As more people fly, planes get bigger, and then they start charging extra for checked luggage, so everyone has a carry-on suitcase. The process of boarding a plane has become slower and more complicated, which prompted airlines to develop new processes to make it faster, or at least more bearable. Strangely, no airline uses the most efficient methods. Or maybe that's not so strange, because if the process was efficient, people wouldn't pay extra to be in the first boarding group. Anyway, you can learn about five different boarding procedures and how well they work at Thrillist.
Some of the most touching love stories are those that blossom through deep struggles and extreme situations like war.
Harley Rustad of The Walrus learned of one such love stories when his mother handed him a worn box, torn at the edges, containing dozens of envelopes, tied with yellowed string in small bundles.
The letters were love letters, sent by Rustad's grandfather, who wrote to the love of his life from the battlefields of the Second World War:
The Canadian soldier, Harry Macdonald, my grandfather, had sent Jacquelyn Robinson dozens of letters, spanning several years—letters written in spidery cursive by candlelight as rain pounded down on corrugated rooftops or amid the blasts of nearby shelling. His letters were often rushed or cut short, with some started and finished with hours or even days in between. He frequently apologized for his messy handwriting, hoping his words would be legible. One letter, sent five days before, written in haste, contained a question for which he anxiously awaited a reply. The letter had begun with a familiar two words, “Dear Jacquie,” and ended with a question: “Will you marry me?”
He signed the bottom of the page, folded the sheet, and slipped it into an envelope and carefully wrote a Vancouver address. Now he waited, not knowing what would come first: death or a reply.
Read the rest of the fascinating story over at The Walrus.
In 1843, Texas was a country unto itself, although it was pressured on both sides: the United States wanted to annex it, and Mexico wanted to conquer it. But a lawyer from New England considered a third option- selling Texas to the British. The plan was, at its heart, a scheme to free Texas' slaves.
A convinced abolitionist practicing law in what was then the independent Republic of Texas, Stephen Pearl Andrews got it into his head that, in an attempt to free Texas’s slaves, he would invite a foreign power into North America and hand over a massive chunk of it. Andrews’s attempt to free Texas’s slaves by way of an invitation to foreign interference illustrates the strange bedfellows created by “the slavery question” in the nineteenth century. Andrews, in his quixotic vision, in his idealism, ambition, and occasional crankery, was an exemplary nineteenth-century American figure.
Andrews had been living in Texas for quite a few years by then, and owned a large amount of land himself. His plan pitted abolitionism against America's lingering distaste for the British Empire. And Andrews was not even part of the Texas government! Read about his plan to sell Texas to the British, which Texans either enthusiastically loved or vehemently hated, at Jstor. -via Digg
Witness the insanity of a multiplayer flight simulator. The air traffic controller resigns himself to the fact that no one knows what they are doing. He trolls a young kid by sending him back to the terminal to load cookies. A 747 keeps trying to crash into the tower. Then a guy shows up in a kite. This is supposed to be the airport in Atlanta, but the pilots just want to show off their moves like they're in an airshow. -via Metafilter
Edgar Allan Poe dropped out of college and joined the army in 1827, when the US military was small and composed mostly of poor immigrants. Enlisted men were not highly regarded, and that might be the reason Poe changed his name to Edgar A. Perry during his service. Within two years, he rose to the rank of Sergeant Major, and then made the leap to West Point.
The evidence indicates he toed the line as an enlisted man. The same cannot be said of his time at the service academy. He entered West Point in 1830 and was court-martialed and discharged the next year. Numerous tall tales have circulated about his misdeeds as a cadet: that he often passed out drunk on campus after visits to a local tavern; that he was known to start food fights with baked potatoes lobbed in the mess hall; that he showed up to drill naked except for a hat and a cartridge belt; and most outrageously, that he murdered his tactical officer by throwing him into the Hudson River.
The real story was not quite as outrageous, but Poe was court-martialed for his behavior at West Point. What caused the budding author to join the army, excel for a time, and then flame out so suddenly? Read what we know about Poe's military career at The Daily Beast. -via Metafilter
An AI (Artificial Intelligence) watched all the TED talks and created this talk from what it learned. It is presented by Alex Reben who is an MIT-trained roboticist and artist who explores humanity through the lens of art and technology.
"Rule the World" in the title can be taken with a grain of salt. A few people end up becoming very powerful in a tiny niche of modern life because someone's gotta do it. The Unicode Consortium is a private non-profit company that sets standards so that programming languages and software can communicate with each other. It's an important job, and no doubt the work is hard. You could try to get a job there if you wanted to.
Other "powerful groups" are businesses that became so successful they overwhelmed any competition. If those companies didn't fulfill a need, or if they turned evil, they could lose their power because they can't exist without users or customers. But remember, if you're not paying for the service, you are the product.
I thought this one was quite odd, so I looked it up. The sentence would be more clear if it said, "They now manufacture all US money paper," instead of "paper money." American currency is still printed by the US Mint, on paper supplied by Crane Currency. The company does print money for other nations.
