Officer shot in Thousand Oaks mass shooting was killed by friendly fire

Though he was also shot by the suspect in last month's attack at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Ca., Sgt. Ron Helu was killed by friendly fire during the shootout.

"We believe that Sgt. Helus was clearly not the intended target of the CHP officer -- which further illustrates the extreme situation both men faced."

According to the county's chief medical examiner, Helus' initial wounds were survivable, but the sixth bullet proved deadly when it struck his heart.

Previously. Read the rest

"Brain-eating" amoebas kill woman who used filtered tap water in neti pot

Neti pot brain-amoeba deaths are like shark week: an incredibly rare event that commands outsize attention due to reactionary schadenfreude and the sheer horror of the victim's demise. Fox News:

When a 69-year old Seattle woman had a seizure earlier this year, doctors at Swedish Medical Center thought she may have had a brain tumor. However during surgery, they discovered it was something much more unusual. ... Dr. Cobb says she most likely became infected by the amoeba after treating a common sinus problem with tap water.

“We believe that she was using a device to irrigate her sinuses that some people use called a neti pot. It’s extremely important to use sterile saline or sterile water. I think she was using water that had been through a water filter and had been doing that for about a year previously,” Dr. Cobb said.

The FDA isn't quite so stern, saying you can use tapwater to irrigate your sinuses if you boil it for at least 3 minutes and, of course, let it cool first. The CDC says you can use filtered tapwater, but only if you're using filters that are explicitly designed to remove germs. Most fridge and store-bought filters do not remove germs.

My local water department handed out this fancy Zerowater model to householders during a local water quality scare here and I can recommend it, though it's slow to filter and the replacement filters are pricey. It also removes dissolved minerals, unlike most store brands, resulting in all the pros and cons of drinking soft water. Read the rest

Giant blood clot shaped like the lung it came out of

A patient suffering from heart failure reportedly coughed up a huge blood clot that somehow retained the shape of the lung passages it had blocked. The Atlantic's Haley Weiss reports that "Doctors Aren’t Sure How This Even Came Out of a Patient"

In Wieselthaler’s case, blood eventually broke out of his patient’s pulmonary network into the lower right lung, heading directly for the bronchial tree. After days of coughing up much smaller clots, Wieselthaler’s patient bore down on a longer, deeper cough and, relieved, spit out a large, oddly shaped clot, folded in on itself. Once Wieselthaler and his team carefully unfurled the bundle and laid it out, they found that the architecture of the airways had been retained so perfectly that they were able to identify it as the right bronchial tree based solely on the number of branches and their alignment.

He died a few days later. I looked it up. Sorry. Read the rest

Neural-net powered AI "crushes" top chess engine

AlphaZero lost only 6 games to Stockfish in a 1000-game series, winning 155 games and drawing the rest. The crushing win sharpens the challenge of neural networks to traditional chess engines.

What can computer chess fans conclude after reading these results? AlphaZero has solidfied its status as one of the elite chess players in the world. But the results are even more intriguing if you're following the ability of artificial intelligence to master general gameplay. According to the journal article, the updated AlphaZero algorithm is identical in three challenging games: chess, shogi, and go. This version of AlphaZero was able to beat the top computer players of all three games after just a few hours of self-training, starting from just the basic rules of the games.

Another neural net-powered chess AI independently learned one of AlphaZero's distinctive strategies--advancing lone pawns to vulnerable but irritating positions in the endgame--suggesting that it might be "a critical winning strategy" for human players to emulate. Read the rest

Toto on a koto: Africa performed with traditional Japanese instrument

And played in Kyoto. Read the rest

500-year-old skeleton clad in thigh-high leather boots found face down in London mud

And I didn't even know Keith Richards was missing.

The New York Times reports on the discovery of a mudlarker's body in the Thames mud, complete with thigh-high leather boots.

Britons fishing or scavenging in the River Thames in central London are a rare sight these days. But in medieval times, the river was teeming with workers toiling along its banks. The 500-year-old skeleton of a man believed to be among them has been found buried in layers of river mud in southeast London, offering a glimpse of a bygone era.

Perhaps most intriguing, what remained of his legs was discovered in a pair of thigh-high leather boots — unusual even for his time. Specialists say the man could have been a fisherman, a dock worker or a mudlark — a scavenger who hunted for objects of value by the river.

