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Old-ish dogs, new-ish tricks

When my grandfather Mervin (who invented all kinds of hairclips back in the 1930s) was 86, he went out and bought a sewing machine and taught himself to sew. He liked to take apart shirts he already owned—ones he loved to wear all the time—and then turn them into patterns so he could make new ones.

I remember thinking: who, at 86, takes on anything new on such a major level? He lived to 92, and never stopped making clothes for the family. But his story pales by comparison to Phyllis Turners. Recently, she became the world's oldest person to earn a university masters degree at, are ready for this? "“ a ridiculously impressive 94 years-old!

From Reuters:

Turner left primary school at 12 to help her mother look after her siblings after her father left the family. She returned to study almost 60 years later, enrolling at the prestigious Adelaide University [that's in Australia, mates!] to study anthropology at age 70, winning honors in 2002 before moving on to her masters.

So here's to all those dogs who aren't afraid to learn new tricks. It's reassuring to remember that in another, oh, 40 years, I could teach myself Chinese or learn to drive a grunegruytherphit. What? Never heard of a grunegruytherphit? Check back with this blog in 40 years"¦

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History
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Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

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The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.

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