Bicyclists Using Drones with Lights Instead of Street Lights

The news service of Swedish national television brings us news of an innovative program to provide safety lighting for bicyclists at night. This system, which is being tested in the town of Skara, launches when the bicyclist requests the lights through a phone app. Drones with bright lights fly to positions along the path that the bicyclist is taking and hover.

This approach, the project managers have determined, will ultimately be cheaper than the cost of permanently illuminating a bike path with street lights. It will also be safer than having bicyclists rely entirely on lights mounted on their own vehicles.

-via Wrath of Gnon | Image: SVT

The Hans and Franz Movie that Never Was

Once upon a time, recurring characters on Saturday Night Live would prove to be so popular that they would star in a feature film. It's astonishing that characters could go from two-minute television skits that were often pretty repetitive to a two hour movie, but sometimes it worked. That's how we got The Blues Brothers in 1980 and Wayne's World in 1992. The trend also gave us some pretty horrible movies, too, like It’s Pat in 1994, which was pulled from theaters after only a week.

Then there was Hans and Franz. Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon portrayed two bodybuilders with Austrian accents who host a TV show called Pumping Up with Hans & Franz. It was an obvious parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Schwarzenegger got a real kick out of it. He even appeared on the show with Hans and Franz a couple of times. And the three actors set about to make a feature film of the skit. It was a musical, believe it or not. But it was never to be. Read what happened to the proposed Hans and Franz movie at Cracked.

The Legendary Fishman of Cantabria

The monk and acclaimed cynic Benito Jerónimo Feijoo told the story of creature who was part man, part fish discovered the Spain's Bay of Cadiz. In 1679, as the story goes, fishermen saw a mysterious creature and managed to lure it out of the water with bread. The "fishman" was shaped like a man, but had gills and some scales. He had red hair and white skin and didn't speak a word. They took him to the local priest who interrogated him, but it was several days before he spoke just one word: “Liérganes.” When word got to the town of Liérganes, María del Casar told them it might be her son Francisco de la Vega Casar, a redhead who vanished five years earlier when he was swimming in the estuary at Bilbao. The fishman was taken to María for a glorious reunion, and lived with her for the next nine years. But he was never the same as when María last saw him in 1674.

If any of this tale is true, what could explain it? There are a couple of medical conditions that could fit the fishman's appearance, explained in the story at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Rafael Tello)

One Nagging Tech Secret of the Oval Office

David Friedman of Ironic Sans ran down a mystery peeking out of pictures of Joe Biden in the Oval Office, the president's office in the White House's West Wing. What's the deal with a picture frame that has no picture in it? It's a clever bit of unexpected camouflage. Friedman finds the answer, but then goes down the rabbit hole about presidents and the modern technology they enjoyed in the Oval Office. We won't find out anything really secret, but we learn some really neat tidbits about presidential history in this video. While researching this video, Friedman took a tour of the White House, and it's not the way it used to be. If you'd like to see it yourself, there's a visitor's guide to the West Wing online.

Signs That Your Current Accommodation Is A Trashy Hotel

Constant vigilance! 

Sometimes, we might be too excited to take in our surroundings and double-check if your accommodation is a good one when we’re on a trip. If we realize it, it may be too late– and we’ll just decide to push through for the sake of not having our time in a new place ruined. 

Forbes’ Liza Zimmerman shares a few signs that you can easily discern at the early stages of your trip that the place you picked to stay in might not be as good as how it was advertised. While it may be a bit late (or you might not have enough extra budget to move to another place), knowing how bad your hotel or accommodation is can allow you to do some adjustments to your trip to make it more comfortable. 

Zimmerman points out that the first hints will come from the check-in process. If the front desk only has one person on the staff and there’s a line of people waiting to check in, that’s a red flag. The longer the process and the line, the same person might be busier and crankier as time progresses. 

Another thing she points out is that if the person on the desk decides to read your room number aloud, this means that your safety and well-being might be compromised (especially if you’re a woman traveling alone). The usual practice is to have the staff show you the key card and tell them that the number on that key card is in their room. 

Check out more of the signs that will tell you that your current hotel or accommodation is trashy here.

Image credit: Pixabay

The Internet Archive Loses Lawsuit Against Book Publishing Companies

Oh, no. 

The Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and other different forms of media published over the years. It was established in 1996 with the mission of providing “universal access to all knowledge.” 

However, it seems that this said access may now be taken away from its public users. A group of book publishers has sued the nonprofit archive for scanning and lending digital copies of copyrighted books. These companies, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House accused the library of “mass copyright infringement” for loaning digital copies of books without permission (or compensation) from these establishments. 

