IMAX's "A Beautiful Planet" is a 3D visit to the International Space Station


I'm ashamed to admit that I never learned much about the International Space Station. But after seeing the IMAX 3D documentary A Beautiful Planet, I feel like I spent 45 minutes in it, and it was emotional and thrilling. I'm normally not a big fan of 3D movies, but the quality was so high that it didn't bother me and instead made the experience of learning about life inside the ISS that much better.

I was enthralled the entire time I watched the movie. I felt like I was floating in the ISS, observing the astronauts right in front of me as they ate, cut their hair, made espresso, helped each other get into their spacesuits, and played the bagpipes. I remember reading somewhere that one of the requirements of being an astronaut is that you can't be arrogant or have a big ego because those aren't good traits to have when you live in close quarters for months on end with other people. The astronauts on the ISS all seemed very smart, good natured, and kind. I wanted to hug them all.

The movie, which is narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, is called A Beautiful Planet because the main star of the show is our planet as filmed by crew of the ISS. We've all seen images of the Earth from space, but to see them in 3D on giant screen in crystal clarity is another experience altogether. My 13-year-old daughter was shocked by the nighttime footage of South and North Korea. Read the rest

Concerned Texas gentleman patrols ladies' restroom, tells woman "You're dressed like a man"


This fellow has volunteered to make sure the people who use a women's restroom in Texas look and dress the way he and other frightened jackasses want them to look and dress.

Read the rest

Stainless Steel Garlic Press + Aluminum Citrus Squeezer $20


The Bru Joy Stainless Steel Garlic / Ginger Press is $20 on Amazon. The Bru Joy Enameled Aluminum Bowl Lemon Squeezer is $13. If you add both to your cart and use coupon code GM843I2D at final checkout you can get them both for $20. Read the rest

1944 memo from manager sick of "gobbledygook"


From Futility Closet:

In 1944, manager Maury Maverick sent this memo to the workers at his government agency. This is the first known usage of gobbledygook to refer to obscure jargon. It wouldn’t be the last.(From the National Archives.)

From Wikipedia:

The term gobbledygook was coined by Maury Maverick, a former congressman from Texas and former mayor of San Antonio. When Maverick was chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation during World War II, he sent a memorandum that said: "Be short and use Plain English. . . . Stay off gobbledygook language." Later, writing in the New York Times Magazine, he defined gobbledygook as "talk or writing which is long, pompous, vague, involved, usually with Latinized words." The allusion was to a turkey, "always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity."

Read the rest

Out-takes from the closing credits of the Peter Sellers' "Being There"


Here are the best parts of Peter Sellers' Being There.

The series of out-takes behind the closing credits of 'Being There' -- the Peter Sellers classic -- must be one of the funniest sequences on film. I have included a couple of clips from the body of the movie to provide some context. The premise is that Sellers, a simple-minded gardener who has lived his life in his employer's mansion, is forced to leave when the employer dies. He has no experience of the world outside, other than television. (Note his attempt to use his TV remote to change the channel of reality.)

[via] Read the rest

Free will might be nothing more than a trick the brain plays on itself


We might only think we have free will, says Adam Bear, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Yale. In this Scientific American article he offers the possibility that our belief that we make decisions is just a byproduct of our predetermined activity. "Perhaps in the very moments that we experience a choice," writes Bear, "our minds are rewriting history, fooling us into thinking that this choice — that was actually completed after its consequences were subconsciously perceived — was a choice that we had made all along."

In one of our studies, participants were repeatedly presented with five white circles in random locations on a computer monitor and were asked to quickly choose one of the circles in their head before one lit up red. If a circle turned red so fast that they didn’t feel like they were able to complete their choice, participants could indicate that they ran out of time. Otherwise, they indicated whether they had chosen the red circle (before it turned red) or had chosen a different circle. We explored how likely people were to report a successful prediction among these instances in which they believed that they had time to make a choice.

Unbeknownst to participants, the circle that lit up red on each trial of the experiment was

selected completely randomly by our computer script. Hence, if participants were truly completing their choices when they claimed to be completing them—before one of the circles turned red—they should have chosen the red circle on approximately 1 in 5 trials.

Read the rest

Beware online shopping clubs that trap you in hard-to-quit subscriptions

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 9.42.15 AM

Online services that trick you into signing up for an automatically billed subscription and force you to call customer service to cancel are evil. Whenever I sign up for a service, I try to do it through PayPal, which makes it easy to cancel payment.

Here's a Bloomberg story about a sneaky lingerie company called Adore Me that "is among a group of buzzy Internet retailers accused of sometimes placing customers into unwanted and hard-to-cancel retail subscriptions."

Adore Me's checkout screen defaults to VIP Membership.

Here’s how a seemingly straightforward purchase on Adore Me’s website pushes people into ongoing membership in an underwear club.

You can’t look at lingerie without first entering an e-mail address, a feat that requires passing through two different pages dedicated to advertising a deal: “First Set for $24.95,” the website declares across a backdrop of models in brassieres. The fine print at the bottom explains that the offer is only valid with a VIP Membership, offering no explanation of what that entails.

Once at the actual shopping part of the website, Adore Me opts every first-timer into a VIP Membership. The price of your purchase shows up with the members-only discount, and the checkout screen automatically rings up your initial purchase as if you’re a VIP. That’s also where you can learn the details of Adore Me’s membership model—but only by clicking to reveal an informational page.

To buy underwear a la carte, you must click a dull, gray strip of text at the bottom corner of the purchasing screen.

