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Solar Panels Power New Schoolsand New Ways of Learning

Dressed in pastel pink and green for an early spring day, second-grader Katherine Cribbs was learning about energy on a virtual field trip—to her own school.

With a flurry of touch-screen taps, she explored the “energy dashboard” of Discovery Elementary in Arlington, Virginia. On her tablet, she swiped through 360-degree views of her school, inside and out. She clicked on icons embedded in the virtual classroom to learn about energy-saving features such as LED lights and super-insulated exterior walls made of concrete-filled foam blocks. Exploring the virtual school kitchen, she could read about how the lack of a deep fryer means less energy is needed for venting grease from the air. Another swipe whisked her up to the school’s roof, where about 1,700 solar panels spread out before her.

Angelique Coulouris, a second-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary, guides students on a virtual tour of the school's roof-top solar lab.
Chris Berdik for The Hechinger Report

After a few minutes, she looked up from her computer to explain her progress in a confident voice that rose above the second-grade din. “I learned that our solar panels rotate,” she said. “So, wherever the sun moves, the panels go, too.”

In addition to this virtual tour, Discovery’s dashboard displays, in real time, the school’s energy generation. And in colorful bar graphs and pie charts, it also tracks energy use—broken down by lighting, plug load, kitchen, and HVAC. The tally reveals that Discovery generates more energy through its solar array than it uses over the course of the year.

Buildings that make at least as much energy as they use are called “net-zero” (and “net positive” if they make more than they need). And nationwide, K-12 schools are leading a fledgling “net-zero” building boom that has grown from a few proof-of-concept structures a decade ago to hundreds of buildings completed or under-construction.

Dozens of these ultra-green schools are going up in every sort of district—urban and rural, affluent and lower income, blue state and red state. Much of the advocacy for net-zero buildings has focused on environmental and economic incentives. K-12 schools run up a $6 billion annual energy tab every year, the Department of Energy reports—more than they spend on textbooks and computers combined, and second only to the cost of teacher salaries. But the K-12 schools leading the net-zero charge are uncovering major educational benefits as well.

While Discovery’s second-graders scoured their school for light and heat energy, a group of third graders huddled around a table to brainstorm fraction “story problems” using the school’s energy data.

They suggested using fractions to find out how much of yesterday’s solar energy was used up by the school, to compare one hour’s solar energy to the whole day, and to show how much of the school’s energy use was from lighting. Their numerators and denominators could come from the dashboard.

“Everywhere you walk through this building, you can learn from it,” said Discovery’s principal, Erin Russo. There’s a large-screen energy dashboard by the school’s main entrance, and the building’s mechanical systems, including the geothermal pumps and the solar inverters that change direct current to alternating current, are prominently displayed behind large glass windows in the hallway.

Learning about the behavior of light, Discovery’s fifth graders have visited the schools’ rooftop solar lab (a handful of adjustable panels that are metered separately) to see how angling the panels changes their power production.

“Energy is normally so invisible,” said a fifth-grade science teacher, Andrew Bridges. “But the kids can see these solar panels right outside their window. They can see the energy production dipping on cloudy days.”

Bridges’ students also looked for patterns of electricity use and tried to deduce why it was so much heavier on Saturdays than Sundays or why it spiked at 5 AM. “I didn’t give them energy-dashboard tests, because that’s not what we’re after,” said Bridges. “My goal as a teacher is to grow good critical thinkers, and I think the energy dashboard opens their eyes to something most people don’t think too much about.”

Still, Discovery’s teachers do need to cover the Virginia state learning standards, and matching these standards with dashboard lessons can be tricky. At one point, third graders were set to learn graphing with the school’s daily energy tally, but the plan was scrapped because the dashboard gives that data in bar graphs. Virginia’s third-grade standards call for using line graphs to track change over time.

Discovery’s math coach, Angela Torpy, and technology coach, Keith Reeves, help teachers weave the building’s data into standards-based lessons. Students learn the statistical measures of mean, median, and mode using the school’s energy consumption numbers, or demonstrate transparency, translucency, and opacity by covering solar panels with different materials and predicting the energy production.

Besides aligning with state standards, Discovery teachers must also contend with the dashboard’s occasional technical glitches—it tends to conk out due to server strain if too many kids are working on it. So teachers usually have students team up or rotate so one group hops on the dashboard while the rest of the class works on other tasks. Or they simply distribute screen grabs of dashboard data.

Still, according to Torpy, the upside of students learning from their own building outweighs these challenges. “You can see their level of excitement when they bring up the energy dashboard, and they’re making their own word problems with real data about their own school,” Torpy said of the students. “It’s empowering to them.”

The authenticity of these lessons is reinforced by a schoolwide focus on sustainability. In lieu of a school council, Discovery has an Eco-Action club whose members do annual audits of the school’s energy use, trash, food waste, water consumption, and other metrics. They did the school energy audit early in the school year, explained a fifth-grade Eco-Action member named Charlie Dantzker. “Basically, we walked into every classroom, counted the lights, checked to see what was plugged in, and looked for vampires,” Dantzker said. A vampire, he explained, is a device that draws power even when it’s turned off but still plugged into the wall.

But the students didn’t find a lot of waste in the audit: Discovery is already ultra-energy efficient. The school’s “energy use index,” a measure of power use per square foot, is about a third of the average for district elementary schools. The district plans to build on that success.

Arlington is a fast-growing district, and Discovery Elementary opened in 2015 as part of an ongoing school-building program (it shares a campus with a middle school with a trailer park to accommodate its overflowing student population). Below the schools’ shared athletic fields are geothermal wells that use a groundwater loop to provide cooling in summer and heat in winter.

Discovery Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, is among a growing group of "net zero" K-12 schools, which produce as much solar energy as they use (or more) over the course of the year.
Chris Berdik for The Hechinger Report

The district had not set out to build a net-zero school, but the Charlottesville architecture firm VMDO told them it could be done below their budget. Cathy Lin, the energy manager for Arlington Public Schools, regularly leads tours of Discovery, including a rooftop viewing of its 500-kilowatt solar array made up of about 1,700 panels. Another net-zero elementary school, also designed by VMDO, is to open in 2019. And as the district keeps growing, Lin is pushing for more.

“I tell the board [of education] if I had all Discoveries, I would spend less than $1 million [a year] on utilities. Now, we spend close to $7 million a year,” she said.

This calculus increasingly makes sense to growing public school districts, according to Ralph DiNola, CEO of the New Buildings Institute, a nonprofit that promotes and verifies net-zero buildings. Because schools are designed to be used by the same owner over many decades, there is plenty of time for energy savings to surpass the extra upfront expenditures, which in any case have plummeted in the past decade. The cost of solar power is way down, and, according to DiNola, the necessary energy efficiency, “doesn’t require bleeding-edge technology. You can use standard building materials that are commonplace in the market today.”

Comparing the initial cost of building a net-zero school to that of a standard school is tough, because construction costs vary widely as do the energy-efficiency challenges between climates One constant, however, is that the priciest piece of a net-zero building is the solar array. For instance, Discovery’s construction cost for the building and the solar array came to about $316 per square foot, but the building alone cost $262 per square foot, according to VMDO architect Wyck Knox, who led the project design team (numbers don’t include the cost of the school’s two turf soccer fields). Often, districts will opt to build ultra-energy-efficient “net-zero ready” schools that could become net-zero if and when the municipality raises additional money to add the solar power.

