Friday, April 29, 2011

TomTom admits police used data for speed traps

"We never foresaw this kind of use and many of our clients are not happy about it." -- TomTom navigation device maker CEO Harold Goddijn plays dumb about selling user data to police so they can set up speed traps.

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56 worst/best analogies of high school students | The Lost Eyeball

Apparently the washingtonpost held a contest in which high school teachers sent in the "worst" analogies they'd encountered in grading their students' papers over the years. (I place "worst" in quotes because many of these actually strike me as quite witty). The top 25 of these have been circulating around the "Sandra Bullock" ("net", get it?) recently, but I decided to post all 56 that I was able to find. Here they are, in their order of objective funniness (in my opinion):

  1. Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
  2. He was as tall as a 6′3″ tree.
  3. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
  4. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
  5. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

The next 51: 

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True Colors: Compressed Movie Prints Show Film Moods

[ By Delana in Architecture & Design & Gadgets & Geek Art & Technology & Futurism. ]

When you watch your favorite movies over and over, you might start to acquire the ability to recite every line. Every frame of the movie looks familiar and you can predict how the light will change with every scene. But would you recognize your favorites if they were smooshed down into single pictures? (Above: Requiem for a Dream)

(Blade Runner)

(V for Vendetta)

These impressive works of art were created by MovieBarCode, a website that takes every single frame of your favorite movies and compresses them single-frame pictures.


(Princess Mononoke)

The resulting images are surprisingly lovely, like colorful bar codes with hidden stories to tell. All of the colors of each movie are expressed in the thin vertical stripes, making for some truly impressive new pieces of art.

(The Lion King)

(The Matrix)

It is even possible to tell the mood and overall feel of each film just by the color scheme in these abbreviated representations. Some are predictable, like the cartoons with plenty of bright colors and the overly-green Matrix. Some exhibit long stretches of the same scenery, such as in The Big Lebowski.

(The Big Lebowski)

(The Fifth Element)

The website has an impressive number of movie bar codes posted already, but the artist behind the site also takes requests for any that haven't yet been created. Prints of the amazing works of art can be purchased from the MovieBarCode website.

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Brand-new conspiracy theories around Obama's newly released "long form" birth certificate

Buzzfeed has a very funny post up today explaining 20 freshly-hatched conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama's "long form birth certificate," released by the White House yesterday.

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The monkey tail, a beard

monkeytail-1.jpeg The awesome and epic Monkey Tail is the first major new beard of the twenty-first century and represents a profound innovation in the bearding industry.

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Twilight folks to do Ender's Game?

Twilight folks to do Ender's Game?

Looks like Summit, the studio that brought us (and continues to bring us) the Twilight Saga adaptations, will be the next studio to try to adapt Orson Scott Card's classic 1985 SF novel Ender's Game, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine director Gavin Hood at the helm.

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Animal-sex Friday

It's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, blogger Scicurious (who brought us the whale threesome) has another post about animal sex research.

This time, it's about chicken sperm. Specifically, whether roosters alter the quality of their sperm depending on how many other roosters they think have been, uh, laying with their hen—and what social status the hen, herself, has.


Believe it or not, studies in various species have shown that males in more dominant roles often produce a LOWER quality and quantity of sperm than those in subordinate roles. This is presumably because the dominant males don't have to compete as much as the subordinates, they get first pick of the females. But this hasn't been tested before, because the animals being studied understandably get annoyed when you try to get between them and their chosen female to get a sample of the semen.

In this case they decided to try again, using chickens. But not your normal chickens, these were Swedish fowl that live in social groups of up to 16 animals. The males form a dominance hierarchy for access to the females. The most dominant males are obviously going to get first crack at the hens, but the hens will often have multiple matings, and sperm competition is intense. Not only do the females go multiple times, the males can ejaculate up to 40 times within a few hours, which often results in quantity over quality, as the sperm quality decreases over time.

They took males of high and low status, and put them through randomized mating trials over several females, ALSO of high and low status. They took the ejaculate and measured the number of sperm, as well as the velocity, or how good their little swimmers were doing.

