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The Whispering Wall Of The Barossa Reservoir

The Whispering Wall of the Barossa Reservoir and Its Amazing Parabola Sound Effect | When the Whispering Wall was built over a 100 years ago, no one had a clue about its amazing acoustic properties. The concrete dam was constructed by about 400 workers over the South Parra River in Barossa Valley between 1899 and 1902. The dam holds back the 4,515-mega liter Barossa reservoir that supplies water to several areas in southern Australia. The Whispering Wall has always been famous – the 9 storey structure was the first arch dam to be constructed in the region and at one point, the highest in all of Australia. But little did the builders know about the hidden properties of the engineering marvel they had created.

Because the dam is a hard and curved surface, any sound made on one end travels completely unobstructed to the other end. So you could have a perfectly normal conversation with someone standing on the opposite end of the dam (about 450 ft. away), as though they were right next to you! The voices can be heard quite clearly due to a phenomenon known as the parabola effect. The wall is so perfectly curved that it forms one sector of a circle. And the sound waves just bounce in a series of straight jumps all the way to the other end.

 The dam’s whispering abilities were actually discovered by accident. According to locals, the story goes that during construction, a group of workers who were complaining about their boss were overheard on the other side of the dam. The Whispering Wall was revealed! Unfortunately, this wasn’t a cool enough discovery to save the workers’ jobs.

If you ever happen to travel to Australia, the Whispering Wall is one location you don’t want to miss. The place attracts a massive number of tourists each year, eager to test the wall for themselves. Some of them have even put up their ‘whispering’ videos on YouTube. The entire area is protected for native species, so the picturesque location is ideal for a picnic. The surrounding lands are covered in original scrub growth of pink gums and native pine trees. And thanks to all the trees, this is a great spot to do some serious bird watching.

Dirties Man Has Been Sleeping in Hot Ash for a Year

Guy Dubbed Europe’s Dirties Man Has Been Sleeping in Hot Ash for a Year | 58-year-old Ludvik Dolezal is considered to be the dirtiest man in Europe. He’s homeless, he has no access to a shower, and he’s been sleeping in a pile of hot ash every night for the past year.

Ludvik spends his days  in an abandoned old farmhouse in Novy Bydzov, Czech Republic surrounded only by ashes of what were once his personal belongings. “A year ago I simply decided to quit my job. Since then I’ve been staying here with the fire,” he said. He burnt all his material possessions at the time, even his mattress and duvet, to achieve the perfect mound of ash to sleep in. Now, he just burns whatever he finds to create his ash-bed. “Every night I lay down with hot ash in my clothes and cover myself to keep warm. I look like hell then.”

 “I had everything – jacket, boots, mattresses and even a duvet. But I burnt everything because there was nothing else to keep the fire going,” said Dolezal. “People help me, they bring some old tires here for example and I burn them. I keep the fire going all day and in the evening at 7.30 I go to sleep.” Understandably, he’s covered head to toe in soot – only his eyes and mouth are visible. Even in the dead of winter, he can be seen wearing just a fleece, which is also dyed black from the smoke.

Dolezal’s affinity to fire and ash is quite strange – many believe him to be suffering from a psychological disorder. “I mostly burn wood from bushes that grow around,” he said. “But it has to be dry to glow. When I don’t have enough of it I grab an axe and cut boards from surrounding sheds. I burn even rubber, that’s not a problem. And if I have foam from a mattress I’ll throw it on there as well. The tires are very good, they make good heat. But there is smoke as well so then I need to go out for a while.”

Wearing Wedding Dress For Ten Years

Chinese Woman Has Been Wearing Her Wedding Dress Every Day for the Last Ten Years | A 47-year-old Chinese woman is so happy to have found true love that she hasn’t taken off her wedding dress for the past ten years. You might think that’s crazy, but wait till you hear everything she’s been through. At age 18, Xiang Junfeng was kidnapped from her hometown and sold to an elderly man. She was forced to marry him and lived for 15 years in captivity before she found the courage to run away.

A native of Jimo, in China’s Shandong Province, Xiang was sold to a man in the neighboring city of Linyi. He ended up using her as a slave, putting her to work in the fields. After several years of living in captivity, she managed to escape by running to Liujiazhuang village where a local woman helped her. Eventually, the woman turned out to be Xiang’s savior in more than one way. She introduced Xiang to her own brother, Zhu Zhengliang, and the couple tied the knot in 2004. This event made poor Xiang so happy that she’s refused to wear anything but her wedding attire ever since.

