What's inside a fake Cuban cigar?

nastybaccy

"Oh my God, this thing stinks," says Cigar Obsession's Bryan Glynn.

The wrapper is decent and the bands real, but it smells like a wet campfire and is constructed like a wet paper towel. Then you get to see what's inside it... Read the rest

Sketch-simplifying neural network lets artists leap from pencil to ink

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The authors of a new "sketch simplification" program hope to make neural networks more useful to artists frustrated by the choppy results of existing automated line tools.

Apps such as Adobe Creative Suite provide functions to turn pencil drawings into vectors, but the sketches have to be tight and the resulting "inks" often need a lot of cleanup. Though other researchers and developers have applied neural network to the job, Edgar Simo-Serra writes that their model gets more meaningful and human results.

Our model is based on a fully convolutional neural network. We input the model a rough sketch image and obtain as an output a clean simplified sketch. This is done by processing the image with convolutional layers, which can be seen as banks of filters that are run on the input. While the input is a grayscale image, our model internally uses a much larger representation. We build the model upon three different types of convolutions: down-convolution, halves the resolution by using a stride of two; flat-convolutional, processes the image without changing the resolution; and up-convolution, doubles the resolution by using a stride of one half. This allows our model to initially compress the image into a smaller representation, process the small image, and finally expand it into the simplified clean output image that can easily be vectorized.

The source code hasn't been made available, but Simo-Serra's other works and collaborations are equally fascinating and already downloadable. Read the rest

The secret history of Mac gaming

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With its high-resolution monochrome display, the early Mac didn't fit easily into the gaming mainstream, where chunkier, colorful graphics were the norm well into the 90s. But as a result it generated a culture of its own, focused around detailed artwork, literary experimentation and powerful tools such as Hypercard. This history is often ignored, but Richard Moss is setting the record straight.

His book, The Secret History of Mac Gaming, shares the stories behind the often-whimsical 80s Mac games and glorifies the unique "1-bit" art style that emerged from the technology.

Mac gaming welcomed strange ideas and encouraged experimentation. It fostered passionate and creative communities who inspired and challenged developers to do better and to follow the Mac mantra "think different".

The Secret History of Mac Gaming is the story of those communities and the game developers who survived and thrived in an ecosystem that was serially ignored by the outside world. It's a book about people who made games and people who played them — people who, on both counts, followed their hearts first and market trends second. How in spite of everything they had going against them, the people who carried the torch for Mac gaming in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s showed how clever, quirky, and downright wonderful videogames could be.

Read the rest

Kennewick Man was Native American

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After years of speculation and wrangling over his remains, Kennewick Man turns out to be closely related to contemporary, local Native Americans after all.

Discovered near Kennewick, Wash., in 1996, the skeleton ended up in a tug of war between tribes in the pacific northwest who wanted to bury the remains, and scientists who wanted to study them.

Five Pacific Northwest tribes pressed the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the bones, to hand them over in accordance with a federal law on the repatriation of remains. However, a group of scientists sued to block the handover, arguing that the skeleton was not associated with a present-day tribe.

Federal judges sided with the scientists, and as a result, the corps retained custody of the skeleton and made it available for study. Now that the studies are finished, the 380 bones and bone fragments are locked away in Seattle at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Some scientists suggested that Kennewick Man might have been a visitor from the Far North, Siberia or perhaps someplace even more exotic. But when geneticists compared DNA from a hand bone with a wide range of samples, they found that the closest match came from members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The burial site will be a secret, so we can have this fight all over again in a few thousand years. Read the rest

Rube Goldberg machine built entirely from HTML form elements

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Sebastian Ly Serena's website consists solely of a bizarre HTML contraption that animates form elements until all of them have expanded and the author's email address is exposed. It's built entirely from standard web forms and javascript, ugly as sin, and completely wonderful. [via Hacker News, whose commenters are unimpressed because the underlying code doesn't really model a chain reaction.] Read the rest

Cruz to pick Carly Fiorina as running mate

Shoop: Rob Beschizza

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, embarking on a new phase of his campaign after it became impossible to beat Donald Trump in the first round of voting at this summer's Republican convention, is to name Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Read the rest

Satirical column removed

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Yesterday, Esquire published this satirical column by @ProfJeffJarvis, a Fake Steve-style parody of journalism professor and media visionary Jeff Jarvis. The real Jarvis did what any self-respecting open-culture advocate would: he issued a vague legal threat and got it removed, thereby ensuring that something humorless and obscure was read by a far larger audience than it deserved.

