Practical Stoicism: Focus on the Thing at Hand [Published articles]

For those few of you who aren't quite tired of these yet, here's a new exercise from the 1.3.0 version of "Practical Stoicism". I'll be posting the other new one later, and I've completely rewritten one of the sections that never really seemed to flow right. I bet Ryan wishes he could keep editing his books after their release. :-) In any case, I've started maintaining a change log (on the original post) for those wondering if the latest versions are worth their trouble.

Every moment concentrate steadily as a citizen and a human being to do what you have before you with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to put aside all else. And you will give yourself peace, if you do every act of your life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to you. You see how few the things are that, should you grab hold of them, you can to live a life which flows in quiet, and is like the existence of the gods; for the gods on their part will require nothing more from him who observes these things. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.5)

Buddhists have this concept of a thing called the "monkey mind". It's that chattering voice in your head that seems to pipe up whenever you set yourself to any task. It says things like, "I wonder if anyone has liked my Facebook post, yet" and "I bet there's a new article in my news feed now". When you wrestle it into grudging silence, it squirms and wriggles and waits for a moment of laxity to burst free and do a quick check of the Reddit front page. It simply must know what else is going on.

Mastering one's self is largely about mastering this tendency we have to skip from task to task, trying on our work like coats at a department store and waiting for one to grab out fancy. There is always something shinier right over there. And yet, if our mind is always on the next thing, then it is never on what we are actually doing. And if our mind is not engaged in the only moment where we exist, this one, then we might as well have never existed. We were never "there".

One should, instead, approach every task as if it mattered, as if it were important. Else, why have you chosen to do it? And if you have decided that a thing is to be done, then work at it as if it could be the very last impression you leave on this planet. Who knows what will happen next? If this was to be your last moment on Earth, would you want to spend it half-heartedly tending the garden of your life while checking your Twitter stream?

Better we should grasp every task we choose to do with both hands, and not let go until we have completed the work to our full satisfaction. Engage with the work - experience it. Live in the moment forcefully enough to remember it happened.

If Death comes while you are washing dishes, let him find you scrubbing them spotless. If he comes while you are driving to work, let him find you with both hands on the wheel. And, if he finds you in your bed, go with him satisfied that you have used your allotted minutes well.

If you are interested in learning more about "Practical Stoicism", you can find the original post here. As always, I appreciate feedback on typos, formatting, attribution, phrasing, factual rigor and plain old sloppiness. Writing this booklet, with this community, has been immensely helpful to my personal growth and I appreciate the opportunity you all have given me.

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ZeroPhone - a Raspberry Pi smartphone [Published articles]

Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years [Published articles]

Vmtouch – Portable file system cache diagnostics and control [Published articles]

Open Source Codec Encodes Voice Into Only 700 Bits Per Second [Published articles]

Longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: David Rowe VK5DGR has been working on ultra-low-bandwidth digital voice codecs for years, and his latest quest has been to come up with a digital codec that would compete well with single-sideband modulation used by ham contesters to score the longest-distance communications using HF radio. A new codec records clear, but not hi-fi, voice in 700 bits per second -- that's 88 bytes per second. Connected to an already-existing Open Source digital modem, it might beat SSB. Obviously there are other uses for recording voice at ultra-low-bandwidth. Many smartphones could record your voice for your entire life using their existing storage. A single IP packet could carry 15 seconds of speech. Ultra-low-bandwidth codecs don't help conventional VoIP, though. The payload size for low-latency voice is only a few bytes, and the packet overhead will be at least 10 times that size.

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Millennials Earn 20 Percent Less Than Boomers Did At Same Stage of Life [Published articles]

According to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, even though they are better educated. Their median household income is $40,581, and their home ownership rate is lower, while their student debt is drastically higher. USA Today reports: The analysis of the Fed data (PDF) shows the extent of the decline. It compared 25 to 34 year-olds in 2013, the most recent year available, to the same age group in 1989 after adjusting for inflation. Education does help boost incomes. But the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989. The home ownership rate for this age group dipped to 43 percent from 46 percent in 1989, although the rate has improved for millennials with a college degree relative to boomers. The median net worth of millennials is $10,090, 56 percent less than it was for boomers. Whites still earn dramatically more than Blacks and Latinos, reflecting the legacy of discrimination for jobs, education and housing. Yet compared to white baby boomers, some white millennials appear stuck in a pattern of downward mobility. This group has seen their median income tumble more than 21 percent to $47,688. Median income for black millennials has fallen just 1.4 percent to $27,892. Latino millennials earn nearly 29 percent more than their boomer predecessors to $30,436. The analysis fits into a broader pattern of diminished opportunity. Research last year by economists led by Stanford University's Raj Chetty found that people born in 1950 had a 79 percent chance of making more money than their parents. That figure steadily slipped over the past several decades, such that those born in 1980 had just a 50 percent chance of out-earning their parents. This decline has occurred even though younger Americans are increasingly college-educated. The proportion of 25 to 29 year-olds with a college degree has risen to 35.6 percent in 2015 from 23.2 percent in 1990, a report this month by the Brookings Institution noted.