And the result? Well, you'll have to go read it. There are graphs that are integral to the story, and I don't want to spoil it. Suffice to say, chicken sperm is a lot more interesting than I would have previously guessed.

Image: Some rights reserved by quinn.anya

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Untouchable blood-camera goes to Africa for HIV portrait series

Wayne Martin Belger created the blood camera, which incorporates HIV-infected blood that acts as a red filter for portraits of HIV+ people. Now he's taking the project, which is called "Untouchable," to Africa:
I'm taking the untouchable to Sierra Leona, Liberia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Calcutta and 5 locations in Cambodia to do portraits of people living with HIV. I'm working with a major international HIV Health organization to make it all happen and they are really excited about the possibility of this project creating a new view of the global HIV community. So far, I've photographed about 60 people all over the US. With the Africa/Asia photos it will give a world contrast on how your geo location makes all the difference in your well-being and how major pharmaceutical profits need are at the heart of life and death.

I have a publisher that wants to do a book on the project and two major venues that are excited about exhibiting the finale work next year.

Bloodworks: Africa (Thanks, Wayne!)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Golden-age short-change cons

While some of the techniques laid out in "Tricks of Short Change Artists," from the Oct, 1930 issue of Modern Mechanix may have shifted over the years, the principles remain largely unchanged. I could read about con artists all day long -- I've only been conned once (that I know about), but I still reel with the knowledge that someone managed to pull off a trick that combined conjuring, social engineering, and connivery to separate me from a small-to-mid-sized wad of cash.
Organized short-changing of filling station attendants is becoming common and it is evident that there are a great many artists engaged in this branch of the business. The tricks are many and varied. One favorite is to offer a twenty in payment of a bill. On getting the change, the stranger will count it over and discover that five or ten dollars are missing. The method is to fold over the five or ten and hold it between two fingers underneath another large bill in one hand, while asking the station attendant to count the change in the other hand. This trick has been the means of cheating a great many oil station men. The loss is # seldom discovered until check-up time at night.

Another method of making change appear "short" a bill of any denomination is the use of a clever sleeve attachment. It is merely an elastic running up the coat sleeve; at the end is a spring paper-fastener. The con man merely sends one bill from his change up his sleeve, and the dealer can, of course, see no method of accounting for the loss excepting the most obvious one. that he has made a mistake!

Tricks of Short Change Artists (Oct, 1930)

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Skull Resewn From Old Baseball

Great find over on Recyclart. Somebody needs to put a curse on it and put it up for sale on a dusty corner shelf in some out-of-the-way antique shop.

Super Skull Roundupalooza!

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Cadbury Egg inside chocolate cupcake



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Cigar box guitar tribute to Blind Willie Johnson: free MP3 album


A gift from my friends at Cigar Box Nation: a cigar box guitar tribute to Blind Willie Johnson.

If I Had My Way

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Algorithmic pricing loop sends book prices into orbit

Say two Amazon merchants start using an algorithm to reprice their books based upon the prices set by rivals. Fine. Now say that two merchants pick one another's prices and a recursive repricing loop begins. What happens next? Perhaps you assume that the automatic price war would send prices spiraling rapidly down. In the case of Peter Lawrence's The Making of a Fly, you would be mistaken. [Michael Eisen via Hacker News]

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"Untitled", 2006 by Roman Pfeffer.

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Bertrand Russell

"All movements go too far."

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Roll cloud spotted over Toronto

Roll Cloud TorontoA rare roll cloud was spotted over Toronto yesterday evening. We don't normally post about weather — unless it's extreme — but given how spooky-looking these things are, I'll break that rule. Formed by downdrafts associated with thunderstorms, these clouds detach from those around them and appear to "roll" slowly around a horizontal axis. Although they look like tornadoes turned horizontal, they're not actually dangerous (nor will they suddenly turn vertical).

Nevertheless, they're damn cool looking. That is all.

Roll Cloud Toronto

Update (April 24th):

Here are some very cool photos from Billybee57 on Flickr, who caught the cloud just as it arrived at Toronto's skyline.

