Kim Gittleson fills in from time to time when Julia, Steven, and Blakeney are off traveling the globe. When not trying to fill their very big shoes (and keep their desks clean), she spends a good deal of time in public schools, reporting on education for GothamSchools.org and the New School. She's covered everything from Pop-Tops to butterfly hunts to cocaine-coated dollar bills for Studio360, Slate.com, Living on Earth, and other radio/web/print platforms.
In 1960, zip tops made opening aluminum cans more convenient — and dangerous. Those razor-sharp metal tags you ripped off and threw away were a hazard for the thirsty. That all changed in 1972, when a young engineer named Daniel Cudzik...
The first coupon ever created was, unsurprisingly, invented by the Coca-Cola company in 1887. The coupons offered a free sample of the year-old drink, which was initially sold for 5 cents. In 1895--just 8 years later--Asa Candler proclaimed that Coca-Cola was sold and consumed in every territory of the United States.
By the early 1900s, coupons became so ubiquitous that this 1906 New York Daily Tribune article ironically proclaimed "A Great Future is Predicted for the Rebate Coupon." Then--as now, with Groupon--there were skeptics who weren't quite sure that all the savings were worth it:
"One may imagine the non-transferable feature of rebates amended so that the little checks and coupons may be included in legacies. The last will and testament of John Jones will bequeath to his beloved heirs 5,000 pink stamps, 2,263 brown coupons, 967 olive checks and a lesser assortment to complete the kaleidoscope."
The tongue-in-cheek article goes on to playfully suggest a political use for coupons: "It may be assumed that political parties and candidates already issue varieties of trading stamps that are mostly worthless after election. Pledges and platforms glow with the fading iridescence of true rebates. A few coupons guaranteeing a round of government seed, a front seat at an inaugural, the privilege of finding fault and voting on the other side next time, might heighten enthusiasm in a campaign."
A thought for the 2012 election, perhaps?
On today's Please Explain, Leonard is speaking to Joe Graedon, author of the book and website The People's Pharmacy, about generic drugs. I became interested in the topic when I was recently prescribed a generic antibiotic--and was floored by how much cheaper it was than the name brand I normally requested. Curious to see just how the costs between generics and brand-name drugs broke down, I used data from IMS Health and Drug Topics to compare the prices of the top ten name brand and generic drugs. The full list is in the chart below.
The results aren't too surprising--generics are all significantly cheaper--but now my curiosity has been piqued yet again: just what do these drugs do? Let us know in the comments if you've ever taken one - and share with us your stories of pharmacy shuffles!
On today's Please Explain, Leonard will be speaking to Deb Perelman and John Willoughby about recipes, both good and bad. Below, we've posted two recipes for the same, delicious food: Devil's Food Cake. The recipes span the 20th century: the first, from Fanny Farmer, was initially published in 1896. The second, by the team at Cook's Illustrated, was tested hundreds of times before its publication in 1994. Notice how much shorter the Farmer recipe is--we'll be debating whether brevity is a good thing, or whether more specific recipes yield better results. But before we do, we'd like to hear from you: what do you look for in a recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
Last night was the first night of Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the Jews' escape from slavery in Egypt, and, for some, marks the beginning of spring. Here at the Lopate Show, we've discussed Passover traditions both serious and light over the past few years. Below, you can find a list of some of our favorite segments, as well as some of our favorite Passover recipes. If you celebrate Pesach, let us know in the comments about some of your traditions!
A few weeks ago, Leonard spoke to David Pogue and Katrinn Eismann about digital photography. Now, photographer David Friedman has posted a short video of his interview with Steven Sasson, the inventor of the first digital camera.
In the video, Sasson shows Friedman the first digital camera he invented, which looks like a high school student's poorly designed shop project. According to Sasson, the first digital image was captured by him in December 1975. Check out the full video below—the latest in Friedman's long-running series profiling inventors.