If you think a journalism professor could be more thick-skinned and less eager to abuse the norms that protect his trade, you would not be alone. In his response to the imbroglio Jarvis writes that "They are not free — and it most certainly is not responsible journalism — to try to fool the audience about the source of content and to impugn the reputation of a professional along the way."

Alas, he is mistaken. Popehat's Ken White writes that satire does not require that it be identified as such.

Bradbury's Esquire satire is very clearly protected by the First Amendment. I wrote about a case frighteningly on point. Esquire previously did a satirical article with mock quotes from Joseph Farah of WorldNet Daily and author Jerome Corsi. They sued, claiming defamation. The United States Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit crushed their arguments. Remember: only things that could reasonably be understood as provably false statements of fact can be defamatory. Satire is not a statement of fact. In deciding whether something could reasonably be taken as an assertion of fact rather than satire, courts look to what an audience familiar with the publication and players would understand.

Read the rest

Futurististic computer screens are mostly blue

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Chris Noessel and Nathan Shedroff demonstrated that in movies depicting computers in the future, the screens are mostly blue.

Some interesting exceptions: 1991's Terminator 2 made red popular, and the Matrix Trilogy made green the in thing for a while. But within a couple of years, we were back to blue. And it's been this way since the 60s.

I think that green usually signifies "old" computers, perhaps? The Matrix was clever in that way.

Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I'm struck by the thought that the first and third Alien movies (which were British haunted house movies, sort of) used green screens, whereas the second one, Aliens (an American action movie) used blue. Google Images isn't entirely helpful.

Guardians of the Galaxy (above) appears, of course, to be both. Read the rest

Most Americans under 30 "do not support capitalism"

socialist-USA

A Harvard University survey found that among adults between 18 and 29 years of age, 51 percent "do not support capitalism." 42 support it, reports The Washington Post. A third say they support socialism as an alternative.

The survey is "difficult to interpret" due to the simplicity of choices and their lack of definition, say pollsters.

Capitalism can mean different things to different people, and the newest generation of voters is frustrated with the status quo, broadly speaking. All the same, that a majority of respondents in Harvard University's survey of young adults said they do not support capitalism suggests that today's youngest voters are more focused on the flaws of free markets.
Read the rest

Dyson's hair dryer is tiny, quiet and pricey

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Dyson, makers of high-end vacuum cleaners and other gadgets that do clever things with air, is moving into beauty products. The Dyson Supersonic hair dryer promises a premium model's power in a smaller, quieter package, and was built around the company's smallest motor yet.

It's priced at $400, too — apparently not unreasonable for salon gear, if an unlikely option for consumers — and will be available in white and fuscia. Here's the ad they've just put out:

Dyson's first beauty product is a hair dryer [Engadget] Read the rest

Colorado school district spends $12,000 on assault rifles for guards

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Douglas County, Colorado, is to arm its security guards with Bushmaster rifles, reports the Denver Post, at a cost of more than $12,000 to the 67,000-student district.

"We want to make sure they have the same tools as law enforcement," Payne said Monday of his eight armed officers. The first few rifles should be ready for use within a month's time once officers have gone through a 20-hour training course, the same one that commissioned police officers take. The rest of the guns will be deployed in August, he said.

Spray 'n pray. Read the rest

McDonalds testing new Chicken McNugget, with 32 ingredients presumably including chicken

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McDonalds is testing a "cleaner-label" version of its legendary Chicken McNugget, reports Peter Frost, with an eye to replacing the current model nationwide in time for the Summer Games.

