Amazon's best selling wholesales have long accused the company of mining their sales data to discover which products are most profitable; then Amazon clones the product and offers it for sale at a lower price than the wholesales can afford (because Amazon doesn't have to worry about a wholesale-retail markup when it's both wholesaler and retailer at once) and tweaks its search and recommendation system to drive sales to its private-label versions of its partners' products. (more…)
Illumipaper is a well-developed prototype from Interactive Media Lab Dresden; the researchers behind it used a variety of techniques to create regular-seeming paper with all the traditional characteristics (it can be crumpled, folded, written on with pen and ink, etc); but a wireless controller allows it to be selectively illuminated to provide interactivity (e.g. to provide tips on homework problems). (more…)
The secret word of the day is: Marathon.
As in, IFC is hosting an 24-hour marathon of Pee-wee's Playhouse on Thanksgiving. Aaaarggghhhhh! (That was me screaming real loud.)
Starting at 6 AM, you'll be able to watch every single episode of this quirky TV cult classic, from "Ice Cream Soup" to "Accidental Playhouse." Do note that THE best Christmas special in the whole wide world -- Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, of course -- begins at 6:12 PM sharp on Thanksgiving Day evening.
Plus, you'll get a chance to watch them again when IFC starts running the episodes (sans the Christmas special) on every Saturday morning this December.
[Psst... take a look at Pee-wee Herman's Instagram. It's full of weird gifs and images, just as you would hope and expect.]
70 year old Taipei fengshui master Chen San-yuan is known locally as "Pokemon Grandpa," and is a viral sensation thanks to the 15 phones he's mounted on his handlebars to help him play the 2016 augmented reality game Pokemon Go; his rig cost about $4,000 and he spends another $300/month on virtual currency to help him level up in the game. He says that playing the game keeps him socially connected and delays the onset of Alzheimer's. (Image: Reuters) (via Kottke)
Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner continues her unbroken streak of excellent and incisive architectural criticism with a new piece that riffs on Stewart Brand's classic "How Buildings Learn" to discuss how McMansions have gone awry: they represent a break from the tradition of designing stuff to fit in spaces, and instead, they are spaces designed for status-displaying stuff. (more…)
An Australian developer named Mark Watkins painstakingly reverse-engineered the proprietary data generated by Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines and created Sleepyhead, a free/open piece of software that has become the go-to tool for thousands of sleep apnea sufferers around the world who want to tune their machines to stay healthy. (more…)
There's scientific truth to the saying that you never forget how to ride a bike. Even if you can't remember phone numbers, birthdays, or where the hell you parked your car, it's likely that even if you haven't been on a bicycle in decades, you can climb on and ride away just fine. Why? Neuropsychologist Boris Suchan of Germany's Ruhr University Bochum lays it out as best we know in Scientific American:
As it turns out, different types of memories are stored in distinct regions of our brains. Long-term memory is divided into two types: declarative and procedural.
There are two types of declarative memory: Recollections of experiences such as the day we started school and our first kiss are called episodic memory. This type of recall is our interpretation of an episode or event that occurred. Factual knowledge, on the other hand, such as the capital of France, is part of semantic memory. These two types of declarative memory content have one thing in common—you are aware of the knowledge and can communicate the memories to others.
Skills such as playing an instrument or riding a bicycle are, however, anchored in a separate system, called procedural memory. As its name implies, this type of memory is responsible for performance...
According to one idea, in the regions where movement patterns are anchored fewer new nerve cells may be formed in adults. Without this neurogenesis, or continuous remodeling in those regions, it’s less likely for those memories to get erased.
"Why Don’t We Forget How to Ride a Bike?" (SciAm)
Japanese specialist paper manufacturer Hidaka Washi Ltd makes the world's thinnest paper using 1,000-year-old methods.
The paper is then sent to museums and libraries around the world—including the British Museum and the Library of Congress—and is used to restore and protect books and works of art.
Bernie Sanders's latest legislative proposal is the Stop Walmart Act; Sanders describes Walmart as the "poster child for corporate greed" and uses that as a launching point to propose a ban on stock buybacks from companies unless they pay their lowest-waged employees $15/hour. (more…)
Do you believe that we're living in a simulation? Has that belief affected your life? My old pal Rodney Ascher, director of fantastically freaky documentaries like Room 237, about weird theories surrounding The Shining, and The Nightmare, a study on sleep paralysis, is starting on a new far-out film about people who are convinced that our world is a digital creation. If you're one of those people, Rodney would love to hear from you.
