‘Human Props’ Live in Luxury Houses but Must Be Ready to Move at All Times

The Mueller family have a unique living arrangement – they are, in fact, part of an ‘elite’ group of middle-class nomads who have agreed to a very peculiar lease agreement. They get to live in for-sale luxury homes at dirt cheap prices, but of course, there’s a catch – the house must always be in squeaky clean, in case it gets bought, and they have to be ready to move out immediately.

So while the Muellers get to enjoy the very best of houses, they need to keep things meticulously clean and maintain a precisely pleasant temperature. The mirrors have to be crystal clear at all times, and the bed needs to look like it’s never been slept in. They need special approval if they want to have more than 10 people over. When a prospective buyer wants to view the house, the family needs to disappear. And when the property is sold, they’ve got to pack and move to the next luxury destination.

It seems like a bizarre way to live, but there’s a very specific reason for it – according to real estate companies, houses sell better when they’re being lived in. Families like the Muellers lend an unmistakable energy to an otherwise empty home. The effect of their presence is so great that home-staging firms say they’re able to sell homes faster and for more money. The Muellers pay the firm about $1,200 for rent and household bills, and the firm reimburses costs every time they need to move.

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Ukai – The Fascinating Ancient Art of Fishing with Cormorants

Ukai is a traditional Japanese method of fishing that employs trained cormorants to catch freshwater fish called ‘ayu’. For the past 1,300 years, fishermen along the banks of Nagara River have been spending the summer months catching fish with the help of the highly skilled birds. Some of the other rivers where ukai is practiced include the Hozu River and Uji River.

Fishermen who are skilled at ukai have patronage from the emperor. According to legend, samurai warlord Oda Nobunaga took the ukai fishermen under his wing, conferring upon them the official position of ‘usho’ (Cormorant Fishing Master). He is said to have enjoyed watching ukai in action and vowed to protect the art.

When the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho witnessed ukai fishing, he wrote a poem to honor the tradition: “Exciting to see/but soon after, comes sadness/the cormorant boats.” In modern times, the master fishermen are still the official Imperial fishermen of the emperor of Japan. The sweetfish (ayu) they catch are sent to the Imperial family several times a year.

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Spanish Town Installs World’s First Public Toilet for Dogs

A small town in Spain has come up with a new way of dealing with dog waste – a canine public toilet. Located along a busy thoroughfare in El Vendrell, northeastern Spain, the stainless steel contraption consists of two sections placed side by side – a doggy potty and a doggy urinal.

The potty is a raised steel platform with a covered hole. Dog owners need to lift the lid for their pets to defecate, and later press a handle to flush. Jets of water are released, which carry the excrement through underground pipes into the sewer system. Right next to the potty is the urinal – also a raised platform with small holes over which dogs can squat. The public toilet is the brainchild of dog-lover Enric Girona, who has spent over ten years observing and photographing dogs. Through his work, he recognized the need for a toilet for dogs, so he set about creating one himself. “Over the years, I’ve seen that if you train and raise dogs well, these animals can be just like humans,” he explained.

Girona invented several variants of the toilet, modifying each one as he learned more and more about dog behavior. The present version of the urinal, for example, doesn’t clean itself perfectly when flushing, because need to pick the odor so they are lured to the toilet. He also had the location in mind while designing these toilets, so they’d naturally blend into surroundings like parks and other public places. “You can’t have something that clashes with the setting,” he pointed out. “The design was done with the concept of being attractive.”

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Meet the World’s First Skateboarding Cop

Joel Zwicky is one of those rare creative souls who manage to bring a touch of originality into everything they do. A former photographer and musician, Joel has worked as a patrol officer at the Green Bay Police Department, in Wisconsin, for the past decade. Unlike regular officers, however, Joel prefers patrolling the streets on his super-cool skateboard.

“I kind of had the idea, like, two years ago, just because I like to skate and I was trying to figure out how I can do it more at work so that I can – you know, if you do what you love, you don’t work a day in your life,” Joel said in an interview with ABC News. The 40-year-old floated the idea to his department, but no one would take him seriously.

