Woman paints bugs around unpatched potholes

A British woman has defiantly rejected criticism from Lincolnshire County Council, which has asked her to stop spraying paint bugs around potholes that it has failed to patch. Locals have nicknamed her "Bugsy" in honor of the crude but colorful roadway creations.

Lincolnshire County Council said repair of the hole would be delayed due to the paint having to be removed.

"On Friday night I was going along and hit a pothole which burst my tyre," Ms Holland said. "I took it to the tyre place on Saturday and £53 later I decided I'd had enough. I went and bought some spray paint and I made it into a bug. If I can save people from getting a bill like I did then it's worth it."

Sounds to me like Ms. Holland should be equipped with some sidewalk spray chalk [Amazon]: highlights the danger and puts a fire under the council, but washes away with water.

Photos: Karan Holland.

The DEA seized a 79-year-old man's life savings at airport and won't give it back

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration confiscated $82,373 in cash from Rebecca Brown at the Pittsburgh airport and won't return it, even though she hasn't been charged with a crime. Brown says her father, 79-year-old Terry Rolin, accumulated the money over a lifetime of saving and that he gave her the cash to open a joint bank account.

From The Washington Post (via Seattle Times):

Rebecca Brown was catching a flight home from the Pittsburgh airport early the next day and said she didn’t have time to stop at a bank. She confirmed on a government website that it’s legal to carry any amount of cash on a domestic flight and tucked the money in her carry-on.

But just minutes before departure in late August, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent met her at the busy gate and questioned her about the cash, which showed up on a security scan. He insisted Brown put Rolin on the phone to confirm her story. Brown said Rolin, who is suffering mental decline, was unable to verify some details.

“He just handed me the phone and said, ‘Your stories don’t match,’ ” Brown recalled the agent saying. ” ‘We’re seizing the cash.’ “

Brown said she was never told she or her father were under suspicion of committing any crime and neither has been charged with anything. A search of her bag turned up no drugs or other contraband. Neither she or her father appear to have criminal records that might raise suspicions.

Image: Public Domain, Link

Twitter CEO reveals the guy who issues coveted blue checkmarks, and the guy is not happy about it

Some Twitter users -- especially trolls, racists, misogynists, and fascists -- covet the blue checkmark Twitter adds to "verified" accounts, in the mistaken belief that it gives them a seal of legitimacy. Recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey answered customer service questions in a Wired interview and one of the questions he got was about how to receive a blue checkmark. Dorsey said, “There’s a guy named Kayvon, and he handles all the verification, which is the blue checkmark. So if you either DM him or mention him, you have a high probability of getting a blue checkmark.”

Kayvon Beykpour is product lead at Twitter, and as you might imagine, every Plain-Belly Sneetch in the twittersphere started DMing him as if he was Sylvester McMonkey McBean with a check-on machine. Beykpour was forced to add a notice to his bio that read, "SORRY I'M NOT THE "VERIFICATION GOD" AND WON'T BE ABLE TO VERIFY YOU."

From The Daily Dot:

The Daily Dot reached out to Beykpour over Twitter to inquire about his newly appointed title as verification god but did not receive a response by publication time.

Unfortunately for all the unverified accounts, it appears that Beykpour will not be granting verification status anytime soon. And while Twitter in 2016 offered users a way to apply for verification, the process was put on hold just a year later.

JetBrains Mono is a free, open source monospace font

JetBrains Mono is a new font designed especially for coders and developers. The lowercase characters are taller than the ones in other monospace fonts, improving readability.

Consider this in contrast to some other fonts. Consolas, for example, has slightly wider letters. However, they are still rather small, which forces you to increase the size by one point to make the font more readable. As a result, lines of code tend to run longer than expected.

JetBrains Mono’s standard-width letters help keep lines to the expected length.

