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The Day the Royal Navy Ended its Daily Rum Ration

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Getty Images

Rum isn't just the preferred drink of pirates: For more than 300 years, the booze was also part of the daily rations of sailors in Britain's Royal Navy.

The tradition began in the 17th century, when ships traded out daily rations of beer—which tended to spoil on long journeys—for the spirit. Later, the booze was spiked with lemon juice to help prevent scurvy. Until 1740, the daily ration was half a pint of rum, but in 1850, the amount was set at a tot, 70 milliliters of rum (or an eighth of a pint) distributed at midday. Junior sailors had their share watered down with water, while higher-ups took theirs neat.

"In my era it was a social occasion," Commander David Allsop, who joined the British Navy in 1955, told the BBC. "You paid for favors quietly, you had friends come round to share the tot. It was just the same as going to the bar and having a pre-lunch drink. That's all it was, at the end of the day, a strong aperitif."

The British Royal Navy ended its daily rum rations on July 31, 1970, citing concern that sailors who took a swig at lunch would be less capable when operating ship machinery. "It was badly received," Allsop said. "There was a lot of muttering below the decks." Sailors called it "Black Tot Day," marking the occasion by wearing black armbands and burying their tots at sea. And at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, cook Thomas McKenzie (above) drank the last drop of rum on his ship directly from the barrel.

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The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
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iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare
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Alexa Can Now Help You Find a Wine Pairing
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iStock

Even if you enjoy wine regularly, you may not know exactly how you’re supposed to pair it with food. But you don’t have to be a sommelier to put together a good pairing at home. According to Lifehacker, you can just ask Alexa.

An Alexa skill called Wine Finder is designed to help you figure out which wine varietal would go best with whatever food you’re planning to eat. You just have to ask, “What wine goes well with … ”

Created by an app developer called Bloop Entertainment, the Amazon Echo skill features a database with 500 wine pairings. And not all of them are designed for someone working their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The skill will also help you find the proper pairing for your more casual snacks. In one demo, the skill recommends pairing nachos with a Sauvignon blanc or Zinfandel. (Note that the latter also goes well with Frito pie.)

You can also ask it to find you the perfect wine to drink with apple pie and pizza, in addition to the meats, cheeses, and other wine-pairing staples you might expect. However, if you ask it what to pair with hot dogs, it says “water,” which is an affront to hot dog connoisseurs everywhere.

There are a few other wine-pairing skills available for Alexa, including Wine Pairings, Wine Pairings (two different skills), and Wine Expert. But according to user reviews, Wine Finder is the standout, offering more and higher-quality suggestions than some of the other sommelier apps.

It’s free to enable here, so drink up.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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