Last June, an independent tribunal concluded that the Chinese state was nonconsensually harvesting organs from prisoners despite promises that the practice had ended in 2014. (more…)
Last week, the National Center for Transgender Equality discharged all employees in a bargaining unit organized under the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU); the employees were seeking recognition of a union. (more…)
It started innocently enough. A single dollar bill was pinned to the ceiling of a tiki bar in California — with a tiny paper umbrella, no less. That lone bill soon inspired many more.
For over 10 years now, patrons of Forbidden Island, a popular tiki lounge in the island city of Alameda, have been leaving legal tender suspended above their rum-filled cocktails. Using their drink's umbrellas, or swizzle sticks, the bar's customers stick the cash up, but not before they decorate it in some way. Some pen their name and the date, while others get more elaborate and make their offering a rectangular piece of art.
It's become such a popular pastime, the bar keeps a bucket of markers and unused umbrellas for those who want to leave their mark.
But it recently got out of control, at least in the eyes of my pal Michael Thanos, the bar's owner. He invited me down to get the whole story.
"There was simply no more room to put the money in the ceiling," Thanos told me. "So people started sticking money all over the place," motioning to the Lauhala-matted walls and tapa-covered light fixtures.
"It was just too much."
Before (photo by Alex T./Yelp) and during (photo by Michael Thanos)
So, in October, he and his staff spent an entire day carefully pulling the cash off of everything.
It was a bigger job than they had first realized. As it neared opening time, they had to stuff the cash in four big garbage bags to deal with at later time. "And it was a really dirty job. We had to wear gloves and face masks because there was layers of fire retardant and dust," reported General Manager John Peterson. When they got back to sorting and counting it, they were surprised to learn they had a significant amount of money on their hands.
"$10,367 to be exact," said John.
Michael Thanos (left), John Peterson (right), and 10 grand (big pile).
Now, Forbidden Island's first dollar-bill-on-the-ceiling came with a story, from the gentleman who placed it. He told staff that the tradition dated back to World War II. "Servicemen headed to the South Pacific would have their final drink before being shipped out and stick a dollar in the bar's ceiling as a sort of a visual promise that they'd return home," recounted Thanos, "And when they did return, they would head to that same bar to find it."
(The United States Bartenders' Guild dates the tradition back to the California Gold Rush days.)
When the bar re-opened with a bare ceiling, some regulars were upset that their contributions had been removed. So when the Forbidden Island crew was deciding what to do with all the money, they kept them in mind.
"We wanted to be sensitive to the fact that our guests had memories and important dates attached to these dollars. We want them to know that we're going to do good with it. That's when we took a poll of the staff to select the top three charities," Peterson remarked.
Thanos and his staff believe charity begins at home, so they have chosen three local organizations to receive the bulk of the money. Over $8,000 will be divvied up between Building Futures, Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter, and Alameda Family Services.
"Since the day we opened in 2006, we have been pro-Alameda in every way, from promoting Alameda causes and events to carrying Alameda-produced spirits and brews in favor of the big name international brands. So naturally we decided that the beneficiaries of our donation should be organizations that specifically benefit Alamedans in need," said Thanos.
To continue the goodwill, on Tuesday, November 26, the bar is having a pop-up benefit event, hosted by Tiki Lindy. All proceeds will be donated to Stand for Kindness, a charity that helps Northern Californian wildfire survivors.
The remaining nearly $2000 of the ceiling money will, well, remain. The more unique (decorated or otherwise) currency was put back on the ceiling.
Some big spender left ten trillion... Zimbabwe dollars.
Thanos shrugged, "In 10 years, or maybe sooner, I'm guessing we'll be pulling money off the ceiling again. And again, we'll do the right thing for our community."
The "Forbidden Island" bill, photo by Michael Thanos
Forbidden Island is located at 1304 Lincoln Avenue in Alameda, California.
If you go: Dress "Aloha," order a tropical drink, and bring some dollars to play the "Money Ceiling" game.
photos by Rusty Blazenhoff, except as noted
Rembrandt's Portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III has been stolen from the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London four times:
Between 14 August 1981 and 3 September 1981 the painting was taken from Dulwich Picture Gallery and retrieved when police arrested four men in a taxi who had the painting with them. A little under two years later a burglar smashed a skylight and descended through it into the art gallery, using a crowbar to remove the painting from the wall. The police arrived within three minutes but were too late to apprehend the thief. The painting was missing for three years, eventually being found on 8 October 1986 in a luggage rack at the train station of a British army garrison in Münster, Germany.
