Miss Cellania's Blog Posts


INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY IS CELEBRATED EVERY OCTOBER 22, but -and this is important-  that doesn't mean you have to use it. The caps lock button on your keyboard is there to, well, no one is really sure what it's supposed to be for, but some internet users keep it on all the time. The holiday was invented in 2000, when millions of people were starting to use the internet to communicate, even though they were not typists. Many of them decided it was easier to type everything in upper case than it was to switch back and forth between upper case and lower case to create sentences. In other words, it was a shortcut to reduce errors. However, the effect on the reader was that they were being shouted at.

Times have changed, and as a new generation has grown up with internet technology, you are more likely to encounter textspeak or a barrage of acronyms than uppercase messages. Some people still use all caps in order to emphasize how important their message is -which is akin to actual deliberate shouting. Others just cannot give up the habit because they don't want to deal with a shift key. But we still observe International Caps Lock Day for the fun of it. In fact, it comes around twice a year, the other holiday being on June 28. Metafilter, as always, is making a field day of it.

Read the history and significance of International Caps Lock Day at the Caps Lock Day website. Be assured that the website is not in all caps.

Dropping a 1200-pound Pumpkin from 100 Feet

Growing giant pumpkins for competition can be a satisfying hobby, but there's always the question of what to do with the pumpkin afterward. In Portland, a bunch of them were donated to the elephants of the Oregon Zoo. Another pumpkin found a different kind of glory. It grew to 1200 pounds, but then developed a hole that disqualified it for competition.

The organizers of Bauman's Harvest Festival, held by Bauman's Farm and Garden in Gervais, Oregon, came up with an idea. To entertain the crowd, they brought in a crane and a pool and dropped the pumpkin from a height of 100 feet! While waiting for the splash, you kind of wish that they'd dropped this gourd without a pool underneath. But when you see the aftermath, you realize that even small chucks of a 1200-pound pumpkin could have caused some real misery if it had bounced into the crowd. A good time was had by all. -via Digg

The Mysterious Tragedy of the S.S. Ourang Medan

Sometime in the 1940s, the cargo ship S.S. Ourang Medan was found somewhere near Indonesia drifting without control. The crew was found dead, along with a dog which also died. There was no sign of violence, but one lifeboat was gone. Nearby ships had reported hearing a radio distress call the night before.

“All officers including captain dead,” the voice said, “lying in chartroom and on bridge, probably whole crew dead ... I die.”

With those words, the S.S. Ourang Medan cargo ship would go down in infamy. For decades, stories have circulated of the crew being found dead following the distress call, with no obvious cause. Worse, their faces were said to be frozen in horror, anguish, or a combination of the two.

Accounts of the disaster made their way around the world over the next few years, but they raised more questions than there were answers. Surely there was an investigation into the deaths! But no, the evidence was erased when the Ourang Medan's engine blew up, producing four explosions that destroyed the ship shortly after it was found. What cargo was the ship carrying? No one knew, because the ship apparently wasn't properly registered, which means it could have been carrying anything, including dangerous chemicals. Where did the information we have come from? Again, the answers are quite murky. Read what we know and what we don't know about the Ourang Medan at Mental Floss. 

New Ohio License Plate Design Corrected

Ohio's governor Mike DeWine unveiled the design for the state's new automotive license plate Thursday morning. The design features a wheat field, the Ohio River, cities, and mountains all in front of a sunrise. Overhead, the state shows off its pride in the Wright Brothers as the Wright Flyer pulls a banner saying "Birthplace of Aviation." No matter that the first flight took place in North Carolina, as Orville and Wilbur Wright were from Dayton, Ohio. But it was only a matter of minutes before someone discovered an error. The Wright Flyer is backwards, and appears to be pushing the banner from the front! You can see the proper orientation of the Wright Flyer in this colorized photo of Wilbur Wright.

What looks to a casual observer to be the tail of the plane were what the Wrights called "elevators" and were in the front of the plane. Obviously, the plate was designed by someone outside of Ohio, since they surely covered the momentous flight in school.

