everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Do you wanna see a mermaid?

I am not entirely sure how I found out about the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida. But it is now on my bucket list. Would that be because it is, “one of the deepest, naturally formed underwater caverns in the U.S.”? Maybe for some people. Or because of its super catchy name, which means, “little spring” or “winding river”? Not really, to be honest. It’s actually because it is, “THE ONLY CITY OF LIVE MERMAIDS!” (or so they say on their website).

Yesteryear Mermaids

Apparently it all started back in 1946, with a former Navy guy called Newton Perry, who trained SEALs (the Navy ones, not the ones who do tricks and catch fish) to swim underwater in World War II. No notes on whether he was a mermaid/merman, but apparently he, “scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business”. And then he invented a method for humans to breathe underwater via oxygen hoses connected to an air compressor (so it could look like humans were, “thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus”. Genius.

Then he built an 18 seat theatre into limestone, six feet below the water’s surface. And then? Well, I can’t paraphrase, as I won’t do it justice: “Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets.” AMAZING.

And so the mermaid show drew large crowds and was quite the place to visit in the 1950s (even Elvis stopped by). And then in the 1980s they opened a water theme park and beach. Then in the 1990s they started the popular “Mermaids of Yesteryear” shows. Apparently, the former mermaids’ motto is, “Once a mermaid, always a mermaid”.

Not convinced? Then have a look at some of these amazing mermaids from the “Mermaid Roster” on the site (which is almost too good to be true)…

MermaidStayce

Don’t be surprised if Mermaid Stayce beats you in Candy Crush.”

MermaidCrystal

“Mermaid Crystal enjoys track & field and is always up for a game of Trivia Crack.” 

MermaidBrittany

“You can find Mermaid Brittany hunting when she’s not performing.”

I salute you, Newton Perry, for your fabulous vision. And you too, multi-talented mermaids. I very much hope to see the mermaid show for myself one day (they are open 365 days a year, fyi). [I did check out the ‘Careers’ section of the website – no current requirements for additional mermaids.] “Being a mermaid is a magical job. As the mermaids sing in The Little Mermaid show: 

We’re not like other women,
We don’t have to clean an oven
And we never will grow old,
We’ve got the world by the tail!”

Sing it, sisters. [You can check out the website here.]

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Three things I like a lot right now

Oh, hello. I just wanted to tell you about three things that I am liking a lot right now. In case you might like them too. A book, an app, and a podcast – they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great.

Firstly, the book. It’s Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance – I’d heard good things, and when the Independent is quoted on the cover: “a great insight into Trump and Brexit”, then I really couldn’t resist. I guess it’s a great insight into that, like a window into a different world. 


I have always known that I couldn’t go on one of those tv talent shows – sure, mostly because I can’t sing and/or dance, but also because I don’t have a particularly interesting back story to my life. Family, friends, education, health, opportunity – this book made me realise that what I consider “normal”, or maybe even “boring”, must sound like fairyland to so many people. And this J.D.Vance kid was born in the 1980s, so it’s not as if it’s a story of how life used to be in ye olden days. It’s interesting and well-written – easy to read on a rainy weekend – and I like that it asks more questions than it answers. Definitely got me thinking.

The app is Lumosity, a “brain training” app that I bought a family subscription to for Christmas. When you google, “apps to prevent dementia”, it always gets a run, and although my parents are (a) reading this, and (b) currently in possession of all of their marbles, I figure it never hurts to give these things a try. We are a competitive people, so the fact that this tracks your performance and compares you to your age group (with an impressive global sample size) is appealing. Some of the games are also quite addictive (looking at you, Train of Thought) and you feel like king/queen of the world when you beat your previous score or get to the next level. 

I think they recently got busted for deceptive / misleading advertising (allegedly over-stating the scientifically proven benefits for dementia / aging etc. But I think as long as we’re enjoying it as a fun challenge, and not expecting miraculous results, then that is all good.

The podcast was discovered by my lovely sister-in-law, Rocky, who shares my interest in slightly quirky books, people, things in general. It’s called Missing Richard Simmons, based on the fact that colourful character Richard Simmons disappeared from public life a few years ago and seemingly flicked the switch on his former life – no contact with his former staff, friends and associates. For someone who was so gregarious and seemed to thrive on his relationships with people, this dramatic disappearance has stumped lots of people. Hence the podcast – the guy is a former friend of Richard and is determined to find make contact. The colourful characters that he meets along the way make this podcast so great – I am sure I have been caught shaking my head or giggling as I listen to it on the way to work. 


It’s become a very popular podcast (we’re up to episode 3, with a new episode released each week) – even if you don’t love Richard Simmons (you monster!) then there are surely enough bizarro people and stories in this podcast to keep it interesting.

