Extreme Mountain Biking Near Inverness

Trials cyclist Danny MacAskill (previously at Neatorama) has given us thrills for years with his bike antics. In this video, he reveals how he got so good at what he does by going out on a ride with his crazy friends in Scotland as they take on the Mast near Inverness. They aren't just following the death-defying trails; they also set up their own challenges along the way. The outing is funny, thrilling, ridiculous, and vertigo-inducing in places. In other words, you'll enjoy watching it and will be thankful it isn't you  negotiating those challenges. These guys can admit being scared of a particular stunt, but then they go ahead and do it anyway. Adrenaline is addictive, after all. Bonus: no one had to be carried out and and sent to a hospital. Despite the American custom of adding captions to the dialogue, their Scottish-accented English is quite understandable. -via Kottke

The Jessie Scouts: Civil War Special Forces

Major General John Charles Frémont led US troops in California and had forged an army of crack troops who were experienced in war (the Mexican-American War), exploration, fighting Indians, hunting buffalo, and settlements in the West. The Civil War called him back to Missouri, where he commanded the Department of the West. In 1862, Frémont was assigned to the mountainous area of Virginia and what would later be West Virginia. He formed a unit consisting of a few dozen of his best fighters who called themselves Jessie Scouts, after Frémont's wife, who was considered to be smarter than her husband.

The Jessie Scouts used spy tactics to infiltrate Confederate units, which meant wearing Confederate uniforms, concocting false identities, perfecting a certain speaking style, and in at least one case, passing as a woman. They memorized code to recognize and communicate with each other while embedded with Confederates. Being found by Union soldiers could get them arrested, and being exposed to the Confederates would get them killed. Read the dangerous but crucial exploits of the Jessie Scouts at CrimeReads. -via Damn Interesting

The Stories Behind America's Odd Town Names

There are certain towns that always show up on lists of odd town names, often because they sound dirty, or because they've capitalized on the name to cultivate notoriety and draw tourists. Here's a list that goes beyond the beaten path to explain the origins of one strangely-named town in each of the 50 United States. It includes towns that have fairly obvious origins, like Volcano, Hawaii, and towns that should have a great story but were honestly named after a person, like Dickshooter in Idaho. It was named after Dick Shooter. Some were named in frustration with the US Postal Service when another name was rejected, like both Why, Arizona, and Whynot, North Carolina -although their stories are different.    

Other town names have great tales behind them, like Two Egg, Corner Ketch, Bacon Level, and Bugtussle, although we don't know if they are even remotely true. Neversink, New York has a wild story, even though it doesn't explain where the name originally came from. Check out odd town names in all 50 states at Mental Floss. The list is also available in video form, if you prefer.

(Image credit: Ken Lund)

Graduation Season in the South

Like football, high school graduation is a big deal in the South. The schools are enormous, the moms are crying, and the dads are bored out of their minds. Matt Mitchell lays it all out for us, including the once in a lifetime (for each kid) dinner at Red Lobster. Mitchell recorded this video on Monday, a fact he pinned in the comments, because Red Lobster outlets across the country closed suddenly on Wednesday. He says, "Life comes at you fast, but Chapter 11 bankruptcy comes faster."  

Although the video is about high school graduation, it hits home for me. I went to one of Auburn's graduation ceremonies last week (with 30,000 students, they have about a dozen commencements). I wore a suit, proper for spring in Kentucky, not realizing that Alabama is already at 90° in early May. All the other moms were in dresses and sandals. We went to Red Lobster, and had the whole place to ourselves. My kid had wanted to eat there for years, and got in just days before it closed.

55-Year Old Grandmother Is the First Person to Complete Brutal San Francisco Bay Swim

The waters between the Farallon Islands and the San Francisco mainland are extremely dangerous. They're cold, often populated by sharks, and are prone to brutal currents. Only six people have successfully swam the 30 mile stretch between them. Only one, the San Francisco Gate reports, have done so while starting from the mainland itself. That person is Amy Appelhans Gubser.

The 55-year old nurse and grandmother is already a noted world-class competitor in marathon swimming. She's planned this swim for five years. Gubser started her swim early in the morning last Saturday and arrived at the Farallon Islands seventeen hours later.

