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Ground Control to Major Fido

A Houston-based aerospace company named Celestis Inc., an affiliate of Space Services Inc., has for years offered memorial space flights for the cremated remains of our dearly departed.

The cost of its services varies: Your run-of-the-mill "Earth Rise Service" brings the remains back to Earth for $995, while the "Voyager Service" starts at $12,500 and promises to launch your loved one's ashes into deep space. Also available: the "Luna Service," which sends the remains into lunar orbit.

If that sounds a little flamboyant for your taste, brace yourself. The company announced earlier this week that it will offer similar memorial services for pets. That's right. For less than a grand, you can give your deceased hamster the ride of its life—after that life has ended.

Celestis is obviously no stranger to bizarre practices. The company is credited with conducting the first and only "lunar burial" in 1999, when it deposited some of geologist Eugene Merle Shoemaker's ashes on the moon in a capsule bearing the following lines from Romeo and Juliet:

"And, when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun."

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Mother Nature's Most Fatal Weather

Severe lightning storms, such as the one that killed one and injured at least seven on Venice Beach last Sunday, are incredibly rare events. Dying because of one? Even rarer. However, a report on extreme weather–related deaths released Wednesday found that death by flood is even more uncommon.

The data, collected by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers, showed that while lightning strikes killed 182 Americans between 2006 and 2010, flooding was directly responsible for 93 fatalities.

Despite record stateside flooding within the past year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported only 28 flood fatalies in 2013, most of which occured while victims were driving.

CDC researchers analyzed death tolls caused by five kinds of severe weather: heat, cold, storms, floods, and lightning. Overall, 10,649 people died as a result of extreme weather events over the five-year period. The CDC also provides data tables showing the likelihood of death based on gender and race. White males, it appears, are the most likely to die from severe weather across the board. 

Cold-related deaths were the most common. At least 6,660 people, or 63 percent, died as a result of either cold weather or hypothermia—when organ failure sets in as a result of core body temperature dropping below 95 degrees Fahreinheit.

Half as many people—3,340, or 31 percent—died as a result of hot weather or heatstroke, usually a result of both. As the Los Angeles Times notes, heatstroke occurs when you can't lower your body temperature by sweating.

The remaining 6 percent of deaths were traceable to lightning, floods, and catacylsmic storms such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

This data, compiled from death certificates, shows that the likelihood of all severe weather–related deaths increases by large factors with age.

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Deceptively Budget-Friendly Tahoe Lodges

There are plenty of inexpensive places to stay on Lake Tahoe—but in many of them, you’d be too afraid to get beneath the sheets. These four clean, inviting lodges are the exception. They manage to combine value, location, and quality for travelers who want to live large on a budget.

Rustic Cottages, Tahoe Vista

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The history of the Rustic Cottages is almost reason enough to stay in one of its 19 classic Tahoe-style houses and cottages spread over two wooded acres. Built near the turn of the 20th century to house workers for the Brockway Lumber Company, it turned into a holiday getaway in the mid-1920s. Rustic Cottages sit across North Lake Boulevard from a postage stamp–sized beach on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Rates start at $99 a night.

Sunnyside Lodge, North Shore/Tahoe City

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Built as a summer mansion in 1906, the well-updated Sunnyside Lodge has been an institution on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore since it opened as a resort six decades ago. Though it maintains its rustic look on the outside and in the wood-beamed indoor common areas, its modernly appointed 23 rooms and suites look surprisingly new. The Sunnyside is known as much for the American-style gourmet meals served in its dining room overlooking the lake as for its accommodations. Suites start at $150 a night.

Zephyr Cove Resort, South Shore/South Lake Tahoe

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Zephyr Cove Resort, with its lodge and 28 surprisingly up-to-date cabins, has been an affordable and not-so-secret getaway on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe for more than a century. Billed as an almost-all-inclusive destination, you can rent ski boats and WaveRunners from the resort at the mile-long beach, go parasailing, play volleyball, or simply laze in a lounge chair. Zephyr Cove also runs cruises on two old-fashioned paddleboats. If the $181 nightly rate for the cottages is too steep, you can pitch a tent on the property’s campsite for $35.