The other two times, the painting was found once underneath a bench in a graveyard in Streatham, and once on the back of a bicycle. Each time the painting has been returned anonymously with more than one person being charged for its disappearance.
The gallery is currently promoting an exhibit called Rembrandt's Light, which just earned a lot of free publicity:
On Wednesday, police thwarted an attempted robbery at the gallery:
An intruder appears to have forced entry to the gallery and removed the two paintings, which were part of an exhibition.
Officers arrived minutes later and, following the search of the area, challenged an intruder and an officer gave chase.
The intruder then turned and used a canister to spray the officer in the face with an unknown substance.
As a result of this assault, the suspect was able to get away.
The officer who was sprayed did not suffer serious injuries and continued with his tour of duty.
The officer located and recovered one painting, and in cooperation with security staff, the other painting was also quickly found.
Does your computer gear need an upgrade? Don't cross your fingers and wait for Christmas. You can get 15% off the final sale price of all these essential accessories now by using the online code BFSAVE15, including gaming mice and computer desks.
Talk about a space saver. This high-quality mouse pad doubles as a wireless charger, and even works on phones without a Qi receiver.
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With two USB charging ports, a cable manager and headphone hook, this desk is sure to be command central for all your marathon raids. And yes, it's even got a cup holder.
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This slim desk is deceptively durable with a steel frame and scratch-resistant finish. And it's got everything you need to keep organized, including three grounded outlet receptors and twin USB ports.
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This unit is built for speed, with a rubberized grip and onboard buttons that can adjust the DPI settings on the fly. The LED lights allow you to find your triggers easily and add a dash of style to any rig.
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The Challenger boasts a cup holder, charging ports and all the usual gaming bells and whistles. But it also cuts down on clutter with a back panel for the monitor and stabilizer surface underneath the legs.
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Save the universe and your back at the same time in this comfortable seat. Everything from the height to the location of the support pillows is fully adjustable for your height and frame.
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You'll breeze through assignments and games alike on this durable, tempered glass keyboard. The looks are a definite highlight, but the construction also makes it waterproof and easy to wipe clean - a huge step up from traditional keyboards.
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Sink into the breathable mesh and PVC leather of this armchair. The adjustable armrests and lumbar support pillows are designed to keep your posture healthy while you game.
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Attention John Waters' fans: Tickets for the filthiest weekender on the planet, Camp John Waters in Kent, Connecticut, are about to go on sale. This will be the camp's fourth year and it promises to be even "dirtier, raunchier," and "filthier" than ever. Activities include: A costume contest (judged by the "Pope of Trash" himself); themed dance parties; a film marathon (of Waters' movies, of course); a meet & greet with Waters; Hairspray karaoke, and Bloody Mary bingo. But, wait, there's more. This year's camp counselors are Kathleen Turner, Patty Hearst and Mink Stole — making for a mini-Serial Mom reunion.
It's a disgrace that I have not yet made the pilgrimage to this filthy fête for grownups. But friends of mine have been and rave about it.
If you want to get your trash on next September (11-14), buy your tickets to Camp John Waters now. They are already on sale and are sure to sell out.
WordPress is a fantastic tool for building web pages - if you know how to use it. Even with all the accessibility, a lot of the deeper features of WordPress are lost in translation to the average user.
Enter WP Page Builder, a tool that not only makes WordPress site design easy but also more robust.
The tool comes with a pretty extensive list of templates for your budding site, all of which are fully customizable from the color scheme down to the font. Along the way, you can add not just the complete arsenal of WordPress widgets but also add-ons from WP Page Builder as well. Need things to go smoothly across platforms? You can tweak the optimization for smartphones or other devices with a few simple clicks.
But the real highlight here is the interface. Just drag, drop and tweak your choice from a series of design blocks on a sidebar - all with no coding required. It's the perfect system for design beginners that don't hide the features available to professionals. It just makes them easier.
Pick up a lifetime subscription to the WP Page Builder Unlimited License Plan for more than 90% off the retail price.
