Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

10 Humongous Plot Holes in the Star Wars Franchise

Back in 1977, no one knew if George Lucas' space opera Star Wars would be a hit, or be remembered years later. Especially Lucas. Then he had to come up with a continuing story, which ended up being full of plot holes. Rabid Star Wars fans know this, and cannot stop talking about them. After seven movies in the saga, we get Rogue One, which was shoehorned into the time slot just before the first film (now called A New Hope) and patches up a big plot hole. There are plenty more where that one came from.

3. Leia’s Mother

Leia stated in Episode VI that her mother was “beautiful,” “kind,” and “sad,” which suggests personal knowledge. From Episode III, we know that this is impossible because Padme died not long after childbirth of a broken heart, which sounds over-dramatic but is indeed a real thing that can happen.

4. Skywalker Family Connection

There seems to be some sort of special connection between the Skywalkers, as shown by how the twins were able to sense one another as well as how Darth Vader was able to communicate with Luke via telepathy. However, this makes it strange that Darth Vader never noticed that he was torturing his own daughter in Episode IV, which must’ve made for a crushing surprise when he found out.

You'd think that if Lucas really wanted to tinker with his finished films, he would have changed the plot holes instead of adding CGI to the "special editions." Read the rest of this list of Star Wars plot holes at Unreality. On the other hand, if Disney decided to make a movie to fill each plot hole, they might end up being worth it.  


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Orion, the Man Who Would Be Elvis

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

He wasn’t Elvis, but he wanted to be…and a lot of people even thought he might be. Here is the bizarre story of Jimmy Ellis, or, as he was also known, Orion.

(Image credit: Shelby Singleton)

HEARTBREAK HOTEL

By the time he was a teenager, it was clear that Jimmy Ellis had two talents: singing, and inadvertently sounding almost exactly like Elvis Presley. In 1962, Ellis entered the Orrville (Alabama) High School talent show. He sang the gospel standard “Peace in the Valley,” which had been popularized by Elvis…and won. Then he entered a statewide talent contest…and won that one, too. That earned him $1,000 and an appearance on TV’s Ted Mack Amateur Hour. Unfortunately, despite a promising start and a television performance, Ellis did not become a pop sensation.

But he had other options. He rejected an offer to join the Milwaukee Braves, opting instead to go to Middle Georgia Junior College on a baseball scholarship. There he met a record producer named Jimmy Youmans, and the two men cut a single in 1964 called “Don’t Count Your Chickens.” It was released by a tiny Georgia label called Dradco, and it flopped. Reason: the disc jockeys said Ellis sounded “like a second-rate Elvis.” After transferring to a college outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama—where he frequently performed at nightclubs with a set made up almost entirely of Elvis songs—Ellis abandoned music for the second time. He returned to Orrville and took over the family business—breeding horses.

DEVIL IN DISGUISE

Around that same time, Mercury Records vice president Shelby Singleton was having a lot of success producing novelty records. He specialized in Southern acts, such as Brook Benton, with “The Boll Weevil Song,” and Ray Stevens, with “Ahab the Arab.” In 1966, Singleton left Mercury to form his own label, Plantation Records. The company’s first hit, “Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley, sold six million copies, enabling Singleton to expand his business interests. His first purchase: the back catalog of Sun Records, the legendary Memphis record label where Elvis had recorded his first singles, including “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Other acts whose early hits Singleton had access to: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Charlie Rich.

In 1972, Jimmy Ellis was once again bitten by the music bug. He called up a friend, Florida record producer Finlay Duncan, and made a demo tape. Duncan sent the record to Singleton, thinking an Elvis soundalike was a good fit for the label that had helped launch Elvis. Singleton was blown away by the demo, and thought that the smalltime Florida producer had somehow convinced the real Elvis to record a session. Duncan assured him that it wasn’t Elvis—this was a different guy entirely.

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Does It Fart?

Scientists may know the complete life cycle of whatever beast they are studying, but when they tell schoolchildren about it, they often get the same question: "Does it fart?" Those who study wildlife in the field can tell you about some species, but not others.

