Center for Pecan Innovation sees “tremendous opportunities”

pecans-ground

While I’m of the opinion that the highest and most noble use of the pecan involves their placement in a pie, the folks at the Georgia Pecan Commission have higher aspirations. They recently established the Center for Pecan Innovation, with the goal of finding new uses for Carya illinoinensis.

The initial focus of the Atlanta-based center will be new food products made from pecans, according to John Robison, the commission’s chairman.

“The recent 30-year study from Harvard University showing that regular nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer or heart disease is just one more supporting voice to the center, which was established to encourage more companies to find ways to use pecans in their products,” he said.

Beyond that, the commission sees opportunities for biodegradable pecan shells, from roadbeds and packing material to bath products. Cosmetic companies are looking for natural products to replace plastic micro-beads in facial cleansers, and the Journal of Food Science reports that a new study shows that extract from pecan shells may be effective at protecting meats such as chicken from listeria growth.

The US produces the vast majority of the pecans harvested annually – as much as 95 percent, or 300 million to 400 million pounds.

Georgia leads the nation in pecan production, growing 40 percent of the US total, more than the next two states – New Mexico and Texas – combined, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Map showing, in blue, US states where pecans are grown.

Map showing, in blue, US states where pecans are grown.

“In 2012 Georgia led the nation in pecan production, harvesting 100 million pounds for the domestic and global markets,” Robison said. “China is one of the biggest markets for our in-shell pecans, but there still is tremendous opportunity for companies to use pecan pieces – even the shells.  The Center for Pecan Innovation will work to develop new products that use Georgia pecans.”

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said the Georgia Pecan Commission is taking a creative approach to agriculture by establishing the center.

“Farmers today do far more than just grow food and fiber,” he said. “They take an active part in promoting their crops to grow their markets, as we have done with our Georgia Grown program. The Center for Pecan Innovation is yet another step to increase awareness for Georgia pecans.”

The Georgia Pecan Commission, begun in 1995, funds research, educational and promotional programs in order to increase demand for Georgia pecans.

Inquirer’s demise a sad reflection on state of print journalism

philadelphia inquirer sign

Anyone who has followed the print journalism industry over the past decade has witnessed its unmistakable decline.

Metro papers in particular have been hard hit as technology has revolutionized not only information distribution, but advertising, as well. The collapse of classified advertising coupled with the dramatic increase in online readership has resulted in the newspaper industry deteriorating precipitously in recent years.

Consider the Philadelphia Inquirer: 25 years ago it had 700 employees, dispatched journalists around the globe regularly to file stories and boasted daily circulation of more than 500,000.

Today, the paper fields barely 200 employees, has pulled back its coverage dramatically and seen daily circulation shrunk to a little more than 160,000.

“The Inquirer used to send reporters and photographers to South America and Africa,” said photojournalist Will Steacy, whose father was an editor at the publication and who has closely followed the paper’s decline since 2009. “They once sent a guy off to study the fate of the black rhino for six months. Now no story gets done that involves much more than a half-hour drive from the city. Otherwise it is mostly wire stories.”

As the British newspaper The Guardian notes, the Inquirer once had a reputation for both holding local government to account as well as breaking big foreign stories.

“ … it was the Inquirer that uncovered, for example, the full truth behind the OPEC oil blockade of 1973 that was causing panic in Philadelphia and beyond, by dispatching its reporters to examine the shipping lists of Lloyd’s of London and to interrogate dock workers in Rotterdam and Genoa,” according to The Guardian.

Today, in what is perhaps a sad reflection on both the industry and those that it serves, the Inquirer, at least based on its website traffic, appears beholden to lowest-common-denominator stories.

“The stories that receive the most clicks on philly.com,” Steacy suggests “are weather stories, celebrity stories, sex stories. I guess best of all is a celebrity sex story with a good weather angle… ”

The last bit fits all too well with musician Paul Weller’s wonderfully crafted line: “The public wants what the public gets.”

Renovation set for 180-year lock keeper’s house in Washington

lock keepers house washington

Amid the many monuments and memorials found on the Washington Mall, one structure stands out for a very different reason. The Lock Keeper’s House of the long-defunct Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is a 180-year old structure that sits at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street NW, approximately 1,000 feet north of the National World War II Memorial and less than 1,500 feet northeast of the Washington Monument.

Originally the eastern terminal of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the structure was erected around 1835, part of an extension of the C&O Canal. The building was constructed as the house for the canal lock keeper, who collected tolls and kept records of commerce on the waterway.

Plans are underway to restore and relocate the venerable structure, part of a $7.5 million refurbishment that will take approximately two years to complete, according to an upcoming edition of American Heritage magazine.

The two-story stone block structure will be moved back from the busy intersection as part of the restoration.

The effort is being bolstered by a $1 million donation from the American Express Foundation, which will assist  National Park Service and Trust for the National Mall plans to renovate the house. The venerable structure will be used as a gateway to the revitalized 38-acre Constitution Gardens and nearby monuments.

The C&O Canal began as George Washington’s idea to open the Potomac River as an all-water transportation route to the Ohio River Valley, according to the C&O Canal Trust.

Within the nation’s capital, the canal passed along the present line of B Street in front of house, emptying into Tiber Creek and the Potomac River.

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Aston Martin to pay homage to god of fire with new model

aston martin vulvan

Outside of an occasional James Bond movie, about the only experience I’ve had with an Aston Martin is the time years ago my son and I were traveling and decided to stop at an exotic car dealership outside Greensboro, NC.

Amid the Ferraris, Maseratis and, by comparison, rather plebeian Porsches, were a handful of eye-catching Aston Martins.

Having never seen an Aston Martin in person, we were both taken aback by the make’s elegance and glamour. (Well, maybe me more so than my son, who at 12 was definitely more fascinated by the nearby Ferraris.)

