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Morning Cup of Links: Near-Death Experiences

“I hold an advanced degree in Liverpudlian quartet arts.” That’s how I imagine Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy introducing herself now that she’s become the world’s first person to graduate with a Masters Degree in The Beatles.
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Who doesn't love a good octopus video? Our friend Maggie at Boing Boing has a special feature over there called everybody loves cephalopods, where she explains what makes these non-fluffy, non-mammals so appealing.
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If you watched the insanity that is Black Swan, or the brutal climax of 127 Hours, or the drug-addled tailspin of The Fighter and thought ‘This movie would be way better if these characters were played by kids,’ then you’re really weird. But you’re also in luck.
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Speaking of movies, the documentary filmmaker behind Super Size Me is hoping to increase his artistic credibility – by shamelessly selling it off to the highest bidder.
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If your part of the country has been clobbered by snow, then you really need to hit up Wikihow and learn How to Build A Snow Fort, How to Win A Snowball Fight, and How to Make Ice Cream with Snow.
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The author of the new book The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain has been gathering information about near-death experiences for three decades. In this article he shares some of what he’s learned.
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In honor of my brother-in-law – who has just completed his college application process – let’s take a look at 11 Offbeat College Essay Topics.

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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holidays
Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)
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iStock

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, UglyChristmasSweater.com sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

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