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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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You Can Now Enroll at Hogwarts Via MOOC

Meet Hogwarts Is Here, a fan-run online wizard education, in which you can "enroll at Hogwarts, collect your textbooks and begin taking our 9-week courses online. You can now progress through all seven years of schooling and be assigned a professor, homework assignments, quizzes and more." The most popular course is Defense of the Dark Arts, naturally, and here is the answer to the most important question: you have to sort yourself. [Via AV Club]

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Jennifer Aniston and AVEENO® Celebrate the Beauty of Nature

Did you know that there are special properties within a grain of oat that give it an ability to absorb moisture and relieve dry, itchy, irritated skin? Oats contain five vital elements that are also found in healthy skin: proteins, anti-oxidants, enzymes, vitamins and lipids. In this video from AVEENO®, Jennifer Aniston traces the journey of the oats that go into its skincare products such as the best-selling AVEENO® Daily Moisturizing Lotion. Jennifer guides us along the oat's path from family farms, to grain mills, to the AVEENO® laboratory where scientists unlock the ingredient’s natural healing powers that keep skin feeling healthy and naturally beautiful.

Learn more about the Beauty of Nature from AVEENO® at AVEENO.com and Facebook.com/AVEENO.

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Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). They extracted the methane–about 300 liters a day. That's enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours. [Fast Company] | April 16, 2014

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A Curated Selection of Wonderfully Gruesome Sentences from Wikipedia

Welcome to mid-April; or, that dark chasm of working days that stretches on with no holidays until Memorial Day. Joy! In that spirit, I've been hitting the Wikipedia hard lately, and these are the most gruesome sentences I could find. I consider it a public service to share them. I'm sorry.

Anencephaly. “The most common type of anencephaly, in which the brain is completely absent.”

(Even if you can stomach the first photo, don’t scroll down. Seriously, don’t. I screamed out loud at work. Similar precautions go for the following 25 entries.)

Belle Gunness. “Hack driver Clyde Sturgis delivered many such trunks to her from La Porte and later remarked how the heavyset woman would lift these enormous trunks ‘like boxes of marshmallows,’ tossing them onto her wide shoulders and carrying them into the house.”

(runner-up: Botfly. “Squeezing the larvae out is not recommended, as it can cause the larvae to rupture; their bodily fluids have been known to cause severe anaphylactic shock.”)

Carlos II. “The physician who practiced his autopsy stated that his body ‘did not contain a single drop of blood; his heart was the size of a peppercorn; his lungs corroded; his intestines rotten and gangrenous; he had a single testicle, black as coal, and his head was full of water.’”

Dyatlov Pass incident. “Some were found wrapped in snips of ripped clothes that seemed to have been cut from those who were already dead.” (In sum, this is possibly the best Wikipedia entry of all time, not to get all superlative or anything.)

(runner-up: Danny Lyons. “As Lizzie the Dove lay dying she was said to have told Gentle Maggie that she would ‘meet you in hell and there scratch your eyes out.’”)

Elizabeth Báthory. “Before being burned at the stake, Semtész and Jó had their fingers ripped off their hands with hot pincers, while Ficko, who was deemed less culpable, was beheaded, and his body burned.”

Flaying. “Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact.”

Gangrene. “The affected part is edematous, soft, putrid, rotten and dark.”

Helios Airways Flight 522. “They intercepted the passenger jet at 11:24 and observed that the first officer was slumped motionless at the controls and the captain's seat was empty.”

Iron Maiden (torture device). “It was anthropomorphic, probably styled after primitive ‘Gothic’ representations of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with a cast likeness of her on the face.”

Jellied Eel. “The eel is a naturally gelatinous fish so the cooking process releases proteins, like collagen, into the liquid which solidify on cooling to form a jelly, though gelatin may be added in order to aid this process.” READ MORE

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India Recognizes Third Gender

From NPR:

India now has a third gender. The Supreme Court has recognized the country's transgender community as being in a third neutral category — neither male nor female.

In handing down the ruling, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan said, "Transgenders are citizens of this country ... and recognition as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue."

Progressive legislation! Always awesome—2 to 3 million people identify as transgender in India—and always uneven, contextual, fascinating. From the Washington Post:

The progressive ruling applies only to eunuchs – or hijras as they are called in Hindi — in India and not to gays, lesbians and bisexuals. In many ways, expanding the rights to transgendered people is far easier than legalizing homosexuality in India. For centuries, eunuchs – called hijras in Hindi — were given a special place in Indian religious epics and parables.

"Granting rights to transgenders is more acceptable to our psyche because we find many transgender characters in our religious, cultural mythologies and literature. Some of our Hindu Gods were of third-gender, some Gods changed their gender seamlessly to perform specific roles and rituals," said Rose Venkatesan, who transitioned from being a man to a woman four years ago and is a former television host and an independent filmmaker in the southern city of Chennai.

