Perfectly-sized wool socks that ripen avocados in 24 hours

Today I learned that if you can put an avocado in a wool sock, it will ripen faster. I also learned that there's a company that makes special avocado-sized wool socks for just this purpose.

Simply insert an un-ripened avocado into the sock, and in as little as 24 hours, it will be ready to enjoy.

The natural lanolin and warmth of the wool ripens the avocados evenly and gently, and faster than a paper bag.

I'm reminded of this:

Avocado socks are $20 each.

1st image via The Avocado Sock, 2nd image via reddit

Thanks, Laura!

New webseries by daily trivia newsletter 'Now I Know'

Dan Lewis' wildly-popular daily trivia Now I Know newsletter is expanding its presence to YouTube. Yup, he's bringing us a Now I Know webseries.

Dan himself is not an "on-air" kind of guy, so he brought on Matt Silverman to star in the videos.

I’ve written more than 1,000 surprising, strange, and interesting stories over the years and I’m always looking for other ways to spread the fun. Like the two books and even one of those fact-a-day calendar things. But video? That’s been a struggle. I’m not a video producer and in any case, it takes a ton of time to publish the email newsletter. So I can’t do this myself. I’ve talked to a lot of promising collaborators over the years, but those would-be channels all fizzled.

Except for this one -- if you help out. Here's a video about the channel, and you'll see that it isn't me hosting. That's Matt Silverman, a friend of mine who makes awesome videos on the Internet.

Now you know.

You can back this project:

Focus in on a photography career with this online course

Ever wondered what it takes to make the transition from amateur photography to a full career? If you answered "a better camera," you're half right. Before you get the equipment, get the know-how to use it with the Hollywood Art Institute Photography Course & Certification.

Taught by experienced pros, this course is geared towards shutterbugs of any level of experience. On your first day, you'll learn simple techniques that will get you taking better photos right away. You'll then explore every aspect of photography, from picking the right gear to framing to the perfect shot in a variety of conditions. You can even gain feedback on your pictures from Level 3-certified Pro Tutors on your way to professional certification.

The 22-module, 54-hour course comes with a free 5 years of access to HAI's Pro Article Database, and it's on sale now for a substantial discount off the regular price. Get started on the Hollywood Art Institute Photography Course & Certification for $19 today.

Sole and Despotic Dominion: my story about the future of private property for Reason

Reason's December issue celebrates the magazine's 50th anniversary with a series of commissioned pieces on the past and future of the magazine's subjects: freedom, markets, property rights, privacy and similar matters: I contributed a short story to the issue called Sole and Despotic Dominion, which takes the form of a support chat between a dishwasher owner and its manufacturer's rep, who has the unhappy job of describing why the dishwasher won't accept his dishes.

Classic film streaming service FilmStruck rises from the dead...sort of

When it was announced last month that FilmStruck, a streaming service dedicated to dishing up the greatest films of all time, would be shut down at the end of November, movie geeks, like yours truly, kind of lost their shit. Home to an unholy number of classic and arthouse flicks, it was a brainy, beautiful refuge from the fare offered up by Netflix, Hulu and other mainstream streaming services. A cry went out. A petition to save FilmStruck was thrown together. Thousands signed. Celebrities lent their voices to the cause.

Holy crap: someone actually listened.

While FilmStruck is still toast, the folks that own the Criterion Collection--a company that focuses on historically important classic films--is launching the next best thing: The Criterion Channel

From The Criterion Collection:

The Criterion Collection and WarnerMedia announced today a new chapter for the beloved collection of Criterion films. In the Spring of 2019, through a special arrangement with WarnerMedia, the Criterion Channel will launch as a free-standing streaming service. Additionally, the popular library of films will be part of WarnerMedia’s recently announced direct-to-consumer platform that is planned to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019. Today’s announcement ensures that fans will have access to these films from the Criterion Collection as well as films from WarnerMedia’s deep and extensive library in what will be a rich and curated experience, which will further expand the audience footprint for these classic and acclaimed movies.

