Exhaustive tour of video game bathrooms

It's been four years since Cory posted a supercut of video game bathrooms, but the industry hasn't been slacking since. Curious Reviewers posted a series collecting the typically revolting, sometimes deluxe, always weirdly spacious virtual pissoirs of videogaming.

Here are the three episodes, in reverse chronological order. Note that many of the clips show nudity, violence, grossness and other things you might expect to find going on in ludological lavatories.

At least 12 states inflated coronavirus testing count or deflated deaths

“At least a dozen states have inflated their coronavirus testing numbers or deflated their death tolls,” says Politico reporter Adam Cancryn, who explains that the math-fudging is “part of an emerging pattern of federal and state officials altering, hiding or deceptively displaying Covid-19 data.”

From his report for Politico with Darius Tahir:

Some states have shifted the metrics for a “safe” reopening; Arizona sought to clamp down on bad news at one point by simply shuttering its pandemic modeling. About a third of the states aren’t even reporting hospital admission data — a big red flag for the resurgence of the virus.

The spotty data flow is particularly worrisome to public health officials trying to help Americans make decisions about safely venturing out. The lack of accurate and consistent Covid-19 data, coupled with the fact that the White House no longer has regular briefings where officials reinforce the need for ongoing social distancing, makes that task even harder.

New examples seem to sprout up daily. The District of Columbia this week became the latest jurisdiction to endure scrutiny, with the city using a “community spread” metric — excluding nursing homes, correctional facilities and others — as a justification for reopening the area.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters that the state will share information about outbreaks at meatpacking plants only upon request. And Georgia has only just begun to differentiate between the two types of coronavirus tests it's been adding into its testing totals for weeks.

Read the rest at Politico:
Bad state data hides coronavirus threat as Trump pushes reopening
[DARIUS TAHIR and ADAM CANCRYN 05/27/2020]

Miniature magnetic marble track

Enjoy Daniel de Bruin's wonderfully-produced video of a miniature marble machine being made from a) exactingly precise stuff from the workshop parts drawer, b) a Pruser Mini 3D printer, and c) a lot of patient work with soldering irons, glues and fiddly lengths of wire.

In this video I'm using a ball bearing of only 5mm wide. The track is made of 0.6mm wire. It took me waaaay longer to construct than anticipated, because a small mistake and the ball wouldn't stay on the track. It took me 5 days to shoot, make and edit.

Below, de Bruin offers a more general look at this incredible hobby. You don't need fancy equipment to get started, but you do need a wee soldering iron (I like the TS100 [Amazon] a lot), a variable-speed power drill for the wire-coiling magic, and precision calipers.

COVID-19 grows in Los Angeles's poorer communities

The LA Times has observed that COVID-19 infection rates are falling in wealthier enclaves while gaining traction in poorer communities.

Denser living conditions, higher populations of 'essential' workers, and historic difficulty accessing health care force folks in a position to be infected.

LA Times:

The Times compared neighborhoods in which more than 25% of the population was living below the poverty line — defined by the Census Bureau as a family of four making less than $26,000 a year — to those in which the poverty rate was lower than 5%.

The shift shows the surge feared by public health officials did come to pass, but was largely concentrated in the poorest, most crowded neighborhoods — areas with a lot of essential workers, more crowded housing and higher rates of underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Early in the outbreak, health officials and experts warned that numbers showing higher infection rates on the Westside in predominately white, affluent neighborhoods such as Bel-Air, Beverly Crest and Brentwood were skewed by uneven testing that masked the true spread of COVID-19. Those areas have seen their fortunes improve after months of social distancing and economic disruption.

Useful wall-mount thread checker

In this Cool Tools video, Sean Michael Ragan reviews a wall-mounted thread-checker - a handy thread verifier for nuts and bolts.

It measures 3" wide by 39" tall, and, like the original version, features both male and female reference threads in a range of standard SAE and metric sizes. It's mounted on a half-inch thick plastic composite board, and the printing is both grease- and waterproof. It has three 5/16” diameter mounting holes for attaching it to the wall, and it is made in the USA, by the same folks who make the original thread checker: S&W Manufacturing of Chicago.

