• Video: First roundabout in northeastern Kentucky confuses drivers

    When my father-in-law first moved to a house in Kentucky near a roundabout, he knew that many people in the United States aren't familiar with roundabouts, the circular intersections most popular in Europe, so he carefully explained it to me before I visited him. I wish he'd head over to Rowan Country to set them right. From WKYT earlier this month before the roundabout opened:

    Roughly 4,000 cars pass through the intersection at routes 60 and 801 in Rowan County every day. Soon, it'll be replaced with a mini roundabout, designed to enhance safety and traffic flow.

    "We're looking at a way to reduce the severity of crashes that this intersection has a history of," said Allen Blair with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 9[…]

    Nearby local businesses are also on board with the improvements.

    "A lot of the locals are pretty apprehensive about the roundabout. I guess it's because it's something new. But I think it'll be better," said Adam Ferguson, the owner of Pop's BBQ.

  • Italian island "hermit" has been booted off after 30 years of living there alone

    More than 30 years ago, Mauro Morandi was attempting to sail from Italy to Polynesia when he ended up on Budelli, a small private island off Sardinia. Morandi, now 81, never left and eventually became the island's official caretaker. Above is a Great Big Story about Morandi from two years ago. La Maddalena's National Park, owner of the island since 2015, has been trying to evict Morandi to renovate his shack into an environmental observatory. Morandi announced this week on his Facebook page that he's decided to leave. From The Guardian:

    "I have given up the fight," he said. "After 32 years here, I feel very sad to leave. They told me they need to do work on my house and this time it seems to be for real." National park authorities have argued that Morandi made changes to the building without the required permits.

    Morandi, originally from Modena in central Italy, said he was moving into a small apartment on nearby La Maddalena, the largest island of the archipelago. "I'll be living in the outskirts of the main town, so will just go there for shopping and the rest of the time keep myself to myself," he said. "My life won't change too much, I'll still see the sea."

    As for Budelli, he said: "I hope that someone can protect it as well as I have."

  • "Where does a candle go when it burns?"

    A New York Times reader asks: "Where does a candle go when it burns, anyway? Is it healthy to be breathing in melted candle particles? How concerned should I be?" Randall Munroe of XKCD fame breaks down the science in his illustrated "Good Question" column. From the New York Times:

    Wax is made of hydrogen and carbon. When a candle burns, the hydrogen and carbon from the wax combine with the oxygen in the air to become carbon dioxide and water vapor. Most of the matter in the candle ends up as these two gases[…]

    As a candle burns, the CO₂ and water vapor it produces will cool and mix into the air in the room, becoming indistinguishable from any other molecule of CO₂ or water. Over the next few hours, as the air in your room is exchanged with the air outdoors, the molecules from your candle will escape the room and begin to disperse into the atmosphere. After about a year, atoms from your candle will have spread completely around the globe.

    "Where Does a Candle Go When It Burns?" (New York Times)

    image (cropped): LA2 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

  • Intruders entered Denny's at 2am. Made eggs.

    In Evansville, Indiana last week, two individuals entered a Denny's restaurant at 2am, hours after closing. They made some eggs and then left. According to the police report, the suspects returned about an hour later and "made some more eggs." Curiously, the door was not locked. The restaurant suffered "a total estimated loss" of $1, the cost of the eggs that the suspects cooked. From The Smoking Gun:

    After the duo made their second entry, a Denny's worker "arrived on scene, confronted them, and told them to leave." The report does not indicate how the worker became aware of the intrusion.

    The suspects, who departed the area in an auto, were recorded inside the Denny's by surveillance cameras. If identified, the pair could face misdemeanor theft and criminal trespass charges, cops say.

    image: Google Maps

  • Larry Kudlow warns against "plant-based beer" and Schumer wittily responds

    Donald Trumps's former economic adviser and now Fox News host Larry Kudlow warns us that President Biden's environmental plan will lead to us all guzzling, um, plant-based beer:

    Speaking of stupid. America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat, stop eating poultry and fish, seafood, eggs, dairy and animal-based fats. OK, got that? No burgers on July Fourth. No steaks on the barbecue. … So get ready. You can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts and wave your American flag.

