Matt Glendinning, the head of Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, made the decision to close school for the big snow event. But he had to dress the announcement up a bit in the song his students have been singing for over a year now. Oh yeah, you know he had this video ready months ago, but it’s still funny. -via Time
KFC rolled out a new menu item Monday: the Double Down Dog. This carnivore’s concoction consists of a hot dog nestled in a "bun" of breaded fried chicken pieces. You can have yours with a splash of melted cheese or other condiments. But the supply of the Double Down Dogs was limited yesterday to 50 each at 12 outlets in the Philippines, which sold out all 600 of the sandwiches. However, there will be more Tuesday, the last day of the promotion. Will we ever see the Double Down Dog in the U.S.? That may depend on how well it goes over in this limited run. What's the point in putting a hot dog in your fried chicken, anyway?
(Image credit: KFC Philippines)
The price of college textbooks in America can give you a heart attack. Students aren’t buying new books as much as they used to, which in a normal market would mean the publishers would have to lower prices- you know, supply and demand. However, with textbooks, very first book printed cost the company a lot of money to produce, and every copy thereafter is just the price of paper and printing. Sell 10,000 books at $50 each, and your initial costs will certainly be covered; the rest is profit -until students start buying the books used. However, all a publisher has to do is tweak it slightly, call it a new edition, and the cycle of profit begins anew. This comic is from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. -via Daily of the Day
TheMadKing trained his girlfriend’s rabbit Wallace to deliver beer in a little pushcart! He says it was an epic accomplishment.
I couldn't have done any of this if it wasn't for Wallace, and he wouldn't have done any of it if he was given a choice... or had any brain power to make a choice.
While the northeast U.S. brace for a snowstorm today that is expected to leave two to three feet of snow, there are already comparisons with the record-setting storm of 1888.
The Great Blizzard of 1888 paralyzed the northeast U.S. Up to 60 inches of snow fell on New England, with snowdrifts up to 50 feet! The trains couldn’t run, and many people were stuck in their homes for a week. The effects of the storm in the cities of New York and Boston spurred urban planners to start work on underground communication lines and subways.
Check out a roundup of photographs from that blizzard at mental_floss.
January 26 is Australia Day, and the Aussies get to celebrate it earlier than most of the world. In honor of the occasion, Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist Cathy Wilcox gives us an illustrated alphabet of what the holiday means to Australians. From the misheard lyrics of their national anthem to chilling out after a good time, each letter will make you smile -or think. Especially if you are Australian, know an Australian, or have been to Australia.
The newspaper also has a profile of the “average” Australian, who they say does not even exist. Aussies come in an enormous variety. -via Metafilter
For hundreds of years, workers broke and hauled salt out of the Salina Turda mine in Romania. That stopped in the 20th century. Since 1992, the huge chambers left behind have been a tourist attraction, which became a full-fledged theme park in 2010. The features include a 65-foot-tall Ferris wheel, an amphitheater, bowling alleys, a miniature golf course, and a lake where you can ride a boat, all contained in the huge underground chambers. Read more about Salina Turda and see lots of pictures in a slideshow at Scribol.
(Image credit: Cristian Bortes)
This cat is named Nico "El guapo," and he has his own Instagram account. Not only does he have wonderfully expressive eyes, he loves a good bath. That is a little odd for a housecat, as most cat owners will tell you. But while Nico is in the minority, he’s not alone. Buzzfeed rounded up pictures of 17 Cats Who Actually Love Being In The Water. You’ll enjoy seeing the rest of them, too.
The following article is republished from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader.
Ever since he first saw Flipper in the 1960s, Uncle John has been fascinated by dolphins. He’s not alone- some scientists think dolphins are humans’ closest relatives. Whether they are or not, we’ve still got a lot in common.
Few other animals evoke such mystery and curiosity as the dolphin. The more we study them, the more we want to know about them. We know that dolphins live 30 to 40 years. They have a distinct social structure, traveling in flexible groups of between 6 and 12 called pods. Young dolphins stay with their mothers for three years or longer before moving on to a new pod. Yet, remarkably, a daughter will often return to her mother’s group to have her first calf.
