This is a real house in Portugal called Casa do Penedo, which means "house of stone." Built in 1974, the current resident had to reinforce the house with security doors and window bars because of the many visitors and occasional vandals. Casa do Penedo is just one of a list of Ten Strange Places Where People Live, some of which may induce vertigo. Link -via J-Walk Blog
Hartford, Nov. 27/88
Livy Darling, I am grateful — gratefuler than ever before — that you were born, & that your love is mine & our two lives woven & welded together!
See the full size version at Letters of Note. Link
(Image credit: The Mark Twain House & Museum)
The only limit to what a skilled craftster can create with needle felting is the imagination. There are artists who will surprise you with their subjects, like this heart-ripping declaration of love from artist Hine Mizushima. Check out a variety of weird sculptures at Oddee. Link
A dark tale from our "Dustbin of Gruesome History" files.
One the night of April 28, 1908, Joe Maxson, a hired hand on a farm outside of La Porte, Indiana, awoke in his upstairs bedroom to the smell of smoke. The house was on fire. He called out to the farm's owner, Belle Gunness, and her three children. Getting no answer, he jumped from a second-story window, narrowly escaping the flames, and ran for help. But it was too late; the house was destroyed. A search through the wreckage resulted in a grisly discovery: four dead bodies in the basement. Three were Gunness's children, aged 5, 9, and 11. The fourth was a woman, assumed to be Gunness herself, but identification was difficult- the body's head was missing. An investigation ensued, and Ray Lamphere, a recently fired employee, was arrested for arson and murder. Before Lamphere's trial was over, he would be little more than a sidebar in what is still one of the most horrible crime stories in American history ...and an unsolved mystery.
Belle Gunness was born Brynhild Paulsdatter Storseth in Selbu, Norway in 1859. At the age of 22 she emigrated to America and moved in with her older sister in Chicago, where she changed her name to "Belle." In 1884 the 25-year-old married another Norwegian immigrant, Mads Sorenson, and the couple opened a candy shop. A year later the store burned down, the first of what would be several suspicious fires in Belle's life. The couple collected an insurance payout and used the money to buy a house in the Chicago suburbs. Fifteen years later, in 1898, that house burned down, and another insurance payout allowed the couple to buy another house. On July 30, 1900, yet another insurance policy was brought into play, but this time it was life insurance: Mads Sorenson had died. A doctor's autopsy said he was murdered, probably by strychnine poisoning, so an inquest was ordered. The coroner's investigation eventually deemed the death to be "of natural causes," and Belle collected $8,000, becoming, for 1900, a wealthy woman. (The average yearly income in 1900 was less than $500.) She used part of the money to buy a farm in La Porte. But there was a lot more death -and insurance money- to come.
In April 1902, Belle married a local butcher named Peter Gunness and became Belle Gunness. One week later, Peter Gunness's infant daughter died while left alone with Belle... and yet another insurance policy was collected on. Just eight months after that, Peter Gunness was dead: He was found in his shed with his skull crushed. Belle, who was 5'8", weighed well over 200 pounds, and was known to be very strong, told police that a meat grinder had fallen from a high shelf and landed on her husband's head. The coroner said otherwise, ruling the cause of death to be murder. On top of that, a witness claimed to have overheard Belle's 14-year-old daughter, Jennie, saying to a classmate, "My mama killed my papa. She hit him with a meat cleaver and he died."
Belle and Jennie were brought before a coroner's jury and questioned. Jennie denied making the statement; Belle denied killing her husband. The jury found Belle innocent -and she collected another $3,000 in life insurance money. And she was just getting started.
But to Miss Baker’s disbelief, once he had finished he pushed past her, jumped into the front seat and drove off behind his friend in the white van.
She was left alone and distressed at the side of the road until an elderly man stopped and offered her a lift.
Miss Baker said: “The shock is starting to fade but now I am just reeling. It’s absolutely disgusting, these men have no morals.