Unlike the original, the wall-mounted version can be used one-handed, which lets you quickly find a particular size in a bin of unsorted fasteners, or identify an unknown thread with one hand while you hold an assembly in the other.

What are "phantom traffic jams" and how can technology get rid of them?

Stop-and-go waves of dense freeway traffic can flow backward for miles. This TED-Ed video explains the phenomenon of "phantom traffic jams" and shows how self-driving cars that are aware of the traffic conditions ahead can adjust their behavior to prevent phantom traffic jams. Interestingly, models have shown had just one self-driving vehicle for every 20 human-driven vehicles can dampen a stop-and-go phantom traffic jam wave.

Image: YouTube

Read the text of Trump's draft Executive Order about Social Media

After Trump threw a tantrum over Twitter doing the bare-minimum to fact-check his deliberately misleading tweets, Trump announced plans to sign an Executive Order that forces social media to "protect" "free speech." Because government-approved top-down authoritarian control of private companies is apparently now a central tenet of the Republican Party.

Content Moderation expert Kate Klonick shared a draft of the order.

You can read the full document here, which hinges on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (as well as the continued wolf-crying fantasy of "conservative censorship"). If you want the sparknotes, Vice has a pretty comprehensive breakdown:

As far as legislation goes, the first subsection of 230 is concise and powerful: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

In the order, Trump also makes the argument that social media companies' actions should not "infringe on protected speech," which would be a massive change from Section 230 as it's currently worded, which makes an explicit carve-out for restricting protected speech. This will, unequivocally, change the internet as a whole and make it worse. Straight-up neo-Nazi propaganda might be constitutionally protected speech, for example, but social media companies currently regularly remove such content. Right now, those people simply congregate on the platforms that do choose to leave such content up, and they do exist. If all protected speech was allowed on all platforms, it would get very ugly very quickly.

Essentially, the current state of Section 230 asserts that social media companies are not personally liable for user-created content. People can post what they want, and the private company has no responsibility for it; at the same time, they can use their discretion to moderate the content being shared through their platform, depending on internal policies, or legal requests. And to be fair, a lot of social media companies are already bad at this. But having them act as full-time intermediary arbiters of the voice of the government is even worse.

Trump’s Executive Order Could Ruin the Internet Over a Twitter Beef [Jordan Pearson and Jason Koebler / Vice]

Trump Prepares Order to Limit Social Media Companies’ Protections [Maggie Haberman and Kate Conger / The New York Times]

Image: Ruperto Miller / Flickr (Public Domain)

Tony Hawk's first skateboard is now in the Smithsonian

Tony Hawk first learned to ride a skateboard in 1979 when he was 11 years old. The board was the 1975 Bahne pictured above. Now, that board is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (Below, video of Hawk's last ride on the Bahne.) From Cole Louison's new interview with Hawk in Smithsonian magazine:

The first wave of skateboarding—when decks were wood, wheels were steel and “sidewalk surfing” was banned in 20 U.S. cities by August 1965—had ended by the time Hawk stepped on the board. Yet the sport enjoyed a major resurgence in the 1970s, thanks in part to new technology. The blue Bahne evokes an era when public outcry had driven skaters off sidewalks and into the first skateparks, where they rode plastic boards with polyurethane wheels higher and higher up the walls of in-ground pools that were capped at the top or extended with plywood[...]

“In its early days, skateboarding was considered a sport for misfits and outsiders,” Hawk tells me. “We didn’t mind the label, since we weren’t trying to fit in with mainstream culture anyway.” And even as mainstream culture prepares to embrace skateboarding more enthusiastically than ever before, Hawk says, “I believe our sense of counterculture and individualism will shine through.”

image: RIDE Channel/YouTube

Flying turtle smashes through Georgia driver's windshield

Latonya Lark wrote on Facebook:

My prior delimer... Mr Turtle was found at fault but he did not have insurance. He got escorted to the Wildlife reserve, I got stuck with the bill. So beware Savannah of flying turtle on the Truman Parkway. My brother almost lost his head. Besides my sugar going off the roof.. I am fine but disturbed..