Raising legal funds to defend an online sf shared world that's been stolen by a Russian trademark troll
SCP Foundation is an online shared world whose members create delightful fiction, movies, games and other media. It's a sprawling, global, friendly phenomenon, licensed under Creative Commons. (more…)
Majority of Americans know they're under constant surveillance, don't trust the companies doing it, and feel helpless to stop it
A Pew Study found that 60% of Americans believe that they are being continuously tracked by companies and the government, 69% mistrust the companies doing the tracking, 80% believe that advertisers and social media sites are collecting worrisome data, 79% think the companies lie about breaches, and 80% believe that nothing they do will make a difference. (more…)
Oh, I am seriously here for this DIY-maker-recycling project that's all about giving street kitties safe homes. Wow this is cool.
We designed and built these durable cat shelters-Donating to the many Rescues that need them for the Homeless Cats they care for...TomTom Tests each new Design
So cool. Watch the whole video.
This is the QA tester!
In Paris on Saturday, police fired water cannons and tear gas on protesters who gathered to mark one year since the anti-government “yellow vest” demonstrations of 2018. (more…)
Activists from the group Extinction Rebellion, which protests climate change, blocked the private jet terminal at Geneva airport on Saturday. The group says they want to draw attention to private jets as an absurd form of transport for the rich that causes massive harm to the environment. (more…)
Microsoft is hiring former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder to provide legal window dressing for their AnyVision technology, which the company says complies with the ethical principles stipulated during the facial recognition company's Series A. (more…)
People like to think they're objective. I get it; it's a good thing to strive to be. As a white dude, I know firsthand that it's easy to assume that you're coming from the "default" perspective, and thus, are more capable of being rationally objective than other, non-white dudes.
But that's wrong. Because if you're brainwashed into seeing your popular mainstream status quo assumptions as "default," then you're actually not objectively considering every possible factor. And this tweet might be the best, most succinct example to explain this:
In other words: we assume that someone can't be objective about prison reform if their own parent has been incarcerated. But what about the other way around? How can you be objective about prison reform if you don't have a parent that's been incarcerated? How can you rationally examine all of the evidence to form a conclusion, if you don't actually have firsthand knowledge of the social, financial, and emotional toll of incarceration? What biases might you be missing that you never even thought to consider because you assumed that your "default" position was automatically normal or correct?
In both situations, your objectivity will be tainted by your emotional response; the difference is that, as a society, we've arbitrarily decided that certain emotions are either proper or negligible when it comes to attaining our idealist objectivity. And usually, those emotions that get a "pass" are the same ones that WASP-y white dudes have been hiding behind their stiff upper lips for centuries.
Makes you think, huh?
Further reading: "The Magical Thinking of Guys Who Love 'Logic'" by Aisling McCrea for The Outline
Johnny Depp dying, Caitlyn Jenner’s baby, and the sexiest man alive, in this week’s dubious tabloids
He’s been a Gladiator and a brutal cop and a Robin Hood, but as the ‘National Enquirer’ and ‘Globe’ now show, the once muscular actor has let himself go.
“Russell is totally out of shape right now and stuck in a real rut,” an unnamed insider allegedly told the ‘Enquirer,’ alongside photos of the New Zealander actor with a paunch the size of a County Fair prize-winning pumpkin.
This week’s tabloids have equally let themselves go, appearing totally out of shape and stuck in a rut. It’s as if facts don’t interest them any more than gym workouts interest Russell Crowe - if they ever did.
“Jeffrey Epstein Exhumed!” screams the cover of the ‘Enquirer’ in its latest fantasy about the late billionaire pedophile. No, he wasn’t. He’s still buried next to his parents at the Star of David Cemetery of the Palm Beaches in Florida.
“New York coroner proves MURDER,” raves the ‘Enquirer.’ No, he didn’t. Epstein family-hired pathologist Michael Baden’s belief that a rare broken hyoid bone in his neck proves that the convicted sex offender was murdered has been widely rejected by numerous expert pathologists who note that such a fracture is far from rare, occurring in up to 40 per cent of suicides by hanging.
The ‘Enquirer’ reports that former Olympic athlete-turned-Kardashian family foil Caitlyn Jenner "Stuns Family: I’m Going To Be A Mom!” Jenner, aged 70, supposedly wants to have a child with girlfriend Sophia Hutchins, 47 years her junior. Makes perfect sense. No word yet on how they plan to conceive: Caitlyn has admitted undergoing hormone therapy, which would normally halt all sperm production. Evidently Enquiring minds don’t want to know.
The British Royal soap opera gets the tabloid indifference to facts with the ‘Globe’ story about Prince Harry & wife Meghan: “Royal rebel & wife banned from Britain for 6 months!”