“Does it fart?” is one of most frequent questions zoologists receive from kids, said Dani Rabaiotti of the Zoological Society of London. In fact, the whole #DoesItFart adventure started when her teenage brother asked if snakes ever experience flatulence. Rabaiotti knew from her own work that the wild dogs of Africa definitely fart, as do the extremely gassy seals that reside on the Atlantic island of South Georgia. But she wasn’t sure about snakes, so she consulted snake expert David Steen.

The short answer is yes, says Steen, a wildlife ecologist at Auburn University. “Snakes sometimes discharge feces and musk as a defensive strategy, and this is often accompanied by what I would consider classic fart noises,” he said.  

This question has finally received the scientific collaboration it deserves. It began with the Twitter hashtag #DoesItFart, which currently is full of news articles about the hashtag. But a database also grew out of the project, where you can look up an animal and find an answer, along with notes from those with experience.

Giraffe        Hell Yes    At "face height" of the average man

Herring        Yes    Entire bays are filled with their farts. Used for communication

Mastodon        No    Not anymore

Seals        Yes    Smells like lutefisk

Snow leopards    Yes    Their floofy bottoms help to muffle the sound

The database has links for some of these animals so you can read more about their farts. -via Metafilter


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Jedi Disney Characters

The same group of cosplayers who did the Slave Leia Disney Princess Squad are back with a new Star Wars-Disney Princess cosplay group, featuring even more friends! The Jedi Princess Squad includes most of the Princesses, plus Chewbacca as The Beast and Peter Pan thrown in for good measure. Each of the participants has their own Instagram account with more. See each of the coplayer's portraits and links to their other photos at Geeks Are Sexy.


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Mr. Touchy-Feely

In this video from 2010, a reporter is covering a public meeting. The speaker's communications director tries to take over, but he and the reporter have vastly different views on personal space. The reporter does not want to be touched, and Mr. Touchy-Feely doesn't get the message. However, he does accomplish his goal of screwing up the reporter's attempt at an interview.

(YouTube link)

Aside from the recorded encounter, there's an interesting scandal that led to the public meeting. A commenter provided a synopsis of the whole thing. -via reddit


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Snow Day at the Oregon Zoo

If you look really hard at the screenshot above, you will see the proverbial polar bear in a snowstorm. The Oregon Zoo in Portland was closed to the public yesterday (and today) due to deep snow. But zookeepers let us take a peek anyway, by recording some video of the animals playing outside.

(YouTube link)

Some critters stayed in their dens, while polar bears, otters, seals, and even elephants had to explore and frolic in the snow.  -via reddit

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

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Five DC Superheroes Who are Incredible Liars

Once upon a time, particularly during the comics code days, comic book superheroes were written to be role models for kids, upholding "truth, justice, and the American way." Over time, that got pretty boring. As comic book writers made their characters more realistic, they struggled with the moral ambiguities of fighting super villains and dealing with modern life. And sometimes those superheroes could be plain assholes.  

DC superheroes in particular have been saddled with the many ethical qualities that once made them so popular, but in recent decades have been shown to be much less wholesome than they were originally portrayed. Even the poster boy for DC, Superman, has been taken through a host of changes that have marked him as something less than the ideal superhero he was touted as in the beginning. As far as lying and cheating however, Superman is still a boy scout when compared to the five heroes listed below.

Read about the DC superheroes who have made lying a part of their personalities in order to achieve their ends at Unreality.


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Martha Matilda Harper, the Greatest Businesswoman You’ve Never Heard Of

Martha Matilda Harper was put to work as a servant at the age of seven in Ontario, but she was ambitious. Armed with a thick head of healthy long hair and a secret formula shampoo from an employer, she moved to Rochester, New York, and set about her plan to open a public beauty salon. It was a novel idea in 1888.  

After nearly a quarter century in servitude, Harper knew how to pamper her clientele. She designed the first reclining chair so they could have their hair washed without getting shampoo in their eyes, and had a half circle cut out of her sink (with running water) for ladies to rest their heads. The emphasis was on customer service, long before the term was coined. Once women experienced the Harper Method, they were converts.

Her clients were made up of an unlikely blend of society ladies and suffragists, whose movement was spearheaded in Rochester. Soon Harper was catering to both circles, and women in each sphere were spreading the word about the new salon. Susan B. Anthony was a friend and client.

