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Bringing the Homeless Closer to Home

David McDonald as well as Kim Cornier are not, at first blush, two individuals people would connect as neighbors. As folks often judge others so quickly on sight, the two immediately seem to live worlds apart. Yet, ironically, David was Kim’s neighbor literally in her backyard. And as Kim puts it, she would not have preferred things any different.

The two very different people crossed paths in July, which set them on their fate from that point forward. David McDonald had, at least for the last five years, been verifiably homeless most of his time. However, here and there he would manage to get an advantage that would make things easier from day to day. One of those advantages which began to fail was an e-scooter he was riding for basic transportation when it blew a tire passing by near where Kim Cormier lived. Kim happened to be outside at the time working on a project with her laptop, and David took the chance to ask for a simple favor – would she watch his belongings while he tried to go find a replacement inner tube to fix his scooter. Being homeless on the street meant dealing with things being stolen all the time, so unless items were watched continuously, they had a habit among the homeless to get up and disappear.

Eventually, David returned, and Kim felt comfortable enough to ask David if he wanted to have dinner with Kim and her partner, Andrew. The invitation was a hit. The three people ended up having a great evening, lots of conversation, and most importantly connecting on a basic human level. There was also a hell of a lot of laughing, which is good for anyone in any situation.

For David, the evening was finally a nice break. He had been on a bad run of horrible luck that just seemed to be getting worse by the day. Prior to getting stuck in the homeless cycle, he had up until 2010 been a very comfortable owner of a gas station that earned David a six-figure income annually. However, as most in the consumer fuel business know, the profit margins are thin and money is made on volume only. When gas prices increased, people stopped filling up as much. The loss of volume and cut in gross sales literally swung David’s business from being in the black instead to sinking in the red. Eventually, the gas station failed and David lost everything trying to hold on. Then, with no income, he lost is home and finally his car. It didn’t help that a personal relationship failed during this time as well. When it rains it pours, but none of that rain was anything useful for David. Everything David knew disappeared in front of him within a year.

Eventually, David tried his luck again in Toronto, but when his daughter moved out on her own, David had no ties to the area and nothing to support him. So, he tried his luck out west, moving to Vancouver by Greyhound bus. It was a mistake, and the former business owner was quickly homeless. Somehow, trying to find something better, David took nine entire months to walk and bike his way back to Ontario. Finally, he found a makeshift home site in a park in Toronto, still homeless. There were moments for a few days or weeks where David was able to sleep on a couch or stay with friends, but it always came back to living on the street. Nothing would gel out.

David tried his hand a few times being a roommate, but he was frequently threatened and robbed by his own flatmates, oftentimes because his sexual preference as a gay man gave the impression of him being a weak target. Right after the tire blowout near Kim’s home, David was back on the street, feeling safer there than with roommates. Ironically, David would refuse to use homeless services frequently because he felt there were folks worse off than him who needed the money more.

Once she heard his story, Kim and her partner felt moved to do something about it. They decided to let David camp in their backyard. He would pitch his tent, be safe, and have a stable location to try to build from. And that started a friendship where David and Kim both blame the other as being the better person in their connection. That has since blossomed into a project that will now provide David a microhome, fully insulated, as a place to live and a replacement for his tent living. But for Kim and her partner, he’s not the homeless guy in their backyard; David is family now. And to David, Kim and her partner are angels when he needed help the most.

Amazing

500,000-Year-Old Wooden Structure Rewrites History

Jess

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In an archaeological discovery, a wooden structure dating back an astonishing 500,000 years has been unearthed on the banks of a river in Zambia, challenging long-held beliefs about the capabilities of ancient humans. Researchers stumbled upon these ancient wooden logs, a revelation that has the potential to reshape our understanding of the lives of early humans.

The find, located on the riverbanks near Zambia’s Kalambo Falls, provides compelling evidence that stone-age people may have constructed primitive shelters, forever altering our perception of their intelligence and resourcefulness. Archaeologist Prof Larry Barham, who led the research, was profoundly impacted by the discovery, stating, “This find has changed how I think about our early ancestors.”

What makes this find truly remarkable is that it suggests ancient humans did more than merely survive; they thrived by creating something entirely new. These early humans exhibited intelligence, imagination, and craftsmanship by fashioning structures from wood, a material that had never before been transformed into such large and sophisticated objects.

The researchers also uncovered ancient tools, including digging sticks, but the most exciting find was two pieces of wood positioned at right angles to each other. “One is lying over the other, and both pieces of wood have notches cut into them,” explained Geoff Duller, a professor of geography at the University of Aberystwyth and a member of the research team. “You can clearly see those notches have been cut by stone tools, making the two logs fit together to become structural objects.”

Radiocarbon dating confirmed the wood’s age, placing it at a staggering 476,000 years old. This revelation has ignited curiosity about the woodworking traditions of ancient societies, challenging the prevailing notion that early humans led simplistic, nomadic lives.

