The Strange Underworld of Hobby Tunneling

People build tunnels for myriad reasons, for sewers, subways, or a shortcut through a mountain range, for mining resources, to connect public buildings away from the weather, or to expand real estate. There are clandestine reasons, such as smuggling drugs or breaking out of prison. But one of the oddest reasons dig a tunnel is because it's fun. Some men find, usually after they complete a digging project, that they enjoy the activity so much they want to continue digging. It might even become an obsession.

Unknown holes in the ground can be dangerous, or interfere with utility lines and property rights. While this might become a problem when a hobby tunneler doesn't know what he is doing, really serious digging enthusiasts learn what they need to know. Some have become rather well known in their own circles, while others cause astonishment when their extensive tunnels are discovered. Messy Messy Chic looks at hobby tunnelers of the past and present to see what they dig and why.

(Image: Library of Congress)

The One-Page Flip Book

YouTuber dP Art Drawing makes hand-drawn flip books. That's a hobby that requires a lot of paper. She wondered if it was possible to make a flip book animation with only one sheet of paper. Huh? That would require drawing a complete scene and then erasing and drawing again on the same sheet of paper. The project ended up with 211 frames drawn over 53 days. Watch that happen in this mesmerizing video.

The benefits of doing it this way are that she didn't have to completely redraw every frame- just the moving parts, and this method makes it easier to keep the elements in place from frame to frame. It's still a lot of work, even with an electric eraser. The single sheet of paper was completely worn out by the end, but that seems kind of appropriate as Hulk screams with the power to break things. And now all of these drawings physically exist only in one sheet of worn-out paper. The digital version will live on for who knows how long.  -via Geeks Are Sexy

The Truth About Chop Suey

Chop suey came to America with the Chinese immigrants who worked mines, built the transcontinental railroad, and opened many west coast businesses. Americans found their chop suey so delicious that restaurants sprung up to serve it. However, the Chinese got the last laugh when word got out that "chop suey" translated into English meant "odds and ends" or "leftovers."

Except that last part is a myth. It may have arisen as a mistranslation, or due to prejudice, or maybe it was an explanation for the declining quality of the dish served to Americans as it became ubiquitous in the early 20th century. Chop suey's reputation suffered so badly that upscale Chinese restaurants refused to put it on their menus. It didn't help when La Choy made a canned version that had nothing in common with authentic chop suey.

The truth is that chop suey has a history that goes back to at least the 16th century in China. Read about the dish and what happened when it made its way to America at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Flickr user Paul Sableman)

Giulia Bernardelli's Spilled Art

Italian artist Giulia Bernardelli is becoming famous around the internet for her striking images made with spilled tea and coffee. After tipping over a cup of what is presumably the best drink available (she is Italian), she uses her fingers, brushes, and styluses to shape the liquids into famous or even original works of art.

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A Rare Look at the Giant Phantom Jelly

The giant phantom jellyfish (Stygiomedusa gigantea) is called that because it's really big and scientists don't get to see one often. Until fairly recently, trawl nets were used to bring up deep-sea specimens to study, and jellyfish have a tendency to fall apart in them before they reach the surface. However, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) sent down an ROV in November and caught this one in its natural habitat, at 990 meters (3,200 feet) below the surface.

At first glance, this jelly looks like a load of laundry floating in the water. But bear in mind that the bell is more than a meter (3.3 feet) wide, and the trailing "oral arms" can grow to ten meters (33 feet) long! Read more about the giant phantom jellyfish at MBARI, and see a longer video about this species.

The music on this video is nice, but I personally prefer the live reactions from the scientists back on the research ship that we are used to from MBARI. -via Boing Boing

This Beer Is Made from Green Peas and Pickled Cabbage

Those are not the most common ingredients to use in beer brewing, but brewmaster Valgeir Valgeirsson is no stranger to strange beers. From his facility in Iceland, Valgeirsson has also brewed beer with seaweed, algae, Christmas tree stumps, and fish. For this Christmas season, AFP reports that he decided to make a beer with a traditional Icelandic Christmas dish--green peas and stewed cabbage.

The brewery made this beer, named Ora Jolabjor, in cooperation with Ora, Iceland's largest food production company. The can design resembles the cans of peas and cabbage that Ora sells in grocery stores.

Valgeirsson made just over 7,200 gallons, which sold out only very quickly. Consumers report that the smell and flavor definitely reflects the main ingredients.

