Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

Is an 1874 Type Catalog the World's Most Beautiful Book?

William Hamilton Page made wood type, but he really made a name for himself for his unique way of selling his blocks that made beautiful color print. In 1874, he set them into a sample book, a sales catalog called Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, &c. Modern type nerds have called it "the most beautiful book in the world," although the original published run is down to just a few copies. The text is nothing to write home about, but the type, colors, and even the borders are something special.  

In the context of wood type, “chromatic” is the SAT word for “highly colored.” To be sure, in the 1870s, it was hardly unheard of for fonts to show off their serifs, shoulders, and arms in rainbows hues, but black-on-white was the rule. Not so in the Page catalog, whose title page is composed of no fewer than nine different colors, which means each sheet took nine trips to the letterpress to achieve its effect. (Incredibly, despite this repetition, no one caught the typo in the word “Type” in the center of the page.)

Throughout the rest of Specimens, individual letters—offered for sale at a nickel to 80 cents each, depending mostly on their size—show off their capabilities in two and three colors. In fact, color was so important to Page’s products that just about every page of his company’s catalog features a plug for Wade Inks, which supplied ink to none other than the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Wade Inks, particularly its “transparent” inks, were key to the printed appearance of type cut by Page—transparent inks remain a staple of rock-poster screenprinters today. In the context of printing, the word “transparent” means that when one color was printed on top of another, the color below would affect the appearance of the color printed on top of it, creating a third color where the two overlapped. To help ensure that the registration between the two pieces was as precise as possible, blank pieces of maple destined for pairing were cut with a router at the same time. Then, voids would be carved out and outlining “shadows” would be cut away. When the finished pieces of type were subsequently swapped in the press, the colors would align, differentiate, and overlap cleanly.

A new reprint of the book has just been made available to modern type fans. Read about the business of 19th-century type and the book Page made that archives the art at Collectors Weekly.


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What if Star Wars Were the Only Star Wars Movie?

On May 25, 1977, forty years ago today, a new movie named Star Wars opened at 42 theaters.  No one knew it would become an unstoppable juggernaut, spawning seven sequels and prequels with another opening this year, plus video games, TV shows, million of toys, and even a theme park. In 1977, the idea of a "franchise" in filmmaking had been put on the back burner after the cheaply-made Saturday morning serials of the 1930-'50s. If Star Wars hadn't been such a moneymaker, there never would have been The Empire Strikes Back or any other sequel. And what would that have been like?   

If no Star Wars sequels would have changed Lucas, think of how it would have changed Star Wars. Darth Vader is never Luke Skywalker’s father. We never meet Yoda. (Which has to affect Frank Oz’s career somehow, no? Do we still get What About Bob?) There’s no Jabba the Hutt, or Lando Calrissian, or Han Solo frozen in carbonite, or Ewoks. (Some of these changes, admittedly, would be greater losses than others.)

We would have never known which hero gets the girl! And while there might still be the "special editions," even they would have been different. Read more about this fantasy at Screen Crush.

And since it is the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, here are some more articles paying tribute to Luke, Darth, and the galaxy far, far away.  

When No Theater Wanted to Show the Movie in 1977.

The $11 million spent on Star Wars in 1977 was the best film investment ever made.

Revisiting Original Star Wars Reviews from 1977.

Why the blockbuster saga is the greatest soap opera in the galaxy.

Ranking the 40 greatest Star Wars quotes of all time, for the 40th anniversary.

Celebrities share their Star Wars memories.

That’s no moon ... but what if it were?

40 Years of Star Wars Anniversary Posters.

(Image credit: StarWars.com)


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17 Interesting Facts about Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, starring Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, is a police comedy that's just finished its fourth and best season yet. Since the show started out well and has only improved, it may stick around for a while. But besides a great cast and talented writers, what makes it so funny?

Well, that might answer the question. You'll learn a lot of other trivial tidbits about Brooklyn Nine-Nine at TVOM.