According to a March 2018 NBI report, there are 89 verified or “emerging” net-zero schools (emerging means under construction or too new to have been verified yet). And school buildings are the leading type of non-residential net-zero building, representing 37 percent of all projects tracked by NBI. Supporting these efforts, the Department of Energy published a how-to report on building net-zero K-12 schools in 2016 and created a “Zero-Energy Schools Accelerator” program to give districts technical guidance.

While the net-zero school trend is still relatively small, it has thrived in districts of every geographic and socioeconomic description. The school district of Horry County, South Carolina, which counts the majority of its 43,800 students as impoverished, opened three net-zero schools in 2017, one in 2018, and has one more under construction. In San Francisco Unified, where half the students receive free and reduced-price lunch and a quarter are English language learners, the district is building three net-zero schools, including one retrofit of an existing elementary school. At Sandy Grove Middle School, a net-positive building in Hoke County, North Carolina, where nearly 60 percent of students are low-income, the grade levels face off in friendly energy-saving competitions. And at New York City’s first net-zero school, the Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability (P.S. 62) on Staten Island, rows of yellow stationary bikes, both indoors and on the playground, generate pedal power displayed on a big screen.

Although energy dashboards are a popular way to turn these buildings into teaching tools, they’re not necessary. Oregon’s Hood River Middle School created a food and conservation science program several years ago after it added a net-zero science and music building that includes a 1,000-square-foot greenhouse. Hood River students engineer and build net-zero heating and cooling systems for the greenhouse, such as solar heat collectors made of foam boxes lined with soda cans spray-painted black, and a solar-powered “climate battery” that pulls super-heated summer air into layers of dense rocks that gradually radiate the heat back into the greenhouse as the weather cools.

In addition to maintaining an aquaculture system and growing fruit trees, grapes, tea and other crops, the Hood River students have a perennial challenge from their teacher Michael Becker: to grow tomatoes year-round. They haven’t quite succeeded, but they’re getting close. Last year, they had tomatoes ripening on the vine well into December.

“My lesson plan is: Here’s a problem. Solve it,” said Becker. “We are hyper-aware of our net-zero energy budget, so the kids have to become super-sharp engineers and find non-traditional solutions.”

Back at Discovery, educational strategies are expanding, too. Last year’s school management plan included the expectation that teachers give at least one sustainability-focused lesson every quarter—but several teachers described that as a low bar.

“We’re shooting for sustainability to be taught every day,” said Bridges, the fifth-grade teacher. To bolster those efforts, Reeves is making changes to the energy dashboard, trying to add in student-collected data on the school’s trash production, water use, and transportation. The teachers would also like to make it easier for students to get the raw data that feeds the existing dashboard, so they could make their own, customized dashboards, possibly in conjunction with Virginia’s new K-12 computer science standards.

In the spring of 2018, Discovery staff began a more comprehensive effort to craft standards-based sustainability lessons, by working with Jennifer Seydel, executive director of the Green Schools National Network. Discovery will join GSNN’s recently-formed “Catalyst Network”—about 100 schools that are meant to showcase the best-practices in sustainability education and to jump-start studies into how it stacks up against traditional schooling for student learning.

“Right now, we have a lot of anecdotes,” said Seydel, “but the gold-standard research is not there.”

Starting in 2019, the plan is for all students to do sustainability audits, not just the Eco-Action club. Each grade level will use their audits to identify problems and issues they can confront with collaborative mastery projects using the problem-solving steps of “design thinking.”

Discovery art teacher Maria Burke has already led her students through several design-thinking projects, such as creating outdoor sculptures with the right mix of shapes and colors to attract pollinators back to a school garden that fell victim to overzealous pruning.

“We want to give students the skills to be innovators, to find solutions,” said Burke. “We want to them to be thinkers for the future and to collaborate and innovate with the world in mind.”

This story about environmental education was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.

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Anthony Bourdain’s death: Celebrity chefs ‘in complete shock’

The restaurant world mourned the loss of chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain following his reported suicide Friday morning.

CNN confirmed news that Bourdain, 61, was found unresponsive by close friend and French chef Eric Ripert in a hotel in France. The network said he was working on an upcoming episode of his show “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”


Celebrity chefs and industry insiders reacted with shock to news of Bourdain’s passing, with Nigella Lawson, Bourdain’s co-judge on ABC’s “The Taste,” tweeting that she was “heartbroken” to learn of his death, and, as a result, would be taking a break from Twitter.

“Heartbroken to hear about Tony Bourdain’s death,” Lawson wrote. “Unbearable for his family and girlfriend. Am going off twitter for a while.”

Restaurateur and “Hell’s Kitchen” star Gordon Ramsay stated that he was “stunned and saddened by the loss” of Bourdain.

“Remember that help is only a phone call away,” he added, along with the number of a suicide hotline.

Restaurateur Jose Andres, a friend of Bourdain’s who appeared as a guest on “No Reservations,” “Parts Unknown” and also served as a guest judge on “The Taste,” said he would always keep Bourdain in his heart.

“My friend, I know you are on a Ferry going to somewhere amazing … you still had so many places to show us, whispering to our souls the great possibilities beyond what we could see with our own eyes … you only saw beauty in all people. You will always travel with me.”

Emeril Lagasse said he was “shocked and extremely saddened,” calling Bourdain an inspiration as well as “a mentor, a friend, a father and an incredible chef.”

“Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern, who, like Bourdain, has had multiple food docuseries on the Travel Channel, called Bourdain a “true friend,” and said he’d be wearing a pair of Bourdain’s boots Friday in honor of the chef.

“A piece of my heart is truly broken this morning. And the irony, the sad cruel irony is that the last year he’d never been happier. The rest of my heart aches for the 3 amazing women he left behind. Tony was a symphony. I wish everyone could have seen all of him. A true friend.”

“Iron Chef” star Michael Symon added that he was “in complete shock” over the news.

“RIP Tony Bourdain …Wtf …in complete shock … loss for words,” Symon wrote Friday morning.

Food Network’s Tyler Florence added simply that he was “shattered” by the news. 

As a guest judge on “Top Chef,” Bourdain was also mourned by its stars, including chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio and cookbook author and TV host Padma Lakshmi.

Coliccio tweeted that for Bourdain, resting in peace was “doubtful” as Bourdain’s “restless spirit will roam the earth in search of justice, truth and a great bowl of noodles.”

Lakshmi added that she was “in shock and devastated” over losing one of the wittiest people she knew.

TV personality and “Top Chef” contestant Carla Hall, formerly of “The Chew,” called Bourdain a “beloved presence in the culinary community” and shared the number of a suicide hotline.

Baker and “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro also wrote that he was “gutted” by Bourdain’s passing, and referred those in need of help to the number of a suicide hotline.

Restaurateur David Chang, also the host of Netflix’s “Ugly Delicious,” Instagrammed only a black square alongside the lyrics of the Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy song “I See a Darkness.”

The Travel Channel, which aired Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and “The Layover,” mourned the loss of a “global ambassador” and said his presence will be missed.

“We are stunned and deeply saddened to hear that the world is now without its global ambassador, Anthony Bourdain. He was an incredible talent who shows us beautiful, gritty, complicated and delicious places in every corner of the world. His wit and perspective will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

A number of food critics and reporters were also shocked and saddened at Bourdain’s death.

“I loved that Bourdain didn’t do a cooking show, he did a culture show. It taught how to think and feel, and how to empathize,” wrote New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov.

