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A Dunder Mifflin Tour of Scranton

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Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a Mecca of sorts for fans of The Office, playing home to the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company and the lovable cast of characters that work there. While the show is actually filmed in California, there are plenty of references to Scranton hangout spots sprinkled throughout the script. To see if these Office-endorsed locales are all they’re cracked up to be, I ventured on a tour-de-Electric City, Michael Scott-style.

Places that actually exist

Alfredo’s Pizza Café

In the episode “Launch Party,” Michael tries to win over his disgruntled employees by ordering takeout from their favorite pizzeria. Unfortunately (and predictably), he screws up. Instead of ordering from the delectable and popular Alfredo’s Pizza Café, he orders from Pizza by Alfredo’s — an eatery famous for cranking out pizza that tastes “like eating a hot circle of garbage,” in Kevin’s assessment.

While Pizza by Alfredo’s is fictional, Alfredo’s Pizza Café is a real restaurant in Scranton. It’s a classic sit-down Italian eatery that serves up a variety of salads, sandwiches, and pastas. To see if the pizza is truly the best slice in Scranton, I ordered a piece of thin crust for review. Friends and I collectively agreed that it was not like eating a hot circle of garbage, but perhaps not worth $2.25 a slice.

Chili’s

Michael Scott’s favorite restaurant will be forever memorialized in the minds of Office fans. It was the site of the Dundee’s award ceremony — when Pam got plastered and banned from the franchise. It’s also the location of Michael and Jan’s infamous first kiss following their antic-filled meeting with a crazy client played by Tim Meadows.

There isn’t actually a Chili’s in Scranton. However, people who want their baby back (baby back, baby back) ribs can find one just a fifteen-minute drive away in nearby Wilkes-Barre. The restaurant is. . . well, just like any other Chili’s.

Cooper’s Seafood

The Office name-drops Coopers about as often as Michael Scott makes a “that’s what she said” joke. And in the episode “Business Ethics,” Michael actually takes Holly there. In the typically absurd scene, he gestures wildly with a crab claw as he discusses whether he should report Meredith for sleeping with a client in exchange for steak coupons.

The real Cooper’s is a popular Scranton seafood house modeled after a pirate ship. When I stopped by, the restaurant was hopping — crowded and pleasantly noisy, punctuated by the odor of salty fish. The eatery is divided into several rooms, including the ship’s pub, the lighthouse bar, the tiki bar deck, the whale room, the train room, the original pub, and the private coral room. There’s also a gift shop that offers a hodgepodge of lobster shot glasses, Dunder Mifflin-themed paraphernalia, and fish puppets. If you’re ever in Scranton on your birthday, Cooper's will treat you to a free meal.

Electric City signs

In the episode "The Merger," Michael and Dwight make a rap video called “Lazy Scranton” to introduce their out-of-town colleagues to the Electric City. In the immortal words of Mr. Scott, “They call it that cuz of the electri-City.”

Well, sort of. Scranton is indeed called the Electric City. That’s because America’s first electric-operated trolley system was developed there in 1886. While the line is no longer in commission, the nickname stuck. There’s a huge Electric City sign downtown that lights up at night, as well as a colorful mural next to the overpass on the way into Scranton.

Froggy 101 Radio Station

Dwight’s a big fan of this country music station. He’s even got a Froggy 101 bumper sticker on his desk. There was also a Froggy 101 sticker on the desk of Michael’s boss during his stint at the telemarketing company.

The real Froggy 101 is a popular Scranton-based country-western station. I figured a drive to Office country wouldn’t be complete without tuning in to good ol’ 101.3FM to pump some beats. In the half-hour or so that I listened to the station, DJ Crockett played a nice mix of mainstream and countrified artists — Rascal Flatts, Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner, and Dierks Bentley. And of course, Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.”

Lackawanna Coal Mine/Anthracite Heritage Museum

Michael and Dwight’s infamous “Lazy Scranton” rap video features footage of the Anthracite Heritage Museum. And in the episode “Healthcare”, Michael considers taking his staff on a tour of the Lackawanna coal mines after promising them an exciting but unspecified surprise.

The Anthracite Heritage Museum is a real exhibit in Scranton. It commemorates the workers of the coal mining and textile industries -- which formed the economic backbone of northeastern PA . The museum features old mining tools, replicas of miners’ homes, and real mine cars. And if that’s not enough, there are coal mine tours just down the road. The tour takes viewers 300 feet underground into a mineshaft, where a “miner” guide shares anecdotes about the history of anthracite coal mining. (I arrived too late to take a tour but just in time to play on the coal mine trucks without getting kicked out by security.)

Poor Richard’s Pub

It’s probably the most famous hangout spot for The Office gang, mentioned in multiple episodes as a favorite happy-hour destination. In the episode “Cocktails", the crew heads to Poor Richard’s, where the staff is on a first-name basis with Meredith. Pam tells Roy that she kissed Jim, prompting him to trash the bar with his brother in a drunken rage.

While the scene was filmed at Pickwick’s Pub in California, the real Poor Richard’s is located inside a bowling alley teeming with kids and birthday balloons. But the bar itself is not as family-friendly. It’s small and dark with several tables, an arcade machine, and a few dartboards. When I stopped by on a Saturday at 6 p.m., the pub only had two customers, both middle-aged men.

Steamtown Mall

In “Women’s Appreciation,” Michael celebrates his office gal pals by taking them to Scranton’s premier shopping site: the Mall at Steamtown. After they help him work out his relationship problems with Jan, he treats them each to one item from Victoria’s Secret.

While the episode was filmed at a mall in Los Angeles, there is a Steamtown Mall in Scranton — and it embraces its role as the center of Office-Mania. There’s a large display featuring cardboard cutouts and Office memorabilia in one of the mall’s windows. The elevator is embossed with a huge picture of a Dwight Schrute bobblehead: Rainn Wilson is an honorary safety guard there.

Places that used to exist

Farley’s Pub

In the episode “Basketball,” the losers of the game between the warehouse guys and the office guys have to buy the winners dinner at Farley’s.

The real Farley’s was a popular pub in downtown Scranton. After the show became famous, Farley’s added a special Michael Scott burger to the menu. Sadly for Office fans (and Scrantonites), the iconic bar closed earlier this year.

The “Scranton Welcomes You” sign

This sign is featured prominently in the opening credits. It used to be located on the Central Scranton Expressway. But a few years ago, city officials decided to retire the sign and replace it with a new one. The old sign is currently hanging out at the Steamtown Mall, where Office aficionados can bask in its presence.

Places that are totally made up

Hooters

It’s another culinary staple for Michael Scott. In the episode "The Secret", he treats Jim to lunch there on the corporate account and cleverly orders a chicken breast – hold the chicken.

But while the restaurant chain plays a big role in The Office, there isn’t actually a Hooters in Scranton. The nearest one is over an hour away, making it an unlikely lunch-break destination for true Scrantonites.

Benihana

To help him get over a bad breakup with Carol, Andy takes Michael to the so-called “Asian Hooters” to help him drown his sorrows in sake shots.

While it made for a great Christmas episode (aptly titled “a Benihana Christmas”), there isn’t actually a Benihana in or near Scranton. The closest one is in New Jersey.

Scranton Business Park

Located at 1725 Slough Avenue, the location of Scranton’s most viable business ventures – Dunder Mifflin, Vance Refrigeration, and others – doesn’t actually exist. Slough is actually the name of the town where the British Office takes place.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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