Woman Plans To Eat and Drink Only Starbucks for a Year

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A Seattle-based woman by the name of Beautiful Existence (her legal name) has set a very strange challenge for herself this year – she plans to eat food and drink beverages only from Starbucks for all of 2013.

No, she’s not addicted to Starbucks products. Beautiful Existence just likes to set year-long challenges for herself. For example, in 2011, she only bought stuff from Goodwill stores. But there’s more to it than that. Beautiful wants to document the experience on her blog and show the world how communities benefit from Starbucks. “The company pays good benefits for part-time workers. That’s where my money is going,” she says. “We’re really lucky and I would say actually spoiled as Americans because we have all these different eating options,” Existence adds. “You go to all these other countries and they don’t have these luxuries. Really? Is it really going to be that hard for one year of my life to limit my menu? We’ll find out.”

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Creepy Spider Dress Protects Wearer’s Personal Space

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Don’t you hate it when total strangers invade your personal space by getting a little too close for comfort? By wearing the high-tech Spider Dress you can now send them a message in the shape of a creepy artificial spider leg pressing against their body.

Netherlands-based designer Anouk Wipprecht has designed one of the scariest garments I have ever seen. Aptly-called the Spider Dress, this piece of wearable design features animatronic arachnid limbs that react to external stimuli, in this case – nearby movement. When someone gets to close the wearer, the creepy spider legs start dancing on the shoulder pads, pushing the person away. You might just give them a heart-attack, but you’ll finally be able to enjoy your personal space in however crowded a space. Created in collaboration software engineer and hacker Daniel Schatzmayr, the Spider Dress’ robotic components use sensors to detect when someone gets too close. The scary tech-fashion design was showcased last November, at the VIVE LE ROBOTS / Cafe Neue Romance in Prague, during the EU Robotics week

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The Religious Serpent Handlers of Appalachia

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You would think that handling snakes is an activity limited to the snake-charmers of India. After all, the handling of such venomous creatures is naturally associated with the mystical cultures of the East. But you will be surprised to know that the practice exists in the U.S. as well, and has been present here for the past 100 years. ‘Snake handling’ or ‘Serpent handling’, as it is called, is a religious ritual followed in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., with origins in 20th century Appalachia. The belief behind the practice dates back to antiquity, and followers quote the Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Luke for support:

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

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Quirky Calendar for Nerds Goes on Sale in Germany

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A group of three self-confessed nerds hired a photographer to create a calendar that would appeal to fellow gamers and vintage technology fans. The 2013 Nerd Dreams Calendar recently went on sale in Germany but is available to geeks worldwide.

Are you a big fan of iconic devices like the Atari ST, Commodore C64 or Steve Jobs’ NeXT Cube? Would you like to see them in the hands of attractive girls that don’t have to take off their clothes in order to attract attention, and more importantly, share your passion for nerdy stuff? Then you’re bound to appreciate the new Nerd Dreams Calendar for 2013, imagined by a group of German nerds tired of having their interests passed up by calendar makers. They created their very own company, Nerd Dreams, hired a photographer and put together the calendar they’ve always wanted, making sure every photo was “suitable for work”. “We sub-contracted everything that had nothing to do with computers,” said Henning Schneider, one of the brains behind the nerd calendar, so the models were provided by an agency, and the pictures were taken by photographer Anna Schnauss in Frankfurt. Nerd Dreams 2013 features girls sporting geeky glasses and playing with old gadgets, as well as girls dressed as iconic video game characters like Lara Croft.

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Siberian Doctors Use Sticks to Literally Beat Drug Addiction

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There’s a new way to beat your addiction, but it hurts, a lot. Psychologists at a Siberian drug clinic are using corporal punishment to help drug, alcohol and even sex addicts get their lives back. The bizarre treatment involves lashing patients’ buttocks with sticks and canes.

