Reporter sings Happy Birthday to German chancellor and no-one joins in.

Thank God he didn't try to dance. [YouTube]

A German television reporter launched into a rendition of Happy Birthday, Liebe Bundeskanzlerin (dear chancellor) at a news conference in Brussels early on Thursday – but got no backup from his colleagues.

Merkel laughed and said: "I should have sung along, then it would have been better. But thank you."

It's only a matter of time before the chikungunya virus spreads in the U.S.

Until 2013, chikungunya was an Old World disease, writes Maggie Koerth-Baker. Not any more.

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Blogging History: Tax avoidance topologies; RIP, Cronkite; Free North Korean webmail

One year ago today
Maps of corporate tax-avoidance hairballs: OpenCorporates has a data-visualization tool for peering into the corporate tax-evasion structures of big corporations -- subsidiaries nested like Russian dolls made from Klein bottles.

Five years ago today
Walter Cronkite, RIP: Walter Cronkite, the broadcast news legend who spoke the words "And now we have two Americans on the moon" 40 years ago this week died in New York today at age 92.

Ten years ago today
North Korea offers free email on new gov website: I discovered that the North Korean government is actually letting people sign up for free web based email accounts. Their web page actually claims that they have an advanced IT industry, but somehow after experiencing it's fruit, I am left doubtful.

Fake TSA screener infiltrates SFO checkpoint, gropes women


He was allegedly drunk, and had at least two victims before SFO's crackerjack private aviation security outfit, Covenant, noticed (they're the same ones who smashed my brand new camera some years ago and refused to take responsibility for it).

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Blogging History: DHS not allowed to look at Snowden leaks; Starbucks garbage Tie Fighter; Worldcon v DNC

One year ago today
DHS to employees: reading newspaper coverage of Snowden's NSA leaks is "classified data spillage": The US Department of Homeland Security is warning its employees that they can be punished for opening up this Washington Post article, which includes a classified slide (above) illustrating how the National Security Agency spies on communications.

Five years ago today
TIE Fighter made from Starbucks detritus: Wired contributing photographer Dan Winters made this TIE Fighter from Starbucks junk -- cups, stirrers, sleeves and such.

Ten years ago today
Differences between WorldCon and DNC: This year's World Science Fiction Convention is in Boston, and accordingly, the URL for the con is boston2004.com. By a funny coincidence, the Democratic National Convention is also in Boston, and its URL is boston04.com. The inevitable confusion is quite humorous -- the organisers of the WorldCon have compiled a list of ways in which the WorldCon is unlike the DNC.

Yet another Ikea fan-site threatened by the company


It's not just Ikeahackers: Ikea has gone all-out war on its web-fans.

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Google Plus drops "Real Names" policy

After years of criticism, Google Plus has finally dropped its controversial, Facebook-alike "Real Names" policy.

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Yet another TSA screener doesn't know that DC is part of America


An Orlando TSA screener told a DC-based reporter that he'd need a passport to fly, because DC isn't a state, so a DC driver's license wasn't valid ID.

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Modern spiders related to 500-million-year-old nightmare beasts

Anomalocarids are the ancient ancestors of spiders. They look like menu items from H.P. Lovecraft's seafood restaurant.

Original Slip 'N Slide patent, 1961

"In a 1993 recall, consumers were cautioned that only children should use the slides"

Comcast service rep: a deeply fearful employee trying to hold onto his paycheck

"Grumpy Tech Support Man," a stock photograph from Shutterstock.com that seemed appropriate.


"Grumpy Tech Support Man," a stock photograph from Shutterstock.com that seemed appropriate.

On Monday, we posted a phone recording of an aggressive Comcast "Retention Specialist" arguing with a customer (Ryan Block) who wanted to cancel his service.

On Tuesday, we posted Comcast's response, which basically said, "It's all his fault, not ours"

We suspected Comcast had turned the employee into a scapegoat and our suspicions were confirmed when we read this post from former Comcast employee and Reddit user txmadison. (He provided images of his Comcast pay stubs to Slate to confirm his employment there.) Here's what he had to say about it:

When you call in to disconnect, you get routed to the Retention department; their job is to try to keep you. The guy on the phone is a Retention Specialist (which is just a Customer Account Executive who takes primarily calls from people disconnecting their service).

If I was reviewing this guy's calls I'd agree that this is an example of going a little too hard at it, but here's the deal (and this is not saying they're doing the right thing, this is just how it works). First of all these guys have a low hourly rate. In the states I've worked in they start at about 10.50-12$/hr. The actual money that they make comes from their metrics for the month, which depends on the department they're in. In sales this is obvious: the more sales you make the better you do.

In retention, the more products you save per customer the better you do, and the more products you disconnect the worst you do (if a customer with a triple play disconnects, you get hit as losing every one of those lines of business, not just losing one customer). These guys fight tooth and nail to keep every customer because if they don't meet their numbers they don't get paid.

Comcast uses "gates" for their incentive pay, which means that if you fall below a certain threshold (which tend to be stretch goals in the first place) then instead of getting a reduced amount, you get 0$. Let's say that if you retain 85% of your customers or more (this means 85% of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100% of your payout—which might be 5-10$ per line of business. At 80% you might only get 75% of your payout, and at 75% you get nothing.

The CAEs (customer service reps) watch these numbers daily, and will fight tooth and nail to stay above the "I get nothing" number. This guy went too far; you're not supposed to flat out argue with them. But Comcast literally provides an incentive for this kind of behavior. It's the same reason people's bills are always fucked up: people stuffing them with things they don't need or in some cases don't even agree to.

As Jordan Weissmann of Slate says, "So in short, yesterday we were all listening to a deeply fearful employee trying to hold onto his paycheck."

Is it surprising that Comcast treats its workers and subscribers like shit to boost their bottom line? And how much worse will Comcast treat them after it merges with Time Warner Cable and become the only broadband choice in many areas?

A Former Comcast Employee Explains That Horrifying Customer Service Call

Oakland: Boing Boing and Noise Pop vinyl event this Friday!

peanuts-proud-records

This Friday July 18, join Boing Boing and Noise Pop at the Oakland Museum of California with Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nick Harmer, Wilco designer Lawrence Azerrad, and Dead Kennedys / Alternative Tentacles artist Winston Smith to explore the art and allure of vinyl records!

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films

I saw the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes over the weekend and was amazed by its greatness. I applauded at the end with the rest of the audience. The acting, by both the humans and the “apes,” was superb. The revolutionary special effects – using “performance capture” cgi technology in ways never used before, created the most realistic digitalized characters I’ve ever seen. And the engaging and moving storyline with its themes on war, trust and humanity tied it all together into a perfect package. I love the rare science fiction film that surpasses expectations on every level, and this one hits every mark with incredible precision. So it was with great interest that I opened up Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, a book that looks behind the scenes and explains the incredible ingenuity and talent that went behind the two latest movies in the Planet of the Apes franchise. With tons of photos that show how the effects were created along with a fascinating narrative that tells the journey of creating these films, this is a behind-the-scenes book that any Planet of the Apes or special effects fan will thoroughly enjoy.

See high-res sample pages from the book at Wink.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films by Sharon Gosling, Matt Hurwitz, and Adam Newell

"Persecuted": thriller about poor religious conservatives versus evil liberals

In "Persecuted," a forthcoming theatrical release movie, religious conservatives defend themselves against pluralism, secularism, reproductive rights, and feminism.

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Classic Omni art and articles gallery


Neeraj writes, "The Museum of Science Fiction in D.C. Has launched its first curated online gallery as part of our partnership with OMNI Reboot."

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