Teavana Tea cheats you twice

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Have you ever had a sample of tea in a Teavana store? I have, and I loved it. I bought some based on how much I liked the taste. But when I got home and followed the directions, the tea tasted weak. I figured I just didn't know how to brew the tea as well as the expert teenagers who work at the Teavana store.

But it turns out Teavana's in-store samples use up to "three times as much as the instructions for brewing at home," according to the Consumerist. That's why it was so strong and flavorful. If I wanted to make the same strength of tea at home, I'd have to use a tablespoon, not a teaspoon, effectively tripling the price of the already expensive tea.

I stopped buying Teavana, but on Monday I saw a can of Teavana Royal English Breakfast Loose-Leaf Black Tea at Starbucks for $9. It was a pretty big can so I thought it was a good deal. I bought it. When I opened the can at home, I found a small plastic bag stuffed in the bottom of the can, containing the tea. In the photo above, you can see how much tea was in the can. It fills about 1/3 of the can.

I like the tea, but there's no way I'll get 20 cups from the can, as the label suggests. Read the rest

Fellow opens a $700 battery pack, finds a large sponge and a little $30 battery inside

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The lithium battery pack for a Nagra 6 digital recorder costs $700. Markus Fuller opened one and found out it has a small battery in it (with 6 cells worth a total of $30), and a large sponge. It must be an awesome sponge! As he opens it, he gives an interesting and entertaining lesson on the history of lithium batteries.

Caveat emptor: Nagra sells a more expensive battery pack, which contains more batteries, so you won't get as much of the magical sponge if you buy it.

Fuller has a good video about capacitors, too:

[via] Read the rest

American Airlines is suing Gogo over its crappy Wi-Fi

Gogo / Via Facebook: gogo

The first time I used Gogo's expensive inflight Wi-Fi, it was horrible. Web pages wouldn't load, email wouldn't send or receive. I decided to give them another chance a couple of months later and it was equally horrible. Gogo controls 80% of the in-flight Wi-Fi market, and they have a lot of nerve charging people for something that doesn't work. They owe me $25.

It turns out I'm not the only one who thinks Gogo is awful. American Airlines is suing Gogo, claiming the Wi-Fi provider has violated the terms of their contract, which requires Gogo's Wi-Fi service to be as good or better than Wi-Fi service on American Airlines' competitors.

Gogo issued the following statement:

"[Gogo has] no comment on the merits of this litigation, but we would like to note that American is a valued customer of ours and that we look forward to resolving the disagreement regarding contract interpretation that led to this declaratory judgment action.”

If you'd like another reason to dislike Gogo, Buzzfeed has one for you:

Separately, Gogo has been criticized for unwittingly drawing some customers into monthly subscriptions that can’t be canceled from its website. A proposed settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit over such subscriptions, which may result in some users receiving Gogo day passes.

Gogo's stock price fell over 30% on Tuesday. Read the rest

Superb investigative report on the fake locksmith scam

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If you've ever locked yourself out of your home and googled for a locksmith, you've seen that it's virtually impossible to reach a real local locksmith. Read the rest

Kickstarting a tool to block robocalls and tie up scammers

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Roger Anderson, a telephony expert, developed the Jolly Roger Telephone Company to block and madden robocallers. Read the rest

Snowshoeing: small-batch spam that's less targeted than spear-phishing

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Snowshoe spam has a "small footprint" -- it is sent is small, semi-targeted batches intended to sit below the trigger threshold for cloud-email spam filters, which treat floods of identical (or near-identical) messages as a solid indicator of spam. Read the rest

As you suspected: claw machines are rigged

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Claw machines can be programmed to automatically reduce their grip strength to maximize profits, while allowing an infrequent full-strength grip to entice suckers. From the instruction manual for a claw machine:

Managing profit is made easy, simply input the coin value, the average value of the merchandise, and the profit level. The machine will automatically calculate when to send full strength to the claw, games sent full strength will be randomly selected from a group making it difficult for players to “predict.”

