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Betty, the Hobo Cat of Hoboken

One of the things we marvel about journalism of a century ago is how the smallest bit of news could be so newsworthy. Of course, today we have the internet for those small stories. The story of Betty was reprinted in newspapers across the country. She was a train station cat, kept to hunt mice at the Lackawanna Terminal at Hoboken, New Jersey. Betty led the usual life of a cat until January of 1933, when she boarded a train bound for Dover, leaving two kittens behind. Railroad employees up and down the line were alarmed when they realized what happened, and sprang into action to return Betty to her home station.

The press had a lot of fun with Betty’s story. One newspaper suggested the much-married cat galivanted off to Buffalo to visit a boyfriend, who had sent her a cat-o-gram. Thinking she was an employee of the railroad and thus entitled to ride the rails for free, she put on her fur coat and boarded the train.

Another newspaper said that perhaps Betty ran away because she had been wed too many times. She was tired of caring for kittens year after year, and was in search of an adventure all on her own.

Station-master Byrnes came up with his own reason for Betty’s antics. He surmised that the cat was upset that she didn’t get her usual turkey meal on Sunday morning, because the restaurant at the Lackawanna terminal was closed. She may have decided to jump on the train in search of an open eating establishment.

Whatever her motive was, that evening the one-time hobo cat received a turkey dinner fit for a railroad magnate.

Read what happened when Betty got the urge to travel at the Hatching Cat. -via Strange Company


The Cave of Swimmers

Hungarian explorer László Almásy explored the Sahara desert in Egypt and Libya, trying to find a legendary oasis called Zerzura. In 1933, he found a cave in Egypt's Gilf Kebir mountains that had paintings of people on the walls. The figures are estimated to be 8,000 years old. They appear to be swimming, but that was impossible in the Sahara Desert!

László Almásy, in his book The Unknown Sahara, postulates that the swimming scenes are real depictions of life at the time of painting, suggesting that there had been a climatic change from temperate to desert. At that time it was a radical new theory that sounded so dubious that his publisher felt compelled to add several footnotes in the book to make it clear that they did not share this opinion.

Since that time, scientists have uncovered more evidence that the Sahara was once rather humid, and had forests and lakes that would have been fine for swimming. The cave is now known as the Cave of Swimmers, which you can read about at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Roland Unger)


Wolverine Spotted in Yellowstone National Park

Biologists at Yellowstone National Park set up camera traps to monitor cougars in 2014. You can imagine that these cameras saw a lot of different types of wildlife, but last month, a wolverine was seen running past the camera- the first time the park has captured one on video in more than a decade.

Wolverines are in many ways ghosts of the forests. They prefer cold climates, are solitary, and require large amounts of space to roam in search of prey. There as few as 300 left in the Lower 48, so the odds of seeing one are incredibly low.

Read more about the elusive wolverine at Earther.


Jesus in a Baby Walker

Contraptions that keep a baby from falling as he practices walking go way back. The picture above titled "The Holy Family at Work" portrays Jesus in a baby walker while his parents do their chores, painted around the year 1440. It doesn't look all that much different from baby walkers used today, which allow a child to roam upright. However, models from the 16th century are more constrained, and kept the baby to a track that only allowed a few steps- perhaps to keep them from walking into a hearth or staircase. See those baby walkers at Early Modern Medicine. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Clèves Master)


Chickens Wreak Havoc At A McDonald’s Parking Lot

Police in New Jersey quickly responded to a report about “a flock of chickens ‘wreaking havoc’” at their local McDonald’s. According to the Washington Township Police Department, when an animal control officer arrived at the scene, he found the chickens “'harassing' and 'chasing' customers and pecking at car tires.”

The animal control officer was able to capture the chickens with help from the manager of the McDonald's eatery, police said.
The chickens were taken to the Common Sense for Animals shelter, where they were later claimed by their owners.

Were they seeking revenge for their fallen comrades? We can only guess.

(Image Credit: Washington Township Police Department/ Facebook)


Rockin' Gayageum

The gayageum is a Korean zither. Luna Lee  (previously at Neatorama) is a master of the instrument, which you'll hear as she plays Chicago's classic hit "25 or 6 to 4." It really kicks in after about a minute. -via Laughing Squid


Amazing Star Trek and Doctor Who Basement

The space is immense, and not only because the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside (literally). Todd Pineapple Span spent 2 years and 3 months turning his basement into a fanboy's dreamhouse.

There's a Next Generation-era corridor that connects to a transporter room and a starship bridge. Sound effects activate automatically or with the tap of a touchscreen. Several functions operate through voice commands. The mechanical and visual effects of TARDIS activation are especially impressive. It's an astonishing work of inspired design and detailed craftsmanship.