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Steve Urkel: Bad to the Bone

Steve Urkel was designed to be a peripheral character to the Winslow family on the sitcom Family Matters, just to provide some comic relief. But as portrayed by Jaleel White, the over-the-top craziness of Urkel upstaged the rest ofhte cast and became an icon. He was bad to the bone -at least in his own mind.

(YouTube link)

Melodysheep (previously at Neatorama) went through about ten years of clips from Family Matters, edited them down, and added some autotune to made this tribute to one of the strangest "crazy neighbor" characters in all of television. -via Tastefully Offensive 


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The Wisdom of Animals

We could learn a lot from animals. Mainly that we are not as important as we think we are.

(YouTube link)

This delightful animation from The School of Life reminds us that living simply, as animals do, can go a long way toward letting go of the anxieties we carry around. -via Laughing Squid


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A Most Canadian Disaster

As part of the celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary, the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) Botanical Garden planted their Canada 150 Celebration Tulip Garden. The bulbs were planted last fall to bloom this spring, and included white tulips, red tulips, and the special Canada 150 tulip, developed to resemble the flag of Canada. As the tulips were about to bloom, a moose came through and ate them.

The moose munched on the entire red and white tulip display - Canada's 150th maple leaf design and all! Our garden staff survey the damage and will begin to clear the leftovers. While the moose completely ruined the display, how bloomin' Canadian is that, than to have moose 'garden experience'?!

The display won't be what they had planned, but considering how much he ate, the moose must have loved his dinner. -via Atlas Obscura

(Image credit: MUN Botanical Garden)


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Damsel in Distress

The latest comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal explains why the old trope of tying a damsel to the railroad tracks will no longer work the way it used to. Since this is an image, the button going to information about artist Zach Weinersmith's book won't work, but you can find it here. You'll have to go to the comic page to see the bonus hover text punch line.  


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Why Flamingos Are More Stable on One Leg Than Two

Biologists Young-Hui Chang and Lena Ting had an epiphany while studying a dead flamingo. There was nothing about their anatomy that gave them the extraordinary ability to balance on one leg for hours at a time. He picked up the dead bird by its leg and, bizarrely, the leg stood upright just as if it were alive. 

Standing on one leg “is a challenging yoga posture, and a test of coordination that people use,” says Ting. To maintain our balance, we constantly use our muscles to make tiny adjustments to our posture. Flamingos have no such problem. When they raise a leg, their body weight shifts in a way that naturally stabilizes the joints of their standing limb, so they can remain upright without any muscular activity. They can sleep like that. And as Chang and Ting found, they can even keep balanced when dead. You can pose a flamingo cadaver on one leg, and leave it there.

To understand how a bird can balance on one leg, you have to know that bird legs are not how we humans normally think of them. The upright part that supports the flamingo are analogous to our shins and feet. The thigh and knee are hidden under the feathers, and provide a platform of sorts for the flamingo to sit on. The explanation is at The Atlantic, where Ed Yong helpfully draws on a photograph to make it clear.


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Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Definitive Preview

If you've been itching to see the next Star Wars movie, you'll have to wait until December. But that doesn't mean there's no Star Wars now. Vanity Fair talked to the cast and crew about The Last Jedi, as well as writer and director Rian Johnson. There's a lot of information here, ranging from the overall moviemaking system to specifics about The Last Jedi.   

Part of what makes Lucasfilm’s new system work is that [producer Kathleen] Kennedy has set up a formidable support structure for her filmmakers. Upon her arrival, she put together a story department at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters, overseen by Kiri Hart, a development executive and former screenwriter she has long worked with. The story group, which numbers 11 people, maintains the narrative continuity and integrity of all the Star Wars properties that exist across various platforms: animation, video games, novels, comic books, and, most important, movies. “The whole team reads each draft of the screenplay as it evolves,” Hart explained to me, “and we try, as much as we can, to smooth out anything that isn’t connecting.”

