Current chess champion Magnus Carlsen is also one of the top fantasy soccer players in the world

The Premier League’s official fantasy football league has over seven million entrants. And as of a few days, World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen was number one in the league. As of this writing, he's down to third place.

Apparently, Norwegians tend to do well in the league:

Carlsen, like many Norwegians, is obsessed with both the Premier League and its fantasy league spin-off. In 2017, eight players from Norway were in the top 50 FPL players in the world.

Along with a "phenomenal memory for Premier League details," Here's his strategy:

Read the rest

The team of elite jewel thieves and the retired cop that helped bring them down

Writing for The Atlantic, Geoff Manaugh has a lengthy new article about a team of elite jewel thieves operating in Florida. The story is full of absurdly-cinematic details.

The burglars were able to operate for years by moving from town to town, confident the local authorities would not notify each other of the crimes. And when the authorities did investigate, they sometimes did so sloppily, such as overlooking a drill hole in a safe, causing suspicion to fall on the only people who knew the safe's combination. A retired detective started to investigate the burglaries, but found himself largely shunned by active officers, and even fed false information.

Eventually, suspicion fell on known thieves, including a man who may flown for the DEA, and a man working as a safe and lock technician.

The ensuing investigation included the chase of a man driving a truck loaded with palm trees, and an FBI dive team that had to be disguised lest they be spotted by the conspirators.

Read the whole thing here. Read the rest

Bear jumps on man's car at Sequoia National Park

A Southern California man and his dog were on their way home from a "disappointing" trip to Sequoia National Park when they encountered a bear. After the bear and dog eyed each other with interest through the windows, the bear jumped on the back of the car. Both the driver and an individual in the next car back managed to get plenty of footage: Read the rest

The Kinship Hybercube and the meaning of progress in Civilization games

Writing for Vice, Gabriel Soares takes a look at Civilization and why a standard playthrough tends to get more boring as the player reaches modern day technology:

what is progress in an historical 4X game? To be blunt, it’s the elimination of difference. The closer you are to “us”, the more you have progressed.

...

Effectively your only decisions are how to advance through a predetermined trajectory culminating with “us”, "the US”. This is easier to perceive in tech trees, but it’s also true of those two other Xs: expand, exterminate. Make the world homogenous, make the world boring. Those early turns players like put them into contact with difference. The rest of the game sees them destroy it.

In the course of discussing what "progress" means, Soares describes an effort to study aboriginal culture. A sociologist had planned to derive the "Elementary Forms of Religious Life" by observing the supposedly simplest religion of Aboriginal Australians:

Problem is, if you’re going to grade different peoples on their relative simplicity like some kind of Olympic judge, you first need to decide what the sport is. Nobody disputes that Indo-Europeans are great at making products, matter of fact “providers of merchandise” or “people of merchandise” is one of the most common names for the “white man” among Amazonian peoples. But what about everything else?

Because those very same Australian aboriginal populations who have been so continuously discriminated against by generations of academics have also developed the most complex kinship systems on the planet.

Read the rest

New experimental video games controlled by skate board, teeter totter, and a giraffe head

The 2020 Game Developers Conference will include alt.ctrl.GDC, a showcase of video game using unconventional, accessible or alternative physical controls. The 20 finalists include Far Away Cage, an Alien-inspired game where you interact with the ship by sliding on a skateboard:

Ready? Set. Haiya! is a motion-based fighting rhythm game played by interacting with a live-sized kung fu wooden dummy:

And The Sword lets players try to find the Grail in order to pull Excalibur from the stone:

You can see trailers for the 20 finalists here, including a racing game controlled by manipulating a giraffe head, and a milking game that uses udders. Read the rest

The Wall Street Journal's new hedcut-generating AI created monstrous portraits

Becoming important enough to merit a "hedcut" stippled portrait from the Wall Street Journal used to a be a significant honor. But on Monday, the WSJ announced that all members can now receive a hedcut courtesy of an AI that's been trained over the last year. Along the way, developers ran into some speedbumps. Baldness was one obstacle:

“We had to go through and hand-tag over 2,000 photos, including a lot of bald men, so that the machine would learn what baldness is”

And so was overconfidence:

The most harrowing issue of all was overfitting, which happens when a model fits a limited set of data too closely. In this case, that meant the machine became too satisfied with its artistic ability and began producing terrifying monstrosities like [the portraits seen above].

You can learn more about the process and sign up for your own hedcut here. With any luck, someone will post a program a generate monstrous glitchy versions.

(Via Gene Park.) Read the rest

A retrospective on the making of Tie Fighter

Writing for PCGamer, Alex Kane takes a long look at the creation of the video game Tie Fighter, where the player becomes an ace in the Imperial Navy between the Battle of Hoth and Battle of Endor. Supposedly, this was Lucas's reaction when he saw the copy on the package:

As the story goes, George Lucas was shown the packaging for TIE Fighter in a board meeting shortly after the game had come out and had started performing well financially and earning acclaim. Lucas picked up the box, examined the cover, and then turned it over to read the copy on the back. "'Imperial Navy'?" he said. "There's no navy in Star Wars." A moment later: "Well, I guess it doesn't matter."

