New “nations” declared in the Balkans; “Slow TV”; and, write an essay to snag a home…

May 20th, 2015 by

A new self-declared micro-state has appeared on the borders of Slovenia and Croatia. The Kingdom of Enclava is just 93 square metres in size and was proclaimed by “Polish tourist K Wrona”, apparently after it was found the space wasn’t recognised as part of either nation. Thousands have reportedly applied for honorary citizenship in the new nation (which at the time of writing, numbers 134 citizens) which has five official languages including English, Polish, Croatian, Slovenian and Chinese. The declaration follows the recent declaration of another micro-state known as Liberland, a seven square kilometre patch of “no man’s land” between Serbia and Croatia.

It’s been called “slow television”, although the word boring may also come to mind. Icelandic public TV network RUV has reportedly run a live, 24 hour, feed of a sheep giving birth in a bid to give what it calls “insight into the traditional farming life”. It follows a series of broadcasts by Norwegian public TV broadcaster NRK which has previously broadcast an eight hour knitting marathon, a 12 hour program showing burning wood, a 100 hour chess marathon and numerous lengthy broadcasts of train and boat trips in Norway including 130 hours of a cruise ship sailing up the country’s coast. The BBC are also reportedly preparing to embrace the idea and British Airways announced last year it would run a seven hour program of a train journey in Norway as part of its entertainment offerings.

Another American family are preparing to hand over their home to a new owner for just $US150 - and an essay. Michael and Stephanie Wachs are reportedly asking would-be buyers to submit a 200 word persuasive essay about why they’d be a suitable buyer for the two bedroom, two bathroom home along with their $US150 “offer fee”. The essay winner must pay closing costs and the actual price of the home written on the contract would be $1. Market value of the home is reportedly more than $US394,000 - to cover that sum, the Wachs are looking for 3,000 entries by mid June. They decided to sell their home in such a fashion after reading about an inn in Maine which was sold in a similar way. Visit to enter your bid for the Houston property. Meanwhile in Florida, a cupcake shop is also reportedly looking to sell via a similar method - in this case $US100 and an essay.

Vegemite and…chocolate?; Captain Kidd’s treasure found?; and, catching a falling plane in a spider’s web…

May 13th, 2015 by

While Americans still seem to struggle with the taste of Australian icon Vegemite, at home the salty breakfast spread is apparently about to get a new twist with Cadbury announcing the release in June of a new Vegemite chocolate. While many apparently thought it was a social media hoax, the chocolate maker has assured people it’s no such thing, however scary that might sound. It’s already had an outing on Channel Ten show, The Panel, and the reviews were somewhat mixed. But hey, we’ll give it a go.

Unearthing the lost treasure of pirate hunter turned pirate Captain Kidd has been the dream of treasure-hunters around the world for years. But it may now be able to become a reality with news that a silver bar has been found off the coast of Madagascar. The 55 kilogram bar was found by divers searching for the remains of Kidd’s ship, the Adventure Gallery, which he ran aground in 1698 off St Marie Island (Kidd was subsequently executed for piracy in London in 1701 after his crew deserted). The archaeologists who found the ingot as part of a joint US-UK expedition reportedly presented to the President of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Stay tuned for more.

Catching a falling plane in a spider’s web might sound a little…err…unlikely, but researchers in Italy say it may be possible. They’ve reportedly been spraying orb-weaver spiders with a special carbon nanotube and graphene solution which has caused them to create silk that is 3.5 times stronger than normal. They are hoping that the discovery may lead to the creation of a mass production process which could see the material being used to create giant stretchable nets able to catch aircraft before they crash.

Understanding the next gen; hanging up on the pope; and, a call to arms…

May 6th, 2015 by

Do you have a FOMO? And know what they mean if someone calls you ‘bae’ or says you’re ‘on fleek’? A new study has reportedly exposed the generation gap between parents and teenagers in the UK, finding that 86 per cent of British parents think teenagers speak an entirely different language when they’re on social media or mobile messaging systems. As well as the above (FOMO means ‘fear of missing out’, bae is short for baby and is a term of affection, and, being on fleek means ‘looking good’), the University College London study found the top 10 new forms of language on social media and instant messaging systems which parents don’t understand included ‘deadout’ (rubbish or tired), ‘RN’ (right now) and ‘thirsty’ (looking for attention).