The beauty salon became a place for women to socialize and talk about ideas among themselves unselfconsciously. It was so successful, Harper was encouraged to open salons another cities. To do that, she had to invent an entire system of quality control. Read about the amazing life of Martha Matilda Harper at Atlas Obscura. 


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Classical Music Mashup II

(YouTube link)

Almost exactly a year ago, Grant Woolard gave us a fine mashup of classical music by the world's greatest composers. It's still a treat to listen to! Now he's back with volume two. This one features a blend of 52 familiar classics by such diverse names as Mozart, John Philip Souza, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, and Scott Joplin. They go together quite well. -via Digg


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How to Raise a 165-Year-Old-Cat

(Image credit: Nazario Graziano)

Bacon, Champagne, and 3-D movies? Why one Texas man thinks he’s uncovered an unlikely formula for feline longevity.

Jake Perry is a cat man. Standing about 5-foot-7 and often clad in workman’s clothes, the 85-year-old Austin, Texas, plumber is also a father and husband. But anyone who’s met Perry will tell you—first and foremost, he’s a cat man.

Perry’s cats broke the Guinness World Record for oldest cat. Twice, actually: The first record, from 1998, was for a part Sphynx, part Devon Rex named Granpa Rexs Allen who made it to age 34; the second, from 2005, is for a mixed tabby named Creme Puff who lived to age 38. Since the 1980s, Perry has adopted and re-homed 
hundreds of cats, at his peak raising four dozen at once, showcasing the best and brightest in cat shows. According to Perry, it’s not just Granpa and Creme Puff who 
had unusually long lives: About a third of his cats, he says, lived to be at least 30 years old—about twice the average feline life span. Over the years, Perry has been equally celebrated and psychologically analyzed for his extreme dedication to his pets. Now, toward the end of his own life, he believes he’s discovered the secret to feline longevity.

I first met Perry on a hot summer day in July 2012, when he showed up at my apartment to fix a leaky bathtub. He was strangely magnetic, with a slow Texas drawl, compulsive politeness, and a face that lit up when he saw the apartment’s resident pet—this was not your typical plumber. That day, Perry told me about his own cats, and what he believed were the keys to their unbelievably long lives.

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

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The Real History of Slender Man

The legendary character known as Slenderman or Slender Man is an urban legend, but one for which we know the exact origin. Neatorama readers know he was born at Something Awful, but you might not know all the details. Eric Knudsen, who uses the internet name Victor Surge, spent 15 minutes coming up with two Photoshopped images in response to a forum prompt in 2009. He presented them with a couple of mysterious and creepy newspaper captions.   

The Something Awful community latched onto Knudsen's photos. A user named "21st Century" imagined Slender Man as an ergodic novel in the vein of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. User "TrenchMaul" linked it to an actual 1959 hiking accident in the Ural Mountains where nine people died (six of hypothermia, three of mysterious bodily trauma), earning "Slender Pass" a casual mention on the "Dyatlov Pass incident" Wikipedia page. The pile-on of manipulated images and faux-documentation eventually dissolved the Slender Man's ties to the Something Awful forums. Anyone who Googled for Slender Man "lore" would find offshoot sites and stray blogs, filled with connections and references in actual mythology. Many wondered if Germany’s 16th-century monster Der Großmann aka "The Great Man," a spindly creature rumored to stalk the deepest parts of the forest, was the actual Slender Man. Sure, why not?

Knudsen had created a monster. "An urban legend requires an audience ignorant of the origin of the legend," he said in an interview. "It needs unverifiable third- and fourth-hand (or more) accounts to perpetuate the myth … internet memes are finicky things and by making something at the right place and time it can swell into an 'internet urban legend.'"

The spread of Slender Man was a phenomenon. Writers created more stories. Video producers were inspired by Slender Man. Video games were designed around him. And the further the character got from the original source, the murkier its source became. The uncontrolled spread of the stories eventually led to two 12-year-olds stabbing a classmate 19 times in 2014 (she survived, but the case is ongoing). Knudsen asserts his copyright over the character Slender Man, while Hollywood acts like he's fair game, and people who hear about him assume it's an old legend instead of a recent fictional character. Read the complete history of Slender Man at Thrillist.