Roll Cloud TorontoRoll Cloud TorontoPhotos one and two by dieburg401 and Jim Bartlett, respectively.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Scott Snyder Uncovers Bizarre Background Character Mystery

by Conor Kilpatrick

Perhaps it is appropriate that the writer of Detective Comics has uncovered a mystery, and over the weekend, Scott Snyder did just that.

On Sunday he started Tweeting that he had noticed that the same two men had been appearing as background character or extras in all the DC and Marvel comics aimed at younger readers. One guy has red hair, glasses, and chin hair. The other has dark hair and long sideburns, and sometimes a soul patch.

He offered some photographs into evidence. Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:


Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Exhibit E:

Exhibit F:

Exhibit G:

Exhibit H:

Exhibit I:

Exhibit J:

Who are these mystery men who have been appearing in the background of all these comics?

And this is apparently not a new phenomenon.

And then...

Who indeed. This is so bizarre.

Grab your magnifying glass and your trusty sidekick and let's get sleuthing!

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The Dr. Who Drank Infectious Broth, Gave Himself an Ulcer, and Solved a Medical Mystery

The Dr. Who Drank Infectious Broth, Gave Himself an Ulcer, and Solved a Medical Mystery. One of my favorite Nobel prize winner-stories of all time…

Unable to make his case in studies with lab mice (because H. pylori affects only primates) and prohibited from experimenting on people, Marshall grew desperate. Finally he ran an experiment on the only human patient he could ethically recruit: himself. He took some H. pylori from the gut of an ailing patient, stirred it into a broth, and drank it. As the days passed, he developed gastritis, the precursor to an ulcer: He started vomiting, his breath began to stink, and he felt sick and exhausted. Back in the lab, he biopsied his own gut, culturing H. pylori and proving unequivocally that bacteria were the underlying cause of ulcers.

…For their work on H. pylori, Marshall and Warren shared a 2005 Nobel Prize. Today the standard of care for an ulcer is treatment with an antibiotic. And stomach cancer—once one of the most common forms of malignancy—is almost gone from the Western world.

Great interview.

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Experiment: scalping postage stamps on tax day


My favorite amateur sociologist, Rob Cockerham, scalped postage stamps on tax day.

If you live near Sacramento, California, and you wait until the very last moment to mail your taxes, you are in for a special trip to the main Post Office in West Sacramento.

This particular post office is open until midnight, so you can drop off your tax return at 11:59pm on April 15th and still get the necessary postmark.

On tax night, traffic is so heavy that the local police set up something like a tax-return drive-thru checkpoint, where post workers will snatch the envelopes right out of your window.

Unfortunately, they don't sell stamps. To get stamps, you have to drive past the envelope drive-thru snatchpoint and discover the secret post office entrance. Then you have to park and wait in line to buy some stamps from the human tellers, because they replaced all the vending machines with a single automatic postal machine (APM), and that machine was stolen last year.

The no-stamp oversight annoyed me so much that this year I decided to try selling stamps myself.

Early in the day, I bought one hundred first class (44¢) stamps.

Then I went home and made myself a sign. Note the hefty price markup.

That's right. I was scalping postage stamps. I was going to be rich.

Read the results on his website,

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Skynet Becomes Aware, Launches Nuclear Attack

kkleiner writes "At 8:11 PM today (April 19th), the military-designed artificial intelligence system called Skynet will become self-aware and turn against its creators (read: us). If that doesn't have you shaking in your boots our world will be overwhelmed by a legion of killer robots in approximately 48 hours — a time known as Judgment Day."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Euthanasia coaster: assisted suicide by thrills

Julijonas Urbonas, a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art in London, designed this "Euthanasia Coaster" that will kill its riders with a series of brain-scrambling loops: "a hypothetic euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to humanely -- with elegance and euphoria -- take the life of a human being. Riding the coaster's track, the rider is subjected to a series of intensive motion elements that induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and, eventually, death."

Euthanasia Coaster (via DVICE)

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Man in electric wheelchair chases woman for three days (?) (!)

A 67-year-old man is alleged to have knocked a woman off her bicycle with his electric wheelchair in a parking lot in Ft Pierce, Florida. He is alleged to have broken her bicycle.