Although she got married with just the one dress, Xiang later had three more made – one for each season. “I bought one and made the other three,” she said. “I had only ever known a violent and abusive man and I avoided men until I met my new partner who brought me truly out of my shell and treated me so differently. I couldn’t believe it when he asked me to marry him.”

“My wedding day was the happiest day of my life and I never wanted it to end, and that was when I decided I wanted to not only keep wearing my wedding dress, but actually got four other wedding dresses as well.” Ever since the wedding, Xiang’s husband has been helping to rehabilitate her to everyday life. “We felt comfortable with each other, so we have been together since then. I am very happy now, as my husband is very good for me.”

The locals have regarded Xiang’s behavior to be strange, especially when she comes to work in the fields wearing a large, white gown. They even have a name for her – ‘sister wedding gowns’. But she isn’t the least bit bothered about what the locals think. “I don’t even have any other clothes,” she said. “I don’t care what people say about me. My wedding dresses are part of my life and I will continue to wear them regardless.” Xiang also said that it doesn’t disturb her husband because he knows how happy it makes her.

It has been a while since I came across a tale as heartwarming as Xiang’s. She seems so sincerely happy that it just fills your heart with joy. Her only regret is that she isn’t able to officially register the marriage because she doesn’t have the paperwork from her previous marriage. But the local police station is considering making an exception in this case and helping the lovely couple get registered. That’s what I call a modern-day fairy tale!

Lucky Guy Getting Paid $93,000 to Have as Much Fun as Possible

Best Job Ever: Lucky Guy Getting Paid $93,000 to Have as Much Fun as Possible in Six Months | Most people need to save up before they get to travel and have fun. But for this lucky Californian, things are the other way round – he gets paid to do all that and more. Andrew Smith has been appointed the ‘Chief Funster’ of the State of New South Wales, Australia, a six-month job that will earn him a whopping $93,000. And all he has to do in exchange for the money is travel around NSW and do exciting things every day.

Smith landed the dream job after winning a contest as a part of an event to promote NSW as the ideal travel destination for young people. His challenge is to show travelers how exciting the Australian State can be by collecting no less than 802,000 moments of fun in six months. That’s one for every square kilometer of the State. So on a typical day, Smith can be found skydiving, hanging out with famous skateboarders, abseiling the spectacular mountains, and other such stuff.

‘The Funster Experiment’ began in mid-December last year, and Smith has worked his way through over half the required number of fun moments so far. That’s 480,000 to be precise, including 187 high fives on the Sydney Harbor, sliding down a 91-meter typhoon waterslide, and mingling with 18,000 Elvii (Elvis impersonators) at the Parkes Elvis Festival.

“My schedule through to the end of June is jam-packed with great events and travel experiences,” said Smith. “I’m going to be climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, swimming with dolphins in Port Stevens, attending the world premiere of Strictly Ballroom: The Musical, and being part of the much anticipated Vivid Sydney Festival.” During his stint as Chief Funster, Smith also gets to drive around with The Stig, a popular character from the British motoring television show, Top Gear.

According to Smith, “There’s so much to do and see in NSW, the challenge isn’t finding the fun, it’s fitting all the fun into just six months.”

But Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase isn’t surprised at all the fun that Smith is having. “To reach the halfway point well ahead of schedule on his challenge to find 802,000 moments of fun in NSW is a great achievement,” she said. “But it’s no surprise given the huge volume and variety of amazing experiences on offer across the State.”

“People from across the globe have engaged with the NSW Chief Funster via social media and as a result of seeing how much fun Andrew’s been having in Sydney and NSW so far, have shared their plans to follow his footsteps,” she added.

The photographs of Smith’s journey are a true testament to how much fun he’s really smiling. The young man is all smiles as he tries his hand at winemaking, gets a traditional shave and explores the Blue Mountains, among other activities. It sure does sound like the best job in the world!

China's Smog Issue

You Know China’s Smog Issue Is Serious When People Line Up to Sample Free Bags of Fresh Air | It’s no secret that China is one of the most polluted countries in the world. But things have gotten so bad that a few cities actually have free ‘fresh air stations’, stocked with individual bags of fresh air that users can breathe out of. These stations have become so popular that they are crowded with visitors lining up for just a whiff of fresh, clean air.

One of the stations is located in Zhengzhou city in central China’s Henan province. According to sources, Zhengzhou is one of the most polluted cities in China, with an AQI (Air Quality Index) of 158. In comparison, Bakersfield (the most polluted city of America) has an AQI of just 45. The air at Zhengzhou’s station is sourced from Laojun Mountain, a scenic spot in Luanchuan County consisting of 80 percent green land. Photographs show large crowds of locals waiting patiently at the station. When it’s their turn, a uniformed air hostess hooks them up to oxygen masks.