(Image credit: mdl70)


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25 Facts about Fitness

(YouTube link)

Did you make a New year's Resolution to get in better shape during 2017? have you started yet? Or have you given up already? No matter, you'll still enjoy learning some trivia about fitness from John Green, in the latest episode of the mental_floss List Show.


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Walking the Dogs in the Snow

The roads are deep with snow, and you gotta take the dogs out anyway. You might as well have a little fun doing it!

(YouTube link)

Stephen Mann gathered his dogs Cabot and Barney, their leashes, his snowboard, and a selfie stick for a romp that's just as much fun for him as for the dogs! I'm not completely sure, but I think this is in New Jersey. They got up to ten inches of snow last weekend. -via Digg

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

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A Handy Guide to the Archaeology of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

One of the many things I liked about Rogue One was that it occasionally drew attention to things that weren't explained -just like real life. Overexplaining every McGuffin or expanded universe detail tends to drag one's suspension of disbelief down, like the endless political discussions in the prequels. Some of these unexplained shots were easter eggs for well-read Star Wars fans. For the rest of us casual but still excited fans, we can catch up with a rundown from Adrián Maldonado, who did the research so we could just enjoy the film, maybe even more next time.

While The Force Awakens had plenty of ruins, and featured one iconic artefact from the original trilogy, there was no real sense that history extended beyond the events of Episodes IV-VI. Yet with Rogue One, turn any stone and you’ll see the remnants of a past so deep that even its creators have only glimpsed it. The film also draws from the prehistory of George Lucas’ own writing, going back to his early journals from 1973. As if you needed another excuse to re-watch Rogue One, here is a handy guide to the archaeological items and motifs you may have missed. And do I really need to warn about spoilers? I’m surprised I haven’t spoiled anything already. Valar morghulis.

When I read "one iconic artefact from the original trilogy," I thought of Luke's lightsaber, while he meant Darth's helmet. (BTW, "artefact" is the British spelling.) Rogue One has a lot more archaeological items that become more intriguing as you read about them, at Almost Archeaology. -via Metafilter 


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The Top Five Attack on Titan Moments

Attack on Titan is a spectacularly popular manga series that came to TV in 2013. And it's coming again! Whether you are a manga reader or an anime viewer, you'll be excited by the impending continuation of the series.  

Attack on Titan managed to capture the interest of a wide range of anime viewers when it started airing in April of 2013. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that it was slated to receive a second season, which was delayed because of developments in the manga that served as its source material. Now, the second season of Attack on Titan is set in air in January of 2017, preceded by an official trailer featuring new scenes from the upcoming season that are sure to whet the appetite of interested individuals.

To get you ready for the next chapter, Unreality brings you their top five moments from the first season of Attack on Titan, with video goodness.


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The Little-Known Patterns on British Streets

(YouTube link)

It appears that Tom Scott is back from Lake Constance and now he's on the streets of London. The streets themselves have a story that you may not know, unless you are blind. If you know what to look for, the texture underneath your feet can tell you a lot about where you are and how to get around. A totally neat system! -via Viral Viral Videos


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Metropolis at 90: The Enduring Legacy of a Pop Modernist Dystopia

Fritz Lang produced a huge 153-minute budget-busting science fiction saga in Berlin in 1927. After Metropolis' first showing, it was chopped down to 92 minutes, then to 80, then it wasn't shown for decades. When it was resurrected, it was subtitled, colorized, a soundtrack added, and even Lang wouldn't have recognized it. But he didn't like the movie, anyway. Or at least that's what he said.

Lang wasn’t alone back in 1927 when the film was first released. Critics applauded the striking visuals and the ambitious technical achievement, but lambasted the trite melodrama and cheap platitudes. In a vicious New York Times review, H.G. Wells attacked the picture’s anti-progress, anti-technology message, accused it of ripping off several earlier works (including his own), and called it, “Quite the silliest film.” It was also attacked as a bunch of simpleminded and heavy-handed pro-communist propaganda, while at the same time and ironically enough it was hailed by the Nazis for portraying the overthrow of the Bourgeoisie.

Ninety years later, Metropolis is hailed as a work of art, a product of its time, yet ahead of its time. Read the story of how Metropolis was produced, and what happened in the year since, at Den of Geek.


