15 Things You Might Not Know About Oregon

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1. You might think that a crack team of high-paid designers came up with Nike’s renowned “swoosh” logo. In fact, it was Portland State University student and Oregon native Carly Davidson who thought up the design in 1971. She sold it to Nike’s co-founder (Phil Knight, another Oregon native and an accounting professor at the college) for only $35.

2. Knight is also co-founder and chairman of the animation studio Laika, which operates in Portland under the management of his son Travis. Laika, the brand behind Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, is just one of many animation companies situated in Portland, which is considered one of the top cities in America to pursue a career in the field. ADi, Happy Trails Animation, BENT IMAGE LAB, Hinge Digital, Wallace Creative, and several others call the Oregon city their home.

3. Without one particular Oregon invention, you’d have had an awful hard time clicking on this article. In 1970, Portland’s most delightfully named scientist Douglas Engelbart patented his long gestating invention, the computer mouse.

4. Also born in Oregon: the hacky sack. The game—and partnership of co-inventors Mike Marshall and John Stalberger—came to be in 1972, when Marshall introduced a makeshift beanbag to Stalberger, who was nursing a knee injury and was seeking a fun and stress-free means of rehabilitation. Following Marshall’s death, Stalberger sold the idea to the Wham-O toy company in 1983.

5.With a bed resting 1,943 feet below the surface, Oregon’s Crater Lake enjoys distinction as the deepest lake in the United States (and the ninth deepest on Earth). The 6-mile-long, 5-mile-wide body of water was formed as a result of the collapse of the cascade volcano Mount Mazama.

 around 5000 BCE. Crater Lake is also noteworthy for remarkable water clarity and purity, and for its sacred significance to the Klamath Native Americans.

6. The state also hits another landmark in nautical depth. Hells Canyon, which sits on Oregon’s border with Idaho, is the deepest river gorge in North America. A distance just shy of 8,000 feet (7,993, to be precise) separates the peak of the He Devil mountain and the pit of the ravine.

7. The last of Oregon’s achievements in maritime grandeur concerns its Sea Lion Caves, the longest sea caves in America … or anywhere, for that matter, outside of New Zealand (which claims the only five sea caves in the world longer than Oregon’s).

8. The mother of all “biggests” has got to be Oregon’s Armillaria solidipes, a single specimen of mushroom that scientists consider to be the largest living organism on Earth. Known colloquially as the “Humungous Fungus,” the Malheur National Forest resident measures approximately 2,400 acres (though the bulk of its area exists underground) and is between 2,000 and 8,000 years old.

9. But Oregon also abides by the “good things come in small packages” dictum. In 1971, the state became the proud recipient of a Guinness World Record for the smallest park on the planet. The tiny Mill Ends Park stands proud in Portland with a 452 square inch area, hosting little more than a hole filled with hand-planted flowers … though locals swear that the diminutive locale is home to an elusive leprechaun. In 2012, Great Britain challenged the record on the grounds that an area so small couldn’t appropriately be deemed a park, insisting that the true victor of the title is the two-feet-in-diameter Prince’s Park in Burntwood, Staffordshire. But the ruling went unchanged, as it was determined that a plot of land need neither trees nor benches to be called a park … just leprechauns.

10. Oregon may also be home to the world’s shortest river, although that also depends on whom you ask. Up until 1989, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Oregon’s D River, which spans only 440 feet, as the world's shortest river. However, once the state of Montana brought its own 201-foot Roe River to the book’s attention, the honor was passed over. But Oregon did not give up. Following the shift, citizens of Lincoln City took it upon themselves to wait until a remarkably high tide to again measure the D River, calculating the length at just 120 feet. All was ultimately for naught, unfortunately, as Guinness discontinued its documentation of shortest rivers in 2006.

11. If movies have taught us anything about the FBI, it’s that discretion is a characteristic of great merit. And yet there’s something about a 26-foot-tall rabbit-man hybrid that doesn’t exactly scream “inconspicuous.” Nevertheless, marine retail salesman Ed Harvey’s store mascot—the aforementioned fiberglass giant that stands roadside in Aloha, Oregon—has been an alleged meeting ground for federal agents … and the source of nightmares for many a local child.

12. Oregon plays a part in a number of Nickelodeon cartoons. The cult series Angry Beavers is set explicitly in the fictional rural city of Wayoutatown, Oregon, and the ever popular Hey Arnold! drew inspiration from its creator’s upbringing in Portland (combining elements of the city with New York and Seattle). Additionally, CatDog is suggested to have based its fictional Nearberg on the Northwestern state.