Read the rest

Lemur demands backrub

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 9.12.57 AM

Before humans descended on the island of Madagascar there was a species of lemur as a big as gorilla. Today, the largest lemur weighs 20 lbs. (The smallest, the mouse lemur, weighs 1.1 oz, and has "the smallest known brain of any primate, at just 2 grams," according to Wikipdia.). I'm not sure what kind of lemur this is, but it likes to have people scratch its back. (And this is not a video that should make you feel good, says Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary.) Read the rest

California lawmakers reject "John Wayne Day" because John Wayne was a racist creep


In a 1971 Playboy interview John Wayne expressed his views on blacks ("irresponsible") and native Americans ("selfish"). These comments came back to haunt Wayne's legacy when California lawmakers nixed Orange County Assemblyman Matthew Harper's proposal to designate May 26, 2016, as "John Wayne Day." The bill was defeated in a 35-20 vote.

From the Playboy interview:

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”


“Our so-called stealing of this country from [native Americans] was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

“Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!” said Harper in a statement.

[via] Read the rest

Can you solve Martin Gardner's "coin of the realm" puzzle?


The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems is a 512-page collection of puzzles from the Martin Gardner's beloved Scientific American column. The easier puzzles are at the front of each section, and become more difficult as you progress. Here's one of the easy ones:

In the United States at least eight coins are required to make the sum of 99 cents: a half-dollar, a quarter, two dimes, and four pennies. Imagine yourself the leader of a small, newly independent nation. You have the task of setting up a system of coinage based on the cent as the smallest unit. Your objective is to issue the smallest number of different coins that will enable any value from 1 to 100 cents (inclusive) to be made with no more than two coins.

For example, the objective is easily met with 18 coins of the following values:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90.

Can you do better? Every value must be obtainable either by one coin or as a sum of two coins. The two coins need not, of course, have different values.

Read the rest

Aluminum Bluetooth speaker for $16


[UPDATE: Deal expired.] The Anker Aluminum Portable Wireless Speaker sells on Amazon for $36, but you can get it for $16 if you use the code WOWDEALA at check-out. It plays music from phones and tablets via Bluetooth and accepts a Micro SD card loaded with audio files, too.

Read the rest

Adam Savage one-day build: making an Iron Giant screw


In this video, Adam and Norm from Tested build Iron Giant screws from a kit. "We get to assembling the electronics of the kit, and then Adam and Norm each take different approaches for the painting and finishing." Read the rest

Game reviewer learns how to make big corporations fight each other on YouTube


When game critic Jim Sterling uses video clips of the games he reviews on YouTube, the game companies claim copyright ownership of the video and run ads on Sterling's reviews. He doesn't like that because his videos are funded by Patreon and he doesn't think his audience should have to see ads. So what he does now is add video clips from other game publishers' titles. This causes the different companies to battle for control of the video, and they both lose out.

“I figured every time I talk about Nintendo, I’m going to throw in other stuff that gets flagged by Content ID, and just watch the corporations battle it out,” Sterling said. His hope was that by pulling this stunt, he could stop any company from monetizing the video at all, since it wouldn’t be clear who really owned the footage in the first place. And if anybody did manage to monetize the video, they’d probably only get peanuts for it. The scheme panned out just the way he thought it would, Jim Sterling tells Kotaku.
Read the rest

Photo compares portable Mac from 25 years ago to one today

Ken Landau/CNET

On the left: a Colby Walkmac, "the first battery-operated Macintosh computer and first portable Mac with a LCD display."

Read the rest

Trailer for Oliver Stone's "Snowden"


Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone's Snowden. Stone went to Russia and met with Snowden several times during the production of the movie, so hopefully it will be somewhat accurate, but you never know with Stone. It's opening on September 16, 2016.

Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone, who brought Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, tackles the most important and fascinating true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world. He is considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others. No matter which you believe, the epic story of why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it off makes for one of the most compelling films of the year.

Read the rest

How to remember the top 10 things to bring when you leave the house


One of my all-time favorite books is Ron Hale-Evans' Mind Performance Hacks, by Ron Hale-Evans, which has 75 practical tips for becoming a better thinker. I highly recommend it, as well as his follow-up book, Mindhacker (co-written with Marty Hale-Evans)

The first tip in the book is a classic, but I suspect many people don't know it. It's a way to make a mental list of ten things. You can use this method to create a shopping list, a packing list, an errand list, or anything else that has ten things or less.

To start using this technique, you first have to remember 10 key words. Once you memorize these words, you can use the same ones for the rest of your life. Here they are:

1 :: gun

2 :: shoe

3 :: tree

4 :: door

5 :: hive

6 :: sticks

7 :: heaven

8 :: gate

9 :: wine

10 :: hen

Notice that the words rhyme with the number they are associated with. You probably have them memorized already.

Now, take each item on your list and pair them with a keyword by visualizing the two words in a weird (and therefore memorable) way . Here's how Ron uses the keywords to remember what he needs to bring with him when he leaves his house:

1 :: gun :: medication

I never leave the house without this. I imagine a gun firing pills scattershot in all directions.

2 :: shoe :: keys

I imagine the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe trying to open the front door of her giant shoe with her keys while dozens of her children are tugging on her skirt.

Read the rest

Tiny USB-to-Lightning charging cable


I was at a conference last week and a woman asked if I had a charging cable for her iPhone. I let her borrow my inCharge cable ($12 on Amazon), which uses magnets to securely fold around a keychain. It comes with the keyring.

Combine it with this itty-bitty $5 battery pack (use code XMPQBIDX) and you have a very portable charging kit Read the rest

More posts