-via Oddity Central | Photo: RVK Brewing

Wasteful Packaging to Blow Your Mind

(Image source: OldTownChode)

This item could have easily been shipped in an envelope. How many times have you ordered a small item that was delivered in a large box with packing peanuts or bubble wrap just to take up the excess room? Was a large box all they had? Or was it a consequence of warehouse workers under stress, not allowed enough time to go get a proper size box? Either way, it just adds to our landfills in the end. This also happens in stores, when a small item must be packaged in a wastefull manner to thwart shoplifters. The subreddit called EgregiousPackaging collects examples that can make you scratch your head.  

(Image source: cheeseball359)

This one is baffling. The soda is in a can, added to a plastic tray, then covered in shrink wrap. Commenters tell us this is a kit for marinading meat sold in China. You put your meat in the provided plastic tray and pour the Coke over it. Okay, but you'd think that anyone making something that involved would already have a bowl or something at home to put it in. Something they wouldn't have to throw away.

See 45 examples of very wasteful packaging in a gallery at Bored Panda.

We're Not Gonna Take That Song Anymore

Oh yeah, it's a good song, but non-stop Christmas cheer beginning the day after Halloween and lasting two months for 27 years straight is enough. If you've had it with Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You," then this song is for you. Despite the fact that it was produced by There I Ruined It (previously at Neatorama), it's actually quite listenable. He took the vocals to Twisted Sister's song "We're Not Gonna Take It" and laid it over the Christmas tune. The video mostly comes from Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special. Even if you aren't tired of "All I Want for Christmas is You," you'll still get a kick out of this mashup. See, There I Ruined It doesn't have to ruin everything!  -via Laughing Squid

Hildegard von Bingen's Cookies of Joy

Besides having the coolest name ever, Hildegard von Bingen was a writer, a scientist, a healer, a composer, a visionary mystic, and a saint who lived in 12th-century Germany. She founded two monasteries and invented a language. Hildegard's life and list of accomplishments is long and involved, but Atlas Obscura focuses on her work with medicinal food and herbs.

Hildegard subscribed to the Latin medical theory of balancing bodily humors that was prominent in her time, with elements of astrology and theology added. She advocated for bleeding and using precious stones in healing. But she prepared medicines according to the practice that (mostly women) healers always used of going with what works, and learned the benefits of natural ingredients she grew in her garden. Hildegard also advised boiling water before drinking to prevent disease. Medical historian and physician Victoria Sweet tells us,  

“More of her cures worked than didn’t,” Sweet says, noting that many of her herbal remedies are as timeless as those within traditional Chinese medicine.

But the culmination of the article is the cookie recipe Hildegard left us. She made cookies prescribed for various ailments: ginger for constipation, licorice for nausea, and cinnamon and cloves for joy. You can't argue with cookies for joy, no matter what the flavor. Her cookies for joy are easy to make, and if you swap out molasses for honey, ginger for nutmeg, and add some leavening, it would be the same as the gingersnaps I made last week. Find that recipe and an overview of Hildegard's medical practices at Atlas Obscura. -via a comment at Metafilter 

The Polite Baggage Carousel

Changi Airport in Singapore has been named the best airport in the world for eight years running now. It's beautiful, too. But besides being large and easy on the eyes, the airport has state-of-the-art infrastructure that helps it to run smoothly. Get a load of the conveyor belt that spits out your suitcase onto the baggage claim carousel. Each bag waits its turn for the perfect opportunity to jump in and join the gang! This is not only soothing to watch, it makes you wonder what else is going on behind the scenes at the airport that we'd be interested to know about. If only we could get interstate entrance ramps to work as smoothly, we'd be right proud. -via Nag on the Lake

The US Air Force Has a New Peeing Option for Pilots

Military pilots may have to stay airborne and ready for action for long periods of time--long enough that they desperately need to urinate. One unfortunately common response for this need has been for pilots to intentionally dehydrate themselves to reduce their need to pee. But this also impairs their physical endurance and mental concentration.

The US Air Force recently announced a new type of urinal that may alleviate this problem. The Skydrate by Omni Defense Tech is major innovation in airborne toileting. The male version cups around the pilot's penis and sucks excreted urine into a bag.

The female version resembles a huge plastic maxi pad that, when wedged into the user's groin, likewise pulls away urine and collects it into a bag attached to the flightsuit.

This brilliant invention could also be implemented at other workplaces. Just imagine how much more blogging could get done at Neatorama if authors no longer had to go to the restroom during their shifts.

