Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

Auschwitz 70 Years On

Seventy years ago, on January 27th, 1945, the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz network of concentration camps. Survivors and dignitaries gathered at the site in Poland, preserved as a museum since 1947, to mark the anniversary. About 300 camp survivors attended, shown here on their way to light candles at Birkenau. Since they are elderly, this is believed to be the last major commenoration attendance for most of them.

A huge, white temporary building has been erected over the brick railway buildings where many of the Jews of Europe were sorted into those who were fit enough for slave labour and those who would be taken straight to the gas chambers.

Candles have been lit at the Death Wall where prisoners were executed - small points of light in this wintry landscape of snow and ice, where Europe is remembering a time of darkness.

You can read about the ceremonies and see pictures of anniversary commemorations from other parts of Europe as well, at BBC News.


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Homemade Gas-powered Horse

(YouTube link)

Su Daocheng is a farmer in a China and a self-taught mechanical genius. He built this gas engine-powered horse to help him plow his fields, but I honestly don’t see him getting a lot of that done, at least in this version. That fact that he actually built it himself is pretty neat, yet when it starts walking, you’ll laugh out loud just like I did. Later in the video, you’ll get to see more of Su’s kinetic sculptures. -via Boing Boing


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A New Face for Violet

Almost-two-year-old Violet Pietrok’s facial bones didn’t fuse together prenatally, leaving her with a syndrome called Tessier Cleft. Her eyes were so far apart that she couldn’t see properly, and her nose had no cartilage. Dr. John Meara at Boston Children’s Hospital wanted to help Violet. He had done this kind of surgery before, but every patient is different, and the bone reconstruction will be different for each one. That’s where 3D printing comes in. Dr. Meara had his colleague Dr. Peter Weinstock made 3D models of the toddler’s skull, using data from magnetic resonance imaging. Meara was able to practice with four skull models, in order to develop the best plan for Violet’s surgery ahead of time.

Dr. Weinstock, the director of the Pediatric Simulator Program at Boston Children’s, sees 3-D models as part of a larger program to improve surgical craft. At Children’s and a dozen other pediatric centers around the world, he says, the surgical simulation program he developed improves team communication and trust, and lifts confidence before extremely complex operations. He believes it also shortens patients’ time under anesthesia.

If the nearly two-year-old program has prevented even one major medical error — and Dr. Weinstock is convinced it has prevented many — it has paid for itself and its $400,000 3-D printer, running nearly full time in the hospital’s basement.

Dr. Meara was able to move Violet’s eyes closer together and eliminate a large hole in her forehead. She will have more surgery as she grows, but the first step was made much easier by the practice skulls. Read the whole story at the New York Times. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Credit Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Children's Hospital)


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Seven Pounds of Insanity

Redditor emlod takes lots of video of his cat, Luna. She’s three years old, but still has the heart of a kitten. He made a compilation of her craziest cat behavior, which encompasses the stuff we see on individual viral cat videos: climbing, jumping, sneaking around, napping, drinking out of the faucet, chasing tiny things, play fighting, not landing on all fours, hiding, ninja attacks, miaows, and making biscuits.

(YouTube link)

I think chattymcgee summed it up well (apart from thinking Luna is male):

So, I'm not a vet, but I've done a lot of internet research on my own cats. This cat appears to have a full blown case of Nut Butt, with probable early onset Furry Ninjitus. I'm sad to say I'm also seeing some indication of an infection of cinnimonbunius patikakius, known to the common man as Biscuit Makers disease.

As he's a young cat I'd advise treats, sun beams for naps, and maybe some more rugs so he stops slipping around so much and looking like a dingus.

He also takes a lot of pictures of Luna, which you can find individually linked here.

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

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The Mother ‘Hood

(YouTube link)

A large number of apparently first-time parents gather at the neighborhood park to defend their baby care choices by snarking at those who have selected a different path. I say they must be first-time parents because there’s no older kids with them, and by the time you’ve have several kids, you might tend to be less defensive and judgmental. (Then I wonder, why would you take an infant to a park?) Such dogmatism is one of the main reasons I stay away from mommy blogs and parenting forums. Chill out, moms (and dads)! -via Buzzfeed

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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School is Closed

(YouTube link)

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


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Doc or Crock: 6 Recent “Documentaries” That Have Been Accused of Being Fake

You remember that “documentary” about Megalodon that headlined Shark Week a couple of years ago, don’t you? It kind of ruined the whole idea of Shark Week for many viewers, because we know that Megalodon is extinct, yet the entire production hinted at how they may be roaming our oceans today. Just like “reality TV,” the term “documentary” has been tossed around enough lately that we don’t even agree on what the term means. Do recreations of past events belong in a documentary? Well, that may be okay. How about real subjects being manipulated into acting a certain way? How far can you go before it crosses over into “drama”? The A.V. Club tells us about six documentaries you may have heard of -or even seen- and the charges leveled against their authenticity. Then they pass judgement on each, and it ain’t pretty. Internet hoaxes have made us all cynical, but maybe that’s a good thing.


