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25 Aug 22:07

Explore the hidden worlds of the National Parks

by Google Blogs
In the Kenai Fjords, the ice is so dense it forms blues brighter than the clear Alaskan sky above. The molten rock around the (very) active Kīlauea Volcano appears to swirl and move — and sometimes it really does! At Bryce Canyon, one of the darkest places in North America, you can see the massive Milky Way glittering across the night sky.

The U.S. National Parks are full of wonders, but most people don’t get the chance to visit in person. While nothing beats the real thing, for this month’s 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, we wanted to see if we could use Google’s technology to help share the parks with everyone.
Starting today anyone can take a virtual tour of some of our most breathtaking National Parks, no matter where you are, with Google’s The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.

This Google Arts & Culture exhibit and interactive documentary in honor of this month’s NPS Centennial is available on the web and in the Google Arts & Culture App on iOS/Android. You can immerse yourself in 360-degree video tours through some of the most remote and breathtaking places in five different National Parks. And if you want to learn more about what you’re seeing, you can browse the fascinating archive of artifacts from the National Parks’ many museums.

At each park, a local ranger guides you through places most people never get to go — spelunking through ancient caves at Carlsbad Caverns, flying above active volcanoes in Hawai’i, and swimming through the coral reefs of the Dry Tortugas in Florida.

We’ve also created the Hidden Worlds Expedition for educators to help open up new learning opportunities and share these experiences with even more people. The Expedition can be accessed on the Expeditions App (available on Google Play in the U.S.).

Today's Doodle celebrating U.S. National Parks & monuments. More info at

The National Parks are American treasures, and everyone should see what they have to offer. We hope that by making it easy for people to get a taste of the wilderness, we can encourage a new generation of parks goers to head out and explore in person. Get ready for an adventure!

Posted by Nick Carbonaro, Creative Lead Nick Carbonaron Principal Software Engineer
25 Aug 02:30

Here’s how Pokémon Go’s new appraisal feature translates to IV percentages

by Chris Chavez
Yesterday, an update to Pokemon Go introduced a new appraisal feature. If you were wondering how each appraisal phrase translated into IV percentages, wonder no more with this handy cheat sheet.
24 Aug 11:59

A (Fake, But Still) Terms-of-Service Contract Asked People to Give Up Their Firstborn

by Melissa Dahl
Mobile phone service concept

It is a tired observation, the fact that no one reads any terms-of-service agreements. “They might be asking you to sign away your firstborn child and nobody would notice!” is a joke a timid comedian might try at an open-mic night, and no one would laugh. And yet this turns...More »

10 Aug 15:30

Here's Why You Don't Lock Your Bike to a Tree

by John Metcalfe

What’s more annoying than having your bike stolen right off the street? How about when a thief cuts down an entire tree doing so, leaving your block that much more deforested?

Evidence of such a crime recently surfaced on surveillance-camera footage ostensibly recorded Monday somewhere in China. A man approaches a bike locked to a medium-sized tree with a handsaw. He starts cutting and then timber!, the tree falls to the sidewalk. He then carries the bike off on a scooter, in a heist pulled off in less than 80 seconds.

So remember, kids: Always lock to something metal lodged rock-solid in the ground, preferably with a U-lock through the rear triangle.

10 Aug 15:25

Here are some of the best synth ads of all time

by Peter Kirn

Okay, so while we wait for word to spread that the 808 ad we featured today came from 2016 London and not 1980 Japan, here are some real – and really genius – vintage synth ads. (Some of them no doubt inspired that London agency.) And thank you, YouTube, because these all warm our heart.

Korg’s Japanese POLY-800 ad features a dancing synth woman. She’s well ahead of her time: she’d look right at home getting into Berghain. (Though, of course, better would be playing Berghain.)

One tell with the supposed 808 ad (thanks, Tom) was that its production values were too high for 1980 Roland. But 1986 Yamaha spared no expense producing this TV spot for its DX100. It also makes it plainly clear why the company was in the synth and motorcycle businesses. (Answer: awesomeness.)

Not to be outdone, 1986 Casio saw Yamaha’s “stuff reflected in glasses” and “hyperbolic awesomeness” and raised it “chroma key keyboardist flying through space”, on the (much cheaper) CZ-101:

Casio also proved without a shadow of a doubt that synth-owning keyboard players are better than drummers. (Ducks)

Or, alternatively, 1986 Casio also wanted you to know you should just give up on those stupid drum kits, get electronic drums, and go head to head with amazing keyboardist women. (Yes, there’s a spot with Rufus the dog, but… uh, I’ll let you decide which is cooler.)

Let’s embrace that future, and not one in which barcode scanners replace humans and the world’s keyboardists are replaced by … chimpanzees.

No, no, no… really, we know how that nightmare scenario ends.

Fortunately, Casio also can teach you to play so you aren’t replaced by other primates:

And 1991 captured legend Herbie Hancock playing … okay, let’s be honest, probably the worst synthesizer I’ve ever seen him on film with (relatively speaking), the CT-670. (Okay, I’m sure someone out there has fond memories of the CT-670 … or, indeed, any memories at all. Apologies to you. You and the drummers.)

Perhaps the greatest synth ad of all time, though, is this spot for Schaefer Beer (who had the budget when Moog didn’t). Come for the Moog modulars, stay for the ridiculously perky song and … advocating drinking multiple beers in the studio.

Bonus ad: the greatest synthesizer compilation album ads are Danish synthesizer compilation album ads:

Actually, wait, no – Spanish. Definitely Spanish.

I’m sure we missed some. You know what to do – comment away.

The post Here are some of the best synth ads of all time appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

10 Aug 13:58

China's Straddling Bus Derails Into Controversy

by Linda Poon

China’s futuristic straddling bus was an idea that sounded straight out of a science fiction novel. It seemed too good to be true. And, as it turns out, it may be.

Just days after its high-profile unveiling in the northeastern city of Qinghaungdao—quashing doubts that the project would ever get off the ground—the bus (or train, as some have argued) seems to have driven right into a ditch of dashed hopes.

