• A blow-by-blow explainer on how Boris Johnson set the UK up for a third wave

    The cavalcade of bad decisions made by leaders like Johnson and Trump made the pandemic far, far worse than it had to be.

    India Times:

    The UK is undergoing a third wave of coronavirus infections as a result of the highly transmissible Delta variant, an expert who advises the government on its vaccination programme said on Saturday.

    Professor Adam Finn, who advises on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told the BBC that the country is now in a firm race between the vaccines and the Delta variant – first identified in India.

    "It's going up, perhaps we can be a little bit optimistic it's not going up any faster, but nevertheless it's going up, so this third wave is definitely underway," said Prof. Finn.

  • Amazon can't beat the prices on these killer portable monitors

    There's only so much squinting you can do at a tiny smartphone screen before you start wondering why we ever thought it was a good idea to build devices so small in the first place. Sure, portability is a plus, but when you're trying to watch videos on your phone, that itty-bitty baby screen won't cut it. Not even close.

    That's why interest in portable screens, like this cool selection of UPerfect monitors, has been taking off. Thankfully, this assortment includes three screens, all available now at lower than Amazon prices.

    UPERFECT 15.6" Portable IPS HDR 1920×1080 FHD Monitor – $235; originally $309

    For those just looking for a solid, reliable way to study, watch videos, or play games, the UPerfect 15.6" Portable HDR+FHD Monitor checks a lot of boxes. With a 4.6 out of 5-star rating from Amazon reviewers, this screen will make you wonder why you've been staring at that phone screen so long. Centered around FHD 1920×1080 resolution visuals with awesome color reproduction for quality images, this screen brings zero distortion, built-in 360-degree speakers for stellar sound, and a gorgeous picture. It also sports Type-C, Mini DP, OTG, and USB ports to connect all your favorite devices easily.

    UPERFECT 15.6" 4K Computer Monitor – $314.99; originally $339

    While 1080p is great, 4K is even better, so this UPerfect 15.6" 4K Computer Monitor can have you ready for all the technologies that come next. In addition to its stunning 4K IPS panel, this monitor can do it all, serving 3-in-1 duty to either duplicate your device screen, extend it, or just become an autonomous second screen for presentation, gameplay, or anything you want. It also packs a 178-degree viewing angle, which allows almost anyone clustered around to get a good eye-full of the screen from virtually any viewing position.

    UPERFECT Battery Portable Monitor – $312.99; originally $339

    Sometimes it isn't about the quality of your screen, but whether you've got the power to keep it on. The UPerfect Battery Portable Monitor understands that. This screen not only serves up a glorious Full HD image on its 15.6" IPS panel, but it also comes with a built-in 10,800mAh polymer battery to power it, delivering up to 7 hours of use on a single charge. The battery can also be used as a power bank to charge mobile phones and other devices. 

    Prices subject to change.

  • A chilling scene on Mooney Road in Pittsburgh

    My friend took this photo today and told me the tragic backstory behind these creepy costumed-mannequins and memorial. This photo was taken on a twisty, one-way street called Mooney Road, in Pittsburgh. The woods in the background were once a popular place for kids to ride their ATVs around, until multiple teens died while doing so. The hills there are far too steep and rough for ATV riding, and the people who died had their ATVs flip on top of them. My friend tells me that many people feel that the area is haunted now. The zombies were put up as a warning sign, to keep teens from doing more dangerous things in the woods. The memorial in juxtaposition with the warning zombies gives me the chills.

  • Nocturne is a podcast about the night and listening to it influences my dreams

    Nocturne is a compelling podcast by Vanessa Lowe that explores topics related to the night. The podcast combines elements of fiction, sound-art, and documentary. Nocturne investigates everything from owls to interviews with people who have gotten lost at night, graveyard shift jobs, haunted houses, and more. I love listening to Nocturne before I go to bed — the topic of the episode I listen to always has an effect on my dreams.

