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Transforming Coal Country: New Startup Aims to Create Agricultural Hub in Appalachia

Danielle S

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The coal economy of Appalachia has been integral to the overall health and vitality of the region for generations. Despite this fact, the area has suffered from widespread economic anxiety as coal energy has begun to get phased out in today’s modern working environment. With that being said, Appalachia will need to find alternatives for energy creation and the jobs that go along with it and a new company is looking to do just that.

Based out of Kentucky, AppHarvest intends to operate as the largest indoor farms in the world. The company, which features Martha Stewart as a board member, is focusing on bringing resources and jobs to communities that have been suffering in the wake of a coal economy that has abandoned them. At the time of this writing, AppHarvest is already enjoying its first production run with a crop of beefsteak tomatoes sent to stores such as Kroger and Walmart.

A New National Leader in Alternative Farming

Nestled in the heart of Morehead, Kentucky, the AppHarvest headquarters can currently handle more than 45 million pounds of pesticide-free, non-GMO, and annually reproducing tomatoes. The state-of-the-art facility features extraordinary sustainable measures like recycled rainwater which gives AppHarvest the opportunity to focus on year-round cultivation.

Martha Stewart has taken the point on many of AppHarvest’s latest press releases, allowing her noted record to reinforce the words that she has been saying. Martha said of the agriculture company, “AppHarvest’s high-tech and sustainable approach is the future of food.”

Stewart would go on to detail the benefits that AppHarvest crops can provide to consumers, focusing heavily on the pesticide and chemical-free nature of an AppHarvest yield. Stewart would go on to describe that AppHarvest’s produce features nutrient-rich and enormously flavorful produce, highlighting tomatoes specifically by saying, “I’m already looking forward to integrating them in my kitchen.”

A Look at the Landscape

What makes AppHarvest truly special in this space is that they are endeavoring to accomplish something larger than craft a business, they are looking to change the entire area. Proud of their Appalachian roots, the three farms that AppHarvest has opened thus far have all been located within a day’s drive of nearly 80% of the American population. AppHarvest believes their convenient location and massive production scale will help to bring fresh produce to markets throughout Appalachia.

Collaborating with high schools throughout Kentucky, AppHarvest is also helping invest in the future of the state through investing in schools. The team at AppHarvest has already invested in teaching students how to grow food in container farms while properly providing nutrition throughout the process.

AppHarvest CEO Jonathan Webb said of his company’s efforts, “We are determined to build a climate-resilient infrastructure.” Webb went on to detail how their crops are grown with 100% recycled rainwater as well as zero chemical pesticides. Webb says of the process his farms undergo, “It’s better for them and the environment.”

At the time of this writing, AppHarvest has already secured more than $1 billion in funding and financing. The goal at AppHarvest is to create at least a dozen farms within the next four years, a mark that the company is already on track to meet.

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Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus Gets a Cancer-Free Second Chance

Jolie

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Being in a punk band comes with a lot of adventure, mishaps and strange situations. Being in a mega-popular hit band that is also a punk band extrapolates all the above times ten. However, for Mark Hoppus, the bass player and lead singer for Blink 182, he did not expect that one of his hardest challenges would actually be inside his own body in the form of cancer. Fortunately, Hoppus was able to reach a good end to that chapter when he declared to his fans in September 2021 that he was indeed cancer-free.

After getting the good news from his cancer doctors, the singer had to burst out and tell everyone, so his announcement went straight to social media, updating all of Hoppus’ fans and followers on Twitter and Instagram. It was a hoped for ending after spending six grueling months twisting under the effects of chemotherapy, a well-known curse of a cure. The medical process has been a long standard in fighting cancer, but in doing so the process poisons the body as well, which can feel just as bad or worse.

The above said, Mark Hoppus now joins the ranks of many other former cancer patients with their condition in remission, testing every year or two to make sure the disease hasn’t reappeared again in his system. Unlike many patients, however, Hoppus took his fans along with him on his medical journey. From almost the start, the Blink 182 singer posted regularly about his condition, the chemotherapy and the side effects he had to go through.

As the chemotherapy took effect, the later treatment sessions became harder. His body suffered from the chemical effects, and Hoppus joked about the misery online to make himself feel slightly better. Three-week doses of poison were a common refrain from the singer. However, once Hoppus got to the end of the process, what really mattered was the critical scan three weeks later to see if his system was indeed clear of the cancer that was found. And, as was clearly evident from his post, Hoppus was ecstatic about his revised diagnosis.

The cancer-free scan was the best news Hoppus could get. And multiple other musicians chimed in congratulating the Blink 182 singer and wishing him the best for getting through it all. Cancer unfortunately affects so many thousands more, and not always with such a positive turnout. Mark Hoppus’ experience was a great ending for him, but it also helps spotlight the fear and anxiety one goes through with mortality when facing cancer. In that regard, his social media posting may help others by continuing to bring a spotlight to cancer and the need to find a cure.

