• No prison time for two men who raped their 12-year-old sister

    A Missouri court sentenced two men to write a letter of apology to their Amish community after pleading guilty to sexually abusing their sister when she was 12 and 13 years old.

    Webster County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Berkstresser explained why he didn't seek prison time for rapists: "These two young men would've been eaten alive in the state prison system."

    From the Webster County Citizen:

    Berkstresser said that as part of the plea agreement, the two brothers also must write a letter to him that must be completed in 30 days.

    "Both young men must write a letter to me, explaining how they are going to protect their children from this happening to them," Berkstresser said. "They have 30 days to get this letter to me."

    And it looks like everyone but the victim was rewarded:

    Both Schwartz brothers also must pay $250 to the Law Enforcement Restitution Fund (LERF), per the plea agreement, which provides funding to improve the operation of the sheriff's department and the prosecutor's office.

  • Mountain Dew and Red Lobster unveil collaborative cocktail; Doomsday clock unchanged

    Mountain Dew and Red Lobster have jointly crafted the Dew Garita.

    The first official Mountain Dew cocktail will soon be available at Red Lobster.

    The "Dew Garita" will be rolling out to select restaurants in September and expected to be available nationwide by the end of 2020.

    In a news release Tuesday, Red Lobster and PepsiCo said they were kicking off a new relationship with the cocktail and would work "together to leverage iconic PepsiCo brands across the Frito-Lay and Quaker range of products to co-create tasty menu items."

    The Doomsday clock remains at 100 seconds from midnight. The status of the seventh seal remains unknown.

  • Comic book-style gesture messaging for video conferencing

    Do we all have Zoom fatigue yet? So many annoying aspects to living our work and social lives over video conferencing. One of these is the need for everyone having to mute when listening and unmuting when talking, especially just to say "Yes," "No," "Great," "BRB," etc.

    Engineer Cameron Hunter got tired enough of these single-word responses that he created a gesture "video lens" using SnapLensStudio.

    I built the lens using @SnapLensStudio which was incredibly easy. Their five built-in hand gestures allowed me to support hello, yes, no, question, awesome, and goodbye. Their smile detection allowed me to show laughter. I highly recommend checking it out.

    To use a lens with Hangouts, Zoom, Slack, etc. you install @TheSnapCamera which creates a virtual webcam. Select a lens that you want to apply and you're good to go!


    I'll continue to adapt the lens to my own needs but if you want to try it out you can add it to @TheSnapCamera by searching for this link:


    Via Kevin Kelly's Twitter feed.

    Image: Screengrab

  • Electrical engineering is one of the most stable professions around, and this training can help get you there

    When you were a kid, your mom and dad probably told you to grow up and become a doctor or a lawyer. Practical people that they were, your parents probably assumed that if you were able to scale the educational heights of those revered professions, you'd be handsomely rewarded with a hefty paycheck. 

    While you can certainly make a nice living in either occupation, there are other ways to lock in a six-figure salary — and they don't require extra years of schooling to accomplish it either. One such way is in the relatively unheralded, yet infinitely vital field of electrical engineering. 

     Even in a time of layoffs and economic downturns, there will always be a need for the guys who know how to supply power from Point A to Point B. With the training available in the massive Electrical and Circuits Engineering Certification Bundle, you can join that learned — and highly employable — group.

    The collection brings together 13 courses that can help even technical novices get up to speed on the hows and whys of circuitry and electrical power systems. From household wiring to power grids that feed cities, these courses offer the full scope of what you can do with some electrical engineering know-how.

    The Basic Concepts and Basic Laws of Electric Circuits course lays all your groundwork, introducing students of any level to the main terms, tools and concepts of electrical flow. The training goes over everything from current, voltage, power, and energy to some of the fundamental rules of circuitry including resistance, conductance, KVL, KCL, and more.

    Over the next dozen courses, the training segues through all kinds of electrical education, enabling learners to earn a background in areas like circuit analysis, induction machines, AC and DC choppers, inverters and beyond. 

