Denmark is 0.07 seconds behind the world

Every country once ran on its own time. This wasn't much of a problem until the era of global telecommunications began. That's when Denmark decided to use the line that's 15 degrees east of Greenwich, England as the spot to set Central European Time (one hour difference from Greenwich Mean Time). Clocks in Europe were all set so that when the sun was at its zenith 15 degrees east of Greenwich, it was noon. But because the Earth wobbles and its rotation is slowing down, "noon drifts by a fraction of a second each day," says Tom Scott. The world now uses Coordinated Universal Time, based on "a network of atomic clocks around the world" so that electronic assets trading can take place around world, where tiny fractions of a second can make a big difference.

But Denmark has never changed its law from 1894, which dictates that it must follow Mean Solar Time, to match the rest of the world, which uses Coordinated Universal Time. That means the error is now 0.07 seconds, and by the end of 2019, the error will be 0.25 seconds. Fortunately, everyone ignores the outdated law.

Images: Tom Scott/YouTube Read the rest

YouTube's algorithms demonitizes piano tutorial site for "Repetitious content"

When you're learning to play a musical instrument, you have to play the same songs and scales over and over again. YouTube's algorithm doesn't seem to know this, and so it demonetized a piano tutorial channel for "Repetitious content."

We just found out that our channel was demonetised for "Repetitious content" and we believe that this is an error, possibly decided by an algorithm, and now the biggest part of our livelihood has been taken away. Please help us by discussing this (tweeting and posting) if possible. We need to be heard by YouTube. It's a risk for the piano and synthesia community as we all have similar-looking videos.

I hope they get this sorted out soon! Read the rest

Funny postcards based on old paperbacks

Comfy Jr is selling a set of five Paperback Paradise postcards, including:

Incel From Another Planet Here They Come: The Bats That Kicked My Ass Whose Cat is This? Secret Sex Skeleton Eat Celestial Shit Read the rest

Justin Bieber song slowed down 800% and pitch corrected

Need a song for the third act of your indy film? Here you go:

Image: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock Read the rest

This AI is so good at writing fake news stories the developer doesn't want to release the code

The non-profit research organization, Open AI, developed a system called GPT-2, which "generates synthetic text samples in response to the model being primed with an arbitrary input. The model is chameleon-like — it adapts to the style and content of the conditioning text. This allows the user to generate realistic and coherent continuations about a topic of their choosing, as seen by the following select samples."

GPT-2 is so good at writing fake news that the developer said, "Due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology, we are not releasing the trained model."

Here's an example of the output:

SYSTEM PROMPT (HUMAN-WRITTEN)

Recycling is good for the world.

NO! YOU COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG!!

MODEL COMPLETION (MACHINE-WRITTEN, 25 TRIES)

Recycling is NOT good for the world. It is bad for the environment, it is bad for our health, and it is bad for our economy. I’m not kidding. Recycling is not good for the environment. It is destructive to the earth and it is a major contributor to global warming. Recycling is not good for our health. It contributes to obesity and diseases like heart disease and cancer. Recycling is bad for our economy. It increases the cost of a product, and in turn, the price of everything that is made with that product. Recycling is not good for our nation. We pay a tremendous price for the privilege of having the world’s most advanced and efficient recycling system. Recycling is a huge, colossal waste of time, energy, money, and resources. Read the rest

Enamel lapel pin of a video game arcade

I bought this nifty little lapel pin of a video arcade machine for my daughter's birthday. It uses two pins to keep it upright. It looks cool! Read the rest

Unopened copy of Super Mario Bros. sold at auction for $100,150

Eric Bradly says:

An unopened copy of Super Mario Bros., the classic video game released by Nintendo in 1985, set a world record for a graded game when it recently sold for $100,150.

“Beyond the artistic and historical significance of this game is its supreme state of preservation,” says Kenneth Thrower, co-founder and chief grader of Wata Games.

Due to its popularity, Nintendo reprinted Super Mario Bros. from 1985 to 1994 numerous times, resulting in 11 different box variations (according to this visual guide). The first two variations are “sticker sealed” copies that were only available in the New York and L.A. test market launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985 and 1986. Of all the sealed copies of Super Mario Bros., this is the only known “sticker sealed” copy and was certified by Wata Games with a Near Mint grade of 9.4 and a “Seal Rating” of A++.

“Not only are all of NES sticker sealed games extremely rare, but by their nature of not being sealed in shrink wrap they usually exhibit significant wear after more than 30 years,” Thrower said. “This game may be the condition census of all sticker sealed NES games known to exist.”