Then there are the quirks that come with small governments who see a way to become powerful by being different, like a tiny island nation that makes bank by selling their top level domain names or collectible postage stamps. Delaware's lack of usury laws mean that your credit card company is most likely headquartered there (or in South Dakota), and apparently they have other laws to attract business.
National Pickle Day’s roots can be traced back to 1949, as part of National Pickle Week, thanks to the National Pickle Packers Association. Pickle sales increased 22% as a result of the inaugural National Pickle Week.
5. Pickles are mentioned in the The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest known piece of literature, written by the Sumerians around 4000 B.C.
8. The cucumber is a fruit, so technically the pickle is, too.
12. The H. J. Heinz Company first sold pickles in 1876. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Heinz gave away “pickle pins” (green pins shaped like pickles with the word “Heinz” on them). Heinz still makes them…and has given away more than 100 million.
The world’s largest pickle festival is held in New York’s Lower East Side. Games, face painting, live DJs, balloon animals, carnival games, pickles on a stick, pickle ice cream, and a giant talking pickle are all part of the pickle celebration. I guess you could say, where there’s a dill, there’s a day!
Get a jump on next year's celebration by checking out the selection of pickle themed t-shirts in the Neatoshop!
(T-Shirt Image: Pickle by Pickle by Vitaliy Klimenko)
Backyard gardeners and birdwatchers have gone to great lengths to keep squirrels from raiding the crop or the bird feeder, but squirrels will not be deterred when they know there's something to eat at the end. This clip from the upcoming show A Squirrel's Guide to Success features an experiment that looks into the squirrel's learning process. They harness practice, memory, and logic to learn how to negotiate the weirdest of barriers we place on them. -via Laughing Squid
A Squirrel’s Guide to Success premieres Wednesday, November 14 at 8 PM on PBS.
The tomb of a 4,500-year-old cat fancier has been unearthed in Egypt. The tomb near Cairo contained dozens of mummified cats, 100 gilded wooden cat statues, and a bronze statue of the cat goddess Bastet. The tomb also held two large mummified scarabs in good condition, which is much more rare than cat mummies.
The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.
The Ministry of Antiquities was clear about its goals in announcing the discoveries: attracting visitors back to Egypt's heritage sites, as the country has experienced a significant drop in tourists since the 2011 mass protests that overthrew dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak.
There are jigsaw puzzles of all kinds, with a variety of subjects. But there are only so many machines that cut them into pieces. It's possible to combine two or more puzzles that are cut on the same grid to make a completely new picture that interlinks perfectly. Art professor Mel Andringa was the first to do this, and he taught the technique to Tim Klein.
...By selecting pieces from two or more compatible puzzles, I assemble a single "puzzle mashup" with surreal imagery that the publisher never imagined.
Sometimes the results are merely chuckle-making, such as my combination of King Tut's burial mask with the front of a truck, which I call "King of the Road". But my favorite montages are ones in which the whimsical is tinged with something a bit deeper, such as "The Mercy-Go-Round (Sunshine and Shadow)", in which a fairground carousel whirls riders around a church from the light to the dark and back again -- or "Surrogate", in which a strange hybrid of beer can and teddy bear opens its fuzzy arms and tells you to "consider yourself hugged".
Roxi Santamaria's Eurasier puppy Ender does a tippy-tap dance when he's excited or happy. It's so cute she felt obligated to make a video. Then she selected the perfect soundtrack, so this is pure gold. That's a good dog. -via reddit
How would you like to stay for a night or two in a Dutch prison? No, not as a criminal, but as a guest. Recently, the Netherlands has been converting some of their prisons into hotels and apartments because they are struggling to fill them.
It doesn't mean that their law enforcement authorities are not doing their job effectively. It's just that their approach to resolving crime focus more on rehabilitation than incarceration.
“The Dutch have a deeply ingrained pragmatism when it comes to regulating law and order,” René van Swaaningen, a professor of criminology at Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam told The New York Times. “Prisons are very expensive. Unlike the United States, where people tend to focus on the moral arguments for imprisonment, the Netherlands is more focused on what works and what is effective.”
Ever wonder if there was some kind of switch in your brain that would cause you to feel sad or emotional? Well, researchers think that there may be a part of your brain greatly connected to having the blues.
Scientists may have caught a glimpse of what sadness looks like in the brain.
A study of 21 people found that for most, feeling down was associated with greater communication between brain areas involved in emotion and memory, a team from the University of California, San Francisco reported Thursday in the journal Cell.
"There was one network that over and over would tell us whether they were feeling happy or sad," says Vikaas Sohal, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF.
With this discovery, it may be possible for scientists to better understand mood disorders and hopefully, find a more direct treatment that could ease their condition.
If you followed election news around the US for the past few weeks, you probably knew that Dennis Hof ran for a seat in the Nevada Assembly. You might also know Hof from his notorious legal brothels around the Reno area, including his flagship Moonlight Bunny Ranch. Or his reality TV show Cat House. Hof died on October 16, too late to be removed from the official ballot. Three weeks later, Hof won his election race. But he was not the first politician to win an election after death. Read the stories of five other dead candidates who won their elections at Mental Floss.