13. If you’re look for a West Coast pen pal, Oregon’s Barbara Blackburn should be a speedy correspondent. In 2005, the Guinness Book of World Records named the Salem writer the fastest English language typist in the world; she can maintain a rapid 150 words per minute for 50-minute spans. Her fastest recorded speed was the impressive 212 words per minute (just over three-and-a-half words per second).

14. A tip of the hat to Portland for its impressive beer scene. Strewn throughout Oregon’s hip metropolis are more breweries than any other city in the world has to its name—56 in the city itself, and 76 in the Portland metropolitan area.

15. And all that drinking is actually for a good cause! Portland is home to the world’s first non-profit pub, Oregon Public House, that donates its income to a variety of charities all in the name of (their joke, not ours) “ale-truism.”

8 Surprising Uses for Potatoes

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Potatoes are one of the world’s most common, and most beloved, vegetables—and they can be used for much more than just sustenance. In honor of National Potato Day, here are a few other ways to use a potato.

1. WEAR THEM

Potatoes come from a nightshade plant called Solanum tuberosum, which blooms with white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers. In the late 1700s, in an effort to inspire their starving subjects to plant the newly introduced vegetable—which the Spanish had brought to Europe from the New World—Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair, and her husband King Louis XVI wore them in his buttonholes. This inspired potato flowers to be a favorite of the French nobility for a time, but the ploy didn't work: The lower classes spurned the upper class's efforts to get them to farm the crop. 

2. MAKE ELECTRICITY

If you’re in a lurch, or perhaps a doomsday prepper, start stocking up on potatoes now. With just a few household items—wires, some copper, and a zinc-coated nail—and one of the tubers, you can power a clock, a light bulb, and many other small electronics.

3. GARDEN IN SPACE

In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown on the space shuttle. Raymond Bula of the University of Wisconsin spearheaded a project in which five Norland variety potato leaves were propagated in space. Bula’s research group monitored this project from Wisconsin, staying in constant contact with NASA, who stayed in contact with the crew on the space shuttle. When the shuttle arrived home, everyone was pleased to find that the potato plants not only survived the ordeal, but actually grew potatoes.

4. GROW ROSES

Gardeners can insert rose cuttings into a potato, and then plant the entire potato as if it were a seed or bulb. The nutrient-rich potato helps provide moisture and sustenance to the growing plant, giving the cutting a better chance to survive.

5. MAKE PLASTIC

Bio-plastics, as they’re called, can be made from corn, wheat, and—you guessed it—potatoes. The concentration of starches and cellulose in a potato can be used to make plastic, and the plastic made out of potatoes can be burned and composted with much less impact on the environment.

6. MEASURE TIME

Peru’s Incas used the potato for all sorts of things at the height of their civilization. Known for creative, forward-thinking agricultural practices, the Incas also studied time—and started using the time it takes to cook a potato to measure time.

7. REMOVE RUST

Have a knife with some rust spots? If you insert the knife into the potato and let it sit for awhile, you'll go a long way in removing the rust. Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, which is used in many household cleaning products (in much greater quantities, of course). Oxalic acid also dissolves rust. To attack larger rusted surfaces with a potato, cut it in half, sprinkle baking powder on it or dip it in dish soap, and get to scrubbing.

8. MAIL THEM

Thanks to Mail A Spud, for only $9.99 everyone’s dream of mailing a potato to their closest friends and family can be a reality. The site advertises that it can send potatoes anywhere in the U.S., and that your choice of mailed gift will be sure to delight recipients. And, if not delight, at least confuse ... in a good way.

Additional Sources: Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent

This article originally ran in 2016.

15 Uplifting Facts About the Wright Brothers

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Before they built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, and controllable aircraft, Wilbur and Orville Wright were two ordinary brothers from the Midwest who possessed nothing more than natural talent, ambition, and imagination. In honor of National Aviation Day, here are 15 uplifting facts about the siblings who made human flight possible.

1. A TOY PIQUED THEIR PASSION.

From an early age, Wilbur and Orville Wright were fascinated by flight. They attribute their interest in aviation to a small helicopter toy their father brought back from his travels in France. Fashioned from a stick, two propellers, and rubber bands, the toy was crudely made. Nevertheless, it galvanized their quest to someday make their very own flying machine.

2. THEIR GENIUS WAS GENETIC.

While they were inspired by their father’s toy, the Wright brothers inherited their mechanical savvy from their mother, Susan Koerner Wright. She could reportedly make anything, be it a sled or another toy, by hand.

3. THEY WERE PROUD MIDWESTERNERS.

The Wright brothers spent their formative years in Dayton, Ohio. Later in life, Wilbur said his advice for those seeking success would be to “pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

4. THEY NEVER GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL.

While the Wright brothers were undoubtedly bright, neither of them ever earned his high school diploma. Wilbur became reclusive after suffering a bad hockey injury, and Orville dropped out of school.