A group of collectors joined forces Feb. 6 to purchase the game, including some of the biggest names in video games and collectibles as a whole. The buyers include Jim Halperin, Founder and Co-Chairman of Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas; Zac Gieg, owner of Just Press Play Video Games in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Rich Lecce, renowned coin dealer, pioneering video game collector, and owner of Robert B.

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Watch this Infowars caller flame Roger Stone

A man identifying himself as "Michael from Florida" called into Infowars when federal indictee Roger Stone was a guest on the show. Michael first told the host he was angry that Trump's tax cut has increased his annual taxes by over $4,000. He then turned his attention to Stone (who was sporting fabulous eyebrows, by the way) by calling him a marshmallow and a snowflake for complaining about his treatment by the FBI when he was arrested.

“They didn’t throw you down on the ground!" said Michael. "You say your dogs were terrified and your wife was out in the street without her shoes on in the Florida freezing cold: 59 degrees. You guys are snowflakes and you’re going to go down in prison. You’re facing 40-plus years, Stone. It’s coming down on you.”

Displaying his trademark wit, Stone shot back, "Don't bet the ranch, muchacho."

Image: Twitter/Infowars screen grab Read the rest

People who used Marie Kondo's tidying method years ago are happy they did

Joe Pinsker, writing for The Atlantic, interviewed more than a dozen people who used the decluttering process described in Marie Kondo's best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. He found that most of the people don't regret tossing their belongings and that their places are still tidy years after tossing everything that didn't spark joy.

Even with all this throwing out, people have had very few regrets. Most told me they now don’t miss a thing, even stuff that they hesitated to discard. Some recalled isolated instances of (usually fleeting) second-guessing. Velma Gentzsch, a 40-year-old in St. Louis who KonMari-ed in 2017, says she wishes she still had the pair of brown leather boots she parted with. “I loved them, but they were half a size too big … [but] it’s not a huge deal,” she says.

Christina Refford, whose fourth KonMari-versary is this year, remembers twice going to her bookshelf—once for a stack of cooking magazines, once for Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women—only to realize that she’d tossed out what she was looking for. She wasn’t too bothered. “Almost anything I would’ve gotten rid of can be found somewhere else,” Refford says.

Image: Interior Design/Shutterstock Read the rest

Experts think Equifax was hacked by Russia or China to recruit spies

In 2017 the private credit information of 143 millions Americans was stolen from Equifax. But the records have never been offered for sale on the black market, which is highly unusual. (The only person who has so far profited from the breach seems to be Equifax CEO Richard F. Smith, who resigned with an $80 million retirement package.)

So, who stole the records of 1/2 the US population, and why? CNBC interviewed "experts, intelligence officials, dark web data 'hunters' and Equifax" and the consensus seems to be China or Russia did it as a way to recruit spies.

One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the Equifax investigation summarized the prevailing expert opinion on how the foreign intelligence agency is using the data. (This person asked to speak on the condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized in his current role to speak to media.)

First, he said, the foreign government is probably combining this information with other stolen data, then analyzing it using artificial intelligence or machine learning to figure out who's likely to be — or to become — a spy for the U.S. government. He pointed to other data breaches that focused on information that could be useful for identifying spies, such as a 2015 breach of the Office of Personnel Management, which processes the lengthy security clearance applications for U.S. government officials.

Second, credit reporting data provides compromising information that can be used to turn valuable people into agents of a foreign government, influencers or, for lower-level employees, data thieves or informants.

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Kashmiri saffron is disappearing

Kashmiri saffron is the best in the world, selling for $1550 a pound. But as a result of "ongoing regional violence, droughts, and the still-unfolding effects of climate change on the land, Kashmiri saffron has slowly begun to disappear," writes Sharanya Deepak for Eater.

“The saffron flower has three parts,” says Raqib Mushtaq Mir, a saffron merchant. “There’s the flower petals — that goes in for medicine, then there’s the yellow strands, which aren’t much use. The red strands, right in the middle, are pure saffron, which is what we’re looking for.” A single flower produces just three red strands; one gram of saffron is made from around 350 strands. For a kilogram of the spice, more than 150,000 flowers are sifted and scanned, and the rarity of the red strand can lead to shortcuts from less scrupulous merchants. “Often, in the market,” Mushtaq Mir says, “the yellow are colored with red and mixed into the bunch.”

