Man pretends empty house is his, rents it out, and becomes official owner under squatters' rights

A man noticed an empty, broken-down house in Sydney, Australia and poked around the neighborhood to find out more about it. Turns out the occupant, who had been renting it since around the 1940s, had died earlier that year. So Bill Gertos, a tax accountant at the time, decided it was okay – and ethical – to pretend it was his. He fixed it up, changed the locks, and rented it out.

This was 20 years ago, and now Gertos is the lawful owner. The real owners – heirs of the previous owner, who died in 1947 – tried to fight it in court, but Gertos won under squatters' rights, even though he wasn't the one squatting.

According to the BBC:

In New South Wales, squatters can be awarded ownership if they have occupied a property for more than 12 years.

The court granted Mr Gertos those rights because he had repaired and maintained the property since 1998.

Australian media outlets described the case as "bizarre" because the relevant law is typically used by those who move into a property themselves.

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These guys figured out how to beat the "Deal or No Deal" arcade game

In the arcade game Deal or No Deal, based on the TV game show of the same name, you have to try to keep your eyes on fast-moving cartoon suitcases as they are shuffled on the display. These guys used their phones to videotape the shuffling in slow motion so they could keep track of the prize winning suitcase. Read the rest

Profile of a man who created a horse-racing algorithm and made close to a billion dollars

Bloomberg's Kit Chellel wrote a fascinating profile of Bill Benter, a man who cracked the horse-racing code in the 1980s and made hundreds of millions of dollars.

Benter wanted something more rigorous, so he went to the library at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, which kept a special collection on gaming. Buried in stacks of periodicals and manuscripts, he found what he was looking for—an academic paper titled “Searching for Positive Returns at the Track: A Multinomial Logit Model for Handicapping Horse Races.” Benter sat down to read it, and when he was done he read it again.

The paper argued that a horse’s success or failure was the result of factors that could be quantified probabilistically. Take variables—straight-line speed, size, winning record, the skill of the jockey—weight them, and presto! Out comes a prediction of the horse’s chances. More variables, better variables, and finer weightings improve the predictions. The authors weren’t sure it was possible to make money using the strategy and, being mostly interested in statistical models, didn’t try hard to find out. “There appears to be room for some optimism,” they concluded.

Benter taught himself advanced statistics and learned to write software on an early PC with a green-and-black screen. Meanwhile, in the fall of 1984, Woods flew to Hong Kong and sent back a stack of yearbooks containing the results of thousands of races. Benter hired two women to key the results into a database by hand so he could spend more time studying regressions and developing code.

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Bar builds maze to get around zoning laws

The supreme court in India rule that all bars, pubs and liquor shops must be at least 500 meters away from state and national highways. One bar in Kerala which is only 270 meters from a freeway, has built a 250 meter fenced maze in front of the bar. "Now it is 520 metres from the highway," says the bar's manager. Read the rest

The Airport Jacket is a suitcase you can wear

Many airlines are charging for checked and carry-on baggage. The Airport Jacket was designed to get around those fees. It has lots of huge pockets for stashing clothes, shoes, toiletries, your laptop, and more. It folds up into a suitcase, and unfolds into a jacket. Read the rest

Software to trick your boss so you can take a break

Jon says: "Corporate Avoidance is a free program we designed to unshackle you by taking advantage of the necessary evils of life as an editor.

Corporate Avoidance works by loading screenshots and animated gifs to make your computer look like it’s busy rendering, so you can set a predetermined amount of time to take a walk in the sun to that place that makes the good sandwiches, or pull the plug on a client who insists on sitting-in until the cows come home. You’ll be back at your desk just as your project finishes rendering, and people will think you can predict the weather.

It’s great for students, too — make your reserved lab computer look busy "rendering" so that no one uses it while you run downstairs for a Snapple!"

Corporate Avoidance [Video Link] Read the rest