If you're eating in Portland, Oregon, you may already have eaten the upgraded McNugget, which has 32 ingredients and a "simpler recipe," according to the restaurant chain. It declined to provide the full list while it's in beta, but one presumes it includes chicken.

The cleaner-label McNuggets come as McDonald's combats the perception that its food is overly processed and laden with preservatives. Other restaurants and packaged-food companies also are rushing to respond to changing consumer tastes. Last year, McDonald's unveiled ads on TV and in stores that played up the fact that its Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwiches are made with freshly cracked eggs. It also ran a marketing campaign in late 2014 called “Our food. Your questions,” in which it enlisted former “MythBusters” co-host Grant Imahara to debunk myths surrounding McDonald's food.

I suspect the reason McDonalds is testing a new Chicken McNugget is simply that they made the current ones in 1983 and have finally run out. Read the rest

Gentleman builds tongue robot to lick cartoon girls

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Mansun, who blogs at Omocoro.jp, constructed an "auto licking machine" to lick cartoon girls. [via] Read the rest

After 27 years, jury blames UK stadium disaster on police

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A UK inquest determined Tuesday that the Hillsborough disaster, a 1989 stadium crowd crush that claimed 96 lives, was the fault of police. The jury's verdict follows decades of tabloid lies and police cover-ups that began immediately after the incident in Sheffield, England, attempting to blame the victims for their own deaths.

After a 27-year campaign by victims' families, the behaviour of Liverpool fans was exonerated. The jury found they did not contribute to the danger unfolding at the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's ground on 15 April 1989. Nine jurors reached unanimous decisions on all but one of the 14 questions at the inquests into Britain's worst sporting disaster. The coroner Sir John Goldring said he would accept a majority decision about whether the fans were unlawfully killed - seven jurors agreed they were.

The incident, at a huge and decrepit stadium, saw countless fans admitted by police to a standing-only zone with few points of escape. As the situation worsened, according to the jury's verdict, police failed to open gates, caused the crush on the terraces, responded slowly to the emergency, and exacerbated it through their actions.

In the aftermath, police blamed fans and stonewalled the first inquiry, which forced changes to stadiums but lacked the remit to condemn the authorities. Here's how the UK's largest-circulation daily tabloid, The Sun, reported the incident (with its decades-late apology on the right.)

As part of the verdict, police Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield was held "responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence."

The video above shows the horror of the crush in still images. Read the rest

You quote Shakespeare every day

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Rob Brydon explains that you're probably quoting Shakespeare day-in, day-out; the Bard is responsible for countless idioms and phrases that still infest the English language. Tut tut! Read the rest

URL lengthening service also makes URLs "shady"

Photo: Julian Burgess, CC.
Unlike URL shorteners, Shady URL takes any URL you give it and generates a sinister long one instead: "Don't just shorten your URL, make it suspicious and frightening."

For example, boingboing.net becomes http://www.5z8.info/pirate-anything_p5r2pa_getPersonalData-start and twitter.net becomes http://www.5z8.info/inject_worm_d4o6ox_oneweirdoldtiptolosebellyfat

The creation of Mike Lacher, it was revamped by snipe. Read the rest

Bill Cosby loses appeal, will face sexual assault charge

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Bill Cosby's attempt to avoid facing a sexual assault charge was ended Monday by a Pennsylvania appeals court. The entertainer, who claimed that an old deal with prosecutors not to charge him in the 2004 case should be honored, will now be criminally prosecuted.

Cosby, 78, is facing trial over a 2004 encounter at his home with a then Temple University employee who says she was drugged and molested by the comedian. Cosby says they engaged in consensual sex acts.

Former prosecutor Bruce Castor has said he promised he would never prosecute Cosby and urged him to testify in the woman’s 2005 civil lawsuit. The release of that testimony last year led a new prosecutor to arrest him. In the lengthy deposition, the long married Cosby acknowledged a series of affairs and said he had gotten quaaludes to give to women he hoped to seduce. Cosby has not yet entered a plea in the criminal case, and remains free on $1m bail posted after his 30 December arrest.

Read the rest

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