RIP Barbara Remington, illustrator of 60s paperback editions of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”

The New York Times remembers Barbara Remington, who created the cover illustrations for Ballantine Books' 1965 paperback editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Remington's covers will always be the canonical covers for me, because these editions were in my junior high school library when I first encountered Tolkien.

From the article:

Ms. Remington, who designed other book covers for Ballantine as well, was asked to illustrate the 1965 editions of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” on a tight deadline.

“Ballantine was in a hurry to get these books out right away,” she said in an interview for the literary journal Andwerve. “When they commissioned me to do the artwork, I didn’t have the chance to see either book, though I tried to get a copy through my friends.

“So I didn’t know what they were about,” she continued. “I tried finding people that had read them, but the books were not readily available in the states, and so I had sketchy information at best.”

Read the rest

National Association of Christian Lawmakers accuse "Satanists and Atheists" for voting in their poll

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers (@ChristLawmakers) asked its 254 Twitter followers to vote on this polling question: "Do you believe America would be better off if more Christians served in elected office?"

So far 35,013 people have voted. 6.7% voted yes and 93.2 voted no.

It's all the fault of "Satanists and Atheists," they say.

  Read the rest

Golden Gate Bridge officials demand that photographer remove photo from his website

Fstoppers reports that Photographer Bruce Getty posted a composite photo of the Golden Gate Bridge and a blood moon, but Bridge District officials are insisting that he take the photo down because they say the angle of the bridge makes it clear Getty trespassed to get the shot. The also want Getty to turn over any profits he made from the photo.

From the article:

By his own admission, Getty has been cited for trespassing back in 2014, as well as stopped last December by a police officer who insisted he delete the images, which he declined. The District has threatened prosecution should Getty be found in the same area again.

Image: Totally unrelated photo of a natural rock bridge by kyler trautner on Unsplash Read the rest

Can you solve the "Hanging Cable" problem, used as an Amazon interview question?

A cable of 80 meters is hanging from the top of two poles that are both 50 meters off the ground. What is the distance between the two poles (to one decimal point) if the center cable is (a) 20 meters off the ground and (b) 10 meters off the ground?

Presh Talwalker of Mind Your Decisions says the above riddle was used as an Amazon interview question. His video has the answer.

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This pull-up bar hangs from a door frame without mounting hardware

In 2012 I bought this pull-up bar and hang it from the door frame in my home office. When I started, I wasn’t able to do a single pull-up. After a week I could do one pull-up. A couple of months later I was able to do over 10 pull-ups. I still can. Read the rest

Kentucky Fried Chicken and Crocs collaborate to make clog with plastic meat appliques

KFC teamed up with Crocs to make this colorful clog that has fake chicken nuggets attached to it, which are "made to resemble and smell like fried chicken," but are sadly "not for human consumption."

They'll be released in the spring.

Image: Crocs Read the rest

This 1849 guidebook was a Yelp for whorehouses

Philadelphia had many "gay houses" and "ladies of pleasure" in the 1840s, so it's not surprising that an enterprising publisher created a guidebook for travelers to the city "of brotherly love and sisterly affection," which was estimated to employ 10,000 sex workers at the time.

Flashbak has some highlights from the "pocket companion."

At this house you will hear no disgusting language to annoy your ear; everything connected with this establishment is calculated to make a man happy. The young ladies are beautiful and accomplished; they will at any time amuse you with a fine tune on the piano, or use their melodious voices to drive dull care away. Stranger, do not neglect to pay a visit to this house before you leave our quiet city of sisterly affection.


This lady is the Queen of Trumps, tall and majestic, and noble in appearance. She is a lady in manners and conversation. She lives well and her house is comfortable and safe. One glance will satisfy a person of that fact.


…be cautious when you visit this place, or you may rue it all your lifetime.


Beware this house, stranger, as you would the sting of a viper.


