Stephen Hawking has died. The famed physicist was 76.

“It just seemed that cosmology was more exciting, because it really did seem to involve the big question: Where did the universe come from?” — Stephen Hawking, 8 January 1942 - 14 March 2018

British physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. He was known for his groundbreaking work with black holes and relativity. Read the rest

Puppy dies on flight after United Airlines forces owner to stuff it in overhead bin

A puppy died on a United Airlines flight Monday after "an attendant forced the animal’s owner to put the pet in the cabin’s overhead bin." Read the rest

The Kids in the Hall: An Oral History

The Kids in the Hall are Canada's greatest national export. Read the rest

"Buy Local" food labels are often nothing but bullshit

Buying products that are locally grown or made in your community is a great way to bolster your local economy and support small businesses in your community. Unfortunately being able to tell which products actually come from near the area where you live can be next to impossible, thanks to lax regulation and bullshit on the part of international conglomerates.

According to USA Today (disclaimer: I occasionally write for their tech site, Reviewed.com), many of the state branding programs put in place to inform consumers of where the the food that they're buying comes from don't mean a damn thing. This is because many of the food branding programs currently in place allow for up to half of the ingredients in a product to come from out of state.

Over the past four months, USA Today had reporters in their network hunt down the laws and regulations surrounding how locally-sourced products are presented for sale. Of the 45 states that rock these branding programs, 18 of them set no minimum requirement for how much locally-grown content needs to be in a product to earn a state brand. Worse still, 36 of the 45 states have no annual inspection process to be able to vet whether companies are actually using locally sourced ingredients in their products. And even if they were to get caught for lying about what's in the junk they make, 40 of the states with local source branding programs have no penalties for mislabeled products. So, a company could falsely claim to be making cookies in your basement and they wouldn't face any consequences for doing so. Read the rest

The issue of sex doll use is blowing up in Zambia

Loneliness. Fear of catching HIV. Kink. No matter the reason for why someone might want to hump a sex doll, the Zambian government is against it. In fact, Zambia's politicians are so horny to put a stop to the import and use of such sex toys that it's become a top shelf political issue.

Zambia's government has always taken a hard line against anything that rubs up against their conservative christian sensibilities. Homosexuality, for example, is punishable with up to 14 years in prison. Law enforcement in the African nation is quick to clamp down on anyone who might dare to step over the line of its ethical norms. As such, you won't find any shops selling sex toys, at least not out in the open. Most of the hardware designed to turn reproductive bits into an amusement park have to be bought online before being discreetly imported into the country.

The logic for keeping adult toys and plastic pleasure partners out of the nation comes from the Bible, according to Godfridah Sumaili. She's Zambia's head of its recently created, totally-not-something-out-of-an-Orwell-novel Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs:

"Being a Christian nation, obviously we are anchored in Christian principles and one of the values is morality and ethics... The use of sex dolls is definitely in contradiction to our natural heritage and our principles. The law actually forbids anybody to trade (in) and to use such objects -- and so this is why we are saying for Zambians that this is a very unnatural thing."

It's always great to see a nation using religious dogma to control how its citizens pleasure themselves or who they love to keep them scared and in line. Read the rest

Over Charles Manson's dead body: grandson to cremate cult leader's remains

I wouldn't feed Charles Manson's corpse to my dog, let alone fight over it. Not everyone's of the same mind: after a whole lotta legal jibba-jabba, the courts have finally decided on who gets possession of his remains. According to Jezebel, Manson's grandson, Jason Freeman, has won the dead cult-leader lottery, having been awarded the right to take possession of his murderous progenitor's remains:

Manson died on November 19th after more than 40 years behind bars, but in all that time it was never agreed upon who would win the rights to his corpse once he finally kicked the bucket. If you thought he’d be quietly cremated and deposited in a dumpster behind a seafood restaurant like he probably deserved, well, you were wrong. It turns out an entire gaggle of people were after the cult leader’s ice-packed remains, including Freeman, longtime pen pal Michael Channels, a musician named Matt Lentz who claims to be his son, and another dude named Michael Brunner who also claims to be his son.

