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.

Read the rest

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

Verizon to buy Yahoo for $5bn

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Twenty-one years ago, Yahoo became the soul of the nascent web. Now it's telco food, to be eaten by Verizon for $5bn.

Verizon is also the proud owner of AOL, snagged last year for $4.4bn. At their height, the two lynchpins of the 90s' WWW were worth about $350 billion—at least to those unlucky enough to buy tech shares in 2000.

Verizon plans to unite the two companies to create a Facebook-killer made of nostalgia and its own users' personal information—and the zoo of startups and internet publishers the two companies gobbled up in their dying years.

The US telecoms giant is expected to merge Yahoo with AOL, to create a digital group capable of taking on the likes of Google and Facebook.

Verizon bought AOL - another faded internet star -in a $4.4bn deal last year, which gave it ownership of the Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Engadget and other news sites.

Shortly afterwards, Verizon announced it would start combining data about its mobile network subscribers - which is tied to their handsets - with the tracking information already gathered by AOL's sites.

Update: It struck me that Yahoo is custodian of Tumblr and Yahoo Answers, two of the last real refuges for girls and young women on the 'net. Verizon will want to kill or heavily sanitize both. Read the rest

Happy Putants

Illo: Rob Beschizza  / Photo: Kremlin.ru
Read the rest

Abortion conviction quashed, but woman who miscarried still faces time for "neglect"

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Purvi Patel was the first woman in America to be convicted of "feticide"—a euphemism for abortion—and jailed 20 years after suffering a miscarriage that prosecutors claim was induced by illegally-procured drugs. The feticide conviction was quashed today by an appeals court, but it affirmed the felony conviction for "neglect of a dependent."

The appeals court ruled that the state Legislature didn't intend for the feticide law "to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions."

As for the neglect conviction, we hold that the State presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Patel was subjectively aware that the baby was born alive and that she knowingly endangered the baby by failing to provide medical care, but that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the baby would not have died but for Patel’s failure to provide medical care. Therefore, we vacate Patel’s class A felony conviction and remand to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment of conviction for class D felony neglect of a dependent and resentence her accordingly.

The neglect charge (Patel claimed stillbirth, prosecutors argued that the fetus was alive for a period of seconds after birth) is still serious; the statute book allows for six months to three years, though news reports suggest lenience is not unheard of.

From the original story:

According to Sue Ellen Braunlin, doctor and co-president of the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Purvi was most likely 23-24 weeks pregnant, although prosecutors argued Patel was 25 weeks along in the state's opening argument.

Read the rest

Courtroom smackdown! Judge and defendant get nasty

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Dramatis personae: Denver Fenton Allen, a murder defendant. Bryan Durham, a Superior Court judge. And everyone watching in the peanut gallery-cum-courthouse in Rome, Ga., when things got fiery in Floyd County. Read the rest

Kickass Torrents returns after a whole day offline

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A day after an expensive, multinational police effort to remove KickAssTorrents from the net culminated in the arrest of its founder and the confiscation of its domains, the inevitable happened. It's back online.

This morning the founder of kat.cr was arrested in Poland. It is another attack on freedom of rights of internet users globally. We think it's our duty not to stand aside but to fight back supporting our rights. In the world of regular terrorist attacks where global corporations are flooded with money while millions are dying of diseases and hunger, do you really think that torrents deserve so much attention? Do you really think this fight worth the money and resources spent on it? Do you really think it's the real issue to care of right now? We don’t!

You don't have to believe the rhetoric to understand how futile it is trying to push cybertoothpaste back in the cyberbottle. Effectively, all the attempt did here was turn an underground piracy site into a mainstream phenomenon, its mirrors linked to by every major news site on the internet. Read the rest

All the best parts of Donald Trump's speech to the Republican National Convention

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Anthony Clune put together a highlight reel of the most interesting and salient moments from last night's keynote address at the Republican National Convention, in which Donald Trump accepted the party's nomination for United States President. Read the rest

American Airlines backs stewardess who announced she was "watching" Muslim passenger in Seat 25-A, then kicked him off flight

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A Muslim man was booted from a flight after an attendant publicly announced his name and seat number and warned him she was “watching” him. Welcome to American (real ones) Airlines.

Mohamed Ahmed Radwan had boarded a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina and the flight attendant went to the tannoy and said: “Mohamed Ahmed, Seat 25-A: I will be watching you.” The employee made no other announcements about any other passenger. Mr Radwan asked the employee why she had made the announcements. She reportedly responded that he was being “too sensitive” [and] was told he must leave the plane as he had made the first air stewardess “uncomfortable”.

The company's response: "We thoroughly reviewed these allegations and concluded that no discrimination occurred."

The same way bad police use "felt threatened" as an excuse for beatings and killings, bad airlines have settled on "felt uncomfortable" as their lawyer-approved all-bases-covered method of booting Muslims from flights. Read the rest

Sheepview: cameras attached to roaming ruminants in the Faeroe Islands

Photo: Visit Faeroe Islands

Sheep in the remote Faeroe islands, between Scotland and Norway, have been fitted with cameras to provide a vast corpus of sheepcam footage. At Sheepview, you may soon be able to explore the windblasted heaths and crags as if you were yourself an ambling, grass-munching ruminant—and help Google to catch up and generate street-view imagery that islanders need.

As the sheep walk and graze around the island, the pictures are sent back to Andreassen with GPS co-ordinates, which she then uploads to Google Street View.

“Here in the Faroe Islands we have to do things our way,” says Andreassen. “Knowing that we are so small and Google is so big, we felt this was the thing to do.”

So far the Sheep View team have taken panoramic images of five locations on the island. They have also produced 360 video so you can explore the island as if you are, quite literally, a sheep.

Read the rest

Police fetch high-powered rifle to kill family dog at child's birthday party

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Fox News reports that kids watched as a Wynnewood, Oklahoma police officer used a high-powered rifle, retrieved from his vehicle, to kill a dog after it "lunged at him" when he entered their gated, fenced property searching for someone who had not lived there in a decade.

The police chief said the officer was serving a warrant, which gave him legal authority to be on the private property. However, the Malones said they were never shown any warrant. They were only told the officer was looking for someone who had listed that address as his ten years ago...

“I respect what the police do, but this was senseless, but he didn’t show any remorse and didn’t even act like he was sorry or anything,” Malone told FOX 25.

The Malones believe the death of their dog could have been avoided either by the use of less-lethal force or by fact checking on the warrant.

The Wynnewood cops have already been caught in a lie: the chief claims the dog was shot "coming around the house" to attack the officer, but video shows that the dog was killed behind a closed gate in an expansive, open yard. "The police chief said he hasn't seen the video," reports Fox. "He said 'His officers have every right to shoot dogs if they feel in danger.'"

The first rule of modern U.S. police training is that you are a soldier. The second rule is kill the dogs. Read the rest

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