Colorful and packed with references, the “Sunshine in Ohio” plate was designed by Bureau of Motor Vehicles staff with direction from the governor and First Lady Fran DeWine, who wanted to showcase the state’s agriculture, nature, cities and flight history.

Oops. According to NBC 4, the design had since been corrected- but not before going viral. There's no word on what will happen to the plates that have already been printed at Ohio's Lebanon Correctional Facility. If any survive, they will certainly become collector's items. -via Fark

(Wright image colorized by Jared Enos)

Looking Into the Origin of Vampires

Stories of vampires have been around for about a thousand years, as far as we know, but those Eastern European tales did not involve bats or Romanian despots or anything we see from Hollywood. At its core, the vampire myth was a way of explaining terrible things that happened to people by blaming the dead. Disease was particularly troubling. Before germ theory, it was difficult to understand why a remote village would be stricken by horrific illnesses such as rabies or pellagra that caused such strange symptoms and usually death. In these isolated villages, every family knew at least one dead person who might be seeking revenge on the living when an outbreak occurred. Over time, they developed defenses against the dead, which often involved digging up graves to destroy the remains, a practice that continued well into the relatively modern times. Research into the matter is hampered by a centuries-old restriction on saying the name of the demon who caused the calamity. Read about the origins of the vampire legend at Atlas Obscura.

The Portuguese Diplomat Who Saved Thousands From the Nazis

Before reading this story, you should picture the movie Casablanca, and the desperation of the many refugees who just wanted to go somewhere safe. The following true story about desperate World War II refugees actually plays into the movie eventually.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes was a diplomat at the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France, when Hitler's army invaded France in 1940. Refugees from Paris and all over the country headed south, hoping to cross into a safe country. Portugal was officially neutral regarding Hitler's march across Europe, and seemed a likely destination. But Portugal was ruled by the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, who had forbidden Portuguese consulates to issue visas for refugees. Salazar wanted to keep the war at arm's length. Sousa Mendes had already gotten into trouble with his superiors for issuing a few visas here and there. Then he met a Polish rabbi named Chaim Kruger (pictured above with Sousa Mendes) who had fled from Belgium with his family ahead of the Nazis. Sousa Mendes told the rabbi that no visas could be arranged.    

Quietly, however, Sousa Mendes did request permission from Lisbon to issue the visas, and on June 13 the Foreign Ministry responded: “Recusados vistos.” Visas denied. Flouting his superior, Sousa Mendes offered Kruger the papers anyway. Kruger declined them. “It is not just me who needs help,” he told Sousa Mendes, “but all my fellow Jews who are in danger of their lives.”

Suddenly, Sousa Mendes’ selfless effort to help a new friend, to aid a single Jewish family, was revealed for what it truly was: A choice between saving himself and saving thousands, between obeying his government and obeying his conscience. The dilemma was so destabilizing that Sousa Mendes stumbled into his bedroom “as though he had been struck down by a violent disease,” his son recalled.

He finally emerged three days later. “I am going to issue a visa to anyone who asks for it,” he announced. “Even if I am discharged, I can only act as a Christian, as my conscience tells me.”

And so he did. Sousa Mendes issued thousands of visas in the next couple of weeks in Bordeaux, then moved to other French cities where refugees had gathered to sign more, to anyone who wanted to escape. Some of those refugees were people you've read about here at Neatorama. He even went to the Spanish border, where word had been sent not to honor Sousa Mendes' visas, and he managed to personally escort refugees across the border. But in Portugal, Salazar made sure Sousa Mendes paid for his actions. Read the story of the diplomat who followed his conscience at Smithsonian. 

(Image source: sousamendes.org)

See also: Holocaust Hero Chiune Sugihara

A Honest Trailer for Sean Connery as James Bond

The latest video from Screen Junkies is less an Honest Trailer and more of a tribute to the greatest James Bond ever, the original played by Sean Connery. His Bond was the ultimate role model for 1960s men: skilled, handsome, brave, sophisticated, clever, cool, and very lucky. He was also attractive to the women who could buy into the misogyny and objectification of the time. These movies offered action, intrigue, sex, comedy, and the good guy always won in the end. It was a standard formula, but one that worked. The Connery Bond movies were far from perfect, but they were enjoyable in a simple way.

