If the only tool you have is a hammer you tend to see every problem as a nail.



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Why Are Walmart Stores Underperforming? Blame Their Terrible Wages.

by  

Walmart’s same-store sales are falling as the surrounding retail market surges. What’s the problem? By screwing its workers with low wages, the nation’s largest private-sector employer is preventing a huge chunk of the American workforce from shopping at its stores.

Walmart is losing in America. The company, the nation’s largest retailer and largest private-sector employer, reported its quarterly results Thursday morning. And they were a disappointment.

A Walmart employee pushes shopping carts at a store in La Habra, California, in May. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

MORE











Wal-Mart Welfare

In the midst of all the discussion about welfare reform, it turns out that the major welfare beneficiary in our country is the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame. The wealthiest family in America is worth more than $100 billion. One way they got so rich is by paying workers so little that tens of thousands of Wal-Mart employees use food stamps to feed their families and Medicaid to pay doctor bills. So with the number of Americans living in poverty in America near a 60-year high, with the gap between the rich and the rest of us growing wider and with youth unemployment in America at staggering levels, one proposal Bernie backs is raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. It’s been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. In addition to helping workers, a catch-up raise would have a side benefit. There would be “real savings for taxpayers who would not have to subsidize Wal-Mart because of its low wages,” Bernie told Chris Hayes on MSNBC. Some Republicans don’t just want to keep the minimum wage from going up. In a blunt exchange at a Senate hearing, Sen. Lamar Alexander told Bernie the minimum wage, on the books since the 1930s, should be abolished.







The Perfect Scam: How Walmart Is Screwing Employees Out of All of Their Benefits


wrote an article a while back detailing how evil Walmart really is as a company.  I have a source who works for them who often details the disgusting business practices of this company and how it treats its employees.

Well, it’s getting even worse.

My source actually works for Sam’s Club (which is owned by Walmart) in a different city than where I live. But they’ve assured me that if each club isn’t experiencing this yet, they soon will.  I have also seen and verified all documentation backing up my source’s claims, and have verified with certainty that they are true.

See, what Walmart has done is set the bar for which part-time associates (employees are called associates at Walmart) can receive benefits at an average of 24 hours per week.  At this threshold an employee is given the most minimal options for health coverage, about 8-12 hours of personal days and maybe 12 or so hours of vacation per year.  It really all depends on how long you’ve worked for the company.

In general, the more hours you average, the better benefits packages you qualify for and the more personal/vacation time you get.

However, recently an email was sent out from corporate to all clubs with instructions not to allow part-time associates to go over 24 hours.  They’re essentially treating going over 24 hours just like they do overtime pay.  Meaning if you go over, someone’s getting written up.

What this does is ensure part-time associates are prevented from hitting that magic 24 hour average which would qualify them for minimum benefits.

Oh, but it gets better.

They’re not scheduling associates for two or three 8 hour shifts — oh no, they’re scheduling them four or five 4 hour shifts.  They’re still working associates the equivalent of a 5 day workweek, just drastically reducing their hours.  So they’re making it very difficult for these associates to even get a second job.

In fact, at this Sam’s, they do schedules 3 weeks at a time and they just pulled the already made schedules for the next 2 weeks, completely redoing them to make the required cuts.

Then if you want to get the max 23.99 hours per week, you’ll need open availability—otherwise you might end up being scheduled zero hours, which has already happened to a few associates at my source’s club. Yes, you’ve read that right, there are people who “work” for Walmart that are now getting scheduled absolutely no hours simply because their new scheduling system is set around open availability and punishes those who might have a limited schedule.

So what Walmart is wanting is for their part-time employees to have wide-open availability, yet work less than 24 hours per week.

And if you happen to be scheduled, say, 22 or 23 hours and want to pick up more—nope, you won’t be allowed.

Then don’t even think about full-time.  About 15% of the associates at this club are full-time and it’s nearly impossible to get one of those spots.  And no, they don’t create more for hard work.

In fact, hard work doesn’t even matter.  My source said after one of their supervisors bent over backwards to get their numbers up and fix a lot of problems they were experiencing on the front end of the club, their hard work and dedication was rewarded with—a 20% reduction in their hours after this email was sent out.

Even better, recently when a 3 year associate turned his 2 weeks notice in after having their hours cut from 36 per week to 18—he was told to not even bother coming in for the next 2 weeks of his shifts.  They just cut them completely.

And this was a recent “Associate of the Month.”  Which just goes to show you how little Walmart actually values people.

The greed of Walmart is reprehensible.  And while I know other corporations treat their employees similarly, many of them don’t have the enormous wealth of Walmart.

Now I know there will be some who say they just love working for Walmart and most of this is untrue, and that’s fine.  I’ve known my source for over a decade and verified all of the information myself.  And yes, for a very select few they might see Walmart as “great place to work.”  But I promise you, for 90% of Walmart associates, their experience working for the company is terrible.

What they’ve essentially done is set up the perfect scam.  They’re attempting to hold employees to such low economic levels, the only place they’ll be able to shop at is—Walmart.  And much of the shopping they’ll be doing at Walmart will be with funds the government has provided to them, because of how poor they’ve become by working at Walmart.

Walmart is the poster child for the greedy, morally bankrupt corporation, and their recent actions prove that they’re proud of that fact.





#Wal-Mart Will Not Open D.C. Stores if Forced to Pay Living Wages, Claims 'Business Discrimination' alternet.org/news-amp-polit…


A single Walmart's low wages could cost taxpayers $900,000 Per YEAR




Sources:

http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/retail/walmart.pdf
http://sandiegofreepress.org/2012/10/the-starting-line-local-labor-activist-banned-from-all-walmart-stores/
http://teamsternation.blogspot.com/2012/06/biggest-us-food-stamp-recipient-wal.html
http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporate-subsidy-watch/hidden-taxpayer-costs



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That Cheap Stuff You Just Bought At Walmart? Turns Out It Cost $6,000 More Than You Thought.

According to a Congressional study, $6,000 is the average amount taxpayers are being dinged per employee. Walmart's wages and benefits are so low, it forces workers to go on Medicaid and receive housing assistance, childcare subsidies, food stamps, and more. Yes, it's totally insane, but it's true. 

Brandon Weber




Blending classical literature with the computer technology of subterranean imaging, scientists have made an astonishing discovery – namely, there is a tenth level of Hell!

In the 14th century, Dante, a renown Italian poet, detailed a horrendous descent through nine layers of eternal damnation that he had charted, with the bottom floor reserved for the most wretched of sinners. Yet, apparently in recognition of today's realities, Satan has had to add a new basement to his punishing Inferno – a special level of Hell to accommodate the top executives and profiteers of Walmart.

Their sins are many and well-documented: Paying poverty wages, using child labor, making products in global sweatshops, cheating US workers, bribing public officials, bankrupting local competitors, producing shoddy products, etc. In recent weeks, though, the massive chain's bosses earned their assignment to Beelzebub's basement by their abominable performance in Bangladesh.

First came their deliberate choice to profit from their suppliers' abuses of powerless garment workers paid $37 a month. Second was their intentional turning of a blind eye to the blatantly unsafe factories they use, including the hellhole that collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 workers. Third was their diabolically-shameful denial of responsibility, claiming that the dead workers were not making clothes for Walmart on the day of the collapse.

This is Jim Hightower saying… And now, they have fiendishly refused to join nearly 40 other global retail giants in an agreement to help finance such minimal safety upgrades as putting fire escapes on Bangladesh's factories and allowing rigorous, independent inspections. Walmart executives explained that non-binding, unenforceable, self-regulation would be best for all concerned. And you could hear Old Lucifer cackling as he prepared their rooms in his new, tenth level of Hell.




5 New Reasons Not to Buy Matzah at Walmart

Before you succumb to those everyday low prices, here are some things you should know.

Photo Credit: Frying Pan News

If you’re like me, right now you may be scrambling to stock up on all of your Passover essentials. So what if I told you that you could get 12 boxes of matzah – more than enough to cover the eight days and nights of breadless revelry – for just over $40 bucks?

Ah, but there’s a catch: You’ll have to buy this miracle matzah pak at Walmart. Moral dilemma? You bet.

Last year we provided a short list of reasons you might want to think twice about a Walmart matzah binge. We wish we could report that Walmart had cleaned up its act since then, but alas, the world’s largest retailer has racked up a series of alleged corporate crimes and indiscretions that would make a pharaoh blush.

So before you succumb to those everyday low prices, here are five more reasons not to buy matzah at Walmart:

1)  Hunger Strike: Remember those passages in the haggadah about the bread of affliction? When workers stop eating to protest conditions, you know things are really bad. That’s what happened in Cambodia earlier this month, when workers who sew clothes sold at Walmart staged  a hunger strike because they weren’t being paid the extremely meager wages they were owed.

2)  Forced Labor: If this doesn’t hit close to home, you really need to brush up on your Passover narrative. Last summer Walmart suspended one of its  seafood suppliers after an investigation discovered that workers were being forced to work up to 24 hours consecutively and had been locked in the plant. The same team found workplace violations at a dozen other Walmart food suppliers. Many of the aggrieved employees were foreign workers – strangers in a strange land indeed.

3)  Fatal Factory Fire: Last November, in a tragedy eerily reminiscent of the Shirtwaist Triangle Factory Fire of 1911, 112 workers died in a blaze at an Indonesian factory that supplied clothes to Walmart. The  New York Times discovered soon after that Walmart had played  a leading role in blocking efforts to address safety concerns at Bangladeshi factories.

4)  Quashing Freedom of Speech: As you prepare your Passover meditation on the meaning of freedom, keep in mind that among the most basic of liberties is the right to speak freely. This is not a right enjoyed by Walmart employees, which is why last December Walmart workers in 10 countries participated in a global protest against the company’s use of intimidation and firings to silence disgruntled workers.

5)  Bribery Scandal: Last April, the  New York Times broke the story that Walmart had allegedly covered up  a bribery scandal in Mexico. The corporation’s Mexican subsidiary reportedly gave tens of millions of dollars to government officials to grease the wheels for store development there, and Walmart’s head honchos back home in Bentonville turned a blind eye. What’s the connection to Passover? We’re not sure, but we know your bubbi would not approve.





Costco Proves Republicans Wrong By Paying a Living Wage and Watching Profits Soar


Costco is proving Republicans and the Wal-Mart wrong by paying workers a living wage while also earning record profits.

While Wal-Mart experienced February sales that were considered, “total disaster,” Costco’s earnings for the second quarter of the year climbed 39%. The New York Times reported, “Costco Wholesale’s net income for its second quarter climbed 39 percent as it pulled in more money from membership fees, sales improved and it recorded a large tax benefit.”

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek openly supports raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, “At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages makes good sense for business. We pay a starting hourly wage of $11.50 in all states where we do business, and we are still able to keep our overhead costs low. An important reason for the success of Costco’s business model is the attraction and retention of great employees. Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. We support efforts to increase the federal minimum wage.”

Costco is proof that the Republican idea that labor must be stomped on in order for our economy to prosper is wrong. It is possible for companies to earn record profits while respecting their workers and paying them a living wage. Wal-Mart embodies the conservative ideology that the country functions best when wealth is concentrated at the top. To match the Walton family’s fortune, an average Wal-Mart employee would have to work for the company for 7 million years. This model is what Republicans are advocating for the entire country, and it is failing to lead to prosperity.

Given Costco’s record profits, Wal-Mart’s blaming of the payroll tax and gas prices for their decline in sales doesn’t wash. Costco’s customers also faced higher gas prices and payroll taxes, but their sales were up six percent during the first quarter of the year.

Despite what both Wal-Mart and Republicans have been saying, companies can prosper and still have a conscience. When companies pay a living wage, workers benefit. When workers make more money, they spend more money. When people spend more money, the economy is stronger. When the economy is stronger, the nation as a whole benefits.

The economic virtuous circle that Republicans and their corporate benefactors thought they killed is alive, well, and living at Costco.



Here's something to think about.

QuikTrip, Trader Joe’s, and Costco operate on a different model, says Ton. "They start with the mentality of seeing employees as assets to be maximized," she says. As a result, their stores boast better operational efficiency and customer service, and those result in better sales.

Walmart, on the other hand, treats their employees like crap, and still makes tons of money. But everyone hates Walmart and loves Trader Joe's and Costco.

The Economic Case for Paying Your Cashiers $40K a Year »

Companies like Trader Joe's and Costco are proving that the decision to offer low wages is a choice, not an economic necessity.


Sam's kids grew up privileged and mean. That is what happened


You, as a tax payer, subside Wal-mart because 80% of their employees are on some federal/state subsistance.





Career advice.

Police: Oregon panhandlers raking in the green »

A police survey says panhandlers outside Wal-Mart in Coos Bay can make $300 a day. Inside, it takes a clerk a week to make that much.





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Pit Bulls

http://www.ricjr.org/pit%20bulls/ 



Given the content of my site, and the wingnutty pious predilections of the American public and government, and the enmity and known censorious habits of Christians and creationists, how long do you think this place would stay up if SOPA/PIPA went into effect?




"Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare." ~ Japanese Proverb







They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
~ Carl W. Buechner




081130 001




See my other blog:

  http://ricjr.blogspot.com/




nomatter




"Love your own, leave others alone," 

it's a good principle for kids to learn. 




"If dogs don't go to heaven, when I die I want to go wherever they went." 

    --  Attributed to Will Rogers










For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.





Heidi cropped





10 REASONS TO ADOPT AN ADULT DOG

1. Have you really thought about what getting a puppy means?  If not, CLICK HERE!

2.  Puppies are not housebroken!  Most people work during the day and are gone for 8 hours or more at a time.  Puppies need to go out on a regular schedule so they have frequent opportunities to eliminate where you want them to.  Puppies can't wait for the boss to finish his meeting or the kids to come home from school.  Adult dogs can "hold it" for longer periods and, often, a Rescue will have the dog housebroken before it is adopted.

3. Intact Underwear.  Puppies chew!  You can count on at least 10 mismatched pairs of socks and a variety of unmentionables rendered to the "rag bag" before a puppy cuts all its teeth.   Shoes?  yes, puppies like to chew them also.  Expect holes in your carpet (along with urine stains), backs and pages missing from books, stuffing exposed in couches, and at least one dead remote control. No matter how well you watch them, it will happen. This is a puppy's job!  An adult dog can usually have the run of the house without destroying it.

4. A Good Night's Sleep.  A puppy can be very demanding at 2am and 4am and 6am. Puppies naturally miss their littermates and a stuffed animal is not a substitute for puppy pile with littermates in the dark of night. Prefer peace and quiet, an adult rescue dog usually sleeps through the night?

5. Finish the Newspaper.  With a puppy loose in the house, you will NOT be able to relax when you get home from work. Do you think kids ever really feed the dog?  Clean up the messes?  Walk in the pouring rain every hour to get the dog housetrained? If so, you probably have a severe case of denial.  An adult dog will generally sit calmly beside you as your workday stress flows away and your blood pressure lowers as you pet it.

6. Easier Vet Trips.  Puppies need a series of puppy shots and fecals, then a rabies shot, then surgery to spay/neuter them, and generally a trip or two to the emergency vet after eating something dangerous. (All of this usually adds up to substantially more than you paid for the dog!) When adopting an adult dog, the adoption fee should get you a dog with current vaccinations, this is altered, heartworm negative and on a preventative, at the minimum.

7. What You See Is What You Get.  How big will the dog get?  What will its temperament be?  Is it easily trained?  What will its personality be like as an adult?  Will it be hyperactive?  Adult dogs are, to steal a term from Internet lingo, WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get.)  All of your questions are easily answered, because the dog is already an adult.  You can pick large or small; active or couch potato; goofy or brilliant; sassy or sweet.  Further, the rescuer and/or foster homes can help guide you in choosing just the right match for you. (Rescues are FULL of puppies who became the wrong match as they got older!)

8. Unscarred Children (and Adults).  If a puppy does not teeth on your possesions, it will teeth on you and your children. Rescuers often get calls from panicked parents sure their dog is about to seriously injure their children.  It usually turns out the puppy is just doing what puppies do, i.e., mouth or nip. Parents, too emotional to see the difference, just want to get rid of the dog.  A growing puppy is going to put anything and everything in their mouth. It must be taught bite inhibition. As the puppy grows, the puppy's jaws become stronger and its teeth are replaced by its adult teeth.  The mouthing and nipping it did as a puppy now can have serious consequences.  Far better to get an adult dog that has "been there, done that, moved on."

9. Matchmaker Make Me A Match.  Puppy love is emotionally appealing.  They are so cute!  But, in reality, cute is not a sufficient reason to get a pet, a pet that will probably live 15+ years.  It may be cute, but cute can grow up to be hyperactive.  It may be not want to share your home with anyone else, including your spouse, children, or other animals.  It may want to be a couch potato, when the main reason you got the dog was to run with you every day.  Pet/owner mis-matches are the MAIN REASONS owners "give-up" their pets.  60% of the animals in shelters nationwide are there for this reason.  Good rescuers extensively evaluate of dogs and applicants to insure both will be happy with one another until death do them part.

10. Instant Companion.  With an adult dog, you have a dog that can go everywhere and do anything with you NOW.  You don't have to wait until the puppy grows up and hope it will like to do what you to do with it.  With an adult rescue, you select the dog most compatible with you.  You can find one that travels well, loves to play with your friends' dogs, has excellent house manners, etc. You can come home after a long day's work and spend your time on a relaxing walk, ride, or swim with your new best friend (rather than cleaning up after a small puppy.)

11. Bond - Rescue Dog Bond.  Dogs that have been uprooted from their happy homes or have not had the best start in life are likely to bond very closely to their new owner.  Yes, dogs that have lost families through death, divorce or lifestyle change can go through a mourning process; however, once they become attached to their new family, they seem to want to please as much as possible to make sure they are never homeless again!  Those dogs that are just learning about the good life and good people seem to bond even deeper. They know what life on the streets, life on the end of a chain, or worse, is about, and they revel and blossom in a nurturing, loving environment. Most rescues make exceptional, extremely loyal companions.

Sadly, some people seem to think dogs that end up in rescue are genetically or behaviorally inferior.  In reality, rescues get dogs that have outlived their novelty with impulsive owners who really did not have the time, energy or willingness to shoulder either the responsibility or expense required to be a good dog owner.  

Choosing an adult rescue over a puppy does not guarantee you will never have any problems with a new pet, it just increases the probability that you won't.  Of course, with any new pet, there is an adjustment period while the dog learns what you expect of it.  The difference is that an adult dog, specially chosen for various traits compatible with you and your home situation, are not having to learn as much as a growing puppy, so they usually fit into their new families very quickly.  For most of us, an adult dog is much more suited to our needs than a puppy. 

Cute as they are, puppies are a tremendous responsibility and, with the busy schedules that most of us have, impossible to housebreak completely, socialize well, and train adequately.  If you are not able or willing to do what is necessary to raise a puppy correctly, you may end up wanting to surrender a dog yourself! 

Adopting an adult rescue can be the best decision, and addition to your family, that you ever make. Rescue a dog and get a devoted friend for life!  Go ahead, do a "GOOD DEED," adopt a dog in need of a home.  Give a dog a chance it otherwise would not have.  But, beyond doing a "good deed", do yourself a favor and adopt an adult dog.



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I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade... And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.
Ron White 


"Apparently we love our own cell phones but we hate everyone else's." ~ Joe Bob Briggs


“To be honest, I think cell phones were invented by the devil.” ~ Joe Hill






How were Colonial American children expected to act at the dinner table?
The rules were very different from today. Colonial families were not child-centric. What is interesting? Is the concept of the "children's table." This practice likely descends from wealthier English families who engaged nannies. Today some American families still practice the "children's table" for major holiday meals. Then, as today, this practical seating solution was a relief to young and old alike.

"Among early printed English books are many containing rules of courtesy and behavior...Among these are: The Babees Book; The Lytill Children's Lytil Boke; The Boke of Nurture, 1577; The boke of Curtasye, 1460; The Schole of Vertue, 1557. From those days till the present, similar books have been written and printed, and form a history of domestic manners. It certainly conveys an idea of the demeanor of children in colonial days to read what was enjoined upon them in a little book of etiquette which was apparently widely circulated, and doubtless carefully read. Instructions as to behavior at the table run thus:--'Never sit down at the table till asked, and after the blessing. Ask for nothing; tarry till it be offered thee. Speak not. Bite not thy bread but break it. Take salt only with a clean knife. Dip not the meat in the same. Hold not thy knife upright but sloping, and lay it down at right hand of plate with blade on plate. Look not earnestly at any other that is eating. When moderately satisfied leave the table. Sing not, hum not, wriggle not. Spit no where in the room but in the corner...'...It is evident that the...child was prone to eat as did Dr. Samuel Johnson, hotly, avidly, with strange loud eager champings; he enjoined to more moderation:--'Eat not too fast nor the Greedy Behavior. Eat not vastly but moderately. Make not a noise with thy Tongue, Mouth, Lips, or Breath in Thy Eating and Drinking. Smell not of thy Meat; nor put it to Thy Nose; turn it not the other side upward on Thy Plate.' In many households in the new world children could not be seated at the table, even after the blessing had been asked. They stood through the entire meal. Sometimes they had a standing place and a plate or trencher; at other boards they stood behind the grown folk and took whatever food was handed to them. This must have been in families of low social transition and meagre house furnishings. In many homes they sat or stood at a side-table, and trencher in hand, ran over to the great table for their supplies. A certain formality existed at the table of more fashionable folk. Children were given a few drops of wine in which to drink the health of their elders. In one family the formula was, 'Health to papa and mama, health to brothers and sisters, health to all my friends.' In another, the father's health only was named. Sometimes in the presence of grandparents at the table was the only occasion when children joined in health-drinking."
---Child Life in Colonial Days, Alice Morse Earle [Macmillan Company:New York] 1956 (p. 214-217)

Colonial era cookbooks
Food historians generally agree Amelia Simmons American Cookery, published in Hartford CT, 1796 is the first "American" coobook. Why? It was the first cookbook to include indigenous ingredients, most notably corn meal. The first cookbook printed in the American Colonies was E. Smith's The Compleat Housewife published by William Parks, Williamsburg VA, 1742. Like most of the other cookbooks used in colonial America it was a reprint of a European cooking texts. colonists used cookbooks published in their native countries. English cooks would have had books written by Hannah Glasse, John Farley, John Murrell, and E. Smith. If you want authentic texts start here:

Need to plan a Colonial Meal?
There are three kinds of colonial/early American fare: the real thing (hearth cookery, original/fresh ingredients), modernized recipes adapted for today's kitchens (grocery store ingredients cooked in your kitchen), and contemporary interpretations served in fine 18th century-style eating establishments (Philadelphia's City Tavern, Colonial Williamsburg, et al.).