This is one of the worst conducted houses in the city. The girls, though few in number, are ugly, vulgar and drunken. We would not advise any body of common sense to stay there.

Image: Flashbak Read the rest

Cool retro console lets you play Conway's Game of Life

Love Hultén, who makes retrofuturistic game consoles, built this thing called an EvoBoxx, which lets you play mathematician John Horton Conway's Game of Life, a cellular automaton he devised in 1970. "The game is a zero-player game," writes Hultén, "meaning that its evolution is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input. One interacts with the Game of Life by creating an initial configuration and observing how it evolves, or, for advanced players, by creating patterns with particular properties."

If you don't have an EvoBoxx, you can play The Game of Life here.

Image: Love Hultén Read the rest

What is the world's foulest smell? It's called “U.S. Government Standard Bathroom Malodor”

Writing for The New York Times, Randall Monroe (creator of the xkcd comic) looks into the world's worst smell. It turns out that there is no universal agreement, but a strong contender for the title is something called U.S. Government Standard Bathroom Malodor, "a substance that was designed to mimic the scent of military field latrines, in order to test cleaning products."

Another contender was accidentally cooked up one day by Derek Lowe, an industrial chemist:

Dr. Lowe said that the worst thing he’d ever smelled in his career as a chemist arose when he inadvertently combined dimethyl sulfide (think farts) with some silicon he was putting through a reaction called a Peterson olefination. Neither odor would smell great on its own, but combined they produced something transcendently foul. “It smelled like what you’d imagine the exhaust of a U.F.O. to smell like,” he said. “It was spectacularly weird and horrible.”

By Cornischong at lb.wikipedia - Own workTransferred from lb.wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Read the rest

Wuhan virus appeared in 1981 thriller novel

Dean Koontz's The Eyes of Darkness is a 1981 thriller that mentions germ warfare lab in Wuhan that develops a virus called Wuhan-400, which is then accidentally leaked.

It's an interesting coincidence, but as Hong Kong crime author Chan Ho-kei, that's all it is. He told The South China Morning Post "that this kind of 'fiction-prophecy' is not uncommon.:

“If you look really hard, I bet you can spot prophecies for almost all events. It makes me think about the ‘infinite monkey’ theorem,” he says, referring to the theory that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type any given text.

“The probability is low, but not impossible.”

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Dozens of woman now accuse prominent Columbia University Ob-Gyn of sexual assault

Famed Columbia University Ob-Gyn Dr. Robert Hadden was arrested in 2012 for licking a patient's vagina, but prosecutors didn't press charges, so Dr. Hadden went back to work. In the following weeks, he allegedly assaulted two more women, including Evelyn Yang, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, reports CNN.

Dr. Hadden took a plea deal and was able to register as the lowest-level sex offender. He was given no prison sentence, no probation, and no community service.

From CNN:

This defied the recommendation of the State of New York Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders to label Hadden a Level 2 -- or moderate -- offender, which would require his inclusion in an online sex-offender registry for life.

Elie Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst, called the 2016 agreement "inexplicable."

"I cannot think of any legitimate reason why you would give this guy a plea deal that would not put him behind bars for one day," he said. "It is unjust."

Since Yang went public with the assault, Dr. Hadden had been accused by 42 more women of sexual assault. Unfortunately, Dr. Hadden's plea deal includes a stipulation that the New York district attorney can't prosecute him for any of the 19 "similar crimes" the DA knew about.

Manhattan's DA refused to speak with CNN.

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American Airlines threatened to arrest me, says woman whose seat was continuously punched by man sitting behind her

Remember Wendi Williams, the woman who videotaped the man behind her who wouldn't stop punching her seat because she had reclined it?

Well, TMZ has a photo of a "passenger disturbance notice" that a flight attendant handed to Williams, warning her that she could be federally prosecuted for not complying with the flight attendant's order to delete the video she'd taken of the seat puncher. The attendant also threatened to kick Williams off the plane if she didn't delete the video. Williams says she deleted the video, but was able to recover it and post it to Twitter.

