John Kelly boasts about firing Rex Tillerson while he was on the toilet

Meet John Kelly, the White House's "adult in the room":

Reporters gathered at the White House on Friday were stunned when Chief of Staff John Kelly shared a very embarrassing story about outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Kelly recounted a very awkward conversation with Tillerson during which he informed the secretary that President Donald Trump would very likely soon fire him. ... Tillerson, Kelly told the room, was suffering from a stomach bug during a diplomatic swing through Africa, and was using a toilet when Kelly broke the news to him.

Sources were stunned that, even in an off-record setting, Kelly would say this—to a room filled with White House officials and political reporters—about Tillerson, who does not officially leave the State Department until the end of the month.

The idea that John Kelly is the "grown-up" is one of the saddest lies the press tells itself about Trump's White House. Kelly is a stone-faced moron in public and an adolescent boy in private, a Jessup-esque archetype of the military lifer made real. A perfect fit for Trump, not a foil. Read the rest

Ireland lost a musical giant this week

Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O'Flynn.

A player of the Uilleann pipes, O'Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn't until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O'Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy's Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We'd all be poorer for it. Plantxy's music left me with the impression, as a kid, that the tunes I played on the instruments I grew up with were cool. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. O'Flynn at a musical festival I was covering for a magazine back in the 1990s. He was pleasant and seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance. The encounter left me feeling giddy for days afterwards.

One of my favorite songs by Planxty, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, has a tune lashed on to the end of it called Tabhair dom do laimh, which roughly translates as Give Me Your Hand. O'Flynn's rendition of the tune has been one of my happy places for decades. Read the rest

Journalist charged with Criminal Harassment for attempting to set up an interview

Two of the largest parts of a journalist's job are waiting and making phone calls. When you're waiting, it's likely for someone to return a call. When you're making a phone call, it's likely to set up an interview, or interview someone over the phone, Skype or whatever.

Antoine Trépanier is a reporter for Radio-Canada: it's the French language farm of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. Think PBS, only Beyond the Wall. Recently Trépanier was covering a story about a manager from a high-profile NPO falsely representing herself as a lawyer. Just another day in the dry-as-a-popcorn-fart world of public broadcasting. He called this individual, Yvonne Dubé, the executive director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter in Gatineau, Quebec, to see if she'd be interested in sitting for an interview. She was down with the idea, or so it seemed. She cancelled the interview at the last moment. Trépanier emailed her, explaining that Radio Canada was going to run the story on his investigation. He wanted her to have the opportunity to comment on the allegations being leveled against her.

The next day, the Gatineau police dropped by to arrest Trépanier for criminal harassment.

According to the CBC, The Crown (our Queen-loving version of a district attorney) hasn't decided whether the charges will make it into court. The story of Trépanier's arrest touches on the topic of where the right of a journalist to contact a source ends and the rights of a source begin. It's an important issue: How much does the public's right to know about a topic that could effect their lives matter versus an individual's right to privacy? Read the rest

Terry Gilliam: women "knew what they were doing" with Harvey Weinstein

Looks like Terry Gilliam is one of those guys: “Harvey opened the door for a few people, a night with Harvey — that’s the price you pay.”

In a an interview with AFP on Friday, the filmmaker, a member of the comedy group Monty Python, specifically went after Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims, and said, “Harvey opened the door for a few people, a night with Harvey — that’s the price you pay.”

“It is a world of victims. I think some people did very well out of meeting with Harvey and others didn’t,” he added. “The ones who did, knew what they were doing. These are adults; we are talking about adults with a lot of ambition.” Gilliam also claimed that some of the women didn’t actually suffer, but used Weinstein to further their careers, and that he knew women who walked out of meetings with the mogul before getting sexually abused.

Has a Gilliam film ever had a woman lead? Hell, has one ever had a woman in it?

Photo: Vegafi (CC-BY-SA) Read the rest

Little kid works hard at jumping onto stool

This reminds of the saying that goes something like, "A mistake is when you fall. Failure is when you don't get back up." This little kid is the opposite of failure.

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Three teens get corporal punishment for participating in national school walkout

Greenbrier Public School in rural Arkansas didn't take too kindly to the national school walkout that took place on Tuesday to protest gun violence in response to last month's deadly Parkland shooting. In fact, when three students decided to go against the grain of their very conservative school and community and walk out, they were met with a tough choice: suspension or corporal punishment.

