Badass NOAA storm trackers fly into Hurricane Florence

As a million people evacuate the coastal regions of Virginia and North Carolina to escape the damaging winds of Hurricane Florence, the badass scientists of NOAA are flying smack-dab into the storm. Read the rest

Avid reader wins his own bookstore in a raffle

When you walk into a bookshop, chances are that you weren't expecting to walk out with a bookshop. However, that's exactly what happened to Ceisjan Van Heerden after shopping at the Bookends bookstore in Cardigan, Wales. After opting for an early retirement due to medical issues, the bookshop's owner, Paul Morris, decided that he wanted to raffle it off and give a lucky book lover the opportunity to own a shop of their own.

From The Guardian:

Morris, who worked in the book industry for years before he opened his own shop, told the Guardian that he had chosen to take early retirement at 52 after his osteoarthritis worsened.

“I thought about selling it, but I thought instead, let’s give someone an opportunity in life which they might not otherwise have had. The principle was to make sure the shop continues in good hands,” he said. “[Ceisjan] is a regular customer and I’m really pleased it was him — he wants to run it. You can make a very good living from it — far too many bookshops have disappeared over the years.”

Van Heerden was in it to win it along with close to 60 other contestants. The only barrier to entry was spending over £20 (around $26) in the store. That doesn't sound like a whole lot of cheddar to hand over, for books or for the opportunity to own your own business. But, if it's a used bookstore that you're talking about, $26 is enough to fill a decent chunk of shelf space with new tomes to read. Read the rest

Review: CleanMyPC makes for lazy computer maintenance at a reasonable price

One of the nice things about owning a MacBook is that, more often than not, you don't have to give too much thought about what's going on behind the scenes. Mac OS is stable as all get out. Most users will never need to fart around with terminal commands or futz with file structures. As much of a cliché as it may be to say it, it just works.

Most of the time.

I discovered, over the years, that as stable as Apple's software experience typically is, there are a few ways to improve on things by tweaking and cleaning my SSD up. These are not tasks that I am good at. Admittedly, this is likely due to the fact that I've been too lazy to learn the ins and outs of making my computer do tricks outside of what my work requires. As such, I let apps do the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting for me. I've relied on MacPaws' CleanMyMac for years to clean junk files from my computer and maintain my drive's health. I can't remember how much I paid for it, back in the day, but I've very likely gotten my money's worth out of it.

The only thing that I likely know less about than what goes on behind the scenes of Mac OS is what in the name of Hell makes Windows 10 run. While I find the OS and the software I run on my Surface Go to be adequate for churning out words and a bit of photo editing, I haven't got the slightest idea of what to do in order to keep my new Windows 10 PC healthy. Read the rest

At Eternity's Gate looks so good it'll make you want to cut your own ear off

I heard a rumor that Willem Dafoe will be filming a movie for Disney near where I've been dry camping these past six months. All of the employees at the lodge where he'll be staying have been instructed to only speak to him if he talks to them first. Gross.

But not quite gross enough to keep me from wanting to see At Eternity's Gate, a new film starring Dafoe about the trials and tribulations in the life of Vincent Van Gogh. Read the rest

Scientists unlock methods for testing evil

For better or worse, we've been trying to find ways to gauge human intelligence for hundreds of years.

A century ago, Charles Spearman twigged to the notion that no matter what methodology one uses to figure out exactly how much cheese is on someone's mental cracker, the results from test to test, provided each of the methods employed are of equal complexity, should be the same. This is a very simple way of explaining the "g factor:" which Wikipedia describes as "...a variable that summarizes positive correlations among different cognitive tasks, reflecting the fact that an individual's performance on one type of cognitive task tends to be comparable to that person's performance on other kinds of cognitive tasks." So, if you're wicked good at putting together Ikea furniture using nothing but the crap instructions that come in the box, chances are you'll also be good at solving other puzzles, too.