According to TMZ, Williams believes she may have suffered damage from the repeated punches, because she says she has had a number of back surgeries in the past as well as titanium implants in her vertebrae. She wants the seat puncher identified and prosecuted.

Williams told TMZ she took the video as a way to stop the man from continuing to violently punching her seat, and that once the man realized he was being taped, he reduced the force of the punches so that they were just an "irritation."

Here's the TMZ video interview with Williams:

Image: Twitter screengrab Read the rest

Tesla restored autopilot feature to used car, saying the whole thing was a "miscommunication"

Last week I posted the sad tale of Alec, a man who bought a used Tesla at auction and was saddened when Tesla later remotely disabled the car's autodrive feature.

Tesla justified the action by telling Alec that autodrive was "not a feature that you had paid for."

The story of Tesla's mean-spiritedness spread quickly, and as you might guess, Tesla jumped into damage control mode. It restored autodrive to the car and told Alec, "if it wasn't for that meddlesome miscommunication, you would never have lost autopilot in the first place!" Let's hope Tesla had a stern word with miscommunication for causing such trouble.

From The Verge:

Tesla has removed features from used cars in the past, but typically does so before the car is sold off to a third-party dealer or a new owner. Since Tesla pulled these features both after it sold the car to the dealer, and after that dealer sold it to Alec, it caused some fear that the company was setting a precedent for yanking features on a whim.

That now seems less likely to be true, although owners and potential customers should always be prepared to deal with changes. Tesla is pushing the boundaries when it comes to adding new features and generally making cars upgradeable via over-the-air software updates, and other automakers are (slowly) following suit. But the easier it gets for automakers to remotely update or change the features of a car, the easier it gets to take those features away, too.

Read the rest

Gentleman arrested for using mice and hamsters to get free hotel rooms

Utah police say Ryan Sentelle State (37) scored free hotel rooms by releasing mice and hamsters in the room and then demanding a free room to compensate him for the horror of sharing a room with a rodent.

From KUTV:

State would point out feces left by the rodents, a probable cause statement says. Hotels are forced to contact pest control when animals and feces are found in rooms.

Police say State and his gang of rodents caused damage to several hotel rooms.

Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash Read the rest

Telemarket scammer talks to a bot for over 10 minutes

The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is a subscription service that answers phone calls from suspected scammers and connects them to a bot that will happily chat with them for hours, days, or weeks. The idea is to keeps scammers busy talking to bots so they can't scam real people. Here's a recent recording of a scammer trying to talk a bot into signing up for some kind of medicare fraud. Read the rest

Prime Climb is a fun tabletop game that uses math

Let the co-creator of Prime Climb explain how to play this fast-moving game of quickly changing fortunes. It's on sale today on Amazon. Read the rest

Gentleman who tossed buckets on nails on Oregon roads for two years given a 30-day jail sentence

Bret Michael Wilson (57) (aka the "Nighttime Nailer") received a 30-day sentence for criminal mischief and four counts of disorderly conduct after admitting that he had thrown roofing nails onto busy Oregon streets for two years, reports The Oregonian. He will also have to pay $2,000 in restitution and refrain from drinking alcohol.

From the article:

Oregon City police finally arrested Wilson in October after officers who were staking out The Nighttime Nailer saw him chuck fistfuls of nails from his car as he drove along South Center Street before dawn.

After he was nabbed, the suspect copped to scattering the metal spikes numerous times before.

“By Mr. Wilson’s recollection, he has thrown nails over 50 times onto our busy streets over the last couple of years,” police said in a news release at the time.

Wilson’s early morning ritual — always done before sunrise so as to avoid detection — was in response to drivers he felt were rude or had slighted him, Brock said.

“It was his form of anger management. It made him feel better,” Brock said.

Image: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Read the rest

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