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10 Discworld Quotes You'll Desperately Need for the Next Four Years [Published articles]

There is almost no subject that Terry Pratchett hasn’t explained better, funnier, and more times than just about anyone else on the planet. Reading his Discworld novels is reading a master at work, and it seems like he gets more relevant the more time passes. Here are 10 of his most relevant passages to keep in mind…


So much snow in Portland they had to close the zoo. A worker skied in to check on the animals and to film this. [Published articles]

Here be dragons: Thrifted Ikea dresser remade with graphite paper and woodburning kit [Published articles]

Lorraine Andrusiak couldn't get a new Ikea Moppe dresser in Canada, but she found this one in a thrift store, marred by a thick, ugly coat of paint; so she stripped the paint, transferred vintage sea-monster art with graphite paper, and burned the decorations into the wood -- the result is gorgeous. (more…)

What every Python project should have [Published articles]

Parrot lays off 35 percent of its drone team [Published articles]

Parrot French company Parrot has had a rough year and missed its sales expectations. That’s why the company will lay off 290 employees who were working on drones. In total, Parrot currently has 840 employees on the drone team and more than a thousand employees in total. While the company isn’t just selling drones, it represents a good chunk of the business. But it looks like other… Read More

Incredible GIFs explain how silent film effects were achieved [Published articles]

The Twitter account @silentmoviegifs shared these simple images that explain how special effects were completed during the silent film era. You can find the whole collection on Imgur.

Find the rest of the images on Imgur.

Two Triple-Screen Laptops Were Stolen From Razer's CES Booth [Published articles]

In a Facebook post, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said two of their prototype laptops shown off at CES 2017 were stolen. "We treat theft/larceny, and if relevant to this case, industrial espionage, very seriously -- it is cheating, and cheating doesn't sit well with us," Tan wrote. "Penalties for such crimes are grievous and anyone who would do this clearly isn't very smart." Both items were prototype models of a laptop, called Project Valerie, that has three 4K displays. The Verge reports: Tan says that Razer is working with law enforcement and CES management to investigate. He's also asking show attendees to email with any info they might have on what happened. A company representative added that a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction. The alleged theft occurred "after official show hours," says Allie Fried, director of global events communications for the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES. "The security of our exhibitors, attendees and their products and materials are our highest priority," Fried wrote in an email to The Verge. "We look forward to cooperating with law enforcement and Razer as the incident is investigated."

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Coronal mass ejection from the sun [Published articles]

How does heat propagate in a vacuum if there are no particles for it to move through? [Published articles]

Krebs’s Immutable Truths About Data Breaches [Published articles]

I’ve had several requests for a fresh blog post to excerpt something that got crammed into the corner of a lengthy story published here Sunday: A list of immutable truths about data breaches, cybersecurity and the consequences of inaction.

Here’s the excerpt requested from yesterday’s story:

coecopy“There are some fairly simple, immutable truths that each of us should keep in mind, truths that apply equally to political parties, organizations and corporations alike:

-If you connect it to the Internet, someone will try to hack it.

-If what you put on the Internet has value, someone will invest time and effort to steal it.

-Even if what is stolen does not have immediate value to the thief, he can easily find buyers for it.

-The price he secures for it will almost certainly be a tiny slice of its true worth to the victim.

-Organizations and individuals unwilling to spend a small fraction of what those assets are worth to secure them against cybercrooks can expect to eventually be relieved of said assets.”

They may not be complete, but as a set of truisms these tenets probably will age pretty well. After all, taken as a whole they are practically a model Cybercriminal Code of Ethics, or a cybercrook’s social contract.

Nevertheless, these tenets might be even more powerful if uttered in the voice of the crook himself. That may be more in keeping with the theme of this blog overall, which seeks to explain cybersecurity and cybercrime concepts through the lens of the malicious attacker (often this is a purely economic perspective).

So let’s rifle through this ne’er-do-well’s bag of tricks, tools and tells. Let us borrow from his literary perspective. I imagine a Cybercriminal Code of Ethics might go something like this (again, in the voice of a seasoned crook):

-If you hook it up to the Internet, we’re gonna hack at it.

