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10 Sticky Facts About Maple Syrup

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Savor every drop of this topping—assuming you’re using the real stuff, that is—because it sure isn't easy to make. Here are 10 tasty tidbits everyone should memorize before their next pancake supper.

1. It Takes Roughly 40 Gallons of Sap to Make 1 Gallon of Maple Syrup.

What’s with the skewered conversion rate? Fresh sap has a very low sugar content, yet high-quality maple syrup is composed, at minimum, of 66 percent sugar. Also, consider this: Most trees only yield 5 to 15 gallons of sap per season. Now that’s one labor-intensive liquid!

2. What’s Fake Maple Syrup Made With? You Might Not Wanna Know.  

Brands like Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth use such ingredients as high fructose corn syrup, cellulose gum, and caramel coloring to create an inexpensive substance which only somewhat resembles the genuine article. Thus, their bottles are usually labeled “original,” “breakfast,” or “pancake” syrup. 

3. There’s an International Maple Syrup Institute.

Founded in 1975, the organization works “to promote and protect pure maple syrup and other maple syrup products.” Among other things, the IMSI is working to develop universal standards for syrup quality and consistency. Naturally, their meetings often include memorable breakfast buffets and, sometimes, this guy: 

4. It Comes in Several Color-Based Grades.

Canada’s system includes four hue-related categories: Extra Light (AA), Light (A), Medium (B), #2 Amber (C), and #3 Dark (D). Meanwhile, in the U.S., Grade A syrup is lighter in color while the Grade B variety is considerably darker and used largely for baking. However, Vermont has its own rubric which breaks down into the following brackets: “Golden Color with Delicate Taste,” “Amber Color with Rich Taste,” “Dark with Robust Taste,” and “Very Dark with Strong Taste.”

5. Today, About 80 percent of the World’s Supply Comes From Canada.

American producers once dominated this industry, but the Great White North’s since taken control: Quebec alone generates two-thirds of the globe’s syrup.

6. In Korea, Sap is Usually Preferred to Syrup.

The gorosoe, or “tree good for the bones,” is a Korean maple that’s been tapped by southern villagers since at least the ninth century. Locals consume its sap in huge quantities; drinking over 5 gallons in one sitting is a common practice.

7. Sap-Gathering Pumps Have Replaced Traditional Taps and Buckets Throughout North America.

“A vast number of maple operations are using tubing and vacuum sap collection,” says the Proctor Maple Research Center’s Dr. Abby van den Berg, who’s been developing a new suction-based method that targets saplings as opposed to fully-grown trees for harvesters with limited acreage.  

8. $18 Million Worth Was Recently Stolen From Quebec.

Just as OPEC maintains huge oil reserves, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers keeps a tightly-guarded stockpile of maple syrup that’s dipped into and redistributed to various participants during lean production years. In 2012, shiftless crooks invaded the federation's primary warehouse and lifted 6 million pounds of the sweet stuff, making it one of the largest agricultural thefts ever perpetrated. Since then, 23 people have been arrested in conjunction with the case but, sadly, a third of the stolen syrup remains unaccounted for.

9. Alfred University’s Offered a Maple Syrup Course.

This Western New York school’s catalogue has, at times, included “Maple Syrup: The Real Thing." As the official course description explains, “The method of producing maple syrup is one of the things in our society that has endured even in today's culture of constant change ... This class will explore the history of maple syrup production, discover the ins and outs of making syrup, create (and eat) some sweet confections, and take field trips to local producers, restaurants and festivals. No prior experience expected.”

10. McDonald’s and The State of Vermont Once Got into a Legal Tussle Over False Syrup.

Vermonters definitely weren’t lovin’ it when a misleading snack called “Fruit & Maple Oatmeal” emerged from the Golden Arches in 2011. Local law dictates that it’s illegal to “use the word ‘maple’ on a product unless the sweetener is 100 percent pure maple." McDonald's’ new dish didn’t exactly meet this criteria, and the authorities cried foul. “The word 'maple' has a very specific meaning to Vermonters,” explained state Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross. “Vermont maple products are renowned not only for their flavor, but for their quality.” In an ensuing settlement, Mickey D’s agreed to start offering Green Mountain staters the option of coating their oatmeal orders with certified, honest-to-goodness maple syrup or sugar.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
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The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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