The fabulously wealthy Rabassa de Perelló family build themselves a home in Valencia, Spain, in 1750. They hired the most prestigious architects and builders, and spared no expense on the materials and artwork. The result is an elaborately ornate, even overdone, Baroque palace.
It’s impossible to walk past the palace without stopping in stunned silence at the elaborate alabaster sculptures which frame the principal entrance. A statue of Our Lady of the Rosary stands above the door, while two rivers (symbolizing the “Dos Aguas” of the family’s title) cascade down either side of the niche. Closer to the ground, two buckled-over giants are supporting an intricately-decorated scene of trees, leaves, fruits, animals, the family crest and, of course, abundant waters.
The inside is even more astounding. The Palace of the Marquis de Dos Aguas has been fully restored with many of its original furnishings, and is also the home of the González Martí National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Arts. Quite a sight! Get a mini-tour with lots of pictures and video from Jürgen Horn and Mike Powell at For 91 Days.
Here we have a newsworthy version of the classic moment when a bunch of women see a kitten and squeal with delight. They had a really good reason- this kitten’s life was saved from a storm drain full of rising water during a storm in Charleston, South Carolina. Dorella Tuckwiller of the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee went head first into the drain to pull the kitten out. Firefighter Galeena Wileman held a rope tied to Tuckwiller’s foot in case the attempt went bad.
There were three kittens in the drain when the storm began. The mother cat removed one, another kitten drowned, and the third was rescued. The rushing water was much worse before the video began. Firefighters and volunteers built a makeshift dam upstream from the drain to lower the water level for the rescue. The kitten, named Stormy, spent some time in an animal hospital and is now is doing well in a foster home. -via Laughing Squid
A few years ago, Alex posted about kudzu, a peculiar invasive species of fast-growing vine that has become a symbol of the South. Photographs of kudzu covering trees, telephone poles, and abandoned houses are impressive to those not familiar with the plant. We who live with it make enough jokes about it to add to its mystique. In popular literature, it became “the plant that ate the South.”
Though William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and others in that first great generation of Southern writers largely ignored kudzu, its metaphorical attraction became irresistible by the early 1960s. In the often-cited poem “Kudzu,” Georgia novelist James Dickey teases Southerners with their own tall tales, invoking an outrageous kudzu-smothered world where families close the windows at night to keep the invader out, where the writhing vines and their snakes are indistinguishable. “I thought the whole world would someday be covered by it, that it would grow as fast as Jack’s beanstalk, and that every person on earth would have to live forever knee-deep in its leaves,” Morris wrote in Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood.
For the generations of writers who followed, many no longer intimately connected to the land, kudzu served as a shorthand for describing the Southern landscape and experience, a ready way of identifying the place, the writer, the effort as genuinely Southern. A writer for Deep South Magazine recently gushed that kudzu is “the ultimate icon for the South...an amazing metaphor for just about every issue you can imagine within Southern Studies.” One blogger, surveying the kudzu-littered literature of the modern South, dryly commented that all you have to do to become a Southern novelist is “throw in a few references to sweet tea and kudzu.”
But that’s not the way it is. The oft-quoted statistic of kudzu covering nine million acres came from a dubious source that has since been debunked. In fact, there are many myths about kudzu that just ain’t necessarily so, that you can read about at Smithsonian. -via Digg
Keir Clarke built an interactive map that shows the top ten U.S. cities for every decade’s census from 1790. Included is a changing list of the cities and a red marker showing the country’s geographical population center. As you click through the decades, you can see it move west. The list itself is interesting. The number one city never changes, but others jump on and off the top ten. While New York City stays at the top, Brooklyn was also on the top ten through most of the 19th century. The interactive map is here, and you can read about how the map was created at Maps Mania.
Look at this kitchen. The stove is wrecked. The oven is wrecked. The stove hood is wrecked. Now look up- the lid is embedded in the ceiling! And there are bits of food all over, which they’ll probably be finding for years to come. This is what happens when all the safety features of a pressure cooker fail at once. Redditor MaggleCole posted this as evidence.
