• Make your own bizarre emoji combinations

    Mashing up emojis probably isn't high humor nor high art, but it might make you chuckle. A site called emojimix allows you to make unlikely combinations like coffee plus octopus, bread plus the devil, sneezing poop, and so many more. The attention to detail is pretty impressive— for example. the clown emoji and the tuna fish emoji combine to make a clownfish. The emojis seem to have been handmade for Google (not just the product of an algorithm).

    In the book "Because, Internet," Gretchen McCulloch explains that emojis are sort of like gestures in the sense that they unlock "body language" for informal digital communication. I wonder what the scorpion cupcake emoji might convey.

    There are 14,838 stickers and you can vote for the best one at this site.

    Relevant xkcd:

    https://xkcd.com/1813/
  • Afghan "girl with the green eyes" has escaped the Taliban and now lives in Italy

    You might not recognize the name Sharbat Gula, but odds are that you recognize her face. She gained international attention in 1985 after gracing the cover of National Geographic in 1985, and her portrait has been compared to the Mona Lisa.

    She has made recent headlines for evacuating the Taliban rule. According to Italy's office of the prime minister, Mario Draghi, she has found refuge in Italy.

    Gula has experienced more than her share of geopolitical instability. As a girl, Soviet helicopters bombed her village and killed her parents, leading her to move to a refugee camp in Pakistan where her iconic photograph was taken.

    U.S. photographer Steve McCurry took the picture of Gula when she was a youngster, living in a refugee camp on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

    Her startling green eyes, peering out from a headscarf with a mixture of ferocity and pain, made her know internationally but her identity was only discovered in 2002 when McCurry returned to the region and tracked her down.

    Reuters
  • Plumbers prepare for "brown Friday"

    The Friday after Thanksgiving is known for more than unfettered capitalism— it's also a day full of plumbing nightmares. The disasters aren't limited to toilet trouble; many problems arise from garbage disposal misuse. Thanksgiving celebrations often involve too many cooks in a kitchen using appliances and foods they're not familiar with, which results in all sorts of things going down drains (like grease and fats and oils).

    An Ohio plumber put out a reminder that garbage disposals aren't garbage cans, and he gave some advice to Thanksgiving cleanup crews.

    McCoy says make sure to scrape leftover grease, oils and any food off any cookware and put it in the trash or an empty container. Though if anything does go down the drain, mixing baking soda and vinegar or even ice can help with cleanup.

    ABC Cleveland
  • Fascinating website shows all the gifs on Wikipedia

    My new favorite bookmark is wikigifs.org, a website that shows you each gif on Wikimedia Commons one at a time. You press the space bar to move to the next random gif, and you can see what Wikipedia pages (if any) use the gif. It's like Wikipedia's random article button— but just gifs. The site reminds me just how much work goes into Wikipedia by dedicated volunteers who are committed to making information available for free, for strangers.

    My favorite discovery so far is this surreal blurred beard gif. Check out wikigifs.org for yourself and share what you find!

    Here's another favorite: a hypnotic gif displaying the globe effect.

  • Man claims he was banned from all-you-can-eat buffet for eating all that he could

    BBC reports that a Chinese man claims he was banned from Handadi Seafood BBQ Buffet in Changsha for eating too much. He's a streamer who goes by Mr. Kang, and he's not happy with the restaurant's decision. The incident comes at a moment of increased government scrutiny of food-focused live streamers. China passed a law in 2020 to prevent people from filming mukbangs, videos where online personalities overeat, at restaurants.

    "Every time he comes here, I lose a few hundred yuan," said the restaurant owner (100 yuan is about $15).

    "Even when he drinks soy milk, he can drink 20 or 30 bottles. When he eats the pork trotters, he consumes the whole tray of them. And for prawns, usually people use tongs to pick them up, he uses a tray to take them all."

    He added that he is banning all live-streamers from the restaurant.

    The story is trending on Chinese social media and has racked up more than 250 million views on Weibo.