    From the Nocturne Website:

    Peering into the dusty corners of the night, Nocturne explores these often overlooked and undisclosed slices of life. Under cover of darkness, our thoughts and feelings can take on strange new shapes, sometimes barely recognizable as our own. And the pulse of the world seems to alter too, sort of creating a curtain of privacy around our behaviors and even our appearance. Do I truly know you if I only know the daytime you? Let's find out in Nocturne.


    I recently listened to a Nocturne episode called Notes in The Trees, and learned about the Dutch tradition of "Dropping." Droppings are a normal part of Dutch childhood where pre-teens are left alone in the forest and have to find their way back to home base as a rite of passage. Children on a dropping are often scared and lost for many hours, as the experience is meant to be a challenge and a learning experience. I had never heard of this Dutch tradition before, and found it pretty interesting to hear interviews about the pros and cons of Droppings with various people who have been on these excursions as kids.

    Image: Depositphotos

  • Do you have a hairy glabella? Do you find vagitus annoying?

    Most of the words on this list are a part of everyday life, yet I didn't know any of them until today.

    I now know that I suffer from dysania every morning (#16), have a very hairy glabella (#1), and have been experiencing wamble after wamble all morning long (#4).

    Am I the only one who hasn't heard of these words before!? (by the way, the combination of an exclamation point and a question mark is called an "interrobang" #13).

    My favorite word on the list is overmorrow (#9) which means the day after tomorrow.

  • This web-based Theremin is incredibly fun to play with

    I love playing around with this web-based Theremin by Femur Design. (There is also a $3 desktop/mobile app version). It's described as a "free online synth instrument that makes an array of different sounds" and It's easy to use — just drag your cursor around or use your fingers with a touch screen.

    You can experiment by messing with the waveforms, delay, feedback, and scuzz sliders. I've only had the chance to try an analog theremin out one time, and it was way too much fun. If I had one at home, I don't think I'd be able to walk away from it.

    Wikipedia

    What makes a real theremin special is that it can be controlled without any physical contact. The theremin was patented by Leon Theremin in 1928 and is considered one of the first electronic instruments.

    From Wikipedia:

    The instrument's controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist's hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.

    The theremin has a trance-inducing sound that always makes me think about aliens and outer space.

  • This website will self destruct if someone doesn't post a message on it after 24 hours have elapsed

    This Website Will Self Destruct will disappear in 24 hours if it doesn't receive a message from at least one person every day. You can read the anonymous messages which have been submitted by other users.

    As of now the site has been around for 13 months,  22 hours, 9 days, and 49 seconds (and counting). I feel a strange responsibility to help keep the site alive, now that I know of its existence. 

    Here are a few of the messages people have written:

    Dear Website,

    Today I'm mostly okay. My parents died a few years ago and I'm missing them a lot. I'm currently quarantined with my boyfriend and his family and they're great, but sometimes seeing them function as a family makes me miss my own. I miss our dynamic, our inside jokes and banter. I miss how interested they were in my life and what I'm doing. I miss them feeling proud of me. I miss being someone's kid, especially now when everything is so scary and overwhelming all the time and I'm so scared of losing someone else. I'm kind of dreading Mother's Day this weekend. But I'm also managing to keep the panic attacks away and I've been spending a lot of time making art and chipping away at long term projects and I get a lot of comfort and satisfaction from that work. So right now I'm okay.

    Dear Website,

    have you ever wondered that 'the meaning of life' as a concept is a very human thing? It's like, well, we all read stories and play games, and the hero of the story is considered to have a purpose (defeat the dragon, deal with undealable problems, meet the girl from your dreams, etc). So we expect things to make sense in our life. But actually there isn't any ultimate purpose for us, it's a concept we made up for stories, and our life is, well, just life. It's like… an infinite sandbox game, very boring and sad but it's the only thing you have.

    There is no meaning. There is just us.

    Yours,
    Dodowhoman

    Dear Website,

    I'm depressed, have anxiety, gained over 100lbs during COVID lockdowns, and am now going to drop out if college into a terrible job market and no degree… I'm not done fighting but this is feeling more hopeless by the day.

