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Why Did Greenland’s Vikings Vanish?

Vikings settled in Greenland from 985 CE to somewhere around 1424, then all written records of them vanished. The conventional wisdom is that they flourished in the northern island during the Medieval Warm Period, then could not adapt to the cold after the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Lombok caused global cooling. The changed conditions devastated the Viking's livestock and crops, while the Inuit survived because they lived off seafood. But did those Vikings really die out? Konrad Smiarowski is leading an excavation in Greenland that paints a different picture.   

“Probably about 50 percent of all bones at this site will be seal bones,” Smiarowski says as we stand by the drainage ditch in a light rain. He speaks from experience: Seal bones have been abundant at every site he has studied, and his findings have been pivotal in reassessing how the Norse adapted to life in Greenland. The ubiquity of seal bones is evidence that the Norse began hunting the animals “from the very beginning,” Smiarowski says. “We see harp and hooded seal bones from the earliest layers at all sites.”

A seal-based diet would have been a drastic shift from beef-and-dairy-centric Scandinavian fare. But a study of human skeletal remains from both the Eastern and Western settlements showed that the Vikings quickly adopted a new diet. Over time, the food we eat leaves a chemical stamp on our bones—marine-based diets mark us with different ratios of certain chemical elements than terrestrial foods do. Five years ago, researchers based in Scandinavia and Scotland analyzed the skeletons of 118 individuals from the earliest periods of settlement to the latest. The results perfectly complement Smiarow­ski’s fieldwork: Over time, people ate an increasingly marine diet, he says.

If the Vikings adapted to Greenland's conditions like the Inuit did, why did the Vikings disappear from the historical record? Scientists have differing theories, as laid out in an article at Smithsonian. 

Mia Wins Hearts at the Agility Course

Mia knows the agility course, and she's got plenty of speed and agility. But Mia is a beagle, and is therefore both happy and distractible. She delighted the audience at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

(Facebook link)

Don't be a beagle, don't be a beagle!

That's a good dog. To see how it is supposed to be done, watch Tex, the 2015 winner. -via Metafilter

5 Sleep-Deprived Disasters

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

We tend to think of being very sleepy as, well, just being very sleepy. But if you’re in a position of serious responsibility—really bad things can happen. Here are a few examples.


Disaster: On January 28, 1986, the NASA space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, killing all seven crew members on board.

Sleep Deprivation: The night before the disaster, NASA officials held a conference call with officials from Morton Thiakol, the company that designed the shuttle’s rocket boosters. One of Thiakol’s engineers recommended canceling the launch, due to the cold weather forecast for the next day, telling NASA officials that cold temperatures could adversely affect equipment in the boosters—which could cause an explosion. NASA declined to cancel the launch. An investigation into the disaster found that it was indeed caused by the cold weather. The investigation also found that sleep deprivation, caused by a culture of overwork at NASA, played a critical role in the decision by the managers to ignore the engineer’s advice: two of the top managers involved in the conference call had been awake for 23 hours straight at the time of the call, and they had slept for only three hours the previous day. “The willingness of NASA employees in general to work excessive hours, while admirable,” the official report into the disaster said, “raises serious questions when it jeopardizes job performance, particularly when critical management decisions are at stake.”


Continue reading

Some Of The Worst Sports Logos Of All Time

It's hard to put your finger on what makes a great sports team logo so timeless, appealing and successful, but when a team logo sucks the reason behind its suckiness is glaringly obvious to all.

Ironically, this suck factor often makes a bad logo design more memorable than a good one, because people tend to remember a flop.

But some team logos are so bad it seems like the designer created a failure on purpose, perhaps after losing a bundle betting on the Broncos?

That horse looks like it's auditioning to be in Michael Jackson's Thriller, but Chargers fans in San Diego were less than thrilled to hear their team was packing up and moving to L.A.

And then the Chargers rubbed salsa in the wound by announcing this would be their new logo, which immediately turned their remaining fans into Oakland Raiders fans.

That is, until the Raiders move to Las Vegas...

