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25 Apr 17:05

Cinematic Street Photos of Japan by Day and by Night

by Ross Harvey

I fell in love with Japan. Deeply. The culture, the clean streets, the friendly and respectful people and the full spectrum of experience that it offers. From high rise cities to quaint, beautiful gardens and temples. All within walking distance of each other.

I took as many ‘tourist shots’ as I did professional street shots. Well, not quite, but the phone was full by the end of the trip! On that note, the camera on the Google Pixel 2 XL is outstanding. Photographers – give it a pop. All shots here taken with the Nikon D750 and Fuji X-T2.

Japan was treated differently to most of my street shooting. While I still love—and capture—the odd and often funny synchronicities and serendipitous moments, I wanted more. More culture, more characters, and more of a story.

I pushed myself and shot with a very specific mindset and eye; cinematic. I was, of course, shooting stills, but I composed and prioritized moments as if taken from a movie. Hence the title: Cinematic Japan. Street photography is already hard, but this made it even more challenging, especially when the shots were more complex in nature. Everything had to fit the theme and narrative.

It’s also a study of texture and color. No false colors have been added, and all effects (night section) are original and taken in camera (no Photoshop).

You’ll find a mix of styles; juxtaposition, minimal, abstract, scenes, characters, emotions and rare alignments. Every single shot is genuine—unposed—except the last shot of the day section (a portrait of Sachin at sunset). Two weeks flew by, shared with Sachin, Dom and Liam. I would recommend Japan to anyone and everyone; it has it all.

By Day

By Night

Editor’s note: We’ve previous featured Harvey’s street photographs shot in Cuba and India.

About the author: Ross Harvey is an international award winning destination wedding photographer (covering the UK, Europe and the world). You can find more of his work in his street portfolio, in his wedding portfolio, and on Facebook. This article was also published here.

25 Apr 15:15

Shambles of York in York, England

The Shambles.

Pedestrians meandering through the Shambles of York often look up to admire the old houses and crooked, leaning buildings. But the true treasure lies below their feet. Whereas most streets in York, and much of England, have been widened and modernized, the streets of the Shambles have remained true to the original medieval form.

This section of York dates back to the 14th century and was the place butchers set up shop. It was once called the "Great Flesh Shambles” because of the shelves of meat the butchers would display.

The main street through the Shambles has a slight declining curve, which was conducive to dumping the blood from butchered animals along with raw human sewage. The area would smell horrific for days until the rains came and washed the waste away.

Many are confused as to why the width of the street is so small. The reasoning is simple, and a bit morbid. The purpose of the street was to let carts travel to-and-fro to collect and deliver meat among the butchers. The carts were also used to remove the dead humans who perished rapidly during times of plague.

Today, the narrow street is a cheerier, cleaner place lined with shops, pubs, and restaurants. Many of these buildings, too, date back hundreds of years. The nearby market offers a wide variety of wares for everyone. Take a moment to enjoy the paths and streets of the area that are a flashback to a much earlier—and less sanitary—era in history.

25 Apr 13:03

Chicago Is Trying to Pay Down Its Debt by Impounding Innocent People’s Cars

by C.J. Ciaramella

On June 21, 2016, Chicago police pulled Spencer Byrd over for a broken turn signal. Byrd says his signal wasn't broken, but that detail would soon be the least of his worries. Ever since, Byrd has been trapped in one of the city's most confusing bureaucratic mazes, deprived of his car and his ability to work. He now owes the city thousands of dollars for the pleasure.

Byrd, 50, lives in Harvey, Illinois, a corrupt, crime-ridden town south of Chicago where more than 35 percent of the populace lives below the poverty line. He's a carpenter by trade, but until the traffic stop, he had a side gig as an auto mechanic. Byrd says he's been fixing cars "ever since I was 16 years old and blew my first motor." Sometimes he did service calls and would give clients rides when he couldn't repair their cars on the spot.

On this early summer night, Byrd was giving a client, a man he says he had never met before, a ride in his Cadillac DeVille. Police pulled both of them out of the car and searched them. Byrd was clean, but in his passenger's pocket was a bag of heroin the size of a tennis ball.

The two were hauled off to the precinct house. Police released Byrd after a short stint in an interrogation room without charging him with a crime. But when Byrd went to retrieve his car, he found out the Chicago Police Department had seized and impounded it.

Byrd had run afoul of Chicago's aggressive vehicle impound program, which seizes cars and fines owners thousands of dollars for dozens of different offenses. The program impounds cars when the owner beats a criminal case or isn't charged with a crime in the first place. It impounds cars even when the owner isn't even driving, like when a child is borrowing a parent's car.

In total, Chicago fined motorists more than $17 million between March 2017 and March of this year for 31 different types of offenses, ranging from DUI to having illegal fireworks in a car to playing music too loud, according to data from the Chicago Administrative Hearings Department. About $10 million of those fines were for driving on a suspended license, and more than $3 million were for drug offenses like the one that resulted in the impoundment of Byrd's car. (See and download the data here.)

Chicago Vehicle Impound Fines in Dollars, March 2017—March 2018

The city says it is simply enforcing nuisance laws and cracking down on scofflaws. But community activists and civil liberties groups say the laws are predatory, burying guilty and innocent owners alike in debt, regardless of their ability to pay or the effect losing a vehicle will have on their lives.

"There's plenty of reason to be concerned that there's injustice being done to people who are mostly poor, people who aren't in a position to fight back," says Ben Ruddell, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois. "The city has been perpetuating an exploitative system, charging exorbitant fees in a way that it knows is likely to make it so folks never get their cars out of impoundment."

Byrd calls his car his "livelihood," and he has been fighting for close to two years now to recover it. He says he has $3,500-worth of tools locked in the trunk, and he can't retrieve them. In turn, the vast machinery of government has been working against him, adamant in its demand for his nonexistent money or his car.

The battle between Byrd and the governments of Cook County and the municipality of Chicago over his 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood DeVille, valued at $1,600, is a tangled story involving the drug war, the controversial practice of civil asset forfeiture, ailing city budgets, and the rapacious use of fines and fees to generate city revenue. It's a story of how bureaucracy is used to grind down people by distributing their misery among as many public offices as possible.

"I know I'm not the only person who's been done like this," Byrd says. "I'm the only person that's speaking out. This is really just a money game. The city's cash-strapped, and they're utilizing anything they can to get funds."

Spencer Byrd was a victim of years of fiscal negligence

The story of Spencer Byrd's Cadillac starts with Chicago's balance sheet. Like tens of thousands of other Chicagoans, Byrd was a victim of years of the city's fiscal negligence.

In 2007, Chicago's budget had a $94 million deficit. By the time current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011, after years of steadily rising structural deficits and a crippling recession, the city was facing a $650 million annual budget gap, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars in unfunded public pension liabilities.

Emanuel's solution has been to try and nickel-and-dime his way out of these massive budget gaps. The Emanuel administration has jacked up the costs on just about every minor tax, fine, and permit on the city's books: cigarette taxes, restaurant permits, valet and loading zone fees for businesses, cable television fees, mandatory vehicle stickers, towing fees, water and sewage, garbage collection, garage parking, even a fine for allowing weeds in one's yard to grow too tall. His most recent budget proposal increases taxes for Uber and Lyft rides, monthly telephone bills, and big-draw sports and music events.

At the same time, the city began aggressively pursuing debtors. "Moving forward there will be no more free rides, debt scofflaws will be found and they will pay what they owe the City," Emanuel announced in 2011 when unveiling his first city budget.

Chicago's impound code, and its zero-tolerance approach to the drug war, is particularly unforgiving compared to other cities.

Emanuel also precipitously raised the fines for unlawful drugs in a vehicle, from $500 to $2,000—$3,000 if the car is within 500 feet of a school. Littering, drag racing, playing music too loud, and possessing graffiti materials or illegal fireworks also all became impoundable offenses that carried similarly steep fines. Over the last 12 months the city issued $15,000 in impound fines for playing music too loud, according to city data.

Cracking down on such nuisance crimes is fairly common, but Chicago's impound code, and its zero-tolerance approach to the drug war, is particularly unforgiving compared to other cities.

If Byrd had been pulled over in Atlanta, no equivalent impound ordinance would have affected him. He might have been subject to state asset forfeiture laws covering narcotics, or had his car held for investigative purposes, but Atlanta police typically won't impound a car during an arrest when someone else can safely drive it away.

Both Atlanta and Los Angeles allow owners to retrieve their vehicles from impound if they show a valid license and insurance, can establish it was driven without their knowledge, or if they can present a court order. Last June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down L.A.'s automatic 30-day impound law for certain offenses, ruling that impounding innocent owners' cars—in this case a woman who loaned her car to her brother-in-law—was an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

Chicago, in contrast, has no such time limit and no accommodations for owners. Cars can be impounded indefinitely until the owner pays thousands of dollars in fines and fees, regardless of whether he or she was the one who committed an offense.

The result is a uniquely punitive impound system, in which Chicago profits off restricting the ability of its residents to drive. Chicago issued more vehicle violations per adult in 2016 than New York City or Los Angeles, raising $264 million in the process. Those violations can lead to license suspensions for unpaid fines and compliance violations.

That, in turn, creates another layer of fines: Chicago imposed an additional $10.7 million in impound fines over the past 12 months for driving on suspended licenses, according to data obtained by Reason. That number doesn't include impound storage fees, which can sometimes far exceed the total fine. A case sheet provided by a defense attorney shows one defendant had racked up nearly $16,000 in storage fees on top of a $2,000 narcotics fine by the time his or her case was finally decided.

As the number of tickets issued, licenses suspended, and fines imposed have swelled, so has citizen debt. Chicago leads the country in Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings. In 2017, according to ProPublica, more than 10,000 Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings in Chicago included debt to the city.

The state of Illinois goes to court against a 1996 Cadillac sedan

When Byrd explains his case to people he brings a leather binder stuffed with loose papers—letters, court filings, notices, and receipts telling a two-year-long story in the language of bureaucracy.

The paper trail begins 10 days after Byrd's car was first seized. On July 31, 2016, Byrd filed a property claim with the Cook County State's Attorney seeking release of his car. He listed it as a family heirloom, formerly the property of his late brother.

On August 29, 2016, Byrd received a notice from the Cook County State Attorney's Office that his car was subject to a pending civil forfeiture proceeding. The Cook County State's Attorney Office had filed a complaint against Byrd's car, seeking to have it forfeited to the state.

Because civil forfeiture operates under the legal fiction that it's an action against the property, not its owner, Byrd's case appeared on the docket as The People of the State of Illinois v. 1996 Cadillac Sedan.

(This quirk of American law has resulted in other notable cases such as United States v. Article Consisting of 50,000 Cardboard Boxes More or Less, Each Containing One Pair of Clacker Balls, United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, and United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins.)

It wasn't until November that Byrd had his first hearing in Cook County asset forfeiture court. He filed a handwritten financial hardship motion asking the court to release his car while his case was pending so he could continue to work.

"I'm in need of my auto because I'm a carpenter by trade, and this is my business," Byrd wrote. "My tools are in the 1996 Cadillac sedan. I used the auto to go to various jobs. Can't pay any bills because this is my livelihood. I would appreciate this for me and my children."

To show hardship, Byrd had to get a letter from his local carpenters union, prove ownership of the car, pay a $30 security deposit, and show current insurance on the car, which at that point he'd been unable to drive for close to six months.

A month later, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Margarita Kulys-Hoffman granted Byrd's motion over the objections of the state attorney's office. She ordered the Chicago Police Department to release Byrd's car.