Alex Mazza hooked up with game system to a TV that hadn't been used in a couple of months. The light showed that a colony of ants had set up household inside! What to do? Advice from the reddit thread was all over the map. Leave the TV on. Turn the TV off. Stop eating Doritos while playing video games. Make them a better nest. Get an anteater. Train them to be pixels for your entertainment. Mazza ended up taking the TV apart.
He then used a vacuum cleaner, compressed air, and Windex to clean the ants out. He hasn't said anything about whether the TV still works, so we assume it is okay.
I once saw Wikipedia's list of people who lived in airports, and while there are quite a few cases listed, none match that of Mehran Karimi Nasseri. He was Iranian, but his citizenship was revoked, and the refugee papers he was issued were lost, stolen, or maybe the dog ate them. As a result, he was stuck at Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he ended up living for 18 years. If that sounds familiar, you should know that one of the ways "Sir Alfred" (as Nasseri came to be known) supported himself was by writing a book that (loosely) inspired the movie The Terminal.
On Sunday, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the "war to end all wars." World War I ended on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and ever since, November 11 has been commemorated as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, or Veteran's Day, depending on which country you live in. England has especially embraced the poppy flower as a symbol of the end of the war, due to its peculiar biology.
The common poppy, Papaver rhoeas, is an annual plant in the Papaveraceae family. It produces seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for as long as 100 years. Since the seeds need light to grow, they only germinate in disturbed soils. Trench digging, bombs, and mass cemeteries decimated Europe’s landscape during World War I, causing millions of poppies to bloom on the disrupted soil. Imagine the contrast between the horrors of war and the beauty of red poppies blanketing the European countryside.
This fence in London looks nice, but not altogether unusual. However, it has quite a history behind it. The railings were once stretchers, used to transport the wounded during World War II.
These stretchers were originally made so that Air Raid Protection officers could carry injured people during bombing attacks in the Blitz. Over 600,000 stretchers were built from steel to enable them to be easily disinfected in highly-feared gas attacks. When the war ended there was a large surplus of stretchers and many of London's housing estates had had their original railings removed to serve the war effort. The LCC set about replacing them through clever re-use of the ARP stretchers.
The green, lush Val-De-Travers Valley in Western Switzerland features forests straight out of fairy tales. And this place of huge moss covered rock formations, and gnarled trees, is the birthplace of absinthe. In the forests bottles of spirits are hidden away in cold running brooks often featuring fountains where thirsty hikers are invited to imbibe of both the spirits, and the water.
In 1910, because of the rumors that absinthe made users hallucinate, production was banned by the Swiss government. And after the ban was finally lifted in 2005, a joint French & Swiss commission created the Absinthe Trail, a route that takes visitors past distilleries, and also to a handful of the historic hidden fountains as well.
The Armistice of Compiègne went into effect on November 11, 1918 at 11AM Paris time, to end hostilities in World War I. It effectively ended the war, giving a win to the Allies without Germany having to surrender. Hurried negotiations led to the Armistice order being signed only 6 hours earlier. We mark that point on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month as the end of the Great War, 100 years ago today. But 11,000 men died on November 11th as the moments ticked down. Some died afterward, too, either by soldiers who hadn't received the news of the Armistice, from rare units that refused to quit fighting, or from wounds they received earlier.
Canadian soldier George Lawrence Price, from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, was serving with the 28th Infantry Battalion on November 11. The 26-year-old was part of a five-man patrol that was checking buildings beside the canal at Ville-sur-Haine, in Mons, for signs of the enemy.
Unfortunately, they found them – a group of German soldiers in the process of setting up machine guns on a wall overlooking the canal. There was an exchange of fire; both sides took cover and the Germans retreated.
The Canadians began to follow, but just as George stepped out onto the street he was shot in the chest by a German sniper. Dragged into a nearby house, he was treated by a local nurse, but there was little she could do.
George Price died soon after, at 10.58am… just two minutes before the armistice.
Visit all 490 National Parks this Sunday for free in honor of Veterans Day, & the 100th year since the end of World War I.
Several U.S. National Parks have strong historical ties to the military; including the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, & the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. And the nations oldest national park, Yellowstone, called upon the U.S. cavalry to serve as the first park rangers of the United States.
Imagine you lived in the era between the rise of paper correspondence (13th century) and the invention of the paper envelope (16th century). If you needed to send an important letter, how would you ensure that no one else besides the intended recipient read it along the way? With a system of various folds, slits, and wax seals. MIT conservator Jana Dambrogio studies the methods she dubbed "letterlocking."
To seal a modern-day envelope (on the off chance you’re sealing an envelope at all), it takes a lick or two, at most. Not so for Mary or for Machiavelli. In those days, letters were folded in such a way that they served as their own envelope. Depending on your desired level of security, you might opt for the simple, triangular fold and tuck; if you were particularly ambitious, you might attempt the dagger-trap, a heavily booby-trapped technique disguised as another, less secure, type of lock.
While the letters could be opened, such interference would always leave behind evidence of tampering. Dambrogio teamed up with Daniel Starza Smith of King's College to form the Unlocking History research team, in which they reverse-engineer historic letters to study how the letterlocks were made and the cultural history behind those methods. Read about letterlocking at Atlas Obscura.