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Second breach reported at coal ash site, nuclear plant declares emergency amid Florence’s rains


A second breach was reported at a coal ash landfill site in North Carolina on Monday according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the latest impact from Hurricane Florence’s heavy rains. That update comes amid a state of emergency declared at a nuclear power plant overseen by the landfill’s operator, Duke Energy, as the extent of the damage from Florence — now a tropical depression — slowly becomes apparent.

The first Duke Energy Corp. coal ash landfill site experienced a breach on Saturday following an initial spill at the company’s Sutton Power Plant, which is near Wilmington where Florence first made landfall.

Reggie Cheatham, the EPA’s director for its Office of Emergency Management, told reporters Monday that the second spill occurred when some of the landfill’s water eroded, Bloomberg reported. The location of the second breach is not currently known to the EPA.

Duke, however, has disputed the EPA’s characterization that there had been a second breach. “This is all part of the same erosion event from heavy rains, but does not represent a second slope failure,” spokesperson Paige Sheehan told Bloomberg.

Coal ash has been a source of concern for officials and environmental groups monitoring Florence’s path. Such landfill sites can contain toxic mercury, arsenic and lead, among others, and pose a danger to human health as well as the environment. The initial breach over the weekend spilled roughly 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash, Duke said, but the EPA indicated that no coal ash is believed to have reached Cape Fear River, located nearby, although it did hit Sutton Lake.

It is unclear how close the second breach might be to the river, which is already suffering from the impacts of Florence.

Many homeowners hit by Hurricane Florence may not be able to pay for its destruction

After a wastewater treatment plant lost power in Wilmington over the weekend, partially treated sewage flowed into the river. The American Water Works Association has reported 28 water utilities have issued boil-water advisories to people in the region in connection with damage attributed to Florence.

That’s not the only crisis playing out. Thirty miles south of Wilmington, Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant has declared a state of emergency. The plant’s 1,200-acre complex is currently cut off to outside personnel by flood waters and workers are stranded.

The situation is considered an “unusual event”, which signals a nuclear emergency on the lowest levels, but Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesperson Joey Ledford said Monday that the plant currently poses no threat to public safety.

“The plant is safe,” Ledford said. “The reactors are in hot stand-by mode 3 shutdown.”

Immigrant communities struggle to find shelter as Hurricane Florence nears

Nearly 300 Duke workers and NRC personnel, however, have been stranded at the plant for days due to flooding, some as far back as Wednesday. Some workers have been able to leave to check on their homes and families. But Ledford noted that roadway blockages linked to flooding would now make it impossible to evacuate the plant’s 10-mile evacuation zone if the threat level were to increase.

Across the region, related points of concerns are being reported. A Chemours Co. plant that produces toxic chemicals like PFAS (found in Teflon) is currently inaccessible to state inspectors thanks to Florence’s impacts.

Officials and advocates are also nervously monitoring North Carolina’s “hog-manure lagoons,” which have historically taken a hit during hurricanes and contaminated waterways.

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Sunday that the hog lagoons so far appear safe from Florence’s onslaught, but some experts have questioned those claims, arguing swine farms could be completely submerged based on the storm’s path.

At least 23 people have died in North and South Carolina so far during the historic storm. Around half a million people in the region are without power, with more damage expected as Florence continues to rage.

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PokerStars Garry Gates on his role as Senior Consultant of Player Affairs


Lee Davy, sits down with Garry Gates, Senior Consultant of Player Affairs for PokerStars Live, to talk about his first year in the job.

The first person I see when I walk into the Pullman Hotel, Barcelona, after travelling for 20-hours is a sweaty, happy looking Garry Gates, the man PokerStars felt was the right person to fill the position of Senior Consultant of Player Affairs for PokerStars Live.

The sweat is a byproduct of a crack of dawn workout.

PokerStars Garry Gates on his role as Senior Consultant of Player AffairsI’m not suggesting for one minute than Gates has a body odour problem. He smells quite lovely.




I can’t think of a man I would rather sit down with, and shower with complaints about Balinese earthquakes, near death daughter experiences, and the fact that I don’t have a room for the next five hours.

I don’t.

But I am sure, had I sat him down, I would have gotten my room a lot quicker.

12-months have passed since Gates wrote a personal montage of poker history, love and promises, and I wanted to find out if he’s made the headway he expected.

So we sit down at a table directly opposite the European Poker Tour (EPT) Main Event title, and I ask him why he took the role?

“At the time, I was working on business development in the US, working on the launch of the New Jersey festival, and various ad-hoc projects,” says Gates. “At the time, for someone player-facing like me, I felt the relationship between the business and the players was strained. We were in the waning moments of the Supernova Elite changes, and I felt the relationship, and the attitude of the players towards the company had changed a lot. We had gone from a time where PokerStars had just paid back the Full Tilt players and our reputation was at an all-time high. I felt I was in a position to give the players a bit of a voice, and address some of those things and bridge the gap and create a dedicated channel for players to be heard and open up that dialogue. So for me, more than anything, I viewed it as an opportunity to help.”

When I joined the rail industry back in 1991, a weekly vacancy list as thick as a phone book would land in your in-tray on a weekly basis. A decade later, and we were down to a single sheet.

I asked Gates if he applied for the job, or did someone consider him the right peg for the right hole? 

“It was the latter,” confirms Gates. “I was working closely with Edgar Stuchly and Scott Goodall at the time. In the five years before I took this role, I was entrenched in the Super High Roller VIP world, and I think the relationships I had built with the players to that point tipped them off that I may be a good fit for this type of role.”

I ask him to expand further on why he was the right man for the job.

 “I have a background as a player. I packed up everything in my life at 24 years old to travel across the country to achieve my dream. Coupled with understanding the lifestyle and what that entails, and the relationships I have built through my PokerNews days and my SHR experience, I think I was well positioned to meet those needs.”

Think about Gates’ challenge for a moment.

PokerStars players were amongst the most fiercely loyal in the business. At the time PokerStars saved the bacon of Full Tilt customers, PokerStars was like Kansas to Dorothy for so many people.

And then The Stars Group came in.

The private became public.

And the business took a hard look at the viability of the product and the player ecosystem over the long-term, focusing on what would improve the environment for all stakeholders, with a focus on engaging and retaining the recreational players.

Changes began and many of the professional players’ voiced their thoughts.

They were not happy.

And then Gates gets his job.

How do you even begin to face the pushback, and create a plan of action that ultimately ends with those players falling back in love with you? 

“For me, we had to go back to basics,” says Gates instantly. “I knew my primary role would be working with players at live events, and at these events, we are very player facing. It’s about listening to and understanding what people care about.

“We started Player Councils and had one in Monaco last year and another one in Barcelona. We had to rethink where we were at, and take a look at where our offering stood compared to what our players expected. It was all about going back to basics.”

Gates has a difficult job.

The players tell him what they want to change. But Gates doesn’t hold all of the keys. He has to take those concerns to the right people, and the proper departments. I am sure he would want to solve everyone’s problems, but that’s impractical.

I ask Gates how tough it’s been dealing with the players knowing he can’t solve everyone’s problems? 

“I think you make a great point with regards to the wants and asks we get on a daily basis,” says Gates. “If it were up to me, I would say ‘yes’ to everything, but we all know that’s not possible. More than anything else it’s a matter of making sure there is a channel for players to be heard. That’s more important than anything. There will be things we can’t take action on, but where we can, we will get those things to the right departments, and create that dialogue and at least give those kinds of things a chance to happen when they can.”

What are those platforms for dialogue? 

“Firstly, it begins with being available,” says Gates. “Social media is great for this. I am available directly on Twitter. We just opened up a Facebook Live group where players have direct contact and engagement with the Live Events team. Other things are going on here like the ‘Have Your Say’ initiative later this week, where we will be sitting down with players all across the poker spectrum to talk about their expectations for the Players Championship and other projects we have going on. I think that’s it. Utilizing every means possible. When at events I try to touch base with as many players as I can and take that back offsite when I am back home and continue that dialogue via email, text and social media again. I try to be as accessible as I can, and I never turn a player away.”