However, when Byrd went to the Chicago Police Department, judge's order in hand, a strange thing happened. The city refused to release it, telling him he first had to pay the fines and fees that had been accumulating under Chicago's municipal code since June.

Byrd, who thought he was finally about to get a reprieve from this inscrutable system, was flabbergasted.

"How can a judge say to give this man his vehicle in writing, but the city of Chicago say, 'No, we want some money?'" Byrd says. "It's crazy. They're inside of the state but they want to make themselves outside of the rules."

Why Chicago doesn't have to obey an order from a state judge

Byrd's assessment is in fact close to the truth. Chicago quite literally plays by its own rules.

In 1971, Illinois voters approved a Home Rule amendment to the state constitution, giving counties and cities with populations over 25,000 authority to enact their own ordinances and levy taxes and fines. As a result, Illinois local governments have some of the broadest freedom in the country to manage their own affairs. It also means that, to the city of Chicago, the order releasing Byrd's car is just a piece of paper with a fancy seal on it. An Illinois state judge has no more authority to tell Chicago to release a lawfully impounded car to a debtor than the Queen of England.

Byrd's car was effectively being claimed by two entirely distinct layers of government. He would now have to fight a two-front war against the Cook County State Attorney's Office to stop it from taking his car through civil asset forfeiture, and Chicago's Department of Administrative Hearings, an "an independent quasi-judicial body" that handles matters related "to the public health, safety, welfare, morals and economic well being of the residents of the City of Chicago," according to its website.

Byrd filed a request to the department on December 15, 2016, to challenge the fines and fees. Four days later, he had his first hearing, where an administrative law judge found there was enough evidence to continue the case against him. By this point, his Cadillac had racked up $6,445 in storage fees.

So Byrd had to return to the state court judge to petition her to waive the storage fees, which would at least give him a shot at temporarily recovering his car while his cases were pending. The judge again waived the fees, but could do nothing about any fines imposed by the city. For that, she referred Byrd to Andrew Hemmer, an attorney for Cabrini Green Legal Aid who specializes in forfeiture and impound cases.

"It can't be overstated what a procedural and logistical nightmare it is to get a car impounded in the city of Chicago."

Civil asset forfeiture is often criticized by civil rights groups for being tilted against defendants.But compared to Chicago's vehicle impound process, it's a model of transparency and fairness. Hemmer says his clients often don't receive the impound notices the city is supposed to send out, putting them at risk of default judgment in their cases.

"Many of my clients get all the way to the end of the forfeiture case and win," Hemmer says, "but then they go to the city building, they're told they were mailed a default order a year ago, they owe a $2,000 fine, and we have to go challenge that, too."

City records back this up. Of the more than 27,000 impound violations brought to the Chicago Administrative Hearings Department over the 12 months reviewed by Reason, about 10,000 resulted in default judgments after owners failed to request hearings.

Hemmer says even other defense attorneys ask him for help understanding the process. "It's a confounding system," he says. "It can't be overstated what a procedural and logistical nightmare it is to get a car impounded in the city of Chicago."

Chicago's impound laws have no "innocent owner" defense

While Chicago has the freedom to depart from Illinois state law in its own code, those departures only go one way: making it easier for the city to win impound cases.

For example, under Illinois law, the state can't initiate asset forfeiture actions for marijuana offenses unless the drugs are over a certain weight threshold. This keeps state police from fishing for petty seizures, like taking someone's car for having a joint in the ashtray. Chicago's municipal code, on the other hand, has no such threshold, meaning any amount of drugs, no matter how small, can trigger an impound.

Documents provided by Hemmer in another case show one of his clients' cars was impounded for a plastic bag containing less than .1 grams of heroin—trace residue.

More importantly for Byrd and many other defendants, unlike under state law, there is no "innocent owner" defense in city impound laws. These provisions still put the burden of proof on owners to show their innocence, but at least offer an escape hatch.

Under Chicago's merciless municipal code, it doesn't matter if Byrd was unaware his passenger had heroin in his pocket. All the city has to prove is that it is more likely than not there were drugs in his car.

"For the drug cases," Hemmer says, "the first thing I tell all my clients is that if we go to the hearing, we're most likely going to lose."

At an administrative hearing, there's no right to an attorney

The next stop for Byrd was Room 110 in Chicago's Administrative Hearings Department. It's where quasi-judicial hearings for vehicle impounds in the city happen.

Room 110 is a small, shabby room on the department's first floor. The carpet is the color of old guacamole. There are three wooden benches for soon-to-be called defendants, cops, and lawyers. The administrative law judges that preside over the hearings are licensed attorneys hired by the city as independent contractors. They wear button-down shirts and ties instead of robes, and sit in three-quarters profile to the rest of the room, facing a desktop computer. A large printer next to the judge loudly dispenses justice after hearings, which last about 15 minutes a piece.

Here is how one case on a Friday afternoon in March went: On one side of the room is an attorney for the city of Chicago. Next to him is an officer from the Chicago Police Department.

On the other side of the room sits Dominique Bush, a 35-year-old cashier at a Dunkin' Donuts. Like most defendants who find their way to Room 110, Bush doesn't have a lawyer. Because these are administrative hearings, not criminal proceedings, she has no right to an attorney.

Administrative Law Judge Alfred Quijano carefully explains to Bush the structure of the hearing and what standard of evidence he will rely on to arrive at a decision. But it's a bit like explaining the principle of buoyancy to someone on a sinking ship.

The prosecution goes first. The police officer testifies that he pulled over a silver Dodge Caravan belonging to Bush on December 4, 2017. The driver, a man Bush says she's never met before, had a suspended license.

After the cop testifies and the prosecutor enters the accompanying police reports into evidence, it's Bush's turn. She says she dropped her van off at a mechanic to get it fixed. A couple days later, she got a call from the police saying it had been impounded.

"Unfortunately, that's not a defense," Quijano tells Bush. "If you had a theft report, that would be a different matter."

Claiming one's car was stolen is one of the only three viable defenses in a Chicago impound case, but it requires filing a theft report with the Chicago police within 24 hours, something no one has told Bush until this very moment.

What is she supposed to do now, Bush asks.

Quijano says Bush could try reporting the theft now, months later, but it's unlikely the police would allow it at this late date, he says. As for the fines, she could relinquish her car to the city.

The judge hands her a sheet of paper notifying her she has been found liable for allowing her silver Dodge Caravan to be driven on a suspended license, and has been assessed fines, as well as towing and storage fees.

One document—a theft report—might have saved her vehicle. But now she says she's stuck with a harsher penalty than the man who was driving her car: "His case was thrown out. There was no probable cause to stop him."

Bush looks at the sheet of paper the judge handed her. She now owes the city of Chicago $4,400 in fines and storage fees, the latter of which will keep accruing at $35 a day unless she pays up or relinquishes her car. She doesn't have it.

"What can I do but sign my vehicle over to the city so they can sell it and make some money off it?" she says. "I feel like that's what they wanted me to do anyway."

"This was a crime that happened to me, yet I still had to pay."

Once the hearings are over and appeals are exhausted, the only thing left for people like Bush to do is try and find a way to pay off the debt. For low-income individuals, this can be a years-long process that affects job opportunities, mobility, living situations, credit scores, and a host of other issues.

In 1995, Chicago resident Rosalva Nava was going through a divorce. Her soon-to-be ex-husband trashed her car and stole her license plates. Using her plates, he racked up $6,000 in tickets and moving violations under Nava's name before he was deported.

"I had the police reports," Nava says. "I showed them when he slashed my tires and broke my windows, but when I went to the city, they told me that because the car was in my name, I was responsible for it. That made me feel really upset because this was a crime that happened to me, yet I still had to pay."

Nava managed to scrape enough money together for a new car, but the first thing the city did was put a boot on it and impound it. Unable to even make a dent in the hefty fines, Nava lost her car, then her job, since she couldn't get to work.

And although relinquishing one's car to the city will stop storage fees from piling up, the profits Chicago makes from the sale of one's car do not count toward one's debts.

"When I volunteered at my daughter's school, they said, 'Hey, Rosalva, we have a job for you as a clerk,' but when I went to apply for the job, they told me that because I owed tickets I was unable to get it," Nava says. "That happened to me twice."

Residents used to be able to get their cars out of impound, at least temporarily, by filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It was a popular option in a system that didn't afford many others, but last year an Illinois state judge ruled that Chicago has what amounts to possessory lien on impounded property—basically a claim over the car as security for the payment of debt.

Debtors can also enter into payment plans with Chicago, but in Nava's case, the city wanted a $2,000 down payment first. She managed to negotiate down to $1,500.

It was a struggle for Nava, a single mother, to hold down part-time jobs, take care of her children, and pay rent, much less pay down her debts. She ended up moving into her parents' basement with her kids.

Debtors can have their wages garnished and be sent to debt collection, wrecking their credit score. Debts from tickets and fines also block residents from getting jobs with the city of Chicago, as Nava found out.

"When I volunteered at my daughter's school, they said, 'Hey, Rosalva, we have a job for you as a clerk,' but when I went to apply for the job, they told me that because I owed tickets I was unable to get it," Nava says. "That happened to me twice."

Last year, Nava was finally able to pay off the last of the ticket debt she had been saddled with 20 years earlier.

It didn't last long. Nava couldn't afford to renew her Chicago City Vehicle sticker—Emanuel hiked the price again this year—before it expired. Within a week, she had gotten two $400 tickets and a boot on her car.

Putting a stop to excessive city fines

Nava is now a co-chair of the STOP campaign, a project to reduce poverty by Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI). Earlier this year, COFI issued a report on debt, including the role of excessive city fines and fees in trapping low-income families in downward spirals. According to a survey on family finances in the report, 22 percent of respondents with annual incomes under $15,000 reported owing ticket debt to Chicago.

Among COFI's recommendations for lightening the debt load on low-income families are limiting driver's license suspensions to traffic violations, rather than non-moving violations; passing legislation to bar local governments from imposing high fees and debt collection procedures on those unable to pay; and conducting studies to ensure that fees and fines don't disproportionately hit low-income and minority residents.

Those changes would all happen at the city level. The Illinois legislature would have to pass a bill granting it sole jurisdiction over seized property to assert any authority over Chicago's impound codes, and that would likely require a supermajority of the state house and senate. State lawmakers and advocates briefly considered pushing for such a provision in the asset forfeiture bill passed last year, but it was shelved to keep an already tough-to-pass bill alive. (Chicago City Hall and the Administrative Hearings Department did not respond to requests for comment for this story.)

In June 2017, the Illinois legislature passed an asset forfeiture reform bill, strengthening the protections for property owners. Bipartisan pressure has led more than half of all U.S. states to pass some form of asset forfeiture reform in recent years, often over the staunch objections of law enforcement. But that won't help those already trapped in the system.

Illinois legislators introduced a bill earlier this year to end license suspensions for unpaid parking tickets, and Ruddell, the ACLU attorney, says he wants to take on impounds in the near future as well. He expects a fight.

"It's a racket Chicago's been able to maintain this long, and I don't expect they'll quietly roll over and quit doing it," Ruddell says. "The unfairness of it all is well documented, but it doesn't seem to be a concern to the folks at the city."

Meanwhile, the city is still struggling to balance its books. Last year, the Emanuel administration announced that its projected budget gap for 2018 had shrunk to $114 million, its lowest amount in nearly a decade. However, even if the economy stays strong, structural deficits are expected to increase again, to $212 million in 2019 and $330 million by 2020.

"I'm almost to the point of being homeless."

In February 2017, Byrd showed up at Room 110 for his second and final hearing before a Chicago administrative law judge. It did not go any better than Bush's. The judge, bound to the same standard, ruled there was probable cause that there were drugs in Byrd's car, and he was therefore liable for fines under the city code.