The Savannah NBC affiliate has some more details on the incident, which took place on Harry S. Truman Parkway near Montgomery Cross Road in Savannah. It's not clear how or why this turtle was airborne; and unfortunately, we won't have any answers soon — the turtle lost a leg in the incident, and passed away during treatment at Savannah Animal Care.

Turtle smashes through Savannah driver’s windshield on Truman Parkway [Ashley Williams / WSAV]

Watch: How to build your own Nintendo Switch

Seattle maker Brennen Johnston wanted his friends to play Animal Crossing with him but they couldn't get their hands on a Nintendo Switch, a scarce commodity amid COVID-19 lockdowns. Enraged by the prices scalpers were charging for a Switch, Brennen set out to build one himself from individual components. The Internet fell in love with the build notes he posted to Imgur and now he's released the above video documenting the project! Brennen writes:

The support I received from my original Imgur post has been overwhelming. I never imagined so many people were interested in my project or had thought of doing something similar. I with I was able to answer everyone's questions but I just couldn't keep up with all the requests.

Most of the private messages asked me to do a version for the Joy-cons so I went ahead and made you that you can find here:

https://www.unorthodoxtech.com/#/blog/5ecc7e3157d93d0017683e23

"How To Build A Nintendo Switch From Scratch - Building With Brennen" (YouTube)

• Previously: "'How to build a Nintendo Switch' for coronavirus #StayAtHome gaming"

Ford police SUV heats its interior to 133 degrees to kill COVID-19

Ford is testing new software for its Police Interceptor Utility Vehicles that heats the vehicle's interior to 133 degrees for 15 minutes to kill COVID-19. Ideally, this happens when nobody is inside the car. The new disinfecting technique–not unlike a kitchen oven's "self cleaning" feature–is based on research conducted with the Ohio State University Department of Microbiology. From a Ford statement:

Once activated, the vehicle’s powertrain and climate control systems work together automatically to elevate passenger compartment temperatures. The software warms up the engine to an elevated level, and both heat and fan settings operate on high. The software automatically monitors interior temperatures until the entire passenger compartment hits the optimal level, then that temperature is maintained for 15 minutes[...]

“Our studies with Ford Motor Company indicate that exposing coronaviruses to temperatures of 56 degrees Celsius, or 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15 minutes reduces the viral concentration by greater than 99 percent on interior surfaces and materials used inside Police Interceptor Utility vehicles,” said Jeff Jahnes and Jesse Kwiek, laboratory supervisors at The Ohio State University department of microbiology.

Law enforcement will have multiple ways to monitor progress. Hazard lights and taillights will flash in a pre-set pattern to notify when the process has begun, then will change at the end to signal completion. The vehicle’s instrument cluster will also indicate progress. A cool-down process brings the temperature down from its highest points.

Here's what's in Trump's executive order against social media companies

Today, Trump will announce his executive order against social media companies, the day after Twitter added a fact-checking note to two of Trump's misleading tweets. Surprising nobody, Trump's draft order goes after Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that is an essential protection for free speech on the Internet. (Here's the EFF's explanation of Section 230.) From CNN:

"In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand-pick the speech that Americans may access and convey online," the draft order says. "This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power."

[...]

Under the order, the Commerce Department would ask the Federal Communications Commission for new regulations clarifying when a company's conduct might violate the good faith provisions of Section 230 -- potentially making it easier for tech companies to be sued.

That is consistent with a draft order whose text CNN first reported last summer -- and which prompted FCC officials to push back on the plan privately.

The draft order instructs the Justice Department to consult with state attorneys general on allegations of anti-conservative bias. It bans federal agencies from advertising on platforms that have allegedly violated Section 230's good-faith principles.

Finally, the draft order would direct the Federal Trade Commission to report on complaints about political bias collected by the White House and to consider bringing lawsuits against companies accused of violating the administration's interpretation of Section 230.