Kat Kinsman, an author and food editor for Extra Crispy, urged that those in the restaurant industry, specifically, should “be kind to yourself and one another.” She also directed industry workers to a website which shares resources for restaurant workers suffering from stress or mental health issues.

The Culinary Institute of America also mourned the loss of Bourdain, a graduate of the CIA class of 1978, and praised him sharing his love of food with the world.

“The CIA is deeply saddened to learn of the passing Anthony Bourdain ’78, renowned chef, author, and TV personality. He opened the world of food and different cultures to all through his brilliant storytelling,” the culinary school wrote.

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37 Awesomely Cheap Things That Only LOOK Expensive

It’s nice to be surrounded by beautiful things, but it’s even better if those beautiful things don’t cost a fortune. We scoured Amazon for the most stylish items you can buy that also won’t break the bank. At these prices, you can probably snag more than one!

 We hope you find these products as awesome as we do. Just an FYI: 22Words is a participant in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a share of sales from links on this page.


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‘Deadliest Catch’ Star Found Dead At Age 38

Another early death has struck “Deadliest Catch.”

Blake Painter, a former captain on the Discovery reality show, was found dead in his Astoria, Oregon, home, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. He was 38.

Fellow “Deadliest Catch” star Tony Lara died at age 50 from a heart attack in 2015 and Phil Harris succumbed to a stroke in 2010. Another cast member, Justin Tennison, died at age 33 before he was to make his first appearance on the show in 2011, ABC previously reported.

Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin told the AP that Painter’s body was discovered May 25 by a friend who became alarmed when he couldn’t reach him. He found Painter lying face down on the kitchen floor, USA Today reported.

The cause of death will be released after the completion of a toxicology report, Bergin said. However, foul play is not suspected.

Painter, who appeared on the second and third seasons of the documentary series about the dangers facing crab fishermen in Alaska ― now in its 14th season ― had been in turbulent waters away from the sea. He was arrested in January after a police officer allegedly saw him smoking heroin as he drove. He was charged with DUI, heroin possession and evidence-tampering.

Keith Colburn of “Deadliest Catch” wished Painter a seafaring farewell on Twitter.

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9 “Future-Proof” Careers, According To The World’s Largest Job Site

The automation of jobs has many advantages, like increased productivity. However, the main disadvantage is that people are concerned their careers may become obsolete in the next few decades.

A recent study showed that millennials in general choose professions that are more “future-proof,” and less likely to be taken over by machines, but that still leaves many unsure of whether a robot will steal their job or not.

The world’s number one job site, Indeed, has over 200 million unique visitors per month, which gives them an insight into what kinds of jobs are available, and what skills are in demand.

Based on this data, Indeed’s EMEA economist Mariano Mamertino has come up with a list of nine career paths — exclusive to Business Insider — that are the least likely to be taken over by machines, or will complement their work.

Mamertino said that the occupations which will be harder to automate “often involve managing and developing people” and “decision-making and strategic planning, or creative work.”

“Machines have the potential to make the workplace more efficient, by automating mechanical and routine processes, but humans will always play a key-role at the centre,” he said. 

Scroll down to see if your career makes the list, which is ranked in ascending order by average salary, according to data from Indeed and job search site Glassdoor.

Chef — £18,730 per year.

People will always enjoy the experience of going out for dinner and trying new flavours. Without a chef who is able to taste, new and innovative menus wouldn’t be so readily available.

A robot wouldn’t be able to combine manual skills with creativity the way a chef does, no matter how hard they try.

In the UK, chefs are in demand, with 22.4% of Head Chef, 22% of Sous Chef, and 21.3% of Executive Chef jobs remaining on the Indeed website for more than 60 days.

Marketing, communications, and design — Around £25,000 per year.

Unsplash / Tamarcus Brown

Machines aren’t great at critical thinking, or coming up with new and exciting ideas, so your creativity may well be future-proof.

People who design for a living, or who work with ideas, words, and images will probably survive the increase in automation, because machines don’t function like humans. Not yet, at least.

Healthcare professionals — £26,380 per year.

Some roles are not going to be taken over by machines for a long time — if at all — because they require human interaction. Healthcare professionals are very much in this category. Nursing requires strong interpersonal and communication skills, which are things you probably won’t get from any machine that exists now.

At the moment, in the UK home care nursing jobs are the hardest to fill in the sector, so if you have this job you are still rare and in-demand.

Education and training — £28,664 per year.

Teachers are always in high demand, according to Indeed. There’s something about learning new things from a person that makes the information stick better than if you were learning everything remotely. Teachers are especially important when they have languages, because there are often children in classes who have migrated from other countries.

Teaching vacancies in the UK rose by 5% in the past two years, according to Indeed.

Cyber security expert — Around £30,000 per year.

A recent Indeed study shows that the UK had the third highest number of adverts for cyber security roles in the world. London alone is one of the biggest centres for cybersecurity firms.

However, the employer demand for these jobs is three times higher than the candidate interest. Over the past 18 months, there has been an 18% increase in cyber security postings on the Indeed site, so it’s unlikely robots will be taking these jobs away any time soon.

Human resources — Around £36,000 per year. / Unsplash

The clue is in the name. While finding the right candidate is becoming increasingly reliant on data and automated screening in some professions, the soft skills that people bring to the table are still valuable.

Emotional intelligence and the ability to read people will always be important in this sector, which robots probably won’t be able to do any time soon.

Delivery or Logistics management — £43,435 per year.

There’s been a lot of talk in the past year or so about delivery drones, and how they will take over as a method of receiving your post. However, the logistics sector still requires humans to be involved in the oversight and management.

According to Indeed, delivery driver job postings are some of the hardest roles to fill, often being on the site for 60 days or longer.

Data scientist — £55,765 per year.

According to Indeed, there has been a 54% increase in people searching for data science jobs in the UK over the last 12 months. Not only is there a lot of interest, the demand is keeping up with it.

There’s only so much a machine can do with algorithms and code. It’s the people who combine their scientific expertise and the ability to find the stories hidden in masses of data who are especially useful.

Gig-worker — variable.


The “gig economy” includes short-term contracts or freelance work, like Deliveroo and Uber drivers. This way of working is on the rise, and it requires employees to be flexible and independent — two things robots aren’t great at.

There is a lot of debate around the issue of employing people in this way, but overall there has been a sharp rise in users searching for flexible and part-time work in the UK.

Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2018.

Read next on Business Insider: 10 jobs that won’t exist 20 years from now

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Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and the Fallacy of Success and Happiness

On Tuesday morning, fashion designer Kate Spade committed suicide. A few days later, on Friday afternoon in Strasbourg, France, chef Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.

What stands out both Spade's and Bourdain's death is the fact that they represented, for many, what seemed to be success and happiness. Spade had sold her eponymous handbag collection in 2007, had a husband and a teenage daughter, and had swept up every fashion award humanly possible, and then some.

Likewise, Bourdain was a giant in his field, working up the ranks in the kitchen to becoming a talented chef, a widely read author, and achieving the pinnacle of his success in televised food documentaries that flung him to perilous corners of the Earth, first through No Reservations and then through Parts Unknown.

Beneath that sheen of success and happiness, however, there was depressiondeep, unsettling, tumultuous depression that rocked both Spade and Bourdain, ultimately leading them to commit suicide.