-via Conor Friedersdorf | Photo: Amy Appelhans Gubser

The Ugliest Muppet Toys in Existence

On the left is the Muppet named Pepe the King Prawn. He's not supposed to be pretty; he is supposed to be a shrimp. But the abomination on the right is supposed to look like Pepe, and it does not. Would you buy this plush toy for your five-year-old Muppet fan? The astonishing part is that this toy did not win the competition for the ugliest Muppet toy- it came in fifth. I did not want to traumatize you with those who scored higher, so you'll have to see for yourself.

Tough Pigs, a site dedicated to Muppet fandom, unveils the results of the Ugly Muppet Toy Pageant 2024. The 26 contestants are revealed from the least objectionable to the ugliest and least recognizable Muppet toys submitted by fans and voted for by readers. Each has "color commentary" from voters who try to guess how each toy went so wrong. You still have to wonder if there was any quality control in the designs at all, especially with those that are officially licensed Muppet merchandise (although you can bet that not all of them are).  

They've been doing these ugly Muppet toy pageants for years; check the previous collections out if you are so inclined. -via Metafilter

Pigeons Get a True Facts Video

Ze Frank manages to keep focused on nothing but scientific facts about pigeons for the first two minutes of this video, which are about how pigeons keep their vision steady, with information on how we do it ourselves. After that, it gets into their mating rituals, and it's not quite as wholesome as his surprising last video about bees posted here, but it's also not nearly as juvenile as his earlier episodes of True Facts. He goes on about how surprisingly smart pigeons are, considering their tiny bird brains. Those little brains are more densely packed with neurons than human brains! A pigeon's behavior is not all that sophisticated to us, but within their world, they have super powers that take advantage of opportunities that ensure their survival. At least the pigeons we have today outlasted the passenger pigeon, which went extinct in 1914. This video has a one-minute skippable ad at 3:48.

Judge Rules That Tacos and Burritos Are Sandwiches

Are hot dogs sandwiches? Are Pop-Tarts sandwiches? These are questions that remain unadjudicated. But now we do know that tacos and burritos are sandwiches--at least in the State of Indiana.

WISH TV 8 News in Fort Wayne reports Judge Craig J. Bobay ruled that Famous Taco may open a restaurant in a strip mall under a zoning ordinance which prohibited the opening of fast food restaurants. The judge determined that sandwich shops are not fast food establishments and that tacos and burritos constitute sandwiches.

In his ruling, Judge Bobay describes tacos and burritos as "Mexican-style sandwiches." He also notes that the ruling document would also permit "Greek gyros, Indian naan wraps, or Vietnamese banh mi."

-via Dave Barry | Photo: Claudia_midori

The Class of 1909 Had to Have Thick Skins

Back in the day, attending college was an accomplishment possible for a rare few, and graduation for even fewer. Along with the accolades from your family, you could be subjected to scathing insults from your classmates to be preserved for eternity in the school yearbook. Redditor jetpackblues_ unearthed the 1909 yearbook from the University of Minnesota and found the wildest, weirdest reviews of students printed along with their portraits. She shared 19 of the funniest ones.

While we are amused at "a case-hardened buttinski" or "a math shark and a man hater," these folks went on to long, productive lives with careers and marriages, as we learn in the comments.

The entire yearbook is available as a 98-megabyte pdf download. The portraits start on page 328. If you don't have the time to read them all, I took some interesting screenshots.

Continue reading

Nimble Lives Up to Her Name at Westminster Agility

When you first look at Nimble, you instantly recognize a border collie, but she's so tiny! She is a mixed breed dog. The Westminster Kennel Club calls them "All American dogs," which sounds better than calling them mutts. In the 11 years since the Westminster Kennel Club has been staging their Masters Agility Championship, no mixed-breed has ever won the top prize -until Nimble became a star last weekend during the competition in New York. She blazed through the course in 28.76 seconds with no errors! Besides being the first mixed-breed champion, she is also the first dog from the 12-inch division to win the overall competition. She beat 350 other dogs to win the title.

Nimble is a six-year-old border collie-papillon mix, and she has obviously inherited the best features of the two breeds, the intelligence of the border collie plus the speed of the papillon. Of course, papillons can be intelligent and border collies can be fast, too. Besides, she's as cute as can be. Nimble's handler Cynthia Hornor assured everyone that the little dog got steak and playtime after her win. -via Laughing Squid

The Comedy Pet Photography Awards Finalists 2024

("Hard Workers" by Atsuyuki Ohshima)

The Comedy Pet Photography competition is brought to you by the same people who stage the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, except these are for domestic animals that live with us. The finalists for this year's competition have been released, and they are both goofy and adorable. No wonder we keep these wonderful creatures as pets!