Related Story

China's Futuristic Straddling Bus Is Finally Here

For years, it existed only on paper and tiny models, but on Tuesday, the bus went for its first test drive.

Shanghaiist reports that the 72-foot-long straddling bus has been locked up, and all further testing postponed amid allegations by local media outlet Global Times that the project was illegally funded—and that it may have all been a big scam. Designer Song Yuzhou has refuted these claims, saying his company hasn’t done anything wrong.

It was always clear that the far-out design of the bus was going to invite questions about its feasibility: How can cars maneuver safely under the bus to change lanes or make a turn? With only 7 feet of clearance underneath, what happens when a 13-foot-tall truck needs to pass through? Both Wired and Beijing Daily have also pointed out issues with maintenance costs, re-charging requirements (it runs on electricity), and the weight of both the vehicle itself and the 1,400 passengers it can carry.

Essentially, that’s what the road test was supposed to be for: To investigate these concerns, and either scrap the project or introduce design revisions. But things didn’t get that far.

Yes, the Transit Explore Bus company tested the straddling bus—but on a 300-meter track (less than a thousand feet) that local media say did not simulate real road conditions. The company now calls the trial run a mere “internal test” to try out the vehicle’s brakes and such. And authorities in Qinghuangdao say that, at least for right now, the so-called Transit Elevated Bus is really just for “tourism.”

More serious concerns face the Transport Explore Bus company. The editorial in Global Times also alleges that the project is a scam, funded through what’s called peer-to-peer (P2P) financing, which the Chinese government has recently begun cracking down on as a Ponzi scheme. In fact, when journalists from Xinhua News Agency—the state outlet that first reported the attention-grabbing unveiling—went to visit a proposed factory for building the bus, all they found was a giant hole.

Oh, failed straddling bus. The big idea always had its problems, but it was exciting to see it go from the drawing board to the road. We might only ever see it in action as a tiny model. Or in these in retro drawings from the 1940s and 1960s:

05 Aug 12:33

How Detroit Plans to Get Kids Reading This Summer

by Jessica Leigh Hester

About two years ago, Kim Kozlowski installed a Little Free Library in front of her home in Ferndale, north of Detroit. The wooden birdhouse-for-books instantly became a point of connection between Kozlowski and her neighbors, who dropped by to swap books and share stories. The vessel became a community builder, she says.

Kozlowski wondered how these petite libraries might be able to galvanize people beyond her block. She partnered with local organizations, like the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, and Eagle Scouts, to install about 150 in front of homes, non-profits, community gardens, and churches. In the process, Detroit’s sidewalks grew dotted with these structures; Kozlowski’s Detroit Little Libraries campaign dubbed the city “The Little Free Library Capital of the World.”

The city will soon lay even more claim to the title. On July 28, it announced a plan to install these constructions in front of all of the Detroit schools—97 in total. The Detroit Public Schools Community District—in partnership with Detroit Little Libraries, Detroit Public Libraries, and the DPS Foundation—will lead the charge.

Detroit resurfaced from city-wide bankruptcy, but the school system was still capsizing, struggling against crippling debt. Buckling under economic pressure, some public libraries have scaled back their hours or shut their doors; many school libraries have sparse shelves. This spring, the schools received a $617 million bailout, making a dent in its $3.5 billion overrun. Still, the schools have limited resources to apportion among the students.

Related Story

Where Books Are All But Nonexistent

In many high-poverty urban neighborhoods, it’s nearly impossible for a poor child to find something to read in the summer.

The idea to partner with the schools came about around a month ago, when the interim superindendent, Alycia Meriweather, reached out via email to gauge Kozlowski’s interest in a collaboration. “To me, that’s the pinnacle of what we’ve been looking for,” Kozlowski says. “This is where we need to be, getting books in the hands of children.”

Detroit is a book desert, where many kids lack access to age-appropriate reading material. Whatever resources do exist are often stretched impossibly thin. In the Hamtramck neighborhood, for example, there’s an average of one book for every 42 kids, according to recent research by Susan Neuman, a professor of childhood education at New York University. As Alia Wong recently explained in The Atlantic, lack of access to books can have a dramatic impact on a kid’s future, eroding overall readiness for the classroom environment, measured by familiarity with sounds, colors, and numbers. Moreover, Wong continues, researchers have hypothesized that a lack of books constrains the way kids imagine education factoring into their daily lives.

To bridge the gap, Meriweather floated the idea of calling on the community to build or gift the libraries, which cost a few hundred dollars apiece. (The school district will be tasked with selecting sites and installing and maintaining the libraries; Kozlowski says she hopes residents will take up the mantle and steward the projects along, helping to restock the shelves.) The Detroit Public Library is pitching in, but the idea has already reverberated far outside of the area code: book clubs from Alaska, Nevada, and Montana are donating, too. “People are really stepping up,” says Kozlowski.

Local artists are also exhibiting gussied-up Little Free Libraries at next month’s State Fair. Afterwards, the structures will be installed at community gardens around the city.

Kids gather around one of JetBlue’s book vending machines. (John Spaulding / AP Images)

Elsewhere in Detroit, JetBlue Airways and Random House have installed five vending machines that will dispense 100,000 free books for kids throughout the summer. The machines, positioned under the banner of the Soar With Reading initiative, are set up in areas with high pedestrian traffic, the Detroit News reported, such as churches, and parks. So far, the demand seems to be voracious for Richard Scarry’s colorful picture books and sci-fi tomes like The Maze Runner; one recreation center employee told the News that she’s been replenishing the supply two or three times a day.

Kozlowski views these initiatives as a testament to a city that’s fixing its gaze on the horizon. “A lot of people working hard to bring Detroit along,” she says. “We can’t have a future Detroit without our kids.”

03 Aug 03:51

China's Futuristic Straddling Bus Is Finally Here

by Linda Poon

They actually did it.

