• Since when did airplane food become palatable? Finnair's plane food now sold in markets

    Would you pay for airplane food if you weren't on a plane? Finnair thinks so! The Finnish airline is betting that people with feet on the ground are actually going to pay for their flight food in supermarkets. Their "Taste of Finnair" meals, including reindeer meatballs and teriyaki beef, will cost US$12 and will make their market debut tomorrow. Welcome to 2020.

    From US News:

    The move comes are airlines around the world try to employ their idled resources during the pandemic and tap into people's desire to fly when most planes are grounded. Some are offering simulated flights, fake trips where the aircraft takes off and lands in the same location, or even just time to sit in the plane.

    Kimmo Sivonen, store manager at the K-Citymarket Tammisto which will sell the Finnair meals, told the newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that the dishes have been modified to have less salt and spices than those offered in the air, where people's sense of taste is dulled by high altitude.

    Image: dingram_kiwi / Flickr

  • This is the other Tetris theme song

    In 1989, Nintendo launched "Tetris" into the public eye. Pre-packaged with nearly every Game Boy, and selling 35 million units, now almost everyone knows the theme song. But did you know the first 25,000 copies of Nintendo's Tetris had a completely different soundtrack? Elliot of The Retro Future explains these "Minuet" copies, and was able to track down two examples to check out. If a seller knows what they have, these copies fetch around $40 on eBay. 

  • Shirtless judge attacks cop

    In June, New York Supreme Court Justice Mark Grisanti and his wife got into an argument with neighbors and the cops were called. One cop tried to handcuff the wife. Her husband, shirtless and angry, shoves him away in bodycam footage released by Buffalo P.D. Then he threatens to use his position, and those of relatives of the force, to punish the officers involved: "you'll be sorry."

    I wonder what it is about New York Supreme Court Justice Mark Grisanti that means New York Supreme Court Justice Mark Grisanti wasn't charged with a crime.

    Grisanti and his wife were both handcuffed and placed in the back of police cars, but on July 8, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. announced that he was not charging anyone with a crime.

    But new body camera footage obtained by the I-Team through a Freedom of Information Law request shows that Justice Grisanti admitted to shoving a police officer, repeatedly stated that he has family ties to the Buffalo police force and even invoked a friendship with Mayor Byron W. Brown as he sought lenient treatment for himself and his wife. In the body camera footage, Grisanti repeatedly states that his daughter and son-in-law are police officers, as does his wife, Maria Grisanti. …

    "You better get off my f—ing wife," Mark Grisanti yells. "My daughter and my son are both Buffalo police officers…I'll call them right now."

    Bearing in mind the generally prevailing standards, just imagine how absolutely filthy Buffalo's police and prosectors are. It's not Grisanti's first rodeo. Footage of him at a casino brawl went viral in 2012.

    Here's the full, two-hour bodycam recording of the incident. (The cops are, as you will see, just as foul-mouthed, belligerent and threatening as anyone else at the scene.)

  • Watch Nine Inch Nails perform on "Dance Party USA" c.1989

    Dance Party USA was a 1980s music TV show airing on the USA Network that featured teen pop artists of the time lip-syncing their hits. In 1989, Nine Inch Nails's first album Pretty Hate Machine was gaining steam in the alt.rock realm and, as a goof, Trent Reznor suggested to his PR team they should appear on Dance Party USA. And, well, they did. Here's what Reznor tweeted when the video of the "performance" made its way to YouTube a few years back:

    Many years ago, a young and naive Nine Inch Nails were asked what TV shows they'd be interested in appearing on. As a joke (and likely drunk), they thought of the most absurd choice they could come up with at the time. They were then informed their bluff had been called and were actually booked on said show… They hopped in their Honda Civic touring vehicle (hatchback) and travelled many miles to (I think) NJ for the big show. They had a laugh making fun of the people, their fashion choices and hairstyles. Life was good. Years later, the internet is discovered… There's a moral in there somewhere. Come to think of it, Skrillex may indeed owe me some publishing on that hairdo…

    (via r/ObscureMedia)

  • NASA releases the music of the Milky Way as "recorded" by space telescopes

    NASA translated digital data collected by space telescopes into lovely soundscapes that spark the imagination. A collaboration between visualization scientist Kimberly Arcand (CXC), astrophysicist Matt Russo, and musician Andrew Santaguida, this space sonification project is part of a NASA public education initiative. From NASA:

    The translation begins on the left side of the image and moves to the right, with the sounds representing the position and brightness of the sources. The light of objects located towards the top of the image are heard as higher pitches while the intensity of the light controls the volume. Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone. The crescendo happens when we reach the bright region to the lower right of the image. This is where the 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center of the Galaxy, known as Sagittarius A* (A-star), resides, and where the clouds of gas and dust are the brightest.

