Masters of Their Domain


The Master: Estonian "athlete" Margo Uusorg is probably the world's greatest wife carrier. At the annual Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajärvi, Finland (where first prize is the wife's weight in beer!), Uusorg has emerged victorious five out of the past seven years (his brother Madis won in 2004) . He's also the only man to have won with three different female partners (you don't have to carry your own wife, see). Uusorg and his fellow Estonians are so dominant in the sport, which involves sprinting with wifey across various surfaces and water obstacles, that their technique has come to be known as "the Estonian." So, what is the Estonian? A position that's definitely not in the Kama Sutra, it involves a spouse hanging upside down with her arms around her husband's waist while her legs are clutching for dear life to his neck.
angkor_wat_jump-rope.jpgThe Domain: World Records
The Master: Ashrita Furman currently holds 33 Guinness World Records, including the record for having the most Guinness World Records. In his record-setting career, which began after he dropped out of Columbia University in the mid-1970s, 51-year-old Furman has set or beaten more than 100 records, including longest continuous pogo sticking (23.11 miles), most completed hopscotch games in 24 hours (434), fastest 10 km sack race (1 hour, 22 minutes, 2 seconds), and the longest period of continuous juggling underwater (48 minutes and 36 seconds). And he's single, ladies! On the downside, Furman is a devoted follower of the Indian philosopher Sri Chinmoy, who preaches strict celibacy.
damone_roberts_eyebrow_seminar.jpgThe Domain: Eyebrow Plucking
The Master: Known as "The Eyebrow King," Damone Roberts has plucked and sculpted the world's most famous eyebrows, from Paula Abdul to Amanda Peet to the Backstreet Boys. A visit to Damone's Beverly Hills salon will cost you $60, but it's well worth the expense. After all, he's America's only eyebrow sculptor to have registered his own name as a trademark! Now that's classy.
Movies_Wordplay-Shortz_0625.jpgThe Domain: Enigmatology
The Master: Will Shortz. It's no contest, really, because Shortz is the only person in human history to graduate college with a degree in enigmatology (the study of puzzles). After receiving the honor from Indiana University in 1974, Shortz went on to a career in puzzles, and in 1993, he landed the best job in the business, editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle. His work there is legendary among crossword enthusiasts, as is Shortz's 20,000-strong collection of puzzle books and magazines. As historian of the National Puzzlers' League, Shortz goes by the nickname WILLz, which puzzlers will recognize as a rebus puzzle that translates to Will Short "˜z'.
250px-Various_AOL_CDs_with_packaging_removed.jpgThe Domain: Collecting AOL CDs (a surprisingly competitive field)
The Masters: Collectors of the infamous AOL "free hours" CDs are legion. In fact, there are dozens of "rare" AOL CDs auctioned on eBay every day. But the masters of the AOL CD collecting domain are undoubtedly Jim McKenna and John Lieberman, two Californians who started collecting the discs back in 2002. Since then, they've amassed more than 385,000. (By the way, if you stacked those suckers up, they'd be taller than the Empire State Building.) When they get to the 1 million mark, they plan on returning the whole lump sum to AOL and asking the company to stop mailing unsolicited CDs.
madmonday_wideweb__430x315.jpgThe Domain: Chessboxing
The Master: Bulgarian Tihomir Titschko is currently the European chessboxing champion—and, because the sport hasn't really spread to other continents, that makes him the de facto world champ. Chessboxing starts with a four-minute round of chess, followed by a two-minute round of boxing, and then it's back to the chess. A judge decides the winner after 11 rounds (six of chess and five of boxing), unless the match is stopped first by a knockout or checkmate. And if you're thinking Lennox Lewis could probably beat Bobby Fischer at chessboxing, you're right. While it's important to be not horrible at chess, it's more important to know how to survive in the ring.
badminton.jpg

The Domain: High School Badminton
The Master: Miller Place High School in New York. Between 1973 and 2005, the Miller Place High School badminton team won 504 consecutive games. Sadly, the streak ended on April 12, 2005, when they were beaten 10-5 by Smithtown High School. But fret not, high school badminton fans! Miller Place is back to its winning ways and has already started racking up the trophies again.
 dock_ellis_autograph.jpg

The Domain: Pitching Professionally While Under the Influence of Drugs
The Master: Dock Ellis was a pretty eccentric baseball player, which befits a man who now claims he never played a major league game sober. On May 1, 1974, for instance, Ellis attempted to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds' lineup. In the first inning alone, he pelted Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Dreisen. Tony Perez dodged four pitches and walked, but after Johnny Bench was nearly beaned twice, Ellis was removed from the game. But by far, Ellis' oddest accomplishment came on June 12, 1970, when (per his autobiography) he became the only major league player ever to pitch a complete game no-hitter while tripping on acid. Luckily, Ellis sobered up after his retirement and now works as a drug treatment counselor.

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New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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iStock

Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

chimp eating banana
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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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