"The approach, like my other films, is to focus almost entirely on first-person accounts and present them as accurately as possible - closer to a non-fiction Twilight Zone than an episode of Cosmos," Rodney says.
"A Glitch in the Matrix" (Facebook)
Nearly every Sunday for 25 years, Garry Shandling held a secret pickup basketball game for his friends, including celebrities like Sarah Silverman, David Duchovny, Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Ferrell, Kevin Nealon, and Judd Apatow. ESPN writes, "Those Sundays yielded friendships that are responsible for some of the best television and film of the past 20 years. As director Alex Richanbach says, 'This group of people found a little family in Los Angeles because we all have the same comedy dad.'"
Shandling passed away in 2016 but the stories of what the scene was like are coming out now.
There are way too many to include here and they build on each other, so head to ESPN to read the game's oral history by the people who were there: 'Fight Club' with better jokes: Inside Garry Shandling's secret pickup game
One last thing: As a tribute to Shandling, his friends gathered to play one last game of basketball at his house just three days after his death.
Two days of waiting in Casper, Wyoming, $1,200 and two new tires later, we were back on the road. Casper is a small city. It is one of Wyoming's most populated cities. It is a city flanked by mountains and, while we were being held captive by a blown out tire on a holiday weekend, a miserably cold, humid city.
It was a city we were happy to leave.
The man who taught me how to fight once told me that the only thing worse than getting punched is waiting to get punched. This holds true for many things in life. As my wife wheeled us back onto the Interstate, headed south, there was a tension in the air between us. We did not speak. We did little else but listen. Would the rest of our tires prove sound? Was there any indication that they might blow like one of our outer duelies had? When the next blow-out happens would it be one of our steer-tires? How fucked or dead would we be? The answer to this last question: pretty fucked and, depending on the speed we'd be traveling at when the blow-out hit, pretty dead.
Both of us were wondering these things. Neither of us talked about it until after we had stopped for the night.
Long distance trips can be full of new foods and interesting people that make for fond memories. More often, you're left to contend with hours of a ribbon of road cut through the plains mountains and dead towns that lost their vibrance years before you were born. Cities come and go. In an RV, you needn't stop in them. You're self contained: home is always with you. Only when you can't stand another moment of driving, the whimsy of a roadside attraction grabs you, or an emergency forces a stop do you partake. It's during these periods, while my wife is driving, that I work.
Just before we left Alberta, I bought a new mobile workstation to use while I sit in our rig's passenger seat. It provides me with a stable platform to type on while lashed into the only chair in the RV that will keep me from obtaining flight if we're ever involved in an accident. In years past, I'd retire to the back of our rig and set up shop at the kitchen table. Every moment that I didn't lose my balance or have my laptop slide off the table as we rounded a corner was a victory. The new workstation? It's better.
I have, however, found it jarring at times. When I used to work in the back, it was easy to ignore where we were. I had no view of the road. I was focused on my work and keeping the stuff I need for it on the table. Sitting up front, the road is always in what's left of my peripheral vision--a gray and white blur barreling towards me as we tick off the miles to the Mexican border. Sometimes, a change in the color of the asphalt, a car pulling in front of us, or an unavoidable pothole tweaks me enough to look up from my computer's display. Seeing where we are versus where we had been the last time I'd bothered to look has left me feeling disjointed. I'm doing no more work than I was while seated in the back. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am missing out as I work sitting next to my wife. The color of the sky, the slow crawl from a temperate to an arid landscape: scenery I adore as we move from north to south.
Last night we slept at a weigh station, just inside of the New Mexico border. Tonight, we'll rest in Texas.
Researchers at NYU and U Michigan have published a paper explaining how they used a pair of machine-learning systems to develop a "universal fingerprint" that can fool the lowest-security fingerprint sensors 76% of the time (it is less effective against higher-security sensors). (more…)
In Milton, West Virginia, concerned citizens called police to report rabid raccoons but it turns out that the animals (the raccoons that is) were more likely just drunk. “We have had calls [of] suspected rabid raccoons twice over the last two days,” the Milton Police Department wrote in a short Facebook post. “Turns out they appear to be drunk on crab apples.” From Newsweek:
It wouldn’t be the first time an animal has made the headlines for public intoxication. In 2015, footage of a squirrel seemingly drunk on fermented crab apples hit YouTube—and attracted millions of views. National Geographic has previously captured footage of drunken monkeys.