    Dear Website,

    I wanna stop obsessing about a person from my past. Why can't I stop thinking about them? We haven't talked in years. I'm desperately looking for any trace of them online. Are they ok now? Are they happy? Have they found someone? I don't know. I shouldn't know. I should move on. My stupid brain, just please let me move on.

  • The AquaSprouts Garden is a fascinating, self-contained world, and it can even make you salad

    It's not often that life comes into such extreme focus that you can see it all playing out right in front of your eyes. And it certainly doesn't happen often right on your desktop. Or on a window sill. Or perched on your coffee table.

    Yet, that's the joy of the AquaSprouts Garden. Wired called it "the most adorable self-contained ecosystem," which just might be the most on-the-nose phrase ever. Because this custom-modeled, single-piece garden bed that attaches easily to a 10-gallon fish tank is ready to showcase the mysteries and wonders of life for you on a daily basis. And all you have to do is look.

    The beauty of this 28-inch ecosystem is it's entirely self-sustaining. Well, once you get the ball rolling, of course. 

    It's all hydroponics happening here. You plant fruit or veggies in the garden grow-bed, then set up the removable light bar that replicates natural light. The fish in the tank produce waste, which mixes with the water, then gets pumped into the special expanded clay growing medium that serves as a durable soil replacement, supporting the plant roots and wicking moisture. It also provides ample surface area for bacteria to grow, which converts the fish waste into nutrients for the plants.

    That waste feeds the plants, which not only helps your garden grow big and strong but also cleans the water that protects the fish. If all that makes you want to sing  out some Circle of Life, you'd be dead right.

    You do still have to feed the fish, but other than that, it's a self-sustaining loop that puts flora and fauna in perfect sync, all in one admittedly adorable package. Grow a variety of veggies, herbs, greens, and decorative plants all year long, watch the fish do their thing, and know this is nature distilled to its essence, anywhere you've got room for a small aquarium. It sure beats an 8-story fish farm.

    The AquaSprouts Garden is on sale now at a price that even Amazon can't touch. Regularly $179, it's available now for over $30 off at just $148.98.

    Prices subject to change.

  • Sequence of rear-end collisions causes tanker to gush a brown liquid onto pavement

    In this video, a nincompoop driving too fast slams into the back of a vehicle driving too slow. The nincompoop somehow had enough time to futilely flash their lights just before impact. Also, it seems a little strange to have a rear-mounted camera always documenting everything behind you while you drive, but I suppose things are trending that way, especially in Russia, where this might be.

    The brown liquid spewing out of the yellow tanker is when things went from bad to much, much worse. That flood of brown could be a lot of things but we all whimsically want it to be some kind of chocolate product like the one that spilled over a Polish highway in 2018. There is also the possibility that it's something putrid and wretched however. Raw waste comes to mind, the kind that a truck like this vacuums out of port-a-potties with that big orange hose. I am choosing it to be a torrent of mocha latte that was on its way to a pleasant hamlet tucked away in a valley of clover.

  • Check out these 12 learning bundles that are on sale for just $20 apiece

    So, how's this for a plan? We've rounded up 12 sets of career redefining training with top-notch instructional material. These course bundles contain guidance in coding with Python, creating in Adobe CC, building video games, investing in cryptocurrency, and so much more. 

    All 12 bundles would cost less than $300. Now, we aren't endorsing that you get them all. But we aren't saying you shouldn't either. If just one strikes your fancy, you should absolutely jump in. But with many of these packages at year-long lows of just $20, these deals on foundational tech and business training don't come around that often. Best of all, these deals can't be found anywhere on Amazon. 

    The Complete Python Certification Bootcamp Bundle – $20; originally $2,030

    Python is the core of much of today's computer science and data analysis, so this 12-course, 85-hour collection can get learners up to speed on this foundational skill. Students will be challenged to build programs, make games, analyze data, and more hands-on projects, all bolstering their knowledge of this huge general-purpose coding language.

    The Ultimate Electrical Power Engineer Preparation Program Bundle – $20; originally $1,000

    Serving power needs will only become more and more essential in our tech-savvy age, so this package of training can lay the groundwork for a prosperous new career in electrical engineering. Over 5 courses with over 43 hours of training, the pillars of a new career in power management are here, with courses in circuitry, design distribution, solar energy, and even how electrical substations work.