But earlier this year, when the department’s chief was looking for new initiatives to engage more with the community, Joel suggested the idea again. “And I said, ‘You know chief, I had this crazy idea in the back of my head what would you do if I brought my board to work and started skating it?’ And he said, ‘Can’t hurt. Just don’t get hurt please.’ So that’s kind of how it started,” Joel explained.

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Did You Know Japan Has a Quirky Shrine Dedicated to Curing Hemorrhoids?

Weird shrines are not uncommon in Japan. In the past we reported about Karube Shrine, where people go to worship breasts, and the Shinto shrines where they bury broken needles in tofu. But the weirdest one we found so far has to be the Kunigami Shrine, in Tochigi Prefecture, that allegedly prevents and cures hemorrhoids.

So how does a shrine manage to cure a painful medical condition? Well, our guess is as good as yours. All we know is that according to an ancient tradition, people who wash their backsides at a nearby river and eat egg offerings are completely cured of hemorrhoids.

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Guy Actually Gets Paid to Watch Paint Dry

Watching paint dry sounds like the most boring job in the world. But it’s actually a lot more fascinating than you’d think. For the past four years, Dr. Thomas Curwen has been working for the international paint company Dulux, watching paint dry. And the kind of stuff he looks at on a daily basis is really quite mind-blowing.

34-year-old Curwen is a research scientist from Twyford, Berkshire. His full time job involves carefully observing the changing colors and particles of paint as it dries – both on walls as well as under a microscope. It’s a pretty important job, because it ensures that the paints are durable and do not fall off at the slightest touch.

“At Dulux, we’re passionate about delivering high quality paint to our consumers,” he said. And that means we spend a lot of time using microscopes to watch paint dry, so that we can develop a better understanding of how to form the most durable films.” What Curwen essentially does is combine a fundamental understanding of paint film formation along with polymer technology to deliver paint films with excellent durability, as if they’re protected by an invisible barrier.

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The Polluting ‘Rolling Coal’ Trucks Purposefully Created to Anger Environmentalists

A group of ‘manly men’ from small-town America are performing outrageous acts to display their contempt for environmentalists. The rednecks, as they don’t seem to mind addressing themselves, blatantly refuse to accept that climate change and global warming are real. So they’re jacking up their diesel trucks to intentionally emit huge clouds of toxic smoke into the air.

Dubbed ‘Rolling Coal’, the polluting trend involves the reconfiguration of vehicles to produce higher amounts of diesel exhaust. These modified trucks force extra fuel into the engine and feature smoke stacks through which they release giant dark clouds of black smoke. Their goal is to spread the polluting fumes into the air, or at other cars, and they don’t seem to mind spending thousands of dollars to do it.

While these modifications aren’t exactly new, the trend appears to have gained more momentum in recent years. These truck enthusiasts have taken to the internet to openly express their dislike of hybrid vehicles and other environmental causes. A whole new subculture now exists online; they’re getting together by the thousands on social networking websites, sharing photos and videos of their latest exploits.

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Quirky Paper Bag Speed Dating Craze Lets Personality Take Center Stage

While most people rely heavily on looks while speed dating, this new trend in London is forcing people to do the exact opposite – choose by personality. ‘Paper Bag Speed Dating’ doesn’t allow you to see the face of the person you’re talking with. It’s basically a looks-free hookup party, where participants place a paper bag over their head. You still get to make quick decisions just like with regular speed dating, but the deciding factor is personality, not physical appearance.

