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25 Things You Should Know About Salt Lake City

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Set against the stunning backdrop of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, the city of 191,000 is where your undecipherable handwriting is interpreted and where your rubber chickens are made. Learn more about Utah's capital city.

1. Despite its rep as a conservative religious town, Salt Lake City has a thriving LGBT community and was even voted "Gayest City in the USA" by the Advocate in 2012.

2. Due to its short distance to the Great Salt Lake, the city was originally named "Great Salt Lake City." The word "great" was dropped from the official name in 1868.

3. Salt Lake City, somewhat surprisingly, is home to the first Kentucky Fried Chicken. Harland "Colonel" Sanders' original restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, was called Sanders Court and Café. In 1952, Sanders franchised his chicken recipe to his Utah-based friend Pete Harman. Harman changed his own restaurant's name from Harman Café to Kentucky Fried Chicken after people lined up down the street to order his new Southern-fried menu item. The original KFC still stands at the corner of 3900 South and State Street—about 1500 miles away from Kentucky. 

 


4. 
Located just west of Temple Square, the Family History Library is the largest genealogical library in the world. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, and is free of charge and open to the public. 

5. The streets in downtown Salt Lake City are unusually wide. When Mormon leader Brigham Young mapped out the city, the roads were built to accommodate the oxcarts that the settlers drove—each street was built wide enough for an oxcart to make a U-turn. 

6. The Great Salt Lake is supposedly home to the North Shore Monster, which witnesses in 1877 described as having the body of a crocodile and the head of a horse. 
 
7. SLC (and Utah more broadly) has one of the youngest populations in the United States, thanks to its very high birth rate.

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8. Established in 1868, Salt Lake City's Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) was the country's first department store. The store was eventually turned into a Macy’s, although the original facade was preserved.
 
9. As of 2014, Salt Lake City was home to more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the U.S.

10. Salt Lake City is home to Loftus Novelty, the United States’ leading manufacturer of rubber chickens.
 
11. USPS Remote Encoding Facility, where mail bearing unreadable addresses is sent to be deciphered, is located in Salt Lake City. A team of postal geniuses work here 24/7.
 
12. Further defying its conservative reputation, Salt Lake City has not elected a Republican mayor since 1972, and, in fact, just elected its first openly gay leader.
 
13. A historic friendship was forged at the University of Utah's 2nd Writer's Conference in 1949. At the Salt Lake City gathering, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) met Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov found Geisel charming, and the feeling appears to have been mutual; five years later, Geisel even paid tribute to the Russian scribe in Horton Hears a Who!, naming a "black-bottomed eagle" Vlad Vlad-i-koff. 


14. Salt Lake City is the home base to one of the fastest-growing motorcycle clubs in the country, Barons Motorcycle Club.

15. Salt Lake City is the only U.S. capital with three words in its name.
 
16. In SLC’s Central City neighborhood, Gilgal Sculpture Garden displays, among other bizarre creations, an interpretation of the chopped-up statue from the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and a sphinx with the face of Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Created by Thomas Battersby Child, a masonry contractor and LDS bishop, in 1947 and maintained until his death in 1963, the garden was privately owned until the city took it over in 2000.
 
17. In the west wing of the capitol, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, stands an unusual figure: the likeness of Utah native Philo Farnsworth. Known as “The Father of TV” for his invention of an early electronic television system. Farnsworth died in Salt Lake City in 1971.

18. One of the strangest museums in Utah is the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, which exhibits various unexpected oddities, such as a two-headed lamb and a loaf of bread from 1893.
 
19. Hovering over 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City is a somewhat polarizing art display mounted on a pole over middle of the road. Titled Zion/Alien Rocky Mountain Alliance, artist Brook Robinson’s installation is a spaceship with two figures inside—one is human and one is a blue-skinned alien. Both are sharply dressed as Mormon missionaries, in white shirts, ties, and name tags.

20. At Apocalrock Visitor Center, James Muir displays—and explains—more than 100 photographs he’s taken depicting Biblical scenes he's spotted in the cliff shadows on the face of Utah’s Mt. Olympus. The photos of the mountain, which he calls "Apocalrock," are described as “miraculous” and “geo-cosmic manifestations” at the hand of Jesus Christ.

21. The street-naming convention in Salt Lake City is somewhat unique. The city is laid out on a numbered grid, and the naming concept is very similar to the way in which the globe’s latitude and longitude are laid out. Temple Square (or the corner of Main Street and South Temple Street) stands in for the prime meridian (marking the coordinates 0 East, 0 West, 0 North, and 0 South), and the streets south of this point are named 100 South, 200 South, and so on. In addition, although the name of a street would be written as "100 South” on street signs, it’s spoken aloud as “1st South.”
 
22.  According to Kraft Foods, Salt Lake City is responsible for the world’s highest JELL-O consumption per capita. This honor is owed, no doubt, to the fact that JELL-O is a favorite among members of the Mormon church. As such, Utah’s “Mormon Corridor” region has been often called “the JELL-O Belt." 

