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.

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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.

Read the rest

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.”

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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.

Read the rest

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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This tiny bluetooth speaker is back

I posted about this tiny Bluetooth speaker last year, and shortly after that, it was no longer available on Amazon. It's back now at a great price. The sound quality is really good for such a small device, and it will run for about 4 hours on a charge. It also works as a speakerphone. Read the rest

Even experts can be tricked by meaningless babble uttered by a slick BS artist

"An empty presentation delivered by a charismatic speaker can impress even an experienced audience," says Greg Ross of the Futility Closet, in his post about the "Dr. Fox Effect."

This [Rockwell Retro Encabulator] presentation, an in-joke among engineers, is technobabble but manages to seem oddly persuasive. In 1970, John Ware and Reed Williams of the University of Southern California School of Medicine ran an experiment that helps to show why.

The researchers arranged lectures on mathematical game theory for two audiences of psychiatrists and psychologists. In one classroom the lecturer was an actual scientist, and in the other, he was an actor playing “Dr. Myron L. Fox” who’d been given one day to prepare a lecture “with an excessive use of double-talk, neologisms, nonsequiturs, and contradicting statements.”

When both Fox and the scientist delivered their material in an inexpressive monotone, the scientist’s students performed better on an examination. But when both spoke engagingly, the students rated the charlatan as highly as the expert.

“The actor fooled not just one, but three separate audiences of professional and graduate students,” law professor Deborah J. Merritt wrote later. “Despite the emptiness of his lecture, fifty-five psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, graduate students, and other professionals produced evaluations of Dr. Fox that were overwhelmingly positive. … The disturbing feature of the Dr. Fox study, as the experimenters noted, is that Fox’s nonverbal behaviors so completely masked a meaningless, jargon-filled, and confused presentation.”

(John E. Ware and Reed G. Williams, “The Dr. Fox Effect: A Study of Lecturer Effectiveness and Ratings of Instruction,” Journal of Medical Education 50:2 [1975], 149.)

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Comparing a $50 knockoff drone with a $1400 Mavic 2 Pro

How does a $50 drone compare against a $1,400 Mavic 2 Pro? Well, I was hoping this test would reveal that the $50 knockoff was about half as good as the Mavic. But it turns out that the knockoff is so crappy that it's 0% as good. It can't deal with a light breeze, it loses its radio connection frequently, the camera is garbage, and the battery dies without warning. The Mavic 2 Pro, on the other hand, is a thing of beauty, with built-in GPS so it hovers, and a gorgeous video image.

Image: Indy Mogul/YouTube

[via Dooby Brain] Read the rest

Fascinating 9-minute documentary of Shenzhen, the "Silicon Valley of China"

Just 40 years ago, Shenzhen was a fishing village next to Hong Kong. Today it's a high tech city of 13 million people and known as both the "factory to the world," and the "Silicon Valley of China." After watching this Bloomberg video, I think it's the other way around -- Silicon Valley is the Shenzhen of the United States.

[via Dooby Brain] Read the rest

Man follows porch package thieves, follows them, and gets them arrested

This guy has a lot of security cameras, and he put them to good use to make a mini-documentary about tracking down a porch pirate. First, we see a black-and-white security camera view of a young woman walking up his driveway. The scene switches to a doorbell camera, where we see her walk to the door and leave with a package. It cuts back to the driveway cam to show her walking away with the purloined item.

Then we get a wonderful interior shot of our hero splayed shirtless on his living room couch. His wife comes in a pokes him in the back and lets him know that the security cam identified a person. He springs into action, runs to his pick up truck, and turns on his dash cam. He finds the thief (and a male accomplice with respectable sideburns) and calls the cops. In short order, the porch pirates are in the arms of justice.

Image: Thomas Penafiel/YouTube Read the rest

Paired pushbuttons notify partners about desire to have sex

Lovesync is a pushbutton system for romantic partners. Each partner gets a button. When one of the partners wants sex, they push the button. Nothing happens unless/until the other partner pushes their own button within a specified time window, then both buttons glow green. Lovesync is about 50% funded on Kickstarter.

Lovesync reminds me of a proposal someone told me about in the 1980s as a way to keep discussion salons interesting. Everyone would be given a handheld gadget with a button. When someone was talking, anyone could secretly push the button if the person talking was boring them. If over 50% of the people pressed the button, a buzzer would go off, meaning the speaker had to stop talking, Read the rest

Former Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca loses appeal for obstructing justice and lying to federal authorities

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, the corrupt law enforcement chief who was fond of giving himself awards, campaigning against marijuana legalization, encouraging prison rape, wrongfully imprisoning people, locking up nonviolent people who possessed drugs, and horribly mistreating inmates, lost his court appeal for obstructing justice and lying to federal authorities. He could spend several years in prison.

From the LA Times

Attorneys for Baca, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, appealed the verdict, arguing it had been tainted by rulings U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson had made during the trial and so should be reversed. Among several alleged errors, they focused on Anderson’s decision to bar the jury from hearing testimony about Baca’s illness and about a conversation he had with an aide about the FBI’s investigation. Either piece of information, the defense team said, could have helped sway the jury in Baca’s favor.

But the three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those claims, finding the trial was fair and the conviction legally sound.

Calling the case prosecutors had mounted “fair and thorough,” U.S. Atty. Nick Hanna said in a statement the ruling “confirms the principle that no one is above the law.”

“Instead of cooperating with a federal investigation that ultimately was concerned about improving conditions in the county jails, Mr. Baca chose to obstruct and then lie to federal authorities,” Hanna said.

Image by ScottMLiebenson - Own work, CC0, Link Read the rest

Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1500 -- best way to a paperless archive

[I wrote this review in 2010. I now have a newer model, the ix1500 and have edited the following to include the new features -- MF]

I once left a box of important files out in the rain and wasted a lot of time drying them a sheet at a time, then filing them in cabinets.

It gave me pause. Was I going to have to live with ever-growing stacks of paper files that took up space, were hard to search through, and were fragile?

I decided to try digitizing my paper trail. I started scanning documents on my HP scanner-printer-copier, which is mind-numbingly slow and had a buggy driver that crashed my computer, forcing a reboot about 25% of the time I used it. I then bought a sheet-fed Fujitsu ScanSnap. It lets me insert a stack of up to 50 two-sided documents into the sheet feeder and it whips through all 100 pages in a couple of minutes, saving them as text-searchable PDFs. I was honestly surprised that my laptop was capable of accepting data at such a fast pace. This scanner doesn't hog a lot of precious desktop real estate, either. It's surprisingly small -- about 11.5 inches wide and 5 inches deep, with the feeder and output flaps folded in.

I configured my SnapScan to send scanned documents as PDF files to my Evernote account, although this is not required. (If you don't know about the previously reviewed Evernote, it's an outstanding online service that accepts images, sound files, notes, scans of documents, and just about anything else you want to throw in it. Read the rest

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