Useless information thread


BY: BRYAN QUOC LE
The History of Mint

The ancient Greeks have a legend about mint. Mint, or Minthe, was once a beautiful nymph from the underworld river of Cocytus. She was said to be of nobler form and more beautiful than Persephone, queen of the underworld herself. Hades, the god of the underworld and husband to Persephone, became infatuated by the young river maid after she made an attempt to seduce him. The wife of Hades was enraged by the nymph, and intervened by trampling the girl under her heel into nothing more than dust. Sorrowful for the loss of the young girl, Hades brought her back to life with his power as a fragrant mint plant.




The association between mint and the underworld came about from ancient burial traditions that used mint to cover up the smell of the dead. The aromatic leaves have also been used historically to mask the odors of households and alleyways due to inadequate sanitation. On top of that, mint was greatly admired for its ability to freshen the breath and clear body odors in a time when bathing wasn’t widely practiced. The mint plant was so highly regarded for its power to cleanse that mint was commonly used as a form of currency in Egypt during Biblical times.





Mint Production
Mint plants are incredibly fast-growing herbaceous perennials, and are actually known to be rather invasive plants, which makes commercial cultivation relatively easy. Commercial production of mint began in England during the 1750s. Mint was quickly transplanted to New York after the revolution, and was readily grown in the United States. The cooling ability of mint leaves were especially important for Southern cuisine because of the high heat and humidity of the Southern states. Four varieties of mint are commonly cultivated today: peppermint, native spearmint, Scotch spearmint, and cornmint. A more recent variety, apple mint, has been introduced into commercial cultivation in Europe for its unique hint of apple flavor. The major producer of fresh mint is the United States, with a total output of 75% of the global supply, with Indiana, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon being important mint producing states [3]. While mints grow rapidly in the presence of cool pools of water, production output is easily affected by droughts. Seasonal high heat also reduces the mint oil output of cultivated crops.

Mint Flavor Chemistry
The major chemical constituents of mint oils are menthol a
nd its oxidized relative, menthone, with minor components that impart unique flavors to the different varieties of mint oils [4]. German chemist and physician Hieronymus David Gaubius isolated menthol from mint leaves in 1771 to identify the compound responsible for the cooling effect of mints. Only the enantiomer (-)-menthol is capable of triggering the cooling sensation commonly associated with mint flavor, and mint essential oils are highly prized in the chemical and food industry for their (-)-menthol content. Menthol can uniquely trigger the TRPM8 receptors in skin to induce the cooling experience when applied to the body or taken orally, in a similar mode of action as capsaicin, the compound responsible for the hotness of chilis. TRPM8 is an ion channel that allows the passage of sodium and calcium ions, which induces action potentials that lead to cold sensations through low temperatures and application of menthol [5].

Mint is used mostly in food and nutraceutical applications where there is a desire to impart a sense of cleanliness. For example, mint is widely used in gum, breath fresheners, mouthwash, antacids, and toothpaste. Of course, mint is also incorporated in foods to add that distinct minty fresh flavor as a secondary sensation, especially in chocolates, ice creams, confections, and beverages. Mint is the third most popular flavoring ingredient in the world, behind vanilla and citrus flavors, and continues to be one of the fastest growing flavor segment in the market driven by consumer demand for clean, fresh flavors. Other applications for mint are in cooling balms, essential oils, perfumes, pest control, and antimicrobial agents.
http://sciencemeetsfood.org/cool-flavors-mint/


Mint quality GOLD to juxtapose the ballet of the pachyderm with the cheesecake of Marloes!
 
I'm not dead... Yet. And thank goodness for that.

My work tour of Scandinavia has brought me to the Arctic circle for some reason and thank heavens that staff prices exist.

95 Norwegian kroner for a pint of Brooklyn is quite stupid. Loving the place and the weather but not the prices.
 


New York Today: Our Past in Pizza

By Alexandra S. Levine


  • Sept. 14, 2017
Buongiorno on this glum Thursday.
Say cheese.
The Feast of San Gennaro returns to Little Italy today, leaving Mulberry Street dazzling in red, white and green for nearly two weeks.

