It's once again time for our collaboration with the always interesting What Is It? Blog. Can you guess what the pictured item is? Or can you make up something amusing?
Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many guesses as you'd like in separate comments. Post no URLs or weblinks, as doing so will forfeit your entry. Two winners: the first correct guess and the funniest (albeit ultimately wrong) guess will win T-shirt from the NeatoShop.
For another picture from a different angle, check out the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!
Update: the object in question is a Holmes Steering Gear Clamp for towing automobiles (an antique). Aaron Rosen was the first commenter who knew what it was for, but he did not select a shirt. TDM had the funniest answer: A clothespin for chain-mail! For that, TDM wins a t-shirt from the NeatoShop. You'll find the answers to all this week's mystery items posted at the What Is It? blog.
The cats from Kagonekoshiro (Basket Cat Blog) are ready for a holiday party! Which will keep their hat on the longest? My money is on Shiro -not only because he's the most patient and balanced cat ever, but also because I've watched the video. -via Buzzfeed
You can see penguins in zoos all over the world, but to enjoy these birds in their natural habitat, you want to go to where they live. And you don't have to go to Antarctica. Penguins thrive in twelve nations that are much easier to get to -as far north as Ecuador! Read about each of them and the penguins they have at The World Geography. Link-Thanks, Bosko!
Here is why all recipes should be thoroughly tested before publication. The Chilean newspaper La Tercera printed a recipe for churros in 2004. Now they must pay damages varying from $279 to $48,000 to eleven woman who were injured trying the recipe.
Judges determined that the newspaper failed to fully test it before publication, and that if readers followed the recipe exactly, the churros had a good chance of exploding once the oil reached the suggested temperature. Grupo Copesa, which publishes the paper, said it will abide by the ruling.
Days after the recipe was published in the paper's "Woman" magazine in 2004, hospitals around the country began treating women for burns suffered when the dough boiling in oil suddenly shot out of kitchen pots.
Is it perfect timing, coincidence, or a message from beyond about the viability of this marriage? No, the wedding party didn't run for cover, but neither did they suffer from a tornado or air raid. It was most likely just a siren test. -via reddit
A woman in Sandy, Utah, was held against her will, along with her 17-month-old son, for almost five days by the father of her child. He had taken her cell phone and refused to let her leave, but she eventually found a laptop and was able to access Facebook.
Police Sgt. Jon Arnold said the woman hid in a closet with a laptop to post her plea for help on the social networking website, saying she and her son would be "dead by morning" if they were not rescued.
The post prompted someone to call police, who went to the home to check on the woman's welfare.
"Facebook was her only outlet that she had at the home," Arnold said. "It just happened that she was able to use it."
Police arrested Troy Reed Critchfield, 33, and booked him into jail Saturday for investigation of aggravated kidnapping, forcible sodomy, aggravated assault, domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty and other charges.
Critchfield was on probation for charges related to a domestic violence incident. Link -via The Daily What
There's nothing a tortoise likes better than a fresh tomato -just ask any tomato gardener! Kevin is no exception, but he desperately needs a teeny little pair of tortoiseshell glasses. He has terrible depth perception. The poor thing does get a bit or two eventually. -via Buzzfeed
Joe Johnson has lived at the Morningside retirement center in Greenwood, South Carolina, for about ten years now. He's been a regular blood donor for most of his life, and sees no reason to stop now.
Johnson said in the same phone call that he began donating after he joined the Army in Tennessee at age 21 and kept it up after moving to Florida, and then later South Carolina. The former infantry soldier said he served in Europe — though not in combat — and back in the United States, training National Guard forces.
"They'd say to us, 'Line up and give blood' and maybe out of 200 or so in the company, maybe 40 or 50 guys would do it. Some people would just walk away, but I never did," Johnson said. "I constantly gave blood. I had a routine going."
Johnson celebrated his 96th birthday on Tuesday with a cake, which Amerson said he insisted on sharing with some of the other 43 residents at the assisted living home. His most recent blood donation was a week earlier when a mobile unit made one of its periodic visits to the retirement home.
There is no upper age limit for blood donation, as long as the donor is healthy. Johnson plans to continue giving, and says he is "good for a few years more." Link -via Breakfast Links
Calvinist preacher Roger Williams emigrated from England to the colonies with a wave of Puritans in 1630. He was fleeing religious strife, but found controversies in America as well -with the leaders of his own sect.
Williams did not differ with them on any point of theology. They shared the same faith, all worshiping the God of Calvin, seeing God in every facet of life and seeing man’s purpose as advancing the kingdom of God. But the colony’s leaders, both lay and clergy, firmly believed that the state must prevent error in religion. They believed that the success of the Massachusetts plantation depended upon it.