Paper Bag Speed Dating is the brainchild of the people behind a new London-based dating app called LoveFlutter. They organised the event as a part of their #SayNoToShallow campaign. “Could you get a date using just your personality?” they asked, challenging people to attend their paper bag dating event. 30 women and 30 men signed up. They were given a paper bag each and were asked to personalize them using various designs – they could add quirky personal messages to serve as conversation starters. Later, they had to wear the bags on their heads. Some people did beautiful drawings, while others wrote stuff like “I used to be a spy,” or “Does my head look big in this?” paper-bag-speed-dating Read More »

Stuck in Time – Meet the Man Who Lives Like It’s 1946

35-year-old Ben Sansum isn’t very impressed with high-tech gadgets, modern appliances or the internet. Instead, he prefers the old-world charm of the 1940s. So when he purchased a small four-room Victorian cottage in Godmanchester a few years ago, he worked very hard to transform it into the perfect period house. Now, he lives surrounded by furniture and appliances that are all from the forties or older, and even adopts a 1940s-style dress code.

Ben’s strange interest in the forties began at the age of 12, when his Great Uncle Stan gave him a 1940s radio. “I guess I was always the funny boy at school that had this strange interest,” he said. “Gradually, as I grew older, I loved the music and the fashion. I’m 35 now, my parents probably think I’ve grown out of it, but I will always live by this now. I know I will never grow out of it. I shall probably die living like this. But that’s fine, because I’m ensuring that their way of life isn’t forgotten.”

“I couldn’t live in a modern house now with modern interiors,” Ben admitted. “I like this period, I like the community spirit. I don’t want to glorify the war, I like all the things that took people’s minds away from the war, the music and the fashions and the cars. Things were British-made and built to last.” And he’s filled almost ever corner of his house with these old objects that look as good as new. Right from an Aga that heats a large white kettle, to the several tea tins and boxes of war time food stacked up on his shelves, everything in his house serves as a reminder of the good times. He makes his tea in a period kettle, and serves them in 1940s tea cups.

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World’s Fastest Talking Woman Speaks 11 Words Per Second, Can Read ‘Three Little Pigs’ Story in 15 Seconds

‘Motor mouth’ Fran Capo is a fast talker – the woman can churn out over 600 words a minute, or 11 words per second! At such high speeds, you might not always be able to understand what she’s saying. I just watched a video of her telling the story of The Three Little Pigs in 15 seconds flat, and I was totally lost.

But comprehensibility is obviously not what she’s aiming for when she’s trying to break a record. The ‘Fast Talker Extraordinaire’ holds the Guinness World Record for being the fastest female talker in the world – she actually broke this record twice. She was also featured in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not – Planet Eccentric Book and in the Book of Alternative Records.

A native of New York, Fran has always been a fast talker. “Ever since I was a kid, I started doing it,” she said. “I didn’t say, ‘One day I’m going to grow up and be a fast talker,’ you know.” She started her career as a stand-up comic and sort of stumbled into breaking records along the way.

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Teqball – An Awesome Combination of Football and Table Tennis

What do you get when you combine Table Tennis and Football, and throw in a dash of technology? The answer is Teqball, an addictive new sport that’s becoming more popular every day. The sport involves the bouncing of a ball between opponents, off a highly sophisticated table designed to keep things fair.

To play a game of Teqball, all you need are a Teqboard and a ball. According to the official website, the Teqboard is a sporting equipment, very similar to a ping-pong table, that’s been designed keeping in mind the rules of mathematics and physics. So a ball will bounce off any point on the board, making it easy to reach and control. Although you can’t touch the board, it can withstand a great amount of pressure, making it durable and safe to use.

The ‘net’ at the center of the board is made of polycarbonate/plexiglass, ensuring that the ball bounces off it in a fair manner. Thanks to the unique design of the Teqboard, the only thing that matters in the game is talent; there’s no room for luck. The ball used for playing is a regular football, preferably a FIFA size 4.

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The Indian Strongman Village Where All the Men Train to Become Bouncers

For centuries, farming was the main source of income for the people of Asola-Fatehpur Beri, twin villages in northern India. But in recent times, the men of Asola have managed to completely reinvent themselves – from poor farmers to strong, well-built bodyguards. Today, almost 90 percent of the men from the 50,000-strong village are employed as bouncers at night clubs in nearby cities like New Delhi.