The provisions regarding the FTC could raise additional legal questions, as the FTC is an independent agency that does not take orders from the President.

UPDATE: The full text leaked.

Color in your favorite hard rockers with these Kerrang! cover coloring books

If you're looking for more quarantine activities — for yourself, or your kids, or something to do together! — the British rock magazine Kerrang! is now offering coloring book variants of some of their covers, featuring famous rock bands:

We have turned seven Kerrang! magazine covers (plus a bonus My Chemical Romance photo) into elaborate colouring-in pages for you to turn into Technicolor masterpieces. We’ve got Slipknot, Lemmy, BABYMETAL and Ozzy Osbourne [and more] to choose from.

Not only will it give you (or your young ones) a chance to practice your artistic skills, colouring-in is ideal for relieving stress and improving mental health.

 

You can download all available Kerrang! coloring book pages here. And if you email your best designs to the magazine, you could get featured in an upcoming issue!

Design your own Kerrang! Magazine Cover

Listen to the original NPR radio drama adaptations of the first STAR WARS trilogy

In my 90s childhood Star Wars obsession, I remember hearing a lot about the fabled NPR radio drama adaptations (read: "podcast") of the original trilogy. They were supposed to be canonical, in-as-much as they were Lucas-approved stories that expanded on the familiar ones we already knew.

Now, someone has finally compiled them all on YouTube (although apparently you can find the MP3s on Archive.org as well). And wow, they are expanded — the A New Hope radio drama is 13 hours long!

It's quite a stark departure from the movies I'm used to. The first chapter focuses exclusively on Luke, and highlights his relationships with his friends at Tosche Station — Cammie, Fixer, Deke, and the OG prodigal son, Biggs Darklighter (there's a version of some of this material floating as a deleted scene, but it's not nearly as expansive as this). Chapter Two turns more attention to Leia and her relationship with her father, as well as the information that lead them to the Death Star plans in the first place. It's not even until the third chapter that we get to the opening scene of the movie (that's as far as I've listened yet). It definitely conflicts with the newly established canon, especially Rogue One, but I'm enjoying the experience of re-discovering this world in a different format, with different and exciting details filling out the edges. I'm eager to find out what other ancillary characters might get more of a spotlight treatment here.

From the editor who posted these compilations on YouTube:

I have combined all episodes of the original radio drama using excerpts from John Williams' original soundtrack and Ben Burt's sound effects for a more seamless blending from one episode to the next. This is how I want to experience this fantastic piece of work.

I hold no right to the material nor claim any credit for the final product. All content ownership remains with the proprietor of the original works. No breach or infringement of rights intended.

[…]

A reoccurring question is about the running time of the radio drama. "What has been cut to reduce the original running time? I have removed the narrated intros, outros and end credits from each episode to created the seamless story. This has reduced the over all running time for each complete drama.

From Open Culture:

When the Star Wars radio drama was first broadcast in the spring of 1981, fans of the movie would have heard a mixture of the familiar (including the voices of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO) and the unfamiliar. With science-fiction novelist Brian Daley brought on to add or restore scenes to the script of the original dialogue-light feature film, the story stretches out to thirteen episodes for a total runtime of six hours. The series thus stands as an early example of the expansion of the Star Wars universe that, in all kinds of media, has continued apace ever since. An Empire Strikes Back radio drama followed in 1983, with Return of the Jedi following, after prolonged development challenges, in 1996.

A New Hope on YouTube / MP3s via Archive.org

Empire Strikes Back on YouTube / MP3s via Archive.org

Return of the Jedi on YouTube / MP3s via Archive.org

A bleakly touching webcomic compares our apocalyptic fantasies to the real experience of coronavirus quarantine

Nate Powell is the writer and artist behind About Face, a brilliant webcomic about America's obsession with fascist fashion. His latest comic, Hide Out, is less of a macro-scale political analysis, and more of a quiet, reflective, internal piece about life in apocalyptic scenarios — but it's just as powerful, and just as much worth reading.

 

This Isn’t My Fantasy Apocalypse [Nate Powell / The Nib]

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