21st century vocab: "Card clash"

It's what happens when you wave your bag at an RFID reader while you get on the tube and the turnstyle charges your ride the wrong card: Read the rest

Substitute fine old rums for bourbon and save

If you love bourbon but are dismayed by the skyrocketing prices for the good stuff, Matt Buchanan suggests that you try "old-ass" rum, which has a lot of the same flavors that bourbon lovers cherish at a fraction of the price (for now). Read the rest

De-obfuscating Big Cable's numbers: investment flat since 2000

The cable lobby group NCTA claims the industry has been investing record amounts in network upgrades, which will dry up if they are forced to endure Net Neutrality. Techdirt points out that Big Cable's numbers are cumulative, and re-runs them year on year. Turns out investment has been flat since about 2000. Read the rest

Exactly what $2, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 looks like

Remember Anton Purisma's lawsuit for 2 undecillion dollars? Randall "XKCD" Munroe has devoted this week's What If? to calculating exactly what $2,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000 looks like. He points out that this is a sum larger than the present value of every manufactured good in the world, as well as all the potassium and calcium in the Earth -- more, even than the present value of a planet-sized lump of solid gold. Read the rest

Funding available for makerspaces' open anti-asteroid initiatives

Alex sez, "Spacegambit is a hackerspace space program that funds cool space projects around the world. We're now working with NASA on the Asteroid Grand Challenge, with the aim of getting more makers involved in detecting asteroid threats to human populations and figuring out what to do about them. We're running our open call at the moment (closing on 20 May) and looking to fund open-source projects linked with hackerspaces/makerspaces/fablabs/etc." Read the rest

Humana screws Brandon Boyer for $100K worth of cancer bills - help him pay them

Our good pal Brandon "Offworld" Boyer has cancer. Lucky for Brandon, he signed up for medical insurance with Humana not long before he was diagnosed. Unlucky for him, Humana has decided unilaterally not to cover his cancer treatments and has stuck him with with a $100,000 bill. He's raising money from the Internet to help pay for his life-saving treatments. I'm in for $100. If you're thinking of getting insured, be warned: Humana will screw you and screw you and screw you. Read the rest

Happy Mutant congressman: if Bitcoin should be banned, why not dollar bills?

Senator Joe Manchin delivered a grandstanding, technologically clueless, facepalm-inducing request to the Treasury Department to ban Bitcoin. In response, Rep Jared Polis (who proudly wears Boing Boing tee-shirts in his spare time, and rocks some snazzy duds on the floor of Congress) wrote a mock-serious request for dollar bills to be removed from circulation, pointing out that practically every objection that Manchin raised over Bitcoin applies equally well to paper money. Read the rest

South Carolina legislature confiscates budget of college for assigning Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" as a reading

The South Carolina House of Representatives has withdrawn $52,000 from the College of Charleston for including Alison Bechdel's brilliant, celebrated memoir Fun Home in its summer reading program. Bechdel, creator of the Dykes to Watch Out For strip, published the memoir in 2006. In graphic novel form, it tells Bechdel's story of growing up closeted in a family riven by a father who can't admit that he is gay and an embittered mother who doesn't allow herself to notice her husband's affairs.

Representative Garry Smith said that the book "didn't merit scholarly consideration" because it "graphically shows lesbian acts." He led the campaign to withdraw the funds. $52,000 is the cost of the entire summer reading program.

Bechdel expressed gratitude to the college for assigning her book, and added, "It's sad and absurd that the College of Charleston is facing a funding cut for teaching my book – a book which is after all about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people's lives."

To its credit, the college is refusing to allow its reading choices to be affected. College president P. George Benson said, "Any legislative attempt to tie institutional funding to what books are taught, or who teaches them, threatens the credibility and reputation of all South Carolina public universities."

The College of Charleston isn't the only institution whose funding has been cut for assigning readings that don't meet with Rep Smith's approval; another $18,000 was confiscated from the University of South Carolina Upstate's budget for including a book with LGBT themes in its curriculum. Read the rest

Pies Are Round: why a big pizza is a better deal

The "squared" in Pi(R)^2 means that the area of a pizza grows exponentially polynomially in relation to its diameter. As an interactive graph on Planet Money demonstrates, pizza places generally underprice their bigger pies relative to the amount of food contained in each. This is probably because energy and labor inputs account for the largest slice of the pizza-baking ahem pie, and ingredients are way down on the balance-sheet. Whatever the reason, if you're interested in getting more food for less money, larger pies are almost always a substantially better deal.