For what he said was nothing more than giving a client a ride, Byrd had spent the last six months carless, submitting claims and hand-written motions, hustling to court hearings, and scraping money together for filing fees. He convinced a state judge that he was financially dependant on his car to survive, only to have the Chicago government tell him that the court order in his hand didn't apply to the city code. He found a pro bono attorney, only to find that the city code was, by design, nearly impossible to beat. He had tried everything, gained nothing, and was still months away from any resolution in the state's attempt to forfeit his Cadillac.

"I can't understand it, because I'm almost to the point of being homeless," Byrd says. "If I was found guilty or in the wrong, do what you gotta do, but I was blind to the fact."

The piece of paper the administrative law judge handed Byrd informed him that his total fines and fees stood at $8,790. He only had one choice left.

For what he said was nothing more than giving a client a ride, Byrd had spent the last six months carless, submitting claims and hand-written motions, hustling to court hearings, and scraping money together for filing fees.

Byrd's lone remaining option was to file an appeal in Cook County Circuit Court. However, the appeal process is merely a review of the Administrative Hearing Department's decision, and the low evidentiary standards and strict laws make overturning a decision extremely difficult. Of the five impound cases that Hemmer has appealed, only one has been overturned.

Separately, Byrd's asset forfeiture case was still winding through the system. On August 10, 2017, more than a year after his car was first seized, Byrd had his day in Cook County forfeiture court.

The state judge found Byrd was an innocent owner. He did not know or have reason to know of drug activity, and his car was therefore exempt from forfeiture under state law. The judge released the state hold on his car and ordered towing and storage fees cut to $250.

With his state case finally wrapped up, Byrd had his appeal hearing in the city impound case on October 23, 2017. The judge affirmed the administrative decision, finding Byrd was liable under the city code, but also enforced the state court order waiving Byrd's towing and storage fees.

Today, Byrd's Cadillac still sits in a Chicago impound lot, where it will stay until he pays the $2,000 fine for having unlawful drugs in his car, or until he gives up.

The city moves to sell Byrd's car for scrap

The last, most recent paper in Byrd's leather binder is a pink notice dated February 9, 2018, informing him that the city of Chicago is planning on selling his Cadillac for scrap metal.

"You have failed to timely request a hearing to challenge the towing and storage fees, and have therefore waived your right to a hearing in accordance with Section 2-14-135 of the Municipal Code of Chicago," the notice stated. "This letter is to advise you that your vehicle will be disposed of in accordance with Section 9-92-100 of the Municipal Code of Chicago unless your vehicle is retrieved within 15 days of this notice."

Yet again, Byrd traveled to Chicago, went to the police station with his leather folder stuffed full of documents, and explained to the cop at the desk that he was still fighting his case. He managed to save his car, for a moment.

Byrd is currently working to get a sit-down meeting with someone at Chicago City Hall. He says they've offered him a phone call. But Byrd believes he's owed nothing less than a face-to-face with the city officials who've taken his livelihood.

"I have no background in drugs, no felonies, no nothing, just been working hard all my life," Byrd says. "I believe the city just wants you to throw money at them and not fight for what's right, and I'm fighting for what's right."

The problem is, there's not much room left for Byrd to fight. As he's learned the hard way, even when Chicago loses, it still wins.

25 Apr 12:41

China Automation

Tags: automation, china

1246 points, 79 comments.

25 Apr 12:38

Tying a tie in 5 moves

2783 points, 60 comments.

25 Apr 12:32

Wise dude explains “love”

Tags: deep, shit, n co

1961 points, 122 comments.

25 Apr 11:34

Fat Lama: The "Airbnb For Renting Almost Anything" Raises $10 Million

by Kitty Knowles, Forbes Staff
Need a drill for DIY, but don’t fancy splashing out hundreds on a Black & Decker? Rosie Dallas faced the same dilemma when doing up a coworking space back in 2016. This is why she launched Fat Lama: the "Airbnb to rent almost anything".
24 Apr 16:50

How to Get Amazon Packages Delivered to Your Car

by Jacob Kleinman

Amazon wants to get in your car. Unlike the company’s previous in-home delivery service, this move actually makes some sense. If you’re not comfortable letting a stranger into your house, but you also don’t want your packages to get stolen off the porch, then Amazon’s new In-Car deliveries are a decent compromise.


24 Apr 15:51

7 Books We’re Reading This Spring

by Monica Michael Willis
Seven of the season’s best new books.The Campout Cookbook This illustrated guide by food writers Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson offers plenty of practical “roughing it” tips, alongside 100-plus sophisticated takes on campfire fare, from Garlicky Grilled Artichokes to Brown Butter Toffee Blondies. ($20; Artisan)Saladish Even the most lettuce-averse can find comfort amid these 75 dishes—which incorporategrains, nuts, cheeses, and proteins—devised by Ilene Rosen, co-owner of R&D Foods in Brooklyn. Case in point: the Tex-Mex Cornbread Salad on page 73. ($25; Artisan) Jerky Charcuterie experts Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller, who founded California’s Fatted Calf butcher shops, tease the mystery out of making jerky through solid advice on equipment, techniques, and season-ings, as well as some two dozen methods for curing various meats. ($22; Ten Speed Press)Jam Session James Beard Award winner Joyce Goldstein details how to preserve Bing cherries, Meyer lemons, and 28 other fruits and vegetables, while also delivering a few frank opinions. (Pricey copper pans, she believes, don’t yield better jam.) ($25; Lorena Jones Books)Milk! Mark Kurlansky, the best-selling author of Cod and Salt, traces the 10,000-year-old cultural, economic, and culinary trajectory of this dietary staple, packing in dairy-centric recipes both ancient and modern. ($29; Bloomsbury)Buttermilk Graffiti For his second book, Korean-born chef Edward Lee crisscrossed the country in search of immigrant cooks reshaping our culinary landscape—swapping stories with a pair of Lebanese sisters-in-law who sell wigs and kibbeh in Mississippi; slurping noodle soup in a Brooklyn Uyghur café; and breaking the Ramadan fast with Syrian Muslims in Michigan. ($28; Artisan)Secrets of the Southern Table Atlanta chef Virginia Willis also explores the ways in which international flavors have influenced American cuisine, though her focus remains the South. She chronicles the region’s increasingly global food and farming scenes, and cooks up dishes both exotic (West African Chicken Stew) and classically Southern (Pimento Cheese Tomato Pie). ($30; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)The post 7 Books We’re Reading This Spring appeared first on Modern Farmer.
24 Apr 15:48

The Best Dark Web Websites You Won’t Find on Google

by Anya Zhukova

You’ve heard of it before. You’re probably curious about what it is. But chances are, you’re still on the edge about the whole thing.

We’re talking about the dark web—the mysterious part of the internet that isn’t for everyone. At least, that’s what you’ve probably heard.

There are many rumors about what it is and why people go on the dark web. However, it’s worth learning a thing or two about it. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find some of your new favorite sites there. Stick around and we’ll share some of the cool websites we’ve discovered in the hidden corners of the dark web.

Dark Web vs. Deep Web

Before you learn what exactly dark web is, it’s important to know what makes it different from its bigger brother, the deep web.

We’ve talked about deep web and why it’s important before. In a nutshell, deep web and dark web are two terms often confused for one another. When in reality deep web refers to anything on the web that can’t be found using a search engine. That includes emails in your Gmail account, direct messages on social networks, and even your Facebook photos that you marked as “private”.

Dark web, however, is just a sub-section of the deep web. Unfortunately, the dark web is responsible for the bad reputation the deep web has. Black markets selling illegal substances, grisly images, and even new identities for sale—just about every illegal thing can be found there.

At the same time, the dark web is well worth exploring (with caution). You just need to know what you’re doing.

Before You Dive Into the Dark Web

In order to access the sites that aren’t available on the so-called surface web, you’ll need to get two essential things ready: a VPN and Tor browser.

We strongly recommend shielding yourself with a VPN before you enter the dark web. For your security, first run your VPN, and only after a connection is established start the Tor Browser.

Don’t know which VPN is best for you? There are plenty of options out there, both free and paid, but our pick is ExpressVPN which comes with Tor support and three free months.

Now, get yourself the Tor browser. It’s a browser designed to help you access sites on the .onion network, and that’s where you’ll find the dark websites.

Even though VPN and Tor are quite powerful and should be enough to keep you safe while browsing the dark web, it won’t hurt to take more precautions. Disable your JavaScript, close all your software while on the dark web, and cover your webcam.

For beginner dark web users, we recommend a little extra reading in order to understand how this browser works and how to stay safe while using Tor.

A Note of Caution: Click With Care

Before you go on to the sites of the dark web, there’s one more thing to keep in mind. While browsing the deep web, be careful what you click. Even something as innocent as reading the descriptions of some sites can make you uncomfortable. Browse with a purpose and don’t give in to your curiosity here.

1. The Hidden Wiki

Dark Web Websites - The Hidden Wiki

Onion URL: http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

When you first start Tor browser, it won’t lead you to any particular .onion sites. Tor simple provides a safer (encrypted) way to access the normal web. In order to go on an .onion site, you’ll have to know it exists and its location. There are a few ways to find active .onion sites. One of them is using a directory of sites, like The Hidden Wiki.

The dark web will remind you of the old days of the internet. You can navigate your way around it using numerous indexes of sites. The Hidden Wiki is one of them. Here you’ll find a variety of links to different sources on the dark web. One thing to remember here is that it’s community-edited, so don’t take everything you see and read there to heart.

How you can make use of this: The Hidden Wiki is a good starting point for both dark web newbies and advanced users.

2. Sci-Hub

Dark Web Websites - Sci-Hub

Onion URL: http://scihub22266oqcxt.onion/

Sci-Hub is a platform with a mission to liberate scientific knowledge from all over the world. On Sci-Hub you will find around 50 million research papers that you can access for free. It was founded in 2011 by Alexandra Elbakyan from Kazakhstan.

That way, even if an institution or an individual doesn’t have sufficient funding, they can still get access to the world’s collective scientific knowledge. Who knows, maybe someday this resource will help end diseases, droughts, and hunger. If it hasn’t already.

How you can make use of this: Are you a science lover? Or have you been looking for some pretty specific information related to your research? Or maybe you just believe that knowledge should be free and accessible to everyone. Sci-Hub might be the place for you then.

3. Blockchain for Bitcoins

Dark Web Websites - Blockchain for Bitcoins

Onion URL: https://blockchainbdgpzk.onion/

If you don’t know how Bitcoin works or don’t own any crypto, feel free to skip this one. But for those interested, one of the most popular online Bitcoin wallets has an .onion URL (and even has an HTTPS certification for it).

How you can make use of this: If for some reason you want to hold your Bitcoins anonymously, this is the place for you.

4. SoylentNews

Dark Web Websites - SoylentNews

Onion URL: http://7rmath4ro2of2a42.onion/

SoylentNews is a news aggregate site where you can not only read but also discuss news pieces on science, politics, technology and else. The site is run by volunteers and it’s very much community-driven. Users can submit and moderate the stories and posts.

SoylentNews aims to provide a platform to find news and discuss the relevant topics freely, without censorship. They also state protecting freedom of press and freedom of speech as their main objectives.

How you can make use of this: You might find this site useful and refreshing if you feel you’re tired of mainstream media.

5. ProPublica

Dark Web Websites - ProPublica

Onion URL: https://www.propub3r6espa33w.onion/

ProPublica is probably the first major news outlet that launched a dark web version of their site back in 2016.

ProPublica is a non-profit news organization that aims to “expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism.” Why are they on the dark web? According to ProPublica, the main reason is to provide their readers with a more anonymous way of browsing the site.

