Shared posts

08 Mar 08:48


Sure, you could just ask, but this also takes care of the host gift thing.
07 Mar 11:33

What is the nature of your space emergency?

by Rod

We see a lot of military and exploration rovers and ships in LEGO Space, but other services make only irregular appearances. Frost attempts to balance things out with this smart Medical Rover. The colour scheme absolutely pops on this model, especially coupled with the lime green minimalist scenery. But for me, it’s all about the double cockpit and the angled “snout” — an eye-catching unusual design, nicely-built.

Febrovery 2017 Day 17

Don’t miss the view of the rover’s rear, and the excellent use of short red axle pieces in “cross-hole bricks” to create mini Red Cross symbols. Lovely.

Emergency Medical Response Rover

The post What is the nature of your space emergency? appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

05 Mar 05:11

There are NO red pixels in this picture

by Minnesotastan

Your brain sees the objects being bathed in blue light, so it compensates by adding a red that is not there.  The fact that the objects are strawberries accentuates the illusion, but is not a necessary feature.

Further discussion and explanation (and a photo with the "red" sampled to show that it is actually grey) at the source article in Vice's Motherboard.
03 Mar 20:44

Borrow Your Laptop

If used with software that could keep up, a scroll wheel mapped to send a stream of 'undo' and 'redo' events could be kind of cool.
03 Mar 20:42

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Physics is Poetry


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

New rule: Anyone referring to X as the poetry of Y must have actually ever read a poem.

New comic!
Today's News:
03 Mar 17:09

Programmers Are Confessing Their Coding Sins To Protest a Broken Job Interview Process

by msmash
A number of programmers have taken it Twitter to bring it to everyone's, but particularly recruiter's, attention about the grueling interview process in their field that relies heavily on technical questions. David Heinemeier Hansson, a well-known programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails coding framework, started it when he tweeted, "Hello, my name is David. I would fail to write bubble sort on a whiteboard. I look code up on the internet all the time. I don't do riddles." Another coder added, "Hello, my name is Tim. I'm a lead at Google with over 30 years coding experience and I need to look up how to get length of a python string." Another coder chimed in, "Hello my name is Mike, I'm a GDE and lead at NY Times, I don't know what np complete means. Should I?" A feature story on The Outline adds: This interview style, widely used by major tech companies including Google and Amazon, typically pits candidates against a whiteboard without access to reference material -- a scenario working programmers say is demoralizing and an unrealistic test of actual ability. People spend weeks preparing for this process, afraid that the interviewer will quiz them on the one obscure algorithm they haven't studied. "A cottage industry has emerged that reminds us uncomfortably of SAT prep," Karla Monterroso, VP of programs for Code2040, an organization for black and Latino techies, wrote in a critique of the whiteboard interview. [...] This means companies tend to favor recent computer science grads from top-tier schools who have had time to cram; in other words, it doesn't help diversify the field with women, older people, and people of color.

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

03 Mar 16:32

Not Warning Kid About Piracy Makes Father Liable, Court Rules

by Ernesto

Over the past decade, copyright holders have gone after hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates in Germany, demanding settlements ranging from a few hundred to thousands of euros.

The targeted account holder is sometimes the perpetrator, but it could also be another member of the household or even a complete stranger, if the Wi-Fi network is unsecured.

In a case before a Leipzig court the defendant denied having downloaded an audiobook, as he wasn’t home at the time of the infringement. His wife and 11-year-old son were, and as the case progressed it became clear that the latter was the offender.

Nonetheless, in a rather unique verdict the court decided to hold the father liable. Although it’s not uncommon for parents to be held responsible for the actions of their children, the court specifically referenced a lack of anti-piracy education.

In his defense, the father argued that he’d asked his son to keep any Internet activity limited to school purposes, a statement that was backed up by the man’s partner. In addition, the 11-year-old was warned not to download random things or do anything dangerous.

However, according to the court’s verdict, this doesn’t count as an adequate instruction since it lacks a specific explanation as to what illegal downloads are.

In her order the judge writes that for proper parental supervision, it’s required to “instruct a child on the illegality of participating in illegal file-sharing exchanges, and to explicitly prohibit this behavior.”

The court characterizes the father’s behavior as “negligent” and doesn’t rule out the possibility that the instruction to limit the son’s Internet to school purposes, was made up to avoid punishment.

As a result, the man was found guilty and must now pay 956 euros in damages and legal costs. He still has an option to appeal the case at a higher court.

