• A Bahamas-based company is advertising crypto memecoins on fortune cookies

    A report in Input Magazine titled "My Fortune Cookie Told Me To Invest In Dogecoin" shows that a Bahamas-based "Crypto and NFT portfolio company" called FTX is advertising in fortune cookies.

    "Have you ever waited too long, and missed out on something?" one fortune reads. When you flip it over, you see an ad for the crypto company FTX.

    "This is presumably a family-owned restaurant that simply wanted to restock its fortune cookie supplies for customers and not push a decentralized finance agenda.

    Still, that's hundreds, if not thousands of tiny ads going out to diners any given month shilling infuriatingly stupid meme economics. Given our current scam-ridden, wildly speculative era of cryptocurrency, it's sort of ridiculous to see those kinds of "fortunes" in the vicinity of my Szechuan chicken. Couple all that with the serious environmental concerns stemming from the crypto industry, and my Dogecoin dessert just seems… disconcertingly dystopian."

    Input

    Even before the message in a cookie treat started shilling altcoins, it wasn't particularly authentic. Fortune cookies have a murky origin story but have become known as a decidedly American treat. In fact, when Yao Ming played his first game in Miami in 2002, the Heat passed out thousands of fortune cookies— an East Asian stereotype. But Yao Ming had reportedly never seen a fortune cookie before, so he wasn't offended.

  • Lizards have been playing a big game of rock paper scissors for millions of years

    Evolutionary biology has all sorts of goofy-sounding titles (the sexy son hypothesis! The gay uncle hypothesis!) but my favorite is the "rock paper scissors" mating mechanism of the common side-blotched lizard.

    The lizards, which roam the deserts in Nothern Mexico and the American West, come in three colors which correspond to behavior:

    Orange-throated: bigger, have large territories, pursue many females

    Blue-throated: smaller, have small territories, pursue one female

    Yellow-throated: dubbed the "sneakers," they resemble females and can sneak into the territories of other males, swooping in and "stealing" unattended female lizards

    As described in the original 1996 study published in Nature, the lizards form their own unwinnable game of rock paper scissors: the ultradominant orange lizards will beat the monogamous blues, but because the orange-throated lizards have such a huge territory, the sneaky yellows can swoop in as Mr. Steal Your Girl. Blue-throated lizards, who are vigilant and known to help fellow blues, don't let wily yellow-throated lizards get very far. Essentially, orange beats blue; blue beats yellow; yellow beats orange.

    Check out footage of the lizards in this video by PBS Digital Studios.

  • Elmo is feuding with a rock and it's hilarious

    This week, Elmo has gained attention online after a 2004 video of his heated tirades against "Rocco" surfaced. There's something hysterical about watching a red furry monster rage against a rock in his iconic falsetto voice.

    "How? How is Rocco going to eat that cookie, Zoe? Tell Elmo!" the muppet says. "Rocco doesn't even have a mouth! Rocco is just a rock! Rocco is not alive!"

    As the decades-long feud with Rocco wages on, Elmo remains determined not to let Zoe gaslight him. And hey, who can blame him for being frustrated? I would want that cookie too. The ongoing fight has so much entertainment value that Elmo-Rocco compilation videos practically constitute a microgenre of Youtube videos.

    In response to the recent attention, Elmo (well, Sesame Street social media staff) made a statement to confirm that he's still best buds with Zoe. The whole development is a silly blip in the ever-raging social media tsunami, but it's not the first time that Sesame Street Twitter activity has gained mainstream attention within the past year. Just two months ago, Ted Cruz criticized Big Bird's post about getting vaccinated, calling it "propaganda."

  • PBR apologizes for telling sober people to "try eating ass"

    A now-deleted tweet from PBR reads "Not drinking this January? Try eating ass!"

    When user @thruandthrudave responded "PBR or ass? Whats the difference?" the brand account responded, "ask your mom."

    The tweets gained attention on Monday morning but soon disappeared. In a statement to FOX Business, a PBR executive shared that the company decided to delete the tweet.

    "We apologize about the language and content of our recent tweets. The tweets in question were written in poor judgment by one of our associates."

    PBR Vice President of marketing Nick Reely to FOX Business

    Why did no one at PBR stop the tweet? In a weird exchange between personified food corporations, Slim Jim offered a hypothesis.

    This certainly isn't the first corporate social media flub. As brands fire off irreverent tweets to seem hip and gain publicity, some inevitably go too far, thus attracting bad publicity. Remember National Women's Day 2021 when Burger King UK tweeted "Women belong in the kitchen"?