How you can make use of this: If you already read ProPublica or are interested in investigative journalism, you may want to check out their podcast about why they joined the dark web and how the readers can benefit from it.

Still Scared of the Dark Web?

The dark web isn’t necessarily a shady place it’s cracked up to be. With certain precautions, and as long as you know where you’re going and what it is you’re looking for, you can enjoy both the content and anonymity that the dark web offers to its users.

If you feel you’re up for exploring the dark web a little more, make sure to check out more corners of the “hidden internet” that you might like.

24 Apr 15:47

DJI Tello: The Cutest Little Drone Ever, and Only $99 (Review & Giveaway!)

by Joe Coburn
Our verdict of the DJI Tello:
Tello is quite possible the cutest drone we've ever flown. There's no reason not to buy it, what are you waiting for?1010

Tello is the latest drone on the seemingly endless conveyor belt of new models being released, but this isn’t your standard drone by any means. Featuring a 720p camera, 10 minute battery life, and a $99 price point, Tello aims to set the standard for entry level drones.

Watch our video review below, and read on to see what we think of this tiny little drone. At the end of this review, we’re giving one these little cuties away to a lucky reader, so scroll down to find out how to enter!

DJI Tello Features and Specifications

Marketed as the “most fun drone ever”, Tello appears to have traded modern features such as a 4k camera or gimbal for a lower price point and enhanced safety features. Yes, that means you won’t be able to perform crazy drone projects with this particular model.

Ryze Tello Quadcopter RTF , FPV RC Drone with 720P HD Camera Live Video and VR, Powered by DJI Technology and Intel Processor, DIY Accessories, Stem Toy for Kids and Beginners(without Controller) Ryze Tello Quadcopter RTF , FPV RC Drone with 720P HD Camera Live Video and VR, Powered by DJI Technology and Intel Processor, DIY Accessories, Stem Toy for Kids and Beginners(without Controller) Buy Now At Amazon $99.00

With a 14-core Intel processor, Electronic Image Stabilization, a 5 MP camera, and collision detection, this drone still manages to pack in the tech–which is even more impressive given such a low purchase price.

Tello weighs just 2.8 ounces, and comes with four removable plastic propeller guards. Tello provides auto takeoff/landing, low battery protection, a vision positioning system, and failsafe protection.

All of these features are designed to make this little drone safer, more fun, and easier to fly for beginners. Measuring just 3.8 x 3.6 x 1.6 inches, you can easily fly this drone indoors. Unlike the ultra-cheap $10 tiny “toy” drones you may have seen on Amazon, this drone practically flies for you. Not only can it handle takeoff and landing, but it will hover in place, without you having to delicately balance the throttle—something only much larger drones could accomplish, until now.

If those features weren’t enough for you, you can code your own drone software applications using the free software development kit (SDK). Don’t worry if you don’t know how to code, as Tello can also be programmed using Scratch, a free program that allows you to develop programs using simple blocks.

No charger is included in the box, but you can charge the included battery using a micro-USB cable. Photos and Videos are streamed and saved onto your mobile device. There’s no microSD slot for longer flights, however.

If you’re not sure on your USB connectors, then take a look at our guide to USB cable types.

Tello is actually manufactured by Ryze Tech, with a little help from DJI and Intel. But don’t let that put you off. It’s truly remarkable how good this drone is, especially when you compare it to nearly anything else available at this price point.

First Flights

Flying Tello is very simple. You’ll be right at home if you’ve ever flown a DJI drone before. Using the Tello app, or optional hardware controller, you simply press a button to launch. You’ll need to perform a calibration routine for your first ever flight, however.

This calibration routine can take up to ten minutes, but realistically, this should be complete in less than five. This process is significantly faster on the larger and more expensive DJI drones, but it’s not a huge inconvenience.

You’ll have no problems flying this drone indoors, and it’s not too loud either. You’ll struggle to fly it outside on anything other than a summer day. The slightest breeze will soon carry it away.

The Tello app provides access to basic features such as VR mode, Wi-Fi settings, flight speed, and camera settings, but it’s not the most comprehensive app.

Flying Tello is just as simple as nearly any other drone ever made. By using the two virtual (or physical with the optional controller) joysticks, you can move the drone in all three axis, along with rotation. You can’t adjust the angle of the camera however–the lens is fixed on the main body, with no gimbal.

The included plastic prop guards are a necessity for indoor flights. Not only do these stop you smashing up your new toy, but they prevent you from potentially injuring a family member or pet. If you accidentally break a propeller, you’ll find a spare set included in the box.

You can remove these prop guards if you’d like to squeeze out a minute of so extra battery life. It’s probably safer to keep these on all of the time though.

Image Quality

Image quality is adequate, but if you consider how much this drone costs, you’ll likely be very happy. Slow motion options alongside 4k video (or even 1080p) are non-existent, which is hardly surprising. You won’t be filming the latest Netflix hit on the DJI Tello. But you will have fun, and in that regard, the camera is certainly able to keep up.

It does struggle in low light, which is disappointing considering you’ll be flying this indoors most of the time. However, the live feed on your mobile device is good enough to be usable most of the time.

Flips and Tricks

One area where Tello really shines is by performing flips and other complex flying stunts. This is something that the bigger drones such as the DJI Mavic Air cannot do!

Tello comes with 6 easy to use “special” flight modes:

  1. Flips: slide your finger on the screen to perform a flip in any direction.
  2. Circle: record a short video while flying in a circle.
  3. Throw & Go: throw the drone and it will automatically take off and stabilize.
  4. Up & Out: record a short video while flying upwards and backwards.
  5. 360: record a video while spinning 360 degrees in place.
  6. Bounce: automatically bounce up and down on a flat surface such as your hand.

Many of these flight modes are also available in larger drones such as the DJI Spark, but that model can’t do a flip!

Aside from “Throw & Go”, which is possible one of the coolest drone tricks to ever have been invented, many of these other tricks soon lose their magic. Many of the video tricks you can perform yourself with a little practice.

Code Your Own Drone

Possibly the biggest selling point of Tello is the ability to program your own tricks or flight patterns. If you’ve got the skills, you can download the free SDK, and begin coding immediately. The real trick however, is when you begin to code this drone using visual programming language Scratch.

Just by dragging and dropping a few colored blocks together, you can easily create a complex flight path. Whether this is a double backflip into a square holding formation, or a diamond shape perimeter patrol, it’s very cool to program on your computer, and then see the drone react.

You may find the coding style limiting and will soon tire of coding similar routines, but it’s still an incredible feature. If you’re looking to learn the basics of computer coding—even with a visual language, then you’ll have hours of fun with this little drone!

If you’ve never used Scratch before, then our guide to Scratch on the Raspberry Pi may come in handy.

Should You Buy The DJI Tello?

Ryze Tello Quadcopter RTF , FPV RC Drone with 720P HD Camera Live Video and VR, Powered by DJI Technology and Intel Processor, DIY Accessories, Stem Toy for Kids and Beginners(without Controller) Ryze Tello Quadcopter RTF , FPV RC Drone with 720P HD Camera Live Video and VR, Powered by DJI Technology and Intel Processor, DIY Accessories, Stem Toy for Kids and Beginners(without Controller) Buy Now At Amazon $99.00

The Tello is an amazing drone. Don’t let its diminutive size fool you, it’s got the power where it counts. If you’re looking to learn how to code, want a drone that you can fly indoors, or simply can’t afford the expensive price tag of the larger models, you won’t be disappointed with Tello.

If you’re looking for a drone that’s a bit bigger, maybe has a better battery life, or even 4k video, then don’t forget to read our reviews of the DJI Mavic Air or DJI Mavic Pro. These two drones are the “big brothers” to the tiny Tello!

Enter the Competition!

DJI Tello Giveaway
24 Apr 15:47

How to Hide and Unhide Anything You Want in Microsoft Excel

by Lori Kaufman

If you have a lot of data in a worksheet, or you’re working on a small screen, you can hide data on your spreadsheet to make it easier to view and analyze your data.

Today we’ll show you how to conceal different areas on your worksheets and hide the data.

How to Hide and Unhide Overflow Text

When you type text in a cell, and the text is wider than the cell, the text overflows into the adjacent cells in the row. If there is any text in the adjacent cell, the text in the first cell is blocked by the text in the adjacent cell.

You can solve this by having the text wrap in the first cell. But that increases the height of the entire row.

If you don’t want to show the overflow text, even when there is nothing in the adjacent cells, you can hide the overflow text.

Select the cell containing the text that’s overflowing and do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected cell(s) and select Format Cells.
  • Press Ctrl + 1.

Select Format Cells to hide overflow text in Excel

On the Format Cells dialog box, click the Alignment tab. Then, select Fill from the Horizontal dropdown list and click OK.

Select Fill under Horizontal on Format Cells dialog box in Excel

The overflow text in the first cell does not show even when there is nothing in the cell to the right.

Overflow text hidden in Excel

How to Hide and Unhide Comments

Comments in Excel allow you to annotate your worksheets. This is useful when collaborating on worksheets. You can set reminders or add notes for yourself or for others or explain formulas or how to use part of a worksheet.

You may want to hide comments if there are many on your worksheet. The comments could make it hard to read your data.

By default, cells with comments contain a small red triangle in the upper-right corner called a comment indicator. These indicators can also be hidden.

To hide a comment on an individual cell, select the cell and do one of the following:

  • Right-click the cell and select Show/Hide Comment.
  • Click Show/Hide Comment in the Comments section of the Review tab.

To show the comment again, select the same cell and select or click Show/Hide Comment again.

You can also show or hide comments on multiple cells by using the Shift and Ctrl keys to select the cells and then select or click Show/Hide Comment.

To show all comments at once, click Show All Comments in the Comments section on the Review tab. This option shows all the comments on all open workbooks. While this option is on, any workbooks you open or create will show all comments until you turn the option off.

Show All Comments in Excel

To hide both the comments and comment indicators, go to File > Options. Click Advanced on the left, then scroll down on the right to the Display section. Select No comments or indicators under For cells with comments, show. The indicators and comments are hidden, and the comments don’t display when you hover over cells.

To show the comments and indicators again, select one of the other two options under For cells with comments, show. You can also click Show All Comments in the Comments section of the Review tab.

The options under For cells with comments, show in the Excel Options and the Show All Comments option on the Review tab are linked. For more information about the behavior when hiding and showing comments, see our article about working with comments.

Hide comments and indicators in Excel

How to Hide and Unhide Certain Cells

You can’t hide cells themselves, but you can hide the contents of a cell. Maybe you have some data referenced by other cells that does not need to be seen.

To hide the contents of a cell, select the cell(s) you want to hide (use Shift and Ctrl to select multiple cells). Then, do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected cell(s) and select Format Cells.
  • Press Ctrl + 1.

Select Format Cells to hide a cell in Excel

On the Format Cells dialog box, make sure the Number tab is active. Select Custom in the Category box.

Before changing the Type, note what’s currently selected. This way you know what to change it back to when you decide to show the content again.

Enter three semicolons (;;;) in the Type box and click OK.

Enter three semicolons (;;;) on the Format Cells dialog box in Excel

The contents in the selected cells is now hidden, but the value, formula, or function in each cell still displays in the Formula Bar.

The hidden content is still available to use in formulas and functions in other cells. If you replace the content in a hidden cell, the new content will also be hidden. The new content is available for use in other cells just like the original content.

To show the content in a cell again, follow the same steps above. But this time, choose the original Category and Type for the cell on the Format Cells dialog box.

