Site helps you draw your own mandalas

ben.akrin.com/mandala is a simple online drawing board with a single purpose: mandalas. Set the axis count, the color and thickness of your pen, and the type of reflection. Then get mandala-making! But I used it to make some vintage lead wallpaper that'll kill you in humid climates. Read the rest

Find out who represents you in government by entering an address

Politiwatch created a single-serving website that tells you all your government officials: who are my representatives? All you have to do is enter a partial address. Read the rest

Stereogum's worst music of 2016

It's not done with you yet: Stereogum's Scott Lapatine assembled "The Worst Playlist of 2016," with all the year's most terrible tracks. Highlights include Eminem's "Campaign Speech," Corey Feldman's "Go 4 It," and "The Entire Genre of Simpsonwave," a full hour of which I have embedded here for your morning enjoyment. Read the rest

Mark Zuckerberg says he's not an atheist anymore

Checkmate, atheists! The king of the Internet has found religion.

Zuckerberg, whose Facebook profile once identified him as an atheist, revealed his change of heart on his social media network after he wished everyone on Dec. 25 a “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah” from “Priscilla, Max, Beast and me,” referring to his wife, daughter and dog. When a commenter asked him, “Aren’t you an atheist?” he responded: “No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.”

Zuckerberg aside, Silicon Valley's values will evolve in the immediate future. Monospace-L libertarianism is nothing if not adaptable to circumstances. Read the rest

Star Wars: Episode III, redubbed using the English subtitles from a pirated Chinese edition

This is apparently a Chinese pirated edition of Star Wars: Episode III, but dubbed using the English subtitles offered on that disc. It's amazing, not least because the voice actors are so good I thought for a moment it might have been a TV segment with Ewan, Hayden, Samuel and co. [via]

OBI WAN

The front is a lemon avenue flying straightly

More:

Here's clips from Episode II:

The English subtitles on Chinese Star Wars discs are already legendary as the supposed source of the Do Not Want meme; the scene thusly subtitled is easy to guess. Read the rest

America's perfect curmudgeon runs sweet bookstore, is like totally awesome

Jim Toole, the proprietor of Capitol Hill books in D.C., appears as a curmudgeon in Caroline Cunningham's wonderful profile of him and his overflowing store.

You also have a list of words that no one is allowed to speak in your store.

I hear “Perfect,” I hear “Like, like, like, like,” and I hear “Awesome” every 32 seconds and it was causing me to have brain damage. So I try to ask people when they’re here to use one of the 30,000 words in the thesaurus other than, “Perfect! Awesome! Oh my God!” When you’re sitting here for 20 years and hear that limited amount of vocabulary that people seem to enjoy using, it really [causes] destruction of gray matter. ...

The list of books that you won’t resell—why those?

I won’t let romance novels pass the door sill.

Why is that?

Because they suck as literature. You like those bodice-rippers? The other thing that’s pretty lousy is business. I take business books, business leadership and management crapola—I take them, but I stuff them in the business closet, out of the way. Only because people ask for them, and usually they’re all obsolete the night that they’re printed. I don’t let computer books in here because they are obsolete the day they’re printed.

Have a good one, Jim! Read the rest

Uplifting! USPS replaces dead canaries after live bird shipment crushed, mangled

It was supposed to be a 60th birthday present to herself, but Rhonda King's dream of sharing her life with a family of chirping birds ended when USPS delivered a boxful of crushed canaries her hair salon in Alabama.

"When my postmaster got there he told me, 'Well, your birds arrived, but they're not alive,'" King told Al.com. "This happened right in front of my clients. I was handed this box with tire tracks on it and bird carnage hanging out."

King paid a seller in Texas $600 for eight birds and an additional $100 to have them shipped. The box was supposed to ship on Dec. 5, King's 60th birthday, and arrive the following day. But, three days later, the smashed package arrived, missing two of the birds.

USPS made good on their promise to fix the situation, however, replacing the canaries and erasing what the AP calls "the avian horror of the first delivery."

"They sound like small instruments of orchestra music," she said. "It's just beautiful, soft, harmonizing, orchestrated music."

On Thursday, like seven small mythical phoenixes who rose from the ashes, the new birds arrived in Grant.

"They're beautiful birds," King said a few hours after their arrival. "They're just picture perfect!"

"It's not going to replace the other birds, but they did the next best thing and I'm proud of them," King said of the Postal Service.

All in all, a good reminder of why you should never use the postal service to transport small children. Read the rest

What are the best TED talks?

I love the idea of TED talks (Mark, Cory) but most of them are insufferable. What are your favorites? And which ones would you like to see? I'd like to see Lord Humongous explain climate change.

Read the rest

Pan Pan, 1985-2016

The world's oldest male panda, Pan Pan, has died in China.

Pan Pan, 31, was diagnosed with cancer six months ago, having lived almost all his life in captivity. He was captured in Sichuan as a six-month old cub. The BBC reports that his name means "Hope."

The centre described the news of the death of the "hero-father" panda as "heart-wrenching". Keepers said he had stopped moving and eating, and lost consciousness, as his health had deteriorated rapidly over the preceding three days.

In September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that the status pandas had been changed from "endangered" to "vulnerable", as numbers had begun to increase.

The latest Chinese estimates show a population of 1,864 adults, as well as - according to China's State Forestry Administration - 422 in captivity.