-If what you put on the Internet is worth anything, one of us is gonna try to steal it.

-Even if we can’t use what we stole, it’s no big deal. There’s no hurry to sell it. Also, we know people.

-We can’t promise to get top dollar for what we took from you, but hey — it’s a buyer’s market. Be glad we didn’t just publish it all online.

-If you can’t or won’t invest a fraction of what your stuff is worth to protect it from the likes of us, don’t worry: You’re our favorite type of customer!

Poet: I can’t answer questions on Texas standardized tests about my own poems [Published articles]

Looking Back at Princess Mononoke After 20 Years [Published articles]


Princess Mononoke is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Personally, I consider it Miyazaki’s masterpiece, beyond even Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. Since the film has been re-released in a few theaters, I want to look back at the movie, and talk about what I think is the most remarkable aspect of a remarkable film.

Princess Mononoke was not a sure bet. Miyazaki hadn’t made a truly serious film since Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind back in 1984, and most of his studio’s movies were aimed at children. But Miyazaki looked back at early sketches he’d done in the 1970s, that featured a girl married off to a monster, and felt the need to make a film about the battle between civilization and wilderness. He created a male protagonist, and axed his monster (it looked a lot like the Totoro’s friend the Catbus) and decided that the princess herself would be the monster. Over two years he pulled a film together at a pace that can only be considered heroic—out of the 144,000 cels created, Miyazaki personally redrew over 80,000. The film that emerged was complex, ambiguous, and definitely not for small children. It delved into Japan’s past, offering a look at people on the cusp of modernity, and portraying pre-modern Japan was far more diverse than previously traditional depictions.

Miyazaki takes what appears at first to be a simple quest story and twists it into a giant, multi-faceted ecological commentary. Ashitaka, a young Prince of the Emishi, is cursed by a boar-god and sets out to learn what turned the boar into a demon. He leaves his village, the oracle Lady Hii, and a girl named Kaya. He soon learns that his cursed arm has superstrength, but he knows that the curse will gradually eat into his soul and give him an agonizing death. He meets a monk/conman named Jigo, and ends up in Tataraba, Iron Town, where the boar-god was killed. He rescues two of the townfolk, catches a glimpse of San, the adopted daughter of Moro the wolf-god, and befriends the Kodama, mischievous forest sprites. Initially taking the gods’ side, he hates Lady Eboshi, the boss of Tataraba, and finds himself entangled between her, San, Moro, a second boar-god, a lord named Asano, and  eventually Jigo.


San and the gods revere the supreme Forest Spirit, Shishigami, and want to drive the humans away from the ancient forest. Jigo wants Shishi’s head, and has asked Lady Eboshi to get it for him. Lord Asano wants Lady Eboshi and her town full of meddlesome women under his command. And what does Ashitaka want? He wants to do as Hii-san has asked, and “see with eyes unclouded by hate.”

To say it paid off seems almost like a joke. Between the movie’s Japanese premiere in July 1997, and the following November, the movie was seen by twelve million people—about one tenth of Japan’s population at the time. When the film came to video, there were reports that 20% of the sales were to people who had never bought a video before. Two years later, long after it had been established as a hit, and you could easily rent or buy a copy, a Friday evening broadcast of Princess Mononoke earned a 35% share of the night’s TV ratings. While it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar in the U.S., it was the first animated feature film to win Best Picture in the Japan Academy Prize.


It’s interesting to look back at the American reviews for the English language release in October of 1999. Many reviewers are trying to wrap their heads around an animated film that’s not for kids. Several focus on the Japanese-ness of the film, and try out the word “anime” (you can hear them sounding it out as they type) and then they compare the film to either Otomo’s Akira or the work of Akira Kurosawa, take a bow, and call it a day. Only Roger Ebert seemed to understand that he has seen a masterpiece.

And looking back at those early reviews, no one makes any mention of the English screenplay, written by this obscure author named Neil Gaiman. I had already seen the film by then—I was lucky enough to see a bootleg subtitled version of it about a year before it came to U.S. theaters, but I was on board for the dub as soon as I learned Miramax hired Gaiman to write it, since I’d also been turned on to Sandman a few years earlier. In 1999, however, Gaiman was barely a cult figure in the U.S., and it wasn’t until a year later that American Gods came out and put him on more readers’ radars.


But back to the film itself. You can see Miyazaki’s concerns play out in the character triangle he creates, and the triangle he sidesteps.