Cell contents hidden in Excel

How to Hide and Unhide the Formula Bar

When you hide a cell, as described in the previous section, you can still see the contents, formula, or function in the Formula Bar. To completely hide the contents of a cell, you must hide the Formula Bar also.

On the View tab, uncheck the Formula Bar box in the Show section.

Hide the Formula Bar using the View tab in Excel

You can also hide the Formula Bar on the Excel Options dialog box.

Go to File > Options. Then, click Advanced on the left and uncheck the Show formula bar box in the Display section on the right.

Hide the Formula Bar using Excel Options

How to Hide and Unhide Formulas

By default, when you enter a formula in a cell, the formula displays in the Formula Bar and the result displays in the cell.

If you don’t want others to see your formulas, you can hide them. One way is to hide the Formula Bar using the method in the previous section. But anyone can show the Formula Bar again.

You can securely hide a formula in a cell by applying the Hidden setting to the cell and then protecting the worksheet.

Select the cell(s) for which you want to hide the formula(s) and do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected cell(s) and select Format Cells.
  • Press Ctrl + 1.

Select Format Cells to hide formulas in Excel

On the Protection tab, check the Hidden box. Then, click OK.

Check the Hidden option in Excel

You still need to protect the sheet to hide the formulas.

Click Protect Sheet in the Protect section on the Review tab.

Click Protect Sheet in Excel

On the Protect Sheet dialog box, make sure the Protect worksheet and contents of locked cells box is checked.

In the Password to unprotect sheet box, enter a password to prevent others from unprotecting the worksheet. This is not required, but we recommend it.

By default, Select locked cells and Select unlocked cells are checked in the Allow all users of this worksheet to box. You can check boxes for other actions you want to allow users of your worksheet to perform, but you may not want to if you don’t want other users to change your worksheet.

Enter your password again on the Confirm Password dialog box.

Protect Sheet dialog box in Excel

The formulas in the selected cells do not show in the Formula Bar now. But you still see the results of the formulas in the cells, unless you’ve hidden the contents of those cells as described in the “How to Hide and Unhide Certain Cells” section above.

To show the formulas again, select the cells for which you want to show the formulas and click Unprotect Sheet in the Protect section of the Review tab.

If you entered a password when protecting the sheet, enter the password on the Unprotect Sheet dialog box that displays. If you didn’t protect the sheet with a password, no further prompts display.

Click Unprotect Sheet in Excel

The formulas won’t show just yet. You must turn off the Hidden setting for them.

Select the cells for which you hid the formulas and do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected cell(s) and select Format Cells.
  • Press Ctrl + 1.

Uncheck the Hidden box on the Protection tab and click OK.

The formulas for the selected cells will now be visible in the Formula Bar again if you haven’t hidden the Formula Bar.

Uncheck Hidden option in Excel

How to Hide and Unhide Rows and Columns

If you want to remove one or more rows or columns from a worksheet, but you don’t want to delete them, you can hide them.

To hide one or more consecutive rows, first select the rows. Then, do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected rows and select Hide.
  • Press Ctrl + 9.

Hide rows in Excel

The selected rows are replaced with a double line in the row headings and a thick line where the rows were. When you click anywhere else on the worksheet, the thick line goes away. But you can tell where the hidden rows are by the missing row numbers and the double line in the row headings.

Cells in hidden rows and columns can still be used in calculations in other cells and can perform calculations on other cells while hidden.

Rows hidden in Excel

To unhide consecutive rows, select the rows above and below the hidden rows. Then, do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected rows and select Unhide.
  • Press Ctrl + Shift + 9.

Unhide rows in Excel

What if you hide the first row? This method of unhiding doesn’t work on the first row of a worksheet because there is no row above the first row.

To select the first row, click in the Name box to the left of the Formula Bar, type in “A1”, and press Enter. Then, press Ctrl + Shift + 9.

Unhide the first row in Excel

Hiding columns work like hiding rows. Select the column or consecutive columns you want to hide, and do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected columns, and select Hide.
  • Press Ctrl + 0 (zero).

The same double line and thick line you see when hiding rows display in place of the hidden columns. The column letters are also hidden.

To show the columns again, select the columns to the left and right of the hidden columns. Then, do one of the following:

  • Right-click on the selected columns and select Unhide.
  • Press Ctrl + Shift + 0 (zero).

If you’ve hidden the first column (A), you can unhide it like you do for when you hide the first row. To select the first column, click in the Name box to the left of the Formula Bar, type in “A1”, and press Enter. Then, press Ctrl + Shift + 0 (zero).

Hide columns in Excel

If you’ve hidden a lot of rows and columns, you can unhide all the hidden rows or columns at once.

Select the entire worksheet by clicking in the box between the row and column headers or pressing Ctrl + A. Then, press either Ctrl + Shift + 9 to unhide all the hidden rows or Ctrl + Shift + 0 (zero) to unhide all the hidden columns.

You can also right-click on the row or column headers while the entire worksheet is selected and select Unhide.

Select entire worksheet in Excel

Show Only the Data You Want to Show in Excel

Hiding data is a simple but useful skill to learn in Excel, especially if you plan to use your worksheets in a presentation. Enter all the data you need, even if you only need some data for calculations or some is sensitive or private.

24 Apr 15:46

The 3 Best Ways to Scan Your Old Photos (And Why You Should)

by Briallyn Smith

Are you staring down at boxes in your attic filled with old photos? The memories are priceless, but the practical aspects of keeping, maintaining, and sorting through old photo albums can be daunting.

Thankfully there are a number of great solutions out there for digitizing prints. But what’s the best way to scan old photos? Well that depends on the number of old photos you have, your budget, what you intend to do with the photos, and how much free time you have.

Why You Should Scan Old Photos

Taking the time to turn your treasured physical photographs into digital copies isn’t as easy as leaving them in a photo album or box. Even if you love to shoot with film, or hold physical memories in your hands, there are a number of reasons why you may want to consider this option.

  1. It’s easy to damage physical photos. Water damage, discoloration, and accidental tears are all legitimate concerns that could ruin your treasured photos forever. Making digital copies allows you to make as many backups as needed—so you never have to worry about losing your entire family history in the event of a flood or fire.
  2. Photo albums, frames, and storage boxes can take up a lot of space in your home. On the other hand, you can store hundreds of thousands of digital copies on a single external hard drive the size of a deck of cards.
  3. Family photos are meant for sharing. Having digital copies ensures that no one has to go without favorite childhood memories—every family member can have access to every photo ever taken.
  4. Digital photos allow you to correct blemishes, adjust lighting, or crop out ex-boyfriends as needed. These adjustments simply can’t be made to the same extent on physical photos, and you want your treasured photos to look their best.

In all honesty, everyone should consider scanning in at least some of their old photos. It may take some time or money to kickstart the process, but the benefits of having old photos protected, shared, and edited completely outweigh the costs.

And you can always start small with your most treasured photos—you don’t need to scan in your entire collection at once.

Option 1: Scanning Old Photos at Home

Financial Investment: Low-to-Moderate
Time Investment: High

Settle in for a couple of long afternoons. Scanning in your photos at home on a scanner is time-consuming, but also gives you complete control over how your photos are organized, scanned, and stored. Plus it can be a lot of fun to re-live old memories.

What Kind of Scanner to Use When Scanning Old Photos

There are a lot of different scanners out there, with a wide range of prices and features.

As a rule, it’s generally best to consider a flatbed scanner, as they are least likely to damage your delicate photos. Basic options like the Canon CanoScan LiDE220 or the Epson Perfection V39 are a great way to scan photos up to 8×10 in size without breaking the bank.

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If your budget is a little higher, you may prefer purchasing a scanner that can scan your old negatives and slides as well as printed photos. The Epson Perfection V600 and Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII both offer these features as well as some additional perks like automatic color correction and zero warm-up time.

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Willing to pay top dollar? Some scanners, like the Epson FastFoto FF-640 are designed specifically to scan stacks of 4×6 photos at high speeds with good quality. While this printer isn’t a flatbed scanner, the mechanism for its automatic feed is designed to be gentle on older prints.

A more portable and less expensive automatic feed photo scanner is the Kodak 4×6 P461, which scans photos and negatives directly to an SD card.

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Strategies for Scanning Old Photos at Home

If you’ve never undertaken a large-scale scanning project like this, there are some important guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Be organized. Go into this process with a plan of attack. Are you going to scan photos chronologically? In order of importance? How are you going to organize them on your computer or external hard drive? Consider coming up with a system for naming and sorting files so that it’s easy to find the photos you are looking for. You may also want to consider strategies for keeping track of who is in each photo.
  • Be selective. Think about how many photos you take on your phone that you delete immediately. You don’t need to save every photo you’ve ever taken. Only scan the ones that are important to you.
  • Be careful. Wipe dust off of your photos and from your scanner using a non-abrasive cloth. This ensures that your picture is as clear as possible, without any annoying dust specks. And if you’re using a scanner that doesn’t show you a preview of your photos, check in on your scans every hour or so to ensure that they are scanning and saving properly.
  • Check Your Settings. All scans are not created equal. For scanning photos you’ll want to use a minimum quality setting of 300dpi (but consider going as high as 600dpi if you’re planning on enlarging any photos). As well, even if you are scanning in black and white or sepia photos, choosing to scan in color will give you the best opportunities to make edits and modifications to your digital photos.
  • Be prepared. You’re likely going to spend more than a few hours with these photos. Why not put an addictive show like Black Mirror on in the background, listen to your favorite music on Spotify, or surround yourself with friends and family for a photo scanning party and share memories as you dig through your photos.

Option 2: Using an App to Scan Old Photos

Financial Investment: Low
Time Investment: Moderate

If you just need a way to quickly scan old photos to digital, you may not want to invest any money in a scanner. Or maybe you’re at a family member’s home and only have access to your phone.

Sure, you could always just take a photo using your phone’s camera app. But then you’re at risk of creating shadows, distortion, and glare. These apps help to remove these features and guide you through the scanning process.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that one of the best app options out there is Google’s free PhotoScan app. The app takes multiple photos of each print to improve quality, remove glare, and correct any distortion. And better yet, the app can be completely integrated with all the great Google Photos features you already know and love.

Download: PhotoScan for iOS | Android (Free)

Not sure you want to go with Google? Consider these alternatives:

Download: Photo Scanner Plus by Photomyne for iOS ($0.99)
Download: Photo Scanner Plus by Photomyne for Android (Subscription required)
Download: Memories by IdeaSolutions for iOS (Free)
Download: Pic Scanner by AppInitio Ltd. for iOS ($1.99)

Option 3: Photo-Scanning Services

Financial Investment: High
Time Investment: Low

Of course, the easiest way to tackle this project is to simply hire a photo-scanning service. While this is an amazing way to decrease the amount of time involved in this project, it does come with some downsides.

You will have to send away your family photos to a stranger, often trusting the mail system with some of your most precious memories. In addition, a stranger will be seeing every photo that you send to them (so you may want to do an initial sort first anyways). You will also lose some control over how your photos are organized.

Some options for companies that offer this service include:

Scan Cafe

Cost per photo: 33 cents per printed photo up to 8×10″. Every photo receives color correction and editing by hand.

Formats Supported: Photos, negatives, slides, film/video.

Additional Services: If you have a lot of photos to scan, and don’t mind some extra wait time, the Value Kit pricing option may be right for you. Option to review your scans before purchasing, expedited services.


Cost per photo: 39 cents per printed photo up to 8×10″ plus shipping. Pricing for other formats may vary.

Formats Supported: Photos, slides, negatives, film, videotape.

Additional Services: Color correction, dust removal, rush services.

Scan My Photos

Cost per photo: 16 cents per photo, but additional services (e.g. image rotation, higher dpi, color correction) are extra.