The Jericho Skull

Excavations in the ancient city of Jericho in 1953 yielded eight skulls that shared a peculiar commonality: they were covered in plaster. This was a unique funerary custom that baffled scientists, who dated the skulls to between 9,000 and 6,000 BC. Were they plastered as a form of portraiture to make them look like they did in life? Were they really loved ones, or skulls taken as trophies from warfare? Did they remove the flesh or wait until it naturally decomposed?

One of the skulls that came to be known as the Jericho Skull was from a man who died 9,500 years ago. The plaster was embedded with seashells where the eyes had been. Scientists in the 1950s couldn't find out much about him, but technology has come a long way since then. In 2009, the Jericho Skull underwent a Micro-CT scan, revealing the shape of the skull underneath. In 2016, the scan was used to make a 3D print of the skull, after which a forensic reconstruction of the man's face was made. Read how that turned out at The British Museum Blog.

Covering skulls in plaster is just one of 5 Of The Most Badass Ways Cultures Used To Treat Their Dead, which you can read at Cracked.    

(Image credit: Zunkir)

Explaining Why an Orchestra Is What It Is

Orchestras vary from place to place, but they all have a basic organization. Who decided this? Why are certain instruments included and others not? British composer David Bruce brings us a history of the orchestra, in a style inspired by Bill Wurtz, but with a lot of solid historical information.

I was a bit surprised to learns there really weren't any orchestras until the 1600s. They early ones were somewhat experimental, but success breeds standardization, and competition breeds excess, but composers needed to know what instruments to write for. While the orchestral form is still quite standardized, it continues to evolve in new ways. Altogether, this video is way more interesting than you'd expect. -via Laughing Squid

What's Wrong with This Picture?

Redditor uncle_stink shows us a water bill he received this summer. What in the world could have caused him to run up a $47,542 bill? He was accused of installing a water park in his backyard, but that's not it. There has to be an error here. Can you figure out what it is?

First, notice the dates. He was billed from July to April, which made the number of days negative. We don't think there is any time travel involved here, so either there was a typo or else someone entered the data in the wrong field. The machinery saw the dates were reversed and therefore reversed the meter readings. This didn't help, as now the present reading is less than the previous reading. When that happens, the system assumes that the meter rolled over, so a million units were automatically added.

It doesn't help that the right side of the bill should be read from the top down chronologically, while the left side should be read up chronologically. This is counterintuitive. The dates and the meter numbers as they were read on those dates should be lined up on a well-designed bill.

Let's hope that the bean counters at the water department can see that it's an error. In so many of these cases, they first offer to help set up a payment plan for you.

The Shooting Range that Crosses a Highway

At the Brünnlisau shooting range in Switzerland, the shooters are on this side of the road, and the targets are on the other side. Meanwhile, traffic is passing along in between. What could possibly go wrong? What might surprise you is that this shooting range has been in operation for twenty years with no incidents involving the vehicles passing by!

The explanation lies in the design of the shooting range and the rules that govern it. These rules are bolstered by the gun culture of Switzerland, in which shooters are numerous, but also highly trained and regulated. Also noted: this range has some very cool technology for scoring your shots.   

Europeans who saw this video tell us that Brünnlisau is far from the only shooting range in Switzerland that ranges across a road like this. They also had a laugh at Tom mentioning that it's about two hours from Zurich. The response was that every place in Switzerland is about two hours from Zurich, including parts of Zurich during rush hour.  

How to Thwart an Armed Robot

You may have seen the "robot gun dog" on the internet in the last few days. Ghost Robotics, a company that makes quadruped robots for the military, attached a "special purpose unmanned rifle" to the robot to show off at an army conference last week. Its appearance is frightening, and so are your thoughts about what it can do.  

