Al the inside jokes in Silicon Valley's opening title sequence

Silicon Valley is a family favorite. It really nails startup culture, and every episode seems to raise the stakes. The opening title sequence is a 10-second animation of the growth and collapse of different software companies in Silicon Valley. It seems to change from episode-to-episode. It's hard to see everything that's going on, but this guy has studied it closely and reported what he found.

This guy wrote a program to call scammers' phone lines 28 times a second

It's likely you've gotten calls from criminals who pose as IRS employees and threaten to imprison you if you don't pay them thousands of dollars. These crooks work in teams based in Indian call centers. They are scumbags of the lowest order, preying on seniors and immigrants through fear and intimidation. Here's a security developer who decided to fight back. He wrote a script that called one of these IRS scammers' phone banks 28 times a second, flooding their phone lines and making it impossible for them to ply their vile trade. It's fun to listen to the scammers curse at the programmer's recorded message. According to Twisted Sifter, he has launched something called Project Mayhem to continue his fight against these unscrupulous scammers." He is seeking Patreon donations to go after IRS scammers, tech support scammers, loan scammers, "you have won" scammers, and "family member in trouble" scammers. Here's a recording of revenge on a tech support scammer:

Republicans are the primary beneficiaries of gerrymandering

As the Supreme Court makes ready to rule on the blatant gerrymandering in Wisconsin, the AP has conducted a study using "a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage" to analyze "the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year" and report "four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones." (more…)

The $7 vertical ergonomic mouse is not awful

I suffer from mild RSI: a warning to stop, but one that goes away when I do stop. The trigger is using a mouse for extended periods. The alternatives for general everyday computer use aren't great for my work habits, which center on precise pointing and clicking, so I'm in the bad habit of mousing until the ache begins, stopping, then picking it right back up later. I'd never tried a vertical mouse in the past because my malfunction is mild, the ergonomic improvements aren't clear, and they tend to be expensive. But the OJA Wireless Vertical Ergonomic mouse is only $6.99 on Amazon, so I decided to give it an impulse-buy shot.

I imagined it would be an absolutely terrible mouse, but expected that I could at least use it long enough to see if the enormous vertical wedge shape of it would be good for my hand. As it happened, this thing is probably good enough to keep, with only a couple of slightly annoying issues holding me back.

From the design, it appears to be a knockoff of something by Logitech, with dark gray satin plastic, chrome trim on the mousewheel, and large dimensions all around. It's wireless (a provided USB dongle fits inside the mouse for storage) and charges via USB cable. There two thumb buttons in addition to the usual left, right and wheel buttons. There's a DPI switch and an a power toggle underneath. The photos on the Amazon page depict it with FCC and CE symbols that are not in fact present on the device. It is instead marked with the text "wireless charging the mouse game."

It's OK. It's not awful. It's like the half-decent mouse you might find bundled with a cheap desktop computer. It doesn't track quite as nice as even the cheapest Logitech or Microsoft mice, and it doesn't physically glide quite as smoothly, either, but it's half their price and in the large and unusual "vertical" ergonomic format. Frankly, if you've been thinking of trying it, it's perfect in that role, as a stepping stone before committing to something like the $80 Evoluent 4.

On the ergonomic front, it's a clear improvement for me, but it doesn't quite fit right in my small, Trumpesque hands: it's as if they formed it by having an average American man gently squeeze a blob of clay, then loaded the model into a 3D app and smoothed out all the nobbly bits. Note that it (and other inexpensive models) are not quite as vertical as the pricey Evoluent model, either, which is presumably patented and more thoroughly scienced.

The problems: it takes a second to wake from sleep, and it sometimes just goes hayware. The former is just how things are, and not really a problem, but the latter is hard to figure out. Is it a battery power issue? A wireless interference issue? A USB dongle issue? It's not a killer by any means, but it happens often enough to annoy. It's fixed by plugging it in and using it wired, even for just a moment.

If they get to me, I might try Anker's $20 vertical mouse -- a price point that's still cheap, but as with wine, seems to promise something more satisfying and robust.