On today's Please Explain, Leonard will be talking to David Pogue and Katrin Eismann about digital photography. One of the issues we'll be exploring is whether digital imagery is more prone to alteration—and if this manipulability means that we have come to distrust digital photographs more than film photographs.
Below, we've created a slide show of some of our favorite faked images throughout history—both film and digital. Let us know in the comments of some other egregious—or subtle—examples of photographic fakery - and if you think digital is less trustworthy than film.
In case you're curious, the Museum of Hoaxes has a great page devoted to photo hoaxes from the 1850s to the 1950s.
This Saturday is Purim—the Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of Persian Jews over Haman the Agatite, who was trying to annihilate them. To celebrate, most Jews dress up in costumes and eat a pastry called hamantaschen, which literally means "ears of Haman." Traditionally filled with poppy seeds, dried fruit, or nuts, the pastry is always shaped in a triangle.
Since we often cover food on the Lopate Show, and recently we've covered quite a bit of Jewish home cooking, we thought we might share some of our favorite hamantaschen recipes with you. Below, we've asked Joan Nathan and Gil Marks—two frequent guests on our show—to share their hamantaschen recipes with us. If you're interested in the history of the holiday, you should also check out an interview Leonard conducted in 2006 with Houman Sarshar, the director of publications for the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History and author of the book Esther's Children. He explains the Persian roots of the holiday, and debunks some widely held myths.
Let us know in the comments if you have a Purim recipe or memory you'd like to share!
In the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan, the country's nuclear plants have been in a state of emergency. As of this writing, at least three nuclear reactors were experiencing partial meltdowns, with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station reportedly experiencing the worst radiation disaster since Chernobyl. Over the weekend, I was keeping an eye on the disaster, but after each news report, I'd been left with one burning, unanswered question: just what exactly happens during a nuclear meltdown?
Thankfully, my dad—who is a physicist—was kind enough to answer my question, even as he gave me a look that said "I told you that you shouldn't have changed your major from chemistry to literature." His response, as well as supplemental information from some of the Lopate Show's past coverage of nuclear energy, is after the jump.
Today, Leonard spoke to ProPublica's Steve Engelberg and Frontline's Raney Aronson about long-form storytelling in a short attention span world. Part of the discussion centered on sites like Longreads and Longform.org, which aggregate good long-form pieces, new and old. Here at the Lopate Show, we thought we'd share some of our own favorite pieces of long-form reporting—both pieces that we've discussed and others—and ask you, our listeners, to tell us your favorites. Let us know in the comments below!
On today's Please Explain, Leonard spoke to geologist Lori Dengler and seismologist Geoff Abers about the tsunami in Japan. In addition to finding out that earthquakes can cause whirlpools, we found out a lot more about how tsunamis are closer to us than we think.
The world of 17th century scientific and mathematical experimentation was, as Edward Dolnick told Leonard today, one of alchemy, experimentation, and god-fearing superstition. The experiments undertaken by the Royal Society may have led to some incredible discoveries, but some had less serious goals and were, in truth, nothing more than idle amusements. Take the cat piano.
Today, Leonard spoke to chef Grant Achatz, whose restaurant, Alinea, is consistently named one of the best restaurants in America for its creative takes on traditional food. Achatz is known as one of the leaders of molecular gastronomy, which places an emphasis on the chemical properties of food. Molecular gastronomists like Achatz are often known for their elaborate, almost surreal plating techniques.
The origins of the name Manhattan are a murky business. Today, Leonard spoke to James and Karla Murray, who have set about documenting the varied store fronts of New York's rapidly disappearing mom-and-pop stores. As part of their book, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, they include historical descriptions of New York's neighborhoods. In addition to the interesting tidbits and trivia (who knew that the Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery was still making yogurt with a culture brought over from Romania in the 1890s?), I was surprised to find out that the origins of present-day Manhattan could be traced to so many different words. Here's a sample of the few the Murrays named:
On tomorrow’s show, Leonard will be discussing the current state of restaurant reviewing with Adam Platt, the restaurant reviewer for New York magazine, and Raphael Brion, the national editor of the restaurant website Eater. But before we jump into the discussion, we wanted to hear your thoughts on what sources you find most useful when deciding where to eat.