The copyright holder, who’s not named in the redacted verdict (pdf), was represented by the German lawfirm Waldorf Frommer, who are widely known for pursuing file-sharers around the country.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

03 Mar 14:47

Grammar Geeks, UNITE!

by Jen

K, people, confession time:

Do unnecessary quotation marks make your eye twitch? 


Have you ever left a comment on a friend's Facebook status explaining why it's "couldn't care less," not "could care less?" 

Do you fix the spelling mistakes in other people's tweets before retweeting them?

Are you required by forces beyond your control to whip out a pen and correct misspelled store signage?


Must...cross out...apostrophe...

 (And then...fix...capitals...)

(And then...add...exclamation marks...) 

And finally, do you not only know what the Oxford comma is, but have a passionate stance on its usage? 

If the answer to any of those is yes then you, my friend, are a fellow grammar geek. And tomorrow is our day. That's right; it's National Grammar Day! WAHOO!

Finally - FINALLY - we can pick apart spelling and grammar errors without fear of judgment from the text-speak-writing language butchers who keep "loosing" their minds! Tomorrow we will NOT be the nit-picking jerks of the comment section; tomorrow we'll be HEROES. HEROES, I SAY!! 


So let's get right to it:

Ah, yes. [pushing up glasses] You see, "whose" is an interrogative possessive pronoun, while "who's" is the contraction for "who is." In this context, someone is apparently asking for the identity of the owner of something euphemistically known as "40."

Haha! Isn't that a SCREAM?!

I honestly don't know why I'm not invited to more parties, you guys.


Maybe I should have started with something a little more common, though:

Now, see, there's an easy way to avoid this situation in the future: 



And remember, it's "I before E except after C and when you're trying to write the word 'having.'"

Also those little dots are called an ellipsis, and there should only be three of them.


Not to mention the way that's written makes it look like someone is "haveing" a weird scrolly symbol. (Maybe the artist formerly known as Prince invented a new species?)


Hey, do you guys watch Sherlock

What am I saying? You read this blog and therefore have EXCELLENT taste in entertainment, so of course you watch Sherlock.

Anyway, remember the beginning of that episode where Holmes is interviewing a murderer, and he keeps correcting the thug's grammar?

That was awesome.


Now where was I?

Ah yes, the importance of punctuation and discerning between "will" and "we'll."

It also appears this person isn't entirely certain that Dee Dee will miss me, which is hard to believe. I mean, in case you haven't noticed, I AM DELIGHTFUL.

And finally, allow me to share a quick word on foreign punctuation marks:



Thanks to Mary F., Mab R., Catherine B., David S., Bella P., Todd, and Zoë P., who have always known I'm a pro-Oxford-comma kinda gal.


Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

03 Mar 13:43

TAKE HEED AND REJOICE: King Allan of Gondor Hath Returned

by Kevin

The people of Great Britain were informed on Wednesday that their rightful ruler has returned and shall, within the next 30 days, claim his throne and royal historic estate. Who is this man? I’m glad you asked. Because he is—

a direct descendant of an unbroken primogeniture line legally documented since the 3rd century in Great Britain and documented in the Royal College of Arms, direct descendant of Cunedda Wledig who was the founder of [the] Kingdom of Wales then known as the Kingdom of Gondor, having married the Princess of Powys, whose direct primogeniture descendant was Cilman Droed Ddu being the founder of the 4th Royal Tribe of Wales who was the King of Wales and the King of the Isle of man and father to his eldest son Lleon “Banco” …, down through the centuries to John Evans Sr. of Aberfraw Parish, Anglesey, who was politically assassinated and was the last known King of Wales … and of the Royal Houses of Lloyd, Tudor and Stuart and descended in an unbroken primogeniture line in America;

—although technically at the moment he is just some dude in Colorado.

This spectacular paragraph is from a notice that appeared in the Times of London on Wednesday (p. 53), and quickly reached America via Twitter (@DavidMapstone). The notice names one Allan V. Evans, currently a “resident of Colorado U.S.A.” but, obviously, so much more. Potentially.

