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More Neat Posts 9/24/21

For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of the neatest posts over at our new sites:

The most important device in the universe, found in just about every sci-fi TV shows and movies worth watching are blinking tubes without function

Brave enough to walk the plank in Yosemite at 4,500 feet (that's 1,370 meters for you non-Yanks) above the valley floor?

Russian Cyberpunk Farm is the future of farming. Wait till you see the fractal cucumber.

Papa Beaver carrying cabbage is the story of every man and groceries.

No human needed! Here's New Zealand's chicken crossing guard that's doing a great job keeping kids safe.

Can you tell the difference between a Marvel character or font?

If you believe in the sword, go to the official Witcher School in Poland.

(Pic above via YT)

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America's First Female Spy is Still Unidentified

The 355 is an upcoming movie about a ring of female spies. It's set in the present time, but the unit was named in honor of a brave yet mysterious spy from the American Revolution. Agent 355 was so undercover that the public never learned her name even after the war was over. Nor after her death. Nor 200 years later. We still don't know who Agent 355 was, but we know that she was a woman. As such, she was able to glean and relay information on the British forces to the Continental Army without drawing suspicion. The redcoats didn't consider a woman capable of spying against them. They may not have ever thought about it at all.

Agent 355 was part of the Culper Ring of spies, a unit that was so secretive that its existence only became known in the 1930s, despite being organized by George Washington himself! We can only imagine what it would have been like to risk life and limb for an army of rebels fighting the British Empire, and then keep your contributions to yourself for the rest of your life. Were her exploits considered inconsequential to the Founding Fathers? Or did she prefer to remain anonymous? It's possible she stayed undercover in case she would be needed again. While we don't know who Agent 355 was, there are many theories on who she could have been. Read those theories and find out more about colonial spying at Messy Nessy Chic.

(Image credit: Harper's Weekly)

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The Bear Facts: An Anti-Communist Children's Book from 1948

Weird Universe alerted me to this unusual book, which I acquired through interlibrary loan. The Bear Facts by Polly Culbertson and Paul J. Fennell was published in 1948. It addresses three specific political phenomena of the late 1940s: the threat of communism to the free world, the lack of a consensus among Americans as to the need to mobilize against that threat, and the belief that air power would be the primary means of securing freedom from communism.

Continue reading

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The Soviet Pilot Who Stole a Top Secret Aircraft

In the 1960s, the Soviet MIG-25 was a mystery. US military forces and the CIA were intrigued by its design, and thought it would be the epitome of maneuverability with those long wings. The aircraft set speed and altitude records, but no one outside the USSR knew what was in it. The plane even had a destruct button that pilots were instructed to push in case they ever had to eject and abandon the plane, lest it fall into foreign hands.

Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko of the Soviet Air Defense Forces shocked the world when he went on a regular practice drill in 1976 and just took off in a MIG-25. It was a daring escape he had planned for a long time. Belenko landed in Japan intending to defect, but the authorities back home were much more concerned with the plane than they were with Belenko. They demanded their plane back immediately. Read the story of the pilot who just took off with the mystery plane at Amusing Planet.   

(Image credit: Leonid Faerberg)

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Which Apples Taste the Best?

Only a few decades ago, you could go into the biggest supermarket in town and find only two or three kinds of apples: red delicious, golden delicious (maybe), and Granny Smith. The delicious apples went into the children's lunch bags, and the Granny Smiths made an apple pie. Now supermarkets are much larger, and you'll find a dozen or more varieties of apples. Some are new hybrids, while others are heritage apples from hundreds of years ago, the result of tracing varieties back to their roots or searching for historic trees

Doing your own taste test could be fun, but keeping single apples labeled correctly might be difficult, and some must be bought by the bag. Therefore, Thrillist did the work for you, and ranked the 18 most common varieties of apples by their taste. As you might have guessed, the red delicious ranked at the very bottom. They may be red, but they are only delicious to children who don't know how an apple should taste.

There are probably quite a few apples you've never heard of on the list that might be worth seeking out. And there are many varieties that don't appear on the list at all, because they may be only available in certain areas for a limited time. But trying a new variety is the perfect way to celebrate the last few days of September, which is Apple Month. You'll also learn a few tidbits about apples, like who Granny Smiths were named for.

-via Metafilter

(Image credit: Dllu)

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15 Great Sci-Fi TV Shows To Binge Today!