That's a huge problem within the mental health community right now, which is reeling from the fact that not only did two well-liked, highly followed celebrities with strong fan following potentially spark a suicide contagion, but also a report out from the Centers for Disease Control that proves what we've suspected: Suicide rates are spiking in every state in America, with about half of states seeing levels skyrocketing 30 percent more than previously reported.

One of the most astonishing facts reported in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is the fact that 54 percent of people who committed suicide had previously unknown mental health issues. Only after they died did loved ones figure out that there were issues beneath their outward facade.

"The first thing is that even people who have a lot of support are not immune to mental health issues behind the scenes," Lauren Appio, a psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan who is trained in dealing with patients dealing with suicide ideation and depression, told The Daily Beast. "They might say, 'I have it all. Why can't I be satisfied, be content, move past this?"

Appio said that the misconception that people who "have it all" can't have depression or be dealing with mental health issues often works against patients as well, wondering why they are incapable of being happy if they have a dream family and relationship, a job others lust after, and all the perks of fame and success.

That's the wrong way to think about it. While many equate suicide with those who have struggled with mental illness for years or dealt with substance abuse and have had an established history of trying to deal with their inner demons. But Appio said that those most at risk of suicide ideation are often the very people who don't have such a history.

That said, Appio stressed that there are warning signs. She said they almost always told someone about the issues they were dealing with: talking about wanting to die and kill themselves, researching methods of suicide online, and expressing hopelessness, feeling trapped or like a burden on others.

But a potential obstacle might be those who are close to the patient and might not understand why success and "having it all" doesn't mean happiness. "People might unintentionally invalidate them by asking, 'What's wrong? Why don't you snap out of it?'"

And that invalidation can be extremely dangerous in putting a person towards the path of suicide.

Dr. Waguih William IsHak is a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles agreed that people who might seem like they are successful and happy are at risk of hiding depression, and can be so good at it that they don't pique concern from even those closest to them.

What can be especially frightening is the point at which a depressed person has internally made the decision to commit suicide, and reach a sense of relief.

"So many people don't see it [suicide] coming because they [eventual victims] seem to be in such a good mood and so relieved," IsHak said. "It's a scary thing."

That makes the science of trying to understand when a person is most at risk of committing suicide essential. Yet, because of stigma, science funding, and the complex psychology behind suicide, it's been one of the least funded and understood mechanisms of our neuroscience.

In fact, IsHak called suicide neuroscience and our understanding of it "underdeveloped." "We've looked at biochemicals, and we have some ideas, but a lot of the studies don't have anything reliable to show."

One potential area of promise is Brodmann Area 25, a part of the cerebral cortex in the brain that has shown some linkage with depression and suicide. In people who are depressed and are considering suicide, some preliminary research seems to suggest that there is low metabolic activity in the area, with low oxygen rates and glucose. IsHak cautioned the research is early and that what we know about Brodmann Area 25 can hardly be used for prediction. But it's a start.

Some work in this arena has been done, and to great effect. Kelly Posner at Columbia University helped establish the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale, a series of questions that can be asked of anyone and has proven remarkably effective in preventing suicide and helping to treat depression.

But its not enough. Perhaps the biggest obstacle towards treating suicide as the public health issue it is is the fact that there is no federally funded program, particularly focused on the most vulnerable population of adults.

"Suicide research has not become a national priority, and it should," Is Hak said. "It would open the door to using biomarkers and brain imaging to study people at risk of suicide.

The important thing to understand, according to experts, is that those who might seem happy, who might seem fortunate, who might not seem to have a reason to be anything but lucky are not immune to mental health struggles. For those wondering about Bourdain and Spade's suicides, the question is often why. But the truth is complex and one that is lodged deep within their now silenced memory and mind. That they were successful did not preclude them from angst and pain, the type that pushed them over the edge into suicide; in fact, that contrast of their outward success and seemingly perfect life from the turmoil they dealt within themselves might have driven them to feel even more out of touch, hopeless, and isolated.

"We all know people like this, if we're not them ourselves," Appio noted. "We live in a culture where we're motivated to hide and suppress our suffering in the name of seeming fine. There's a pressure to persevere and be positive.

"It's possible for people to hide," she said. "But those warning signs slip through. That we we have to look out for."

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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President Obama joins other big names in posting touching tributes to Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain: chef, writer, tv host, beloved figure
Image: Fairfax Media via Getty Images

As the shocking news of Anthony Bourdain’s death reverberated around the world, the world took to social media to remember the chef and TV personality, sharing memories and thoughts on the man who made such a large impact on his industry and beyond. 

Bourdain rocketed to fame thanks to his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, an early excerpt of which appeared in a 1999 issue of The New Yorker. He later wrote several more books — and even a graphic novel — and his writing continued to appear in places like the New Yorker and the New York Times.

Television was also a welcome home for Bourdain, who hosted several travel food shows, most notably No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and was a frequent guest on food-related shows like Top Chef.

Through all of these works, Bourdain was, at times, brash and outspoken, the originator of the new wave of “celebrity chefs” that have dominated pop culture over the last decade-plus. But he was also authentic and vibrant, using his platform to bring a broadened sense of culinary and cultural experiences to the masses.

It was an amazing, expansive career, one that left a large imprint on millions, and the sadness of his death was felt by a wide swath of people who shared their feelings on his passing. 

His girlfriend Asia Argento posted a statement on Thursday afternoon.

His partner on-screen, Eric Ripert, also shared a statement later on Friday afternoon.

And many big names were quick to share how he’d touched their lives —  and them was former president Barack Obama, who shared a dinner with Bourdain in Vietnam while he was still president in 2016.

Finally, this thread from artist Shivana Sookdeo explains why Bourdain meant so much to so many. Be sure to click through to read the entire thing.

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list of international resources.

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Starbucks is closed Tuesday. We’ve got 20 alternatives owned by people of color.

When two black men were unjustly arrested while sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks, Americans were rightfully outraged.

After weeks of lackluster public statements and an increasingly infuriated public, Starbucks announced it would close 8,000 of its stores for racial-bias training on May 29.

Starbucks will have to grapple with its missteps over time. But as the mega corporation begins what is hopefully a first step toward establishing a more inclusive and welcoming business, thousands of Americans still need a good flat white to kick off their day.

Want to get some good, fairly priced coffee while also supporting business owners of color?  We’ve got you covered.

To get through the Starbucks shutdown, we’ve rounded up some incredibly dope coffee shops from sea to shining sea.

Here are some new places to try in each region of the continental U.S.:


Boon Boona Coffee, Seattle  

Known for sourcing coffee from East Africa, Boon Boona Coffee works with coffee farmers across the region to develop relationships and support crop sustainability. The result? Some delectable coffee.

Red Bay Coffee, Oakland

Owned by Keba Konte, a former photojournalist and lifelong adventurer, Red Bay specifically staffs women, people of color, and individuals who have formerly been incarcerated. The coffee shop is known for its impressive role in the community and for its ability to make patrons of color feel right at home.

Photo courtesy of Red Bay Coffee.

Bison Coffeehouse, Portland, Oregon

Touted as the only Native-owned coffee shop in Portland, Bison Coffeehouse serves up “strong, medium, or light” espresso, in-house baked goods, and other yummy treats. It allows visitors to step into an older Portland while also supporting the folks who were there first.  

Watts Coffee House, Los Angeles

A staple in South L.A., Watts Coffee House has coffee, brunch, and everything in between for the bustling, vibrant local community.  