Ever regretted hanging up on someone you thought was a marketer or a prank caller but later turned out to be someone important? Italian Franco Rabuffi has. He reportedly twice hung up on Pope Francis, global head of the Catholic Church, when the pope rang him to offer his sympathy because he was ill. Mr Rabuffi did take the pope seriously the third time he rang and later apologised publicly for his mistake.

‘Knights’ from around the world gathered in Poland recently to belt each other with swords and shields in the 2nd annual Medieval World Combat Championships. More than 500 competitors from 26 countries took part in the four day, “full contact” tournament at Malbork Castle fighting in country teams. Poland were reportedly declared the winners followed by the UK, Spanish, Swedish and US teams.

Woman throws a mango at the president (and gets a new home); using Minecraft to design national parks; and, a new way to serve your ice-cream…

April 29th, 2015 by

A Venezuelan woman who threw a mango at the head of the country’s president to get his attention (recorded in a video that has gone viral) has been rewarded with the promise of a new home. Marleny Olivo had housing problem and was looking for help, so she tossed a mango at President Nicolas Maduro while he was driving a bus (he’s a former bus driver who apparently likes to connect with constituents by getting behind the wheel every now and again). The fruit had her name and phone number written on it asking him to call her. Officials did and notified her that he had agreed with her request for a flat as part of what he called the “Great Housing Mission of Venezuela”. The president said he would eat the fruit.

Students are being asked to have a crack at designing Australia’s next national park - using the computer game Minecraft. Upper primary school students in South Australia are being asked enter a contest in which they design their own national park complete with hiking and mountain bike trails and camp sites as well as spots from where the enjoy the scenic vistas (bearing in mind that the park’s features need to complement the natural environment - in particular the plants and animals that live there). The State Government has set aside $10.4 million for park projects meaning some of the ideas created online might just end up being brought to life in the real world. The competition closes on 12th June.

Tired of eating your ice-cream in a boring old cone? Ben & Jerry’s in the US has unveiled what it hopes will be the next big thing in edible ice-cream containers - the ice-cream burrito. The waffle-like wrap was unveiled at the same time as the ice-cream experts announced another new release - an ice-cream flavoured beer called Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale developed in conjunction with New Belgium Brewing. Hmmmm.

Of hair-pulling; Kermit the Frog lookalikes; and, why R2-D2 is to be seen flying high…

April 22nd, 2015 by

New Zealand’s PM, John Key, has apologised to a waitress who said he repeatedly pulled her ponytail while visiting a cafe near his home in Auckland. The unnamed waitress said he had pulled her hair over a period of months despite being repeatedly told to stop and wrote on the Daily Blog website that she didn’t like it, felt powerless and tormented and had cried “frustrated tears” over the incidents. A spokesperson for the PM told the New Zealand Herald his actions were “intended to be light-hearted”. “It was never his intention to make her feel uncomfortable and he has apologised to her.”

The Muppeteers must have known - a new frog discovered in Costa Rica bears an uncanny resemblance to Kermit the Frog. The discovery of the new species of glassfrog - formally known as Hyalinobatrachium dianae - was trumpeted by the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center and the images tell an amazing story. Meanwhile, in other animal-related news, a life-sized statue of a dugong, weighing an amazing 700 kilograms, has been stolen for the second time from the frontyard of a home in far north Queensland. The bronze statue, which is worth nearly $90,000, reportedly first went missing in February last year but was found in a state forest by a hiker only a few days later. It has now disappeared a second time.

Star Wars favorite R2-D2 is soon to be seen in the skies. Japan’s All Nippon Airways has announced plans to deck out one of its new 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft in R2-D2-themed decorations in a tribute to the movie franchise, which sees its next instalment, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, hit screens in December. The project is part of a five-year ‘Star Wars Project’ being carried out by the airline in an attempt to “connect Japan to the global market”.

