100 years after the Great Molasses Flood

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Yes you read that correctly. On this day 100 years ago molasses rushed out of its ill-kept steel tank and onto the streets of Boston, Massachusetts. Molasses is the dark gooey stuff that sits in your cabinet until the holidays when you use your annual one teaspoon and then back into the cabinet it goes. An innocuous little jar, yet in 1919 this sugary tsunami took the lives of 21 people and injured dozens. Most who perished in the wave died of asphyxiation. The byproduct of refined sugarcane, molasses was often used to make industrial alcohol, hence why it was being stored in a large vat near the buzzing industry of Boston Harbor. Molasses would arrive from Puerto Rico, get pumped into large steel vats in the surrounding industrial parks, and then be transported by train tankers to refineries in Cambridge. The Purity Distilling Company however did not take care of these large steel tanks as they maintained high heat in order to keep the molasses liquid. Like most industrial disasters, this could have been prevented with the proper foresight and perhaps like three seconds of asking “is this a good idea?”. Yet this was a money hungry company with a high demand for industrial alcohol so the precarious steel vats full of molten molasses sat next to the North End of Boston where many impoverished Italian immigrants called home during this time.

It was a particularly warm winter day for Boston on January 15th, 1919. A nice 40 degrees Fahrenheit or just under 5 degrees Celsius. With the high heat within the tank and less than ideal weather outside, the steel tank burst and unleashed a dark wave going about 35 mph (56 km/h [you are so welcome]). Imagine being hit by a car but its made of molasses. That’s what it was like for the victims of the flood that day. The sticky wasteland that the molasses left was almost worst than the initial disaster. Waist high molasses was stuck in the streets having cooled down and nearly solidifying. Maritime Trainees took weeks to cleanup the sticky streets. Some accounts even have the sickly sweet smell of molasses lasting two summers after the incident. So what has happened in the 100 years since one of the weirdest tragedies. For one building regulations in the area have been strictly enforced and just as well the Italian American community within the area is still going strong. Recently history enthusiasts of the area marked the exact spot of the tank with colored flags and commemorated the lives lost. They did note however the smell of molasses has since gone away in the area, and if you have ever smelled molasses you’ll know that’s the real happy ending.


If you are interested in learning more about the gruesome flood details, check out Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919


Three Thanksgiving Crimes to Create General Unease at Your Thanksgiving Table


It’s that time of the year. Terrible traffic, cool winds, invasive questions from relatives. What could be better to whet an appetite then three stories about petty crime from Thanksgivings past? As we all know gathering family in one room can be dangerous and while most of us have wanted to jump across the table and stab a sibling with a fork (we here at LPN are huge fans of restraint and you should be too) here is a woman who actually did just that. Last year Shenika Allsup stabbed her younger half-brother in Maryland over what police deemed an “escalated spat”. Her brother was quickly transported the hospital and treated for non-lethal wounds and has since made a full recovery. So perhaps, the next time you see your family, think twice over that small argument, before either of you end up with a fork in your neck. On the same topic of disputes, our next crime takes place over a particularly heated game of Trivial Pursuit in 2013 (hey, we’ve all been there). Two people were supposedly fighting over an answer and one of them pulled what seemed to be a hatchet on the other. For an added twist, when police arrived it turned out the “hatchet” was instead drug paraphernalia. Minus the threat with a hatchet, sounds like a pretty fun Thanksgiving. Finally we have my personal favorite story out of the bunch. This gem comes from 2008 North Carolina where a carjacker was hit with a frozen turkey in an attempt to stop him from taking a car. The carjacker unfortunately made off with the car, but due to the head wound was later recognized by the police as the perpetrator. As they say revenge is a dish best served cold. So for this Thanksgiving, instead of arguing, let’s come together and shame others who have committed petty crimes over turkey. Have a Happy Thanksgiving from everyone here at Last Podcast Network, and don’t stab your siblings with a fork!