Golden Thyme Coffee and Cafe, St. Paul, Minnesota

Nestled in St. Paul, Golden Thyme Coffee & Café offers a chill atmosphere and coffee-based beverages named after some of the world’s most famous jazz musicians. They also sell cakes and treats to appeal to the inevitable sweet tooth.

Crazy Coffee Co., Overland Park, Kansas

Crazy Coffee Co. serves up everything one might need for their java fix. The business specializes in drip coffee and offers a variety of flavors for home coffee makers.

Rise and Grind Cafe, Milwaukee

A home for the worker bee, Rise and Grind serves up delectable food options and delicious coffee for visitors. They also offer catering for large events.

Whittier Cafe, Denver

Who doesn’t love a good neighborhood cafe? Whittier is just that. With cute sweets, an outdoor patio, a cozy library, and endless coffee options, this is the perfect place to sit, read, and caffeinate before or after a busy day.


Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse, Philadelphia

Owned by Ariell Johnson, Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse is a super neat space for comic nerds and coffee fanatics.

The self-proclaimed first black women to own a comic book-coffee shop hybrid in the Northeast, Johnson offers a warm smile and works with her staff to create an inclusive space for those who are comic book experts — and those who just want an excellent cup of coffee.

Busboys and Poets, Washington, D.C.

Owned by Iraqi-American immigrant Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets is a coffee shop, restaurant, bookstore, and bar wrapped into one.

With several locations in the DMV area, Busboys and Poets staff are trained to work with diverse patrons and people of color are visible in leadership positions, kitchen, and bar staff — and everything in between. Enjoy a delicious cup of coffee while reading one of the lounge’s many books by authors and scholars of color.

Photo courtesy of Busboys and Poets.

Serengeti Teas and Spices, New York City

For anyone who prefers tea over coffee, Serengeti Teas and Spices is an excellent option. Located in Harlem, this tea shop serves teas from a number of African nations. Their staff — many of whom are African immigrants — offer advice on how to choose the right tea, and the cozy environment will ensure that you feel as peaceful as possible while enjoying your drink.

Black Swan Espresso, Newark, New Jersey

Black Swan Espresso, Newark’s first specialty coffee and tea shop, specializes in using international coffee beans in all their roasts. The atmosphere is pretty sweet, too.


Tres Leches Cafe, Phoenix

Tres Leches Cafe is owned by Latinx cafe experts. In addition to coffee, the Mexican cafe offers unique treats inspired by Mexican desserts like churros, dulce de leche, and, of course, tres leches.

Kaffeine Coffee, Houston

One of the best ways to get away from the scorching Texas heat is to find a coffee shop that serves up a great iced coffee with lovely customer service. Kaffeine Coffee offers both in the city’s hopping downtown area.

Pie + Lattes. Our version of Pilates. • • • • 📸: @jenndguez

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Piñon Coffee House, Albuquerque

Piñon Coffee House offers espresso-based drinks, nitro cold brew, and other options made with their own classic Dark Piñon coffee.

Throughgood Coffee, Houston

A hip new spot in Houston, Throughgood Coffee caters to millennials, but clearly has coffee standards rooted in the old-school methods. It’s staffed largely by people of color and serves the diverse Houston community with respect and Southern hospitality.


Dee’s Coffee, New Orleans

Stationed in a bustling city of world-renowned music, food, and culture, Dee’s Coffee allows people to take a step back from the wildness and enjoy a cozy, safe atmosphere. Owned and staffed by people of color, Dee’s Coffee serves tea, a number of coffees, and locally made pastries.  

Cafe Ulu, Atlanta

Atlanta is known for housing businesses with some of the coolest vibes around, and Cafe Ulu handily meets that standard. The cafe centers black culture and the historical influence of coffee and the coffee trade.

Beyu Caffe, Durham, North Carolina  

Beyu Caffee dives into bohemian culture with gusto. In addition to some amazing coffee selections, they offer a full bar and live jazz for patrons.

The Terminal Cafe, Nashville

Perfect for those who are gluten free or health-conscious, The Terminal Cafe offers great coffee with food options like gluten-free waffles and French toast with apples. Lovely vibes are thankfully included.

And these are just a few of the options.

From city to city, state to state, and corner to corner, there are endless coffee shops owned by people of color to match just about any taste. As you explore new coffee and tea shops, support people of color and local businesses by learning, exploring, and opening up to new places.

You may just find some great cold brew along the way.

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The Aural Magic of Stanford’s Laptop Orchestra

Ten days before the big concert, the members of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra are performing technology triage. Rehearsal has only just started, but already, things seemed to be falling apart. First there was trouble with the network that connects the laptops to one another. Then one of the laptops crashed; its human component, a graduate student named Juan Sierra, groans loudly. One of the hemispherical speakers emits a low, crunchy noise, like a fart.

The orchestra members have gathered at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics to rehearse a new kind of musical composition. Together, sitting on meditation pillows in front of MacBooks, they create songs that stretch the definition of music. The orchestra plays laptops like accordions, turns video games into musical scores, and harnesses face-tracking software to turn webcams into instruments. But at this rehearsal, the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) looks less like the symphony of the future and more like an overworked IT department.

"Slorkians! Lend me your ears," shouts Ge Wang, the SLOrk's founder and director. He wears a grey T-shirt and black pants, as he does every day, his black hair down to his shoulders. Wang gives the group five more minutes to troubleshoot and then, he says, it's time for rehearsal to begin.

SLOrk’s Mark Hertensteiner conducts a piece.

Ge Wang

Fixing a broken network isn't as simple as a replacing a snapped string on a violin. But in a laptop orchestra, the potential for disaster is part of the delight. Since it was founded in 2008, the SLOrk has been making music that surprises audiences while it subverts the concept of orchestral performance. The compositions, part-machine and part-human, don't always go according to plan. Technical difficulties are all but guaranteed. Now, as the orchestra prepares for its tenth anniversary show on Saturday, June 9 at Stanford's Bing concert hall, it's playing with those same principles—and shaping the next decade of musical experimentation.

Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics lives in a Spanish Gothic mansion on campus called The Knoll. Originally the house of Ray Lyman Wilbur, Stanford's president in 1915, the estate sits on a high hill where two of Stanford's main roads bisect; from a back window, rolling green hills give way to the horizon.

The program was founded in 1964 by John Chowning, a composer by training who'd come to Stanford for his doctorate in music composition. Chowning had never seen a computer before, so when a colleague showed him a paper about programming instruments with machines, Chowning was intrigued. A few years later, he would create the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics—abbreviated as CCRMA, and pronounced like "karma"—as an offshoot of Stanford's new AI laboratory. It would be a space for musicians, like him, as well as Stanford's litany of engineers, scientists, and programmers.

Computer music proved fruitful for Chowning. A few years after founding CCRMA, he would make a major breakthrough by discovering frequency modulation synthesis, the technique used to elicit pure-tone sounds out of machines. It could make a stroke of a key sound like the reed-tone of a clarinet, or make a cell phone ring tone sound like a recognizable song. Chowning patented the technology and licensed it to Yamaha, leading to the Yamaha DX7, the first commercially viable digital synthesizer, and the rise of electronic keyboards. It became Stanford's most lucrative patent at the time. A few years later, in 1986, the university gave CCRMA the mansion on the hill.

Tucker Leavitt performs with SLOrk.