23. The Seagull Monument stands in SLC’s Temple Square to commemorate the story of the Miracle of the Gulls in 1848, wherein the Mormon settlers’ crops were saved from a swarm of katydids by several flocks of native seagulls, who devoured the crickets over a two-week period. This event was regarded as a miracle by the Mormons, and the California seagull was subsequently named the state bird of Utah.
 
24. Salt Lake City’s basketball team, the Utah Jazz, hails originally from New Orleans—explaining the team’s unusual tag in a city that is not known for its jazz culture.
 
25. As they settled Salt Lake City, the Mormons were the first in the American West to implement a large-scale irrigation system. One of their first items of business upon arrival in the region in 1847 was to dam City Creek and cause it to flood, so they could plant potatoes in the resulting softened soil. Sourced from the Jordan River, their complicated irrigation plan eventually included 1000 miles of ditches and transformed the arid Salt Lake Valley into arable farmland, enabling the population in Salt Lake City to grow quickly.

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Why a Train Full of New York City Poop Was Stranded in Alabama for Two Months
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Residents of Parrish, Alabama probably aren't too fond of New Yorkers right now. That’s because the town is currently home to a full trainload of poop courtesy of the Big Apple, as Bloomberg reports. Some 200 shipping containers of treated sewage have been stuck in Parrish for more than two months while the town takes landfill operators to court.

New York City doesn't keep its own sewage sludge to itself, and it hasn't for decades. In the 1980s, New York City was dumping its "biosolids"—the solids left over from sewage treatment, i.e., your poop—into the Atlantic Ocean, where it settled on the bottom of the sea floor in a thick film stretching over 80 square nautical miles. When the government banned the practice of dumping waste straight into the ocean, the city had to get creative, finding a way to get rid of the 1200 tons of biosolids produced there every day.

Enter the poop train. As a 2013 Radiolab episode taught us (we highly recommend you listen for yourself), treated sludge was eventually shipped out to other states to use as fertilizer in the 1990s. After farmers in Colorado began noticing better growth and fewer pests in the fields they grew with New York City's finest sewer sludge, growers in other states began clamoring to take the big-city poop by the train-full, too. That tide has turned, though, and now no one wants the city's poop. Because of the cost of running the program, the train to Colorado stopped in 2010.

Now, biosolids are instead shipped to landfills upstate and in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to The Wall Street Journal. And Alabama. For more than a year, the Big Sky landfill near Parrish has been accepting New York City biosolids, and the locals who have to deal with trainloads of rotting waste aren’t happy.

Normally, the sludge would be loaded onto trucks and then driven the last stretch to get to the landfill. But Parrish and its nearby neighbor of West Jefferson aren't interested in playing host to those messy poop transfers anymore. As the two towns take the landfill operators to court over it, the trains are stuck where they are, next to Parrish's Little League baseball fields. The trainload of sludge is blocked from either being sent to the landfill or back to New York City. While the city has stopped shipping more waste to Big Sky, it essentially said "no takebacks" regarding what they've already sent south. Short of a legal decision, that poop isn't moving.

Needless to say, the residents of Parrish would really, really like to resolve this before summer hits.

Update: Parrish residents can officially breathe easy. The last of the sludge has now been removed from the town, and Big Sky has ended its operation there, according to a Facebook post from Mayor Heather Hall. The containers that remain have been emptied of their smelly cargo and will be removed sometime before Friday, April 20.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Self-Deploying Flood Barrier That Could Keep Cities Dry Without Sandbags
MegaSecur, YouTube
MegaSecur, YouTube

For many places in the world, the future is going to be wet. Climate change is already intensifying heavy rains and flooding in parts of the U.S., and it’s only expected to get worse. A recent study estimated that by 2050, more than 60 million people in the U.S. would be vulnerable to 100-year floods.

Some cities plan to meet rising waters with protective parkland, while some architects are developing floating houses. And one company has figured out how to replace piles of sandbags as emergency flood control, as Business Insider reports. Water-Gate, a line of flood protection products made by a Canadian company called MegaSecur, is a self-deploying water barrier that can be used to stop overflowing water in its tracks.

The emergency dam is made of folded canvas that, when water rushes into it, inflates up to become a kind of pocket for the water to get trapped in. You can roll it out across a street, a canal, or a creek like a giant hose, then wait for the water to arrive. In the event of a flash flood, you can even deploy it while the flood is already in progress. It can stop waters that rise up to five feet.

According to MegaSecur, one Water-Gate dam can replace thousands of sandbags, and once the floodwaters have receded, you can fold it back up and use it again. Sadly, based on the flood projections of climate change scientists, heavy flooding will soon become more and more common, and that will make reusable flood barriers necessary, saving time and money that would otherwise be spent buying, stacking, and getting rid of sandbags. The auto-deployment also means that it can be used by a single person, rather than a team of laborers. It could just as easily be set up outside a house by a homeowner as it could be set up on a city street by an emergency worker.

As climate change-related proposals go, it sounds a little more feasible than a floating house.

[h/t Business Insider]

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