A dolphin’s cerebral cortex -the portion of the brain that plans, thinks, and imagines- is larger than a human’s and, indeed, dolphins are adept at planning, thinking, and imagining. According to professional trainers, there is no limit to what a dolphin can learn.
(Image credit: Flickr user Michael S)
Here are some amazing examples of dolphin intelligence:
* Dolphins learn quickly. Two dolphins at Sea Life Park in Hawaii knew entirely different routines. One day the trainer accidentally switched the two dolphins and didn’t know why they seemed so nervous about performing the stunts. One dolphin, trained to jump through a hoop 12 feet in the air, refused to jump at all until she lowered it to 6 feet. The other seemed shaky about navigating through an underwater maze while blindfolded. Not until the show was over did the trainer discover the error. The dolphin who had jumped through the 6-foot-high hoop had not been trained to go through a hoop at all. The other dolphin was familiar with the blindfold but had never navigated the underwater maze. Yet, somehow, each had figured out how to perform the other’s tricks before the end of the routine.
* Dolphins can learn sign language. They can understand syntax and sentence structure, knowing the difference between “Pipe fetch surfboard” (“Fetch the pipe and take it to the surfboard”) and “Surfboard fetch pipe” (“Fetch the surfboard and take it to the pipe”). When asked, “Is there a ball in the pool?” the dolphin is able to indicate yes or no -meaning it has understood the language, formed a mental image of the object referred to, and deduced whether the object is or is not there. This is called referential reporting and is otherwise only documented in apes and humans.
(Image credit: Flickr user César Astudillo)
* Dolphins consistently demonstrate imagination and creativity. At the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Lab in Hawaii, two young trainers were working with a pair of bottle nose dolphins named Akeakemai and Phoenix. The trainers got the dolphin’s attentions and then, together, they tapped two fingers of each hand together, making the symbol for “in tandem.” They both threw their arms in the air, the sign language gesture that means “creative.”
The instruction was “do something creative together.”
Enjoy a collection of Japanese prints from the 1800s that depict cats in human situations, mostly having a grand old time. The picture above is a pun, as the title Roku kesen (猫の六毛撰) can mean either Six Immortal Poets or Six Cats with Fur of Different Colors.
Other images have cats at festivals or at tea ceremonies, playing games, dancing, lounging, acting out classic plays, flirting with each other, and generally being LOLcats. -via Everlasting Blort
A guy walks through the history of video games, from Pong to Grand Theft Auto. I almost didn't recognize Pong because the original graphic display wouldn't work here at all; it's been somewhat modernized. Sometimes the guy has to win a round before he can proceed. Of course, since this is a three-minute video, you won’t see all of your favorite video games, just several insanely popular games as a representative sample of the past five decades. -via Geeks Are Sexy
Peter Cohen is a home builder, so he can fix his house any way he wants to. What he wanted was to make his cats safe, healthy, and happy. One thing led to another, and now he has 15 cats and a house custom-designed for their pleasure. There are catwalks, tunnels, staircases, beds, a koi pond, ventilated litter box closets, and Roombas. So far, he’s spent almost $40,000. These cats have it made! -via Tastefully Offensive
The Locally Laid Egg Company puts their name right their on cartons of their eggs, which are available only in northern Minnesota and parts of Iowa and Indiana. In December they received a letter from a man who was offended by the name. How do you respond to that? Lucie B. Amundsen, the company’s “marketing chick,” wrote, in part:
Here’s why we named our company, Locally Laid. First off, it’s completely demonstrative of what we are. We are the first pasture-raised egg company in the Upper Midwest providing you with eggs which are laid locally. More on the sassy part of the name in minute, but let’s look at local. It’s important.
She goes on to explain the importance of free-range, organically-raise chickens and how they differ from nationwide factory farms. She also explains how important mid-sized farms are to preserving local economies. It’s pretty interesting, in a post that's all due to a customer with a dirty mind. -Thanks Carol Anne!
The most predictable thing in the universe is still clouded by human perception. The biggest days of the year for a child become mundane occurrences when you are an adult. How many years did you wonder if you’d still be alive when the 21st century arrived?