    BBC
  • A San Diego freeway was raining money after an armored truck incident

    It was a scene right out of your imagination: bills were scattered on a freeway and motorists were stopping their cars to collect wads of cash. On videos posted to social media, people are holding more money than what can fit in their hands. Here's one that's absolutely nuts:

    The incident, which happened on Friday morning, is the result of an armored truck malfunction. Here's what a California highway patrol sergeant said:

    "One of the doors popped open and bags of cash fell out. One of the bags broke apart, and there was cash all over the lanes."

    He said authorities plan to use social media videos and photos to track down anyone who fails to return the money.

    "If you found money on the freeway, it is not your money," Martin told local news station KCRA. "It belongs to the FDIC and this armored truck and the bank. It needs to be returned."

    Washington Post

    Turns out that "free money" is too good to be true.

  • Thanksgiving dinner costs 14% more than last year

    Thanksgiving might gobble up a few more dollars than it has in previous years. A study from the The Farm Bureau shows that Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people averages out at $53.31, 14% higher than last year.

    The turkey itself costs 24% more than last year, the group says; it's $23.99 for a 16-pound turkey.

    In order to find the average costs, the Farm Bureau used volunteer shoppers between Oct. 28 and Nov. 8. — but the group, which lobbies on behalf of the agricultural industry, acknowledged that prices have already fallen in the time since the survey was conducted. This year, many grocery stores lowered prices later in the year, so the price of a frozen turkey, for example, is actually a lot more affordable right now. At the time of the survey, the cost for a 16-pound bird was around $1.50 per pound. But over the last week, it had fallen to 88 cents per pound for a whole frozen turkey.

    But rising prices are far from limited to the dinner table. Last week, the Labor Department reported that consumer prices were 6.2% higher in October than a year ago. It was the largest jump in inflation since 1990.

    NPR
  • The origins of mudflap girl

    I've seen mudflap girl from the car during road trips, but I never thought much about her until Magdalene Taylor dug into her history for Mel Magazine.

    She is America's big-breasted, disproportionate everywoman. She is the embodiment of kitsch erotica. She is the bodacious North Star of the working-class road warrior. She is Mudflap Girl, and she is the proud owner of some of the most iconic hogans in recent history. 

    Mel

    In today's culture, she might not be quite as appealing as she was in the 70s when the photo started to appear. After all, she's a portrait of hypersexualized femininity, and she might propagate unrealistic beauty standards. Still, her legacy lives on, and her image is sometimes reclaimed as a symbol of feminism (she's in the logo for the blog Feministing).

    You can buy her as a sticker, a chrome decal, a cookie-cutter or as cufflinks. You can have her holding an AR-15reading a bookwearing a cowboy hat or dressed in goldrainbow or red, white and blue. You can buy a version where she's "fat," another where she's a man with a beer belly, and yet another where she's a mermaid (in case your trucking route takes you through the ocean). Meanwhile, in Sex and the City, Samantha often wears a necklace with a Mudflap Girl on it throughout most of Season Four. In 2007, the Wyoming State Library featured the version of Mudflap Girl holding a book as part of a statewide reading campaign. 

    So, regardless of who "owns" her, Mudflap Girl has been distilled into so many different forms that no one will ever truly possess her. Like a nomad whose real home is the road, she'll always slip through your hands. 

    Mel

    In 2011, Wired ran a story about a man who claimed that mudflap girl was his mother, but the actual origin of the symbol can't be verified. Perhaps her home is on the road.

  • Shopping bots help buyers snatch in-demand items before they sell out

    Instead of periodically checking to see if your desired item has been restocked, you can employ a bot to snatch it up immediately upon its restock. The shopping bot services have been used by resellers and sneakerheads who intend to buy and flip limited-quantity items, but their popularity is broadening as families shop for Christmas presents amid supply chain shortages.

    WSJ reports on SlapX, software that charges $40 upfront plus $30 per month to crawl retailer websites and order the in-demand items you select in advance. Another shopping bot is SnailBot, which charges $99 per month.

