Who would have thought the history of a monastic hairstyle could be so interesting?

For close to two thousand years, holy men from across the wide spectrum of the Christianity have rocked a completely or entirely shaved head--a hairstyle called a tonsure. A tonsure marked those that wore it as adherents to various monastic and priestly orders and, in some cases, were a symbol of controversy in the early Catholic church as opposing factions within it fought for legitimacy. This brief video from Vox outlines the history of the haircut, what it means and why it survived in a rapidly changing world for as long as it did.

Even if you're not a religious sort, it's a fascinating bit of history. Read the rest

Thailand moves to legalize medical marijuana in 2019

Thailand's got a reputation with being less than cool with illegal drugs being brought into their country or used within their national borders. Which drugs are legal and which are disallowed changes up from time to time, however. Until the 1930s, medicinal cannabis use was hunky dory with the Thai government. Then it wasn't. Fast forward to 2019 and the wheel of acceptability will have spun around once more: on Christmas Day, the nation decided that, provided it was used for medicinal purposes, dope was dope once again. Given the stringent drug laws typically enforced in Thailand's Southeast Asian neighborhood (sentences of death over a trafficking charge aren't uncommon,) it's a surprising shift in policy.

From The New York Times:

By a vote of 166 to 0, the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly approved legislation this week that would allow the use of cannabis under medical supervision. Thirteen members abstained.

The measure is expected to take effect next year.

“This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people,” the lawmaker who headed the drafting committee, Somchai Sawangkarn, said during a televised session on Tuesday.

Before anyone goes making travel plans, you should know that saying that it's cleared only for prescribed medicinal use isn't just a suggestion. The penalty for recreational use of cannabis in Thailand is still very serious business: those found in possession of 10 kilograms of herb or less can expect to do up to five years in prison. Read the rest

Study: THC in cannabis linked to genetic mutations in sperm

Today I learned that using cannabis can lower a fella's sperm count: those looking to partake in parenthood should take note. But that's not the only thing that cannabis can do to your swimmers. According to scientists from Duke University, using marijuana can cause genetic changes to sperm cells--something that could have far-reaching consequences for any baby a dude might father.

From The Verge:

For a study published today in the journal Epigenetics, scientists at Duke University compared the sperm of two groups of rats: those who had been given tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and those who had not. Then they compared the sperm of 24 human men who smoked marijuana weekly versus a control group who used marijuana no more than 10 times in their life and not at all in the past half-year. In both cases — rats and humans — marijuana changed how genes work in sperm cells.

In both rats and humans, the cannabis affected many different genes involved in two different pathways. (Think of pathways as another set of instructions, this time for regulating various bodily functions.) One is important for organs to reach full size, and one plays a role in cancer and suppressing tumors.

Before anyone loses their shit, this doesn't mean that any kid you conceive while THC is coursing through your body will be more likely to get cancer. A lot more research needs to be conducted before any firm conclusions can be drawn. As The Verge points out, there were no laboratory controls on how much THC was consumed by the test subjects. Read the rest

'Heartbreak' is a towering work of art

Heartbreak, written and performed by poet and playwright Emmet Kirwan, is a spoken word masterpiece. Full of passion, rage and love, heartbreak tells the story of a young Irish woman, raised in an oppressive patriarchy and poverty, who scrambles to survive before finally coming to thrive. Read the rest

Apple's bi-annual report on government data requests is available to read

A couple of times a year, Apple plops out a report detailing all of the user data requests made by government and law enforcement agencies from around the world. In the latest bi-annual report, it looks like information requests have increased since the last reporting period.

From Engadget:

According to the report, which covers the first half of this year, Apple received 32,342 demands for user data from governments -- up 9 percent from the previous period -- spanning access to 163,823 devices. Germany made the most requests (42 percent), the majority of which were due to "stolen devices investigations," issuing 13,704 requests for data on 26,160 devices.

The US was in second place with 4,570 requests for 14,911 devices. More than half of these requests (2,397) were for users' basic account information or content, revealed Apple. The US also asked for 918 financial identifiers -- which cover suspected fraudulent credit, debit, or gift card transactions -- attributing them to iTunes gift card fraud.