Perrice Nkombwe, a team member from the Livingstone Museum in Zambia, expressed her astonishment, saying, “I was amazed to know that woodworking was such a deep-rooted tradition. It dawned on me that we had uncovered something extraordinary.”

The preservation of the wooden structure itself is a miracle. Typically, wood decays over time unless preserved under specific conditions. However, in the waterlogged environment along the Kalambo Falls, the wood remained intact, essentially pickled by the elements for millennia.

While the exact purpose of this ancient wooden structure remains a mystery, it has sparked numerous speculations. Prof. Duller suggests it might have been used as a place to sit beside the river and fish, although a complete understanding of its function remains elusive.

Moreover, the identity of the individuals who constructed this structure raises intriguing questions. “We don’t know – it could have been Homo sapiens, and we just haven’t discovered fossils from that age yet,” Prof. Duller added. “But it could be a different species – [perhaps] Homo erectus or Homo naledi – there were a number of hominid species around at that time in southern Africa.”

This discovery has the potential to enrich our understanding of ancient woodworking techniques, craftsmanship, and human interaction with the environment. As researchers continue their work at the Kalambo Falls site, the pages of history are being rewritten, and our appreciation for the ingenuity of our ancient ancestors grows ever deeper.

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Smallville: A Social Village Simulator That’s Advancing AI Research

Kevin Wells

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Researchers created a world where an entire village thrives with inhabitants who are not human but AI-driven characters exhibiting intricate human social behavior. This fascinating experiment is called Smallville, and it’s turning heads in the world of AI research. A collaborative effort between Stanford University and Google, Smallville is pushing the boundaries of what artificial intelligence can achieve.

Last August, Stanford and Google published a groundbreaking paper titled “Generative Agents: Interactive Simulacra of Human Behavior,” which shed light on their ambitious project, Smallville. At its core, Smallville is designed to simulate a small city environment, complete with local shops, a college featuring dormitories, a library, a café, and a handful of houses. Notably, there’s also a co-living space housing 25 generative agents – the AI characters that make this simulation so unique.

What sets Smallville apart is the remarkable depth of its AI characters. Each generative agent is imbued with its own identity, goals, and roles, essentially becoming “characters” within this simulated world. The objective? To explore what a world entirely populated by AI would look like and how these AI beings would interact with one another.

The results have been nothing short of astounding. Smallville has provided valuable insights into AI’s ability to mimic complex human social interactions. The agents within this simulated world engage in intricate relationships, reminiscent of real-life social dynamics. They rely on their memory to remember past interactions and nurture connections, demonstrating a level of sophistication that was once considered science fiction.

However, this advancement in AI research comes with a mix of excitement and apprehension. The potential of AI agents participating in complex social interactions has numerous applications, from improving customer service to enhancing virtual worlds and even aiding in mental health support. On the flip side, it raises questions about ethics, privacy, and the boundaries of AI’s capabilities.

Smallville is a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of AI research, where the line between the artificial and the human becomes increasingly blurred. As the development of AI agents like those in Smallville progresses, it challenges us to navigate the exciting and, at times, unsettling frontier of AI’s potential impact on our society.

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A Small Act of Kindness That Saved a Life

Kelly Taylor

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In 2014, Trieste Belmont found herself in the depths of depression, grappling with the recent loss of her grandmother and the pain of a breakup with her partner. She was facing a challenging period in her life, relying on friends to give her rides to and from work as she didn’t have a driver’s license. Little did she know that a small act of kindness from a stranger would ultimately save her life.

One fateful day, as she waited for her ride to work, Belmont experienced a heartbreaking disappointment. Her ride failed to show up, leaving her stranded and feeling isolated. With no other option in sight, she made the decision to walk home, embarking on a path that would take her across a high bridge.

As she walked along that bridge, Belmont’s thoughts grew increasingly bleak. She was overwhelmed by the weight of her despair, feeling like a burden on the people in her life. In that moment, she believed that ending her life was the only solution to her pain.

“I was just having one of the worst days of my life. And I was looking down at all the cars, just feeling so useless and like such a burden to everyone in my life that I decided that this was the time, and I needed to end my life,” Belmont recalled, tears in her eyes.

With a heavy heart, she stood at the edge of the bridge, ready to take that fateful step. But in that moment of darkness, a voice from a passing car behind her pierced through her despair. A stranger shouted, “Don’t jump.” Those two simple words had an enormous impact on Belmont.


“Those words just changed everything for me,” she said. “Having a stranger care about me in my darkest time made it so that I didn’t jump, and it saved my life.”

Trieste Belmont’s story is a powerful reminder of the profound impact that small acts of kindness can have on someone’s life, especially when they are facing their darkest moments. Her journey towards healing didn’t end on that bridge. With the support of a therapist, family, and friends, she found her way to a brighter place.

Today, Trieste Belmont is in a much better place mentally and emotionally, and she has an important message to share with the world. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing that even seemingly small gestures of kindness can make a significant difference in someone’s life.