The rise of multiple streaming platforms gives us more options on what to watch every day. Sometimes, it’s difficult to decide what to binge from the multiple titles-- TV shows, movies, and documentaries that are available for consumption. If you’re in the mood to watch a sci-fi show, then Shortlist’s Simon Brew’s recommendations could come in handy! Check his 15 recommended sci-fi series here

Image credit: BBC 

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What’s A 15-Minute City?

Current city structures revolve around the use of transportation for reaching one place to another. The long distances between buildings, the heavy traffic people face every day. Different areas around the world are centered on cars (or any mass transit system). However, in the wake of the pandemic, municipalities are now looking at ways to plan cities for human beings-- thus the rise of 15-minute cities. Find out what a 15-minute city is at Euro News.

Image credit: EuroNews Next 

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These Life-Size Camel Sculptures Are Older Than Stonehenge

A new study proposes that the life-size camel sculptures in northern Saudi Arabia date back around 6,000 years. Initially discovered in 2018, experts estimated that they were about 2,000 years old. The current study suggests that these artworks should most likely be dated between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago, which would make them older than the Pyramids of Giza (4,500 years old) and the Stonehenge (5,000 years old): 

Researchers dated the carvings through a chemical analysis and an examination of tool marks found at the site, reports Daniel Bardsley for the National.
“They are absolutely stunning and, bearing in mind we see them now in a heavily eroded state with many panels fallen, the original site must’ve been absolutely mind blowing,” lead author Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, tells the National. “There were life-sized camels and equids two or three layers on top of each other.”
Ancient artists carved the images into three rocky spurs, notes Ewelina Lepionko for Albawaba. In addition to about a dozen camels, the artwork depicts two animals that may be donkeys, mules or horses.
The original estimate of the artworks’ age was based partly on the existence of other camel reliefs made in Jordan around that time. But radiocarbon dating, analysis of weathering patterns and other dating methods suggested a much older origin. Additionally, a stone mason found no signs of pottery or the use of metal tools at the site.

Image credit: M. Guagnin & G. Charloux

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What’s Decision Fatigue All About?

Decision fatigue is a very real concept. Also known as ego depletion, the concept is described as the inability to make decisions after making multiple choices in a short time. Sounds familiar? Well, if you feel mentally exhausted after just one day, maybe that’s because answering simple questions such as what food will you be eating, or what tasks will you be doing for a day can contribute to decision fatigue: 

As much as we longed for our social freedom throughout 2020, psychologist Lee Chambers believes that it's the blurred boundaries of normality and restrictions that are causing 'micro stresses' among us. “From deciding what to wear and which activities to start again to even simply how to greet other people, many clients are finding themselves overwhelmed trying to build a new post-lockdown routine,” he explains. “There are also the expectations of others now that we are venturing outside our domestic environment more often – some are struggling to say 'no' while others are struggling to find their own pace. Some of my clients are already suffering elements of social burnout, and the cognitive processing of making more decisions is playing a part in that.”
While we're all guilty of making bad choices at one time or another (Buffalo platforms anyone?), we know all too well the implications of poor decision-making when we're stressed or tired. “The impact is even more prevalent should those decisions be challenging and, to put it in simple terms, a day of constant decision-making will leave us depleted and more likely to make poor choices or not make a choice at all,” Chambers explains. “It's a natural way as humans that we protect ourselves from mental strain and cognitive fatigue.”

To learn how we can cope with decision fatigue, check Harper Bazaar’s full piece here. 

Image credit: Kelly Sikkema

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The Sweetest ‘Liquid Gold’ For The Longest-living People In The World

Aiming for a long life? This honey might do you wonders! Ikarian honey is now hailed as the ‘liquid gold’ for longevity. This type of honey is from Ikaria, Greece. The island is home to some of the longest-living people in the world. Their locally sourced honey is part of a healthy diet among Ikarians: 

[...] Whether it's stirred into their morning tea or eaten directly by the tablespoon, Ikarians reportedly consume a bit of honey at least twice a day.
While it's certainly tempting to book a flight to Greece for some island-hopping, there's an easier, more affordable way to find Ikarian honey. Many retailers, like Etsy and Amazon, carry the longevity-loving nectar online, allowing you to buy it from anywhere in the world.
The sticky nectar is loaded with natural proteins and antibacterial enzymes to support gut health and promote healing. It's also loaded with antioxidants to boost immunity and reduce inflammation, and—thanks to its pollen content—can help with relief from allergies.