This group of friends loves basketball trick shots, even if they are just passing and bouncing the ball until someone actually gets near the basket. How to make it more interesting? Rig up a Rube Goldeberg-style route to get that basketball somewhere near the basket!
This is a one-shot sequence, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only shot. The video description says it took three days of preparation and 137 attempts to get it right. Was it worth it? Two million YouTube views says yes! -via Viral Viral Videos
The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.
Studies of varied meows here and there, now and then by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff
Human beings struggle to understand what, if anything, cats are communicating or trying to communicate. Here are reports about some of those struggles.
Schötz on Meows Susanne Schötz, at Lund University, Sweden, together with various colleagues, studies many aspects of cat meowing. One of those colleagues, Robert Eklund, maintains a web site devoted to purring research.
“A Study of Human Perception of Intonation in Domestic Cat Meows,” Susanne Schötz and Joost van de Weijer, Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Speech Prosody, Dubin, Ireland, May 20-23, 2014. (Thanks to investigator Daniela Müller for bringing this to our attention.) The researchers explain:
This study examined human listeners’ ability to classify domestic cat vocalisations (meows) recorded in two different contexts: during feeding time (food-related meows) and while waiting to visit a veterinarian (vet-related meows). A pitch analysis showed a tendency for food-related meows to have rising F0 contours, while vet-related meows tended to have more falling F0 contours. 30 listeners judged twelve meows (six of each context) in a perception test... Listeners also reported that some meows were very easy to classify, while others were more difficult. Taken together, these results suggest that cats may use different intonation patterns in their vocal interaction with humans, and that humans are able to identify the vocalisations based on intonation...
The participants who were familiar with cats were not only more often correct in their answers, they were also more confident in their answers.
Schötz and van de Weijer also present a terse taxonomy of cat mouth sounds:
Cat vocalisations are generally divided into three major categories: (1) sounds produced with the mouth closed (murmurs), such as the purr, the trill, and the chirrup; (2) sounds produced with the mouth open(ing) and gradually closing, comprising a large variety of meows with similar [A:ou] vowel patterns; and (3) sounds produced with the mouth held tensely open in the same position, i.e. sounds often uttered in aggressive situations, including growls, yowls, snarls, hisses, spits, and shrieks.
Matthew Webb was born to swim, in a time and place in which few people went into the water willingly. He was born in Engladn in 1848 and became a merchant seaman at the age of 12. His took his greatest pleasure in rescuing men overboard and other people in danger of drowning.
As evidenced by this hobby, Webb didn't really want to be on the water: he wanted to be in it. In the 19th century, there weren't very many opportunities for aspiring professional swimmers—the Plague Years had kept germ-fearing Europeans out of the water, and the sport had a few centuries of suspicion to make up for. Rather than racing other pros or teaching amateurs, Webb slowly made his hobby more lucrative by marketing himself as an attraction. He invented showy scenarios and rose to self-imposed challenges, some serious and some silly, and he always took home a purse when others bet against him—in the same year, he wagered that he could swim 20 miles from Blackwell Pier to Gravesend faster than anyone had before, and also that he could stay in the water "longer than a Newfoundland dog." He beat the record in four hours and 45 minutes, and the dog in about an hour and a half.
The stunt that made Webb famous was inspired by an unsuccessful attempt to swim across the English Channel in 1872. Webb knew he could do it, and success would bring him lasting fame. And so he did, 140 years ago today. On August 24th, 1875, Webb swam for 21 hours straight. He not only made himself a household name (and quite a bit of money), but his popularity brought the sport of swimming back to England. Pools were built across the country to meet demand, and everyone wanted to take swimming lessons. But fame and fortune did not last all that long for Matthew Webb. Read his story at Atlas Obscura.
A photo posted by Snorri Sturluson (@snorrithecat) on Aug 11, 2015 at 7:36am PDT
Snorri Sturluson is a cat burglar. Snorri is a two-year-old cat in Portland, Oregon. If he could, Snorri would probably insist its not thievery, just his hobby of collecting things from around the neighborhood. His owner, Gabrielle Hendel, said Snorri started out in the spring bringing home trash and sticks, but soon moved up to bigger objects.