    Users can listen to data from this region, roughly 400 light years across, either as "solos" from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope, or together as an ensemble in which each telescope plays a different instrument. Each image reveals different phenomena happening in this region about 26,000 light years from Earth. The Hubble image outlines energetic regions where stars are being born, while Spitzer's infrared image shows glowing clouds of dust containing complex structures. X-rays from Chandra reveal gas heated to millions of degrees from stellar explosions and outflows from Sagittarius A*.

    Previously on Boing Boing:

  • Green-glowing Venus flytraps reveal their memory tricks

    Venus flytraps have a pretty good short-term memory for a plant. An insect has to tickle its sensory hairs twice within around 30 seconds for the carnivorous plants to close its leaves around the bug. To understand how Venus flytraps, which sadly lack brains, can "remember" when the bug first tickled them, scientists genetically engineered them to glow green in the presence of calcium, suspected to be the primary chemical agent involved in the process. From Science News:

    When the team tapped one of the trap's sensory hairs, the base of that hair began glowing, and then the glow spread through the leaf before beginning to fade. When the researchers touched the hair a second time — or touched a different hair on the leaf — within about 30 seconds, the trap's leaves lit up even brighter than before, and the plant quickly snapped shut.

    The results show that the flytrap's short-term memory is a waxing and waning of calcium within leaves' cells, the researchers say. Each time a sensory hair is triggered, it signals the release of calcium. When the calcium concentration reaches a certain level, achieved by that second, faster surge of calcium, the trap closes.

    Still, the research doesn't reveal all of the plant's secrets. To sense prey, "the flytrap operates a fast electrical network" that can convert a fly or other insect's movement into small voltage changes that ripple across the plant's cells, says coauthor Rainer Hedrich, a biophysicist at the University of Würzburg in Germany. Scientists are still unsure how the calcium memory system works in tandem with that electrical network to activate the plant's snap.

    "Calcium dynamics during trap closure visualized in transgenic Venus flytrap" (Nature Plants)

  • Need help getting to Trump's rally tonight? Check out this billboard

    In case you get lost on your way to Trump's Des Moines rally tonight, there will be a huge billboard pointing you in the right direction:

    The billboard was kindly put up yesterday by Rural America 2020, an advocacy group that, according to their website, "educates Americans on how policies affect rural America," or in this case, how Trump rallies affect rural Americans.

    Image: Rural America 2020

  • Used Coronavirus tests handed to testees in UK

    The good news for folks in Birmingham, England, is that the government is handing out coronavirus tests door-to-door. The bad news is the swabs are suspiciously moist.

    Volunteers and RAF personnel distributed kits to households in those areas on Tuesday. Ms Dunne said she had been told to complete the test within 15 minutes and the team would then return to collect it.

    "The boxes… were sealed packages with test tubes and swabs inside which had already been snapped off, so obviously it had been used," she said. She said as soon as they had realised they "went running up the street to notify the workers handing out the tests".

  • Mail-carrier raided by FBI is "apparent QAnon conspiracy theorist"

    FBI agents reportedly found eight bags of undelivered mail when they raided a Pittsburgh mail carrier's home. And now it's reported that the man is an "apparent QAnon conspiracy theorist".

    "Special Agents recovered several different classes of mail, including business mail, flats, and small amount of first class mail. We expect to perform a piece count of the mail tomorrow, and make arrangements to have the mail delivered to customers as soon as feasible," the statement said.

    According to screenshots of a Facebook page apparently belonging to Troesch, the mail carrier has been trafficking in conspiracy theories related to QAnon for at least the last several months. QAnon is a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy theory that falsely believes elites and Democrats are running an underground child prostitution ring and eating babies. Belief in this conspiracy theory has been growing over the years, and many QAnon supporters have been seen at Trump rallies.

  • Artist converts utility van into tiny house

    Thanks to the pandemic, I know lots of people who've been flirting with the idea of renting or buying camper vans or RVs to travel in rather than flying and staying in motels/hotels.

    In this charming 15-minute video, Australian photographer, Clare Colins, gives us a detailed tour of the camper van she designed and had built after she decided to sell her home and hit the road. Like a lot of tiny home designers, Clare turned space and storage design into an artform.