  • "The mole on the back of your neck is cancer" wrote an NHL fan. Now she's getting a $10k scholarship for med school

    On October 23, Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian "Red" Hamilton was on the ice when he noticed a Seattle Kraken fan banging on the glass to catch his attention.

    The woman was persistent, and as Hamilton was shuffling supplies and leaving the bench, he saw the woman's phone with a message written in large, colorful font:

    "The mole on the back of your neck is cancer."

    ESPN

    Her instincts were right. Hamilton had the mole biopsied and doctors diagnosed him with malignant melanoma in phase 2. "Thanks to the persistence and quick work of our doctors, it is now gone," wrote Hamilton in a January 1 post. As the story gained traction on social media, Yukyung Nelson identified the heroic fan was her daughter.

    "Oh my gosh!!! This was my daughter!!!" Nelson wrote in a Facebook comment. "She just got accepted into multiple medical schools. We have season tickets behind the opposing team and she noticed the mole on the back of his neck so she typed a message into her phone and knocked on the glass window to get his attention. She finally got his attention and he looked quickly and then nodded. We didn't think anymore of it. This is absolutely amazing!"

    22-year-old Nadia Popovici is a University of Washington graduate and aspiring physician with experience volunteering in an oncology ward.

    "I saw his and I was like, wow, that is a picture perfect example of what a melanoma looks like," Popovici said to the Associated Press.

    The Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks announced a joint gift of $10,000 to help with her medical school expenses.

    Hamilton told the AP "I understand I'm a part of the story, but she needs to know she's the story," Hamilton said. "She's the person that did this. She saved the life. … She needs to know her efforts were valid and bang on."

  • The official pet rock care guide

    As Gary Dahl sat at a bar with friends who kept complaining about their pets, he realized that the perfect pet was a rock. He crafted fit-for-pet packaging (complete with straw and breathing holes) and the anthropomorphized rocks hit shelves in 1975 with a $4 price tag. Thanks to good luck and great marketing, the short-lived fat made Dahl a millionaire.

    Time magazine called the novelty "1% product and 99% marketing genius."

    The 1975 pet rock care guide is immortalized on the Internet Archive. It details all sorts of tricks like ROLL OVER (best performed at the top of a hill), PLAY DEAD, and SIT. Here are some other highlights.

    Pet rocks: they're just like us!

  • Food forecasters are bullish on mushrooms in 2022

    The New York Times has released its 2022 food forecast and "ingredient of the year" is the mushroom, chosen because of its use as a tasty dish addition, psychedelic drug, and compostable packaging material.

    In the intro is the following whammy of a sentence: "food industry leaders in the United States say 2022 will be another pragmatic, roll-up-your sleeves kind of year, shaped by the needs of people working from home and by the culinarily-astute-but-fickle Gen Z, whose members want food with sustainable ingredients and a strong cultural back story, prepared without exploitation and delivered in a carbon-neutral way — within 30 minutes."

    Besides mushrooms, other trending consumables include seaweed, vegan meat substitutes, and 80s cocktails like Blue Lagoons, Tequila Sunrises, Long Island iced tea and amaretto sours.

    More NYT predictions: a boom in edible utensils/dishes (we want plates!) and Asian candy like the dalgona candy featured in Squid Game.

    The NYT predicted the food "vibe of the year" to be "kindness and understanding." Whether it's the official "vibe of the year" or not, I certainly hope we can get behind kindness.

  • Top NYT headlines from 50 years ago today

    The New York Times provides access to its sprawling archive to paying customers, and hooo boy is it easy to get sucked in. In a fit of curiosity, I read some of the biggest stories of December 29, 1961. The day's paper was a tiny sample of a distinct era: when JFK was present, the civil rights movement gained traction, and the Cold War escalated. Here are a few of the headlines:

    Strike averted on city transit; 15 cent fare is kept— 15 cents! Can you believe it! If the Pizza Principle holds up, a New York slice would likely set you back the same amount.

    Former First Lady Edith Wilson died on December 28th on what would have been her husband's 105th birthday. She was 90.

    Kennedy to Ask Authority To Purchase U.N. Bonds— President Kennedy wanted to buy up to half of the United Nations' projected $200,000,000 bond issue to finance "peace-and-security operations in Congo and the Middle East." Congo was particularly politically unstable at the time— it was newly independent from Belgium. In addition, the US had recently supported a coup to replace the elected leader Lumumba, who had communist ties, with pro-Western leader Mobutu.

