Now the prairie dogs are out to get us

I think it's fair to say at this point that the earth is rising up in self defense and will soon devour every last one of us. Read the rest

Abandoned coyote pup gets the care it deserves

Joey Santore's YouTube channel Crime Pays But Botany Doesn't has meat-and-potatoes approach to the wonders of the natural world: it's direct, informative and often funny as hell. Recently, while out in the field doing what he does, Santore came across what appeared to be an abandoned coyote pup. Emaciated, and possibly showing signs of mange, it was in pretty bad shape. After a quick chase, Santore cornered the pup and, well, just watch.

With the pup in rough enough shape that Santore was able to catch it, I'm hoping for the best, but assuming the worst. If it survives, I'll be happily surprised. Fingers crossed for a bit of good news on this one. Read the rest

Listen in on all of the great performances from 1969's Woodstock music festival

So that shindig that was being planned to capitalize upon the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival? Not happening. I think that's fine: some moments deserve to be looked back upon, relished and then, left the hell alone. As the festival's main focus was music (I mean there were naked people, a ton of mud and some questionable LSD, but still), the best way to do a bit of relishing, in my opinion, is to kick back with a few of the tunes cranked out by Woodstock's many musicians. You could tackle this by spinning up some CCR, Richie Havens, Janis Joplin or Joe Cocker on iTunes. However, I like this alternative.

From Lifehacker:

Starting at 5:07 p.m. EST today, August 15, you can listen to every minute of the three days of concerts, courtesy of Philadelphia radio station WXPN. It will include all of the festival’s archived audio: from the iconic performances to the stage announcements to the rain delays.

The exclusive broadcast will feature newly reconstructed audio archives of each of Woodstock’s 32 acts, starting with Richie Havens’ opening set, and continuing through to Jimi Hendrix’s closing performance on Sunday morning. According to a release from the station, it will be broadcast in “as close to real time as possible.”

How cool is that?

If you're not familiar with the artists who made this monster of a music festival the legend that it is, tuning into WXPN online is a great way to listen in on some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, without having to invest a dime—Of course, if you dig their sound, be sure to do the right thing and buy a few of their recordings. Read the rest

Fly the less-than-friendly skies with Air Koryo

You're not a successful nation state until you've got a flag airline, baby! Air Canada! British Airways! Hell yeah!

That said, it appears that it is possible be a dramatically less-than-successful nation and still have a flag airline. In North Korea's case, that airline would be Air Koryo. Chances are, most of us will never be unfortunate enough to hop on one of their flights to one of its five far eastern destinations. I'm pretty sure that's not such a bad thing. Read the rest

Terrence Malick's latest film looks beautiful and sad, surprising absolutely no one

Terrence Malick's makes haunting, sad, beautiful films. Also, they are weird. I swear, I've seen The Thin Red Line 50 times and I'm still not entirely sure what the hell it's all about. Given the subject matter, I'm hoping that we all have better luck with Malick's latest work A Hidden Life, given its subject matter.

A Hidden Life is based on the true life story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who, because of his deep religious conviction and a dire need to not be a bag of murdering, racist pig shit, refused to fight for Germany during World War II. He was executed for standing up to the Nazi's hateful bullshit—because that's what fascists do once they're in power and you disagree with them.

Anyway, fingers crossed for this one. Let's hope it's better than Knight of Cups. Read the rest

Ebola is now a treatable disease

Ebola is now a treatable disease. Read the rest

Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: the Black Order is a fun, glitchy, gaming experience

Sometimes, I play video games to get out of my head for an hour or two. A bit of gaming allows me to numb myself after a stressful day at work or to relax through a bout of insomnia once I become too damn tired to read but not sleepy enough to drift off. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: the Black Order for the Nintendo Switch offers just the right amount of a dumb plot, decent graphics and button mashing to scratch my escapist itch.

For the past few years, everything in Marvel’s cinematic universe and many of their comics have revolved around the Infinity Stones. You’ll find no exception here. If you’ve seen a trailer for Avengers Endgame, you’ve got the broad strokes of this game’s story. Infinity Stones are powerful. Infinity Stones are bad. Bad people want them. It’s a plot that a wee kid could follow, which I suppose is Disney/Marvel’s plan. And why not? It’s a story that’s proven capable of printing its own money.

As you progress through the game’s various levels, you’ll take on progressively tougher foes with a team of four heroes of your choosing. Your roster of potential teammates grows as you bop along. There’s no earning new members... it just kind of happens. I’m a few hours into the game. Disappointingly, the amount of customization allowed for your heroes by the last two iterations of the game appear to be largely absent. There’s no costumes to unlock. No accessories that your heroes can mix and match to enhance their power set: just points and drops that allow you to power up in one way or another. Read the rest

Amnesty International issues travel advisory for the United States of America

I'm pretty sure that we can all agree that shit has been well out-of-hand in the United States of America for some time now. Children are being taken from their parents and held in deplorable conditions. Folks are murdered for the color of their skin. Gun violence... yeah. It's bullshit. So, it should come as no surprise that a number of nations including New Zealand, The Bahamas, Germany and Japan have all issued travel advisories to their citizens, warning them that traveling to the U.S.A. could result in very bad things.  One could argue this away as politics. Amnesty International, however, hasn't got a nationalistic horse in this race. Today, they came out swinging with a statement as well, chatting up the fact that maybe visiting the 'States ain't such a great idea.