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Teacher arrested after cutting off student's hair while singing national anthem

A teacher in Visalia, California, "forcibly cut a student's hair off" while singing the national anthem of the United States of America.

College of the Sequoias police responded Wednesday to a University Preparatory High School classroom after reports of child endangerment involving a teacher and a "pair of scissors," said Police Chief Kevin Mizner. Science teacher Margaret Gieszinger, 52, of Exeter, was later arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment. Her bail was set at $100,000. The arrest followed two videos posted to social media on Wednesday showing a student sitting in a chair at the front of the classroom as the teacher cuts off portions of the student's hair. She then tosses the chunks of hair behind her.

The video must be seen to be believed: a found-footage horror movie depicting her lurching, scissors whirling, at screaming children. She was arrested on suspicion of corporal injury to a child. There's more coverage here, with a different cut of the footage.

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The three coolest places in the world are Setouchi, Antarctica, and Pittsburgh

National Geographic compiled its list of the twenty coolest places on planet Earth in 2019. The top three: the small Japanese town of Setouchi, the continent of Antarctica, and the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Setouchi has the world's greatest small-town art scene and the coast looks like something from a movie about colonizing another worlds. Antarctica is the last place on Earth, a vast and unspoiled testament to nature's extremes. Pittsburgh has a giant Heinz ketchup bottle made of regular Heinz ketchup bottles. And it won World War II.

Here is the entire “cool” list: 1. Setouchi, Japan 2. Antarctica 3. Pittsburgh 4. Corsica 5. Cambodia 6. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 7. West Yorkshire, England 8. Hong Kong 9. Zimbabwe 10. Guyana 11. Oslo, Norway 12. Eritrea 13. KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 14. Bhutan 15. Dundee, Scotland 16. Uganda 17. Matera, Italy 18 Indonesia 19 Sibiu, Romania

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Penis facials contain foreskins of circumcised infants

"And not everyone is happy."

the controversial trend is back in the spotlight—and not in a good way. Penis facials are receiving a lot of backlash following a November 21st Instagram post by actress Kate Beckinsale, who captioned her photo, “After a long flight I do like to lie down and be covered in a mask of liquified cloned foreskins – frankly who doesn’t?”

Among the outlets elaborating on this story are People and The Guardian. The penis facial is $650, but there's a two-year waiting list. It is, essentially, minor outpatient surgery akin to a botoxing or chemical peel:

I’ll hate myself for this, but can you explain the foreskin facial? Of course! Epidermal growth factor (EGF) serum is derived from the progenitor cells of the human fibroblast taken from the foreskins of newborn babies. And what does it do? Glad you asked. It helps to generate collagen and elastin, which can help to boost the radiance of your face. Fun sidenote: it also smells exactly like sperm! Well, sign me up. Wait, there’s more. For the serum to take hold, a beauty therapist must first microneedle you.

I don’t know what that is. Oh, it’s fun. It’s where a pen containing dozens of tiny needles repeatedly stabs you in the face hundreds of thousands of times. It’s excruciatingly painful

Hyperreality refers to our inability to separate reality from simulation. This is a feature of postmodern life often associated with VR but baked deeply into our psychological relationship to media in general. Read the rest

Music made from industrial noises

Gourski & Appel reduce an idea to phenomena, and a genre to its fundamentals:

Against our fast-moving world, in which media content is often reduced, Jonas and I let inspiration guide us to create a seven and a half minutes long sample project in a docks setting surrounded by abandoned industry. We’re glad about each viewer who appreciates our creation!

● Everything you're about to hear is visualized in this video. ● No additional sounds were used to produce this track. ● Best experienced with stereo headphones or hifi speakers. ● This project was made for the purpose of making art. ● No objects were damaged while recording.

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Racist christmas tree

USA Today reports that a police station christmas tree garlanded with stereotypically black items and posted to social media resulted in demotions and suspensions.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo noted that it was "racially insensitive" in a post on the department's Facebook page.

"As soon as it was realized what the display was, it was removed," Arradondo said. "I am ashamed and appalled by the behavior of those who would feel comfortable to act in such a manner that goes against our core department values of Trust, Accountability and Professional Service."

Menthol ciggies and Old English, very clever. This seems to be a thing in Minnesota.

