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Every December, tuba players get together to present concerts of Christmas music in cities throughout the US. They call it TubaChristmas. What does a tuba have to do with Christmas? Well, William J. Bell was born on Christmas Day in 1902. He played tuba with the John Philip Sousa band and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He was also a tuba teacher. In 1974, Harvey Phillips staged a tuba concert in New York's Rockfeller Center, right on the ice rink, on December 22 in honor of Bell, who was his teacher. Ever since then, tuba players have co-ordinated TubaChristmas concerts through the Harvey Phillips Foundation. Those who play the sousaphone, euphonium, or baritone horn are welcome to participate as well. You might be surprised to find a TubaChristmas concert near you. If not, you can see a video of this year's TubeChristmas concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

(Image credit: Christopher B Hamlin)


The Rise of Skywalker Teaser Sweded

These cheap recreations, or "Sweded" movie trailers are getting better all the time. Sure, these folks had no special effects budget, but they have easy access to things like lightsabers and editing software. Everything else is a workaround, made with painted cardboard, and it's really  cute. Here you can see it side-by-side, or actually top-and-bottom, with the original. See if you can tell which is which.

-Thanks, Bryan & Roque!


Pete on the Beat

You've heard of Elf on the Shelf, now meet Pete on the Beat! Police officers at New York's 19th precinct repurposed the elf for a Christmas campaign by giving him a tiny uniform and putting him in all kinds of situations, from meeting the boss to giving Christmas safety tips to hanging Christmas decorations.

You can read more about Pete at Bored Panda, and follow his adventure at Twitter.


Man Registers a Beehive as a Service Animal

David Keller of Prescott Valley, Arizona thinks that it's too easy to call a pet a "service animal" and take it everywhere. It's a system that can be abused, leading to people bringing bags of snakes into public libraries.

To prove his point, he went to a website that registers service animals and created a registration for a beehive as a service animal. AZ Family reports:

A quick web search turns up many service animal registration sites. But Keller's stunt showed that some of them do very little to verify the animals they're registering. "They're very silly. They don't mean anything," said Jaymie Cardin, who trains service dogs at AZ Dog Sports in Scottsdale. "You can go pay for a registry on one of those web sites, and basically, you're just paying for a piece of paper and to put a name on a list."
Cardin says these sites do highlight a real problem -- people trying to pass off pets as legitimate service animals. "Training is how you tell whether it's a service animal or not," Cardin said.

-via Dave Barry | Image: AZ Family


The Battle Over the Hopkins Fortune

Mark Hopkins went to California during the Gold Rush and made out quite well. With partners, he founded a mining and trading company, and then the Central Pacific Railroad. When he died in 1878, he left the largest inheritance in the world, but he had no children and no will. Since his death was big news, people came out of the woodwork to claim part of the fortune. His wife Mary (who was also his cousin) inherited the money. She soon adopted a boy named Timothy, the son of her widowed maid. Then she began her late-in-life hobby of buying, building, and decorating fine mansions. She grew close to her interior decorator, Edward Francis Searles, who was 23 years younger than Mary. He moved in with her, bringing his friend Arthur Walker, and Mary and Edward married in 1887. Mary died in 1891, sparking a battle between Timothy and Edward for her fortune. But it was when Edward died in 1920 that the real scramble for the money arose. Edward had no heirs, and willed the inheritance to Arthur. Suddenly everyone found a family connection to Mark Hopkins, Mary Hopkins Searles, or Edward Searles.   

Rumors were everywhere. It was reported that a bank in San Francisco, California, had a vault holding envelopes with securities of $350,000,000 in a trust for Mark Hopkins’ heirs whenever they should be located.

The press sparked a treasure hunt and the lawyers took advantage of the publicity. From 1924 to 1929 over a thousand claims were filed by supposed heirs and co-heirs, and even the most remote relations. They came – or their lawyers came – with forged wills, fake Bibles, and bogus family trees to show a genealogical connection to Mark Hopkins.

Lawyers Reap the Riches

The lawyers gained great riches and pooled the Hopkins hopefuls together in class actions suits. They charged $50 to $100 for each claimant to join in the legal claim.