From Amnesty International:

 

Let's be honest: there's not a damn thing in there that isn't true.

Images via Amnesty International Read the rest

In space, no one can hear you dream

Some folks can sleep anywhere. Others, while traveling, need the comfort of a pillow brought with them from home in order get a bit of shut eye. For the privileged handful that have journeyed into space, taking a snooze is, well, like nothing else on earth.

In this video, former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino provides some insider insight on what it takes to catch a few Z's in zero-gravity. Read the rest

Tour of the Universe was the best ride this 1980s kid ever took

The 1980s were a pretty sweet time to be a lower-middle class kid in Ontario. Marineland (which I now know was a terrible place for the whales, dolphin and deer they held captive there) and African Lion Safari were only a few hours away, for most of us. Canada's Wonderland, our first major theme park, opened its gates in 1981 and there were miniature golf courses, freaking everywhere. Not a one of them held my Star Wars-focused attention like Tour of the Universe did.

Housed in the basement of the CN Tower, Tour of the Universe was a space flight simulation ride set in the far-flung year of 2019. Upon entering Spaceport Toronto, passengers would be issued a round-trip ticket to Jupiter before passing through security, intergalactic customs and being subjected to a medical—inoculation against the Ganymede Rash and Alien Dropsy were a must. Upon entering your shuttle to Jupiter and strapping in, you'd be subjected to a quick, immersive space adventure: the 'trip' took place on a large screen inside of the cabin built out of the bones of a 747 flight simulator that was moved around on hydraulics in time to the action on the forward display. It was the first ride of its kind, anywhere in the world. American kids would have to wait a number of years for a similar experience when Disneyland picked it up and retooled it as Star Tour.

Image via YouTube Read the rest

The traditional music of the world would die without risk-takers like Martin Hayes

Damn near every region in the world has a well of traditional music that they're able to draw cultural water from. Some musical traditions are better known than others. Most folks have likely heard Tuvan throat singing, but aren't able to put a name to it. I can't count the number of subway stations, markets and streets that I've walked through where buskers were filling the air with Sanjuanito. Where such tunes are played and songs are sung, a snippet of cultural history is passed along. Sadly, in a world that all too often favors the new over what has brought joy in the past, the music that once defined a people, even when played often and well, can easily pass into irrelevance. While it's important to maintain the sound of traditional music as a part of our shared cultural history, it's just as vital to find new ways to interpret the melodies of the past in a way that lends it an immediacy to modern listeners. Martin Hayes, one of the finest fiddlers to have come out of Ireland in the past 100 years, seems to understand this.

I've talked about Hayes' work here in the past: his moody style of playing is just as much the result of his upbringing in County Clare at the feet of his father, famed fiddler P.J. Hayes, as it is his own genius. In 2015, Hayes's band, The Gloaming, won the Meteor Choice Music Prize for Album of the Year, beating the tar out acts like U2, Hozier and Damien Rice in the process. Read the rest

An FDNY employee may have compromised the personal information of over 10,000 people

Good news, everyone!

If you live in New York City and your personal information wasn't already compromised by the recent, massive hack of Capital One's customer database, there's still an excellent chance that at least some of the sensitive information in your life has its ass hanging out for the world to see, courtesy of the Fire Department of New York.

From Gizmodo:

An estimated 10,253 people who used the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services between 2011 to 2018 had their data exfiltrated well over a year ago, when an “employee, who was authorized to access the records, had uploaded the information onto the personal external device,” which went missing sometime thereafter, according to a statement by FDNY.

A personal hard drive! That's been missing! For a year! I'm sure it's fine! The FDNY would love it if you believed this to be true. To make sure that those possibly compromised in the breach, they sent out a letter, via snail mail (I mean, you obviously can't trust computers), talking the those who received medical care from the Fire Department during the aforementioned, seven-year period:

What happened: On March 4, 2019, the New York City Fire Department (“FDNY”) was notified that an FDNY employee’s personal portable hard drive was reported missing from an FDNY facility. This hard drive is a portable electronic data storage device that can be attached to a computer. It belonged to an employee authorized to access FDNY patient information and contained confidential personal information about patients who had been treated and/or transported by an FDNY ambulance.