    Many people see botting as market distorting, especially ahead of Black Friday, a day many consumers wait to do their holiday shopping in anticipation of discounts. One group of lawmakers tried to outlaw the practice through the "Stopping Grinch Bots Act" in 2019, but it failed to pass Congress. Bot activity has since surged.

    Monthly bot attacks on retail sites have increased more than eightfold over the past two years, according to estimates from Imperva Inc. Peter Klimek, director of technology at the cybersecurity firm, attributes the growth largely to the pandemic's social-distancing restrictions and the global supply-chain crunch.

    WSJ
  • Spotify takes away shuffle button for Adele's albums at the artist's request

    In an age of streaming and singles, listeners don't always appreciate the art of the album: the carefully-crafted arc Adele believes that song order can "tell a story." To preserve her musical narrative, she asked Spotify to remove the shuffle button on her albums.

    As the record holder for best-selling album of the 21st century, she had some sway. Spotify removed the shuffle button.

    "This was the only request I had in our ever changing industry!" the artist tweeted Saturday

    30 was released on Friday and is her fourth studio album, which she had been reportedly working on since 2018. It details the breakdown of her marriage to the charity boss Simon Konecki, with whom she has a son, Angelo.

    According to Spotify, the album accrued 60.7m streams globally in the first day it was available, making it one of the most-streamed albums on its release. The record is 90.8m, set by Taylor Swift just a week earlier.

    The Guardian

  • Manufacturers are airlifting Beanie Babies to get around supply chain logjams

    To get out of using slow boats, the Beanie Babies manufacturer is booking cargo planes to get the plush toys to the States. As many. as 150 flights have brought Beanie Babies to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, where domestic distribution occurs. According to the Chicago Tribune, Beanie Babies aren't the only product traveling by cargo planes, which can cost more than 1.5 million per flight.

    Surging demand and a shortage of workers has led to a pandemic-fueled backlog this fall of cargo ships anchored off the California coast, waiting to unload products. Beanie Babies, which are normally shipped by sea from China, were among the many products cast adrift by supply chain issues that continue to disrupt worldwide commerce.

    Global demand for air cargo was up 9.1% in September compared with the same month in 2019, the International Air Transport Association said in a news release earlier this month.

    Hasbro, Nike, Levi Strauss & Co., Lululemon, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Adidas, Deckers Outdoor Corp. — owner of UGG and Hoka shoe and apparel brands — are all using pricier airfreight to get around congested ports or make up for production delays, at least when it comes to key products, according to recent earnings calls and investor conferences.

    Chicago Tribune
  • NordicTrack customers hacked their treadmills to watch Netflix until the company blocked them

    Like a growing number of high-end home workout devices, the $4,000 NordicTrack X32i treadmill is built to work with subscription workout software for $39/month. Its iFit software integrates directly with the treadmill to offer "infinite training possibilities," according to the NordicTrack website. But not all users wanted to be limited to iFit, so they employed a bizarrely easy way to make the system work for them. Wired told the story of JD Howard, one of the customers who accessed the OS.

    To get into his X32i, all Howard needed to do was tap the touchscreen 10 times, wait seven seconds, then tap 10 more times. Doing so unlocked the machine—letting Howard into the underlying Android operating system. This privilege mode, a sort of God mode, gave Howard complete control over the treadmill: He could sideload apps and, using a built-in browser, access anything and everything online.

    While NordicTrack doesn't advertise privilege mode as a customer feature, its existence isn't exactly a secret. Multiple unofficial guides tell people how to get into their machines, and even iFit's support pages explain how to access it. The whole reason Howard bought the X32i, he says, was because he could access God mode. But the good times didn't last long.

    Since October, NordicTrack has been automatically updating all of its exercise equipment—its bikes, ellipticals, and rowing machines all have big screens attached—to block access to privilege mode. The move has infuriated customers who are now fighting back and finding workarounds that allow them to bypass the update and watch whatever they want while they work out.

    Wired

    The issue raises a debate of right-to-repair and software laws that don't allow people to tinker with their gadgets. It has also inspired NordicTrack communities to come together to get about the block.