See The 25 Worst Sports Logos Ever Conceived In History here

McDonald's to Test a Big Mac Vending Machine

They're calling it a Big Mac ATM, which indicates that someone doesn't know what ATM stands for. But this is really happening. On January 31st, hungry people in Boston will have the opportunity to order McDonald's Big Macs from a vending machine. You can select from a Big Mac, a Mac Jr, or a Grand Mac. If no one likes the experiment, they'll call it a publicity stunt. If it goes over, you'll eventually see these in McDonald's outlets all over, and there will be no need for front counter staff. That means the fast food industry will no longer have to hire as many unemployed factory workers or overqualified college graduates.

ᚼᛒ: Harald Bluetooth and Your Phone

Have you ever wondered why your Bluetooth is called that, and where that symbol came from? Me neither, even when mine stopped working this morning. But it's a fascinating story, as told here by Tom Scott.

(YouTube link)

You have to admit, Bluetooth sounds better than "lower power RF," which is what it could have been. And now, because they named the system Bluetooth, you know a little more about Scandinavian history. Commenters also added that in Sweden, your wireless communication is called Blåtand because that's how they spelled Harald's name.  -via reddit

Lighthouse Volunteer Position Open

Talk about getting away from it all! The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service is seeking a couple of new volunteer lighthouse keepers for Maatsuyker Island, ten kilometers of the coast of western Tasmania. The lighthouse is automated, so volunteers would spend six months monitoring a weather station, observing wildlife, and mowing the grass. Two people, all alone. And the conditions won't be what you're used to. There's a landline, but it doesn't always work well, and you'll have no internet. And Maatsuyker Island is notoriously colder than the rest of Australia. From the application form:

Volunteers are responsible for providing their own food, clothing, entertainment, bedding and other personal items.  The Parks and Wildlife Service will provide transport by helicopter for these items between Hobart and Maatsuyker Island.  Transport space is limited to 325 kg per person, (for 6 month stay).

The Parks and Wildlife Service  will also provide one resupply helicopter visit at approximately 3 months in (i.e. one resupply in the standard 6 month stay), often to coincide with scheduled or unplanned maintenance.   Space on the resupply flight will also be limited. Caretakers generally make their own arrangements for the preparation of food and other goods for resupply. Please note PWS prefer people take as many of the supplies as possible onto Maatsuyker in the beginning, so that the resupply can be primarily for fresh food and mail.  There is a vegetable garden maintained by the caretakers for fresh food.  

Electricity is supplied by a generating system incorporating solar and back up diesel. The high cost of transport dictates that gas and diesel consumption on the island be kept to a minimum.

Volunteers must go through a training program and be certified in First Aid and Marine Radio Operation, and demonstrate competency in other skills. The application is available through the Park Service. The application deadline is January 30th.  -via Metafilter  

(Image credit: Jeff Jennings)

Escaped Bloodhound Runs Half Marathon; Comes in Seventh

Ludivine the bloodhound escaped her yard when she was let out to go to the bathroom. She then decided to join a half marathon, showing up at the starting line and ended up running all 13.1 miles and came in seventh in the rankings -and was the fastest female runner. Ludivine actually probably ran more than 13.1 miles as she took a few detours to sniff at dead animals in the area and play in the water.

While she wasn't considered a real participant in the event, the dog did get an official medal to celebrate her great running time. April Hamlin, the pup's owner, had no idea the dog ran off until after Ludivine came back a local celebrity. 

Read more about the story at CNN

Explaining Movies to a Five Year Old

How would you explain your favorite grown up film to a five year old? That's exactly the premise of a recent Twitter hashtag and the results are hilarious. From Inception to The Breakfast Club, the simplified, chilld-friendly descriptions are brilliant:

The best ones even seem to be the most extreme ones:

In some cases, the best part is seeing if you can recognize the movie in question:

Now it's your turn readers. Enter yours in the comments. 

Via Distractify

Extreme Trick Pool Shot

Allstars Sports Bar in Bristol, UK, set up what they call a trick shot that takes advantage of a stairway, a dozen or so pool tables, the bar itself, and a mini-golf green. They obviously were inspired by Rube Goldberg.

(YouTube link)

From the Facebook post about it, we gather that they usually do one of these elaborate videos every year for Christmas, and this one finished a bit late. Maybe they had to do it a few dozen times to get it right.  -via the Presurfer

Why Do Canadians Say 'Eh'?