Somewhere in the near past or the near future there should be a cake with one candle on it. I ask Gates how his role has evolved in his first year? 

“It’s changed quite a bit, to be honest with you,” says Gates. “The launch of the PSPC is the biggest change and has impacted my day-to-day work the most being one of the key stakeholders on that project. We have been as bold as to call this event the PLAYERS No-Limit Hold’em Championship. That word is key. We want this to be for the players, about the players, by the players. A great example is the ‘Have Your Say’ initiative. Last week, we sent out a massive survey asking people what they wanted the structure to be like, whether to have shot clocks, a big blind ante, those types of things – really making sure when all is said and done the player’s fingerprints are all over this event.

“A lot of my time and attention has been devoted to the PSPC. I am also involved in a few initiatives in the US. Naturally, being from the states and rooting for online poker for years now that’s near and dear to my heart. So I have helped launch the Moneymaker Tour, and we’ve done a lot of cross-promotional work with US-based casinos giving away Platinum Passes and helping reintroduce players to the brand there.”

With thousands of poker players walking into PokerStars live events throughout the world, I know it’s a tough question, but I ask it all the same – what do PokerStars players want?

“I don’t find that question to be as difficult as you might think,” says Gates. “As a poker player myself, I would want an open, honest company to work with. A business that’s transparent and listens when players have gripes, complaints and ideas. They want a safe place to play, and I hope players say that we never lose sight of that and are always delivering on these things.”

Last week, PokerStars, along with many of its competitors, suffered from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The criticism from a core group of players was once again harsh, despite Stars apologising and putting on $650,000 in freerolls. I ask Gates how it feels to be so invested in rebuilding trust only to hear still the dissenting voice loud and clear?

“I understand more than anything else when those things happen that they are unfortunate,” says

Gates. “From a business perspective, we were not happy. Looking at this from a players’ perspective it’s easy to see when they are unhappy as well. Thankfully though, most our of players were patient, and when we were able to provide a clear picture of what was happening, how we were going to fix it and how players would be affected, they were understanding and positive. They understood that these things can happen in our industry, like any other online or web-based industry.

“One thing that alleviates this tug of war that happens in those cases is creating the opportunity for dialogue and having open communications. For any business that’s going to be an ongoing process. But I can assure you, not only through my role, but through our corporate communications team, and the many colleagues that I work with who are passionate about our business, that’s a priority for us – making sure all of those kinds of problems are addressed, listened to and actioned whenever possible.”

So how do you know the tide is turning?

How do you measure love, trust and loyalty? 

“For someone like me, who has been very player facing for the past 6-7 years, that metric is easy to see through the lens of a project like the PSPC,” says Gates. “Obviously, in the years after the SNE changes the times were turbulent and as you mentioned earlier some of those still exist. A project like the PSPC is for the players, by the players, about the players. We have made this event so accessible to the entire poker spectrum. It’s easy for players to get excited about that, and to see the direction we are heading with projects like this. From my humble seat, I think it’s moved the needle quite a bit in a positive direction, and I have never been this excited for a poker tournament in my life. I hope, come January the proof is in the pudding, and we build some momentum from there.

“I think there is a misconception that there are people in the business who don’t know about poker or maybe aren’t as much in the know as our players, or that relationship is not there, but I can assure you there are people in this business who really care and listen and I think again it’s all about going back to basics, open the lines of communication, and being in touch with our customers as best we can. It all starts from there.”




I can’t think of a man I would rather have as a conduit between my complaints and the PokerStars hierarchy.

And he smells great too.

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Sunday Notes: Trevor Story Hovers, Then Explodes


Trevor Story has always been a good hitter. He’s never been as good of a hitter as he is now. In his third big-league season, the 25-year-old Colorado Rockies basher is slashing .291/.346/.555 with 40 doubles, five triples, and 33 home runs. In short, he’s been a beast.

According to Story, he hasn’t changed all that much mechanically since the Rockies took him 45th overall in the 2011 draft out of an Irving, Texas high school. But he has changed a little.

“I think you’d see something very similar (if you compared then to now), but there are some differences,” Story told me earlier this summer. “I had more of a leg kick when I was younger, and I was kind of bouncing my hands instead of resting them on my shoulder. Outside of that, my movements are basically the same.”

Story felt that having a higher kick resulted in him getting beat by fastballs from pitchers with plus velocity, and as he “didn’t really need a leg kick to hit the ball far,” he changed to what he considers “more of a lift than a kick now; it’s almost more of a hover.”

Leg kicks — ditto lifts and hovers — are timing mechanisms, and as not all pitchers are the same, nor is Story always the same. The differences are subtle, but they’re definitely there.

“If the guy on the mound (is a soft tosser), I’ll maybe start a little later,” explained the hot-hitting shortstop. “That or I’ll just slow my body down. The timing is mostly the same — maybe a fraction earlier or a fraction later — but I’m really big on the tempo of my body and the slowness of my load.”

What follows is often an explosion of power. Story is anything but a banjo-hitting infielder. Befitting the launch-angle revolution, his stroke does damage.

“I usually try to work out front and drive the ball,” said Story. “I might be catching it deep at times, but I’m always looking to be out front. I need to think out there, because if I’m thinking ‘let it get deep,’ I tend to jam myself. I’m not necessarily trying to hit the ball in the air, though. I’m really just trying to hit the ball hard, although ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a little lift in my swing. That just comes naturally.”


The three games Toronto played in Boston this week were likely the last ones John Gibbons will manage at Fenway Park — at least with the Blue Jays. Talking to him after the Thursday night finale, it was apparent that Gibbons doesn’t expect to be back next year. He isn’t planning to fade into the sunset, though. At age 56, he intends to stay in the game.

My chat with Gibbons included a brief back-and-forth on pitcher usage, with me suggesting that teams might be well-served to have a Chris Gimenez on the roster to provide bullpen-saving mop-up innings. Primarily a backup catcher, Gimenez has made 11 career pitching appearances, including six last season, with the Twins a year ago. Gibbons countered by saying Matt Davidson — three appearances this season with the White Sox — could also fit that bill.

Catching up on social media after returning to the press box, I learned, courtesy of Angels beat writer Jeff Fletcher, that the team who employs Shohei Ohtani is planning to “teach two outfielders how to pitch” in instructional league… “not to convert them, but to see if they can find more two-way players.”

Mitch Moreland was once the subject of such an experiment. Drafted as a first baseman by the Texas Rangers after being a two-way player at Mississippi State, he was asked to dabble in double duty at the conclusion of his first full professional season — this despite having slashed .324/.400/.536, with 18 home runs, in the Midwest League.

“I did really well in Clinton, Iowa that year (2008),” Moreland said on Friday. “But I’d thrown a late-inning mop-up inning and done well, so they decided to send me to instructs to see what I could do as a pitcher. They liked what I did there and asked me to come back and do both, but I told them, ‘Listen, I want to train as one or the other.’ I didn’t think my body would hold up to the grind of a full season doing both, and my preference was to stick with hitting. The Rangers honored that for me.”

As for the Angels and the here and now, color Moreland curious.

“Maybe this is turning the page to something new,” the Red Sox slugger told me. “They’ve had a little experience with Ohtani doing it, so if they’ve got some guys that can do it… I’ll be interested to see what happens.”



Aaron Cook went 0 for 7 against Adam Eaton.

Cookie Lavagetto went 1 for 4 against Pretzel Pezzullo.

Spud Davis went 1 for 4 against Pea Ridge Day.

Pie Traynor went 1 for 5 against Pete Appleton.

Darryl Strawberry went 1 for 28 against Bob Welch.


Danny Jansen has a good bat for a backstop. The 23-year-old Toronto Blue Jays rookie slashed .285/.379/.488 in Triple-A, and his OPS in 70 big-league plate appearances is a respectable .764. Plate discipline is a forte, and expectations are that he will remain an above-average offensive player at his position.