The Internet Archive countered this by saying that their online library is legal under the doctrine of fair use. Additionally, they also stated that entities that own physical copies of these books can lend out scanned versions through controlled digital lending. U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York sided with the publishers. 

The Archive aims to appeal the ruling. "Libraries are more than the customer service departments for corporate database products," Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive founder said. "For democracy to thrive at global scale, libraries must be able to sustain their historic role in society—owning, preserving, and lending books."

Image credit: Element5 Digital

Check The Plane Model Before You Leave On A Flight

Here’s a fun tip for travelers: before you book, try to check out the plane model and layout. 

This extra step can allow you to check the layout of the plane, which can help you find the perfect seat for your next flight. 

An assumption that can be made is that airlines usually have the same format or layout for their airplanes. However, their cabin layouts actually can vary from plane to plane. Different plane models offer different in-seat amenities as well as varying sizes for overhead compartments and underseat storage. If you’re really keen on having carry-on luggage only, you need to check the sizes of this storage so you can ensure that your luggage can fit. 

Aside from storage space, you can also check how much legroom you’ll have for your flight. To check which airplane model you could be flying, look at your chosen airline’s reservation page. These companies usually display the aircraft type on their ticketing pages. Third-party websites such as Expert Flyer and SeatGuru can also be of assistance if you can’t find information on official websites.

Image credit: Brett Sayles

The States That Drink The Most Alcohol, Revealed

Spoiler alert: it’s certainly fun to drink in New Hampshire. 

In a new report published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, different states were rated based on how much people consume three categories of adult beverages in their state. These alcohol were beer, wine, and liquor.

Some factors of course have to be considered as to why some states rank higher than the rest. One of them is state liquor taxes. Because these rates vary from state to state, people might consume less alcohol in an area where the taxes are high, as it would translate to higher selling prices. Others who live close to a border may cross state lines for a less expensive bottle, which will add to that state’s number of consumers. 

One of the stand-out states is New Hampshire, as it consistently appeared in the top five in each beverage category. It ranked first in the beer category (1.89), second in the wine category (0.84), and second as well in the liquor category (2.10).

According to The Manual, the state’s tiny liquor tax is a probable explanation for their high rankings in the three categories. Aside from that, New Hampshire certainly has a lot of alcohol consumers. 

Delaware, Vermont, and the District of Columbia also appeared in the top five of the three lists. 

Image credit: Chris F

A Real Look Into Backpacking In Europe

Backpacking refers to the recreational activity of carrying gear on one’s back. Usually, this is done while hiking in the mountains. However, the practice of putting on a backpack only as you traverse different locations is now a common kind method of traveling around different countries. 

Insider’s Joey Hadden has noticed that backpacking has been portrayed nicely on different social media platforms. From men and women photogenically posing with their backpacks in different picturesque sceneries, Hadden only realized what it’s really like going around with only a backpack compared to the heavily romanticized activity. 

Hadden started to backpack around August 2022, when she decided to make minimalist travel style her priority. During her short trip to Eastern Canada, she thought that it was actually easier and more efficient. Because of her trip’s success in the area, she decided to plan a two-week train trip through four European countries with only her backpack with her. 

The travel reporter backpacked across Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland while exploring the cities of Berlin, Vienna, Venice, Rome, Milan, and Zürich. While sleeping through sleeper trains, shared train cabins, and budget Airbnbs, she noted down a few things that these travel influencers never share on social media. 

One of the things she noticed was that her backpack couldn’t squeeze in all the clothes she wanted to bring. This means that she can only bring a few items, so she had to do laundry at every accommodation. “This was a bummer since I often arrived at each accommodation feeling exhausted from travel, and washing my clothes was the last thing I felt like doing,” she remarked. 

Read more about her travels here!

Image credit: Joey Hadden/Insider 

The Bali Rice Crisis: Taking the Culture Out of Agriculture

The island of Bali in Indonesia boasts enticing tropical beaches, volcanic mountains, and beautiful terraced rice fields. These terraces provided enough rice for the island for thousands of years, thanks to an invisible system of subaks, which are a sort of farmer's co-op melded with the worship of the water goddess Dewi Danu. It was an ingenius system that few outside of the farmers themselves knew about. But in the 1970s, the rest of the world discovered Bali, and both the population and the tourism industry exploded.

To boost rice production, the government instituted a program called Bimbingan Massal, or “Massive Guidance,” funded by the Asian Development Bank. Rice farmers were provided with the latest agricultural technology: irrigation aids, high-yield varieties of rice seed, and plenty of fertilizers and pesticides. They were encouraged to produce three crops of rice per year instead of the traditional two. You can probably guess what happened. Production rose by a very small percentage, but farmers confronted problems they never had before: plagues of insects, poor yields, and a lack of adequate water. Meanwhile, Bali's beaches suffered from fertilizer runoff.

