Spend a Night in Prison -on Purpose!

When a prison is replaced or decommissioned for one reason or another, what do you do with the building? These are often very old and very solidly-built institutions, but hard to convert to offices on a government budget. So they are sold off to private interests. A surprising number of such buildings are converted into hotels, where the building's history is used to promote the business. After all, who wouldn't want to stay in a prison cell? Yeah, there have been extensive renovations, and many of these hotels are luxurious, despite the names. But there are a couple that cater to their history in their aesthetic, too. Pictured here is the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel in Ottowa, Ontario, which retains a lot of the flavor of being imprisoned.

The brick-walled cells have been freshened with a lick of paint and modern furnishings but still have metal bars and iron doors. There are now handles on the inside, though, so there’s no risk of being locked up for good. Regular guided tours typically take visitors around the building, rated as one of the most haunted in North America. With the gallows, where death row prisoners were hanged, soberingly on display, that reputation is perhaps unsurprising.

Whether it's your particular kink or you're just looking for some place different to stay during your travels, there's a prison hotel for you. Learn about 16 hotels that were once jails or prisons in a list at Love Exploring. -via Fark

Fancy Helmet Adorned With Divine Figures

Fancy indeed! 

The photo above is a military helmet that looks honestly more like a movie prop with its extravagance, or something a king would wear for a ceremony. The helmet is dated around 1500-1100 B.C. and was found in Southwestern Iran. Made from bronze, the delicate and elaborate divine gold figures that adorn the helmet provide the implication that it would have been worn by a warrior of high rank, and perhaps on special occasions rather than in actual battle.

Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum

Is Microsoft’s Purchase Of Activision Blizzard A Gaming Disaster?

Following the massive Bethesda purchase, Microsoft has announced that it wants to acquire 

Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind popular games such as Overwatch and Call of Duty. The company shared that it aims to purchase the studio for nearly $70 billion! While this isn’t as suspicious as some would like to paint online, it is alarming for what would happen in the gaming industry. 

Microsoft’s purchase of different gaming studios these past few years feels like a move towards exclusivity, to increase the appeal of its gaming console, the Xbox. Digital Trends Jesse Lennox writes that the attempt is “a desperate move to bolster its library with exclusives and valuable IP.” Learn more about the potential acquisition and its consequences, should it happen, here. 

Image via Digital Trends

The Economics Of Dog Walking

Did you know that the dog walking industry is estimated to be worth around $979 million? Yeah, that’s huge. Who knew that walking dogs could generate that amount of money! According to studies, ~40% of dog owners don’t personally walk their canine companions on a regular basis. Add that to the fact that the total population of dogs in America is now at 89 million, there’s a huge clientele out there for dog walkers. 

Learn more about the dog walking industry here! 

Image credit: Andriyko Podilnyk

Elsa Arrested For Bringing Snow To South Carolina

Police officers from South Carolina arrested the culprit behind the winter storm a few days ago in Pickens, South Carolina. In a video uploaded to the Internet, officers can be seen detaining the culprit– Elsa from Frozen! She can be heard chanting “let it go,” during her arrest. 

Before someone comes at me for this certainly out-of-context video, let me assure you that it is merely a parody video released by the police to remind drivers to be safe on the road. I’m not sure how Elsa figures into this reminder, but at least it got people’s attention! 

(via Flipboard

Time Slice Photo Captures A Stunning Photo Of The Sky

British student Cal Cole received attention for a photo he uploaded on Reddit that went viral. The 18-year-old posted a photo of a pylon against a colorful sky. The pylon, with its wires outstretching in the image, served as a sort of a stained glass window and framed the different colors in the sky. According to Cole, 14 photographs were used to create the image above. The post-production process took about five or six hours. “For a long time, I wasn’t sure how well it would turn out,” Cole told My Modern Met. “But I sent the image to my friends— something I always do as they give me an honest opinion—and they said it was one of my best photos. That’s when I realized it was something I was very happy with.”

Image credit: Cal Cole 

Protecting the World's Chocolate

Tom Scott takes us on a visit to the International Coca Quarantine Centre. You can tell it's in England by the way they spelled "center." But why does cocoa have to go into quarantine? It's not the chocolate that they're worried about, but the cocoa plants that grow it. What's more, there are quarantine facilities for banana plants and potato plants and other crops before they can be certified safe for shipping to research facilities or to farms around the world.