Feng Lin, a 75-year-old user, said: “The air is really good, but the time is too short. I had to stop too soon but it was really great until then.”

“I felt my baby move right when I breathed in,” said one pregnant woman. “I would love to walk in the mountain’s forests after my child is born.”

The decision to set up the stations came after only three of China’s 74 cities managed to meet official air quality standards. The dangerously high smog levels in the country have been described as an environmental crisis by the World Health Organization. Since then, the Ministry of Environmental Protection in China is trying hard to address the issue. Before the free air stations were set up, costumed mascots called ‘Oxygen Babies’ gave away free bottles filled with air from the Tianmu Mountain in Zhejiang province. Oxygen Babies have been touring the country promoting the new products which are currently free of charge.

According to product manager Long Peng, “The air in Tianmu Mountain is so fresh that negative oxygen ion is 3,300 per cubic centimeter, much higher than the normal level. The problem is that there are not enough negative ions in daily life. All the modern things have generated an overabundance of positive ions that makes us feel tired, depressed and irritable.” In Laojun, for instance, the average negative oxygen ion is between 30,000 and 50,000 per cubic meter. China’s fresh air crisis was also acknowledged by the country’s president, Xi Jinping, who suggested selling cans in the future. “Air quality is now a deciding factor in people’s perception of happiness,” he declared.

The concept of selling fresh air cans is not a new one – the idea is said to have originated from tourist shops near Mount Fuji in Japan, where cans of fresh air were sold with great success. Last year, Chinese recycling entrepreneur and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao claimed to have sold 10 million cans in just 10 days. The demand for these fresh air products is extremely high, given the ridiculously high levels of pollution. In fact, China’s biggest online travel agency has collaborated with insurance firms to provide better air quality to tourists whose trips are not entirely enjoyable due to high pollution.

The Origin of Blonde Afros in Melanesia

Black and Blond – The Origin of Blonde Afros in Melanesia | About a quarter of the Melanesian population in the Solomon Islands archipelago has an extremely unusual trait – dark skin with blond hair. The archipelago, located east of Papa New Guinea in Oceania, consists of a thousand islands inhabited by over half a million Melanesian people. They have the darkest skin in the world outside of Africa, but strangely, about one-fourth of the inhabitants sport blond afros.

This rare Melanesian characteristic has baffled scientists and genetic experts for years. Up until now, they have attributed the trait to inheritance – from the Europeans, especially the British, German and Australians, who have been associated with the island for hundreds of years. Several of the islands were under German jurisdiction in the 19th century. In 1893, the UK took southern Solomon Islands under their wing, declaring the region a protectorate. The rest of the islands were added to the protectorate at a later stage. And in the early 20th century, Australian and British companies set up coconut plantations on many of the islands.

So it isn’t entirely unbelievable that the dark-skinned Melanesians got their blond hair from the growing influx of ‘outsiders’. The locals, however, prefer not to go by that theory. They have been insisting for years that their blond hair is a result of a diet rich in fish and constant exposure to the sun. As it turns out, both theories are quite far from the truth. According to a recent investigation, random mutation might actually be the answer to the mystery of the Melanesian blonds.

Sean Myles, the author of the study and geneticist at Nova Scotia Agricultural College, pointed out that there is almost no variation in the shades of blond hair. This suggests that the hair color is governed by genes. “It looked pretty obvious to me that it was a real binary trait,” he said. “You either had blond hair or you didn’t.” To locate this underlying blueprint in the Melanesian genetic pool, Myles and his colleagues collected saliva and hair samples from over 1,200 Solomon Islanders. From these samples, they compared the genetic makeup of 42 dark-haired and 43 blond islanders.

What the scientists discovered was pretty phenomenal – the two groups possessed very different versions of a crucial gene, TYRP1, which coded for a protein involved in pigmentation. Just switching one letter of the genetic code (a ‘T’ instead of a ‘C’), marked the difference between dark hair and blond hair. Only one amino acid in the protein is different (arginine replaced by cysteine). So 25 percent of the Solomon islanders carry two copies of the mutant recessive gene. That means the blonds could have inherited their hair color from both parents. “It’s a great example of convergent evolution, where the same outcome is brought about by completely different means,” said Myles.

