You Could Own This Historic English Mansion for Less Than $20

Courtesy of James Congdon
Courtesy of James Congdon

Have you always wanted to live in a sprawling English estate? This could be your lucky day.

The owners of Dancers Hill House have launched a contest to win this luxury mansion, which was built circa 1760 and has four acres of grounds including a lake stocked with fish. There's an entry fee of £13.50 (less than $17), but considering the property is worth close to $7 million, it's a pretty good deal. You can also enter more than once if you want to up your odds.

It gets better: According to a press release, the North London house was the "backdrop" of Masterpiece's 1999 adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, which starred Ioan Gruffudd, Charlotte Rampling, and Justine Waddell.

Dancers Hill House
Courtesy of James Congdon

The estate has a rich history. Around 1500, the land originally housed a manor that Elizabeth I is rumored to have stayed in. The current structure was built around 1760 as a folly: a grand decorative structure that rich people in the 18th century liked to build on their land just for fun. It was eventually extended several times and transformed into a habitable home in the 19th century. During WWII, it was used as a camp for Italian prisoners of war.

The secluded, 7500-square-foot mansion has since been renovated to include six bedrooms and six bathrooms, along with amenities like a movie theater, gym, wine room, and a conservatory. It's been a family home for the last 30 years, but after watching their kids grow up and leave the nest, the owners are ready to move on. It's the perfect abode for anyone with a brooding Dickensian soul.

You have until December 16, 2018 to enter. And if you win, you owe it to yourself—and Dickens—to rename it Satis House.

The Question that Baffled Britain's High Court: Are Pringles Chips?

iStock/eskaylim
iStock/eskaylim

Are Pringles potato chips? From 2007 to 2009, that question plagued judges at three different levels of the British judiciary, leading to a series of head-scratchingly comical legal proceedings. The stakes, however, were nothing but serious: The ruling put hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.

The question revolved around Britain’s value-added tax, or VAT. According to the 1994 VAT Act, any product that is “wholly, or substantially wholly, made from the potato” was subject to a 17.5 percent tax. In 2007, Britain’s VAT and Duties Tribunal determined that Pringles fell under the tax’s umbrella—and demanded the chipman payeth.

Procter & Gamble, who owned Pringles at the time, vehemently disagreed. They argued that Pringles were only 42 percent potato flour, with the rest mostly a slurry of wheat starch, corn and rice flour, and vegetable oil. The snack food, they said, could not be classified as a potato chip because, unlike a real potato chip, its overall contents and shape were “not found in nature.”

In addition to being unappetizing, this argument was a marked shift from the company's original position. When the snack first hit shelves in the mid-1960s, Pringles were proudly marketed as “potato chips.” (More specifically, as newfangled potato chips.) They did this despite reported complaints from competing chip-makers, who argued that the snack food—which is cooked from a thin, mashed potato-like dough—should be classified differently.

But now that millions of dollars were on the line, Procter & Gamble’s lawyers wholeheartedly embraced Pringles's unique place as a “not-really-a-chip” chip. The VAT and Duties Tribunal, however, didn’t buy it. In a decision that sounds more like a Zen kōan, the tax masters argued that Pringles were chips because they were “made from potato flour in the sense that one cannot say that it is not made from potato flour.”

To that, the British High Court of Justice basically replied: Wow, that's confusing! Now, excuse us, we would like to top it.

The following year, the High Court stepped in and reversed the Tribunal's decision. First, the Court argued that Pringles were more akin to a cake or bread than a chip. (Who, of course, can forget their first birthday Pringle?) Furthermore, the Court declared that a Pringle—which we should emphasize is, in fact, mostly made from potatoes—was not “made from the potato." Their reasoning invoked Greek metaphysics, claiming that Pringles did not possess the required amount of (and this is their word) “potatoness.”

The controversy didn’t end there. In 2009, the case moved up another judicial wrung, this time to Britain’s Supreme Court of Judicature. The lower court's metaphysical arguments about "potatoness" were enough to make Aristotle's brain hurt, the justices moaned. They criticized the previous ruling for its “overelaborate, almost mind-numbing legal analysis” and dubbed the topic at hand a “short practical question calling for a short practical answer.”

Procter & Gamble’s lawyers bore down anyway. They claimed that a product made from “a number of significant ingredients ... cannot be said to be ‘made from’ one of them.” Lord Justice Jacob called this argument hogwash. If that were true, he argued, then “a marmalade made using both oranges and grapefruit would be made of neither—a nonsense conclusion."

After working itself in and out of semantic pretzels, the Court said the easiest solution to Chipgate was to appeal to a hypothetical child: If you asked an 8-year-old to explain what a Pringle was, what would he or she say?

The question of a Pringle’s identity, the Court argued, “would probably be answered in a more relevant and sensible way by a child consumer than by a food scientist or a culinary pedant.”

In other words, a chip is a chip is a chip—Pringles among them. With that, Procter & Gamble had to pay $160 million in taxes.

Though common sense prevailed, it doesn’t always end that way: Around the time of the great Pringle debate, the state of Oklahoma was busy confidently declaring watermelon a vegetable.

Fart All You Want—These 'Flatulence Jeans' Were Designed to Absorb the Smell

Shreddies
Shreddies

Like it or not, everyone farts, and they do it far more than you’d think. Healthy people pass gas up to 20 times a day, and, as we recently learned, even if you try to hold your farts in, they’ll come out one way or the other—possibly through your mouth. Depending on what you eat and where you pass it, that can get pretty smelly. That is, unless you’re wearing fart-proof pants. A UK-based company called Shreddies makes “flatulence filtering” jeans that promise to eliminate your worst smells before they can escape into the wider world, Business Today reports.

Shreddies products are lined with activated charcoal, a substance that’s great at absorbing odors and gases—so much so that it’s a go-to ingredient for home air filters and purifiers. According to Shreddies, the odor-absorbing qualities of the fabric last around two to three years, at which point you’d probably be buying new jeans, anyway.

A side view of a woman wearing fart-filtering underwear
Shreddies

You still have to mind your farts, though. The company says that to be effective, the jeans have to fit tightly against the skin, ensuring that your gas is absorbed directly into the fabric. “To avoid flatulence escaping around the filter we recommend that you stand with your legs together and try to let your wind out slowly,” the Shreddies website instructs (emphasis theirs). “When sitting, keep your knees together so that flatulence escapes through the carbon panel.” As long as the jeans fit correctly, the filter should absorb all the foul odors leaking out of your body.

The jeans, available for men and women, cost roughly $130 (£100) plus shipping, a price that probably seems worth it to the people in your life who have to deal with your noxious toots.

Not a jeans person? Fear not. The company also makes fart-filtering underwear and pajamas. There are gift options, too, for all of your favorite flatulence-prone friends.

[h/t Business Today]

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