Preparing a colonial meal is a very doable project. Where to begin? Think about:

Your guests...what do they expect?
...If you are a wedding planner go for the gourmet; if you are catering a historic event balance authentic fare with contemporary expectations; if you are creating a foodways program go authentic; if you are a teacher on a limited budget make sure your students know the difference between what you/they are serving and the original recipe (ingredients, cooking methods, etc.)

Your resources...money, equipment & supplies
...Can you recreate hearth cookery? If you are working with limited resources that's okay. Modernized recipes abound.

The place & people...in all times, people eat different things in different places according to their cultural heritage and economic status
...Are you trying to recreate a meal from a Boston Publik House? New England whaling vessel? New Netherlands (Hudson River Valley)? Philadelphia tavern? Virginia gentlemen's home? Gulla Island? Charleston plantation? Slaves quarters?

The season & the occasion...ingredient availability & traditional foods 
...In the 18th century, seasons dictated food availability; social customs required certain foods to mark special occasions.





4 REASONS WHY THE DREAM 9 ACTIVISTS MATTER

A group of undocumented activists staged a protest in response to the Obama administration’s deportation policies. Nine individuals walked across the...
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4 BIZARRE LAWS CONGRESS PASSED THIS YEAR

It is no secret that the current Congress did a whole lot of nothing since being sworn in on January 3, 2013. While things such as gun control, a budget...
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A HEARTWARMING RESCUE: DISABLED LAMB LEARNS TO WALK

Patricia was born with a debilitating condition that left her crippled. After spending 18 long days on the floor unable to stand or even move, this...
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Tastes Like Chicken?

Why do we act like that's not awesome? Because these boneless, skinless chicken breasts taste amazing.

 

Unbelievable Chicken

By: LETSGGGO

Until you taste it, you won't believe just how good this easy chicken is.






18 Amazing Animal GIFs

Camera Traps Capture Wildlife in Motion







Deep-Sea Sharks

Researchers have discovered at least eight new species of deep-sea shark in the southern Indian Ocean.

Brain Eating Amoebas

CDC scientist says infection risk for water parasiteNaegleria fowleri remains low, despite two recent cases of illness.

Anti-Gay Laws Around the World

Russia's new anti-gay propaganda law has sparked global criticism ahead of the Olympics there. But other countries have even harsher laws.

Why Polio Keeps Hanging On

Great strides have been made in wiping out polio. Yet the stubborn and highly contagious disease is still on the loose.







Fact of the Day
The gastric juices of a snake can digest bones and teeth — but not fur or hair.









Vegetable Garden Planner   Vegetable Garden Layout   Planning a Garden


Smart Gardener

Now growing, managing, and enjoying your garden can be easier with Smart Gardener. This site is devoted to helping you have the most successful vegetable garden for your area.

What I love is that the site is very upfront about letting you get a look at what they have to offer in order to decide if it is a tool that you’d want to use. You can check out the tour video by clicking the Watch the Video button. It runs around three minutes long and goes through the various options the site provides for you to be successful.

If you’re still on the fence after the video, you can check out the interface by clicking the Explore a Smart Garden button. This will take you to an example garden where you can play with all the settings and see how things work for yourself. You can try the Recommend a Plan to see what layout they suggest for the test garden, or you can try out how the plant interface works. Also if you click where it says Getting Started when you’re in the test garden you can check out the following sections: Follow These 4 Steps and 8 Good Things to Know.

Once you’re ready, you can click Exit Demo Account or Home, and then back on the main page click the Free! Join Now button. You can either F-connect with Facebook or fill out the form and click Create My Account. Then all you have to do is follow the steps to setup your vegetable garden.

This looks like it is a really cool tool for managing a garden. Check it out today!

http://www.smartgardener.com/








How to Water Your Lawn

Knowing how to water a lawn the right way is critical to the overall health of your lawn. The frequency and amount of water you apply to grass vary, depending on soil, time of year, weather conditions, type of grass, and so on. Follow these tips when watering, and your lawn will shine: More






DAILY CUTE: ENGLISH BULLDOG LEARNS TO WALK

Starting is the hardest part, but Tebow, the English Bulldog puppy in today's Daily Cute, is starting to get a feel for walking on all fours! Watch this...
read more

PUP STRUGGLING TO STAY AFLOAT SAVED BY COMMUTER ON BOAT

Adam Cohen's out-of-the-ordinary choice of transportation made all the difference in saving the life of a black dog from the middle of the San Francisco...
read more

DON’T MAKE SNAP JUDGMENTS ON FOOD STAMP RECIPIENTS

If you're a recipient of food assistance, you better look the part. Otherwise, Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin is going to take away your food stamps.
read more

KEEP FRACKING OUT OF THE SAN LUIS VALLEY AND GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK

Every year, I looked forward to school fieldtrips to the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. Riding in yellow school buses full of kids and the smell...
read more

BRITISH KIDS COULD DIE BEFORE THEIR PARENTS, HEALTH EXPERTS WARN

Health experts issued a stark warning this week that a sizable proportion of British children are at  risk of dying before their parents due to their poor...
read more

TEEN DENIED HEART TRANSPLANT GETS A CHANCE, THANKS TO PUBLIC OUTRAGE

15-year-old Anthony Stokes was initially denied a place on the heart transplant waiting list on the grounds that he has a history of noncompliance.
read more

ALL EYES ON WASHINGTON STATE FOR GE FOOD LABELING

While the food movement has been gaining steam in recent years, tangible policy wins have been sparse due to by powerful industry lobbying. One...
read more

JUDGE DECIDES BABY DIDN’T EARN HIS NAME, CHANGES IT

Names in every country are certainly not required to track closely with the majority religion, but that's what Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann...
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4 JOURNALISTS JAILED FOR TELLING THE TRUTH

The ongoing assault on whistleblowers is hardly a secret given the media’s recent coverage of Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. But what about the...
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‘ACCEPT MY ELECTION RESULTS OR GO HANG’ MUGABE TELLS OPPONENTS

Despite the international community widely condemning Zimbabwe’s election results as fixed, President Robert Mugabe has told the opposition to...
read more

4 COOL TOYS TO STEAL WHEN YOUR KIDS ARE ASLEEP

In this time of smartphones and tablets and gaming systems, toys seem almost quaint. Why play with a real object when you could control a virtual one?...
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FARMERS IN A DROUGHT SELL THEIR WATER TO THE FRACKING INDUSTRY

New Mexico farmers have been selling their water to the oil and gas industry to use for fracking.
read more






"Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die."- Malachy McCourt







Meanwhile in New Zealand of the Day: Pilot's Permit for Personal Jetpacks Approved!


After putting 30 years of hard work into completing a prototype jet pack, New Zealand's aerospace manufacturer Martin Aircraft may finally be able to take its baby on a test flight with a human pilot. Earlier this week, the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority issued an experimental flight permit for development test flying, which would allow a human pilot to fly the aircraft for the first time ever, as opposed to an operator on the ground with a remote control. If all goes well with test flights, Martin Aircraft says that the first consumer-grade jetpack ever, which can float as high as one kilometer and travel at a top speed of 43 miles per hour, could become available for purchase as early as 2015.









Damn Nature You Scary of the Day: Lightning Bolt Strikes Commuter Train


Watch this footage of a Tokyo commuter train taking a direct hit of lightning while crossing a railway bridge. According to the Telegraph, the carriages briefly lost power as a result of the strike, but no one was injured and the service resumed within 10 minutes.








WebMD - Better information. Better health.


WebMD: Better Information, Better Health
http://www.webmd.com/

"The leading source for trustworthy and timely health and medical news and information. Providing credible health information, supportive community, and educational services by blending award-winning expertise in content, community services, expert commentary, and medical review."






Hundreds Die as Egyptian Forces Attack Islamist Protesters

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

The scale and brutality of the attack on supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, was the clearest sign yet that the old Egyptian police state was re-emerging in full force.

   Raw Video: Egypt Cracks Down on Sit-Ins

Fierce and Swift Raids on Islamists Bring Sirens, Gunfire, Then Screams

By KAREEM FAHIM and MAYY EL SHEIKH

The military-backed government in Egypt had hinted at a milder clearing operation that would last days. But when it came, protesters appeared stunned by its fury.

 Photographs: A Bloody Crackdown in Egypt

Manning, Facing Prison for Leaks, Apologizes at Court-Martial Trial

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

Trying to gain leniency, the convicted private said that he had not understood the "broader effects" of his actions, but that he did so now.





Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.

~Mary Lou Retton 







My most popular book-reviews: Part IV (Spring 2013)

This is the final installment of this week's retrospective of last year's most popular book-reviews. If you enjoyed this tour down memory-lane, let me know in the comments, OK? This part covers the most popular reviews of Spring 2103:

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős -- great kids' book

: A beautifully written, beautifully illustrated kids' biography of Paul Erdős, the fantastically prolific itinerant mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history.

[Buy it]

Monsters and Legends: kids' monster book now in the USA!

: a fascinating reference work for kids 7 and up about the curious origins of the monsters of the popular imagination. The book recounts the odd history of stories of mermaids, chupacabras, cyclopses, dragons, the Loch Ness Monster, and other cryptozoology favorites. It's a great balance between fascination with monsters and lore and a skeptical inquiry into how widespread beliefs can be overturned by evidence and rational inquiry.

[Buy it]

Trial of the Clone: great choose-your-own-adventure from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal creator

: Not only is it witty and often laugh-aloud funny -- it's also got a novel and well-thought-through game mechanic that introduces an element of tabletop RPG-playing to the system (instead of rolling dice, you flip randomly through the book and get your roll-value from the number at the bottom corner of the page).

[Buy it]

Welcome to your Awesome Robot: instructional robot-making comic now out in the US

: A charming series of instructional comics showing a little girl and her mom converting a cardboard box into an awesome robot -- basically a robot suit that the kid can wear. It builds in complexity, adding dials, gears, internal chutes and storage, brightly colored warning labels and instructional sheets for attachment to the robot's chassis.

[Buy it]

New, cheap edition of Taschen's stupendous "Magic 1400s-1950" book

: extremely delectable new Taschen book, Magic, 1400s-1950s. It's gargantuan, classy, profusely illustrated -- was $300, now $42.22.

[Buy it]

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction

: Scatter's premise is that the human race will face extinction-grade crises in the future, and that we can learn how to survive them by examining the strategies of species that successfully weathered previous extinction events, and cultures and tribes of humans that have managed to survive their own near-annihilation.

[Buy it]

Mousetronaut: kids' picture book about mouse in space, written by a Shuttle pilot

: The story of Meteor, an experimental NASA mouse who saves a shuttle mission by scurrying into a tight control-panel seam and retrieving a critical lost key.

[Buy it]

China Mieville's turn-it-to-11 high weirdness reboot of "Dial H"

: The reboot of "Dial H for Hero" is called simply "Dial H," and is written by none other than New Weird chieftain China Mieville, whose prodigious imagination and wicked sense of humor are on fine display in the first collection.

[Buy it]

Shambling Guide to New York City

: The first volume in a new series of books about Zoe Norris, a book editor who stumbles into a job editing a line of travel guides for monsters, demons, golem-makers, sprites, death-gods and other supernatural members of the coterie, a hidden-in-plain-sight secret society of the supernatural.

[Buy it]

I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help(short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.






Brain scans could predict response to antipsychotic medication

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 04:19 PM PDT

Researchers have identified neuroimaging markers in the brain which could help predict whether people with psychosis respond to antipsychotic medications or not.

Facebook use predicts declines in happiness, new study finds

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 04:19 PM PDT

Facebook helps people feel connected, but it doesn't necessarily make them happier, a new study shows.

Children exposed to lead three times more likely to be suspended from school

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 04:05 PM PDT

Children who are exposed to lead are nearly three times more likely to be suspended from school by the 4th grade than children who are not exposed, according to a new study.

Researchers debunk myth of 'right-brained' and 'left-brained' personality traits

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 04:05 PM PDT

Neuroscientists now assert that there is no evidence within brain imaging that indicates some people are right-brained or left-brained. For years in popular culture, the terms left-brained and right-brained have come to refer to personality types, with an assumption that some people use the right side of their brain more, while some use the left side more. Researchers have debunked that myth through identifying specific networks in the left and right brain that process lateralized functions.

Study debunks controversial multiple sclerosis theory

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 04:05 PM PDT

New research found no evidence of abnormalities in the internal jugular or vertebral veins or in the deep cerebral veins of any of 100 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) compared with 100 people who had no history of any neurological condition.

Computer chip based on human brain developed

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 11:47 AM PDT

Scientists have taken on the challenge of developing a new kind of computing architecture that works more like a brain than a digital computer.

Preschoolers inability to estimate quantity relates to later math difficulty

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 10:25 AM PDT

Preschool children who showed less ability to estimate the number of objects in a group were 2.4 times more likely to have a later mathematical learning disability than other young people, according to psychologists.

Visualized heartbeat can trigger 'out-of-body experience'

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 09:48 AM PDT

A visual projection of human heartbeats can be used to generate an "out-of-body experience," according to new research. The findings could inform new kinds of treatment for people with self-perception disorders, including anorexia.

Newly identifed molecules necessary for memory formation

Posted: 14 Aug 2013 06:56 AM PDT

Researchers have uncovered a cellular mechanism for memory and learning that provides one avenue for how these take place.








Repairing My Car Like a Sir







How to Reuse a Soup Can








I Couldn't Connect My Laptop to the Printer...







It Works, But I Miss Spinning in Circles








Even Works in Cartoons









Are Mud Baths Safe?

Mud baths are an acquired taste, but they can be healthy and therapeutic. Researchers have found that the application of thermal mud - as opposed to cosmetic mud that often contains alcohol, a drying agent - can give people with dry skin long-lasting beneficial effects. Mud applications may also be helpful for those with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Skin problems may also benefit - mud can help reduce pain from burns and bee stings and draw out heat, reducing inflammation. The mud from the Dead Sea in Israel is reputed to have therapeutic effects for diseases like psoriasis, attracting people from all over the world for mud baths.

If you're interested in mud baths, be aware that at home they're perfectly safe, but in a spa setting you can be at risk of contracting a skin disorder if the mud isn't changed as often as necessary. Some of the bugs responsible, such as bacteria known as psuedomonas, thrive in higher temperatures. Make sure you are using fresh mud if you partake at a spa. 







Norfolk residents have their say on Ghent's removed benches

Dozens came to Stockley Gardens to discuss what has become a sore subject: the city's decision to remove nearly 70 benches from the neighborhood to fight crime.


A rare bout with a rattlesnake in Chesapeake puts man in hospital






Can Threat of Life in Prison Help Stop Dog Attacks?

New proposals in England and Wales could mean a life sentence in prison for someone whose dog fatally attacks a person.

read more








Sauceress: 1956


1956. "General Motors Technical Center, Warren, Michigan. Design Center interior with stair in background. Eero Saarinen, architect." Our second look at the reception disk and its pilot. Kodachrome by Balthazar Korab. 



The Kittens of War: 1914


Launching a 10-pound furball into Puppy Camp!


1914. "Cats in coveralls, posed as if firing a toy cannon." It looks like nappy-time for Bottom Gun. Photo by Harry W. Frees. View full size.



Chelsea Piers: 1912


New York, 1912. "New Chelsea Piers on the Hudson." Feast your eyes on this veritable visual smorgasbord. 8x10 inch glass negative.







Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Spatula

By  

To boldly er… spatula.

The Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Spatula from ThinkGeek is a handy piece of kitchenware designed to look just like a certain fictional spacecraft from the Star Trek franchise. The metal handle even extends to “keep you safe from the heat.” It is available to purchase online. This would go great with their Star Trek Spock Oven Mitt.

While we can’t hop on a ship and explore the galaxy with Kirk, Spock, and friends, we do a good amount of exploration in our kitchens. In the warm months, our CSA drops off a box of mystery vegetation every week. What do you do with a kohlrabi the size of a basketball? How many ways can you prepare cauliflower? What does one do with garlic scapes or squash blossoms? These are questions that excite us as culinary explorers.


images and video via ThinkGeek







Digital Detox’s Device-Free ‘Disconnect To Reconnect’ Spot at Outside Lands 2013

By  

The folks behind tech-free event Camp Grounded, Oakland-based organization Digital Detox, offered a place to power down in the woods of Outside Lands 2013. Festival attendees stepping into their roped-off spot could “disconnect to reconnect” by first turning off their phone and then hammering out notes on manual typewriters, kicking off their shoes, stepping into a yurt to sip some tea, contributing messages to a communal chalkboard and bulletin board, and other ways to have device-free fun. The area was packed with (mostly digital native millennial-aged) people who appeared to be enjoying a slice of a simpler, unplugged world.

More photos from the Digital Detox area at Outside Lands can be found at my Flickr page.

photos by Rusty Blazenhoff








EAT

9 insanely weird ice cream flavors that are actually completely delicious

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If you thought Chunky Monkey was, like, the craaaaaaziest thing ever... you clearly haven't seen Phish Food! Whooaaa! But seriously, it really means you obviously haven't been out for ice cream in a while and seen what people are doing with things like beets, crustaceans, meat, and other stuff that you won't find at Baskin-Robbins. Here's a coast-to-coast look at the weirdness creameries are putting in their ice cream... and that people totally love.

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ANDREW ZIMMER

OddFellow's Foie Gras (New York) 
At a place featuring mainstays like Beet Pistachio Honey Goat Cheese and Sesame Kumquat Pumpernickel, you've gotta really go out of the box to blow minds. But, for a limited time (and hopefully for a less limited time in the future), they offered perhaps the most decadent, illegal-in-some-states ice cream possible. In the future, ducks will force feed something like this to humans. And we won't care.

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SALT & STRAW

Salt & Straw's Pear & Blue Cheese (Portland) 
Walk into the PDX ice cream hotspot any given day and you'll find experiments ranging fromgin/salt/dark chocolate to bone marrow. But, among the normal flavors, you'll consistently find stuff like this combo that takes the cheese-plate mainstay and shoves it in a cone.

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LICK

Lick's Roasted Beets & Fresh Mint (Austin) 
Inspired perhaps by a Ukrainian chef who accidentally tasted his borscht right after brushing his teeth, this scoop takes on the purple hue of its base, but the mint takes away the harshness of Mario's favorite root vegetable/projectile by adding an unexpected sweetness to the mix.

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PIZZA BRAIN

Little Baby's Ice Cream's Pizza Cream (Philadelphia) 
Known for its bizarre flavors (Everything Bagel, Maryland BBQ) and bizarre-er commercials (seriously, watch this creepy thing), this Philly joint upped the ante w/ its pizza-flavored ice cream, consisting of cream, tomato sauce, spices, and garlic. Even better, they ditch the cone and plop it on top of a slice from neighboring Pizza Brain for a concoction specifically designed to give Donatello diabetes.

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BUSINESS INSIDER

Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium (Massachusetts & Maine) 
These Mainers and, um..., Massachusettsers have finally solved that pesky problem of utter lack of crustaceans in desserts by incorporating an entire lobster's worth of meat into this butter-based cream that makes the lobster roll seem like a Jenny Craig meal by comparison.

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MISSION LOCAL

Humphry Slocombe's Secret Breakfast (San Francisco) 
There're a lot of strange flavors floating around this SF spot -- ancho chilies, cheese, mushrooms, and prociutto among them -- but none of the off-the-wall flavors combine like the whiskey/Cornflake combo found in Secret Breakfast... or, as Keith Richard calls it, "Breakfast".

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CHECK PLEASE

Allium's Roasted Banana Curry (Chicago) 
Curry ice cream is actually common... in India. This swank Chicago Four Seasons restaurant sweetens the deal by mixing it w/ the yellowest of tropical fruit, thus creating the most glorious melding of bananas and curry since Adrianne started a Twitter account.

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LEE BRESLOUER

Harman's Eat + Drink's Cake Batter (Denver) 
It's unclear whose birthday this cake batter was designed for, but it sure as hell isn't Jackie Mason... taking the idea of bacon ice cream to an extreme level, this concoction comes loaded w/ bacon-caramel sauce, caramelized pork belly bites, and chicharrones. Oy vey, indeed.

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AARON MILLER

FNG Eats' Bacon/Japapeno (Dallas) 
Because everything is better when it tastes like a bar snack, and because everything in Texas already kinda tastes like a bar snack, this joint has rolled a bunch of bacon and peppers into its ice cream for the most exciting popper experience since that time they ran that harmonica-playing hippie out of town.





























ANGEL FOOD BAKERY

Cronuts? Who cares? The original croissant-donut hybrid is made here.

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DREW WOOD

Easily the most pervasive cultural phenomenon since those hilarious Big Johnson shirts you were wearing up until last week, the Cronut might've been trademarked by NYC's Dominique Ansel Bakery and had its share of tribute pastries (the Bronut, the Do'Sant), but at its glazed-donut-mashed-with-a-croissant core, you can trace it back to Angel Food Bakery, which first glazed a croissant on the Iron Range way back in '88... and is currently taking things to the next level with the Cro-Knot.

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DREW WOOD

In case you've never been, this is Angel Food Bakery, the pastry-laden offshoot of Hell's Kitchen.

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DREW WOOD

Angel Food's been perfecting their take on the Cronut, the Cro-Knot, since early June. They're stacked like freaking cordwood in the AM, but'll be gone mighty quick.

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DREW WOOD

That's Angel Food's donut-maker, JD. Not only is he part of the least intimidating "gang" ever, he's the dude who first dipped a McGlynn's mini croissant in glaze the year after the Twins won their first World Series. He makes no claims about inventing the Cronut... but, hey.