    If all else fails, I suppose they could always park a basic treadmill next to a TV.

  • I tried the "yassify" trend

    Using the face-editing app FaceApp, social media users are heavily editing iconic photos, turning familiar figures into smooth-skinned, volumtuous haired, glamorous versions of themselves. The whole thing has an uncanny valley feel that I find hilarious. The "yassify" trend might be a meaningless blip in internet culture, but it has amused me over the past few days and it's fueled a surprising number of press and media pieces.

    Most of the heavy lifting on Twitter this past weekend was done by @YassifyBot, an increasingly popular account that is not actually a bot, as the name suggests, but rather the work of 22-year-old Denver Adams, an art student in Nebraska.

    Buzzfeed News

    I tried it out myself using the free trial of FaceApp and I was shocked by how quicky the app turned a normal pictures into a plastic-looking "yassified" person. Sorry Mark!

  • Ann Arbor, Michigan is the country's first city to require tampons and pads in public restrooms

    Effective January 1, 2022, Ann Arbor public restrooms must provide pads and tampons, as well as other hygiene products. It's the first city in the US to make free period products a requirement.

    The ordinance, which passed through Ann Arbor city council unanimously on Nov. 15, also ensures that other sanitary products, including toilet paper, soap, paper towels and water, are also provided.

    This comes amid a move to make period products more accessible and affordable across the state. Earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the "tampon tax" bill, which exempts products like pads and tampons from certain taxes. 

    Detroit Free Press

    A year ago, Scotland became the first country to provide free period products for all who need them.

    Ann Arbor is the college town of the University of Michigan, and city has maintained a reputation for liberal politics for at least half a century. Democrats hold all ten city council seats as well as the mayor's office, and last year, the city became one of the first in the nation to decriminalize psychedelics (joining Denver, Oakland, and Satna Cruz).

  • Jamal and Wanda's unlikely Thanksgiving tradition continues

    Six years ago, Wanda Dench accidentally sent a text inviting 17-year-old Jamal Hinton to Thanksgiving dinner. In a series of now-iconic texts, Jamal told Wanda that she wasn't actually his grandma but that he'd still like to eat, and she agreed to have him over, responding "that's what grandmas do… feed everyone!"

    Wanda and Jamal, who live about an hour away from each other in Arizona, have shared Thanksgiving for five years in a row. In addition, Jamal and his girlfriend Mikaela have joined Wanda and her late husband Lonnie for double dates. Lonnie died in April 2020 of covid, but Wanda and Jamal still celebrated the holiday together.

    The unlikely friendship has delighted social media for years and turned a serendipitous encounter into a massive feel-good news story. This year, the tradition continues.

    "We are all set for year 6!" Hinton posted Sunday on Twitter.

  • Finland makes taxes fun with a Netflix-style website

    Taxes may be the benchmark of a functional government, but they're no fun. To lessen the pain of handing over hard-earned cash, the Finnish Tax Association is beefing up its PR regarding how taxes are used to improve lives.

    In a Netflix-type site called happytaxpayer.com, Finland shows its taxpayers the projects that taxpayer dollars make possible. I was pleasantly surprised to find that cookies were opt-in rather than opt-out, and I was even more delighted by the site's content, which mimics Netflix UX but doesn't have videos. One "show" title is "Saving your Day and Our Bullets," and the description is this:

    These police officers are trained to save your day – and their bullets! This film is entirely devoid of any action or excitement.

    The Finnish police use their guns very rarely. Finns trust that the police are fair and treat people well. According to a recent survey, 91% of Finns trust the police a lot or a fair amount.

    The Most Boring Cop Movie

    The site's FAQ explains the Happy Taxpayer initiative.

    The idea for the website was sparked by the results of a survey that was commissioned by the Tax Administration. The survey showed that the 18 to 29 year olds who felt that they were adequately informed of the use of tax revenues and who felt that they benefited from taxes had a more positive attitude towards paying taxes.​

    The aim of the project is to cultivate a positive attitude towards paying taxes and to reduce the shadow economy. The idea is to emphasise the building blocks of a fair and sustainable society: we are all working together to make this a good place to live and work in, for everyone.​

    Happy Taxpayer FAQ

    The Finnish Tax Association has a surprisingly great social media presence featuring oddball Gen Z-style humor and a spokesperson called "Epic Tax Guy."