China has built the much-anticipated straddling bus—not the tiny model engineers showed off in May, but the real thing. According to the China’s official news agency Xinhua, it was taken for its first test drive on Tuesday in the northeastern city of Qinhuangdao, in the Hebei province.

If you recall, the straddling bus would run above street level, carrying as many as 1,400 passengers while cars travel beneath it. Formally called TEB-1, for Transit Elevated Bus, it was touted as the future of China’s public transit, capable of not only easing traffic congestion, but also cutting annual fuel consumption by 800 tons and carbon emissions by 2,500 tons.

Related Story

Can China's Futuristic 'Straddling Bus' Finally Become a Reality?

First dreamed up in 1969, the bus may help Chinese cities ease traffic and curb air pollution.

But when Chinese engineer Song Youzhou introduced the concept—first in 2010, then again in May at Beijing’s 19th International High-Tech Expo—the idea seemed so far off in the future. Enthusiasts and skeptics alike wondered if it would ever come into fruition, and many were doubtful. (It didn’t help that the first bid to build the bus by Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment turned out to be empty promises.)

This time, though, Song and the Beijing-based company Transit Explore Bus have finally brought the futuristic idea to life. Song told Xinhua at the expo in May that the production of a prototype was already underway, and in July, the company finally unveiled the finished product. The bus (fine, train) spans 72 feet long and nearly 26 feet wide, and can hold up to 300 people. It’s roughly 16 feet tall and offers about 7 feet underneath for cars to pass through. The interior features 18 seats along the walls, two round ones in the center, and plenty of space to stand. On the outside, traffic lights sit on all for corners of the bus.

Meanwhile in Qinghuangdao, city officials have laid out special tracks for the series of test drives. Passengers board from elevated platforms; a less exciting (but probably safer) idea than what was dreamt up in old concept videos.

The tests will help engineers and officials understand the feasibility of such a far-out idea, and whether the bus will actually serve its purpose. It’ll also either quash or confirm the safety concerns of skeptics, including the possibility of collisions when cars attempt to change lanes or when a 13-foot truck comes barreling through.

But either way, China was successful in at least one thing: turning what was thought to be mere science fiction into a tangible reality.

02 Aug 14:47

Copyright Office Intent On Changing The Part Of Copyright That Protects Libraries & Archives, Even Though No One Wants It Changed

by Mike Masnick
It's no secret that the US Copyright Office has been acting pretty nutty lately. For decades, the office has basically carried the water of the legacy copyright/entertainment industries, but at least they would sometimes try to appear marginally balanced. Now it appears that all caution has been thrown to the wind and the entire office is actively looking to suppress and attack user rights and innovation. In just the past few weeks and months, we've pointed out a series of really bad ideas on reforming the notice-and-takedown safe harbors of the DMCA, a separate plan that would effectively strip tons of websites of their DMCA safe harbors by requiring them to remember to keep re-registering, and a disturbing willingness to totally misrepresent the copyright issues at play with regards to the FCC's set-top box proposal.

So, perhaps, we shouldn't be all that surprised that the Copyright Office appears to be making a move to screw over libraries now, too. Section 108 of the Copyright Act has explicit carve-outs and exemptions for libraries and archivists. These are stronger than fair use, because they are clear exemptions from copyright, rather than fuzzy guidelines that have to be adjudicated in court. Section 108 is super important for libraries and archives (including the Internet Archive). So why does the Copyright Office want to change it? That's a bit of a mystery in terms of public explanations, but it's not hard to take some guesses.

The Copyright Office started exploring this issue a few years back, insisting that Section 108 was "outdated" for the digital age. And while there are many aspects of copyright law that are obsolete for the digital age, the exemptions for libraries and archives were not among them. And everyone let the Copyright Office know that. And... the Copyright Office has basically ignored them all. Back in June, the Copyright Office announced via the Federal Register that it was moving forward with putting together recommendations on changing Section 108, and anyone who had comments could "schedule meetings in Washington, DC to take place during late June through July 2016."

Yes, you read that right. In an effort to -- it claims -- update the law for the digital age, the Copyright Office demanded that anyone who had comments needed to show up at its offices in DC to discuss. Eventually, after there was pushback, the Office agreed to set up some phone meetings as well. And, of course, all of these meetings were secret, because nothing says good government like backroom meetings in secret with folks who happen to be in DC. As the American Library Association wrote about this, it seems like a very sketchy way to go about policymaking.
[T]he very fact that these discussions are confidential takes a lot of nerve. We have never heard of an instance where a government agency seeking public comment does not provide public access to the comments. This is not a national security issue after all. Section 108 is about interlibrary loan, preservation and replacement of library resources, and copies that libraries can make for users, not global surveillance programs.
Either way, basically everyone is asking why the Copyright Office is even doing this, as the library and archivist worlds say that the current law is working fine. Here's the Library Copyright Alliance (which includes the American Library Association and others) pointing out that libraries don't think the law is obsolete or in need of a refresh:
We oppose an effort to overhaul Section 108 for four reasons. First, although Section 108 may reflect a pre-digital environment, it is not obsolete. It provides libraries and archives with important certainty with respect to the activities it covers. Second, as the recent decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, 755 F.3d 87 (2d Cir. 2014), makes clear, fair use supplements Section 108 and thus provides a sufficient mechanism for updating it when necessary. For example, fair use provides a sufficient basis for website archiving. Third, amending Section 108 could have the effect of limiting what libraries do today. Again using website archiving as an example, the Library of Congress’s Section 108 Study Group proposed a complex regulatory scheme for website archiving, an activity already routinely performed by libraries as well as commercial search engines. Indeed, some rights holders see the updating of Section 108 as an opportunity to repeal the fair use safe harbor in Section 108(f)(4) and restrict the availability of fair use to libraries. Fourth, based on the highly contentious and protracted deliberations of the Section 108 Study Group, it is clear that any legislative process concerning Section 108 would be equally contentious and would demand many library resources just to maintain the status quo, let alone improve the situation of libraries. A Section 108 reform process would consume significant Congressional resources as well. Accordingly, we urge the Committee to leave Section 108 as is.
And then how about the Society of American Archivists? They don't like it either.
In contrast to the opinion expressed in the Notice of Inquiry, SAA does not consider Section 108 to be obsolete or in need of serious reform. It is used every day by practicing archivists all across the country. To the extent that the Section contains specific conditions and restrictions, it has perhaps not aged well. Fortunately there are many Sections that express a general goal without imposing unreasonable conditions. Furthermore, the “Fair Use savings” clause, Section 108(f)(4), ensures that actions that are not otherwise authorized in Section 108 may, under appropriate conditions, still be undertaken by archives.