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DREW WOOD

So what's a Cronut, or in this case a Cro-Knot, and how's it different from a raised donut? As you can tell in our super-scientific cross-section pic, it's largely about the croissant-like separation and layers.

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DREW WOOD

Let's dissect it. As evidenced by that ridiculously complex production schedule, a Cro-Knot isn't made overnight (unlike a donut, which literally is).

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DREW WOOD

It all starts with the butter-heavy dough, which is kneaded by hand and left at an intentionally uneven consistency for a day in the fridge. When it comes out, it looks coarse and you can see the butter chunks.

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DREW WOOD

After chilling for a day, the dough's ready for a multi-step series of folding and rolling (using that gnarly auto-roller), which's what leaves it with a series of layers. Then, back in the fridge for two days.

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DREW WOOD

Two days later, the dough is meticulously sectioned off using neat bakery rulers, and each Cro-Knot worth of dough is hand-rolled, -twisted, and -knotted.

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DREW WOOD

The next step is getting those suckers ready to fry by putting them in the proofing machine, which, despite the name of their console, takes an expert to use.

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DREW WOOD

Post-proof, it's to the deep-fryer they go. Once they hit, JD enters an almost trance-like state of counting Mississippis (seriously) until they're the perfect shade of brown.

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DREW WOOD

While they're literally still fingerprint-eliminatingly hot, JD dips 'em in glaze...

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DREW WOOD

... and, just like that, POOF, the Cro-Knot. Fact: it will melt your tastebuds. In a good way.

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DREW WOOD

But wait! There's one more thing! While we were there shooting all that, they threw us a curveball and started experimenting with adding a fantastical new ingredient to their Cro-Knot: BACON.

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DREW WOOD

And, while the maple-glazed product's still a work in progress, get your Big Johnson's Lawn Service shirt on, because chances are good that the next major cultural phenomenon might involve a little something called the Baconaut.






How To BBQ A Sausage With A Lamborghini Aventador

One of the many uses for a Lamborghini Aventador.










Canned Dragon Meat

The most dangerously delicious meat on Earth. A can of delicious, slightly charred dragon meat. From the Sisters of Radiant Farms, Scotland branch. One can contains 100% of your daily value of havoc, terror, inferno, destruction, magic, and rage.






Google Maps Lets You Explore The TARDIS

image credit Google Maps

Tucked away in a single streetview image of what appears to be a mere police box, a newly discovered Google Maps easter egg lets you go inside the TARDIS. The TARDIS is a time machine and spacecraft in the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who.

Click this link. You will see a pair of double arrows. Click those. You should now be in the TARDIS' bigger-on-the-inside (smaller-on-the-outside) interior.








Man On An Edge: What It's Like to Be A Window Washer In New York City

Brent Weingard, of Expert Window Cleaners, has battled dirt and grime high above New York City for over 35 years.








Weight Of The World: Hermit Crab Shell Art

image credit: Jessica Diamond cc

In terms of the evolutionary ladder, human beings fall rather far from hermit crabs, and it is quite difficult to draw many similarities between the two species. Japanese artist Aki Inomata doesn't have trouble seeing the connection, and she instills her insightful opinion into her unique living sculptures.

Although she has created a large body of work, she has received international acclaim and attention for a specific series that blends art and life in a way that most artists would never even consider. Her work consists of miniature cityscapes carved from plastic that have been built specifically to fit a certain hermit crab.








 

Sharon Montrose Answers What It’s Like to Photograph Lions and Other Incredible Animals

When was the last time you got to snuggle a wolf puppy at work?

Never? Us neither. Sharon Montrose, on the other hand, can raise her hand to that one (and we’re green with jelly).

Sharon’s the photographer behind The Animal Print Shop. You might’ve spotted her portraits of wide-eyed baby giraffes, raccoons looking smug, and baby bears being baby bears.

We asked about how she discovered her awesome talent for photographing animal personality and what working commercially is all about.

While wolf pups might not be next up on your model list, you’ll get inspired to sit your pet down for a session!

Sharon Montrose on Animal Photography










Spike in Violence Expected In AfghanistanU.S. and Afghan National Army troops are bracing for a spike in enemy attacks over the next two months as the Taliban seeks to make inroads before the end of the current "fighting season." Read More








Used Groceries








37 Odd College Mascots



In the latest mental_floss video, Hank Green introduces us to college sports mascots that will make you laugh, or at least scratch your head. Often, the publicity potential trumps the intimidation factor. 






Bob Dylan Introduces the Beatles to Marijuana

How do you capture video of a pride of lions up close? You send in a little video robot that will remind you of Wall-E or a roomba. (via Not Exactly Rocket Science

5 Terrible Things We Only Know Because of the Internet

White Students Are In Favor Of A Meritocracy Until They Find Out It Favors Asians. (via Digg)

The New Rules of Blockbuster Screenwriting
. “Once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world.”

Are we letting kids online too early?
 Teaching them the technology isn't the same as exposing them to the distractions of the world wide web.

The 16 Most Depressing Kids’ Movies
. Still, they stick with us because they made us react emotionally.

Most men still pay for dates, but they wish women would help out. At the same time, they feel asking for her to chip in is risky.

It's not that hard to imagine Shel Silverstein's book The Giving Tree as a horror story. But this parody trailer takes a different direction from the original. NSFW language.

A Bovine Gift from the Heart
. How an African Village came together to help the U.S. get through the tragedy of 9/11.









My Hoomin







What Do Blind People Find Attractive?


Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic, has been blind since birth, and answers questions about his perspective on all kinds of different things. In this video, he talks about attraction to the opposite sex. After hearing this, I can imagine tons of women deciding they need to meet a blind man.









Hoity-toity









Education is Important








Cat Employs Perfect Sign Language


A cat can learn whatever it needs to get what it wants. Since this cat cannot speak Russian, it uses very clear gestures to request a head scratching.








Did You Know the Deficit Is Shrinking? Most Americans Don't, Thanks to Shameless Deficit Hawk Propaganda

Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

The deficit is down 37.6 percent for the first 10 months of 2013. But half of Americans think it’s growing. READ MORE»

7 Shocking Ways Colleges Have Trivialized Rape

Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet

Universities are some of the worst offenders when it comes to undermining the problem of rape and violence against women. READ MORE»

No Sex, No Drugs, and Jesus? Inside the Biggest Christian Rock Festival in America

Alana Levinson, Aaron Mendelson, Mother Jones

Three stages, 50,000 believers, 4,000 altar calls—and plenty of merchandise. READ MORE»

Why I Find It Hard to be Friends With White People

By Brittney Cooper, Salon

My best friend at 9 was white -- but interracial friendships later became a struggle. Here's why everything changed. READ MORE»

Media Mash: Are Prius Drivers More Obnoxious? New Study Suggests It Just Might Be So

By Don Hazen, AlterNet

The New York Times and I agree: The rich do drive differently than you and I. READ MORE»

10 Geniuses Who Used Drugs -- And Their Drugs of Choice

By Robert T. Gonzalez, io9

Is intelligence related to an increased likelihood of recreational drug use? READ MORE»

278 People Killed in One Day in Egypt -- Global Outcry Steps Up Pressure on US to Suspend Aid to Military

By Ian Black, Dan Roberts, The Guardian

White House 'watching' as state of emergency called and Mohamed ElBaradei resigns in protest against killings. READ MORE»

7 Strange Facts About the Fascinating Vagina

By Liz Langley, AlterNet

A woman with two vaginas? The oddities of kangaroo reproduction?READ MORE»

Larry Summers and Jeff Bezos Get Virtually No Scrutiny by the Media, Just Awe and Praise

By Dean Baker, CEPR

It will be a big step forward when reporters and columnists are able to look at the people they consider brilliant with open eyes and talk about their accomplishments and failures in a serious way. READ MORE»

Sprawl Is Good? How Suburban Developments Can Use Solar to Transform Our Energy Future

By Paul Brown, Climate News Network

Solar panels fitted to the average suburban home can produce enough power for that household, extra to charge an electric vehicle, and still generate enough watts to export a surplus to the grid. READ MORE»







Who Invented The Super Soaker?

She said “No”

Best Work From Home Jobs

Well, that move saved you 2 or 3 seconds

Awesome Layered Drinks You’ve Never Heard Of  

Why Bill Clinton became a vegan

Fact Slides –  Just the random facts, Maam

7-Minute Total Workout, No Equipment Required!

A mountain built atop building must come down

How Long Until I Never Have to Leave Home?

when it’s OK to say the F word

How do prescription drugs get such crazy names?

Photos from the deadly crackdown in Egypt on Wednesday

Ho To Be The Kindly Brontosaurus

 

Trivia Tidbit:  Despite playing the Fonz for ten years in the sitcom Happy Days, Henry Winkler never learned to ride a motorcycle.

 







Who does thew baby look like?









Disappointed Cat









Pup playing ball by himself










Best Bar Mitzvah entrance ever


Sam Horowitz - Live at the Omni Hotel in Dallas


This is proof I don’t have near enough money.








Not much of a Superhero









Jonco – An Inside Look

I had my third colonoscopy today.  The procedure is no big deal.  The big deal is the day before… the prep that is the hard part… the big flush.  No solid food all day.  Only liquids and Jello or popsicles allowed and no red or purple colored ones at that.  Then I had to take 4 laxative tablets at 1 pm.  At 6 pm I had to drink a quart of Gatorade mixed with Miralax which is a laxative of course.  The first swig or two aren’t bad but by the time you get to the bottom of the bottle you’ve had more than you want. 

Not long after that I spent a good bit of quality time in the bathroom.  I played games on my cellphone until my legs went numb.  I got up and moved around for a couple of minutes until I was ‘moved’ back to the throne. This went on for a couple of hours and then subsided a bit.  There were still frequent visits to the bathroom before bed time which was about 11 pm.  I knew I had an early wake-up call for I was instructed to enjoy another quart of that toxic Gatorade at 4 am.

I awoke at 3:45 and just laid there anticipating my early morning liquid breakfast treat.  At 4 am I made my way to the refrigerator and got the ice cold Gatorade, because who wants to drink warm liquid yuck when they can have cool refreshing liquid yuck.  I mixed the powdered laxative into the yellowish-limeish colored treat until it was all dissolved.  I then went to my computer where I drank it as I checked blog comments and Facebook.  I tried to drink whole glassfuls at a time just to get it over with.  You don’t sip this stuff.  It was gone in about 25 minutes and then I was gone … back to the bathroom, again until my legs became numb and I had to get up. 

I had to leave my house at 7:30 in order to get the the facility so I waited as long as I could to shower and get dressed.  Once I got there (about 8 am) the whole procedure was like a fine assembly line.  I was registered, stripped, gowned, wired up for monitoring, IV’d and prepped for the procedure which was scheduled for 9 am.  I was put under with Propofol.  The few times I’ve been put out I remember going under but this time the anesthetist said something like, “Bye now” (his accent made it a little difficult to understand) and I said, “Bye now? Did you put it in?”  and before he could answer I was out like a light.  The next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room.  I was there 5 or 10 minutes when the doctor came in and told me I had no polyps but did have a few small ulcers which he thinks were from the anti-inflammatory meds I take. So, I need to switch meds for that.  I was out of there by 10:30 and headed home.

Normally after one of these procedures gas is a frequent by-product but the nurse told me they use C02 these days instead of air to expand the chutes and ladders of the rearlands and the C02 is absorbed by the body and doesn’t cause all the problems the air does.  That reminded me of the old piece of advice ‘Never trust a fart’ which is especially true when dealing with colonoscopy preparation.

Photo is of my transverse colon, whatever that is.







When Mozart passed away, he was buried in a churchyard. A couple

days later, the town drunk was walking through the cemetery and heard

some strange noises coming from the area where Mozart was buried.

Terrified, the drunk ran and got the priest to come and listen to it.

The priest bent close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. Frightened, the priest ran and got the town magistrate.

When the magistrate arrived, he bent his ear to the grave,

listened for a moment, and said, "Ah, yes, that's Mozart's Ninth Symphony,

being played backwards."

He listened a while longer, and said, "There's the Eighth Symphony,

And it's backwards, too. Most puzzling."

So the magistrate kept listening; "There's the Seventh... the

Sixth...the Fifth..." Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned 

on the magistrate; he stood up and announced to the crowd that had gathered in the

cemetery. "My fellow citizens, there's nothing to worry about. It's just Mozart decomposing."







The 2-Day Diabetes Diet: What to Eat to Lose Weight 

For folks with diabetes, losing even just a few pounds is an effective way to control blood sugar—or reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place. In the new Reader's Digestbook, The 2-Day Diabetes Diet, learn how dieting just two days a week can blast fat and balance blood sugar.

Learn more »





14 Healthy Home Remedies in Your Spice Rack

Find out which herbs and spices help naturally cure acne, constipation, canker sores, dandruff, and more with these tips and recipes from the book Joey Green's Magic Health Remedies.

See all the spices »












Wrinkle Remedies

Many turn to Botox, but do you know how long it really lasts?
Take Quiz ›









Prize Winning Pumpkin Pie Recipe


INGREDIENTS

  1. 19″ unbaked pie shell
  2. 2eggs
  3. 1 (19 ounce)canpumpkin pie filling
  4. 1 (12 ounce)cancondensed milk
  5. 2teaspoonscinnamon
  6. 1teaspoonnutmeg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 355 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and pour into shell.
  4. Bake 50-60 min’s until set.
  5. Cool on counter for 1 hr, then refrigerate.
  6. Top with Cool Whip.
  7. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.










In general, 41 percent of people say they'd want to know the date on which they will die, if they had the opportunity to find out. But among those who say that if a person dislikes them, it's generally because they know their true character all too well, 65 percent would want to know the date on which they will die.

Based on a survey of 94 people who say that if a person dislikes them, it's generally because they know their true character all too well and 372 people total.









Here's What One Woman Thinks Is The Worst Thing We Do To Girls. Many Women Will Agree With Her.

It's OK To Not Understand These Pictures. Our Brains Weren't Built To Handle Them.

If Immigrants Terrify You, Then Here's 3 Simple Facts To Calm Your Frightened Brain









Well, he was already there.








Crime Spree.













That’s a good deal.








The Easy Way

Ludwig Schlekat bought a bank with its own money. Over the course of 17 years, starting in 1936, he embezzled $600,000 from the Parnassus National Bank of New Kensington, Pa. Then he invented two fictional investors and arranged for them to buy the bank and make him president.

In his new position he earned $800 a month, four times the salary he’d been getting as a teller. He bought a $19,500 home, $13,000 in furnishings, and a $1,000 diamond for his wife. When regulators pounced on these he resisted, saying they’d been bought with earned rather than stolen money. He went to jail for 10 years.








In a Word


periscii
n. the inhabitants of the polar circles: so called because in summer their shadows revolve around them


antiscians
n. people who live on the same meridian but on opposite sides of the equator, so that their shadows at noon fall in opposite directions


perioeci
n. people who live at the same latitude but on opposite meridians, so that noon for one is midnight for the other







Possession

Image: Wikimedia Commons

When in very good spirits he would jest in a delightful manner. This took the form of deliberately absurd or extravagant remarks uttered in a tone, and with a mien, of affected seriousness. On one walk he ‘gave’ to me each tree that we passed, with the reservation that I was not to cut it down or do anything to it, or prevent the previous owners from doing anything to it: with those reservations it was henceforth mine. Once when we were walking across Jesus Green at night, he pointed at Cassiopeia and said that it was a ‘W’ and that it meantWittgenstein. I said that I thought it was an ‘M’ written upside down and that it meant Malcolm. He gravely assured me that I was wrong.

– Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, 1958









Special Thanks

Botanist George B. Hinton named the plant species Salvia leninae Epling after a saddle mule, Lenina, who had helped him to gather more than 150,000 specimens in the mountains of western Mexico.

He wrote, “What is more deserving of commemoration than the dignity of long and faithful service to science, even though it be somewhat unwitting — or even unwilling?”






The economics of menstruation and the short-sighted reductionism of capitalism


In science, there’s data, and there’s interpretation. It’s really easy to collect data (usually), but interpretation is the hard part — it requires an understanding of context and theory, and an appreciation of the real complexity of the problem. It’s tempting to simplify all your models — the spherical cow problem — but you also have to justify the reduction in complexity to show that it is reasonable. And that’s where some papers blow a hole in their foot. This is particularly a problem when the interpretation of the science is used to argue for policy changes.

Here’s a paper that’s a beautiful example of the split. The data is pretty and clever, the interpretation is shit…and that it goes on to question how to deal with the issue is the toxic icing on top. It’s about women’s menstruation, and how it effects their performance on the job.

This is the first part of the abstract. I don’t disagree with this at all.

In most Western countries illness-related absenteeism is higher among female workers than among male workers. Using the personnel dataset of a large Italian bank, we show that the probability of an absence due to illness increases for females, relative to males, approximately 28 days after a previous illness. This difference disappears for workers age 45 or older. We interpret this as evidence that the menstrual cycle raises female absenteeism. Absences with a 28-day cycle explain a significant fraction of the male-female absenteeism gap.

The interesting exercise in the paper was to see if they could mathematically identify a pattern in the absences. They had a very large data set — the payroll data for 2,965 women and 11,892 men who worked at an Italian bank — and they carried out some simple statistical operations that are familiar to me. I’ve done something similar before; I collected data on the positions of neurons in the spinal cord, and asked whether there was a repeating pattern in their distribution, and whether it was the same distance seen in the pattern of segmental muscle boundaries (it was). This is the same problem! Cool!

So they just asked if there were any periodic regularities in the aggregate absences all of the women working at the bank — not whether there was any synchrony in the absences, but whether if, for example, person A had an absence on her record on one date, what was the likelihood that she’d have another absence at some interval later? When you plot out the data, the signal jumps out at you: women are more likely to have repeating absences at 28 day intervals.

Note that this plot is of women’s absences relative to men’s — this is necessary because I’m sure there were other periodicities in the data that weren’t shown. For instance, the likelihood of someone taking a day off on Friday is higher than taking a day off on Wednesday, because we all like our 3-day weekends, so there ought to be a 7-day periodicity in the chart. But those absences are going to be roughly equally frequent for men or women, so by subtracting the two you get just the differential signal.

The results are totally unsurprising. Many women experience debilitating migraines or nausea at the onset of menstruation, so of course you’re going to see that biological regularity expressed in behavior. The work also found that there was a disappearance of the regularity in post-menopausal women, exactly as expected — it does not address the fact that many women regulate their menstrual cycle with birth control, but then, that information wasn’t in the data set. The authors should be emphasizing that their procedure detected a statistically consistent variation that does not apply to all women; you cannot assess one woman’s performance by pointing to the aggregate data for 3,000 women.

But they do fall for a fallacy. The authors seem to be sucked down into a whirlpool of narrow-mindedness by the prettiness of their numbers. Here’s the rest of their abstract, where they try to interpret their findings, and that’s where I have problems with the paper.

To investigate the effect of absenteeism on earnings, we use a simple signaling model in which employers cannot directly observe workers’ productivity, and therefore use observable characteristics – including absenteeism – to set wages. Since men are absent from work because of health and shirking reasons, while women face an additional exogenous source of health shocks due to menstruation, the signal extraction based on absenteeism is more informative about shirking for males than for females. Consistent with the predictions of the model, we find that the relationship between earnings and absenteeism is more negative for males than for females. Furthermore, this difference declines with seniority, as employers learn more about their workers’ true productivity. Finally, we calculate the earnings cost for women associated with menstruation. We find that higher absenteeism induced by the 28-day cycle explains 11.8 percent of the earnings gender differential.

You should have been put on high alert by the phrase “simple signaling model”. They’re going to argue that wages and promotions are set rationally, by impartial observers looking at just a few simply quantifiable characteristics, like absenteeism. Has anyone in the history of humankind ever worked at a job like that? Punch in, punch out, zoom, you’re climbing the ladder of success and no one ever looks at your work…or the color of your skin or the kind of genitals you keep in your pants…and all decisions might as well be made by a computer.

It’s an excellent example of being blinkered by an over-simplified theory. I don’t trust their “simple signaling model” at all — it’s only virtue is that they can plug numbers into pages of mathematical formulae in their paper. But if it doesn’t accurately describe how wages are set, what good is it?

Their own data has massive differences that they cannot account for with their equations either. Notice that they have 4 times as many men as women in their data sample; why is that? Does banking have a demand for greater upper body strength? Is the ability to grow a beard, which most of them will shave off, some kind of qualification for accounting?

And there’s more. The authors say this about their data set:

Females are younger and slightly more educated, but have significantly more sick-days [In the US, men take on average 3 sick days/year; women take 5.2 --pzm]. They are also paid on average 20 percent less and are heavily under-represented in the managerial ranks.

This bank employs a quarter as many women, pays them 20% less, and doesn’t promote them to management…are we seriously going to look at the fact that they menstruate as a significant factor in those differences? Yeah, they are: they’re going to punch some numbers into their spreadsheets and announce that menstruation causes 11.8% of the discrimination…that it’s a rational decision based purely on numbers in their account books.

This is bullshit. It’s bullshit used to prop up odious arguments.

Our findings may have policy implications. Forcing employers, rather than women, to bear the monetary burden associated with menstruation may be counterproductive. Whether society should address this biological difference with a gender-based wage subsidy depends on voters’ tastes for redistribution. Clearly, this is not a case of market failure, and the rationale for the subsidy would be redistribution rather than efficiency. A gender-specific public subsidy financed out of general taxation would shift part of the costs of menstrual- related absenteeism from women to men.

That’s beancounting thinking. Of course society and employers should subsidize biology: their employees are all biological organisms! Are we going to argue that perhaps companies should not be required to pay to maintain restrooms in the workplace because every minute spent pooping is one minute not spent assembling widgets? How dare workers demand 40 hour work weeks, simply because their bodies demand nightly periods of sleep, and their brains require other activities to maintain their mental health? And don’t get me started on handicap access ramps and the need to maintain two kinds of restrooms or the whole ridiculous demands forlunch hours.