  • This bit.ly-like website shortens links but there's a 50% chance of rickroll when someone clicks

    The website rroll.to provides an odd but delightful service, and I've been using their links in group chats with friends. While traditional rickrolling tricks every clicker one time, this service adds a layer to the joke. The unlucky people who get rickrolled and are brave enough to speak out may feel crazy when others chime in to say that the link works perfectly fine.

    Each time a user clicks on your generated link, there is a 50% chance that they will be rickrolled (or whatever probability you defined).

    However, once someone has been rickrolled by a particular link, they will not be rickrolled by that link again during the same browser session if they click on it again.

    rroll.to

    The site reminds me of shadyurl.com, which changes URLs to make them look suspicious (like http://www.5z8.info/meinkampf.pdf_n1h4pj_nic_cage_naked).

  • Users claim Taylor Swift's midnight release caused Spotify outages

    After Taylor Swift re-released her album Red at Midnight on November 12, Spotify users took to social media to complain of outages. User outage reports spiked from 5 to 4719 on downdetector.com.

    The release is a re-recording of the album Red, which originally came out in 2012 and it includes hits like "22," "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," and "I Knew You Were Trouble." The 2021 release includes "all 30 songs that were meant to go on Red," according to a Tweet from Swift.

    The re-recording comes after the artist's 2019 masters controversy. Swift wrote a Tumblr post about being bullied by two major music exectutives and described the ways she struggled to purchase her masters from former record label Big Machine. As Vox reported in 2019, drama ensued, beef with Kanye West emerged, and scores of celebrities picked sides in the messy feud.

    Swift has chosen to re-record songs from her first six albums in order to own their rights and control licensing for commercial use.

    https://downdetector.com/status/spotify/
  • Sorry kids, there's a Santa shortage

    Santa Claus is c̶o̶m̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶o̶w̶n̶ quitting. Santa bookers (a real job, supposedly) are struggling to fill Christmas parties with Santas. Today's labor shortage, which greatly affects industries such as service and retail, has stretched all the way to the North Pole, causing a tight demand for bearded, heavy-set, older men with a jolly disposition.

    A WSJ journalist spoke to Santas around the country. Former Saint Nicks cite Covid concerns and lifestyle changes as reasons they're done with Santa gigs, and the Santas who are sticking around are demanding better pay. Brian Wilson, who works for an Orange County Santa network, told WSJ about the raise that Santas are getting.

    Available Santas know they are hot commodities. "The ones that are working have raised their price," [Brian Wilson] said, noting that Santas he works with are currently charging between $175 to $300 an hour, depending on where they live and the number of hours for the gig—asking about $50 more than usual.

    WSJ
  • After skipping climate conference, Gavin Newsom attends oil heiress' wedding. Nancy Pelosi officiated.

    Vogue reported on the lavish wedding of Ivy Getty, great-granddaughter of oil billionaire J. Paul Getty. The event, which took place in San Francisco, featured a performance by Earth Wind & Fire, a dance floor led by actress Anya Taylor-Joy, and a ceremony officiated by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Popstar Olivia Rodrigo joined in on the festivities too.

    The article uses over 2200 words and 100 pictures to display the event's lavish details, and while some praised the wedding for its beauty, others criticized its opulence. Journalist Philip Bump called the article "powerful editorial in support of a wealth tax."

    Politicians including San Francisco Mayor London Breed and California governor Gavin Newsom attended the event, and the latter received attention for

    Newsom attended the wedding after having not been seen at a public event in the 13 previous days. He had been scheduled to appear at the United Nations' COP26 Climate Conference in Scotland, but scratched it off his agenda at the end of October.

    Some criticism was angled towards Newsom after various outlets documented the opulent nature of the wedding compared to the message being sent by COP26.

    Newsweek