74,476 Reasons You Should Always Get The Bigger Pizza [Quoctrung Bui/Planet Money]

(via IO9) Read the rest

For sale: Swiss Scrooge McDuck swimming pool/vault full of shiny coins

If you've ever dreamed of owning a bank-vault mounded high with shiny coins in which you can bathe like Scrooge McDuck, now is your chance. A Swiss bank-vault filled with 8 million Swiss 5-cent pieces is up for auction. The vault was made in 1913 for the Schweizer Volksbank. The coins -- 15 tons' worth -- were used in a 2013 installation in which they were dumped in a public square, with no security, as an exercise in public trust. The coins and the safe are presently in Basel. You will have to relocate them. Read the rest

Stamping Chinese banknotes with censorship-busting QR codes

An anonymous anti-censorship group is stamping Chinese banknotes with a QR code and the message "Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall." The stamps encode a URL for Freegate, a firewall-busting service. The stamps are widely suspected to be the work of Falun Gong, an outlawed religious sect that has a long history of supplying anti-censorship technology inside of mainland China, both to supply access to its own censored websites and to advertise the virtues of its belief-system to Chinese Internet users who are more interested in beating censorship than religion.

The money-stamping story has been big news in China, even attracting reportage in state-run media, where the comment-sections are full of Chinese Internet users complaining that the photos of the stamped money are too low-rez to be scanned in.

This isn't the first time that anti-corruption messages have been circulated through defaced currency: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame runs the Stamp Stampede, which stamps messages condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates of unlimited, anonymous political campaign spending. Read the rest

Produce an anti-corruption photo and win a year's supply of Ben and Jerry's

I've posted before about Ben "Ben and Jerry's" Cohen's Stamp Stampede project: Cohen is calling on enemies of corruption to stamp messages opposing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on dollar bills. Citizens United allows for unlimited political spending, on the grounds that money is speech and corporations are people.

Cohen's running a competition to produce the best Stamp Stampede promotional photo: grand prize is a year's supply (52 pints) of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream.

The 2nd Annual Stampede Photo Contest is currently underway and will end on January 18. Read the rest

Hobo nickels of 2013 from Mr The

Hobo Nickels, a subject we've been doting on for 12 years now, had a bumper year in 2013, as is evidenced by this gallery of Mr The's nickel-carvings (not all the coins are nickels, but the term is generic regardless of the coin) from the past year. Mr The specializes in big head/mini man carvings that add a tiny torso, arms and legs to the nickel's traditional head (it especially rocks with monster heads). Read the rest

Democratic lawmakers share a squalorous house in DC

A group of top Democratic lawmakers live in a squalorous group house in DC. The house was once the family home of Rep. George Miller (D-CA), but he relocated back to his California district with his wife and family. Now, three decades later, Illinois senator Dick Durbin shares the house with New York senator Chuck Schumer and congressman Miller, amid dusty, filthy and disused furnishings dating back to the 1980s. The lawmakers only spend three nights a week at the house, and come and go at odd hours between meetings, fundraisers, and appearances. They use the Congressional gyms and other facilities for the majority of their needs, and boast about the holes in the stovetop and the dumpster-dived furniture, as well as Durbin's comfort-food of choice: raisin bran. Read the rest

Square Cash: email money to other people without a fee

Square Cash, released today in the United States, lets you send cash to anyone with an email address, simply CC the message to "cash@square.com," and the recipient will receive the money in two business days or less.

Send money to anyone with an email address. It's fast, safe, and free!

No account needed. Just securely link your debit card to start sending money. It's free to send, and free to receive money directly to your U.S. bank account.

Secure. Your financial information is entered through a secure connection and kept private. You can confirm or reject any transfer.

Fast. Money automatically deposits to your bank account within 1-2 business days.

Square Cash for iPhone Read the rest

Chinese tourists with room full of Euro coins weren't counterfeiters; they got 'em from scrap cars

A hotelier in Paris called the cops on a pair of Chinese guests who were paying their bills nightly with Euro coins and who had 3,700 more in their rooms. He thought they were counterfeiters. It turned out that they were friends with a Chinese car-scrapper who had harvested forgotten coins from European cars on their way to the wrecker. Read the rest

Visualizing five years of political fundraisers

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez, "The Sunlight Foundation is celebrating five years of the Political Party Time site with a look at where and when U.S. politicians fundraise the most. The review of nearly 18,000 invites in the Party Time database found that the most fundraisers, about 76 percent, happen within just three blocks of the U.S. Capitol. Restaurants, social clubs and private residences close to the Hill are frequented over and over by members of both parties. Additionally, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the most popular days for fundraisers with happy hour or dinner events the preferred time of day. Below is an interactive map that details where in D.C. and across the U.S. politicians, mostly Congress, are raising money for their campaigns and PACs." Read the rest

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