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Renovating the Skullery

Dungeons & Dragons player Professor Olaf introduces us to this tasteful and elegant kitchen backplash design. Yes, it would be hard to clean, but you're thinking too far ahead. As long as what you're splashing around is blood, your kitchen will not lose its appeal over time.

-via Super Punch | Photo: unknown


Laughs in Toilet

A guide to choosing fragrances.


Boeing 737 Diverted by Cat Attack

A plane bound from Khartoum, Sudan, to Qatar was forced to make an emergency landing earlier this week when a stowaway attacked the pilot. The suspected terrorist was a cat.

According to reporting in Al-Sudani, the kitty was not a happy passenger, and proceeded to attack the captain. While the crew made every attempt to capture the aggressive stowaway, it proved impossible to get near the furry hijacker. Unable to continue the journey, the pilots set about returning to Khartoum, to the surprise of the passengers onboard.

While you might assume the naughty cat was an escapee from a passenger’s on-board belongings, it seems he was more likely to be a feral feline who sought a comfortable place to rest. Al-Sudani reported that the plane was stationary in the hangar overnight for cleaning and preparations. It is believed that the cat crept onboard and found a comfortable spot to rest in the cockpit.

There is no word yet on the condition of the pilot. Read more about this incident and other animal shenanigans on planes at Simple Flying. -via reddit


Post-Mortem: The New Star Wars Trilogy Wasn’t Worth It

It's been a year since the Skywalker saga closed for good. The latest Star Wars trilogy grossed $4.5 billion worldwide, outstripping what Disney paid for the franchise, and led to plenty of spinoffs. But how does that compare to the damage it left behind? The arc of the three movies left a bitter taste in the mouths of many of the people connected with it. At the top of the list are Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega.  

Lots of great movies had tortuous paths to the big screen, but they tend to be more of the “director and star didn’t get along” variety. The treatment that Tran endured was something uglier and more modern — and she wasn’t alone in the Star Wars universe. Likewise, Boyega had to deal with racist fans on social media, although he was outspoken about his frustrations with how Disney sidelined his character along the way: “They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley,” he said last summer. “Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.” Both he and Tran have reason to complain: By The Rise of Skywalker, they felt like supporting characters that the filmmakers didn’t know what to do with. So much for diversity.

Others were affected, too: Driver and Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill, George Lucas, and millions of lifelong Star Wars fans. Read how they feel about the last Star Wars trilogy at Mel magazine.

PS: If you're interested, there's more in a new interview with Kelly Marie Tran at The Hollywood Reporter.

(Image credit: Gage Skidmore)


A Blight on Soviet Science

Botanist and geneticist Nikolai Vavilov had a lifelong mission to prevent starvation by improving food production. His native Russia suffered numerous famines under both the tsar and the Soviets. The scientist would walk hundreds of miles in remote locations all over the world to collect seeds that might be bred to grow grain in the cold Russian climate. He initiated experimental growing programs that harnessed Mendel's gene theory for crop improvements.      

At the end of 1920, Vavilov was promoted to director of the Institute of Applied Botany in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). The previous director, the plant biologist Robert Regel, had died of typhus the previous year. Shortly before his death, he had written to the Commissariat of Agriculture, recommending Vavilov as his successor. Vavilov was not only ‘the future pride of Russian science’ but an especially agreeable person, belonging ‘to a category of people of whom you won’t hear a bad word from anybody at all’. The Institute, under its new leadership, was envisaged as a scientific centre for testing and improving crop varieties to prevent future famines. It was also to be the home of Vavilov’s grand new project: A vast seed collection, acting as a genetic library, a repository of useful genes which he could use to breed new, superior plants. Arriving at the Institute, Vavilov quickly realised that he was at the helm of an institution devastated by poverty. The rooms were in a state of complete disrepair, a chaotic mess of dust and broken furniture. The pipes had burst, and the existing stock of seeds devoured by the starving masses.

The Institute was not alone in its state of neglect; the whole city was in ruins. Hospitals had been abandoned, public transport was at a standstill, and there was an atmosphere of hopelessness among the dwindling population. Leading academics didn’t escape the clutches of poverty and hunger. In Petrograd, seven out of the Academy of Science’s 44 members died of starvation. Even Ivan Pavlov, a national treasure famous for being the country’s only living Nobel laureate, had to scavenge for firewood and food. Laboratory animals disappeared from their cages and appeared on dinner plates. Lab equipment was repurposed to make moonshine in exchange for food on the black market. Hunger wasn’t the only obstacle academics faced. Scientists returning from a conference or a field trip often found their laboratories looted and houses occupied by refugees from the countryside.