Williams believed that preventing error in religion was impossible, for it required people to interpret God’s law, and people would inevitably err. He therefore concluded that government must remove itself from anything that touched upon human beings’ relationship with God. A society built on the principles Massachusetts espoused would lead at best to hypocrisy, because forced worship, he wrote, “stincks in God’s nostrils.” At worst, such a society would lead to a foul corruption—not of the state, which was already corrupt, but of the church.
The philosophy Williams developed to deal with the struggle came to be called "the separation of church and state." And although the concept is a part of what the United States is about, people have argued over what it really means ever since. Smithsonian has an extensive article on Roger Williams and his ideas. Link
The Obscura Society took a tour of the Bunny Museum in Pasadena, California recently and brought back many pictures to post, in case you live to far away to visit in person.
The Bunny Museum was born on Valentine’s Day, 1993 when Steve Lubanski gave his then girlfriend (now wife) Candace Frazee a white plush bunny clutching a heart, an homage to her nickname for him, “Honey Bunny”. It became a “thing” for the couple, and according to Candace, who is also an expert on angels and Swedenborgian theology, they have been giving each other bunny gifts daily ever since. The couple won the Guinness Award in 1999 when they hit over 8,000 and have never looked back, turning their modest Pasadena home into a bunnicopia of collectibles, all painstakingly dusted and organized by theme. They share their bunny palace with 5 live rabbits, the freeze dried remains of pet bunnies past, and some regal looking cats, including a friendly bengal cat named Benji.
There are lots of pictures of the Bunny Museum at Atlas Obscura. Link
A red panda decided to move in with a family in the suburbs of Leshan, Sichuan Province, China, last week. The homeowners were watching the wild panda as they ate a meal outside, and slowly approached to get a better look. The panda ran into the house through an open door, and made himself at home. The word spread, and neighbors came to have their pictures made with the panda. Local authorities took the panda and released him into the wild within a few days. Link -via Arbroath
The plants of the genus Platycerium are more commonly known as Staghorn or Elkhorn ferns. They grow on trees, but are not parasites, because they generate their own nutrition from water and sunlight. However, they grow on other trees, and produces two types of fern fronds -one to catch sunlight, the other to surround its roots, hold water, and connect the plant to the tree. Read more about these fascinating ferns and see lots of pictures at Kuriositas. Link -via the Presurfer
A look at a transitory medical concept by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff
The years 1974–2009 saw the inspiration, birth, and death of a medical ailment that puzzled some physicians, inspired others, and perhaps made no impact upon most. Its history played out in the pages of several medical journals. Here are glimpses at the most pertinent chapters.
Hello, Guitar Nipple
“Guitar Nipple,” P. Curtis, British Medical Journal, April 27, 1974, p. 226. The author, in Winchester, UK explains:
I have recently seen three patients with traumatic mastitis of one breast. These were all girls aged between 8 and 10 and the mastitis consisted of a slightly inflamed cystic swelling about the base of the nipple. Questioning revealed that all three were learning to play the classical guitar, which requires close attention to the position of the instrument in relation to the body. In each case a full-sized guitar was used and the edge of the soundbox pressed against the nipple. Two of the patients were right-handed and consequently had a right-sided mastitis while the third was left-handed with a left-sided mastitis. When the guitar playing was stopped the mastitis subsided spontaneously.
Hello, Cello Scrotum
“Cello Scrotum,” J.M. Murphy, British Medical Journal, May 11, 1974, p. 335. The author, in Chalford, Gloucester, U.K., explains:
Though I have not come across ‘guitar nipple’ as reported by Dr. P. Curtis (27 April, p. 226), I did once come across a case of ‘cello scrotum’ caused by irritation from the body of the cello. The patient in question was a professional musician and played in rehearsal, practice, or concert for several hours each day.
Cello Scrotum Questioned
“’Cello Scrotum’ Questioned,” Philip E. Shapiro, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, vol. 24, no. 4, April 1991, p. 665. The author, at Yale University, explains:
I question the accuracy of the information under the designation of “cello scrotum.” The authors cite just one case, which is not their own. That case consists of a brief (9-line) letter to the editor in which the author states that a professional cellist had “cello scrotum” caused by “irritation from the body of the cello.” I find this a bit puzzling. When the cello is held in typical playing position, the body of the instrument is not near the scrotum. Contact of the body of the cello with the scrotum would require an extremely awkward playing position, which I have never seen a playing cellist assume.
