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.

Old-time movie show San Francisco in days before Quake

While on a recent visit to the West Coast my dad and I were able to visit the San Francisco Railway Museum, a small but fascinating locale dedicated to the city’s long and varied rail transportation history.

San Francisco is renowned for its cable cars, but the city also has a long background with streetcars, trains, carriages, buses and, in later years, light rail and subways.

The above footage is remarkable for a couple of reasons: First, it shows the diversity of conveyances evident in the city in the early 20th century.

In addition to cable cars, streetcars and horse-drawn carts shown making their way down San Francisco’s Market Street toward the Port of San Francisco, there are also bicycles, cars and numerous people attempting to navigate what would appear to be a rather chaotic thoroughfare.

The photo below, taken from the movie, shows at least three different cable cars, a street car, an automobile, a bicycle, and at least one horse-drawn carriage.

It’s interesting to note the horse-drawn carriages and carts traveling in front of the cable cars. Doing so allowed them to traverse the smoother path offered by the rails and avoid, for at least a short time, the rougher ride of the cobbled street.

And at different points of the movie one can witness one of the constant hazards of an era when horse-drawn carts were still prevalent, as manure can be seen at different locations on the street.

Interestingly, there appears to be numerous cars evident in the movie, made by the early film duo the Miles Brothers.

However, the Miles Brothers actually used just a handful of cars, having them loop back into the camera’s view repeatedly through the 13-minute-plus film. When the movie was made, San Francisco, the wealthiest city on the US West Coast, had but 200 cars in all.

The second noteworthy feature of this footage is that is believed to have been shot just days before the April 18, 1906, earthquake that devastated San Francisco.

For years, the film was believed to have been taken in 1905, but recent research based on weather conditions, the positioning of shadows and the timing of newspaper ads promoting the Miles Brothers film titled “A Trip Down Market Street” indicate that it was shot in April 1906.

That means many of the structures seen in the footage would shortly be destroyed either by the quake itself or the ensuing fire. The disaster is believed to have claimed more than 3,000 lives. The movie, then, is a brief glimpse at an epoch that was about to end.

SF movie

I came, I saw, but there was no Latin to be conquered

veni vidi

Unlike my parents and grandparents, I never had the option of studying Latin while in high school.

Mind you, the decidedly uninspired worth ethic I demonstrated in my teens perhaps ensured that I wouldn’t have taken Latin had it been offered, but the fact that California’s public school system was well in the crapper by the time I was enrolled in high school in 1980 made it a non issue.

Indeed, the Language of the Caesars was considered passé by the lightweights who had taken control of the Golden State’s education system beginning in the 1960s.

Instead, I squeaked my way through a couple of years of French – which in no way prepared me for the two years of college French that was required for me to graduate.

Years later I regret not having studied at least a smattering of Latin at some point in my schooling.

To be able to read Cicero, Cato or Tacitus in the original would have given me the chance to view their world through a wholly different lens, rather than one distorted, even unintentionally, by translation.

Fortunately, after a decline of several decades the study of Latin is increasing in popularity once again. Perhaps, common sense is returning to a segment of the education community, and the greatness of literary giants of past millennia are again being recognized on a wider basis.

Latin may not be for everybody but as Cicero once stated, “Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.”

(Above: Cartoon from The New Yorker and likely the only time the words “mani” or “pedi” will ever appear in this blog.)

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.”

Philanthropist donates $300 million in works to Princeton

william scheide scheide library

A vast array of rare books, manuscripts and documents, including several exquisite 15th century bibles, first folios of Shakespeare’s works and an original copy of the US Declaration of Independence, have been bequeathed to Princeton University.

The collection, valued at around $300 million, was given to the university by William H. Scheide, who died last fall at age 100. Scheide had moved the collection to Princeton in the late 1950s from his home in Titusville, Penn., where it had been amassed over three generations, creating the Scheide Library at Princeton in the process.

The bibles include a Gutenberg Bible printed in 1455 and described as exceedingly rare and beautifully illuminated.

