The Stars: The Definitive Guide to the Cosmos

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I’ve always been fascinated with the cosmos (who isn’t?), and I even once splurged for a telescope to put in the garden for my family to enjoy. But with only one college astronomy class (101) under my belt, my knowledge of the stars falls into the “Dummies” category. Which is why I loved DK’s new book, The Stars: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Cosmos.

Not that it’s only for dummies. The large 10.1 x 12.8 book is for astro newbies as well as the more seasoned who will enjoy the scenery and surely pick up some new stellar facts. It's for teens as well as adults, jam-packed with starry science that falls into three sections. The first, “Understanding the Cosmos,” covers the basics and beyond, from the Big Bang, starbirth, supernovae and neutron stars to black holes, colliding galaxies, galaxy clusters and a lot more.

“Constellations,” the second and largest section, is loaded with the significance and charts of constellations – some popular ones (like those from the zodiac) as well as many I’d never heard of before (like Vulpecula the fox and Monoceros the unicorn). The third, smallest section of the book, “The Solar System,” just touches on our sun and planets, and was the one section that the authors could have expanded.

In true DK fashion, The Stars compliments its smart yet accessible text with a heavy dose of charts, maps, sidebars, and brilliant photos. The authors managed to make every page highly fresh and engaging.

The Stars: The Definitive Guide to the Cosmos by DK 2016, 256 pages, 10.8 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches (hardcover) $26 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Fragments of Horror – Wonderfully creepy stories that are as weird as they are original

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Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito Viz Media 2015, 224 pages, 5.8 x 8.2 x 0.8 inches (hardcover) $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

Fragments of Horror is a collection of eight wonderfully grotesque and creepy short stories. A seemingly bright and pretty architecture student terrorizes a family while having a bizarre relationship with their house. A boy tries to hold his body together after cheating on his girlfriend. The number one fan of a novelist finds herself in a sick situation trapped in the writer’s basement. A young woman who just eloped can’t understand why her new husband won’t come out from under his futon covers.

Written by horror manga artist Junji Ito, whose influences include H.P. Lovecraft, the stories are as weird as they are original, while the art is crisp and expressive. What I love is the way these stories, set in modern Japan, are about seemingly normal lives that take a twisted turn into the bowels of darkness. They remind me of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, the ones that start off in a stylish, mid-century modern house or office where sharp-looking people go about their ordinary lives… until a crack in normality suddenly appears, the creep factor sets in, and they enter the twilight zone. My only regret is that there aren’t more stories here, but fortunately Ito isn’t new to the genre and has many other titles that I’ll be picking up soon. – Carla Sinclair

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Cat Rackham comics are as miserable as they are wonderfully addictive

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Cat Rackham by Steve Wolfhard Koyama Press 2016, 124 pages, 7.3 x 10.1 x 0.6 inches (hardcover) $20 Buy a copy on Amazon

Cat Rackham is an anxious, scruffy, navel-gazing kitty who sometimes likes adventures. But mostly he likes to stare. And sleep. And stare some more. An existential Ziggy, if you will. He has a couple of friends, but he is usually by himself. He doesn’t have good luck, and his stories don’t have especially happy endings, but they’re weirdly charming and, dare I say, humorous. Cat Rackham used to have his own web comic series, created by Adventure Time storyboard artist Steve Wolfhard, until it disappeared for no apparent reason. Fortunately, Koyama Press has just released Cat Rackham, a collection of these comics that are as miserable as they are wonderfully addictive. Read the rest

Psychobook – psych tests used throughout the centuries

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Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories by Julian Rothenstein (editor) Princeton Architectural Press 2016, 192 pages, 8.9 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches (hardcover) $40 Buy a copy on Amazon

I am not afraid of toads. I do not like to see men in their pajamas. Someone has been trying to get into my car. I think I would like the work of a librarian. I do not always tell the truth.

The above statements are examples of what could appear on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a “psychometric test” in which psychology patients must answer with only a “yes,” “no,” “true,” “false,” or “cannot say.” There is no place on the test to expand or explain your answers. The results of the exam help determine whether a test-taker is “normal” or “deviant.” This test has been helping to sort out the “crazies” from the “normals” since 1943, and yes, according to Psychobook, it’s still being used by some doctors today!