Goodbye, Cello Scrotum
“Cello Scrotum Confession,” Elaine Murphy and John M. Murphy, British Medical Journal, January 27, 2009, p. 288. (Thanks to Caroline Richmond and Kenneth Mackenzie for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, the former at the House of Lords in London, the latter at St Peter’s Brewery in Bungay, Suffolk, U.K., explain:
Perhaps after 34 years it’s time for us to confess that we invented cello scrotum. Reading Curtis’s 1974 letter to the BMJ on guitar nipple, we thought it highly likely to be a spoof and decided to go one further by submitting a letter pretending to have noted a similar phenomenon in cellists, signed by the non-doctor one of us (JMM). Anyone who has ever watched a cello being played would realise the physical impossibility of our claim.
Somewhat to our astonishment, the letter was published. The following Christmas we sent a card to Dr Curtis of guitar nipple fame, only to discover that he knew nothing about it—another joke we suspect. We have been dining out on this story ever since. We were thrilled once more to be quoted in [your recent article] “A symphony of maladies.”
The Dead Sea is more than eight times saltier than ocean water, and there is less water in it every year -and that means it's getting even saltier. The salt formations seen from the air is quite surreal. See more pictures in a collection at Boing Boing. Link
Daniel the shelter cat only has 26 toes, which is not enough to earn him a world record, but is certainly more than you or I have! The polydactyl cat was taken in by the Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center when shelter owner Amy Rowell spotted him at the pound, and now Daniel has returned the favor -by saving the shelter.
Unable to afford its raised rent at a suburban mall, the Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center needed to buy a new building. To raise the necessary funds, Rowell solicited $26 donations – $1 for each of Daniel's tootsies.
Donors opened their hearts and their wallets, and $125,000 poured in within the space of just six weeks, the Associated Press reports – $5,000 more than the goal. And most of it came in the form of $26 donations.
The mortgage is not yet paid off, so Daniel will continue to solicit funds for the shelter. Link -via mental_floss
Hey, wanna take a look inside the prop house at Universal Studios? You won't believe all the stuff they have stuffed away to use in movies! Unreality magazine has a gallery of photos from the warehouse. Some of it is real, some is made just for the movies, but if they do their job right, you'll never know which is which! Link
A guy, called Raul for the purpose of the story, used sperm donation to pay his way through college at a time when it seemed like just a way to make some extra cash. Years later, he learned the power of the internet.
Raul made about $10,000 total by donating a couple of times a week for a year and a half, at $70 a sample. He didn’t dwell on the outcome—the possible children, the various mothers. He went on with his plans for a legal career, his artistic pursuits, and his own family life. Last year, he mentioned to colleagues that he’d been a sperm donor during his time off. “Have you ever Googled your donor number?” one of the other lawyers asked.
Raul had not. But that morning at work he typed his donor number into the search engine. The first hit was a blog called Django Djournal, a mother’s chronicle of the baby, Django, she had conceived with Raul’s sperm. At the top of the page was a photo of a chubby 2-year-old in striped shorts, smiling halfheartedly—Raul himself as a toddler. “It was out of context,” he explained. “So it took me a minute to realize why it was familiar.” During the period he was donating, he’d sold the photograph to the bank for an extra $200, to give a sense of what a baby of his might look like.
The next photo on the page was of 6-month-old Django, and the resemblance was indeed striking—the dark hair and eyes, the open face. Raul and his wife had two children of their own by this time, and Django resembled them, too. What made the blog entry even more transfixing, though, were the photographs of two other babies also conceived with Raul’s sperm. Their mothers had tracked down the blog, and the result was an impromptu online community of mothers who’d used Raul’s sperm.
Should there be a limit to how many times one man fathers a child by donation? Depending on the clinic, maybe twenty to over a hundred children could be produced by one man. An article in The Atlantic raises the question of whether sperm, particularly sperm like Raul's that is in demand by multiple families, should be considered a product for sale or something more. In the internet age, there are also issues of privacy, obligations, and genetics. But there are no easy answers -especially for children who were conceived in the age of secrecy and grew up to confront the openness of the internet -and all their parents. Link
What happens when a top-secret government project is canceled? The details are not quite clear, but it's hard to keep a secret when prototype parts are sold for scrap and end up on eBay.
Anyone interested in top secret aircraft will know of the A-12 Avenger II, which was cancelled in 1991 and remains at the centre of ongoing litigation to this day. The stealth attack aircraft, developed by General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas, was terminated before the first airframe had been assembled. But the latest twist in this still-shadowy tale comes in the form of an A-12 canopy appearing on eBay – and it looks like the real thing.