    With a solid grounding in these foundational ideas, students can also explore courses focused on powering machines, both driven by either DC or synchronously-powered motors. There's also a set of three courses aimed at explaining three different levels of practical electricity projects, with training in small home systems to high voltage projects to even how power generating stations that power a city work.

    Each course in this bundle retails for $99 on its own, but by purchasing this complete bundle now, you can save hundreds and get all this electrical engineering training for just $59.99.

    Prices are subject to change.

    Do you have your stay-at-home essentials? Here are some you may have missed.

  • Percentage of Americans who don't know about the Holocaust is "shocking and saddening"

    Almost two-thirds of Americans 18-39 didn't know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, according to a survey. From The Guardian:

    According to the study of millennial and Gen Z adults aged between 18 and 39, almost half (48%) could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto established during the second world war.

    Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, or had been exaggerated, or they weren't sure. One in eight (12%) said they had definitely not heard, or didn't think they had heard, about the Holocaust.

    More than half (56%) said they had seen Nazi symbols on their social media platforms and/or in their communities, and almost half (49%) had seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online.

    "The results are both shocking and saddening, and they underscore why we must act now while Holocaust survivors are still with us to voice their stories," said Gideon Taylor, president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) which commissioned the survey.

  • Hans Zimmer's Pink Floyd cover for the Dune movie trailer

    Denis Villeneuve's forthcoming Dune recently got its first trailer, with a surprising soundtrack: a cover of the outtro to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. A tribute to Alejandro Jodorowsky's legendary 1970s effort to film the novel with a full Floyd soundtrack, it was crafted by Hans Zimmer, working remotely with an L.A. choir.

    …he took a break from the main score to oversee the recording of the Pink Floyd cover. Working with a 32-voice Los Angeles choir, Zimmer held eight sessions with four vocalists at a time in order to maintain social distancing measures. Twelve vocalists performed the lyrics from "Eclipse," while the remaining 20 recorded choral parts.

    "He wanted to pay homage to the original, very back-phrased sound, a little spaced-out, so the vocals would not sound urgent," choral contractor Edie Lehmann Boddicker told Variety. "There's a kind of joy happening in the track, a lot of hopefulness. It's not despondent, just very peaceful and sounding not of this planet."

    Embedded above, Zimmer's version. Below, the original.

  • Jodorowsky reviews Villeneuve's Dune trailer

    Given Chilean-French filmmaker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky's storied history with adaptation attempts of Frank Herbert's Dune, it's natural to want to know what he thinks of the trailer to Denis Villeneuve's much-anticipated version of the story. He told French's Premier magazine:

    "I saw the trailer. It's very well done," Jodorowsky said. "We can see that it is industrial cinema, that there is a lot of money, and that it was very expensive. But if it was very expensive, it must pay in proportion. And that is the problem: There [are] no surprises. The form is identical to what is done everywhere. The lighting, the acting, everything is predictable.

    "Industrial cinema is incompatible with auteur cinema. For the former, money comes before. For the second, it's the opposite, whatever the quality of a director, whether my friend Nicolas Winding Refn or Denis Villeneuve. Industrial cinema promotes entertainment, it is a show that is not intended to change humanity or society."

    Read the rest on IndieWire.

    Image: Warner Bros.

  • Cyberantics: a book from the year 2172

    Stanislaw Mayakovsky — a fictional character from the 1992 comic book series Aliens: Hive — was a Russian sociobiologist and artificial life expert from the 22nd century who made a tiny autonomous robotic ant and placed it in an ant colony to study social insect behavior. He wrote a book about it, called Cyberantics (published in 2172).

    In 1992, Dark Horse Comics published a hardcover book called Cyberantics, written by "Mayakovsky" (actually Jerry Prosser), beautifully illustrated by Rick Geary, and strikingly designed in the style of Russian Constructivism artist Alexander Rodchenko. Cyberantics tells the story of Mayakovsky's cybernetic ant, Ari (Japanese for ant), as she joins a colony of wild ants and becomes its protector.