Although there are aspects of Section 108 that could be updated, the benefits of doing so are likely to be small while the cost of getting agreement on the changes is likely to be high. SAA would prefer to see the Copyright Office focus on other areas of greater concern, including reform of statutory damages (a serious impediment for archives that may own published unclaimed copyrighted works) and implementation of an international treaty that would support fuller engagement by American archivists with those international communities whose heritage is often found in U.S. archives.
And, then, there's the digital archivists over at the Internet Archive. They are concerned about possible changes as well:
We are extremely concerned that Congress could take the Copyright Office’s proposal seriously, and believe that libraries are actually calling for these changes. That’s why we flew to Washington, D.C. to deliver the message to the Copyright Office in person: now is not the time for changes to Section 108. Libraries and technology have been evolving quickly. Good things are beginning to happen as a result. Drafting a law now could make something that is working well more complicated, and could calcify processes that would otherwise continue to evolve to make digitization efforts and web archiving work even better for libraries and content owners alike.

In fact, just proposing this new legislation will likely have the effect of hitting the pause button on libraries. It will lead to uncertainty for the libraries that have already begun to modernize by digitizing their analog collections and learning how to collect and preserve born-digital materials. It could lead libraries who have been considering such projects to “wait and see.”
So, just who is the Copyright Office serving in trying to update Section 108?

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02 Aug 12:32

You Could Skip Your Colonoscopy If You’re Willing To Collect Your Poop

by Katherine Hobson

Most Americans hear “colorectal cancer screening” and think “colonoscopy” — the unpleasant cleanse, the snakelike scope, the wobbly ride home. It’s a process that’s undeniably inconvenient, yet one we’re told is unquestionably necessary.

That’s a shame. Because although colonoscopy certainly has its advantages, direct evidence that it’s the best way to prevent deaths from colorectal cancer is not one of them.24 And the drawbacks of colonoscopy — including the time commitment, not-so-fun preparation, expense and small chance of harm — are probably keeping some people from participating in colorectal cancer screening.

According to public health experts, that’s a bad thing. The United States Preventive Services Task Force says the net benefit for screening adults age 50-75 is “substantial,” adding that colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the country. But as of 2012, just 65 percent of eligible adults were being screened as recommended, and almost 28 percent had never been screened.

Among those who are screened, colonoscopy is by far the most popular method in the U.S. But there is a menu of options beyond colonoscopies — and they’re not necessarily any better or worse, according to the USPSTF’s recently finalized updated recommendations for screening among average-risk adults.25 The group said that while some tests are backed by more evidence than others, it found no head-to-head studies suggesting any strategy — including colonoscopy — is better than another. “Choose the one that fits your preferences and lifestyle,” said Douglas Owens, a physician and member of the task force.

Included on the list are two cheap, at-home poop tests intended to be done annually: the guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) and a more sensitive test called the fecal immunochemical test, or FIT. Both look for tiny amounts of blood in the stool that might be shed by cancer or polyps. You get one from your doctor, take a poop sample at home, and then return the sample to the doctor. Only if you get a positive result do you need to have a colonoscopy. (These are different from a new stool-based DNA test, which while on the USPSTF’s list is much more expensive and has been studied less.)

Of the two, Richard Wender, a physician and chief cancer control officer of the American Cancer Society, said the FIT is preferable, both because it’s more accurate and because it requires only one poop sample and no changes in diet.26 It costs about $25 or less and when done every year, the USPSTF’s models estimate, it will avert 20-23 deaths from colorectal cancer per 1,000 people screened. (Wender doesn’t recommend the OTC tests that are available.)

That’s comparable to the two “scope” tests on the USPSTF’s list, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy, which have the advantage of both detecting and removing precancerous polyps in one procedure. (Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which looks at the lower part of the large intestine, has been shown by randomized trials to prevent deaths from colorectal cancer but isn’t reimbursed as well as colonoscopy and is on the decline in the U.S.)

Colonoscopy is the most popular test in the U.S. In addition to its polyp-removing ability, if you have a negative test, you don’t have to come back for another 10 years. 27 There is indirect evidence it reduces colorectal cancer deaths, in the form of a large study following people who did and didn’t get the test over time. And it seems logical that if sigmoidoscopy cuts colorectal cancer deaths, the more extensive colonoscopy must provide a similar benefit. But that’s not yet been proved by randomized controlled trials.28 Based on the available evidence and its modeling, the USPSTF estimates it reduces deaths from colorectal cancer by 22-24 per 1,000 people screened.

But that lack of trial data is why the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care earlier this year recommended against using colonoscopy as a first-line screening method. “They were very clear: We’re going to stick to the evidence, and right now we don’t have evidence for colonoscopy,” said Aasma Shaukat, section chief of gastroenterology in the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Colonoscopy also has plenty of downsides. It’s expensive, running upward of $1,000. (The test is covered without cost sharing as preventive care under the Affordable Care Act.) Most people prefer to have sedation during the procedure, which means time off from work and finding a ride home. There’s variation in the quality of the test, depending on who’s doing it. There’s a small but real risk of harm, such as a perforation.

