TSA approves having a mummified head as your carry-on luggage, with reservations

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As long as it is "properly packaged, labeled and declared," one may take Victorian philosopher Jeremy Bentham's mummified head onto your flight. The TSA added that travelers may simply snap a picture and tweet it to @AskTSA if they are in any doubt about the flight-legality of any desiccated human remains with which they wish to fly. Read the rest

North Korea recommends Americans elect "wise politician" Donald Trump

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North Korea is on Team Trump, reports Reuters, describing the millionaire mogul as a "wise" choice and his rival as "thick-headed Hillary."

Run by a brutal and notoriously reclusive authoritarian clique, North Korea is under U.N. sanctions and regularly threatens the U.S. and the south with nuclear annihilation. Trump has indicated he will take a softer line with the regime.

"It turns out that Trump is not the rough-talking, screwy, ignorant candidate they say he is, but is actually a wise politician and a prescient presidential candidate," said the [DPRK Today] column, written by a China-based Korean scholar identified as Han Yong Muk.

DPRK Today is among a handful of news sites run by the isolated North, although its content is not always handled by the main state-run media.

It said promising to resolve issues on the Korean peninsula through "negotiations and not war" was the best option for America, which it said is "living every minute and second on pins and needles in fear of a nuclear strike" by North Korea.

Read the rest

Minimalism "not really minimal"

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Kyle Chayka hates minimalism, a consumer product like any other, a class signifier, a "slightly intriguing perversion, like drinking at breakfast" for the insincere global elite.

...an outgrowth of a peculiarly American (that is to say, paradoxical and self-defeating) brand of Puritanical asceticism, this new minimalist lifestyle always seems to end in enabling new modes of consumption, a veritable excess of less. It’s not really minimal at all. ...

...it comes with an inherent pressure to conform to its precepts. Whiteness, in a literal sense, is good. Mess, heterogeneity, is bad — the opposite impulse of artistic minimalism. It is anxiety-inducing in a manner indistinguishable from other forms of consumerism, not revolutionary at all. Do I own the right things? Have I jettisoned enough of the wrong ones? In a recent interview with Apartamento magazine set against interior shots of his all-white home in Rockaway, Queens, the tastemaker and director of MoMA PS1 Klaus Biesenbach explained, “I don’t aim to own things.” ... it takes a lot to be minimalist: social capital, a safety net and access to the internet.

It seems a bit confused on the relationships between different things and people calling themselves "minimalist," and the snark verges on how dare you – but yeah, fuck Soylent.

These are great tweets, also:

Read the rest

Miss Cleo dead at 53

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TMZ reports that Miss Cleo is dead at 53. The TV psychic, also known as Youree Harris, was famous for the character's faux-Jamaican accent and the bizarre Tarot-themed advertising campaigns exhorting Americans to call in for a reading.

You couldn't fool Miss Cleo, went the catchy 90s' tagline, but the entertainer could not fool the FTC, either: her Psychic Readers Network collapsed after the government charged it with deceptive advertising, billing and collection practices. Harris went on to perform as an actress and a spokesperson.

"It's the one who is really unpleasant. That's the daddy." Read the rest

Donald Trump plans unofficial "Ask Me Anything" event on Reddit

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Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, has announced plans to do an AMA on Reddit. Unlike most "ask me anything" events, however, this one is unofficial and unmoderated by Reddit's usual team on the r/IAMA subreddit. Instead, it will occur in a fan group, r/The_Donald, notorious for its users' fractious behavior and general abundance of seething meme-fueled pretend-laughter. Read the rest

A reminder from President Clinton

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Hillary Clinton, 45th president of the United States, would like to remind you of a few important things.

I can fix this fucking country for you. And all you little bitches need to do is get off your asses one goddamn day in November.

“Oh but what about your eeeemaaaaillls???” Shut the fuck up. Seriously, shut the fuck up and listen for one fucking second.

Here’s all you need to know about me:

- In 1992, I said I was proud to have followed my career instead of baking cookies. - The GOP fucking dragged me for it. They made me bake cookies. They’re scared of me. - Every time I have a job, y’all love me. Every time I run for anything, the GOP breaks out the big guns again and fucks me up good. And apparently it fucking works.

Read the rest

Yahoo sale: are Flickr and Tumblr doomed?

