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The Mysterious Motivational Rocks of Dogtown, Massachusetts

Bill and Melinda Gates have the Gates Foundation as their legacy. Andrew Carnegie funded more than 2000 libraries. The Rockefellers changed the Manhattan skyline. And Roger Babson carved some rocks in an abandoned ghost town.

Roger Babson was a successful entrepreneur and investor who amassed a fortune after founding Babson’s Statistical Organization, which analyzed stocks and bonds and revolutionized the financial services industry. In fact, his unique insight into the financial world meant that he was one of the first people to predict that the stock market was going to plummet in 1929.

When his prognostication proved true, Babson wasn’t one to sit idle. He came up with a plan to leave inspirational quotes on large rocks in the woods in Dogtown, Massachusetts, a place where colonists, including Babson’s ancestors, had once settled. His master plan was twofold: First, it would help people who were financially suffering by providing gainful employment for stonecutters in the area. And secondly, the inscriptions, which he called his “Life’s Book,” would serve to inspire those who were down on their luck—though, with no context, all-caps inscriptions like “IF WORK STOPS VALUES DECAY,” “USE YOUR HEAD,” and “HELP MOTHER” seem vaguely threatening.

His family thought so, too. In his autobiography, Babson noted:

“My family says that I am defacing the boulders and disgracing the family with these inscriptions, but the work gives me a lot of satisfaction, fresh air, exercise, and sunshine. I am really trying to write a simple book with words carved in stone instead of printed paper. Besides, when on Dogtown common, I revert to a boyhood which I once enjoyed when driving cows there many years ago.”

Babson’s family members weren't the only ones who didn't find the rocks charming. When one of the masons he employed carved a rock on land owned by Dogtown resident Leila Webster Adams, she was none too happy. “Just look at that horrible thing; just look at it!” she told reporters. “Whoever heard of such foolish warnings?”

To be fair, Babson’s legacy isn’t just rocks—he also founded Babson College, a private business school in Massachusetts. His other big claim to fame was his 1940 presidential run. FDR's popularity couldn’t be overcome; Babson earned just 0.12 percent of the popular vote. These days, he has faded into near-obscurity—but his rocks are still there. The next time you’re in the Gloucester, Massachusetts, area, stop by the Dogtown hiking trails and see if you can find all 24 of Babson’s Boulders.

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Researchers Pinpoint the Geographic Location of "The Middle of Nowhere"
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iStock

The place to go when you want to get away from it all, The Washington Post reports, is Glasgow, Montana. About 4.5 hours from the nearest city, it's about as close as you can get to "the middle of nowhere" in the contiguous U.S. while still being in a decently-sized town.

Glasgow's isolated status was determined in a study from Oxford University published in the journal Nature [PDF]. Scientists at the Malaria Atlas Project, a part of Oxford’s Big Data Institute, wanted to use geography and demographic data to see which towns qualify as truly being in the middle of nowhere. For the study, a town was defined as having a population of at least 1000, and a metropolitan area as having 75,000 residents or more.

After crunching the numbers on the elevation levels, transportation options, and terrain types around America, they were able to say roughly how long it would take for someone to traverse any given square kilometer of land in the country. If you're one of the 3363 people living in Glasgow, which is nestled in northeastern Montana, it would take you between 4 and 5 hours to drive to the nearest metro area. That entire corner of the state lays claim to the title of Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. Scobey, Montana, less than 100 miles from Glasgow, is the second most isolated small town in the country, and Wolf Point, less than 50 miles away, takes third place.

Go beyond the continental U.S. and you'll find plenty of places that aren't even accessible by car. Here are more isolated towns you have to travel to the middle of nowhere to reach.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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Art
Laser-Cut Wood Maps Showcase World Cities
CityWood, Kickstarter
CityWood, Kickstarter

You can already express your love for your local geography with a chocolate map or a custom-designed poster. The latest material for immortalizing your home city is laser-cut wood. As Curbed reports, CityWood is a line of striking, minimalist maps currently raising funds on Kickstarter. (The campaign has blown past its original $3000 goal by raising more than $73,000 so far—and counting.)

CityWood offers maps of nearly 100 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, London, and Tokyo. The waterways and city streets of each location are engraved into high-quality plywood using a laser cutter. The map is then put together by hand, and packaged inside a wood frame behind plexiglass.

Customers have their choice of sizes, from a small 5-inch-by-7-inch map for their desk to a 36-inch-by-36-inch display for their wall. Prices range from $29 to $439.

To preorder a CityWood map of your own, you can pledge to the product’s Kickstarter before the campaign ends on February 16. CityWood is also accepting votes on new cities to add to its lineup.

Wooden maps of various sizes.
CityWood, Kickstarter

Wooden map of city.
CityWood, Kickstarter

Wooden map on wall with chair.
CityWood, Kickstarter

[h/t Curbed]

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