Formats Supported: Printed photos, film, negatives.

Additional Services: Option to pay $145 for a prepaid photo scanning box, international shipping, rush services.

Stay Local

When choosing a service to scan your photos for you, don’t forget about your local photography studio. While not all locations will offer this service (and their prices may be higher) this option may offer you some peace of mind. This can also be a more timely option if you only want a few scanned photos, and want them to be at a high quality.

What to Do Next After Your Photos Are Scanned

No matter how you choose to digitize old photos, the end result will be more space in your home, memories that are safe from harm, and a sense of relief. Now that you have all of these fantastic digital images, your options are endless.

You can send copies of your photos to family and friends, create a slideshow for your next family event, and share any great awkward photos online for instant likes and comments. Or, if you really want to show them off, consider creating a digital photo book that you can display without risking damage to precious originals.

24 Apr 15:45

7 Types of Ransomware That Will Take You by Surprise

by Christian Cawley

You know how it goes: you’re browsing the web, or checking an email, when all of a sudden a message pops up. Your computer, and the data on it, is locked—encrypted by ransomware. Access is denied until you pay the ransom.

Most people know the procedure with ransomware, which is why the criminal coders behind it are finding new and inventive ways to make you pay up. Here are some new types of ransomware that you should be aware of.

1. Talking Ransomware

If your computer is infected with the Cerber ransomware (typically via an email attachment posing as a Microsoft Office document), your data will be encrypted, with each file given a new file extension: .cerber.

Note: Unless you’re in Russia or the Ukraine, or other former USSR nations, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan. If you are situated in these locations, the Cerber ransomware will deactivate.

You’ll know that you’re infected by Cerber as a notice will appear on your desktop. Furthermore, instructions on how to pay will be found in every folder, in TXT, and HTML format. You’ll also find a VBS file (Visual Basic Script) which, when opened, will dictate instructions to you. That’s right: this ransomware talks you through how to pay the ransom and decrypt your data.

2. Play Our Game… Or Else

In April 2018, we saw the PUBG Ransomware which took a different approach to holding your computer to ransom. Rather than demand money for your locked files, the coder behind this odd piece of malware gives you a choice:

  • Play the videogame PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (available for $29.99 on Steam).
  • Just paste this code we’ve provided on-screen for you, you’re good.

It is, in effect, unmalware. Although potentially annoying, and appearing to be actual ransomware, the PUBG Ransomware appears to be nothing more than an elaborate promotional tool, no doubt conceived to gain a few column inches for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

Doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Well, apart from the fact that it certainly does encrypt your files, and rename the file extensions (to .pubg). In short, if you found yourself torn between pasting some code and buying a three-star PvP shooter, you should probably take action. If this was real ransomware, you’d be paying out at least ten times the amount.

Unfortunately, this is one of the only types of ransomware that’s this easy to defeat.

3. I’ll Delete One File at a Time

Jigsaw deletes your files, one by one.

As if it wasn’t bad enough having all your data locked in an unknown state of existence, the Jigsaw ransomware takes the scam further. Originally known as “BitcoinBlackmailer,” this ransomware gained a new name thanks to the appearance of Billy the Puppet, as seen in the Saw “torture porn” movie series.

Jigsaw ransomware
Image Credit: Wikimedia

First spotted in April 2016, Jigsaw spread through spam emails and infected attachments. When activated, Jigsaw locks the user’s data and the system Master Boot Record (MBR), then displays the attached message.

This is essentially a threat: if the ransom isn’t paid (by Bitcoin) within an hour, a file will be deleted from your computer. For every hour you delay, the number of files that are deleted increases, considerably reducing your odds in this encryption lottery. Oh, and rebooting, or attempting to terminate the process (Jigsaw poses as the Mozilla Firefox browser, or Dropbox in the Windows task manager) results in 1000 files being deleted.

One last thing: later versions of Jigsaw threatens to dox the victim if they don’t pay up. By incentivizing the victim through menaces, this type of ransomware has changed the malware game.

4. Oh, You Paid Already? Tough

We’re familiar with how ransomware works. You get infected with malware that encrypts your vital data (or entire computer), then forces you to pay a ransom to unlock. Your files are then back in your hands via a decryption key. Right?

Usually, but not with Ranscam.

Just when you thought everything was straightforward with ransomware comes an example that just takes the money and runs. Oh, and they don’t even bother to encrypt your data as part of the pretense—your data is deleted.

Gone forever.

While most ransomware scams are clearly written by experts, some doubt has been cast over the proficiency of the hand behind Ranscam. Less sophisticated than other types of ransomware, Ranscam is nevertheless effective. The more notorious Petya ransomware strain was also known to obliterate data, rather than return access to the user.

5. Yes, We Locked Your TV

In June 2016 it was discovered that the FLocker ransomware (ANDROIDOS_FLOCKER.A) that had previously hit Android phones and tablets, had evolved. Android-powered Smart TVs were added to its list of targets.

You may have already heard of FLocker, even if you don’t know its name. It’s one of the ransomware types that displays a “law enforcement” warning, informing you that illegal material has been viewed on your system. It’s also targeted at Western Europe and North American users; in fact, anyone who isn’t in Russia, Ukraine, or any of the other former USSR nations.

Payment is demanded via iTunes vouchers (often the target of scammers), and once received, control of your Android phone or TV is returned to you.

6. We Really Locked Your Data, Honest!

Amazingly (or perhaps not, when you think about it) there are ransomware strains that don’t actually do anything at all. Not in the same way as PUBG Ransomware; no, these examples are simply fake popups, claiming to have control of your computer.

This type of ransomware is easy to deal with, but the power of the  concept is enough for these examples to be profitable. Victims pay up, completely unaware that they had no need to do so. Their data was not encrypted.

Such ransomware attacks typically come as a browser window popup. It appears that you cannot close the window, and that any message to the effect of “your files are encrypted; pay $300 in Bitcoin” is the only solution.

If you want to check if the ransomware you’ve been hit by is genuine, and not a cheap(er) scam, try closing the window. In Windows, use Alt + F4. It’s Cmd + W on Mac. If the window closes, update your anti-virus software immediately and scan your PC.

7. Ransomware in Disguise

Finally, it’s worth looking at some of the ways ransomware can deceive through appearance. You already know that fake email attachments are used to deliver ransomware to computers. In this situation, attachments appear as legitimate DOC files, sent with spam emails claiming that you owe money; the attachment is the invoice. Once download, your system is compromised.

Other disguises are used, however. For instance, the DetoxCrypto ransomware (Ransom.DetoxCrypto) claims to be the popular Malwarebytes Anti-Malware software, albeit with a slight name change (“Malwerbyte”). Then there’s the Cryptolocker variant (CTB-Locker) that pretends to be a Windows Update.

Thought you’d seen it all from ransomware? Think again! Scammers will stop at nothing to grab the contents of your wallet, and they’re coming up with new types of ransomware all the time.

If you’re concerned about being held to ransom, see our guide for steps on defending yourself against ransomware. Too late? Perhaps one of these tools can be used to break the ransomware encryption for you.

24 Apr 15:39

Your timeline/Download FB data/Quotables

by claudia

Where Were You on October 21, 2012?
I’m not surprised that Google has been tracking my every move since 2009. I’m sure I allowed it when I accepted its terms of service at some point. What is surprising is being able about to browse this timeline of my location on a world map. This Google page has day-by-day reports of you where you where, the paths you traveled, the restaurants and stores you visited, and any geotagged photos you took on any given day. You can even edit the information if its incorrect. Wow! — MF

Downloading my Facebook data
I’m keeping my Facebook account, but for educational purposes I downloaded all the data Facebook has on me. I highly recommend you do the same, just so you know what the bargain is. Start with this link, follow the directions. You’ll get an email with a new link that will enable you to download a zip file. The folder with the most goodies is the Index page. Go back and adjust your privacy settings as desired. — KK

Something I read recently that has stayed with me is the mantra, “You are partly right — When someone congratulates you or criticizes you, you can use this mantra.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love)

Other quotables from which I am finding inspiration:

“If you limit yourself only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” — Anaïs Nin

“When you let go of who you wish you were, you reclaim your power to be radiantly, magnetically, and creatively who you are.” — HeatherAsh Amara, Warrior Goddess Training

“Nostalgia may be the most tempting and deceptive form of opposition to change.” — Gloria Steinem, Doing Sixty & Seventy
— CD

Good cheap tablet stand
The $9 AmazonBasics Adjustable Tablet Stand was just what I was looking for in a kitchen countertop iPad stand. It’s made of sturdy plastic, adjusts quickly, and doesn’t skid or wobble. It can hold any size tablet — even smartphones. — MF

Motion sensing light bulbs
Motion sensing lights are a rapidly evolving product. Nowadays the motion sensors are built right into the LED light bulb itself; no clunky hardware or switches. The same sensors in the bulb detect night/day. So the bulbs only turn on in the dark with motion of a body, and can be used in any socket. They can be placed outside with a little protection. I’ve been trying out the various Chinese-made versions. This one by Luxon costs about $9 and works good enough in our garage, hallway and porch. — KK

Organize bookmarks bar
I used a link from this page and dragged vertical lines into my bookmarks bar to separate and group related links. This works best if you’ve created an icon-only bookmarks bar and move all your your folders off to the side. — CD

24 Apr 15:24

Great exodus out of America's blue cities...

Great exodus out of America's blue cities...

(Second column, 5th story, link)

24 Apr 15:01

Sears Catalog Mishap House in Savannah, Georgia

Upside-down windows on the first floor.

Savannah, Georgia, may have been the first planned city in the state (which was technically still a colony at the time), but not all of its historic homes were quite as well thought out. Take for example, the peach-colored house with green shutters at 32 Habersham Street.

Look at the house, and you'll notice its windows have a unique decorative style to them. Peer a bit closer, and you'll realize it's because they were installed upside-down. 

How did this oddity occur? Blame it on the Sears catalog craze. Long before the advent of the internet, the Sears catalog provided people all over the United States with a single source for all of their mail-order shopping. You could purchase just about anything through the catalog, including, apparently, DIY home construction kits.

Clearly, the builder of this particular Sears catalog home misread the instructions, installing all of the windows on the front upside-down. But thankfully, what might have been an architectural embarrassment has instead been embraced by the city as another quirky point of interest.

24 Apr 13:09

How I live with a tiny fridge

by Kate Dries on The Takeout, shared by Alice Bradley to Lifehacker

The apartment was small, as studios are—about 250 feet, or so I was told. It was trapezoidal, making it difficult for me to imagine how my furniture could be shoved into its non-90-degree-angled corners. It was on a major thoroughfare, so I stood in the room with the windows wide open for several minutes, awkwardly…


24 Apr 13:07

Evan Davis

"Someday we'll look back on this moment and plow into a parked car."
24 Apr 12:39

Missing From Your Job Description

by swissmiss

– Add energy to every conversation
– Ask why
– Find obsolete things on your task list and remove them
– Treat customers better than they expect
– Offer to help co-workers before they ask
– Feed the plants
– Leave things more organized than you found them
– Invent a moment of silliness
– Highlight good work from your peers
– Find other great employees to join the team
– Cut costs
– Help invent a new product or service that people really want
– Get smarter at your job through training or books
– Encourage curiosity
– Surface and highlight difficult decisions
– Figure out what didn’t work
– Organize the bookshelf
– Start a club
– Tell a joke at no one’s expense
– Smile a lot.

As someone who runs companies with a high level of trust and as someone who cares about people stepping into their own, this list of missing items from your job description makes my heart sing. Thank you Seth Godin.