So why do so many people prefer it to the poop test? For many, because they’ve been told it’s the best test to get. A 2012 study found primary care physicians overwhelmingly said they thought it was the best colorectal screening option. Katie Couric’s on-air colonoscopy in March 2000 boosted awareness and increased colonoscopy rates. There’s also a “more is better” attitude when it comes to medicine among many people, said Shaukat. And colonoscopies are well-reimbursed for the physicians who perform them. Hospitals have focused on marketing colonoscopies rather than alternative tests.

No one is arguing colonoscopy is a bad test. It just hasn’t been shown to be better than an annual FIT, said James Allison, a clinical professor of medicine emeritus at the University of California-San Francisco. He said the public health message is slowly changing to reflect that. The 80% by 2018 campaign from the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, for example, which aims to increase the rate of screening, emphasizes a suite of options. “People are very motivated to get screened when they hear colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death and if they know there are tests that are affordable and can be done at home,” said Wender.

So if you want a colonoscopy after talking with your physician and digging into all its pros and cons — fantastic. But if you prefer something less invasive but more frequent, you can test your poop every year without feeling like you’re opting for, um, No. 2.

01 Aug 19:16

Snow Fox

by Reza


29 Jul 16:15

The Revenant

29 Jul 16:15

More Cluster Fudge HERE

More Cluster Fudge HERE

28 Jul 14:29

Camera really adds tens pounds

by Nathan Yau

Photographic evidence.

Tags: photography, weight

26 Jul 14:25

John Oliver's Story On Campaign Music And Copyright Is... Wrong

by Mike Masnick
Yes, let's start with the obvious: John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" is a comedy program meant to entertain and is not meant to be journalism. It's a point that Oliver himself has made repeatedly. But others disagree with him, pointing out that his show regularly does actual journalism. The fact that he's hired a bunch of journalists on his team kind of says a lot. Also, according to multiple people I know who have been interviewed for stories on his show, while his focus is on making things funny, his team also spends a lot of time making sure they get the details right. It's why we so frequently end up posting his videos on stories that relate to Techdirt topics -- because they're not only entertaining, but are also generally dead on in accuracy. It's why we've posted his videos on net neutrality, corporate sovereignty, encryption, surveillance, civil asset forfeiture and patent trolls.

But this past weekend, he not only covered last week's Republican National Convention, but also, separately, the fact that representatives for both Queen and the Rolling Stones complained publicly about the RNC using their music in prominent parts of the convention. Oliver got together a bunch of famous musicians (many of whom have protested politicians using their music) to sing a song telling politicians not to use their songs, claiming that it's "stealing" and unauthorized because the politicians didn't reach out to get permission.
This is flat out wrong in most situations. As we've pointed out again and again and again and again, in nearly all cases, politicians using music at an event have the proper licenses. They don't need to get permission from the musicians so long as either the campaign or the venue have ASCAP or BMI blanket licenses, which they almost always do. The whole point of ASCAP/BMI licenses is that you don't need to get individual permission from the artists or their publishers.

There are instances, occasionally, where politicians ridiculously don't have such a license, but it's pretty rare. And there may be a few other narrow exceptions, such as if there's an implied endorsement by the musicians, but that's rarely the case.

Unfortunately, the song from John Oliver and friends ignores all of that, even stating directly at one point that for a politician to use music, you first have to call the publisher. That's wrong. ASCAP and BMI already have taken care of that.

Perhaps this isn't a huge deal, but one would hope that Oliver would actually get the basic facts right on this too, because every election season this issue comes up and spreading more misinformation about it doesn't help.

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25 Jul 19:19

DNC Comms Guy Mocked Story Saying DNC Is Bad At Cybersecurity; Revealed Because DNC Is Bad At Cybersecurity

by Mike Masnick
Protip: maybe don't laugh off accusations that you're bad at cybersecurity in emails on a network that has already been infiltrated by hackers. That message did not make it through to one Eric Walker, deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee. As you've heard by now, the DNC got hacked and all the emails were posted on Wikileaks. An anonymous user in our comments pointed us to a now revealed email from Walker brushing off a story in BuzzFeed, quoting cybersecurity professionals arguing that both the RNC and the DNC are bad at cybersecurity, mainly because they're handing out USB keys at their conventions.
Reporters who registered for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions were given tote bags by convention organizers filled with instructions and logistical information. Buried inside the totes were thumb drives, also known as USB flash drives, with information on the upcoming events.

“Who does that anymore? It’s just asking to get infected with any variety of malware,” said Ajay Arora, CEO of VERA, a cybersecurity firm. “Those thumb drives are the number one way to infect a computer… It is borderline stupidity to give them out to people, or for people to even think of using them.”

Thumb drives are known within the cybersecurity world for their fundamental security weaknesses, because when someone plugs a thumb drive into their computers they are opening up their system to anything on that drive — from the best hotels to stay in during the Republican National Convention to a virus that silently uploads itself onto the hard drive. Neither the Republican or Democratic National Committees replied to a BuzzFeed News inquiry about the thumb drives.
That's a reasonable assessment. It's dumb to hand out USB keys these days and anyone should be aware of that by now. But Walker's email sarcastically mocked this:
The thesis: we hand out thumb drives at events, which could infect the reporters/attendees' computers. So that means that we're bad at cybersecurity. Okay.
Well, truth be told, there are many reasons why you may be bad at cybersecurity, including the fact that you apparently let a group of hackers sit on your network for a year or more. But also, handing out USB keys is a super bad idea too.

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22 Jul 12:47

Donald Trump Threatens 'Art Of The Deal' Ghostwriter, Claiming His 'Disloyalty' Somehow Amounts To Defamation

by Mike Masnick
Earlier this week there was a fascinating piece in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer, interviewing Tony Schwartz, who is credited as the co-author to Donald Trump's first and most famous book, The Art of the Deal (Schwartz is interchangeably referred to as the ghostwriter or co-author -- his name appears on the book as the much smaller type-faced co-author, which is unlike most ghostwriters -- but Schwartz claims he really wrote the book after just following Trump around for a bit and getting some ideas from him). The interview with Schwartz is great storytelling and focuses on his belief that Trump would be a disastrous President (and the fact that The Art of the Deal was exaggerated reality).