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The Double Down Dog

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)

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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Trinkaus: An Informal Look

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

A glance at the colorful research of an under-publicized scientist
by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, with research assistance from Rachael Moeller Gorman

John W. Trinkaus is the rare researcher whose interests and activities suggest the famous passage in Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and The Carpenter”:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.”

For Trinkaus, of the Zicklin School of Business, Bernard M. Baruch College, City University of New York, such a diversity of topics is the norm. During the past 25 years he has conducted research on shoes — and trains — and bakery wrapping-tissues — on Brussels sprouts — and business students — and why commuters carry attaché cases — and whether most people wear base ball-type caps with the bill facing backwards. These are just a few of his interests.

John Trinkaus has published a modest corpus of reports, of which the 86 papers described below are a healthy sampling. On many topics, Trinkaus returned over and again, both to replicate his findings and to delve deeper.

For a full appreciation of John Trinkaus’s body of work, one must go to the library and read the original reports in their full detail. For those who have yet to enjoy that experience, here is a quick, and rather haphazard, sampling of what to expect.

The Early Years
Trinkaus’s first published paper — a 1978 examination of the motivations of potential jurors — is of interest to scholars of that subject, of course, but it is also of larger significance. So far as we are aware, this was the first of his signature pieces — each modestly claiming to be an “Informal Look” at some dazzlingly under-explored subject. Even at this early stage of his career, Trinkaus was conducting multiple lines of research, and publishing on an unusual variety of topics.

* * *



(1) “Jury Service: An Informal Look,” J. Trinkaus, Psychological Reports, vol. 43, no. 3, part 1, December 1978, p.788.

Used participant observation to study 56 potential jurors... Results support the contention of W. Pabst et al. (1976) that potential jurors are divided into those who do and those who do not want to serve.

(2) “Workers’ Arrivals and Departures: An Informal Look,” J. Trinkaus, Psychological Reports, vol. 44, no. 2, April 1979, p. 554.

Suggests that rank-and-file employees do not arrive at the workplace much before the starting time and depart as quickly as possible after the quitting time. Owner-managers, conversely, arrive early and leave late. These assumptions were supported by informal observations of the arrival and departure of ”luxury” cars, assumed to belong to the owner-managers, and ”economy” cars, assumed to belong to the employees, at a suburban industrial parking site.

(3) “Buyers’ Price Perception at a Flea Market: An Informal Look,” J. Trinkaus, Psychological Reports, vol. 46, no. 1, February 1980, p. 266.

Investigated whether buyers at flea markets would display a high degree of price awareness. An informal inquiry showed this not to be the case.

(4) “Preconditioning an Audience for Mental Magic: An Informal Look,” J. Trinkaus, Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 51, no.1, August 1980, p. 262.

(5) “Honesty at a Motor Vehicle Bureau: An Informal Look,” J. Trinkaus, Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 51, no. 3, part 2, December 1980, p. 1252.

Assessed the veracity of people taking vision tests at a district office of a motor vehicle bureau....
Results suggest that, when given an option, a sizeable percentage of people may well elect a style of behavior that is neither completely honest nor dishonest.

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The Story of R32

(vimeo link)

A lonely, damaged, and obsolete robot roams the city, looking for a human connection. But it turns out that R32 is more human than those he meets along the way. This short film by Vladimir Vlasenko might surprise you. -via Geeks Are Sexy


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Textbooks

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


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Bunny Delivers a Beer

(YouTube link)

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.

Wallace is far from a slave. The bunny has an entire YouTube channel that shows how loved he is. -via Boing Boing

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

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Campfire in the Snow

Or maybe I say say, campfire OF snow. Brendan Schaffer of Schaffer Art Studios created this hot snow sculpture using art and food coloring in a spray bottle. Although we’ve all heard the warning about eating yellow snow, I’ve never heard anything about eating giant snow marshmallows! -via reddit


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New York During the Great Blizzard of 1888

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.


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The A to Z of Australia Day

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


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The Subterranean Theme Park 390ft Down in a Transylvanian Salt Mine

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)


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Water-loving Cats

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.

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

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Dolphins: The Humans of the Sea

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.

ANIMAL MAGNETISM

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.”

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19th Century Japanese LOLcats

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


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The Evolution of Video Games

(YouTube link)

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


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A House for Cats

(YouTube link)

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

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

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Locally Laid Eggs

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!

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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The Star Wars Relativity Realization

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.


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Facebook Stalking Your More Successful Friends

(YouTube link)

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


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The Effect of Hollywood on Historical Perspective

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)


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Reinventing the Potato

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 dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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These Robots Are No Soccer Stars

(YouTube link)

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


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Founder of Fark to Run for Governor

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


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The Soviet Space Dogs Who Took Giant Leaps for Mankind

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)


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Reggie the Puppy-sitter

(YouTube link)

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

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

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Profile for Miss Cellania

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