Court case lays bare KPMG's crimes: poaching employees from its own regulators and making them steal government secrets

Capitalism has a foundational dependence on auditors -- outside entities who evaluate companies' claims about their financial state so that investors, suppliers and customers can understand whether to trust the companies with their money and business -- but those auditors are paid by the companies they're supposed to be keeping honest, and to make matters worse, 40 years of lax antitrust enforcement has allowed the auditing industry to contract to a four gigantic firms that openly practice fraud and abet corruption, with no real consequences. (more…)

ABBA's "Dancing Queen" played on an antique organ

This Hooghuys organ is over 100 years old but that didn't stop self-proclaimed Hustler Alexey Rom from making it play pop music. To get this 1914 fairground organ to pump out ABBA's "Dancing Queen," Rom had to create a custom player scroll which is no easy feat!

His first viral organ hit was playing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (8.7M views and counting!) on a 1905 Marenghi organ. This is how he describes making that happen:

The arrangement was made in Ableton Live using MIDI and was then punched into the cardboard book using an automated punch.

I can only assume the process to make the scroll was similar for this organ.

You may remember this is the same guy who played Boney M's disco hit "Rasputin" on a 1905 Marenghi organ.

(The Awesomer)

Celebreedy uses AI to combine faces of stars

Celebreedy breeds new celebrities from other celebrities, using a generative adversarial network. It's the work of Eric Drass, who has a website.

Eric holds a degree in Philosophy and Psychology (Oxford) and an unfinished PhD in Cognitive Psycholinguistics (also Oxford). He is co-author on a number of patents dealing with PRISM-type surveillance technologies (long before PRISM became public), and a number of academic papers relating to neural network models of language acquisition and heritability.

He also used to be a singer in an experimental hardcore band, an unsuccessful male model, and once took at dotcom 1.0 company from a bedroom project to 14 countries and back, spending $50m on the way. Twenty years ago he was a TV star in America, but he doesn’t like to talk about it.

Christian school expels student over rainbow birthday cake

For Kayla Kenney's 15th birthday party at a Texas Roadhouse, her mother asked for a cake with colors that 'pop'. A rainbow cake was provided and Kimberly Alford posted this charming photo of the youngster about to tuck in. Someone at her school, Whitefield Academy in Louisville, spotted the photo on social media, and Kenney was expelled for the "posture of morality and cultural acceptance" the cake represented.

Alford alleges the seemingly innocuous photo caused Kayla to be expelled from Whitefield Academy, a private Christian school in Louisville, where her daughter was a freshman. In an email to the family on Jan. 6, the academy’s head of school, Bruce Jacobson, wrote that Kayla’s enrollment was terminated, effective immediately, because of a social media post.

Alford said an image of her Facebook post was included as an attachment to the email.

“The WA Administration has been made aware of a recent picture, posted on social media, which demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs,” Jacobson wrote. “We made it clear that any further promotion, celebration or any other action and attitudes counter to Whitefield’s philosophy will not be tolerated.”

Alford says neither the cake nor Kenney's jumper were a statement on sexuality. The school didn't respond to the Washington Post's inquiries, but told a local news channel Kenney had committed other "lifesyle violations" in the past, without elaborating. According to her mother, that infraction was for vape pods found in a bag search.

It strikes me that there's now an ecology of bakers, seamsters, varsity photographers, etc., refusing to do rainbows because rainbows are gay.

Review: "Don't Read The Comments" is a delightful YA antidote to GamerGate

Don't Read The Comments is the newest book by Eric Smith, a literary agent and author of The Geek's Guide To Dating and other books, as well as the owner of many adorable pets. (Full disclosure: Eric was also my editor many, many years ago on the Quirk Books blog, and we've remained friends since then.) It tells the story of two teens who meet and fall in love pretty much entirely online, with the help of a video massive multiplayer game called "Reclaim The Sun." Divya Sharma has managed to turn her love of the game into a popular streaming channel that brings in a little bit of revenue for her and her recently-divorced mother. Aaron Jericho is an aspiring video game writer whose parents want nothing more than for him to follow in their footsteps and go to medical school. A chance encounter in "Reclaim The Sun" helps these two isolated brown kids find solace in each other—but a well-orchestrated doxxing campaign from a group of racist, sexist trolls threatens to tear it all down.