In the subtitled version I saw, a village girl named Kaya runs out to say goodbye to Ashitaka, even though, as he’s been declared dead, she breaks a huge taboo in doing so. The relationship between Ashitaka and Kaya is left ambiguous. She gives him a crystal dagger and promises to think of him, and he says he won’t forget her. With no further village scenes, we have no way to know whether it was bold for a girl to give a young man a gift, or if the two were betrothed, or if they’re just good friends. To me, the scene reads as a young couple reluctantly saying goodbye. Later, when Ashitaka wants to declare his love to San, he gives her Kaya’s dagger. She adds it to her necklace of teeth. But in the official Westernized Disney script, Kaya refers to Ashitaka explicitly as her brother, and he says, “How could I ever forget my little sister.” This completely changes the context of the gift, and now when Ashitaka passes the dagger to San, he’s giving her a family heirloom, not his ex’s jewelry. Talking about the scripting process for the tenth anniversary, Gaiman implied that that wasn’t his change:

Every once in awhile, there are little bits where I go, “How did that happen? I don’t get it.” I was asking them last night, “Why did the little girl in the village become explicitly his [Ashitaka’s] sister? I didn’t think she was in the script they gave me, and she certainly wasn’t in the script I wrote.” And nobody seemed to know where that had come from.


This certainly changes the relationship. My assumption is that Miramax, and later Disney, were spooked by the idea of Ashitaka leaving his girlfriend, and then giving said girlfriend’s prized possession to his new squeeze. Western audiences would probably be distracted by Kaya, and expect the film to adhere to a “love conquers all” plot, in which Ashitaka and Kaya are reunited and conventions be damned.

But no, Miyazaki leaves his convention-damning for a different emotional triangle.

Ashitaka is a member of the Emishi, an aboriginal people who lived in northern Honshu (the big island of Japan) and were mostly (and violently) pressed into submission by the Japanese by the 10th Century C.E. San is a fantastical version of a Jomon woman, the indigenous people of Japan who had died out by 300 BCE, and are possibly the ancestors of the Emishi. These two crash into the old gods, who have regarded humans as little more than a nuisance until recently, and the much more modern—and much more Japanese—Lady Eboshi.

As I watched Princess Mononoke for the first time, I remember being so viscerally on San’s side during her first attack on the village. When her knife clashed with Lady Eboshi’s I felt it in my chest – two women fighting, and thrilling in their fight, as the male hero looks on. Two different viewpoints crashing into each other. And I knew whose side I was on: I wanted San to tear Lady Eboshi’s flesh right off of her bones.


I hated Lady Eboshi. I have rarely hated any fictional character so strongly. Everything she was doing disgusted me, and because this was a Japanese film, set against an ancient culture, I was able to drop any preconceived notions and barriers and experience the film in a way I rarely have.

But then, inevitably, I saw how she cared for her people. I saw how she rejected the Emperor as weak and useless, and championed the working-class. I saw how she opened her arms to people cast off by society. I saw how she was willing to kill the gods themselves to give humanity a better future.

She certainly sees gender lines. She holds the men and women of her town to separate jobs. She has recruited her women from brothels—gendered, sexual work—and holds secret meetings to remind them not to trust men. For all of her own strength and personal power, she allows herself to be used by a male monk, which leads to the destruction of her town, and, maybe most telling, she is never seen without makeup. Her lips are a red slash at all times, creating a pleasing face—for herself? The men? The women?—and providing a counterpoint to San’s first appearance, when the girl’s mouth is red with her mother’s blood. Eboshi has bought her women’s freedom and trained her women to shoot, but she has also locked everyone into a rigid life that cannot bring true equality or freedom.


In the opposite corner we have San. Looked at from a certain angle, San is also a Disney princess. San is a monster princess, not by birth but by adoption. Her parents threw her at Moro’s feet, sacrificing her to save their own lives. Rather than eating the infant, Moro chose to raise her, and she proved herself worthy of life in the pack. If she had shown weakness Moro would have killed her in the same way she threatens to kill Ashitaka, not out of hatred but purely for efficiency’s sake.

San knows her cause is doomed, but she fights anyway. She knows what her mother’s blood tastes like. She nearly becomes a demon, loses her mother and her home, and in the end feels the burning of Ashitaka’s curse when the demon-didaribotchi touches her. She has more reason than ever to hate humanity. But even after that, she’s the one who saves Eboshi. By the end of the film, she even allows herself to love Ashitaka, without allowing humanity to change her essential nature.