Psychobook, just released today, is a fun, fascinating, image-heavy book that looks at all kinds of ridiculous psych tests used throughout the centuries (some cancelled long ago, others still quacking along). Read about mental test kits such as: Lowenfeld Mosaic tests (make a design with colorful geometric toy pieces to see how carefree, thoughtful or anxious you are); the Szondi Test (see how your mind works by looking at portraits of men and guessing whether they’re homosexual, a psychopath, a maniac, or some other such type); Pictorial Completion Test (find out if your kid has delinquent tendencies by having them fill in a drawing with objects that are missing from the scene), and dozens more. Read the rest

Bizarre perfume ad by Spike Jonze is a must-see

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Wow! Directed by Spike Jonze, this high-energy KENZO World ad, or "short film" as they're calling it, is the best perfume commercial I've ever seen. And the most bizarre.

The brand’s new ad, directed by Spike Jonze, shows what may be best described as a perfume rapturing. Actress and dancer Margaret Qualley (star of The Leftovers and Andie MacDowell’s daughter) works herself into a full-body perfume frenzy choreographed by Ryan Heffington, the choreographer of Sia’s “Chandelier.” (New York Magazine)

The song, "Mutant Brain," is an original track by Sam Spiegel (Jonze' brother) and Ape Drums. You can download the song from Amazon. Read the rest

Dick Van Dyke breaks out in song to surprised Denny's diners

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Last week while dining at Denny's in Santa Monica, Dick Van Dyke and his a cappella Vantastix buddies broke out into song. Although not quite a flash mob, it was a surprise performance of the song "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" for the lucky diners at the coffee shop.

"Breakfast at Denny's, with a side of grits makes me want to sing!!" Van Dyke wrote on his Facebook page Saturday.

Van Dyke played the eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts in the 1968 film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," which was co-written by Roald Dahl and was based on a story by Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame.

Thanks U.S. News! Read the rest

Perv sat behind Trump while he blasted Clinton for shooter's dad at rally

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Trump's buffoonery is so outrageous, you just couldn't make this stuff up. He may have topped himself in last night's performance at his rally in Sunrise, Florida, when he went on about how horrible it was that Hillary Clinton allowed the Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen's father to sit behind her at one of her rallies this last week.

"When you get those seats, you sort of know the campaign, so when she [Hillary Clinton] said, 'Well we didn't know'...They knew!" Trump shouted. "Wasn't it terrible when the father of the animal that killed the wonderful people in Orlando was sitting with a big smile on his face?" Trump turned to the people behind him. "How many of you people know me? A lot of you know me!"

And here is the punchline. Disgraced animal ex-congressman Mark Foley was sitting right behind Trump at his rally, and even raised his hand to say that yes, he knows Trump. Mark Foley was a republican congressman from 1995-2006, but had to resign after he was caught sending explicitly sexual emails and instant messages to teenage boys. He and Trump have been chums since 1987.

So I guess it's okay to have a disgraced politician who personally knows you sit right behind you at a rally, at least if you're Donald Trump. Read the rest

Don't pee on a jellyfish sting, and other venom no-nos

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Venom expert Dr. Christie Wilcox debunks three popular myths about stings and bites from toxic creatures: jellyfish, snakes and spiders.

Myth #1: Pee on a jellyfish sting to ease the pain.

Dr. Wilcox tested this "urban legend" in her lab and found that this is absolutely not true. In fact, in some cases urine actually made it worse.

Though the intensity of the reaction varies along with the urine itself, at best, urine is inert, at which point you might as well use seawater instead. And at worst, pee causes so much stinging that the jelly would almost certainly inject more venom into you.

Alternative approach: pour vinegar over the sting, or soak the affected area in hot water for 20-30 minutes.

Myth #2: Suck out venom from a snake bite.

Dr. Wilcox says this doesn't work and only takes up time that could be spent getting medical attention.