Strangely, the situation was unmasked and alleviated by another bit of modern technology in the form of computer modeling. Read the story of how Bali's ancient and modern rice production systems worked against each other and why at Damn Interesting.  You can also listen to the story as a podcast.

The Coolest Flag on Earth

Antarctica is a continent that has no countries. Many countries have settlements there, but the residents of the science stations are rarely permanent. Still, many countries have planted a flag on Antarctica without taking ownership, and they all fly flags to show where they are from. So the people of Antarctica love flags, and have pretty much always wanted to have a flag for Antarctica itself. You can't really blame them. Believe it or not, the first flag specifically designed for Antarctica came about because of a geography video game. If you are going to designate names to all the places on earth with a flag, you've got to have one for the continent with no countries. CGP Grey tells us how Antarctica got a flag in 1929 (which was appropriate, but totally boring), 1997, and in 2018. The 2018 flag, called the "True South" flag, is expected to be permanent. You can even purchase one! -via Laughing Squid

The Simpsons Recreate Historical Photographs

The TV series The Simpsons is now in its 34th season, with 745 episodes and counting. In that time, it has become a vast archive of cultural references. The one we hear about most often is how the show predicts the future, although that is just the writers staying on top of trends -and how our world is becoming more cartoonish. Another you may or may not have noticed is how the characters sometimes strike a pose in homage of a particularly historical photograph. Sometimes it's just a screenshot of a split second, and you have to be very familiar with the photograph to catch it. But if you are, they are unmistakeable. Simpsons creator Matt Groening obviously doesn't expect everyone to get it, but enough audience members do to make it worth the trouble.

A Simpsons fan on Twitter who goes by Criminalsimpsons compiled a collection of these instances in which The Simpsons recreated some iconic photographs. They are a treat for those who recognized them.

See plenty more of these in the thread at Twitter, or at Thread Reader if you prefer. Criminalsimpsons has also done threads on movie references in The Simpsons, and also art references. -via Everlasting Blort

Wong Kim Ark's Fight for Citizenship in His Country of Birth

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1868. It begins with "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." There's a lot more to it, but the idea was to settle the question of citizenship for formerly enslaved people after the Civil War. Political leaders argued over whether it covered Native Americans as well, but it soon became clear that the federal government really did not want this law to cover Asians.  

Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrants in 1870. His parents returned to China a few years later, but Wong traveled back to San Francisco with an uncle and grew up to live and work there. He traveled to China occasionally, where he married and conceived children. Wong was 24 when he was denied entry into the US because he wasn't a citizen. Although he was born in California, his parents weren't US citizens, nor could they become citizens because of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Wong lived on ships offshore for months while he fought this decision, and federal authorities came to see him as an important test case for birthright citizenship for people of Chinese ancestry. They wanted to deny his citizenship as a precedent for all Chinese-Americans born in the US, and therefore any of their children, whether born in the US or abroad. The case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898 had far-reaching implications for Asian immigrants and their descendants in the US. Read about the case that went to the Supreme Court and its aftermath at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: National Archives)

How a Robotic Parking Garage Works

Any time we see American cities from above, we are astonished at how much real estate is set aside for cars, both in streets and in parking lots. Sure, we have multi-story parking garages in places, but even they take up a lot of room because there has to be drivable roads to each floor and each space. Tokyo tackled that problem with mechanized and computerized garages that store many cars in much less space. Some of them are even underground, which means they take almost no real estate at all! Those kinds of garages cost an awful lot to install, and pay off in nebulous benefits over a long period of time, which means they are probably out of the question for the US. But when you add charging capabilities for electric vehicles, robotic garages sound like a complete winner.

In other news, Tom Scott is in Japan, so we are liable to see some really cool stuff in the next few weeks.

How to Survive Children with Cameras

Smart phones are so smart that a two-year-old can learn to use one in no time at all. And they do. If you've had children in your home in the last 15 or so years, you probably have some pictures of yourself that you would never share, but you keep them because your child took them. One of the women in Kira Cook's online mother's group shared one to lighten the mood during the pandemic, and then others followed. It's heartening to know others have the same experience. The photos are not flattering, but they give us a glimpse into what real life looks like and how children see it. They don't care that mommy doesn't want to have her double chin or droopy morning eyes recorded; they love mommy and think a picture should be taken.

Sharing such pictures brings out the humanity we all share. Life is messy, and kids don't care. Read about how liberating it feels for mothers to know that they are far from alone in their less-than-photogenic moments at Romper. -via Kottke

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