On 20 October 1998, the Zhiqiang Shoe Factory in Harbin, China sent out a press release stating that they were officially halting production of a curious variety of footwear known as “lotus shoes.” This announcement may appear pedestrian to Western eyes, but in a way it was a symbolic epitaph for a bizarre custom which had been in practice in parts of China for about a thousand years: a process known as foot binding.
Until the mid-twentieth century, a girl born into an affluent family in China was likely to be taken aside sometime in her first few years to begin a process of sculpting her feet into tiny, pointed “lotus” feet. This body modification was intended to attract suitors and flaunt one’s upper-crusty status. The culture at large considered these reshaped feet to be beautiful, and the dainty gait that resulted from such radically reshaped extremities was seen as alluring, but the process of producing lotus feet was grisly, problematic, and led to lifelong podiatric problems.
Read the rest of this article…
In 1887, a glacial geologist named George Frederick Wright was hiking across the Muir Glacier in southeast Alaska when something strange caught his eye. Just as the daylight began to fade, the previously uninterrupted expanse of white snow around him began to develop what appeared to be a five o’clock shadow. These wriggling “whiskers” grew rapidly end emerged from the solid ice, leaving the snow crawling with an astonishing number of small black worms. Within approximately an hour there were tens of thousands of them criss-crossing the snow as far as he could see, leaving nary a square inch unwormed. A few hours later they began to slip effortlessly back into the ice, ultimately leaving nothing but pure white snow behind for the morning sun. The ice scientist brought news of these strange ice worms back to polite civilization, yet even over a century later little is known about the intriguing organisms.
Read the rest…
As you may have noticed, until about a week ago the Damn Interesting web server was about as sturdy as a pair of paper pajamas. A sustained orgy of traffic was exhausting our finite resources, cramming all of our ports with bits. A superior server remains out of our price range, and even the most potent WordPress caching plugins have proven unequal to the influx.
In response, a few weeks ago I set to work tailoring DamnCache, a more robust protection from such sustained pummeling. After a week or so of testing I am happy to announce that the server is now approximately as sturdy as corrugated cardboard pajamas.
Read the rest of this Announcement