5. THEY ONCE PUBLISHED A NEWSPAPER.

Before they were inventors, the Wright brothers were newspaper publishers. When he was 15 years old, Orville launched his own print shop from behind his house and he and Wilber began publishing The West Side News, a small-town neighborhood paper. It eventually became profitable, and Orville moved the fledgling publication to a rented space downtown. In due time, Orville and Wilbur ceased producing The West Side News—which they’d renamed The Evening Item—to focus on other projects.

6. THEY MADE A FORAY INTO THE BICYCLE BUSINESS.

One of these projects was a bike store called the Wright Cycle Company, where Wilbur and Orville fixed clients’ bicycles and sold their own designs. The fledgling business grew into a profitable enterprise, which eventually helped the Wright brothers fund their flight designs.

7. THEY WERE AUTODIDACTS.

The Wright brothers’ lifelong interest in flight peaked after they witnessed a successive series of aeronautical milestones: the gliding flights of German aviator Otto Lilienthal, the flying of an unmanned steam-powered fixed-wing model aircraft by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley, and the glider test flights of Chicago engineer Octave Chanute. By 1899, Wilbur sat down and wrote to the Smithsonian, asking them to send him literature on aeronatics. He was convinced, he wrote, “that human flight is possible and practical.” Once he received the books, he and Orville began studying the science of flight.

8. THEY CHOSE TO FLY IN KITTY HAWK BECAUSE IT PROVIDED WIND, SOFT SAND, AND PRIVACY.

The Wright brothers began building prototypes and eventually traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1902 to test a full-size, two-winged glider with a moveable rudder. They chose this location thanks in part to their correspondence with Octave Chanute, who advised them in a letter to select a windy place with soft grounds. It was also private, which allowed them to launch their aircrafts with little public interference.

9. THEY ACHIEVED FOUR SUCCESSFUL FLIGHTS WITH THEIR FIRST AIRPLANE DESIGN.

The Wright brothers started testing various wing designs and spent the next few years perfecting their evolving vision for a heavier-than-air flying machine. In the winter of 1903, they returned to Kitty Hawk with their final model, the 1903 Wright Flyer. On December 17, they finally achieved a milestone: four brief flights, one of which lasted for 59 seconds and reached 852 feet.

10. THE 1903 WRIGHT FLYER NEVER TOOK TO THE SKIES AGAIN…

Before the brothers could embark on their final flight, a heavy wind caused the plane to flip several times. Because of the resulting damage, it never flew again. It eventually found a permanent home in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum—even though Orville originally refused to donate it to the institution because it claimed that Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley’s own aircraft experiment was the first machine capable of sustained free flight.

11. …BUT A PIECE OF IT DID GO TO THE MOON.

An astronaut paid homage to the Wright brothers by carrying both a swatch of fabric from the 1903 Flyer’s left wing and a piece of its wooden propeller inside his spacesuit.

12. THE PRESS INITIALLY IGNORED THE KITTY HAWK FLIGHTS.

Despite their monumental achievement, the Dayton Journal didn’t think the Wright brothers’ short flights were important enough to cover. The Virginia Pilot ended up catching wind of the story, however, and they printed an error-ridden account that was picked up by several other papers. Eventually, the Dayton Journal wrote up an official—and accurate—story.

13. THE BROTHERS SHARED A CLOSE BOND...

Although the Wright brothers weren’t twins, they certainly lived like they were. They worked side by side six days a week, and shared the same residence, meals, and bank account. They also enjoyed mutual interests, like music and cooking. Neither brother ever married, either. Orville said it was Wilbur’s job, as the older sibling, to get hitched first. Meanwhile, Wilbur said he “had no time for a wife.” In any case, the two became successful businessmen, scoring aviation contracts both domestically and abroad.

14. …BUT WERE OPPOSITES IN MANY WAYS.

Although they were much alike, each Wright brother was his own person. As the older brother, Wilbur was more serious and taciturn. He possessed a phenomenal memory, and was generally consumed by his thoughts. Meanwhile, Orville was positive, upbeat, and talkative, although very bashful in public. While Wilbur spearheaded the brothers’ business endeavors, they wouldn’t have been possible without Orville’s mechanical—and entrepreneurial—savvy.

15. OHIO AND NORTH CAROLINA FIGHT OVER THEIR LEGACY.

Since the Wright brothers split their experiments between Ohio and North Carolina, both states claim their accomplishments as their own. Ohio calls itself the "Birthplace of Aviation,” although the nickname also stems from the fact that two famed astronauts hail from there as well. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s license plates are emblazoned with the words “First In Flight.”

This article originally ran in 2015.

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