Link -via Arbroath
This is a Google Doodle tribute to Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) for what would have been his 65th birthday on Monday. If the doodle isn't showing up on the Google search page in your region yet, you can see it here. Clicking on the doodle will bring up this video. -via reddit
While Elser was in the bierkeller he noted the stone pillar just behind the speaker’s dais; it supported a substantial balcony along one wall. His rough calculations suggested that a large bomb placed within the pillar would bring down the balcony and bury both the Führer and a number of his chief supporters. The question was how to conceal a device sufficiently powerful to do the job within a piece of solid stonework.
Here again Elser proved to have precisely the qualities needed for the job. Knowing that he had a year to prepare, he went to work methodically, obtaining a low-paying job in an arms factory and taking whatever opportunities presented themselves to smuggle 110 pounds of high explosives out of the plant. A temporary job in a quarry supplied him with dynamite and a quantity of high-capacity detonators. In the evenings, he returned to his apartment and worked on designs for a sophisticated time bomb.
When the bomb finally went off, it killed eight people and injured 64 others -but Hitler was not one of them . Read the whole story at Past Imperfect. Link
Overall, "Transportation and material moving occupations"—people who work operating vehicles—dominated the death list, with 1,115 killed on the job. Only seven percent of them were murdered.
The 45-54 year-old bracket made up the plurality of deaths, with a full quarter. 16% of them plummeted to their demises.
The deadliest state to work in? Texas, with 456 fatalities. The safest? New Hampshire, with only 5. West Virginia won the explosion death contest, with 34—likely from all that coal mining, which is extremely dangerous and explosion-prone.
Happy Labor Day! Link -via the Presurfer
Stacy Conradt brought us the stories of Six Celebrities and their Alter Egos.
Jill Harness rounded up a bunch of Smurfingly Smurftastic Facts About The Smurfs.
Eddie Deezen contributed some timely trivia in 11 Facts You May Not Know About Jerry Lewis.
Now Hear This: Radio War Propagandists was our post this week from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
From the Annals of Improbable Research, we saw Mankiw’s Ten Principles of Economics, Translated.
The Political Hot Potato was the latest from mental_floss magazine.
Every once in a great while, our readers contribute something so neat in the comments that we have to post it to make sure everyone sees it. That happened this week when Stubb filled us in on Pattern Baldness in Russian Leadership.
The Star Wars Lightsaber Mini Hunt popped up suddenly, to give some Neatoramanaut a Darth Vader Force FX Lightsaber from Habro! That contest is still open, so check it out.
In the What Is It? game this week, the object pictured is an ice chipper. Craig Clayton was the first of many with the correct answer, so he wins a t-shirt from the NeatoShop. The funniest answer came from Maxx McIlhargey, who said it was a toothpick for crocodiles, used by wildlife conservationists to get the drug runner bones from between the crocodile’s teeth from a distance. He did not select a shirt.
It's a long holiday weekend, so after you catch up on these posts, you may want to browse through The Best of Neatorama, where we have feature article going back six years! Happy Labor Day, everyone!
There’s certainly some validity to this explanation. Yes, those charts and diagrams are expensive to produce, and the relatively small print runs of textbooks keep publishers from enjoying the kind of economies of scale they get on a bestselling popular novel. Any economist who has a pulse (and probably some who don’t) could poke holes in this argument pretty quickly, though.
In the simplest economic terms, the high price of textbooks is symptomatic of misaligned incentives, not exorbitant production costs. Students hold the reasonable stance that they’d like to spend as little money as possible on their books. Students don’t really have the latitude to pick which texts they need, though.
Read the real story behind sky-high textbook prices at mental_floss. Link
“I just go and see what happens,” he said. “At spring break I told my friends a 'sick' vacation would be to come here and fight with the rebels.”