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Staffing Shortage Means Free Pizza for School Lunch At One Lucky School

Jolie

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Usually, when kids go to school, they either bring their own lunch or they are provided a hot lunch, depending on what their parents sign them up for. That’s the typical approach at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School. However, on one particular day in September, things went haywire. Fortunately, like the good manager she is, principal Stephanie Andrewlevich waded in and solved the matter.

For the parents involved, the first they heard about the problem was a letter sent out from the School District of Philadelphia, letting them know that the kitchen and food staff failed to show up for work on September 23. When the press got wind of it and asked questions, the story they received was a situation of short-staffing and poor supply chain problems. However, the true story was far more interesting.

Under normal circumstances, the Philadelphia School District insures both breakfast as well as lunch for all attending students at no cost. No surprise, a number of students depend on those meals for a regular diet, as their parents are unable to provide sufficient food at home on a regular basis. So, when staff didn’t show up to prepare and serve the food, it was a critical issue for the school. However, in the same letter, principal Andrewlevich pointed out that the kids involved were fed, just with ordered pizza instead for lunch. 400 pizzas to be exact. The school district press people continued on with the message of the hampered supply chains, but the real story was clearly how the principal jumped into action to solve the immediate problem. Kids don’t care about supply logistics, shipping issues, warehouse tie-ups and middleman miscommunications. They focus on being hungry when a meal is not ready.

Staff from different functions were redirected and chipped in to make sure the kids were fed properly and efficiently. That included managing all the pizza delivery, producing drinks and moving stock from nearby stores to the school. Worse, the school district had not provided any kind of back-up solution by the time the situation had hit critical mass with kids having had no meals by 2pm. So, the principal kicked into high gear and arranged for hot feeding. The district disputed the situation, arguing there was back up stock and emergency supplies available. Whether true or not, what is clear was the lack of ready meals for the children involved.

As more and more details came out, the crux of the issue was a lack of food staff present to do the work of distributing the food. So, principal Andrewlevich had to essentially contract out for the same. Interestingly, there was no repeat of the food-serving crisis the next day. Food staff were present, and the entire process ran smoothly, as if September 23 never happened.

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Purdue University’s Whitest of White Paints Cools Down Buildings

Amanda J

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When understanding color and temperatures, it’s long been understood that lighter colors fend off the heat from the sun while darker colors absorb it. No surprise, white has long been used in hot, arid locations to reflect back the radiant energy of the sun and keep the insides of buildings cooler. Now, researchers at Purdue University believe they have gone a step further, creating an ultra white with extra reflective capability so powerful it reduces the internal temperature of the building it is painted on. They think they have succeeded as well.

The white paint color that Purdue has come up with is, by all measures, extremely bright and white. It literally has an absence of any and all color except bright, shocking white. It has also been responsible for not only reflecting radiant heat but doing so much, the paint color by Purdue has effectively scored a Guinness Book of World Records Award. Purdue officially now has the whitest white paint ever created by people on record.

The original, primary goal of the project was to come up with an engineering method that improved the ability to save energy, fight climate change and doing so, save money. The typical mechanical means of cooling, most notably the air conditioner, was not even on the drawing board as an option. Instead, an Engineering professor in the University, Xuilin Ruan, went down the road of a paint option with his students. What they ended up producing was a white paint that could effectively bounce off over 98 percent of the sun’s radiation cast on it. Further, the paint was extremely effective at reflecting infrared heat as well. The combination has produced a layer of material that effectively drops the temperature of the object it is painted on within and underneath the paint while rerouting the heat outside elsewhere. Obviously, one would not want to be standing next to a wall painted in this white color when the high sun is up. It could get toasty on the adjacent sidewalk.

Objective third party testing as well as the researchers’ own tests proved the case; the new paint effectively reduced the temperature internally for a painted object by a whipping 18 degrees. For an operating building spending energy on air conditioning, the paint on a roof effectively produced an operational savings of 10 kilowatts.

There is no question that Purdue’s white paint breakthrough is big. Now the issue is whether the air conditioning industry will oppose it’s marketing or find a way to incorporate it into cooling products and services. Time will tell. More than one great invention has been stifled just to protect a current market with old technology.

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Searching for Happiness? Neuroscience Research Has Great Song Suggestions

Liz L

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Not everyone has the same taste in music, so we have many genres to choose from, and the list keeps growing. We must admit, though, that some songs are universal, and whether you’re old or young, or even religious, some specific songs are bound to light up the moment and have you jamming to the beat.

Studies by several neuroscientists prove that ten songs can help boost productivity and even draw you out of depression. Who doesn’t need that after the tumultuous year of lockdowns, job losses, deaths, and just a stream of negativity? By the way, how remiss of us to forget the election, phew!!!