And smelling mouth-wateringly wonderful.
Now that we (hopefully) have you daydreaming about pizza — perhaps before you’ve even had breakfast — allow us to further whet your appetite with a lesson on our city’s signature food.
“New York pizza is all relatively thin crust without being crackery,” according to the pizza historian Scott Wiener. “It has a risen edge a little bit of a handlebar, not a thin, flat edge — baked at about 550 degrees in a deck oven.”

Mr. Wiener, who leads pizza tours of New York restaurants and wrote the book “Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box,” labeled our city a “slice town,” distinct from places that put more emphasis on an entire pie.
“In the first half of the 20th century, New York pizza was thin and made in coal-fired ovens at a three-to-five minute bake,” he said. “Crispy with sauce in the center. Very lightly topped.”
(And those early pizzas were typically not sold by the slice, he added; they were sold as whole pies.)
That changed in the 1940s with the introduction of the gas-fueled deck oven — still used at local spots like Di Fara Pizza, Joe’s and Pizza Suprema — and again in the past decade, as wood-fired ovens have made a comeback, according to Mr. Wiener, at neighborhood joints like Roberta’s, Kesté, Emily and Sottocasa. And just like that, full pies-on-a-plate are regaining popularity.



 
Might as well repost this [useless piece of info] here lest the Noam Chomsky thread gets deleted for good/no good reason at all.

The linguist Noam Chomsky enjoyed manipulating with grammatical processes so much so to the fruition of his esteemed theory [''deep structure'', thereby the birth of ''surface structure''] by which a sentence's basal structure is transformed by a dictum that advances a phrase into a new position.
 
Might as well repost this [useless piece of info] here lest the Noam Chomsky thread gets deleted for good/no good reason at all.

The linguist Noam Chomsky enjoyed manipulating with grammatical processes so much so to the fruition of his esteemed theory [''deep structure'', thereby the birth of ''surface structure''] by which a sentence's basal structure is transformed by a dictum that advances a phrase into a new position.
The most interesting threads transpire while the mods are away, happily enjoying the S.L.O. weekend, blissfully unaware of the threads growing and mutating here, full of sex, politics, religion and personal attacks. Then Monday comes around, and all the weekend fun vanishes into the deleted thread ether.
 
Very interesting stuff! You have made me curious about human tails, so......


From Wikipedia:
The coccyx, or tailbone, is the remnant of a lost tail.[16] All mammals have a tail at some point in their development; in humans, it is present for a period of 4 weeks, during stages 14 to 22 of human embryogenesis.[17] This tail is most prominent in human embryos 31–35 days old.[18] The tailbone, located at the end of the spine, has lost its original function in assisting balance and mobility, though it still serves some secondary functions, such as being an attachment point for muscles, which explains why it has not degraded further. The coccyx serves as an attachment site for tendons, ligaments, and muscles. It also functions as an insertion point of some of the muscles of the pelvic floor. In rare cases, congenital defect results in a short tail-like structure being present at birth. Twenty-three cases of human babies born with such a structure have been reported in the medical literature since 1884.[19][20] In rare cases such as these, the spine and skull were determined to be entirely normal. The only abnormality was that of a tail approximately twelve centimeters long. These tails were able to be surgically removed, and the individuals have resumed normal lives.[21]
 
...
“New York pizza is all relatively thin crust without being crackery,” according to the pizza historian Scott Wiener. “It has a risen edge a little bit of a handlebar, not a thin, flat edge — baked at about 550 degrees in a deck oven.”
Mr. Wiener, who leads pizza tours of New York restaurants and wrote the book “Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box,” labeled our city a “slice town,” distinct from places that put more emphasis on an entire pie.
“In the first half of the 20th century, New York pizza was thin and made in coal-fired ovens at a three-to-five minute bake,” he said. “Crispy with sauce in the center. Very lightly topped.”
...
I've been on a Scott's Pizza Tour. He really knows his Pizza. If you want him as the guide I think he only does the bus tours at this point. And I noticed he's raised his prices a bit. Maybe after he landed his Amazon pizza show:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FNYL1NX/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_dp_AqFvBbC6V95NB
 
Last edited:
Tracy Austin and one of Tennis Channel's non-tennis commentators (forget his name) are currently doing live commentary on tennis matches. Checking the schedule, I see that the broadcast began at four in the morning in their L.A. studio! Tracy lives in Orange County, I believe. You would think she is in a place in life where she doesn't need to get up in the middle of the night and drive to work. The other commentator probably needs the work.
 