It only takes 60 seconds for your blood to travel all the way around your body—so you’re never going to get to all of the venom before it’s spread. Instead, by attempting to remove the toxic fluid, you waste precious time, likely cause more damage, and might even risk harming yourself.

Alternative approach: Immediately call 9-1-1.

Myth #3: Waking up with a gross sore means you've been bitten by a spider while sleeping.

Only 3.8% of what people call "spider bites" are really from spiders.

Such misidentifications can have very serious implications. Potentially grave infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA) can be overlooked as ‘just a spider bite,’ delaying essential medical care.

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Smart About Sharks – Filled with fascinating bite-sized shark facts

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey Flying Eye Books 2016, 40 pages, 9.2 x 11.5 x 0.5 inches $17 Buy a copy on Amazon

I love children’s books that are as delicious for kids as they are for adults, and Smart About Sharks is exactly that. With a sumptuous textured cloth cover, an appealing gray-tinted palette of earth tones playfully punctuated by pink, and a retro encyclopedic design, Smart is filled with fascinating bite-sized shark facts that were completely new to me. Examples: sharks were here on earth 200-million years before dinosaurs; there’s a shark called a megamouth that has a glow-in-the-dark mouth; some sharks grow only to the size of a pencil.

Smart About Sharks, just released today, is similar to illustrator Owen Davey’s other info-packed animal book, Mad About Monkeys, which came out almost exactly a year ago (363 days to be exact), and which I reviewed here on Wink. Everything from what sharks eat to their social life to their various shapes, sizes, and many different types (over 500 unique species in our oceans today!) is covered in this high-quality picture book. Rumor has it that this is the start of a series with Flying Eye Books. I hope the rumors are true! Read the rest

Chinese tourist fills wrong form for lost wallet, lands in refugee shelter

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Last month a 31-year-old Chinese man who was traveling through Germany realized he lost his wallet in Stuttgart, Germany. The tourist, whose name hasn't been disclosed, tried to ask authorities for a stolen goods form, but ended up filling out a refugee asylum application. This set "machinery in motion that he couldn't get out of," Christoph Schluetermannan, an official with the German Red Cross, told reporters. According to The Guardian:

From there, he was sent to Dortmund in northwestern Germany and on to the refugee home in Duelmen. “He simply did what he was told,” Schluetermann said.

Schluetermann said he quickly noticed the man because “he was different from the others – very, very helpless.”

With help from a translation app and then from a translator at a Chinese restaurant, it became clear that the man wanted to travel on to France and Italy, not seek asylum.

It took 12 days before the tourist was set free. Read the rest

Watch charming grannies smoke weed for first time in Amsterdam

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In a new British TV show called A Granny's Guide to the Modern World (Channel 4), three adorable ladies ages 73, 78 and 82 try weed for the first time when they visit a coffee shop in Amsterdam. One of the weed-tenders helps them out, showing them how to use a bong, roll a joint (a job that is given to the nimble-fingered granny who is an expert embroiderer), and introduces them to one of Amsterdam's famous "space cakes."

The video says it all, but check out The Guardian for more details on who these adventurous women are and for more info about the show. Read the rest

90-year-old fills in $90,000 crossword art, now claims copyright

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Last month, a 90-year-old woman visiting an art museum in Nuremberg, Germany was drawn to a 1977 crossword puzzle on display called "Reading-work-piece." Next to the artwork, created by avant-garde artist Arthur Köpcke, was a sign that said, "Insert Words." The visitor took the sign seriously and began filling out the puzzle with a ball point pen.

Police rushed to the scene and questioned the senior citizen, whose name has been released as Hannelore K. She said the museum should have warned visitors not to fill in the puzzle, and the police let her go.

But now the woman is threatening to sue the museum for cleaning up her additions to the art piece. She claims that she now holds the copyright to the "collaborative" artwork, since she enhanced it, but the museum destroyed her creative work by restoring the piece to its original state.

...her lawyer has produced a seven-page rebuttal to the accusation of damaging property.