National Geographic said in its own 2015 article that research found that animals definitely did get drunk, and listed such examples as butterflies, moths and moose. Don Moore, associate director of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., told National Geographic that deer that had eaten fermented apples in orchards were known to get “pretty sleepy, even stumbly.”
Those who commented on the Milton Police Department’s post seemed to appreciate the update. One person joked, “Public intoxication, pretty serious. Thanks for putting him back in the woods.” Another Facebook user said, “I have one on my porch right now you can have.”
THE UNTOLD TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN examines the life and work of one of the world's most beloved storytellers, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels have inspired millions to claim their own truth. Jennifer Kroot's documentary about the creator of TALES OF THE CITY moves nimbly between playful and poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. With help from his friends (including Neil Gaiman, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen and Amy Tan) Maupin offers a disarmingly frank look at the journey that took him from the jungles of Vietnam to the bathhouses of 70's San Francisco to the front line of the American culture war.
On Netflix: The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin
The strongest news we've heard that Bill and Ted Face the Music will actually be made is that they are now auctioning off a walk on role for charity.
There are three hours left to bid. The proceeds go to Homes for Our Troops. I hope you win!
With Veteran's Day starting off the week, the charity group Homes For Our Troops kicked off a celebrity-fueled series of auctions to raise funds for their cause. While you can bid on everything from a Game of Thrones sweepstakes to George Clooney's motorcycle to help build accessible homes for injured veterans, a real standout gem is a walk-on role in Bill & Ted Face the Music.
Writer Ed Solomon, who penned the first two installments with Chris Matheson, announced the auction via Twitter, which is going on for one day only. And that happens to be today.
What you get:
1. Hand-built Hovercraft sculpted to look exactly like a Delorean. This is a functional work of art, it is not a Delorean bolted onto a hovercraft. There's only one in the world!
2. Custom flatbed tilting trailer built specifically for this hovercraft
3. Miscellaneous spare parts and supplies including spare engine parts, fans and propellers, nuts and bolts.
4. Free phone consultations with me for any technical questions you might have...
The Hovercraft is based on the blueprints for the Universal Hovercraft UH-13PT. The basic shape of the hull, skirt, and fan ducts come from those blueprints, but pretty much everything else is customized. The Delorean body is made out of styrofoam wrapped in fiberglass and painted with metallic paint. The 36” thrust fan is powered by a 23hp Briggs & Stratton Vanguard riding lawnmower-style engine. The 24” lift fan is powered by a B&S 875 Professional series push mower engine. The hull of the craft hovers about 6-8 inches over the surface, and can hover over anything relatively flat: land, water, ice, snow, sand, asphalt, etc. The top speed with the current thrust configuration is 31 mph on the water in good conditions.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Muckrock teamed up to use the Freedom of Information Act to extract the details of 200 US cities' Automated License Plate Recognition camera programs (ALPR), and today they've released a dataset containing all the heretofore secret data on how these programs are administered and what is done with the data they collect. (more…)
A homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., was famously seen to give his last $20 to a young woman, Kate McClure, who had run out of gas. Then McClure and her husband, Mark D'Amico, raised $400,000 on GoFundMe by way of thanks, only to end up publicly shamed after only gaving a small portion of the funds to Bobbitt. Authorities now say, though, that it was all a wheeze, the three of them working together from the outset.
In the latest bombshell development, according to a new report authorities believe the entire tale was a ruse conceived by McClure, D'Amico and Bobbitt in a scheme to cash in.
All three are reportedly expected to be charged with conspiracy and theft by deception for working together to concoct the story.
The précis as alleged: they all scammed the media and the public, then the couple scammed Bobbitt, presumably believing he wouldn't go to the authorities because then everyone gets busted. But he did, and everyone got busted.
Gilded Age watch: America's firefighting is turning into a two-tier system, with private services for the 1%
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's $50,000,000 Calabasas, California mansion was spared from last week's wildfires thanks to the actions of private firefighters working on behalf of insurers who've written policies on about 1,000 of California's priciest homes. (more…)