We certainly don't want a repeat of what happened to bananas, when Panama disease wiped out the Gros Michel variety, leaving us only the Cavendish, and what may still happen to Cavendish bananas.

The Edible Red Soil of Hormuz

Hormuz is a small island in the Persian Gulf a few miles off the coast of Iran. The island is a salt dome, and the soil that covers it comes in a rainbow of colors, giving Hormuz the nickname "Rainbow Island." The most notable is the red soil, called gelak, which is the only one considered edible. Gelak doesn't make up the majority of any dish, but is powdered and used as a spice of sorts. It works as a colorant, giving the condiment sooragh its pleasant red color. Sooragh itself is used in other foods, such as a flatbread called tomshi. Gelak gets its red hue from iron in the soil, which contributes to its nutritional reputation. Why is it the only colored soil used in cooking? The others have been tried, and they don't taste good. Fair enough.

Gelak was once mined commercially for use in paints and dyes, but that is now banned due to the environmental degradation it caused. But local painters, cooks, and tourists can still take some for personal use. Read about the Rainbow Island, gelak, and the Iranian dishes made with it at Atlas Obscura.

Realtime Speech-to-Text Transcription for Lip Readers in the Age of Masking

Do you wear a facemask on a regular basis? One of the challenges that this presents is that people who read lips to communicate can't see what you're saying. I've seen people use masks with transparent centers to help, but these often fog over.

Computer programmer Kevin Lewis has responded to this need with an amazingly accurate speech-to-text recognition app that uses the Deepgram AI. I've never seen a speech-to-text transcription tool as accurate as this one. Lewis displays that text in realtime on a screen on his chest so that people who lipread can just read what he's saying. It's like living with subtitles turned on.

-via Hack A Day

News Anchor Challenge: Describe Mundane Things Using Your Best "News Anchor" Voice

🎤 (In my best Ron Burgundy "news anchor voice") A new TikTok challenge has swept the nation. Earlier this month, a TV news host issued a challenge on TikTok, saying "In your very best 'News Anchor' voice, I would love to hear you narrate yourself doing something super mundane around the house." Here are some of the best clips on that News Anchor Challenge. Now, back to you at the studio.

😷 Covid schmovid*. There's finally a good reason to wear masks: face masks make people look more attractive. When I asked my kids about this, they replied that it's obvious: most people are ugly, so face masks make an immediate improvement.

*Seriously though: Follow CDC guidance, stay safe and healthy.

💀 How do you convince people in Montreal that jaywalking is dangerous? First, get them to have a little bit of fun and then - WHAM! - give them this gruesome message.

🕹️ LAPD officers fired for ignoring a robbery so they can play Pokemon Go.

🔥 Amazon's The Lord of the Rings new Title reveal video is pretty neat, but it's mindblowingly awesome when a behind-the-scenes clip reveal that instead of CGI, the whole thing was shot at a foundry with molten metal!

🏰 Real estate opportunity of a lifetime (or is it an afterlife-time?): This haunted Scottish castle is up for sale.

🐕 When this man dropped down to one knee and proposed, sure his girlfriend was excited ... but not as much as this dog, who stole the spotlight.

More neat posts over at our new sites: Laughosaurus, Pictojam, Pop Culturista, Infinite 1UP, Homes & Hues, and Supa Fluffy.

Featured art: Freelancer Cat by indie artist douglasstencil

Current special: Save up to 20% on all T-shirts in NeatoShop's sitewide special.

Children Aren't Supposed to Die

When your spouse dies, you are a widow or widower; when your parents die, you are an orphan. But there's no special word for a parent whose child has died. Could that be because it is such a rare event? Pediatrics professor Perri Klass thinks that, in contrast, the lack of a term could be because until relatively recently, it was all too common.

In 1800, nearly half the children born in the United States died before the age of five. By 1900, between a fifth and a quarter of them did; in 1915, as my grandparents were growing up, one out of every ten infants died before turning one—and there was no way to prevent most of the common infectious diseases of childhood, from whooping cough and pneumonia to scarlet fever and tuberculosis, which regularly killed toddlers and school-age children.

When you start looking in the margins of history for the lost children, they are present in every story, peering out from the edges of family portraits, buried under sad little headstones in old cemeteries. Among the rich and famous, dead children are noted sometimes just as footnotes in biographies. Creating a world in which children are not supposed to die may be our greatest achievement as a species, a victory over thousands of years of suffering, sorrow, and shadow.