A group of scientists from Germany and Denmark feel that this same principle can also be used to judge exactly how evil a given individual is: if you're a malicious jerk in one corner of your life, the chances are very good that you'll be a sociopath about stuff in other areas as well. They're calling this crosshatching of shitty tendencies a "D-Factor":

From Scientific American:

Morten Moshagen and his colleagues proposed that a D-factor exists, which they define as the basic tendency to maximize one's own utility at the expense of others, accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications for one's malevolent behaviors.

Read the rest

Surprise: making your own coins is a dangerous pain in the ass

After talking about how it takes a whack of skilled experts to make the stuff most of us take for granted, Andy from How to Make Everything comes to the conclusion that minting your own currency is a dangerous resource-intense pain in the ass. Read the rest

Migrant parents are refusing to be reunited with their kids, citing safety concerns

According to the ACLU, the nightmare perpetuated against immigrants and refugees attempting to find safe harbor in the United States has taken a new, unexpected turn for the worse: the parents, separated from their children as part of the Trump administration's drive to make migration into the United States as miserable as possible, are refusing to be reunited with their children. The reason is absolutely heartbreaking:

From Reuters:

Immigrant parents separated from their children by the Trump administration and returned to their homes are refusing to be reunited with their children because their countries are so dangerous, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union told a court on Friday.

Gelernt said parents who refused to be reunited tended to have older children who could be recruited by violent gangs if they returned home. In addition, some children have relatives in the United States and are unlikely to end up in foster care.

The ACLU contacted parents in Central America of 162 children and said 109 refused reunification, according to a court filing.

According to Reuters, Gelernt recently spent time in Guatamala attempting to help parents separated from their kids by U.S. Immigration officials to reunite their families. Of the 300 parents that Gelernt spoke to, roughly two-thirds preferred to let their kids take their chances in the United States where they'd have a greater expectation of safety and prosperity.

I'm not a parent, so I can't even begin to imagine the sort of painful parental devotion it would take to leave a child behind, in the name of keeping them safe, in a country that despises me enough to have torn my family apart rather than providing them with refuge from harm. Read the rest

Two more planes full of sick people land in the United States bringing the zombie apocalypse one step closer

You may have heard that an Emirates flight EK 203 was quarantined by the Center for Disease Control at John F. Kennedy Airport immediately after landing earlier this week. At first, it was crazy town: ABC news reported that 100 people on the flight were sick with fevers and uncontrollable coughing. Vanilla Ice was on board! But as the CDC and the NYPD began to get a handle on what was going on, things felt a little less scary. Only 10 people in total--maybe--were sick. Only 11 of the 100 sick individuals were taken to the hospital. More than half of the passengers were found to be healthy. Those who were healthy enough to forgo medical attention were released to go about their lives, provided they reported any worsening systems to the CDC. Also, Vanilla Ice is just fine. According to the CDC, all signs point to the illness being a flu.

Knowing this doesn't make me feel any better about the fact that two more planes landing in the United States were placed under heavy scrutiny by health officials.

From The Verge:

Both of today’s flights were on American Airlines: one from Munich and another from Paris. They landed at Philadelphia International Airport with about a dozen people in total on board who felt sick, according to a statement from the airport. That in itself is not that unusual because of the dry air and the prevalence of cat dander on planes, Allen Parmet, an aerospace medicine expert, told The Verge in an interview yesterday: “It’s actually pretty common to have somebody coughing in a plane.”

But to be safe, “all passengers on the two flights — totaling about 250 plus crew — were held for a medical review and the CDC was notified,” the Philadelphia International Airport said in a statement.

Read the rest

Government seizes fraudulent military recruitment sites

Individuals willing to lay down their lives—or at least risk them for the promise of steady employment—shouldn't have to put up with phony websites designed to snag and sell their personal information. It's an opinion that's apparently shared by the FTC.