It used to be that the report was only offered as a dense, boring PDF. But Apple, in an attempt to boost their corporate transparency, has made their report numbers available to peruse via an interactive website that can be searched by country and the month that the user data was requested.

According to Engadget, Apple's report doesn't include the number of FISA requests made, as there is a legally binding six-month delay required on reportage of such requests.

If you're an Apple hardware or services user, it's worth taking a quick jaunt over to the company's transparency website to see what kind of user information your government has been trying to get their hands on. Read the rest

Santa Claus dies of a heart attack in front of room full of Russian children

Navigating the topic of death with a young child can be a difficult, traumatic experience for parents, especially if the topic is broached by the sudden loss of a loved one. Trying to explain death to a kid because they watched Santa Claus pass away right before their eyes? That's a higher level of awful.

According to The Moscow Times, a group of kindergarteners from Siberia were celebrating the season with a Christmas party, attended by Santa or rather, one of the jolly old fellow's Eastern European iterations, Ded Moroz. A bit of background: Ded Moroz, which translates as Father Frost, was originally celebrated/feared in pre-slavic lore as a wizard or a snow demon, and over the centuries became a central figure in the region's celebrations of the New Year and Christmas.

Anyway, back to the awful.

As part of a school play, Ded Moroz, played by 67-year-old Valery Titenko, danced his way across the stage, until he didn't. Dressed in Ded Moroz's long red, fur-fringed coat, Titenko suffered a heart attack and fell to the ground.

From the Moscow Times:

The group of kids apparently thought that Titenko’s fatal collapse was part of his skit and began giggling. A woman dressed as a clown who was also part of the skit noticed Titenko’s fall and rushed to help him.

Titenko was rushed to the hospital but died before he could get there.

According to The Moscow Times, Titenko was aware of his poor health and had been feeling dreadful earlier in the day. Read the rest

Watch this master swordsman slice a speeding baseball in two

Isao Machii is a Iaido master from Kawanishi, Hyōgo, Japan. His skills as a master swordsman have landed him a number of Guinness World Records: fastest tennis ball (820 km/h) cut by sword and "fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts" to name just two.

His speed and accuracy with a katana is a thing of wonder. Put on display once again in this video, after watching two speeding baseballs whiz past him, he non-nonchalantly cuts a third ball in half, fired at him at 161 kilometers per hour. Amazing. Read the rest

These boots from GORUCK are crazy comfortable

I wish I could wear running shoes, but I shouldn't. When I was a teenager, I tore all of the ligaments in my right ankle. Six weeks of physiotherapy and now, close to 20 years later, I'm still walking around on wobbly scar tissue. My ankle loves to roll out from under me, for any excuse at all. So, for extra support while I'm out strutting around, I wear combat boots. They tend to last longer than comparably priced hiking books and, depending on the boot, can be gussied up for special occasions. The downside to wearing combat boots is that even the lightest among them can still be pretty heavy.

Enter GORUCK's MACV-1. They call it a "Jungle Rucking Boot," but it's not at all dissimilar to the lightweight duty boots from companies like Magnum or 511 Tactical that I used to wear to work. Available in black or coyote brown, they ride just above the ankle and, at 14 ounces each, are one of the lightest pairs of boots I've ever lashed to my footies. Despite their light weight, they seem, so far, to be well made. The majority of the boot is made using full grain leather, which comes out of the box already holding a shine. It didn't take me long to wear the shine down to nothing, but it's the thought that counts.

The rest of the MACV-1 is comprised of 1000D Cordura and, for extra ankle support, a strip of 2" nylon webbing that runs down the back and side of each boot. Read the rest

First trailer for Men in Black: International

Any director would be hard pressed to top the magic of the original Men in Black movie. Surpassing its two sequels? That's very doable. If this first trailer for Men in Black: International is any indication, Director F. Gary Gray is off to a great start. Staring Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, the film is due for release in June, 2019. Read the rest

Apple bothering people with unwanted "Carpool Karaoke" push notifications

Apple's Carpool Karaoke... isn't great. But despite scathing critical reviews of the show, Apple keeps trying to make it happen. In fact, they're so horny for the show to succeed that they've been forcing advertisements for it out to iOS users. According to The Verge, many iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users have been receiving unwanted Carpool Karaoke push notifications from Apple, via the iOS TV app for the past few weeks.