Where Ashitaka transcends the two women, and finally becomes the hero of the film, is in his respect for all life. When he comes to Iron Town he hates Lady Eboshi, and with good reason, but he listens to her. He sits with the men in their quarters and listens to their stories, then he goes to bellows to visit the women and help them with their work. In Iron Town the work is divided along gender lines, but Ashitaka simply ignores them: he helps the women with the bellows not to belittle them, but to give them a break from work that he recognizes as difficult; he treats Lady Eboshi with respect despite his anger; and he speaks to the lepers without fear or revulsion. His relationship with Yakul is one of equals, and he treats all the god-animals with deference rather than hatred or fear. He even asks the Kodama for permission before walking through their forest, a politeness which is rewarded when they lead him to the healing waters of the pool. Ashitaka sees all sides, and since he’s approaching the fight from a place of empathy, and a real desire for understanding, he’s able finally to broker peace between them all.


At the end of the film, San and Ashitaka lose their fight. The two people you’ve been rooting for fail, and Lady Eboshi kills Shishigami. But the film doesn’t just end there, because actions have consequences.

Does Shishigami simply grow a new head, smile, and prove that deity trumps humanity?


The Forest Spirit is truly dead, and his body becomes a horrifying black ooze, killing everything it touches. What sentience is left to the monster becomes obsessed with one thing: reclaiming its stolen head. Eboshi, victorious and unafraid, is mauled by Moro’s corpse and loses an arm. Does she bleed to death on the ground, decrying her foolishness? No. Ashitaka binds her wound, and San and her wolf brothers to carry her to safety. She has acted stupidly but her life is still precious, and Ashitaka has promised the villagers he’d save her.


Jigo absconds with the head, and Ashitaka and San pursue him. Does Ashitaka end the film with an epic battle with the monk, killing him?


First of all, Jigo turns out to be a much better fighter than you’d expect. But more importantly, Ashitaka reasons with him, going so far as to beg him not to take a violent path.

Jigo says that if they just wait for sunrise, the demon-Didaribotchi with disappear like a bad dream. This is probably true—the monk’s been right about everything else. But Ashitaka knows that though this is the easier path, it isn’t the right one. Shishigami deserves to die, if he must die, in dignity. To allow him to fade away in his demon form will curse the countryside.


In the end Jigo gives up, and Ashitaka and San return the head. Shishigami is restored just as the sun comes up. And what happens then? Does the forest suddenly sprout? Does Shishigami shake off his wound and go back to normal?

Of course not.

He’s dead, in the way gods can die when humans defeat them, but he’s also still alive, in the way that his spirit infuses the countryside. His body falls right over Iron Town, and his spirit rolls out over the lake and countryside like an atomic blast. Ashitaka and San are healed, but not just them – so are the lepers and the war-wounded. As we watch, the blighted land becomes green, and flowers even begin to sprout. The Great Forest will never again be what it was, but Ashitaka and San’s act of reverence has healed the land.

Do San and Ashitaka live happily ever after?

Not exactly.


Ashitaka is a human, and he loves the people of Tataraba, but San will never forgive them for the murder of Shishigami. So, in what may be the healthiest romantic resolution of any film in history, Ashitaka decides to live in the village and help his friends rebuild. San will go back to what’s left of the forest, and restore order with her wolf-brothers. They’ll live their separate lives, and Ashitaka will come into the forest when he can to visit. Change is inescapable, and much has been lost, but the pair doesn’t give up on their love simply because it’s difficult—they create a new path that will make it possible.

Each character, by letting go of their own hatred and short-sightedness, is able to rebuild a life in a new world.

Leah Schnelbach is going to spend all day watching Studio Ghibli films. You can bug her on Twitter!

Robert Picardo's Very Appropriate Shirt [x-post /r/startrek] [Published articles]

What if the iPhone had never arrived? [Published articles]

slack-imgs Ten years ago the cellphone industry was as teeming with life as a coral reef. Weird, multi-colored Nokias and Samsungs flitted between fronds of seagrass while Sidekicks scuttled in and out of tiny sea caves. Blackberries lumbered through the coral like lions on the hunt, eviscerating all “serious” comers with better software. Apple had released a deeply embarrassing clownfish of… Read More

Why stepping on Legos hurts like hell [Published articles]

My kids haven't played with Legos in years but somehow the tiny bricks manage to crawl out of the woodwork, waiting for me like caltrops on a dark road. The pain such a tiny colorful piece of plastic can cause for a bare foot is truly indescribable. This episode of "Today I Found Out" explains why.