That said, what a catcher does behind the dish is paramount. Jansen has been working hard on the defensive side of the game since being called up in mid August. I asked him about the strides he’s making prior to a recent game.

“Coming up here, the biggest challenge has been learning the staff,” Jansen told me. “I’m grateful to have Russell Martin and Luke Maile here. I’ve asked them a bunch of questions, and to have those guys in my corner has been amazing.”

The input the young backstop has been receiving from his veteran colleagues isn’t entirely verbal. As a matter of fact, some of it has come with neither of the two within earshot or eyesight.

“I look at a lot of video on Russell and Luke,” explained Jansen. “If it’s a starter I haven’t caught very much, I look at things like how they set up. For instance, I’d never really caught Aaron Sanchez before, so I watched video on Russell to see what he did well. Sanchez has a lot of run on his fastball — it moves a lot — so I watched a bunch of batters to see how Russell was setting up. You don’t want to set up on the corner and have Aaron throw it there, then have it finish way off the plate. I wanted to see the action on his pitches, and where Russell set up to receive them.”


Talking to David Price earlier this summer, I learned that he started throwing a two-seam fastball in 2010. Before that, he’d been four-seam only. The addition to his arsenal came when his then-team, the Tampa Bay Rays, acquired Chad Qualls via trade.

“He was in the outfield playing catch, and I was watching how he threw his two-seam,” the Red Sox lefty told me. “I asked him how he held it, then played catch with it. I fell in love with it and started throwing two-seams in games. I’ve continued to throw it.”

The veteran hurler had a definitive response when I asked if he’s often learned from other pitchers.

“Absolutely,” stated Price. “All of my repertoire I’ve kind of learned from other guys.”



On Wednesday, Seattle’s Nelson Cruz became the 286th player in MLB history to reach 1,000 RBIs for his career. Since inking a four-year contract with the Mariners prior to the 2015 season, Cruz has 406 RBIs, 162 home runs, and a .916 OPS.

On Thursday, Javier Baez became the first Chicago Cubs middle infielder to reach the 100-RBI mark in a single season since Ryne Sandberg turned the trick in 1991.

Per Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions, Thursday marked the first time in New York Mets history that they hit a game-tying home run and a walk-off home run back-to-back when down to their final out. Michael Conforto and Todd Frazier did the honors, victimizing Miami Marlins righty Kyle Barraclough, in a 4-3 win at Citi Field.

Billy O’Dell, who won 105 games in a career that spanned the 1954-1967 seasons, died this week at age 85. Representing the Baltimore Orioles in the 1958 All-Star game, O’Dell threw three perfect innings, retiring five future Hall of Famers — Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Bill Mazeroski — along the way.


Given the way the game has changed, would it not make sense to do away with the rule requiring a starting pitcher to go at least five innings to qualify for a win? It made sense when complete games were common, but in today’s era it really doesn’t. Starters are going fewer and fewer innings, and that trend is unlikely to be reversed any time soon.

Suppose a starter goes four scoreless innings and is followed by a succession of bullpen arms who each give up multiple runs. The reliever deemed to have been most effective is the one who gets the win — not the pitcher who was most effective. (Whether pitcher wins should continue to exist is another story, for another time.)

Given pitch limits, deep bullpens, third-time-through-the-order considerations — not to mention the introduction of “an opener” — pitcher roles have become increasingly blurry. The five-inning rule makes far less sense than it once did.


The New York Yankees had what turned out to be a reliever-heavy draft in 2006. That year they took Joba Chamberlain as a first-round supplemental pick, then went on to select Zach McAllister (3rd round), George Kontos (5th), Dellin Betances (8th), Mark Melancon (9th), Daniel McCutchen (13th), and David Robertson (17th). The seven hurlers have combined to make 2,631 appearances, all but 127 out of the bullpen.

Meanwhile, Ian Kennedy, the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2006, has a pair of relief outings on his resume. Tyler Ladendorf, an infielder who was taken in the 34th round but opted to not sign with the Bombers, has made one mop-up relief appearance in the big leagues.



The San Antonio Missions lost to the Tulsa Drillers in Texas League championship series on Friday. Now they’ll travel north. The Padres’ Double-A affiliate is moving to Amarillo in the offseason, with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox relocating to San Antonio, where they will continue playing in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The city of San Antonio had been home to a Texas League team for most years since 1988.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nashville Sounds have informed the Oakland A’s that they won’t be renewing their affiliate agreement. Nashville has been Oakland’s Triple-A home for each of the last four seasons.

Charlie Eshbach has stepped down from his position as team president of Boston’s Double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs. Eshbach has spent 45 years in professional baseball, 25 of them with the Eastern League club. He will remain as a senior advisor.

Next year’s Midwest League All-Star Game will be hosted by the South Bend Cubs. The game will be played on June 18, 2019 at Four Winds Field.


Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. had one of the best quotes of the year this week. Per Chicago baseball scribe Phil Rogers, Edwards said the following about the control issues he’s been experiencing: “It’s funny. Y’all are writers. If all of a sudden you wanted to say something and forgot what you wanted to write about, and you’re just looking around like I know I had something on my mind but I just forgot, that’s how I look at it.’’


Corey Kluber and his wife have started a charitable foundation, and I had an opportunity to ask the two-time Cy Young Award winner about it when the Indians visited Fenway Park a few weeks ago.

“Amanda and I have done a fair amount with the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital over the last few years,” the Indians right-hander told me. “We were making an impact by going on visits and having kids out to the ballpark, and we decided we should make even more of an impact. Pediatric cancer is what we want to focus the majority of our efforts on. Seeing those kids and what they go through, and how strong and tough they are, makes us want to do anything we can to help them out.”

The Kluber Family Foundation will hold their first-ever fundraising event, Curveball for a Cause, tomorrow night (Monday, September 17) in downtown Cleveland. A number os Indians players, including Kluber, will be on hand. Information can be found here.


Mickey Callaway is in the final weeks of his first season as a big league manager. It’s been a challenging season. The New York Mets are 10 games under .500, which is far worse than what was expected coming in. As for their future, the man in the manager’s chair sees progress being made.

“No matter what our record has been, no matter what this season will look like at the end, we’ve become a better organization this summer,” Callaway told me prior to yesterday’s game. “We’ve become a significantly better organization. And that’s always the goal.”

We’ll hear much more from Callaway this coming week in an installment of the Manager’s Perspective series.



Collin McHugh and Christin Stewart are the only alums of Georgia’s Providence Christian Academy to make it to the big leagues, and their former coach traveled to Detroit this week to see them play. Jordan Horrobin wrote about it at The Athletic.

Jose Iglesias’s season is over, and according to Chris McCosky of The Detroit News, his tenure with the Tigers may be over as well.

Writing for SABR’s statistical analysis blog, Mark Armour crunched some aging-curve numbers and, borrowing from the Rolling Stones, gave us What a Drag it is Getting Old.

Who has the bat Bucky Dent used to hit his famous 1978 home run at Fenway Park? Steven Marcus has the answer (maybe) at Newsday.

Why is baseball a hit in Japan but striking out in China? Meaghan Tobin explored that question at the South China Morning Post.


The Arizona Diamondbacks have hit 46 triples so far this year, the most in the majors. The Baltimore Orioles have hit 30 triples since the start of the 2016 season.

Joey Gallo has 37 singles and 37 home runs.

David Wright went a combined 36 for 53 with 11 home runs against Brad Penny, Kevin Correia, and Horacio Ramirez.

Jose Ramirez is receiving well-deserved accolades for his performance this season. Along with some other impressive numbers, the Cleveland Indians third baseman is slashing .280/.393/.574. How good was Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett in 1980? He slashed .390/.454/.664 that year.

In 1987, Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson hit 49 home runs and walked 32 times. In 1991, he homered 31 times and had 22 walks.

Babe Ruth holds the record for most extra base hits in a season, with 119. He set it in 1921, with 44 doubles, 16 triples, and 59 home runs. His 457 total bases that year is also a record.

