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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Concord Grape

A close-up of Concord grapes

Concord grapes ripe and ready to eat. (Photo by Andrew Morrell)

Humans have been eating and making wine out of grapes for a very long time. The Ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and of course, Romans were all notable grape-growing cultures. But grapes also have a history in the New World. According to the medieval Saga of Erik the Red, the Norseman Lief Erikson was so enamored by the profusion of wild grapes growing in the southernmost of his North American encampments that he called the site “Vinland,” or Wine-Land, an area thought to be between Newfoundland and New England. It is known that American Indians had been eating indigenous varietals there long before the next batch of Europeans (the British) finally arrived in the seventeenth century. Unfortunately, these colonists’ European grape varietals all failed because of mildew and New England’s too-short growing season.

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Haptics

Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo

A detail of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.

Haptics is the study of touch, perhaps the most enigmatic yet essential of our senses. Touch is directly linked to emotional development and health, which is why the rise of digital communication presents such a troubling paradox. On the one hand, social media, email, and texting bring people in greater contact with each other than ever before. On the other hand, such forms of contact lack the most fundamental element of connection — actual touch. While plenty have postulated about the social repercussions of this new paradigm, its actual health implications are only now coming to light. Taken together, this new understanding is leading the digital communications industry to reintroduce haptics in unexpected ways.

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Maintain a Cutting Board

A butcher block gets planed

Planing the butcher block before using.

Nils Wessel’s Brooklyn Butcher Blocks began as a hobby in a friend’s basement, so it’s little surprise that he now runs his workshop in a cramped studio within a nondescript building in the industrial Gowanus area of Brooklyn. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so they say. Filled with woodworking tools covered by a thin veneer of sawdust, the cave-like space features a wooden staircase pivoting up to a self-constructed second floor. In this cozy den, Wessel fashions thick slabs of butcher block under the label Brooklyn Butcher Blocks. His latest creation features a brickwork pattern, with “bricks” made from end-cut walnut and thin pieces of mahogany “mortar.”

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