What this is is an argument that the standard for all employees is that they be an able-bodied man, and any difference from that represents a short-coming that should be penalized…and anyone who argues otherwise is promoting wealth “redistribution rather than efficiency”. And as we all know, jobs are not for people, but for the company, and our sole criterion for efficiency is what works best for the corporate management. Not the worker.

I think that’s the fundamental problem of this paper and many others like it. It looks at human beings as numbers in a spreadsheet, and assesses them statistically by their contribution to corporate “success”, as measured entirely by short-term profit to the shareholders and management. The perspective used to interpret the data skews the meaning. And when your perspective is entirely based on over-simplified models and a purpose that ignores values other than profit, you get demeaning garbage.

This paper was published by the US’s very own National Bureau of Economic Research. It is not some reactionary right-wing think tank — it has been summarized by Paul Krugman as:

The NBER is best described, I’d say, as the old-boy network of economics made flesh. There are a couple of NBER offices, but they’re small; what the organization mainly consists of is its associates and what they do. In many sub-fields of economics, just about anyone well-known in the profession is an NBER research associate (yes, me too); it’s normal for these associates to release new research as NBER working papers.

You can criticize the role the NBER plays, mainly because it privileges insiders. If you’re associated with the Bureau, you can get research out quickly in a place everyone will see, whereas if you aren’t in the magic circle, getting noticed can be much harder. I would say that economics blogs are starting to remedy this disparity, but there will never be a truly level playing field.

This is a problem, too. We aren’t talking about far right-wing tea party crazies here — this is a smug economic establishment trapped in a rigid capitalistic worldview that can’t see anything but tables of numbers. It’s a nice way to plod along, getting incremental improvements in “efficiency”, but it’s all going to hell when the people rise up and scramble all their equations with a more human reality.







Protest anti-Alckmin ends in turmoil in Sao Paulo

Movements gather 1500 people, according to PM; House is invaded, and in the Assembly, there was confrontation between protesters and Shock


An act called the Union of the Subway of Sao Paulo, with the support of Free Pass Movement (MPL), to protest the alleged cartel in bidding Metro and CPTM yesterday became a demonstration against the governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB). The protest ended in the early evening on confrontation and invasion of the House by a group of anarchists and students. Also there was uproar in the Legislative Assembly, acting Shock troops of police against protesters.

See also: 
 
See complete coverage of the protests on Wednesday in Sao Paulo 
 
In the Assembly, a political stage 
 
Alstom money spent on their case 'orange' 
 
Alckmin says it will sue Siemens but now has contracts 

Daniel Teixeira / AE

Protesters tried to storm the City of São Paulo during protest

About 1500 people attended the event organized by the Union of Subway in the center, according to the PM-2500 were in the version of the organizers. Although the subway maintain that the protest was not against the PSDB and the governor, the chorus "Outside, Alckmin" dominated the event.

PM The evening confirmed that three people were arrested - "for damages to property, contempt, advocacy of crime and possession of narcotic" - and five policemen were injured. Police did not report the number of injured protesters. In the Assembly, three people were treated at the clinic with injuries. The injured today promise to make police report at the police station of the House. The act at the Meeting is organized by the CUT, PT and popular movements calling for the impeachment of the governor Alckmin.

Already the event organized by the subway began to 15h Valley Anhangabaú. Followed by the state Department of Metropolitan Transport. In front of the building, a group set fire to a ratchet and a dummy representing a businessman transport. The protesters tried to deliver a letter to Secretary Jurandir Fernandes, but were greeted by the chief of staff.The letter calls for an end to corruption, the return of the embezzled money and the arrest of those involved in the alleged cartel.

Invasion. At the end of the act, ended in Cathedral Square, about 400 protesters went to the Chamber. Some threw stones and bombs in the building, shattering windows and injuring some policemen. Ahead of the group, anarchists forced entry, throwing objects and pushing crates. The PM has tightened security and used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Protesters broke dumps public and set fire to garbage bags. The Shock Troops was thrown.

About 40 protesters occupied the house, around 19h. There were few police in front of the building. Part of the group was allowed to enter, and raided other. Protesters had agendas varied as free passes for students, access to documents of the CPI Transport and nationalization of industry. They beat his mouth with the president of the house, José Américo (PT).

Councilman defined as a "stick horse politico-ideological" the fact that an act against a schema in Metro reach the town. José Américo pledged to make a public hearing next Thursday.

Other outbreaks. Uniformed police said, after the mess in front of the camera, smaller groups left the city. One of them, according to the PM, broke the windows of a bank branch in Avenida Liberdade. There was a protest at night in front of the MASP, no riots.

The demonstration in the center of the capital against the governor was pulled by leftist organizations that have joined the act, as youths and PSOL and PSTU Homeless Workers Movement (MTST). They carried banners against the toucan. "For 20 cents drop the rate. For U.S. $ 425 million overthrow the Alckmin "read one banner. The value is a reference to one of the estimates derived from the alleged overpricing cartel formation denounced by the German company Siemens.

Interpretations. "We agreed to make a fight against the mafia transport. People do understand that the governor is one of the leading figures of this process. I think this is correct, but it is not just him, "said the president of the Union of the Subway, Altino de Melo Pleasures. The MPL stated that "Outside, Alckmin" is not your agenda. "There's no point dropping governor. This will not change the logic of the transport system that privileges profit entrepreneurs and not the needs of users, "said Nina Cappello, representative of the movement. PT members who wanted to use the protest to wear Alckmin not attend. ARTUR RODRIGUES, ZANCHETTA DIEGO, FERNANDO GALLO, ISADORA PERON and PEDRO VENCESLAU








Why the rum is not gone

Step 1: acquire molasses

This drum is from a sugar mill close to where I live. Because this is raw, there is an extra step in making the mix. You can use whatever molasses is available at the store it does not need to be raw, and you probably won't need this much.

Step 2: Filtering the Molasses

We start off by slowly heating the molasses to 125°F and running it through a 25 micron filter.Keep in mind that you don't want to cook the molasses, just keep it in a more liquid state. CAUTION: IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD DO NOT TRY TO FILTER COLD OR ROOM TEMPERATURE MOLASSES.

Because the Molasses is raw, it still has a lot of chunks of sugar cane in it, if the cane pieces ferment, you end up with wood alchohol. That is not the kind of alcohol you want. If you're not using raw molasses, this step is not necessary unless you're into doing things for no reason.

Step 3: Cut the Product

The yeast will not survive in the pure molasses because of the sugar concentration, So we cut the mix with water to a specific gravity of 1.1-1.3. You want the sugar concentration to be high enough to allow the yeast to grow rapidly, but not too high that the sugar kills it.

Step 4: Growing the rum

Put ... put some yeast in it.

Step 5: Wait

This is (from left to right) Pepper, Rico, and Griffin. They agreed to be an example for this presentation of what waiting looks like. Fermentation is not an overnight process. We let our batches sit for about a week, other people go longer or shorter. Imagine a horde of zombies (the yeast) slowly destroying the human (sugar) population. It takes one bite at a time.

Several hours later

Bubbles are a good thing

a few days later

Step 6: the Still

Put the mix that has now fermented into whatever type of still you plan on using, and heat it up. Do this step in a well ventilated area,and don't smoke around it. Alcohol is flammable, and so is alcohol vapor.

Step 7:

We will usually run everything through the still twice. At this point, the rum is drinkable and there are no further steps that you must do. MAKE SURE TO NOT USE THE FIRST LITTLE BIT OF STUFF THAT YOU DISTILL. Maybe the first shot or so needs to not be used. Fermentation produces both ethanol and methanol ethanol = fun. methanol = death. Methanol boils at a lower temperature and will be one of the first things out of the still. Discard this garbage. If this saddens you because you're afraid of throwing out some of the good stuff, just remember better safe than sorry.

Honestly i forgot what this tool is called. Maybe a special hydrometer, alcohol-o-meter? whatever. It tells you how strong the rum is. 120 proof.

Step 7: Aging (optional)

The batch we made that night is currently sitting in a couple white oak casks. It's been a few weeks. The longest we've aged for is 1 year, but it's not a necessary stage and it's completely up to you depending on how you prefer your drank.

























I Forgot How to Dog












































 

Chicken Breasts in Caper Cream Sauce

By: MOMMYTO2BOYS


Dinner in 20 minutes? That weeknight dream is now a reality.


 

 

From Allrecipes Magazine!

 

As Seen In:

Awesome Pasta Salad

By: Irlandes


Fill this pasta salad with all your favorite ingredients.


 

Complete Your Meal

 

 

Easy Lemon Bars

So good, quick, and easy.

More Reviews!

 

Peas Supreme

We loved this side dish!

More Reviews!

 

Sundried Tomato Tapenade

This is hands-down our favorite.

More Reviews!









From Alyson Burgess, your About Pets Editor

Doing everything that you can to make sure that your pet stays safe is your responsibility as a pet owner. Use the tips and hints in the articles featured below for help making sure that your pet is safe in your home, and that you've done everything within your power to reduce his or her risk of accidents and injury.


Open Windows - Protecting Your Pet from Falls 

Open windows can pose a significant hazard to your pet's health. Learn how to make sure that your pet stays safe in this helpful article.

Search Related Topics:  hot weather safety  high rise syndrome  cats falling from windows

Top 10 Household Dangers to Pet Birds 

Do you know all the things in your home that could pose a hazard to your bird? Chances are that you don't -- and what you will find out in this article may surprise you!

Search Related Topics:  bird safety tips  common household toxins and pet birds  illness in birds

Is Grounding an Aquarium Necessary? 

Aquariums typically combine the use of electricity with water, which can be dangerous indeed. Read on to discover more about how to protect yourself and your wet pets from shocks and other hazards.

Search Related Topics:  changing water  water testing  lighting

Plants Poisonous to Puppies 

Houseplants can add a beautiful touch to any room, but some can pose serious hazards to young puppies. Learn which ones to avoid in this insightful read.

Search Related Topics:  poison  first aid  poison plants








Where Did the Term "86" Come From?


IMAGE CREDIT: 

THINKSTOCK/ERIN MCCARTHY

We’ve all heard someone used the term “86” in reference to doing away with something. There are a few schools of thought behind where the saying came from. Some have more legs than others—such as those of the restaurant industry—but to this day, there is still no official etymology. Here are a few possibilities.

Feel strongly about one of these theories or have another we didn’t mention? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

RESTAURANT LINGO

Regardless of whether it was the first to coin the phrase, the restaurant business in the 1930s was one of the main incubators for its usage and development. Believed to be slang for the word “nix,” it was initially used as a way of saying that the kitchen was out of something, as revealed in Walter Winchell’s 1933 newspaper column that featured a “glossary of soda-fountain lingo” used in restaurants during that time, according to Snopes. It later evolved into a code that restaurants and bars used when they wanted to cut someone off, because they were either rude, broke, or drunk, as in “86 that chump at the end of the bar.”

PROHIBITION ERA RAIDS

This possible origin stems from the Prohibition era at a bar called Chumley’s located at 86 Bedford Street in New York City. To survive, many speakeasies had the police on somewhat of a payroll so that they might be warned of a raid. In the case of Chumley’s, it is said that police would call and tell the bartender to 86 his customers, which meant that 1) a raid was about to happen and 2) that they should all exit via the 86 Bedford door while the police would approach at the entrance on Pamela Court.

TAKE OUT THE TRASH, U.S. NAVY STYLE

Another plausible explanation for the saying is brought you by the U.S. Navy’s Allowance Type (AT) coding system that was used to identify and classify the status of inventory. The code AT-6 was assigned to inventory that was designated for disposal, specifically after World War II as the Navy decommissioned many of its warships and went through the process of cleaning out its storerooms where they kept spare parts. During this process, any parts that were labeled AT-6 were considered trash and thrown out. It is easy to see phonetically how this could result in the term “86” and the idea of throwing something away to become synonymous.  

CALM DOWN, COWBOY

Up until the 1980s, whiskey came in 100 or 86 proof. When a bartender noticed that a patron had drank too much of the 100 proof, they would scale back and serve them the 86 proof.According to some theories, in bar lingo, that person would have been “86’d.”  

EIGHT FEET LONG, SIX FEET UNDER

Perhaps the birth of this phrase occurred in death? The last time you can be “86’d” might be when they put you under the ground, as most standard graves are eight feet long and six feet deep. 





From Franny Syufy, your Guide to Cats

Although most of my readers are sighted, a time-saving cat care routine benefits all of us. Today's feature article provides just that: highly recommended reading.


How many of us can say, "My cat saved my life?" Coming next week, review of a book by a man with the living, purring truth. Until then, hold tight to your own purr-fur pals.

Connect With Franny:
Facebook | Twitter | Google + | Free Newsletters


How to Care for Cats You Can't See 

Mario Mannea loves cats, and may be one of those folks with a "Sucker sign" over his door in language visible only cats. Even if it were visible to humans, Mario wouldn't see it, as he has been completely blind since 2003. He put his skills as a former software engineer to use by developing a plan of organized care for his cats - a plan which he now shares with other blind readers. In my opinion, Mario's tips are littered with gems of advice for all cat caregivers.

Mario also shared a thought in one of his emails, that I think describes the kind of man he is:

"It is my personal conviction that, God created man as a steward and care giver of his creation and, for this purpose he is well made. Why then have we made such a mess of things? The problem is self, and our tendency towards self seeking. These people who have taken in special need cats, have demonstrated that there is something greater than self, and ultimately, far more edifying to the spirit."

I like this selfless man very much, and I suspect you will too, after reading his advice.
Photo Credit: © Lydia

Search Related Topics:  essential supplies for cats 

How can I cat-proof my electrical wiring? 

Question: My new kitten is fairly interested in the wires behind my TV and connected to my computer (these are all connected to the same surge protector.) I am very concerned about this. I planned on getting a little squirt gun for potential problems, but I can't squirt her when she is getting into the wires, for obvious reasons. How can I cat-proof these wires? Please help me, I don't want to come home from work to find a zapped kitty! I will unplug these when I leave the house, until I hear back from you.

Read this article for my reply.

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Should Your College Roomie be a Cat? 

Depending on your location, college will be starting soon, and students might be thinking about companionship. Would a cat be a good roomie? There are lots of considerations to think about first.

My first consideration is always for the cats. A college cat needs the same responsible care you would give your family cats at home: nutritious food, fresh water, a clean litter box, veterinary care, toys, and attention. With a full course schedule, a social life, perhaps a part-time job, you simply may not have the time left for the kinds of attention a cat needs. In that case, volunteering for a shelter would be a win-win solution. You would get your needed "cat fix," and the shelter cats would benefit from your attention and care. Think about it.

Search Related Topics:  adopting a cat  responsible ownership  vaccinations for cats

Cat Picture of the Week: Westin 

Westin may not have lived to be our second Cat of the Week for August, 2013, were it not for the fact that someone cared enough to rescue him from a high-kill shelter when he was just a tiny kitten.


photo © Kathleen Bergeron

As it was, Westin had to be hand-fed for the first two weeks he was home, before he could eat kitten food. Today, as you can see, he is a healthy, active cat, thanks to the excellent care he is given. Among the several pieces of advice Kathleen offers is one that all of us should remember: "Be as patient with your cat as you are with yourself."

Search Related Topics:  domestic cats  shelter cat adoption  kitten food






3 Ways to Cook Eggs

If you’re just eating them for breakfast, you’re missing out. Try one of these delish and healthy recipes for dinner tonight.
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How Tall Will Your Kids Be?

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From Amanda Rock, your About Parenting Editor

Scrolling through my Facebook feed and reading the different status updates, I've noticed two different states of mind. About half of the folks are very routine-oriented, with updates that reflect the humdrum of their day-to-day activities. The other half -- well, lets just say that it's evident that their kids are still out on summer vacation from school.


Great Outdoor Games for Kids 

We have a little less than a month before my kids have to board that big yellow bus, and we've been trying to make the most of every moment. Lately, one of our favorite things to do has been to head outside after dinner and play one of these games as a family.

Search Related Topics:  outdoor play toys  outdoor fun  outdoor games

Fun Nature Activities 

Even though we plant a garden every year, this was the first year that my four-year-old was really able to understand and enjoy it. Because of his enthusiasm, we've been trying some of these other family-friendly nature activities.

Search Related Topics:  nature activities for kids  gardening with kids  family activities

Everyday Summer Activities 

As much I like to imagine summer to be filled with idyllic days where my family is always happy and gets along, we definitely have our "I'm bored!" moments. That's why I keep this list of activities from Laureen handy at all times.

Search Related Topics:  kids activities  summer fun  summer vacation

Planning a Kid-Friendly Vacation 

Want summer to go out with a bang? How about a vacation? Jennifer's got some great tips for trips that everyone will enjoy.

Search Related Topics:  traveling with kids  family vacations  summer fun

 







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The Truth About Tea

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General overviews, photos and lesson plans:

[1962: Friendship 7]
"Within about twenty minutes after he had soard aloft, Lieut. Col. John H. Glenn Jr. apparently had his first snack in space. The Mercury control center here reported that he dipped into his space food at 10:09 as he passed the tracking station at Kano, Nigeria. He squeezed the food out of special tubes, resembling oversized tubes of toothpaste. His two-course meal consisted of a beef-vegetable mixture and applesauce. His squeeze food was semisolid, which means it was pretty much like baby food, but with adult seasoning and sugar added. While in orbit, Colonel Glenn was weightless. He would have floated in his spacecraft if not strapped down. Food as ordinarily served would take wings, also. So would any crumbs he might spill. So his meal was packed inside special aluminum tubes developed by American Can Company container scientists. The tubes have caps, with metal seals inside the neck. Colonel Glenn removed the cap, and screwed on a special nozzle. This broke the seal. He put the nozzle in his mouth, through an opening in his helmet, and squeezed away. The contents could not pop out under reduced pressure in the space capsule, say company scientists. With the flexible tube and nozzle, Colonel Glenn did not run into the exasperation of 'ketchup bottleneck,' they added. For astronauts, the company has prepared tubes of beef-vegetables, chicken-noodle, veal, applesauce, peaches, and a fruit concentrate. After dinner, the food tube can be crumpled into a small pack, taking care of garbage disposal or space littering."
---"Glenn Had Space Snack by Tube; Food Squeezed Via Helmet Hole," New York Times, February 21, 1962 (p. 24)

[1963: space food news & notes]
"A suburban research firm is working on tissue-culture techniques which it hopes might enable space travelers to grow one meal from the scraps of a preceding one, and so on and on. The ulitimate result of the experiments conceivably could be production of food times such as tomatoes without leaves, stems or roots and steaks of controlled weight, shape and tenderness without frwoing an animal. Melpar, Inc, an aerospace firm in Falls Church, has been carrying on company-sponsored research for two years. The firm's president, Paul Ritt, said some 'very modest results' have been obtained in Melpar laboratories, but estimated it might be three or four years before the experiments succeed on a significant scale. The process requires a solution of nutrients containing the more thna 90 substances that nature provides to growing organisms. A sample of the tissue--a piece of steak for example--is placed in this culture. Under strict conditions of light, temperature and sterility control, the tissue grows. The tissue culture first became known publicly in the late 1940s, when a Nobel Prize was awared to a team growing monkey tissue culture for polio vaccine applications. Melpar scientist hope the equipment they are developing will make large scale production possible. They said the automatic culture of tissue could be applied to: 1. Space feeding--a never-ending compact supply of vegetables, fruit and meat. The space traveler would leave a small portion of his meal in the culture equipment so that it could grow back. 2. Medicine--new horizons for mass production of vaccines, serums, individually-batched skin, corneas and other tissue."
---"Way Sought to Grow Food From Leftovers," Associated Press, The Washington Post, January 29, 1963 (p. A9)
[NOTES: (1) The Nobel Prize for 
regenerating animal tissue was awarded in 1954. (2) We find no print evidence, or patents, confirming this project became a reality.]