24 Apr 12:35

Shift list: All the new cars you can buy with a manual transmission

by Joel Stocksdale

Filed under: Car Buying

The overarching trend of the past few years has been that the manual transmission is on the way out. People like automatics, they can be faster than manually shifting, and they're frequently better at saving fuel. But there's still a sizable enough minority of manual fans and buyers that automakers continue to offer a manual in nooks and crannies of the automotive market. And you might be surprised at some of the offerings. We certainly were, so we thought we'd compile a list of cars with an ava

Continue reading Shift list: All the new cars you can buy with a manual transmission

Shift list: All the new cars you can buy with a manual transmission originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 24 Apr 2018 08:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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23 Apr 17:43

Warrior Workout: The Roman Legion

by Veronica Seder
Featured roman legion header

We teamed up with the guys at Myles Apparel to bring you a modern re-boot of the training regimen of one of history’s most hardcore military: the Roman Legion. Hats off to you if you make it through this one.

Photo: Ambamja via Reddit 

2000 years ago you could travel from Morocco to Northern England using one currency and carrying one passport. The men routinely making that trek (protecting the land in grueling conditions while hauling weighted packs) were some of the fiercest warriors of all time: the Roman Legion.  

The Romans’ knack for technological innovation, renowned physical perseverance, and incomparable military strategy set up the unstoppable empire to rule the entire Mediterranean region for thousands of years. No small feat.

So what made these guys so powerful? To start, the Roman Legion’s absolute baseline for entry was an incredibly strenuous, arduous routine. “The green recruits who were successfully enlisted as legionaries had to go through a training period of 4 months. During this training ambit, each soldier was given the unenviable task of marching [18 miles] in five hours with regular steps, and then [21.7 miles] in five hours with faster steps – all the while carrying a backpack that weighed 45 lbs.” (More facts like this at Realm of History.)

Photo: Beasts of War

Part of the Roman Legion’s military strategy was to normalize this type of grueling effort — covering long stretches of land with back-breakingly heavy loads — so that when, say, Julius Caesar planned to seize the final city standing between him and conquering France, his team of Romans were more than ready. And we all know how that battle ended (if you don’t, here’s a quick refresher of the Gallic Wars).

It’s not hard to connect the dots from the Roman Legion’s rigorous rounds to today’s military boot camps. From the Chronicles of Fitness: “If we look at combat athletes today we see a similar way of training. These folks do a lot of wide ranging foundation work and focus it toward their specific skills of combative arts. Regardless of being a specialist, these folks work on expanding their base, sealing cracks from the ground up.”

For the Roman Legion, it was all about creating a strong foundation — sealing up the cracks in order to create an impenetrable force. Read on for our modern take on the Roman Legion workout, designed to set you up with the moves you need to keep your personal foundation in check.

The Roman Legion Workout


Here’s how it works. You’ll go on a run or hike and level it up by stopping every two minutes to complete a series of exercises, all while wearing a weighted pack. There are three exercises total, and you’ll cycle through them one at a time (one every two minutes).

To get started, load up a backpack with anything heavy you have handy (we like to fill up a few water bottles). The legionaries marched with 45 pounds on their backs, but you may want to start with less than that. When in doubt, start with about 20 pounds and add more if that’s not challenging enough.

Begin with a brisk walk or light jog, and stop every two minutes to perform one of the exercises below, cycling through the circuit as you go.  

Figure out a distance that works for you and feel free to mix it up — the workout can be done as part of a hike, run, or even a walk.

1. Weighted Push-Up



• Complete 10 reps while wearing your backpack

• To make it more challenging, elevate your feet on a bench or rock

• Continue on your run for two minutes before stopping for exercise 2

2. Squat & Press


• Hold your backpack at chest level and complete a squat

• As you return to a standing position, lift the pack over your head

• Complete 10 reps

• Continue on your run for two minutes before stopping for exercise 3

3. Lunges


• Complete 10 reps alternating legs (5 reps per leg) while wearing your pack

• Continue on your run for two minutes before stopping for exercise 1

[Editor’s note: Looking for more military-inspired workouts? Check out The Challenge from our friends at GORUCK. Need a break from all the sweating? Listen to this Art of Manliness podcast episode about how the Romans’ veneration of their mythic past played out on the battlefield.]



23 Apr 17:33

How to Make Picon Punch

by Veronica Seder
Featured picon punch cover photo

As a native of Reno, Nevada, I distinctly remember the first time I ever ordered a Picon Punch. The drink is foreign to even niche cocktails bars, but in northern Nevada the notoriously bitter cocktail is an unquestioned tradition from the area’s vibrant Basque heritage. Nowhere is the drink more celebrated than at Louis’ Basque Corner, which has served them in downtown Reno since 1968, and the spot where I had my first Picon a few years ago.


As a novice, I downed the last of the rich reddish-brown concoction and an old-timer watching across the bar beamed as I grimaced. “The first two are the Picon, the third is the punch!” he hollered. Not one to break from tradition, I ordered another two and spent the rest of the night (and the next morning) taking the saying to heart.

Picon Punch gets its name from its use of Amer Picon, an herbal orange peel liqueur (once touted as a treatment for Malaria) that originated in France, and is especially popular in the Basque country between France and Spain. Mixed with grenadine and brandy, the drink is tart, earthy and bracing — equally suited to fighting off a winter chill as it is refreshing in the summer — and has a surprisingly long history in the American West.

Mixed with grenadine and brandy, the drink is tart, earthy, and bracing — equally suited to fighting off a winter chill as it is refreshing in the summer — and has a surprisingly long history in the American West.

“There were Basque coming in around the early 1900s,” said Gaven Sarratea, a bartender at Louis’ whose father immigrated to America from the Basque country in 1968 as a sheepherder. “They basically took that aperitif and added more booze to it and hence comes the Picon Punch. It started in Basque boarding houses but which one started it is where the argument comes in.”

As Basque immigrants came to the West Coast throughout the last century, Basque restaurants and boarding houses became their de facto winter lodgings. It’s believed that the Picon Punch was created in one such boarding house in San Francisco — although no one’s sure which one — making it a specifically American cocktail.

Louis’ was also once a boarding house for Bascos tending to livestock amongst the mountains and high deserts of the Sierra Nevadas, and still serves traditional Basque cuisine like sweet bread, oxtails, and paella, and maintains its own unique punch recipe.

“You start with a traditional Picon glass,” Gaven said, referring to a short-stemmed glass with a curved lip. “A lot of places have gone away from this, but this where it started. Fill it to the top with ice.”

Every Basque restaurant in Nevada wants to claim its Picon Punch recipe is authentic, and minor regional variations foster a lively dialogue about who exactly has it right. The Louis’ recipe, for instance, uses grenadine whereas the Star Hotel in Elko doesn’t.

“We hit it with a touch of grenadine, and then we fill it about three quarters with the Picon liqueur,” said Gaven. “Then soda water spritz, brandy floater, lemon twist.”

The herbal qualities of Amer Picon and its high-alcohol content give Picon Punch its distinctive burn and a savory bitterness like coffee or black licorice. Soda water adds effervescence to the syrupy texture while grenadine and a lemon garnish accent the subtle citrus aftertaste.

You either love it or you hate it, but you’ve got to try it.

The common consensus among most Nevadans when trying Picon Punch for the first time is: you either love it or you hate it, but you’ve got to try it. The drink is so well known that it has even been considered for Nevada’s official state drink.

“I think Nevada and all these places that have Basque people, they're kind of obsessed with the Basque culture," Gaven said. “They find it intriguing, they find it interesting and when they come to Louis' they want a Picon.”

If Louis’ is too far out of your way, Picon Punch is simple to recreate at home. Authentic Amer Picon hasn’t been exported from France for decades now; Torani handles most of the domestic American production making it somewhat of a specialty order. But once procured, Picon makes a challenging cocktail that, like the Bascos, has been at home in the American West for over 100 years.  



• 2 ounces Amer Picon

• 1 tablespoon Grenadine

• ½ ounce Brandy

• soda water

• lemon peel


1. Fill Picon glass to the top with ice and add grenadine. Use a long-handled spoon to gently toss the ice and grenadine.

2. Add Amer Picon and a spritz of soda water. The glass should be mostly full at this point. 

3. Float ½ ounce of brandy on top. Twist a lemon peel over drink and place on top to garnish.



23 Apr 17:13

Kind of Obsessed: This Mexican Spirit Smells Like Pickles and Tastes Incredible In Pretty Much Everything

Wild-fermented from naturally-grown sugar cane in a cloud forest in central Mexico, this centuries-in-the-making Oaxacan rum is truly something special.

23 Apr 15:37

‘The Rarest Steak on the Planet’ Is Coming to the United States

23 Apr 15:36

How to Reduce Stress Like a Navy SEAL

19 Apr 18:21

Give that man a medal

1761 points, 46 comments.

19 Apr 18:19

How to Test Your Wi-Fi Speed (And 7 Mistakes You Should Avoid)

by Andy Betts

Everyone runs into Wi-Fi problems from time to time. Maybe it starts to slow down for no obvious reason, or perhaps you get the feeling that you aren’t enjoying the speeds you’re paying for.

A simple way to confirm that there’s a problem is to test your Wi-Fi speed, which is easy to do. There are lots of Wi-Fi speed test services online that run inside any web browser. They give an accurate picture of how fast your internet connection is.

Let’s take a look at how speed tests work, and how to make sure you get the best out of them.

How a Wi-Fi Speed Test Works

Most Wi-Fi speed tests measure three elements:

  1. Ping rate
  2. Download speed
  3. Upload speed

Let’s examine each of these in turn.

Ping Rate

The ping rate measures the latency on a network. This is the time taken for a data packet to send from one machine to another, then receive a return.

High latency causes lag, which is something you definitely want to avoid in multiplayer gaming. A ping rate of more than 150 milliseconds could cause lag in gaming, while under 20ms is considered very low latency.

Download Speed download speed - wifi speed test

Download speed is the most important figure. It signifies how fast data download to your computer, measured in megabits per second.

The test works by downloading multiple chunks of data to your computer, adjusting the size and the number of connections to download it as it goes. This maximizes the speed of your connection, ensuring it works at its fastest.

To judge the results, you need to know what speed of service you’re signed up for, then compare them. For reference, Netflix requires 25Mbps for 4K streaming or 5Mbps for 1080p HD.

Upload Speed

Upload speed shows how quickly you can upload data, such as when you’re backing up files to a cloud service. This is usually slower than download speed, and not as advertised by internet service providers. Compare your speed test result to your provider’s quoted speed to see how well you’re doing.

The upload test works the same as the download test, just in the other direction. Your browser uploads chunks of data, with adjustments made to ensure it uses the full extent of your connection.

Between them, the three tests will give a complete picture of how your Wi-Fi setup performs. You’ll find out if your internet speed is as fast as your provider promised, if it’s fast enough for how you want to use it, and if you’ve got your router providing a strong signal.

But when you run these tests, make sure to avoid some common mistakes.

1. Don’t Do the Test Only Once

To get an accurate picture of your Wi-Fi speed you need to perform the speed test more than once.

Speeds can be quite volatile. You could do the test twice in the same conditions and get different results. By doing it at least three times, perhaps over a series of days, you can create an average of the results. This gives you a more accurate reflection of your actual internet speed.

2. Don’t Test at the Wrong Time of Day

One of the biggest factors affecting internet speeds is the number of your fellow users that are logged on at the same time. During “peak hours”, like a Sunday evening when everyone’s watching Netflix, you’ll probably experience slower speeds than other times. Your speed test results will reflect this.

If you’re trying to judge the performance drop-off during busy periods, then run the test at both peak and off-peak times and compare the results. If you just want to test your overall speed, stick to off-peak hours for testing.