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Why Do Canadians Say 'Eh'?

The Canadian linguistic quirk of putting "eh" at the end of a sentence is an example of a tag, which is a word or phrase appended to a sentence. In Mandarin, any statement appended with "ma" turns that statement into a question. In English, the tag "isn't it?" provokes a response of agreement or disagreement. As a tag, "eh" is more universal and flexible. It can be used for just about anything.

There are a few major ways a Canadian could use “eh.” The first is while stating an opinion: “It’s a nice day, eh?” Another would be as an exclamation tag, which is added to a sentence in order to indicate surprise: “What a game, eh?” Or you could use it for a request or command: “Put it over here, eh?” And then there’s the odd example of using it within a criticism: “You really messed that one up, eh?”

Jack Chambers, a linguist at the University of Toronto, writes that these “ehs” are all of a piece. “All of these uses have one pragmatic purpose in common: they all show politeness,” he wrote in a 2014 paper. Using “eh” to end the statement of an opinion or an explanation is a way for the speaker to express solidarity with the listener. It’s not exactly asking for reassurance or confirmation, but it’s not far off: the speaker is basically saying, hey, we’re on the same page here, we agree on this.

Even in the use of “eh” as a criticism or a command, the word seeks to find common ground. If I say “you’re an idiot, eh?”, what I’m saying is, you’re an idiot, but you should also think you’re an idiot, and our understanding of you as an idiot finds us on common ground.

The tag "eh" is also used to give orders and to tell stories. Read about these and the general usage of "eh" among Canadians at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Flickr user Nicole Bratt)


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An Honest Trailer for The Princess Bride

Screen Junkies takes on a difficult project -critiquing a movie that's close to being beyond critique. Yes, they're doing an Honest Trailer for The Princess Bride.

(YouTube link)

Yes, there's plenty about the movie that's over-the-top silly, but that just makes it the wonderful production it is. You get the feeling they rejected doing this Honest Trailer a few times before, but people keep requesting it because everyone loves The Princess Bride. -via Tastefully Offensive


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Bike Caught in Electric Fence

A group of British friends went on a nice bike ride. When Paul tried to lift his fat bike over a fence, he suddenly realized it was an electric fence and dropped the bike, which became tangled in the wire. Now what? Their efforts to free the bike involved much laughing and swearing. In other words, this contains NSFW language.

(YouTube link)

"It's only a little electric." Yeah, that's easy to say before it zaps you! The project was complicated by the fact that everything was wet, so trying to avoid the electricity was futile. "Go on, just be brave!" -via reddit


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The Holy Grail of Fashion History

An embroidered altar cloth that has been in the possession of St. Faith's Church in Bacton, Herefordshire, was recovered year ago because it closely resembles clothing worn by Queen Elizabeth I. The cloth is richly embroidered with flowers, and is woven with silver thread, which by law was restricted to royals. The organization Historic Royal Palaces researches and curates Britain's royal artifacts. Their fashion historian, Eleri Lynn, has determined that the cloth is most likely the only surviving fabric the 16th-century monarch actually wore as clothing.

She said: “When I saw it for the first time I knew immediately that it was something special. As I examined it, I felt as though I had found the Holy Grail, the Mona Lisa of fashion. None of Elizabeth I’s dresses are known to have survived, but everything we have learnt since then points to it being worn by Elizabeth.”

The botanical pattern on the cloth bears a striking resemblance to that on a bodice worn by Elizabeth in the so-called Rainbow Portrait of 1602 and Ms Lynn believes it is “not inconceivable” that the skirt, which cannot be seen in the painting, is part of the same outfit.

Church lore says the cloth was donated by Blanch Parry, the Queen's chief lady-in-waiting, 400 years ago. Queen Elizabeth was known to give her clothing away to servants and friends. The cloth will undergo a restoration and then be put on display to the public. Read more about the discovery at The Telegraph. -via Metafilter


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How the Global Bird-Poop Trade Created a Traveling Mummy Craze

For about 200 years, global industry went crazy for guano. Explorers discovered islands in the ocean that were covered with a layer of dried seabird feces many feet thick. The material was valuable as fertilizer, and later for the production of gunpowder. Wars were even fought over the natural resource. Along the way, miners found that guano is also an excellent preservative for dead bodies, as some natural mummies were found buried in guano. These, of course, were taken for profit along with the guano. The most famous of these mummies was found in the 1850s with a plaque that said “Christopher Delano, 1721.”