    The All-In-One 2021 Super-Sized Ethical Hacking Bundle – $20; originally $3,284

    If you're looking for a career in cybersecurity, this all-inclusive bundle offers a taste of everything. These 18 courses packed with more than 130 hours of in-depth instruction are a fully rounded meal in all aspects of cybersecurity and protecting vulnerable systems from hacker threats. From training in Python to pen testing tactics to using tools like Kali Linux, Burp, Metasploit and more, this well-rounded package can get a student ready for major IT security certifications.

    The 2021 Premium Unity Game Developer Certification Bundle – $20; originally $3,400

    If you've ever had the desire to create your own video game, look no further than the Unity Game Engine, one of the most popular game creation platforms anywhere. Over these 17 courses with nearly 1,000 lessons and over 140 hours of training, students will create handfuls of games, each offering different lessons toward building bigger, even more polished games. From building an air hockey game to a first-person shooter, from a Flappy Bird clone to a starship game powered by AI, this training covers a lot of ground. 

    The Master Learn to Code 2021 Certification Bundle – $20; originally $2,594

    Speaking of coding, this wide-ranging set can get students to understand and use some of the most important programming languages, tactics, and tools in the industry. This 13-course, 120-hour package features training in everything from Python, Ruby on Rails, C++, JavaScript, and more, as well as the basics of computer science, machine learning using R Programming, and even how to oversee large Big Data projects to find answers in numbers that other people can't.

    The 2021 Complete Computer Science Training Bundle – $20; originally $1,800

    For those who want to take an even deeper look into computer science, they can start preparing for that lucrative and explosive job sector now with this 9-course, 212-hour examination of all aspects of using tech to answer amazingly complex questions. Training features coursework in statistical modeling, discrete mathematics, Linux, and several offer key tools, all of which advance toward a deeper understanding of some truly fascinating new fields like artificial intelligence.

    The 2021 Complete All-in-One Adobe Creative Cloud Suite Certification Course Bundle – $20; originally $2,400

    Over a dozen courses, this is a fully-considered exploration of how to use all the amazing tools in the Adobe Creative Cloud of apps, the most powerful digital creation suite in the world. These courses explain video editing with Premiere, image manipulation with Photoshop and Lightroom, graphic design with Illustrator, as well as web building with XD, Spark, and more.

    The Complete Mobile and App Development Bundle – $20; originally $1,791

    There is no shortage of companies looking for workers who know their way around app creation — and this 9-course package can put you in that class. Whether you're looking to create cool new apps for Android, iOS, or both, these courses explain who each works and offer several hands-on app creation projects to test your mettle and advance the work using tools like Java, React Native, Git, and more.

    The 2021 Complete AWS DevOps Engineer Certification Bundle – $20; originally $2,200

    Building a network from scratch or even migrating one into the cloud is no simple task. With the 11 courses in this bundle, learners acquire all the skills to make that delicate process happen, including all the tools available to Amazon Web Services (AWS) users to help smooth out those operations. Once a student is through, they'll be ready to take and ace a set of DevOps Engineer certification exams that can take any IT career to the next level.

    The Internet of Things and ESP32 Arduino Beginners Course Bundle – $20; originally $1,393

    Tinkering has been a hobby forever, but with web-connectivity questions inherent in Internet of Things items, it's a whole new world figuring out what can and can't be connected and controlled via the web. With this 7-course package, students learn how to use ESP32 and Arduino components to create some amazingly mind-blowing ideas, like your own web server, a functioning smart garden, an email alert system, and more, often without the need for any special coding skills.

    The Cryptocurrency with Ethereum and Solidity Blockchain Developer Bundle – $20; originally $1,200

    If Bitcoin and the rest of the cryptocurrency craziness are still over your head, these six courses with a meaty 35 hours worth of content can get you up to speed. This is not only prime material to help understand the ideas behind blockchain and the creation of digital currencies, but the tools are all here to use the tools of Ethereum, Solidity, and more to create crypto of your own, then unleash it on the world.