Photo via Nagarjun Kandukuru/Flickr

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On Ashol-Pan, the 13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress

You guys have likely read the BBC story about the 13-year-old Kazakh girl who hunts with eagles in western Mongolia; if you haven't, you must; the Ashol-Pan Lifetime Admiration Society starts now and ends never. ("I will endeavor to make myself worthy of you for the rest of my life, you eagle-wielding teen who strides the narrow world," wrote Mallory Ortberg yesterday.) It's a tough fucking life being a young girl in Central Asia, let alone one who is challenging gender norms, let alone one who is doing so by hunting with eagles: after a year of being harassed out of my skull in Kyrgyzstan I'd still barely seen things my female students already counted unremarkable. In a couple of those beautiful photos Ashol-Pan (off-duty) wears the same space-maid schoolgirl aprons they did, sits in one of those meticulous unheated schoolrooms with the blue-green walls and the white mountain light filtering in from the side. She looks, actually, a lot like an eighth-grade girl I taught once: READ MORE

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There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf. I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around – my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo's snout. It was only then that I realised I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth.

-There is no way I would have survived this hippo attack, but this man did, and wrote about it at the Guardian. | April 16, 2014

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Twin Shadow, "To The Top"


I had no idea that my body was craving an '80s drunk-at-prom power ballad, but this new Twin Shadow is really doing it: the track is all Springsteen/Foreigner arena rock, lush with movie-montage emotion, with slight shadings in the harmony and production that keep it from feeling too pat. (Previously: his great cover of "Silent All These Years.")

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You have a tattoo of a subway token, I was wondering when you're interviewing someone particularly hip or young do you use it as street cred?

I don't flaunt my tattoos.

Oh wow. You have more than one? So this isn't like a celebrity who wears non-prescription glasses to try and look smart, this isn't a cover to look hip?

It's become for me a strange form of personal hieroglyphics. I have now four. I think eventually, when I finish doing them, will tell the story of me, of where I lived, and what things have been important to me. That doesn't mean that I have my kid's pictures tattooed... I have two then on my back that are the two institutions that I revere, that have shaped me. One is unsurprisingly the amazing 'T' in The New York Times newspaper.

This exchange made exponentially better when you read New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson's responses in her very distinct voice. Statement Tats for all. [OUT] | April 15, 2014

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Leftover Woman

I am supine in a plush recliner. A woman is kneeling before me, pressing her thumbs into my feet. My friend Jon, a Chinese-American Tsinghua professor, is next to me in an identical chair. The TV in front of us is switched on a nature channel. The leopard pouncing on an unsuspecting gazelle makes sense in any language.

A man is rubbing Jon’s feet. “Is that your girlfriend?” the masseur asks him in Mandarin, nodding to me. “No,” Jon says, “she’s an old friend.”

“How old is she?” the masseur asks. Jon asks me and I answer 29 in English although I understand the Chinese. Jon translates and the masseur asks him if I’m married. Jon doesn’t need to consult me. “No,” he answers.

“Ahhhh,” the man says, “American women like to play for a long time, huh?” He laughs, and Jon laughs too, in uncomfortable solidarity. The woman rubbing my feet looks up at me and our eyes meet. We say nothing.

Someone in Beijing explained it to me like this: western men think Chinese women are spoiled. Little princesses. They want to be fawned over with teddy bears and expensive gifts. Better to cry in the back of a BMW than smile on the back of a bicycle. Chinese men think western women are spoiled. Little princesses. They say whatever they want and have opinions about everything. They drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. They are easy, have probably slept with dozens of men before you, but still want respect. I know enough Chinese and western women to know this is both true and also the furthest things from the truth. I, for one, love both alcohol and teddy bears.

My roommates are Chinese cousins from Henan Province. To save money they share a bedroom and a bed. Han Jia is in her early twenties, prim and innocent. Her cousin Shenying is different: cultured, with a round face and short-cropped hair.

Shenying is a year older than me and has been in Beijing since coming to the city to attend a top art school. Her old paintings are stacked in our cramped entryway behind Han Jia’s many sparkling, high-heeled shoes. It’s unclear to me what exactly Shenying does for work or how often she does it. She spends a lot of time watching television; one show features a dreadlocked young Chinese man whose name is iPad. Her English is as terrible as my Chinese and sometimes, drunk on watery Tsing Tao beer, desperate to be understood, we shout to sober Han Jia in the kitchen. “Han Jia! Fanyi!” Translate!

Shenying has a boyfriend, a painter with shoulder length hair who doesn’t seem to like me. Often he says things about America that I can’t understand and Han Jia refuses to translate. Shenying also has a husband who lives in Shanghai and a young daughter who lives with Han Jia’s mom back in their hometown. Only once do I ask about it. “We came together for the baby,” Shenying says in halting English.