He says that far from harming the work in question, his client has increased its value by bringing the relatively-unknown Köpcke to the attention of a wider public. Moreover, her "invigorating re-working" of the exhibit further increased its worth.

Indeed, Frau K.'s lawyer claimed that her additions meant that she now held the copyright of the combined artwork—and that, in theory, the private collector might sue the museum for destroying that new collaboration by restoring it to its original state.

The art is said to be valued at around $90,000. Read the full story at Ars Technica. Read the rest

North Korea launches 2 missiles, Japan says "serious threat"

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North Korea simultaneously launched two medium-range ballistic missiles this morning, and one landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, in the Sea of Japan. This is an area that is protected by special rights given to Japan by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The other missile exploded right after launch.

Although North Korea has launched more than 30 missile tests since 2011, when Kim Jong Un came into power, today's launch was one of the farthest ranging and has drawn strong condemnation from international leaders.

"It imposes a serious threat to Japan's security and it is an unforgivable act of violence toward Japan's security," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told AP.

The United States condemned the launches as violating U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology.

"This provocation only serves to increase the international community's resolve to counter (North Korea's) prohibited activities, including through implementing existing U.N. Security Council sanctions," said Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the launches, saying North Korea should "immediately cease and abandon all its existing nuclear and ballistic missile activities in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner" and "refrain from any further provocative actions."

The Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting set for this afternoon at the United Nations. Read the full story at AP and CNN. Read the rest

Young school boy shouts profanity at Trump rally

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Trump rallies never cease to amaze. This morning at a Trump rally in Ashburn, VA, a young boy about 10 years old stood up and shouted, "Take the bitch down!" He of course was referring to Hillary Clinton.

His mother, Pam Kohler, defended her son. "I think he has a right to speak what he wants to," she told reporters. According to Los Angeles Times:

Asked where he learned to speak that way, she answered, "Democratic schools."

As more reporters began surrounding her, she walked out of the auditorium at Briar Woods High School, where the rally was held, using a Trump sign to block cameras. Behind her seats was a school sign, encouraging good behavior: "Trustworthy, Respectful, United, Excellent."

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Who has better orgasms – men or women?

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ASAPScience just put out this fun sex ed video comparing orgasms between women and men.

Some of the exciting points from the video:

1. Men's orgasms usually last only 3-10 seconds, while women can clock in at 20 seconds or more.

2. During sex, men have orgasms 95% of the time while women have them only 69% of the time. Although this goes up 12 percentage points when women have sex with other women.

3. Lesbian couples spend more time in bed during sex (30-45 mins) than straight couples (15-30 mins).

The four-minute video has all kinds of other interesting scientific tidbits about sex by the sexes as well. And after hearing the evidence, it's hard to say who wins. Read the rest

Sex offenders banned from Pokémon Go in New York

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Around 3,000 sex offenders on parole are now banned from playing Pokémon Go in New York. In fact, they aren't allowed to play any "internet enabled gaming activities." According to a statement by New York governor Andrew Cuomo issued today:

“Protecting New York’s children is priority number one and, as technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don't become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims," Governor Cuomo said. "These actions will provide safeguards for the players of these augmented reality games and help take one more tool away from those seeking to do harm to our children."

The focus on Pokémon Go is due to the fact that players – many of them kids – are encouraged to walk along urban streets, sometimes near residential addresses of sex offenders. The governor sent a letter to Pokémon Go's developer Niantic to ask for their cooperation "to provide the most up-to-date information of offenders within the Sex Offender Registry." Read the rest

Amazing "balloon animals" – not seen at your ordinary kids party

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Tokyo-based Masayoshi Matsumoto takes "balloon animals" out of backyard parties and into the colorful arena that falls between highbrow craft and art. The 27-year-old balloon-artist, who studied at Tokyo Institute of Technology, uses the same techniques that party clowns use – bending, twisting and tucking balloons into animals and other fun shapes – but he uses dozens at a time and ends up with stunning rubber sculptures that would easily fit in any pop-art gallery (or pop-up gallery because of their perishable nature). Check out his extensive photo gallery on his Facebook page. Read the rest

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