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Another stick on the wall

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Imagine every nasty, chewed-up wad of gum you've ever had the misfortune of discovering on the bottom of your shoe or the underside of a desk, times 10,000, magically transposed to one spot. If that sounds like somewhere you'd love to visit, then welcome to otherwise relatively hygenic San Luis Obispo, California, whose number-one tourist attraction is Bubblegum Alley, AKA Cooties HQ. For over 40 years, pop-art pilgrims and masticatory thrill-seekers have donated wads of their own to this erstwhile shrine to the almighty bubble "“ more than 300,000 pieces in all, measuring 40 meters in length and up to 15 pieces deep. Awe-struck, inspired and more than a little overwhelmed by the smell, I felt compelled to post some holiday snaps of the Pollock-esque Alley, as well as a few gum-related facts for y'all to chew on:

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1. The minty-fresh Greeks of yore were famously fond of a gummy substance called mastiche, derived from the resin of the mastic tree. (For you etymology buffs, mastic is the root of masticate, which despite sounding dirty to fifth graders means "to chew.") First century botanist Dioscorides thought the mastic had medicinal properties, and he was onto something: twentieth century scientists confirmed that chewing its resin reduces bacterial plaque in the mouth.

2. The US Army has issued its infantrymen packs of chewing gum since World War I, claiming that its use during battle improves soldiers' concentration and relieves stress. Only since Gulf War I has the Army dispensed caffeinated gum, with each stick approximately equal to the pick-me-up of one cup of coffee.

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3. In an attempt to avoid having a Bubblegum Alley of their own, the neatfreak nation of Singapore banned the posession of chewing gum outright in 1992. The punishment for smuggling it into the country "“ even a small amount for personal use "“ ranged from steep fines to caning. But thanks in part to a 2004 free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Singapore (and heavy lobbying by the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company), the law was revised to allow certain types of chewing gum which boast "proven health benefits" "“ such as "enamel-strengthening" Wrigley's Orbit gum.

4. Perhaps owing to an increased blood flow to the brain experienced while chewing, gum-chewers have scored higher on word-recall tests than non-chewers. Despite this, chewing gum is banned in many schools.

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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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