    Cyberantics looks like a kids' picture book, but it was meant for older readers (the page margins include notes about ant behavior from evolutionary biologist and ant expert Bert Hölldobler and sociobiologist E.O. Wilson).

    Here are a few photos of the interior pages and the bibliography (Trouble in Bugland looks great!).

    This little-known book is a treasure and long out of print, but used copies are easily found online.

    This is from my newsletter, The Magnet.

  • Man finds large brain wrapped in foil on beach

    Jimmy Senda was strolling along a beach in Racine, Wisconsin when he found a package wrapped in aluminum foil with a pink rubber band around it.

    "Curiosity got to me, so I popped it open and it looked like a chicken breast — kind of," he told Fox 6 Now. "It took a little bit for it to really (register) of what was going on; it was a brain."

    From Fox 6 Now:

    Flowers and what appears to be paper with Mandarin characters printed on it were also found with the suspected brain[…]

    Police told FOX6 News that the brain is not believed to be human. However, authorities are waiting on official confirmation from the Racine County Medical Examiner's Office.

    Senda posted a series of unblurred photos on his Facebook page here.

  • Ghostly magical castle appears in the clouds over eastern China

    This astonishing video of a magical castle appearing in the clouds reportedly above Jinan, eastern China, has apparently gone viral on Chinese social media. Skeptics insist it's a Fata Morgana, but we know the truth.

    The Fata Morgana phenomenon is named after the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay as her castle was said to hover above the coast of Sicily. Video explanation of the effect below.

    And here are more amazing examples from the Boing Boing archives:

    • "Why you might see flying boats"

    •  "Plane passenger snaps photo of shadowy humanoid walking on cloud"

  • A 1969 interview with Frank Herbert breaks down DUNE's white savior complex

    My first exposure to Dune was the David Lynch movie, and then I read the first 4 books in middle school. Being the precocious kid I was, I definitely understood all of the nuances that were going on there, like how the Fremen were obviously an allegory for Native Americans and the coveted spice melange was just a general metaphor for the environment and natural resources and stuff. And obviously the Mahdi Paul "Maud'Dib" Atreides was a good and righteous savior — a hero. I was very smart.

    But e-reading the books in my 20s, it became pretty fucking obvious that I missed a few things in my middle school reading. Like the fact that Paul being a prophesied savior is actually fucking terrible and that the imperialist theft of land, cultural, and resources makes everyone complicit in our own collective downfall. Also the Fremen definitely weren't Native American allegories (oops).

    There's a reason DUNE still holds up. At the same time, it's not without its problematic elements; Herbert had some Freudian issues with women, for example, and the coding of fatness and queerness as evil traits manifesting in Baron Harkonnen was pretty gross. But of all the complaints one can make about the story, the accusations of a "white savior" narrative quickly fall apart.

    Haris Durrani, an author and JD/PhD candidate at Columbia Law School and Princeton University, recently wrote a very in-depth Medium post deconstructing the white savior elements of the Dune-iverse. He covers a lot of ground, and there's a lot to dwell on, especially if you're a Dune fan like me. But his article also pointed me to this 1969 conversation between Willis E. McNelly and Frank Herbert, where Herbert makes clear his distaste of Western Imperialism, and his desire to tear down the Lawrence of Arabia archetype:

    We've ["western man"] set out our missionaries to do our dirty work for us, and then come along behind them with the certain belief that we are right in anything that we do, because God has told us so — God and the person of the avatar.

    It's long, and there's a lot to unpack, but it's pretty fascinating. If you want the gist of it, check out Durrani's full article (which is also not short, though it is shorter). If you're into DUNE, though, it's kind of neat hearing Frank Herbert discuss the book shortly after its release, before it became a phenomenon. This isn't Herbert responding to criticism; this is just him laying out his ideas at the time. And that's pretty cool.