Some claimants, like Estella Latta of Durham, North Carolina, sold Hopkins stocks to finance the huge litigation fees.

One judge, fed up with the mess, ordered an investigation of the cases which reached “racket proportions.” The judge accused the predatory lawyers of keeping the treasure hunt alive.

The contest for the Mark Hopkins estate took on a life of its own. In fact, it would take years of research to sift through entirely, but GenealogyBank and library scrapbooks from the archives provide many colorful, entertaining stories. Timothy Hopkins, the adopted son of Mary Hopkins whom she cut out of her will before leaving it all to Edward, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “it is the result of the most amazing pieces of propaganda ever spread in America.”

The fascinating saga of the Mark Hopkins fortune and the many people who wanted a piece of it is told in a series of blog posts at Geneology Bank: part one, part two, part three, and part four have already been published, and I can't wait to see where the story goes next.

-via Strange Company


Mincemeat is Neither Mince Nor Meat

My Christmas dinner table features mincemeat pie every year. The recipe is mostly apples and raisins, with a lot of cinnamon, but I've seen recipes that use pears or dried plums or other fruit. There is no real meat in it, although commercial preparations contain a small amount of "beef suet" for truth-in-labeling reasons. A couple of hundred years ago, mincemeat was a method of preserving meat with the addition of fruit, spices, and sugar, but over time, the meat went away to leave a sweet dessert filling. To add to the confusion, "mince" is a British term for what Americans call "ground beef." You can see where this is going.

In August, Spruce Eats published a recipe for mincemeat pie, accompanied by pictures that showed a pie crust filled with ground beef. The author of the recipe, British food writer Elaine Lemm, did not list ground beef as an ingredient, and did not know about the images. The only explanation is that the photographer followed the recipe, but interpreted "mincemeat" as "ground beef." When Spruce Eats republished the recipe for Christmas, it went viral for the pictured meat, illustrating the old adage that "England and America are two countries forever divided by a common language." The original recipe post has since been updated. Read what happened and the reactions the incident caused at Buzzfeed. 


The Lie That Helped Build Nintendo

In 1981, Owe Bergsten owned a small electronics shop in Kungsbacka, Sweden. During a trip to Singapore, he picked up a small handheld LCD game called Fire RC-04, and played it all the way back to Sweden. Thinking it might sell well for his shop, Bergsten tried to contact the company whose name was on the game: Nintendo. They didn't really want to talk to him, and that's where the lying began.  

Apparently, no one really cared. A month and three more telexes later, Bergsten finally got a reply, asking him to explain what his company actually did. He had a decision to make.

Over three decades later, an older, wiser, richer Bergsten looks at me across a table, presenting the telex he sent next. His well-appointed office sits in a building furnished almost entirely by the money he’s made through, for and with Nintendo over the years. That’s not an exaggeration: the building’s address is ‘Marios Gata 21’. 21 Mario Street. This telex set the course for the rest of Bergsten’s life, introduced Nintendo to Europe on a scale it had never seen, even arguably helped pave the way for its move into western markets as a whole. Without this piece of paper, gaming as we know it could be entirely different.

He smiles as he shows it to me. “At that time it was very easy to lie, because the Internet was not invented.” So that first formal communication to Nintendo was a lie?

“Yeah,” he laughs, “of course.”

Bergsten's first lie led to others, which turned out to be massive exaggerations that might have gone sour at any moment, but his enthusiasm and confidence got him in on the ground floor of Nintendo as they first ventured outside of Asia. His company Bergsala became the distributer for Nintendo products in Scandinavia, and opened the door for Nintendo's games in the rest of Europe and America, too. Read the story of how Owe Bergsten's risky bluff paid off against all odds at IGN. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: ThePViana)


Sesame Street Puppeteer Caroll Spinney Passes Away

This is Caroll Spinney, the Muppeteer who gave Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch their voices for almost 50 years. He passed away last Sunday at his home in Connecticut, according to the Sesame Workshop. He was 85.