Following the above declaration, Evans states that he “HEREBY GIVES LEGAL NOTICE” to all Britons, “all his relatives” and any other interested parties that “in (30) thirty days’ time, the said Allan V. Evans shall proceed from Colorado to England to claim his royal historic estate.” This, he says, is “a conglomerate of about (17) historic estates including the Evans family [estate],” though commonly known as the “‘Bulkeley Estate’ after Thomas James Warren 7th Viscount Bulkeley who died in 1822.” He shall also claim all appropriate titles, including the right to rule Great Britain. But for now, only the right to rule:

[Evans] shall further pursue an injustice of history by claiming by right the Throne and Sovereign Crown of Great Britain at Westminster, upon whence [sic] the sad future death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as he [Evans] will not out of greatest and most deepest respect depose her in life for the great service and selfless sacrifice that she and her husband HRH Prince Philip [have] rendered to this great nation….

Let it not be said that King Allan I was cruel.

The proclamation concludes:

TAKE HEED AND REJOICE … that democracy and all democratic values will be promoted, and that Lady Britania [sic] who has contributed so much to the culture and history of the world shall be renewed and made great once again; for the Legend was not a myth but was indeed true, and more than a mere Tolkien story, that the men of the West [i.e. Colorado] are now returning and now is the time of the Return of the King.

Well. Where to begin?

We don’t need to address every fact here to see that there are some problems with King Allan’s claim to the throne. But let’s start with the first one: that he is the result of an “unbroken primogeniture line legally documented since the third century.” Well, even if there were lines going back that far, and the Romans didn’t break them, there aren’t going to be records to prove it. For example, Allan mentions an ancestor named “Cunedda.” According to A History of Wales by Sir John Edward Lloyd (1911), Cunedda and his eight sons (among others) “came from the North, from Manaw Gododin [Scotland], and drove out the [Gaels] from Gwynedd, with very great slaughter, so that they never returned.” This is said to have happened in about 450, so basically around the time of King Arthur—legendary, in other words, and not well documented. In fact, the main source for the Cunedda story is the Historia Brittonum, not written until 400 years later.

It’s not impossible that some sort of “royal line” survived, of course, but it would be almost impossible to prove or disprove it. Since I think it’s safe to say Allan has the burden of proof here, that is a problem for him, not us.

Next: “Kingdom of Gondor.” I’m certainly no expert in Welsh history, or language, or anything Welsh, really, so if you are, please weigh in. But I can’t find any references at all to any part of Wales ever having been called “Gondor.” J.R.R. Tolkien was a fan of the Welsh language (among others), and there are apparently theories that he modeled Gondor on Wales, although that makes no sense to me. Because Allan refers to Tolkien again near the end of his decree, he might be confusing those theories with actual Welsh legends. Or he might just like LOTR and be confused in general.

As for other Kings of Wales, at least according to History Today there was only one, and it wasn’t “John Evans Sr. of Aberfraw Parish, Anglesey.” It was Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who was the first to conquer all the smaller kingdoms in what is now Wales, sometime around 1055. But in 1062, he was killed, an English lord married his widow, and Wales was divided up again. The Tudor dynasty had its home in Wales, but you don’t have to know much about English history to know there was no “unbroken primogeniture line” bridging the dynasties he lists there. (You could go ask Richard III about that, now that we know where he is.)

Finally, there was a “Thomas James Warren7th Viscount Bulkeley,” who died in 1822. But since he died “without issue,” it seems rather unlikely Allan is descended from him. So even if Allan did have some claim to part of an area known as the “Bulkeley Estate,” it wouldn’t be Bulkeley’s part.

But then Allan Evans has a history of claiming things that don’t belong to him. As you may recall, in 2012 he showed up in Twiggs County, Georgia, and told 35 people there he had an ancestral claim to all their property. He had no proof, he explained, only because the records had all been destroyed when the courthouse burned down in 1901. Probably he will have a similar “the Romans burned all the records” explanation when he shows up in England, but that didn’t go over too well in Georgia. See Twiggs County Landgrabber Loses, Must Pay $100K in Fees” (Nov. 16, 2012).

I noted then that Evans had appealed the ruling. It seems to have gone directly to the Georgia Supreme Court, probably because it involved title to land. On June 3, 2013, the court affirmed unanimously, though unfortunately without a written opinion explaining why. I would guess it had to do with his complete lack of evidence to support his claims.

I don’t know whether Evans ever paid the $100,000 he was ordered to pay for bringing that frivolous lawsuit. It’s a lot of money, but I guess in another 28 days or so, all his financial problems will be solved.

He should probably learn to spell “Britannia,” though. I think that’s a requirement.

01 Mar 08:11

Toaster vs. Freezer

by xkcd

Toaster vs. Freezer

Would a toaster still work in a freezer?