Tamarack Lodge, Tahoe City

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Shaded by tall pines and only a few minutes from Tahoe City, the Tamarack Lodge is a hidden mountain resort that probably looks much the same as when the Oppio-Fenech family first opened it nearly 90 years ago. Once a getaway for movie stars, it’s now a haunt for cost-conscious skiers, hikers, and mountain bikers. You have your choice of three cabins or a handful of rooms inside the lodge. Lodge rooms with shared bath start at $75 a night.

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Mini Paceman Adventure Concept

Say hello to the newest model from the company that brought you the Mini Cooper—the Paceman Adventure concept.

This weird-looking cousin of the Paceman has a truck bed, rugged suspension, and higher clearance than its Mini relative. It also comes with off-road tires, a roof rack with mounted lights, a snorkel, and all-wheel drive.  

Although this Mini is technically a pick-up, it’s also been called a cute, “tiny truck,” and even a “trucklette.” You’ll have to decide for yourself if you’d be willing to replace your Toyota 4Runner.

Unfortunately (or not?), the Paceman Adventure concept won’t ever go into production. It’s a one-off project from a group of MINI apprentices who worked on it at BMW’s German factories.   

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First Look: 2015 Yeti SB5c

Earlier this month, Yeti unveiled its new 27.5 mountain bike, the SB5c, which is built around a suspension system unlike any you've ever seen. 

It's called Switch Infinity, and it's the next generation of the company's much-heralded Switch suspension technology.

The original Switch linkage featured an eccentric pivot that reverses direction partway through the bike’s travel. The system provided excellent pedaling platform and small-bump compliance while still offering a plush, linear feel in the deepest portion of the travel. That Switch Link debuted on a six-inch 26er, and a year later was carried over to a five-inch 29er. We tested the aluminum SB66 and the carbon SB95 extensively—and loved each one.

Then a strange thing happened. Last year, Yeti migrated the Switch Link to a new 27.5 platform, the SB75, and while it rode fine, the bike lacked the magic of its counterparts. It received decent, but not glowing, reviews from our testers (and throughout the industry), though oddly Yeti didn’t seem terribly concerned.

In hindsight, they must have known the SB5c, with its Switch Infinity suspension, was on the way. This carbon-only 27.5 machine has five inches of rear travel and is built around a 5.5-inch (140mm) fork. Yeti is billing it as an aggressive trail bike and will sell only two premium builds ($6,600 and $10,600) to start.

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At first glance, the SB5c seems to have a secondary shock system tucked above the bottom bracket, but that’s actually the core of the new Switch Infinity suspension design. The system uses the reversing eccentric pivot of the original, but it connects the pivot to a forged aluminum body that slides up and down on two gold, Kashima-coated tubes. The idea was developed in conjunction with Fox, which manufactures the tubes exclusively for Yeti. 

Switch Infinity is supposedly lighter and requires less maintenance than the original Switch Link. Yeti also says that the end result of the design is “unprecedented pedaling efficiency and small bump sensitivity when climbing paired with plush, controlled travel when descending.” 

That sounds like the same thing Yeti wrote when they launched the Switch Link, which makes us skeptical. Is this actually better or just marketing speak? But as the SB66 and SB95 rode very well, we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve tried the SB5c.

According to Yeti, the SB5c won’t replace the SB75, though it’s difficult to see how the older model will stick around very long if this bike is both lighter and rides better. Given the Infinity in the design’s name (which the company says reflects the ease with which the design can be adopted to bikes of any travel length), we have to wonder about the future of the current SB line. Indeed, over the weekend, Jared Graves dominated round five of the 2014 Enduro World Series on an as-yet-unreleased SB6c.

That makes two bikes we’re anxious to throw a leg over.

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