Midnightdreary via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0 
Midnightdreary via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0 

The Search for Baltimore’s Next Poe Toaster

Midnightdreary via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0 
Midnightdreary via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0 

Since the 1940s, a mysterious visitor has been celebrating Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday by visiting his original grave in Baltimore each year and leaving a bottle of cognac and three roses. Little is known about the identity (or identities) of the “Poe Toaster,” and awaiting his or her appearance has become something of a cult tradition among local Poe enthusiasts. That is, until 2010, when the annual visits ceased

In an effort to keep the tradition alive, the Maryland Historical Society is collaborating with Poe Baltimore and Westminster Burying Grounds to hold a competition to find the next Poe Toaster. Anyone who’s interested in assuming the role can submit a 75- to 100-word pitch for a three-minute performance honoring the life and spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, who died October 7, 1849. Their press release states that the presentation can be “anything within the bounds of the imagination—a dramatic reading, song, interpretive dance—you name it, as long as it’s connected to our dear friend Edgar.”

From the submissions they receive, 10 to 12 finalists will be chosen to compete in front of three “celebrity” judges at the Maryland Historical Society. The audience will then decide which competitor is worthy of the honor of toasting Poe’s grave on his upcoming birthday, January 19, as well as at other events during the year.

The deadline for applications is October 23, and the Maryland Historical Society says they will accept videos, drawings, and storyboards as additional support for the written pitches. And while it sounds like a perfect fit for reality TV, the only way to watch the competition is by traveling to Baltimore. 

[h/t: Baltimore Sun]

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
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New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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iStock

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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