My Brother, My Brother and Me, Episode 343, discussing a Yahoo Answers question

On a recent episode of Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy's terrific advice podcast, My Brother, My Brother and Me, the brothers pondered a Yahoo Answers question about what would happen if you put a toaster inside a freezer. (The discussion comes around the 36-minute mark.)

They have a fun discussion of a few aspects of the problem before eventually moving on to the next question. Since they don't really settle on a final answer, I thought we could help them out by taking a closer look at the physics of freezer toasters.

(A quick safety note: If you actually do this, keep in mind that the toaster may melt some of the ice in the freezer, leaving you with a running electrical appliance in a pool of water.)

Griffin sums up the situation like this:

You put a toaster in a freezer. You run the extension cord in there. You put some good bread in there. You click it down. What even happens, right? Because if your answer is, "it would get hot," then the freezer hasn't done its job. But if you say "it would get cold," then the toaster hasn't done its job.

For starters, the answer: The toaster would win. The freezer wouldn't do its job. Toasters beat freezers.

It's easy to think of a toaster and freezer as equivalent—one cools things down and the other warms them up. But toasters heat things up a lot more than freezers cool them down.

The coils in regular toasters get hot enough to glow, which means they're over about 600°C. Since the toaster is operating at such high temperatures, it would hardly notice whether the surrounding environment is 20°C (room temperature), 4°C (a fridge), or -15°C (a freezer).[1]The zero on our usual temperature scales can confuse things, since it makes it seem like going from 10° to 20° is "doubling" the temperature. But the "zero" on the Celsius scale is just a point chosen by convention. If we switch to Kelvin, which counts in degrees above absolute zero, a freezer is 260 K, a fridge is 275 K, a normal room is 295 K ... and the heating element in a toaster is 900 K.

The toaster needs to heat its coils from room temperature to somewhere over 600°C. From the toaster's point of view, a 20- or 40-degree change in starting temperature hardly matters. The coils will get hot, and then the bread will get hot, too. If the bread is colder at the start, the toaster will have to heat it a little longer to get it up to ideal toasting temperature, but it will have no trouble getting there. As anyone who's ever burned a piece of toast knows, toasters are definitely capable of heating bread to above the ideal temperature for toast.

In their discussion, the McElroys brought up another question: Even if the toaster can still toast bread at first, would it struggle to stay warm over time? If you left both the toaster and the freezer running, who would win in the long term?

The answer is that the toaster would still win. A toaster produces about a thousand watts of heat, and the cooling system in a household freezer can't remove heat that fast. In fact, since freezers are so well insulated, the inside of the freezer would probably get much hotter than the rest of the house, and eventually the toaster and/or the freezer would probably overheat.[2]Either device have a safety cutoff that stops things from actually melting down, but it's probably not wise to count on that in this situation.

Refrigerators and freezers work by soaking up heat from their interior and dumping it out the back.[3]That's why the area behind your freezer is warm, and why you can't cool a room by leaving the fridge door open. In a sense, they're more efficient than toasters. Fridges have a "coefficient of performance" of 2 or 3, which means it only takes them 1 unit of electrical energy to move 2 or 3 units of heat energy from the interior to the exterior. A toaster, on the other hand, produces 1 unit of heat from 1 unit of electricity. But since the compressor in a fridge-freezer typically only uses 100 or 150 watts when it's running,[4]You can see some real-world graphs of refrigerator power usage, courtesy people with home electricity meters, with a simple Google Image search. The distinctive on-off square-wave pattern is the compressor switching on and off throughout the day, while the big spikes are the heating element that keeps frost from building up on the coils. This power consumption is split between the fridge and the freezer, but if the fridge is already cold, most of the energy will be spent fighting with the toaster. so even with the efficiency multiplier, it can't keep up with the toaster's 1000+ watts of heat production.

Eventually, the toaster will start to heat up the inside of the freezer. Even if the freezer were as powerful as the toaster, it wouldn't be able to keep the toaster coils themselves from getting hot and toasting bread. The freezer can make the air around the toaster cold, but remember, to the toaster, all our air is cold.

If you happen to live in the Canadian city of Winnipeg, you can check this experimentally. The winter temperature at night in Winnipeg is about the same as the inside of a freezer, so the environment there effectively simulates a freezer with infinite capacity to absorb heat. Suppose you put a toaster out on your porch one night, plugged in by an extension cord, and leave it running for a few hours, going outside every so often to collect the toast and put in some fresh bread. What will happen? Simple: You'll quickly be eaten by wolves.