My kids consider all the Star Wars movies to be ancient. They had seen the earlier movies by the time Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005, but I thought they were still too young to see that one in a theater. When they finally watched it, it was already an “old movie” in their eyes. This Star Wars tipping point is brought to you by Randall Munroe of xkcd.
While I check out Facebook links to bring you interesting posts, I try to stay away from my personal feed for just this reason. The people you know are always posting the best parts of their lives, which will only make you feel worse about yours. What’s more, your friends’ posts lead to you to notice other friends, and before you know it, your day is gone and you're still depressed. Yes, I’m all for posting pleasantness, but among friends it can become a game of one-upmanship or trying to keep up with the Joneses, even if it’s only in your head. This song is from comedian Pat Regan. I'd link to his Facebook page, but it's surprisingly inactive and the banner pic is NSFW. -via Viral Viral Videos
Pollsters asked French citizens who contributed the most to the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. The poll was conducted in 1945, then repeated in 1994 and 2004. As you can see in a graphic from Olivier Berruyer, the results changed over time. Of course, most of the people polled in 1994 and 2004 were not around during the war, and what they know was learned in classrooms and movie theaters. The movies aren’t necessarily wrong, but the Hollywood film industry tells stories they know, that are available in a language the industry speaks.
In another graph at the same post, Berruyer shows us that 11 million soldiers of the Soviet Union died in the war, and as least as many civilians, making the USSR the country with the highest casualties of all. China was second, as Chinese civilians bore the brunt of Japanese atrocities. The United States lost 184,000 soldiers in the European theater, and 407,000 when you include the Pacific theater.
The effectiveness of the USSR in defeating the Nazis is colored by the utter brutality of the Stalinist regime, and clouded by the secrecy of Soviet isolation over the ensuing 50 years. However, the sheer numbers have a tale to tell, and we haven’t been telling it as well as we could. The post at Les-Crises has more graphics on World War II, which are all in French but pretty easy to understand. -via reddit
(Image credit: Olivier Berruyer)
A couple of years ago, we linked to a story about how the variety of apples diminished to just a few kinds, and the efforts of one man to bring back their glorious diversity. The same fate has befallen potatoes. Thanks to market forces, particularly the demands of the French fry industry, the overwhelming majority of potatoes available in the U.S. are Russet potatoes. Contrast that with the many kinds of spuds that are still grown in South America. Potatoes were first cultivated thousands of years ago in the Andes mountains, on the border of what are now Peru and Bolivia.
Back then, the potato was synonymous with diversity. The Andeans inhabited a mountainous mosaic of microclimates in which one plot of land presented a very different set of growing conditions than its neighbor. No single variety could survive in such a heterogeneous landscape, so the Andeans diversified — to the extreme. Farming so many different types of potatoes also provided a more interesting and enjoyable diet, a tradition that is still alive today. “If you go to a typical Andean household,” explains Stef de Haan, a researcher at the International Potato Center in Lima, “they will eat what is called chajru, which means ‘mixture’ in the Quechua language. They sit around a big bowl of potatoes. And the joy of eating those, the culinary delight, is that every time you pick a potato, you pick a different one. In Quechua, especially when it comes to the taste of potatoes, they have this whole unique vocabulary — almost like somebody from France would tell you about the taste of wine.
Now a few folks are trying to bring back potato variety in the U.S. One is helping chefs develop ways to harness different tater flavors, colors, and textures, while another is encouraging diversity on farms. Read about the many types of potatoes we could be eating soon at Modern Farmer. -via Digg
We’ve posted about the annual Robocup meet a few times before, but here is the funniest video yet from the annual soccer tournament for robots. This team from the 2012 meet can barely stay upright, much less catch each other. They altogether suck at the sport. But what makes it special is the exciting play-by-play commentary from Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen. -via The Daily Dot
Lexington native Drew Curtis, who runs the website Fark.com, has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2015 gubernatorial race in Kentucky. The race is wide open, as Governor Steve Beshear is ineligible to run for a third term. Curtis will run as an independent.
