Good deal on Tile tracker and Echo Dot

Yesterday I wrote about how having a Tile Bluetooth tracker helped me find my wallet when I lost it at the theater last week. I just found out that Tile has refreshed its product lineup and one of the new devices is called the Tile Sticker. It has an adhesive so you can stick it to items that you want to keep track of. A Tile Sticker 2-pack costs , but right now Amazon has a deal where you can get 4 Tile Stickers and an Echo Dot for . Read the rest

Man gets treated in hospital for infected knee - gets a bill for $618,967.78

On Reddit, u/xplodingboy07 said he got a nasty knee infection and had to spend a month in the hospital. He posted a photo of the bill, which was for $618,967.78.

That's $20,000 a day. And here I was thinking that the $106,911.93 bill my elderly relative got for spending 8 days in the hospital after his partial denture got stuck in his throat was excessive. Turns out it was a bargain at just $13,000 a day.


Over 500,000 U.S. families go bankrupt from medical bills every year.

Image: Reddit Read the rest

Incredible feat of parallel parking

A determined driver in France fit their car in a spot with just a few inches of clearance. This is one of 10 videos about heroic parkers featured in Car and Driver. Read the rest

World of Warcraft publisher suspends pro player for supporting Hong Kong

Blizzard Entertainment, best known for publishing World of Warcraft, suspended a pro Hearthstone player and pulled his prize money because he said, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” during a livestream.

Blizzard, which has a huge and lucrative market in China, determined that Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai's utterance was in violation of a competition rule:


Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.

According to Kotaku: "Blitzchung’s punishment is an immediate removal from Grandmasters, a withholding of prize money for his participation and a ban from taking part in Hearthstone esports 'for 12 months beginning from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020.'"

Image: Twitter Read the rest

Are we in a simulation? This short video explores the question

In 2003, Philosophical Quarterly published a paper by philosopher Nick Bostrom titled "Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?" In the introduction, Bostrom argues that one (or more) of the following propositions must be true:

(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage

(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof)

(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor‐simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

The TED-Ed video above looks at how we might be able to run experiments to learn whether or not we are currently living in a simulation. Read the rest

A Bluetooth tracker helped me find my wallet

About three years ago I was at Maker Faire with my family. We stopped at a booth run by Tile, a company that makes small Bluetooth trackers to attach to things you don't want to lose. The person in the booth let us spin a wheel of fortune to try to win a Tile. Carla spun it and won the best prize on the wheel - a Tile 4-pack with two Tile Mates and two Tile Slims. We ended up putting them in a drawer and forgetting about them. But about a month ago, Carla complained that she was frustrated with looking for her phone after misplacing it too many times around the house. I remembered the Tile devices and set one up so that she could press the button on the Tile and it would make her phone play a tone. It worked, which is surprising because the battery had been running for years. Now she keeps the Tile in a drawer and presses it when she can't find her phone.

I decided to put one of the Tile slims in my wallet. It's as thick as two credit cards, so it didn't make the wallet bulge. On Friday Carla and I went to a movie theater to see Monos (thumbs up) and when we got into our car after the movie, I felt for my wallet in my pants pocket and discovered it wasn't there. I quickly walked back to the theater to look for it. I didn't care as much about the contents of the wallet as the wallet itself -- it was a red zipper wallet I bought in Japan and I love it. Read the rest

Woman explains why she hates living in her tiny house

I'm attracted to the idea of tiny houses, but after reading Adele Peters' essay about how much she hates living in one, my enthusiasm is diminished. Read the rest

Studies suggest dyslexia could be caused by having less brain plasticity

Two studies point to diminished brain plasticity — the ability to adapt thinking and memory to new information — as the cause behind dyslexia. People with dyslexia appear to have less brain plasticity than average, according to the studies, which were conducted at Hebrew University of Israel and MIT. People with dyslexia are more likely to forget recent events than non-dyslexics, and their brains do not adapt as well to "repeated stimuli, including spoken words, musical notes, and faces," according to Mental Floss:

In the Hebrew University study, led by Merav Ahissar, researchers gave subjects a musical task: The researchers played two different notes and asked which was higher. Previous research has found that people do better on this task when one of the notes is a repeat of a note they’ve heard recently. But Ahissar found that people with dyslexia did not benefit as much from the repetition. When a tone was repeated only three seconds after the "anchor" tone, they got some benefit, but not after nine seconds had elapsed. And when Ahissar’s team measured dyslexic people’s brain responses with EEG, their brain responses didn’t decrease. Their brains didn’t get any more efficient—they were less adaptable.

The MIT study, led by John Gabrieli, found similar results through a different experiment. Gabrieli used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure people’s brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow in their brains. Instead of asking people to discriminate between musical notes, Gabrieli's team simply presented people with repeated things, including spoken words, written words, faces, and common objects like tables or chairs.

Read the rest

Researcher discusses future of deepfakes

Deepfake videos and audios are being used to make porn and humorous videos, but they can also be used to fabricate evidence and create propaganda. In this Wired video, researcher Sam Gregory at the human rights nonprofit Witness, discusses the future of deepfakes and how we might be able to deal with them.

<em>Image: Wired/YouTube</em> Read the rest

After analyzing 3.5 million books, researchers learn most common adjectives used to describe men and women

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen analyzed 3.5 million English language books published between 1900 to 2008 to identify the adjectives most frequently applied to men and women. Unsurprisingly, women were described by their bodies and appearance and men were described by their thoughts and behavior. The World Economic Forum points out that computer algorithms that make important decisions about people's lives were trained using much of the same data.