Mr Burger and Mrs King; a goldfish invasion; and growing furniture…

April 8th, 2015 by

US couple Burger and King are getting married so it seems only natural that fast food chain Burger King should offer to pay for the wedding. Illinois couple Joel Burger, 24, and Ashley King, 23, are reportedly planning a July wedding in Jacksonville and it will now come complete with Burger King sponsorship following an offer from the company to cover expenses. Who knows, they might even throw in a free drink and fries. The agreement came after The State Journal-Register ran a story on the fact the couple had been together since the fifth grade which went viral, becoming (warning - bad pun ahead) what some might call a “Whopper of a story”.

Still in the US - this time Colorado - and wildlife officials are hunting for the person or persons responsible for dumping goldfish in a lake after the four or five they dumped has now reportedly become an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 fish. Such are their numbers in Lake Teller #5, in fact, that the presence of the goldfish is threatening the entire eco-system of the lake. “Goldfish are not a native species and are very harmful to the local aquatic ecosystem,” said Kristin Cannon, district wildlife manager for Boulder, in a press statement. In 2012, “electro fishing” turned up some 2,275 non-native fish in another lake in Boulder after Koi were found there.

• OK, so we’re all familiar with the idea of furnishings being made out of trees. But what about the idea of furnishings being grown? UK company Full Grown are working on the idea of shaping trees as they grow so that they eventually end up as ‘mature’ furnishings such as tables, chairs and even lamps. These can then be harvested from the tree, seasoned and smoothed before moving into their new use. The first prototypes are startling but be warned, growing furniture is a slow process so you may be waiting a while.

An April Fools’ Day round-up; Big Mac clothing; and, Japan’s scarecrow village…

April 1st, 2015 by

It’s April Fools’ Day and as usual, organisations are outdoing themselves to come up with clever gags. Some of the local offerings this year include a claim by supermarket chain Woolworths that it had created a ‘watermapple’ - a hybrid of a watermelon and an apple, an announcement by the Queensland Police Service that it was to trial kangaroo-inspired “roo shoes”, a new campaign launched by Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten aimed at tackling Australia’s healthcare crisis entitled ‘An onion a day keeps the doctor away’, and the building of a new Vegemite museum in Melbourne in the shape of a giant Vegemite jar (the idea of the museum, itself, however may not be so far-fetched - there have been reports of one to be built in Melbourne for some years). Special mentions also to UK cab app Hailo which has announced a new “Piggyback” function which will see users riding specially trained human carriers, and, one we especially love - in honor of the day, Google has turned its maps into a Pac-Man game. Simply jump on a map page and away you go!

If you’re a regular McDonalds goer, chances are you’ve ‘worn’ some of their food at some stage - those trays are easily upset as you carefully try to carry your lunch to the table. But now comes an easier way to wear their food. McDonalds in Sweden has apparently launched a clothing line featuring pictures of Big Macs all over them - as well as thermals, the range will include coats and gumboots as well as bedsheets, wallpaper and even dog coats. The line is apparently opening in more countries soon. Given the timing, we’re naturally a little suspicious - so, stay tuned (we’ll let you know if it’s another April Fools’ Day joke!).

First we had Japan’s cat island where cats outnumbered people. Now comes ’scarecrow village’ (aka Nagaro in southern Japan) where there are reportedly four times as many scarecrows as human residents. The fact there’s so many scarecrows is apparently due to one woman - Tsukimi Ayano - who made her first scarecrow about 13 years ago as a tribute to her dead father. She’s since gone on to make some 350 of them, of which about 150 remain in the village of 35.

Pizza for Pope Francis; teetering buses; and, flushing fortunes…

March 25th, 2015 by

Pope Francis happened to mention recently that he missed being able to pop out for an anonymous pizza. Cue Enzo Cacialli, a Naples pizza-maker who decided to address the problem by hand-delivering a specially made Naples-style pizza with ‘Il Papa’ spelt out on top in dough as the Popemobile passed him by. Pope Francis was apparently hungry - he took the pizza and, says Cacialli, said thank you (you can see a video of it on CNN).