“And now?” I ask, and she shrugs. I take this to mean that they have fulfilled their filial obligation and are now free to do as they please, but neither of us has the language to talk further. There’s a name for children being raised by grandparents while their parents try to make it in a top-tier city: liushou ertong, left behind children. I’m told it doesn’t sound so cruel in Chinese. There’s a term for women, too, who aren’t married by age 27. They’re called sheng nu, Leftover Women.  READ MORE

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Tax Terms, Explained

APRIL 15

This is Seth Rogen's birthday. He turns 32 today. Seth Rogen was born in Vancouver, laughs like a Muppet, and is your ideal body type. He similarly has no idea how to do his own taxes.

IRS

I Rock Sandals
Is Ringworm Scary?
Indiana's Rest Stops
Other: __________

REFUND

Kayak dot com forwardslash spring break forwardslash margaritas cervezas forwardslash J Crew bathing suit sale forwardslash SPF 85 because melanoma is a real problem

UNCRUSTABLES

These are all the sandwiches you ate this year. For every sandwich, you could get something back from the sandwich shop, but only if you wrote every single one down. How many sandwiches did you eat?

DEADLINE

Rhymes with "red wine."

PENALTY

Delay of game gets you a green card.

Rough or aggressive play gets you a yellow card.

Unsportsmanlike behavior gets you a red card and you will be ejected.

You can deduct your "LAX 4 LIFE" tattoo because it is unforgivably boss.  READ MORE

Voicemails From The Terrifying Future

In 2022, fires will destroy over 2,025 acres of Texas. In 2048, the Glacier Land Resort will open for people looking to see what life was like before the glaciers melted. In 2049, the Smithsonian—no longer open to the public—will feature a preserved hummingbird in their archives, the last proof of their species ever existing.

These are all possible futures as created by the users of FutureCoast, an interactive alternate reality game that began in February and concludes its run in May. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the overarching story of the game is simple: Mysterious objects known as “chronofacts" have begun appearing throughout the world. Once decoded—which a grassroots organization luckily takes care of for us—they're revealed to be voicemail leaks from the future, and not necessarily all from the same one. And that's, well, that's pretty much it as far as the plot goes.

But while the story is simplistic, the project—produced by Ken Eklund (who previously tried to save our doomed planet with the award-winning ARG World Without Oil) and Sara Thacher (one of the main forces behind San Francisco's Jejune Institute ARG/public art-ish thing)—is anything but. More than simply a collection of possible “what-ifs," the true goal is figuring out how to use storytelling to persuade.

Rick Paulas: There's a lot of different mediums you could have chosen for this project. Why just voicemails?

Ken Eklund: I wanted to focus on what the medium was. Because if we're like, well, we're getting videos from the future, it really opens up this big can of worms creatively. That could be a successful thing, “the YouTube of the Future has a leak in it and we're getting videos." But you could see how that could pre-select for people who are really good at doing videos. It becomes this narrow range who could participate and get above the bar that was set. I wasn't really interested in getting high quality from a narrow group of people. I thought it was very important to make it very democratic. It is a communication medium anyone can do.

Sara Thacher: Voicemails are basically these little miniature short stories, micro-stories, that give you a sense of place and story and characters. But voicemails also do this other thing. It's a story structure that you immediately understand. I say voicemail, and you understand. It's a message that's left for a person and there's a story structure all built in just by saying “voicemail." READ MORE

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Amer-Wreckin’ Pie: US History in Roller Derby Names

All registered names are real and pulled from the International RollerGirl's Master Roster site.

Abe Drinkin

Al Strapone

Affirmative Smacktion

Amber Waves of Pain

An Inconvenient Ruth

Annie Choakley

Arnold Swartz-a-skater

Barbara Butch

Barbrawl Walters

Bein’ A Dick Arnold

Benjamin Spanklin

Betsy Toss

Betty Floored

Bitch Cassidy

Bleed the Fifth

Bollock Obama

Booker Tease

Bondage N. Clyde

Bruisin' B. Anthony

Buzzkill Aldrin

Carmen Miranda Rights

Condoleeza Slice

Cuban Menstrual Crisis

Daniel Boom

Derby Crockett

Dubya T. Eff

Ejectoral College

Elvis Refley

Fort Knocks

Gaseous Clay

General Grant Slam

General Lee Sweaty READ MORE

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Here is a pretty, interactive map that tells you exactly where the "anything but country" populations are concentrated. Rochester, N.Y., your punk scene appears to be VIBRANT. [via Spin] | April 15, 2014

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Let's Make a Faux Cross-Stitch Emoji Sweatshirt

Welcome to Just The Tips.

Today: The Hanging Rope Planter

Previously: The Hanging Rope Planter Redemption

Katie is a producer in Texas. Katy is a copywriter in California. They are best friends who met at piano lessons in the early 18th century. In “Just The Tips,” Katy and Katie heed the siren song of “best life” advice in the realms of fashion, makeup, DIY, crafts, and home decor. Their efforts are met with only varying degrees of success; their spirits remain suspiciously undefeated. Follow them on Twitter and Tumblr.