    Within this 6-meter van she managed to squeeze in a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, sitting area, work area, a porch, and storage areas. She even made a wooden door that's hidden behind the conventional van door.

    Image: YouTube

  • Amy Coney Barrett's legal reasoning for dismissing a racial discrimination case

    AP News has a collection of potential Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's more questionable legal decisions. While Barrett's opening statements before the Senate stressed her concern with "the law as it's written" — as if human beings don't automatically bring their own experiences to reading and interpreting centuries-old texts anyway — her actual court record displays some pretty egregious examples of "personal interpretations."

    Consider this ruling that Barrett made just last year:

    Barrett wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel in 2019 that upheld the dismissal of a workplace discrimination lawsuit by Terry Smith, a Black Illinois transportation employee who sued after he was fired. Smith's claims included that he was called a racial slur by supervisor Lloyd Colbert.

    "The n-word is an egregious racial epithet," Barrett wrote in Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation. "That said, Smith can't win simply by proving that the word was uttered. He must also demonstrate that Colbert's use of this word altered the conditions of his employment and created a hostile or abusive working environment."

    Barrett went on to say that Smith "introduced no evidence that Colbert's use of the n-word changed his subjective experience of the workplace. To be sure, Smith testified that his time at the Department caused him psychological distress. But that was for reasons that predated his run-in with Colbert and had nothing to do with his race. His tenure at the Department was rocky from the outset because of his poor track record."

    This is a perfect example of "interpreting the law as written" — or at least, how that self-important excuse plays out in actual practice. Under Barrett's "literal" reading of the law, a one-off usage of a racial slur does not itself create a hostile work environment. The environment that lead up to, and allowed that slur to take place, is irrelevant; the case, in her interpretation, had only to do with that specific instance, and since they're "just words" they clearly cannot be indicative of larger problems. Yet, Barrett cites the plaintiff's "rocky" tenure and "poor track record" at his job — a context that exists outside of that specific instance of the racial slur in question. This, to her, is a "literal" interpretation of the law — selectively ignoring context in a way that conveniently punishes marginalized people.

    This is frustratingly in line with the biased "Originalist" interpretations often employed by Barrett's mentor, Justice Scalia:

    A look at Judge Amy Coney Barrett's notable opinions, votes [Associated Press]

    Image: Public domain via the White House

  • The Simpsons give 50 reasons to vote Trump out in new "Treehouse of Horror"

    The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror XXXI" (the 31st!) episode lists just a few of the reasons why Donald Trump needs to be voted out of office, via Variety:

    Made it okay to shoot hibernating bears
    Put children in cages
    Called Mexicans rapists
    Imitated disabled reporter
    Looks lousy in a tennis outfit
    Can't get wife to hold hand
    Called third world countries ****holes
    Called Tim Cook 'Tim Apple'
    Said Jewish people who vote Democrat are disloyal
    Showed top secret documents at Mar-A-Lago restaurant
    Called white supremacists 'fine people'
    Leaked classified information to Russian ambassador
    Asked the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens
    Called for China to investigate the Bidens
    Walked into the dressing room at Miss Teen USA pageant
    Pressed the Australian prime minister to help Barr investigate Mueller
    Talked about grabbing *****
    Lied about the size of his inauguration
    Refused to release tax returns
    Gutted the E.P.A.
    Confiscated and destroyed interpreter's notes after meeting with Putin
    Tweeted classified photo of Iran missile site
    Called Baltimore a 'disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess'
    Described Meryl Streep as 'over-rated'
    Leaked information to the press about the 2017 Manchester arena bombing
    Did not attend any White House correspondents' dinner
    Said Megyn Kelly had 'blood coming out of her whatever'
    Called Carly Fiorina 'horseface'
    Ruined impeachment
    Brought Ivanka to the G7 summit
    Corrupted Congress
    Appointed and didn't fire Betsy DeVos
    Put Jared in charge of Mideast
    Served McDonald's to Clemson football team
    Destroyed democracy
    Lost Hong Kong
    Threatened Marie Yovanovitch
    Pulled the U.S. out of climate agreement
    Allowed bounties on soldiers
    Invaded Portland
    Withdrew from W.H.O.
    Bragged about knowing the date
    Commuted sentences
    Said to swallow bleach
    Person, woman, man, camera, TV
    Destroyed post office
    Paid $750 in taxes
    Wants third term
    Wanted to be on Mount Rushmore
    And we haven't even said the worst one

    The episode also "includes parodies of Pixar, "Toy Story," "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" and Netflix's "Russian Doll." It premieres Sunday, October 18 at 8 p.m. EST on Fox.