And they are three things that I like a lot right now. Hope you like them too!

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Square One

On Saturday, I was reading an article in the Good Weekend magazine on Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies coach who has gone to the dark side and is now coaching England (see you and your team of losers on the 18th in Melbourne, Eddie). Anyway, the author of the article, Peter Wilson, included an interesting fact that I wanted to share with you here. Just in case any of you are geeks like me, and find this sort of stuff kinda cool…


So, now you know. (Apologies if you already did, and I am the only person alive who had no clue. Awks.) Thanks to Fairfax for still printing newspapers and for still employing journalists (not enough, but that’s another story for another day) to help us learn new stuff.

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A psychic HR solution, to be sure

So there I was, watching an episode of 90210 that TiVo had kindly recorded for me (the later version of 90210, not the original – it’s still on at peculiar hours in Sydney from time to time). And before I could speed through one of the ad breaks, I saw this bizarro ad.

It’s for an Australian company offering ‘psychic solutions’ over the phone, for the lofty price of $2.97 per minute (even more if you call from a mobile phone). The business was started by Liz, but it’s called Aliz’s. I am guessing the ‘A’ was added to boost Liz’s psychic ranking. Alphabetically, at least.

Anyways, the ad is possibly offensive to the Irish, to be sure, but it’s also given me an idea for an ‘HR solutions’ hotline. For $2.97 per minute (even LESS if you call me from a mobile phone, rather than coming to see me in person), I will listen to you about the same thing that Aliz’s people do: “career struggles”, “business issues”, and “money matters”. I draw the line at “love or relationship problems” though, sorry.

To sharpen my HR Solutions hotline approach, I clicked the link to the testimonials on Aliz’s You Tube channel. I found this most extraordinary “testimonial” there. And by extraordinary, I mean unbelievably freaky and quite a bit disturbing. Crazy voices, a puppet, and they even provide an incorrect number for the hotline. Nailed it.

Inspiration for ACate’s HR Solutions hotline, to be sure. I’ll let you know the correct number to call, just as soon as I finalise the set up of this Swiss bank account…

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A Leprechaun Trap and other delicious stuff

As you may know, St Patrick’s Day is coming up on Monday. As a fan of Ireland and almost everything Irish (I’m sorry, Father Ted. I have tried, but I just do not like your show), I thought I would help you out with your preparations this week. I have gathered together some Oirish things that have caught my eye and today, the focus is food. You’re welcome.

First up, the incredible Leprechaun Trap Cake from Megan, who blogs a lot of very cool stuff (not just Oirish cakes) at Not Martha.

First up, attract your leprechaun with the lure of gold. [image from Not Martha]

1. Attract your leprechaun with the lure of gold (and help him out with a pretzel ladder).
[image from Not Martha]

2. Hide a pretzel trap under the gold, so the wee fella falls through. [image from Not Martha]

2. Hide a pretzel trap under the gold, so the wee fella falls through.
[image from Not Martha]

3. Enjoy the magical rainbow cake, with or without your leprechaun. [image from Not Martha]

3. Enjoy the magical rainbow cake, with or without your leprechaun.
[image from Not Martha]

Next, St Patrick’s Day Pancakes from the FashionPlaytes blog. Whilst they are not so quirky, they are very easy to make and I have never seen a batch quite so green…

Yikes. [image from Fashion Playtes]

Yikes.
[image from Fashion Playtes]

And of course I had to look on etsy, just in case. I found these disturbingly named Irish Car Bomb Cake Pops from the shop Bella Roca Cakes. I then discovered that (maybe you already knew this?) the Irish Car Bomb is a drink that was invented in an American bar – by dropping a shot of Baileys + Jameson whiskey into Guinness. And I just gave an involuntary shiver as I wrote that. According to Wikipedia, you have to drink it quickly so it doesn’t curdle. Or you could just get these cake pops instead – they don’t curdle and they include chocolate.

Much nicer than the real thing.  [image from Bella Roca Cakes]

Much nicer than the real thing.
[image from Bella Roca Cakes]

Last, but not least, in case you want to keep your o’snacking healthy – here’s a “pot of gold” for you. But I’ve got to say, I’m more likely to be your friend if you make the leprechaun trap cake than this vegetable combo (although I do like carrots and they are good for your eyes, apparently).

The serving suggestion is to place the "pot o' gold" at the end of a "rainbow" of vegetables, with a "cloud" of ranch dressing.  [image from Spoonful]

The serving suggestion is to place the “pot o’ gold” at the end of a “rainbow” of vegetables, with a “cloud” of ranch dressing. To be sure, to be sure.
[image from Spoonful]

Bon appétit! Or, as they say in Ireland, bon appétit!