"It escalated to include kids toys, matchbooks, a leopard print towel, dog toys, rags, hats, socks, gloves and then finally shoes," Hendel, a medical student who splits her time between her surgical rotation and editing Snorri's footage, told HuffPost.
If her neighbors notice anything missing, they will check Snorri’s Instagram account, where Hendel posts pictures of the night’s take. The popularity of the gallery has made Snorri a star. As you can see from the many pictures there, Snorri likes to take shoes more than anything. He also has his own YouTube channel. Who says crime doesn't pay?
To help win World War II, the Allies used every skill they could come up with— including illusion, trickery… and magic.
In 1940 Britain’s Ministry of Home Security created a military unit dedicated to “civil camouflage.” Their job would be to provide safety through “seriously ridiculous deception.” The unit of camoufleurs— soldiers tasked with finding ways to hide equipment and troop movements from the enemy— would be trained at the Camouflage Development and Training Centre at Farnham Castle, Surrey. The camouflage office’s odd cast of characters included artists, movie set designers, cartoonists, and a third-generation stage magician named Jasper Maskelyne. (Unrelated fact: Maskelyne’s grandfather invented the pay toilet.)
In 1941 the city of Alexandria, Egypt, was home to a million people. Controlling its harbor allowed Allied forces to replenish supplies and troops for the desert war raging in North Africa. That made it a prime target for German Luftwaffe bombing raids. Major Geoffrey Barkas— a former filmmaker appointed head of Middle Eastern Camouflage— called on Jasper Maskelyne and the team of camoufleurs known as the “Magic Gang.” Their mission: conceal the entire port, including the battleships and merchant vessels docked in it. “We can’t cover it up. We can’t disguise it. And we can’t hide it,” Maskelyne reportedly said. “There’s only one solution left to us, isn’t there? Move it.”
Maskelyne and his team proceeded to construct a “dummy” port complete with mock battleships and submarines on an inland lake about three miles away from the real harbor. They installed real antiaircraft guns and searchlights, and rigged up remote-control explosives. The team consulted nighttime aerial photos of the actual city, and then planted lights in the sand and mud to make the fake site look as much like Alexandria as possible. Meanwhile, the real city of Alexandria went black.
The cinematic term “breaking the fourth wall” is when an actor turns and addresses the audience directly. That “fourth wall” is the one between the character and the viewer. It violates the suspension of disbelief momentarily and shows the character as one who is aware of their place in a theatrical work. It’s been used in theater before film, and throughout the history of movies and television.
Furry Friend bills itself as a “frequency-shaped cat purr noise generator.” You can change the parameters on the generator to hear different purrs. You can also animate it to watch the sliders vibrate and change in time with the cat’s breathing. Neat!
A cat's purr is generally within the range of 40 - 200 Hz. In sound therapy, these frequencies are believed to heal injuries and relieve pain. It is also told that injured cats often purr to help soothe and heal themselves...
Whether you're not at home, can't have a pet, or just need your purr fix right this moment, this soundscape can help you relax and emulate the soothing experience of snuggling up with your furry friend - without the fleas and cat hair!
Don’t blame me if you are tempted to leave this on all the time and somehow you find yourself more relaxed until you fall asleep at the computer. Your cats may or may not like it.
Move over, Limberbutt McCubbins, you’re not polling nearly as well as presidential candidate Deez Nuts. That’s the presidential pseudonym of 15-year-old Brady Olson from Louisville, Iowa, who filed papers to run for the office. He’s not eligible, because you have to be 35 years old. But since he’s filed, he managed to get on some polls, and of course that drew plenty of publicity, which led to higher poll ratings. Just like Donald Trump. The best part of all of this is watching serious television journalists try to announce those poll results with a straight face.
The USDA Economic Research Service crunched a lot of numbers to come up with a rather arguable measure of how pleasant the “natural amenities” are in 3,111 counties in the U.S. The results are available in an interactive map.