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Verizon yesterday bought Yahoo, which had earlier bought Flickr, a photo-sharing site, and Tumblr, a blogging platform. Both of these places have three key qualities that raise important questions about their survival: 1) they're both oldschool platforms locked in time because they were bought by Yahoo, 2) both still have vast, dedicated userbases, 3) both have unique cultures that will be invisible to Verizon's legendarily banal middle-management culture.

Flickr tried modernizing a few years ago to compete with Instagram and other fresh social-driven competitors, but had atrophied so much since the 2005 takeover by Yahoo that it couldn't recapture the lead.

Yahoo seemed to listen, at least fleetingly. The company finally released some functional mobile apps and started offering a terabyte of storage space to users for free, but it was too little too late.

For Ward, Yahoo was desperately trying to appeal to the Instagram generation, and in doing so started to alienate the site’s core users, many of whom were professional photographers. “We all had a lot of hope that Yahoo would be able to bring it back to life, but the changes that were introduced took away things we really loved,” she said.

“When we gave feedback it felt like no one was listening. It was a little bit insulting to people who had been using it so actively for so many years. We were clearly not the target audience any more.”

Tumblr, meanwhile, is neck-deep in smut and self-absorbed blather and other things likely to terrify suits—but its also one of the net's last safe redoubts for young women. Read the rest

Watch language evolve as little sims wander around a grid of islands

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Language Evolution Simulation is exactly that, showing words changing little by little as time passes in a tiny world with three islands. It's agent-based, which is to say that it models little computer folk interacting with one another to simulate the little mutations that add up over time.

Rules

If an agent intersects with another, selects a word from the own vocabulary and tells that. The neighborhood receives and adds that word into its vocabulary as

- Mutation of a vowel sound with 0.1 probability

- Mutation of a const sound with 0.1 probability

- Compounding with another word with 0.1 probability

- Without any mutation

There's nothing to do but watch words change, but it feels like the underpinning of a very strange computer game about culture.

I love agent-based models; check out this simulation of political cliques I made. It randomly generates several personalities, who then go around and bicker or flatter one another. It's very bland and primitive, made in Flash, and the "next turn" text is rather fiddly to click. But I've always had plans on expanding it into a more fully featured game. Read the rest

Infernal Scoop is a crowdsourced storytelling tool

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Infernal Scoop is a crowdsourced storytelling site with a no-nonsense, functionalist vibe. Create a story, let readers wander through branching plot developments, and watch everything go weird and wild as they add their own. The format is geared to paragraph-length units posted anonymously—there doesn't seem to even be a way to set up an account—so it feels like a crazy experiment in "authorless" interactive fiction. [via r/internetisbeautiful]

There are other sites like it, but this one has the feel of a tool rather than an environment. The street is finding its own uses. Read the rest

The Fresh Tank Engine of Sodor

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Will Smith's entry in the annals of catchy Thomas the Tank Engine remixes is even better than Biggie the Tank Engine.

Also, "Insane in the Train" is the perfect title, but that mix isn't quite up to the gold standard of the others:

Here's Back in Coal Black, just madness: Read the rest

Driver gets lucky when storm fells tree

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December 29, 2014: a windy day during the Australian summer. On a small country road in central Victoria, the storm batters trees looming over the passing vehicles, until the inevitable happens: "This is a great educational video showing the dangers of traveling in the bush during periods of high wind." Read the rest

Iraq bans fake bomb detectors

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James McCormick, a British fraudster, got rich and got jailed selling fake bomb detectors to police in Iraq. But the devices—dowsing rods in a plastic handle, often sold as golf ball 'finders'—were so popular that even after he was collared, cops remained convinced (by inclination or graft) that they worked. After a series of horrific bombings, the government's stepped in to get rid of the useless gadgets.

It took a massive suicide bombing that killed almost 300 people in Baghdad on July 3 — the deadliest single attack in the capital in 13 years of war — for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to finally ban their use.

The reason it took so long is likely the widespread corruption in the government. Iraqis mocked the device from the start, joking that too much aftershave could set off the antenna.

Now there are accusations that plans to start using newly imported explosives-detecting scanners were intentionally held up as part of the political wrangling over which faction — the military or the police — will control security in Baghdad.