    The Premium CompTIA and Cisco Networking Certification Prep Bundle – $20; originally $1,600

    There are arguably two no more respected certifications in the IT world than acknowledgment from CompTIA or of network management prowess through Cisco training. These 8 courses covering more than 75 hours of instruction check both of those boxes, including training in passing IT security and cloud proficiency testing with CompTIA Security+ and Cloud+ certification, then Cisco networking protocols with direct training in who to pass one of Cisco's most important network certification tests.

    Prices subject to change.

  • Junji Ito fans, the Uzumaki anime is still on its way! And here is the latest teaser

    Junji Ito fans, there is good news and bad news about the long-awaited four-part Uzumaki anime series based on the wonderful, horrific manga series of the same name. (For those not familiar with Uzumaki – a twisted story about teens who discover their town is cursed by invasive spirals, read my review here.) But it's mostly good news, so let's start with that first.

    The anime might be slow in the making, but it's still in the making! Director Hiroshi Nagahama released a YouTube video (below) apologizing for the long wait. "I feel truly apologetic for the delay and ask for your patience just a little more," he says. "The way we are making this anime is requiring twice as much staff as we normally use. As not to disappoint the fans of Junji Ito, we are doing our best, so please wait for it to come out."

    Also, remember the "teaser trailer" that came out last summer (which I posted in March)? Well Nagahama just released another, better teaser! It's not even close to a trailer, mind you, just a quick clip from the first episode, but it's beautiful and eerie and captures the manga's flavor – without, unfortunately, any of the grotesque elements – in all its glory. You can watch it below, either on its own, or in Nagahama's apology video.

    So the bad news? Nagahama won't give us a release date! Talk about a tease. Last summer they promised it would come out in 2021, but now there is no mention of a year, let alone a month.

    The bottom line is it's still alive, it's on its way, but patience we must have.

    The teaser:

    The apology video:

  • Watch Mike Pence speak over hecklers as they shout "traitor!"

    Mike Pence got booed and called "traitor" today while speaking to an audience of religious conservatives at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's annual Road to Majority conference in Orlando, Florida. Although the former vice president acted as a milquetoast "yes man" every minute of every day for the four long years that Trump bumbled in the White House, Trump's base hasn't forgiven Pence for certifying Trump's election loss to Joe Biden.

    At first the crowd applauded Pence, but after one person screamed "traitor!" 25 seconds in, others followed, nearly drowning him out. Before his appearance on stage, according to The Guardian, one of the attendees in the venue's corridor – a MAGA capped gentleman named Rick Hurley – shouted "We need to start fighting!" and "We need to stop being so damned nice. What the hell's going on? Why is Pence coming today? Donald Trump has his pen in his back still."

    From The Guardian:

    Before being taken aside by police, he also remarked: "I'm ready to fight. I'm going to boo him off stage. I'll take the bullet. I'll walk to the front of the stage and look him in the eye and and say, 'What are you doing here?'

    In an interview, Hurley said he had been at the US Capitol on 6 January. "I want to know why Pence is here today." he said. "He stabbed Donald Trump in the back and took the coins like Judas."

    The hecklers were escorted out by police, allowing Pence to spew his propaganda – including a list of all of Trump's so-called "achievements" – "from supreme court appointments to coronavirus vaccines" – without interruption.

  • Ben Shapiro calls for crime to be banned

    Punditry about pundits is about the worst thing on the internet, but I didn't believe this tweet from Ben Shapiro was real and feel that it's worth a post. It reminds me of his famous "just sell homes inundated by rising sea levels" remark ("Who to, Ben, Aquaman?") in that it suggests a personal reality that only fleetingly matches the consensus.

    Granted, he is the "cool kids' philosopher" as the New York Times' puts it, so perhaps he is just arguing that crime is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics.