American Family Goes Sugar-Free for a Whole Year

Year of No Sugar – American Family Goes Sugar-Free for a Whole Year | When Eve Schaub came across some disturbing information about the effects of sugar, she felt that she had to do something about it, for her family. She had read that sugar is the number one ingredient making Americans fat and sick. It’s because of sugar that one in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome, one in three is obese and the rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease are skyrocketing. With this newfound knowledge, Eve decided to formulate a special plan for herself, her husband and her two daughters, aged 6 and 11.

Eve wanted to see how hard it would be to have her family go through an entire year avoiding foods that contain sugar of any kind. “Call me crazy, but avoiding added sugar for a year struck me as a grand adventure,” Eve said. I was curious as to what would happen. I wanted to know how hard it would be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping would change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make us all healthier.”

So the Schaubs went on a complete sugar-free diet for a year. “We cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice,” Eve said. “We also excluded anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn’t eat it.” And once they started looking, they found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken, broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread and even baby food. “Why all of this added sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production even cheaper.”

It must have been very tough for Eve to convince her husband and especially her two young children to follow the regime. While her husband was supportive, the kids were a totally different ballgame. “Immediately, they started bawling,” said Eve. “They knew this meant birthdays and Halloween and play dates and Christmas would all be different. As a mother, the last thing you want to do is make your kids cry!” The first day was the worst, but as time went by the girls adjusted pretty well.

Surprisingly, the Schaubs didn’t lose any weight in their year-of-no-sugar. But they weren’t really looking to do that in the first place. “The last thing I wanted to do was focus on losing weight,” said Eve. “We did notice other changes. Our palates changed over time. Things that were sweet began to taste different to us and really repellent by the fall. Things that normally looked very appealing looked obscene and disgusting. We felt healthier, it seemed like we got less sick, like we got better faster or got milder colds. My kids missed significantly less school.”

“During our year of no sugar, one of the rules was that, as a family, we could have one actual sugar-containing dessert per month; if it was your birthday, you got to choose the dessert. By the time September rolled around, we noticed our palates starting to change and slowly, we began enjoying our monthly treat less.” Eve recalled the time when her husband requested a decadent multi-layered banana cream pie for his birthday. She was surprised to find that she couldn’t enjoy her slice at all. “I couldn’t even finish it,” she said. “It tasted sickly sweet to my now sensitive palate. It actually made my teeth hurt. My head began to hurt and my heart began to race; I felt awful.”

After the year was up, the Schaubs started to indulge occasionally. For example, on New Year’s Eve, they all chose to have a little something to break the year-long fast. But as time went on, Eve found it difficult to cope with the fact that there were no rules anymore. The first time they went to the supermarket, it was hard to know what to buy and what to avoid. But now that a long time has passed, Eve said that they’ve sorted it all out.

Their sugar intake has reduced drastically, and they avoid it in everyday foods. They save the desserts for special occasions. “My body seems to be thanking me for it,” said Eve. “I don’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around, I no longer feel the urge to go and hide with my children under the bed. We get sick less and get well faster. Much to my surprise, after our no-sugar life, we all feel healthier and stronger. And that is nothing to sneeze at.”

Eve has written a book based on her family’s experiences, called: Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. She recommends that people should be more aware about foods that contain hidden sugar. “Everybody gets to make their own dietary decisions, but what I think is not right is that this substance, which is not innocuous, is so pervasive in our food supply and we don’t know it’s there.” To raise awareness about sugar, she held a ‘Day of No Sugar’ challenge on April 9 this year. But Eve is quick to point out that she’s not handing out a prescription for anybody. “I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nutritionist. I’m a mom who decided to go on an adventure.”

Extend Neck By Encasing It In Copper Rings

‘Giraffe Woman’ Wants to Extend Her Neck by Encasing It in Copper Rings | 28-year-old Sydney V. Smith’s goal in life is to become a ‘giraffe woman’. For the past three years, the Los Angeles resident has been trying to extend her neck by wearing no less than 11 copper rings around it. The idea stemmed from her lifelong fascination with body modification, especially the tribal women of Thailand and Burma who encase their necks in rings at an early age.

“I’ve always had a long neck,” said Sydney. “In middle school, they called me ‘giraffe girl’. Then I saw pictures of the long-necked tribes in Thailand and Burma in National Geographic and I became fascinated with them.” That’s when she began to cut up coat hangers and wrap them around her neck at bed time. Naturally, her parents thought the idea was ridiculous. But she persisted, and she believes that her night-time ritual actually helped elongate her neck.