    US sues to upset Louisiana's law on voting tests— Fifty years ago, the Justice Department asked a Federal court to strike down a Louisiana law requiring voters to pass a "constitutional interpretation test." In the suit, the Justice Department said the laws' purpose was "maintaining white political supremacy and racial segregation."

    American colleges are accused of slighting educational goals— A book by Dr. Nevitt Stanford accuses higher education of being a "corporate enterprise" and a "watchdog of the upper-middle class." One could say the same in 2021 (sigh).

    -US father to ask reds to free son— Edgar Pankey, the father of a 20-year-old American student serving a two-year term in an East Berlin prison, flew to Berlin in hopes of getting East German authorities to free his son.

    Church closings in Soviet tallied— Cue the pearls clutching! 1500 Soviet churches closed in 1961.

    Babes in Toyland— "A soggy line of diehards" waited in line outside Rockefeller Plaza to see Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland movie which was released two weeks before.

    -"Fashions to please men in '62"— Over in the women's section, the articles aged like milk. The Times declares "1962 will undoubtedly be the year in which men finally approve of women's fashions." In: feminism, youth, emphasized bosoms, and belted waistlines. Out: "hard architecture look."

    1961 sets record in cigarette use— Americans smoked more than ever, and the US manufactured cigarettes to keep up. Including exports, the US produced 528 billion cigarettes!

    There was so much more, from articles to classifieds to puzzles. At the time, a year-long mail subscription cost $51.50.

    A really good ad
    Another good ad

  • Amy Schneider is Jeopardy's first trans contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions

    I quite like watching Jeopardy when I have a free evening, and if I'm not by the TV, I can watch it online using a free service called Puffer that's part of a Stanford research project on streaming.

    I've been cheering on 42-year-old Amy Schneider who has an 18-day Jeopardy total of $706,800. She's in fourth place for all-time winnings behind Matt Amodio ($1,518,601), James Holzhauer ($2,462,216) and Ken Jennings ($2,520,700).

    She's not the first trans champion, but she's the first trans contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions.

    "Anything that can be done to show trans people as just normal people I think is a great thing," she told People. "We want to get to a point where trans people are less pioneering and like, you know, that the first trans person to do whatever is just kind of like, whatever! Why wouldn't a trans person do that? Like, they could do anything that anyone else can do, and there's nothing unusual about it."

    In a short introduction she gave on Twitter, Amy shared that she lived in Dayton, Ohio for the first 30 years of her life and was named "Most likely to appear on Jeopardy" in school. She graduated from the University of Dayton, got married, and eventually moved to Oakland. In 2016, she came out as trans and split up with her wife.

    For Defector, she wrote an essay called "How I Got Smart."

  • NASA "Webbsite" shows the progress of the James Webb Space Telescope

    A NASA website (or should I say Webbsite?) shows how far the historic James Webb Space Telescope is from reaching orbit.

    On it, you can check out the telescope's distance from Earth, distance until L2 (when it's orbiting the sun), and cruising speed. Last I checked, it was going 3480 mph, or nearly a mile per second. It's a fun tab to bookmark!

    The launch occurred at 7:20am ET on Christmas morning from French Guiana, but the telescope is not close to its destination yet. For the first 29 days, it will be traveling about one million miles and unfolding its mirrors and sunshield— which are so big that they had to be folded up like origami for the launch.

    The long-awaited telescope has been in development since 1996 (when Macarena was the top song on the radio!).

    Webb will peer into the very atmospheres of exoplanets, some of which are potentially habitable, and it could uncover clues in the ongoing search for life outside of Earth.

    CNN

    Check out the 'Where is Webb' website here!

  • A guy accidentaly made a gigantic repository of niche music

    A decade ago, when Spotify was two years old in the UK and had just become available in the US, Chris Johnson started a musical discovery project called TAPEFEAR. He "created a script to find new music on niche music sites, cross reference Spotify to see if it was available to stream," according to a Reddit post, and besides a bit of occasional tinkering, he largely forgot about it. In total, Johnson says the script ran for a decade amassing 42,000 songs.

    You can check out TAPEFEAR here. When the random songs appear, you can select "random preview" for a sample or "play on Spotify" to add to your Spotify playlist. If you like it, you can add it to "saved" and curate your favorite niche songs.

    The service reminds me of Forgotify, the website that plays Spotify songs that have never been selected by a user.

