Fantastic film of Paris in the late 1890s

This late 1890s Lumière film of Paris is amazing. The image is clear and the motion is smooth. Sound was added, which makes the film come alive (I wish they would have colorized it, too). No cars in sight - just horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians, and the rare bicycle (why not more bikes?). People are dressed in elaborate outfits - how long did it take them to dress up in the morning? The horse-drawn fire trucks at 3:35 are a highlight.

The journalists Facebook installed as fact-checkers say the company is using them as window-dressing

The journalists whom Facebook recruited to check the spread of policitized disinformation campaigns have called for an end to the program because Facebook has consistently ignored their recommendations, especially when they conflicted with the desires of big spending advertisers -- the factcheckers even accuse Facebook of ignoring warnings about the disinformation campaign that led to the genocidal attacks on the Royhinga in Myanmar. (more…)

Amazon patents doorbell camera that calls police when it recognizes a "suspicious" person

Amazon filed a patent application for a doorbell camera that scans the faces of passers by and compares them with a database of suspicious persons. If a match is made the camera calls the cops.

From ACLU:

The ACLU’s test is consistent with academic research demonstrating that face surveillance technology is less accurate for darker skinned faces and women. These systems threaten to further entangle people with law enforcement, ripping families apart and increasing the likelihood of racially biased police violence. In addition, this technology puts activists and protesters in danger when exercising their First Amendment rights.

Despite the risks to civil liberties and racial justice, Amazon has chosen to ignore questions from members of Congress and calls from consumers, civil rights groups, and its own employees and shareholders to take responsibility for the consequences of its technology on communities where it is deployed.

This patent application also suggests that Amazon has no plans to stop at identifying people based on their faces. The company anticipates targeting an arsenal of other biometrics, including fingerprints, skin-texture analysis, DNA, palm-vein analysis, hand geometry, iris recognition, odor/scent recognition, and even behavioral characteristics, like typing rhythm, gait, and voice recognition.

Oil industry asked to pony up dough to offset climate change expenses in filthy rich Canadian town

Most everyone's losing sleep over what'll happen to our species and the rest of life on earth as human-driven climate change rips our planet a new one. Capitalists? Not so much: some are too busy hustling to ensure that other capitalists pay for the fiscal hurt that the Earth's bid to evict us all is putting on their bottom lines.

From The Calgary Herald:

In a letter addressed to Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. dated Nov. 15, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said the town’s taxpayers “are paying 100 per cent of the costs” associated with climate change events such as “drought, flooding, and extreme weather.”

He’s asking CNRL to pay in to “the costs of climate change being experienced by Whistler,” including the municipalities’ “$1.4 million investment in community wildfire protection activities” for 2018.

“As a town with a population of less than 15,000 people, this is a significant cost to bear along with costs associated with impacts to winter and summer sports tourism,” he said in the letter.

Sure, Whistler only has a population of less that 15,000 people, but the majority of them are filthy rich--you have to be to live there. I have a feeling that the town does okay on property taxes, especially since the one thing that Whistler has more of than mountains and rich people are Whistler's insidiously expensive hotel and resort properties.

Whistler's not the only town in Canada looking for oil producers to pay up for putting their municipalities in the red. According to The Calgary Herald, over one dozen other towns have stepped forward asking oil and gas companies to fork over some cheddar to help them balance their books in the face of extreme weather caused in part by carbon emissions.

It's understandable why cities and towns are looking for help from oil and gas producers: the money's there to be had, provided the companies are willing to part with it. However, asking for handouts from the petroleum industry in this manner has the feel of city counsels looking out for Number One when they could be using their leverage as pretty substantial legal weight to pressure the industry to change for the common good.

