Mad Minute

ROME (AP) — A fast-food eatery at Pompeii has been excavated, helping to reveal dishes that were popular for the citizens of the ancient Roman city who were partial to eating out.

Pompeii Archaeological Park’s longtime chief, Massimo Osanna said Saturday that while some 80 such fast-foods have been found at Pompeii, it is the first time such a hot-food-drink eatery — known as a thermopolium — was completely unearthed.

A segment of the fast-food counter was partially dug up in 2019 during work to shore up Pompeii’s oft-crumbling ruins. Since then, archaeologists kept digging, revealing a multi-sided-counter, with typical wide holes inserted into its top. The countertop held deep vessels for hot foods, not unlike soup containers nestled into modern-day salad bars.

Plant and animal specialists are still analyzing remains from the site, with its counter frescoed with a figure of an undersea nymph astride a horse. Images of two upside-down mallards and a rooster, whose plumage was painted with the typical vivid color known as Pompeiian red, also brightened the eatery and likely served to advertise the menu.

Another fresco depicted a dog on a leash, perhaps not unlike modern reminders to leash pets. Vulgar graffiti were inscribed on the painting’s frame.

Valeria Amoretti, a Pompeii staff anthropologist, said “initial analyses confirm how the painted images represent, at least in part, the foods and beverages effectively sold inside.” Her statement noted that duck bone fragment was found in one of the containers, along with remains from goats, pigs, fish and snails. At the bottom of a wine container were traces of ground fava beans, which in ancient times were added to wine for flavor and to lighten its color, Amoretti said.

“We know what they were eating that day,” said Osanna, referring to the day of Pompeii’s destruction in 79 A.D. The food remains indicated “what’s popular with the common folk,” Osanna told Rai state TV, noting that street-food places weren’t frequented by the Roman elite.

One surprise find was the complete skeleton of a dog. The discovery intrigued the excavators, since it wasn’t a “large, muscular dog like that painted on the counter but of an extremely small example” of an adult dog, whose height at shoulder level was 20-to-25 centimeters (8-to-10 inches), Amoretti said. It’s rather rare, Amoretti said, to find remains from ancient times of such small dogs, discoveries that “attest to selective breeding in the Roman epoch to obtain this result.”

Also unearthed were a bronze ladle, nine amphorae, which were popular food containers in Roman times, a couple of flasks and a ceramic oil container.

Successful restaurateurs know that a good location can be crucial, and the operator of this ancient fast-food seemed to have found a good spot. Osanna noted that right outside the eatery was a small square with a fountain, with another thermopolium in the vicinity.

Pompeii was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which is near present-day Naples. Much of the ancient city still lies unexcavated. The site is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions.

Human remains were also discovered in the excavation of the eatery.

Those bones were apparently disturbed in the 17th century during clandestine excavations by thieves looking for valuables, Pompeii authorities said. Some of the bones belonged to a man, who, when the Vesuvius volcano erupted, appeared to have been lying on a bed or a cot, since nails and pieces of wood were found under his body, authorities said. Other human remains were found inside one of the counter’s vessels, possibly placed there by those excavators centuries ago.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In true pop-up art fashion, a nearly 7-foot-tall monolith made of gingerbread mysteriously appeared on a San Francisco hilltop on Christmas Day and collapsed the next day.

The three-sided tower, held together by icing and decorated with a few gumdrops, delighted the city on Friday when word spread about its existence.

During his morning run, Ananda Sharma told KQED-FM he climbed to Corona Heights Park to see the sunrise when he spotted what he thought was a big post. He said he smelled the scent of gingerbread before realizing what it was.

"It made me smile. I wonder who did it, and when they put it there," he said.

People trekked to the park throughout the day, even as light rain fell on the ephemeral, edible art object. In one video posted online, someone took a bite of the gingerbread.

Phil Ginsburg, head of city's Recreation and Parks Department, told KQED the site "looks like a great spot to get baked" and confirmed his staff will not remove the monument "until the cookie crumbles."

It did by Saturday morning, a fitting end to what was surely an homage to the discovery and swift disappearance of a shining metal monolith in Utah's red-rock desert last month. It became a subject of fascination around the world as it evoked the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" and drew speculation about its otherworldly origins.

The still-anonymous creator of the Utah monument did not secure permission to plant the hollow, stainless steel object on public land.

A similar metal structure was found and quickly disappeared on a hill in northern Romania. Days later, another monolith was discovered at the pinnacle of a trail in Atascadero, California, but it was later dismantled by a group of young men, city officials said.


Bringing the heat!

A Kentucky man is going viral for his unconventional idea of clearing the snow in his driveway with a flamethrower.

