Massive Tumbleweeds Invaded a California Town, Trapping Residents in Their Homes

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For Americans who don’t live out west, any mention of tumbleweeds tends to conjure up images of a lone bush blowing lazily across the desert. The reality is not so romantic, as Californians would tell you.

The town of Victorville, California—an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles—was overtaken by massive tumbleweeds earlier this week when wind speeds reached nearly 50 mph. The tumbleweeds blew across the Mojave Desert and into town, where they piled up on residents’ doorsteps. Some stacks towered as high as the second story, trapping residents in their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City employees and firefighters were dispatched to tackle the thorny problem, which reportedly affected about 150 households. Pitchforks were used to remove the tumbleweeds, some of which were as large as 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

"The crazy thing about tumbleweeds is that they are extremely thorny, they connect together like LEGOs," Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't reach out and grab them and move them. You need special tools. They really hurt."

Due to the town’s proximity to the open desert, residents are used to dealing with the occasional tumbleweed invasion. Similar cases have been reported in Texas, New Mexico, and other states in the West and Southwest. In 1989, the South Dakota town of Mobridge had to use machinery to remove 30 tons of tumbleweeds, which had buried homes, according to Metro UK.

Several plant species are considered a tumbleweed. The plant only becomes a nuisance when it reaches maturity, at which time it dries out, breaks from its root, and gets carried off into the wind, spreading seeds as it goes. They’re not just unsightly, either. They can cause soil dryness, leading to erosion and sometimes even killing crops.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

Jazz Icon Charles Mingus Wrote a Manual for Toilet Training Your Cat

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Imagine it's the 1950s and you're in a basement jazz club in New York City. A haze of smoke lingers in a dusky room, glasses clink as waiters drop off martinis and Manhattans, and people bop their heads to the sounds of Charles Mingus, the hottest jazz bassist around. After the performance, Mingus pulls up to the bar and cradles a stiff drink. You approach him, but before you can say anything, the musician turns to you and asks an important question: Hey, man. Where does your cat poop?

This isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. Besides being one of the most revolutionary jazz artists of his day, Mingus was also a passionate advocate for teaching people how to toilet train their cats. So passionate, in fact, that he wrote instructions for a cat toilet training program (he called it the "CAT-alog"), which he routinely tried to sell at his gigs. He even placed print ads so that interested clients could buy his pamphlets via mail order.

The CAT-alog is a reflection of the man as a musician: blunt, concise, and demanding in its details. (You can read the instructions in their entirety here.) He swore by the program's effectiveness, claiming it took three or four weeks for his cat, Nightlife, to transition from the litter box to the porcelain throne.

Here's a breakdown of Mingus's process:

First, teach your cat to use a homemade cardboard litter box. ("Be sure to use torn up newspaper, not kitty litter. Stop using kitty litter. [When the time comes you cannot put sand in a toilet.]") Gradually, begin inching the box toward the bathroom. ("He has to learn how to follow it.") Once you've reached the bathroom, place the box on the toilet. ("Don't bug the cat now, don't rush him, because you might throw him off.") Then cut a small hole in the bottom of the cardboard ("Less than an apple—about the size of a plum."), and gradually cut down the sides of the box until it becomes a flat sheet. ("Put the flat cardboard, which is left, under the lid of the toilet seat, and pray.") Then, one day, remove the cardboard entirely.

Mingus insisted that, with patience, his methods would work. In fact, he advised: "Don't be surprised if you hear the toilet flush in the middle of the night. A cat can learn how to do it, spurred on by his instinct to cover up." In 2014, however, Studio 360 at WNYC put Mingus's instructions to the test … and failed.

Some cats, Mingus admits, just aren't "as smart as Nightlife was." But he'd likely agree that cats, like jazz musicians, really aren't the types to be bossed around.

For more, please listen to actor Reg E. Cathey read a silky smooth excerpt of Mingus's CAT-alog here. Trust us: You'll be glad you did.

Want to Live in Antarctica? Better Schedule an Appendectomy

While taking up residence in most towns is as easy as finding a place to stay, the requirements to live in Villa Las Estrellas—a Chilean town and research station in Antarctica—are a little bit stricter. In fact, you have to have surgery. Every person who stays in the town long-term has to have their appendix removed, according to the BBC.

Villa Las Estrellas is one of just two civilian settlements in Antarctica, located on King George Island. Most of the residents are scientists or members of the Chilean military, but some families do live there year-round. Located at the Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva military base, the town is equipped with a school, a library, a post office, a radio station, a bank, a supermarket, and a few homes.

Many people only stay in Villa Las Estrellas during the summer, but for those few dozen people who live at the base all year, appendix removal is one of the terms of residence, even for children. That's because the nearest hospital is more than 600 miles away. While there is basic medical care on the island, any serious treatment requires making the long journey to the Chilean mainland.

A ruptured appendix is a life-threatening situation, and requires immediate surgery. That's hard to get when you're 625 miles away from the hospital. So as a precaution, Villa Las Estrellas residents get preemptive appendectomies.

Surgery is just one of many discomforts that must be endured as a resident of Antarctica. It's a place where the mean annual temperature is 27.8°F, and residents sometimes can't leave the house for weeks. During the winter, there are entire days when the sun is only up for a scant few hours, while in the summer it's barely ever dark. Fresh vegetables are a rarity. Oh, and dogs are banned. But at least there are a lot of penguins.

[h/t BBC]

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