Towards that end, we’ve decided to focus on two restaurants (for now): Del Posto, the first Italian restaurant to receive a four star review from the New York Times in decades, and Fatty ‘Cue, a new-ish Asian barbeque fusion restaurant in Williamsburg. Both have been talked about and reviewed quite a bit in the past year. We’ve posted links to the Yelp and UrbanSpoon pages, as well as to reviews from Zagat, New York and the New York Times. Read them and tell us what you think – which review gives you the best sense of the ambiance of the place? Helps you decide what to order? And, ultimately, tells you whether or not you should go?
On today’s Underreported, Leonard and Barry Estabrook examine the current state of dairy farming in the United States—and efforts to pass a new price stabilization program in Congress.
Below, you can check out a map of the current concentration of dairy farms in New York. The image is taken from a website called Factory Farm Map, which promotes sustainable farming practices and a bias against larger farms. Although the website is partisan, the data upon which this map is based is not: it comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, which is a five-year survey of America’s farms. (It last happened in 2007.) For more on the map and the methodology, you can go here.
Overall, the majority of dairy farms are located in California and Idaho, but New York is still one of the highest producers of dairy in the U.S., coming in at 6th overall. Within New York, Wyoming County and Cayuga County—both located in the western part of the state—are the largest producers of milk, with over 28,000 and 22,000 cows respectively.
Are you a dairy farmer in New York? Or have you visited a dairy farm recently? Let us know in the comments!
On today’s show, Leonard spoke to Dan Reed, the producer of the Frontline documentary “Battle for Haiti”, about the more than 4,000 prisoners who escaped from the National Penitentiary during last year’s earthquake and the repercussions of this jailbreak.
Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of last year’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. Below, you can find links to our coverage of the quake and the rebuilding efforts over the past year - an interesting timeline of a natural disaster and its repercussions. We’ve also included some of our coverage of Haiti before the earthquake: a saddening reminder that Haiti’s troubles go back further than just last year.
We’d love to know what coverage you found really meaningful—and what we should be keeping an eye on in the future. Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Today, Leonard talked to Professor Mike Brown about his book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. In the book, Professor Brown recounts how his discovery of a 10th "dwarf" planet in the solar system inadvertently led to uproar in the astronomical community—and the eventual demotion of Pluto as a full-fledged planet. The conversation reminded us of a series of angry letters from Pluto defenders published in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, The Pluto Files. (Mr. Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum, appeared on our show to discuss his book in December 2009.) These letters came from an unlikely source: third-graders. One letter writer accused him of being a “Pluto-hater”; another offered a carefully drawn picture of Pluto, just in case the director had had a hard time identifying it. Below, we’ve put scans of our favorites, courtesy of NOVA’s website. Let us know your favorite letter in the comments below!
On tomorrow’s Please Explain, we’ll be delving deep into the history and the construction of standardized tests. Standardized tests, once used only to test a select group for college readiness, have become ubiquitous in today’s accountability environment, used for everything from merit scholarships to international comparisons to shutting down schools. Tomorrow, CUNY Professors Howard Everson and David Rindskopf—experts in the field of test design and implementation who have worked on everything from the SAT to the New York State proficiency exams, respectively—will explain to us how this came to be and just what tests can and can’t tell us. Before that, though, we want to test you!
Below you’ll find a sampling of SAT questions through the ages—from the 1926 exam to the present. You’ll also find a link to the most recent New York State 8th grade math and ELA exams. Unlike most standardized tests, we’re giving you a full twenty four hours to work on your answers—but make sure to come to class prepared tomorrow. Let us know how you did in the comments!