  • Payment software company Square changed its name to 'Block' this month. Now H&R Block is suing them.

    Jack Dorsey, the former CEO of Twitter who co-founded Square in 2009, announced on December 1st that the company would change its name to Block. It's the parent company of CashApp and Tidal. The name, reminiscent of "blockchain" draws parallels to Meta the recently-announced new name for Facebook.

    Tax preparation company H&R Block isn't happy, considering that the two services have overlapping offerings.

    H&R Block claims that Square's new name competes directly with Block in several areas of financial services, including a recently purchased tax service named Cash App Taxes — previously Credit Karma Tax — a $0 tax filing service similar to H&R Block.

    The Verge

    There can only be one "Block" financial company, it seems. We could simplify the tax code to render H&R Block useless, but that's unlikely to happen soon, so H&R Block and Block, Inc will take the matter to court.

  • Cells in a petri dish learned to play pong

    A team of neuroscientists from Australia, the UK, and Canada release a pre-print paper detailing a technology called "DishBrain." It integrates with brain cells to provide a "stimulated game-world," using electrical signals to train a clump of cells to play pong as if they were the paddle.

    Researchers at the biotechnology startup Cortical Labs have created "mini-brains" consisting of 800,000 to one million living human brain cells in a petri dish, New Scientist reports. The cells are placed on top of a microelectrode array that analyzes the neural activity. 

    To teach the mini-brains the game, the team created a simplified version of "Pong" with no opponent. A signal is sent to either the right or left of the array to indicate where the ball is, and the neurons from the brain cells send signals back to move the paddle. 

    Futurism

    The cells recieve electical feedback to indicate whether their position was good or bad, and they soon caught on. Though the clumps of nervous system cells are they're intelligent and alive, they're nowhere near self-awareness — and it's safe to assume they don't realize there's more to life than playing pong.

  • Brace yourselves, one-star candle reviews are spiking again

    In 2020, we learned that negative candle reviews are a (very) informal proxy for Covid cases.

    The results were surprisingly clear: Before 2020, reviews of the top scented candles hovered between 4 and 4½ stars, year after year. Since January, however, those grades have fallen roughly one full star.

    Unscented candle reviews, meanwhile, don't show the same pattern.

    via Washington Post, December 2020

    As Omicron surges, scented candle ratings are taking a hit once again. Protocol emphasizes that the findings are observational, not scientific, and Northeastern University professor Nick Beauchamp notes that "no smell" complaints commonly rise in the winter. Still, if you cannot detect the wafting scents of your holiday scented candle, it's not a bad idea to take a Covid test.

  • Following biting incidents, Biden re-homes Major and welcomes puppy named Commander

    There's a new FDOTUS in the White House! The commander in chief welcomed a German Shepherd puppy named Commander on Monday afternoon. Besides Trump, Polk, and Andrew Johnson, all US presidents have been pet owners (you can check out the details on presidentialpetmuseum.com). White House pets can be image-boosters, and presidents have had far-flung animals over the years — from Nixon's politicized pup Checkers to Grace Coolidge's beloved raccoon to the alligators kept by Benjamin Harrison (and possibly John Quincy Adams).

    Major, a three-year-old rescue dog, has moved out of the White House.

    In a statement to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the first lady explained why Major is no longer at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "After consulting with dog trainers, animal behaviourists, and veterinarians, the first family has decided to follow the experts' collective recommendation that it would be safest for Major to live in a quieter environment with family friends."

    Champ, the Bidens' 13-year-old German Shepherd, died in June.

    But Commander won't be the only pet in the White House, according to Jill Biden's spokesperson.

    The first lady said shortly after Biden won the November 2020 presidential election that they would be getting a cat. LaRosa said the feline would join the family in January.

    The Guardian
  • A professor hid $50 on campus and put the location in the syllabus. No student read it

    Kenyon Wilson is a professor of performing arts at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and this semester, he ran an experiment: hiding a cash prize in a locker and burying the location and lock combination deep in the syllabus. At the end of the semester, the money was still there.

    He told the story in a Facebook post which soon caught the attention of media (even big names like the New York Times and CNN have run it).

    A common takeaway of the story (at least on a few Facebook and forum posts) is "kids these days" followed by some derisive remark. But Professor Wilson doesn't believe skimming the syllabus makes someone lazy and he's certainly not disappointed in his students.

    When he was a student, he most likely would have also missed the clues, he said.