But assuming you survive the experiment, you should find that the toaster doesn't have trouble working in the cold air. It may take a bit longer to get the bread properly browned, but unless the wind is extremely strong, it should be able to manage it fine. After all, to a toaster, all weather is cold.

The difference between what humans consider "cold" and "warm" is negligible in a lot of high-temperature processes. For example, Antarctica has a well-equipped fire department. It might seem strange to worry about things getting too hot in the coldest place on Earth, but fire poses a serious threat to the researchers there. After all, the place is dry, windy, and doesn't have a lot of liquid water sitting around to douse a flame with. Sure, it's cold—but to a fire, everything is cold.

On the other hand, there are no wolves in Antarctica. So as long as you don't mind a trip—and you get clearance from the Antarctica fire department—you can go there to enjoy your outdoor freezer toast in peace.

01 Mar 08:03

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - A Human Peacock


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I think what I really value in Steve is his honest signalling of genetic quality.

New comic!
Today's News:

Sorry guys, having to delay at least one more day. BUT THE SURPRISE THING IS COMING, SOONISH!

28 Feb 11:06

Planes, trains, automobiles ...and a hot air balloon

by Elspeth De Montes

LEGO City remains one of the most popular themes designed by LEGO and is always fun to see a large city layout. And you will definitely not be disappointed by this bustling city scene by Korean building team OliveSeon – a huge minifigure scale diorama that is over 6 meters (19 feet) in length. The main central part of the scene includes a few official modular sets such as the Detective’s Office, Parisian Restaurant and Ghostbusters HQ on the left. But there is much more to this diorama than buildings, as I believe it depicts almost every form of transport system imaginable from an airplane, to a suspension railway, to HGVs and even a hot air balloon.

2017 Lego City Diorama 02

On the far right beyond those skyscrapers, the concrete plunges into a chilled out beach scene and then a mountain peak complete with cable car. The red and white cable car is very cute, as is the hot air balloon, even if every Health & Safety bone in my body is shouting that it’s too close to the high wires!

2017 Lego City Diorama 03-1

On the far left the transportation has a more nautical feel with the port and harbour area. Don’t go for a dip in the water on this side of the build though, cos I’ve spotted a few hungry sharks on patrol.

2017 Lego City Diorama 01

So can you think of any other forms of transportation the builders have missed in this huge 3-part diorama?

The post Planes, trains, automobiles ...and a hot air balloon appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

28 Feb 07:07

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Laplace's Demon


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

That said, there is no such thing as free will, and you're a sort of shambling meat-zombie.

New comic!
Today's News:

Sorry everyone. Due to technical difficulties, the Big Announcement won't be until Tuesday or Wednesday. More info soon. MEANTIME, there's a new BAHFest Video!



26 Feb 20:04

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Teleporter Problems


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

See, philosophy can be useful!

New comic!
Today's News:

Tomorrow morning, big news, and bonus updates!

26 Feb 04:46

Travel through time in style with a DeLorean

by Edwinder

If there were ever a vehicle that deserved the UCS (Ultimate Collector Series) treatment, the DeLorean from Back to the Future is the one I think fans would be rooting for. As Doc Brown said, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style? Korean builder 지현주 (Ji Hyun Ju) holds nothing back and puts in all the bells and whistles, from detailing on the dashboards and interior to a pair of working gull wing doors. The only question I have is who do I need to bribe in Billund to get one of these in released in a 4000 piece count set?

LEGO - Back to the future / Delorean

LEGO - Back to the future / Delorean

LEGO - Back to the future / Delorean

The post Travel through time in style with a DeLorean appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

25 Feb 18:54

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Last Potion


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Zach Weinersmith was known for his brilliant combinations of deep science, philosophy, mathematics, and literature.

New comic!
Today's News:

Big announcement Monday. Maybe the biggest of my life. Hope you geeks like it!

24 Feb 06:20

Latest Airport-Security Exploit: Walking Through in a Group

by Kevin
parody TSA logo

Here’s another of those occasional reminders that the TSA, like so much of our astoundingly expensive “national security” apparatus, is utterly and completely useless.

I just ran a search that suggests I have mocked the TSA in print well over 100 times now, not even counting the occasional offhand mention, and yet it still sucks. I’m starting to think it’s not even paying attention to criticism.