The collection also contains Shakespeare’s first, second, third and fourth folios, according to The Guardian.

“Shakespeare’s first folio, for example, was the first book of plays published in a format generally reserved for literature,” the publication reported. “The first folio is sometimes called ‘incomparably the most important work in the English language,’ according to Folger Shakespeare Library.”

Other items in the collection include a handwritten speech about slavery by Abraham Lincoln, a 1493 letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain about his discovery of the New World, musical sketchbooks and manuscripts of Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner, as well as all 47 volumes of music produced by Bach.

Scheide’s bibles – the first four printed editions of the Bible – are the jewels of the collection.

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The bigot, the five-day governor and the much-needed reformer

Livingston-Coleman-Blease

One hundred years ago this month, Lt. Gov. Charles A. Smith began the shortest reign in South Carolina gubernatorial history, a five-day stretch as the Palmetto State’s chief executive that ran from Jan. 14-19, 1915.

Smith’s brief tenure as governor came about as the result of the actions of one of the more reprehensible South Carolinians to hold office in the state’s nearly 350-year history: Coleman Livingston “Cole” Blease.

Blease, a self-proclaimed pro-lynching, anti-black education politician cut from the same cloth as Pitchfork Ben Tillman, earned election to the state’s highest office through his ability “to play on race, religion and class prejudices,” appealing especially to South Carolina’s farmers and mill workers, according to Ernest Lander’s work, “A History of South Carolina 1865-1960.”

The state was anything but a hotbed of progressivism in the early 20th century, but Blease acquired such a bad reputation that he was said to represent the worst aspects of Jim Crow and Ben Tillman. For example, Blease is said to have once buried the severed finger of a lynched black man in the South Carolina gubernatorial garden in Columbia.

In their book “Columbia: History of a Southern Capital,” Lynn Salsi and Margaret Sims identified some of Blease’s more “endearing” legacies:

Despite the need for reform, he fought regulation of safety, public health and education. He also pardoned a record number of criminals, some say more than 1,500. His vetoes included hand-written messages using profane language, the wrote.

Worse yet was his treatment of blacks.

In his 1911 inauguration address, Blease stated, “I am opposed to white people’s taxes being used to educate negroes.” He later added that he was opposed to white convicts being placed in the same labor camps as black convicts, adding that he believed that “a governor would be justified in granting a pardon to a white man who is thus treated, …”

In the same address, he urged the re-institution of public executions, particularly those of blacks.

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Dad ‘stunned’ to learn teen apathetic about religion

simpsons church

As my four younger daughters and I were en route to the local library last night I asked Daughter No. 3 how her most recent Sunday evening religious education class had gone. Three of the four are preparing for confirmation and are in the first year of a two-year program. They are about as enthusiastic as any young teen would be about having to spend 75 minutes every Sunday evening learning about religion.

Daughter No. 3 was quick with her response: “We didn’t learn anything.”

Me: “What do you mean, you didn’t learn anything?”

D3: “We had a party because we won’t have another class until after the holidays.”

Me: “Well, that must have been nice, right?”

D3: “Oh, yeah.”

I then decided to see how much or – more likely, in her case – how little she was enjoying the class. “How about I ask you some questions about what you’ve learned this year?” Her sisters, sitting in the back seat, and likely hoping for a repeat of this memorable Q-and-A session, immediately voiced their assent.

“Dad!” Daughter No. 3 broke in. “No! You always ask me hard stuff. About the bible. You know I don’t know bible stuff!”

Now, to be fair, Daughter No. 3 is an exceptionally bright young lady. She has a very good chance of finishing the current semester with straight A’s and just last week learned she had earned recognition as a South Carolina Junior Scholar.

That said, she is not on the fast track for a doctorate in Theology.

“Okay,” I relented, “how about if I ask you about the sacraments? I’m sure you’ve gone over those, right?”

D3: “No.”

Me: “Really? You haven’t gone over the sacraments?”