On the surface, this is a perfect nerdy setup of star-crossed lovers coming together against all odds, with a touch of hyper-relevant social commentary. In execution, it pulls that off with plenty of delight. It's certainly not the most high-stakes story I've read—the only doomed kingdoms exist in a video game—but Smith manages to keep the characters' internal stakes on the edge the whole time. And that's realistic, because these are teenagers, for whom everything does feel the end of the world, even when it's not. Even when you're in the video game, and digital avatars do get destroyed, it leaves an emotional impact because it means so much to Divya and Aaron.

This is true even if you—like me—are not much of a gamer yourself. I'm certainly familiar with the fact that watching people live-stream video games is a thing, but it's not something I've ever engaged with. Smith makes this world instantly accessible and understandable, in a way that reminded me of my own high school days on the Internet. There's a nostalgic element to the wholesomeness of the community-building that happens online, which seems almost alien today—and yet, the looming threats from the Troll Army are still very real, and very present throughout the book. But Smith is also clever enough to make sure that these trolls are never reduced to cardboard cutouts of villainy. They are a huge segment of the gamer market, after all, and the power of profitability ends up affecting both Divya and Aaron in different ways. While Divya's character arc is generally more compelling, Smith does some important work with Aaron as the benign-but-well-intentioned guy who has to un-learn the stereotypically masculine behaviors he's internalized in his young life in order to actually become an equal and supportive partner for Divya—and that's a really important lesson for today.

There are plenty of delightful, corny-nerd-romance moments throughout the book that genuinely left me smiling and giddy. It's a quick read, and it's just an utter joy. I'll leave this review with the initial response that struck me about halfway through reading the book: it's everything I wanted Ready Player One to be, except with actual emotions, characters, and stakes that gave me something to care about and connect with.

Don't Read The Comments is out January 28 from Inkyard Press / Harlequin.

Bowie footage released from 1990s "hologram" project

Footage of a 1990s-era David Bowie performing repeating poses against a plain blue set was used to create a holographic album insert, reports the BBC, but it turns out there's 30 minutes of video to enjoy.

... the film remained in storage at Leicester's De Montfort University. "He... started to do this set of amazing iconic movements that he was famous for and all his fans would recognise", Prof [Martin] Richardson said.

The footage was played to 300 lucky fans Monday.

Prof Richardson, who first met the star in 1994, recalled: "Bowie said to me, 'When you've done your bloody hologram it will be up and down the width and breadth of the country. I am going to make you famous.'

"He got back on the sound stage and said, 'Right, what do you want me to do?' and I thought, 'I am going to direct David Bowie, the super rock star I idolised as a boy."

The hologram was then reproduced for 500,000 copies of the album.

Akai's MPC One is a backpack beatmaker

Akai's MPC One is a beat-making box that fits in a backpack (unlike the MPC X) and costs less than a grand (unlike the MPC Live), has a 7-inch touchscreen display, and offers a full bank of pads, knobs and dials for standalone action, and outputs and ports for hooking it up to other audio gear, synths and computers.

Dani Deahl:

For those unaware of the history of Akai’s MPC, the Japanese electronics company’s signature item first debuted over 30 years ago and changed music-making forever with its intuitive interface and all-in-one approach. It’s been a staple tool for tons of artists like Dr. Dre and Om’Mas Keith (Frank Ocean’s producer), and there’s even one in the Smithsonian. ... Akai says it packed a “remarkably comprehensive feature set” into the MPC One. Along with the standard 16 pads, it sports a seven-inch multitouch display and four touch-sensitive rotaries for manipulating sounds. On the back is a single set of MIDI I/O ports, four CV / Gate jacks (for controlling connected gear), and eight outputs total. There are 2GB of RAM, and USB flash and SD card storage can expand the unit’s 4GB capacity (which could easily top out since it’s preloaded with 2GB of drum samples and loops). The MPC One also ships with several soft synths and Air FX plug-ins for mixing and mastering. Akai tells The Verge that it focused on smaller size, added CV functionality, and a cheaper price to make the MPC One “the center of a ‘DAW-less jam’ style studio.”

$700 in February.