From Gizmodo:

The FTC filed a complaint in federal court today charging that two Alabama-based companies, Sun Key Publishing and Fanmail.com, made roughly $11 million selling data to private schools. The companies would contact the potential recruits and encourage them to enroll at specific for-profit schools under the false impression that the U.S. military endorsed the organizations. If the mark sounded interested, Sun Key would sell that recruit’s information for anywhere between $15 and $40. Tens of thousands of people visited the websites every month.

The defendants were charged with violating the FTC Act as well as the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule and reached a settlement with the government. But they won’t have to give back that $11 million because of their “inability to pay.”

The evil geniuses behind the scam used websites with the web addresses Army.com and Air-Force.com (apparently Army.com has been privately owned since 1995,) to lure in hopeful candidates looking to work a job that never makes you think about what you should wear to work. According to Gizmodo, for the time being, the FTC is staying quiet on which schools were benefiting from the ill-gotten personal information. Chances are, as the FTC develops their case against the digital imposters and their clients, we'll learn more about the who-did-whats. Read the rest

Microsoft to make Skype usable again

Earlier this year, Microsoft brought sweeping changes to Skype's UI, giving it something of a SnapChat makeover. The communication app's user base, I among them, was less than impressed, to say the least. Where it was once an easy way to receive forwarded telephone calls and chat via video or audio with folks across multiple platforms, the changes made it a shit sandwich to do much of anything with. The outcry from Skype users was such that, last month, Microsoft announced that they'd continue to offer the old school version of Skype's desktop app. Now, in the name of not alienating their users, they've taken their software UI rollback one step further. They're bringing back the features that folks actually use Skype for, back to the application and making it easier to ignore the service's new SnapChat-like features.

From Ars Technica:

With this new focus on calling and messaging, the Snapchat-like statuses have been removed. The desktop interface is styled a lot closer to the legacy application, and the use of animations and gradients has been somewhat toned down. The mobile interfaces put the key calling and messaging buttons along the bottom of the screen, providing easier access to the dialer pad. The company is promising to reinstate other features from the legacy client—multiple chat windows, greater control over online status and privacy, better searching, and more. The legacy clients will still be end-of-lifed, but it seems that they'll stay around until the feature disparity is resolved

Good.

Image by Microsoft Corporation - The file was uploaded on the English Wikipedia by user AxG on September 3, 2012., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21862425 Read the rest

Let me tell you about living my life on the road

In passing, I've talked about the fact that my wife and I are full-time nomads. Lemme expand on that.

A few years back, we bought a 21-year-old RV with the intention of living in it while my wife completed her degree in Vancouver, Canada. Typically, winters in Vancouver are mild by comparison to the rest of the country. The climate is similar to what you see in Seattle. Not so while we were there. It dropped to below freezing for weeks at a time. Snow, a largely unknown commodity in British Columbia's lower mainland, hung around for months. We were cold. We blew through hundreds of dollars worth of propane trying to stay warm.

We were poor.

Shortly before we were to make the drive over the mountains, I was informed that, after five years of service to a site that I had built, my services were no longer needed. It shattered me emotionally and financially. I was sent scrambling to find enough work, piecemeal, to make end's meet. There was cash coming in barely enough to keep afloat. Staying in a campground in the lower mainland costs around $800 per month. We couldn't foot the bill. We made do. Weekly, we would sneak into a local university sports complex for a shower. On one occasion, we had to decide between buying food or propane for heat. We chose food. This ended up costing us $1200, money that could have kept us going for months, to replace our hot water tank as it iced up and cracked in the cold. Read the rest

Review: Microsoft's Surface Go is almost everything I want in a travel computer

Every year, I wait for Apple to announce mouse support for the iPad. Every year, I am left unfulfilled. Apple's nailed the apps that I need to do my job on the go, but the lack of a mouse for interacting with text slows my workflow way the hell down. Tapping on my tablet's display and dragging words around is a poor substitute. As such, I'm constantly searching for a tablet that can give me what I need. Read the rest

Today in sadness: cut out carbs and red meat'll still kill you

I've been on a keto diet for the past month and change. I love it! I can eat all the meat, dairy and nuts I want to! I snack on beef jerky, cured meats and nuts when I'm hungry. I can still enjoy a lot of the vegetables I love! I can--oh shit.