If this is your bag, you'll be happy to know that if you sign up now, you'll be given a deal as one of the service's charter subscribers: access to everything that the Criterion Channel has to offer for $9.99 a month or $89.99 for a year. That's a buck off of their regular monthly fee and 10 bucks down from what you'd normally pay for an annual subscription.

America's big box stores sucked up corporate welfare and killed Main Street -- now they're ducking property tax

For a generation, big box stores have swept across America, using predatory pricing and other dirty tricks to kill the independent retail sector; they used their corporate lobbying muscle to tempt cities and towns into handing out massive corporate welfare checks to lure them to town, and now, with the help of hustling contingency lawyers, they are promulgating a property-tax scam called "the dark store theory" that is cutting their taxes in half or more, with further reductions every year, and no end in sight.

Kentucky Kroger shooting suspect to face hate crime charges

On October 24, Gregory Bush was said to have opened fire at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky on 69-year-old Maurice Stallard, shooting him in the back of the head. 67-year-old Vickie Lee Jones? She was shot by Bush as well. Both victims were black. According to NPR, it was announced this week that the racist shit stain has been justly indicted on hate crimes and fire arms charges by a federal grand jury.

From NPR:

The 51-year-old is charged with "shooting and killing two victims because of their race and color; and for shooting at a third man because of his race and color," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman in the Western District of Kentucky.

Minutes before the ambush Bush was also captured on surveillance video trying to enter the First Baptist Church — a predominantly African-American congregation — during a service but locked doors prevented him from entering.

So, in addition to being a bigot, Bush was also a coward: he decided to take out his hate on a group of unsuspecting congregants who'd come together to worship their God. Locked doors? Better go and shoot an old man in the back of the head and an unsuspecting, unarmed woman as she walks across a parking lot. But, you know, not a white dude, because "whites don't shoot whites."

I'm so sick of reading and writing about this sort of shit. Justice cannot come swiftly enough.

Image: by Blogtrepreneur - Legal Gavel, CC BY 2.0, Link

San Francisco Uber driver distributing filter masks to passengers

At times this week, wildfires made San Francisco's air the worst in the world, and the city's stores have largely sold out of the N95 filter masks that make the air barely breathable, leading to at least one enterprising Uber driver selling the masks out of his car (at a substantial markup: $5 each, compared with $1.30 each on Amazon in ten-packs); other drivers are giving the masks away for free. (via /.)

Amazon's NYC digs being built on land that would have been used for low-income housing

Amazon is already known for providing dangerous working conditions, anti-union activities and treating their blue collar workforce like a disposable commodity. Since they're already screwing folks at work, it must have seemed like a natural progression to screw them at home too.

From Politico:

Amazon’s plans to expand into Long Island City may cost Mayor Bill de Blasio — and New York City — approximately 1,500 units of affordable housing.

Two sites that will house the future offices of the e-commerce giant were originally intended for residential development, before Amazon chose them in a nationwide contest for its new headquarters.

Most — if not all — of that intended housing is now off the table.

According to Politico, the 14.7 acres of land Amazon's plopping out of their grossly subsidized new headquarters complex in Long Island City is owned by a company called Plaxall. Before Amazon came along, Plaxall was gearing up to ask New York City administrators for permission to build close to 5,000 new homes on their property. 1,250 of these homes would have been earmarked for use by low and middle-income earning families. In addition to this, Amazon's NYC complex is also eating up turf from a second company, TF Cornerstone: they were ready to build a complex that would contain 250 low-income housing units on the dirt where Amazon is building their new HQ. That's not going to happen anymore, either.

Greed is nothing, if not consistent.

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Oxford Dictionaries' crowns 'toxic' as its 2018 word of the year

Collins Dictionary named "single-use" as their 2018 word of the year and now Oxford Dictionaries' has dubbed "toxic" as theirs. They report that the word was looked up 45% more times on their site over the last year, having "been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses."

Drawn from our corpus, the top 10 toxic collocates for the year – that is, words habitually used alongside toxic – are indicative of this.