Image credit: Art Rachen

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Employment Outlook: Which Jobs Are Growing and Declining

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this chart shows which jobs will be growing over the next ten years and which will be declining. Once again, "blogger" doesn't show up anywhere, because people still can't believe anyone makes a living at this. But the chart doesn't show us anything we couldn't have figured out on our own. While the job expected to grow the most is wind turbine service technician, understandably, the top ten growth jobs are dominated by positions in health care, which vary widely in expected income.   

Visual Capitalist lists the top twenty jobs that will expand the most in the coming decade, but you have to look at the details. Wind turbine technician got the #1 spot because the position will expand by 68%. But that's only 4,700 jobs, because we have very few of those professionals now. Jobs for home health and personal care aides will expand by more than a million jobs, yet that's only a 32% change. And when you're counseling a young person on what profession to go into, take note that home health and personal care aides do not make much money at all. A nurse practitioner can make four times as much.

The twenty jobs that will decline the most are no surprise. Secretaries and typists aren't in demand when everyone uses a computer. I'm surprised that there are any telephone operators left at all. See the full lists and statistics on these careers at Visual Capitalist. The chart is much larger there.

By the way, this projection excludes those occupations that went through a tremendous swing due to COVID-19, like restaurant workers and movie production. -via Digg

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Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son in Balloons

Does this image look familiar? It's a unique take on Francisco Goya's famous and gory painting Saturn Devouring His Son. DJ Morrow, a balloon artist in Houston, rendered this amazingly realistic sculpture.

The sculpture is one of a series of balloon recreations of famous paintings, including Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio and The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli.

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Kurt Vonnegut's Strange Connection to the Cape Cod Cannibal

Author Kurt Vonnegut lived on Cape Cod in the 1960s, and so was following the news of the Cape Cod Cannibal with interest, and even writing about the crimes. Four young women had gone missing in 1968 and '69, and while searching for two of them, police found a third. Ultimately four mutilated bodies of young women were uncovered the same area. Police arrested Tony Costa, which drew Vonnegut further into the sensational crime. His 19-year-old daughter Edith knew Costa. Costa had even invited her to come see his marijuana patch, a line he used with many young women.   

Luckily, Edith never took Costa up on his offer, but it wasn’t because she thought he could be dangerous—Edith believed Costa was strange but harmless. Most of the area residents did, too. Despite his run-ins with the law and heavy drug use, Costa was well-liked by many in the community, especially children. He was a fun and friendly babysitter to the local kids whose parents were either too busy or too apathetic to care for their kids during the hot and hectic days of summer.

Which is why so many area residents were shocked to find out Costa was a cold-blooded killer, including Edith. “‘If Tony is a murderer, then anybody could be a murderer,’” Vonnegut reports Edith told him during a phone conversation.

Read up on Tony Costa, Kurt Vonnegut, and the Cape Cod Cannibal crimes at Mental Floss.

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The Platonic Ideal of the Piña Colada

Sweet, tropical, and refreshing, the piña colada is a gift to the world from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Which made it worth a weeklong vacation business trip to the island to track down its origins. There are several stories: the drink is the result of a competition at the Caribe Hilton‘s Beachcomber Bar in 1954, that a different bartender there came up with it, and that another bar, Barrachina, is the original home of the piña colada. The name, at least, is even older than those claims.

Before the piña colada became the piña colada, the phrase, which translates to “strained pineapple,” was used in Cuba to indicate a nonalcoholic drink of strained, sweetened pineapple juice, optionally with coconut water. The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails even notes that there were piña colada stands in the U.S. in the 1930s. “At least one American journalist suggested the obvious, that the standard pineapple-coconut drink might easily be turned into a ‘grand rum cocktail’ (this was in 1944) … but not until the late 1960s did the alcoholic version become the default one, and then it came as a Puerto Rican import,” Curtis writes.

In 1978, Puerto Rico named the piña colada as its official drink, and a year after that, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” made its glorious debut. Was I the only one who thought that was a Jimmy Buffett song? It’s by Rupert Holmes. Anyway, in more recent years, the Puerto Rican government has formally recognized Marrero as the inventor and the Caribe Hilton as the laboratory of its creation.

This article on piña coladas is more than a history of the drink, though. It's also a love letter to the piña colada and a primer on how to make a better one. -via Digg

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A Tale of Two Freddies

He's a killer queen! You have to hand it to jared531, but be sure you hand it to his right hand. You might be a Queen fan, or you might be a fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, or both, and combining Freddie Mercury and Freddy Krueger is simply puntastic. Jared531 wore this costume to the NY Village Halloween parade last year and was such a hit that he posted the instructions for pulling off the costume.

Sure, it's early, but the best Halloween costumes take planning. -via reddit

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