Read the rest

Amazing Tales: a storytelling game with dice for kids and grownups

Tim Harford (previously) turned me on to Martin Lloyd's Amazing Tales, a storytelling RPG designed to be played between a grownup games-master and one or more kids. Read the rest

Don't miss one of the coolest real time experiences: The 49 Boxes

I wrote about The 49 Boxes in 2015, describing it as a magical participatory experience that combines art, puzzles, story, music — and so much more. Actor and magician Neil Patrick Harris recently experienced it and said, “The 49 Boxes blew my mind. And that’s not easy to do.”

Michael Borys, the creator says, "The 49 Boxes is a social, story-driven experience where audiences interact with incredible artifacts to solve mysteries that have been kept secret for more than half a century. This isn't an experience that happens around you… it happens because of you."

If you're near Los Angeles on March 24 or 31, I highly recommend that you get tickets. It will be held at the Black Rabbit Rose in downtown Los Angeles.

Here's what I wrote after I experienced The 49 Boxes for the first time (when it was at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California):

A very, very long table in the front of the room was laden with beautiful, antique boxes. Each box was tagged from the Riverside Historical Museum. At the very center of the collection was a single, large box covered in locks. Quickly, the room began to fill, and soon 75 or so relative strangers were seated. We were told the beginning of a story that took place at the hotel over the course of half a century. The participants could only learn the rest by working together with what they found in the boxes.

Every tagged box is an individual work of art and its contents are no less precious. Read the rest

Peek inside Casa do Penedo, a house made of four huge boulders

Built in the early 1970s and currently nestled among a Portuguese wind farm, Casa do Penedo is a residence-turned museum. It would be cool to see how this was constructed! Read the rest

Mister Rogers' Drunk History

It's been 50 years since Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered on television. Now you can learn the story of Fred McFeely Rogers (played in this episode by Colin Hanks) from comedian Solomon Georgio as he relays it to host Derek Waters -- completely sauced-- in the latest episode of Drunk History.

And, if you've never seen the real footage from 1969 of Mr. Rogers pleading to the Senate for more funding for his then one-year-old television, I recommend that you do:

Gives me goosebumps every time.

Also: There's going to be a Mister Rogers documentary in 2018 Read the rest

Jeff Goldblum Jeff Goldblums a special Jeff Goldblum meal for you

Jeff Goldblum admits that he can't cook. But that won't keep Jeff Goldblum from cooking. In this video Jeff Goldblum Jeff Goldblums the shit out of a pot of soup. Product plugs abound, but hey: Jeff Goldblum.

It's not as good as Cooking with Chrisopher Walken, but I'll take it. Read the rest

Let me tell you a story about Herman Wallace, who spent 41 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit

I read a lot. It's part of my job as a writer. Sadly, most of what I read these days is kind of terrible. We do awful things to one another. We've been doing it for a long time. Here's something terrible that I learned today.

In 1972, Herman Wallace was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary doing a stretch for armed robbery. While he was inside, one of the prison's guards was murdered. Wallace and two other black men--Robert King and Albert Woodfox--were convicted for the murder.

There was just one problem: they weren't guilty.

To say that Wallace, King and Woodfox, known members of the militant Black Panther Party, were unpopular with the penitentiary's staff was an understatement. Back then the trio insisted that the crime was being hung on them because of the color of their skin and their political beliefs. Their declaration of innocence wasn't enough to save them from being punished for the guard's murder. The trio was declared guilty. Wallace spent the next 41 years of his life in solitary confinement.

In 2013, a United States Federal Court Judge overturned Wallace's sentence, stating in no uncertain terms that Wallace's trial had been "unconstitutional" and ordered his immediate release. The Department of Corrections complied with the order.

A few days later, Wallace died of liver cancer. The only moments of freedom he had known in over four decades were also his last. King and Woodfox were a little more lucky--both managed to stay alive for more than a few days after leaving prison. Read the rest

Popular tattoos 5,000 years ago were sheep

The art of tattoing is really, really old, according to a new study of some Egyptian mummified bodies that date back to around 3,000 B.C.E.

The mummies -- accidental ones, people whose bodies were buried in sand that nicely prevented rot -- have been in the British Museum for a long time, but only recently have their tattoos come under scholarly examination.

