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How Not To: Build an Inland Sea

When Life Gives You Massive River Flooding, Make Lemonade
In a fit of early 1900s nature-subduing enthusiasm, the good people of California decided to turn Imperial Valley (a desert) into a vast agricultural paradise (not a desert). To do so, they started cutting irrigation channels from the Colorado River. When those filled up with silt, they cut a little deeper, digging out a large gap in the River's bank to increase flow. Then, in 1905, the floods came, washing out the engineered canal and pouring thousands of gallons of water directly from the River into a previously dry below-sea-level basin. It took two years to get the flooding under control, by which point the basin had become a lake—the Salton Sea. In 1907 the first sport fish were imported and a tourist attraction was born.


Put Your Trust in Runoff

With the broken canals now repaired, the Salton Sea had no inlet or outlet. Instead, all it's water came from farm irrigation runoff. At first, nobody saw this as a problem. Then the Sea's salinity (and pollution levels) started to increase. Turns out, farmers were pulling water from the Sea, putting it on their crops, and letting it flow back in. Each time, the water picked up a little more salt and a few more pesticide chemicals. Eventually, this led to outbreaks of algae, massive fish die-offs, and a salinity level greater than the Pacific Ocean.

Assume You Won't Have To Deal With More Flooding In the Future

By the 1960s, regardless of its increasingly salty nature, the Salton Sea had become one of California's busiest tourist attractions and it's most popular state park. Investors built swanky resorts, but, unfortunately, nobody thought to build flood control systems. Then came 1976, when a tropical storm hit the area, marking the beginning of seven years of extra-heavy rains. Most of the new developments ended up underwater or bankrupt as investors bailed. Worse, increased runoff meant that even more chemicals and salt poured into the Sea. By the 1980s, there was little left of the once-thriving fishing and boating industries. Today, the Sea is home to several half-flooded trailer-park communities and one thriving bird sanctuary. Still ever saltier, it's expected to lose most of its fish population in the next few years.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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