    (HuffPo, thanks Bob Pescovitz!)

    image (cropped): Scott A. Miller (CC BY 3.0)

  • "Funky pickles" contain $4 million in smuggled meth

    Authorities intercepted a trailer at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge carrying fresh cucumber pickles. Apparently their "non-intrusive imaging system" clued them in that the pickle bags contained 217 pounds of methamphetamine worth approximately $4,343,000. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities referred to them as "funky pickles" which would be an excellent name for an actual brand of pickles.


  • Ukrainian airline offering aerial tours of Chernobyl

    For $106, you can climb aboard a Ukrainian International Airlines plane this Sunday for an aerial tour of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the radioactive ghost town of Pripyat. It's a one-day opportunity commemorating the 35th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster ever. From CNN:

    During the flight, organizers say the aircraft will stay above the minimum permitted height of 900 meters over Chernobyl, getting as close as possible to the nuclear power station without compromising safety.Inflight information will be provided by guides from Chernobyl Tour, a well-known Ukrainian company that specializes in Exclusion Zone tourism[…]

    "To be honest, this tour was made possible only due to the pandemic," says Bohdan Skotnykov, UIA's head of project for the flight. "There is an available aircraft and our team has some free time to do creative projects.] […]

    Although more focused on the aviation side, UIA's excursion continues a popular dark tourism tradition that, prior to Covid restrictions, saw tens of thousands of visitors explore the grim disaster site around Chernobyl and the abandoned city of Pripyat.

    "Chernobyl is the most successful tourist destination in Ukraine," says Yaroslav Yemelyanenko, director of Chernobyl Tour. "Before the quarantine, the number of tourists has doubled every year."

    image (cropped): Carl Montgomery – Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

  • Woman hired treasure hunter who found a rumored $46,000 hidden in her family's home for 50 years

    For decades, a Western Massachusetts woman had heard family rumors of a cache of cash hidden by her relatives in a 1950s home previously owned by her aunt and uncle. She's finally selling the house but wanted to put in one last ditch effort to see if there really was a secret stash of money in the home. So she hired treasure hunter and "detectorist" Keith Wille. From Mass Live:

    The search started in early April with the treasure hunter getting a tour of the attic space. There, he spotted the damaged parts of the floor where people in years past had unsuccessfully searched for the money and figured out a game plan for how he would find the cash.

    "Turning on my metal detector, I walked over to where light from the two windows intersected," Wille said on his website. "The rumor was that a person could see the box through the floorboards when the light shined into the room. Naturally, I started in the middle of the floor, looking for cracks where light could shine through."

    Using the metal detector, an endoscopic camera and his iPhone, Wille kicked off his quest to find the stashed money in the attic space. It took only around 50 minutes before he struck gold.

    With his endoscopic camera, Wille found the cashbox in one corner of the attic. He noticed jagged saw marks in the rafters of that section of the space, searched the floor and saw the keyhole of the cashbox. The treasure hunter then removed two suspiciously cut floorboards to take the loot out of its 63-year old hiding place.

    The total inside? $46,000.

  • Con artist busted for scamming 35 women for birthday gifts by pretending to be in a serious relationship with each of them

    Takashi Miyagawa, 39, of Kansai, Japan allegedly scammed three dozen women out of cash and birthday gifts by pretending to be in a serious relationship with each one of them. Apparently his racket only brought in around $1,000 total but he is still under police investigation after the women connected with each other and reported him. From the New York Post:

    In the most recent scam, the serial sex swindler told one 47-year-old lover that his birthday was on Feb. 22 — despite it actually falling on Nov. 13. Another victim said he convinced her his birthday was in July, while a third mark was fooled into thinking it occurred in April[…]

    Miyagawa had reportedly met the single women while selling them hydrogen shower heads and other products for an unnamed company, and began each relationship under the assumption that marriage was in the cards.