Read the rest

Lottery ticket with $500,000 prize was a "misprint"

John Wines was pleased when the scratch-off lottery ticket he bought at a New Mexico gas station turned out to be worth $500,000. But when Wines tried collect his prize, an employee of the New Mexico Lottery robbed him of his pleasure:

“We did find a flaw in that particular pack of tickets and it’s been reported to our printer. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I did complete a reconstruction of your ticket and it was not a winner.”

The New Mexico Lottery offered Wines $100 in lottery tickets as a token of their sympathy. Read the rest

Shia LaBeouf's movie plagiarizes Daniel Clowes

Jacquelene Cohen, director of publicity & promotions for Fantagraphics Books, emailed me the following:
Shia LaBeouf's new short film, HowardCantour.com, is a complete rip off of Daniel Clowes's comic "Justin M. Damiano." Every-word from the 4 page comic created by Clowes in 2006 is used in the script for LaBeouf's directional debut. Clowes never authorized the use of his comic for HowardCantour.com. He had no knowledge that he had been plagiarized until today when the film was posted on Vimeo.

Comic Book Alliance has more:

The film, which was posted online earlier today but has since been removed, shares several similarities with Clowes’ short story, with lines that are lifted directly from the comic. Yet in an interview with the website Short of the Week, LaBeouf, who has been accused of plagiarism in the past, claims to have come up with the concept for the film organically, having been inspired by negative reviews he received for his lackluster comics work, as well as the films he has reportedly appeared in.
Read the rest

Keylogger service provides peek inside Nigerian 419 scammers' tactics

Security researcher Brian Krebs has had a look at the contents of "BestRecovery" (now called "PrivateRecovery") a service used by Nigerian 419 scammers to store the keystrokes of victims who have been infected with keyloggers. It appears that many of the scammers -- known locally as "Yahoo Boys" -- also plant keyloggers on each other, and Krebs has been able to get a look at the internal workings of these con artists. He's assembled a slideshow of the scammers' Facebook profiles and other information. Read the rest

The Mark Inside: the best book I've read on the long con

Amy Reading's The Mark Inside is perhaps the best book I've ever read on con artists and con artistry, a retelling of one of the classic stories of the bunco boom that marked the start of the 20th century in America. Reading builds her book around the life story of J Frank Norfleet, a soft-spoken, thrifty Texas rancher who built his fortune up from nothing, only to lose it all to a gang of swindlers. Norfleet became obsessed with the men who'd victimized him, and became a nationally famous vigilante, crisscrossing America bent on capturing and jailing the whole gang -- and any other con-men he met along the way.

Norfleet himself was transformed by his quest, which awoke in him a kind of inner showman and bunco artist. He delighted in showing off for the press and for audiences, spinning yarns as adeptly as the con artists he hunted. In order to get cooperation from government prosecutors and lawmen, he had to flimflam them, too, convincing them with carefully scripted cons of his own. Reading places Norfleet's con within the wider context of the con-artists who ruled America and the shifting American attitude towards wagering and speculating, showing how the whole nation was moving itself from a republican thriftiness to a nation that mythologized plungers and get-rich-quickmen who made a fortune by dicing with dollars in markets and at the faro tables.

I've read dozens of books about and by con artists (the bunco boom had its own publishing wing, and every fast talker who lived long enough seems to have penned a memoir after the fashion of The Yellow Kid Weil). Read the rest

Don't waste your money on alternative flu remedies

What's one of the things Time magazine says you should never waste your money on ever again? Alternative flu remedies—from homeopathic to herbal, there's no evidence that they actually produce results. The one exception: Homemade chicken soup. (Follow that link for a research paper that includes a recipe.) Read the rest

Probiotics and "Science by Product Release"

When heavy publicity turns early scientific findings into massive public debacles—see: Life, arsenic—we spend a lot of time talking about the problems inherent in doing science by press release. Essentially, an early finding might be pretty damn intriguing. But an early finding doesn't mean much until it's been picked apart by other scientists, and held up to criticism and verification. The process of science is glacially slow, while the news cycle moves like a waterfall.