He spent $800 on a one-way ticket from L.A. to Cairo, then traveled by land across the border into Libya, where he has now been for nearly two weeks. His parents do not know he is here. He speaks no Arabic, and has been staying with fighters and families in the area.
“I haven’t spent a dollar in weeks,” he says, because the people of Libya have extended such hospitality.
Jeon plans to be back in L.A. before school starts later this month. Link -via The Daily What
(Image credit: Kristen Chick)
On a hill called Teufelsberg (Devil's Mountain) near Berlin, an abandoned facility complete with "radar domes" stands. It was once used as a listening station for the US to intercept Soviet communications, and then abandoned when West and East Berlin were reunited. It was built over top the remains of a Nazi war college. Exploring this station is difficult, as it is deteriorating. One of the dangers is an open 10-story elevator shaft! See a set of pictures at Environmental Graffiti. Link
(Image credit: Flickr user Nate Bolt)
This Labor Day, September 5th, the annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon will be aired. But unlike every previous telethon for M.D. since 1966 (that's the past 45 years!) one important ingredient will be missing this year. Jerry Lewis!!!
What, no Jerry Lewis on the M.D. Telethon? Kind of like a beach with no bikinis, a cowboy movie with no guns, or, to use a more precise analogy: Christmas without Santa Claus. For a majority of Americans, the M.D. Telethon was always "The Jerry Lewis Telethon."
After earning over $2 billion dollars for his pet cause (and Jerry's Kids), Mr. Lewis was recently very unceremoniously dumped by the M.D. Board of Directors. At the ripe old age of 85, Jerry Lewis, humanitarian and comedy legend, is still alive and well (okay, he admittedly needs to take a couple of dozen pills every day to keep rolling). Let's take a look at eleven facts you may not have known about the only and only Mr. Jerry Lewis, "The King of Comedy."
1. He's wrong about his show business debut (at least the date). Jerry has always claimed he made his show biz debut at the age of 5, singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Jerry's story is that he sang the song before a crowd and accidentally kicked out a light and got his first laugh. Probably true enough, but he couldn't have been 5, as the song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" wasn't written until 1932, which would have made little Jerry six. A minor point? True, but one wonders why Jerry has never corrected the "date confusion" in all these years.
3. He never wears the same socks twice. Jerry never forgot his early years, his poverty, and the holes in his socks. Thumbing his nose at the past, Jerry will never wear the same pair of socks more than once. He just wears a pair and throws it out.
4. He sometimes carries his Oscar around. In 2009, Jerry was awarded a "Lifetime Achievement Academy Award" (deservedly so!) for his years of accomplishment. Unlike most other Oscar winners, Jerry sometimes carries his Academy Award around with him. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, Jerry pulled it out of a duffel bag at a press conference.
5. He edits other people's films. A devoted movie fan, Jerry often screens films at his home. When a part of a film bothers or irritates him, Jerry simply takes the film and cuts out the offending scene on his own editing machine.
6. He always called his partner Dean Martin "Paul." Jerry and his partner Dean Martin were the hottest act in show business for the ten-year partnership (1946-1956). For some reason, Jerry never called Dean "Dean," he always used Martin's middle name "Paul" instead.
7. Family Jewels remake with John Travolta? Jerry recently met with John Travolta, where the two discussed Travolta starring in a remake of Jerry's 1965 film The Family Jewels, in which Jerry played seven different roles. John wants to star in the film with his daughter, Ella Bleu.
8. He turned down Some Like It Hot. Jerry was offered the Jack Lemmon role by director Billy Wilder in the 1959 classic comedy Some Like It Hot, but turned it down. Every time Jerry would run into Billy Wilder, Wilder would say, "Schmuck!" Jack Lemmon would send Jerry Flowers every year.