“After a few years, it became obvious that my neck was longer than the other girls, but not freakishly,” said Sydney. “So I stopped for a while to consider if being a long-necked woman was what I really wanted.” But soon, it became clear to her that she was quite attached to the rings. “I had missed the comfort from the pressure on the top of my neck and shoulders and had been thinking about doing it again for a while. The comfort and exhilaration of this process was really what I was after.”

So in 2011, Sydney started wearing a tight-fitting copper necklace made specifically to her requirements. She took it slow and added an extra ring when she needed it. But she’s always been rather shy about displaying her neck rings. When she lived in Maryland, she used to wear thick turtleneck sweaters to hide them. She also chose restaurant jobs behind the scenes to avoid unwanted attention.

Soon, Sydney’s neck muscles couldn’t support the weight of her head without the rings. At this point, she needed to make a decision – to wear the rings forever or get rid of them. “I asked myself, ‘Should I stop or should I go for it?’ knowing that I would be enslaved to a ringed necklace for the rest of my life,” she said. But after attending a Lady Gaga concert, Sydney was finally able to decide. “Her freak empowerment message made a special kind of sense for me. I figure if she can wear meat dresses, I can be a giraffe woman.”

The rings that Sydney wears were customized by a friend. They are soldered around her neck, but feature a special screw so they can be detached in case of medical emergencies. But as far as she’s concerned, they are permanently attached. “He managed to do it safely, though I did get burned a little,” she said. She estimates that her neck might be 10 to 11 inches long, thanks to the elongating effect of the rings.

As much as Sydney loves her neck rings, they do come with their own inconveniences. “I don’t have the normal range of motion I once did. It makes driving a little hard, but my peripheral vision improved,” she said. “It took a while to learn to sleep with them, but now if I take them off, my neck feels limp.” And neck sweat is another major issue. “If it’s summer and the air conditioner isn’t working, my neck starts to sweat and I start to smell,” Sydney revealed.

And then there are the medical issues and health risks associated with the rings. Dr. Jonathan Nissanoff, an orthopedic surgeon from Southern California, said that he doesn’t recommend anyone doing this because it could injure the nerves in the neck. “If she’s finished growing, then all she’s doing is stretching her skin or putting the bones into traction by pulling them apart. The rings aren’t going to make her bones longer. Once she removes them, her neck will come back to size.”

But nothing’s stopping Sydney – she’s actually contemplating adding a 12th ring. She also hopes to make some money out of her unique physique. “I’d like to work as a specialty model, but my original intent was not to exploit myself,” she said. “However, it seems to be my calling.” Well, we’re not sure if she’ll make it as a model, but she’s quite deserving of a place on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Thailand’s Kayan tribe has been a regular feature on the show. They even filmed one of the tribal women taking her rings off. It didn’t kill her, but she sure had a severely scarred neck with smelly mold growing all over it.

Sydney does realize that she’s risking her health, but she’s tempted with the possibility of becoming a fashion icon. “You’d be surprised at how many women see me and ask where they can get it done,” she said.

Dress Rental Business Make Men Feel Like Princess

Japanese Dress Rental Business Helps Men Feel Like Princesses | Mary Mariee is a Japanese company that rents out women’s formal wear. But they’ve recently tapped into a rather new market – men who want to be princesses for a day. For only about $600, the company offers men a chance to dress up and be photographed in elegant wedding attire or ball gowns of their choice. The special package is in so much demand that the shop has dressed over 100 men so far.

The shop, located in Chubu, central Japan, boasts of an extensive collection of women’s outfits – ranging from kimonos to white wedding gowns. At first, they ran a special package for women who wanted fancy photographs of themselves. But soon, they started to receive several enquiries from men as well. The response was so overwhelming that they decided to create an exclusive package for men. “We concluded that men want to feel like princesses too,” said store manager Hitomi Iseki.

So the store identified about a hundred dresses that are explicitly set aside for their male clientele. These dresses can be altered to fit the male physique. The package includes grooming, make up, and dressing up, before they get to be photographed. They’ve partnered with a nearby barber shop to shave the men’s faces and shampoo their hair before the make-up session. Prep time is about two hours, followed by an extensive photo-shoot in the clients’ favorite gowns . The service costs 39,800 ($390) yen on weekdays and 59,800 ($580) yen on weekends and holidays, not including tax.

Mary Mariee seems to be quite happy to offer this service, and they aren’t being judgmental of the men who choose to use it. They also offer similar sessions to women who want to be photographed in men’s clothes. “We want to provide opportunities for people to enjoy showing their real selves, whether they are men or women,” said the manager.