A game of one-upmanship gets out of hand in a rivalry between two painters. You can see the end coming, but that doesn't detract from the charm of this animation by Giant Creative. -via Tastefully Offensive
Crouched on the Parks Highway about 180 miles outside of Anchorage, Alaska, is a hulking, four-story igloo. Its dome can be spotted from an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. Built in the 1970s, the igloo was meant to give tourists a chance to visit a "real" Alaskan igloo. Igloo City, as it's known, has been a convenience store, a gas station, a makeshift triage clinic for a man attacked by a grizzly bear, and an emergency airplane refueling stop (a small plane once landed on the highway and and taxied in for gas). But other than part of the ground floor, the igloo itself has never been used. It was supposed to be a motel, but the couple who built it forgot something important: building codes. The structure never passed inspection, and its owners went broke.
...THE WORLD'S LARGEST CHEST
In the 1920s, the High Point, North Carolina, Chamber of Commerce built its first building-size chest of drawers. Twenty feet tall, the chest served as the Chamber's Bureau of Information and helped to promote the city's image as the "Furniture Capital of the World." In 1996 the chest was augmented, making it 38 feet tall. In 2010, upset with the city's refusal to help with the upkeep of the landmark, Pam Stern, the building's owner, had the chest measured for a giant bra: 20 feet of silk, Spandex, and underwiring. (Get it? A chest of drawers.) HanesBrands, Inc., maker of Playtex bras, sent engineers over to take the chest's measurements. Whether the city will permit the chest to wear the bra remains unknown at this time.
A 56-foot tall chicken head juts from the roof of the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the corner of Roswell Street and Cobb Parkway in Marietta, Georgia. Locals use it as a landmark when giving directions: "Turn right, after you pass the Big Chicken." The architectural whimsy, built in 1963, was a Johnny Reb's Chick, Chuck and Shakes fried-chicken restaurant until 1966, when the owner, Tubby Davis, sold it to his brother, who turned it into a KFC. In 1993 the chicken suffered wind damage and might have been demolished were it not considered too important to be axed. Reason: pilots use the building as a reference point when approaching Atlanta and nearby Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
Ben Lean recorded these scenes in Toronto December 16-18 and presents the shopping frenzy in time-lapse for your enjoyment. Aren't you glad you're through with Christmas shopping? What -you aren't? Ha! -via Nag on the Lake
Christmas Eve! Time to be with family, friends, and community celebrating the season. We here at Neatorama hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, and a Happy New Year as well! It's been a busy week, and if you just now have some time on your hands after the rush of holiday preparation, we have plenty of neat items, contests, and features for you to catch up on.
The most-commented (non-contest) item of the week was Mysterious Sphere Falls From Space. The story lent itself to at least three jokes: the Mythbusters cannonball, the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, and pretending that this was the What Is It? game. Speaking of...
In this week's What Is It? game, the mystery object is a A Yankee Cork Press, for compressing corks to the proper size to fit into a bottle. Just a Guess? had the right answer before anyone else, and so wins a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! Kevin George had the funniest answer: “That’s the famous scuplture “Desert Cowskull” by the steampunk impressionist Nemo Remington.” That deserves a t-shirt, too! You can see the answers to all this week’s mystery items at the What Is It? blog.
Oh, we have more contests! Congratulations to Thad Gillespie, who won a t-shirt from the NeatoShop in caption contest no 3 over on G+. Put Neatorama in your G+ circles to keep up with opportunities to win, and other neat stuff going on that you won't find here at the main site!
Want more? Be sure to check our Facebook page every day for extra content, contests, discussions, videos, and links you won't find here. Also, our Twitter feed will keep you updated on what's going around the web. And we have one more thing to say to you...
Rosalind and Donald McIntyre of Fife, Scotland, unearthed a stone carving in their garden earlier this year that bears a striking resemblance to the animated character Homer Simpson. Experts have pegged the sculptured head at about 800 years old.
Mrs McIntyre said: 'Our sons took it to St Andrews Museum and they were completely amazed by it. They said that they would try and carbon date it.
'They had it for 11 or 12 weeks, but they couldn’t find out when or where it was from, but they said they thought it was very, very old.
'They sent it around various places but no one could find out anything about it.
'When they gave it back to us you could see where they took parts of the stone from behind the ear to try and date it.'
Mrs McIntyre said that the bulbous-eyed sculpture was completely solid, and very heavy, but full of detail.
She added: 'If you put your finger into his mouth you can feel all the ridges and his teeth.'
Since the head has come into their lives, the intrigue has taken up so much time that the artefact has become part of the family.
'There is no other word to describe it other than ugly, but we have become quite attached to it,' Mrs McIntyre said.
The McIntyres speculate that the head may be a gargoyle from a 13th-century church. Link -via HuffPo