Top 10 ‘toxic’ collocates in 2018 by absolute frequency

Chemical Masculinity Substance Gas Environment Relationship Culture Waste Algae Air

"Toxic" beat out the Oxford's shortlist of "Big Dick Energy (BDE)," "Cakeism," "Gammon," "Gaslighting," "Incel," "Orbiting," "Overtourism," and "Techlash."

photos by Shalaco ("clear San Francisco" was taken last week and "toxic San Francisco" was taken this week -- Ouch!)

(NPR)

These U.S. senators are (on) crackers

My 14-year-old pointed me to the cool work of artist Christian Faur. I see Mark featured his crayon portrait pieces on Boing Boing in the past but not pieces using his more recent medium of soda crackers!

Prior to the midterm elections, he laser-etched all the (then-current) U.S. senators on crackers (Is the medium the message?):

View this post on Instagram

Having fun with stop motion and our U.S. #senators. 73 days until #election2018

A post shared by Christian Faur (@christianjfaur) on Aug 25, 2018 at 7:37am PDT

View this post on Instagram

100 #saltine #crackers with laser etched portraits of each 2018 U.S. #senators.

A post shared by Christian Faur (@christianjfaur) on Feb 19, 2018 at 4:45am PST

Thanks, SJ!

Learning piano is as easy as ABC (DEFG) with this new approach

Anyone can learn piano, but don't tell that to the bored kids who had to endure hours of "Chopsticks" and similar drills in their music lessons. Today, there's a better way. Pianoforall lets you jump right in to discover what makes music fun, leaving you eager to learn more.

In a simple but innovative approach, Pianoforall starts off by teaching you to play hits by the likes of Billy Joel and Norah Jones, but it doesn't skimp on the fundamentals. Piano guru Robin Hall shows how these songs express the music theory fundamentals you'll need to tackle more complex arrangements. In no time, you'll be playing rock, blues, jazz, and classics, learning advanced techniques like arpeggios and chromatic scales along the way. You'll also be able to read music and play by ear, all essential components that will allow you to compose your own songs.

It's all contained in 10 hours of online courses and eBooks, accessible on a lifetime basis. Pick up Pianoforall: The New Way To Learn Piano & Keyboard for a discount price of $10.99 today.

GPU-accelerated dismemberment demo: 10,000 zombies in a giant blender

Brilliant Game Studios follows up on their 2016 video that showed off a crowd-renderer by pitting 11,000 penguins against 4,000 Santas with a new video demoing "our new GPU accelerated dismemberment and procedural wounding system. Limbs can be cut off on a massive scale. Wound from getting hit appear as deep gouges which warp their mesh." I'm really glad that we're using GPUs to do sensible things again, rather than computing virtual Beanie Babies. (via JWZ)

Sealing up wounds with a laser beam

OK, it's not quite Dr. Crusher's dermal regenerator (seen above), but Arizona State University researchers have demonstrated a laser system for sealing wounds. The system involves a sealing paste -- made from silk protein mixed with gold nanorods -- that bonds with skin when heated with a laser. From IEEE Spectrum:

To use a laser to seal skin, one must focus the heat of the light using some sort of photoconverter. (Chemical engineer Caushal) Rege’s lab opted for gold nanorods and embedded them in a silk protein matrix purified from silkworm cocoons. A silk protein called fibroin binds to collagen, the structural protein that holds together human skin cells. When near-infrared light hits the gold nanorods, they produce heat and activate the silk and skin to create bonds, forming a sturdy seal...

They are currently watching how the laser-activated seals hold up in living rats. If that goes well, they’ll move to pigs, and perhaps eventually, humans.

Direct from the Uncanny Valley: Affetto, the freaky child android head

This is the new version of Affetto, the robot child head that's a testbed for synthetic facial expressions. According to the Osaka University researchers who birthed Affeto, their goal is to "offer a path for androids to express greater ranges of emotion, and ultimately have deeper interaction with humans." From Osaka University:

The researchers investigated 116 different facial points on Affetto to measure its three-dimensional movement. Facial points were underpinned by so-called deformation units. Each unit comprises a set of mechanisms that create a distinctive facial contortion, such as lowering or raising of part of a lip or eyelid. Measurements from these were then subjected to a mathematical model to quantify their surface motion patterns.