"On any long journey into unchartered areas, explorers naturally plan their food rations carefully. For their part, U.S. scientists favor precooked, dehydrated foods, just like the Army K rations of World War II.Admundsen's success in taking along extra food in useful form has given one scientist, Grumman Aircraft's Sidney A. Schwartz, 36, and idea: he thinks space capsules could be built, at least in part, out of edible stuff. Psychocologist Schwartz, who helped develop the Navy chow for Antarctica's Operation DeepFreeze in 1956, worked out a recipe on paper and shopped in a Bethpage, N.Y. supermart for $5 worth of groceries-flour, corn starch, powdered milk, banana flakes, and hominy grits. After mixing the ingredients he baked them in a hydraulic press at 400 degrees Fahrenheit under 3,000-pound pressure. The result: a grainy brown slab as tough as tempered Masonite that could be cut on a bandsaw without splintering or drilled for bolts and screws. Aboard a spaceship, he says, it could be used as lightweight, inexpensive (10 cents a pound) cabinets, shelves, and panels. But how does it taste? Too hard to be eaten as is, the food has to be pulverized with a tiny grinder. After it is soaked for a few hours in water, says Schwartz, 'it tastes like breakfast cereal toped with bananas. I rather like it.'"
---"Astronaut's Breakfast," Newsweek, April 15, 1963 (p. 63)

[1963: Faith 7]
"The nation's longest manned space flight ended last night in near perfection when Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper splashed down into the Pacific Ocean 31 hours, 20 minutes and 30 seconds after launching....several of the experiments performed by Maj Cooper in his flight are aimed directly at aimed at the Gemini project...the cubes of concentrated food consumed by Maj Cooper in space ate the foods that are planned for Gemini pilots during their long days in space."
---"Cooper Lands Faith 7 in Pacific," Wall Street Journal, May 17, 1963 (p. 2)

[1964: preparing foods for Gemini missions]
"Eating conventionally from a plate with a knife and fork is out of the question in space...An astronaut drinking coffee from a cup would never get the liquid to his lips, the coffee would dance in the air in front of him as he tipped the cup. When Scott Carpenter tried to eat cookies on his flight, the crumbs stayed behind to float in front of his face like so many large particles of dust. Serving foods is just one of the problems scientists arnd astronauts encounter when dealing with gravity-less weightless space. Rich desserts, spiced foods and many other 'high residue' foods will be taboo because of the problems of getting rid of waste materials and the need to conserve storage space by use of the least bulky objects possible. Carbonated beverages and other gas producing foods and drinks will be left on earth. Gasses expand in the stoamch at low pressure high altitude, causing stomach pains. Instead, the astronaut's diet will be low residue combination of 17% protein, 51% carbohydrate and 32% fat. Sausage patties, grapefruit juice nad apricot pudding are some of the things future spacemen will eat. The form of space foods will be anyting but traditional, however. Packaging now is done in polyethelene bags which contain dehydrated or freeze-dried products. These can be stored at room temperature for months without damage and a package the size of a small envelope provides a mea. Dehydrated foods will be reconstituted with water before being eaten...The technical problems of preparing and serving food in an atmosphere where all objects float is compounded by the normal earthy need for a balanced diet with a certain amount of bulk...Only a few years ago scientists believed man might not be able to swallow and digest food without the aid of gravity. Food in pill form was suggested, but soon rejected because of the need for bulk and the psychological need to eat. Experiments with food in stree situations show that eating alleviates stress and that not being abloe to eat or eating unfamiliar foods compounds stress. A squeeze tube apparatus inserted in the astronaut's mouth was used on early flights but discarded because of its bulkiness. The tubes couldn't be thrown out because they would travel right along with the ship, maintaining the same rate of speed. And garbage won't be rocketed back to earth because of the great expense. When the less bulky polyethelene bgs were developed, problems of storing them became evident. Now they are made with a Velcro tab on the side which will attach to a matching piece of Velcro on the walls of the space ship...To eat, astronauts will sit strapped in chairs side by side with a water source between them. After inserting the nozzle in one end of a dehydrated food package, they'll wait for the food to be reconsituted and then eat from the other end of the bag. Containers with only one opening were used on previous flights but astronauts had problems keeping the water in the bag after removing the nozzle ...On the two-week Gemini flight astronauts will have a 2,500 calorie a day diet in four meals. Although the crew hasn't yet been chosen, astronauts know approximately what the crew will eat. The proposed menu for days 1, 5, 9, and 13 is: Meal A:: Sugar frosted flakes, sausage patties, toast squares and orange-grapefruit juice Meal B: Tuna salad, cheese sandwiches, apricot pudding and grape juice Meals C: Beef pot roast, carrots in cream sauce, toasted bread cubes, pineapple cubes and tea Meal D: Potato soup, chicken bits, toast squares, applesauce, brownies and grapefruit juice. This Gemini menu is only the beginning. The field of space feeding is unlimited. When interplanetary travel is as pedestrian as freeway traffic, meals in space may be as common--and basic--as tonight's family dinner." 
---"Out in Space Table Manners Up for Grabs," Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1964 (p. D18)

[1965: Gemini 4]
"Majors James A. McDivitt and Edward H. White 2d are trying to settle down to a relatively normal life in space--eating, sleeping and working. But they are having some problems. Both astronauts have toothbrushes, packaged with their first meals, but they have no toothpaste. Why? 'The problems is, where do you spit?' explained a Whirlpool Corporation spokesman. Whirlpool was charged with the responsibility of developing the food, personal hygiene and waste management system for project Gemini, and it had to use quite a bit of imagination to deal with the problems. In the case of food, Whirlpool had to develop palatable meals amounting to about 2,500 calories a day that the astronauts coudl store and eat in space. The foods had to use a minimum amount of space, to be compatible with cecompression and to be storable for long periods without spoiling. Also they had to be packaged so the astronauts could get to the food, eat it, and then ge rid of the uneaten portion without making a mess of the tiny cockpit. Dealing with the storage problem was relatively easy because most foods are between 50 and 99 per cent water. By dehydrating the foods, their volume was substantially reduced. The lack of water also prevents any bacterial action that could produce spoilage. About half the foods on the menu have to be reconstituted with water. The foods are contained in plastic airtight envelopes with one-way valves. To rehydrate the food, the astronaut inserts a devise that looks like a water pistol. By squeezing the trigger, the astronaut injects water into the food envelope. Once the water is inside, the astronaut kneads the food and water until it achieves the proper consistency. When he is ready to eat, the astronaut cuts into the plastic envelope and removes a plastic funnel-like tube. He places the tue in his mouth and squeezes the food out. Having eaten, the astronaut drops a small tablet into the food envelope and seals it. This tablet reactivates the refuse chemically so that it does not rot and develop noxious gases. Some of the foods, such as bacon-and-egg bites, red cubes, or cheese cubes, do not have to be reconstituted. But these have to be prevented from making crumbs that can float around the cockpit. The cubes are all bite-sized, so the astronaut can chew with his mouth closed. As a further safeguard against crumbs, which were a problem in some Project Mercury flights, all the cubes are coated with a starch called Amylomaize, which holds in the crumbs. The individual foods are packed in a flour-ply plastic that performs a variety of functions. The innermost layer is a good-grade polyethylene that is compatible with food. The second layer is a nylon film to givce the package burst and kneading strength. The third layer is a fluorocarbon film called Aclar, which prevents the passage of oxygen and water. And the outside layer is another polyethylene that gives heat-sealability to the envelope. At the end of the meal, the astronauts may brush their teeth--without toothpaste. They are also provided with two sticks of commercial chewing gum with each meal and a small 4-by-4-inch rayon towel that has been impregated with an antibacterial substance used in commercial baby preparations."
---"Food is Problem for Astronauts," Frederic C. Appel, New York Times, June 6, 1965 (p. 70)

"The Army Natick Laboratories at Natick, Mass. produced 40 types of food for the four-day trip, ranging from bite-size brownies to butterscotch pudding, shrimp salad, and spaghetti. White's favorite food is the shrimp cocktail while McDivitt favors beef pot roast."
---"'Made in New England' On Many Products in Gemini," Bennington Banner [VT], June 4, 1965 (p. 2)

[1965: Gemini 7]

"Astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell practically were gourmets at mealtime, compared to their cube-eating Gemini 5 predecessors. Beef pot roast, shrimp cocktail and banana puding were a few of the delicacies brightening up the two-week Gemini 7 space menu, replacing such clinical fare as strawberry cereal cubes, peanut cubes and several other kinds of cubes. Borman and Lovell each used about a quart of water per day in converting their food from assorted multicolored pumps and powders into quite palatable meals. Almost two-thirds of the dishes (not including beverages) consumed by Gemnini 5 Astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad however, were in the form of cubes, squares or 'bites.' Only the beverage list remained roughly the same as it was--orange juice, grapefruit juice, orange-grapefruit juice, and back to orange juice again. There was only one newcomer, cocoa, which was on the breakfast menu three times during the flight. The idea for the kinds of 'space chow' came from the U.S. Army's Natick Laboratories here, which knew next to nothing when it started, about the effects of nutrition and appetite of the long stays in space. As the Gemini program progresses, the astronauts' diet is beginning to look and taste more and more like earthling food. For really long missions, such as the 30-day flight of the Air Force's manned Orbiting Laboratory, now set for 1968, familiar and varied food will become increasingly imporant. Still, the space recipes remember nothing 'like mother used to make.' Besides the spaghetti and chicken and gravy, there still are items such as 'bacon and egg bites' and one curiosity called a 'pea bar.'"
---"Gemini 7 Duo Ate Like Gourmets," Tucson Daily Citizen [AZ], December 15, 1965 (p. 43)

[1966: Planning for Apollo: space food advances]
"Feeding a man in space is a surprisingly complex problem, For the relatively short Gemini flights the problems are not critical; for longer Apollo or even interplanetary flights they will be, and planning has already started. Since the nutrient requirements for a man on earth are not completely known, and are completely unknown for a man in space, it is considered practical for space missions to use natural foods. In addition, some scientists believe meals during long space flights could provide a memory link to more pleasant situations. Reaching the decision for natural food posed the problem of the form of the food should take to best suit it for space flight. In the first place, storage space was severly limited. Up to Apollo, not even hot water can be supplied for food preparation--much less a stove or oven. Other space hardware limitations are that the food must stand temperatures up to 136 degrees F., 100 percent relative humidity, and launch acceleration, vibration and noise without spoiling, decomposing or crumbling. Space program food experts finally hit upon a two-product approach to the problem: foods were to be either dehydrated for later reconstitution or made into bite-size solids. This plan would take up minimum space. Scientists figured a cubic food would tore enough dehydrated food for a man for two weeks. Freeze-drying, a relatively new technique that retains much of the natural texture and flavor of food by drawing off moisture through vacuum rather than heat, is a most satisfactory process to perpare dehydrated items. This method is used to prepare half of the food items in the space diet. These foods are sealed in transparent film packs with plastic mouth tubes. No astronaut is kept waiting for his main course more than ten minutes. Freeze-dehydrated foods are required to reconstituted (rehydrate) within ten minutes after adding water--and at the 80 degree F. Gemini cabin temperature. The bite-size and naturally dry solids were included in the space diet to supplement the main fare of reconstituted, dehydrated meals. They add taste and textural variations, as well as vital calories, but they also present special problems. Crumbling under launch pressures and unappetizing surface greasiness from vacuum packaging are hazards. Edible coatings for fruitcake, brownies, and gingerbread have been tried to recude crumbling, preserve freshness and eliminate stickiness. Drinks are usually synthetic and almost all food is cut into bits small enought ot be squeezed through a plastic mouth tube."
---"What do astronauts eat in space?" Science Digest, June, 1966 (p. 82-83)

"A dinner including clam chowder, Alaskan king crab, turkey vegetables and salad topped off with ice cream smothered with strawberries... That's the menu the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning for our astronauts when they tak off to the moon and other spots around the solar system. About 100 foods may be added to the astronauts' present 80-item menu, two food technologists at the Army's Natick, Mass., laboratories said at a meeting of the Army Chemical Society. In addition to that king crab and turkey the list of goodies includes chocolate chip cookies, tapioca and apple pie, said Dr. Edward E. Anderson and Arthur W. Anil. But it isn't quite as mouthwatering as it sounds. Drs. Anderson and Anil are more concerned about the food's weight and the amount of room it occupies in the space craft than they are with appearances or flavors. The food comes in squares, flat cakes and tubes in a wild set of off-beat colors and as for taste--well, the astronauts may crab about the crab. The astronauts' meals can be reduced to one-tenth their natural size and the which more than halved. I sampled an astronaut's lunch--cheese sandwich, fruit cake, peaches and ice cream. The cheese sandwich was crunchy and chewy, but not too cheesey. The fruit cake was unrecognizable. The peaches came in an orange flat cake. But it did not taste peachy. But that ice cream! It required a full set of teeth and tasted like concentrated malted milk capsules. The food miniaturization is made possible, Dr. Anderson said, by the development of a new family of special food coatings. Clear and colorless, the coatings glue the food together into bit-size chunks an astronaut can pop into his mouth in one gulp. The coating eliminates crumbs and stickiness which are problems in confirmned space ship cabins. Wrapped in light-weight plastic bags, the food can be preserved two years or longer. The squeezed-down rations provide 2,700 calories a day, just the right amount for a moon-bound astronaut who isn't getting much exercise. In constrast, a combat soldier gets 3,600 calories. The expanded NASA menu will allow the astronauts to be more choosy about the food they take into space. NASA caters to their tastes when specific requests are made. Gemini 4 astonauts, James McDivitt and Ed White, for instance, asked for a fish-free diet. And got it."
---"Food for Astronauts Not Mouth-Watering," Albequerque Tribune [NM], September 14, 1966 (p. C-5)

[1968: Apollo 7]
"Food on the Apollo 7 spacecraft still does not match home cooking, but it comes a lot closer than space food used to. Even at that, the astronauts reported, 'The beef stew tends to be very crumbly.' Space cuisine has come a long way since the early Mercury flights, when the astronauts had to content themselves with viscous substances squeezed into the mouth like toothpaste. Because Apollo has both hot and cold running water, packaged chunks of dried beef stew can be prepared and served hot. The Apollo 7 command pilot, Capt. Walter M. Schirra Jr., took some coffee on the flight and reported it was somewhat difficult to prepare but pleasing to the palate. Todat's menu for Captain Schirra, who insisted on bringing the coffee on the flight, was spaghetti and meat sauce, tuna salad, banana and chocolate pudding. Walter Cunningham's menu consisted of beef sandwiches, beef and vegetable soup, and barbecued beef bites."
---"No Place for Gourmets," New York Times, October 13, 1968 (p. 74)

How much did it cost?
"It costs $600 a day to feed the Apollo 7 astronauts. Thirty-three meals were aboard the spaceship when it took off yesterday, three meals a day for each of the thee astronauts for the planned 11-day mission. The high cost results form the necessity for developing dehydratable food and crumble-proof bite-size snacks."
---"$600 a Day for Food," New York Times, October 13, 1968 (p. 74)

What did the astonauts think about their food?
"Though the Apollo 7 astronauts decided on their menus before they left, they complained today that they had brought too much food and that it was too sweet. Walter Cunningham reported that they were filled before they finished every bite. He sauid he personally thought there were too many sweets included. The meals, however, were all based on the astronauts' personal preferences. Each day, the meals run about 2,300 calories. The breakfast of Capt. Walter M. Schirra Jr., of the Navy, today included fruit cocktail, cinnamon toast and cocoa, while his dinner menu was chicken salad, gingerbread and grapefruit drink. Maj. Donn F. Eislele, of the Air Force, had sausage patties, apricot cereal cubes and cocoa for brekfast. His lunch included pot roast, Canadian bacon and apple sauce, sugar cookies and butterscotch pudding. For breakfast, Mr. Cunningham had orange drink, plus fruit cocktail and cinnamon toast. His lunch was corn chowder, barbaqued [sic] beef bites, cinnamon toast, chocolate pudding and an orange-grapefruit drink. For dinner, the menu was cinnamon toast, as well as chicken salad, beef sandwiches, pineapple fruitcake and an orange-grapefruit drink. The foods the astronauts eat are freeze-dried or bite size. These are rehydrated by adding cold or hot water with a hand-held water fun, so that the astronauts can reconsitute their meals by mixing them in a plastic bag or by taking a bite and then a drink of water."
---"Astronauts Assert Thneir Food Is Too Plentiful and Too Sweet," New York Times, October 14, 1968 (p. 39)

[1969: Apollo 10]
"Man may not live by bread alone, but to an astronaut on his way to the moon a simple slice of rye can stir enough joy to feed his psyche as well as his stomach...It is the first time that Apollo astronauts have carried fresh bread in their larder or eaten real sandwiches while in spaceflight. According to their first food critique, the Apollo 10 crew seems pleased as punch. In general, astronauts complain about food aboard the spacecraft, said Dr. Malcolm Smith, chief of food nutrition for the Apollo program. 'But when you ask them specifically what it is they don't like...all they can say is 'it's atrocious'' As the man in charge of Apollo menus, Dr. Smith said he has been working hard on ways to appease the astronauts' palates. 'They're not fussy eaters...like most men, they'll eat what you put in front of them.' Col Thomas P. Stafford and Comdrs. John W. Young and Eugene A. Cernan will have a few things in front of them this week that previous astronauts could only dream about. For one thing, each man will consume one 'wet pack' meal a day. These meals have been aboard on previous spaceflights, but not un such quantity. First offered aboard the Apollo 8 mission to the moon last December, a wet pack meal is regulary, undehydrated food-- beef and potatoes, ham and potatoes and turkey and gravy--that is wrapped in aluminum foil. Bread has not been officially sanctioned in space before...because it tends to crumble and go stale on conact with the spacecraft's initially high oxygen atmosphere. Commander Young, in fact, proved this point when he smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard his 1965 Gemini 3 flight and found it had turned to the texture of cron meal. Crumbs, it is said, litered his space capsule. But if bread is first flushed with nitrogen...it will keep fresh in a space capsule for two weeks. Right now a good supply of plain white and party rye bread is open the way to the moon to be eaten with tuna fish salad and chicken salad spreads...The Apollo 10 crew is also the first to sup from new 'spoon-bowl' packages. In the early days of the space program it was feared that food, if exposed to a weightless environment, would float messily into the air. Experience has taught, however, that only greasy foods, like barbecue sauce, have the tendency to crawl the sides of their containers...A new package, therefore, has been designed to permit the men to eat with spoons from their plastic bags after the contents have been rehydrated. Equipped with a zipper-like top, the new bags mean that astronauts will no longer hae to sip their suppers through a straw. And it means they will find bigger chunks of meat in their rations. Dr. Smith described another edible innovation aboard the current Apollo mission--five new freeze-dried recipes. It is hoped that the freeze-drying process...will improve the taste of the food. It will still have to be reconstituted with water, but might be more flavor-faithfyl than conventionally dried foods. The new meals are chicken with rice, chicken stew, beef stew, meat and spaghetti and pork with scalloped potatoes."
---"Real Sandwiches Please Spacemen," Sandra Blakelee, New York Times, May 21, 1969 (p. 20)

"Here are the highlights scheduled for Saturday and Sunday for the Apollo 10 astronauts...7:02 a.m.--Breakfast of fruit cocktail, cereal, bacon squares and grapefruit drink...3:15 p.m. Lunch of potato soup, chicken and vegetables, tuna salad, pineapple fruitcake and orange drink.... 9:49 p.m. Dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce, hame and potatoes, banana pudding and pineapple-grapefruit drink...8:19 a.m. Breakfast of peaches, bacon squares, strawberry cubes, cocoa and orange drink...12:49 p.m. Lunch of potato soup, pork and scalloped potatoes, applesauce and orange drink...5:49 p.m. Dinner of shrimp cocktail, chicken stew, turkey bites, date fruitcake and oragne-grapefruit juice."
---"Final Stages of Apollo Flight," Northwest Arkansas Times [Fayettefille AR], May 24, 1969 (p. 9

[1969: Apollo 11]

What did were the first meals eaten on the moon?
"When Apollo 11 astronauts land on the moon, they will be eating tasty, nutritious and varied meals supplied to NASA by the Life Support Division of the Twin Cities' Whirlpool Corporation. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin will spend about 24 hours on moon and the rest periods, they will eat two meals there. Their first scheduled meal to be eaten on the moon will consist of bacon squares, peaches, sugar cookie cubes, pineapple grapefruit drink and coffee. The second meal will contain beef stew, cream of chicken soup, date fruitcake, grape punch and orange drink. In addition to the meals, other snack items such as dried fruit, candy, extra beverages, wet packs, sandwich spread, and bread will be included. The food items are similar to the food used in previous Apollo missions: freeze-dried bite-size foods, those eaten directly from the package; and rehydratable freeze-dried foods, those foods which need to be reconstituted with water before eating. Astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins will eat in the command module according to pre-planned menus and will also have pantry items which they can select at will. The meals are referred to as Meal A, B or C and are identified to each astronauts predetermined menu by means of a colored tab of 'velcro' material. 'Velcro' is a nylon hooked materials which mates to a similar textured material on the spacecraft wall. Besides identifying the food, it acts as a holding device which keeps the food packs from floating in space. Unlike other missions, Apollo 11 will carry pre-planned menus for only the first five days of the flight. For the duration of the flight, the astronauts may select individual food items from a pantry. Pantry items are foods which are not assmebled by menus but meremly packaged in categories such as Desserts, Beverages, Breakfast Items, Bite-size Cubes and Salads and Meats. The pantry system enables the astronauts to selected at random whatever food item they desire. Other pantry items include: Rehydratable dessert items: banana pudding, butterscotch pudding, applesauce and chocolate pudding. Rehydradtable beverages: orange drink, orange grapefruit drink, pineapple fruticake, jellied fruitcake, jellied fruit candy and caramel candy. Breakfast items: peaches, fruit cocktail, canadian bacon, bacon squares, sausage patties, sugar coated corn flakes, strawberry cubes, cinnamon toasted bread cubes, apricot cereal cubes and peanut cubes. Salads and meats: salmon salad, tuna salad, cream of chicken soup, shrimp cocktail, spaghetti and meat sauce, beef pot roast, beef and vegetables, chicken and rice, chicken stew, beef stew and pork and scalloped potatoes."
---"Whirlpool Announces Lunar Fare: Local Industry Prepared Food for Apollo 11," News-Palladium [Benton Harbor MI], June 30, 1969 (p. 3)

How much did this food cost & how did it taste?
"It's not home cooking by a long shot, but it tastes surprisingly good. And at the prices, it should taste good. The food budget per day for each astronaut ranges from $150 to $300, with every bit custom-designed to appeal to the spacemen's appetites. Mary V. Klicks, a ration design specialist at NLABS, saus the most important criteria in designing space food is that the austronauts eat and like what they consume. On Apollo 11, hot dogs and other familar dinners will be eaten with a spoon from an open package despite the zero gravity environment. Familiar foods that are aesthetically pleasing, says Mrs. Klicks, are an important part of developing space foods. She says the luxury of being able to eat with a spoon gives the astronauts an extra psychological lift at meal times. But dehydrated and freeze dried food, compressed into bite-size squares, are the main part of the space menu. Some require the addition of water, such as the shrimp cocktail wile others are reconstituted by the moisture in the astronaut's mouth, and require no preparation. Although not as tasty and attractive as the 'moist-packet' dinners eaten with a spoon the dried food offers the same nutritional value and extra convenience."
---"Menus made more appetizing for Apollo 11 space flight," News and Tribune [Jefferson City MO], July 20, 1969 (p. 5)

What did the food look like?
Photos & food notes, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