Yeah, I know, every time a movie set on (or in) the ocean comes along, you hope to see sharks. They add quite a bit of suspense to any situation! Next Movie has posters for five ocean films that would have been improved if there had been sharks lurking about. You've seen one; now go see the other four! Link
If you haven't taken the mental_floss quiz on Soviet leaders yet (and want to), go do that before reading this post, because it contains spoilers. Neatoramanaut Stubb left a comment that blew my mind.
I'm pretty sure most russians don't consider Malenkov part of the line of sovereign leaders, and that Khrushchev followed Stalin. It all has to do with the hair, you see. Ever since Catherine the Great took over for Peter the Great, the pattern has been:
Catherine I - Full-haired
Peter II - Bald (shaved for wig)
Anna I - Full-haired
Ivan IV - Bald (infant Emperor)
Elizabeth - Full-haired
Peter III - Bald (shaved for wig)
Catherine II - Full-haired
Paul I - Bald(ing)
Alexander I - Full-haired
Nicholas I - Bald
Alexander II - Full-haired
Alexander III - Bald
Nicholas II - Full-haired
Lenin - bald
Stalin - Full-haired
Khrushchev - Bald
Brezhnev - Full-haired
Andropov - Bald(ing)
Chernenko - Full-haired
Gorbachev - Bald
Yeltsin - Full-haired
Putin - Bald(ing)
Medvedev - Full-haired
This also dictates that the next President should be bald, giving Putin an excellent opportunity to regain (formal) power. Especially since his main opponent, Mikhail Prokhorov has a head full of hair...
A quick check revealed this pattern is correct, explained at NPR in a 2008 post. However, Stubb's list goes back much further into Tsarist Russia. Link
(Image credit: KoS)
My globe is so old...
HOW OLD IS IT?
My globe is so old it still says "here be dragons." On France.
The chart does not yet have South Sudan listed, but may someday soon. Link
First, there is the well-known Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Then there is what he calls the "Waffle House Index."
Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.
"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."
There are 1,600 Waffle House outlets across the USA, and the franchise policy is to try their best to feed customers even when conditions are difficult. Link -via J-Walk Blog
What ever happened to Steve on the TV show Blue Clues, who supposedly went off to college and handed off his dog Blue to his younger brother Joe? Steve Burns, who played the original host of the show, did not commit suicide or die of a heroin overdose as rumor had it. He just left to pursue a musical career, and because he did not want to go bald on a children's show. In this video, Burns talks about how Blues Clues affected his life. This might make you feel really old, but it's so interesting you'll want to find a way to listen to all seventeen minutes. No profanity, but he mentions boobs. -via reddit
"What took 120 years in England took 40 years here," [Brazilian demographer José Alberto] Carvalho told me one day. "Something happened." At that moment he was talking about what happened in São Vicente de Minas, the town of his childhood, where nobody under 45 has a soccer-team-size roster of siblings anymore. But he might as well have been describing the entire female population of Brazil. For although there are many reasons Brazil's fertility rate has dropped so far and so fast, central to them all are tough, resilient women who set out a few decades back, without encouragement from the government and over the pronouncements of their bishops, to start shutting down the factories any way they could.
National Geographic lays out six reasons for the relatively sudden empowerment of Brazilian women, some that are also affecting other nations. One of those reasons is television. Link
(Image credit: John Stanmeyer)
You might not know as much as you think you do when it comes to the USSR. In today's Lunchtime Quiz at mental_floss, you are challenged to name all the leaders of our old Cold War rival. There were 8 leaders of the former Soviet Union, and the 3 leaders of the new Russian Federation -so far. Can you name them all in ten minutes? I got ten of them, but could not remember the current president! Oh, and spelling counts, which is what ate up my time, but you only need the surname. Link
During the 16th century, Europeans fell in love with a number of exotic plants from the New World. But the potato wasn't one of them. It would take two centuries and a spectacular PR campaign for people to even consider eating the ugly vegetable. But once the potato took root, it determined the fortunes of nations as no other crop has ever done before.