Its latest buffoonery, unless something else has happened since Monday, involves a security breach at JFK Airport. Although “security breach” seems a little overwrought here, because the incident involved 11 people who defeated the TSA’s high-tech, multi-layered, double-top-secret security scheme by the cunning expedient of just walking through it. Apparently, these miscreants saw an untended security line, or at least an unmanned metal detector, and decided to walk through. Which they did, unmolested (verb choice intentional) by the TSA. Three of them actually set off the metal detector and yet no TSA employee seems to have roused himself or herself to see what was going on.

Of course, there’s nothing they can do themselves anyway, because as I’ve mentioned before, TSA employees are not law-enforcement officers, although they refer to themselves as “officers” and have gradually changed their uniforms over the years to seem more and more officer-like. But they have no law-enforcement authority. So, should an incident take place like … well, let’s see, like 11 people walking through a security checkpoint and heading toward some planes, what the TSA is supposed to do is call airport police. Sometimes there is an officer near the checkpoint, like the one in Oakland who talked meanly to me when I forgot my ID once, and then let me get on the plane anyway because, you know, I’m white. But he could conceivably have shot me if … well, you know.

And the TSA did notify airport police at JFK after the incident Monday. Two hours after the incident Monday, by which time all the unscreened potential terrorists had boarded their planes and flown off to their potentially deadly destinations.

I guess I should give somebody some credit for not scrambling fighters to escort these planes, as they have done in the past for equally crappy reasons. But they did follow the even stranger practice they sometimes follow of screening the suspicious individuals upon arrival. What does that achieve? Obviously, at that point they have not hijacked the plane. And if they wanted to shoot people at an airport, they would have done that already and saved themselves the trip. Oh, I see TSA released a statement, so maybe it’ll explain why it does that?

TSA conducted security measures at the passengers’ arrival airport [SFO]. TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen. We are confident this incident presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system. Once our review is complete, TSA will take appropriate action.


I did greatly enjoy, though, the comment that TSA has security layers “both seen and unseen.” They were unseen at JFK on Monday, that’s for sure.

23 Feb 16:56

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Swearing


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

It's interesting how caveman can speak a language that won't exist for 50,000 years, but they still have trouble with article usage.

New comic!
Today's News:

Turbo-geeks of London! BAHFest London tickets are about 40% sold. We usually sell 70% of tickets in the last week, so this one will definitely sell out. Book now, or dwell in sorrow.

23 Feb 15:32


[*disables social networking accounts*] [*social isolation increases*] Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?
22 Feb 21:07

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Solving Sophie's Choice


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

My love for you is boundless, but it's not a desideratum in this context.

New comic!
Today's News:

Some fresh and tasty book reviews have been posted at The Weinerworks.

21 Feb 23:38

Photographic Wreckery

by john (the hubby of Jen)













Thanks to Craig T., Katie F., Elizabeth D., Johanna, & Sparky M. for making us afraid to go into the bakery again. (Or maybe looking forward to it? I mean, that "shark" is kinda adorable.)


Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

21 Feb 23:19

Bill Urges Texans to Use Correct Flag Emoji

by Kevin

If you’re looking for examples of legislative nonsense (and who isn’t?), looking at a list of “resolutions” will always pay off. Because resolutions aren’t binding, legislators feel free to use them for everything from declaring a position on some irrelevant world event to honoring a local sports team. You could argue that this practice is bad because it wastes time they could otherwise devote to actual legislation, or that it’s good because it wastes time they could otherwise devote to actual legislation. There are even some examples of resolutions that are actually funny (on purpose), and I’m a fan of those only partly because it’s an excuse to mention the book I wrote that has a few of those in it.

This isn’t as good as the Boston Strangler resolution (also Texas) or the New Mexico Wizard Bill (both in that book, coincidentally), but seemed worth noting.

Not being Texan, I had not previously pondered the similarities between the Texas and Chilean flags, but they are in fact very similar. And Rep. Tom Oliverson (R.-Austin) would like to make sure Texans don’t confuse them when selecting emojis.

Both flags are red, white, and blue, obviously, and feature a lone star. The red and blue are different shades, it appears, but the only other difference is that the Texas flag has its lone star in a blue square:

while on the Chilean flag the whole left border is blue:

No, wait, it’s the other way around. Chile has the blue square, and Texas has the full blue field on the left. Sorry! Just remember everything’s bigger in Texas, and you can keep them straight that way. Although Chile is actually bigger than Texas (291,933 square miles v. 268,597), and that could be confusing if you were to get that extraneous fact stuck in your brain.