Timothy Browning stunned fans after a relative filmed him standing in his driveway wearing nothing but a white bathrobe, socks, slippers and a hat, recreating Cousin Eddie from the iconic holiday movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

While his attire alone would turn heads, it was Browning's unique method of removing snow from his driveway with a flamethrower that won the Internet.

"Browning snow services removal now available!" a woman filming Browning, of Ashland, Ky., says at the start of the video.

In the nearly 30-second clip, Browning chugs a beer and throws it on the ground as he casually watches the giant flames in front of him melt away the flakes.

"God bless American rednecks!" Browning wrote on Facebook, where he posted the footage.

Browning's alternative to shoveling was also caught on camera by an onlooker named Jordan Podunavac. His video was posted to Twitter by a user named Chad who wrote, "Here's one way to do some quick snow removal, by flamethrower."

The tweet was viewed over 120,000 times after it was posted on Christmas. Viewers were quick to react on social media, referring to Browning as a "genius" and asking how to get their hands on a flamethrower.

"Now that's what you call '' a sure FIRE way to get things done! '" one Twitter user reacted.

"What possibly could go wrong," another joked.

"Needed that about 8 am today!!!" another said.

On Facebook, one person told Browning her driveway "is waiting your services!"


Dec. 28 (UPI) -- A donkey that went missing from its owner's South African home in November was brought home by a water rescue team after being found stranded on an island.

The National Sea Rescue Institute said a crew based in the Vaal Dam area was alerted Sunday to a donkey spotted stranded on an island near Deneysville.

"The donkey reportedly went onto the island about four weeks ago when water levels were low but was unable to get back to mainland when water levels rose," NSRI station commander Jake Manten said.

The NSRI team brought a veterinarian to the island and the donkey was confirmed to be suffering from stress and malnutrition. The animal was tranquilized and transported back to shore, where it was turned over to its owners.

"The donkey is being well cared for by its owners who were delighted at its return," Manten said.


Dec. 28 (UPI) -- A Virginia man whose 1969 Camaro was stolen 17 years ago was reunited with the vehicle after spotting it in a garage while helping a friend buy another vehicle.

Tommy Cook said the Hugger Orange Camaro was stolen from his auto repair lot in Woodbridge in 2003, and after reporting it stolen he kept renewing the vehicle's missing status with Prince William County police through the mail in the ensuing years.

"I never wrote that car off," Cook told The Free Lance-Star newspaper. "I knew there would be a day and a time when I would get that car back. I didn't know where, but I knew it was out there somewhere."

Cook said he had no leads until 17 years later, when a friend considering the purchase of a 1968 Camaro asked him to take a look at a vehicle listed for sale online by a Maryland man near La Plata.

Cook said he arrived at the auto shop to look at the 1968 Camaro, but his attention was grabbed by a hoodless 1969 Camaro in the corner of the garage.

The man told Cook the green car had originally been painted Hugger Orange, the color of his stolen car. Cook said he took a look at the dashboard VIN and thought it seemed suspicious, so he checked the VIN in another spot under the hood -- and it matched his missing car.

The Charles County Sheriff's Office in Maryland had the Camaro towed to a storage lot, and Cook then had it towed to his new shop in Spotsylvania.

Cook said the car has received some upgrades since he last owned it -- including an engine being installed in the formerly-engineless vehicle. He said the car had apparently changed hands four times since it was stolen in 2003.

"Some people had put money into it," Cook said. "It was better than it was when it was stolen, but it's still an ugly green."

Police in France solved a missing vehicle case after an even longer amount of time had elapsed in 2017. Chalons-en-Champagne police said a property owner called authorities to report a muddy pond had receded amid drought conditions, revealing a the top of a Peugeot 104 buried in the muck.

Police determined the car had been reported stolen from its third owner in 1979 -- 38 years before it was found in the swamp.


Dec. 28 (UPI) -- A professional soccer game in Bolivia came to a temporary halt when a dog with a shoe in its mouth ran out onto the field.

The game in Potosi was paused for several minutes when the dog, carrying a soccer shoe, ran out onto the field during a game between The Strongest and Nacional Potosi.

Players and officials chased the dog around the field, and one of the players was able to pick up the canine and carry it to the sidelines.

Raul Castro, a player for The Strongest, later announced he is adopting the dog, who was dubbed Cachito by fans.


(Sky News) People suffering from long COVID are reporting a strong smell of fish, sulphur and a sweet sickly odour, as further symptoms of the virus emerge.

The unusual side-effect is known as parosmia - meaning a distortion of smell - and may be disproportionately affecting young people and healthcare workers.