“We cane the patients on the buttocks with a clear and definite medical purpose – it is not some warped sado-masochistic activity,” Professor Marina Chukhrova told The Siberian Times. Apparently, there are some sound scientific principles behind these beatings. Chukhrova and fellow practitioner Dr German Pilipenko claim addicts suffer from a lack of endorphins, known as the “happiness hormones”, and the excruciating pain stimulates their brains to release endorphins into the body, making them feel better about themselves without having to use any other stimulants. “The caning counteracts a lack of enthusiasm for life which is often behind addictions, suicidal tendencies and psychosomatic disorders,” Pilipenko says. He admits their technique gets a lot of skepticism from fellow doctors, but insists the pain acts as an injection against stress.

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Sick Gambling in Taiwan – Betting on When Terminally Ill Cancer Patients Will Die

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A macabre gambling trend has taken off in Taiwan’s thrid largest city of Taichung. Doctors, nurses and even the families of terminally ill cancer patients are placing bets on when the sick will die, for the chance to win three times the wagered sum.

It’s sick what some people will do for money. According to various news reports, a sinister gambling trend has sprung up in Taichung, Taiwan- people are actually making bets on how long incurable cancer patients in the city’s hospitals have to live. And we’re not talking about isolated cases of morally-challenged gamblers looking to make some money through any means possible, this is a full-fledged underground industry industry worth over $30 million. On a single Taichung street there are over 60 so-called “senior clubs” posing as charity organisations for the elderly that are nothing more than gambling dens challenging punters to place their bets on whatever cancer patient they think is the most likely to die within one month. What’s even more disturbing about this practice is that doctors, nurses and even family members of the terminally ill patients are also eager for a piece of the action.

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Chinese Millionaire Works as a Street Cleaner to Set a Good Example for Her Kids

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Yu Youzhen, a millionaire from Wuhan City, China, has been making headlines recently, after it was discovered she works as a street cleaner, for a 1,420 yuan monthly salary, in order to set a positive example for her two children.

During the 1980s, Yu Youzhen was just an average vegetable farmer in the Hongshan District Donghu Village Huojiawan, working hard with her husband in order to save some money. After years working from dawn till dusk, they became the first family in the village to own a 3-storey house. At the time, a lot of people were coming to Wuhan looking for work, and many of them needed a place to stay, so Yu started renting the spare rooms in her home. Each room would bring about 50 yuan every month, and the resourceful woman used the extra earning to build even more houses and add more floors. After several years, she had three 5-storey buildings, most of which were rented out. Construction regulations were loose in China, and everyone was building houses, but Yu Youzhen really lucked-out when, according to the policies of requisitioning and redevelopment of land, she and her family were compensated with 21 apartments for the houses they had built in Huojiawan. She wasn’t the only one, of course, but she personally witnessed how fellow villagers squandered away their fortunes on gambling, drinking and even drug use, so she made it a goal to set a good example for her kids and act responsible.

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Gold-Obsessed Man Shows Off Solid Gold Shirt, Takes Pimping to a Whole New Level

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Datta Phuge, a chit fund businessman from Pimpri, India, refers to himself as “The Gold Man of Pimpri” and in order to live up to this image, he has recently commissioned a 22-karat gold shirt weighing 3.2 kilograms that’s bound to make some Western rappers green with envy.

According to India Today, gold-obsessed businessmen and politicians are nothing new in India. Not long ago, a man by the name of Ramesh Wanjale was spotted wearing 2 kilos of gold, then NCP functionary Samrat Moze wore 8.5 kilograms of gold in the form of jewelry and ornaments, but chit fund Datta Phuge found a way to one-up them both. He had a team of 15 goldsmiths working 18 hours a day for over 15 days in order to finish a 3.5 kg woven gold shirt. “The gold shirt has been one of my dreams,” Mr Phuge told Indian newspaper the Pune Mirror“It will be an embellishment to my reputation as the ‘Gold man of Pimpri’”, Phuge said. His extravagant garment consists of 14,000 gold flowerrings, interwoven with one lakh spangles. It was assembled on a fabric base of imported white velvet, and comes with six Swarovski crystal buttons and an intricate belt, also made of gold.

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13-Year-Old’s Christmas iPhone Comes with 18-Point Contract from Mom

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“Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone.” Who wouldn’t want to find a message like that next to their Christmas gift, right? Only in the case of 13-year-old Greg Hoffman, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this was only the beginning of an elaborate 18-point contract he had to abide by in order to keep using his brand new Apple iPhone.