    "We read the parts that we deem important," he said. "You know, what's the attendance policy? What are the things I need to do to pass this class? And then there's other stuff."

    New York Times

    Students told CNN that the clue was in the middle of a paragraph present that is copied and pasted into many syllabi on campus. They'd likely seen the paragraph dozens of times, so it makes sense that they weren't religiously reading it start to finish like a novel.

  • After 21 years at the BBC, reporter signs off final broadcast with an Anchorman quote

    On Sunday, December 19th, Andrew Marr signed off for the last time.

    "I had been wondering how to close this final show but I can't do better than quoting my great mentor: you stay classy, San Diego."

    Andrew Marr

    If you haven't seen Anchorman (in a while), the two-minute scene containing the golden line is here.

    The 62-year-old reporter was born in Scotland, studied English at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and worked in print journalism for nearly two decades before starting a broadcast career at the BBC. Earlier in 2021, he revealed how hard it was for him to remain impartial when discussing politics, saying "I think it will be very, very hard for people like me to carry on being completely neutral and completely sotto voce all the way through that."

  • Kellogg's removes its logo from Pop-Tarts boxes

    On Friday, Kellogg's confirmed online rumors that it has removed its name from Pop-Tarts boxes. The move comes amidst a months-long strike involving about 1400 workers across four cereal plants, but Kellogg's says the design decision is about "simplified" design, not a last-ditch effort to get around consumer boycotts (hmm).

    The strike has partly revolved around the company's two-tier compensation system, in which workers hired after 2015 typically receive lower wages and benefits than longer-tenured workers. The company has said that its veteran workers make more than $35 an hour on average, while the newer workers make almost $22 an hour on average.

    Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont, announced plans to hold a rally Friday on behalf of Kellogg workers in Battle Creek, Mich., the location of the company's headquarters and one of the striking cereal plants.

    New York Times

    Don't forget that in early December, when Kellogg's announced a plan to hire permanent replacement workers, Redditors flooded the hiring site with fake applications.

  • On the 50th anniversary of Hunky Dory, here's a bit of David Bowie trivia

    English performer and actor David Bowie released Hunky Dory, his fourth album, in 1971 when he was 24. Rolling Stone calls it the 88th greatest album of all time, and it was his first album to go platinum. Just six months later, he would go on to release The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. In honor of the album's semicentennial, I compiled a few stories from the artist's colorful life— some more obscure than others.

    He briefly considered being a Buddhist Monk: In a Pitchfork article, Thurston Moore writes that Bowie had a longtime fascination with Buddhism and considered becoming a monk. After a few months' study, teachers in the monastery advised him to follow other passions (like music!)

    Starstruck hospital staff allowed him to sneak drugs to Iggy Pop's rehab: In 1975, David Bowie and Easy Rider legend Dennis Hopper wore spacesuits to sneak cocaine to punk legend in Iggy Pop who had checked into a psych ward to deal with his drug addiction. Though Bowie's stunt doesn't seem like the most effective way to help a friend in recovery, Iggy Pop says that Bowie's friendship helped get him out of a dark place.

    His juggling body double is a genius: David Bowie's character in Labyrinth appeared to juggle, but the stunt was actually performed by juggler Michael Moschen who had to do all the tricks blind while standing behind Bowie. Moschen won a MacArthur Genius Grant for his techniques.

    He was an activist for the rights of "long-hairs": David Bowie's first TV appearance was in 1964 at the age of 17— and it wasn't for music. The BBC's Tonight Show interviewed him as the founder of 'The Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men'.

  • Viral video shows perfectly good food in a Whole Foods dumpster

    TikToker @dumpsterdivingfreegan posts regular "dumpster diving hauls" to expose extreme waste, and a recent video of a particularly fruitful trip to a Whole Foods dumpster has gotten traction online. It has started a conversation about all the wasteful store practices, and people are sharing the wasteful practices of their (former) employers. Stories range from reprimand for giving leftover pizzas to the homeless to an instruction to destroy unsold bras rather than donating them, as not to devalue to brand.

    Various dumpster diving communities exist online, like r/dumpsterdiving (which boasts 140,000 subscribers!) and various Facebook groups, and dumpster diving practically constitutes a genre of its own on Youtube. Still, I'm consistently surprised to see trash cans full of perfectly usable products.

    But exposing corporate waste is a two-sided coin. Making noise about wasteful practices may lead to meaningful change, but it also encourages companies to be sneakier about their trashy practices.