Image: Philippe 1 bo/Shutterstock Read the rest

The urgent threat of hormone-disrupting chemicals to our health and future

The following essay was written by Dr. Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, a  renowned pediatrician, professor at NYU, and prominent leader in children’s environmental health. He's the author of a new book, Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future . . . and What We Can Do About It. -- Mark Frauennfelder

As a consumer, when it comes to chemical safety you’d be surprised how powerful your voice really is. When the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned bisphenols A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups, it wasn’t the scientific knowledge that moved the needle to trigger that decision. There had been a huge outcry in the media about the effects of this synthetic estrogen. Manufacturers changed their process for making these materials, and literally ran to FDA to ask for a change in the rules so that they didn’t lose market share and profit.

In the current political climate, you might think this is less likely to happen, as chemical companies might feel emboldened. But it’s quite the opposite actually. A small study recently found perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals known to mess with thyroid hormone and our metabolic rate, in the linings of those buffet-style food carry out boxes you see in supermarkets. The findings from a small sample of measurements literally triggered two major supermarket chains to insist that their suppliers either shape up or literally be shipped out.

This article focuses on five other examples where the same phenomenon is not that far away. Read the rest

Get this highly-rated cordless drill at a steep discount

I've bought a lot of Tacklife tools in recent years, and have always been happy with them. So when learned Tacklife was selling this feature-filled cordless drill at a great price (when you use promo code I9AEAS92), I bought it without hesitation. It has an adjustable torque setting, a light, and a charger. Read the rest

Record number of Americans are 90 days late with auto payments

More than 7 million Americans are over 3 months behind on their car loan payments, a new record since the metric began being tracked 19 years ago.

From CNBC:

That's more than 1 million higher than the peak in 2010 as the country was recovering from its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

"The substantial and growing number of distressed borrowers suggests that not all Americans have benefited from the strong labor market and warrants continued monitoring and analysis of this sector," Fed economists said in a report that accompanied their quarterly look at U.S. consumer debt.

The surge in delinquencies came along with a $584 billion jump in total auto loan debt, the highest increase since the New York Fed began keeping track 19 years ago.

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Chair-tosser turns herself in to police

The Toronto woman who tossed a chair from a 45th-floor balcony into traffic last week turned herself into police today. Marcella Zoia, 19, is charged with mischief endangering life, mischief involving damage to property, and common nuisance. Her Instagram account, which had 4,000 followers and 108 posts, has been deleted. After it was discovered that Zoia was staying at an Airbnb when she huirled the chair, the service announced that it would deplatform her.

Suspect in chair throwing video surrenders to police from r/toronto

[via Heavy]

Images: @marcellacz_ | Instagram Read the rest

City demands $3,000 from mother who wants records after cops kill her son

In 2009,  35-year-old Caesar Ray Cruz, a father of five, was on his way to pick up his kids from school when five Anaheim police officers shot and killed him. He was unarmed. The city of Anaheim paid his relatives $150,000 in a settlement.

Cruz's mother, Theresa Smith, is seeking the records relating to her son's death, but the city wants a $3,000 deposit. She says she doesn't have the money.

From Fox 11 News:

"Are they crazy?" Smith asked. "We had to scrape by just to pay for a funeral. I certainly can't come up with that kind of money."

Smith requested this information through a Public Records Act seeking certain police files that are now public under a new law, SB 1421, that took effect on Jan. 1. The type of files are limited and they include: If an officer was found by superiors to have lied or had an inappropriate sexual relationship on the job, or if officers used force where a person was killed or suffered great bodily injury.

As many jurisdictions in California, including Contra County County and Southern California, are seeking to block the release of these files arguing that anything created before this date should be kept private, others, such as Anaheim, are complying with the new law, but they want to make sure that it's not at the taxpayer's expense.

Image: Theresa Smith and son Ceasar Cruz Read the rest

On re-reading Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine

Lately, I've been re-reading some of the books that profoundly affected me the first time I read them (A few on my list: The Selfish Gene, Influence, You Can't Win, Sister Carrie, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre). One book I forgot about until I read Software engineer Bryan Cantrill's essay this morning, is The Soul of A New Machine (1981), Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction book about the team at Data General tasked with making a 32-bit minicomputer in a year.

Shortly after I started reading, I began to realize that (contrary to what I had been telling myself over the years!) I had not re-read the book in full since that first reading so many years ago. Rather, over the years I had merely revisited those sections that I remembered fondly. On the one hand, these sections are singular: the saga of engineers debugging a nasty I-cache data corruption issue; the young engineer who implements the simulator in an impossibly short amount of time because no one wanted to tell him that he was being impossibly ambitious; the engineer who, frustrated with a nanosecond-scale timing problem in the ALU that he designed, moved to a commune in Vermont, claiming a desire to deal with “no unit of time shorter than a season”. But by limiting myself to these passages, I was succumbing to the selection bias of my much younger self; re-reading the book now from start to finish has given new parts depth and meaning.

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