Students substitute gun control protest for active shooter drill

After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students at MDI High School in Bar Harbor, Maine were scheduled to have a routine lock-down drill, in which students practice how to behave if their school is the site of a similar mass shooting; these drills teach children to sacrifice themselves by distracting the shooter before they are murdered in order to give other students a few more seconds during which the police might arrive and kill the shooter. (more…)

Unsettling British pork advertisement

The aptly-named "Scarred for Life" Twitter account posted this remarkable ad for British pork, dating to some indefinitely creepy moment in the 1970s or 1980s. There should be a corollary for Poe's law ("it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken for the thing parodied") for parodies of British advertisements. Be sure to click through to the thread for more high-quality horrors of UK product marketing.

Previously: KFC Commercial, by Peter Serafinowicz.

This $12 set of 45 screw-driving bits gets a lot of use

Whenever I have to turn a screw, I turn to this easy-to-find, yellow box of bits.

Flat? Phillips? Torx? Square? Any time I run into a standard-style screw head that needs turning I reach for my drill and add one of these bits. There is a pretty fair assortment, though some repetition, of sizes and shapes in this yellow box.

The metal the bits are made of? Good enough. What I really like? The "tough" plastic case! I dunno how tough canary yellow is, but it is easy to find in my tool bag, or left about the house.

I also have a black box of bits, I can never find them. Yellow it is!

DEWALT DW2166 45-Piece Screwdriving Set with Tough Case via Amazon

Image via Amazon

Canada struggle to end solitary confinement is "justice deferred"

Until recently, under Canadian law, prison administrators could confine their charges to an indefinite period in solitary confinement. Thanks to a pair of high profile court rulings, this could change in a big way, provided the Federal government can get its shit together.

Last month, the Supreme Court in the Canadian province of British Columbia struck down a law that allowed prisoners to be kept indefinitely in solitary confinement. It was a huge win for prison inmates and society: long-term solitary confinement does nothing to rehabilitate or condition an individual to become a more productive member of society. Worse, as humans are social animals, being locked away from our peers for long periods of time can cause psychological trauma--that's not something you want to do to someone who'll eventually be released back into society. Human rights activists in BC applauded the court's decision. Unfortunately, a similar case, heard in a different region of Canada, is keeping the verdict from changing the country's confinement laws.

This past December, a Superior Court Judge in the province of Ontario handed down a verdict that found that solitary confinement lasting any longer than five days is absolute bullshit, according to the Canadian constitution. But, as the CBC details, the practice of doing so does not violate the constitutional rights of the individual being thrown into solitary.

Both verdicts have merit, but which has more weight?

It's a question that the Canadian government has decided can only be answered by another run through the legal system. As such, it has appealed the Supreme Court of British Columbia's decision, looking for 'judicial clarity.' At the same time, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has appealed the ruling of the Ontario ruling.

In the meantime, inmates in Canadian prisons and, eventually, our society once those prisoners are released, will pay for all the legal foot dragging. As the acting litigation director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association puts it:

...prisoners continue to spend weeks, months and even years in small cells without human contact. She called the federal appeal "another example of justice deferred" for the vulnerable and marginalized.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of jmiller291

Report: iCloud plan puts China's Apple users at risk

According to The Hong Kong Free Press, Apple is set to hand over the keys to the the accounts of iCloud users in China to a company owned by the surveillance and censorship-happy Chinese government.

Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) will take over the operation of Apple's Chinese data center at the end of February, making GCBD responsible for all legal and financial transactions between the Apple and China's iCloud users. Once GCBD is running the show, Apple will be responsible for investing one billion USD to build a new server farm in Guiyang and to provide technical support in the interest of preserving data security.

Apple's doesn't like telling folks what iCloud user data they're able to read. The information could be limited to the size of uploaded files and where those files were uploaded, or as comprehensive as being able to browse through the photos taken with an iPhone. That China's communist government, which is big on watching the digital doings of its citizens, censorship and political activism could will soon have access to the iCloud account information of every iPhone, iPad or Mac user in China pretty troubling. 