Ge Wang

Since then, Stanford's program has created mathematical models to simulate the crisp sound of a Steinway, or the sliding sweetness of a violin. Other programs sprung up across the nation, in universities like Princeton, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins. The field has devoted considerable energy to reproducing acoustic instruments in digital formats—but it's also invented entirely new ones.

"Nothing's better at being a cello than a cello," says Wang. "So we're not trying to make a cello. We're trying to make something you don't have a name for yet."

"The question of the future of instruments is an interesting one," Chowning said in a Stanford press release from 1994, introducing digital waveguide synthesis, which would pave the way for a new class of electronic synthesizers. "Some people think that totally new instruments will be developed and take over. But I don't think so, because so much of music is tied to repertoire and tradition, which is tied to specific instruments."

But what if, as an experiment, you took something like an orchestra—a type of musical ensemble steeped in repertoire and tradition—and subverted it with entirely new instruments? What would you learn about the nature of music, the limitations of certain instruments, or the qualities of art that transcend mediums? What would you gain from the unlikely pairing of an orchestra, "an almost archaic institution whose continued existence is something of a miracle," as computer music researcher Dan Trueman once put it, with the technological newcomer: a laptop?

In 2005, Trueman and fellow Princeton computer researcher decided to see if it would work. The two founded the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, an ensemble of 15 "laptop-based meta-instruments." (Wang, a Princeton graduate student at the time, was also a founding member.) They dreamed of challenging the very idea of an instrument, of an ensemble, of the relationship between human and machine. An orchestra captured the broader narratives of nations, cultures, modern institutions over time. Could a laptop orchestra provide the next chapter in that story?

The Stanford Laptop Orchestra meets to rehearse every Wednesday night in the spring from 7:30 to 10:30 pm (The late hours are a remnant of Wang's night-owl habits as a graduate student.) It's a for-credit course at Stanford—Music 128, cross-listed in the computer science department as CS 170—but getting in isn't easy. The group of 15 students includes those with computer science credentials, and those with more traditional music backgrounds, but neither is enough to become a great laptop orchestra player. The most important thing is curiosity. "We're unified by this interest to make music together with computers," says Wang, "and to figure out what that means."

Wang likes to call SLOrk a kitchen of sound. "We can go to a restaurant, order delicious food, and enjoy that," he says. "But there's a special joy in going back into the kitchen with raw ingredients and being able to concoct your own dish. The process of making—and eating—your own creation carries with it its own satisfaction."

Every orchestra member gets a MacBook, propped up on an Ikea breakfast tray, with a meditation pillow beside it.

In the ten years that SLOrk has existed, it's composed over 200 original works and created almost as many new instruments. Most of these works have little in common, but they all start with the same set-up: Every orchestra member gets a MacBook, propped up on an Ikea breakfast tray, with a meditation pillow beside it. The laptop connects to a homespun hemispherical speaker, made by adding car speaker drivers and high-efficiency amplifiers to Ikea salad bowls. (From far away, they look a bit like Minions.) Wang created the speakers during the first year of SLOrk, with an aim to add an acoustic element to an otherwise machine-heavy ensemble. "We want the computer instruments to seem more like acoustic instruments where the sound isn't coming from a PA system around you but from the artifact itself," he says. While the MacBooks and cables have been replaced a few times, the hemispherical speakers are the same ones SLOrk used ten years ago.

Every station also includes a GameTrak, a game controller with a retractable cable. GameTraks were originally used in golf simulation video games, where they could turn someone's virtual golf swing into data points. It was a commercial flop, but computer music researchers immediately saw the appeal. "We bought no less than 100 of them at massively discounted prices," says Wang.

The Stanford Laptop Orchestra uses a range of noise-makers, from game controllers and physical instruments to, yes, laptops.

Ge Wang

Kimberly Juarez-Rico gets tuneful.

Ge Wang

The device maps movement in three-dimensional space. For a laptop orchestra, that means turning fluid movement into sound value. "It opens up the infinite space of human music, and the dancelike qualities of musical performance," says Matt Wright, a longtime SLOrkian and one of the orchestra's instructors. "You can put one in someone's hands and say, 'Here. Make an instrument out of this.'"

In past performances the ensemble has used GameTraks to operate video-games that translate into melodic compositions, or finger-plucked the cable like a traditional string instrument. One composition in SLOrk's upcoming show introduces a new instrument, created by hanging GameTraks upside down on a beam and weighting them with various wooden blocks. Performers push them like swings on a playground to create the song. The performance is wildly playful, like watching kids on a playground discover the delightful sounds of their own laughter for the first time.

One student used a face-tracking program called FaceOSC to turn facial movements into sound.

During the SLOrk term, each student creates their own instruments, composes their own scores, and performs them with the class. There are virtually no rules, other than the limits of imagination and programmability. One student, Kunwoo Kim, used a face-tracking program called FaceOSC to turn facial movements into sound. He and fellow SLOrk member Avery Bick stared into their laptop web cams while opening their eyes wide, or raising their eyebrows, or stretching their mouth to scream, to control the pitch and tempo of the face-tracking instrument.

"Using a face as a controller was a very interesting concept for us," he says. "We wanted to deliver a human message that uses human parameters."

Kim came to Stanford after earning a bachelor's in mechanical engineering and a master's in electrical engineering. He joined CCRMA because he wanted an interdisciplinary program that would let him continue engineering while also studying music; when he heard about SLOrk, he figured he'd give it a shot.

"I had no idea what was going on," he says about his first day in the orchestra.

Soon, though, things started to click—and Kim found something in SLOrk that he'd never found before in his engineering coursework. The point of SLOrk isn't to have a direction. It's to find a direction.

"The engineering that I have been doing was about solving problems," says Kim. "But in SLOrk, there's no problem to solve. We try to cover more of the sentimental side of human beings. And I think that's very interesting. You're actually trying to say something about humanity through the computers."

The nature of computer music means that SLOrk performances can sometimes be hard to grasp. The orchestra's music often sounds like a chorus of beep-boops, or worse: Some compositions create screechy, metallic sounds, the noise a computer overlord would make when demolishing the human race. Other passages just sound weird, the result of too much randomization from the computer program used to create the song.

"We don't always like the music we make," says Wang. "The litmus test is: Is it interesting?"

By SLOrkian standards, "interesting" has a wide berth. A performance that makes use of technology in a novel way (like Kim's face-tracking webcam instrument) usually qualifies, as do performances that subvert common conceptions of music (like a composition from last year's concert, where Trijeet Mudhopadhyay invited the audience to open a web page on their phones that made musical sounds). Once, SLOrk students created a piece played by using two Oculus Rifts attached to Leap Motion controllers to track arm movement, which produced some of the sounds. The experiment brought computer music into the virtual world, even if the "music" it created wasn't exactly nice. Wang pushes his students to think about aesthetics, even when the results are sometimes bizarre.

Ge Wang

But SLOrk can also be beautiful. With computers, the orchestra can simulate the sound of a violin 100 feet tall. It can create sliding sounds on static instruments. And it can prototype sound through human gestures—even human expressions—to make music the likes of which we've never heard, or seen, before.

"Given that you have infinite options, and it's very hard to control everything, people sometimes [create compositions] that are crazy," says Juan Sierra, a masters student at CCRMA and a member of SLOrk. "They don't need to be crazy all the time. It's not impossible to create very tonal and very traditional music with computers."

