The New Science of Old Whiskey
In April 2006, a tornado struck Warehouse C at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. In the aftermath, the building looked like a diorama: part of the roof and one wall had been artfully removed to reveal the 25,000 barrels stacked inside. Miraculously, not a single one of those barrels was damaged—proof, perhaps, of the Major League manager Leo Durocher’s maxim: God watches over drunks and third basemen.
Repairing the warehouse took several months, and during that time the barrels on the upper floors were exposed to rain, heat, and sun. Mark Brown, Buffalo Trace’s president and CEO, joked at the time that the distillery should sell the whiskey as “tornado-surviving bourbon.”
It turned out to be no joke. The barrels were opened about five years later (the liquor inside had then aged for nine to 11 years) and, says Brown, “the darnedest thing is, when we went to taste the whiskey, it was really good. I mean really good.” The company decided to label the bourbon “tornado surviving,” and aficionados—who also found it superior to the usual product—quickly snapped it up. One went so far as to write Buffalo Trace and ask whether it planned to make more. “Not deliberately,” Brown replied.
Yet the tornado bourbon got the distillers wondering: What are the perfect conditions for storing the barrels in which bourbon ages? It’s a question that no one had really asked before, despite the oft-noticed phenomenon that barrels situated near the windows in warehouses have a tendency to become what managers call “honey barrels”—that is, ones that produce above-average whiskey. Moreover, the storage question was a logical follow-up to one that Buffalo Trace had already been pondering: How do you make a perfect barrel?
Read more. [Image: Buffalo Trace Distillery]
Overdrive: How America’s Amazing Car Recovery Explains the U.S. Economy
There was a time, not so long ago, when cars supposedly personified the American character. Our aggression, our style, our rugged independence. In the last 30 years, the automobile has faded slightly in the American imagination, but today the car industry does, in fact, explain the American economy.
It is a surprisingly durable, fantastically productive juggernaut, whose success relies on the old, the rich, and foreign trade — and less on American workers.
To begin this story, let’s appreciate the big picture. The car economy, a small but mighty sliver of American industry, has been on a roll. Since 2009, car production has nearly doubled, accounting for between 15 and 20 percent of our whole recovery.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The Crazy True Story Of How A Handful Of Climate Advocates Painted A Red Town Green →
Knoxville’s experience shows how even staunchly conservative coal country can be sold on commonsense efforts to save the climate. The rapid change, spearheaded almost exclusively by a tiny group of people, is a testament to the ways in which government, rescued from the clutches of enshackling ideologists, can serve the common good. It’s also, weirdly enough, proof of the far-reaching benefits of the 2009 stimulus package and the complex ways in which even minor-seeming federal action on climate change can make a big difference locally.
It’s a story, in short, about hope.
Overcoming India’s Menstruation Taboo
Inside the dark and dingy room on the terrace of a house in Tirupur, Coimbatore—the textile hub in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India — six women are hard at work. “We have just two hours before the power is out and we have a target,” Indumati shouts over the blaring sound of a compressor in the room. Cotton-like dust fills the humid room, but the women seem to be at ease even without masks. I cover my nose with a scarf as I watch them make the biodegradable sanitary napkins.
The women bought the machines from a company called Jayashree Industries a little more than a year ago. A social entrepreneur, Arunachalam Muruganantham, manufactures them in a neighboring town, Coimbatore.
The women faced resistance from their families: Their mothers-in-law told them, “it was as good as selling shit,” and their husbands refused to fund them. So, they micro-financed the venture instead. With an initial investment of about $5,000 on the machines and less than $100 in raw material, they started production. Three of the teammates had never even seen a sanitary napkin before—let alone used one.
Mother Care Sanitary Napkins, as they call their product, has a range of napkins, from ones for heavier-flow days to panty liners. There is another variant for women who do not wear panties, which is particularly necessary in rural India. This variety has an elastic belt to hold them up.
The team has an interesting strategy that so far has generated sizeable profits: They sell napkins in small quantities, even one or two at a time. They’ve also sent napkins to Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Singapore after individuals and charity organizations there placed orders. This morning the team is working on an order of 2,000 napkins for Nigeria.
Read more. [Image: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]
via The Guardian (26 April 2013, Jonathan Bernstein)
Timothy Olyphant has quite a pair of intimidating eyes on him. Even if the actor’s name, or his 18-year body of work, doesn’t ring an immediate bell, it’s hard not to remember his gimlet-eyed glare. Sharp, penetrating and derisive, that stare is a ticking time-bomb, warning recipients they have mere moments to correct their behaviour before his thin string of patience snaps. Since 2010, Olyphant’s unforgiving gaze has bored deep into the souls of the moonshiners, meth dealers and murderers who populate the dirt-poor coal-mining community of Harlan, east Kentucky, the setting of his hit drama series Justified. Marshal Raylan Givens is not Olyphant’s first lawman: he was memorably furious as sheriff Seth Bullock in David Milch’s prematurely truncated Deadwood. But Raylan Givens, who featured in Elmore Leonard’s novels Pronto and Riding The Rap, as well his short story Fire In The Hole, has become the actor’s signature role.