This occurred, it is alleged, after he had chased the woman around the parking lot for three days before she called the cops or anyone noticed or he ran out of battery (the article is unclear on this score).

I don't understand this story.

Oh, wait. According to commenters on the story, it may be that, on three consecutive days, he chased the woman around this parking lot. On the third day, he caught her.

I still don't really understand.

Gray, who police said appeared "very intoxicated," denied doing anything. He then offered the woman money to repair the bike.

The affidavit didn't state what made investigators suspect Gray was intoxicated or what may have sparked the alleged electric wheelchair assault.

Witnesses said they saw Gray knock the victim from the bicycle before picking it up and slamming it down.

"It should be noted that Gray is not wheelchair bound, and he can walk for a short distance," the affidavit states.

Cyclist says man in electric wheelchair chased her around Fort Pierce parking lot for three days (via Neatorama)

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Behold: The world's most complicated Rube Goldberg machine

It may not portray the most accurate representation of science (or history), but this Rube Goldberg machine designed by engineering students at Purdue does tell a compelling story, and, with 244 steps to water a single flower, it does earn the title of World's Most Complicated Rube Goldberg contraption—edging out previous record holders at Michigan's Ferris State University, who'd built a machine with 230 steps.

Popular Mechanics has an inside look at the machine, and how it was created.

Video link

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iOS 4 records your location in a hidden file, syncs it to your desktop when connected to iTunes

If you didn't already think your smartphone knows too much about you, here's a handy reminder. A duo of UK researchers have uncovered a worrying (and oddly enough, undocumented) feature in iOS 4: it asks your iPhone to record your location constantly, then timestamps that data and records it for posterity. Without alerting you that it's doing it and without asking for permission. The bigger trouble with this unsolicited location tracking is that the hidden file that holds the data is relatively easy to uncover and read, making any desktops you've backed your phone up to and the phone itself even bigger privacy dangers than they would usually be. Additionally, restoring a backup or migrating to a new device keeps the data logging going, which the researchers point to as evidence that what's happening isn't accidental. We can't imagine a way in which it could be accidental. Apple, got anything to say for yourself? See a couple of visualizations of the extracted results on video after the break.

[Thanks, Tom]

Continue reading iOS 4 records your location in a hidden file, syncs it to your desktop when connected to iTunes

iOS 4 records your location in a hidden file, syncs it to your desktop when connected to iTunes originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 20 Apr 2011 10:22:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink The Guardian  |  sourceiPhone Tracker, O'Reilly Radar  | Email this | Comments
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Inspiration: Backyard Escapes

As the weather gets warmer and the idea of spending more time in the sun becomes a reality, I'm already dreaming of ways to bring a little fantasy to my outdoor gatherings. Check out these eight images full of inspiration for taking your backyard — or even that grassy plot in the park lawn — to the next level.

Read Full Post

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To do in Austin, TX: "Third Annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour"

BB reader J. Woods says,

If you're in Austin this Saturday, check out the third annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour--there's no food more sustainable and local than eggs from your own backyard! We also have an Info Center with a drawing for a free chicken coop, along with other cool chicken-related prizes. It's a free, self-guided tour using maps downloaded from our website. You can also see some of the coops on videos.

Above: Coop #8 on the 2011 Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour map.Video Link.

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Diary (2010), by Tim Hetherington

Diary (2010) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo.

[Video Link]

"Diary' is a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of my work, and was made as an attempt to locate myself after ten years of reporting. It's a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media."—Tim Hetherington, British photojournalist and Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, who was killed today in Libya. (via Clayton Cubitt)

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TIME tribute to Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, photojournalists killed today in Libya



Ben Cosgrove of LIFE says,

In light of today's shattering news about Tim Hetherington and our colleague, Getty photographer Chris Hondros, we did the only thing we could to keep from going crazy with anger and sadness: we built galleries of their work -- including the genuinely frightening pictures that Chris made today in Misrata, Libya, shortly before he was so badly injured (above, and below).

Both of these guys were absolutely first-rate, fearless journalists. This is Tim's haunting last tweet, before he was killed:

"In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."

Getty has since confirmed that Chris Hondros also died from his wounds.

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