[1970: Soyuz 9 & 1971: Soyuz 10]
"Yuri Gagarin, the world's first cosmonaut took aboard his space ship food pastes in tubes and minced products. He appreciated both types of food. Recounting his impressions ahe noted that the process of consumption in outer space differed in no special way from that on Earth. During subsequent flights the spaceship menu included sandwiches and their fresh foods. Naturally, this improved the nutitional ration but the longer the flight, the harder it was to preserve the food products. The spacemen's men was next supplemented with so-called sublimated products--tinned goods dehydrateed when heated in a vacuum from a frozen state. Since their volume and weight is diminutive, they can be preserved for any length of time. These are the favorable aspects. But these cublimated products have their faults. The customary form of a dish, its aroma and consistency play no small role in a person's perception and consumption of it. For instance, sublimated meat is grey in color. Dehydrated food, if eaten without its restored moisture crumbles in the mouth and is therefore hard to chew and swallow. In future sublimated foods will obviously be used during lengthy space flights. Special systems for regenerating drinking water, and devices in which a normal moisture will be restored to sublimated foods before eating, will then be installed on board the spaechip. The menu on the Soyuz-9 was highly appreciated by its crew. It was composed for Andryian Nikolayev and Vitaly Sevastyoanov with an eye to their tastes. They are tinned foods prepared the usual way, but with a decreased content of moisture. Their rations included milk and sweets, dried fruits, juices and dried fish. In was by their special request that Vobla (dried fish) was made a fixture in their daily menus. Here is the menu of one of the days during the crews of Soyez-10 was in outer space: Breakfast Chopped bacon (or a choice of veal liver pate, or minced sausage), Borodinsky black bread, Coffee and milk, Candied fruit Lunch Creme of cottage cheese and black current puree, Honey cookies Dinner Vobla (smoked fish), Kharcho (spiced meat and rice soup), Chicken (or ham or meat pate), Brown bread, Prunes and nuts Supper Meat puree, Borodinsky bread, Tinned Rossisky cheese. As we see, the menu was varied enough. But it did not exhaust the stores of food on board the spaceship. To this list should be added sorrel and cabbage soups, wieners, steak, pork and puree or wild fowl, sweet meats and chocolate. The spacemen were also obliged to take polyvitamin pills containing vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E twice a day. When composing these rations, Soviet specialists take into account the biological value of the foods, their taste and aesthetic appearance. Therefore, serious attention is paid to their wrappings. Part of the food is contained in metal boxes, and confectionary and some other foods in polymer film. Tinned meats, whose food value is practically identical, contain protein, little fat and an even smaller amount of other ingredients. They are sufficently juicy, but have no brine which is dangerous in weighlessness, since it cam form a 'raincloud' in the ship's cabin. The spacemen use cupronickel spoons and forks. True, the often have to violate etiquette and 'tame' the floating food with their hands. For purposes of hygiene, dry and moist napkins are included in the table set. Food waste, wrappings and used napkins are put away in hermetic 'bags.' Tidiness is the primary condition on board a spaceship. Any crumb or speck appearing in the atmosphere of the cabin can affect the spaceman's respirator system or damage an instrument."
---"The Soviet Space Man's Menu," Vasily Dupik, Space World, December 1971 (p. 42-43)

"The Soviet astronauts aboard the orbiting Salyut space laboratory took a bread from their routine today, and two of them raised tubes of prune paste to toast the 38th birthday of Viktor I. Patsayev, the craft's test engineer...The fare aboard the Salyut according to Tass, included tubes of cottage cheese, juices and pastes and cans of veal, sugared fruit, nuts and prunes. Tubes are used for liquids because of the weightless atmosphere, which makes it difficult to 'drink' anything. 'Vladislav Volkov presented me with an onion, and Georgi Dobrovolsky with a lemon. They had brought their presents from earth and had kept silent about them, wanting to surprise me. I especially enjoyed the onion.'" 
---"Birthday Party is Held in Space," New York Times, June 20, 1971 (p. 29)

"The meals eaten in orbit by the crews of the early Soviet spaceships, Vostok 1 and Vostok 2 [1961]when the possibilities of human diet in a state of weightlessness were still unknown, consisted of purees in aluminum tubes, and bite-size read rolls wrapped in polymer film At that time these were considered the only space foods. They were used during the subsequent flights of Vostok and Voskhod spaceships.The Soviet canning industry manufactures more than 30 products in tubes. Soviet scientists propose replacing the aluminum tubes with special polymer packets adapted for space conditions. The packets will be used not only for preserved foods but also to warp various dehydrated dishes and beverages. The powders or briquettes can easily e dissolved in war or cold water. At first there was not rigid requirements as to the weight and volume of the meals provided for spaceship crews. In the flights of short duration (up to five days) the food supply was laid in just before launching and the diet included natural foods freshly prepared by ordinary culinary methods. Later, a daily intake of about 2,600 calories had to be supplied for the crews of multi-seat spacecraft, which necessitates restricting the weight and volume of the provisions. This being the case, none of the products formerly used (except those in tubes) could be employed. Various methods of preservation and new types of packaging were investigated. All the known industrial methods of food processing were tested: deep freezing, sublimational and thermal dehydration, hot and cold sterilization, and dry-curing. The outcome was a range of products which were subjected to psychological tests after having been passed by a special commission of tasters. Simultaneously a search was made for methods of processing and packaging meat products so that their quality remained as close as possible to that of freshly-cooked foods. The most acceptable sizes, processing methods and recipes for all dry foods in briquettes were determined. Sublimational dehydrated biscuits and meat were prepared in the shape of briquettes and rectangular pieces measuring .8 inch by .8 inch. The briquettes and rectangular pieces were made into portions of 4 X 1.5 inches. Natural foods were given the same shape. To prevent crumbs, these pieces were wrapped in an edible film made from a gelatin base. A devise for warming food in tubes was installed in the Soyuz 9 spacecraft [1970], and the cosmonauts had hot soups and drinks. The diet of Andrain Nikolayev and Vitali Sevastyanov while in orbit was based on a three-day menu consisting of four daily meals: breakfast, lunch, diner and supper, with a symmetrical distribution of foodstuffs and calories in the first two and last two meals. The dimensions of the Soyuz 9 provided more space for storing provisions, thus there was a wider choice of products for the cosmonauts. There was a variety of preserved foods in aluminum tubes and tins. The considerably larger assortment made it possible to take the personal tastes of the crew members into account while maintaining the food value of the diet as a whole. Soups in tubes (beet soul, cabbage soup and tomato rice soup) were warmed up and used for the first time; ham, luncheon meat, minced pork with egg and pastes were added to the list of meat preserves There were several types of rye bread and also honeycakes. Sweets are popular among the cosmonauts. Heat-resistant chocolate, chocolate bonbons with nuts and various types of cookies have been included in the diet. They are all made bite-size in polymer film. The diet includes dry-cured river fish, prunes, prunes with nuts, dry sponge cake, cream with glucose and other foods.Soviet scientists believe that during long flights it may prove profitable to base the feeding system on the reproduction or synthesis of food directly in the spaceships and the aid of special installations, instead of on stocks of provisions. However, they feel certain that food stocks will always account for a part of the diet of spacemen."Space World, November, 1974 (p. 40)

[1971: Apollo 15]
"Mercury and Gemini pilots used to say 'ugh' when they dined in space. But Apollo astronauts say 'mmm' and reach in the pantry for more. Space foods have come a long way from the applesauce John Glenn squeezed from a toothpaste-type tube on America's first orbital mission in 1962. On the Apollo 15, scheduled for launch to the moon today, astronauts David R. Scott, James B. Irwin and Alfred M. Worden will have a variety of food, which includes soem new items like beef steak, mushroom soup and hamburgers. Scott and Irwin plan a breakfast of steak and scrambled eggs before they strike out on each of their three moon driving explorations. Rita Rapp, a food specialist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said, 'I like to feed them what they like, because I want them healthy and happy. The steak is very, very good, and the men like it...It is cooked with natural juices. The only disadvantage is that it is all cooked the same way. There is no choice of rare, medium or well done.' She explained that the meat had to be thoroughly cooked to avoid bacteria that could spread in weightless space. She also said the astronauts had to eat the steak cold, and that they probalby would eat it as a sandwich. The hamburgers are prepared the same way. Another new food for Scott and Irwin is fruit sticks that fit inside their space helmets at mouth level. If they get hungry while prowling the moon's surface, they just take a bite. The astronauts now use spoons to dine on turkey, pot roast, meat balls, scrambled eggs and other dinners which are reconstituted with hot water. Also aboard are bread and various sandwich spreads and puddings and fruits in zip-top cans. Irwin will have his favorite soups aboard, thanks to the help of his friends, Carl and Vita Hinshaw of Lake Wales, Fla. Hinshaw is a plane salesman and owner of Chalet Suzanne Foods...specializing in courmet soups. 'Jim particularly likes romaine sopup, one moy mother has been serving for over 40 years...Jim also is fond of the crab mushroom soup.' Irwin asked Miss Rapp if she could figure out how he coudl take some of the soup along. She said they worked out a method of freeze-drying the soup and placing it in heavy plasctic containers. The soup can be reconstituted with water."
---"Heavenly Fare in the Pantry For Moon Crew," Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1971 (p. A1)

[1972: Apollo 16]
"The astronauts are eating potassium-enriched foods on the moon to prevent irregular heart rhythms--but that doesn't mean they have to like it. John W. Young summed it up a few words on the moon just how intolerable some of the stuff was. His special peeve is a potassium-enriched orange drink made for him. Young didn't realize that his microphone to Charles M. Duke was open, and that every word could be heard in Mission Control and around the world. He complained first that, 'I got (gas on the stomach) again...I haven't eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years.'...Actually, space food has come a long way over the years. The bacon cube...was a long stride forward in dining out aloft. But it is sort of of old fashioned now and better things have been devised. A dismal failure, on the other hand, was the strawberry cube. The day the Apollo 16 astronauts lifted of from Cape Kennedy...they ate a potassium-enriched breakfast that had been frozen several weeks earlier and then thawed. It consisted...of a 'rubbery omelet' and a steak that required a consistent and long chewing process to get down. The eggs for the omelet were specially selected, because no two eggs have the same amount of potassium. Two had to be found that had the correct total amount. And the amount of potassium in an egg depends on what the hen eats before laying it...Food has definately come a long way, and [David] Scott's wife once told this story about it: She said that when her husband was on the Apollo 9 flight in 1969, the astronauts all agreed after the eighth day that the food tasted pretty much alike because 'you can't have anything hot and you don't have anything cold. David said they felt kind of bad, so they took all the food that was left and dumped it in a big bag and fished around to find something they liked toward the end of the flight.' By the time Scott flew again in Apollo 15 last July, the menu had changed and Mrs. Scott said the astronauts cleaned up everything on th ship...the strawberry cube was 'perfectly formulated and perfectly designed, engineering-wise and nutritionally.' But there was a difficulty. One cube was all an astronaut could stomach. Now the space agency gives them away to important visitors as souvernir, encased in plastic."
---"Young Finds Potassium Too Rich in Burps," Nicholas C. Chriss, Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1972 (p. J12)

[1973: Skylab]
"Although a spacecraft is not likely to rate three stars in the Guide Michelin in the near future, mealtime in space is definitely improving. Aboard Skylab, the orbiting laboratory slated to be launched in 1973, astronauts will eat with forks and spoons from trays in a designated dining area. The tableware, trays and dining area will all be first in space. The food will be homelike and ample, as a typical dinner menu for Skylab indicates-turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, peaches, cookies, and coffee. The meal will not excite Julia Child or M.F. K. Fisher, particularly when you consider that every item will be either frozen, canned or freeze-dried, but the fare on Skylab will be a big improvement over what was available on early space missions. In those pioneering days astronauts simply squirted food into their mouths from tubes. Later, food cubes or squares augmented the squeeze tubes. Practically all the food was dehydrated by freeze-drying to reduce bulk. Cubes and squeeze tubes were used on early space flights because under zero-gravity condition as objects to funny things. If you're eating a spoonful of peas, for example, you have to move the spoon to your mouth in one smooth motion. If you stop you hand for some reason, the peas keep right on traveling-individually. (On Skylab peas will be in a sauce designed to hold them together.) Liquids ball up into one big square or a lot of little spheres. The favorite food on the early Apollo flights was the bacon square. 'Happiness was an extra bacon square,' says Dr. Malcom Smith, chief of food and nutrition for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The astrounauts may have gobbled up this item, but they left a lot of other food untouched. Strawberry cubes, for example. Although perfectly formulated and designed form an engineering and nutritional standpoint, the strawberry cubes--in fact, most of the cube foods--simply failed to please the astronauts after a few days in space. NASA had so many strawberry cubes left over that officials passed them out as souveniers at a recent press conferenence. For the journalists, the strawberry cubes were somewhat unappetizingly sealed in blocks of lucite. Dissatisfaction with available cuisine undoubtedly resulted in weight loss among astronauts, although part of the loss was probably due to the 'full feeling' that astronauts claim accompanies weightlessness. Luckily for the space program, this 'full feeling' seems to wear off on a few days. The average weight loss per man on U.S. space missions has been about three to four pounds, with some men losing as many as ten pounds. It should be remembered. however, that missions.) to date have been fairly short. (The longest at this writing was that of Apollo 15, which lasted two weeks.) By Apollo 15, space foods have been improved considerably, and the astronauts at almost all the food available. Their favorite--space sandwiches with real, nondehydrated bread. Despite the marked improvement on space food, NASA planners face much larger problems with Skylab than with past missions. Skylab will serve as a habitat for one mission of twenty-eight days and two missionms of fifty-six days each. And studies indicate that after even a short time in a confined habitat, the most motivated crewmen begin to grow bored and mildy depressed. Aboard Tektite, for example, an experimential underseas habitat in which several NASA researchers were confined, aquanauts made out lists of what they missed most. Items one, two and thre were, respectively, family, sex and creative activities. Item four was milk and ice cream. Item five was fresh fruits and vegetables. Alcohol was seventh, and tobacco ranked fourteenth. NASA psychologist Charles C. Kubokawa, who participated in one Tektite mission--on which most of the food was frozen--reports that after eight days of frozen fare the aquanauts began skipping breakfast and lunch. The snacked periodically during the day until dinner. According to Kubokawa, the big problem is monotony. Even a bottle of soy sauce he brought along didn't help. Wine, he believes, definitely would have '101 per cent.' Harry H. Watters, another NASA observer on Tektite, claims that the impact of frozen fare would have been more favorable if the aquanauts had been able to select all of their own food. When the crewmen chose their own food, he noted, they complained less. The astronauts aboard Skylab will select all of their own food, but the selection process itself creates problems. Skylab, like all space missions, is planned long in advance, and the crews will have to select their menus some eighteen months before launch date. As one NASA official put it, 'Can you imagine what you'd like to eat on a Tuesday in 1973?' On Skylab the astronauts will take food from a storage compartment, fit the containers into trays, and carry the trays to the dining area. There each astronaut will latch his tray onto one of three pedestals, then throw a switch to heat the foods that require it. Freeze-dried items require different treatment. Using a special water gun, the astronauts will inject plastic bags of dehydrated foods with water according to to directions on the bqags and then knead the contents to the right consistency. The type of food planned for a space mission--frozen, canned, or freeze-dreied--has much to do with the vehicle's water supply. Aboard the Apollo flights and the space shuttle scheduled for the late 1970s, water is plentiful--a by-product of the fuel cells that generate the spacecrafts' electricity...Obviously freeze-dried foods are desirable for these missions, since they have little bulk and weight and because water is plentiful. Electricity for Skylab, however, is to be produced by solar batteries. All the water for Skylab will have to be launched from earth, so the advantages of freeze-dried foods are greatly diminished. As a result, on Skylab the food will primarily be frozen or canned. In confined habitats snacking has proved to be one of the most popular pastimes. In fact, one four-man crew in a space simulation at 800 chocolate bars in ninety datys. As a recult, candy bars, dried fruit, and cookies are scheduled to be part of the larder of Skylab and the space shuttle. Ice cream has also proved to be a popular favorite. Aboard Skylab, equipped to handle frozen foods, ice cream will be no problem, but the situation different for the proposed space shuttle. Becuase of power requirements, the shuttle will not be ables to carry frozen foods. However, NASA seems to have the problem solved. The solution--rehydratable ice cream. Just add cold water. It should be said that space food is not cheap, although it is cheaper than it used ot be. It will cost about $75 per day to feed each astronaut on Skylab, compared with $142-$190 er day for Apollo crewmen and a staggering $300 per day for each Gemini astronaut. Interestingly, only a small part of the cost is the food itself, which is often donated by the manufacturers. Inspection, controls, packaging, design, and other operations account for most of the expense. Still, as Dr. Malcolm Smith of NASA says, 'If you put a ten-cent meal on Skylab that messes up a multimillion-dollar program, you'd feel awfully bad.' There is much talk today about international cooperation in space and, in fact, space missions with internatikonal crew. Imagine what might be on the menu then: freeze-dried sweet and sour pork? f rozen paella? canned cavier? Bon Appetit."
---"Eating in Space: It's no picnic up there," Barbara Ford, Saturday Review, May 13, 1972 (p. 52-54)

[1985: Space Shuttle Discovery]
"Remember the bad old days of space travel, when astronauts had to subsits on pastelike food sucked from toothpast tubes, graham crackers squashed into cubes and insipid little dried-beef sandwiches they had to rehydrate with their saliva? Well, all that has changed. During the next missoin...th crew of the space shuttle Discovery will be consumoing comparatively normal dishes such as green beans with mushrooms and meatballs with barbecue sauce...Much of the food is bought right off the shelf in groceries in the Houston area and freeze-dried or repackaged. All the space traveler has to do now is float over to the gally, squirt six ounces of water into a food pack, heat and serve. What has made this possible is the realization that socentists' initial apprehensions--particularly the belief that weightlessness would make it difficult to chew and swallow food--were groundless and that space travel requires no special diet. Astronauts require only safe, nutrtious fare that is easy to prepare. Indeed, 12 hours before each flight the shuttle is laded with fresh bananas, oranges, peaches, carrots, celery, bread and the like for the first few days. Since the orbiter has no refrigerator, the astronauts rely on packaged foods later in the flight. 'We ry to use as much commercially available food as we can,' said Rita Rapp, manager of the shuttle's food system, who has been with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration since 1961 and who worked on meals for the Apollo probram in 1966, 'For years the crew have been saying they want to eat everyday things from the grocery store. It just shows thagt people like what they are familiar with...The current crew might be eating breakfast rolls from Sara Lee, diced pineapple form Del Monte, chocolate instant breakfast from Carnation or M&M peanuts from Mars. Inc. They can also spice things up with taco cause, ketchup, barbecue sauce and other condiments, which come in the familair cellophane packets offered by fast-food outlets. One of the main lessons learned in more than two decades of space flight is that the body requires much the same nutrition intake 195 nautical miles above the earth as on its survace. The menu provides normal recommended dialy allowances of protein, vitamins, calcium, phosophorous and other essentials. Because of the energy astronauts expend, even in a weightless environonment, they must also maintain their normal caloric intake to preseve body weight. At the same time improvements in toilet facilities have ended the need for the low-residue diet imosed on early space travelers; the shuttle crew can eat fibrous items such as bran flakes and granola for breakfast. The menus consist of five basic food types: Thermostabilized--A fancy term for canned. Many off-the-shelf canned goods such as tuna and chocolate pudding are used... Intermediate moisture--Low-moisture foods such as dried peaches or apricots, packed in plastic. Rehydratable--Prepared foods from which water has been removed by freeze-drying or sublimation, or dried foods such as cereals...Natural form--Fresh foods, eggs, cookies, bread and the like. Beverages== Powdered apple, grape and other drinks, including--still--that space pioneer, Tang. The rehydratable foods require the most processing at NASA. Dishes such as cauliflower with cheese, diced chicken and scrambled eggs are prepared and cooked first, usually in batches of 200 servings. Then they are placed on shelves in a freeze driedr, wehre the moisture is sucked out; they are canned for later use. (In some cases ordinary commercial freeze-dried food made for packpakers is used.)...The meals cost about $50 a day for each crew member, the cost of the food itself being trivial compared with the processing and testing. Breakfast and lunch coat about $12.50 each and dinner $25. As for the taste, Col Robert L. Stewart, the specialist who, on the Feburary 1984 mission, maneuvered in space using a jet pack, said, 'it was very good--the dehydrated vegetables certainly tasted as good a frozen vegetables from the store.' He said the dehydrated shrimp cocktail and most of the irradated foods, particularly the beefsteak. No one liked the broccoli...'but then we weren't broccoli eaters on the ground.' The colonel said he did not fancy powdered eggs either, so he mixed it with taco sauce. According to Colonel Stewart, space flight did not affect appetites but seemed to affect the taste buds. 'On the ground we liked the sweet fruit juices, such as mango...In orbit we generally found them too sweet.'...For every mission the food staff recommends a combination of dishes, rotating through different foods every seven days, with the menus repeating after the first week. Crew members are not obliged to follow the schedule...and several do not. Some eat regular meals at regular intervals; others prefer to snack. After astronauts complained about the set menusl, a 'pantry' with extra items was added. Special reuqests are honored if possible...Miss Rapp will not say which one--who asked for trail mix. Thus far no special meals have been provided for religious or medical reasons...On board, meal preparations takes 30 to 60 minutes...The galley, installed on the middeck of the shuttle cabin, resembles galleys aboard commercial airliners. The meal packages are removed from storage and those that require rehydration are placed in a rack. Crew members dial the proper number of ounces of water required and push in the rack, automatically puncturing the seals and injecting the water. Then items are placed in a convection oven above for heating to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. That is not enough to permit real cooking, not that shuttle crews have time for such diversions. On the prolonged space flights expected in the future, NASA officials anticipate that some astronauts will want to cook as a form of recreation...administrators are considering cooking facilities in space vehicles so that a future space traveler, hit with the urge for a medium-rare steak and baked potato, could have just that."
---"Dining a la Carte in the Space Shuttle, With a Choice of Entrees," Robert Reinhold, New York Times, January 16, 1985 (p. C1)

[2004: International Space Station]
"Cutting calories in space is more aobut sorting food packets than eating a little less and saving the rest for later. In space, there are no leftovers. On Thursday, NASA officials asked the two astronauts aboard the International Space Station to stretch their food supplies until a cargo ship arrives in a couple of weeks with fresh groceries. But this does not mean strict dieting or listening to the rumble of hungry stomachs, a NASA doctor said Friday. 'The astronauts can eat less and still be well within the margins of nutritional adequacy'...Dr. Roden said the astronauts, who remain healthy, could make minor adjustments to reduce their normal intake of 3,000 calories by about 10 percent...While 3,000 calories daily might seem high, it is the amount an active athlete would eat and is necessary to compensate for life in space...Each astronaut exercises two hours a day on a treadmill or cycle device to protect bones and muscles from the deletrious effects of weightlessness...Last week the astronauts got new menus, which they use as guidelines for selecting food from the station stores...The prepackaged food items cannot be reused or saved after opening...For example, a lunch on Dr. Chiao's menu included tomato soup, beef stroganoff, chicken teriyaki, broccoli au gratin, corn, shortbread cookies and green tiea. Cutting out the chicken would reduce the meal's calories and still leave the astronaut with plenty to eat...Before being assigned to station duty, each astronaut selects favorite foods and the station normally stocks both American and Russian itesm. Colonel Sharipov's menus include borsht with meat and jellied pike perch, as well as waffles and chicken fajitas. Dr. Chiao has selected tofu with hoisin sauce and pickled cucumbers, along with beef brisket and cheese grits."
---"Doctor Offers Assurances that Astronauts Won't Go Hungry," Warren E. Leary, New York Times, December 11, 2004 (p. A12)