While the researchers encountered challenges in balancing the applied force and in adjusting the synthetic skin, they were able to employ their system to adjust the deformation units for precise control of Affetto’s facial surface motions.

“Android robot faces have persisted in being a black box problem: they have been implemented but have only been judged in vague and general terms,” study first author Hisashi Ishihara says. “Our precise findings will let us effectively control android facial movements to introduce more nuanced expressions, such as smiling and frowning.”

Listen to Tiny Tim's unreleased cover of "House of the Rising Sun"

In 1994, pop artist, songwriter, and filmmaker Martin Sharp produced a covers album for legendary singer/ukulele maestro Tiny Tim. The album, "Tiny Tim's Pop Album," was never officially released but it's really quite something. Below, from those recording sessions, is Tim's take on the traditional folk tune "The House of the Rising Sun."

"Tim's appropriation of song is very much like my appropriation of images," Sharp said. "We are both collagists taking the elements of different epochs and mixing them to discover new relationships."

(via /r/ObscureMedia)

Shaming Ocasio-Cortez for her clothes is a classic ruse to deflect attention from real issues

The right-wing disinfotainment machine is making a big push to shame New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for not dressing in rags as befits a person of modest means. The purpose of the smear campaign is to take attention away from the issues Ocasio-Cortez is dedicated to: Medicare for everyone, ending the student debt catastrophe, justice reform, ending global warming.

By relentlessly pumping out tweets and stories about what she wears, the coordinated propagandists get to control the topic of the conversation so that even the people who know it's bullshit get sucked in and join the debate. (Yes, I know I'm guilty just by writing this post.)

I’m reading Scott Adams’ new book, Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter, and he goes into detail how Trump and his friends at Fox and Breitbart use the same trick all the time. “Master Persuaders,” he writes, "move your energy to the topics that help them, independent of facts and reason."

Fortunately, Ocasio-Cortez's comebacks on Twitter are awesome, and seemed to have shut up some of the propagandists. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Image: By Corey Torpie, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Scotty of Strange Parts takes a tour of Akihabara, Tokyo's geek culture headquarters

Akihabara got its reputation for being Tokyo's "Electric City" -- both for its consumer electronics as well as for its electronics components stalls. In more recent years, it's become more well-known for anime, manga, claw machines, game arcades, capsule toy shops, maid cafes, unusual vending machines, and vintage video game gear stores. Scotty of Strange Parts took a tour of Akihabara with Only in Japan's John Daub.

My daughter and I love Akihabara. Here's a few photos and a video from our last visit:

Here's the new $25 Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+

The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a new model in its line of very inexpensive Linux computers: the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+. It has many of the same features as the top-of-the-line 3B+ (including a 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core processor, dual-band wireless LAN, and Bluetooth 4.2/BLE), the main exceptions being 512MB of RAM instead of 1GB, and one USB port as opposed to four. At $25, it looks like a very cool single board computer. ETA Prime has a good informational video about it.

New iPad Pro bend test

The new iPad Pro looks pretty cool (I'd buy one if it also ran OS X). But how durable is it? Jerry of Jerry Rig everything puts it (and the Apple Pencil) to his classic durability test by scratching, burning, and bending the gear. The iPad Pro fails the bend test. Jerry said it "folds like a piece of paper."

Most of the fun of Jerry's durability tests is seeing new Apple products pulled from the box and systematically destroyed, like a scene from a J.G. Ballard story.

MAGA Blocks are the perfect holiday gift for xenophobes-in-training

After you've ordered your Trumpy Bear, be sure to pick up the Build the Wall set of MAGA Blocks. This 101-piece block set will have your kids turning away desperate refugees in no time. Comes with a President Trump mini-figure wearing a MAGA hard hat!