  • The Farting Frenchies card game is as silly as it sounds. It's also hilarious and fun

    If you're a highly cultured, ultra-evolved lord or lady of high standing, this might be a topic you're going to want to avoid. We're about to talk about a game that focuses on dog flatulence. If that's a matter that instinctively makes you clutch your pearls and gasp in horror, we understand. Farting Frenchies: A Card Game is probably not a game for you.

    Now that we've got all the stick-in-the-muds out of the way, we want the rest of you to consider playing a super-fun card game that is about, yes, farting French bulldogs. But beyond the obvious jokes and giggles, Farting Frenchies: A Card Game is the next evolution in the age of wryly smart, wickedly funny 21st-century card games like Exploding Kittens or Cards Against Humanity.

    Nearly 1,300 backers on Kickstarter got a serious kick out of this fun, fast-paced game that is quick to learn, very family-friendly, only takes 15 to 25 minutes to play — and is guaranteed to produce roughly 1,000 times the laughs of a game of chess or Pinochle.

    The objective is simple: whoever has the most pooches at the end wins. Of course, getting to that point happens in a lot of different ways. Each player starts with a card for one of these cute Frenchies, from Little Stinker and the Gas Geezer to Luke Fartwalker. By feeding your dog culinary horror cards like a midnight burrito, old fish, or a half-eaten anchovy pizza, your dog builds up gas — and the farting begins.

    Meanwhile, opponents will play pleasant smells like a bouquet of flowers or a French vanilla candle to dispel the foul stench of your canine. But you want to keep the farting going — and with the more gas-passing you do, the more odorous dogs you amass, and you might even dognap a Frenchie owned by your opponent. When the end card is drawn, the player with the biggest Farty Dog Army stinks out their friends and wins. Sounds fun, huh?

    Farting Frenchies is great for kids 7 and older and for games with 2 to 4 players, although with enough cards, you can actually accommodate games for up to 8 people or even more.

    The Farting Frenchies: A Card Game package gets you underway with a huge 83-card deck with everything you and your family or friends need to start playing. It's also currently on sale at a price that will feel like you're stealing Amazon's Frenchies, now down to just $19.99.

    Prices subject to change.

  • A house filled with urine, feces, rotten meat, and dead cats gets offer frenzy at $592,500

    A five-bedroom, four-bath, 3,598 sq-ft house in Colorado is listed as a "landlord's nightmare" on Redfin by the brutally honest listing agent. And that's the tame part.

    The realtor's description then gets into the nitty-gritty. "You will also notice there is not one surface of the home that has not been enhanced with black spray paint or a swinging hammer… But don't let that slow you down. It's not nearly as daunting as the freezer in the basement that's full of meat and hasn't had electricity to it for over a year," it says. Followed by a warning: "So be sure to wear your mask. Not for anyone else's protection but your own. You may not be able to endure the smell if you don't."

    The description also describes the upstairs rooms as "all covered in black spray paint, vulgarities, and other substances which are no longer identifiable. The basement is amazing – or at least it will be once all the debris is cleared out, the floor coverings are replaced, and the obscenities are painted over."

    But the worse part is what the agent says in her video (below). "There was human and animal feces left in the living room to greet you as you walk in," she says. "It's my understanding she had cats. But tragically, when she moved out, she left two of them in the bathroom. It appears they have been there for quite some time." 

    The biggest shocker of all is that this "little slice of hell," as she calls it on Redfin, is going for $592,500 and has received at least "16 written cash offers in the first 24 hours of the house being on the market."

    From HuffPost:

    "I list vacant houses all the time. I have not seen this kind of hysteria, even in this market," she explained to the ABC affiliate. "I've gotten about 89 text messages since we've gotten to the house this afternoon."

    She explained to the outlet that the housing market in Colorado is red-hot. There's vastly fewer listings than usual and most houses are selling as-is. 

    "People aren't asking for anything," she said in regards to closing costs or major fixes. 

    Uh, I guess "major fix" is one way to put it.

