Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It Snowed!

It snowed overnight where I live, and so now there's all kinds of melty white stuff on the ground.

We call this snow.

Before I get into the main part of this post let me first mention two brief facts about the relation of snow to salt. Perhaps throughout the season I'll come up with some more. For now there are just two:
  1. When water vapor condenses to form clouds, it does so by clinging to condensation nuclei such as dust, ice crystals, and salt. Salt's all over the place, folks. Even in clouds (why do you think they're so white? (okay, that's not really why...)).
  2. In movies, the familiar crunching sound of walking through snow is simulated by cornstarch, cat litter, or salt.
Anyway.  When it snows, roads are salted to make the snow melt.  But why does this happen?  The easy answer is to say that snow is evil and the holy salt melts it like Arcs melt Nazis.  What, after all, is the Ninth Circle of Hell covered in according to Virgil?  (Well, ice... but close enough.)

The sciency (and probably more credible) answer is that salt lowers the freezing point of water.  The lower the freezing point, the colder it has to be for water to freeze.

The reason this works is because the dissolved salt ions are an impurity.  As it gets colder, water molecules lose energy and slow down.  As they slow down, they come closer together and form hydrogen bonds with each other.  When salt is introduced, the water molecules cannot form the lattice structure characteristic of ice as easily, and so more heat needs to be removed from the system for the water to freeze.

In controlled environments, salt can decrease the freezing point of water to about -21 ºC (-6 ºF).  In practical use, such as on sidewalks or roads, salt lowers the freezing point of water to about -9 ºC (15 ºF).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Morton Salt

Morton Salt is a staple in salt brands (as Swingline is a staple in stapler brands).  That familiar girl in the yellow dress, holding an umbrella and obliviously pouring salt all over the place, has found her place in cupboards and pantries all around the world.

Morton Salt started out as a Chicago sales agency in 1848, called Richmond & Company, Agents for Onondaga Salt.  The discovery of gold in California in 1849 created a huge demand for salt as fortune-seekers made the long journey west.  In 1889 Joy Morton (whose father served as secretary of agriculture under Grover Cleveland and invented Arbor Day) acquired a major interest in the company and renamed it Joy Morton & Company.  In 1910, the firm was finally renamed the Morton Salt Company.

Morton Salt began adding magnesium carbonate as an anti-caking agent to its salt in 1911.  The Morton Salt Umbrella Girl was born in 1914, along with the slogan, "When it rains it pours."


This blew my mind.  Anyway, 1924 brought iodized salt, and then here is a progression of the Morton Salt Umbrella Girl over the decades:

Isn't she adorable? She reminds me of the Coppertone girl, but I feel less awkward.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vintage Salt Shakers

Do you like knick-knacks?  Do you like collecting stuff?  Do you like having a bunch of things in your home that you can't use, lest its quality diminish?

Then you've come to the right place!

Fairfax salt and pepper shakers in orchid crystal ~$100

Wham.  Vintage salt shakers.  All the rage these days.  But before you dive into the exciting world of vintage salt shaker collecting (you can throw the pepper shakers away), you should first know a few basics about the hobby connoisseurship:

This is totally important.  The better the condition, the more valuable the salt shaker.  If you're collecting just to decorate your kitchen with cutesy (dare I say kitschy?) salt shakers, then don't worry about this.  But real legit serious awesome collectors (Antiques Roadshow tier) should definitely keep quality in mind.

Salt shakers can be made of a variety of materials, including various metals, glass, wood, ceramics, and more.

Affordable vintage milkglass shakers ~$8-$10

Carved ivory adds a touch of elegance and murder ~$60

Like wine and unlike grapes, good salt shakers get better with age.  Sometimes it's not too difficult to determine the age of a salt shaker.  Some vintage salt shakers served to advertise for companies (a popular sub-genre of vintage salt shakers are the Gasoline Pump sets, for example), and so it is simply a matter of recognizing the era of the brand.

Likewise, many salt shakers represent popular characters, like this old-timey Mickey Mouse set:

 Did someone say Suicide Mouse? ~$195
Outrageousness Factor
Like this $800 set:
But it's signed!  I think it's a Warhol.

Level of Racism
Also important, apparently.
Goodness. ~$85-$100

Friday, November 18, 2011


New discovery!  Searching "F*** Salt," "Eff Salt," or "F Salt" in Google brings up this very blog on the first page!  My indecision still managed to pay off, so I guess I'm keeping the name as it is (see my logistical problems post).  Mainly, though, someone very important to me suggested that I keep the name, and so that's what I'm doing.

But back on topic: Mochileiro mentioned something pretty interesting in the comments of my last post.  He pointed out that the word "salary" is derived from the word "salt."

Now, something I like besides salt is money (because it buys more salt, duh), so the notion that these two things would be related (more than as far as supermarket transactions go) peaked my interest.

By around 550 BC, receiving salt from someone was synonymous with being in that person's service (as far as I know, receiving clothes did not release you from said service).  Salt production was often the sole privilege of monarchies or the ruling elite (Occupy Salt Street, anyone?).  For example in The Book of Ezra (Ezra 4:14, English Standard Version), the servants of  King Artaxerxes I describe their loyalty thus: "Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king..."

The Latin salarium bore connection to Roman soldiers, salt, and employment.  As good old Pliny the Elder wrote, in his Naturalis Historia XXXI: "[I]n Rome. . .the soldier's pay was originally salt and the word salary derives from it..."