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The Kindle Oasis is stupid expensive and stupid lovely to use

I've mentioned it online before, but here we go: Two years ago, my wife and I decided to leave our rented home behind and move into a 40-foot RV. We spend our spring and summer in Alberta, Canada where she has a job for six months of the year working as an addictions counselor. The other half of the year, we head south to Mexico and beyond so that she can work as a dive Instructor.

This might be an excellent time to point out that my partner is far more interesting than I'll ever be.

We love this life, but it's not without its difficulties. We have all the repairs that come along with home ownership and owning a semi-truck, rolled into one. Our paychecks can sometimes take weeks to catch up to us, leaving us eating rice and beans. Again. But perhaps the worst thing about living in a motorhome, for us, is that we had to get rid of our book collection. Between us, we owned hundreds of books. We looked upon them as shelves of old friends who we could turn to, no matter what life brought us. But, sometimes, you have to leave old friends behind in order to grow. A motorhome can only carry so much weight, not to mention the limited amount of space that you'll find inside of one. We packed them up and took them to our favorite used bookstore where they'll, hopefully, find new homes.

When I'm not guest blogging here, part of my job is to review e-readers. Read the rest

James Bond poster for Thunderball expected to fetch $10k at auction

Take a gander at this huge poster from 1962 for Thunderball, starring Sean Connery as Agent 007 (in my book, Connery will always be the only 007, just as Shatner and Jeffrey Hunter will always be the only captains of any starship in the entire Star Trek franchise). The image in the upper right is definitely the work of paperback cover maestro Robert McGinnis. I'm not sure about the other three.

From Heritage Auctions:

One of the rarest James Bond movie posters ever made – a gigantic, advance British quad for Thunderball – may sell for $10,000 among a large collection of Bond-related paper and screen-used movie props in Heritage Auctions’ April 7-8 Movie Poster Auction. The sale offers almost every Bond quad poster produced up until today, said Grey Smith, Director of Posters at Heritage.

“Theater owners were actually instructed to cut the advance quads for Thunderball into four sections,” Smith said. “This makes the example in our auction one of only a small number of copies left uncut.”

Each measuring 30 inches by 40 inches, quad posters are produced exclusively for British theaters and moviegoers. In creating the quad from Dr. No (United Artists, 1962) – the very first James Bond movie – artist Mitchell Hooks and designer David Chasman capture actor Sean Connery’s debonair spy in mid-wink against a bright yellow background (est. $6,000-12,000).

A scarce, country-of-origin quad for From Russia with Love (United Artists, 1964) depicts what is arguably the best and most iconic image from the film thanks to artwork by Renato Fratini and Eric Pulford (est.

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Small wireless keyboard with built-in touchpad for $10

My daughter and I are building a portable device to play the 1981 RPG computer game, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. We're running it on a Raspberry Pi using a a DOS operating system emulator called DOSBox. Here's what we've got so far:

Next, we have to design a case using TinkerCad, and then print it out on our Prusa 3D printer.

I've been looking for a small wireless keyboard and it looks like the one shown in the above photo will fit the bill. It's on sale on Amazon for $10 if you use the promo code BQZZXVBB. It also has a trackpad, which is not needed for Wizardry but will come in handy when using the Raspberry Pi's GUI. Read the rest

Do the "Funky Robot" (1973)

The wonderful Rufus Thomas and friends do the "Funky Robot" on Black Omnibus, a short-lived 1973 TV interview/performance show hosted by James Earl Jones and featuring African-American artists and cultural figures.

(via Weird Universe)

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Replica of 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 powered by Amazon Alexa

Master Replicas Group will soon sell a limited edition Hal 9000 interface that integrates an Amazon Fire tablet and Echo. Sadly, Alexa doesn't sound anything like Douglas Rain.

Hal 9000 Replica (via Uncrate)

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Captain Kirk, Spock, and Uhura want you to stay off hard drugs

In 1973, the National Association Of Progressive Radio Announcers released "Get Off," a 1973 vinyl record featuring dozens of musicians delivering anti-hard drug warnings. Along with personal warnings from Grateful Dead, Alice Cooper, the Doobie Bros., BB King, Ravi Shankar, the Staple Singers, and Frank Zappa, the crew of the starship Enterprise visits a planet ravaged by hard drugs. Just say know.

