Russian Embassy illustrates terrorist bomb truck tweet with bomb truck from "Command and Conquer"

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"Extremists near Aleppo," tweeted the Russian Embassy in London, "received several truckloads of chemical ammo."

And just to make sure the news was sufficiently clear, they attached an image of three trucks loaded with weapons: that is, from the cartoon video game world of Command & Conquer.

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George Zimmerman to auction the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin (Update: auction cancelled)

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George Zimmerman, acquitted in 2013 of murdering Trayvon Martin, plans to auction the gun he used to kill the unarmed teen. The proceeds will be used to "fight violence against Law Enforcement officers" by black activists, Zimmerman says.

"I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon," he wrote in the description of the gun used to kill the unarmed, black teenager. "The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012."

" He wrote that the proceeds will be used to "fight [Black Lives Matter] violence against Law Enforcement officers" and to "ensure the demise of Angela Correy's persecution career and Hillary Clinton's anti-firearm rhetoric," though he hasn't expounded upon how.

Zimmerman pursued Martin after finding the 17-year-old's presence in his Florida neighborhood "suspicious," then shot him dead during the resulting confrontation. Martin was visiting a family member who lived nearby; Jurors acquitted Zimmerman after finding that the 200lb Zimmerman was "standing his ground" against the boy, who was black. Zimmerman's last effort to court controversy was his sale of a painting of the Confederate battle flag.

Update: The auction was cancelled, without explanation.

Update II: Gunbroker, the auction site, canned Zimmerman's auction when it realized what was going on.

"Our site rules state that we reserve the right to reject listings at our sole discretion, and have done so with the Zimmerman listing," the GunBroker statement said.
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The NYT's tips on spooking your kids into not smoking weed

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At The New York Times, Lisa Damour tackles the changing vocabulary of talking to teens about marijuana. Once good for standard-issue parental rants about drugs 'n' crime, legalization and research are making the issue more complex. You might even have to talk about the science!

Our most successful conversations might be the ones where we join our teenagers in questioning authority – that is, discussing what legalization does, and doesn’t, mean. Indeed, it’s easy to be on the right side of the law and the wrong side of science. Cigarettes and tanning beds serve as handy examples of legal ways to harm yourself. Savvy consumers are expected to look to the available evidence, not legislation, when making decisions about their own health and well-being. In terms of the science of marijuana, we know that adolescence marks a critical period of neurological development and that cannabis is harder on the developing teenage brain than on the comparatively static adult brain. Specifically, studies suggest that regular marijuana use during adolescence harms the parts of the brain responsible for learning, reasoning and paying attention.

It's an odd column, mind you: still very much in the "how to win arguments with your disobedient offspring" vein. Middle-aged, middle-class America, always on the precipice of an epiphany. Read the rest

Trump says he might let London's muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, visit America

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Magnanimous president-to-be Donald Trump says that despite his proposed ban on muslims entering the U.S., London's new mayor, Sadiq Khan, may be an exception.

“There will always be exceptions,” Mr. Trump said when asked in an interview on Monday how his proposed ban would affect London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. “I was happy to see that,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Khan’s election. “I think it’s a very good thing, and I hope he does a very good job because frankly that would be very, very good.”

Asked why, Mr. Trump said, “Because I think if he does a great job, it will really — you lead by example, always lead by example. If he does a good job and frankly if he does a great job, that would be a terrific thing.”

Khan's having none of it.

He rejected Trump's suggestion that he could be an exception to the proposed Muslim travel ban, saying: "This isn't just about me -- it's about my friends, my family and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world."

The statement continued: "Donald Trump and those around him think that western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam -- London has proved him wrong."

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Interactive map of submarine cables

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How does the internet get routed to Greenland? Just how many cables snake their way through the waters of the Caribbean? Submarine Cable Map is exactly that, but it's beautiful and interactive too. [via Internet is Beautiful] Read the rest

Highly efficient model does a pose a second

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Filip Timotijevic is a good-looking fellow who knows his moves. You can book him for your menswear catalog or robot dance party through Fox Fashion in Belgrade or MP Paris. Read the rest

Why old statues have tiny penises

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There's an obvious answer to the smallness of statues' penises: the manners and religious prudishness of classical elites. But the issue is more about differing standards of beauty and modern mens' penis anxiety, writes Ellen Oredsson. Which is to say that smaller penises were once regarded as ideal, and many real penises aren't any bigger than the ones on the statues.