Some suggest that the word "soldier" is derived from the Latin sal dare (to give salt), but a more common theory suggests that the word "soldier" comes from the gold solodius (a type of coin) with which Roman soldiers were paid.  This payment may have been an allowance for the purchase of salt or perhaps compensation for soldiers conquering salt supplies or guarding the Salt Roads leading to Rome.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Folktale

I stumbled across some folktales at this website:

The stories are about salt, and most follow a very similar format, despite "originating" in several different countries, from England to Pakistan.  It isn't surprising, naturally, that stories such as these, meant to be spread verbally, should appear in so many places.  One big example, though not really salt-related, is the flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is virtually identical to the story of Noah's Ark, right down to the dove carrying the olive branch.  The oldest-known written version of the Epic of Gilgamesh is approximately 2000 years older than the Book of Genesis.  Probably the Epic of Gilgamesh had been a story long before somebody took the time to chisel it into a rock.

But back to the salt stories.  The common formula of this particular salt tale is this:
  1. A king has three (or more) daughters.
  2. He wants to find out which daughter loves him the most (occasionally for the sake of the lordship).
  3. The first daughters say that they love him as much as some sweet/vital/expensive thing.
  4. The third (or youngest) daughter says that she loves him as much as salt.
  5. The king is furious.
  6. The king banishes/imprisons her. (A**hole.)
  7. ????
  8. Profit.
Step seven is actually that the girl marries a hunter or prince or whatever, or she becomes a famous cook... and then she's reunited with her father somehow (unbeknownst to him), to whom she serves food prepared without salt.

The king becomes very upset that the food has no salt, and then the daughter's like, "Wham!  It's me, jackass!"

Then the king admits his folly and that truly her compliment was best of all.

One of the stories even ends, "Salt is holy."  Which I've been saying all along, of course.

Monday, November 14, 2011

'Occupy Salt Lake' Protesters Get Back on the Horse

Count this as my foray into the exciting world of Sociopolitical Commentary!

After homeless man Michael Manhard, 42, was found dead in his tent at Pioneer Park this past Friday, Occupy Salt Lake protesters were forced to vacate the area.  Nineteen people were arrested Saturday night, as the po-po bulldozed the crap out of the premises.

Hours after Manhard was found dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning and a drug overdose, Salt Lake City police Chief Chris Burbank announced that nighttime camping would be banned, and in the meantime everyone would have to get the eff out.

Protesters were given an opportunity to gather their stuff, but it's not clear where people stayed once they were kicked out.  The bulldozer was technically not a bulldozer, but even though it was a slightly less-threatening front-end loader, protester Drew Baker was quick to draw comparisons to a police state.  The clearing out of Pioneer Park, the center of the Occupy Salt Lake rallies, went peacefully, even though nineteen folks were arrested for not leaving.

Despite being booted, protesters were back Sunday, doing their thing.  "We are here as an assembly of the people," said an anonymous protester. "They can tear down our tents but they can't tear us down. We are going to march forward under a broader vision."

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, "Occupy SLC members have complained the city used Manhard’s death as a pretense to close the camp and pointed out that more than 50 homeless people died in Salt Lake City last year with no response from the city."

A makeshift memorial for Michael Manhard was erected in the park Sunday.


Friday, November 11, 2011


Whoa!  Long time since my last blog post.  If I were a recovering blog addict, this might be a good thing, but alas, this is not the case.

A couple (a few?) posts ago, I used the word "halophile."  It was one of those cases where I knew what I wanted to say -- "Salt-lover" -- and so I employed the handy method of combining Greek root words.  Hal- means "salt" (e.g. "Halogen"), and, of course, Phil- means "lover" (e.g. "Philosopher," "Philanthropist," "Pedophile," etc.).  Wikipedia has a pretty handy list of Greek and Latin roots here.

So, once I had the word formed, I Googled it, and to my delight (but not surprise), the word exists.  Another time this has happened is when I used the word "Mensiversary" (composed of Latin roots) because I hoped there was a more efficient way of saying "One-month Anniversary."  It turns out this isn't an official English word, but I'm also not the first to use it, as a quick Google search shows.

Anyway, back to the point: Halophiles are a real thing.  They're organisms that thrive in environments with high salt concentrations, specifically five times higher than that of the ocean.  I particularly got a kick out of the fact that Halophiles belong to the larger concept of "Extremophiles" (organisms that thrive in extreme environments), which just goes to show that salt, too, is extreme.

Unfortunately, most (probably all) Halophiles are microscopic, so you probably won't be seeing any up close without a microscope.  It turns out that to live in such high concentrations of salt, you need to be wary of dessication (drying up), protein aggregation (who knows?), and all sorts of other silly microscopic things.  However, these are just a different set of issues for a unique environment.  In fact, Haloarchaea, a specific variety of Halophiles will perish when removed from their salty environs.  These guys require a whopping 2M salt concentration to survive, and can handle environments consisting of nearly 40% salt concentration.

Haloarchaea (Red Team) taking the San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds by storm.

Some other Halophiles include Dunaliella salina, which are actually used in cosmetics and dietary supplements for their anti-oxidant effects; Chromohalobacter beijerinckii, which were discovered in 1935 floating around in some fermented salted beans; and Tetragenococcus halophilus, which are active in the fermentation of soy sauce, miso, and salted anchovies.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quick Post

I just saw this very sentimental Google Chrome commercial, and I thought I'd share it.  Salt makes an appearance in the video, so it counts.

It also features an instrumental of an Ingrid Michaelson song.  I don't know if she has anything to do with salt, but she's quite good nonetheless.

You know another way this has to do with salt? 


(If you have a soft spot for this kinda stuff, anyway... *sniffle*)