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Business Lexington, Curtis cast himself as a “citizen candidate” and talked about his plans and goals in joining the fray. He cited influence-peddling, party gridlock and “this sinking feeling that nobody is doing their damn jobs at the political level” as major factors influencing his decision.
Curtis said he filed his campaign papers Friday and planned to make a formal announcement Monday on his website. His wife, Heather, will serve as his running mate.
“I have no idea what I’m in for,” said Curtis. “But that’s kind of the thing about being an entrepreneur, is you jump off a cliff and you build the plane on the way down.”
Curtis has set up a website for his campaign. He serves at the University of Kentucky’s Innovation Network for Entrepreneurial Thinking board and on Lexington’s Economic Development Investment Board. He also brews craft beer with Will Wheaton. -via Metafilter
The tale of the canine cosmonaut Laika, the first living being to orbit the earth, is a tragic one. But she was not the first dog the Soviets sacrificed in their space program. And the two space dogs that followed Laika not only survived, but became superstars in the USSR (Belka and Strelka are pictured above and illustrated below). Damon Murray edited and published the book Soviet Space Dogs, which tells the story of the Soviet strays who paved the way for humans to enter space. He talked to Collectors Weekly about the space dog program.
Collectors Weekly: Why were dogs chosen over apes or cats?
Murray: Dogs had a history of scientific experimentation in the USSR. Petrovich Pavlov had used them to great effect in his studies of the reflex system. Despite this, apes were initially considered as they more closely resemble man in many ways. Dr. Oleg Gazenko, one of the leading scientists of the space program, even visited the circus to observe the famous monkey handler Capellini, who convinced him that monkeys were, in fact, problematic. They required intense training and numerous vaccines and were emotionally unstable. (Cats did not tolerate flight conditions; that was later proved by French missions in 1963.) The decision was made: Dogs would be the first cosmonauts.
Read the stories of Laika, Belka, Strelka, Dezik, Tsygan, Bobik, ZIB, Otvazhnaya, and other canine cosmonauts of the Soviet Union, in an article at Collectors Weekly.
(Images credit: © FUEL Publishing)
Reggie is a very patient and long-suffering cat. He’s well aware that these Australian terriers are puppies and don’t know any better, but he isn’t enjoying their company. He finally gets up to leave, but hesitates while he gets one last puppy scratch. Oh, don’t miss the half-hearted foot push at :50. -via Metafilter
A court case in Germany pitted a tenant against a landlord on the proper way for men to urinate. The landlord had confiscated €1,900 of his tenant’s €3,000 deposit due to damage to the marble bathroom floor, which he says resulted from urine splash. The tenant sued. Instead of arguing just on the responsibility for the floor damage, the court case focused on a man’s right to be a “Stehpinkler,” or standing urinator, when the landlord wanted him to be a “Sitzpinkler.”
While Düsseldorf judge Stefan Hank found the pro-sitting landlord's arguments "credible and understandable“, he said that he could not side with the landlord.
"Despite the increasing domestication of men in this regard, urinating while standing up is still widespread", he wrote in his judgement.
The landlord should have warned the renter of the floor's "sensitivity" to potentially damaging bodily fluids beforehand, the judge reasoned.
P.S. The source of this and many other weird news stories, the blog Nothing to do with Arbroath is celebrating ten years of blogging today. Please go and leave a message of encouragement for the tired blogger.
You recall how Toyota added a recorded sound of an engine to its Prius models because people thought it was creepy and dangerous for a car to move silently when it was in electric mode. But apparently they weren’t the only ones. If you step on the accelerator of a fairly recent Ford F-150 pickup, or a Mustang, the satisfyingly powerful American ‘vroom” you hear is deliberately amplified or digitally enhanced.
Fake engine noise has become one of the auto industry’s dirty little secrets, with automakers from BMW to Volkswagen turning to a sound-boosting bag of tricks. Without them, today’s more fuel-efficient engines would sound far quieter and, automakers worry, seemingly less powerful, potentially pushing buyers away.
Softer-sounding engines are actually a positive symbol of just how far engines and gas economy have progressed. But automakers say they resort to artifice because they understand a key car-buyer paradox: Drivers want all the force and fuel savings of a newer, better engine — but the classic sound of an old gas-guzzler.