THE AMERICAN MacGUFFIN



In his 1962 interview with François Truffaut, Hitchcock explains:

The main thing I've learned over the years is that the MacGuffin is nothing. I'm convinced of this, but I find it very difficult to prove it to others. My best MacGuffin, and by that I mean the emptiest, the most nonexistent, and the most absurd, is the one we used in North by Northwest. The picture is about espionage, and the only question that's raised in the story is to find out what the spies are after. Well, during the scene at the Chicago airport, the Central Intelligence man explains the whole situation to Cary Grant, and Grant, referring to the James Mason character, asks, "What does he do?" The counterintelligence man replies, "Let's just say that he's an importer and exporter." "But what does he sell?" "Oh, just government secrets!" is the answer. Here, you see, the MacGuffin has been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!
http://www.openculture.com/2013/07/...-the-plot-device-he-called-the-macguffin.html
 
THE AMERICAN MacGUFFIN



In his 1962 interview with François Truffaut, Hitchcock explains:

The main thing I've learned over the years is that the MacGuffin is nothing. I'm convinced of this, but I find it very difficult to prove it to others. My best MacGuffin, and by that I mean the emptiest, the most nonexistent, and the most absurd, is the one we used in North by Northwest. The picture is about espionage, and the only question that's raised in the story is to find out what the spies are after. Well, during the scene at the Chicago airport, the Central Intelligence man explains the whole situation to Cary Grant, and Grant, referring to the James Mason character, asks, "What does he do?" The counterintelligence man replies, "Let's just say that he's an importer and exporter." "But what does he sell?" "Oh, just government secrets!" is the answer. Here, you see, the MacGuffin has been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!
http://www.openculture.com/2013/07/...-the-plot-device-he-called-the-macguffin.html
Seinfeld is the ultimate television Macguffin experience, no?
 
New AI fake text generator may be too dangerous to release, say creators
The Elon Musk-backed nonprofit company OpenAI declines to release research publicly for fear of misuse

Alex Hern
@alexhern
Thu 14 Feb 2019 12.00 ESTLast modified on Thu 14 Feb 2019 16.49 EST

The AI wrote a new passage of fiction set in China after being fed the opening line of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (pictured). Photograph: Mondadori/Getty Images

The creators of a revolutionary AI system that can write news stories and works of fiction – dubbed “deepfakes for text” – have taken the unusual step of not releasing their research publicly, for fear of potential misuse.
OpenAI, an nonprofit research company backed by Elon Musk, says its new AI model, called GPT2 is so good and the risk of malicious use so high that it is breaking from its normal practice of releasing the full research to the public in order to allow more time to discuss the ramifications of the technological breakthrough.

At its core, GPT2 is a text generator. The AI system is fed text, anything from a few words to a whole page, and asked to write the next few sentences based on its predictions of what should come next. The system is pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible, both in terms of the quality of the output, and the wide variety of potential uses.

Can a computer be creative? Chips with Everything podcast

When used to simply generate new text, GPT2 is capable of writing plausible passages that match what it is given in both style and subject. It rarely shows any of the quirks that mark out previous AI systems, such as forgetting what it is writing about midway through a paragraph, or mangling the syntax of long sentences.

Feed it the opening line of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” – and the system recognises the vaguely futuristic tone and the novelistic style, and continues with:

“I was in my car on my way to a new job in Seattle. I put the gas in, put the key in, and then I let it run. I just imagined what the day would be like. A hundred years from now. In 2045, I was a teacher in some school in a poor part of rural China. I started with Chinese history and history of science.”