A key moment in the marketing of the game came when a deal was reached to co-promote the game along the Dodge Neon:

"I think what really helped the game is that we were approached by Dodge, the car company," Gleason says. "I wasn't in much of a bargaining position; I didn't have a whole lot to give in return, other than they get to use Star Wars in their advertising. For the Dodge Neon, which was nothing like a sci-fi or futuristic car. It was from Michigan. There was nothing sexy about it; it looked like a family car. But it was a big win, because we couldn't afford to distribute 400,000 demos on our own, or do a TV commercial."

With an unlikely marketing companion in Dodge, Gleason got a TIE Fighter demo onto the PCs of thousands of gamers.

Read the rest

The island of infected chimpanzees, and the man who feeds them

Writing for the Washington Post, Danielle Paquette tells the story of Monkey Island in Liberia. Beginning in 1974, American scientists hoping to develop vaccines experimented on chimpanzees in Liberia, infecting them with hepatitis and river blindness. Eventually, due to the dangers posed by the ongoing civil war and ebola outbreak, scientists fled the country, abandoning the chimpanzees.

The chimpanzees could not be released into the wild because they were infectious, and in any event, were presumed unable to care for themselves in the wild due to their captivity. So, they were deposited on a group of small islands collectively known as Monkey Island. As the article recounts, one man was brave and caring enough to take on the responsibility to make sure the chimpanzees continue to be fed.

You can read all about it here, and donate here. Although the infected chimpanzees receive vasectomies and birth control hidden in their food, they continue to breed. Read the rest

Arcade game combines Pop-A-Shot basketball with fighting off zombies

Here's a clever update to the arcade classic Pop-A-Shot basketball. The really Big Crane Company has combined the basketball mechanic with Plants vs. Zombies to create Zombie Jam.

Hit a basket in the proper column to fight off the approaching zombies:

There's also a version for playing Connect 4 by burying shots:

(Via Simon Carless.) Read the rest

Death Stranding Instagram filters

Now you can add some Kojima flavor to selfies or news coverage of the impeachment hearings. Erop has created two different Instagram filters.

And speaking of Death Stranding, check out this limited edition custom PS4 controller and stand:

WeAreRobots:

The controller is themed after Sam’s Bridges delivery uniform featuring custom buttons, metal D-Pad, metal thumb sticks and custom touchpad styled to look like a container. The stand is styled after the BB pod with a detailed baby cast in clear yellow resin. The iconic Odradek Scanner attaches to the back of the stand to hang over the top of the controller when displayed together.

BB and Odradek Scanner come packaged in a custom, high quality hard case container.

Preorder closes at the end of December or once the initial 20 places have been reserved. Controllers will ship as soon as production has been completed which is expected to be March 2020 or earlier.

(Via Attract Mode.) Read the rest

Here are the freebies college football players will get for participating in bowl games this year

There are 40 college football bowl games this season. Sporting News ranked each matchup (picking the Arizona Bowl as the worst), and also took a detailed look at all the freebies players will get for participating.

In addition to items like sunglasses, headphones, and $400 gift cards, some of the bowls will be giving away more exotic gifts. Cowboy hats will be given to players in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl. Players in the Quick Lane Bowl will each receive a life-sized PhotoSlap decal featuring his own likeness. And players in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl will go on a Bass Pro Shops shopping trip.

You can read the full list here. Just about every bowl responded, except for the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman. Read the rest

Glow-in-the-dark Converse All Stars

Converse's line of basketball shoes is the All Star Pro BB. The latest model is the "Nocturnal," available December 15 in North America. They glow in the dark, but will absolutely burn your eyes in sunlight:

Converse has put out some wild designs lately. One recent model is called "Flames," but is absolutely cheese pizza:

Read the rest

Secret games to play when you're bored in public

This article by Holly Gramazio suggests several ideas for games you can play alone or with friends while in public. My favorite of the lot was posted by a Redditor, and seems like a great way to feel more positive about the world:

When I’m out in public or driving or something, I like to pick a person within my sight and imagine how they’re somebody’s FAVOURITE person, and if that somebody could be where I am in that moment, they’d be overjoyed to see them. I imagine how that person might joke around, or I think about the nice things they might do for their friends or family, and I wonder if there’s someone across the country that wishes more than anything that they could be as near to that stranger as I am now.

Check out more ideas here and here.

(Article via RPS, The Card Players by Lucas van Leyden via Wikipedia.)

(My partner and I have a new, stupid game that makes us smile--when we're watching sports together, we add an "N" to players' last names.) Read the rest

The Alpha Gun Angels are Israeli gun influencers

Earlier this year, Vox looked at the popularity of female influencers showing off firearms on Instagram. Facebook/Instagram forbids advertisements promoting the sale or use firearms. So, marketers pay influencers to dodge the rule:

There are dozens of women (it is mostly women who are gun influencers) making partial or complete livings off Instagram grids full of guns and perfect smiles. Some of them are hunters, some of them are veterans, some participate in professional shooting sports, some also swing-dance, some play soccer. Some look really good in a pair of camouflage overalls or a red, white, and blue onesie or wearing almost nothing, and all of them have come up with their own rules about how best to monetize these physical realities.

