Mysteries of the Unknown: Inside the world of the strange and unexplained

As a kid, I devoured cheap paperback books about “strange but true” phenomena. The short stories were anthologized from men’s adventure magazines of the 40s-60s and recounted mysteries such as: Who made the eerie statues on Easter Island? What happened on Amelia Earhart’s final flight? How do rocks in the desert move by themselves and leave trails in the mud? How do people spontaneously combust? Why did hundreds and hundreds of fish rain from the sky onto the heads of astonished residents of a small town in Australia? These stories set my imagination on fire.

Unfortunately, as I learned years later by going online, most of the stories turned out to be poorly researched or outright bogus. Mysteries of the Unknown is like these old books, but the stories are backed by solid research and a healthy amount of skepticism that does not detract from the fun. In fact, it makes the stories more fun. As an added bonus, the ample photos and illustrations bring the mysteries to life, making them even more mysterious.

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Cheap phone rocker for boosting your daily step count

Aliexpress has lots of these little gadgets that rock a phone back-and-forth to fool the pedometer into thinking you are walking on a treadmill. They cost about $2.

Why? "Some insurance companies in China allow people who consistently reach a certain daily step count to get discounted health insurance premiums," writes Matthew Brennan.

[via 52 Things I Learned in 2019] Read the rest

Trump pays $2 million fine for stealing from his charity

It's not surprising that Trump used his own charity like a personal piggy bank. Nor is it surprising that his base loves him all the more for stealing the money. What is surprising is that there was still almost $2 million left in the charity's account. I guess he'll be heading to Moscow again soon, MAGA hat in hand.

From The Intelligencer:

A judge ordered the payment last month after Trump admitted to abusing the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which he used over the years to buy a portrait of himself and a Broncos helmet autographed by Tim Tebow, among other noncharitable items.

The foundation, which has been shut down, also distributed the $1.8 million left in its coffers to the eight charities, giving them each a total of $476,140.41. The charities are Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals on Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, United Way of the National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The NY attorney general's office also said that Don Jr, Eric, and Ivanka, who were officials with the foundation, took “compulsory training to ensure this type of illegal activity never takes place again.” Thank goodness this type of illegal activity will never take place again!

Photo of Trump by Gage Skidmore -, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link. Modified. Read the rest

Please tell me where this conveyor belt sushi bar is so I can make sure to never go

Each plate of sushi at this joint has been blessed with the clammy hand of a toddler, at no extra charge.

Hands-off parenting at a conveyor belt sushi bar from r/trashy

Image: Reddit Read the rest

Emergency team rescues girl whose fingers got stuck in a shopping cart

This is something that would happen to me. Now I know to wear mittens around shopping carts. Read the rest

Runner who slapped journalist on butt is Tommy Callaway, a youth minister and boy scout leader in Statesboro, Georgia

The runner who slapped WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjian's butt on TV has been identified as Tommy Callaway (43) of Statesboro, Georgia. Callaway, a youth minister and boy scout leader, did not come forward until his identity was revealed by social media users who used his numbered race bib to figure out who he is. Callaway has locked his social media accounts and is communicating through his attorney, who issued the following statement:

“While we regret the situation, Mr. Callaway did not act with any criminal intentions. Tommy is a loving husband and father who is very active in his community. We have been in touch with WSAV and representatives for Ms. Alex Bozarjian, as well as members of Savannah law enforcement. We do not expect any criminal charges to arise from this incident, and we are working with those involved to correct the situation.”

From The New York Post:

Speaking on CBS TV’s “This Morning” on Tuesday, Bozarjian confirmed that Callaway “did try to make contact ” with her to say that “his intentions were not to hurt me, he didn’t intend to do it.

“I’m not going to really debate that — because he did hurt me,” she insisted of the slap that she said had a “heavy impact.”

“He separates himself from the runners, and he kind of winds up.

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I buy readers by the 5-pack

I use +3.0 to read books, phone, and kindle, and +0.5 when using my computer. My readers of choice are these cheap horn-rim spex. A five-pack costs . I keep a pair in my travel bag and the others are scattered around the house. They tend to gather and disperse like a swarm of semi-intelligent robots. Read the rest

Galveston GOP Chairwoman says her text message with N-word was a "typo"

Galveston County Republican Party Chairwoman Yolanda Waters says her use of the N-word in a text message about fellow party member J.T. Edwards was simply a typo. Edwards, by pure coincidence, is black. The Galveston Daily News reports that “Waters complained about personal loans she and her husband had made to Edwards, and then followed her complaint about the money by calling Edwards a ‘typical n**.’”

“I usually type very fast, and in this case, I moved too fast to see that the word was there,” Waters told the paper. “I made the typo because I did not proofread my text.”

The word was there. Like it spontaneously appeared in the text message without her typing it.

[via Fark] Read the rest

Burglars fail miserably in attempt to steal a television

Three gentleman who tried to liberate a 75-inch television from the wall of a real-estate office in Spain were outsmarted by the cords attached to the appliance, as well an uncooperative door framee and a less-than-desirable coefficient of friction between the soles of their shoes and the broken glass on the sidewalk the building.

Image: LiveLeak Read the rest

Unicorn takes $699 from 350 scooter buyers, tells them they won't be getting a scooter or a refund

Unicorn is a scooter company that launched with a lot of flash and hype. Unicorn's CEO Nick Evans is the co-creator of Tile, the GPS tracking app. The company spent a vast amount of money on Facebook ads but only got pre-orders for 350 scooters. Now Evans says they have no money left and no one is getting a scooter or a refund.