  • High school teacher suspended for taking students to strip club, drinking with the kids, exposing himself to a colleague, and acting like a total ass during school trip

    Richard Glenn, a teacher at Longridge Towers School in Northumberland, England, has been suspended for three years for his "unacceptable" behavior during a school trip for 16 to 18-year-olds to Costa Rica before the pandemic. Administrators sent Glenn home early. Apparently he didn't dispute the accusations but, "due to his state of intoxication," had no memory of his actions that the BBC reports included:

    • Drinking with pupils
    • Allowing one or more pupils to drink alcohol despite being under the legal age of 18
    • Threatening to "kick the head in" of one pupil and "kill" another
    • Telling one pupil: "I'm not in trouble – you'll be in trouble"
    • After being aggressive to one pupil, he kissed the boy's forehead and told him "you're all right"
    • Taking one or more pupils to a strip club
    • Acting aggressively towards the woman leading the trip when she tried to help him back to his tent
    • Exposing himself to the woman in a shared hotel room, although it was agreed this was not "malicious or sexually motivated"

  • Watch Debbie Harry and Kermit the Frog sing together

    In 1981, the great Debbie Harry of Blondie joined the great Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show to sing the latter's iconic song "The Rainbow Connection." Below are two other performances from that same episode. Open Culture quotes Muppets creator Jim Henson's son Brian:

    …I was in high school and my father knew that Debbie Harry was, like, the biggest thing in the world to me. And he booked her to be on The Muppet Show during a vacation week from school and he didn't tell me. We went out to dinner the night before shooting and they made me sit next to Debbie Harry at this fancy restaurant. And I just remember this whole dinner I was just endlessly sweating and all I knew was that I was aware of Debbie Harry sitting on the side of me. I don't think I ever said a word to her, I don't think I ever looked at her, but she did a great episode, she's a great performer and she's a lovely lady.

  • Mars Perseverance rover successfully inhaled carbon dioxide and exhaled oxygen

    The Perseverance rover has successfully converted carbon dioxide from the Red Planet's atmosphere into oxygen. Eventually, the technology inside the toaster-size Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) unit in Perseverance's belly could support human visits and perhaps even settlements on Mars. From NASA:

    While the technology demonstration is just getting started, it could pave the way for science fiction to become science fact – isolating and storing oxygen on Mars to help power rockets that could lift astronauts off the planet's surface. Such devices also might one day provide breathable air for astronauts themselves

    To burn its fuel, a rocket must have more oxygen by weight. To get four astronauts off the Martian surface on a future mission would require approximately 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of oxygen. In contrast, astronauts living and working on Mars would require far less oxygen to breathe. "The astronauts who spend a year on the surface will maybe use one metric ton between them," Hecht said.

    Hauling 25 metric tons of oxygen from Earth to Mars would be an arduous task. Transporting a one-ton oxygen converter – a larger, more powerful descendant of MOXIE that could produce those 25 tons – would be far more economical and practical.

    Mars' atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide. MOXIE works by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules, which are made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. A waste product, carbon monoxide, is emitted into the Martian atmosphere.

    image/caption credit NASA/JPL-Caltech: "Technicians in the clean room are carefully lowering the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover. The rover has been inverted so that the interior is more accessible. MOXIE will "breathe in" the CO2-rich atmosphere and "breathe out" a small amount of oxygen, to demonstrate a technology that could be critical for future human missions to Mars."

  • Submarine carrying 53 crew members submerged Wednesday, hasn't been seen since, and is running out of oxygen

    During Indonesian Navy training exercises in the Bali Strait on Wednesday, a submarine (seen above) carrying 53 crew members submerged and hasn't resurfaced. Its current location is unknown and authorities say that it's expected to run out of oxygen early Saturday. Multiple ships with advanced sonar capabilities are scanning the region for signs of the 60-meter submarine. From CNN:

    The military suspects that an oil spill seen in aerial surveillance near the dive point on Wednesday came from the craft. [Indonesian Navy Admiral Yudo] Margono said the Navy also found one object at the depth of 50-100 meters (approximately 164-328 feet) that was magnetic, meaning it likely came from the submarine.

    Margono said there are two possibilities to explain the oil spill spotted on the surface: the submarine tank could be leaking because it dove too deep, or the submarine released fluid on board in an attempt to rise to the surface.

    Indonesian Navy spokesman First Adm. Julius Widjojono said that the submarine has the capability to dive up to 500 meters (approximately 1,640 feet) below sea level, but authorities estimate it went 100-200 meters below that depth.

    Update: "Hope fades for Indonesia's missing submarine as US assists search" (CNN)

    image: Indonesian Navy