Vavilov managed to turn that situation around, collect more seeds from around the world, and continue the Institute's work. Vavilov's adventures in the field continued, and his reputation grew as the USSR went from the era of Lenin to the era of Stalin. But Vavilov then had to deal with Trofim Lysenko, an agronomist with lesser experience and education, but with a philosophy that meshed better with that of Stalin and the Communist ideologists. When it came time to lay blame on someone for the Soviet Union's agricultural failures, Vavilov had a target on his back. Read about the life and legacy of Nikolai Vavilov at Damn Interesting. You can also listen to it in podcast form.  


Civil War Reenacting Chicken Gets Lost at the Cracker Barrel

Thomas Ramsey (left), of Gallman, Mississippi, is a Civil War reenactor. Peep, his pet rooster, accompanies him into the mock battles. It's solid history, Ramsey says, because of the account of a Confederate soldier who kept a pet rooster in this manner until he was finally eaten by Union soldiers (the rooster, not Johnny Reb).

All was merry for Ramsey and Peep until the pair was travelling from a reenactment and stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Cullman, Alabama. The restaurant did not allow chickens inside, and so Ramsey tied Peep by his leash to his truck while Ramsey and his friends went inside.

When the reenactors returned to their truck, Peep was gone. The Cullman Times quotes Ramsey:

“I went back into the Cracker Barrel and it was very hard for me to say this with a straight face, even though I was panicking: ‘Do you have cameras in the parking lot? I think someone stole my chicken,’” he said. Someone overheard and said they’d seen Peep wandering in the parking lot.

Animal control authorities searched, but were unable to locate Peep. The call went out on Facebook and the people of Cullman sought out Peep. Eventually, a local farmer located the rooser and reunited him with Ramsey:

[...] Ramsey felt like Peep was happy to be back with him. “He stood up and kind of jumped when I got him,” he said.
There’s no doubt about Ramsey’s affection for Cullman. “I was really impressed; I love y’all’s town now,” he said. “I can’t think of many places where there are that many people willing to take the time to help out like that.”

-via Dan Lewis | Photo: Thomas Ramsey


Flattened Tom and Jerry Rug

Tom's body suffered a lot of abuse in his long and ill-fated quest to vanquish Jerry the mouse. At one point, he was flattened against a set of stairs. Now you can enjoy that moment forever with this rug by Nellaf, an artist in Florida. He calls it, appropriately, "Flat Tom."

-via Born in Space


Clown Shoes, But Hip

Adidas approached Tommy Cash, an Estonian rapper of some prominence, and asked him to collaborate on a shoe design. His response was to insist on creating the longest Adidas original shoe design in the world. Cash comments on the duality expressed in the color choices:

both the ‘angel’ and the ‘devil’ live in me at the same time — two opposites that are constantly fighting with each other. so why hide one side of your personality when they can perfectly coexist with each other. shouldn’t be too good or too bad. balance is needed. as two opposites of yin and yang, forming one whole. yes, these sneakers are different colors. after all, they reflect my mood, which changes every day. and I will proudly wear both versions of the iconic silhouette at the same time

They're available for sale in Russia, so be prepared for a quite a shopping trip if you want to pick up a pair to impress people while clubbing this weekend.

-via Design You Trust

Photos: Tommy Cash (content warning: nudity)


Cat Roomba and Other Horrors from Sacocho Kisou


Highly realistic felting work makes this monstrosity all the more adorably frightening. These are the creations of Sacocho Kisou, an artist and presumably necromancer. His felted cats take on unnatural forms. They're what every home needs!

Continue reading


This Japanese Theater Company Provides A Unique Viewing Experience For Its Live Audience

Dance show enthusiasts in Japan can now watch performances live with the necessary precautions and adjustments made. Japanese dance company Moonlight Mobile Theater was able to come up with a way to bring its live audience back to their shows while maintaining the proper health protocols. The viewers sit in separate cubicles surrounding the stage, where they can watch the dancers perform via the letter-drop slots provided on their seats: 

“We intentionally created small holes and slots resembling mailbox slots,” said Nobuyoshi Asai, the theatre’s artistic director and choreographer, explaining how limiting the scope of viewing allows the audience to become more absorbed in the performance.
The theatre company began this peephole viewing in December after cancelling most of its shows last year because of the pandemic. Since December, all 12 of the peephole performances have sold out.
Though this response has been encouraging, only 30 people are allowed in the audience at each show. This does not cover the cost of the performance, including additional safety measures such as disinfecting the venue. Government subsidies barely help the company make ends meet.
While acknowledging the difficulties, Asai is steadfast in the advantages of this idea.
“If we don’t do it, artists will lose opportunities to dance and act,” he said. “We want to propose this as a model to bring audiences back to theatres.”

