From Mark Thiessen for AP: "A woman with a lengthy criminal history including theft, assault and prostitution got into a truck with a man who had picked her up for a “date” near downtown Anchorage. When he left her alone in the vehicle, she stole a digital memory card from the center console. Now, more than four years later, what she found on that card is key to a double murder trial set to begin this week: gruesome photos and videos of a woman being beaten and strangled at a Marriott hotel, her attacker speaking in a strong accent as he urged her to die, her blanket-covered body being snuck outside on a luggage cart. Smith has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges in the deaths of Kathleen Henry, 30, and Veronica Abouchuk, who was 52 when her family reported her missing in February 2019."
An African-American man named Osbourn Dorsey invented the doorknob in the 1800s
From Same Passage: "Osbourn Dorsey invented the doorknob and doorstop in December of 1878. He successfully obtained a patent for his work in the same year. Because of the time in which he lived and the fact that he was African-American, very little is known about his life. Historians still wonder if the man was born free or if he was a freed slave, and they don't really know where Dorsey lived or what other inventions he created if any, or even what he did for a living. Most of the information about him and his inventions comes from his patent application. Before Dorsey’s invention people closed and secured doors in a variety of ways. Many people used some type of latch to keep doors closed, whereas others used leather straps as handles. Even after the doorknob was invented it took years for people to embrace them fully and begin installing them."
Thanks to this Soul Asylum music video, 21 missing children were found
From Jennifer Deutschmann for Grunge.com: "Soul Asylum's lead singer, Dave Pirner, said the song Runaway Train was not written with missing children in mind. Instead, he wrote it in the midst of a deep depression." The idea to feature missing children and runaways in the video for the song was proposed by director Tony Kaye, who was discussing the video with the band and suggested that the group could try to help find some of the missing children who appeared on milk cartons. Although Columbia Records was reluctant to follow through with Kaye's suggestion, they eventually agreed. Rolling Stone reports 21 of the 36 missing children featured in the original Runaway Train video were eventually found or returned home after the video received lots of airtime on MTV."
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Experts say the unusual sounds some Floridians have reported are from spawning fish
From Roxanne Hoorn for Atlas Obscura: "On a foggy winter night in Tampa Bay, Florida, a group of friends stopped in their tracks as an eerie noise seemed to roll in off the ocean and reverberate around them. “We literally questioned if it was aliens,” says Emelle Lee, one of the friends on the pier. “It was so loud that a few other people came out of their homes to check it out.” For the past few winters, residents in the Tampa Bay area have been reporting similar experiences: an eerie thumping bass heard in homes up to a mile inland. While many people assumed it was a new nightclub or a noisy neighbor, fish acoustics expert James Locascio has another idea. He believes it could be the epic mating calls of black drum fish. In 2005, Locascio helped communities in Punta Gorda and Cape Coral trace their own mystery noises back to the same fish."
A photographer trained rats to take photographs of themselves. They didn’t want to stop
From Emily Anthes for the NYT: "When Augustin Lignier, a professional photographer in Paris, was in graduate school, he began to ponder the point of picture-taking in the modern world: Why did so many of us feel compelled to photograph our lives and share those images online? It was not a novel question, but it led Mr. Lignier to a surprising place, and before long he found himself building what was, in essence, a photo booth for rats. He took inspiration from B.F. Skinner, the famous behaviorist who had devised a test chamber to study learning in rats. The Skinner box dispensed food pellets when rats pushed a designated lever. Mr. Lignier built his own version of a Skinner box and released two pet-store rats inside. Whenever the rats pressed the button inside the box, they got a small dose of sugar and the camera snapped their photo."
Bobby Dunbar disappeared in 1912 and then a different boy came back
From Katie Serena for All That's Interesting: "On August 23, 1912, the Dunbars went on a day trip to Swayze Lake in Louisiana and little Bobby, only four years old, disappeared. Lessie and Percy Dunbar searched everywhere for their boy but were forced to call the authorities. The local police, and eventually the state police, began a statewide manhunt for the boy, and then a boy matching Bobby’s description was found in Mississippi. One newspaper said the reunion was joyful, but other accounts claim that the Dunbars were hesitant to confirm that the boy was Bobby. Then in 2004, Bob Dunbar Jr. consented to a DNA test to prove once and for all that his father was Bobby Dunbar. The DNA was compared to the DNA from his cousin, the son of Bobby Dunbar’s younger brother. The test was conclusive: Bob Dunbar Jr. was not related to any of the Dunbar family."
The traditional parade of the geese in Valkenburg
Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipty 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.