-via EPBOT


The Tiny Doors in the U.S. Capitol

If you’ve ever been to the United States Capitol Building, you might have noticed some tiny doors near the floor. Or maybe you didn’t, because they are easy to miss. They look as if someone wanted to make things classy for mice, or even fairies. But they once had an important purpose, as the Architect of the Capitol explains. -via Digg


Beaver vs Poplar Tree

The poplar tree that had fallen to the ground was no match for the determined beaver, who chewed through its limb in less than a minute. After chewing up the tree’s limb, the beaver then carried it back to the pond where a dam is being built.

What a strong beaver.

Via Laughing Squid

(Image Credit: Laughing Squid)


When You’ve Memorized A Film

You know you’ve watched a film too many times when you can recite all the lines in it, as well as describe the stuff happening on the screen. Watch as voice actor SungWon Cho, also known as ProZD, recites the film Peter Pan from memory.

(Image Credit: ProZD/ YouTube)


The Thriving Industry of Poop Delivery

You could express your love by having flowers delivered. But what do you do to convey a message that is less romantic? The Toronto-based blogTo reports that there are several options for mailing fecal matter to that special someone in your life. Some of these services, such as Poop Senders, allow you to place anonymous orders so that, like a secret admirer, your identity can remain hidden. What a sweet premise this could be for a romantic comedy!

-via Dave Barry | Image: Poop Senders


The Lion Dance

The Lunar New Year begins on Friday, February 12 this year. The Lion Dance is a traditional part of the festivities in China. If you've ever wondered what the dancers look like underneath the lion costume, watch these two guys. Their dance looks pretty straightforward until... Well, just watch and you'll see something truly amazing. -via Nag on the Lake


The First Hypodermic Needle

The modern disposable hypodermic needle is a marvel- safe, clean, and almost painless compared to the reusable instruments many of us remember from years past. But how did this method of introducing drugs into our bodies start? Earlier physicians would wound the skin, as in variolation, but the first use  of a needle-like instrument was in 1844, when Dr. Francis Rynd injected morphine acetate into the face of a woman who was most likely suffering from the painful nerve condition called trigeminal neuralgia.  

The most interesting thing about this section of the report, however, is the ‘instrument made for the purpose’ of injecting the drug. Dr Rynd did not include a description or illustration of this instrument – probably a mistake, as it was his opportunity to publicise his invention. We do know what it looked like, however, from an article he subsequently published in 1861:

This is not a hypodermic syringe but a novel type of trochar: an instrument with a sharp tip and a cannula through which fluids can be introduced (or evacuated). It had a sharp needle to puncture the skin, but no plunger to propel fluids into the body; instead, the drug was dropped into the cannula, using ‘an ordinary writing-pen’, and then left to infiltrate the tissues by gravity alone.

The injection did deliver relief to the patient. Read about the case, and also the first injection using a syringe with a plunger a few years later, at Thomas Morris' blog. -via Strange Company


Dire Wolves Were Not Really Wolves

You might only know dire wolves from the TV series Game of Thrones, but they were real dogs that grew up to six feet long in order to hunt the megafauna of North America tens of thousands of years ago. Quite a few of their remains were preserved in the La Brea tar pits. Dire wolves were identified as a species in the 1850s, but now DNA analysis tells us more about them. For example, they weren't really wolves.

After sequencing five genomes from dire wolf fossils between 50,000 and 13,000 years old, the researchers found that the animals belonged to a much older lineage of dogs. Dire wolves, it now appeared, had evolved in the Americas and had no close kinship with the gray wolves from Eurasia; the last time gray wolves and dire wolves shared a common ancestor was about 5.7 million years ago. The strong resemblance between the two, the researchers say, is a case of convergent evolution, whereby different species develop similar adaptations—or even appearances—thanks to a similar way of life. Sometimes such convergence is only rough, such as both birds and bats evolving wings despite their differing anatomy. In the case of dire and gray wolves, lives of chasing large herbivores to catch some meat on the hoof resulted in two different canid lineages independently producing wolflike forms.

The DNA study is causing scientists to rethink how and why dire wolves went extinct, and how they should be classified. Read more about dire wolves at Scientific American. -via Metafilter


New Orleans will have "Float Houses" Instead of Parades for Mardi Gras

After last year's Mardi Gras celebrations led to a huge number of COVID cases, the parades are cancelled for this year. But New Orleans is bringing the parade flavor back anyway, by decorating houses as if they were traditional Mardi Gras parade floats! A project called "Hire a Mardi was Artist" is putting artists, float builders, and craftspeople to work transforming homes into colorful art installations. The money raised through donations pays for the work, and also helps struggling musicians and others who are impacted by the Mardi Gras cancellations. -via Boing Boing

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