What the story group does not do, Hart said, is impose plot-point mandates on the filmmakers. Johnson told me he was surprised at how much leeway he was given to cook up the action of Episode VIII from scratch. “The pre-set was Episode VII, and that was kind of it,” he said. If anything, Johnson wanted more give-and-take with the Lucasfilm team, so he moved up to San Francisco for about six weeks during his writing process, taking an office two doors down from Hart’s and meeting with the full group twice a week.

Among Johnson’s inventions for The Last Jedi are three significant new figures: a “shady character” of unclear allegiances, played by Benicio Del Toro, who goes unnamed in the film but is called DJ by the filmmakers (“You’ll see—there’s a reason why we call him DJ,” Johnson said); a prominent officer in the Resistance named Vice Admiral Holdo, played by Laura Dern; and a maintenance worker for the Resistance named Rose Tico, who is played by a young actress named Kelly Marie Tran (and who is the sister of Paige, the character I witnessed in the scene with Poe Dameron). Tran’s is the largest new part, and her plotline involves a mission behind enemy lines with Boyega’s Finn, the stormtrooper turned Resistance warrior.

We also learn about Carrie Fisher's expanded role in the new movie, and the how her death affected the rest of the cast. The article is accompanied by gorgeous photographs by Annie Leibowitz. See it all at Vanity Fair. -via Digg

(Image credit: Annie Leibowitz)


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10 Quirky Families That Still Rule the World

(Image credit: Katie Carey)

You’d never confuse them for the Rockefellers. But you also wouldn’t have curling without ’em.

1. THE ROSENWACHS

Power: Hydrating Wall Street, Broadway, and the media 

(Image credit: Flickr user Colin Poellot)

Look up in New York City and you’ll no doubt see a wooden water tower topping a roof. Resembling rustic grain silos, the towers are an iconic part of the cityscape and quietly keep millions of people alive. (Normal pipes can’t pump water more than six stories, and these barrels help hydrate higher floors.) The whole industry is run by just three families, but the Rosenwachs reign supreme. They made their first barrel in 1894 and have built more than 10,000 since. The technology hasn’t changed much: Each tank lasts 30 to 35 years, at which point it will be replaced … likely by a Rosenwach.

2. THE KAYS

Power: Keeping the World Stoned

(Image credit: Felix)

An uninhabited 240-acre slab Keats once called an “ocean-pyramid,” Ailsa Craig in Scotland is the only known source of common green and blue hone granite, the crucial ingredients for Olympic curling stones. The granites’ molecular structure sits in a Goldilocks zone: Water can’t soak in, but a hint of elasticity stops the stones from cracking when they bump on the rink. Thanks to a 200-year-old agreement, the Kay family has exclusive rights to quarry these magical rocks, making them the world’s largest—and nearly only—supplier of curling stones.

3. THE FRELINGHUYSENS

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41 Facts about Unique Architecture

(YouTube link)

All over the world, you'll find buildings that are one-of-a-kind, often designed and built by people who aren't architects. John Green points out many of those buildings and the stories behind them, fascinating even when doled out in tidbits of trivia. Unique architecture is the topic on this week's episode of the Mental Floss List Show.   


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Kittens in a Pile of Paper

Remember the ten kittens who were supposed to pose for a portrait? They belong to Natalya and Evgeny Mishukovi, who are busy enriching their lives with things to play with. Here, they shower the kittens with a bunch of paper scraps to create a indoor pile of wonderfulness.

(YouTube link)

You can see more of the kittens' adventures at their YouTube channel. -via Laughing Squid

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Artwork Shows Kids With Their Superhero Shadows

Superheroes give children something to dream about and aspire to: magical superpowers are fun, but the comic book heroes' dedication to justice can stay with them forever.

Artist Jason Ratliff illustrates those dreams in images of children with their favorite superhero shadowing them in his art series Super Shadows and Super Shadows 2. Some of them may be surprising to you. See a selection of those images at TVOM. 


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Alien Egg Cake Balls

You know where facehuggers come from, don't you? From xenomorph eggs, of course! We can skip the middleman and just ingest the eggs first without all that face-hugging unpleasantness, when the eggs are made of cake.