...small penises were more culturally valued is that large penises were associated with very specific characteristics: foolishness, lust and ugliness. There are actually quite a few ancient Greek sculptures that have enormous penises. Here’s one:

Small dicks are, then, associated with reason and logic. The argument gets strained when applied to the western renaissance, where imitation and idealism intersect more sharply with religious sentiment. Read the rest

Why identifying Satoshi Nakamoto is important

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Craig Wright's latest effort to prove himself the creator of bitcoin ended in farce, but some commentators are tired of the whole saga, saying that it doesn't matter who invented Bitcoin because its decentralized nature renders the creator irrelevant. Adrian Chen disagrees: "the idea that Nakamoto’s identity is irrelevant is wishful thinking."

Most obviously, Nakamoto’s identity matters because he is estimated to control four hundred and forty-eight million dollars’ worth of bitcoin, which, if it were unloaded quickly, could seriously depress the value of the notoriously volatile currency.

The real Nakamoto could have a more fundamental impact as well: as The Economist pointed out, this latest saga unfolded during a heated “civil war” that has broken out among bitcoin developers over how to deal with an increase in transaction volume in the bitcoin network. The network processes transactions in batches known as “blocks.” As the number of blocks has increased, the network has become in danger of being overloaded. One side in the dispute wants to change the bitcoin code, increasing the block size to allow the system to process transactions more quickly. The other side sees this as a betrayal of the integrity of the original code, arguing that a change would lead to more centralization in the system (the greatest sin for a bitcoin believer) and consequent problems.

Vanity's murky pond, inch-deep yet thick as tar. Read the rest

WATCH: Robin hatchling under my deck

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A robin made its nest under our deck, giving us a wonderful birds' eye view of the nest through the boards. Today we noticed one of her three eggs had hatched! Here is footage of the new level 1 robin that emerged.

UPDATE: Wednesday, May 11. Then there were three! Video by Heather.

UPDATE:May 20. They grow up so fast. (Photo: Heather)

UPDATE:May 25. Look at these handsome young boids. Read the rest

American toddlers have shot 23 people so far this year

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American toddlers have shot 23 people this year—mostly themselves.

Last year, a Washington Post analysis found that toddlers were finding guns and shooting people at a rate of about one a week. This year, that pace has accelerated. There have been at least 23 toddler-involved shootings since Jan. 1, compared with 18 over the same period last year. In the vast majority of cases, the children accidentally shoot themselves. That's happened 18 times this year, and in nine of those cases the children died of their wounds.

Doubtlessly these toddlers will kill many more before they are stopped.

It correlates strongly to state-level gun storage laws, reports WaPo. States with lax ones see lots of toddler shootings; even states with high levels of gun violence in general see few toddler gun injuries when they enact such laws. The NRA claims gun storage laws are an attack on individual liberty, and it not only opposes them but sues city governments that enact them. Read the rest

Former Facebook staff say they routinely manipulated trending news topics

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Update: Facebook released a statement on Monday afternoon: “We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum.”

Facebook workers "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers," reports Gizmodo, regarding the "trending" topics that are inserted in readers' feeds. This was apparently an issue of individuals working on their own initiative rather than the result of corporate policy, but they were directed to squelch news about Facebook itself and to manually inject "missing" stories into the trending topics.

These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.

In short, Facebook's "trending" stuff comes out of a newsroom-like culture, with editorial direction and values. Which would be fine, except for the fact that Facebook claims that its trending topics are an organic or algorithmic representation of user interests and activities. Read the rest

An unsettling metafiction told in paranoid Reddit comments

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Sinister conspiracy theories about LSD, the government and MKUltra are not uncommon on the internet. But one anonymous Redditor's comments, easily ignored as odd paranoid tangents on the threads they appear on, add up to a "compelling science-fiction horror story" in aggregate — especially all that stuff about flesh interfacing. Reddit is a fascinating platform for such eerie, slow-building metafiction, writes Leigh Alexander.