[2006: space food news & notes]
"The first rule about cooking in space for astonauts is don't make anything that crumbles. No one wants to chase a crumb around a space station. Although most people rarely consider what the three people who live on the International Space Station are going to have for dinner, food scientists in Houston spend their days worrying like fussy mothers over what their astonauts eat. More than 400 people have shot into space since 1961, and none have eaten better than the astronauts in the space staions, said Vickie Kloeris, who has been with the space food program for 21 years. 'We have so much more variety...You're going to have a fair number of meat-and-potatoes guys, but we've been incorporating more ethnic food.' A French chef has also gotten into the space food game, working on some canned meals expected to debut in the fall. It is the first time the European Union is contributing to a space menu jointly supplied by Russia and the United States. The new French food will not be on the space shuttle Atlantis...The shuttle, which is largely filled with construction material to expand the space station, will carry a limited cache of food for the station astronauts, including kiwis, oranges, and nectarines. And the shuttle astronauts might donate some of their flour tortillas, if they have any left over. Tortillas are useful in space because they can turn \ anything into a sandwich and do not produce crumbs or mold as easily as bread. When a crew had been stuck in space for six months, a fresh tortilla or the curnch of an apple cam make all the difference in their mood...One trick the NASA food scientists use to keep the astronauts happy is to add lots of tang and spice ot the menu. (And that's not Tang, the powderdered- drink mix.)... In space, the sense of smell is dulled. Weightlessness makes fluid shift from the lower torso to the upper, clogging nasal passages. And an atmosphere without gravity, fed only by filtered, recirculated air, does funny things to odors. Eating out of the cans and plastic pouches stocked in the space station pantry also limits the olfactory pleasures that hot food brings. After a few months of that, a bottle of Tabasco or a raw garlic clove can be heaven. 'We crave anything with a nice, sharp flavor,' Colonel McArthur said. He speaks with the precision of a restaurant critic when he describes his favorite space food dish, dehydrated shrimp cocktail. Medium shrimp coated in sauce are plumped with a spurt of water injected into a plastic pouch, which is massaged to mix the ingredients...Salt and pepper can help...but they are in liquid form; Grains of salt and pepper in microgravity could clog equipment or become lodged in an astronaut's nose or eye. Even a fresh tomato, which the Russian ofent take when it is their turn to resupply the space station, can cause problems. Instead of bigitn right into one the crew has to slice it carefully...Unlike many Americans, the astronauts eat almost all their meals together at a common table. Of course, they are note sitting. They are floating. They use a toehold to stay in place, and attach bottles of ketchup and utensils to the table with straps and Velcro. They use forks and spoons, but the food has to be moist enough to stick together. The astronauts use two heating systems for food, one Russian, one American. The American syustemj is largely based on hot water and plastic pouches. The Russian one uses cans fo food that are heated in compartmetnhs inset into the galley. But everyone shares food. Colonel McArthur developed a taste for the Russain's lamb stew, and he likes the pulp juice they supply. The Americans srealized that the Russians want soup every day, so they included more soup in the communal pantry...Sometimes, when the shuttles resupply the station, the astronauts get special treats. On the shuttle Discovery mission last month, it was food developed by Emeril Lagasse, the New Orleans chef and Food Network star. The NASA public affairs office contacted the chef 18 months ago to aks him to make a morale-boosting call to the astronauts. Mr. Lagasse's team...countered with the idea of creating a spicy culinary diversion. Mr. Lagasse developed five recpes that the NASA kitchen then turned into freeze-dried packets, each about the size of a deck of cards...Fruit pandowdy had to lose the curst (the crumb issue), and rum extract had to be used instead of real rum in the bread pudding because alcohol is not allowed in space. The three space station astronauts on Expedition 13--a Russian, a German and an American--tried the food this month, giving Mr. Lagasse their critiques directly in a live satelite chat... The kicked-up mashed potatoes with bacon were a hit as was the jambalaya. Back on earth, Ms. Kloeris, who manages the space station food system, said NASA was not seeking out more chefs to get into the space food business and was not likely to keep a steady supply of Mr. Lagasse's food shooting into space. But the green beans with garlic he helped develop may be adapted for future flights...New Orleans jambalaya is certainly a long way from the gelatin-coated food cubes and aluminum tubes of applesauce that sustained the first Gemini astronauts. Things started to improve with the Apollo missions, the first on which food was rehydrated with hot water. When Ms. Kloeris came on board there was little in-house food development. The first shuttle menus used commercially available products that NASA cooked and freeze dried. It was a budgetary concession, she said. By the late 1980s, once it became clear that the space station would not be outfitted with refrigerators or freezers, NASA began developing its own food. More than 60 products have come out of Ms. Kloeris's kitchen. She is particualry proud of some of the warm desserts like a cobbler and a chocolate pudding cake. The astronauts on the shuttles, who are in space for 10 to 15 days, have to be content with store-bought candy and cookies. But astronauts orbiting for months needed something a little special to end their meals...Her latest challenge is how to prepare and package food for the planned expeditions to Mars. The food will need a five-year shelf life, because it will be shot into space before the actual diners are. The timeline is long because it takes six months to send the food up there, another six to get the astronauts up and six more to return them. The allowances have to made for the vagaries of weather and mechanical problems that could add more time."
---"Taking Humdrum Astronaut Food, and Kicking It Up a Notch," Kim Severson, New York Times, August 29, 2006 (p. F2)

[2013] Chris Hadfield, Space Chef in Chief/NPR Astronaut fruitcake, 2 ways
Space menus and recipes were developed by The US Army Laboratories, Natick Massachusetts. Of these, two fruitcake recipes were shared with the American public. The first version was introduced in 1968. The pineapple version, referenced in Apollo 10 & 11 food notes, was released in 1972.

[1968]
"Although the U.S. Army Natick Laboratories originally created this fruitcake recipe for space food for the astronauts, there is no reason why you can't prepare this simplified version for the youngsters at your house. Surely they will like the idea of eating the same delicious dessert the astronauts eat. Furthermore, you'll like all the energy power and nutrients packed into each scrumptious slice, right along with glace cherries, chopped pecans and Bordo imported dates. So bake this very special 'Astronaut Fruitcake' for your children this week, and stand by to receive a hearty 'A-OK!'

Astronaut Fruitcake
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 cups imported diced dates or whole pitted dates, cut up
1 cup glace cherries, quartered.
Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Place nuts, cherries, quartered dates, in a bowl and mix until pieces of fruit no longer stick together and nuts are well dispersed in the fruit mixture. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the fruit mixture, while mixing by hand. Beat eggs and vanilla until frothy. Add to the fruit mixture and mix until all ingredients are completely moistened. Generously grease bottoms of 4 1/2 X 9 1/2 inch loaf pans, and bake fruitcake in preheated 300 degree (F.) oven for two hours, or until firm. Store in airtight container."
---"'Astronaut Fruitcake' Great for Kids, Dad," Daily Telegram [Eau Claire WI], July 30, 1968 (p. 7)

[1972]
"The Apollo 17 astronauts kept munching on their own special fruitcake during man's last planned flight to and from the mon. You might want to put it on your Christmas surprise menu. At the request of the Associated Press, U.S. Army Laboratories of Natick, Mass., scaled down the recipe for 'Astronaut Fruitcake' and tested it for baking in home kitchens. The following recipe will yield about two pounds. It may be baked in ten 3-ounce sizes or in two 1-pound coffee cans.

The Recipe
2-3 cup cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons soy flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons shortening
1 extra large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 cup light raisins
1/2 cup halved candied cherries
1/3 cup candied pineapple in 1/2 inch dices
1 cup pecan pieces
Mix and sift together flours, salt, baking powder and spices. Set aside. Cream sugar and shortening together thoroughly. Add egg to creamed mixture and mix thoroughly. Blend in dry ingredients and water. Fold fruit and nuts into batter, mix until evenly distributed. To form each 3-ounce cakes, place 1/2 cup batter on 12-inch square of heavy duty foil, or a durable thickness of regular foil. Flatten batter to depth of 3/4 inch. Fold sides around the cake batter, then fold up edges of foil so batter is tightly wrapped and will not lose moisture during baking. Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees F. Allow to cool thoroughly--preferably overnight--before unwrapping and serving. Two 1-pound cakes may be made by placing half the batter in each of two 1-pound coffee cans. Cover top of can with foil and crimp edges to form seal. Bake upright in a pan of water in 300 degree F oven for 3 1/2 hours. Be sure the foil does not touch the water in the pan, as it may draw up water into the cake during the baking."
---"Moonmen's Fruitcake Recipe Given," Gettsyburg Times [PA], December 16, 1972 (p. 20)

Biosphere 2
In 1991 a crew of four men and four women hermetically sealed themselves into 
Biosphere 2, a two-year experiment of total sustainability sponsored by NASA. The facility is now owned by the University of Arizona where it serves as an educational scientific training facility.

We wondered (of course!) what did the Biospherans eat? These notes from The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2, Jane Poynter [Thunder's Mouth Press:New York] 2006 answered some of our questions.

"In many ways we had stepped back in time, rejecting the yield-maximizing techniques of the Green Revolution, which required petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. We could not use them because some are horribly toxic, and because we would not be able to make them inside the Biosphere, and would eventually have to import more, which went against the notion of our little world being self-sustaining. Instead, we fell back on the ancient techniques of organic framing that people practiced thousands of years ago in China and elsewhere. Like the ancients, we understood the importance of complete, unending cycles such as the sun's as it blazed across the sky. Solstices and equinoxes were our major holidays. Chinese farmers particularly understood the need for complete nutrient cycles, returning human 'night soil' to the fields. Our and our animal's waste returned to our fields via the marsh lagoon waste-recycling system and the compost machine, a grandiose term for a large hammer mill atop a holding tank...Also like the Chinese farmers, we divided our family-sized half-acre farm into small plots, eighteen in all, so we could rotate a wide variety of crops all year, according to the season and what we needed: more grain, more beans, more starch. One area...grew only vegetables. She produced lettuce, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplants, kale, onion, pak choi, snow peas, squash, shard, and tomatoes, from a nine-hundred-square-foot area...The Chinese long ago devised a synergistic rice paddy system...Swimming around the plants were tilapia fish, which live largely on small creatures growing in the paddies that would otherwise attack the rice. The fish also grazed on azolla, a small fern floating thickly on the water. The tilapia nosed around in the roots for food, thereby aerating the plants with oxygen, and they added nutrients to the water via their feces, thereby boosting rice productions. When we harvested the rice, we also harvested fish dinners! The rice paddy-fish system used the natural structure of ecosystems to increase farmland productivity, as did the tropical orchard. banana, papaya, and guava formed the upper canopy, and shade-loving...taro absorbed the remaining photons below. Sometimes chickens roamed the orchard, eating insects living in the leaf litter...From the viewpoint of a NASA life support system, the Biosphere 2 Intensive Agriculture Biome was a closed-loop, bio-regenerative, nonpolluting, self-sustaining, intensive agriculture system." (p. 180-182)

"After our fifteen minute break, which we took every weekday at 10:30 a.m. sharp, I went into the animal bay to check on Sheena, the African pigmy goat...When in the animal bay, I often thought about how we received all this wonderful milk, eggs, and meat essentially for free. The miniature chickens, pigs, and goats lived off stuff we could not eat. When we harvested a plot of peanuts, we would get the nuts, and the four does would transform the greens into an average of five ounces of milk per person per day. They particularly liked bean pods, which we fed as a treat to keep them busy while we milked them...The big bay--about thirty feet by fifty-feet--add large windows around most of the twenty-foot high walls. The floor of two of the five pens was a one-foot deep soil bed for chickens to scratch and peck. Here I collected a few eggs that the Jungle Fowl had lid. The other pens, where goats, chickens, and pigs ran together, had concrete floors that were easy to clean. The meat from the livestock provided an insignificant average of 43 calories per biosphere per day, all eaten at Sunday dinner. The milk provided only 100 calories per person, but 16 percent of our badly needed fat intake. Peanuts provided another 36 percent, and bananas a surprising 31 percent." (p. 183-185)

"Life in Biosphere 2 was often reduced to numbers. 257,898, and 134: the number of eggs, the pounds of milk, and pounds of meat produced in the first year. 30,000: the approximate pounds of soil in Biosphere 2. 1,000: the gallons of water condensed out of the air every day for showers, drinking, and irrigation. Bananas turned out to be one of the most important ingredients in our diet. In the first of your two years in Biosphere 2 we ate just over a ton of bananas, only slightly less than the 1.3 tons of sweet potatoes. The 208 calories a day we each were manna from heaven and I still eat a banana a day. Bananas were the sweeteners in our desserts and ice cream, and they were the thickeners in our pies and puddings...We froze them, we dried them. They even made the best booze, although we did not ferment many, as it was a waste of good food. The banana storage room was the the only locked room in the entire Biosphere, as the yellow fruit hanging in huge bunches from stainless steel chains was too much of a temptation even for highly disciplined biospherians. Since the white potatoes had succumbed to broad mite, sweet potatoes had taken their place in our diet, providing over half our daily calories. We were eating so many that we were turning orange from the beta-carotene...Beets grew prolifically, and we left them in the ground longer than normal, greedy for every extra bit. The result was a woody, tasteless borscht, day after day...Since we were mostly vegetarian, beans were vital to our diet. Soy and peas provided some variety, but the...lablab beans continued to be the most prolific, winding high up into the spaceframe and flopping over the balcony to form an edible curtain where they entwined the leaves of the papaya trees, our other prolific fruit producer. Papayas were a biospherian delicacy...Along with bananas, the papayas made our morning porridge tasty. For grains, we grew rice, sourghum, and wheat. The wheat variety, Yecora Rojo, was developed for and grown in space by scientists at Utah State University. They gave it to us to grow since it was a high-yielding, short plant. It wasted little energy on growing stems and leaves. In March, we harvested the first wheat fields."(p. 185-186)

"It was a decent harvest, so I made a pizza to celebrate. As I savored it, I considered how it had taken four whole months to make. We had all participated in the creation of this pizza, either by planting, watering, weeding, or finally, harvesting. Never had my connection to my food been so direct or so satisfying. Here is the recipe for our pizza.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Biopsherian Pizza

The Flour 
Rake and level one field 
Drip one wheat seed every six inches into four-inch-deep furrows made with a hoe. 
Cover with soil, water, and let sit for three months while the plants grow. Intermittently weed, irrigate, and control pests so the plants produce healthy heads of seed. 
After three months, or when the plants are beginning to brown on the edges, turn off all irrigation and let sit another few weeks. 
Once the plants are golden brown, harvest with pruning shears (do not use a hand scythe as this shakes loose precious wheat grains, wasting them on the ground). 
Process all the wheat in the threshing machine, being careful not to get your hand caught. Sift out remaining chaff. Place wheat.
stalks in the animal bay for bedding. 
Set aside some grain to replant wheat crop. 
Grind half a pound of kernels into flour and carry up to the kitchen.

The Topping 
Feed four African Pigmy goat does banana leaves, elephant grass, and crop residue. When each is in heat, place with Buffalo Bill, the buck. Wait until babies are born. 
Help mother with birth if necessary and wait another six weeks to wean the kids. 
Milk does. 
Set milk on back kitchen shelf for two weeks to ferment. 
Once thickened, set in cheesecloth and hang twenty-four hours to strain. Carry into the kitchen.
The day of making the pizza, collect one pound of tomatoes, two Anaheim chiles, three jalapenos, and herbs as available.

The Pizza 
Take the half-pound of wheat flour and mix with two tablespoons of live sourdough that Sierra continually maintains. 
Mix with water until a doughy consistency, knead and let sit overnight. 
Roll out the dough into two nine-inch pie pans. Prick with a fork. 
Cook two sweet potatoes in their skins. 
In the blender, puree tomatoes with sweet potatoes as thickener and season to taste with sea salt stolen from the Ocean supplies. 
Spread evenly over piecrust. 
Sprinkle with cheese, sliced peppers, and herbs. 
Place in oven at 350 degrees and cook until cheese has melted and the crust has turned a golden brown. 
Remove from oven, slice and serve piping hot." (p. 186-188)

"Although I had projected being able to row only about 80 percent of our food, we were in fact doing much better than that. We were eating entirely from what we were growing--100 percent Biosphere 2-grown food. Unfortunately, we accomplished this by eating a great deal less than we would have liked. We were all losing weight. The guys lost on average 18 percent of their weight...The women lost about 10 percent. None of us was in danger of malnutrition, as the diet was complete...However, the protein content was marginal for highly active people at an average of 63 grams per person per day. By contrast, body builders eat 1 gram of protein a day for every pound of body weight...We were far from starving, but I was beginning to understand the terrible plight of people in the word who are truly hungry...aside from the misery of hunger itself, it is a dreadfully helpless feeling to not have enough energy to fix the problem that caused the hunger in the first place. Farming is...hard work." (p. 188-189)





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Hippodrome Closes


Hippodrome,
New York, New York,
c1905.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

On August 16, 1939, New York City's Hippodrome Theater closed its doors for the last time. Built in 1905 with a seating capacity of 5,200, for a time the Hippodrome was the largest and most successful theater in New York. The Hippodrome featured lavish spectacles complete with circus animals, diving horses, opulent sets, and 500-member choruses. The most popular vaudeville artists of the day, including illusionist Harry Houdini, performed at the Hippodrome during its heyday.

In 1922, the elephants that graced the stage of the Hippodrome since its opening moved uptown to theBronx's Royal Theater. On arrival, stage worker Miller Renard recalled, the elephants were greeted with extraordinary fanfare:

The next day the Borough President gives them a dinner on the lawn of the Chamber of Commerce up on Tremont Avenue, with special dinner menus for the elephants. It was some show to see all those elephants march up those steps to the table where each elephant had a bail of hay. The[n], the Borough President welcomes the elephants to the Bronx, and the place is just mobbed with people. And that was the worst week's business we ever done in that theatre.

"Folklore of Stage Folk,"
New York, New York,
Terry Roth, interviewer,
January 30, 1939.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940


Houdini and Jennie, the Elephant, Performing at the Hippodrome,
New York, New York,
1918.
The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920

Others might vanish rabbits, but in 1918, on the brightly lit stage of the Hippodrome in New York City, Houdini made a 10,000-pound elephant disappear. He created a sensation. When Houdini fired a pistol, Jennie vanished from view.

By the late 1920s, the growing popularity of motion pictures eclipsed the vaudeville acts and circus spectacles presented at the Hippodrome. In 1928, the RKO motion picture company purchased the theater. Ten years later, the Hippodrome was demolished.

Learn more about the vaudeville era:






FRIDAY - AUGUST 16, 2013


TODAY’S FOOD QUOTE

“The washing of dishes does seem to me the most absurd and unsatisfactory business that I ever undertook. If, when once washed, they would remain clean for ever and ever (which they ought in all reason to do, considering how much trouble it is,) there would be less occasion to grumble; but no sooner is it done, than it requires to be done again.  On the whole, I have come to the resolution not to use more than one dish at each meal.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, while Mrs. Hawthorne was away (1844)
 

FOOD HOLIDAYS - Today is:

- Baba Au Rhum Day
- National Rum Day
 

TODAY IN FOOD HISTORY

On this day in:

1888 John Styth Pemberton died.  Pemberton was the pharmacist who invented Coca-Cola in 1885.

1889 Hanson Goodrich is granted a patent for the first modern stove top coffee percolator.

1956 Bela Lugosi (Béla Ferenc Dezso Blaskó) died (born Oct 20, 1882).  Best known for his role as the blood drinking vampire in the 1931 film 'Dracula'

1966 'Summer In The City' by the Lovin’ Spoonful is #1 on the charts
 

DID YOU KNOW?

In a 2,000-year-old, 100-foot-deep well at the site of Cetamura del Chianti in Tuscany, Italy, archaeologists from Florida State University found 153 grape seeds. The pips date to the period shortly after the Romans claimed the site from the Etruscans. The researchers have identified the grapes as Vitis vinifera, or the wine grape. Because the seeds were not burned, they might carry preserved DNA that could offer insight into the beginnings of viticulture in the region now famous for its bold, fruity reds.“People are going to be interested in the variety of grapes we might be able to identify,” says archaeologist Nancy Thomson de Grummond.     (2013 Archaeology Magazine)
 





FOOD TRIVIA QUIZ

1) a) Does corn always have an odd or an even number of rows on each ear?
   b) Why?
   c) How many pieces of silk are there on each ear?

2) All of the following events took place in the same year, can you guess what year?
• Sugar Pops cereal was introduced.
• Minute rice was introduced.
• Pillsbury launched its 'Bake-Off' to promote flour.
• The first credit card was created, the Diners Club card.
• The Open Kettle coffee and donut shop in Quincy Massachusetts was renamed Dunkin' Donuts.
• Kraft introduced the first commercially packaged sliced process cheese.
• Both Pillsbury and General Mills introduce prepared cake mixes.