(YouTube link)

Rosanna Pansino of Nerdy Nummies shows us how to recreate the eggs from the Alien movie series in delicious mint chocolate cake. This would be perfect for that Alien marathon party you've planned to prepare your crew for the new movie Alien: Covenant. Just don't blame us when they want to re-emerge from your chest. -via Geeks Are Sexy 

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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Four Monks Walk Into a Drag Show…

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but there's no punch line, just a group of new friends. TigerLily is a drag performer in Beijing. Four monks who had traveled all the way from Tibet heard music and laughter and wandered into his venue and had a wonderful time. That may sound weird, but one commenter said that Buddhist monks "always seem to approach life as it were the funniest joke ever told." TigerLily posted an album of more pictures from the same night. A good time was had by all. -via reddit

View more fun pics over at our NeatoPicto Blog

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A Mrs. Doubtfire-Themed Birthday Party

Evan Kowalski of Wyandotte, Michigan, saw the 1993 Robin Williams movie Mrs. Doubtfire with his family and loved it. He thought it was a the funniest thing ever. Months later, when his mother asked what theme he wanted for his 4th birthday party, Evan immediately said Mrs. Doubtfire. You can buy party supplies from a lot of movies, but Mrs. Doubtfire is not one of them, so Evan's mother Laura Kowalski went to work to make it happen.

“I was thrown for such a loop when Evan said he wanted a ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ party, so I quickly posted on a local Facebook page, Downriver and Friends looking for a baker. That’s how I found Angie Claxon (Cakes by Sweetypants), who made the amazing cake.”

Evan loved every minute of the party, but his favorite part was definitely the cake, which featured several elements from the movie ― including the infamous face cream scene. “It met ALL of his expectations,” the mom said. Evan’s 7-year-old sister, Allison, and 12-year-old brother, Ethan were also big fans.

Family members made decorations and treat bags. Mrs. Doubtfire touches were added to the food and games. And Evan was delighted. The internet was delighted with the pictures, which you can see at HuffPo. -via The Daily Dot

(Image credit: Cakes By Sweetypants)


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An Honest Trailer for Logan

Screen Junkies' 200th Honest Trailer is for the relatively recent movie Logan. First, let me warn you, this is full of spoilers. I didn't know what Logan was about at all, except that it was a Wolverine movie, but now I feel like I've seen the whole thing. Second (and this is a spoiler for the video), they couldn't find anything bad to say about it. So if you haven't already seen the movie, you might want to sip this Honest Trailer until you do.

(YouTube link)

However, if you have seen Logan, you'll enjoy the Honest Trailer with a special surprise guest critic.


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This Numbness

The agony and the angst. The loss and the longing. As someone who is now seeing the dentist way too often to make up for years of neglect, I can attest to the truthfulness of this tale related in the latest comic from Alex Culang and Reynato Castro at Buttersafe. But no matter how weird it makes me feel, I am thankful for nitrous oxide and novocaine. The lasting ache I could do without.  


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The Debuts and Early Performances of 20 Future Stars

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

 The most famous show business performers in history are no different than the unknowns, the obscures and the lesser knowns. Every performer has one thing in common- they all made their debut somewhere or other, whether auspicious or less so. Like they say, everyone has to start some place. Let's take a look at the show biz debuts and earliest performances of twenty stars.

1. Groucho Marx   

Groucho (pictured at right) had an early gig singing in a protestant church choir. This worked out well until they found out he was Jewish and fired him.

2. Harpo Marx

Groucho's older brother Harpo (on the left) made his debut at Coney Island at the age of 19. He was hijacked from his safe job as a piano player in a nickelodeon movie theater and tossed on stage to accompany his brothers, Groucho and Gummo (and another  singer named Lou Levy), as one of the Four Nightingales. Harpo was so scared he wet his pants. Harpo called it "the most wretched debut in the history off show business."

3. Sylvester Stallone

Sly got his first acting gig playing Smokey the Bear in a school play.

4. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley's first-ever performance as a singer was in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair & Dairy Show. He was ten years old at the time. Dressed as a cowboy and wearing glasses, Elvis stood on a chair to reach the microphone. He sang Red Foley's "Old Shep" and won fifth prize in the contest. His prize was $5.00 plus a free ticket to all the rides at the fair.

5. Orson Welles

Orson's earliest public performance happened before he was ten years old. He appeared dressed as Peter Rabbit in the store window of Marshall Fields department store in Chicago. He was paid $25 a day.

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50 Years Ago: A Scary Cold War Moment

Fifty years ago today, the US and the USSR came close to World War III. That was both due to and saved by modern technology. See, a solar storm began on May 18 with solar flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and sunspots. These phenomena can cause real problems with radio signals on earth, and radio signals were extremely important in the Cold War.

On May 23, 1967, the sun fired off a flare so powerful that it was visible to the naked eye, and began emitting radio waves at a level that had never been seen before, study team members said.

That same day, all three of the Air Force's Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar sites in the far Northern Hemisphere — which were located in Alaska, Greenland and the United Kingdom — appeared to be jammed.

Air Force officials initially assumed that the Soviet Union was responsible. Such radar jamming is considered an act of war, so commanders quickly began preparing nuclear-weapon-equipped aircraft for launch. (These newly scrambled aircraft would have been "additional forces," according to the study authors; the U.S. kept nuke-bearing "alert" planes aloft pretty much continuously throughout the 1960s.)

The geomagnetic storm that followed the flare disrupted radio signals for about a week afterward. But, as you can probably guess, World War III was not instigated. That was due to our government's early embrace of weather technology and space research, which you can read about at Sky and Telescope. -via Metafilter


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History's Deadliest Colors

Can color kill? Not by itself, but humans love color so much that we are drawn to things that may be really dangerous, just because we like the pretty colors.

(YouTube link)

The problem was that there was such a lag between discovering something that gave us a wonderful color and the point we realized it was killing people. You'll hear several of those stories in this TED-Ed lesson from J. V. Maranto. -via Boing Boing


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Things Cats Don't Like

When a cat has a poor opinion of something, they will let you know, clearly, in their own way. In this complication video from the Pet Collective, you'll see cats hating on modern technology, toys, food, family members, and everyday objects.

(YouTube link)

To be fair, some of these clips aren't so much dislike for objects, but more of a cat wanting to see how much destruction and chaos they can cause. Yet we still love them.

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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If Theme Parks Were Honest

Sooner or later, just about every family takes a road trip to Six Flags, Disney World, or some other large theme park to show the kids a good time. That means standing in line for a hour to ride a one-minute ride, paying out the wazoo for lunch, and dealing with tired, cranky kids (or even worse, bored teenagers) and sunburn. There's a price to pay for everything.

(YouTube link)

In the latest Honest Ad from Cracked, Roger Horton dresses up like Walt Disney and welcomes us to Hortonland, where all your dreams will come true- even if they are nightmares.  


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What It's Like to be Struck by Lightning

Around 4,000 people around the world die from lightning strikes every year, but about ten times as many are hit by lightning and survive. For those who survive a strike, the experience is so memorable that they've formed an international survivors group. Some only have memories of the experience, while others face lifelong effects and health issues, both mental and physical. Their stories are always scary.   

A crashing boom. A jolting, excruciating pain. "My whole body was just stopped — I couldn't move any more," Justin recalls. "The pain was… I can't explain the pain except to say if you've ever put your finger in a light socket as a kid, multiply that feeling by a gazillion throughout your entire body."

"And I saw a white light surrounding my body — it was like I was in a bubble. Everything was slow motion. I felt like I was in a bubble forever."

A couple huddled under a nearby tree ran to Justin's assistance. They later told him that he was still clutching the chair. His body was smoking.

When Justin came to, he was looking up at people staring down, his ears ringing. Then he realized that he was paralyzed from the waist down. "Once I figured out that I couldn't move my legs, I started freaking out."

