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How a Friendly Writing Contest Resulted in Three Literary Classics

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Wikimedia Commons

These days, damp, rainy spells usually inspire us to curl up on the couch and watch an American Pickers marathon (tell me that's not just me). But back in 1816 - also known as "The Year Without a Summer" - the results were much different.
The summer was rainy and abnormal because India's Indonesia's Mount Tambora ("Pompeii of the east") had recently erupted, creating a volcanic winter.

Lord Byron and writer John William Polidori were staying at a villa near Lake Geneva when Claire Clairmont (Mary Shelley's stepsister) and Percy and Mary Shelley dropped by to visit for a few days. Their plans were dampened by the strange summer, so to keep themselves amused, they took turns reading ghost stories to each other, including a book of German stories translated into French called Fantasmagoriana.

As I suppose might happen when you get a group of bored writers together, they came up with a challenge to write their own works in a similar vein. The result? The beginnings of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Polidori's The Vampyre (largely thought to be the start of the entire genre - you're welcome, Stephenie Meyer) and Byron's poem "The Darkness."

It didn't come easy, mind you. Mary once wrote,

"I thought and pondered - vainly. I felt that blank incapacity of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. 'Have you thought of a story?' I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative."

Byron didn't fare much better, at first - he started and stopped a story about a dying man who swears to come back after death to visit his friend. Polidori picked up this fragment and ended up turning it into The Vampyre. The piece Byron did run with - "The Darkness" - has a definite apocalyptic taste to it and was obviously inspired by the summer's events, which some people took to be the end of the world. Of course, Byron's recent divorce probably wasn't helping his mood, either, nor the fact that his houseguest, Claire Clairmont, was carrying a daughter he didn't want (she was born in January of the following year).

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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