The Weekend Links

We all know that spelling in the English language is a convoluted subject at best, a point made rather clear in this clip, where 102-year-old Ed Rondthaler gives a convincing argument in his quick English spelling reform lesson.

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Ok, Flossers: agree or disagree? Here are 10 geeky movies on which to raise your kids. Sad to say I've only seen a few. Does anyone have suggestions for ones left off the list?

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Another round of Steve, Don't Eat It! featuring Cuitlacoche. Warning: obviously not safe if you have just eaten. I find it hard to believe things like these exist and are consumed by people without irony!

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Slate.com recently took an informal poll to determine which Netflix movies sat on readers' shelves the longest before they were watched. Check out the results here. Any confessions from you guys? I'll admit, Rashomon sat on my shelf for at least 4 months before I popped that baby in.

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Glass blowing has always fascinated me - it seems like such a magical art. Check out this video where a guy makes a glass cat in less than 2 minutes.

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20 of the world's strangest endangered species. It doesn't even pay to be a cute animal anymore - no one is safe!

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In college, my Saturdays were often spent on the couch watching countless hours of Mythbusters marathons. Never failing to impress, Adam and Jamie have done it again - this time creating a machine that can draw a Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds at NVIDIA's show. Be sure to watch until the very end where they replay it in slow motion. Amazing!

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fashionpic3.jpgfashionpic2.jpgFashionpic.jpg

The Sartorialist is a great photo blog if you're looking to see what crazy, amazing, and often inspired outfits people are wearing on the streets these days.

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From Jan, a photoshop "simplicity" contest for a $500 Apple gift card. According to pattern, it seems most everyone could use a much simpler phone and computer to start.

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Because there can never be too much discussion about the Dark Knight ... an article on Game Theory in the opening scene of the latest Batman film.

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Friend of Mental_Floss Regator.com just launched their site, which is most definitely worth a look. It's a blog aggregator (get it?) that features hand-picked stories from the internet each day, with users voting on the content. It's a great way to find out the best of the best! (For instance, I just found this gem on there).

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If you're as upset as I am and countless other HP fans that the next Harry Potter movie has been delayed until Summer 2009, you will get a major chuckle from this video on the subject. Never have subtitles been so unexpected (and apt!)

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From Joanna, this site allows you to input text or a URL to see which words appear most frequently, and arranges them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Full disclosure: my OS isn't upgraded enough for the Java applet, but I'd be interested to see what comes up when you put up mentalfloss.com. Can someone try and link to it?

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A note from Jason: This is long overdue, but we need to crown a winner of the Wow Us With Your First Lady Facts contest. Congratulations to Jean Butler! Here's her entry:

Harriet Lane was the first First First Lady to have a warship named after her - the Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane, commissioned in 1857. The Revenue Cutter was the forerunner of today's US Coast Guard. Harriet Lane was the niece of our only bachelor President, James Buchanan and served as his hostess. She became such a huge fashion and social icon of the day, that she was referred to as America's First Lady. Thus began the tradition of referring to the President's wife/hostess as the first Lady.

Jean, I'll be in touch about your prize—Cormac O'Brien's Secret Lives of the First Ladies: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Women of the White House (published by Quirk Books). Thanks to everyone who entered. We promise the next contest will not take 9 days to judge. Back to you, Allison.

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Is it an office supply or a crazy weapon? Find out here.

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Finally, have some fun with this collection of tongue twisters.

As you all bask in the cerulean resplendence of the forthcoming autumn this weekend, try not to forget to keep sending in those links! You know the drill: FlossyLinks@gmail.com.

[Last Weekend's Links]

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
iStock
iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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