Crop scientist and industrial safety expert Dr. Sarah Taber is here to reassure you that there's no need to fear the latest lethal robot just yet. In a Twitter thread, she explains the troubleshooting challenges that await any new technology, particularly if it is designed to be used outdoors or in any unfamiliar environment. Her knowledge comes from working with hi-tech farm equipment, which is designed by very smart robotics engineers who have never worked on a farm. Taber lays out a list of problems these robots will face, which she admits is far from a complete list.

See the original thread with replies at Twitter or at Threadreader if you prefer. -via Metafilter

Andrew Clemens's Sand Art

These bottles of sand aren't decorated with colorful labels. The entire artwork is made of sand inside the glass bottle! This is the work of Andrew Clemens, who made these primarily between 1880 and 1886. Clemens was rendered deaf by a case of encephalitis in his infancy. During his summers away from the Iowa State School for the Deaf, he collected naturally colored sand from Sand Cave at Pikes Peak State Park and sorted the grains into various tints. Then he carefully layered the sand inside a medicine bottle, using tools he designed himself, with no glue or foreign substances to hold the design together.

While the most complex designs could take up to a year to produce, most of Clemens' bottles were completed somewhat faster. He suffered from poor health all his life, and died at 37. Of the hundred or so sand bottles Clemens completed, only a few survive today and sell for a pretty penny when they are put on the market. One of them went up for auction on September 30th. It was estimated to be worth $100,000, but eventually sold for $956,000! -via TYWKIWDBI

(Image credit: Wikifreaking)

Should We Bring Jaguars Back to the US?

When we think of jaguars, we picture them in the Central and South American rainforests, which is where 99% of them live. But at one time, jaguars roamed through the southern US, from California to Louisiana and even beyond. A government-backed campaign of eradication wiped them out in the first half of the 20th century. There are some jaguars in Mexico, where a preserve has been set aside for them, and occasionally one of the cats moves into the US. Solitary male jaguars wander a large territory, and there are two of them suspected of living north of the US border as of now.

Some conservationists believe the US should welcome jaguars back. We know from our experience with wolves that re-introducing apex predators will improve an ecosystem from the top down. Expanding the range of jaguars will also improve the species' chances of survival in the long run. One plan is to bring jaguars in from Mexico and Argentina to live in the Central Arizona/New Mexico Recovery Area (CANRA), a 20-million-acre area owned by Native American tribes and the federal government. Other conservationists believe it would be better to support the jaguar population in the Mexican preserve and encourage them to cross into US territory on their own.

There are people opposed to both plans. Some are concerned for livestock and other wildlife. Some believe it to be a waste of money and resources. And some jaguar fans believe that the US is just too dangerous for the cats in the 21st century, between fences, highways, hunters, and poorly-managed habitats. Read about the controversial plans for re-introducing jaguars to the US at Vox.

(Image credit: Leonardo Ramos)

Tales from the Autopsy Table

A recent post at AskReddit said, "Autopsy Doctors of Reddit, what was strangest discovery you’ve made while preforming an autopsy?" (sic) Responses came in from medical examiners, autopsy techs, EMTs, pathologists, embalmers, med students, and plenty of other folks who have seen. Some. Stuff. Here is one example.

6. "When I was in my intro to EMS class, my teacher brought in a death investigator and former autopsy examiner to speak to our class. She told us while she worked as an autopsy examiner, she got this woman who, at the time, mysteriously suffocated after a car accident. Apparently, while she was driving, she grabbed her lighter from her purse and was holding it in her mouth while she fumbled through her bag for her cigarettes. While doing this, she got T-boned."

"The airbag went off and on the way to the hospital, they kept trying to put tubes down her throat to open her airway cause she was having trouble breathing. But no luck. She said when they cut open her throat during the autopsy they found her lighter jammed down there. Apparently, when the airbag went off, it got jammed down her throat and no one knew."


You can read more weird causes of death in the original thread, or the 13 best stories at Buzzfeed.  Some of them may be disturbing.

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Profile for Miss Cellania

  • Member Since 2012/08/04


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