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Storytellers are more attractive, are happier and more satisfied with life

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The Wall Street Journal reports that storytellers—people with a natural inclination to craft concise yet compelling narratives without rambling—were found to be hot by science. Feels good to be a writa.

The results were the same across all three studies: Women rated men who were good storytellers as more attractive and desirable as potential long-term partners. Psychologists believe this is because the man is showing that he knows how to connect, to share emotions and, possibly, to be vulnerable. He also is indicating that he is interesting and articulate and can gain resources and provide support.

“Storytelling is linked to the ability to be a good provider,” because a man is explaining what he can offer, says Melanie Green, an associate professor in the department of communication at the University at Buffalo and a researcher on the study. The men didn’t care whether the women were good storytellers, the research showed.

There is also a "how to" guide for nascent storytellers: master the technical basics, set aside time to practice, build a repertoire of basics, develop a relationship to tense, and get emotional.

Spotted via the sneering Gilfoyles of Hacker News, who seem fabulously angry about this for some reason. Read the rest

You've met the man designed to survive a car crash, now meet the Natural Born Smoker

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Pesco posted about "Graham," a man remade to survive car accidents, replete with blemmye-like head and disgusting air-sacs rippling around his ribs. A device to remind us of the fragility of our feeble human bodies, it reminded me of the Natural Born Smoker, a similar effort in the 1980s.

Like Graham, he's grossly adapted to resist physical damage. But instead of the trauma associated with high-speed road accidents, NBS is all about dealing with smoke. Above is the classic; here's the lesser-spotted sequel to Barry Myers' Blade Runner-esque public information film:

Ah, good old British childrens' TV! Read the rest

Surprise revival in UK printed book sales, with ebooks dipping

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Ink on paper is a better product, at least for now, and it's showing at British tills. Sky UK's Lucy Cotter reports the first better year for print since 2007, and the worst one for ebooks since 2011.

Last year saw the first rise in sales since 2007, while digital book sales dropped for the first time since 2011.

Betsy Tobin, who runs the independent bookshop Ink@84 in Highbury, London, offers her customers a personalised service.

The bookshop offers coffee and alcohol and runs events and special author evenings.

Diversifying is part of her success but she says her customers also like buying in person rather than online.

They take pleasure from handling and owning books, she said.

I wonder if this has something to do with how well-run major UK bookstore chains are (small stores in high-traffic areas) compared to American ones (strip-mall big boxes, full of trashy ancillary merch and empty of foot traffic.) The literary retail culture there makes people want to drop in and fuss around with books, while the one here just means no-one is ever in a bookstore in the first place, so they just order stuff on Kindle. Read the rest

Raspberry Pi revolutionized arcade game emulation, here's how to get started

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Jeff Atwood (coincidentally the cocaine-dusted, AK-toting godfather of our comment system) writes at length about the absolutely fabulous things that the tiny, supremely adaptable Raspberry Pi computers have done for the emulation scene. His posting doubles as a useful how-to for those unfamiliar with the drill.

1. The ascendance of Raspberry Pi has single-handedly revolutionized the emulation scene. 2. Chinese all-in-one JAMMA cards are available everywhere for about $90. 3. Cheap, quality arcade size IPS LCDs of 18-23".

This is most definitely the funnest and cheapest way to get into arcade emulation when you want to step beyond apps. If you're not into messing around with linux and configuration files and whatnot, an Intel Compute Stick (which comes with Windows) is a more expensive but easier path than a Pi. But you'll still have to deal with the hardware. Read the rest

Claim of "dramatic deterioration" in UK economy since Brexit vote

Vote Leave campaign leader, Boris Johnson,  delivering his speech in London, Britain June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

According to one financial services company, Brexit bites—and it hasn't even been officially announced yet. According to Markit (good enough for fussy Tory broadsheet The Telegraph), economic shit's back to 2009 levels already, yo.

Speaking about the data, Markit's chief economist, Chris Williamson, said (emphasis ours):

"July saw a dramatic deterioration in the economy, with business activity slumping at the fastest rate since the height of the global financial crisis in early-2009.

"The downturn, whether manifesting itself in order book cancellations, a lack of new orders or the postponement or halting of projects, was most commonly attributed in one way or another to 'Brexit.'"

Read the rest

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