Sierra, who comes from a background in sound engineering, gravitates toward more melodic sounds. Together with Doga Cavdir, he created a piece for the last SLOrk concert reminiscent of a traditional string orchestra. Cavdir played a solo, stretching the cable of the GameTrak in melodic, emotional gestures. From the back of the audience, or by the look of concentration on her face, you would be forgiven to think she was playing a cello instead of an outdated video game controller.

In the penultimate rehearsal before the tenth anniversary show, Wang teaches the ensemble one of the oldest laptop orchestra compositions. The piece, "Non-specific Gamelan Taiko Fusion," was composed during the first-ever laptop orchestra performance in 2005, at Princeton. Wang calls it a "classic," in a genre that's anything but.

The piece involves the entire orchestra, with each musician running a program on their laptops that looks like a primitive computer game. There are squares in different colors; clicking on them cues various percussive sounds. A human conductor (Wang, in this case) controls the timbre of the bells and directs different members of the orchestra to play at different times. It creates a percussive melody that starts as wind chimes, and then gives way to bossier sounds, like bongos and taiko drums. It doesn't require much skill on the part of the players, who are effectively learning a new instrument. Just some skillful programming, and a willingness to play along.

Watching them, it's easy to see beyond the laptop. No one here knows exactly what they're doing, or even if they're doing it right. But unlike nearly every other exercise in computer programming, it doesn't matter. They're just a group of people learning to play, as if for the very first time.

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Apple is releasing iOS 11.4 with support for Messages in iCloud, AirPlay 2 and more

Apple this afternoon will officially release the latest version of its iOS software for your iPhone and iPad, iOS 11.4, which at last adds support for Messages in iCloud, along with other new features, including most notably, AirPlay 2 and an update that allows two HomePod speakers to work together as a stereo pair.

Messages in iCloud was first announced a year ago at WWDC 2017 as a way of keeping conversations up-to-date across all your Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac. Its introduction means you’ll now be able to access your entire Messages history when you set up a new Apple device, and, when you delete a message from one device, that change syncs to all your devices.

In addition to the benefit of being able to access your entire conversation history, Messages in iCloud will be especially helpful to those who tend to save their all their conversations, but have a device without a lot of storage.

Typically, this has led to those conversations taking up a sizable amount of space – sometimes even gigabytes of storage, thanks to all the photos and attachments that are shared across iMessage these days. With Messages in iCloud, however, everything – including attachments – are stored in iCloud, which frees up local storage space for other things – like music downloads, videos, podcasts, books and apps, for example.

The messages are also end-to-end encrypted for security purposes. They’re protected with a key derived from information unique to the device, combined with the device passcode – which only the device owner should know. That means no one else could access or read the data.

The Messages in iCloud feature had first appeared in early betas of iOS 11 last summer, but was later pulled before the iOS public release. It later popped up again in the iOS 11.3 beta, but it was unclear when Apple would launch it, given that it had been left out of earlier iOS releases, despite all the beta testing.

Today, the feature will roll out to all users, via iOS 11.4.

Also new in iOS 11.4 are features focused on media and entertainment, including the launch of AirPlay 2 and support stereo pair for HomePod.

AirPlay 2 allows you to stream your music or podcasts in your home to different devices, all in-sync. You can play music in any room from any room, move music from one room to another, or play the same song everywhere using an iOS device, HomePod, Apple TV, or by asking Siri. For example, you could say, “Hey Siri, play jazz in the kitchen,” while continuing to have different music played in another room. You can also adjust the volume across all devices (“Hey Siri, turn the volume up everyone”), or play or stop music across devices. 

A number of speaker manufacturers are already committing to support AirPlay 2, including Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos.

The previously announced support for HomePod stereo pairs, meanwhile, lets you add a second HomePod to a room and create a stereo pair which play left and right channel content separately. The HomePod devices will automatically detect and balance with each other, and detect their place in the room in order to offer a better sound.

Apple has been positioning its speaker to better compete with more high-end audio systems, like Sonos or Bose. Stereo pair support will allow it to better compete on that front, but device sales could be held back by those who prefer Amazon’s Alexa assistant, which ships on the Sonos One, to Apple’s Siri.

HomePod is also arriving in new markets beyond the U.S., U.K. and Australia with a June 18 launch in Canada, France and Germany.

Calendar support is also arriving for HomePod with iOS 11.4, along with the usual bug fixes and performance tweaks. However, calendar support won’t arrive in Canada, France and Germany until later in the year.

You can check for the iOS update from the Settings app, under “General –> Software Update.” HomePod owners can update from the Home app. The update is expected to arrive at 10 AM PT.

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Son Dies After Leaving Big Blue Stain on Carpet14 Years Later, It Hits His Mom What It Really Means

It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of daily life as a mom.

Cleaning Cheerios off the dashboard, wiping crayon marks off the walls, scrubbing ink stains off the carpet, and fishing that macaroni and cheese noodle jammed in the LEGO you just stepped on (double whammy) can ALL bring the burn of frustration to the forefront of our minds.

So one wouldn’t necessarily expect that an irremovable blue carpet stain would leave you crying happy tears, but 14 years after the death of Heather Duckworth’s son Jacob, that’s exactly what happened.

In a viral Facebook post entitled “The Blue Stain,” Heather gracefully forces us all into a posture of gratitude and appreciation for the things in life that really matter… and the ones that, well, just don’t.

Read her eye-opening message below, and be sure to have the Kleenex box handy while you’re at it:


The other night I was scrubbing up some slime that my daughter had let ooze through her fingers and slip onto the floor. The slime craze is big in our house and it often leaves behind a sticky, gooey mess. My daughter had cleaned up most of it, but I was scrubbing the grout where the slime was stuck and I was starting to get slightly irritated with this mess. It felt like slime was everywhere! But then all of a sudden I remembered another time in my life when I was cleaning up a big mess many years ago and the memories came flooding back . . .


14 years ago . . .

It was almost bedtime. We were so close. I was completely exhausted and was a hot mess by this time of night. Life was non-stop with our 2-year old triplets and their 4-year old brother. I had no time for myself and it had probably been at least four days since I had taken a shower. Every second of my day was tending to their needs, and although I was completely exhausted, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My hands were full, but so was my heart.


We had just finished the nightly ritual of dinner and baths and had gathered our crew of boys into the playroom to clean up for a few minutes before bedtime. We had some songs playing on the radio and everyone was singing and dancing and picking up their toys.

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I was quickly putting toys away, anxious to get my crew in bed so that maybe I could have a few minutes to shower. When all of a sudden, I heard one of the boys say, “Uh, Oh.”

I turned just in time to see blue ink spraying all over the carpet as a pen exploded in the hand of one of my triplets. He squealed with delight as blue ink dripped from his hand and splattered his clean pajamas.

I gasped as I saw blue splatters across the floor and a thick pool of ink sinking into our carpet – our brand new carpet. I quickly yelled for my husband, who had been doing the dishes, to come and help me. I instantly felt so upset as I grabbed my son and took him to the bathroom to clean him up and my husband started scrubbing those bright blue stains on our carpet.

Tears of frustration stung my eyes. I was just so tired. And mad. Like really, really angry. I wasn’t mad at my son – who was as blue as a Smurf – but upset with myself for leaving that pen out where my toddler could reach it. We had only lived in this house for 6 months and now the carpet was completely ruined.

We scrubbed that stain for an hour that night, but yet it remained.

The next day, we had the carpet cleaners come out . . . and they treated it several times, but that stain didn’t even fade . . . it just glared back at me, bright and blue.