The Canadian linguistic quirk of putting "eh" at the end of a sentence is an example of a tag, which is a word or phrase appended to a sentence. In Mandarin, any statement appended with "ma" turns that statement into a question. In English, the tag "isn't it?" provokes a response of agreement or disagreement. As a tag, "eh" is more universal and flexible. It can be used for just about anything.

There are a few major ways a Canadian could use “eh.” The first is while stating an opinion: “It’s a nice day, eh?” Another would be as an exclamation tag, which is added to a sentence in order to indicate surprise: “What a game, eh?” Or you could use it for a request or command: “Put it over here, eh?” And then there’s the odd example of using it within a criticism: “You really messed that one up, eh?”

Jack Chambers, a linguist at the University of Toronto, writes that these “ehs” are all of a piece. “All of these uses have one pragmatic purpose in common: they all show politeness,” he wrote in a 2014 paper. Using “eh” to end the statement of an opinion or an explanation is a way for the speaker to express solidarity with the listener. It’s not exactly asking for reassurance or confirmation, but it’s not far off: the speaker is basically saying, hey, we’re on the same page here, we agree on this.

Even in the use of “eh” as a criticism or a command, the word seeks to find common ground. If I say “you’re an idiot, eh?”, what I’m saying is, you’re an idiot, but you should also think you’re an idiot, and our understanding of you as an idiot finds us on common ground.

The tag "eh" is also used to give orders and to tell stories. Read about these and the general usage of "eh" among Canadians at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Flickr user Nicole Bratt)

The Confusing Borders of Lake Constance

Tom Scott take us to an amazing place: Lake Constance. Where is Lake Constance? It's in Europe. It's in Germany, Switzerland, and/or Austria.

(YouTube link)

Whether there are actually international borders running through the lake depends on what country you are from. One nation claims there are lines. Another says the lake belongs to all three countries. And the third doesn't really care! -via reddit 

Five Movies that are Just Way Too Smart For All of Us

If you don't quite understand a movie, it may be because it went just above your head or maybe it's really just a confusing mess. If you liked the movie, a second or third showing may reveal all. Or you can read the reviews and get an explanation -if there is one. Then there are movies where you think, "LOL, I know this makes sense but I don't want to work too hard at it, so I'll just take their word for it." Which of those categories does Primer fall into for you?

Shane Carruth delivered high on complexity with his film about a pair of scientists who build their own version of a time traveling machine. What was so amazing about this film is that it was created with the low budget of seven thousand dollars. The film contains a plethora of minor details that are important in moving the story forward. Complex doesn’t even begin to describe its intense intellectualism and facts with which it is packed. In fact, discussions are still taking place about this intellifilm and people are just starting to figure it out after twelve years time. It is a brilliant film

If you like mind-expanding movies that force you to think and notice clues and keep up with subplots, you'll want to check out the film suggestions featured at Unreality.

Dave Barry's Year in Review 2016

Dave Barry has posted his annual Year in Review at the Miami Herald. It's usually out a little earlier, but 2016 gave him -and everyone- a lot to digest. he starts out by explaining that this is the weirdest of all the years he has written about.

Over the past few decades, we here at the Year in Review have reviewed some pretty disturbing years. For example, there was 2000, when the outcome of a presidential election was decided by a tiny group of deeply confused Florida residents who had apparently attempted to vote by chewing on their ballots.

Then there was 2003, when a person named “Paris Hilton” suddenly became a major international superstar, despite possessing a level of discernible talent so low as to make the Kardashians look like the Jackson 5.

There was 2006, when the vice president of the United States — who claimed he was attempting to bring down a suspected quail — shot a 78-year-old man in the face, only to be exonerated after an investigation revealed that the victim was an attorney.

And — perhaps most inexplicable of all — there was 2007, when millions of people voluntarily installed Windows Vista.

Yes, we’ve seen some weird years. But we’ve never seen one as weird as 2016. This was the Al Yankovic of years. If years were movies, 2016 would be “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” If years were relatives, 2016 would be the uncle who shows up at your Thanksgiving dinner wearing his underpants on the outside.

If you want to relive 2016 in the most humorous way that can be mustered up before the holiday weekend, you can see it all, broken down month by month, here.

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