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey promised to fire the officer responsible by the end of the day but backed down within hours. Funny how that happens. Read the rest

Most U.S. police departments report sharp fall in applicants

Cops see themselves as a thin blue line, but the job is is turning into a scarlet letter.

Nationwide, interest in becoming a police officer is down significantly. In Nashville, job applications dropped from 4,700 in 2010 to 1,900 last year. In Seattle, applications have declined by nearly 50 percent in a department where the starting salary is $79,000. ...

Videos of police misconduct and fatal shootings have damaged the perception of American police officers but not irrevocably, said Antoinette Archer, director of human relations for the police department in Richmond Many people are “taken aback by the brutality, not by the profession,” she said. “If we can be inclusive” of women and people of color, “those individuals who can see a part of their fabric in the department will come forward. ... If the environment is not inclusive, you’re going to lose them.”

Too many cops and too little crime. The invisible fist, it turns out, prefers "less cops" to "more crime," however hard some departments try to manufacture the latter.

Archer is maybe concerned with recruitment standards falling to make up numbers, creating a vicious cycle with respect to the "white supremacists and outright psychos" policing problem. Read the rest

Sketch satirizes reality TV that's 50% recap and 50% ominous music

Coming up in part 3: "I'm looking for a gift for my aunt."

Of course, no Mitchell & Webb sketch may be posted without including the increasingly relevant classic:

Read the rest

Headless Lenin statue remade into writhing rose-headed hydra

Romanian Artist Costin Ionita transformed a Lenin statue in Bucharest into this enormous writhing rose-headed hydra.

The photo is sadly uncredited by the source, which has many more. Read the rest

Verizon/Aol fined $5m for knowingly helping advertisers track children

Aol deliberately provided advertisers with the means to illegally track children and target advertising to them. It will pay a $5m fine, reports The New York Times. At Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin reports that it's the largest COPPA hit yet.

Verizon has consistently fought government regulation of privacy in broadband networks. As owner of Oath, Verizon is forcing users of Yahoo services to waive their class-action rights and agree to resolve disputes through arbitration.

The attorney general investigation "examined AOL's practices between October 2015 and February 2017," The New York Times reported. Verizon did not admit or deny the investigation's findings but told the Times, "We are pleased to see this matter resolved and remain wholly committed to protecting children's privacy online."

It's like something from a creepy fable: a drooling, dangerous dog so obviously untrustworthy that to leave the children with it is tantamout to feeding it, yet we keep doing it. But if you you chain me, how will I guard your house? Read the rest

Samsung faked a smartphone portrait with a stock photo taken with a DSLR

Samsung's latest phones have a "portrait" mode that cleverly fakes the look of a shot taken with a fancy lens on a full-frame sensor. But a picture they used as an example in an ad turns out to be a stock photo taken with a high-end DLSR. Moreover, the photographer, Dunja Djudjic, has a blog and is currently murdering Samsung.

My first reaction was to burst out into laughter. Just look at the Photoshop job they did on my face and hair! I’ve always liked my natural hair color (even though it’s turning gray black and white), but I guess the creator of this franken-image prefers reddish tones. Except in the eyes though, where they removed all of the blood vessels.

Whoever created this image, they also cut me out of the original background and pasted me onto a random photo of a park. I mean, the original photo was taken at f/2.0 if I remember well, and they needed the “before” and “after” – a photo with a sharp background, and another one where the almighty “portrait mode” blurred it out. So Samsung’s Photoshop master resolved it by using a different background.

Huawei did exactly the same thing a while back. We wonder at the sheer stupidity of it, but I wonder if that's just confirmation bias, in that the stupid ones get caught.

Just think of all the plagiarism that's going to be exposed virtually overnight when someone turns the AIs loose on the problem. But also the false charges of such, generated by the normal and natural lines of influence and fair use it will also reveal. Read the rest

Why Violet Beauregarde should have succeeded Wonka

It's irrational that successful confectionary mogul Willy Wonka would pass on his wealth and his business to a naive, well-meaning boy. Violet Beauregarde, last seen suffering from bloat, was the obvious and superior choice.

Violet is already basically Wonka. She’s passionate, sarcastic, candy-obsessed, free thinking, and a total firecracker. She’s even better than Wonka, because she doesn’t endanger others.

Violet should’ve been picked to inherit the chocolate factory.

Previously. Read the rest

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