Spanish explorers brought potatoes back from South America in the 1500s. They'd been introduced to the veggie by the Incas, who grew hundreds of varieties of spuds. But the tuber had few takers in Europe. Since God hadn't mentioned potatoes in the Bible, the clergy preached that the starch was the Devil's handiwork. Also, because the gnarly potato can look like a leper's hand, rumors quickly spread that potatoes caused leprosy. Needless to say, the talk did little to boost the vegetable's popularity.
While most Europeans wouldn't touch the potato, they didn't mind growing them to feed their livestock. Then something strange happened. During a series of failed harvests in the early 1700s, farmers watched in horror as many of their favorite crops died; meanwhile, the potato flourished. Rulers across Western Europe took note and began actively encouraging their people to cultivate potatoes, going so far as to hand out free seeds, along with pamphlets abut how to grow them. The Austrian government took a more straightforward approach: They threatened peasants with 40 lashes if they refused to convert to the potato.
Some countries began to embrace the crop, but France remained a holdout. Finally, in the midst of a terrible famine in 1770, the government got so desperate that it offered a prize to anyone who could find a food capable of curbing the problem. Agriculturalist and pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier won the essay contest for his rousing defense of the potato. Parmentier believed that the humble starch could prevent the masses from starving to death, and both the scientific community and the monarchy endorsed his ideas. But it would take more than a prize-winning essay to sway France's working class and its aristocracy, neither of which trusted the suspicious-looking, leprous root.
Parmentier was determined to save his countrymen, even if it meant tricking them into giving the potato a try. In 1785, he organized a series of promotional stunts to win public opinion. At a royal banquet, he served potato dishes to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette and presented them with potato flowers; the king pinned a flower to his lapel and the queen wore a garland in her hair. The occasion instantly sparked a passion for potatoes among the nobility, who were slaves to royal fashion.
I heard the mechanic click. I knew: this is not good. And I found myself lying face-down on the ground, engulfed in a cloud of dust, with the very clear knowledge that this has just happened and this is not good. I could see my legs were gone, and everybody around me was dazed. I was like, “Guys, I need help here.” And they turned around and saw me on the ground. They immediately sprang into action. I got dragged out of the kill zone, for safety reasons, to a patch of ground a few yards away.
Immediately, there were medics working on me. I picked up a camera, shot a few frames. The frames weren’t very good, quite frankly, but I was trying to record. I knew it wasn’t good, but I felt alive. Adrenaline kicked in. I was compos mentis; I was on top of things. So, I made some pictures. I dropped the camera, then I moved to Plan B, which was to pick up the satellite phone. I called my wife, Vivian, and told her, “My legs are gone, but I think I’m going to live.” Incidentally, I’m a father of two. I passed the telephone on to the correspondent so she could continue the conversation and keep Vivian calm.
Silva also talks about his recovery, the importance of photojournalism in dangerous places, and what he's learned about the lingering effects of war. A gallery of his photographs accompany the article. Link -via The Daily What
(Image credit: Joao Silva for the New York Times)
Seismic measurements recorded on August 23rd during the earthquake centered in Virginia show how the shock wave traveled across the USA. If you didn't feel it, it was because the movements measured are very small.
What you’re seeing here are vertical displacement measurements from an array of detectors that are part of the USArray/EarthScope facility (you can read more about the array and the animation on the IRIS website). These are very sensitive instruments; note the scale on the lower graph showing the motion is only about 40 microns top-to-bottom! That’s less than the thickness of a human hair.
Read more at Bad Astronomy Blog. Link -via Metafilter
Redditor reyvehn told the story of the day he worked a beer stand at an air show, and someone from the military contingent sent a TALON Naval EOD bot up to the stand with a $5 bill in its claw. So he replaced the money with a Bud Lite and snapped a picture. And of course, someone had to say it:
...and then the bartender says, "We don't get many robots in here," and the robot says, "at five bucks a beer, I'm not surprised!"
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