On this date in 1924, Jim Bottomley went 6 for 6 with two home runs and 12 RBIs as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Brooklyn Robins by a score of 17-3.

On September 18, 1977, Ted Cox made his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox and went 4 for 4. The following day he stroked hits in each of his first two at bats, making him 6 for 6 . Four years later, Cox concluded his career with nine hits in his last 24 at bats, with the Toronto Blue Jays. In between… not so good. Cox slashed .245/.298/.324 in 847 big-league plate appearances.

Denny McLain made his MLB debut on September 21, 1963 and got a complete-game win as the Detroit Tigers defeated the Chicago White Sox by a score of 4-3 at Tiger Stadium. McLain hit the only home run of his career in his second plate appearance.

Per the band’s official Twitter page, the Go-Go’s 1984 single “Turn to You” was written about former Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s pitcher Bob Welch.

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Black Friday 2018: An Ecommerce Survival Guide


black friday ecommerce

Thanksgiving is supposed to wear us out.

And even if a turkey-tryptophan-sleep connection isn’t rock-solid as we were once led to believe, every Thanksgiving still brings the draining combination of travel, preparation, and digestion.

It’s a coma-inducer.

However, if Black Friday proves anything, it’s that we’re never too tired to shop.

These days, over a hundred million of us brave the Black Friday retail scene in person.

Even if pie-induced comas prevent us from going to the store, we still find a way to shop: online shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday ballooned to $7.9 billion in 2017.

Even more people are able to fight through their food-comas to shop online.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday online shopping ballooned to $7.9 billion in 2017 – a 17.9% year-over-year increase!

And the unofficial post-holiday shopping frenzy isn’t winding down. In fact, it might not be long until Black Friday becomes a trillion dollar holiday:

black friday ecommerce money spent

Data Source:

So what does this mean for ecommerce retailers?

Here’s what you need to know about Black Friday:

Data & statistics.
Market trends.
How to prepare for an onslaught of shoppers headed your way.

Black Friday Pro Tip: Start in July

Erik Huberman

Advertising gets very expensive in Q4 and so to have a successful marketing strategy, you should start filling the top of the funnel at the beginning of July so you can focus on converting existing on Black Friday.

– Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO, Hawke Media.

Why Black Friday Really, Really Matters

This year, Black Friday (November 23, 2018) will kick off a shopping season that comprises 30% of all sales for the year.

In some industries like jewelry, the post-Black Friday madness will account for as much as 40% of revenue.

This is serious business.

Serious enough that you’re more likely to die during the Black Friday hysteria than in a shark attack.

Just consider a few mind-numbing Black Friday statistics:

Almost one-quarter of all Black Friday retail shoppers are willing to camp out in anticipation of Black Friday.
The few short days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday draw about a fifth of holiday sales all season long.
Mobile spending alone totals over $1 billion in sales on Black Friday.
The only year-to-year decrease in Black Friday shopping throughout the past decade came during the Great Recession in 2008. Though the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped by thousands of points by the holidays, Black Friday sales only dipped by 4.6% from year-to-year.

Any business that wants to reach customers throughout the year has to view Black Friday and the subsequent holiday shopping season as the definitive time to push.

It’s also the time for consumers to think about grabbing sales while they last.

Yes, customers are looking for great deals and brands can take the opportunity to grow their customer base by providing attractive offers.

Black Friday Pro Tip: Offer an Unmissable Deal

Maddy Osman

Offer a legitimately unmissable deal at a price point that you don’t offer during any other holiday or sales event of the year.

Since Black Friday is such a high-spend shopping day, you need to be competitive to stand out. Since people are already in the mindset to entertain impulse buys, your deal should take advantage of a human’s desire to justify a purchase.

Buying from you will feel like a no-brainer.

– Maddy Osman, SEO Content Strategist, The Blogsmith.

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The Top Discounts and Products Available on Black Friday

According to and 2016 data, customers can expect substantial discounts on the following categories throughout Black Friday.

Although each individual store varies, it’s not uncommon to see the following discounts:

Travel: 60%.
Office supplies: 50%.
Electronics: 47%.
Clothing: 32%.
Gifts: 31%.

However, some items are so popular, you might expect them to encounter stock issues come Thanksgiving, especially in the realm of bedroom furnishings and computer sales.

Buyers remorse is also a real affliction during this time.

Up to 40% or more of Black Friday shoppers end up buying something they regret.

Providing great customer service and easy return options can help earn a customers trust for future purchases.

Black Friday Pro Tip: Use Landing Pages for Increased Conversion

Nick Raushenbush

Use a landing page to narrow focus on a few select Black Friday products. Use a banner or a counter to make it clear that inventory is dropping, and they need to buy now to secure the deal.

– Nick Raushenbush, Cofounder, Shogun Landing Page Builder.

The History of Black Friday

Where and when did all this frenzied shopping begin, anyway?

The popular myth is that the phrase “Black Friday” described how retail stores spent most of the year “in the red” on their balance sheets.

The holiday shopping season, beginning on the Friday after Thanksgiving, put them back into the black. Hence, Black Friday.

As it turns out, that popular story is designed to cast the term “Black Friday” in a positive light.

Let’s look at the true reasons for the rise of Black Friday in a few different countries:

United States.

According to, Philadelphia police started using the term “Black Friday” to describe the post-Thanksgiving chaos that came from a rush of shoppers and tourists.

It wasn’t only that these tourists were in town for Thanksgiving – they were also there to watch the traditional Army-Navy football game.

With Black Friday sandwiched in between a national holiday on Thursday and the popular college football game on Saturday, it became a favorite day for tourists to shop–often to the point of excess and even looting.

Because shopping back then could get just as intense as it is today, the term “Black Friday” proved hard to shake. Even as local Philadelphia businesses tried to change it to “Big Friday,” the gloomier term held sway.

By 2003, Black Friday was the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States. It has yet to give up that status.

United Kingdom.

As in the United States, the UK term “Black Friday” came from local police.

The difference here: “Black Friday” traditionally referred to the Friday before Christmas.

Both police and hospitals noticed a spike in demand for emergency services thanks to partiers enjoying the last weekend before the holiday.

Oftentimes, that meant the first day away from work to begin a long holiday weekend.

But the UK is also familiar with the “Black Friday” event as known in the United States, with the Financial Times calling the season “the most important” in Britain’s retail sector.

The final quarter of the year makes up more than its share of revenue at 30%.


Australia and New Zealand are not immune to the online shopping opportunities centered in the U.S.

As recently as 2015, major New Zealand retailers like The Warehouse started noting the retail holiday’s importance by offering their own deals.

Apple expanded its own offerings to Australia in 2013 under the Black Friday promotion, suggesting that Black Friday may have a bigger future as an overseas holiday than the Thanksgiving holiday, which is traditionally limited to North America.

Getting Your Site Ready for Black Friday

Given the increasing importance of Black Friday as the launching pad for the year-defining holiday season, it’s only prudent for any business to have their site prepared for the inevitable Black Friday rush.

Here are a few tips to ensure your site is ready for Black Friday:

1. Start early.

Why? Because your customers will.

According to eMarketer, many customers begin their holiday shopping (or researching) as early as October.

The time to entice with coupon codes and special offers isn’t Thanksgiving – it’s well in advance of the holiday weekend.

2. Check your site speed.

Ever hear the phrase “speed kills”?

On the Internet, the lack of speed kills your chances at a sale: 46% of shoppers have said they’ll never return to a slow website.

For image-heavy websites, use a tool like to cut down on load times.

BigCommerce has introduced Akamai to help optimize images across your site and keep it fast.

3. Keep your site up.

Downtime is bad for business, bad for the customer – it’s bad for everybody.

Test the server load capacity of your store with tools like or

BigCommerce does a great job with a 99.99% uptime.

4. Get redundant.

Think NASA-style redundancies: Have backups for everything, from site code to product images.

Black Friday only comes once a year, which is why it doesn’t hurt to treat it as a rocket launch of sorts.