D3: “Dad, we’ve only been to class a couple of times.”

Me: “You’ve been going since October, so it’s been more than a couple of times. Just name the sacraments. I’ll give you a hint: There are seven of them.”

D3: “Um, marriage, baptism, communion … confirmation … “

And then the fun began.

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When mapmaking was equal parts art and utility

train map

Some have the ability to recall precise swathes of knowledge from their schooling. I am not one of those individuals.

While I can recollect misdeeds, mishaps and the occasional bout of corporate punishment, there are very few specific bits of knowledge I can remember being imparted some 40-plus years after I began elementary school.

One nugget that I do clearly recall involved a second-grade social studies lesson detailing why movable objects such as cars and planes didn’t make the cut when cartographers create maps. They are, of course, impermanent and most likely wouldn’t be in the same place the next day, making them useless to individuals attempting to navigate based on landmarks shown on a map.

Apparently, this is a relatively new concept for mapmakers, as evidenced by the blog Trains in Towns, which highlights steam locomotives shown on old-time maps.

Evidently, detailing train tracks, a permanent landscape feature, wasn’t enough for cartographers of the 19th and early 20th century to demonstrate the existence of rail lines.

Many of the so-called “bird’s-eye” or panoramic maps of the era show steam locomotives chugging along, belching out smoke and pulling cars through towns and cities.

These maps often feature other transient objects, as well, including ships at anchor, horse-drawn carriages, people walking down dusty lanes and even animals frolicking in fields.

I’m partial to the bird’s eye map of Columbia, SC, from 1872, which is on display at the local library. It shows not only trains, but, among other transitory features, horses galloping around a local race track.

The mapmakers of the period were, it would seem, creating works which could serve artistic as well as utilitarian purposes.

(Top: 19th century bird’s-eye map of unidentified river town showing steam locomotive, riverboats and horses pulling carriages. Source: Trains in Towns.)

11-year-old me on why ancient man steered clear of Office Depot

Lunar_eclipse_April_15_2014_California_Alfredo_Garcia_Jr1

Word is we had a lunar eclipse down our way early this morning. The event offered me an opportunity to recall how utterly obtuse I was 40 years or so ago.

Last night, as I dropped my girls off at their mother’s house, we discussed the eclipse. They explained how they were considering getting up around 5 a.m. to view the unusual celestial occurrence. They had a basic understanding of what caused the event and were excited to see it.

As I drove home, I recalled that when I was the age of my youngest daughter, 11, I not only didn’t understand what an eclipse was, I was utterly unfamiliar with the word. As evidence, I can recall the first time I heard about the concept of an eclipse.

My mother was attempting to explain that people can be afraid of that which they do not understand and was describing how ancient societies were often very superstitious and fearful of rare phenomena. Among things that confused and frightened prehistoric people, she explained, were eclipses.

As I was unacquainted with the word, and not a particularly bright 11-year old, my ears only caught the second part of the word, “clips,” and my mind immediately wandered to “paper clips.”

With an ignorant arrogance not unknown among 11-year-old boys, I immediately thought, “Wow, what a bunch of morons – afraid of paper clips! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Mind you, I wasn’t confident enough in this anthropological assessment to voice this view to my mother; I simply sat there in smug, silent awe that a group of people could be afraid of office supplies.

Sure, paper clips could be exasperating when they got all looped together, and they could cause some really agony if the end of one got under a fingernail, but any society that was afraid of paper clips must have been a pretty pathetic one, I reasoned.

Looking back, I don’t know at what point I finally learned what an eclipse actually was, or at what point I realized what it was my mother had been talking about, but some years later I made the connection that I’d been off base – way off base.

Needless to say, my girls – who are a bit wiser and certainly more intuitive than their father was at their age – always get a chuckle out of that story. And there’s certainly no shortage of similar tales for me to regale them with. I guess that’s one of the few benefits of having been a dense kid.

(Top: Lunar eclipse seen earlier this year. Not pictured: Paper clip.)