On his deathbed he told his wife that he robbed a bank

On his deathbed he told his wife that he robbed a bank

From USA Today: "Just before Thomas Randele died, his golfing buddies and co-workers from the car dealership came by to say goodbye to a guy they called one of the nicest people they’d ever known – a devoted family man who never bent the rules, a friend to so many that a line stretched outside the funeral home a week later. He never told them his secret: that he was a fugitive wanted in one of the largest bank robberies in history, living in Boston under a new name he created six months after the heist in 1969. Not even his wife or daughter knew until he told them in what authorities described as a deathbed confession."

People with this form of synesthesia see subtitles when someone speaks

3D illustration, red megaphone with silver colored alphabet letters floating outward from megaphone's opening in front of gray wall

From Scientific American: "My brain automatically translates spoken words into written ones in my mind’s eye. I see subtitles that I can’t turn off whenever I talk or hear someone else talking. This same speech-to-text conversion even happens for the inner dialogue of my thoughts. This mental closed-captioning has accompanied me since late toddlerhood, almost as far back as my earliest childhood memories. And for a long time, I thought that everyone could “read” spoken words in their head the way I do. What I experience goes by the name of ticker-tape synesthesia. It is not a medical condition—it’s just a distinctive way of perceiving the surrounding world that relatively few people share."

Stressed about paying your taxes? Blame the ancient Egyptians

From the Smithsonian: "From mummified pharaohs to the Great Pyramid of Giza, ancient Egyptian iconography dominates the modern world. But few realize that the Egyptians also left behind a more practical legacy: taxes and the principles of administrative government. The world’s earliest known system of taxation emerged in Egypt at the dawn of civilization itself, around 3000 B.C.E., when the First Dynasty unified Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt. The practice persisted for millennia, continuing after the fall of ancient Egypt, but the basic concept remained the same: The state levied taxes to pay for its operations and maintain social order. After all, the Egyptians always had royal building projects and foreign wars to fund, just as we do today."

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What it's like to live on board the world's largest cruise ship

photo of Icon of the Seas, taken on a long railed path approaching the stern of the ship, with people walking along dock

From The Atlantic: "My first glimpse of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, from the window of an approaching Miami cab, brings on a feeling of vertigo, nausea, amazement, and distress. I shut my eyes in defense, as my brain tells my optical nerve to try again. The ship makes no sense, vertically or horizontally. It looks like a hodgepodge of domes and minarets, tubes and canopies, like Istanbul had it been designed by idiots. Vibrant, oversignifying colors are stacked upon other such colors, decks perched over still more decks. There is no imposed order, no cogent thought, and, for those who do not harbor a totalitarian sense of gigantomania, no visual mercy. This is the biggest cruise ship ever built, and I have been tasked with witnessing its inaugural voyage."

Is this the world’s oldest piece of art depicting a solar eclipse?

From Atlas Obscura: "About 20 years ago, a man named Paul Griffin was struck by enigmatic carvings inside a 5000-year-old tomb in Ireland. Griffin became convinced that the group of concentric circles, some partially overlapping, depicted an ancient solar eclipse. Using software that calculates the timing of such events, he claimed there was indeed a near-total solar eclipse apparently visible from the site on Nov. 30, 3340 B.C., roughly around the time the tomb was built. His conclusion was eventually picked up and repeated by newspapers, websites, and even NASA. Griffin also speculated that charred human remains were evidence of a human sacrifice linked to the eclipse allegedly depicted on the stone. But there’s something shady about these claims."

How a cat named Tommy Tucker almost inherited $5,000

From Hatching Cat: "Tommy Tucker was just an ordinary tabby cat who lived in a large frame home at 1384 Riverside Drive in Washington Heights. His owner, Louise Baier, shared her home with Tommy and a widowed housekeeper named Katherine Schultz. Although Ms. Baier was not employed, she did have a wealthy brother, Dr. Victor Baier, and when he died in 1921, Louise inherited one half of his estate and all his jewelry and household items. When Miss Baier died at the age of 75 on March 6, 1939, she left the bulk of her estate–estimated to be worth about $300,000–to the ASPCA and other animal charities, and bequeathed $15,000 to Miss Schultz and $5,000 to Tommy."

The law of physics? Not for me, I am a goat

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipity engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me.