Apparently, Chile had its flag first, or at least it adopted the basic design in 1817. The Republic of Texas adopted its flag in 1839, and it became the state flag when Texas joined the Union (temporarily at first) in 1845. It’s not clear who designed the Texas flag, and there’s no reason to think it was modeled on Chile’s. As is usually the case, there were lots of other designs out there, actual or proposed; I have to say I find it kind of hilarious that according to this article, Texas might have had a flag with a rainbow on it, had a meeting about flag designs not “hastily adjourned” in 1836 because the Mexican Army was on the way.

Anyway, the flags are in fact similar, and so their flag emojis of course are similar, and similarly confused. Oliverson’s resolution (right) aims to do something about that.

According to HCR 75, “most major electronic messaging applications” include an emoji for Chile’s flag but not Texas’s. “All too often,” it claims, the Chilean flag is used as a substitute, which will not do. The colors and symbols stand for different things, the resolution says, and so on and so forth. Therefore, by adopting the resolution, the legislature would

reject the notion that the Chilean flag, although it is a nice flag, can in any way compare to or be substituted for the official state flag of Texas and [would] urge all Texans not to use the Republic of Chile flag emoji in digital forums when referring to the Lone Star Flag of the great State of Texas.

So far there has been no further action on the resolution, but it was just filed on February 16. In the meantime, consider yourselves only informally urged.

20 Feb 07:57

Decision Paralysis

Good point--making no decision is itself a decision. So that's a THIRD option I have to research!
20 Feb 03:49

#1132; My Everything Collection

by David Malki

Hate to see good stuff thrown away? Donate it to your local thrift shop and let them throw it away, out of your sight!

19 Feb 21:26


by Minnesotastan

Snopes confirms that Mencken did make such a pronouncement in 1920 (using the term "downright moron").
In this case the attribution to Henry Louis Mencken, a prominent newspaperman and political commentator during the first half of the 20th century, is accurate. Writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun on 26 July 1920, in an article entitled “Bayard vs. Lionheart” (and reprinted in the book On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe), Mencken cynically opined on the difficulties of good men reaching national office when the scale of their campaigns precluded them from directly reaching out to large segments of the voting public:
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
Mencken biography.
19 Feb 10:52

Pirate Site With No Traffic Attracts 49m Mainly Bogus DMCA Notices

by Andy

As reported in these pages on many occasions, Google’s Transparency Report is a goldmine for anyone prepared to invest time trawling its archives.

The report is a complete record of every DMCA notice Google receives for its ‘search’ function and currently lists more than two billion URL takedowns spread over a million websites. Of course, most of those websites will remain faceless since there’s far too many to research. That said, the really big ‘offenders’ are conveniently placed at the top of the list by Google.

The most-reported sites, according to Google

As we can see, the 4shared file-hosting site is at the top of the list. That isn’t a big surprise since the site has been going for years, attracts massive traffic, and stores countless million files.

There are a number of other familiar names too, but what is the site in second place? has a seriously impressive 49.5m takedown requests logged against it. We’ve never even heard of it.

Checking the site out, MP3Toys is clearly a pirate platform that allows users to download and stream unlicensed MP3s from thousands of artists. There are hundreds of these kinds of sites around, probably pulling content from YouTube and other web sources.

But here’s the problem. According to Google, (which also uses a .tech extension) has only been appearing in its databases since Jun 30, 2016. During this short time, Google has received requests to remove 49.5 million URLs from its indexes. That’s about 1.6 million URLs for each of the 31 weeks MP3Toys has been online.

No site in history has ever achieved these numbers, it’s completely unprecedented. So MP3Toys must be huge, right? Not exactly.

According to Alexa, the site’s .xyz domain is ranked the 25 millionth most popular online, while its .tech domain is currently ranked 321,614 after being introduced in January 2017.

In loose terms, this site has no significant traffic yet will soon be the most-infringing site on the whole Internet. How can this be? Well, it’s all down to an anti-piracy company making things up and MP3Toys going along with the charade.

As seen in the image below, along with outfits such as the BPI and BREIN, anti-piracy outfit APDIF do Brasil has an unusual fascination with MP3Toys. In fact, it’s sent the vast majority of the notices received by Google.

However, while some of the notices are undoubtedly correct, it appears a huge number are absolutely bogus. Instead of scanning the site and sending an accurate takedown notice to Google, APDIF tries to guess the URLs where MP3Toys stores its content. A sample list is shown below.