COVID-19: 'We're still in shock' - Doctor who's worked every day of pandemic fears for medics' mental health

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon Professor Nirmal Kumar called the symptom "very strange and very unique".

Unpleasant smells like burnt toast and sulpher have been reported too

Prof Kumar, who is also the president of ENT UK, was among the first medics to identify anosmia - loss of smell - as a coronavirus indicator in March.

He urged Public Health England to add it to the symptom list months before it became official guidance.

He has now noted that among the thousands of patients being treated for long-term anosmia across the UK, some are experiencing parosmia.

Prof Kumar told Sky News that patients experience olfactory hallucinations, meaning "sense of smell is distorted, and mostly unpleasantly, unfortunately".


FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German pilot Samy Kramer has traced a giant syringe in the sky, flying 200 kilometers to remind people about the start of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Europe.

The 20-year-old pilot mapped out the route he would need to take on a GPS device before taking to the skies near Lake Constance in southern Germany. The syringe-shaped route showed up on internet site flightradar24.

"There are still relatively many people opposing the vaccination and my action may be a reminder for them to think about the topic, to get things moving", Kramer told Reuters TV on Sunday, adding that his flight should not be understood as a direct call to be inoculated.

"Perhaps it was also a bit of a sign of joy, because the aviation industry has been hit pretty hard by the pandemic", Kramer said.

Germany officially kicked off its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Sunday. The federal government is planning to distribute more than 1.3 million vaccine doses to local health authorities by the end of this year and about 700,000 per week from January.


(KGO) It's no joke! My Baggage is selling bottles of air from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Many residents of the United Kingdom are stuck far away from home right now because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

For those feeling a little homesick, one company is selling bottled air.

Relocation website My Baggage is selling what it calls "authentic" air from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A 500ml bottle costs 25, which equates to about $33.

My Baggage says it was inspired to sell bottles of air after research found sense of smell is linked to memories.


(KHOU) HOUSTON — Whoever said youth is wasted on the young didn't know Salenah Cartier.

The 17-year-old Kingwood resident has an unwavering persistence, entrepreneurial wit, and now, she has two college degrees.

She is the youngest person to graduate from the University of Houston in 2020 after earning her bachelor's degree in psychology and a certification in corporate entrepreneurship from the C.T. Bauer College of Business.

The Houston native was able to earn her second degree within two and a half years. She has already applied for doctorate programs and will begin pursing her master's degree at the UH College of Education next month.

Cartier earned her associate's degree in biology at age 16 after completing the program at Lone Star College - Kingwood. She then transferred to UH.

Salenah Cartier earned her associate's degree in Biology from Lone Star College -Kingwood at only age 16.

"I know that this is only the beginning of my journey," Cartier said. "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue higher education, and I am even more grateful for the opportunity to inspire others."

Her accomplishments didn't come without obstacles. The teen said because she didn't qualify for financial aid, she paid for the majority of her education out her own pocket.

"During my first semester of college, I was only able to afford the costs of two classes, and I was not able to afford all of the required textbooks," she said.

Cartier buckled down and worked hard until she saved up enough funds to attend college fulltime. She earned money reselling textbooks and tutoring students in grade school through college as well as professionals.

Tutoring is what helped Cartier realize she wanted to be an educator.

Cartier also had to adjust to remote learning through the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to take a toll on college students everywhere.

Eventhough she has always approached schooling at her own pace, Cartier said the underlying fear of a global pandemic, staying focused and motivated took an extra push.

She said the looming pandemic has been a reminder not to place your self-worth in grades or test scores. It's important to know who you are beyond your academic performance, she said.

"Believe and invest in yourself, and I guarantee that everything else will align," Cartier said. That's advice to take with you throughout life, she added.

Cartier isn't alone on her journey. The commitments she has made to herself and those around her feed her ambition. She also has a strong support system.

"I am grateful for all of my advisors and professors, as they have helped me grow into the independent knowledge seeker that I am today," she said. "I know that without the support of family, friends, and faculty members, this would not have been possible.

Cartier, who earned her high school diploma at age 14, said she was raised to fearlessly face challenges, including failure.

Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Mayor Sylvester Turner congratulated Cartier on her accomplishment, tweeting that her "future is bright and I wish her the best."

In the future, Cartier plans to get a doctoral degree in the field of cognitive and developmental neuroscience. She wants to research the impact of early life exposure to adversity on cognitive development.

She said her goal is to teach on the college level, become a research and to have a role in government. the teen even has her sights set on the White House.

"A long-term goal of mine is to become the President of the United States of America," she said.