Fork Assault

Trivial Pursuit

Frozen Turkey Carjacker


Last Goodbyes


Sometimes death isn't the end

Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — bury their dead rather immediately.  In the growing secular world, many people choose to be cremated.  However, many options exist outside of these, as is evidenced by different funeral traditions and attitudes towards death around the world.
On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the Torajan people have a special relationship with death.  A dead person who is still home with family is not dead, just makula’, just sick.  Shortly after passing, corpses are treated with formaldehyde so that they do not putrify.  Then, they are lovingly fed, washed, and spoken to.  While the poor can usually only justify keeping the dead for a few weeks before the funeral ceremony, it is a symbol of wealth and power to sustain a years-long relationship with the slowly mummifying corpse as family members from around the world are gathered for the eventual celebratory funeral ceremony.  At the funeral, the family sacrifices as many water buffalo as they can afford (one journalist notes that 24 seems to be the minimum) in order to ensure a quick journey to the afterlife after such a slow passing away from this realm.
That’s not the end.  Every few years, they visit their ancestral tombs for a ma’nene or second funeral.  They exhume their dead relatives and share new stories and memories.  The corpse’s clothes are changed and family pictures are snapped.  The practices on Sulawesi may seem bizarre, and yet it’s common in the Western world for people to pray to their dead ancestors, speak to them through those mechanisms, and even imagine that they’ve been visited by ghostly forms.  Torajans just happen to form a relationships with the bodies of the dead rather than the souls.
In Tibet, people practice celestial burials.  Inhumation space is scarce all over the world, but especially in the rocky mountains of Tibet.  Wood is a valuable resource, as fires are necessary for heat and cooking.  Western notions of burial and cremation are not particularly feasible in this part of the world.  Luckily, their local tradition doesn’t require too many ingredients — just a saw, some barley flour, and yak butter. 
The bodies of the dead are dismembered and defleshed by a rogyapa or “body breaker.”  The meat is pounded with a mallet into a mixture of the butter and flour to entice the local Himalayan griffon vultures, meat-eating birds with 9-foot wingspans.  The less tasty parts of the body are laid out first while the tender cuts are withheld so that the vultures don’t cut and run after grabbing the tastiest bits of human.  Once the body has been completely returned to nature, the funeral is complete.  The vast majority of Tibetans choose to be disposed of in this way.
Not to mention the fact that you can get ashes turned into a synthetic gemstone, a vinyl record, or a tree!  All of which don’t contribute towards the unfortunate fact that the Abrahamic religions’ full-body-burial traditions have led to rapidly decreasing cemetery real estate on our finite little planet.
With so many exciting options out there, it’s hard to imagine that everyone’s sticking with the same old formulae and family plots.  Yawn!
-Rachel Hsu

Donate Today!



(what might happen when you donate your body to science)

The two picnic coolers, wrapped with duct tape, split open as the ground crew at the Detroit Metro airport tossed them onto a palette in a climate-controlled warehouse.  Out came pouring blood.  
Inside were eight human heads. 
And it was ostensibly legal.  The heads came from International Biological, Inc., which is one of those places one might choose to donate themselves to after death.  About 20,000 human bodies are donated in the US annually.  Selling a body is illegal, of course, but International Biological, Inc., manages to make quite the profit through allocation fees.
It charges for packaging (though how heads inside duct tape camping coolers is advanced packaging is not completely explained), delivery, “matching,” and “placing.”  At the end of the day, a human body’s various parts and pieces can yield a company like International Biological $100,000.
The owner of International Biological, Inc., Arthur Rathburn , did get in trouble for the eight heads, however.  The packages were marked to contain five heads, a torso, and a complete human body, so mislabeling was one gripe.  Secondly, the remains tested positive for hepatitis B, though Rathburn marked them as non-infectious.  The names and death certificates weren’t included with the heads either.  The red liquid in the cooler, which tested positive thrice for blood, was marked as a preservative.  So for fudging some bureaucratic labeling (and dealing in infected bodies), Rathburn was in hot water.  What wasn’t illegal is that the families of those bodies remained blissfully unaware until the story came to light, under the misapprehension that bodies donated to science are operated on by medical students, cremated, and returned to their families.
By time the FBI alerted Linda Hayes that her husband’s head was of those found in the Detroit airport, she had already scattered the ashes International Biological, Inc., had returned to her.
-Rachel Hsu

Pigeon Milk

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Part of a balanced breakfast™️

You might not want to call a yellowish substance with a cottage-cheese consistency “milk,” but pigeon milk is a thing.
Like normal mammalian milk, pigeon milk contains protein and fat to nurture their babies.  It’s more densely packed with nutrients than cow or human milk, and in a study, chicks fed with pigeon milk were ultimately 16% heavier than those who received the normal baby bird diet of regurgitated insects, worms, and other predictable bird foods.  Even more enticingly, they’re packed with antioxidants (any animal that lives its life in urban squalor probably needs an amazing immune system).
The milk is produced in a pigeon’s crop, which is a thin-walled storage sac that projects from the esophagus.  This is where pigeons usually gather food while eating quickly, saving it to digest once they’re well out of harm’s way.  When the pigeon is lactating, fluid filled cells from the inside of the crop are sloughed off and regurgitated into their babies’ mouths.  Pigeon lactation is controlled by prolactin, the same hormone that controls lactation in us.
Scientists who are sequencing the pigeon genome are trying to isolate the specific genes that cause lactation in birds, with the possible intent to introduce pigeon milk to the market.
Just thought you ought to know.
-Rachel Hsu