This fun for the whole family comes from the folks at KeepAndBear.com, which offers a staggering array of unlicensed Trump garbage including CNN toilet paper and Trump Sends Hillary to Prison action figures.

Sigh.

(via KeepandBear)

What's new in tabletop gaming (November edition)

Here are some recent game releases of note and some of what I've been up to in hobby gaming over the past month or so.

Strontium Dog Warlord Games, $63, 2-4 players, Ages: 12+ In this skirmish game from Warlord, you play the mutant search and destroy agents, the Strontium Dogs, from the pages of the venerable UK comic magazine, 2000 AD. Designed by the masterful Andy Chambers (Warhammer 40K, Battlefleet Gothic, Blood Red Skies), the game pits the Dogs and their mutant, pirate, and renegade bounty against each other as the two forces duke it out across the galaxy. The very well put-together two-player starter set includes a 122-page rule book, a scenario book, 8 metal miniatures, dice, cards, and other components. The set even includes some cool laser-cut MDF terrain. I love when games include terrain, but you don't often see it and rarely in a game that's not well over $100. Here's a video of Andy Chambers himself describing Strontium Dog.

Terrain Crate Mantic Games, Prices Vary After a very successful Kickstarter campaign (which I backed), Mantic has now released a broad range of affordable fantasy and sci-fi terrain pieces under the Terrain Crate name. Each crate is themed (Dungeon, Battle Field, Dark Lord's Tower, Starship Scenery, Industrial Zone) and includes a generous amount of highly-detailed plastic scenery. The pieces are designed to be used as-is and they also paint up like a charm. I love playing RPGs and tabletop games with lots of evocative scenery and terrain, so I have always wanted a terrain collection this extensive, this affordable, and this well done.

Lost Expedition: The Fountain of Youth (& Other Adventures) Osprey Games, $12, 1-6 players, Ages: 14+ Lost Expedition was one of my favorite games of 2017. It's quick and easy to get into and everyone I've played it with is as excited by it as I am. It has gorgeous artwork reminiscent of Hergé's Tintin, and through a very simple cooperative card game, you are quickly immersed in a white-knuckled fight for survival that will leave you batting away imaginary mosquitoes and army ants and wiping sweat from the pith helmet that you're not actually wearing. I was thrilled to hear that Osprey was releasing an expansion and I was not disappointed when I finally got hold of it. This handsome boxed set of cards includes a new (and treacherous) mountain path to the lost city, new companions and guides you can hire to join your expedition, a were-beast that haunts the jungle, and a set of Fountain of Youth (gone horribly wrong) cards that you can shuffle into your Adventure deck to make things more interesting. And dangerous. You can add as many of these expansion decks as you like to your play deck. They add new levels of difficulty and new challenges to the game. You thought your expedition team died a lot in Lost Expedition. Just shuffle some of these nasties into your deck and see how long you last.

Gaslands: Time Extended Gaslands continues to be my favorite …read the rest

Instagram "influencers" phished and accounts stolen

Instagram influencers are easy marks for phishers: they are unlikely to be security-savvy, are easily taken-in by marketing patter, have huge easily-grifted audiences, and Instagram won't even give them their accounts back afterward. Taylor Lorenz:

For young influencers with no direct contacts at Instagram or Facebook, it can be nearly impossible to retrieve a stolen account. Hackers will change the contact email address and phone number and reset the username so the account is impossible to find. Then, they’ll run ads on it until they can sell the whole page off for a large price, sometimes more than a hundred thousand dollars.

Faisal Shafique, a college student who Instagrams under the handle @Fact, said that he earns roughly $300,000 a year from posting sponsored content for brands like TikTok and Fashion Nova. When Brooks seized control of his account several weeks ago, it put those brand deals in jeopardy, potentially costing him his livelihood. Shafique was able to retrieve his account back before it was sold off, but he estimates he would have lost a half-a-million-dollar property if he hadn’t.

See also The Rise of the Nanoinfluencer -- people with smaller but still exploitable social media followings who get paid in care packages of the (sometimes expensive) stuff they post about.