It turns out that the hot tattoo for women back then was a curious "S" shape, while for men it was ... a sheep.

Sheep? As Atlas Obscura explains:

While a sheep might not seem particularly fierce, bagging a barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) with just a bow and arrow—or more likely trapping one, considering the speed and precipice climbing abilities of the animals—was the ultimate in ancient Egyptian big game hunting. The bull is a more obvious symbol of power, and one that would later serve as an important icon of royal authority in Egypt. The woman has two tattoos on her upper right arm and shoulder: a vertical line with angled top (possibly a short staff or throwstick) and a series of S-shapes. Taken alone, this new evidence for tattooing arts in early Egypt is interesting, but within the larger context of Egyptian art from between 3500 and 3100 B.C., it is remarkable. [snip]

No group had to hunt a barbary sheep or a hippopotamus to survive—but a successful capture or kill of such an animal revealed exceptional hunting skills. Perhaps it is these skills that the man in the British Museum sought to immortalize through the combination of an animal of power—the bull—and an animal whose capture symbolized hunting prowess—the barbary sheep.

Read the rest

Candy shop owner makes 'misfit chocolates' with broken Easter candy

Easter is a busy time for chocolatier Andy Karandzieff (aka "Andy Candy"). He expects to sell over 10K chocolate bunnies this month at his candy shop, a St. Louis institution since 1913.

However, when one of his hand-poured chocolates breaks coming out of its mold, the Crown Candy Kitchen owner doesn't toss it or re-melt the chocolate. He instead takes the broken pieces and starts franken-ing them together, forming "misfit chocolates."

He told KSDK, "You can start getting creative and you get these oddball, misfit things that come out of my demented imagination sometimes."

I wish his shop was closer to me, so I could buy some of his mutant mashups to gift. Easter is on April Fools Day this year, after all (not that I need an excuse). Read the rest

The David Starsky Gran Torino vs them Dukes' 'General Lee'

Vicki from Fifth Gear throws both these massive, monstrous automobiles around the track.

One was a show about a handsome Jewish cop and his blonde Steve McQueen-lookin' sidekick, the other some hillbilly moonshiners in a corrupt southern town. Both starred the cars.

As a kid I guess I always assumed these cars were fast and well handling. This video shows what lumbering, terrible beasts they were. "Diabolical!"

Flash was the best part of The Dukes of Hazzard.

Read the rest

Man builds full kitchen in back of tiny electric car

This man made a functional kitchen -- complete with cabinetry, stove, sink, running water, and refrigerator -- in the back of his little electric car. "I learned that making a car kitchen is hard if you want it to actually look like a real kitchen," he says. The best part is that the entire kitchen is easily removed from the car. Read the rest

Up to 500 people may have been exposed to poison that killed Russian spy and daughter

Last week a retired Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned by novichok, a nerve agent, in Salisbury, England. Officials are concerned that anyone who visited the restaurant or pub the man and his daughter went to that day are at risk of being poisoned themselves. Traces of novichok, which is similar to the poison used in the double assassination, were found at both places.

The Russian scientist who developed novichok says anyone exposed to minuscule traces of it could be affected by it, even years later.

From Sky News:

Dr Vil Mirzayanov is a chemist who ran the technical counter-intelligence department in Russia's chemical weapons institute.

...

More than two decades ago, Dr Mirzayanov became so concerned about novichok that he blew the whistle and fled to America, where he campaigned to get all chemical weapons banned.

He spoke to Sky News at his home in Princeton in New Jersey.

He said: "It's the same as nerve gas but 10 times, at least 10 times, more powerful."

The scientist emphasised that Novichok was designed to do "irreparable" damage to the human body.

He said it would leave those exposed to significant doses, like Mr Skripal and his daughter, as "invalids" who would need medical assistance for the rest of their lives.

Image: Members of the hazardous materials entry team, wearing chemical protective suits, enter building 836 to sample for nerve agents on Maxwell Air Force Base during a nerve-agent exercise Jan 17. (U.S. Air Force photograph by Donna L. Read the rest

More posts