Read the rest

This tiny Nintendo Switch TV dock looks amazing

I like to take my Nintendo Switch with me when I travel for work—being able to game in my hotel room is lovely. You know what would be even better? Being able to play some Mario Kart or This is The Police on my hotel's television. Sadly, the Switch's ginormous TV dock takes up too much space in my carry-on for it to be practical.

Happily, it looks like Human Things, the folks that brought us this neat bluetooth dongle for the Switch a while back, may have a solution. They've designed and are currently Kickstarting a wicked tiny combination HDMI/USB C charger that fits into a wall wart around the size of a 10-Watt iPad charger. Did I mention it has an additional USB port for charging your smartphone or a Pro Controller? Welp, it does.

The only catch, as I pointed out earlier, is that it's only being offered as part of a Kickstarter campaign. Normally, that'd make picking one of these up a non-starter for me. I've been burned too many times in the past by hardware that took years to drop or simply disappeared into the mists of time. However, as Human Things has come through in the past with I'm willing to some cash at them. If you feel the same, you can do so, here. Read the rest

Microsoft contractors are listening to your Skype conversations

Look, this is getting old. Just assume that everyone one is listening to you fart, copulate and sing in the shower, all the damn time. My former co-worker and professional tall person, David Murphy, took the time today to rap about Microsoft humping up on top of the digital surveillance dog-pile. He points out that, according to Vice, an unnamed Microsoft contractor has spilled the beans on the fact that Microsoft has been holding on to five to ten-second snippets of folks using Skype's translation functionality to yammer on with on another. Did I mention that he provided samples of the audio clips? There's totally samples of the audio clips. Apparently, Microsoft's having their contractors listen in on the clips to improve on Skype's translation chops.

When confronted about their snooping, Microsoft assured Vice's investigator that the snippets were fired over to the company's contractors via a secure web portal, with all identifying data removed from the recordings.

As David points out, there's no way to keep Microsoft from doing this. Worse than this, the company, oh-so greasily, completely neglects to mention that underpaid humans are listening on what you say during your Skype calls.

From Lifehacker:

...Microsoft doesn’t indicate in its FAQ that your speech is being analyzed by real people. In fact, this description almost implies that it’s a fully mechanical process, which it is not—nor could it be, since a machine wouldn’t be able to pick the correct translation. The entire point is that a human being has to train the system to get better.

Read the rest

After crashing his plane, downed pilot records his rescue

Reason #256 for why I never leave the house without my Garmin InReach Mini: things always go wrong at the most inconvenient times. You know, like when you're mid-air in a small aircraft that decides it's finished flying for the day.

When Matt Lehtinen’s single-engine Cirrus crashed into the asshole end of Quebec's vast wilderness, he was packed and ready for the worst, with a satellite communications device, first aid kit and a few essential survival sundries. Having made it out of the hard landing that left his aircraft a write-off, he immediate fired off an SOS and started a fire. As if starting a survival fire and keeping an eye out for search and rescue personnel weren't enough to do, while he waited to be retrieved, Lehtinen also took the time to make a vlog of his ordeal. It's a great idea: if you get out in one piece, you've got a testament to the fact that staying calm and being properly equipped for an emergency situation can save your life. Alternatively, if he was eaten by a bear while waiting for a SAR flight to pop by, at least folks would know what happened to him. Read the rest

James Fearnley of The Pogues has a new band and it's magic

The Pogues gave rise to an entirely new genre of music: Paddy Punk. For better or worse (during an interview with Spider Stacey, I was told it was the latter), thousands of bands have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to ape the Pogues' sound. In my opinion, these pretenders to the throne may sound great but they can never hope to measure up, due to two factors: They lack Shane MacGowan's dark, poetic view of the world and James Fearnley's percussive accordion playing.

Here's the thing, though: unless he's singing or I've heard it before, I might not know that MacGowan wrote a particular pile of lyrics. But the moment I hear a tune being played I've no doubt that it's Fearnley minding the box. His sound rang in my ears throughout my teen years and continues to do so, today. Recently, Fearnley and a number of other notable musicians came together to form a new outfit, The Walker Roaders. From what I've heard so far, a whole LP from them should be a very fine thing.

From the band's Facebook page:

In the course of a widely celebrated thirty-year career, the sound of seminal London-Irish band The Pogues launched a generation of rowdy and explosive Celtic-Punk bands. James Fearnley, co-founder and long-time accordion player in that legendary group, has now teamed with two of its most notable devotees, Flogging Molly co-founder and Grammy Award-winning producer Ted Hutt and Dropkick Murphys’ multi-instrumentalist Marc Orrell, forming The Walker Roaders whose music splices anthems of Celtic-punk with the poetry of The Pogues.

Read the rest

Brown bear rolls up on men snoozing in a field

Having a snooze on the grass in bear country is never a great idea, especially when the pair of assholes watching you get checked out by a bear prefer to film shit going down instead of yelling a warning. Read the rest

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