You're Probably Raking Leaves All Wrong

iStock.com/Zbynek Pospisil
iStock.com/Zbynek Pospisil

'Tis the season for viewing fall foliage, which means the less lovely season of raking dead leaves isn't far away. You may want to brush up on your raking technique, because apparently there's a wrong way to tidy up your lawn, according to The Spruce. Several wrong ways, in fact.

First, you'll want to check your toolshed to make sure that what you have in your possession is, in fact, a leaf rake. There are over a dozen different kinds of rakes suited to different tasks, and it's easy to mistakenly use the wrong kind. Leaf rakes are a little like lawn rakes, except they have plastic instead of metal tines—and yes, it makes a difference.

Fortunately, raking is one of those chores where procrastination is okay, and even encouraged. The Spruce suggests holding off on raking until almost all of the leaves have fallen. That way, you can do it all at once and save yourself the hassle. However, it is recommended that you occasionally use a mulching mower or lawn mower with a bag attachment to collect any leaves that drop early on in the season.

If you have a garden, The Washington Post suggests using a mower (with a bag) to shred the leaves, which can then used as mulch to nurture your flower beds or soil. And if you really loathe raking, just start a compost pile and let it break down naturally over the winter. Local wildlife that find their food in piles of leaves will thank you.

For everyone else, put your raking skills to the test on a dry, windless day. You should be raking "deeply and vigorously" so that you're scraping up lawn thatch (dead grass) in addition to leaves. WeatherBug recommends that you rake small amounts of leaves at a time, using a "medium-paced, quick sweeping motion." It's quicker than long sweeps, and less likely to tire you out. Keep your back straight, knees bent, and periodically switch up the position of your hands so that you're not putting pressure on just one area.

If this sounds a little like preparing for rigorous exercise, it's because raking leaves is moderate physical activity, according to experts. Be sure to wear gloves and long pants, and try to enjoy autumn while it lasts. After all, raking leaves is still better than shoveling snow.

[h/t The Spruce]

Thrift Stores Are Seeing a Surge in Donations, Thanks to Netflix's Tidying Up With Marie Kondo

Denise Crew, Netflix
Denise Crew, Netflix

If you've recently been asking yourself “Does this spark joy?” about the many items in your home, you've probably been bitten by the Marie Kondo bug. You're not alone. The organizing consultant’s Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, has become a major hit for the streaming network—and has left viewers feeling the sudden urge to clean out their closets. As a result, thrift stores are feeling the "Kondo Effect," too.

As People reports, Goodwill Stores have been inundated with clothes, furniture, and other pre-loved items ever since Kondo’s Netflix series premiered on January 1. In the show, Kondo teaches families how to tidy up their houses and organize their belongings by category, including clothes, books, papers, sentimental items, and komono (miscellaneous things).

“We know that a number of our community-based Goodwill organizations have seen a year-over-year spike in donations in January that they attribute to Marie Kondo’s show,” Lauren Lawson-Zilai, a Goodwill representative, told People.

The spike is hard to quantify because Goodwill’s stores are run by 161 independent organizations across the country. However, a number of individual branches have reported that donations are way up. Branches in Houston, Washington, D.C.; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Roanoke, Virginia all saw surges of between 16 and 30 percent in January.

That might not seem like a significant amount, but a 3 percent increase in donations to Tampa Bay area stores translated to an extra 5 million pounds of donations being processed in a single month. Other factors may also be responsible for the uptick in donations—like warmer weather in some areas, or New Year’s resolutions—but the Kondo craze is still driving much of the decluttering.

Other nonprofit organizations and thrift stores have also seen an increase in donated goods, including some Salvation Army outlets and stores operated by Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana.

“The Tidying Up craze has struck a chord with people of all ages,'' Debbie Gillum of Volunteers of America told Cleveland.com. "People are starting to ask themselves what in their homes sparks joy and they are donating things that no longer bring them joy. The best part is when they donate their stuff, it can bring joy to someone else.”

[h/t People]

How British Spies Used a Cupcake Recipe to Stop Terrorists

iStock.com/400tmax
iStock.com/400tmax

In 2011, Arabian Peninsula-based Al-Qaeda members published a 67-page English-language magazine called Inspire in an attempt to recruit new terrorists. Instead, they might have inspired a new generation of bakers.

In the United States and United Kingdom, intelligence agencies knew the magazine was being launched well in advance. The also knew the magazine would be digital-only and could be downloaded as a PDF by anybody with an internet connection. For months, the U.S. Cyber Command planned on attacking the publication's release, crippling it with a hail of computer viruses. "The packaging of this magazine may be slick," one counterterrorism official said, "but the contents are as vile as the authors."

Their plans, however, were blocked by the CIA, which asserted that targeting the magazine "would expose sources and methods and disrupt an important source of intelligence," according to The Telegraph. So as progress halted in the U.S., British agents cooked up their own plans.

It involved treats.

At the time of the magazine's launch, the UK Government Communications Headquarters and the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, successfully hacked the computers distributing the mag and tinkered with the text. They removed articles about Osama bin Laden and deleted a story called "What to expect in Jihad." Elsewhere, they destroyed the text by inserting garbled computer code.

One sabotaged story was an article by "The AQ Chef" called "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom," which explained how to make a pipe bomb with simple ingredients that included sugar. The new code, however, contained a sweet recipe of a different kind.

Instead of the bomb-making instructions, the article contained code leading to an article called "The Best Cupcakes in America," hosted by the Ellen DeGeneres Show website [PDF]. The page featured recipes for "sweet-toothed hipsters" and instructions for mojito-flavored cupcakes "made of white rum cake and draped in vanilla buttercream" (plus Rocky Road and Caramel Apple varieties!).

Two weeks later, the magazine's editors found the errors and fixed the edition—but, presumably, not until some bad guys discovered that "the little cupcake is big again."

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