I was so disappointed every time I looked at that stain – it was just so ugly, a striking contrast against our tan carpet. And no matter what we did, that stubborn stain remained. That stain made me feel embarrassed and disappointed. It made me feel angry and it made me feel like such a failure for leaving out the pen where my young son could reach it. That blue stain was just a big fat negative in my life. I hated it.

The next month, my sweet son, the one who splattered blue ink all over our carpet was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, he passed away.

My son was gone, but that blue ink stain? It was still there . . . and now . . . it was a constant reminder of my son. It was a constant reminder of my frustration over something so trivial . . . something so unimportant in the scheme of life.

That blue stain was a constant reminder that life is messy, but that’s what makes it worth living.

A constant reminder to not sweat the small stuff.

A constant reminder that “things” aren’t important, but people are.

A constant reminder that accidents happen.

A constant reminder to let go of the little things and hang on tight to what is important.

Over the years, that stain never did fade. It stayed bright blue on our tan carpet. We learned to hide it well under furniture, but every time I did some deep cleaning and moved the furniture, that stain would be there, staring back at me. It would take my breath away every time I saw it, reminding me of the pain of my loss.

And that stain that used to be such an eyesore and make me cry in frustration now just makes me thank God for these memories.

It reminds me that life is messy. There will be spills on the kitchen floor. Goldfish dropped all over the car. Windows broken with baseballs. Laundry overflowing the baskets and dishes filling the sink. Fingerprints on the glass doors and crayons all over the table. And there will be blue ink stains on your brand new carpet.

But those messes? They come from living and loving and growing and learning. They make me feel grateful. And they are a blessing in disguise.

And you know what?

I would have a million blue ink stains on my carpet if it meant I could have one more day with my son.


I looked at that slime mess all over my floor and it reminded me of that blue stain. It humbled me greatly to realize that somewhere out there is a mother sitting next to her sick child in a hospital . . . wishing she was home cleaning up a mess that her child was healthy enough to make – just as I did all those years ago.

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Fresh tears streamed down my cheek as I cleaned that slime with a new perspective – finding the bless in this mess – and thanking God for the whisper to keep my heart thankful and focused on what is important in life.

Colossians 3:2

❤️Heather Duckworth

**This Facebook post originally appeared on Love, Faith & Chaos.

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The 7 Injuries ERs See Most On Summer Weekends

Warm weather and longer days will bring many Americans outdoors for cookouts, pool parties and more. But long weekends ― we’re looking at you, Memorial Day ― also lead to more trips to urgent care or even the emergency room, according to experts. In fact, a 2015 study from researchers at Brown University found that heat-related illness alone can ratchet emergency department visits in the summertime. 

The risk for issues like drowning and sports injuries go up in the hotter seasons, according to Dr. Christopher M. McStay, chief of clinical operations and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. And they’re usually all preventable.

We asked doctors to explain the most common reasons why patients end up in their offices during summer months ― and what can be done to prevent you or a loved one from being among them.

1. Heat-related illness.

During summer months, people often show up at the doctor with a heat-related condition, from mild dehydration to severe heatstroke, says Dawne Kort, an emergency medicine doctor and attending physician at CityMD Urgent Care Walk-In Medical Clinic. 

Fewer than 1,000 Americans die each year due to heat-related illness, according to a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But plenty more experience the more mild symptoms of too much sun exposure, which include nausea, dizziness, headaches and confusion. 

“Be mindful of the temperature, stay hydrated and avoid being outside for prolonged periods of time if the temperature is high ― especially during the hottest time of the day,” Kort told HuffPost, noting that the warmest hours are usually between 2 and 4 p.m.

wundervisuals via Getty Images
Doctors see an uptick in drowning incidents and water activity accidents in warmer months. 

2. Swimming injuries and drowning.

Memorial Day weekend is the first time many people will head out for water-related activities.

“We see a fair amount of swimming-related [injuries],” McStay told HuffPost. “Trauma related to jumping into a body of water, small children who are not being supervised, boating injuries.” 

Joseph Perno, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, says these water-related dangers definitely increase when the weather gets warm.

“We see a big spike in drowning,” Perno told HuffPost. “When you have a lot of adults together, you’d think there would be more people watching the kids but what happens is people are distracted: Talking, drinking, partying, having fun and no one is watching the kids.” 

Drowning is the second most common cause of death by unintentional injury, behind car accidents, among children ages 1-4 years-old, according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. Children are also more likely to drown in a swimming pool than anywhere else. 

It’s so easy for a child to fall into water without someone realizing, Perno says. If you’re having a pool party, rotate having a designated adult to supervise water activities, he suggests.

3. Burns and cuts.

There are numerous hospital visits for burns associated with grilling and camp fires, as well as cuts from kitchen knives, according to McStay. 

Children may try to touch the fires and adults make the common mistake of squirting lighter fluid onto hot coals. Be safe about it: Apply lighter fluid to coals when they aren’t lit, letting the fluid soak in, McStay suggests. 

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Back away from the coleslaw that’s been sitting in the sun for hours on end.

4. Food poisoning and gastroenteritis.

Gastrointestinal issues frequently bring people to the emergency room during warmer months, according to Kort. In fact, food-borne illnesses peak in the summer months, since hot temperatures and humid conditions provide the optimum breeding ground for bacteria to multiply rapidly, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture. 

“[It’s] commonly seen after a summer barbecue, where the food has not been properly cooked or may have been left out in the heat. Or when fruits and vegetables have not been washed properly,” Kort said. 

Be especially wary of food that’s been sitting out in the sun all day and wash your hands properly before eating, Kort advises. 

5. Sports injuries

Sports-related injuries from playing frisbee, football and outdoor activities are also a bigger issue. Sprained wrists, twisted ankles and broken bones are common sights in urgent care clinics and emergency rooms between spring and summer, according to the experts.

Treatment for these injuries typically requires a little home care, Kort said. Rest the body, ice the injury, compress the body part and elevate the injured area. But if something feels seriously wrong or keeps getting worse, head to the doctor as soon as possible.  

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Ticks and bug bites: ‘Tis the season!

6. Skin irritations and insect bites.

With long days spent outdoors, it’s common to see irritations from wild plants like poison ivy, sumac and oak. Insect and tick bites are also common and, in some cases of infection, may require an antibiotic, Kort said.

This year, in particular, may bring with it more tick bites and tick-borne diseases than previous summers. And Zika virus, though currently out of the news cycle, may be poised to come back in some states.

Keep an eye on any bumps or swelling that does not go away or grows in size. And learn some expert-backed tips to keep yourself safe from ticks and mosquitoes

7. Sunburns.

While most sunburns don’t require a trip to the hospital, some do. In 2013, there were nearly 34,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. due to serious sunburns, according to recent research in Dermatology. Go to the doctor if your sunburn results in blistering or is accompanied by nausea, confusion, headache, extreme pain or chills. You should also head to the doctor if at-home remedies such as applying aloe vera or taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen does not help after a couple of days.

But even if you can take care of your burn at home, it’s an uncomfortable mishap that’s easy to avoid.  

Practice good sun protection habits for yourself and especially watch out for children you’re supervising, since they are unlikely to remember to reapply lotion. 

“Having a sunburn is uncomfortable and painful,” McStay said. “And the chronic risk of sun exposure and skin cancer is something to think about everyday.” 

So walk into the long, warm weekend a bit more alert. Better to be safe than sorry. 

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