Image: By Philippe Giabbanelli - Opera propria, CC BY 3.0, Collegamento

Citing Brett Kavanaugh appointment, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has quit the GOP

In California, the GOP scores below "no party preference" in voter registration, but much of the state's elites -- business leaders, prosecutors, judges -- have remained Republican, even as the party has moved away from overt support of unlimited capitalism supported by quiet racism and misogyny to overt racism and misogyny as a smokescreen for quiet support of unlimited capitalism. (more…)

Yellow Vests stand for and against many contradictory things, but are united in opposition to oligarchy

From a distance, it's hard to understand the nuance of the mass "gilets jaunes" protests that rocked France; with one in five French people identifying as a yellow vest and more vests marching in Basra, Baghdad and Alberta (and with Egypt's autocrats pre-emptive cracking down on the sale of yellow vests ahead of elections), it's clearly a complicated and fast-spreading phenomenon. (more…)

Hot tech company trend: Branded fruit as conference swag

In an article published Wednesday, Fast Company revealed that logoed fruits and vegetables are a hot trend with tech companies, beating out the usual swag like stress balls or notebooks. Serial artrepreneur Danielle Baskin (who you may remember from the Your Boss app or Drone Sweaters) is behind this trend. It all started in 2015 after being asked to bring some avocados to a barbecue celebrating the sale of a friend's startup. She thought it would be funny to put the startup's logo on the avocados as a joke. They were a big hit.

In 2017, she started BrandedFruit.com and orders have been coming in steadily ever since.

She has now made branded fruit for everyone from Pizza Hut to Heroku to AT&T. Baskin has also had personal requests: One man ordered several avocados for a wedding proposal. Orders are as small as 10 pieces of fruit that will be centerpieces at an event to 500 pieces that will be handed to out to guests. Each fruit costs, on average, $5 to make. That’s not cheap in the world of swag, which is known for churning out products at rock-bottom prices, like $1 T-shirts or 50¢ tote bags. But it is reasonable to larger companies. “Large companies seem to have enormous budgets for swag,” she says. “I sometimes think I should increase my prices, but I also think it is crazy to spend more than $5 on a piece of fruit.”

Since the article published, Baskin's phone and inbox has been full of requests for branded fruit from around the globe.

Fast Company: The hot new conference swag favored by Lyft, WordPress, and Twitter

Image via Branded Fruit

The incredible story of Susan Potter, the "immortal corpse"

In the year 2,000, Susan Potter, then 72, donated her body to medicine. After Potter died, scientists froze her corpse, sliced it into 27,000 slivers thinner than a human hair, photographed each slice, and created "the world’s most advanced virtual cadaver using the highest-quality imagery of an entire human body in existence." Not only is the virtual cadaver an incredible accomplishment but so is National Geographic's story about Potter and the lead researcher, Dr. Vic Spitzer Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Simulation at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Why? Because National Geographic followed this incredible story of the Visible Human Project for almost two decades, from before Potter died through the completion of the simulation. Watch the documentary above. From National Geographic:

Are you interested in working with us before you die? (Spitzer) finally asked (Potter). Are you interested in giving us more than just your body—in giving us your personality and knowledge?

Spitzer wanted to videotape her while she was living and record her talking about her life, her health, her medical history. Your pathology isn’t that interesting to the project, Spitzer told Potter. But if I could capture you talking to medical students, when they’re looking at slices of your body, you could tell them about your spine—why you didn’t want the surgery, what kind of pain the surgery caused, and what kind of life you led after the surgery. That would be fascinating.

“They’ll see her body while they’re hearing her stories,” he explained, adding that video and audio of her would make her more real and introduce the element of emotion to students. Instead of an anonymous cadaver, this “visible human” would be capable of delivering a medical narrative suffused with the recollection of frustration, pain, and disappointment. The images of Potter, like those of the Visible Humans, would be on the internet, available anywhere, anytime.

Susan Potter had signed on to be an immortal corpse.

"Susan Potter Will Live Forever" (National Geographic)

image: VIC SPITZER, JOHN MAGBY, AND RACHEL KLAUS, TOUCH OF LIFE TECHNOLOGIES

Watch a child magically materialize in the background of this BBC News clip

In this BBC News clip, a child seems to materialize just behind the woman speaking. WTF. Unfortunately this isn't likely a fun glitch in our simulated reality but rather something with much more insidious potential. From WAXY:

If you watch the woman’s face at the same time the boy appears, you can see her expression morph into a smile.