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Things With Faces

I like things with faces. Animals, people, watches – those kinds of things. Nothing strange about that, I’m sure. But I really like spotting unexpected things with faces – in nature, or on inanimate objects like doors or street signs or pieces of toast.

Many years ago, I found a photography book made up entirely of images of faces in unexpected places and I was excited to know that there was at least one other person who shared my interest. And now, thanks to Facebook, I know that there are at least 63,976 people around the world who also like things with faces. Because there’s a Facebook page called Things with Faces. Their tag line is Admit it, you see a face. And it’s a very good page to look at if you need a giggle.

Time's up. [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Time’s up.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Say cheese. [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Say cheese.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Surprise! [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Surprise!
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

ET, in ice cream form.  [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

ET, in ice cream form.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Happiness in a cup. [image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

Happiness in a cup.
[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

And finally, one of my favourites.

[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

[image from Things with Faces Facebook page]

If you’re on Facebook, I strongly suggest that you check out the Things with Faces page. (Oh, and while you’re there, you might want to like the EverydaySparks page too!) If you’re not on Facebook, you can always google ‘things with faces’ to find similar collections of pics. And when you’re out and about, remember to keep alert – THEY ARE ALWAYS WATCHING.

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Freecycling

On the weekend, I read an article about Freecycle. And I thought it sounded like an interesting idea, so I dug a little deeper. In case you hadn’t heard of it either, consider this your cheat sheet guide to this very cool global phenomenon…

Freecycle logo

According to their website, The Freecycle Network is made up of 5,119 groups with over 6.6 million members around the world. It’s a nonprofit organisation (the site groups are administered by volunteers), designed to help people reuse stuff that they don’t need by giving it to others and keeping it out of landfill. Kind of like swapping stuff with the neighbours in your village. If you actually still spoke to the neighbours in your village.

Their motto is ‘changing the world one gift at a time’, which sounds pretty great to me. And when you check out the groups in your local area, you can see the huge range of stuff that people are either giving or wanting – from shredded paper for Christmas hampers to specific books to chickens to horse poo. And a lot of people want old bathtubs for their gardens, it seems.

But like any community, there are some scammers around. One of the groups that I looked at warned about a FREE PUPPY SCAM!!! and another cautioned members to beware of people charging extortionate delivery charges for their bomby old televisions. So be careful – it’s a jungle out there. And if you need a machete to get through, I think I know of a Freecycler that can hook you up…

Anyways, I highly recommend that you have a look at the Freecycle site and check out groups in your local area. Just be sure to balance out your giving and your taking, lest you end up with a backyard full of old bathtubs and a bedroom full of shredded paper. And a starring role on that show Hoarders.

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Gimme Shelter

I have posted about the Ecouterre website a few times – generally when something on their eco fashion / sustainability site catches my eye as being at the extreme end of the wacky scale. So when their recent e-newsletter featured a post called 10 Wearable Habitats to Shelter You From the Apocalypse, I thought it was worth checking out. Not always practical or attractive, but I guess that’s not at the top of your priority list when you’re seeking shelter from the apocalypse, right?

Apparently, this jacket / sleeping bag combo is the result of a collaboration between London designer Tom Dixon and Adidas, in an attempt to create a “complete wardrobe for every possible occasion”. I presume that this piece is only part of the wardrobe collection, as I do not believe that it caters for every possible occasion. A black tie function, for example. Or, you know, working in a normal office. Or really, any place that requires your legs to be covered in something other than your bedding. It is a good idea if you’re looking for a jacket you can sleep in, though.

Dress it up for day or night.

Dress it up for day or night.

Then there is this ‘Portable Home’ that was designed by three students from Middlesex University in the UK. It’s a peculiar looking white frock that turns into a tent. And you get to wear a cool pointy hat too. Not sure how comfortable your dress would be with all those tent poles hanging around, but it’d be very handy in case you needed a tent on the run.

A great party trick - watch me turn into a tent!

A great party trick – watch me turn into a tent!

And from another British designer, Lucy Orta, comes ‘Refuge Wear’. It’s a great concept and apparently one of Lucy’s designs enabled four people to join their silver jackets together to become a multi-person tent. Pretty amazing stuff, but I really like it because it looks like the tent may well be alive. If I was the boss, I would add some arms, just for the effect.

Hello there.

Hello there.