Feed it the first few paragraphs of a Guardian story about Brexit, and its output is plausible newspaper prose, replete with “quotes” from Jeremy Corbyn, mentions of the Irish border, and answers from the prime minister’s spokesman.

One such, completely artificial, paragraph reads: “Asked to clarify the reports, a spokesman for May said: ‘The PM has made it absolutely clear her intention is to leave the EU as quickly as is possible and that will be under her negotiating mandate as confirmed in the Queen’s speech last week.’”

From a research standpoint, GPT2 is groundbreaking in two ways. One is its size, says Dario Amodei, OpenAI’s research director. The models “were 12 times bigger, and the dataset was 15 times bigger and much broader” than the previous state-of-the-art AI model. It was trained on a dataset containing about 10m articles, selected by trawling the social news site Reddit for links with more than three votes. The vast collection of text weighed in at 40 GB, enough to store about 35,000 copies of Moby Dick.

The amount of data GPT2 was trained on directly affected its quality, giving it more knowledge of how to understand written text. It also led to the second breakthrough. GPT2 is far more general purpose than previous text models. By structuring the text that is input, it can perform tasks including translation and summarisation, and pass simple reading comprehension tests, often performing as well or better than other AIs that have been built specifically for those tasks.
That quality, however, has also led OpenAI to go against its remit of pushing AI forward and keep GPT2 behind closed doors for the immediate future while it assesses what malicious users might be able to do with it. “We need to perform experimentation to find out what they can and can’t do,” said Jack Clark, the charity’s head of policy. “If you can’t anticipate all the abilities of a model, you have to prod it to see what it can do. There are many more people than us who are better at thinking what it can do maliciously.”

To show what that means, OpenAI made one version of GPT2 with a few modest tweaks that can be used to generate infinite positive – or negative – reviews of products. Spam and fake news are two other obvious potential downsides, as is the AI’s unfiltered nature . As it is trained on the internet, it is not hard to encourage it to generate bigoted text, conspiracy theories and so on.

Instead, the goal is to show what is possible to prepare the world for what will be mainstream in a year or two’s time. “I have a term for this. The escalator from hell,” Clark said. “It’s always bringing the technology down in cost and down in price. The rules by which you can control technology have fundamentally changed.
https://www.theguardian.com/technol...musk-backed-ai-writes-convincing-news-fiction
 

The surprising countries that consume the most beer per capita
Save
5

There's no doubt which country loves beer the most CREDIT: SHOWCAKE - FOTOLIA


I
t's International Beer Day! We'll be sipping a crisp pint later tonight, but first we've decided to map the world according to beer consumption per capita. Which nation is most enamoured by those sweet amber suds?

The answer to that question is resounding: the Czech Republic. According to research by the Japanese beverage company Kirin, the country has topped the per capita beer drinking table for 24 consecutive years.
In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the Czechs drank 143.3 litres per person (up from 142.4 litres in 2015). That's the equivalent of 287 pints – or one every 30 hours. But, given that minors are unlikely to be contributing to that figure, it's safe to assume that the average beer drinker probably guzzles quite a bit more.


Snapping at the Czech Republic's heels are the usual pretenders. Austria and Germany come third and fourth, Poland fifth and Ireland sixth.
There are some surprises, however. In eighth place is the Seychelles, a lofty ranking which we'll put down to the hot climate and the large number of holidaymakers. Namibia, meanwhile, takes second spot – surely that's down to its colonial ties with Germany.


The Seychelles: a surprising haven for lager lovers CREDIT: ALAMY
Giving that drinking large quantities of lager can sometimes feel like our national sport, it's also surprising to see the UK down in 25th overall, with a consumption rate of just 67.7 liters per capita. Time to raise your game, folks.
The world's biggest beer drinkers

  1. Czech Republic - 143.3 litres per capita
  2. Namibia - 108
  3. Austria - 106
  4. Germany - 104.2
  5. Poland - 100.8
  6. Ireland - 98.2
  7. Romania - 94.1
  8. Seychelles - 90
  9. Estonia - 89.5
  10. Lithuania - 88.7
  11. Belize - 85
  12. Spain - 84.8
  13. Slovenia - 80.3
  14. Slovakia - 80.1
  15. Croatia - 78.7
  16. Gabon - 77.8
  17. Finland - 76.9
  18. Bulgaria - 76.3
  19. Panama - 75
  20. Iceland - 75
What about total alcohol consumption per capita?