This isn't the first time that Apple has bowed to pressure from the Chinese government, either. At the ass end of 2017, they happily removed close to 700 VPN apps from the Chinese iTunes App Store, making it extremely difficult for iOS users to view uncensored content. So, say good bye to news stories about China and the rest of the world that hasn't been approved by Chinese state censors.

It feels like a real dick move for a company that refused to provide U.S. authorities with a back door to iPhones, iPads and Macs and makes me wonder if concessions in the name of selling more hardware in other locales can't be far behind.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

These found-object charts are both quirky and insightful

Visual artist Michelle Rial has spent the past seven years making chart-based art and her latest project incorporates found objects into the mix. Rial began using everyday objects—which includes everything from food to office supplies to wine stains to floss—after a neck injury forced her to step away from her computer and away from the types of illustrations she had been doing previously. Using found objects cut down on some of the physical pain of illustrating for Rial and has resulted in some really cool, unique pieces of art with a great sense of humor. Here are some of my favorites:

Fall timeline 🍂 #100uselesscharts

A post shared by Michelle Rial (@realifecharts) on


Here’s why pop culture features so little public transportation

Although I use Chicago's CTA public transportation system virtually every day, it never occurred to me that my experience is relatively underrepresented in pop culture. We don't often see fictional characters utilizing public transportation, at least not to the same extent we see them use other modes of travel, like cars and taxis. This fascinating article from Arlington-based public transportation think tank Mobility Lab offers two explanations for why that is. For one thing, showing characters driving a car allows a TV show or movie to utilize product placement; car companies pay big money to have their vehicles featured onscreen. And for another, it’s a lot more logistically difficult to film on public transportation. But as Mobility Lab notes:

Featuring public transportation on TV shows and movies normalizes it. Characters riding public transportation makes transit another setting–a place where life happens. Seeing it on screen makes it easier to envision it in your life.

You can read the full article—which offers some fascinating stats about filming on both the CTA and New York City’s MTA—over on the Mobility Lab website.

[Photo: Jane The Virgin, The CW/Scott Everett White]

Will Smith is a YouTube vlogger now

One of the unexpected delights of 2018 has been watching Will Smith try to parlay his traditional celebrity into the world of YouTube celebrity. Though he hasn’t come close to racking up the millions of subscribers the most popular YouTubers have (Smith’s currently at about 670,000 subscribers as of the writing of this article), the 49-year-old is clearly having a lot of fun on his channel. Smith’s vlogs show off the goofy sense of humor that made him such a beloved star in the first place. He doesn’t seem to take either himself or his YouTube aspirations too seriously, but his videos are a short, weird burst of fun.

And if you like this, you’ll love Smith’s equally delightful Instagram account.

Watch director Ryan Coogler break down one of Black Panther’s best fight scenes

In addition to breaking box office records, Black Panther has quickly established itself as one of the best and most unique films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the credit for that belongs largely to director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. In this fascinating “Notes on a Scene” video for Vanity Fair, Coogler talks through the production design, costuming, fight choreography, color story, themes, and character-building that went into creating one of the film’s best fight scenes—an undercover mission in which T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) set out to capture Andy Serkis’ villainous Ulysses Klaue at an underground Korean casino.

And if you enjoyed that video, you can also watch Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi break down an action scene from his movie right here:

Why the Twilight series doesn’t deserve our hatred

In this thoughtful 19-minute video essay, cultural critic Lindsay Ellis re-examines the history of hating on the vampire love story Twilight, which reached a fever pitch around 2008/2009. Though there’s no doubt Twilight is easy to make fun of, Ellis also comes to a more complicated conclusion about the maligned YA series: Twilight certainly has its problems, but the immense hatred towards the franchise (and towards author Stephenie Meyer) is also a potent example of the extreme, reflexive hatred we tend to feel towards anything that’s popular among teenage girls. After all, plenty of our pop culture is dumb and cheesy (Ellis cites The Fast And The Furious franchise as another example), but little of it gets as much backlash as Twilight did.

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