    Dune's Not a White Savior Narrative. But It's Complicated. [Haris Durrani / Medium]

    Image: Shruti Muralidhar / Flickr (CC 2.0)

  • Watch the teenage Bee Gees perform "Blowin' in the Wind" in 1963

    While "Stayin' Alive" (1978) and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was the pinnacle of the Bee Gees' mainstream success, real heads know that before they became disco icons, the brothers Gibb were an excellent psych-pop band and, before that, were teen rock 'n' roll celebs in their native Australia, opening for the likes of Chubby Checker. Above, their 1963 TV performance of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."

    (via r/VintageTV)

  • Man loses phone, finds it the next day filled with monkey selfies

    Zackrydz Rodzi, a student in Batu Pahat, Malaysia, woke up on Saturday to find his mobile phone missing. He finally located it the following day after hearing it ring in a jungle area behind his home. Zackrydz's uncle joked that perhaps there was a photo of the thief on the phone. Turns out, he was right. From the BBC News:

    Unlike some parts of the world where monkeys live in or near urban areas, there is no history of monkeys stealing things from houses in the local neighbourhood, said the student. He suspects the monkey may have entered the house through his brother's open bedroom window.

  • The One Million Moms hate groups is triggered by fruit bowls

    One Million Moms is an anti-LGBTQ organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As we've pointed out before, "the group's true size obviously falls far short of its ambitious name, and may even be the effort of a single person operating under the broader aegis of the American Family Association."

    Today, One Million Moms is hating on TV commercials by Dole that makes lighthearted use of the term "fruit bowl" as a catch-all code word that adults can use to have adult conversations in front of children. In its call for people to sign a petition against Dole, it said:

    The commercials use "fruit bowl(s)" as code words for intimacy, in place of swear words, and as a demeaning reference to children.

    Here is the dialogue from one commercial that features a set of grandparents and one of their grandchildren: "Well, with the grandkids home now, finding alone time is a challenge. That's why we have a secret love language. … You in the mood for fruit bowls? … I would love some. …" (Then a granddaughter interrupts: "Can I have some fruit bowls too?") "We are eating a lot of fruit bowls, just not having a lot of fruit bowls."

    Another ad features a couple saying the following: "Times are stressful, but we are trying not to swear in front of the kids. So, we use 'fruit bowl' instead. Fr*it B*wl! What the fr*it b*wl?! We eat a lot of fr*it-b*wling fr*it b*wls."

    The third commercial features two lesbian moms who are frustrated over their kids' behavior. They use "fruit bowls" as a code word to talk about their kids in front of the kids. The mothers are regretting and questioning whose idea it was to even have these "fruit bowls."

    The insinuations and tone in these ads are offensive because of what is represented, and the fact that children actually appear in the commercials is also disturbing. It's sad that a well-known company has made a deliberate decision to produce a controversial commercial instead of a wholesome one.

    Rupen Desai, CMO, Dole Packaged Foods commented:

    Our purpose, at Dole, is to champion Sunshine for All. With that, we believe it is important to bring levity and "sunshine" to all families during these dark times. We believe that by coming together, sharing honest moments we have in common, and sharing a laugh – we can help each other through this. We also believe in celebrating diversity and inclusion in all its forms. For these reasons, Dole proudly stands by our campaign.

    Dole's 3 spots are above and below. If you are wearing pearls, nows the time to clutch them.

  • How they used to build electrical transmission towers

    After watching this 1960s-vintage British Pathé reel showing how electrical trasmission towers used to be built, I no longer wonder why infrastructure used to be cheap.

    Hampshire. An item showing the dangerous job of building electricity pylons. Various shots of half built pylons, a man collects his tools and climbs up the side. Part of the structure is lifted up with a crane and men walk across the arms to fix it into position. Various shots of the giant cable drums, and the power lines running through the cables, a man with a telephone directs them. Various shots as they adjust the tension of the pipe from a suspended platform.

    "In days to come, pylons too could have their champions, eager to preserve them as historical monuments."