    Via HuffPost

  • Newly released video shows pro-Trump terrorist stalk and beat cop during U.S. Capitol

    New Jersey gym owner Scott Fairlamb pleaded not guilty to 12 criminal counts including assaulting police and carrying a dangerous weapon into the Capitol. In this newly released video, he is seen pushing and striking a police officer during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

    From CNN:

    In the new video, Scott Fairlamb, a gym owner from New Jersey, leans into the face of a police officer, following him, and taunting him with expletives. At one point, Fairlamb shouts, "you have no idea what the f**k you're doing." He then pushes and punches an officer.Fairlamb was one of the first rioters inside the Senate side of the building, according to court records, and is charged with 12 criminal counts including assaulting police and carrying a dangerous weapon into the Capitol.Prosecutors had sent the video of Fairlamb directly to a federal judge reviewing his case months ago, and CNN and 16 other media outlets went to court to seek its release.

    Scott Fairlamb. Image (FBI)
  • Watch woodpecker happily destroy wildlife camera disguised as tree bark

    Staff at at a nature reserve in Leningrad Oblas, Russia thought they were clever by disguising a wildlife camera as tree bark. It did not go as planned. Video below. Translation of the Nizhne-Svirsky Nature Reserve's Facebook post originally in Russian:

    Vandalism in the reserve! The black woodpecker decided that there should be no interference in the privacy of animals and birds – and destroyed the photo trap. Zhelna [the woodpecker] easily detected a disguised device, and for several days she methodically disconnected the hole she liked. Scientific staff who arrived to check the camera had to regret to state that it will not be able to get new shots from this place for a long time.

  • Quiz: can you spot the banned Amazon items?

    According to The Markup, Amazon "bans nearly 2,000 items for sale in the United States that fall into 31 broader categories, ranging from skin care products to assault weapons to human organs." The site prepared a quiz to see how good you are at spotting items that should be banned. I took the quiz and failed miserably — I only got two out of six products right!

    But Amazon's filters don't catch everything. An investigation by The Markup found nearly 100 banned products that slipped past Amazon.com's safeguards. When we sent our findings to Amazon, most of the listings were removed.

    "If products that are against our policies are found on our site, we immediately remove the listing, take action on the bad actor, and further improve our systems," Amazon spokesperson Patrick Graham said.

    The Markup's Annie Gilbertson found that Amazon workers who monitor listings have only a few minutes to investigate each one. We've put together a list of six items we found for sale on Amazon. Can you tell which ones shouldn't have been allowed, according to Amazon's rules?

  • Juneteenth: "Emancipation is a marker of progress for white Americans, not black ones"

    Tomorrow is Juneteenth, commemorating the freeing of enslaved Black people in Texas on June 19, 1865. That was the day that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger delivered a message to the people of Galveston, Texas that the Union had won the Civil War and they could enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. (Of course, slavery in the US wasn't officially abolished until the ratification of the 13th Amendment six months later.) Finally, this week, the US government has recognized June 19 as a national holiday—Juneteenth National Independence Day. But as historian and Columbia University journalism professor Jelani Cobb wrote in the New Yorker last year, "Emancipation is a marker of progress for white Americans, not black ones." From the New Yorker:

    […] Juneteenth exists as a counterpoint to the Fourth of July; the latter heralds the arrival of American ideals, the former stresses just how hard it has been to live up to them. This failure was not exclusive to the South. Northern states generally abolished slavery in the decades after the American Revolution, but many slaveholders there, rather than free the people they held in bondage, sold them to traders in the South, or moved to states where the institution was still legal. The black men, women, and children who heard [Major General Gordon] Granger's pronouncement [of emancipation] a hundred and fifty-five years ago in Galveston were not slaves; they were a barometer of American democracy.

    There's a paradox inherent in the fact that emancipation is celebrated primarily among African-Americans, and that the celebration is rooted in a perception of slavery as something that happened to black people, rather than something that the country committed. The paradox rests on the presumption that the arrival of freedom should be greeted with gratitude, instead of with self-reflection about what allowed it to be deprived in the first place.

    "Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom" by Jelani Cobb (The New Yorker)

    image: "An early celebration of Emancipation Day (Juneteenth) in 1900" / Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray) – The Portal to Texas History Austin History
    Center, Austin Public Library (public domain)