When it comes to overall alcohol consumption, a new top dog emerges. Belarus is the world's booziest nation, with the average Joe (or Sergei) consumes 17.5 litres of pure alcohol per year – that's equivalent to 179 bottles of wine, or 1,750 shots of vodka.
The world's booziest nations

  1. Belarus - 17.5 litres of pure alcohol per capita
  2. Moldova - 16.8
  3. Lithuania - 15.4
  4. Russia - 15.1
  5. Romania - 14.4
  6. Ukraine - 13.9
  7. Andorra - 13.8
  8. Hungary - 13.3
  9. Czech Republic - 13
  10. Slovakia - 13
How about wine?

We've also uncovered the countries that quaff the most wine per capita. The proud title of most fervent vino guzzler goes to Andorra. According to the Wine Institute, the country consumed 3,936,000 litres of wine in 2014 (the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics are available). Given that just 69,165 people call the Pyrenean principality home, according to the UN, that's an impressive 56.9 litres per head. Or the equivalent of 76 bottles.
The biggest wine drinkers

  1. Andorra - 56.9 litres per capita
  2. Vatican City - 56.2
  3. Croatia - 46.9
  4. Portugal - 43.7
  5. France - 43.1
  6. Slovenia - 42.5
  7. Macedonia - 40.4
  8. Falkland Islands - 38.5
  9. Switzerland - 37
  10. Italy - 34.1

 
To my surprise, when posting to Amazon that I’d be returning a shirt that didn’t fit well, I was informed I would be immediately refunded and did not need to return the item. Works for me!
I had the opposite experience when buying direct with a specialty sox manufacturer and I had a problem with size consistency between two colors of the same product...they insisted I would need to ship the too-small pair back to them at my expense before a make-good could be authorized. The shipping cost I would have absorbed was 50% of the product cost so I just threw them away and vowed to never buy from them again. I’m still on their email list but I just automatically trash their messages.
 
“Psycho” was the first movie to show a woman in just a bra and slip.
Freedom, revolt and pubic hair: why Antonioni’s Blow-Up thrills 50 years on
Blowup

The flawed but absorbing 60s movie about a photographer who unwittingly captures a murder scene still poses important questions
Anthony Quinn
Fri 10 Mar 2017 07.00 ESTLast modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 13.51 EST

Memory is a great maker of fictions. Take the 1960s. The decade exists in the public imagination in a quite different way from the one most people actually lived through. The old line goes that if you can remember the 60s you weren’t there, but it’s probably more truthful to say – you were there, only you didn’t hang out in Carnaby Street, have your clothes made by Mr Fish or trip on acid while driving a Lotus Elan. You didn’t swing. But there was something infectious in the air all the same, something in the decade’s high summer of 1967 that smacked irresistibly of a burgeoning freedom and revolt. Maybe it was the news that homosexuality had been decriminalised, or hearing the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” for the first time, or the unprecedented glimpse of pubic hair in that film at the Odeon. What was its name again?

The film was Blow-Up, and 50 years after its UK release it reverberates way beyond the notoriety of Jane Birkin showing her bits on screen. Appropriately for a picture about perception and ambiguity, it plays very differently from the one I remember first seeing years ago – I could have sworn it was in black and white, for a start. It marked a departure from director Michelangelo Antonioni’s previous studies in alienation, most notably La Notte, in which Jeanne Moreau wanders lonely about the streets of Milan while the beautiful people party on in listless defiance of boredom.

Blow-Up, his first English-language production, dives head-first into swinging London, seen from behind the wheel of a dandy photographer’s Rolls convertible – already, younger readers will be thinking of Austin Powers – as he bounces from slumming in a dosshouse to cavorting with dolly birds and models in his studio. There is a reason Antonioni has made the protagonist a photographer – a man who looks but doesn’t see – just as there was for replacing his original actor, Terence Stamp, with the relatively unknown David Hemmings.