Despite the fact that the Republican National Convention happened this week, where Trump was officially nominated as the Republican Party candidate for President, Trump apparently found the time to have his lawyer dash off a ridiculously stupid cease and desist letter. It's the kind of cease and desist letter that we tend to see from complete cranks, rather than serious businessmen, let alone the official nominee for President from a major political party. Everything about the letter is flat out ridiculous (and at points, contradictory). Throughout it, Trump's Chief Legal Officer, Jason Greenblatt, keeps saying that Schwartz's statements are defamatory, but fails to name a single one. As has been pointed out many times, if you're screaming "defamation" but fail to point to a factual statement that is defamatory, you're just making noise.

The letter also claims that Schwartz is attempting to "rewrite history" and even starts out suggesting that Schwartz's claim of writing the book is an exaggeration, because the contract was merely to "provide certain services." But, rather than actually follow through on that line of argument, Greenblatt then more or less admits it, while arguing something totally different: that the book was successful because of Trump's association with it, not because of Schwartz. But Schwartz never argued otherwise, and that's completely besides the point.
Mr. Trump hired you to provide certain services in connection with the preparation of the Book. Although it has long-suited you to dramatically overstate your work on the Book in order to further your own career, (for example, telling George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America that, "I wrote every word of [the Book], Donald Trump made a few red marks when I handed him the manuscript, but that was it."), let me set the record straight about the origin of the Book: Mr. Trump was the source of all of the material in the Book and the inspiration for every word in the Book. You would not have had access to any of the information that appeared in the Book without Mr. Trump. He was the mastermind behind the deals described in the Book, and he provided you with the facts and facets of each of these deals in order for you to write them down. What's more, Mr. Trump is wholly responsible for the great success of the Book, not you. It was his ingenuity that made the deals described in the Book happen, and it was his promotion of the Book that made it a runaway success.
Again, so what? That's got nothing to do with Schwartz's point and is nowhere near defamatory. Greenblatt also goes on to weirdly attack the one claim from Schwartz that he's pretty sure that many of the things in The Art of the Deal are false. Greenblatt wastes many perfectly good English words arguing that the book contract gave Schwartz the right to make changes to the book to make sure it was accurate, and somehow suggesting that his failure to change things proved that he didn't actually believe things in the book were false. Of course, again, this is not what Schwartz was arguing. He was saying that the stuff Trump told Schwartz, which Schwartz then crafted into the narrative of the book, were lies told by Trump. That should be obvious to anyone with basic reading comprehension skills.

Also, the above accusation is doubly weird, because just a page earlier in the letter, Greenblatt was arguing that Schwartz was a mere conduit and was basically just hired to scribble down Trump's words of wisdom. If he played such a minor part, then isn't that more or less admitting that Schwartz would have no say in correcting falsehoods in the book? The letter also tries to claim that Schwartz has been begging Trump for more work for decades and recently signed an agreement for royalties on the audiobook version of it. Schwartz, for his part, denies ever asking Trump for more work and says he actually turned down the offer to work on the sequel. The agreement on the audiobooks may be true, but it's difficult to see how that matters. Schwartz now speaking out against Trump, if anything, would likely diminish the interest in the book, and would impact Schwartz's own royalties (for which Schwartz has pledged to charity for any works purchased this year).

Even more hilariously, Greenblatt ends the letter by demanding Schwartz not only shut up, but also return all the royalties earned over the years from the book, including his half of the $500,000 advance.

Thankfully, Schwartz had lawyer Elizabeth McNamara at Davis Wright Tremaine respond to the letter, calling bullshit on it. The whole thing is worth a read (it's really only two pages), but here's a snippet:
Your letter alludes vaguely to "defamatory statements," "outright lies" and "downright fabrications," but you do not identify a single statement by Mr. Schwartz that is factually false, let alone defamatory. Instead, it is self-evident that Mr. Trump is most concerned with Mr. Schwartz's well-founded expressions of his own opinion of Mr. Trump's character, as well as Mr. Schwartz's accurately taking credit for the writing of The Art of the Deal, which you pointedly do not contest. Also, in Mr. Trump's eyes, Mr. Schwartz has been "very disloyal" in speaking out on these issues, as he is quoted saying to Mr. Schwartz in the recent New Yorker article by Jane Mayer.

The fact that Mr. Trump would spend time during the week of the Republican National Convention focused on settling a score with and trying to censor his co-author on a thirty-year-old book is, frankly, baffling, but only further underscores the very basis for Mr. Schwartz's criticisms. In any event, the demands you make in the letter are without any foundation in law or fact. Mr. Schwartz will not be returning any of the advance or royalties from the Book, and he has no intention of retracting any of his opinions about the character of the Republican nominee for the presidency, nor does he have any obligation or intention to remain silent about this issue going forward.
Of course, as we've noted in the past, this is kind of par for the course for Trump. When people say mean things about him, his lawyers tend to go ballistic, threatening (and sometimes suing for) defamation, even when there clearly is no defamation at all. This is why it's so ridiculous when Trump talks about "opening up" libel laws to go after those who write or say mean things about him.

Being so thin skinned and willing to at least threaten to drag an author to court for stating his opinion hardly seems particularly Presidential.

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22 Jul 12:33

The Psychological Reason Conservatives Band Together Faster Than Liberals

by Drake Baer
Republican National Convention: Day Three

When Donald Trump picked the Mulan-hating, Titanic-loving gubernatorial goober Mike Pence to be his vice-presidential pick, he said that it was about “party unity.” And indeed, as the flopping of the Never Trump movement at the Republican National Convention shows, the...More »

20 Jul 22:50

How Pokémon Go Might Actually Be Helping Kids With Autism

by Jesse Singal
Playing Pokémon Go On Cape Cod

If you’ve been following coverage of Pokémon Go, the mobile game that has taken over the internet and a disturbingly large chunk of human life in general, you may have seen claims that the game is having a beneficial impact on kids with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD.