Pan Pan is survived by 130 descendants — reportedly a quarter of the world's captive-bred pandas — with family in California, Washington D.C., Edinburgh, Brussels, Ya'an, Chengdu, Chiang Mai and Taipei. Read the rest

Creative Prodikeys combined both types of keyboard in one

In the ingenious world of consumer electronics, we often have the thought "why didn't anyone think of that?" The Creative Prodikeys instead leads to the thought "why did someone think of that?" A MIDI controller keyboard and a typing keyboard all-in-one, it appears to have enjoyed several generations in the 1990s and 2000s. [via r/MechanicalKeyboards]

I covet this, and they're cheap on Amazon and eBay. Read the rest

Kissenger "simulates" kissing loved ones

Touted as Earth's "first mobile kiss messenger," Kissenger is a rubbery-looking dock that humans put their phones in. It has a tactile surface they depress with their meat. The movements are then transmitted in realtime over the internet, so that a replica of them may be experienced by another human.

Plug in to your phone and give your loved ones a kiss over the Internet. Kissenger can sense your kiss and transmit realistic kissing sensations to your partner in real time. You can also feel the force on your lips when your partner kisses you back. Share an intimate moment with your friends and families while chatting with them on your phone.

The device comprises six sensors, corresponding actuators, and a meat-colored silicone sheath. There's an app that goes with it so the humans can interact on a audiovisual-discursive level at the same time. It's at the prototype stage with nothing to buy, yet, but obviously we should keep an eye on this. It should suffice to say that our previous recommendations with respect to establishing contact with this species have not changed.

High precision force sensors are embedded under the silicon lip to measure the dynamic forces at different parts of your lips during a kiss. The device sends this data to your phone, which transmits it to your partner over the Internet in real time. Miniature linear actuators are used to reproduce these forces on your partner's lips, creating a realistic kissing sensation. Kissenger provides a two-way interaction just like in a real kiss.
Read the rest

Suggestions for improving Twitter

Twitter's wonderful, but it's also horrible a lot of the time &endash; especially for the people using it. And we all complain about it, too! Anil Dash weaves the obvious and not-so-obvious threads of criticism into a billion dollar gift for Twitter. It comes down to these five key points: Read the rest

General Organa's obit

Leia Organa's commitment to the cause placed her at the heart of the Rebellion, the Republic and the Resistance.

Her uncanny ability to predict the actions of enemies and allies alike made her essential, but the Alliance treated her warily, concerned she might manipulate its forces for her own ends. ... Operation Rogue One remains controversial; critics note that Organa sacrificed the entire volunteer cadre, hundreds of troops and much of the Alliance fleet to acquire Designation Stardust intelligence, and that its ultimate success owed itself to her activation of a Jedi asset, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as she was captured by Imperial forces. Indeed, the coincidences behind her subsequent escape and organization of the defense of Yavin IV have been ascribed to the Force, singular tactical genius or pure luck – all ideologically fraught options.

Read the rest

UK police subdue a man who charges at them with a knife

How ridiculous the British police are! You'd think they'd arm up with guns, what with more than 20 of them getting killed so far this century. Read the rest

Modelling shoot interrupted

Yes, it's one of those videos where pro models cycle through a sequence of casual yet comically robotic poses as a camera clicks speedily away. But this one is better than the others. Read the rest

Every Trump lie will be instantly laundered as headline news

Yesterday, Donald Trump claimed to have gotten Sprint to bring 5,000 jobs back to America. This claim is false; the jobs have been coming for months. But a lot of media instantly published Trump's claim, many with Trump as the sole source and no reporting or fact-checking whatosever.

Trump and Sprint simply put out PR and everyone rewrote it. Sprint ignored inquiries from reporters who figured it out, only admitting that the jobs were "previously announced" after the company became the story and things started getting hot.

When I reached out to a Sprint spokeswoman asking if the announcement was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal, she copy and pasted the press release I'd sent along with my first email. I responded saying I already had the press release and asked again if this was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal in place. I tagged Sprint in a tweet about the situation, and it wasn't until after that started getting retweeted that the spokesperson responded.

"This is part of the 50,000 jobs that Masa previously announced," she said. "This total will be a combination of newly created jobs and bringing some existing jobs back to the U.S."

This is how it's going to be: he lies, and reporters instantly launder the statement into impartial-sounding headlines in the rush to be first. The excuse will be that stenography is journalism.

Get used to this sort of thing:

The New York Times:

Trump Takes Credit for Sprint Plan to Add 5,000 Jobs in U.S.
Read the rest

Interview with a captured ISIS commander

There's no question of ISIS batallion leader Abu Taha's guilt. But Taha's is a nom de guerre, so when Taha is executed for killing dozens of Iraqis, Malik Khamis Habib dies with him. Rotting in a jail cell, what is he thinking? Kim Dozier, returning to the middle east after being critically wounded there, interviews someone few would sympathize with but everyone can now understand.

Why did you join ISIS? I asked.

“Someone from my neighborhood came to me. He explained we must make a change, that Shias were hurting Sunnis.”

Did you ever know a Sunni personally who was hurt by a Shia Muslim, I asked?

“No. Just rumors,” he admitted. ...

My translator pushed him to explain his role in dispatching car bombs. He later told me this brought back some bad memories for him, too. Sporting a 101st Airborne sweatshirt and reciting proudly the designation of the 3rd Infantry Division unit he’d also served, he explained he’d lost five U.S. battle buddies in a car bomb that hit his team years earlier. He’d been thrown 50 feet, escaping with a concussion, broken bones, and the sadness of a survivor. He knew this prisoner had dispatched such car bombs against Iraqis, and he too wanted to know why.

“What do you want me to say,” the prisoner asked. “I destroyed myself. I destroyed my family.”

He has a message for Americans, too. Read the rest

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