The Palace announced that the Royal couple are taking a six-week break to travel to America over Thanksgiving to visit Meghan’s mother who lives in Los Angeles, but the ‘Globe’ has interpreted that to mean that the duo have been exiled from the kingdom for six full months "on Her Majesty’s orders!” Is the ‘Globe ever wrong? Wait, don’t answer that.
Harry & Meghan have purportedly been airing private grievances in public - a Royal taboo - and the ‘Globe’ reports that the Queen has banished the couple “to get them out of her hair - and the media’s glare.” Does the ‘Globe’ seriously think there’s no media interest in the Royals in America? This would be the media that photographed Prince Andrew walking with Jeffrey Epstein in New York, the same media that found photos of a naked Prince Harry partying in Las Vegas, the same media that dug up childhood and baby photos of Meghan Markle? Sure, they’ll be out of the media glare in Los Angeles. There are no paparazzi in Hollywood, are there?
“Johnny Depp: Only Weeks to Live!” rants an unhinged ‘Globe’ story. "Dead Before Christmas!” Well, that should save him spending a fortune on Xmas presents. But it’s not a doctor’s grim pronouncement that has the ‘Globe’ predicting such a dire demise for the actor. It’s allegedly a fear of "the movie pirate’s pals.” Because Depp is allegedly still boozing - shock, horror. Surely that can’t be a surprise to any real friend of Depp, as one expects his closest friends might well be coDeppendent.
And why does the ‘Globe’ only give Depp weeks to live? Why not months? Actress Lena Dunham is given 17 years to live by this week’s 'Globe,’ which reports that “pals are fearful” she will “be dead by 50!” Maybe Dunham has better friends than Depp? That’s what happens when you go public with your diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and walk past photographers using the aid of a cane. There are four main types of the syndrome that affects connective tissue, only one of which has a major effect on life expectancy; the three others have little effect on longevity. And there’s no indication that Dunham has the most severe version of the syndrome, so her death by the age of 50 may prove to be something of an exaggeration. We’ll report back to you in 17 years.
Let’s not forget Nick Nolte, who the ‘Enquirer’ gave “six months to live” back in September 2015 - still going strong.
Along with Lena Dunham’s legs, Jennifer Aniston’s legs also come under scrutiny in the ‘Globe,’ with the earth-shattering revelation: “Jen’s Knees Go Under the Knife!” No, they didn’t.
Aniston is photographed in a short skirt exposing knees that, while perfect in almost every way, are admittedly not as smooth as a newborn baby’s butt, which is clearly offensive to any right-minded tabloid journalist.
Naturally, an unnamed “insider” - no relation to anyone on the ‘Globe,’ one can be certain - says that the actress is “ready to go under the knife to fix ‘em!”
Because how could anyone bear to live another minute with the knees of a 25-year-old, when surgery can give you the knees of a prepubescent teenager?
To be fair, the ‘Globe adds: “Jen’s rep insists the star is not concerned about how her knees look.” Really, it’s hard to know who to believe.
It’s that special time of year again when the celebrity magazines couple with the world’s leading research universities, developing algorithms to test and monitor readers’ heart-rates, perspiration, breathing and genital arousal - or at least, that’s how I imagine it’s done - to declare their annual “Sexiest Man Alive!”
This year ‘People’ magazine awards the dubious honor to multi-talented, suave and sophisticated singer-actor John Legend.
Yes, he’s good-looking, supremely gifted and always elegant - but is he sexy? Does he exude sexual mystique?
I don’t see it, though my wife tells me that “his talent is sexy.” And so is his bank balance, I imagine.
Runners-up include Brad Pitt, Jason Momoa, Chris Hemsworth, and decidedly less obvious choices including Tom Hanks, The Jonas Brothers, David Harbour, and even balding Prince Harry as “Sexiest New Dad.”
‘Us’ magazine, not to be outdone - and yet being thoroughly outdone in the process - carries its own feature on “The Real Sexiest Men Alive!”
It’s blatant counter-programing against ‘People’ mag, but ‘Us’ uses nothing more sophisticated that a reader’s poll to vote on their sexiest candidates. The winners: Jason Momoa, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Brad Pitt, Chris Hemsworth, Michael B Jordan, and Chip Gaines.
I’m sure they’d all say it’s not about winning the title, they’re honored just to be nominated.
‘Us’ mag also brings us the story of “The Shaman & The Princess,” which sounds like it should be a Grimm fairytale, but is actualy a profile of Norway’s Princess Martha Louise and her spiritual guide-boyfriend Shaman Durek.