While we can understand adding noise honestly as a safety feature, it seems foolish to do it as a sales gimmick -and even worse to act like “the mating call of the Mustang” is produced by a V8 engine instead of a digital recording. Read how Ford, BMW, Porshe, Volkswagen, and other companies enhance engine sounds, at The Washington Post. -via Boing Boing
(Image credit: Ford)
Can you teach the concept of futility to a dog? No, he’ll have to learn on his own. Buddy found a rock he particularly liked, but the sidewalk is not level and the rock is just too round. Will he continue to fetch it for eternity? Will he give up? Or will he figure out a way around this predicament? No matter what happens, that's a good dog. -via Tastefully Offensive
The golden burial mask of Egypt’s King Tutankhamun was broken off during an attempted cleaning at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo sometime last year. Under orders to fix it quickly, curators used epoxy glue to reattach the beard. Epoxy sets very quickly. The beard ended up slightly crooked, with a visible gap between the face and beard, and some epoxy showing. What’s more, an attempt to remove the excess glue with a spatula ended up scratching the mask.
Three of the museum's conservators reached by telephone gave differing accounts of when the incident occurred last year, and whether the beard was knocked off by accident while the mask's case was being cleaned, or was removed because it was loose.
They agree however that orders came from above to fix it quickly and that an inappropriate adhesive was used. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional reprisals.
(Image credit: Jon Bodsworth)
We know enough about the royal couple, Will and Kate. England is majestic for at least ten other reasons.
1. The Cabbies Are Smarter Than Google Maps
London has the most informed cab drivers in the world—and they’ve got the diplomas to prove it. To become a certified taxi operator in London, a driver must first pass “the Knowledge,” an extraordinarily difficult exam that involves the detailed recall of 25,000 streets within a six-mile radius of London’s Charing Cross railway station. But that’s just the beginning. Cabbies must also memorize the locations of clubs, hospitals, hotels, parks, theaters, schools, restaurants, government buildings, and churches. Plus, they have to be fluent in English.
Most drivers take three years to master the Knowledge, and many practice by tracing the routes on a bicycle. It’s not uncommon to see future cabbies pedaling through the city in the early morning with plastic-covered maps clipped to their handlebars. Drivers must know their directions backwards and forwards, which is a complicated task in the maze of London’s one-way streets and blocked-off pedestrian zones.
(Image credit: Dian Savitri)
The testing process isn’t quick, either. The exam comprises a six-month series of evaluations that includes written, oral, and practical tests, and only one-quarter of the candidates make it through. But there’s an additional benefit for those who pass. In 2000, researchers at the Wellcome Trust in London scanned the brains of 16 London taxi drivers and found that each cabbie’s hippocampus—the area of the brain associated with memory—was larger than those of control subjects. Scientists believe that the hippocampus grew larger as the drivers spent more time on the job. Storing and retaining that much information could actually be a prescription for avoiding dementia.
2. The Swans Never Miss a Census
(Image credit: Philip Allfrey)
The royal family provides a full range of curiosities beyond extravagant weddings. Consider the tradition of England’s annual swan census. Officially, the Queen owns all of the mute swans along the Thames River. But determining just how many birds are in Her Majesty’s flock takes work. So, every July, the royal family conducts a “Swan Upping,” when an armada of skiffs row up the Thames looking for baby swans. When the rowers spot them, they shout, “All up!” and get into formation surrounding the tiny birds. Then the swans are meticulously examined, weighed, measured, and banded by the Queen’s Swan Warden, a Professor of Ornithology at the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology. Adult swans are examined and counted, too.
When Juergen Horn was in Iceland for the For 91 Days project, he and Mike Powell visited as many natural wonders as possible, including waterfalls. Now he’s posted breathtaking photographs of a dozen of them, all with links to more information. The waterfall above is Svartifoss, which inspired the design of a landmark church in Reykjavík. Below is Glymur, Iceland’s tallest waterfall.
You’ll also see the waterfall in the movie Prometheus, one you can walk behind, another that looks like lightning hitting the village below, and the one where they saw the Game of Thrones cast working, all at Random Good Stuff.
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