The legendary puppeteer lived for some time with dystonia, which causes involuntary muscle contractions, the Sesame Workshop said in a statement.
Spinney voiced and operated the two major Muppets from their inception in 1969 when he was 36, and performed them almost exclusively into his 80s on the PBS kids’ television show that later moved to HBO. His death comes on the same day that “Sesame Street” is being honored for lifetime achievements in the arts as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient.

Learn more about his life over at AP News.

(Image Credit: AP Photo/ Reed Saxon)


A Daily Habit That Can Prompt Weight Loss

Struggling to lose weight? Try out this approach which could prove to be beneficial for you, according to a new study published in Cell Metabolism.

The approach is simple: limit your daily eating window to only 10 hours.

This means that if you take your first bite of food at 8 a.m., you'd need to consume your last calorie of the day by 6 p.m.
Researchers tracked a group of overweight participants who followed this approach for about three months. "Typically, people would go for an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. eating window," explains Dr. Pam Taub, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Diego's School of Medicine, and an author of the study.
During the fasting period, participants were encouraged to stay hydrated with water. Each day, they logged the timing of their meals and their sleep in an app.
"We saw a 3% reduction in their weight and a 4% reduction in abdominal visceral fat," says Taub.

More details about this study over at NPR.

(Image Credit: TeroVesalainen/ Pixabay)


Harvesting Your Own Christmas Tree Instead of Buying One

Christmas trees usually range from $50 to $80. With that said, is there a better way to acquire a Christmas tree without spending much? Thankfully, there is, and that is by harvesting your own tree, which would only cost you $5, “and you could go to any national forest or BLM lands.” Yep, you’ve heard it correctly: it will only cost you $5.

“Traditions like these are a great way to learn about public lands,” says Wes Siler. “Forests… are managed for multiple use, so they exist to provide a commercial benefit from timber harvest as well as animal conservation and recreational access. By harvesting a small tree today from an overcrowded grove, we’re actually participating in forest management.”

More details about this over at Outside.

What are your thoughts about this one? 

(Image Credit: JillWellington/ Pixabay)


Cats vs. Invisible Maze

The Kittisaurus cats have learned a few things about plastic wrap since they first encountered the "invisible wall" in the previous video. Here they are challenged by a maze made from plastic wrap, but what fun is finding your way around when you can defeat those invisible walls so many other ways?  -via Digg


Did You Miss These Subtle “Star Wars” Easter Eggs?

Cameos, elusive details and references, mini mishaps, and many more. You don’t have to be The Chosen One to appreciate all these Easter Eggs from Phantom Menace to Force Awakens. So, brace yourselves for these minor details that you may have missed from the beloved saga.

Head over to here for all 21 Easter Eggs!

(Image credit: LucasFilms via BuzzFeed)


15 CAThartic Tweets That Are Viral Gold

Cats may have a bad reputation for being antisocial, mean, pesky, rude and self-important--hold on, I’m really just describing Mr. Grinch-- but see if you still dislike cats with a fiery passion after checking out these melt-your-heart tweets compiled by Casey Rackham

Aww… such pure creatures!

Check out all 15 tweets over at BuzzFeed.

Photo: natsdorf via Gyfcat


Here’s How to Cook the Perfect Fried Egg

Whether it’s on a slice of hot, toasted bread or plain by itself, fried egg or "sunny-side-up" is one of the simple culinary joys in life. How you cook your egg makes all the difference in the world. So, try out these pro tips (hint: a lot of olive oil and just the right amount of heat) and make your loved ones think you’re a master chef with the perfect fried egg, according to Spanish tradition with an American twist.

How do you like your eggs in the morning? 

Find out more here.

(Image credit: Gear Patrol)


“What Makes Art, ‘Art’?” : Artworks That Made Us Ask This Question

The banana taped to a wall by Maurizio Cattelan, who priced it at $120,000, has sparked an age-old debate once again: what constitutes art? But Maurizio Cattelan was not the first one to make such an absurd artwork; there were many people before him who made controversial artworks.

Check out some artworks that shook the world of art over at CNN.

(Image Credit: Tim Ireland/ AP)

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