3) This long lived subtropical evergreen tree has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years, and recently some seeds have been uncovered in Spain that have been carbon-dated to be 8,000 years old. The tree is usually medium in height, about 25 feet, but some trees may grow to 60 feet. The are very long-lived, with some living more than 500 years. They are also very tenacious, sprouting back even if chopped right to ground level.
     In order to produce flowers and fruit, the tree must undergo temperatures of 45 degrees F. for 2 to 3 months. The trees grow beautifully luxuriant in tropical climates, but produce no fruit. The small fruits can be round or oblong, dark purple and very bitter at maturity. The fruit is classified as a drupe, similar to the peach or plum.  Today the tree is grown in South America, the Mediterranean area, the United States, Australia and South Africa.
     The product obtained by the of processing the fruits was highly prized for soaps and perfumes. Cato tells us it was used as a weed killer and insecticide. Other uses have been as a lubricant for axles, a salve on chapped skin and on wounds, and a remedy for upset stomach.
     One final clue from Lawrence Durrell: "A taste older than meat, older than wine.  A taste as old as cold water."
Name this tree.

4) The ancient Greeks and Romans thought this annual herb would only grow if you screamed wild curses and shouted unintelligibly while sowing the seeds. They also believed if you left a leaf under a pot, it would turn into a scorpion. Many believed that even smelling the leaves would cause scorpions to grow in the brain. Salome hid John the Baptist's head in a pot of this herb to cover up the odor of it's decomposition.  In Italy it is a token of love, in Romania if a girl gives a sprig to her boyfriend, they are engaged, and a good Hindu goes to rest with a leaf on his breast as a passport to Paradise. What is this common herb?
     a) mint     b) basil     c) thyme     d) tarragon     e) sage

5) Growing on a relative of the mango, cashew and turpentine tree, these are native to central Asia (probably originating around Persia). They have been cultivated for over 7,000 years, (they are mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible) and before that were gathered from the wild. The Greeks were (and are) very fond of them, and use them in many pastries. Today they are grown mainly in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries and in California.
What are they?

6) Marshmallows were originally made from a plant, the marsh mallow.  Which of the following plants are in this same Mallow family?
     a) Hollyhock;  b) Cotton;  c) Okra;  d) Rose of Sharon

7) What is Manchego and what connection does it have to Don Quixote?

8) What fruit is the design motif known as 'Paisley' based on?

9) The leading producer of Maple Syrup is:
     a) Quebec;  b) Vermont;  c) Minnesota
     d) New York  c) Ontario

10) What was created by Auguste Escoffier in 1897, and supposedly named by Cesar Ritz of the Savoy (or his wife Marie) in honor of Helen Porter Mitchell, an Australian native?

 

 

 

 

CURRENT CULINARY QUIZ ANSWERS


1) a) Corn always has an even number of rows on each ear.
    b) A corn ear is actually an inflorescence that produces nearly 1,000 female flowers. These flowers, or potential kernels, are arranged in an even number of rows (usually from 8 to about 22 rows). Row number is always an even number because corn spikelets are borne in pairs, and each spikelet produces two florets: one fertile and one sterile. Stress at a particular stage in developement could theoretically produce an ear with an odd number of rows - but I believe if you looked under a microscope, you would find an unseen row that failed to develop fully.       Most things in nature have an even number of rows or lines.  Watermelon has an even number of stripes, cantaloupe, etc. Think of it this way.  One cell divides into 2 - as cell division continues, there is always an even number. 
   c) There is one piece of silk for each kernel.

2) All of the events took place in 1950.

3) The olive tree.

4) b) Basil.

5) Pistachio Nuts.

6) a, b, c & d - Hollyhock, cotton, okra and Rose of Sharon are all in the Mallow family.  
(The roots of the Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) were the source for the original marshmallow candy, made by boiling the soft inner pulp from the roots with sugar until very thick.)

7) Manchego is the best known and most widely available Spanish cheese. It comes from La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote, and was originally made only from the milk of Manchego sheep. Manchego is aged for 3 months or longer, and is a semifirm cheese with a rich golden color. It comes in a 10 inch diameter wheel, 5 inches thick with a herringbone design on the rind. It ranges from mild to sharp, depending on how long it is aged.

8) The 'Paisley' design motif is a design from India based on the mango.

9) a) All of the world's maple syrup is produced in North America. Quebec is the leading producer, followed by Vermont, New York, and Ontario.

10) Melba toast was created by Auguste Escoffier in 1897, and supposedly named by Cesar Ritz of the Savoy (or his wife Marie) in honor of Nellie Melba (stage name of Helen Porter Mitchell), an Australian born opera singer.  Melba toast is very thin, dry, crisp toast.






The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia, and is recognised worldwide as a symbol of the country because of its distinctive appearance. It is the only extant representative of the familyPhascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats. It is easily recognisable by its stout, tailless body, round, fluffy ears and large, spoon-shaped nose. It is popularly known as the koala bear because of its bear-like appearance. The koala has a body length of 60–85 cm (24–33 in) and weighs 4–15 kg (9–33 lb).Pelage colour ranges from silver grey to chocolate brown. Koalas typically inhabit open Eucalyptus woodlands, and the leaves of these trees make up most of their diet. Because this eucalypt diet provides them with only low nutrition and energy, koalas are largely sedentary and sleep for up to 20 hours a day. They are asocial animals, and bonding only exists between mothers and dependent offspring. They have few natural predators and parasites but are threatened by various pathogens, as well as by bushfires and droughts. The biggest threat to their existence is habitat destruction due to agriculture andurbanisation. (Full article...)

Did you know...

From Wikipedia's newest content:





Recent deaths – More current events...

On this day...

August 16Children's Day in Paraguay

Today's featured picture

The skull of the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), a large African bovine. It has a long but stocky body and short but thickset legs, resulting in a relatively short standing height. The adult bull’s horns, as shown here, have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield known as a "boss".

Photograph: Jebulon





Four times in the history of presidential elections, the candidate who won the most popular votes has not been elected president. This occurred in the 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000 elections. 




The Peterloo Massacre (1819)

On August 16, 1819, 60,000 men, women, and children gathered at St. Peter's Field in Manchester, England, to protest unemployment and high food prices. To disperse the gathering, city officials sent in the untrained volunteer cavalry, which attacked the unarmed crowd with sabers. At least 11 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded. The incident, likened to the Battle of Waterloo, sparked widespread indignation. In 2007, a memorial plaque at the site was changed to include what?

 

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Art Thieves Propose Deal to Return Stolen Works

A gang of suspected art thieves on trial in Romania for breaking into Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum last October and stealing masterpieces by PicassoGauguinMonet, and others are offering to return five of the seven works in exchange for moving their trial to the Netherlands. The proposition offers a glimmer of hope that many, if not all, of the paintings have survived. There had been fears that the mother of one of the suspects destroyed a number of the pieces following his arrest. It remains to be seen whether authorities will agree to the deal and whether the thieves can actually produce the paintings as promised.

 

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Twin Studies

Identical twins share virtually all of their genes, and fraternal twins share about 50%. This makes twins ideal subjects for behavioral geneticists, since they can compare how each individual in a pair is influenced by genes, shared family environment, and individual experience. One of the pioneers of twin studies was 19th-century scientist Sir Francis Galton, who was influenced by the work of his cousin, Charles Darwin. What fundamental misconception colored the research of early twin scholars?

 

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Dame Mary Gilmore (1865)

Gilmore was a prominent Australian socialist poet and journalist who gained a reputation as a champion of the working class and the oppressed. In the late 1890s, she moved to the New Australia utopian socialist settlement in Paraguay, but she returned to Australia following its failure. In 1908, she became an editor of the Australian Workers' Union newspaper, and she published her first volume of poems two years later. On what denomination of Australian currency does her image and poetry appear?

 

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Egypt vows lethal response ahead of nationwide ‘March of Anger’

Thousands of supporters of ex-President Mohamed Morsi took to the streets of Cairo in a “March of Anger” following Friday prayers. Military troops, who were authorized to use lethal force to stop rioting, are guarding key sites in the Egyptian capital.





Obama scraps Egypt military drill after crackdown, keeps aid intact

US President Barack Obama has called off joint US-Egypt military drills scheduled to take place next month in protest of the Egyptian government’s brutal crackdown on protesters, in which more than 630 people were killed on Wednesday






China’s military flexes its muscles in the East China Sea amid Japan war shrine tensions

China has launched four days of live-fire naval exercises in the East China Sea that coincide with the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII. The exercises come after Japanese Cabinet ministers visited Tokyo’s most controversial war shrine.







EXCLUSIVE

Google’s “20% time,” which brought you Gmail and AdSense, is now as good as dead

By Christopher Mims

Glass is the sort of thing that could never have come from Google's 20% program—which is just as well. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

 

Google’s “20% time,” which allows employees to take one day a week to work on side projects, effectively no longer exists. That’s according to former Google employees, one who spoke to Quartz on the condition of anonymity and others who have said it publicly.

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What happened to the company’s most famous and most imitated perk? For many employees, it has become too difficult to take time off from their day jobs to work on independent projects.

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This is a strategic shift for Google that has implications for how the company stays competitive, yet there has never been an official acknowledgement by Google management that the policy is moribund. Google didn’t respond to a request for comment from Quartz.

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Once a pillar of innovation at Google, now verboten

When Google went public in 2004, the founders’ letter from co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin cited 20% time as instrumental to the company’s ability to innovate, leading to “many of our most significant advances,” including AdSense, which now accounts for about 25% of the company’s $50+ billion in annual revenue. Google engineers also used 20% time to incubate Gmail, Google Transit, Google Talk, and Google News, among other projects.

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Here’s how Google has effectively shut down 20% time without actually ending the program, says our source: First, as has been reported previously, Google began to require that engineers get approval from management to take 20% time in order to work on independent projects, a marked departure from the company’s previous policy of making 20% time a right of all Googlers.

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Recently, however, Google’s upper management has clamped down even further, by strongly discouraging managers from approving any 20% projects at all. Managers are judged on the productivity of their teams—Google has a highly developed internal analytics team that constantly measures all employees’ productivity—and the level of productivity that teams are expected to deliver assumes that employees are working on their primary responsibilities 100% of the time.

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Google is still experimenting, but in less democratic fashion

The end of 20% time at Google fits with other moves made by CEO Larry Page since he took over in January 2011. Six months after he took the reigns, Page announcedthat Google would adopt a “more wood behind fewer arrows” strategy that would put more of Google’s resources and employees behind a smaller number of projects. This meant killing off Google Labs, which had previously been Google’s showcase for its experimental projects—many of them products of employees’ 20% time.

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It makes sense that once Page began to eliminate projects that weren’t core to Google’s mission, he would also want to restrict the source of those new projects—20% time. Google is still innovating, of course, but in a more concerted fashion. Thesecretive Google X lab is where engineers go to work on new ideas now, everything from self-driving cars to Google Glass.

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A more focused strategy may be good for Google’s bottom line, and is arguably a necessary step as the company has grown larger and harder to manage. But it’s worth asking: Has the company lost something by making innovation the province of an elite few, rather than a part of every engineer’s weekly routine? And what’s more, if 20% time has been abandoned at Google, are other companies, which reportedly include Apple, LinkedIn, 3M and a host of others, wise to continue trying to copy it?








THE BIG PAYBACK

In Snowden’s wake, China will probe IBM, Oracle, and EMC for security threats

By Adam Pasick

If you're a US-based tech company, you won't soon forget this face. AP Photo/Kin Cheung

 

The NSA surveillance scandal is about to become a major headache for some US tech firms, as the Chinese government prepares to probe IBM, Oracle, and EMC over “security issues,” according to the official Shanghai Securities News.

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The US National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance program accessed data from major internet firms like Facebook and Google according documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA and Dell contractor. But he has also alleged that the US spy agency worked with technology providers including Microsoft and Ciscoto create “back doors” that allow it to penetrate the computer networks of foreign countries like China. IBM, Oracle and EMC have not been named in any documents leaked by Snowden.

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“At present, thanks to their technological superiority, many of our core information technology systems are basically dominated by foreign hardware and software firms, but the Prism scandal implies security problems,” an anonymous source told Shanghai Securities News, according to a Reuters report.

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IBM, the world’s largest IT company, Oracle, the biggest enterprise software firm, and EMC, a leading cloud computing and Big Data provider, all have substantial businesses in China that could be damaged if Beijing takes a hard line on potential NSA intrusions—much as China-based Huawei, the world’s biggest vendor of telecom equipment, has been largely blocked from doing business in the United States.

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Investigators at China’s Ministry of Public Security and a cabinet-level research center will reportedly carry out the probe. Their first action item may well be watching an interview that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison gave this week where he called the NSA’s surveillance efforts “essential.” They will also certainly consider that IBM and Oracle are major vendors to the NSA, while EMC’s technology has been used to test and optimize NSA databases.

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EMC also has a major joint venture with China-based Lenovo to integrate servers and storage systems, and it conducts cloud computing research with China’s elite Tsinghua University—a particular target of NSA spying, according to Snowden.

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The ultimate cost of Snowden’s revelations could reach far beyond China. A recent report estimated that US cloud computing firms will lose $21.5 billion to $35 billion in business to Asian and European competitors because of companies’ reluctance to trust their data to US-based companies. “Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes?” Neelie Kroes, European commissioner for digital matters, said to the Guardian last month.

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Previously China’s state-run media, which is often used to signal government policy, identified eight US companies—Cisco, IBM, Google, Qualcomm, Intel, Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft—as US government proxies that posed a “terrible security threat.”








OK COMPUTER

Google is preparing for screenless computers

By Christopher Mims

Don't get too attached to this thing. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

 

The spread of computing to every corner of our physical world doesn’t just mean a proliferation of screens large and small—it also means we’ll soon come to rely on mobile computers with no screens at all. “It’s now so inexpensive to have a powerful computing device in my car or lapel, that if you think about form factors, they won’t all have keyboards or screens,” says Scott Huffman, head of the Conversation Search group at Google.

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Google is already moving rapidly to enable voice commands in all of its products. On mobile phones, Google Now for Android and Google’s search app on the iPhone allow users to search the web via voice, or carry out other basic functions like sending emails. Similarly, Google Glass would be almost unusable without voice interaction. At Google’s conference for developers, it unveiled voice control for its Chrome web browser. And Motorola’s new Moto X phone has a specialized microchip that allows the phone to listen at all times, even when it’s asleep, for the magic word that begins every voice conversation with a Google product: “OK…”

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There’s nothing new about voice interaction with computers per se. What’s different about Google’s work on the technology is that the company wants to make it as fluid and easy as keyboards and touch screens are now. That’s a challenge big enough that, thus far, it has kept voice-based interfaces from going mainstream in our personal computing devices. And in cases when they are in use, such as interactive voice response systems designed to handle customer service calls, they can be frustrating.

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Interacting with a computer like it’s a friend

“What we’re really trying to do is enable a new kind of interaction with Google where it’s more like how you interact with a normal person,” says Huffman. To illustrate, he picks up his smartphone and says “How far is it from here to Hearst Castle?”

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Normally, getting an answer to such a seemingly simple question would require googling “Hearst Castle,” clicking on a map, and typing in your own address. But Huffman’s phone gets the answer right on the first try—a neat illustration of how voice commands can save time and effort. In a way, it’s part of the natural progression of convenience in computer interfaces: 10 years ago writing an email required walking over to a computer, five years ago we could whip out our phones, and in the near future we’ll simply start talking.

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Leveraging what Google already knows about reality

To achieve this kind of apparent simplicity, the Conversation Search group has to muster everything that Google already knows about the real world. That’s because, as anyone who has discovered that half the battle of learning a foreign language is absorbing the culture in which it’s embedded, the meaning behind language is always dependent on context.

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“One thing that really helps us is the base of all the core relevance and ranking work that the Google search engine is famous for,” says Huffman. Part of that “relevance” is the Google Knowledge Graph, a database of people, places and things that allows Google to know, for example, that when you ask it for “Cruise movies” you are probably asking for the films of Tom Cruise, rather than “crews movies” or any of a number of other possibilities.

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Beating humans at understanding meaning

This context doesn’t just make Google’s voice interfaces usable—some day, it could make them even better than humans. “Today, automatic speech recognition is not as good as people, but our ambition is, we should be able to be better than people,” says Huffman. In order to achieve that, Google will leverage the intimate knowledge it has of its users.

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“In some sense Google has a lot of context that [a human transcriptionist] doesn’t have,” says Huffman. “We know where you are based on your phone’s location and there is some context around what you’ve been talking about lately. Therefore that should help us understand what kinds of things you might be saying.”

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Computers that talk back

The future of Google’s voice interfaces isn’t just accurate interpretation of commands, but real interaction—hence the “conversation” part of Huffman’s Conversation Search group. One trick Google’s voice interface can already do is understand pronouns like he, she and it. “You can ask yourself why in language do things like pronouns exist—well, they exist because it lets us communicate faster than we do without them,” says Huffman.

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To demonstrate, Huffman follows up his question about how far it is to Hearst Castle with the sentence “give me directions,” which doesn’t even include the pronoun “it,” but his phone begins rattling off directions in its tinny computerized voice, anyway.

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All of this is, of course, a demonstration laid out in advance for my benefit. And like any other nascent technology it doesn’t always work perfectly. At other points in Huffman’s demo, his smartphone fails to understand the pronouns he’s using. One reason for that, he notes, is that Google’s voice interface “forgets” the subject of any conversation with it after a certain amount of time. Just as in natural conversation, it has a limited attention span.

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In conversation, a human being who has forgotten the referent for a pronoun like “it” might ask his or her companion what he or she is talking about. Google’s conversation search can’t do that yet, but his team is working on it, says Huffman. Already, Google’s regular search results perform a version of this “can you clarify?” task by suggesting search terms and providing other disambiguating links at the top of search results. Eventually, Google’s voice search will do the same: “Did you mean the movies of Tom Cruise…” or, given your search history “were you referring to the movies of Penelope Cruz?”

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Fundamentally re-thinking the nature of computer interfaces

At this point, voice commands are a little-used feature of most people’s everyday interactions with computers, if we’re using them at all. Between the present and a future in which we are reliably interacting with computers by voice alone, there are a number of challenges, some of them fundamental to what we think of as a computer interface.

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Another issue is that current visual computer interfaces limit our options in ways that can make them easier to use. For example, in graphical user interfaces we can find out what a program can do by clicking on all of its buttons and looking under its menus. But commanding a computer by voice is more like the old model of interaction with a computer—the command line. It’s a potentially powerful interface—Huffman imagines a future in which we might even communicate with our computers via a verbal short-hand—but it would require that humans learn a whole new way to control computers, and learn anew the capabilities of all the software that might be used in this way.

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This restaurant recommendation brought to you by vast, distributed neural networks

Ultimately, none of these issues may prove as insurmountable as the ones that Google has already overcome by virtue of its enormous search database, knowledge of the real world, cloud computing infrastructure and army of Ph.D.s who work on voice recognition and natural language processing. Currently, the everyday magic of understanding voice commands is carried out almost entirely in the cloud, because processing human speech is difficult enough that even a sophisticated smartphone doesn’t have the processing power to do it at a high enough level of reliability.

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That means voice commands issued to Google’s hardware and software are recorded, shot into the cloud and parsed into next steps, rather than being handled by the device itself. “For speech recognition, it’s a very data intensive thing,” says Huffman. “We use giant neural network things that are spread across many servers.” Which means that when we talk to our phones, there really is someone listening to our every command—just not an intelligence we’d recognize as human.









EXCLUSIVE: Pictured up close for the first time, Scientology's 'alien space cathedral and spaceship landing pad' built in the New Mexico desert for the 'return of followers after Armageddon on Earth'

MailOnline can today reveal the first close-up pictures of the Church of Scientology's 'alien space cathedral' built in a remote part of the New Mexico desert. But even stranger still are two giant symbols carved into the ground - believed to be markers for the religion's followers to find their way back after humanity is destroyed in the future. It is believed that they are a 'return point' so members of the church know where they can find the works of founder L. Ron Hubbard (inset) when they come back from space after a nuclear catastrophe wipes out the human race. His writings are said to have been transferred onto metal discs and sealed in titanium capsules underground behind the entrance built into the side of the rock (left and right).






Neighbors threaten to SUE veteran father who built wheelchair ramp for disabled daughter at home because it will 'lower property values'

Heidi and Vincent Giesegh had the ramp built outside their Fountain, Colorado, home, with the permission of town officials to make it easier for their wheelchair-bound 16-year-old daughter, Kirsten (right), who suffers from cerebral palsy, to go outside. But the addition to the house has angered the family's next-door neighbors, who are concerned that the ramp will lower property values in the area.







NSA broke privacy rules THOUSANDS of times a year and hid it from regulators, reveal new documents leaked by Snowden

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year, according to reports.






Spider Man performer on Broadway becomes trapped in stage and must be sawed out from the floor as horrified audience is ushered away

Daniel Curry was seriously injured Thursday while performing in Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway at Manhattan's Foxwood Theater.







Ed Snowden shuns his father who 'doesn't represent him in any way' as paranoid whistleblower also says he doesn't trust WikiLeaks anymore

Snowden, whose whereabouts remain unknown, made the extraordinary claim as his father, Lon, told US television he intended to travel to Russia to see his son in the near future.





Moment African American firefighter and pastor was cuffed after he waved at cops - who thought he was flipping them off

George Madison Jr., an African American firefighter and youth pastor in Evansville, Indiana was threatened with a taser by police when he committed no crime. Madison says that he was riding his bike when he saw a police car approaching the same intersection and he waved at them but they thought he was flicking them off.





Really, Mr. Putin? Even HITLER suspended Germany's anti-gay laws during the 1936 Olympics, but Russia won't do the same for next year

Hitler, who may himself have been gay, ordered that during the Olympics' 'foreign visitors should not be subjected to the strictures of the Nazi anti-homosexual laws.'






Lesbian gym teacher fired after her mother's obituary accidentally outed her will NOT get her job back

Carla Hale, 57, of Powell, Ohio was fired after the obituary of her late mother in February that detailed Ms Hale's relationship with a woman named Julie was seen by a parent of a student.






Hunt for 'Snakey' the 7-foot boa constrictor on the loose in Pennsylvania after 'wandering off' while sunning himself outside

Police in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania are in a race to find a seven-foot-long boar constrictor named 'Snakey' who is in need of a feed after he 'wandered off' from his home on Sunday.




Guns, religion, and alcohol. What a great idea.


Lies may be easier to tell and to hear, but they don't make the truth disappear.


"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”
Mahatma Gandhi


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© Roy Crockett 2013