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Father and daughter sweeping

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Bright sparks from chores

"Do you have a numbingly dull job, one so monotonous that you frequently find your mind wandering?" asks Pacific Standard magazine.

"Well, congratulations: Without realizing it, you have boosted your creative potential. Mindless tasks that allow our thoughts to roam can be catalysts for innovation. That's the conclusion of a research team led by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara's META Lab (which focuses on Memory, Emotion, Thought and Awareness). Their research, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggests putting a difficult problem in the back of your mind won't, by itself, lead to creative thinking. The key seems to be performing some simple chore while it's lodged there."

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MasterCards for addicts

"There are some things a MasterCard for addicts can't buy," reports The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Booze, strippers and tattoos. It's the premise of a South Florida invention soon to launch [across the United States], the Next Step Card, a prepaid MasterCard for people fighting addiction and families who don't quite trust them yet. The card won't work at cocktail lounges or casinos; nor will it fetch cash, a toxic asset for addicts, from ABMs. The people filling up the prepaid card can opt to see all the purchases and get text message updates to make sure their money isn't killing their loved ones. … Developers of the card, three recovering addicts who met in Delray Beach, say the Next Step Card is the first of its kind. It's money with training wheels."

Homeless tour guides

Pragulic is a new Prague-based tourist service offering walks around the city guided by homeless people, says The Christian Science Monitor. "Deriving its name from the combination of Prague and the Czech word for streets, the service invites tourists to 'Discover Prague in a different way.' It was founded by graduate students Katarina Chalupkova, Tereza Jureckova, and Ondrej Klugl, who conceived the idea for the Social Impact Awards, a program to encourage students in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Romania to solve societal problems through entrepreneurship. … 'The tours are all based on the personal experience of the guides,' says Ms. Jureckova. 'Throughout the tours they're sharing their personal stories, along with sharing sites.'"

One rotten telemarketer

"The Weld County sheriff's office is trying to track down the phone number of a telemarketer who they say threatened the life of a homeowner in Mead [Colo.]," reports "Sgt. Tim Schwartz told 7News that the homeowner received a call from the telemarketer [last] Tuesday evening. 'The telemarketer was explaining to him that he had won some money,' Sgt. Schwartz said. 'The homeowner was not interested and hung up the phone.' [Sgt.] Schwartz said the telemarketer called back immediately 'and got pretty rude, telling the homeowner, 'I've placed a bomb in your house.' … After hearing the threat, the homeowner called 911. Authorities evacuated nearby homes while searching the victim's house. … They did not find anything."

Magic carpet detects falls

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"[British] researchers have shown off a 'magic carpet' that can detect falls and may even predict mobility problems, BBC News reports. Beneath the carpet is a mesh of optical fibres that detect and plot movement as pressure bends them, changing the light detected at the carpet's edges. These deflected light patterns help electronics 'learn' walking patterns and detect if they are deteriorating, for instance in the elderly. … The developers of the network, based at the University of Manchester in the U.K., see its primary use in care homes or hospital wards, to raise an immediate alarm in the case of a fall."

Bribes not tax deductible

Russia's finance ministry has declared that bribes paid while abroad are not tax deductible, The Daily Telegraph reports. "'Expenses incurred while committing legal violations, including providing bribes or kickbacks, are not recognized for the purposes of tax assessment,' the ministry said in a statement posted on its website. Any official paying bribes will therefore have to pay the standard 20 per cent income tax, according to Russia's Vedomosti newspaper."

Thought du jour

If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door, greet him with, 'Who could have done this? We have no enemies!'

– Phyllis Diller, American comedian (1917-2012)

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