The seemingly random thread names start to form a pattern: the reader gets the distinct pleasure of wondering why the author chose to post each component in each place. Eerie fragments of fiction hide among commonplace online discussion. Sometimes readers reply and engage, and sometimes are none the wiser. The enthusiastic cult fandom quickly built a Wiki to study and catalogue the mysterious tale, create a timeline of known events, and to note in a sort of literary formalist way what tropes the author is employing. The story also has its own dedicated discussion thread where volunteers have even developed audiobook editions.

The internet has always loved a good mystery, and Wikis, message boards and image boards have a history of playing host to fascinating and often scary folktales that leverage the format and utility of these digital spaces in creative ways.

"We can only hope," she adds, "that it's not a viral marketing stunt." Read the rest

Slumps: adorable art of your favorite characters all slumped over

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Matt Ritchie makes "slumps" — whimsical artwork of popular characters slumped over as if falling asleep or theatrically dejected by their latest mishap.

Up top are the heroes of Star Wars, who have perhaps just learned that Disney has no plans to remaster the original theatrical release. Here's the Justice League, reading reviews of the movies they appear in. Read the rest

Who is the Lord of Synth?

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Three legendary synth musicians -- Morgio Zoroger, Xangelix and Carla Wendos -- competed in 1986 for the right to be anointed Lord of Synth. Read the rest

Craig Wright backs off Satoshi proof offer, wipes blog

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Aussie entrepreneur Craig Wright backed off from his offer to produce more evidence that he is Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. He's also wiped his website, except for a final, rather ominous message.

The BBC reports that he regards himself as the victim of false allegations after security researchers revealed his earlier "proof" was no such thing.

Craig Wright had pledged to move some of the virtual currency from one of its early address blocks, an act many believe can only be done by the tech's creator.

This would have addressed complaints that earlier evidence he had published online was misleading. Dr Wright said that he was "sorry".

"I believed that I could put years of anonymity and hiding behind me," he blogged.

"But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.

"When the rumours began, my qualifications and character were attacked. When those allegations were proven false, new allegations have already begun. I know now that I am not strong enough for this."

This doesn't prove that he isn't Satoshi. But the evidence being requested would be no big deal were he the real Satoshi, as he claims, and wanted to convince people of it, which he does. It's all very odd. At this point, he looks like Uri Geller smiling helplessly in front of Johnny Carson, explaining that he can't bend the spoons because something bad is in the air. Read the rest

LISTEN: Timbertops, a rare children's album from 1974

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When I was a wee lad, the first LP I owned was Timbertops, a children's "concept album" released by The Buttercups in 1974. I was captivated by the premise—a young girl is visited by all sorts of peculiar anthropomorphic characters in her treehouse— and by the music, which was already dated (it was by then the mid-80s) but full of fun and very catchy.

If you tried to find MP3s or the band online, you wouldn't have had much luck before today. But for a couple of UK library references, it's as if it never existed. And the band (not to be confused with the new The Buttercups) never did another record. I still have no idea who the singer is! The writers were Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, one of the great songwriting partnerships you've never heard of. My best guess is that it was a quick, one-off stab at the kids' music market that came to nothing.

Anyway, I finally remembered it and spent ages tracking down an LP, digitizing it and uploading it all to YouTube, no copyright intended. It was really something to reacquaint myself with the cast, and I'm pleased to report that the creators mostly avoided stereotypes and other crutches oft-found in similar stuff from the era (Note: mafia frogs Ricky and Rocky are vaguely coded Italian; Welsh witch Myfanwy is depicted as a gypsy, and then there's MacGregor, a gruff Scottish terrier with a plaid beret.)

It's true that Timbertops might be a bit too kiddie for most grown-ups. Read the rest

Kasich quits Republican race

Pic: Reuters
A day after Cruz threw in the towel, John Kasich follows suit. Trump is not officially the Republican nominee--the Republican convention this summer is when he will be anointed (or somehow shivved) by the party--but this leaves him without a campaigning rival.
Mr Kasich's announcement clears Mr Trump's path, although he was never a significant threat and only won his home state. Earlier on Wednesday, he had released a Star-Wars themed advert describing himself as the "only hope" against Donald Trump.
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