If all goes well, you’ll never have to use these redundancies–but it never hurts to have them on standby.

Black Friday Pro Tip: Communicate – Often!

Communicate with your customers and people that know you, as often as you can and as many ways as you can.

Send out multiple emails in a single day, send a messenger blast, send a SMS message if you can, retarget your email list, engagement audiences, visitors audiences, and purchasers on as many platform as you can.

– Eric Carlson, Co-Founder, 10xFactory.

Black Friday Marketing Ideas

Black Friday doesn’t have to be a scary, monolithic make-or-break experience.

With your site ready to handle the Black Friday rush, it’s time to take advantage of the burst of online activity.

Here are some marketing ideas to ensure you make the most of this unofficial holiday:

1. Get ahead of the curve.

Remember how eMarketer reports that the holiday shopping season starts in October?

Take advantage of that.

Use holiday-themed incentives in advance of the holiday, promising big-time rewards and discounts on the big day.

Promote your site’s newsletter to drive subscription so you can send out an effective email blast when the big holiday comes.

2. Put your retargeting strategies into place.

As shop-crazy as many customers are on Black Friday, not everyone is going to buy something that very day.

Keep some retargeting strategies in place so you can follow up with people who never checked out online.

If you use BigCommerce there are even specific Apps you can employ for just this purpose.

Black Friday Pro Tip: Setup Remarketing ASAP

Kevin Simonson

Even the most nascent digital marketer knows that remarketing is one of the first boxes you check for any ecommerce company’s customer acquisition strategy.

Holidays give you an opportunity to do more swaggy remarketing. Not only that, but every dollar spent on ads is an investment that should pay off for the holiday.

-Kevin Simonson, CEO/Co-Founder, Metric Digital.

3. Start pitching to gift guides.

One reason to get ahead of the curve is it lets you position your products well in advance.

The holiday gift guides of popular bloggers is a great place to start.

PR Couture recommends not spreading yourself too thin, but instead focusing on your most popular items.

You’ll also want to research popular blogs to get a sense of which products will make the most sense for pitching.

4. Use the time-window of the holiday season to make the most of countdowns.

Temporary sales and shopping codes are great ways to add “scarcity” to your sales pitch.

You don’t have to fake it.

Use a tool like Beeketing to create a countdown that reminds people that your sales aren’t going to last.

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5. Establish analytics.

The holiday season gives you a chance to monitor your site’s performance and gather new insights.

Use Google Analytics and heatmaps from sites like Hotjar to discover what’s right (and wrong) with your site.

Your holiday traffic might behave differently than your normal traffic, so these insights can help you tweak your site so it’ll perform better next year.

6. Prepare an email strategy in advance.

Timing emails for Black Friday requires some prep work.

And since Custora reports that over 25% of Black Friday sales start with holiday email marketing, it pays to have your blast written well in advance.

Ecommerce expert Richard Lazerra of ABLS said:

Richard Lazazzera

“Because emails are so critical and deliver huge ROI, prepare your emails well in advance.

Have the copy ready, the images ready, and the email prepped to go.

Give yourself plenty of time and lots of opportunities to review everything prior to the big day.”

7. Create a Black Friday-specific landing page.

You can create a Black Friday landing page to drive email signups in advance of the holiday, then send out your email on Thanksgiving with links to your top-selling products, services, and specials.

8. Personalize.

Are you personalizing the shopping experience?

Sending tailored, personalized marketing messages to the right people at the right time will increase your odds of conversions and sales.

B2B marketer Shayla Price said:

Shayla Price

“For Black Friday, eCommerce merchants should send hyper-personalized emails before and during their sales.

Start by segmenting your subscribers into distinct groups based on their geographical locations, previous purchasing history, and overall email engagement.

Then, your team can tailor every message, increasing your brand’s odds of earning more Black Friday revenue.”

9. Think creatively about email subject lines.

Email inboxes are especially noisy during the holiday season, so try to come up with a unique, interesting subject lines that will pop in your subscribers’ inboxes (so your emails get clicked and read.)

Ecommerce expert Andrew Youderian said:

Andrew Youderian

“A traditional discount-only approach is likely to be lost in many inboxes among the sea of other vanilla offers.

Instead, try to come up with a creative sales promotion that can capture your customers’ attention via a compelling email subject line.

If you can add creativity and uniqueness to your Black Friday offer, you’re likely drive more sales than a purely discounted approach.”

10. Go beyond Black Friday.

Black Friday is only one piece of a long holiday shopping weekend, so it’s important to consider your approach during all four days of this shopping period (and beyond.)

Ecommerce writer Maddy Osman said:

Maddy Osman

“Instead of trying to capture a share of sales on just Black Friday, create and advertise promotions for each major associated shopping day.

Part of this might include proactively striking up partnerships—like if you’re a big business who wants to be part of the conversation for Small Business Saturday, or if you need to find a complementary charity to donate a proceed of your profits to on Giving Tuesday.”

Black Friday Pro Tip: Don’t Forget About Amazon

Pat Petriello

Shoppers on Amazon are looking for deals, discounts, and coupons on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Give your customers great value on your best products and treat these selling events as marketing opportunities to accelerate sales volume more than profit drivers.

– Pat Petriello, Head of Marketplace Strategy, CPC Strategy.

Why Bother with Black Friday?

Black Friday is everything but an official holiday for companies across the world.

But it’s not driven solely by retail outlets and online shopping.

Consumers also expect more.

In fact, if you ask most consumers what they like about the holiday, they’ll come up with some great ideas:

black friday ecommerce what customers like

Image Source:

After all, Black Friday isn’t all about consumerism and mass avarice.

Many of the items purchased during Black Friday sales are for others.

And with almost one-fifth of people shopping just to spend some more time with family and friends, it can’t all be bad.

It’s not bad for your business, either.

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Rafa Benitez tips Unai Emery to do well with Arsenal


Newcastle travel to Arsenal this weekend in the first game back since the international break and Rafa Benitez has had some good things to say about new Gunners boss, Unai Emery.

‘They will be at the top of the table for sure’

Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Newcastle on Saturday, Benitez stated:

“Hopefully, at least, he will need one more week to do what he is trying to do.

“But I think he is a good manager and he is trying to do something that, in another country, sometimes it is not easy to change things.

“But we are talking about Arsenal. Arsenal was a very good team and a team that used to pass the ball and play football. Normally, on the floor.

“So I think that Unai is trying to do similar things and maybe improve a little bit some aspects that they needed to improve.

“But it was a good team and at the moment it is a good team with a new manager but they will be at the top of the table for sure.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 12: Unai Emery, Manager of Arsenal speaks with Mesut Ozil of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on August 12, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Unai Emery’s mixed start at Arsenal

Unai Emery did not have the greatest start to life as Arsenal boss.

The Gunners first game of the season saw them take on Premier League Champions, Manchester City.

The game finished 2-0 and City looked a class above Arsenal.

Arsenal then took on Chelsea. Chelsea took a 2-0 lead but Arsenal did manage to bring it back to 2-2 before eventually losing 3-2.

However, Emery was finally able to pick up his first win as Arsenal boss vs West Ham as the Gunners won 3-1.

Arsenal’s last game saw them see off newly-promoted Cardiff City, beating them 3-2.

Related: Arsenal manager Unai Emery demands “more” from Mesut Ozil

Unai Emery keen for Nacho Monreal to sign new Arsenal contract


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Do Space Probes Fail Because Of Space Weather?


Over the past few decades, numerous space probes sent to the far-flung reaches of the Solar System have fallen silent. These failures weren’t due to communications problems, probes flying into scientifically implausible anomalies, or little green men snatching up the robotic scouts we’ve sent out into the Solar System. No, these space probes have failed simply because engineers on Earth can’t point them. If you lose attitude control, you lose the ability to point a transmitter at Earth. If you’re managing a space telescope, losing the ability to point a spacecraft turns a valuable piece of scientific equipment into a worthless, spinning pile of junk.