Millennials, women and college grads are most prolific library users

A Pew survey found that the majority of millennials have visited a public library this year, making them the most prolific library-using generation. An ALA spokesperson attributed this to the libraries' commitment to providing free, fast broadband and the ability to borrow devices such as tablets -- but the survey found that very few patrons use the libraries' apps. (more…)

A simple resource for connecting to writers with disabilities

People with disabilities tend to be drastically underrepresented in both culture and journalism. And one website is hoping to change that. Disabled Writers is a simple resource to help editors connect with writers with disabilities. As the site explains:

We are concerned about the lack of disability representation in media and pop culture, particularly with respect to multiply marginalized disabled people, such as disabled women of color and the transgender disability community. This resource aims to eliminate the “I couldn’t find anyone” barrier to hiring disabled writers and speaking with disabled sources.

When disability coverage appears in the media, it’s often developed for nondisabled people, by nondisabled people. 20 percent of the population, which includes media consumers and creators, is disabled, and it is important to put disabled people in charge of their own narratives. Hiring disabled writers will improve the breadth and depth of your coverage, and talking to disabled people as sources for your stories will improve the quality of your reporting.

Disabled journalists and sources aren’t just focused on disability. Disabled Writers highlights the incredible diversity of interests in the disability community, from the law to feminism. If you’re seeking to increase the diversity of your storytelling—and who is telling those stories—we hope you find this sourcing tool useful.

While the website is designed first and foremost for editors looking for writers to hire, its collection of writer profiles also contains links to the writers’ social media accounts. So consider diversifying your Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and more with some of these voices. You can also follow the Disabled Writers site itself on Twitter.

[Header image: Tyler Feder of Roaring Softly]

Brief history of Britain's brilliant LARP television shows

To celebrate the return of The Crystal Maze, Richard Cobbett recaps Britain's odd history of LARP shows, which pioneered chroma-key and VR-based special effects when such things were strange and expensive—and not as strange and expensive as the sets they were superimposed upon.

All were brilliant but many were dreadful, and classics such as Knightmare seem to hover perpetually on the edge of being rebooted for a new generation. First up, though, is Richard Ayoade as the third host of Crystal Maze, previously helmed by Richard O'Brien (of Rocky Horror fame) and punk rocker and actor Edward Tudor-Pole.

Salvador Dali's corpse to be exhumed

A judge in Spain has ordered the exhumation of artist Salvador Dali's body for genetic testing, so that a paternity lawsuit may be resolved. Dali died in 1989; Pilar Abel believes the painter is her father, from an affair he reportedly had with a maid in 1955. From Agencia EFE:
Una juez de Madrid ha ordenado la exhumación del cadáver del pintor Salvador Dalí y la obtención de muestras de su cuerpo para la práctica de la prueba biológica de determinación de la paternidad de Pilar Abel, una gerundense que presentó una demanda para ser reconocida como hija del artista. Según indica en un auto la juez encargada del caso, "es necesaria la prueba biológica de investigación de la paternidad de Maria Pilar Abel Martínez respecto de D. Salvador Dalí Domenech", al "no existir restos biológicos ni objetos personales sobre los cuales practicar la prueba por el Instituto Nacional de Toxicología".

Pop music genres illustrated with Toto's Africa on a lightweight portable keyboard

Seth Everman (previously) reports on "when you try all the sounds and beats on your synth while only playing Toto's Africa."

"hello my dudes it has been 9 years but i have returned with some more garbage for you to enjoy."

Though the magic is in his brilliant performance (encore!), his weapon of choice is the Yamaha MM8 workstation, whose mid-range characteristics give it the loaf to model all the genres, but also the cheese to make them taste good on YouTube.

Old games as standalone apps: no emulator necessary

Games Nostalgia is a retrogame site with a useful difference: instead of simply providing files which then must be fed to the often-difficult gods of emulation, it packages the classics as ready-to-click apps for Mac and PC. Examples to eat your morning: seminal Atari/Amiga RPG Dungeon Master, DOS blaster Doom, and 1990's original RTS Dune II. Then there's Populous, Archon, Shadow of the Beast...

Previously: Vast collection of Amiga games, demos and software uploaded to Internet Archive

This cute and customizable dress doubles as a Star Trek homage

As the hilarious Star Trek: The Next Generation Tumblr “Fashion It So” points out, this dress from eShakti bears more than a passing resemblance to a Starfleet uniform, especially the ones worn during the Deep Space Nine and Voyager eras of the series. Here’s the dress:

And here’s a look at the DS9 and Voyager uniforms:

The dress also comes in grey and is offered in a couple different cuts.

The dresses are available from size XS to 36W and come with a whole bunch of customizable options in terms of size, length, sleeve style, and neckline. You can check out the Starfleet dress and more size-inclusive fashion on eShakti’s website.

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