(via Laughing Squid)

Mad Feet brilliantly combines George Miller's Mad Max and Happy Feet [Published articles]

Many people are surprised to learn that George Miller directed both Mad Max and the animated penguin film Happy Feet. Maybe that's why they work so well combined in this trailer mashup by Nico Bellamy. (more…)

Bible references make very weak passwords [Published articles]

An analysis of passwords found in the 2009 breach of Rockyou -- 32 million accounts -- finds a large number of Biblical references ("jesus"," "heaven", "faith", etc), including a number of Bible verse references ("john316"). (more…)

Plumber creates giant moving Star Wars AT-ACT in his garden for friend's son [Published articles]

People Are Watching Two Google Homes Argue with Each Other on Twitch [Published articles]

This NES Classic jailbreak is a perfect parable of our feudal future of disobedient dishwashers [Published articles]

Deepest X-ray image to date uncovers a black hole bonanza [Published articles]

Believe it or not, that's not a star field you're looking at. Researchers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to produce an X-ray image of space (the deepest-ever X-ray, in fact) that has uncovered an abundance of supermassive black holes --...

Netflix Infinite Runner [Published articles]

US Patent Office’s Michelle Lee shows us that patenting an invention doesn’t have to be expensive, hard [Published articles]

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-11-27-56-am I was lucky to speak with Michelle K. Lee, current director of the US Patent Office and a great proponent of small startups and innovation. Lee said that the patent office has a number of free resources available for entrepreneurs who may find themselves with a cool new invention but aren’t sure what to do with it. Patenting should be proactive, said Lee. “Don’t sell… Read More

Pink Panther's to do list [Published articles]

LEGO’s new Boost blocks let little kids learn to program [Published articles]

lego LEGO has long offered the Mindstorms platform for big kids (and adults) to make cool robotic projects. Now, however, they’ve launched the Boost platform, a robotics and programming system aimed at 7 year olds. The Boost kit comes with everything you need to make five projects including Vernie and Frankie, a funny robot and robotic cat, respectively. The kit includes a battery-powered… Read More

Let’s Encrypt 2016 in Review [Published articles]

Google Hangouts API gets hung out to dry [Published articles]

google-hangouts-api Draw with your face? Conference call ping pong? Not any more. Google today quietly revealed that it will shut down the Hangouts API, preventing new apps from being built and shutting off existing apps on April 25th. There was no blog post about this, just an updated FAQ and email notification to developers active on the API, forwarded to us by one of these devs. Some examples of experiences… Read More

"Show me the Monet", Banksy, Oil, 2005 [Published articles]

The Griffin Warrior Tomb Upends What We Know About the Roots of Mycenae [Published articles]

Drew Barrymore's Family Sitcom Has Secretly Been a Zombie Show All Along [Published articles]

Drew Barrymore has a new show coming to Netflix on February 3 called Santa Clarita Diet. Exactly what type of diet that title refers to had previous been a mystery. Now we know it refers to human flesh.


What the Hell Is Going on in Cars 3? [Published articles]

Based on what we’ve been told, nothing good is happening in Cars 3. Or, at the very least, nothing simple.


Honda's amazing self-balancing motorcycle defies gravity [Published articles]

Keeping a motorcycle upright at high speeds is simple, mostly you just have to hang on. Yet, when a bike is slowly cruising through a parking lot, in traffic, or at a stop, balance is handled by the rider. That can be difficult on larger, heavier cyc...

Chrysler unveils its concept minivan for the selfie generation [Published articles]

The future of driving (or more likely, riding) has become less about speed and more about making sure occupants are comfortable and more importantly, entertained. At CES later today, Fiat/Chrysler (FCA) will unveil its Portal concept car. The electri...

Why are the data-formats in Star Wars such an awful mess? Because filmmakers make movies about filmmaking [Published articles]

Sarah Jeong's long, terrifyingly thorough analysis of the data-formats in the Star Wars universe is both hilarious and insightful, and illustrates the difference between the burgeoning technological realism of shows like Mr Robot and the long tradition of science fiction media to treat computers as plot devices, rather than things that audiences are familiar with. (more…)

Working remotely with 150+ people [Published articles]

Mark Gatiss Responds to “Sherlock Bond” Critic in Rhyming Verse [Published articles]

Mark Gatiss response Sherlock James Bond comparison rhyming verse Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

At The Guardian, critic Ralph Jones has taken exception with what he perceives as Sherlock‘s slow transformation of its protagonist from brainy to brawny—starting in season 3 but also exemplified in the season 4 premiere “The Six Thatchers,” which had Holmes involved in a major fistfight in a pool. Sherlock started out as an Everyman, albeit one with incredible mental faculties, Jones argues; now, he is moving out of the natural realm and into the campier sphere of 007—making the Great Detective more resemble an international man of mystery, or as Jones puts it, “a mutation named Sherlock Bond.”