Greg Hoffman had been begging his parents for an iPhone for a whole year, so when he finally fond it under the Christmas Tree, he was the happiest 13-year-old in the world. Only his joy was short-lived, for with the popular smartphone came a contract put together by his mom, Janell, which conditioned the use of the gadget. The first of 18 points in the contract made things very clear for Greg. It read: “It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?” His first reaction was “Why? Why did she really have to do this?”, but his mother revealed her motives on ABC’s God Morning America: “What I wanted to do and show him [is] how you could be a responsible user of technology without abusing it, without becoming addicted”. Although she ultimately admitted the 18-point “document” was created partly in jest, Janell Hoffman wanted to help her son avoid many of the pitfalls that both smart phone using teens and adults fall prey to, and teen behavior expert Josh Shipp agrees with her. “You wouldn’t’ give your kid a car without making sure they had insurance,” he says. “And so giving them a cell phone or a computer without teaching them how to use it responsibly is irresponsible on the part of the parent.”

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Orlan – The French Performance Artist Who Used Plastic Surgery to Challenge Beauty Standards

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We’ve heard countless stories of women who go through procedure after procedure in an attempt to improve their looks, but when I first read about Orlan, a French performance artist, I was shocked. She has also undergone several surgical alterations to her face, but for a different reason – to challenge the standards of beauty that society has set for women. She makes use of plastic surgery as a part of her art, to transform her face and body in such a way that it questions traditional perceptions of beauty.

Orlan has done things to herself as bizarre as reshaping her face to resemble Zimbabwe’s Ndebele giraffe women. The whole purpose of her art, she says, is ‘to shock’. “The whole point is to be against the idea of social pressure put on a woman’s body,” Orlan is reported to have said. Her present day career is inspired from an incident that occurred in her life, way back in 1978. She was preparing to speak at a symposium one day, when she was rushed to the hospital for an emergency surgery. “I almost died because I had an ectopic pregnancy,” she said. “They had to operate to save my life and remove what they told me was a non-viable fetus.” What was most unusual about this incident was the way Orlan chose to handle it. In what can only be called the beginnings of reality television, she took a camera crew along with her to film the operation as it happened. She also insisted that she remain conscious throughout the procedure. “I wasn’t in pain and what was happening to my body was of profound interest to me. Pain is an anachronism. I have great confidence in morphine.”

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Black Gums Are Considered a Sign of Beauty in West Africa

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I’ve read about people getting tattoos on the weirdest places of their bodies, but this one just beats them all. Never before have I heard of people getting their gums tattooed. Not in any particular design, but just a uniform black color. This is actually a popular practice among women in West African countries like Senegal, because over there apparently, black gums are a thing of beauty.

Tattooed black gums are especially popular in small towns and villages like Thies, in Senegal. Women here practice this ancient tradition to get a smile that is considered more attractive. Of course, the process is nothing short of painful. Marieme, from Thies, is one such young girl to have gone through the procedure. I watched a documentary on YouTube that covered her journey from having regular gums to the more desirable black variety. Before she went for it, she said, “I want black gums to obtain a more beautiful smile. It’s become an obsession. I do fear the procedure. But I’ll be OK.”

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The Real-Life King Arthur and His Biker-Druid Followers

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If you’re a King Arthur fan and plan to visit Stonehenge sometime soon, you should totally go there on the summer solstice. Because that’s when your chances are high to spot the real-life King Arthur and his 20,000 followers – a motley crew of tourists, pilled-up teenagers in sportswear and neo-druids.

Their leader, formerly known as John Rothwell, now claims that he is the living embodiment of the 1575-year-old legendary British monarch – King Arthur. He rose to fame in the 1990s, when his efforts to open up access to Stonehenge during religious festivals like the summer solstice paid off, after winning a case at the European Court of Human Rights. Fast forward to present-day and you will find Arthur elected as the ‘Battle Chieftain’ of the Council of British Druid Orders. ‘King Arthur’ and his ‘Loyal Arthurian Warband’ represent the political wing of Britain’s neo-druid community. What’s more, King Arthur also has a partner, his very own High Priestess, and the two of them are quite active these days in protesting for ancient druid remains to get out of the hands of archaeologists and reinstated to their rightful resting place.