-via Core 77 | Photos: Omni Defense Tech

The Fascinating World of Whale Barnacles

There are more than a thousand species of barnacles, mostly attached to rocks, reefs, and boats. A few species specialize in embedding themselves into the skin of whales, on which they grow and ride until they die. An individual whale may carry around up to 450 kilograms of barnacles and their shells, so permanently attached that the whale's skin grows around the bottom of the barnacle shells.

The problem in studying whale barnacles is that they tend to die when removed from the whale or from the ocean, so not much is known about their life cycles. All scientists have to work with are dead whale barnacles. However, other scientists study the composition of clam shells, which build up over time like tree rings, to analyze the composition of ocean water in the past. Biology professor Larry Taylor thought trying that with whale barnacles, who build their shells much faster than clams, might reveal not only information about the barnacles themselves, but could provide a roadmap for where its whale traveled. And we have dead whale barnacles that range from recent samples to fossils. By analyzing the isotopes in the layers of whale barnacle shells, we can trace the migrations of whales through history. This opens up a whole new world of information about how whales evolve, migrate, and go extinct, plus the state of the world's oceans over time. Those old barnacle shells are like an archive of ocean history for those who know how to analyze them. Read what whale barnacles can tell us at Hakai magazine.  -via Metafilter

Why Movie Dialogue Has Become So Difficult to Understand

A few years ago, I accidentally turned on the subtitles on Netflix and, well, never turned them off. Now I watch everything, including shows in English, with subtitles on.

Pen Pearson, a critic at Slashfilm (/Film), does likewise. That's because he's noticed that it's increasingly hard for him to understand what actors are saying. It's not because he's suffered hearing loss. Movies are intentionally made this way now.

In his deep dive into the issue, Pearson discovered that some filmmakers choose a sound design that makes the dialogue difficult to follow beecause they often want to show hard, difficult situations for characters--the sorts of situations that might make it difficult to hear what's going on. If the audience can't understand the actors, they can empathize with the challenges of the character in that given situation.

Futhermore, actors vocalize differently these days. If I understand Pearson correctly, he means that actors aren't trained to speak clearly on an open stage, but to talk, or even mumble, into a microphone. This is a popular acting style that makes a sound engineer's work difficult. And because the modern visual style of movies calls for wide shots, it's not always possible to simply lower a boom mic over an actor.

Other trends contribute to this problem, such as the transition from sound design for theaters to online streaming video. Read about them at /Film.

-via Kottke | Image: Warner Bros.

The Zip Feed Tower Story

Pictured above is the CenturyLink Tower. At 11 stories and 174 feet in height, it is the tallest building in South Dakota. At least it is now. The Zip Feed Mill in Sioux Falls had a 202-foot grain elevator that was the tallest building in South Dakota from the time it was built in 1956 until it was scheduled for demolition on December 3, 2005. At that time, it became ...the second tallest building in South Dakota.

They don't build 'em like that anymore. Instead of coming apart under the stress of falling, the tower remained solid and just slid down into its basement, to much amusement from the crowd that had gathered to watch the demolition. However, it was quite tilted, so it was too dangerous to go in and rig it with explosives again. They ended up using a crane and a wrecking ball to take the tower down. You can read a history of the building here. -via a comment at reddit

(Image credit: TCN7JM)

Artificial Intelligence Designs an Advent Calendar

It's December first; time to hang your Advent calendar and open up the first door! Neural network researcher Janelle Shane (previously at Neatorama) introduced an algorithm to the concept of an Advent calendar. This would be the old-fashioned kind before everyone expected chocolate, in which each of the 25 doors would open to a delightful picture. Shane instructed the neural network to follow a story involving a store called Shop of Strange Antiques that got an old Advent calendar with "atypical" images. The algorithm took that to heart. The image ideas were generated in text, then transferred to another algorithm to produce the pictures from the descriptions.   

Shane asked for "atypical," and that's exactly what she got. They are downright bizarre and therefore priceless. A pack of wolves playing poker. Santa Claus strumming a banjo on a trampoline. You get the idea. The Advent calendar has been posted at AI Weirdness in an interactive form in case you want to only open one image per day, or all of them today if you prefer. There were more than 25 images generated because Shane knew that some would have to be discarded, and yes, 20 more were unsuitable for small pixel images or otherwise unusable, but those are listed in a bonus post for your pleasure.

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