Our Comprehensive Living Archive of Apples
In its original home, near Almaty in Kazakhstan, the apple can be the size of a cherry or a grapefruit. It can be mushy or so hard it will chip teeth. It can be purple- or pink-fleshed with green, orange, or white skin. It can be sickly sweet, battery-acid sour, or taste like a banana. Preserving this biodiversity can become a massive project, in life and art.
See more. [Images: Jessica Rath]
Apples are from Kazakhstan was an interesting little book.
What If NASA Could Figure Out the Math of a Workable Warp Drive? - The Atlantic →
#the final frontier
So, one-tenth the speed of light and we could be there in 40 years. That’s not half bad. As Seager notes, many people would be willing to give up Earth and make that assuredly miserable journey for the privilege of being the first humans to explore another solar system. But still: 40 years, it’s no cakewalk.
That’s why a new number, care of NASA physicist Harold White, is so stunning: Two weeks. Two weeks to Alpha Centauri, he told io9, if only we can travel by warping space-time.
Of course, of course, easier said than done, but White thinks it’s possible, and he and a team at NASA are at the very early stages of making it so.
#misogyny is alive and well
A Cultural History of Mansplaining
Not all that long ago, an American statesman of considerable influence wrote an opinion piece for this very publication, about a political issue that directly affects women. It was perhaps the finest example of mansplaining ever published.
This election season, the idea of “mansplaining”—explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman—has exploded into mainstream political commentary. Hugo Schwyzer over at Jezebel noted its growth in September, writing that it has “moved beyond the feminist blogosphere.” And, sure enough, these days pretty much every time a male politician opens his mouth about so-called women’s issues he is dubbed, like so or like so, a mansplainer.
But the article in question wasn’t written this year. Its author was Lyman Abbott, a prominent New England theologian, and it appeared in the Sept. 1903 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.
Read more. [Image: someecards]
Conservatives killed the liberal arts - Salon.com →
Katie Billotte drops cluster bombs of truth in this essay at Salon:
This financial war on higher education has been coupled with persistent attacks on the academy and academics as immoral, unpatriotic or simply frivolous. While scientists warning of climate change have recently been targeted, for the most part these attacks have been directed at those working in the humanities. William F. Buckley pioneered these attacks in his 1951 book “God and Man at Yale,” and his claim that universities serve as indoctrination camps for liberalism has become a standard talking point on the right. Epstein engages in a bit of this rhetoric himself. He blames the expansion of the humanities outside of “traditional” Western subjects to include areas such as African-American Studies for declining student numbers. By and large, however, Epstein’s critique is mild compared to what others have said. David Horowitz’s 2006 book “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” comes to mind as a particularly vitriolic example.
This war on the liberal arts is born from the same desire that produces voter ID laws: a desire to limit democratic participation. The goal of a liberal arts education was never primarily direct economic benefit for the recipient or even the sort of personal/spiritual development about which many like to wax lyrically. The purpose of a liberal arts education was always meant to be a political education. The Latin ars liberalis refers to the skills required of a free man — that is the skills of a citizen. The Latin word ars and its Greek equivalent techne do not mean art in a modern sense. Instead the word refers to a craft or a skill. Thus, history, rhetoric and literature were seen as the skills a citizen needed for his job: governing. This was just like metal working was the skill required of a blacksmith for his profession. This is why 19th century reformers eager to expand political participation concentrated so much attention on expanding access to the liberal arts.
The Accidental History of the @ Symbol
The symbol’s modern obscurity ended in 1971, when a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson was facing a vexing problem: how to connect people who programmed computers with one another. At that time, each programmer was typically connected to a particular mainframe machine via a phone connection and a teletype machine—basically a keyboard with a built-in-printer. But these computers weren’t connected to one another, a shortcoming the U.S. government sought to overcome when it hired BBN Technologies, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company Tomlinson worked for, to help develop a network called Arpanet, forerunner of the Internet.
Tomlinson’s challenge was how to address a message created by one person and sent through Arpanet to someone at a different computer. The address needed an individual’s name, he reasoned, as well as the name of the computer, which might service many users. And the symbol separating those two address elements could not already be widely used in programs and operating systems, lest computers be confused.
Tomlinson’s eyes fell on the @, poised above “P” on his Model 33 teletype. - Continue reading at Smithsonian.com.
Illustration: Erik Marinovich
Ed note: Here is the history of the exclamation point!
This is excellent.