The problem here is that in real terms, none of these URLs exist until they’re requested. However, APDIF’s guesses are entertained by the site, which creates a random page of music for every search. The content on these auto-generated pages cycles, but it never relates to the searches being put in. As shown below, even TorrentFreak’s Greatest Hits Volume 77 is a winner (Test it yourself here)

So in summary, APDIF makes up its own URLs, MP3Toys randomly generates a page of music that has nothing to do with the URL input, APDIF logs it as an infringement of its clients’ rights, and sends a complaint to Google.

Then, putting the icing on an already confused cake, Google ‘removes’ every URL from its search results, even though it appears they were never in them in the first place. And that’s how a site with virtually no traffic received more DMCA complaints than The Pirate Bay. Unbelievable.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

18 Feb 20:03

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Anti-Theodicy


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I think you could do an entirely novel exegesis of the Old Testament based around this premise.

New comic!
Today's News:

Hey! Geeks of London! Come see me, March 25th, at Imperial.

17 Feb 20:44

Friday Favs 2/17/17

by Jen

Some of my favorite new submissions this week:


Ever get the feeling something's missing?

Like the second cake Jessie ordered?

Or any semblance of reading comprehension?


LEGO Batman is all the rage right now, so here:

...something to rage over.

(Or maybe sh** a brick? I'll show myself out.)


And finally, when you ask for "The Cake Is Not A Lie," (a classic Portal reference) and get what I'm pretty sure is the creepiest thing I've ever read:

Just keep telling yourself that.


While you wrestle with that nightmare fuel...

...appropriate Portal song is appropriate:

(If you're super confused right now, play the game. Trust me. It's amazing.)


Thanks to Jessie A., Jeff E., & David E. for the most perfect song setup of all time. This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: "HUGE SUCCESS."


Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

13 Feb 19:56

Airplane oxygen masks explained

by Minnesotastan

Excerpts from an article in the Travel section of The Telegraph:
“Up front, the pilots will don their own masks and commence a rapid descent to an altitude no higher than 10,000 feet,” he continues. “If the emergency descent feels perilously fast, this isn’t because the plane is crashing: it’s because the crew is doing what’s it’s supposed to do.”..

According to Airbus, if a plane loses pressure at 40,000 feet, those on board have as little as 18 seconds of “useful consciousness” without supplemental oxygen...

...what you’re supplied isn’t exactly oxygen – nor is it not compressed air in the scuba diving sense. Oxygen tanks are heavy and bulky so aircraft use a more complicated system. The panel above each seat actually contains a cocktail of chemicals that, when burned, release oxygen. They might include barium peroxide, a fine white powder used in fireworks, sodium chlorate, more commonly used as a weedkiller, and potassium chlorate, a staple of school science lab experiments (it reacts violently with sugar).

Tug the mask, like you’re told in the demonstration, and the chemical process starts. Once it starts, it cannot be stopped until everything’s burned up (around 12-15 minutes...).
This is important:
Do not expect the bag to inflate. Passengers have reportedly suffered hypoxia after believing their mask was broken because the bag wasn’t inflating, prompting them to remove it. Hence the warning given during every safety briefing.

“Oxygen is supplied in a constant flow,” explained a BA spokesman. “The bag does not inflate like a respirator bag used in a medical theatre. How full it gets depends on an individual's rate of breathing. If the rate of breathing is very quick, air is inhaled at a faster rate and so the bag will inflate less. If all the air isn't inhaled, some will remain in the bag, partially inflating it.”

The oxygen generator can also get extremely hot – so don’t touch it – and passengers may even notice a burning smell (so don’t be alarmed).
I don't know if the standard passenger mask is a "partial rebreather," capturing exhaled air, which even if "once-used" still has usable oxygen available, or a "non-rebreather."

More information at the FAA.
13 Feb 19:55

Finding "dark skies"

by Minnesotastan

Those who wish to see the skies as their grandparents did and appreciate the magnificience of the Milky Way would do best to find a "dark sky" away from the contaminatin of urban lighting.  I made the screencap above from a world map at DarkSiteFinder.

It's zoomable to tell you which way to drive from Salt Lake or Park City for stargazing -

- and it covers the entire world -

?why the hot spot in subSiberian Russia?  Perhaps burning natural gas from oil fields?

Found via an article at FiveThirtyEight about The Darkest Town in America, which discusses the environmental and health effects of nocturnal light pollution.

And this is related: an aerial view of a community in the process of switching from conventional sodium lights to LEDs:

Discussed at the Mildly Interesting subreddit.