From The Verge:

Customers, as you can imagine, are pissed. “I am upset he basically robbed everyone of his customers and is closing without delivering any scooters,” Rebecca Buchholtz wrote in an email to The Verge. “This was my daughters Christmas gift and now I cannot get her any gift.”

“I find it shocking that someone like Nick Evans who has name recognition and clout in the tech community due to Tile, would operate in such a fraudulent way,” wrote Matt Furhman. Another customer, who said he is now out $998 after ordering two Unicorn scooters, called Evans “a thief.”

Customers are advised to contact their credit card companies and dispute the charges from Unicorn.

In an email to The Verge, Evans said the company had received only around 350 orders. “I feel horribly guilty that we left people with no scooters and no refunds,” he said. “We are working on something, but, yes, this seems unlikely.”

$699 X 650 = $244,650. Is that too much for the co-founder of a very successful company to give to people who put their faith in him?

A tidbit from Wikipedia: "On November 7, 2013, Tile's founder Nick Evans his company Reveal Labs were sued for allegedly stealing the Tile idea while Evans was employed by Jonathan C. Read the rest

William Gibson profiled in The New Yorker

In the December 9, 2019 issue of The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman profiles one of the most influential authors in recent decades, William Gibson.

Gibson doesn’t have a name for his method; he knows only that it isn’t about prediction. It proceeds, instead, from a deep engagement with the present. When Gibson was starting to write, in the late nineteen-seventies, he watched kids playing games in video arcades and noticed how they ducked and twisted, as though they were on the other side of the screen. The Sony Walkman had just been introduced, so he bought one; he lived in Vancouver, and when he explored the city at night, listening to Joy Division, he felt as though the music were being transmitted directly into his brain, where it could merge with his perceptions of skyscrapers and slums. His wife, Deborah, was a graduate student in linguistics who taught E.S.L. He listened to her young Japanese students talk about Vancouver as though it were a backwater; Tokyo must really be something, he thought. He remembered a weeping ambulance driver in a bar, saying, “She flatlined.” On a legal pad, Gibson tried inventing words to describe the space behind the screen; he crossed out “infospace” and “dataspace” before coming up with “cyberspace.” He didn’t know what it might be, but it sounded cool, like something a person might explore even though it was dangerous.

(Image: William Gibson by Frédéric Poirot , CC-BY) Read the rest

Kindle Unlimited is a fun and cheap way to read comics

The Kindle Unlimited program is $10 a month, and it gives you access to over a million books and comics on Amazon. Amazon is currently offering a deal: 3 months for 99 cents a month. I especially like that you can read tons of comic books and graphic novels this way. I'm currently reading Grant Morrison's The Invisibles on my iPhone. It works really well using the one-panel-at-a-time mode. I prefer reading comics this way over reading the print version. Read the rest

Woman asked to remove "Hail Satan" T-shirt on American Airlines flight

Shortly after Swati Runi Goyal (49) boarded an American Airlines flight from Florida to Nevada, a crew member told her she would either have to remove her shirt or get off the plane, reports Buzzfeed News.

Goyal is a member of the non-theistic Satanic Temple, which is a recognized church.

From Buzzfeed News:

Goyal was shocked by the harsh response from the crew members, noting that she's worn the T-shirt many times in the past without incident, including on airplanes.

Fortunately, her husband had two layers on, so he lent one to her. With the text of the shirt covered up, the crew allowed her to remain on the flight. Still, she said the crew avoided eye contact with her for the remainder of the flight, even ignoring her when the drink cart came around.

American Airlines later apologized to Goyal and issued refunds to her and her husband.

Image: Swati Runi Goyal Read the rest

McDonald's customer sentenced to 3 years in prison for throwing hot coffee in employee's face

Joseph "Smilin' Joe" Deluca (54) of Ohio will have to wait at three years before he gets another opportunity to throw hot McDonald's coffee in a person's face. That's because he's going to prison, where coffee doesn't come from McDonald's and it probably not very hot.

Deluca was at a McDonald's drive-up window when a cashier asked to see his receipt because there was confusion as to whether he'd ordered one cup of coffee or two. Deluca got out of his car and tossed both cups of coffee at the employee, who suffered burns as a result.

Newsweek reports that Deluca "has more than 20 prior convictions on charges including vandalism, intimidation, burglary, and grand theft... After his sentencing, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O'Malley said: 'Deluca appears to have an inability to control his temper. Hopefully he uses the next three years to learn to correct that problem.'" Read the rest

Six tiny cellphones found hidden in a pair of Nike shoes at Oklahoma detention center

Officials at Logan County Detention Center inspected a pair of Nike shoes and found three tiny cell phones hidden the sole of each shoe, reports Fox News.

If you covet such a phone, AliExpress is awash in them. Do you think they might have malware on them?

Images: Logan County Sheriff's Office Read the rest

Devin Nunes calls reporter a stalker for asking him a question

Rep. Devin Nunes' hand was shaking like a leaf while recording Intercept reporter Lee Fang politely asking a question about his role in investigating Hunter Biden. Nunes should learn about free and easy-to-use image stabilization software, like the kind used here:

Star Trek with camera stabilizer

Here's Fang's account of what happened:

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Video tutorial on how to play retro video games with a Raspberry Pi

In this video from Pi My Life Up you'll learn how to install and use software called RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi. RetroPie lets you emulate a bunch of different game platforms, like Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, and so on.

By the way, I co-wrote a book with Ryan Bates called Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming: Build Consoles and Arcade Cabinets to Play Your Favorite Classic Games, which has instructions for building a tabletop arcade machine. Read the rest

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