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Time to wrap up a few outstanding giveaways and make some general announcements. Sounds fun, right?

"¢ The folks running Ithaca's 'Light in Winter' festival kindly offered two free tickets to one of our readers. Based on the responses to Sunday's upstate New York trivia challenge, we've declared Alicia the winner. She just wanted it more. Congratulations! I'll be in touch about your free tix. And for everyone else who still wants to attend, visit

"¢ In case you missed Higgins' post this morning, we're hoping you'll send us photos of the oldest thing you own for a gallery feature we're working on. If you want to show off your stuff, here are the details.

"¢ Allison is working on the second installment of The Weekend Links. Got something flossy she should include? Send her an email:

"¢ Back on December 27th, we asked what makes your dogs so special. We have a winner!

From Ellen, about BB:

bb.jpgBB (short for Big Boy) was the runt of the litter. He was also the garbage can for all of the worst possible gene combinations available from his parents. His mother is a Shar pei/Pit mix. From that gene grouping he received his problematic skin condition that won't allow fur to grown on his face and throat. Another little "˜gift' from Mom are his collapsing ear canals that has rendered him mostly deaf. From good ol' Pops, an Australian Sheppard/??? mix, BB inherited his white fur with patches of brown, gray, tan, and black markings. A very handsome coat, indeed. However, according to my Vet, the gene that determines the color of the coat is the same that determines the color of the eye. Hence, the whiter the dog, the greater the chance for blindness. Thus, BB was born blind. So here I have this medium size dog with no fur on his face and throat, who is blind and mostly deaf. Awwww, you say? No, just wait. Now, I'll explain why he should be a candidate for world changing canine.

This is a pooch with a demeanor of never-ending hopefulness, good nature and determination. At any given time, you will find him overflowing with love and gratitude at the least sign of attention. He finds his way through the house and around the back yard as though he has it totally mapped out in his head. And when he does by chance run into a chair or a doorway, he smiles and shakes it off as though it were a little joke on him. When he goes looking for me, you can bet he will find me, no matter when I might be. He greets all strangers with an openness and unconditional happiness that melts their hearts on contact. The world should take a lesson from this brave little fellow: The adversities that are handed to us are simply inconvenient, not immobilizing. By the way, when he's really happy, he chases his tail. Makes you wonder how he knows it's there to chase!

Ellen should have already received her copy of 100 Dogs Who Changed Civilization: History's Most Influential Canines. Well deserved!

That's enough for one post. If anyone has any other Odds and/or Ends not covered, leave a comment or send me an IM (flossyjason). Good night!

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Richard Bouhet // Getty
4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.


To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”


There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.


Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.


Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]


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