The reasons for these failures is difficult to pin down, but now a few people have an idea. Failures of the Kepler, Dawn, Hayabusa, and FUSE space probes were due to failures of the reaction wheels in the spacecraft. These failures, in turn, were caused by space weather. Specifically, coronal mass ejections from the Sun. How did this research come about, and what does it mean for future missions to deep space?

What Is A Reaction Wheel?

A reaction wheel is important to any space mission: it’s the main method nearly every space probe uses to orient itself. It’s how a space telescope points at a star, and it’s how a Martian lander makes sure the heat shield is pointed towards the atmosphere before reentry. But how does it do this?

A reaction wheel assembly. Inside, there’s a motor, a flywheel, and not much else.

A reaction wheel is really just a flywheel — a heavy, spinning disk — that normally rotates at a few hundred to a few thousand RPM. This flywheel stores angular momentum, and changing this rotation speed imparts a tiny bit of torque around the axis of the flywheel. Think of it as a very advanced version of the infamous introduction to physics experiment where a volunteer sits on a spinny chair, holding a spinning bicycle wheel. The bicycle wheel stores angular momentum, and by tilting the wheel the volunteer can spin in their chair. No, it’s not a perfect representation of a reaction wheel, because the flywheels in a satellite don’t tilt, but the idea is the same: controlling a flywheel means you can spin. Do it on a satellite in microgravity, and you can spin the entire spacecraft.

Of course, reaction wheels aren’t the only way a spacecraft can orient itself. Satellites flying in Low Earth Orbit (or any magnetosphere, really), can use magnetorquers, or long electromagnets, to orient themselves within a magnetic field. The cubesats from several universities, in fact, use magnetotorquers for all their attitude control requirements. But magnetotorquers don’t work outside of a magnetosphere, and in deep space, space probes will also use thrusters in conjunction with reaction wheels. Using two methods of attitude control is a necessity for any deep space mission. Not only can one method fail, but reaction wheels can become ‘oversaturated’, or have the flywheel spin at the limits of its bearings. If this happens, the flywheel would need to be de-spun, which means thrusters must provide an opposing torque to keep the spacecraft from spinning out of control.

Despite these limitations, reaction wheels really are the best way to orient a small spacecraft. They only require electricity to keep them spinning, which is abundant thanks to solar panels. Using thrusters as the sole means of orientation uses valuable fuel, and the mass of that fuel would be better spent on sensors and experiments anyway.

Failures of Reaction Wheels

Reaction wheels are found in nearly every spacecraft, and over the last few decades there have been a few notable failures. The Hubble space telescope was suffering from failures of multiple reaction wheels before a servicing mission saved the space telescope in 1997. This was vitally important, because without a full suite of reaction wheels, the Hubble could not point at anything; an impressive failure for a telescope. Before the servicing mission, the problem was solved to an extent by using two of the remaining reaction wheels and magnetotorquers. With the replacement of the reaction wheels, Hubble happily continued exploring the cosmos.

The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres suffered numerous failures of reaction wheels

Beyond Earth orbit, there have been numerous failures of reaction wheels in space. The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is still continuing, but while this space probe was in orbit of Vesta, it suffered a loss of its reaction wheels. The cause of the failure was excessive friction in the bearings, and while engineers managed to get Dawn to Ceres, it wasn’t easy. A combination of the remaining reaction wheels and ion engines did allow Dawn to travel to Ceres, but it couldn’t even do that with its main antenna pointing at Earth.

In the summer of 2005, the Hayabusa spacecraft was cruising towards an asteroid named Itokawa, when a reaction wheel controlling its X axis failed. As Hayabusa had redundant reaction wheels, the mission continued towards the asteroid until September of 2005 when it assumed a 7 km orbit around its target asteroid. Just days after achieving this orbit, a second reaction wheel failed, this time controlling the Y axis. Despite this, Hayabusa landed on Itokawa momentarily, collected a small sample, and returned to Earth, sending a recovery capsule to land in the Australian desert.

While not launched into deep space, the FUSE spacecraft — the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer — was launched into orbit in 1999, and designed as a telescope for the far ultraviolet portion of the spectrum. This satellite was launched into a 760 km orbit around Earth (still close enough that magnetotorquers were also used in the design). After several years, two of the four reaction wheels showed a sudden increase in friction and stopped spinning. Engineers managed to update the software to use the two remaining wheels and magnetotorquers, allowing the mission to continue for several years but in 2007, the last two wheels failed, bringing an end to the mission.

But perhaps the greatest failure of reaction wheels in space is that of the Kepler spacecraft. This spacecraft was designed to sit in deep space and look at a small speck of the cosmos for planets passing in front of stars. If there was ever a mission that required accurate pointing and redundant reaction wheels, Kepler is it. Launched in 2009, the planet-finding mission was at first expected to last until 2016. This changed in the summer of 2012, when one of the four reaction wheels failed. Less than a year later, a second reaction wheel failed, causing the cancellation of the primary mission.

While the Dawn, Hayabusa, FUSE, and Kepler missions were saved by Apollo 13-level engineering heroics, all of these missions have another thing in common. The reaction wheels were all manufactured by Ithaco Space Systems. Sounds like a great opportunity for a root cause analysis, doesn’t it?

Finding The Failures In Reaction Wheels

Simply due to their nature as space probes, we’ll probably never recover the reaction wheels from Dawn or Kepler. The reaction wheels from Hayabusa were a fine mist over the Australian desert before they weren’t anymore. So, how do we figure out how these reaction wheels failed? That’s exactly what one researcher did, and the evidence is intriguing.

The failures of these reaction wheels can be traced to one problem: friction in the bearings which allow these flywheels to spin at thousands of rotations per minute. When the motor inside the reaction wheel can’t overcome the friction of the bearings, the reaction wheel has failed. But what would cause this in deep space, millions of miles away from Earth?

As it turns out, the failures of reaction wheels, specifically on the FUSE and Kepler missions, was correlated with space weather, specifically coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the Sun. These CMEs induce a voltage across the bearings and the bearing races in the reaction wheels, and after testing, these researchers discovered it doesn’t take much to generate a small arc from the bearing to the bearing race. This arc causes a small bit of pitting, which over time increases the friction on the reaction wheels, eventually causing it to fail.

Solving Bearing Friction Failure

While the researchers provide the experimental data showing that bearings can fail due to a voltage across a bearing and a race, it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to prove Kepler, FUSE, or Dawn suffered a reaction wheel failure because of space weather. To recover these space probes for an inspection of the bearing races we need to wait for the development of impulse drives or space pirates on a salvage mission.

The good news is the failures of these reaction wheels may be in the past. Ithaco Space Systems has since changed from metal ball bearings to ceramic bearings in their reaction wheels, greatly reducing the chance of arcing across the bearing races. While we might never know for sure if these reaction wheels failed due to space weather, the problem, at least in these Ithaco reaction wheels, is solved.

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Travel News: September 12, 2018


Queensland Australia

Great Barrier Reef Shows Significant Signs of Recovery
Travel Pulse

Queensland, Australia is pleased to advise a positive update on the recovery status of the iconic Great Barrier Reef. The Reef & Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC), a non-profit enterprising Australian organization, has reported substantial signs of recovery for corals affected by mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

A milder 2017-18 summer, as well as cooperation between science, industry and government, is supporting the recovery of the Reef in many important locations.


Disney plans to build Miami terminal for year-round cruises
Travel Weekly

Disney Cruise Line has agreed to sail a ship of at least 3,500 passengers from Miami on a year-round basis, starting in 2023.

It will be the first time Disney deploys a ship year-round from a homeport other than Port Canaveral, Fla.

The agreement, approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission on Sept. 6, also gives Disney first rights to build a new terminal on the south side of the port to the east of the existing Terminal J, which caters to small cruise ships.


Hotels prepared for Hurricane Florence evacuees — and their pets

Hotels outside the destructive path of Hurricane Florence are starting to fill up as residents evacuate their homes to escape the Category 4 storm.