Sometimes, kids...More »

20 Jul 22:43

Playing Action Video Games Might Make You a Better Driver

by Drake Baer
Teenage boy sits in front of TV playing video game

Back in the day when jocks were jocks and geeks were geeks, you could tell who spent their evenings plugged into video games by who tucked their shirts into their underwear. But in 2016, video games are everywhere; hell, one of the most successful games in recent memory comes from...More »

20 Jul 22:38


20 Jul 13:35

Dreamy, Colorful, Empty Subway Stations

by Hélène Bauer

Chris Forsyth has photographed nearly 150 subway stations in the last two years.

Starting in Montreal, the 22-year-old has traveled through Canada and Europe for a photo series titled, Metro. In it, Forsyth’s shots convey dreamy, colorful platforms and whizzing trains. “Sometimes,” says Forsyth, “it’s not always true to the station.”

What originally began as a school project eventually developed into a fascination for the unique architecture of subway stations around the world. He spends anywhere from five minutes to an hour in each station — whether in a concrete-heavy stop in Montreal or a cave-like one in Stockholm.

Influenced by architecture photographer Julius Shulman, Forsyth’s photos are clean and symmetrical — a style that reflects the modern style of the subway systems he shoots. Forsyth almost never includes people in his photographs and he edits out elements like security cameras and graffiti to keep his station shots looking neat.

The life of a straphanger rarely seems exciting, but, as he's learned from his own photos, there’s beauty to be found while stuck on a platform. “I definitely do have a lot more appreciation [for the subway] than before I started the project,” says Forsyth.

Rathaus Steglitz station, Berlin. (Chris Forsyth)
Assomption station, Montreal. (Chris Forsyth)
Lasalle station, Montreal. (Chris Forsyth)
T-Centralen station, Stockholm. (Chris Forsyth)
Marienplatz station, Munich. (Chris Forsyth)

20 Jul 13:20

The new Google Arts & Culture, on exhibit now

by Google Blogs
Just as the world’s precious artworks and monuments need a touch-up to look their best, the home we’ve built to host the world’s cultural treasures online needs a lick of paint every now and then. We’re ready to pull off the dust sheets and introduce the new Google Arts & Culture website and app, by the Google Cultural Institute. The app lets you explore anything from cats in art since 200 BCE to the color red in Abstract Expressionism, and everything in between.

Our new tools will help you discover works and artifacts, allowing you to immerse yourself in cultural experiences across art, history and wonders of the world—from more than a thousand museums across 70 countries:
• Search for anything, from shoes to all things gold
• Scroll through art by time—see how Van Gogh’s works went from gloomy to vivid
• Browse by color and learn about Monet’s 50 shades of gray
• Find a new fascinating story to discover every day—today, it’s nine powerful men in heels

With a virtual reality viewer like Google Cardboard, you can use the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS and Android to take a virtual tour of the street art scene in Rome; step inside a creation by famous street artist, Insa; or even travel 2,500 years back in time and look around the ancient Greek temple of Zeus.

You can also subscribe to the new Google Arts & Culture YouTube channel. Find out what Kandinsky and Kanye West have in common and meet the New York-based “cyborg artist” Neil Harbisson.

We’re sure you’ll want to see some of the artworks in real life too—and the Google Arts & Culture app is there to help. Click “Visit” on a museum’s page to get opening times, find out what’s on that day and navigate there in one click. We’ve also been experimenting with a new feature. The Art Recognizer is now available in London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery, Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Just pull up the app, point your phone’s camera to a painting on display and find all the information you want to know about the artwork. We’re planning to roll this out to museums around the world—so stay tuned.

There’s much to learn about our shared cultural heritage. Download the app for iOS and Android to unlock a world of experiences, every day.

Posted by Duncan Osborn, Product Manager, Google Cultural Institute Duncan Osborn Product Manager Google Cultural Institute
19 Jul 13:43

A Peek Inside New York's Subway Redesign Plan

by Tanvi Misra

The New York City subway system has been struggling to handle the increasing volume of people that use it. But lack of capacity isn’t its only problem: The aging transit network is badly in need of upgrades and design tweaks that make the experience of using it a little less unpleasant.  

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled details of a $27-billion redesign plan that would address some of these issues. “New York deserves a world-class transportation network worthy of its role as the heartbeat of the 21st-century economy,” Cuomo said in a press release. “The MTA design team developed a bold and visionary reimagining of the quintessential commuter experience, incorporating best practices from global transit systems, and focusing on our core mission to renew, enhance, and expand.”

His 5-year expansion plan adds 1,025 new subway cars with a variety of new features: wider doors, LED headlights, digital signage, USB chargers, seats that flip up, and wi-fi. Of these, 750 cars will have an “open gangway” design, meaning that commuters will be able to move freely along the length of cars on an accordion-like train. The point of many of these changes is to fit more passengers inside the cars, and allow for swifter flows between the train and the platform. Both of these goals, if achieved, would help reduce wait times for trains and overcrowding in subway stations.

Here are renderings of the exteriors and interiors of these new cars, the first of which might be ready by 2020:

(New York City Transit/Governor Andrew Cuomo)
(New York City Transit/Governor Andrew Cuomo)
(New York City Transit/Governor Andrew Cuomo)

In the second part of the plan, 31 stations spread across the five boroughs will get makeovers, complete with better lighting, improved signage, easy-to-understand information about service, countdown clocks, better cell-phone reception, wi-fi, and even contemporary art. Through these design elements, the city’s transit agencies hope to make the navigating the subway system a little less confusing and a little more comfortable.

“We will preserve the historical features of the stations while modernizing them,” Veronique "Ronnie" Hakim, the president of New York City Transit, said at the press conference.

The bidding process for the contract to renovate three stations in Brooklyn—Prospect Avenue Station, 53rd Street Station, and Bay Ridge Avenue Station—will start this week. For the rest of the stations, bidding processes will be rolled out within the next 12 months. “We have an aggressive timeline,” Hakim said. “We are keeping the mantra of ‘get in, get done, get out.’”