They’ve done something that the companies in the firearm industry cannot do on their own: make the gun lifestyle as attractive and aspirational as all the others on Instagram.

One such group is the Alpha Gun Angels.

View this post on Instagram

Such a Badass! 🤩 - happy thanksgiving everyone! With love, AGA family 💞 . . Beautiful @sapir_elgrabli w/ @iwi_intl 📸 @omershapira_ 👑 #alphagunangels #sapirelgrabli #iwi #tavor #meprolight #bullpup #bullpuprifle #rifles #gungirls

A post shared by Alpha Gun Angels | AGA (@alpha.gun.angels_aga) on Nov 29, 2019 at 8:22am PST

Writing for Jewish Currents, Sophia Goodfriend looks at the business:

The Alpha Gun Angels, who bill themselves as Israel’s premier gun-modeling and social media–marketing agency, are a team of nine active and veteran IDF combat soldiers turned Instagram celebrities.

Read the rest

The DNA in his semen was completely replaced with another man's DNA

Writing for the New York Times, Heather Murphy has a fascinating story about the unexpected results of a bone marrow transplant.

When a patient receives a bone marrow transplant, the patient's own cells are destroyed and replaced with cells from a donor. Thereafter, the patient is a "chimera," with two sets of DNA. It's believed that other than helping the recipient's immune system, the donor DNA has little impact on the recipient:

“Their brain and their personality should remain the same"

However, the duplicate DNA can cause confusion in criminal investigations.

Murphy's article recounts a multi-year experiment carried out by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department when an employee received a bone marrow transplant. Realizing the opportunity to further scientific knowledge, they swabbed "the heck" out of the patient before and following the procedure. Four years later, they found surprising results:

Swabs of his lips and cheeks contained his DNA — but also that of his donor. Even more surprising to Mr. Long and other colleagues at the crime lab, all of the DNA in his semen belonged to his donor. “I thought that it was pretty incredible that I can disappear and someone else can appear,” he said.

Read the rest of the article here, including a discussion of whether the change to the recipient's DNA will have an impact on future offspring. And if you're interested in forensic uses of DNA, check out this story about "rapid DNA testing."

(Image via Wikipedia.) Read the rest

Public cemeteries as a precondition for the sale of land

Writing at Metropole, Sarah Balakrishnan describes the development of cemeteries in a city in Ghana. As of the 1800's, the general practice in the seaside city of Accra was to bury the dead underneath the family's home.

Around 1888, British colonists began forcing the populace to bury the dead in public cemeteries. The requirement served multiple purposes:

Cemeteries were undoubtedly a part of British colonists’ bid to reorganize African societies according to Christian schematics of “civilization”—what has been called the “civilizing mission.” But they also had another, more insidious, ambition. Creating private property in Accra required cemeteries. Graveyards relocated ancestors to the public domain, making it possible for Gold Coasters to sell their property to interested buyers.

British colonists had long understood that communities in Accra would never sell their land if it contained the remains of their elders. Public cemeteries thus transferred rituals of social reproduction—celebrating, mourning, and remembering the dead—into the domain of the state, so that private houses could be made fungible and sellable. Like elsewhere in the world, commemorations of death shaped the devolution of property. In colonial Accra, British colonists used cemeteries to enforce private property in land.

Soon, large public cemeteries indeed grew, which led to various other problems. For one thing, once large public cemeteries came into existence, developers started scheming to use the land for a different purpose:

While the state used cemeteries to enforce private property in land, this had come at a cost: the creation of massive “immovable properties.” Whereas chiefs and wealthy “big men” (abirempon) had built many cemeteries in the 20th century by buying expansive estates, the colonial government now wanted to build railroads and thoroughfares through these lands.

Read the rest

Check out the deliciously insidious first monetized choice in this freemium game

Storyscape is a freemium mobile app that offers several choose your own adventure-style stories. The vast majority of choices are free, and the choices made don't seem to have a meaningful impact on the story. So far, I've experimented with stories based on the X-Files, James Cameron's Titanic, and a snowbound post-apocalyptic scenario.

In the X-Files adventure, you meet the stars of the show and soon join the team. The first episode delivers the core elements of the X-Files--a gross monster, humor, and winks to the relationship between Mulder and Scully:

But there isn't an interesting monetized choice in the first episode of the X-Files story. On the other hand, the first monetized choice in the Titanic storyline is supremely well-crafted.

As the story opens, you're a gorgeous young orphaned immigrant suffragette who has found herself imprisoned in a jail in London. Over the ensuing episodes, you find yourself on the Titanic, choosing between various intrigues, suitors, and outfits (the diamond icon represents a choice requiring spending premium currency):

You encounter the occasional familiar face, as well:

However, that's all in the future. At the start of the story, you're in dank cell with little hope for release. Your younger sister is in the city, helpless without you. A guard enters with apparent ill intent. The game offers you this choice and explanation, since it's the first monetized choice I encountered:

I absolutely decided to know jujitsu:

That's the most I've ever enjoyed spending premium currency. You can try out the Storyscape app on your mobile device. Read the rest

More posts