    (COS)

    screengrabs via LetsPlayNintendoITA/YouTube

  • UK ICO report on Cambridge Analytica finds no illegal activity or Russian involvement

    The United Kingdom's Information Commissioner Office has completed its investigation into the 700 terabytes of data and 300,000 documents in collected from SCL Group (formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories) Cambridge Analytica, the "psychographic" data mining company that played a major rule in helping conservative political interests manipulate Facebook data ahead of the US presidential election and Brexit votes in 2016.

    Cambridge Analytica had previously pled guilty to violating EU data laws. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica also acknowledged that the company had exploited a loophole in Facebook's systems, accessing a trove of user data that it should not have had access to (and of course, Facebook did nothing about it, 'cause hey, why would they?).

    But after all that, the British ICO report concluded that Cambridge Analytica didn't actually do anything illegal. Worst case, they just maliciously exploited some existing regulatory loopholes that — while undoubtedly being manipulative and unethical invasions of privacy — were still technically OK, according to the law. From The Financial Times:

    At first glance her findings, which were released on Tuesday, dispel many of the accusations put forward by whistleblowers and digital rights campaigners over the course of 2018.

    The most serious of these was that the digital marketing specialist had colluded with Russia to steer the results of the Brexit referendum and broken US campaign rules during the 2016 presidential election. Campaigners had also previously argued the company failed to delete contentious data sourced from Facebook without users' permission when asked.

    Denham told a parliamentary select committee on Friday that "on examination, the methods that SCL were using, were in the main, well recognised processes using commonly available technology".

    As far as deliberate schemes by Russian Intelligence are concerned:

    On Russian involvement, meanwhile, the Commissioner reminded that the ICO had already handed over what evidence they had found to the National Crime Agency. The final report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee revealed in February 2019 that this pertained to the discovery of Russian IP addresses in the data associated with Aleksandr Kogan's server. The Commissioner added the investigation had not found any additional evidence of Russian involvement in material contained in the Cambridge Analytica servers it had since obtained. The National Crime Agency, meanwhile, is yet to pursue any action.

    In other words: while someone using a Russian IP address did indeed access the data compiled by Cambridge Analytica, the ICO could find no evidence that the company was knowingly scheming with Russian agents in any way.

    Of course, the ICO's investigation was also limited by the nature of its jurisdiction, which is why the National Crime Agency's own investigation is still underway:

    The findings also introduce questions about the breadth and scope of the regulator's current remit. Chief among them is whether the ICO, as an independent body funded in part by fees and government grants, is well suited to evaluating wrongdoing — both in terms of resources and expertise — which extends beyond the immediate remit of data protection law and UK jurisdiction.

    The most damning thing the ICO investigation found was that SCL and Cambridge Analytica knowingly oversold the effectiveness of their "psychographic" targeting. From the report:

    Through the ICO's analysis of internal company communications, the investigation identified there was a degree of scepticism within SCL as to the accuracy or reliability of the processing being undertaken. There appeared to be concern internally about the external messaging when set against the reality of their processing.

    The ICO report is likely welcome news to both Cambridge Analytica and the US and UK conservative parties that came to power in 2016. But in its own way, it also presents a damning case of the regulatory failures that allowed a bunch of snake oil salesmen to harvest so much data like they did.

    ICO's final report into Cambridge Analytica invites regulatory questions [Izabella Kaminska / Financial Times]

    Image: Book Catalog/Flickr (CC 2.0)

  • Crowny the Coronavirus, in "Presidential Host"

    The two Tom the Dancing Bug books, Tom the Dancing Bug: Into the Trumpverse, and The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader, are now available. Information about the books, including how to order, and special offers here.

    "That fact that Tom the bug can keep dancing in this day and age is a testament to Ruben Bolling's skills as a cartoonist!"
    -Seth Meyers

    Memberships are now open for Tom the Dancing Bug's INNER HIVE. Join the team that makes Tom the Dancing Bug a reality, and get exclusive access to comics before they are published, sneak peeks, insider scoops, and lots of other stuff. JOIN TODAY.

    FOLLOW @RubenBolling on the Twitters and a Face Book perhaps some Insta-grams, and even my/our MeWe.

    READ more Tom the Dancing Bug comics on Boing Boing.