Also not surprising: There was no clamour among the dealership’s salespeople to see if they could help us. I suppose a 40-year-old in jeans and sweatshirt with 12-year old dressed the same doesn’t inspire dreams of a big sale when one is peddling very big-ticket items.

As I glanced at the Astons, some of which topped out at more than $200K, I began to understand why I had come across so few of them on Southern US roads.

It appears Aston Martin is about to launch another sharp-looking ride that I will likely never see outside the big screen.

Called the Vulcan, it features a 7-liter V12 engine, a carbon fibre monocoque structure, a pushrod-actuated suspension with adjustable dampers and carbon ceramic racing brakes, according to the BBC.

The motor generates in excess of 800 horsepower, delivered to the rear wheels through a race-specification six-speed sequential shift gearbox, the media outlet added.

Additional details are scarce at present, but it appears production will be limited to just 24 vehicles. The price tag for the track-only car, with a top speed of 225 mph, is approximately $2.3 million.

Those able to snap up the Vulcan – named for the Roman god of fire – will be put through “a series of intensive driver-training programs on a roster of famous circuits,” led by Darren Turner, two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Vulcan owners will work their way up from the V12 Vantage S and One-77 road cars and the Vantage GT4 racer before slipping behind the wheel of their new Vulcan, the BBC added.

Sounds like a car-driving fantasy camp.

The company has said it will reveal more details about the Vulcan at its debut at the Geneva International Motor Show on March 3.

Dead man, struck down in 19th century feud, gets last word

Railroad cut 2015 028

A standard precept of law is that one can’t libel the dead. It stands to reason then that one can’t sue the dead for libel, either.

In pastoral Restland Cemetery in Bamberg, SC, lie the remains of Charles F. Jones. A gravestone erected by his parents reads, “Son / Charles Franklin Jones / Murdered by T. Heber Wannamaker and W.W. Wannamaker / June 22, 1897”

The facts, at least as described in late 19th century newspapers, provide a different account.

According to a New York Times’ report filed June 23, 1897, Thomas Heber Wannamaker, a South Carolina businessman, killed Jones in self-defense.

The incident came about as a result of bad blood that developed following a murder trial two years earlier.

In that case, Dan C. Murphy was convicted of gunning down Robert Copes, the treasurer of Orangeburg, SC. During the trial, Wannamaker was called to testify to the character of Jones, who had served as a special detective in the case, with Wannamaker delivering an unflattering appraisal.

From that point forward, Jones expressed a determination to seek revenge on Wannamaker whenever the opportunity presented itself, according to the Times.

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Professional baseball team peddles tickets for 4 cents apiece

blue rocks

Opening Day for the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks is still two months away, but Mother Nature didn’t do the Class A minor league baseball team any favors this week.

As a promotional offer, tickets for Blue Rocks’ first home game were aligned with the temperature. Whatever the thermostat read when the box office opened at 8 a.m. Monday, that’s what fans would pay for a ticket for the club’s April 16 home opener.

With the recent cold snap that’s moved through much of the Eastern United States recently, the temperature in Wilmington Monday morning was 4 degrees.

As a result, fans could snap up groups of eight tickets, which normally range for $48 to $88 total, for 32 cents in all, a discount of more than 99 percent, according to ESPN.

“It’s really cold here, and we want to get the fans thinking about us,” said Stefani Rash, director of tickets for the Carolina League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Fans could also order tickets by phone and through the Internet, although they were charged a $5 handling fee.

The Blue Rocks sold about 3,600 Opening Day seats, and more than 200 fans took advantage of the chance to buy eight tickets for a grand total of 32 cents.

This is the second year that the Blue Rocks have held the promotion. Last year the price was 20 cents a ticket, ESPN reported.

Although the team leaves money on the table in the short term, the promotion ensues that fans experience the ballpark on the first day it’s open, Rash said.

If the temperature had dropped to zero or below, the club would have given out tickets for free, according to Rash.

(Top: Wilmington Blue Rocks in action during a game in which a ticket promotion was apparently not being utilized.)

An unintended consequence of minimum-wage laws

Borderlands Exterior

Borderlands Books is a privately owned San Francisco bookstore that has been in operation for nearly 20 years.

Concentrating on science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror works, Borderlands has overcome a number of challenges since opening in 1997: a 100 percent bump in rent in 2000; the trend toward online sales; the increasing popularity of ebooks; and the impact of the Great Recession.

Still, according to store officials, Borderlands managed to overcome each of the trials. In fact, last year was the best the store had enjoyed.

“At the beginning of 2014, the future of the business looked, if not rosy, at least stable and very positive,” Borderlands officials wrote on the store’s website. “We were not in debt, sales were meeting expenses and even allowing a small profit, and, perhaps most importantly, the staff and procedures at both the bookstore and the cafe were well established and working smoothly.”

Despite that, Borderlands recently announced it would be closing, by March 31 at the latest.

The reason? Last November San Francisco voters, out of touch with the realities of running a business, overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 an hour by 2018.

Borderlands Books as it exists cannot remain financially viable in light of increased minimum wages, according to the store website.

Unlike some businesses, bookstores are hindered in their ability to adjust for rising costs.

There’s a limit to how much a bookstore can increase book prices because publishers set prices. In addition, companies such as Amazon.com have siphoned off consumers from brick-and-mortar bookstores and made it more difficult to get them to pay retail.

In other words, adjusting prices upward to cover increased wage costs isn’t an option for Borderlands.

The change in the minimum wage will see Borderlands’ payroll jump nearly 40 percent. That will result in total operating expenses being bumped up by 18 percent. For Borderlands to offset that expense, it would need to increase sales by a minimum of 20 percent, which it doesn’t see as realistic.

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