• A realistic replica of a bus has been unveiled teetering over the edge of a Hong Kong hotel’s roof in a tribute to the 1969 film, The Italian Job. The installation by artist Richard Wilson, Hang On a Minute Lads, I’ve Got a Great Idea, is based on the last line and shot of the film and has been placed on Peninsula Hotel’s seventh floor terrace as part of the Art Basel international art show. Installed earlier this month, it will remain on the hotel until 8th April.

Fortunes are being flushed down the toilet, according to scientists who say sifting sewage has revealed gold, silver and platinum in amounts which would normally be deemed commercially viable by prospectors. Kathleen Smith, of the US Geological Survey, told The Guardian that extracting metals from waste could also reduce the release of harmless metals like lead into the environment. The report also referenced an earlier Arizona State University study which found a city of a million inhabitants flushed about $US13 million worth of precious metals down toilets and sewer drains every year.

Songs that make you happy; no hiding in Ikea; and, Pi Day marked…

March 18th, 2015 by

What songs make you happy? The UN is looking for people to answer that question as it compiles “the world’s happiest playlist” which will be revealed on Friday, 20th March - officially designated as the International Day of Happiness. The #HappySoundsLike campaign this week with fans able to post the songs that make them happiest on social media bearing the hashtag #HappySoundsLike. The day was established in 2012 in acknowledgement that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”. For more, see

In the Netherlands, furniture giant Ikea has apparently had to take the step of banning people from playing hide-and-seek after safety concerns. Tens of thousands of people had reportedly signed up to play the games in stores in Eindhoven, Amsterdam and Utrecht after the game was played at a store in Belgium last summer. The game organisers are now apparently looking for a new location for the games.

People all around the world celebrated Pi Day on 14th March - the day when the date (provided you use the month then day format) can be written 3/14/15 - the first five figures of the mathematical figure known as Pi (3.1415). The date only happens once every century and hardcore fans, such as staff at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City, took it a step further, celebrating the day at exactly 9.26am - 3.1415926 (or 9.26.53am if you add the next two figures of Pi - .141592653). Interestingly, Pi has been calculated to more than a trillion digits.

‘Spocking’ hits Canada; write an essay and win an inn; and, Cat Island…

March 11th, 2015 by

Leonard Nimoy, most famous for his role as Mr Spock in Star Trek, passed away recently. To mark the occasion, Canadians have been transforming the face of former Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier which appears on their $5 banknotes, into that of Mr Spock’s. The ‘Spocking’ trend, which has reportedly taken place for years but apparently increased after Mr Nimoy’s death late last month, has led authorities to ask citizens to kindly stop their scribbling, saying that while it wasn’t illegal, it was inappropriate to deface the notes.

It’s a novel way of passing on a property. The owner of an historic country inn in the US state of Maine is giving the 210-year-old property away to the winner of an essay contest she’s running. Janice Sage, the owner of the Centre Lovell Inn and Restaurant - a property valued at about $US900,000, has reportedly asked people interested in owning the business to submit a 200 word essay in which they can convey their qualifications and experience. Essay submissions cost $US125 and Ms Sage hopes to get as many as 7,500 submissions from around the globe by 17th May (a figure which would see the price of the property well covered). The idea isn’t new. Ms Sage apparently acquired the property in an essay contest 22 years ago.

And, of course, we can’t finish without a mention of Japan’s now famous ‘Cat Island’. Aoshima, a tiny remote island in southern Japan, has been over-run with felines after they were introduced a while back to take care of the mice that plagued local fishermen. Only problem is the mile long island’s 120 cats now outnumber humans by a factor of six. Locals have apparently started taking some steps to ensure the population doesn’t grow any more with reports at least 10 of the cats have now been neutered. There’s a great gallery of images on The Atlantic website.