Upon examination of Delano, British and French scientists determined that he was European and not African, and the amount of wear on his teeth suggested he was in his mid to late 30s when he died. His right shoulder is elevated and contracted, and his open mouth revealed “a death of agony” (though it's not unusual to see a gaping jaw on a mummy). His cause of death? Likely a spear wound to his right shoulder.

The writer of the 1854 pamphlet took liberties with the sparse facts available: “About 1721, the Island of Ichaboe had been the resort of nests of Pirates…. In all human probability, the most satisfactory conjecture that can be arrived at is that the unfortunate Christopher Delano was a Spaniard, joined in some piratical enterprises, and leagued with a gang of desperadoes, from one of whom, while visiting the Island of Ichaboe, he most probably received his death wound in some bacchanalism origies [sic] or sudden quarrel.”

The "pirate mummy" was quite profitable when taken on tour. Other guano importers took note and kept an eye out for bodies. Read about the guano mummies at mental_floss. Link contains image of Delano's corpse.


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Quite the Weirdo

The kid's got imagination, you can say that much. Moishe is making his parents quite proud. This is the latest from Lunarbaboon.


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Plucked from Obscurity: Technology + Animals

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!

Inventive, yet under-publicized devices
by Marina Tsipis, Improbable Research staff

The history of technology is, in part, the history of machinery that works in cooperation with animals (or with things that look or sound like animals). Here is a part of that part of technology history.

Dog-Assisted Surveillance
U.S. patent #6782847 granted August 31, 2004 to David Shemesh and Dan Forman, both based in Israel, for an “automated surveillance monitor of non-humans in real time.” The patent contains a sequence of three drawings—reproduced here—that, by themselves, pretty much explain the inventors’ thinking.

Nevertheless, Shemesh and Forman also attempt a description in words. Here is their in-a-nutshell verson:

A system for non human animal-based surveillance including a non-human animal-borne, non-human animal noise sensor, and a non-human animal noise analyzer operative to receive sensed nonhuman animal noises, to determine at least partially there from whether an alarm situation exists and to provide an alarm indication output.

In this technical drawing, one of the sensor-bearing dogs is alarmed by a passing cat. The dog says “WOOF WOOF WOOF.” Inventors David Shemesh and Dan Forman write that “FIG. 1A illustrates surveillance apparatus 10, mounted on a guard dog, which communicates with a monitoring station 12, preferably via a wireless network 14.... The surveillance apparatus 10 preferably comprises a barking sensor assembly 20, typically comprising amicrophone/speaker 22, which outputs via a filter 24 to an amplifier 26 and thence preferably to a analog to digital converter 28.”

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Canadian Driveway Ice Hysterics

The day after Christmas, Caroline Charter and her mother watched from the safety of the house as Caroline's sister Suzanne tried to get in her car and leave. The driveway is covered with ice, and Dad is there to help. If she can't walk to the car, what makes her think she can drive away? Ah, the roadway is probably cleaner than the driveway.

(YouTube link)

That's Mom inside, laughing her head off at her daughter's difficulties. The laugh has proven so popular that you can now get it as a ringtone on iTunes. Just look for "Canadian Driveway Ice Hysterics." -via Tastefully Offensive


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The Cryptographic Capability of the Barbie Typewriter

In 1998, Mattel began selling the electronic Barbie Typewriter to replace the earlier mechanical typewriter in the Barbie line, thus continuing the toy industry habit of introducing young children to technology that is 30 years out of date. Nonetheless, it could keep children busy learning to read and write away from your word processor. But the typewriter had a secret. It was manufactured by Mehano in Slovenia, which already made other children's typewriters. Mehano took an older model and made it pink and purple for Mattel. The base model they used had a wonderful secret capability that was sadly never included in Mattel's marketing.    