Image via Reuters 


The California Pacific Coast Highway Is Falling

Thanks a lot, climate change. The iconic Pacific Coast Highway in California is at risk of collapsing entirely as parts of the road have been falling into the ocean after intense rainstorms. Erosion expert Gary Griggs says that the road’s days are numbered, as another 150-foot piece of the highway broke off, according to the state’s Department of Transportation:

Repairs are scheduled to be complete in early summer. For now, travelers must turn around when they reach the gaping hole – there's no bypass in that remote stretch of road.
As global temperatures warm because of human-caused climate change, Griggs says the conditions that lead to this kind of damage will only increase. 
The PCH's days are numbered, Griggs said. It's "inevitable” one day the fixes and repairs won't be enough or will be too costly to save the highway.

Image via USA Today 


Octopus Tries On A Baseball Cap

This Australian octopus was caught  trying on a discarded cap on camera by diver Jules Casey. Casey’s footage shows the octopus trying to fit its whole body inside the cap, and then giving up and scuttling away on the seafloor. I suggest watching the entire footage, because it’s both fascinating and adorable. Check the video here

Image screenshot via Flipboard 


This Cuttlefish Passed A Cognitive Test For Children

Hey, animals are smart too! This cuttlefish proves the intelligence of non-human species by passing a new version of a cognitive test. The marshmallow test, a cognitive test designed for children, was adjusted to test a cuttlefish’s intelligence, as ScienceAlert details: 

A child is placed in a room with a marshmallow. They are told if they can manage not to eat the marshmallow for 15 minutes, they'll get a second marshmallow, and be allowed to eat both.
This ability to delay gratification demonstrates cognitive abilities such as future planning, and it was originally conducted to study how human cognition develops; specifically, at what age a human is smart enough to delay gratification if it means a better outcome later.

However, the cuttlefish isn’t the first animal to pass the test of delayed gratification! Other animals have also been trained and were able to pass the test: 

Because it's so simple, it can be adjusted for animals. Obviously you can't tell an animal they'll get a better reward if they wait, but you can train them to understand that better food is coming if they don't eat the food in front of them straight away.
Some primates can delay gratification, along with dogs, albeit inconsistently. Corvids, too, have passed the marshmallow test.

Image via ScienceAlert 


6 Ancient Bizarre Beliefs With Logical Explanations

The stories that are handed down from ancient times can seem infinitely weird to us, because we are familiar with the scientific method and modern technology that allows us to explore the nature of things. That doesn't mean there weren't smart people around way back then, but even those who figured there was a logical explanation somewhere had to find a way to explain the world to the uneducated masses. Imagine you were a person of some education and experience in the Dark Ages, and so were considered a medicine man or a wizard. You had to find a way to explain why this place wasn't good for castle construction to an illiterate king, so fire-breathing dragons it was.

Well, it's hypothesized that, back in the Iron Age, people would seal up treasure in the tombs of kings and rich people. The thing is, they would seal these tombs with a ton of things that decomposed: people, animals, vegetables, etc. The buried flesh would emit gasses as they decomposed, and with nowhere to go, they would create pressurized gas pockets. Try to open the tombs with a torch so you could see, or cause a spark with an iron spade, and BOOM!: big, firey oblivion in a world where Michael Bay wouldn't be around for thousands of years.

In Wales, there was a king who was trying to make his walls impenetrable. The only thing is, the walls kept falling down. A young real-life Merlin told the king that it was dragons fighting underground, possibly because he believed it, possibly because when a king asks you a question, you give him an answer even if it's nonsense. Instead of underground lizards, it was more likely gas pockets buried in the vast Welsh coal deposits underground.  

Read more about fire-breathing dragons, plus the likely real-life explanations for witches, vampires, and more at Cracked.


Octopus Selfie Wins Ocean Art 2020 Underwater Photo Competition

The "Best in Show" award in the Ocean Art 2020 Underwater Photo Competition has been announced. Photographer Gaetano Dario Gargiulo won a trip to the Solomon Islands for the above image of an octopus in a tide pool. According to the story of the shot, the octopus itself snapped the photo!

On the day of the photo, I remained in the tide pool as the tide was too low to venture outside of its boundaries. In one of the shallowest parts of the pool I noticed an octopus. I placed my camera near its den and the octopus started interacting with it. It came completely out of the den and to our amazement it started shooting pictures! My son (3 y.o. in the background) was very curious about the octopus.

The image, titled "Day of the Tentacle," also won in the wide angle category. You can see all the winners in this gallery. -via Boing Boing

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