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Washington State lawmaker thinks the courts will uphold state Net Neutrality law because the FCC abdicated its duty

Washington State was the first to pass a true Net Neutrality law that restored all the public protections the FCC withdrew when it killed Net Neutrality late last year; the move is symbolically awesome but legally fraught, seeking to redefine the line where the FCC's authority stops and the states' authorities start. Read the rest

Review: Lynx Sonoma smoker makes the perfect turkey

Every year we invite a bunch of friends over for Christmas dinner. We always have oven roasted turkey. But for 2017, I was given a loaner unit of the Lynx Sonoma Propane Gas Smoker, so I decided to smoke the turkey this time. The smoker sells for about $3200. It arrived on a truck. It's made of stainless steel and looks beautiful. It weighs 250 pounds, and wasn't easy to roll across the lawn because gophers have turned it into Swiss cheese. After I got the metal beast settled on the back porch, I opened the instruction manual.

The first step (after buying a tank of propane) was to download an app for my smartphone and connect it to the wifi radio in the smoker. This took a long time. The app needed the smoker's serial number. I couldn't find it. I had to call Lynx to find out where the PIN code on the smoker was. It turns out it's under a little drawer that contains the control panel. I had to get on my hands and knees and crane my neck to see the tiny numbers printed on a sticker, which doesn't peel off. I took a photo of the sticker and zoomed to see the numbers (note to Lynx - please move the sticker, or better yet, let people use the app without requiring a serial number). It also took several attempts to connect to the smoker, but once I got it, the app worked fine. The main purpose of the app is to let you see a temperature graph on your phone. Read the rest

No Man's Sky as a Commodore Amiga slideshow

No Man's Sky is a beautiful game of interstellar exploration: something about its epic psychedelic wonder stays with you even after you've internalized its procedural patterns. Blake Patterson wanted to see how well a classic Amiga 1000 would render some of its scenery. Granted, an Amiga isn't going to counting frames by the second, but it was the first machine to offer thousands of colors on-screen at once and its peculiar pallete trickery gives NMS an even weirder look.
Investigating a reasonable way to convert the images, I discovered a fairly amazing Java-based application known, colorfully, as “ham_converter” which uses extremely optimized algorithms to get the most out of the Amiga’s bizarre HAM mode. The results, rendered in a 320×400 pixel interlace (and a 4:3 aspect ratio), are well beyond the quality that I recall seeing my Amiga 2000 generate with early, basic HAM converter programs, rendering MCGA images to the screen in HAM mode back in the early ’90s. In fact, they are so good that their shockingly high quality takes a bit of the “retro” out of this post; the images look a little too good! And, just to let you know this wasn’t just a click-and-drag process, the systems involved in the conversion were: a gaming PC [specs] able to run the Java app, an iMac [specs] not able to run the Java app (apparently) but also running an FTP server, an accelerated Amiga 2000 [specs] with a LAN connection and a floppy drive (and an FTP client), and the Amiga 1000 [specs] with a floppy drive, SCSI hard drives, and no LAN connection.
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This startup promises to preserve your brain for uploading, after they kill you

“What if we told you we could back up your mind?” asks start-up Netcome. According to MIT grad and co-founder Robert McIntyre, he has state-of-the-art technology to preserve your brain in a near-perfect state for scanning in the future once that technology is invented. Thing is, they have to start the preservation process while you're still alive. They're pitching the company at Y-Combinator's "demo daysnext week. Already 25 people have signed up on the waiting list. From Antonio Regalado's feature in Technology Review:

The brain storage business is not new. In Arizona, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation holds more than 150 bodies and heads in liquid nitrogen, including those of baseball great Ted Williams. But there’s dispute over whether such cryonic techniques damage the brain, perhaps beyond repair.

So starting several years ago, McIntyre, then working with cryobiologist Greg Fahy at a company named 21st Century Medicine, developed a different method, which combines embalming with cryonics. It proved effective at preserving an entire brain to the nanometer level, including the connectome—the web of synapses that connect neurons.

A connectome map could be the basis for re-creating a particular person’s consciousness, believes Ken Hayworth, a neuroscientist who is president of the Brain Preservation Foundation—the organization that, on March 13, recognized McIntyre and Fahy’s work with the prize for preserving the pig brain.

There’s no expectation here that the preserved tissue can be actually brought back to life, as is the hope with Alcor-style cryonics. Instead, the idea is to retrieve information that’s present in the brain’s anatomical layout and molecular details.

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The final trailer for Avengers: Infinity War is upon us

Looks great, but honestly it could use more Hawkguy. Read the rest

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