From The Verge:

We’re not sure how many iPhone users received the notifications, but it looks like Apple has tried plugging its show at least twice in recent weeks: once on December 7th for an episode where Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin grill each other using a lie detector test, and once on December 14 for an episode featuring joint singalongs with comedian Jason Sudeikis and the Muppets.

Developed in house by Apple, the TV app doesn't ask for user permission to send along push notifications the first time that it's launched, like third-party developed iOS apps do. The shit and giggle part of this is that Apple App Store policy makes it very clear to developers that unsolicited notifications pushing advertising, features or promotions are not OK. If you know your way around iOS, turning off notifications spewed out by any app is as easy as flipping on a light -- but not all of Apple's users are software-savvy. So, without help, they could be stuck putting up with the company's unwanted solicitations.

It's a case of "do as we say and not as we do," I suppose. Read the rest

NASA got hacked

It seems that we can't have nice, unhacked things. According to Gizmodo, someone has hacked NASA's personnel database to gain access to social security numbers and other personal information of the space agency's staff.

News of the security breach was only disseminated via memo to NASA's employees on December 18th, despite the fact that the agency became aware of the hack back on October 23rd.

From Gizmodo:

According to the memo, NASA is working with federal investigators to determine the extent of the breach and who might be responsible. It said that servers were accessed that contained the personal information of employees that worked at the agency between July 2006 and October 2018. The message was sent to inform employees to take the necessary precautions to prevent possible identity theft. It seems that investigators still haven’t narrowed down the employees who may have been effected, however the agency promised to notify individuals as that information becomes available.

When contacted for comment by Gizmodo, a NASA spokesperson could not say exactly how many employees’ information was potentially exposed, but they did confirm that the agency “does not believe that any agency missions were jeopardized by the intrusions.”

If anyone knows who's responsible for the hack, they're keeping their mouths shut about it. Hacking's so hot right now -- the breach could have been pulled off by anyone from a code-savvy lone-acting lady at a coffee shop to a high-falootin' government sponsored collective in Eastern Europe. Also, China. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, is done with information that was obtained during the hack. Read the rest

Hard boozing raccoons mistakenly thought to be rabid

Hydrophobia, hallucinations, agitation and partial paralysis: the symptoms that come from being afflicted with rabies are twelve kinds of terrible. Oh, and death: a painful, writhing death. That's in there, too. Basically, it's one big "nah." So when folks in Milton, West Virginia saw a group of raccoons behaving erratically -- like they might be infected with rabies -- they called the cops right away. When the police cornered the raccoons in question, they quickly realized that the animals weren't rabid at all.

From The Chicago Tribune:

Turns out they appear to be drunk on crab apples," police said in their official statement to the community.

The apprehended animals were held in custody and allowed to sober up in what can only be deemed a raccoon drunk tank.

Then they were released into the wild, but not before some enterprising officer took a picture of the animal, showing it to be dazed, woozy, more than a little out of it. They named one drunk raccoon Dallas and released both near the woods.

And with that, Dallas joined a long line of animals that have made headlines for public intoxication.

According to Australian Geographic, raccoons and humans aren't the only animals that like to tie one on. Wallabies love to chase the dragon, monkeys yoink cocktails from tourists, and reindeer trip balls on magic mushrooms. My absolute favorite fact that Australian Geographic serves up, however, is that caterpillars frigging LOVE cocaine:

The caterpillar larvae of the Eloria noyesi moth, found in Peru and Colombia, feeds exclusively on coca plants, eating as many as 50 leaves each day.

Read the rest

Ho ho no: risk of suffering a heart attack is 40% higher on Christmas Eve

The world is full of shitty holiday gifts: socks, piggy banks with no money in them and Star Wars action figures of characters that had MAYBE four minutes of screen time (I'M NOT VENTING, YOU'RE VENTING). But they all pale in comparison to the present that more people receive on Christmas Eve than on any other day of the year:

From USA Today:

Christmas Eve is the worst day of the year for heart attacks, researchers found, with risk rising nearly 40 percent. More specifically, research showed that most heart attacks hit around 10 p.m. that day.

The observational study analyzed the timing of 283,014 heart attacks reported to the Swedish coronary care unit registry between 1998 to 2013. Findings were published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The BMJ.