“We are clearly able to see that the words used for women refer much more to their appearances than the words used to describe men. Thus, we have been able to confirm a widespread perception, only now at a statistical level,” says computer scientist and assistant professor Isabelle Augenstein of the University of Copenhagen’s computer science department.

The researchers extracted adjectives and verbs associated with gender-specific nouns (e.g. “daughter” and “stewardess”). For example, in combinations such as “sexy stewardess” or “girls gossiping.” They then analyzed whether the words had a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment, and then categorized the words into semantic categories such as “behavior,” “body,” “feeling,” and “mind.”

The dataset is based on the Google Ngram Corpus.

Their analysis demonstrates that negative verbs associated with body and appearance appear five times as often for female figures as male ones. The analysis also demonstrates that positive and neutral adjectives relating to the body and appearance occur approximately twice as often in descriptions of female figures, while male ones are most frequently described using adjectives that refer to their behavior and personal qualities.

Read the rest

Writer David Moldawer's favorite tools

My guest this week on the Cool Tools show is David Moldawer. David is a Brooklyn-based writer and book collaborator who spent more than a decade as an acquiring editor in New York City publishing. He was an editor on a number of books I've written. He also writes a weekly newsletter for nonfiction authors and experts who aspire to be authors called The Maven Game.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Raw transcript excerpts:

Focusmate Focusmate has been transformative for me over the last few months. It’s very simple. It pairs you with a random person via webcam and you work together for 50 minutes at a time. So it’s like having a virtual coworking partner. So what happens is you have a calendar and you pick a slot. Let’s say I want to work at 9:00 AM — it’ll say “You’re working with John or Bill or Melinda at 9:00 AM,” and at that time I click start and it brings up a typical webcam, video-chat-kind-of window, and the other person’s there sitting at a desk and I’ll say “Hi, what are you working on?” They’ll say, “Oh I’m grading something because I’m a teacher.” And I’ll say, “Okay great. I’m doing some editing because I’m a book collaborator,” and that’s it. And then we’ll just sit there and work with the webcam going. Nobody really watches each other. Read the rest

Drew Friedman's fantastic book with his portraits of every U.S. President

The great Drew Friedman took time to draw a portrait of every U.S. President. His work always blows me away (as you might guess, given the number of times I've posted about him). Below, a few samples from the book, which is called All the Presidents. It's published by Fantagraphics.

Some of these portraits will be on display at a Drew Friedman exhibition being held at Friends of the Libraries Gallery, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, in Columbus Ohio, from November 2, 2019 - February 9, 2020.

Read the rest

"Troll Factory" games teaches you how fake news is spread - and why

Troll Factory is an entertaining online edugame that shows you how disinformation merchants infiltrate social media and spread their corrosive anti-democracy propaganda.

Yle's Troll Factory game asks you to imagine you are a professional troll who tries to amass influence in social media by spreading fear, bias and suspicion using botnets, paid marketing and internet memes. The game combines authentic social media content with game-like simulation that's personalised based on the user's choices.

Fake news, hate speech and conspiracy theories spread in Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. The big internet behemoths can't stop this from happening. So it's becoming increasingly hard for people to notice when they share, comment or like something inaccurate online -- even unintentionally.

"We decided to turn the whole fake news problem upside down. What if you became an actual troll to understand the motives and intentions behind today's information wars?" says Jarno M. Koponen who's leading the project for the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle's News Lab in Helsinki.

Read the rest

Thanks to you, the Trump They Live billboard is up in Times Square!

Mitch "the World's Best Artist" O'Connell (Not "Moscow" Mitch McConnell, the sell-out senator) got enough money in his crowdfunding campaign to erect this terrific They Live homage featuring reality TV show host Donald Trump. The VOTE billboard is ready for selfies at 7th Ave and 48th St!

Mitch said, "Mostly due to Boing Boing, it’s UP!" Yay!

Mitch received enough funds to keep the billboard up for a month, but if he gets more money it'll stay up longer. Contribute here. Read the rest

If you have an older MacBook, here's a very inexpensive charger

This L-type magsafe charger for pre-2013 MacBooks is already cheap at but if you use promo code NX72DAJR, you can get it for half that price. Read the rest

A 21-year-old who overslept and missed jury duty was given 10 days in jail

Don't oversleep when you have jury duty. Deandre Somerville (21) received a 10-day jail sentence and a criminal record for oversleeping and blowing off his service. He was also put on probation for a year and given 150 hours of community service.


Somerville lives with his grandparents and helps care for his grandfather who recently had surgery and has trouble walking. Somerville helps him around the house and takes him to therapy and the grocery store while his grandmother is at work.

He was out playing basketball when his worried grandmother called to say there was a police officer at the door with a court summons.

“My grandfather said, ‘Just go in and be honest,’” said Somerville. “I’ve never had a criminal background, never been arrested, never been in handcuffs. The most I’ve ever gotten was a traffic ticket so I was thinking it wouldn’t be that bad.”

Inside the courtroom, he said Judge John Kastrenakes explained that Somerville’s negligence delayed the court by 45 minutes.

“They handcuffed me in the courtroom after that,” said Somerville, who spent the next 10 days in jail. He said his first jail experience wasn’t scary, but he prayed daily and wrote in a notebook.

Read the rest

Colbert gives the reason why Trump won't stop talking about his crimes

Stephen Colbert explains why Trump keeps talking about his impeachable offenses in public:

“Trump knows if something’s bad, you don’t admit it in public,” he said. “So, if he admits it in public it must not be bad. He’s trying to normalize it.”

The host compared what Trump is doing to a husband saying, “Honey, I know you think it’s wrong for me to have sex with our neighbor, but if it were, why would I be doing it in the middle of your book club?”

Image: YouTube Read the rest

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