“In this village, there is not a single boy who does not go to the gym,” said Vijay Pahelwan, head trainer at the local ‘akhada’, or gym. “All boys exercise. They are very careful towards their body. No one drinks and no one consumes tobacco.” Most boys take up wrestling at a very young age in the hopes of making it to the Olympics. But they always have the option of becoming a bouncer to fall back on.

Young wrestling student Keshav Tewar, for instance, spends most of his time at the gym. “No matter what other job I get when I grow up, I’m going to be a bouncer,” he said. “Bouncers have fit bodies and I want to make my body fit too.”

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Woman Eats Dog Food for a Month to Prove It Is Just as Nutritious as Human Food

A pet store owner in Richland, Washington, is putting herself in her clients’ shoes (or paws, if you will) for a whole month. Dorothy Hunter has decided to eat nothing but pet food for 30 days; the challenge began on June 19 and so far, she says she’s loving it. Her goal is to prove that food for pets can be just as nutritious and delicious as human food.

“You would be surprised how tasty dog and cat food can be when it’s made right,” said Dorothy, the owner of Paw’s Natural Pet Emporium. “You really are what you eat and it’s the same for your pets. I decided to eat this food for a month just to prove how good it tastes, as well as showcase nutrition.”

The idea for the project came to Hunter rather unexpectedly – she was stocking the shelves at her store one day, when she got hungry. “I didn’t have time to go get a snack, so I grabbed a bag of treats off the counter, and I was like, wow, you know, these read better than the normal people’s treats,” she said. “So I started eating the treats and I was like, you know, I could do this for 30 days.”

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Man with Real Balls of Steel Works Out by Hitting his Crotch with Hard Objects

While most elderly men go to the park for a leisurely stroll, retired railway worker Zhou Chengli prefers a more ‘hardcore’ workout. The 70-year-old practices a nut-crushing routine of hitting himself repeatedly in the crotch with hammers, metal weights and bricks. He doesn’t flinch, even for a second, as he pounds on his ‘balls of steel’.

Zhou, who hails from China’s Hubei Province, says that he has been practicing the ancient art of ‘iron crotch qigong’, which is one of the rarest and most difficult disciplines of Shaolin kung fu. The practice involves daily exercises that train men to sustain severe blows to the groin area.  Locally known as ‘Tie Dang Gong’, iron crotch qigong is a secret Daoist technique taught to only the most trusted disciples. Once mastered, it is believed to make a man invincible in the battle field.

The exact technique is still largely unknown; it has been carefully guarded for fear of misuse and only passed on from teacher to student in utmost confidence. A few rare photographs show masters using their crotch to lift heavy weights. Some of them can be seen taking hard kicks and hammer-blows to their privates without batting an eyelid.

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Chinese Financial Regulator Works Himself to Death, Gets Praised by Chinese Authorities as an ‘Example to Everyone’

When Chinese banking regulator Li Jianhua sat down to work on the night of April 22, he probably had no idea that he was writing his last report. The 48-year-old simply collapsed the next morning, having overworked himself through the night. His sudden death elicited mixed reactions from various sections of Chinese society. While his employers – the Chinese Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) – are calling him ‘a model for party members and cadres’, many people are taking to social media to express outrage over the incident.

Li, who joined the Communist Party in 1985, worked for the government in securities and banking regulation. He was brought into the CBRC in 2005, to improve the standards of trust financing – one of the most sensitive areas of China’s financial sector. Li was personally responsible for overseeing investments worth at least $6 trillion. His colleagues remember him as a busy man who never discussed his personal problems, and had very little time for his family.

According to news reports, Li had little regard for his health and always chose work over personal well-being. He had once suffered a terrible outbreak of shingles, but he still chose to carry on with an inspection tour to Hunan province. In early April, his doctor noticed a few disturbing symptoms and advised him to visit the hospital for a checkup. In response, he simply smiled and said he didn’t have any time. A few weeks later, he was dead.

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