But the film has something else Antonioni had never deigned to include before: a story. An oblique and maddening one, for sure, but a story nonetheless. The photographer, fed up with the birds and the mod fashion shoots, goes off in search of fresh air – and fresh mischief. He finds himself in a park, where the breeze sounds in the tops of the trees like the sea at low tide. In the distance, he sees a man and a woman, together, canoodling. He points his camera and takes a few snaps of them. On his way out, the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) chases after him and demands, urgently, that he hands over the film. He refuses. She tracks him back to his studio where they smooch, smoke a joint, play some music – and he sends her away with the wrong roll.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/20...w-up-50-years-movie-photographer-murder#img-2

And here is where the film unfolds its most brilliant and memorable sequence, the part you want to watch over and over again. Alone in his dark room, our hero blows up the photos from the park and discovers that he may have recorded something other than a tryst. Cutting between the photographer and his pictures, Antonioni nudges us ever closer until we see the blow-ups as arrangements of light and shadow, a pointillistic swarm of dots and blots that may reveal a gunman in the bushes, and a body lying on the ground. Has he accidentally photographed a murder?

Contemporary audiences watching the way Thomas, the photographer, storyboards his grainy images into “evidence” would surely have been reminded of Zapruder’s film of the Kennedy assassination in 1963: the same patient build-up, the same slow-motion shock. When Thomas returns to the park he does indeed find a corpse. It’s the grassy knoll moment. We feel both his confusion and his excitement at turning detective – he’s involved in serious work at last instead of debauching his talent on advertising and fashion. But, abruptly, his investigative work goes up in smoke.

Next morning, the photographs and the body have disappeared. The woman has gone, too. This links to larger fears of conspiracy, a sense that shadowy organisations are hovering in the background, covering up their crimes – and getting away with it.

Blow-Up looks back to Zapruder but also ahead to Watergate and a run of films that riffed in a similar manner to Antonioni, with his inquiring, cold-eyed lens: Gene Hackman, stealing privacy for a living as the surveillance genius in The Conversation (1974); witness elimination and the training of assassins by a corporation in The Parallax View (1974); later still, Brian de Palma’s homage to the sequence via John Travolta’s sound engineer in the near-namesake Blow Out (1981). But these sinister implications are not on the director’s mind. Where we anticipate a murder mystery, Antonioni balks us by posing a philosophical conundrum. “It is not about man’s relationship with man,” he said in an interview at the time, “it is about man’s relationship with reality.”

Having created the suspense, he declines to see it through and sends Thomas off on an enigmatic nocturnal wander – to a party where he gets stoned, to a nightclub full of zombified youth where, bafflingly, he makes off with a broken guitar. (The film’s other symbolic artefact is an aeroplane propeller he buys in an antique shop). Finally, and famously, he encounters a bunch of mime-faced rag-week students acting “crazy” and playing a game of imaginary tennis on an empty court. We even hear the thock of the tennis ball, though there isn’t one in sight. Antonioni seems to offer only a shrug: reality, illusion, who can tell the difference? Whenever I watch Blow-Up, I feel a sense of anticlimax, of a road not just missed, but refused. Yet as much as it irritates, it still intrigues, and asks a question that relates not merely to cinema but to any work of art: can we enjoy something even if we don’t “get” it?

But Blow-Up, flawed as it is, can still thrill us 50 years on. It has great things in it – Hemmings’s insolent blue gaze, and the daft way he throws himself across the floor to reach the phone; the wind soughing through the trees in the park; the busy jazz score by Herbie Hancock; the unsettling charm of those London streets. And, in the sequence from which it takes its title, that rapt attention to the photographer’s art really is something to behold.
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/mar/10/antonioni-blow-up-50-years-movie-photographer-murder


 
Deng Xiaoping helped bring China out of the Mao years and transform its economy. More notably, the man loved his tobacco. Cigarettes were fine, but chewing tobacco and spittoons added to the ambience of meetings with global leaders.




Tobacco can lead to an unhealthy pallor.


 
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