“Because the most scintillating thing about Holmes is his mind, his displays of physical prowess ought to be rationed,” Jones writes. “Conan Doyle wanted his protagonist to rise above the cheap thrills of the penny dreadful. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss should be aware that their protagonist is at risk of suffering the fate Conan Doyle swerved.”

Mark Gatiss does not agree, and he’s got the canon to prove it.

One day after publishing Jones’ piece, The Guardian shared a letter from Gatiss—a pithy, cheeky response “to an undiscerning critic” written in rhyming verse, that cites the many instances of fisticuffs occurring in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories:

Here is a critic who says with low blow
Sherlock’s no brain-box but become double-O.
Says the Baker St boy is no man of action –
whilst ignoring the stories that could have put him in traction.

The Solitary Cyclist sees boxing on show,
The Gloria Scott and The Sign of the Fo’
The Empty House too sees a mention, in time, of Mathews,
who knocked out poor Sherlock’s canine.

Read the entire response at The Guardian… which also published a short article contextualizing the poem’s various tributes to Doyle, from the title to the style. Mycroft would be proud.

I don't hanker for a hunk o' American flavored imitation pasteurized process cheese food [Published articles]

What is a SaNDWiCH SLiCe? It's not cheese. Nor is it mere cheese food. It's not pasteurized process cheese food, either. Don't be misled into believing those who would tell you that it is imitation pasteurized process cheese food. Anyone who claims that it's simply flavored imitation pasteurized process cheese food is an outright liar. Because a true SaNDWiCH SLiCe is American flavored imitation pasteurized process cheese food.

According to Wikipedia cheese food is "made from cheese (and sometimes other, unfermented, dairy by-product ingredients), plus emulsifiers, saturated vegetable oils, extra salt, food colorings, whey or sugar. As a result, many flavors, colors, and textures of processed cheese exist. Its invention is credited to Walter Gerber of Thun, Switzerland, in 1911."

Curse you, Walter Gerber of Thun, Switzerland.

NASA Is Actually Going to Visit That Insane Metallic World [Published articles]

There’s nothing quite like Psyche anywhere else in our solar system—a small asteroid belt object made entirely of iron-nickel metal. Which is why NASA has decided to send a probe to check out the bizarre beast up close.


Astronomers Pinpointed the Location of Multiple Weird Radio Bursts Beyond Our Galaxy [Published articles]

Fast radio bursts, powerful pulses of radio energy of unknown cosmic origin, are a source of endless fascination to astronomers and alien conspiracy theory fodder to everybody else. But while most FRBs discovered to date are one-off events—a single chirp in the interstellar void, if you will—these phenomena got more…


Robot installs new batteries on space station [Published articles]

The Dextre robot replaced batteries that have been in service on the ISS since 1998

While people back on Earth were celebrating New Year's Eve, a robot aboard the International Space Station (ISS) got on with the job of upgrading the station's solar power system. Under ground control, the Canadian-built Dextre Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator robot moved on the outside of the orbiting space station, where it started swapping out old batteries dating from 1998 with new lithium-ion versions without the aid of spacewalking astronauts.

.. Continue Reading Robot installs new batteries on space station

Category: Space

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Samsung Claims Its New QLED TVs Are Better Than OLED TVs [Published articles]

Samsung recently unveiled its latest flagship televisions at CES 2017, the QLED series. The company is challenging the notion that OLED TVs represent the pinnacle of picture quality in the living room. According to Samsung, the QLED TV represents its best achievement in image quality and viewing experience yet. The Verge reports: Of course Samsung would say that at an event meant to showcase said product. But the company insists it's made very real improvements compared to the flagship TVs it unveiled only a year ago. One of those upgrades pertains to brightness. The QLED TVs reach a peak brightness between 1,500 and 2,000 nits -- up from the 1,000 peak from 2016's lineup. Color reproduction has also been improved. The QLED sets handle DCI-P3 "accurately" and are capable of reproducing "100 percent color volume" -- something Samsung claims to be a world first. "This means they can express all colors at any level of brightness -- with even the subtlest differences visible at the QLED's peak luminance -- between 1,500 and 2,000 nits." Samsung says all of this is possible because it's using a new metal material along with the quantum dot nanocrystals. On the software end, Samsung's 2017 TVs are still powered by Tizen and feature basically the same user interface as last year. But there are some new additions like a sports mode that aggregates scores and other content from your favorite teams and an expanded Music section that lets you Shazam music as it's playing in a TV show and immediately launch that track in Spotify another streaming services. Samsung is also looking to clean up how its TVs look in your living room. New this year is a clear-colored "Invisible Connection cable" that runs from the TV to an external breakout box where you'll find all the HDMI ports and other critical connections (besides power, which is a separate input).