Pricier, more powerful Mac Mini reviewed

I'm tempted by the finally-upgraded Mac Mini (pictured above with the new 13" iPad Pro configured as its display), long the black sheep of the Mac lineup but loved for the promise of compact power it (again) justifies. Rather than make the new model smaller, as some expected, they kept the same box and filled it with powerful modern parts like 8th-Gen desktop-class i7 CPUs.

Nick Statt:

The Mac mini was simple, it was cheap, and it did its job well. So well, in fact, that it took on a second life for many owners as a home media PC, a NAS server, and even as part of a compute cluster.

But the 2018 Mac mini is a different beast. It is much more powerful — it is, without hyperbole, a miniature Mac Pro — and as a result, it is no longer all that cheap. In fact, Apple’s cheapest Mac has moved from a sub-$500 purchase to a $799 one, and much more if you want a larger solid state drive, a faster processor, or more memory. You can spec out a lowly Mac mini all the way up to $4,199 if you really desire. (This time around the RAM is user replaceable, while the SSD is not.)

With other models a generation behind, the i7 model benchmarks faster than everything in the lineup short of the iMac Pro.

The big drag, however, is the integrated graphics. At the price, there should be something more. That said, it is still much smaller than even the smallest MXM-slot game/workstation-class PCs, and it hopefully won't be long before there are external GPUs in the Mac Mini form factor (similar to the Sonnet Puck) to stack atop it.

The big gotcha is that storage is soldered in. You can upgrade the RAM, though.

Photo: Michael Potuck

This cat in Japan has the most disturbing meow: 'ololiloliloliloliloliiiloli'

This is Chibi Maru, a Japanese cat with a demonic cry! His human companion LLR伊藤智博 recently posted this video of Chibi Maru vocalizing in a most unusual way. He seems to say, "Ololiloliloliloliloliiiloli," reports SoraNews24.

Is the cat angry? Defensive? Summoning the devil? Something ain't right with its ears folded down like that.

ちょび丸が、またなにか喋り出した…怖い… pic.twitter.com/HAixAFQNg8

— LLR伊藤 (@llritotomohiro) November 11, 2018

“Chobimaru is talking again…Scary…” tweeted @llritotomohiro, who says this is the second time the kitty has emitted this guttural, rhythmical series of sounds...

A few other cat owners even chimed in to say they’d had similar experiences with their own animals, often as portents of trouble soon to come.

“Did Chobimaru throw up after this? When my cat sounds like he’s casting an incantation, I always run to grab some newspapers and tissues.” “My cat does the same thing! After he makes this kind of noise, he throws up. It’s nice of him to always give me an advance warning.”

However, @llritotomohiro, while thanking everyone for their concern, was happy to report that Chobimaru was in fine spirits. After his minute or so of chanting, he returned to normal, eating dinner as he always does and playing energetically in the house.

The internet did its thing and put his scary vocals to a dance beat:

衝動を抑えられずTrapにしてしまいました。

ご気分害されたなら速やかに削除します。 pic.twitter.com/VPj93r4d9O

— 左手@アルバム出しました。 (@lefthand_for_it) November 13, 2018

This color-matching widget takes the guesswork out of painting

There are two times you never want to just "eyeball" it: Conducting brain surgery and matching shades of paint for your walls. Whether you're painting or repainting, make sure you're never just "close enough" to the color you want. Not when the Nix Mini Color Sensor can scan and match any color perfectly.

Small enough for your keychain, this innovative color-matching tool can scan any surface from fabric to walls using high CRI white LEDs. It then matches the exact hue of the surface to RGB, HEX, CMYK and LAB colors or one of 31,000 paint colors from brand names like Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore or Dulux. You can even save the colors to the Nix app (free lifetime access included with purchase), or share them via social media or email for quick design collaboration.

Sturdy and reliable, the Nix Mini Color Sensor is an armchair designer's new best friend - and it's currently on sale for 30% off. Pick one up for $69.

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