3. Don’t Do the Test in the Wrong Place

LEGO man working on router
Image Credit: Konrad Twardowski/Flickr

Your Wi-Fi speed test results will be affected if you do the test in the wrong place.

But how do you choose the right place? It depends what you’re hoping to find out.

  • When you just want to measure your Wi-Fi speed: Run the test with a close line of sight connection to your router. In other words, do it in the same room with no physical obstacles to block the signal.
  • If you’re trying to find the best position for a router in your home: Run a speed test in every room, then compare the results. That will reveal any rooms that the signal is struggling to reach.
  • If you’re trying to identify Wi-Fi dead spots or areas of weak coverage: Do the test in that spot and compare the result to one performed in perfect conditions. If this confirms a problem, you can then take steps to extend your Wi-Fi coverage.

4. Don’t Leave Other Devices Downloading

A Wi-Fi speed test can only measure the speed attained by the machine you’re testing on. For this reason, you should try to maximize the bandwidth available to that device.

Most of us have countless devices connected to our wireless networks, and the bandwidth from our internet connection is split between each of them. This understandably slows each one down.

For best results, turn off or disconnect as many of your devices as you can. Or at least make sure that none are downloading or uploading large files.

5. Don’t Forget to Reboot Your Computer

Mac Activity Monitor - wifi speed test

You can test your Wi-Fi speed on pretty much any device with a browser—from your laptop to a Fire Stick—but whatever you choose, you should always reboot it first.

Devices that haven’t been restarted in a long time will have residual processes running in the background that can slow them down. This might affect your ping rate in particular.

Restart your machine and don’t launch any other apps before you do the test. Keep an eye on what apps you’ve got set to launch on startup (a cloud app, for example, will go online to sync its data). You could even temporarily disable your antivirus software until it’s done.

6. Don’t Use the Wrong Testing Tool

XFINITY Speed Test - wifi speed test

With so many Wi-Fi speed test services online, how do you know which is the best to use?

Some internet service providers offer their own service. If yours does, that’s a good place to start.

If you want to check that your Wi-Fi is fast enough for TV streaming, then take a look at Netflix’s It’s no-frills, but connects to the Netflix servers so it’s accurate.

For the other options, choose an HTML5 service over an older Flash one. While every modern web browser supports HTML5 natively, Flash represents another system overhead that could impact your speeds.

Alternatively, forego the browser and choose a desktop speed test instead. The desktop app from is available for both Windows and Mac and makes the service a whole lot more accessible.

7. Don’t Test While Using a VPN

Finally, make sure you aren’t using a VPN, proxy, data-saving app, or anything else that sits between your computer and the internet. They can, and often will, slow down your connection, so using them while testing will not provide accurate results.

The exception is if you’re trialing a VPN and want to see how fast it is. In that case, go right ahead.

What to Do With the Wi-Fi Speed Test Results

A Wi-Fi speed test is useful for many reasons. The results will help in the following cases and more:

  • Making sure you’re getting the speed you’re paying for
  • Shopping around for a new provider
  • Setting up a new router and checking coverage throughout your home
  • Testing that your speeds are fast enough for your needs
  • Checking that your Apple TV, Fire Stick, or game console is getting good speeds
  • Finding peak and off-peak hours

When you’re done, you might find that your internet is not as fast as it should be. And if your results aren’t up to scratch, it’s time to find out what’s causing your slow Wi-Fi and how you can fix it.

18 Apr 17:38

The Ethics of Photographing Slums

by Nils Heininger

My eyes are filled with tears because of the smoke. The plastic particles in the air are irritating my lungs. I’m climbing this mountain with my two friends.

The ground under my shoes feels funny. It softly cushions my steps, like fresh and loose soil, but it also tangles my feet every now and then. It is an awkward mass, this mountain of pressed trash. It consists of very different materials and yet is an entity. A mountain of poison. Not only for the body but also for the soul.

And pigs everywhere! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pigs walking freely in the wild. Is that appropriate husbandry? I feel as though I’m starting to understand why some religions refrain from eating pork. If, by eating pigs, I eat what pigs ate, then abstaining might be a better choice.

These are my thoughts as I am climbing this giant mountain. I am cold, numb, and have to keep up my emotional wall up to be able to bear what I see. Children are climbing everywhere on this mountain to collect plastic bottles in giant trash bags to later sell them for a starvation wage, which is, even in an Indian context, far too little to justify the health hazard of the work.

Women in colorful Saris walk around and create an abstract contrast to the brown-grey mass of garbage. Three young men fill a bag with trash and I ask them “Ey Bhaya, kya main aapka tasvir kheech sakta hun?” Can I take a picture of you?


I am baffled. It rarely occurs that Indians reject your request for a picture. But I also understand why. The feeling of shame sits deep in the members of the Safaikarmchari community. The self-esteem suffers from the vicious cycle in which those people are trapped. People who were born at the wrong time at the wrong place.

My companion tells me: “Don’t need to ask. If you ask, they will say no. Just make picture.”

Tutorials for Photography

Tips and tutorials for travel photography are diverse and numerous. I have read books, watched videos, listened to TED-talks, and researched on blogs. My favorite YouTuber is Thomas Heaton. He does photography in a very calm and focused way. His videos taught me how to set up my camera for landscapes, how to find the right light by getting up early and how a good composition works. My images are probably not as good as his, but I am on a good trajectory.

But I am more interested in people. I am fascinated by the closeness of the photos of Oded Wagenstein, whose books, TED-Talks, and podcast-interviews I read and listened to. His portraits tell stories and that makes them outstanding. I also love the portrait of Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh because it also tells a story. Before shooting it, Karsh pulled the cigar out of Churchill’s mouth, to break down the guard of that famous world politician.

My idol however is Sebastiao Salgado, whose project Genesis was my first step towards photography. I remember how I saw his images in the souvenir shop in the London Natural History Museum, regretting that I did not have the time to visit his exhibition. But I finally got his book as a present and a little flame started to burn. When I finally (accidentally) saw his exhibition in Ljubljana, I became fascinated. I already understood a little more about photography, but what I found there was unimaginable for me. Salgado’s book Exodus made me cry, while the story of his life showed me that photography is more than just taking pictures. It’s taking stories.

Travel Photography and Ethics

All these people and experiences have taught me how to shoot good pictures. But they did not tell me one thing: how do I deal with my position as a photographer? Photography can be just aesthetic. Portraits, fashion, and landscapes. People join for a project and then walk away. Or you hike up a mountain at the right time and shoot. That is one thing. But it is a different thing to take pictures of the life of humans. Especially in travel photography.

I don’t like the term “travel photography”, by the way. It is a western term and often means that a white man goes out and takes pictures of exotic people and places. What is travel photography for us is generally the everyday life of others. You will hardly ever find a portrait of a German with the hashtag #travelportrait. But the business is big. Travel hashtags run crazy on Instagram.

But the debate about that title leads us to another topic: the asymmetry of power between photographer and photographed. In most non-western countries, the rights regarding one’s own image are widely unknown. And if it is known, it is hardly implemented. I could theoretically upload pictures of anyone here and no one could complain. The photographed people would struggle to file an action even if there was rule of law. I could do what I want, without consequences. Do I want this? How do I get consent in photography? I did not find a tutorial for that.

I am quite straightforward in the communities in which I live, though. It’s a kind of exchange for me. I am permanently forced to take selfies. There are videos of me dancing at weddings that are shown to me by complete strangers. In India, do like the Indians do. These are my friends whom I take pictures of and put online and who take pictures of me and put them online. At least I try to take care that people don’t look bad in my photos. But what about strangers?

Photographing the Slum

I have now been living with the Safaikarmchari community for more than four months. I know their stories and know the lethargy that influences their life. The doubts, the alcoholism, the work with trash and dirt, and the vicious cycle in which the people are trapped.

I know that the people are smart, friendly, and, most of all, unimaginably hospitable. They are open for talks, are inviting, and love selfies.

I have found my own project. We have visited a slum in Kolkata. A friend of my friend Vimal. The scenery was impressive from a photojournalist’s perspective. I have seen a lot in India. That happens when you live with the lowest subcaste of the lowest caste. I have seen families whose houses consisted of nothing more than a cupboard, a TV, and a bed on which all seven family members slept.

But the Belgachia slum was different. It showed the situation from its most inhuman side in images that spoke for themselves. I am still coughing from the burning plastic that invaded my lungs two weeks ago. The slum is located directly next to a giant dumping ground that burns day and night. The smell, smog, and trash are the main part of people’s everyday life. And yet, guests are welcome, cared for in the best way, and treated with care. It is easy to make friends here if you want to make them.

Conscious Photojournalism

A week after my first visit, I decided to go back to Belgachia to take pictures. I want to visually capture the life of the communities that I have already theoretically captured in the past months. My project would have a topic: the lives of the lowest caste in India. No travel photography, but instead photojournalism. One topic, many pictures. Maybe a message to the people who see the images. But how do you capture misery with respect? How do you get consent for images that some people might see as shameful?

First of all, I must not listen to my companion and “just shoot,” but I have to ask or at least take a picture so obviously that it would be easy for people to reject the picture. If people say no, they say no. Then I have one image less, but I can sleep better at night knowing I did something good. That’s the most important rule.

The argument that I only get staged images that way doesn’t hold water with me. With a little bit of patience and experience, you can take pictures without any posing. Or you use the pose as a form of character and narration. That is the art of portraiture.

The second thing that I can do is to listen to the people, to get in touch. Not to go to the scene, shoot, and run away, but to stay overnight, drink tea with the people, and talk. That is wondrous and provides trust, which will also affect the quality of the images. I cannot get to know all the people in my photographs, but if I deal with the community, I have done my best.

Poverty Tourism vs. Photojournalism

There is a risk of becoming a poverty tourist. Or worse, to exploit it for business purposes. It became quite obvious to me during a conversation at a tea stall.

“You know, many people come here in a car, get out and shoot many pictures. This slum is very famous. They just come, shoot, leave, and sell the pictures. This is why many people here are suspicious about people with cameras.”

I felt bad. Was I one of many who used their position to take good pictures? Yes and no. My position definitely is of great use. But my motivation is different. I do not want to sell images of poverty, I want to present stories. I sit with people and try to find out more. I do not want to picture them as poor as possible, to sell the image to fundraisers. I want to meet people with respect. Maybe I do not always achieve that, but to try is all I can do. Somehow it is important to show these stories. We need to permanently be reminded of the realities of hunger, war, and modern slavery.

I will definitely shoot images that people will not like afterward. That also happens without photojournalism, with snapshots by friends or passport pictures, for example. I am not perfect, and I can only do my best. But when I consciously act and decide that I did not abuse my position, I can say that I acted in a morally good way.

Every situation is different and there aren’t many tutorials for ethics and morality. I want to meet people with respect. I show them my images, check if they are happy and try to get a feeling of what they like and they don’t. That is often difficult because their ideas of aesthetics often differ from mine. I am happy when I hear comments like “Wow! Hero pic.” Or when people see my images and want to be photographed themselves. Then I know that I have consent and that people trust me.

And as long as I am aiming for that, then I know that I’m doing it right.

The photos in this article were a glimpse into my two days in the Belgachia slum. I would love to read your comments, suggestions, and critique.

About the author: Nils Heininger is a photographer, author, anthropology student, and camel lover. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. He is currently working on his Anthropology M.A. thesis, exploring the culture of India. He lives with the Balmiki community and enjoys the simple life. You can find more of his work on his website. This article was also published here.

18 Apr 17:37

Don't worry, be happy.

1250 points, 83 comments.