“We do not know for sure but emotional distress with acute experience of anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, and stress increases the risk of a heart attack,” researcher David Erlinge at Lund University’s Department of Cardiology, told The Telegraph. "Excessive food intake, alcohol, long distance traveling may also increase the risk."

According to the study and surprising maybe no one, the folks most prone to suffer a holiday heart attack tend to be over 75 years old or who have a medical history that includes diabetes or coronary artery disease. That said, scientists will have to spend considerably more time in the lab in order to nail down the exact reason why Christmas Eve myocardial infarction is a thing. Until they've got it all sorted out, it's likely a good idea to spend Christmas Eve and other holidays with the friends and family that make your life worth living--having someone around who can dial 911 is a win. Read the rest

Puppers are not OK with a cat-shaped pillow showing up in their house

Not a one of these pooches can deal with a disembodied kitty head appearing on their turf. Maybe it's the size of the cat that it must have come from that spooks them. Maybe it's the way that the pillow's eyes follow them around the living room. It's a clear and present danger to everything the mutts believe in.

It must be stopped. Read the rest

Improve your handwriting with this simple daily practice

Despite taking pages of handwritten notes each day, my handwriting is hot garbage. After deciding that I wanted to improve the look of my penmanship, I set out to find a few ways to do it that wouldn't eat up a lot of my day. This video, featuring Nan Jay Barchowsky, is one of my favorites. Her suggestion to practice the up down motion we use to create most of the letters in our alphabet might seem kind of goofy at first, but it totally works. After a few days of practice, my writing is showing signs of improvement. Read the rest

Nicaragua moves to silence independent media and NGOs critical of government

Since protests over changes to Nicaragua's social security system began last April, over 300 people have been killed and, at a minimum, 500 people have been incarcerated for their part in calling out Presidential Daniel Ortega's corrupt self-serving bullshit. There's a lot to be angry about in the Central American nation.

Non governmental organizations have been doing what they can to bring the wrongs committed by the Nicaraguan government to light. In a bid to shut NGO cake holes, Ortega and his cronies have begun to strip the outfits of their legal status.

From the Associated Press:

Nicaraguan police have raided the offices of five nongovernmental organizations and an independent media outlet, alleging that they participated in seeking the government’s overthrow.

The raids were the latest strong-arm actions taken by the government of President Daniel Ortega. Since popular street protests destabilized his government in April, Ortega has reconsolidated power and methodically pursued perceived enemies.

Police on Thursday forced open doors and carried off documents and computers from the Nicaragua Center for Human Rights, Segovias Leadership Institute, River Foundation, the Center for Communication Research and the Foundation for Municipal Promotion and Development.

The Nicaraguan government and police have had much to say about the raids or the closures of the NGOs--when you're rolling with a dictatorship, you're not accountable to anyone...until the people rise up en masse to topple your government, I guess. Oh, and that 'independent media outlet?' It was called Confidencial: a joint that produces a website and two news programs. Read the rest

Cydia, the app store for jailbroken iOS devices, will no longer sell apps

Almost immediately after buying my first iPhone in 2009, I became hooked on jailbreaking. Despite the fact that my iPhone 3GS met all of my mobile computing needs, I couldn't resist the temptation to tweak my user experience: tethering my computer on the go, messing with the color and style of my onscreen keyboard--you name it. If it was available for download via Cydia app, I gave it a spin. Some apps and hacks were worth paying for. Many weren't. I never dabbled in pirated apps, but I could have! That's what was so wonderful about Cydia: it offered the possibility of wandering off the path of what was normally a walled garden.

Sadly, after years of service to the homebrew and jailbreaking community, Cydia is shuttering its store.

From Engadget:

Service creator Jay Freeman (aka Saurik) has shut down the Cydia Store citing a combination of costs and security issues. It "loses [him] money" and, when there were multiple staffers, cost him a significant chunk of his "sanity." And while Freeman had already planned to close the store by the end of 2018, he bumped it up a week after learning of a security hole that let let someone buy apps through your account if you were logged in and browsing untrusted app repositories.

The good news is that you’ll still be able to gain access to apps previously purchased in the Cydia store – at least for the time being. As sad as it is to see Cydia winding down, this isn’t the end of the road for jailbreaking. Read the rest

More posts