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A Brief History of Cootie Catchers

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A cootie catcher is full of carefully-folded dichotomies. It’s centuries-old origami performed by kids (usually), many of whom live far away from the device’s country of origin. Delicate in its construction, but usually (in my experience) scrawled over with crayons or colored pencils with clunky renderings. Full of secrets, mysteries, and fates, all of which your friend just wrote right in front of you.

It’s a playground pastime for the inactive mystics and gossips of school, or a way to pass the time in class. The cootie catching practice has endured through the years, though individual ones never did. They were pocketed by those who got what they wanted and wished to preserve it, those who didn’t and wished to conceal it. Left on a desk, trashed, or left behind for someone else to ponder what it all means.

If you were unlucky enough to never encounter a cootie catcher, let’s back things up to the beginning.

The fortune teller also goes by chatterbox, whirlybird, or salt cellar, and that last name is actually reflective of how the origami figure was first introduced to the United States. The 1928 book Fun with Paper Folding contained the “salt cellar,” which, when inverted from how we’re used to seeing it today, was meant to invoke a container that could hold and pour salt. The points of a cootie catcher become legs and the spaces for fingers open up to hold the salt.

The exact lineage and timeline for the introduction of the cootie catcher around the world is somewhat murky. Most sources suggest it’s possible that it appeared in Europe as early as the 17th century. It’s safe to say though that by the 1950s, cootie catchers had started to appear in England and the United States, and propagated from there. Today, the game is played all over the world, and each place has its own name for the fortune teller.

As for the name: Most sources believe the word “cootie” came from the Malay word kutu, meaning “dog tick,” and was brought back by British soldiers after World War I. Some books include mentions of the “cooties” as bugs or dots drawn into the center of the catcher, so the legs act as pincers, swallowing the germs up. Girls were often the ones ridding each other of said cooties, intermixed with the telling of each other's fortunes. (And, probably, doing the tried and true “Circle, circle, dot, dot, now I've got my cootie shot.”)

For first timers or those in need of a refresher course, here’s how to make your own cootie catcher, just in time for back to school.

Once the cootie catcher is built, you can use it both for grabbing cooties off of your friend (without worry of infecting yourself), then fill it with messages and use it to tell fortunes (that’s versatility!). When you’re ready to use it, the fortune teller prompts their subject with a series of choices from the catcher (usually in the form of colors, numbers, or pictures) that will lead to one of the eight flaps inside, each concealing a message. There are plenty of other videos out there on the internet that go into more detail if you need some assistance with your prescience.

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National Geographic Ranks The 25 Happiest Cities in the Country
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Feeling unhappy? Maybe it's time to move. National Geographic recently released rankings of the 25 happiest cities in the U.S. The results: Eight of the 25 locations are in the Golden State, but the honor of No. 1 happiest city goes to Boulder, Colorado.

The rankings are based on 250,000 interviews conducted in 190 metropolitan areas between 2014 and 2015. The survey—developed by Dan Buettner, author of the new book The Blue Zones of Happiness, and Dan Witters, a senior scientist at Gallup—looked for data points that are correlated with life satisfaction and happiness, like whether or not you exercise, if you feel safe in your community, whether you feel like you live within your means, and whether you feel like you are reaching your goals.

A map of the U.S. showing which cities made the top 25 happiest cities index.
Courtesy National Geographic

Of course, all that isn’t necessarily the result of your geographical location. But you don’t see cities like Los Angeles or New York—where wealth is also clustered—on the list, so presumably San Franciscans are doing something a little differently.

Take a look for yourself. Here are the 25 happiest places in the U.S., according to the results.

1. Boulder, Colorado
2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California
3. Charlottesville, Virginia
4. Fort Collins, Colorado
5. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California
6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
7. Provo-Orem, Utah
8. Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut
9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
10. Anchorage, Alaska
11. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
12. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California
13. Salinas, California
14. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
15. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
16. Ann Arbor, Michigan
17. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
18. Colorado Springs, Colorado
19. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire
20. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
21. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia/Maryland/West Virginia
22. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin
23. San Diego-Carlsbad, California
24. Portland-South Portland, Maine
25. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

You can grab a copy of November’s National Geographic to read more about the world’s happiest places.

The cover of Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones of Happiness and the cover of November 2017’s National Geographic.
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Here's How to Turn an IKEA Box Into a Spaceship
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Since IKEA boxes are designed to contain entire furniture items, they could probably fit a small child once they’re emptied of any flat-packed component pieces. This means they have great potential as makeshift forts—or even as play spaceships, according to one of the Swedish furniture brand’s print ads, which was spotted by Design Taxi.

First highlighted by Ads of the World, the advertisement—which was created by Miami Ad School, New York—shows that IKEA is helping customers transform used boxes into build-it-yourself “SPÄCE SHIPS” for children. The company provides play kits, which come with both an instruction manual and cardboard "tools" for tiny builders to wield during the construction process.

As for the furniture boxes themselves, they're emblazoned with the words “You see a box, they see a spaceship." As if you won't be climbing into the completed product along with the kids …

Check out the ad below:

[h/t Design Taxi]

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