powered flour mills, it became possible to produce enough wheat flour so that for the first time, white bread was affordable to most people. At the same time, the newly developing heartland of America was producing so much wheat that huge amounts of bread could now be turned out efficiently in industrial-scale bakeries. By the early 1900s, factory-made white bread was available all across Europe and North America.

BREAD LINES

In turn-of-the-20th-century America, bread was an assembly-line business, with conveyor belts moving loaves through the ovens and into the hands of workers who wrapped them in waxed paper. In 1928 American Otto Frederick Rohwedder perfected a machine that both sliced and wrapped loaves of bread. Streamlined machinery, consistent products, and constant availability were the pluses—but there were minuses to the new technology, too. The most significant one was that the grain’s nutrients got stripped away during the exhaustive process of milling the flour.

Even in the late 19th century, it was clear that for people who depended on bread for good nutrition, bread made with nutrient-poor flour wouldn’t give them what they needed, so European governments began to require manufacturers to enrich the flour. (America followed suit…eventually. In 1941 Congress passed a law requiring the addition of niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and iron to white flour and bread.) Ironically, at the same time that bread manufacturers were investing in the technology that made white bread affordable, other technological advances made it possible for farmers and distributors to supply other important foods—meat, dairy products, and potatoes—that threatened bread’s status as the number-one staple food.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOURS GONE?

The middle of the 20th century saw the flourishing of corporate bakeries—Continental Baking (Wonder Bread), Pepperidge Farm, and Oroweat, for example. As the century progressed and people became intrigued with “health” foods, corporate bakeries responded with whole-wheat and other breads containing “healthful” ingredients like honey and molasses. Homemade bread made a comeback, too, as consumers wanted to make “somethin’ lovin’ from the oven” at home. So the corporations came up with packaged mixes, frozen breads, and “heat-and-serve” products that simulated home baking without too much fuss and bother.

(Image credit: Mattie Hagedorn)

Americans now eat 51 one-pound loaves of bread per person annually—about one per week. There’s no question that we still consider it to be a vital part of our diets. Packaged bread from a supermarket may supply some of your dietary needs because it is enriched, but commercial breads are routinely treated with preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and dozens more chemicals in order to provide loaves that are cheap, shippable, and have a long shelf life. Small wonder that contemporary bread-lovers seek out neighborhood bakeries that make their own fresh, delicious baguettes, ciabattas, and other varieties of old-fashioned “artisan” bread.

BREAD FACTS

In 1987 the kids at Eisenhower Junior High in Taylorsville, Utah, baked the world's largest loaf of bread, weighing 307 pounds. Where do you bake a 307-pound loaf of bread? In a Hercules ovenusually used for hardening missile casings.

Bread was once so prized that it was used as currency, which is why money is sometimes called "bread."

A family of four could live for ten years on the bread produced by one acre of wheat in one growing season.

Pillsbury Doughboy facts: In 1965 more than 50 actors competed to become the Pillsbury Doughboy voice; the winner was Paul Frees, who also did the voice for Boris Badenov in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. When Frees died in 1986, Jeff Bergman (Charlie the Tuna) became the Doughboy voice.

Got a few tons of Bisquick in the pantry? In 1981 the world's largest peach shortcake was made at the South Carolina Peach Festival. The five-layer shortcake was 25.5 feet in diameter and used nine tons of peaches ...and more than four tons of Bisquick.

During the Civil War, one wing of the Senate in Washington was converted into a huge oven that baked 16,000 loaves of bread a day for Union soldiers.

The five bestselling brands of bread are Wonder, Pepperidge Farm, Orowheat, Nature's Own, and Sunbeam.

Store-bought bread will stay fresh longer if you don't refrigerate it. Keep it at room temperature in a dark, dry place (bread box, kitchen drawer, cabinet) for up to a week. If you're not going to eat it within a week, freeze the loaf in its original packaging.

___________________

This article was reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Triumphant 20th Anniversary Bathroom Reader. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!