Here are some renderings of the proposed subway redesign:

(New York City Transit/Governor Andrew Cuomo)
(New York City Transit/Governor Andrew Cuomo)
(New York City Transit/Governor Andrew Cuomo)
(New York City Transit/Governor Andrew Cuomo)

16 Jul 16:14

Promoting gender equality through emoji 🙌 🎉

by Google Blogs
More than 90 percent of the world's online population use emoji. But while there's a huge range of emoji, there aren't a lot that highlight the diversity of women's careers, or empower young girls. There are emoji like these for men:
but with options like these for women:
… the emoji representing women aren’t exactly, well, representative. So we've been working to make things better.

In May, we proposed a set of new emoji to the Unicode Technical Committee that represent a wider range of professions for women (as well as men), and reflect the pivotal roles that women play in the world. Since then, we've worked closely with members of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee to bring the proposal to life.

Today, the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee has agreed to add 11 new professional emoji, in both male and female options and with all the skin tones. That’s more than 100 new emoji to choose from!

Unicode is also adding male and female versions to 33 existing emoji. For example, you'll be able to pick both a female runner emoji and a male runner emoji, or a man or woman getting a haircut:
These additions can be included in future versions of Android and other platforms—because Unicode helps make sure that people with different phones can send and receive the same emoji.

These new emoji are one of several efforts we’re making to better represent women in technology, and to connect girls with the education and resources they need to pursue careers in STEM. One such effort is Made with Code, which helps girls pursue and express their passions using computer science. Ahead of World Emoji Day this weekend, Made with Code is releasing a new project that teaches coding skills through the creation of emoji-inspired stickers.
We hope these updates help make emoji just a little more representative of the millions of people around the 🌎 who use them.

Posted by Nicole Bleuel, Marketing Lead & Diversity Champion, Emoji
14 Jul 13:36

Watch an orchestra of floppy and hard drives play Star Wars

by Peter Kirn

The Internet has seen obsolete disk drives play tunes from Star Wars before – but not like this. Hacker Paweł Zadrożniak of Poland has outdone himself with a maximalist rendition of John Williams’ iconic music.

Just how big is it?

Floppotron 2.0 includes:
64 floppy drives
Eight hard disks
Two scanners
Eight 8-channel controllers (now simulating envelopes for added expression) for the floppies
Two 4-channel controllers for the HDDs
Two single-channel (Arduino!) controllers for the scanners

Paweł goes into detail about how it’s done on his blog. I love this bit about the coding:

Host application was written in Python 2.7. I wrote it mostly on some boring lectures when I was still studying at the university, so it’s a one big mess, but… at least it does the job. It parses the simple language used for writing note sequences arranged in tracks tied to a specific controller / channel and merges those parallel tracks into one command list which is transferred over COM port. It can also partially generate „song script” from MIDI file which speeds up the „song porting” process.

But wait – there’s more (welcome relief if you’re sick to death of Star Wars).

I think my favorite is Nirvana – an anthem from a time when we still used these drives:

Also, surf’s up:

Check out his blog post:

Return of the Floppies []

The post Watch an orchestra of floppy and hard drives play Star Wars appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

14 Jul 13:28

Good News: Carla Hayden Easily Approved As The New Librarian Of Congress

by Mike Masnick
Here's some good news. After decades of ridiculously bad management, it appears that the Library of Congress has a real leader. Dr. Carla Hayden has been approved by the Senate as our new Librarian of Congress by a wide margin, 74 to 18. And that's despite a last minute push by the ridiculous Heritage Foundation to argue that the Librarian of Congress should not be a librarian (and one with tremendous administrative experience). Heritage Foundation's alerts can often sway Republican Senators, so the fact that only 18 still voted against her is quite something. Hayden was also able to get past ridiculous claims that she was pro-obscenity or pro-piracy based on people who just didn't like the idea of an actually qualified person in the position.

She's an exceptionally qualified librarian with administrative and leadership experience. And while I'm sure I won't agree with everything she does, it seems like a massive improvement on the previous librarian, James Billington, who famously resisted any kind of modernization efforts, and who the Government Accountability Office had to call out multiple times for his leadership failings. Billington was so bad that when he resigned, the Washington Post was able to get people to go on the record celebrating.
The reaction inside the library was almost gleeful, as one employee joked that some workers were thinking of organizing a conga line down Pennsylvania Avenue. Another said it felt like someone opened a window.

“There is a general sense of relief, hope and renewal, all rolled into one feeling,” said one staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Like a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders.”

Maureen Moore, who retired in 2005 but volunteers at the library, said she and her friends were thrilled.

“It’s a great day for the library. The man has had 27 years to do good things, and he hasn’t,” she said.
It's a low bar, but Hayden will almost certainly be better than that -- and hopefully a lot better as well. She's shown in the past a willingness to stand up and fight against government surveillance and for freedom of speech and access to information. Her positions on copyright are less clear, but as she's now in charge of the Copyright Office, hopefully she'll bring some much needed balance to that office, and a greater recognition, as a librarian, of the importance of access to information, rather than locking up all info.

Of course, given all that, I can pretty much guarantee that Hollywood and other legacy copyright industries are going to pump up their fight to move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress, and either set it up as its own agency, or dump it into the Dept. of Commerce, perhaps as part of the Patent and Trademark Office. Expect to see a big push on that very soon, including all sorts of bullshit arguments in favor of it. But remember, copyright was designed to benefit the public, and not as some sort of commercial tool that belongs in the Dept. of Commerce.

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11 Jul 12:04

Pokémon Go

Still waiting for the Pokémon Go update that lets you capture strangers' pets.
10 Jul 11:52

First One’s Free

by Bill Amend


09 Jul 12:14

07/08/16 PHD comic: 'Doing vs Writing'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Doing vs Writing" - originally published 7/8/2016

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