The very rarity of childhood death today makes it appear even more tragic, and also makes parents constantly worry that any wrong decision could bring disaster and it would be their fault. An article about children dying may seem depressing at first, and indeed there are some horrible stories in it, but the main point of an essay at Harper's about childhood death is how far we've come in the last 100 years in overcoming the diseases, injuries, and random bad luck that once took so many children.  -via TYWKIWDBI

45 Jobs in 45 States: The Itinerant Life of Lyra Ferguson

In 1939, Lyra Ferguson left her job as a church secretary in Missouri for an adventure that was also a social experiment of sorts. She aimed to get a job in all 48 of the United States, in which she would spend a week before moving on. She managed to do it in 45 states. Ferguson's plan was to write a book about her experiences, which makes sense, but the book was never published because it wasn't good. Today, a publisher would have assigned her a ghost writer. She edited film of her adventures into a documentary, but it has been lost.

Weird Universe has a list of jobs Ferguson got in 42 of the states, which shows us the difference between the employment practices of 1939 and today. Although she started out with $200, the jobs must have paid well enough to cover her accommodations, food, and gasoline in the days between jobs. Almost all were entry level or unskilled jobs, but in Nebraska she was hired as a booking agent! A few of the jobs are now extinct, like washing windshields at a gas station and milking cows.

We'd also like to know if Ferguson told prospective employers that she was planning to stay for only a week. That might have worked in her favor if the employer was game to let her try to learn something new, or if they thought about the publicity value of the stunt. Today, she would be required to submit a resume listing all previous employment -which could have run to several pages!   

Don't Bring Cougars in the House

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation sent out a Tweet a couple of days ago that referenced an old animal welfare campaign that said, "If you're cold, they're cold. Bring them in." It was about not leaving your cats and dogs outside when the temperature drops. That doesn't apply to wild predators, or at least it didn't until the phrase became a meme

This being the internet, the Tweet had the opposite effect of making folks want a mountain lion in their house. Or at least the chance to pet one. Hey, look, the kitty is offering its belly for rubs!

The wildlife office wasn't going to put up with such nonsense.

But the internet as whole has a serious case of toxoplasmosis.

I think by now you can guess the wildlife department's favorite TV show. The wildlife folks took it all in stride and made a corgi meme about the Tweet, which was gradually expanded to include an entire pack of corgis.

The original Tweet has a growing number of jokes, memes, and cat pictures underneath, but you also need to check out the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's feed to catch updates on the situation. -via Fark

The Adventures of Dan Donnelly's Arm

Irishman Dan Donnelly was an accomplished boxer around the turn of the 19th century. This was in the early days of prize fights, when there were no gloves and almost no rules. Donnelly, who had a reputation as a successful scrapper in his native Dublin, only fought in three official matches, but reigned as the heavyweight champion of his time, and was a hero to the Irish. Donnelly died of pneumonia at only 31 years old. He was honored with as many memorials as a national hero could ask for, but it was what happened to him after his death that really earned Dan Donnelly a place in the history books.

Donnelly's grave was robbed by body snatchers soon after his burial. His remains were sold to a surgeon who was surprised to learn the identity of the cadaver he was dissecting. The doctor returned Donnelly to his grave, or at least most of him. He couldn't resist sawing off the boxer's right arm, as it was the one that won those fights. Afterward, Donnelly's arm began 200 years of its own adventures, traveling across the world and being put to work. Read about Dan Donnelly's arm and its astonishing afterlife at Strange Company.

When Will the COVID-19 Pandemic End?

It's been two years, and we've all learned more about viruses than we ever thought we'd need to know. So, when will the pandemic end? The short answer is: we don't know. The more helpful answer is: it depends on a few different factors that we can't exactly predict now, but with a primer on what we've learned about coronaviruses in general and COVID-19 in particular, we can expect one of several different scenarios. Six scenarios, to be exact. Or at least that's what the guys from AsapSCIENCE tell us. They are basing these predictions on the history of the 1918 flu pandemic plus what happened to other coronaviruses, and the timeline of how COVID-19 has spread, mutated, and attacked. These changes give us clues about what may come next. The bad news is that this virus may always be with us. The good news is that the longer it hangs around, the more we know its secrets and how to deal with it. -via Digg

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