Queen of the Oddballs

Memoirs are a funny business. So many get published each year by authors who can't write, but rather dictate their lives to a ghostwriter who makes sense of the rat-a-tat and types it up in a logical and (hopefully) entertaining fashion. Sometimes the scribe gets a "With" credit on the cover but more often than not, just a polite "thank you" on the acknowledgments page.

I go through phases of reading tons of them back-to-back, and then boycotting the whole genre for years—as if the books were being printed in sweatshops in Malaysia or something.

Recently, a new memoir by author Hillary Carlip has caused me to end my embargo. Called Queen of the Oddballs, Carlip spins a hilarious narrative, full of life-until-now strangeness (like being the first contestant ever on the Gong Show to get a perfect 10 from critic Rex Reed).

But unlike most memoirs, she also lists factoids at the beginning of each chapter (which are organized by year) to help ease the reader back in time. For instance, in the Spring of 1971 we learn "At a Grateful Dead concert in San Francisco, more than thirty fans go to the hospital after unknowingly drinking apple juice laced with LSD."

And in 1985 we're reminded "Coke changes its original formula and introduces "˜New Coke.'" While in 1991, in what now seems like the irony of our times, "Iraq declares some of its chemical weapons and material to the UN and claims that it does not have a biological weapons program."

And while, yes, that's no laughing matter, Carlip's book is. A proud lesbian, her writing sparkles like a male David Sedaris.

Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at


More from mental floss studios