And now to my favourite. Veasyble. From what I can gather (their website is in Italian), it is like a paper accordion style thing. That you can carry around and then PUT OVER YOUR FACE. The website is full of bizarro images – a lady on the train, with a small paper accordion covering her eyes; a lady on the steps in a busy city, with a paper mask covering her whole face. But I like the one in the image below as I can imagine how good it would be to use in the real world. Forget ‘talk to the hand’ or the old fashioned ‘I am not listening to you – la, la, la, la’. With this, I can show you that I’ve had enough by silently expanding my paper accordion and disappearing into my own cocoon. I don’t think it’s sound-proofed, but someone would have to be very persistent to keep talking once you were in here.

Say what?

Say what?

But I couldn’t leave out the Sleep Suit. American Forrest Jessee (yes, really) has designed this suit and according to his website, there appears to be a great deal of science behind the textile used and the design of the suit. So I do feel a bit guilty for liking it because it looks funny. I couldn’t find my favourite image of the suit to use here – it was a lady dressed in the suit, slumped over her computer keyboard, resting peacefully in an otherwise bustling office. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a suit that could make that happen?

ShelterSleepSuit

You can check out all of the wearable habitats from the Ecouterre website here. If only I could have ordered a sleep suit in time for the Camino – now THAT would impress the other pilgrims in the hostel!

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The scariest puzzle of all time

We had a family party on the weekend and, as I was packing away the puzzles that the younger kids had been playing with, I noticed one aspirational puzzle entitled Careers. As I checked out the range of career options that our kids were being shown, I could not help but notice that the ‘Artist’ looked suspiciously like Jesus. Oh, and also like he has A PENCIL COMING OUT OF HIS HEAD, but that is really secondary.

The Artist and the Doctor.

The Artist and the Doctor.

I was so amazed that I took it to my brother for a second opinion. He pointed out that the other puzzle professionals looked sort of suspicious. The grimacing scientist mixing up a lethal cocktail of chemicals, the smug computer programmer on her ancient PC and the very shifty looking carpenter who may well be nailing his most recent victim under the floorboards…

Look out, kids.

Look out, kids.

But there is a clear winner in this puzzle – the teacher. You would definitely make sure your homework was ready if this was waiting for you in the classroom – ready to strike with poisoned apple or the ruler dagger.

Yikes.

Yikes.

So, there you have it. A whole range of frightening career options to choose from…

This is why I love working in HR.

This is why I love working in HR.

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Garden & Gun

Catchy title, isn’t it? To me, it’s a confusing combination of relaxation and terror: like Library & Land Mine, or Beach & Bazooka. But to hundreds of thousands of readers in the USA, Garden & Gun is a leading magazine covering all that is great about the South (of the USA). According to its President & CEO, Garden & Gun “…is a metaphor for the South—its land, the people, their lifestyle, and their heritage.” And their gardens and guns, presumably.

I’ve never read the magazine (having no real connection to the South, nor to gardens or guns), but the website is certainly an interesting and informative place to visit. Since I’m guessing that you probably haven’t read the magazine either, here are some highlights that I found on the Garden & Gun website…

From the Sporting Life section.  [image from gardenandgun.com]

From the Sporting Life section.
[image from gardenandgun.com]

From the Food section, an article entitled Build a Better Hot Dog includes a description of the creative dogs produced at a shop called Frank in Austin, Texas. “…like the Jackalope (antelope, rabbit, and pork sausage with a cranberry compote, Sriracha aioli, and cheddar).” Yes, really.

And, in what I think would be a great title for a sister magazine, the Arts & Culture section features an opinion piece God, Gators, and Gumbo. Uh huh.

There is another cool section called G&G Reader Good Dog Photos, which is pretty much what you would expect it to be – a heap of photos of Good Dogs (split into categories like ‘at play’, ‘on water’, ‘at rest’ and my favourite: ‘dogs being dogs’). Here is the impressive winner of the ‘dogs on water’ category: Fritz – a yellow Labrador retriever from Charleston, South Carolina.

Fritz, a dog who helps catch giant fish.  [image from gardenandgun.com]

Fritz, a dog who helps to catch giant fish.
[image from gardenandgun.com]

There is a Garden & Gun online store, which has some great things for sale. Also on sale for $300 is “Bird in Hand” – a photo of a man holding a dead bird. Not my cup of tea, but am sure the “Gun” part of the Garden & Gun readership would appreciate the art. The “Wear” section of the store features branded shirts, caps and leashes (for dogs) as well as pocket squares and a women’s shooting vest. And a “Croquet Golf Set”, which sounds intriguing and looks quite fancy.

If you would like to check out the very interesting website of Garden & Gun, it’s here. I’m no fonder of the garden or the gun, but I still like the insight into another world, from this magazine representin’ the South. Yeeeeeee-ha.

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