Read the stories of several lightning survivors, and a little of what we know about lightning's effect on humans, at Mosaic. -via Digg


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Five Amazing Simpsons Characters that Only Appeared Once

The family at the core of The Simpsons has been around for thirty years now, and in that time we've gotten to know dozens of the other residents of Springfield as they came and went, and came back again. However, there are a few characters that only appeared on the series once. Whether that's because the voice actor didn't want to repeat a performance, or there just wasn't a story fit for them, they became one-hit wonders. If you can recall the one episode these characters were in among the hundreds that have aired, then you're in rarified Simpsons fandom territory. Meet five of those characters at TVOM.


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Avocado + Latte = Avolatte



The latest hipster food obsession is the "avolatte," a latte (which is a fancy term for coffee with milk) served in an avocado shell. Developed at the Truman Cafe in Melbourne, the idea has spread through the internet and around the world, pretty much instantly.

It appears to be an eco-friendly way to add a bit of avocado flavor to the drink, but not everyone likes the idea. Personally, I do not like avocado, and I do like having a handle on my coffee cup. -via Laughing Squid

(Image credit: ozeatingwa)

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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Hunting for the Black Silk of Tan Chau

Jürgen Horn and Mike Powell continue their adventures in Vietnam, where they've been exploring villages on their own, without guides, away from the tourist spots. They'd heard that Tan Chau was where Vietnamese black silk was produced, so they set out with a map and their motorcycles -after  three ferry trips across the river.   

Properly motorized, we headed off in search of silk, stopping in a few towns where, to judge by the dumbfounded stares we received, foreigners are not an everyday occurrence. And nobody could help us. In fact, the famous black silk of Tan Chau didn’t seem to be all that famous in Tan Chau. Scouring the map, we decided to head to Long Chau, which looked like the region’s largest town. It was also the furthest away; if we struck out here, we agreed to give up.

Pressed right up along the river, Long Chau was cute, but we weren’t here to see the sights, dammit. We directed ourselves to the town’s central market, to look for silk vendors. If anyone knew where to find a silk manufacturing center, surely they. The owners of the first silk store were friendly but weirdly insistent we go to “Tân Châu Xứ Lụa”, which Google identified as a restaurant. “No, you must misunderstand us. But thanks anyway!”

But they eventually found a silk factory, and got some really neat pictures and video, which you can see at For 91 Days.  


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Emotional Geometry

If we're going to have triangles, we may as well go whole hog with the geometry analogies. I think we cam all relate to the anxiety fractals more than the rest, amirite? This is the newest comic from John McNamee at Pie Comic.


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Learning to Swim

If you didn't learn to swim as a child, it can be pretty difficult -and downright embarrassing- to ask someone teach you as an adult. What do you do? You buy a backyard pool like this guy and try to figure it out on your own.

(YouTube link)

However, it can be a traumatic experience, from the blowing up part, to the hose that doesn't work, to remembering why you never learned to swim in the first place. He should have invested in a lifeguard, too. -via Viral Viral Videos


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Engineering Against Coughing and Sneezing

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

(Image credit: mcfarlandmo)

Research about mechanisms to reduce a particular kind of noise
compiled by Nan Swift, Improbable Research staff

Engineers dare to take on tasks that nature may have neglected. Here are four attempts to solve the noise-related problems arising from human sneezes or coughs.

Apisa’s Simple Sneeze Catcher
“Sneeze Catching Method and Apparatus,” US patent 8910312, issued to Joseph Apisa, December 16, 2014. Apisa specifies:

An apparatus for catching bodily fluids ejected during a sneeze or cough, said apparatus comprising: a sleeve having a first open end... a closure being mounted on said sleeve and releasably retaining said frame in said closed position; a pad being removably positioned in said receiving space, said pad having anti-bacterial properties; and wherein said sleeve is configured to be worn on an arm of a person such that the person may sneeze or cough into said pad and that said pad captures and destroys bacteria exhaled by the person.

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Profile for Miss Cellania

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