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Gamer gifts ultimate homemade Dungeon Master screen [Published articles]

I posted this on Make: yesterday, but thought it was too good not to share here. A gamer named David Henning is in a gaming group and they exchanged gifts this past Christmas. Dave wanted to do something really special for his recipient, their new Dungeon Master, so he made him this amazing castle-themed DM screen. Not only does it act as a screen to hide the DM's dice rolls and campaign info, but it also includes a built-in dice tower, a lit dice display area, a place to mount quick reference material, a place to store non-playing characters (NPCs), and holders for pencils, erasers, and sharpeners.

The screen was made almost entirely of foamboard (three 2' x 2' pieces) with all of the stonework made by drawing on the bricks and then using a foam cutter to burn in the mortar lines. The bricks were distressed with a ball of aluminum foil and a hobby knife. Popsicle sticks were used to create the wooden doors and hatches. The whole thing was primed black and then painted and drybrushed with lighter hues of gray up to white (with some green wash thrown in to add a hint of organic funk).

More pics and information about the build can be found on Make:. I found out about Dave's project on the highly-recommend Facebook group, DM Scotty's Crafts N' Games (closed group, ask to join), a great place to find D&D-related terrain and accessory builds, miniature painting show n' tell, and gaming-related craft projects.

Sony’s newest Bravia TV is the first interesting TV I’ve seen at CES [Published articles]

ka_65_bty04_side01-screenfill There are so many damn TVs at CES it’s rare for one to get my attention — but Sony just announced a new TV for their flagship Bravia line that actually looks great. It’s a 4K HDR OLED TV that Sony is calling the A1E series. The TV has an edge-to-edge design and is stand-less — meaning it sits directly on the ground and has a back leg that it leans against. It could also… Read More

When robots take routine middle-class jobs, those workers drop out of the workforce [Published articles]

In Disappearing Routine Jobs: Who, How, and Why? economists from USC, UBC and Manchester University document how the automation of "routine" jobs (welders, bank tellers, etc) that pay middle class wages has pushed those workers out of the job market entirely, or pushed them into low-paying, insecure employment. (more…)

Joss: What would you say if I turned Firefly into an epic ballet? Summer: YESSSSS, Finally! Nathan: Ha!..He's kidding Summer. [Published articles]

Inflammation halts fat-burning [Published articles]

That's a terrible surprise. [Published articles]

[Showerthought] So many of todays TV shows feel like they were originally someone's RPG campaign. [Published articles]

Company tells disgruntled customer that he will not receive support unless he removes a negative review, then threatens to sue him [Published articles]

After N2SUB posted a thoughtful, negative review of Ham Radio Deluxe, the company responded to his open trouble ticket with instructions that tricked him into bricking his software, caused his software to stop working in the guise of fixing his problem, then told him they'd done it on purpose, sent him a note implying it had been deliberate and stating he wouldn't be welcome to use their software anymore unless he deleted his review, and threatened to sue him. (more…)

Star Wars: Episode III, redubbed using the English subtitles from a pirated Chinese edition [Published articles]

This is apparently a Chinese pirated edition of Star Wars: Episode III, but dubbed using the English subtitles offered on that disc. It's amazing, not least because the voice actors are so good I thought for a moment it might have been a TV segment with Ewan, Hayden, Samuel and co. [via]


The front is a lemon avenue flying straightly


Here's clips from Episode II:

The English subtitles on Chinese Star Wars discs are already legendary as the supposed source of the Do Not Want meme; the scene thusly subtitled is easy to guess.

Gitea – A community-managed fork of Gogs [Published articles]

Show HN: Automated blind control via an Amazon Echo Dot and Raspberry Pi [Published articles]

What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2017 [Published articles]

Cloudflare 90min 5xx outage caused by leap second bug [Published articles]

Stroy Moyd’s dating show in an Uber goes from meme to mainstream [Published articles]

Rideshare the Love, the dating show in an Uber. For years, Oakland-based stand-up comic Stroy Moyd has been driving for Uber and Lyft part-time to generate supplemental income. It’s a familiar story to anyone in a creative industry — even though Moyd was headlining at top San Francisco clubs like the Punch Line and Cobbs, and opening for icons like Dave Chappelle at Fox Theater in Oakland, comedy didn’t always pay… Read More

Show HN: Send a Custom Postcard to Anywhere, from Your Phone, for $2.99 [Published articles]