The QAnon cult has started appropriating the Punisher skull logo, too

It's bad enough when police officers try to claim the skull symbol of the Punisher from Marvel Comics as their own. Gerry Conway, creator of the character, has spoken out about the absurdity:

It's disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He's supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can't depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way. […] Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.

The Marvel corporation has also gone after weapons manufacturers and others who use their unlicensed IP in their designs. Even the Punisher himself has addressed it in the context of a comic book:

I'll only say this once: We're not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don't do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name is Captain America and he'd be happy to have you.

(This is also a reminder to read Nate Powell's brilliant comic essay on the fashion of fascism, if you haven't already)

But now the Punisher appropriation has taken a step further, with militia groups handing out flyers at QAnon rallies emblazoned with that familiar skull:

This use of the Punisher logo makes at least some sense, as it more encouraging of vigilantism through violent extremist fringe groups. I suppose, if we're being technical, the QAnon-inspired murder of the Gambino crime boss is very much something the Punisher would do. Except the Punisher has the benefit of (a) being a fictional character, and (b) living in a world inhabited by super-beings and narratively satisfying crime syndicates, which negates the need for him to invent elaborate conspiracy theories about pedophile pizza shops to justify his madness.

That being said: this Punisher-avatar'd QAnon tweet is pretty incredible.

Image via Mike Mozart / Flickr

 

 

Steven Seagal deepfaked as The Witcher

Surprisingly convincing in the role.

DISCLAIMER: as the title suggests, this footage is fake, and has been AI generated with the help of computer programs. The actors therein did not participate in the making of this video. The lines were (poorly) voiced by me and they are not the actual lines from the show.

Professor Xavier is a total fuckboi. Let me explain, on the Fuckbois of Literature podcast.

My friend Emily Edwards has a delightful podcast called Fuckbois of Literature, that, well, pretty much explores exactly what it promises: fuckbois, in literature.

The characters of literature other readers exalt, but you hope never to meet. Maybe they screw everything that moves (and moos). Maybe they’ve locked their first wife in the attic. Maybe they’re the author of love poetry that’s screwed up our concept of romance for over 150 years. The literary fuckboi toys with your heart and leaves you hung out to dry. Join host Emily Edwards every week to discuss the most toxic characters, writers, and tropes of literature, folklore, myths, and legend. Topics include feminist literature, toxic masculinity, gender roles, and intersectional representation in books. These are the Fuckbois of Literature.

There are lots of great and insightful episodes, from comedian Sara Benincasa talking about the Bible, to my personal favorite one on David Foster Wallace. But Emily was also kind and/or foolish enough to invite me and one of my best friends onto the show to discuss the various fuckbois of the X-Men universe — but namely, that hedonistic bald manipulator Professor Charles Xavier, and his fickle, horny protege, Scott Summers AKA Cyclops.

I have been waiting a long time for an audience to let me indulge in my deeply serious literary analysis on sex and the X-Men, and I'm just so glad that there's more than one person in the world who cares to hear my rant about the cycle of abuse and patriarchal privilege that make Professor X and Cyclops alike both treat women like crap in the pursuit of their self-righteous goals.

You can listen to my episode above. Or, if you want to subscribe to Fuckbois of Literature — and you should! — you can find it on iTunesSpotifyYouTubeStitcherGooglePlay, Spreaker, et cetera.

"Do The Work, Scott" on the Fuckbois of Literature Podcast

Image via William Tung / Flickr

My favorite new game, KnifeTank: The Shüffling, is now on Kickstarter

Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of getting to play a new game that quickly became my son's and my favorite over the holiday break (when we try to play lots of games together). It's my friend Doc Popular's KnifeTank and he was kind enough to send me a prototype copy.

When I got the game, I was excited, but with reservations. No offense to Doc, but I expected it to be light and gimmicky, something of a vanity project. What I wasn't expecting was a game I instantly wanted to play over and over again and invite my friends to come and play (which I did). KnifeTank can hold its own against anything coming out of a large commercial game company and I look forward to it enjoying a long and happy life, with many expansions and a worldwide, enthusiastic player community.