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Macabre Rituals – The Annual Cleaning of the Dead at Pomuch Cemetery

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It’s fascinating how bizarre the rituals of the dead can get. The latest we’ve discovered is from Pomuch, Campeche, a small Mayan town in Mexico. In Campeche, the day of the dead, which is not unlike Spring Cleaning, is honored each year. On this particular day, families visit the cemetery to participate in the ritual cleaning of the bones of their loved ones. The squeaky-clean remains are then placed on display along with flowers and a new cloth for veneration.

The custom applies to anybody who dies in Campeche, ranging from young to old. Every corpse is buried for three years and then, on the Day of the Dead, the bones are dug up, cleaned and transferred to a wooden crate. The waiting period of 3 years is important because the bones need that time to dry out. The wooden crate is placed on permanent display in the cemetery. From then on, people go to the cemetery to pay their respects and clean the remains every year. Nov 1st is the day dedicated to dead children, known as the Dia de los Niños (Day of the Innocents), and Nov 2nd is for everyone else. The custom of cleaning the remains of dead relatives is said to date all the way back to Mayan practices – when the skulls of ancestors were retained and worshipped. The significance behind the ritual is to help people deal with the pain of losing a loved one. It is also believed to keep families together. The most important belief, however, is that a relative whose remains are poorly taken care of can become angry and wander through the streets.

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Man’s Addiction to Heavy-Metal Earns Him Disability Benefits

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Here’s something worth banging your head over: 42-year-old Roger Tullgren, from Hässleholm, Sweden, was cleared for state disability benefits after he’s been certified by three psychologists as a heavy-metal addict who can’t function at his workplace unless he is allowed to wear black T-shirts and camo pants, and rock out to loud heavy metal music.

The Swedish edition of The Local first reported about Roger Tullgren back in 2007, soon after his addiction to heavy-metal was acknowledged by psychologists and the state employment service agreed to pay part of his salary. Apparently, his interest in heavy-metal started in 1971, when his brother came home with a Black Sabbath album. Since then he’s been hooked to everything that screams heavy-metal, sports long black hair, a collection of tattoos and wears skull and crossbones jewelry. Nothing really out of the ordinary so far, he’s not the only man in the world passionate about this culture. But in Tullgren’s case, it started interfering with everything else. Because he couldn’t help attending hundreds of heavy-metal shows and events every year, often skipping work, his employer eventually tired of his antics and the aging rocker found himself without a job and relying on welfare. Luckily, after some sessions with occupational psychologists who certified his addiction to heavy-metal as a disability, Roger Tullgren earned the right to a wage supplement from the local job center.

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The Blood Qur’an – A Holy Book Written with the Blood of Saddam Hussein

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We’ve heard of fanatical lovers writing letters to their beloved in blood. But Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein took this practice to a new level. In the late 1990s, he commissioned a calligrapher to make a copy of the Qur’an, using his own blood as ink. For the project, Saddam donated 7 gallons (27 liters) of blood over the course of two years – the time it took for the book to be completed. The book still exists, and no one knows what to do with it.

For now, Saddam’s blood-inscribed Qur’an is being kept behind locked doors in Baghdad. The unusual book is both sacred and profane, so officials are quite unsure as to how to deal with it. Islamic clerics are confused over the decision to either destroy the book or preserve it as a reminder of the dictator’s brutality. It is most likely that Saddam was quite aware of the controversy his project would spew, given the taboos in Islamic culture over human bodily fluids, but he went ahead with it anyway. His intentions were clear – he had said that the book was his tribute to God because his son had survived an assassination attempt. In the words of one Iraqi citizen, “On one flank had been the government, doing all it could to prevent access. The Shia-led regime is highly sensitive to the re-emergence of any symbols that might lionize the remnants of the Ba’athist rank and file, which still orchestrates bombings and assassinations every few days. And then there are the Sunnis themselves, who are fearful of government retribution if they open the doors and of divine disapproval if they treat this particularly gruesome volume of the Qur’an with the reverence of a holy book.”

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