…in the late 1990s the federal government devised a measure of the best and worst places to live in America, from the standpoint of scenery and climate. The "natural amenities index" is intended as "a measure of the physical characteristics of a county area that enhance the location as a place to live."
The index combines "six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer." Those qualities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, include mild, sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variation, and access to a body of water.
As you can imagine, these rankings have caused some indignity and hurt feelings. Red Lake County, Minnesota, came in last place of the 3,111 counties ranked (Alaska and Hawaii are not included). This has Minnesota crying foul. After all, the importance of temperature, humidity, and topographic variation to an area’s overall “pleasantness” is a matter of opinion. And you can’t put a number on “scenery.” Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what they were thinking. I live within spitting distance of a county line. One of the counties ranks in the top third, while the other is in the bottom third. As far as I can tell, the two counties have exactly the same climate and number of sunny days in winter. Click on your own county to see how it ranks at The Washington Post. -via Metafilter
(Image credit: Christopher Ingraham/The Washington Post)
The title may seem like a random string of memes, but this really happened. The professional protesters known as the WBC showed up outside the Sprint Center in Kansas City Friday where the Foo Fighters were preparing to play, and the band decided to go outside and visit them. They didn’t have time to put anything elaborate together like they did once before, so they just rode out in a pickup truck with a sound system blaring Rick Astleys’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
If you’d like to read a true crime story in less than an hour, you’ll be interested in the case of Frank Freshwaters, who escaped from prison and lived for 56 years under a different identity. He lived in different states, fathered children, and eventually became the subject of “the longest capture in the history of the U.S. Marshals.”
Frank Freshwaters was a baby-faced 21-year-old newlywed — with no criminal record and a job in the booming rubber industry — when his speeding car slammed into a father of three who was walking home in the pre-midnight darkness on July 3, 1957.
That crash on South Arlington Street in southeast Akron ended one man's life and — for Freshwaters — set into motion a sequence of events seemingly lifted straight from a Hollywood screenplay.
A story whose twists and turns — incarceration at the infamous prison featured in "The Shawshank Redemption," an escape from a prison farm, life on the run using a fake identity, a new shot at freedom personally granted by West Virginia's governor — culminated in a simple knock on a trailer home door in Melbourne, 56 years later.
Captured in May of 2015, Freshwaters is now 79 years old, and awaiting a decision on his fate. Florida Today has a three-part series on his initial crime, incarceration, and years on the lam. Part one is here. -via Digg
There was a time when women’s magazines were filled with Jell-O recipes, enough that you could serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, all containing Jell-O. It seems strange now, but the history of the food can shed some light on the craze. Making gelatin was once a labor-intensive project, and was served to flaunt how many servants one had. Then at the turn of the 20th century, the Industrial Revolution gave us two trends that collided successfully: processed foods and the rise of the middle class. Housewives were eager to show off their domestic skills. Lynne Belluscio of the Jell-O Gallery Museum and food historian Laura Shapiro explain how Jell-O made that a breeze.
Instant gelatin fit the bill. It was fast, unlike the traditional method of making gelatin. It was economical: a housewife could stretch her family's leftovers by encasing them in gelatin. And, since sugar was already included in the flavored mixes, the new packaged gelatins didn't require cooks to use up their household stores of sugar. It was also neat and tidy, a quality much valued by the domestic-science movement as well as its Victorian forebears, who were mad for molded foods of all kinds, says Belluscio. Jellied salads, unlike tossed ones, were mess-free, never transgressing the border of the plate: "A salad at last in control of itself," Shapiro writes. Cooks in this era molded everything from cooked spinach to chicken salad, with care to avoid the cardinal sin of messiness.
But that was just the beginning. Wartime food rationing, the Great Depression, and the culture of postwar suburbia all fed the Jell-O salad craze. Sometime in the late 20th century, chefs figured out that no one was eating their savory Jell-o salads with vegetables, fish, and mayonnaise in them. In the 21st century, those recipes are mainly a source of comedy. Read the history of the Jell-O salad at Serious Eats. -via the Presurfer
Due to his role in the birth of the United States, George Washington was regarded as an almost mythical character even before his death in 1799. His possessions, even today, are revered relics of history. That even includes a bedpan. It had nothing to do with the Revolutionary War, or even his presidency, but it belonged to the Washingtons, and is therefore a cherished piece of history.