This technique is known as a Morph Cut, a feature added to Adobe Premiere Pro in 2015, intended to smooth transitions in interview footage, removing unwanted pauses, stutters, and filler words (“like,” “um,” and “uh”) without hard splices and cuts.

The results, when used appropriately in interview footage without a changing background, can be nearly seamless.

It’s likely that BBC News used a morph cut in the clip above to tighten up the interview without changing its meaning. But it’s also ripe for abuse and fully capable of altering the meaning of an interview, and in many cases, undetectable.

Another demonstration of the technology:

After chaos, the EU's plan to censor the internet takes a huge step backwards

Yesterday, the European Union's "trilogue" met for what was supposed to be the last negotiating session on the new Copyright Directive, including the universal filters for all user-generated content and a ban on links to news-sites without a paid license; as recently as last week, the proponents of the Directive were predicting an easy victory and a vote by December 19th, but yesterday's meeting ended in chaos, with a draft that everyone hates. (more…)

Burned down National Museum of Brazil rises from the ashes, thanks to Google

This past September, a savage fire cost the world dearly: the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, along with 20 million unique artifacts that provided untold insight into our planet and our civilization's past, went up in smoke. In the months since the flames were extinguished, researchers have only managed to recover a small fraction of the museum's collection from the ashes. It's a loss that even the most obtuse of us can get their heads around. That said, if you're interested in some colorful commentary on the incident, my friend and Faces of Auschwitz collaborator Marina Amaral talks about it at length here.)

While the chances of recovering everything lost in the inferno is pretty much nil, Google's made it possible to virtually tour the museum in its former glory.

From Engadget:

A couple of years before a fire devastated the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in September, Google's Arts and Culture team started working with the museum to digitize the collection. Just a few months after the inferno, Google has reopened the museum's doors -- albeit in a virtual form using Street View imagery and digital exhibits.

The museum and Google were already planning to make the collection available to view online before the incident. Of course, no virtual tour could ever truly replace a physical museum, nor the estimated 20 million artifacts that the blaze destroyed. But tools such as 3D scanning, hi-res photography and virtual and augmented reality can offer some form of protection to items of historical value.

It's cold comfort, but at least future generations will have some notion of what they missed out on.

Image: By Halley Pacheco de Oliveira - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

This next-gen paper airplane combines drone and video tech

Everybody's flown a paper airplane. But what if you could fly on a paper airplane? Until we invent shrink-ray technology, the PowerUp X FPV Video Paper Airplane Kit will have to do - but it's as fun as that sounds and more.

The original version of this creative toy added drone tech to the old, reliable paper airplane, making a formerly throwaway toy into a gadget that will draw a crowd in any park. That's cool enough on its own, but the PowerUp X FPV kit lets you not only control your plane with a smartphone app but see what it sees in real time through a video feed. Assemble your own plane, attach the kit, then let it fly - even in windy conditions, thanks to the precise stabilization features. Add an auto-takeoff function, and you've got a paper airplane that rips all others to shreds.

The PowerUp X FPV Video Paper Airplane Kit was sale priced at $119.99 but just took a price drop to $79.99 - a 42% discount. Pick one up today.

UK grocer offers strange new tea flavors: Brussels Sprouts and Pigs in Blankets

Back in October, Sainsburys grocery chain launched two new questionably-flavored teas based on UK Christmas dinner favorites: Brussels sprouts and pigs in blankets.

Metro:

Yes, you can now drink meat or vegetable flavoured tea and we’re not quite sure what to think.

In hopes of helping anyone looking for unusual gifts, Sainsbury’s decided to create a green tea which is made using actual Brussels sprouts, as well as a tea which features the smoky flavour of sausages, sage and rosemary.

The supermarket says the tea will make the ultimate stocking filler for any foodie – especially as it’s only £1 for 20 teabags.

Despite the name of the pigs in blankets flavour, it is suitable for vegans and is totally calorie free, and is apparently best enjoyed without milk.

Hard pass.

Image via Metro

Thanks, Veek!

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