Still, Covid doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, so we might as well indulge in a pick me upper playlist, that according to the experts, works like a charm.

This ten-song playlist is ideal for the workplace, but you can listen to it anywhere when you need a mood lift. With winter drawing near, we all need it. But first, how did it come about?

To begin with, why point to this study on a business site rather than, say, Rolling Stone? The simple truth is that music and contentment are inextricably intertwined, and research demonstrates that happiness improves brain function. It won’t only help you get over the gloom if you cheer yourself up. It will also assist you in thinking more clearly and completing more tasks.

That’s why it’s so helpful that a music-loving Dutch neurologist rendered us all a courtesy and worked out what qualifies for the best mood-boosting music back in 2015. An odd source sparked the investigation: Alba, a British technology brand. They wanted to discover what produced a joyful song, so they contacted Dr. Jacob Jolij for an answer.

Jolij was eager to oblige, but he did point out the obvious: musical taste is subjective. What keeps your buddy dancing can send you fleeing the room with your hands over your ears. “Music appreciation is a very personal experience, heavily influenced by social circumstances and personal associations. In that regard, the concept of a “feel-good formula” is a little strange,” he commented.

You can, however, invite the public to send in samples of their favorite feel-good music and then evaluate the responses for patterns to see what traits commonly connect with songs that make people grin. That’s what Jolij did.

He discovered that the happiest songs are slightly quicker (approximately 140 to 150 beats/minute on average), composed in a primary key, and either describing pleasant events or total gibberish. Jolij integrated these criteria into an algorithm for the happiest music imaginable, then searched for existing hits that fit his blueprint.

Here are the top ten songs he identified to lighten up the tail end of what has been an all-around bleak 2020. (Alternatively, you may listen to the very same playlist on Pandora.)

1. Walking On Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves

2. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

3. Livin’ on a Prayer -Jon Bon Jovi

4. Girls Just Wonna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

5. I’m a Believer – The Monkees

6. Eye of the Tiger -Survivor

7. Uptown Girl – Billie Joel

8. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

9. Dancing Queen – Abba

10. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

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Hamilton Local Launches Canoe Sharing Program to Bring Community Together

Sarrah M

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Matt Thompson with one of his two canoes he lends out.

Nestled in the heart of Ontario is the city of Hamilton, home to more than 536,000 people. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Hamilton would feel as if it were shut down completely. As a result of the more than year-long quarantine measures put in place by the Canadian government, with various let-ups sprinkled along the way, it feels like society is less connected than ever.

In order to fight back against this sprawling disconnected feeling, a member of Hamilton, Ontario, decided to do something special for the community.

Matt Thompson: Canoe Sharing For the Community

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a ton from people all around the world. A year of life, job opportunities, lost loved ones, all of these issues manifested and made worse by the pandemic itself. With so much loss and pain in the air, Matt decided to try and bring people together through something everyone seemed to enjoy, canoeing.

Thompson lives on the water and has been known around the community for his love of canoeing. In fact, Thompson is such a regular on the water that he has become a go-to source for canoes and information. Thompson says, “What if I put the canoe outside of my house and people could knock on the door?”

Matt’s idea was simple, to get more people out into the water to enjoy time outside. Thompson would decide to take his idea and make it a reality, purchasing a cart to transport his canoe while advertising its availability.

Michelle Diplock is one such member of the community who has enjoyed the canoe-sharing program. Michelle says of the available program, “It was really nice to be like, “Hey, I know a guy…”

While the idea is still relatively fresh, Thompson has already enjoyed success through the program. According to the canoe enthusiast, over a dozen of rentals have already been performed during the first segment of 2021. People would simply message Thompson, and he would t transport the canoe down via the bike path on James Street to the water access point.

Love and the Red Canoe

For Matt’s part, launching the Red Canoe Sharing Program has been a way to connect with the people around town that he has gone so long without seeing. Matt says of the past year and the year to come, “There has been a lot of loss and grief… Can I use this thing to bring people together?”

For the members of Hamilton and the surrounding area, the red canoe offered by Thompson is so much more than a simple trip onto the water, it is a chance to socially distance while reengaging with the world. Michelle Diplock, mentioned above, said, “It’s a great social distancing sport. The canoe is 17 feet long.”

While Matt doesn’t anticipate becoming the next great canoe rental company in Hamilton, he has plans to expand his new community engagement effort. Hamilton recently announced through social media that he purchased a second canoe to allow for further rentals in the future. The price, however, remains free.

Thompson has made a special focus to highlight the need for additional mental health services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The canoe owner hopes that his red canoe company can help people to normalize their return to daily life, reintegrate with the activities that they are comfortable with, all while finding a new normalcy in a post-COVID19 world.

While a single canoe cannot change the world, enough people like Matt can certainly make a difference where it matters the most.

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