An 18th-century bedpan isn’t all that different from one today. Then, it was round and made of pewter with a handle. In an era before plumbing and bathrooms, the bedpan could be gently heated and slipped under the covers of a sickbed. The elderly, ill, and women recovering from childbirth could use the bedpan without having to risk further injury by leaving their bed. While healthy adults could use a chamberpot, which might be kept in a cabinet or attached beneath a hole in a chair seat, the bedpan was designed for the immobile.
This particular bedpan was made by a New York pewterer named Frederick Bassett in the late 18th century. It was most likely used by either or both George and Martha Washington at the end of their lives. Because of the meticulous records kept by the family, we can trace the journey of this lowly item through the19th century and up to its return to Mount Vernon in 1936. Why was it kept, and who could possibly have wanted it?
The story of the bedpan is the story of all of George and Martha’s household belongings. They come down to us through Martha’s descendants, with meticulously recorded provenance. However, somewhere along the line, the exact purpose of the bedpan was mislabeled. Read the story of one object and how it represents the legacy of the Father of our Country at Smithsonian.
The story starts out weird and then it turns much weirder. Two sharks have a shark-to-shark conversation about the meaning of life under the sea. They get deep, so to speak. One decides he needs to do something to give meaning to his life.
A family in New Jersey watched from the second floor as a mama bear and five cubs played in their pool for about an hour. Dad is worried about the pool being ruined, the kids are upset that their toys are in peril, and Mom just wanted to enjoy the unique opportunity to watch bears having fun. I wonder if baby bears whine as much as human kids do?
The bear family enjoys the swing set, the slides, the floats, and the pool. Things get a little scary when Mama Bear starts playing with the pool pump, but a second video shows them all leaving, unharmed and much cleaner for their adventure. -via Metafilter
She asked him to cut the cake; he goes to the shop and designs and builds a new kind of knife, complete with a fancy handle. I was sure that by the time he got back, the cake would be completely consumed. After all, this is Matthias Wandel, the man who made the Perpetual Slinky Escalator and other wooden marvels. He gets lost in his projects.
Bubba belongs to Amber Marienthal and her family, but he spends his days at school. He’s the campus cat at Leland High School in San Jose and Bret Harte Middle School next door. He roams the halls freely and stays from the time the first bell rings to the end of the latest sports practice.
The family initially tried to make Bubba an indoor cat, but he let them know loudly and often that he was unhappy in his confinement. Their home sits behind both Leland and Bret Harte Middle School, and Bubba became a frequent visitor to both campuses. Marienthal says she still gets calls from staff and students who see him on campus and think he's lost.
Bubba is known and loved by many at both schools, as his 600-plus Facebook followers attest. Marienthal, the administrator of her cat's Facebook page, says Bubba's fans want him to branch out into other social media.
Walt Disney World was Walt’s opportunity to improve upon the design and logistics of Disneyland, using his experience and the much greater land area in Florida. One of those improvements was building tunnels under the Magic Kingdom to facilitate the backstage activities that park guests don’t need to see.
When construction began on the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, the first layer of the park that was built was 392,040 square feet of “underground” tunnels, known as utilidors. Fun fact: They’re not actually underground. The “basement” level of the park is actually at ground level, and the part of the park visitors experience is the second floor. Cast members access the utilidors via staircases positioned at key areas in the park.
The Apollo 11 moon landing happened when I was ten years old. My school friends and I all felt sorry for poor Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, who didn’t get to step on the moon, despite being so very close. It was only later that we realized he flew higher than the rest of us billions of people ever will, and his name is remembered better than many NASA astronauts who later did walk on the moon. This is the latest from John McNamee at Pie Comic.
The constant admonitions to “think positive!” aren’t as useful in achieving your goals as we once thought. Of course, fatalism isn’t much help, either. But tempering one’s optimism with a real-world dose of pessimism may do the trick.