KnifeTank comes in a poker-type tuck box and includes everything you need to play. You get 30 action/movement cards, 8 tanks (4 two-sided cards), 4 health cards, and 5 damage cards. The box also contains a rule book and there are two rules summary cards. The game is for 2-4 players and rated ages 12 and up. Each game takes about 20-30 minutes to play. The goal of the game is get your tank from your table's edge to your opponent's edge or to eliminate your opponent(s) by reducing their health/hits to zero.

Those familiar with tabletop miniature games like Star Wars X-Wing and Gaslands will likely dig the movement mechanic here. Each turn, players lock in two actions from their hand by placing them face down on the table. Movement goes first and the movement cards show a movement direction and distance. You place the movement card down, align your tank turret markers to the distance marker indicated, and then remove and discard the movement card. Part of the challenge in playing is guessing the distance and direction your tank will end up with after the card is played.

After movement cards are played, the knives come out. You play the stabby cards in a manner similar to movement, placing them as indicated my symbols on your tank and hoping your weapon overlaps an enemy tank (giving you a chance to deal damage).

Finally, after the stabbing stops, you get to play special cards. This is an aspect of the game I expected to like the least, but it turns out it's what makes KnifeTank truly special and fun. The special cards are things like bombs or first aid packages that you literally drop from 2 feet above the table, or things like a knife copter that you have to try and spin onto an opponent, or flick and blow cards that you have to... well, flick or blow onto your opponent's tank. This kinetic activity instantly brings back the childhood fun of playing games like paper football.

Hits are resolved by the use of Damage cards that you blind draw. This is another fun and tension-producing dimension to the game. If you're hanging on by a single hit point, drawing that card can be maddening.

Doc has done a really great job with the cartoony heavy metal vibe to the design and the card art. It's hard not to want to shout "KNIFE TANK!" a lot in a cookie monster metal voice. The game feels like its own little realized world with more going on than meets the eye. There is a lot of humor in the design, too, like this turret weapon card depicting a hammerhead shark with a knife tapped to its head. (Get it? Shark tank? Card shark?)

Doc launched a Kickstarter yesterday to finally bring KnifeTank to the masses. The campaign runs through February 4th. At only $15, you know you need this. As my son, Blake, himself a professional game designer, exclaimed after we played our first few rounds: "This game rules! I love it."

Celebrating Captain Beefheart's birthday with a look at his masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica

Today is the birthday (1941) of the late Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, one of then most fascinating, confounding, and creative artists and musicians of the 20th century. Let's celebrate by taking a look at his 1969 record, Trout Mask Replica, widely regarded as a masterpiece of modern sound art.

And here's a bonus track. Imagine seeing this ad on late night television in 1970.

Here's the pen cartoonist Tom Gauld uses

Tom Gauld is one of my favorite cartoonists. (see my reviews of his previous books, Mooncop, You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack, Goliath, and The Gigantic Robot).

 

I met him a couple of years ago and he gave me the pen he uses to draw his cartoons: the Pilot Precise V5 Roller Ball Stick Pen. It makes a very clean line, and Tom told me the ink does not fade, even after many years. Now that I've started sketching again (I post some of my sketches on my Instagram account), I was reminded of Tom's pen and reordered a box.

This $13 courses gives you mastery over SQL & MySQL

If you're working with databases, you're working with SQL. Even in the changing world of the web, there are some classics that endure, and SQL (along with its database management system MySQL) is one of them. Millions of websites and databases have been built using SQL code as their foundation, and they're still being built today.

Needless to say, it's a must for any serious coder. And there's no better way to get your feet wet than with this MySQL & SQL for Beginners course.

The lessons in the course let you get hands-on with SQL, letting you create your own database from the ground up. You'll then learn how to update it with new info and retrieve old data from it, then set up communications between your database and others.

Along the way, you'll move quickly from your first queries to the complex operations and transactions that power the networks of leading companies. By the final lesson, you'll also have learned how to keep that data safe while still accessible by those who need it on the fly.

Right now, lifetime access to the full course is on sale for 93% off the original cost.

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