Many hotels in the Carolinas, Virginia and elsewhere are preparing for the storm and waiving fees for cancelling reservations and guests traveling with pets.

“We are seeing a major increase and demand and doing our best to accommodate guests and employees that are being impacted along the coast,” Maggie Giddens, managing director of external at G6 Hospitality, the parent company of Motel 6, said Tuesday. “Right now, we are already expecting limited availability in the Carolinas after a mandatory evacuation was signaled in areas of South Carolina where we have multiple locations.”


Champagne in space: Zero-G bottle lets tourists drink bubbly

Future space tourists may be able to toast the view from orbit with fine champagne, after designers came up with a high-tech bottle made for knocking back bubbly in zero gravity.

The Mumm champagne house teamed up with designer Octave de Gaulle, who has specialised in conceiving of everyday objects for the final frontier, to develop the space-age bottles.

Journalists from several countries will try the champagne on Wednesday during a flight taking off from the French city of Reims, in the heart of champagne country.

The post Travel News: September 12, 2018 appeared first on LandLopers.

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Fitness on the Road: Traveler’s Gear For Mobile Workouts


After three years of living out of a Toyota Tacoma, our contributor explains how he keeps fit while traveling and the workout gear that helps him do it.

I rented the same house in San Francisco for four years. One day, I was abruptly kicked out when the owner decided to sell. I balked at the idea of finding a similar spot in the worst rental market in the country, so I moved into my truck.

I assumed it would last one month, maybe two. But three years later, there’s no end in sight.

How to live in a Toyota Tacoma

While nomadic life is glorified on social media, it’s often less romantic than the photos you see. Most nights are spent in parking lots or on dimly lit streets, many meals are cooked while strangers offer weird looks, and bathrooms are found in gas stations, friends’ houses, or, in emergencies, the bushes. On the bright side, you adapt pretty quickly to all these things.

Most of the downsides center around the lack of routine. One of the most common problems is staying healthy, as travel and fitness don’t naturally go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re on the road for a week or a year, getting enough exercise is a constant challenge. Fortunately, owning the right gear helps make it a lot easier. Here are the key pieces I rely on while traveling.

Travel Fitness Gear
Trail Running Shoes

The easiest way to stay in shape on the road is a quick run. Right now, my go-to shoe choice is the HOKA ONE ONE Torrent trail runner ($120).

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent trail-running shoe

The Torrent is a lightweight shoe designed for trail running that’s just as effective for pounding pavement. Designed in collaboration with one of the best athlete teams in the world, the shoe is the near-perfect balance between comfort and cushion on the downhill and lightweight on the up. A durable and breathable upper is great for rainy days, and burly traction helps keep you from slipping in any condition.

A few other favorites among the GearJunkie staff include the Altra Lone Peak, HOKA ONE ONE Evo Mafate, and Salomon Sense Ride. Whatever you chose, be sure to try them on, find a good fit for your foot, and, if possible, test them out by running a little before you purchase.

Adjustable Dumbells

Variety is the spice of life — it’s also the best way to stay in all-around shape. For shorter, 30-minute workouts, I pull out my Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells ($300). They’re easily adjustable from 5 to 52 pounds. Yes, carrying big weights like this may sound ridiculous, but for those who put a priority on fitness, I think they’re more than worth it.

These weights help me keep my core, back, shoulders, and quads strong without paying high day-rate fees for gyms. Their adjustability allows me to do basic presses, modified squats and cleans, and weighted lunges, planks, and rows. This also allows me to gradually increase the weight as I get stronger, which is a major plus.

For those looking for something smaller or lighter, the Power Block Adjustable Dumbbells are a good option at half the weight. Or, for true minimalists, a good set of resistance bands and some creativity will get a lot done.

GPS Fitness Watch Garmin Forerunner 935

Setting goals and sticking to them is a key part of staying in shape. The second half of this — the accountability part — is where we all struggle.

I use a notebook for my lifting workouts and have found the easiest way to track my endurance training is a reliable watch. The Garmin Forerunner 935 ($500) is my top choice. Multisport features, longlasting battery, waterproofing, GPS, and a heart rate tracker make it the most well-rounded watch on the market.

A great alternative to the Forerunner is Suunto’s Spartan Sport Baro, loaded with many of the same features and capabilities.


Finding places to run, bike, ski, or swim can be tricky — Mountain Hub makes it a lot easier. The crowd-sourced app is a one-stop shop for adventure ideas, backcountry navigation, recent weather and trail reports, and reliable forums for must-see places in your area. If I don’t have a local friend with trail running suggestions, my next step is to open Mountain Hub and quickly run through a few options.

Other excellent apps are Trail Run Project and MTB Project. These REI-sponsored apps work smoothly to give all kinds of information on trails near your location and even work off the grid. They’re excellent resources and work on most smartphones.

Looking for public land to camp on? OnX Maps, favored by hunters for finding hunting locations, also works great to find public land for camping. The app shows even very small chunks of public property, like those owned by the Bureau of Land Management, hiding in plain sight.

And if downloading a new app is too much, you can always use the satellite view on Google Maps.

Adventure Bike

The Specialized Diverge Comp ($3,000) is a stretch goal, the thing you probably need to spend time saving up for.

The Diverge is a bike designed for any type of exploration — and it lives up to its billing. It’s fully adept at everything from dirt trails, cruising around town, and joining in for a long group ride. This bike truly does it all.

The GearJunkie team also rides the BMC Roadmachine and Trek’s Crockett 7 gravel bike.

Workout Apparel

I wear Lululemon ABC Jogger Pants ($128) and 5 Year Basic Long Sleeve ($68). Expensive? Sure, but worth every penny. Simple, comfortable, and durable, Lululemon now offers high-quality men’s and women’s athletic apparel that, cliche or not, you’ll never want to take off. Stretchy and sweat-wicking fabrics combined with intuitively placed pockets and sleek design make these pieces the perfect workout combo.

While pretty much any T-shirt will work, we’re enamored with the Altra Performance Tee, which GearJunkie’s editor-in-chief wore for the entire Leadville 100 Trail Run last month with zero chafing.


For those 26 and under, feel free to skip to the next item. But for everyone else, keep reading.

Good recovery is essential for a consistent workout routine, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complex. After a hard run or lift, I do some dynamic stretching and then roll out using two tools: the generic Lacrosse Ball ($6) and the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller ($35).

These tools can be alternately described as torture devices. The lacrosse ball helps loosen hard-to-tackle spots like hamstrings below your butt. A good foam roller helps promote the flow of blood and oxygen, allowing you to recover faster. For a smaller roller option, check out the Travel Stick.

Sport Drinks

While I’m rolling out my muscles, I drink GU Recovery Drink Mix ($36). I’ve been told many times that the first hour after your workout is the most important. GU’s protein mix prevents muscle breakdown as well as provides glycogen, sodium you sweated out, amino acids (which promote immune function), and whey (to promote muscle growth).

Also worth noting: It tastes like chocolate and is delicious. If you can’t find GU’s protein mix, there are dozens of similar alternatives to choose from online and in brick-and-mortar stores.

The post Fitness on the Road: Traveler’s Gear For Mobile Workouts appeared first on GearJunkie.

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Beloved California Vintner Ulises Valdez Dies at 49 (Wine Spectator)


Ulises Valdez, who emigrated from Mexico to work as a vineyard laborer in Sonoma County, then rose to become one of California’s most renowned vineyard managers and founder of his own family winery, died early this morning of a heart attack. He was 49.

Valdez was widely considered one of the most knowledgeable and skilled vineyard managers in California. He was equally regarded as one of the most warm and loving personalities in the industry. “He was a brother from another mother,” said Jeff Cohn of Jeff Cohn Cellars. “His family is my family, and vice versa; and our relationship has been that way since 1996 when we first met him.”

Valdez was also an example of the American dream in the wine industry. Born in the Mexican state of Michoacán, he was one of eight children. His father died when Valdez was just 8, forcing the resolute youth into the fields around his village to help support his family. Valdez left Mexico at age 16, successfully crossing the California border on his third attempt. He found his way to Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley, joining his older brother Nicolas Cornejo, who had come to the U.S. earlier in the year. Together they worked in vineyards.