("Who are you" by Silvia Jiang)

The finalists include funny facial expressions caught at just the right time, animal interactions that tell a story, and pets who dance like no one is watching. Except someone is, with a camera.

("I think I saw a mouse" by Debby Thomas)

See all 29 finalists in a gallery here. You can vote on your favorite for the People's Choice Award, which also gets you entered into a sweepstakes drawing for £100 cash. The winners of the Pet Comedy Photography Awards will be announced on June 6. You can see more comedic pets in the other entries at Instagram. -via Everlasting Blort

An Honest Trailer for The Phantom Menace

Now wait just a minute here. Why is Screen Junkies making an Honest Trailer for a movie that came out, uh, 25 years ago? Oh, I see. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace opened on May 16, 1999, which means its silver anniversary is tomorrow. That's why you've been seeing references to The Phantom Menace everywhere, and it may even be playing at a theater near you.

This movie heralded the second phase of Star Wars, now called "the prequels." Fans who saw the original Star Wars movie in 1977 as children had been waiting 16 years for another glimpse at a galaxy far, far away and had their hopes sky high for The Phantom Menace, but then were disappointed. At the same time, children who were introduced to that world in 1999 loved it. Twenty-five years later, those children run the world, and they have fond memories of The Phantom Menace. Do you realize the implications of this conundrum? In another twenty years, Star Wars fans across the internet will be lauding the nostalgic feel of The Rise of Skywalker. But for now, let's wallow in the memories of the annoying child prodigy Anakin Skywalker, endless discussion of trade agreements, midi-chlorians, and Jar Jar Binks.   

The Most Frustrating User Interface on the 'Net

We've all had the experience of signing up for something on the internet and tearing our hair out trying to get through the process because they put so little effort into making it easy for the user. At a regular website, you'd just give up in frustration and never go to that site again, but bad interface is rampant at government websites where you have to get in somehow to do everything from getting health insurance to paying your utility bill. What if someone put all the complaints about bad user interface in one place so that you can drive yourself mad? Then no one would use it. But what if they made it a game?

User Inyerface
is just such a game. You are challenged to register an account in the most difficult ways possible, and you have to figure out all its quirks yourself because you can't complain to a form. There's a help box, but that's hilariously bad, too. It's more like a puzzle, and it's really satisfying when you get all the way through. Oh yeah, and you're timed as well. It took me twenty-two minutes, but don't let that discourage you. I had a phone call while playing, and I sure didn't want to start over again just for a better time, and I certainly didn't want to play through a second time just to get a screenshot for this post. There's no need to use your real information in the game. User Inyerface can be described as amusing and annoying at the same time, because we know we will run into these poorly-designed components the next time we want to sign up for a state park membership or something. -via Metafilter

Fingerhakeln -- The Sport of Finger Wrestling

"Pull my finger."

In Germany, this request usually has a different connotation. The Associated Press tells us that fingerhakeln is a traditional sport from southern Germany and the alpine region of Austria.

Two men face each other across a table and place their middle fingers through a leather loop. Then they try to pull each other across the table. Fingerhakeln requires a lot of strength--sometimes enough to dislocate an opponent's finger.

Last Sunday, 150 men gathered in a beer tent in Bernbeuren, Germany to compete. Approximately 1,000 spectators watched the athletes, who were dressed in traditional clothing, pull against each other in successive rounds until a champion prevailed.

-via Dave Barry

Falling Down Stairs- With Style

Someone call a carpenter, because there is obviously something very wrong with the stairs leading off the concert stage! When someone falls down a flight of stairs in real life, we might hear plenty of banging and screaming, often resulting in injuries, and there's nothing funny about it. When singers with distinctive and iconic voices fall down the stairs, everyone knows who they are. Master mixer Dustin Ballard, better known as There I Ruined It (previously at Neatorama), shows us what that might sound like. He assures us that no singers were hurt in the making of this nonsense. Each fall is mercifully short, but still paints a picture in our minds. You almost feel sorry for the singer, fictional as this scenario is. You have to wonder what inspired this project, because it can't have been good. My guess is that Steven Tyler was the original inspiration, but Johnny Cash makes it perfect.

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