From Popular Science:

In a recent study in The Lancet as well as in prior work, including this 2010 analysis, researchers have found that people who eat few carbs and rely on plant matter for their fat and protein intake—think beans and nuts—tend to be healthy, long-living specimens, relatively speaking. Those who eat few carbs and rely on animal proteins and fats, especially red meat, are the only low-carb dieters who seem to suffer for it. They tend to be less healthy in terms of cancer and cardiovascular disease, which are often the primary outcomes measured in these kinds of studies, and as a result they live shorter lives. This makes sense—plant protein is better for you than many animal proteins because plants contain less saturated fat, which can drive heart disease, and often have more fiber and nutrients.

I suppose I should be investing in a little more of all those tasty things other than red meat. And maybe cut down on the chicken. Also, fish.

That said, as Popular Science is quick to point out, "these studies, like virtually all nutrition studies, are merely finding associations between groups of people who are often self-reporting data. Read the rest

Having your mail delivered by rocket is the most 1950s futurist thing ever

Before the Internet was a thing, the postal service was a big deal for folks flung far from one another. Back in the mid-20th century, a phone call from one coast to the other, no matter how brief, would see you paying through the nose. As such, the postal service reigned supreme when it came to staying in touch in an intimate, personal manner. There was just one problem: unless you paid for rushed delivery, using the postal service to send a letter or other document was, and still is, slow as hell.

Thank God for rocket-powered mail delivery! The future of mail!

Well, they thought it was, at the time. Read the rest

Forty-eight minutes of gameplay from Cyberpunk 2077? Yes please!

Earlier this year, we were treated to a brief taste of Cyberpunk 2077 – the latest game from the developer of The Witcher, Projekt RED. It had me looking forward to the game, despite the fact that I currently don't own a single piece of hardware capable of playing it. With the release of this 48 minute gameplay video, I'm having lusty thoughts about investing in a new console or gaming computer, for the sake of getting my game on as a cyborg. Read the rest

This clever cable is a one-stop iPhone charger shop

In the decade that I've been using iPhones, iPods and iPads, I've never broken a cable, but holy shit am I ever good at losing them. Hotel guests around North America, China, Japan and a good chunk of Europe have all benefited from my slovenly cable tracking. I've lost at least 20 of the things on my travels. When you check into a hotel and have to ask the front desk for a loaner Lightning cable, there's a very good chance that it belonged to me. I don't however, typically lose track of batteries: they're bulky enough that if one's missing from the stuff sack I keep them in when I'm on the road, I'll notice. That's why this Battery Cable from Nomad has quickly become one of my favorite accessories.

As its name suggests, the Nomad Battery Cable is an all-in-one battery and – are you ready for this – MFi-certified charging cable for iOS devices equipped with a Lightning port. Sporting a braided nylon sheath, the cable baked into the battery is tough and should stand up to all kinds of abuse. So too the battery itself: its aluminum body will stand up to the sort of casual abuse that mobile accessories often suffer while they're living their lives inside of a purse or backpack.

Because cables come out of both ends of the battery – one to plug into your iPhone and the other to plug into a USB-A port to charge the battery and provide pass-through power to your phone or tablet – its footprint is a little larger than many of the other battery packs I've used in the past. Read the rest

The latest trailer for Universal Pictures' "First Man" about Neil Armstrong is absolutely perfect

The latest trailer for Universal Pictures' First Man packs a whole lotta action and drama into a 2-minute 14-second package. The movie chronicles the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong, his first manned mission to the Moon, and the cost this mission took on Armstrong's family in the days leading up to the launch.

I don't head to the theater often these days, but I'm down for this. Read the rest

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