The Shaman (born plain old Derek Verrett in Sacramento, CA) claims to be a “bridge between the spiritual and the physical planes,” though I suspect the planes he likes best may be private jets as he splits his time between London and Los Angeles. He has a new book out: ‘Spirit Hacking’ about “the keys to reclaim your personal power,” though there’s no word on whether spirit hacking includes tips on infecting someone’s chakras with a spiritual virus or protecting your spiritual aura from malware.
Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at ‘Us’ mag to tell us that Olivia Wilde wore it best, that ‘Crown Vic’ star Thomas Jane’s “cat’s name is Cat,” that ‘Mean Girls’ star Lacey Chabert carries her Disneyland annual pass, her late grandmother’s watch, and bronzer in her Kate Spade purse, and that the stars are just like us: they ride bicycles, try on clothes, shop at the market and trim their Christmas trees - though that seems premature when we’re still two weeks away from Thanksgiving.
As always, one of the week’s strangest stories also happens to be true: The ‘Globe’ reports that the one-ton boulder known as Wizard Rock, stolen from Prescott National Forest in Arizona in late October, was inexplicably returned by its thieves after a few days on the lam.
Stealing such a hefty rock would have required heavy equipment, as would the bouder’s return - an exercise in futility which also serves as a fitting metaphor for this week’s tabloids.
Onwards and downwards . . .
It's no secret that Jason Weisberger and I have little love for the Freewrite. While it allows for distraction-free writing, it's design, build quality and software limitations make it a pain in the ass to use. Having found that the device just isn't for me, the last several years have seen me hunting for a highly portable distraction-free writing device that I can use when I'm not plugging away at my day job. The ability to constantly check in on Twitter, look at what's new on Flickr and look up random, interesting but in the end, useless facts sucks the marrow out of my creativity and robs me of the small amount of personal writing time I have at my disposal. Happily, I finally found the tool I've been longing for: the KingJim Pomera DM30.
I imported mine from Japan (although you can sometimes find it on Amazon) after doing scads of research on the thing. It weighs less than a laptop and most tablets and when not in use can be folded up to around the size of a paperback novel.
When you're ready to write, simply flip up its E-Ink display (which also turns boots the DM30 up in under two seconds,) unfold its near full-sized keyboard and you're good to go. The DM30 boasts a Japanese keyboard layout which, at first, is a little vexing. Keys that North American Qwerty keyboard users have come to expect are not always where you'd assume them to be. To type an apostrophe, for example, its necessary to hit Shift and the number seven. It's cool though: After a week of use, my muscle memory sorted itself out. I'm still typing a little slow, but I'm improving, every day.
Because the DM30 is rocking an E-Ink display, like the one you'd find on a Kindle, it's possible to churn out words on the device in bright sunlight and see what you're doing. The display isn't backlit, but hey, turn on a light when you need to. You'll find the DM30 doesn't offer any fancy formatting options or templates like Pages, Scrivener or Microsoft Word do. However, an excellent collection of keyboard shortcuts makes it easy to move through your copy and edit it, just as you would using a laptop keyboard. Did I mention that it can run for 20 hours at a time on a single pair of AA rechargeable batteries? No? Well, it's got that going for it, too. In addition to being able to act as a word processor, the DM30 comes rocking a VERY basic grid for creating spreadsheets and a monthly calendar that I've found to be perfect for keeping journal entries in. It's capabilities are absolutely basic and absolutely delightful.
The DM30 comes with 128MB of onboard storage: more than enough space to stash hundreds of .txt files in. You can also opt to plug an SD card into it for expanded storage and easy shuttling of files to or from a computer. A USB cable can be used for this purpose as well. However, I've found that my favorite method for shuttling what I've written to my other devices is via QR codes generated by the DM30. A free Pomera app can be downloaded to iOS and Android smartphones for reading the QR codes. Line up the code with your handset's camera and BOOM, your text is magically transferred and ready to plug into any app.
I'm in love with this thing, but it does worry me sometimes. While its design is a work of genius, the materials used aren't all that resilient. The DM30 feels sturdy enough, but were I to drop it, I don't think it'd end well. I have some talented friends in Seattle making me a custom case to protect the investment in my Japanese writing geek awesomeness.
Hopefully, I'll never have to find out how survivable it makes my DM30.
Images via Séamus Bellamy
If any of y'all want to do this for me with Japanese stationary supplies and airline tickets, I'm fine with it.