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Valdez became a legal temporary resident of the United States, and 10 years later he became a permanent resident. In the interim, Valdez returned home to marry his wife, Adelina. Even though he could now travel to California legally, Adelina could not, so Valdez once again braved the journey across the border to bring her back to Sonoma County.

“He’s the poster child for immigration,” said Saxon Brown’s Jeff Gaffner, who has known Valdez for 20 years. “I knew his uncle when he came here as a kid, and he always worked hard and hustled; his evolution is something our industry should be proud of.”

It didn’t take long for Valdez to carve a path from vineyard worker to vineyard manager. He teamed with Jack Florence Jr. to become partners in Florence Vineyard Management Company, farming Florence’s father’s vineyard. After saving for more than a decade, Valdez bought out his partner in 2003, and changed the name to Valdez & Sons Vineyard Management Inc.

Valdez had learned a lot about viticulture in a short period of time and had gained a valuable reputation in the industry, growing high-quality grapes for clients such as Mark Aubert, Paul Hobbs and Jayson Pahlmeyer. That brought in more business. “He’s got exhaustive knowledge of the soils in Sonoma,” Aubert told Wine Spectator in 2007. “And he has the understanding [that comes with] making his own wine. He’s a rare breed that can balance all the factors.”

Today, the company employs a staff of 100 and farms over 1,000 acres for the aforementioned wineries, as well as Arista Winery, Ram’s Gate, Rivers-Marie, Three Sticks, Kosta Browne and countless others. “He was a gem in this industry,” said Cohn. “He understood what it took to make great wine, literally from the ground up.”

Valdez will be remembered for the twinkle in his eye, his laughter and his big smile underneath his signature straw cowboy hat. He was a passionate, hardworking and determined perfectionist in the vineyard; as well as a loving, caring father and husband at home. “Conversations always drifted to family, and about his sons and daughters getting involved in the family business,” recalled Mark McWilliams of Arista.

In 2004, Valdez released his first wine under his namesake brand, Valdez Family Winery. He opened his own winery in 2010. Because vineyard land is expensive, Valdez opted to acquire vineyard property via long-term leases rather then buying—the winery now owns or leases 100 acres. His daughter Elizabeth took over winemaking duties in 2016, and her siblings Angelica, Ricardo, and Ulises Jr. are all involved in both the winery and vineyard company.

Valdez’s death comes at the peak of harvest in Sonoma County. McWilliams was shocked to hear the news from Ulises Jr. at 6 a.m. this morning, when the young man delivered grapes to Arista. Numerous local vintners and longtime clients have rallied around the family, offering to lend a hand in the fields, cellar or offices.

McWilliams said it’s what Ulises would have done for them, recalling a story from Arista’s first harvest of their estate vineyard in Russian River Valley, which Valdez had planted and farmed. “One of his men didn’t fully strap the fruit down, and [when he] came around a corner, half of it dumped onto Westside Road,” said McWilliams. Valdez called him crying, and replaced the lost fruit with grapes from his own vineyard at no cost. “He loved his work, and loved being in the vineyards,” said McWilliams. “It was what he was meant to do; he’s an absolute icon.”

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How Do You Pick A Wedding Location (When You Have The Whole World)?


It didn’t take becoming engaged to know that wedding planning was going to be a… process. After all, I’ve attended more than my fair share of weddings and have read one too many bridal magazines. I knew what I was signing up for, which is what largely influenced my decision to have a longer engagement. Even before my fiancé put a ring on it, I was crystal clear about my expectations: I wanted a two-year engagement so that we could have plenty of time to pick out flowers, invites, menus, music, and everything else that we wanted for our wedding day.

Of course, before any of those selections could be made, we had to figure out where our wedding will actually take place. Other decisions couldn’t really happen until we landed on a locale. And I’m pleased to announce that—nearly nine months into our engagement—we have picked… uh, well, about that.

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Starting at Home

We haven’t picked anything—or anywhere for that matter. I’ve spent the better part of a year weighing the pros and cons of multiple cities and locations only to arrive at the conclusion that oh my God, we have made literally zero progress with this whole wedding thing.

The challenge is two-fold. For starters, we have family and friends who live just about everywhere—from Arizona and Florida to New York and Mexico. A good central location where most of our loved ones are concentrated doesn’t exist for us. And while my fiancé and I are both from Nebraska, we quickly ruled that out as an option because tying the knot in our home state just doesn’t appeal to us. The venues and vendors are fairly limited, and what’s available doesn’t quite match up with our personality as a couple.

So I suppose it’s a little unfair to say that we’ve made zero progress. We have decided on what we don’t want. And that counts for something (at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself). Nebraska was off the table from the beginning. For a while, we considered our current place of residence, Washington, D.C. But after touring a few venues, we were generally underwhelmed by the options in our price range and felt that we could make our money go further elsewhere—possibly even abroad.

Wanderlust in Action

My fiancé and I love to travel, and seeing the world is important to the both of us. I am a chronic wanderluster, constantly dreaming up my next great escape. In less than three years, we’ve visited Tokyo, Paris, London, Venice, Madrid, Lisbon, among others. I’m beyond fortunate to be marrying a man who doesn’t take issue with hearing me say, “So I was looking at flights…” multiple times a week.

Taking our affinity for travel into consideration, it makes sense that our nuptials would take place in some exotic locale. The few people I’ve talked to about it often respond that a wedding abroad would be “so us.” We leaned heavily into the idea of a European wedding, with London, Paris, and Positano, Italy, rounding out our list of contenders. We did some preliminary research on the three potential destinations, scoping out venues online and contacting planners. All signs were pointing to Europe, until a trip to the West Coast got us thinking about keeping our wedding stateside.

Finding The Perfect Place

In April we were in Los Angeles for my fiancé’s work, and I had a good amount of free time. While driving back to the hotel from a local café, I stumbled upon a truly magical venue: Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes. The whole experience was movielike. The chapel sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but it’s totally hidden by giant trees so you can’t even see it from the highway. If I hadn’t looked up and noticed the roadside sign pointing toward the chapel, I would’ve missed it completely. What’s more, the chapel was designed by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, who just so happens to be one of our favorite architects. (I mean, you can’t make this stuff up!)

When we toured the site ourselves, we definitely felt a connection. The modern architecture against the lush green space with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop was truly breathtaking. Suddenly a Southern California wedding became a very real possibility.

Is There Always a Catch?

Then we discovered that, much like D.C., weddings in that part of the country aren’t just pricey—they’re you-better-be-sitting-down-when-you-hear-how-much-this-costs pricey. While we felt comfortable splurging on the chapel for our ceremony site because we were so in love with it, spending mega bucks on a reception venue was something we weren’t totally sold on. We ventured back to LA a month later to scope out some reception venue options and even found one that we really liked, but I didn’t feel the same connection I had with the chapel (especially for the price tag).

That meant it was back to the drawing board. Again. But after six months of feeling like our wedding could happen just about anywhere (and feeling really overwhelmed by that thought), we put a temporary hold on all things wedding related. I stepped away from the Pinterest boards and the endless emails to potential vendors. Instead, we made time to just enjoy being engaged. It’s a unique time in our relationship that we’ll never get to relive. So while we’ve spent most of the summer delaying a selection on our wedding destination, we weren’t completely indecisive: We’ve given ourselves a deadline of this September (aka this month!!) to pick a location. And then it’s one decision down, ten thousand more to go.

How did you make a decision on where to get married? Did you ever make a decision on where to get married? Will we ever get married if we have to pick a spot on the space-time continuum? Stay tuned for this and many more burning wedding planning questions.

The post How Do You Pick A Wedding Location (When You Have The Whole World)? appeared first on A Practical Wedding: We're Your Wedding Planner. Wedding Ideas for Brides, Bridesmaids, Grooms, and More.

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