But there's another place in public life where the speed of good science conflicts with outside demands. Namely: The food industry. Over at Slate, Amanda Schaffer has a really interesting article about how food companies (Big Food and crunchy hippie mom n' pops, alike) have taken incomplete, relatively new research on probiotics and turned it into absolute (and frequently overblown) statements about functional foods.

There's certainly a scientific basis for humankind's relationship with symbiotic bacteria, and there's also research suggesting that you can ingest these bacteria and benefit from it. But there is still a lot we don't know, and the benefits are usually smaller than you've been led to believe.

What about the immune system? Good bacteria may tweak the balance of immune cells or cause more cells to become activated, at least temporarily. In theory, this might help to fend off disease. Of course, "most people aren't as interested in, for example, how activated their macrophages might be as they are in keeping from getting sick," as Mary Ellen Sanders, a probiotics consultant who runs the company Dairy and Food Culture Technologies, puts it.

Read the rest

Bachmann's husband operates a "pray the gay away" psuedo-science clinic

In case you're curious about what happens during pseudo-scientific, inherently bigoted treatments to make gay people be straight, ABC news and Truth Wins Out have been investigating the clinic owned and operated by Michelle Bachmann's husband. Read the rest

Airline security still isn't: Man uses old boarding passes to fly NY-LA for free

Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, a Nigerian-American man, managed to bypass all layers of airport security and avoid arrest for five days after Virgin America and authorities learned that he'd flown from New York to Los Angeles as a stowaway. It all started when some of his nearby passengers on the Virgin America flight complained that he was emanating powerful B.O. From the Los Angeles Times:

A flight attendant asked Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi for his boarding pass and was surprised to see it was from a different fight and in someone else's name. She alerted authorities, and Noibi went back to sleep in his black leather airline seat. When the plane landed, authorities chose not to arrest Noibi, allowing him to leave the airport.

On Wednesday, Noibi was arrested trying to board a Delta flight out of Los Angeles. Once again, he had managed to pass undetected through security with an expired ticket issued in someone else's name. Authorities found at least 10 other boarding passes, none of which belonged to him. Law enforcement sources told The Times they suspect Noibi has used expired plane tickets to sneak on to flights in the past. On his website, Noibi describes himself as a "frequent traveler."

(...) Noibi, also known as Seun Noibi, proclaims himself a "storyteller, strategist and designer who is passionate about reaching the world for Jesus," according to his Facebook page. He was arrested in Chicago in 2008 after allegedly refusing to pay a $4.70 fare on a Metra train. Those charges were later dropped.

Read the rest

Audio: Blagojevich trying to sell Obama's senate seat

Blago Audio: Barack Obama's senate seat is "a valuable thing - you don't just give it away for nothing." Read the rest

Taiwan: Blogger fined $7K, jailed for 30 days over negative noodle review

(Photo: a delicious plate of noodles in Toronto by John Elmslie, contributed to the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.)

A court in Taiwan this week ruled against a female food-blogger who said a local restaurant's beef noodles "were too salty," and that she'd seen cockroaches scurrying around in the restaurant. She gets 30 days in detention, two years of probation, and must pay 200,000 Taiwanese dollars (about $7K US dollars) in compensation to the restaurant. The court didn't argue she was lying about the bugs, but ruled that "Ms. Liu should not have criticized all the restaurant's food as too salty because she only had one dish on her single visit."

From the Taipei Times:

After visiting a Taichung beef noodle restaurant in July 2008, where she had dried noodles and side dishes, Liu wrote that the restaurant served food that was too salty, the place was unsanitary because there were cockroaches and that the owner was a "bully" because he let customers park their cars haphazardly, leading to traffic jams.

The restaurant owner, who sounds like a total dick (I can say this because I'm not in Taiwan!), said "he hoped the case would teach her a lesson."

Read the rest

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