“Even if you see someone that has a cute outfit on, telling them might make their day,” Belmont wisely advises. “They might be super depressed and worried about the way they look. But if you come in and you give them a small little compliment, it could change everything for them.”

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Hope on the Horizon: Wild Atlantic Salmon Making a Comeback in US Rivers

Jess

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The United States has witnessed a resurgence in the population of wild Atlantic salmon in its rivers. After years of decline, recent counts have revealed a remarkable increase.

One of the most significant milestones in this revival occurred in the Penobscot River, which hosts the largest run of Atlantic salmon in the country. In a recent count, approximately 1,500 salmon were recorded, marking the highest number since 2011. This encouraging resurgence suggests that efforts to protect and conserve these magnificent fish may be paying off.

For years, Atlantic salmon have faced numerous challenges that have led to their decline. Factors such as overfishing, loss of habitat, and pollution have taken a toll on their populations. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Atlantic salmon were granted protection under the Endangered Species Act, a crucial step in their conservation journey.

Sean Ledwin, the director of the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ sea-run fish programs, believes that the increased survival of salmon may indeed be a result of these conservation measures. He stated, “The greater survival of the salmon could be evidence that conservation measures to protect them are paying off.”

But the story of salmon’s recovery isn’t just about one species. The count of river herring, another essential part of the river ecosystem, has also seen an upswing. This increase in river herring populations plays a critical role in the salmon’s precarious journey from the sea to the river. According to Ledwin, “The increasing runs of river herring help distract hungry predators such as seals and striped bass from the relatively rarer Atlantic salmon, which may help increase salmon survival of the predator gauntlet.”

However, while the recent progress is undoubtedly cause for celebration, experts like Greg McCaw, a scientist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, urge caution. “So it is a tick up compared to previous years, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s still abysmal,” he cautioned. Conservationists recognize that much work remains to be done to ensure the long-term survival of this cherished species.

In New England, conservation groups have been tirelessly working to remove dams and restore salmon habitats. The recent gains in salmon populations have emboldened these organizations, such as the Atlantic Salmon Federation, to continue their vital efforts.

Yet, the challenges facing Atlantic salmon extend beyond the local level. Climate change poses a growing threat to their survival. Neville Crabbe, a spokesperson for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, emphasized that global action is needed to address the root causes of climate change and its impacts on salmon populations. “It’s going to take a commitment from everybody in the world to reduce emissions, and try to negate the most severe implications of climate change,” he noted.

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Honest Thrift Shop Manager Returns Lost $5,000 Regular Donor

Renee Yates

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In the charming town of Burlingame, California, where community values and integrity shine brightly, a heartwarming story of honesty and goodwill has unfolded. At the heart of this tale is Oliver Jolis, the dedicated manager of Pick of the Litter, a beloved thrift shop in Burlingame. Oliver’s remarkable act of integrity touched the hearts of many, reinforcing the values of honesty and kindness.

Oliver Jolis was going about his usual business at the thrift shop, sorting through bags of donated clothes with care and dedication. Little did he know that an unexpected surprise was about to unfold. As he organized the donated clothing, something unusual began to happen—money started to fall out of the garments.

“Money just started falling out,” recalled Jolis. “Money flew out of the shirt! We went ‘uh oh’,” added his co-worker, Amy Walsh. The cash kept pouring out, and soon they realized they were dealing with a substantial sum—$5,000, to be exact. Alongside the money, they found a piece of paper with car insurance information, which provided a valuable clue to the owner’s identity.

Rather than succumbing to temptation, Oliver Jolis and his co-workers decided to take the high road. They embarked on a mission to locate the rightful owner of the money. What they discovered was truly heartwarming: the generous donor who had unknowingly parted with $5,000 was a regular contributor to the thrift shop.

“I said come on down, I’ve got something for you,” Jolis recounted. The woman who regularly donated clothes to the shop returned, likely unaware of the treasure that had been concealed within her donations. Oliver handed her a paper bag containing the $5,000 and expressed his gratitude for her continued support.

“He could have just put the money in his pocket. Nobody would have known. But he didn’t,” acknowledged the woman whose generosity had unintentionally included the significant sum. Her appreciation for Oliver’s honesty and kindness was evident, and she expressed her trust in his character.

Residents of San Mateo, Burlingame, and beyond were quick to applaud Oliver Jolis for his integrity. Trina Pierce, a San Mateo resident, voiced her admiration, saying, “I wasn’t surprised he found it and gave it back. We just love Oliver. The whole staff is great, but Oliver is special.”

Oliver himself believes in the profound principle that the universe rewards acts of goodness and kindness. “Whatever you do in this world comes back to you ten times, be it negativity or positivity, it comes back,” the anonymous woman remarked, reflecting on the beauty of Oliver’s selfless actions.

In the end, Oliver Jolis humbly summarized the experience: “We’re grateful for all the donations we get, so it was a win-win.” His actions remind us that honesty and goodwill are timeless virtues that can bring communities closer together and inspire us all to do the right thing when faced with unexpected challenges.

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