Apart from a range of typesetting features, such as letter-spacing and underline, this children's toy was capable of encoding and decoding secret messages, using one of 4 built-in cipher modes. These modes were activated by entering a special key sequence on the keyboard, and was explained only in the original documentation.            

When the E-115 was adopted by Mattel as an addition to the Barbie™ product line, it was aimed mainly at girls with a minimum age of 5 years. For this reason the product was given a pink-and-purple case and the Barbie logo and image were printed on the body. As it was probably thought that secret writing would not appeal to girls, the coding/decoding facilities were omitted from the manual. Nevertheless, these facilities can still be accessed if you know how to activate them.

As a former girl, I can assure you that secret writing would have been the main draw of this toy if customers had known about it. If you happen to have one of these typewriters sitting around, you can find the instructions for using the crypto codes at Crypto Museum. -via Metafilter


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R.I.P. Pioneer Cabin Tree

Several huge sequoia trees were made into "tunnel trees" in the 19th century, to highlight how big they are and to encourage motorists to visit California parks. It was good for tourism, but carving a hole through the trunk was not good for the individual tree. Now the last known sequoia tunnel tree in California has fallen. The Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, with its formerly drive-through (and recently walk-through) tunnel, fell under the force of a weekend winter storm, which brought flooding and mudslides. The tree was estimated to be at least a thousand years old

The iconic tree was one of just a few tunneled-through sequoias in California. The most famous was the Wawona Tree, in Yosemite National Park; it fell during a winter storm in 1969 at an estimated age of 2,100 years. The other remaining sequoia tunnels are dead or consist of logs on their side, the Forest Service says.

However, there are still three coastal redwoods (taller and more slender than sequoias) with tunnels cut through them. They're all operated by private companies, the Forest Service says, and still allow cars to drive through — one appeared in a recent Geico ad.

Park volunteer Jim Allday, who reported the tree's demise, said it shattered on impact with the ground. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Flickr user Tom Purcell)


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How the World's Smallest Birds Survive the Winter

Hummingbirds are tiny dynamos that expend so much energy that they survive on sugar-filled nectar. Of all animals, only certain insects have a higher metabolism. And hummingbirds can live for years. So how do they deal with cold weather in winter, when there's no blooming flowers to provide nectar?

In cold weather, hummingbird bodies enter into an "energy-conservation mode called torpor," according to Oregon State ecologist Adam Hadley. Birds that stay north for the winter experience a nightly "mini-hibernation," in which their 107-degree body temperatures can plummet to 48 degrees.

Heart rates also slow during torpor: The blue-throated hummingbird’s heart rate, for instance, drops from 1,260 beats per minute to 50 to 180 beats.

Hummingbirds can feed in chilly weather. Hadley has seen an Anna’s hummingbird visit his backyard bird feeder during a 28-degree day.

In fact, hummingbirds can use their torpor mode at night in warm weather, just to conserve energy for the next day. Read a lot more about hummingbirds at National Geographic.  -via the Presurfer

(Image credit: Marcial4)


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A Royal Guard Birthday

When Marshall Scott turned four years old, his mother Imogen Echo Scott took him to see the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle. It was a big deal for the youngster, who is a fan of the guard and even has his own summer guard uniform. The squad never broke rank, but did notice the child. After they entered the guard room, one guard came back to pose for a picture with Marshall.

The Coldstream Guards hinted that Marshall might join them someday.

We have a spot reserved for him at the Army Foundation College Harrogate for the March 2029 intake.

It was a day Marshall will never forget, even if it hadn't come with viral video and adorable pictures. -via Laughing Squid

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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Snow White's Cottage For Sale

A home in Olalla, Wasington, was built in 1982 to resemble Snow White's cottage, and it can be yours! This fairy tale home has four bedrooms and 4.5 baths, and sits on 7.5 acres. The property just oozes charm.

A cobblestone driveway and fountain greet guests as soon as they make their way towards the house. As you’d expect, this home has many quirks in its design – one being that there are no square corners. According to Elle Decor, “The original builders cared little for convention, so not a single square corner exists in the place, and hardly anything was built to a standard size. The doors might be the quirkiest (and most adorable) part of the whole package — they’re practically oval-shaped, after all.”

See plenty of pictures of the Snow White house at Housely.


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Profile for Miss Cellania

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