Extreme Ironing Pushes the Limits of Domestic Life

Phil via Flicker // CC BY NC 2.0
Phil via Flicker // CC BY NC 2.0

Everything was a little more extreme in the '90s, from our blue jeans to our sugary soft drinks. Just when it seemed like things couldn't get more extreme, in 1997 a man from Leicester, England proved that even the most mundane household chore had the potential to be awesome.

It all started when Phil Shaw, bored by the predictability of indoor ironing, decided to take his work out into the garden. When his housemate asked what he was doing, he replied, “extreme ironing." Today, the Extreme Ironing Bureau defines the sport as a combination of “the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.” 

Since Shaw's revelation, the pastime has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon. “EI" enthusiasts have taken it everywhere from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the depths of the ocean. In 2002, the first and only Extreme Ironing World Championships were held in Munich. A few of the "extreme" locations included the top of a tree, a rock climbing wall, and in a fast-moving canoe. Whenever possible, irons were plugged into a nearby outlet for several minutes, then unplugged when the activity began. Cordless irons were also used, but those were a last resort (they don’t get as hot as the real thing).

Extreme ironing isn’t as active as it was in its early years, but news from the sport’s founder could mean it's coming back in a big way. Earlier this year, Britain's International Television Network reported that Phil Shaw is coming out of retirement. As for what’s next for the sport, maybe an extreme ironing shark dive, or extreme ironing in space? We’ll keep our spray starch close at hand.

The Smithsonian Needs Your Help Transcribing Sally Ride’s Notebooks

Sally Ride in 1984.
Sally Ride in 1984.
Coffeeandcrumbs, NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On June 18, 1983, Sally K. Ride made history when she became the first American woman to travel into space. Now, the Smithsonian Institution is making the history of her incredible decades-long career more accessible to everyone—and they need your help to do it.

The National Air and Space Museum Archives is home to the Sally K. Ride Papers, a collection of 38,640 physical pages (over 23 cubic feet) of material spanning Ride’s professional life as an astronaut, physicist, and educator from the 1970s to 2010s. Those resources have been scanned and used to create an online finding aid—not unlike a table of contents—so researchers can easily navigate through the wealth of information.

To simplify the searching process within that online finding aid, the Smithsonian Institution is asking for volunteers to transcribe documents in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center, a digital hub launched in 2013, where anybody can sign up to type and review historical sources. Three projects from the Sally K. Ride Papers are currently available to transcribe, which include her notes for shuttle training between 1979 and 1981, notes about the Remote Manipulator System Arm (there's one on the International Space Station today), and notes from NASA commissions on which she served. One, for example, was the Rogers Commission, which investigated the causes of the fatal Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

You can find out more about the documents in the projects here, and if you’re interested in joining the forces of “volunpeers,” as the Smithsonian likes to call its transcribers, you can create a new user account here. (All you’ll need is a username and email address.)

Check out more citizen science projects you can participate in at home here.

You Could Get Paid $1000 to Host a Remote The Office Watching Party


If getting paid to watch The Office sounds like a dream come true, well, you're in luck. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Overheard on Conference Calls, an online resource that provides helpful guides to navigating the workplace, is paying one diehard fan $1000 to host a remote watch party of The Office.

"In a time when most states in the U.S. are under stay at home orders due to COVID-19 and words like social distancing are common, it can be tough to still remember there are good things out there. Two of those things are friendship and the television show The Office," the company said on their website.

But there are a few important requirements. According to the site, Overheard is looking for someone who loves the show, has accessibility to host a video call, and will watch 15 episodes in the span of one week with their friends.

You also need to be 18 years or older and a current resident of the United States. If you fit all these requirements, simply fill out this form by April 27.

Even if you aren't the lucky winner, you can still host an Office watch party while social distancing. Check out this free browser extension that allows you to watch Netflix with your friends.