Month: August 2016

FBI recovers 30 Hillary Clinton emails related to Benghazi, will release report

MARK MAKELA/REUTERS

The U.S. State Department said today that about 30 or so emails out of the nearly 15,000 the FBI obtained from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have involved Benghazi.

Last week, officials announced that the FBI had recovered 14,900 emails that Clinton did not turn over with the server she used while secretary of State.

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$10k reward to find horrible person gunning down sea otters

toola

Sea otters. Cute little sea otters. Someone is shooting sea otters along California’s central coast.

Via the LA Times:

California wildlife officials are offering a $10,000 reward to find whoever is responsible for fatally shooting three Southern sea otters along the Central Coast over the last month.

The two juvenile males and one adult male otter were killed between late July and early August, and washed up between Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in Aptos between Aug. 12 and 19, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Monday.

The animals are protected under the Endangered Species Act and state law. Killing a Southern sea otter is punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and jail time, authorities said.

If you have any information, rat that fucker out! Give the $10,000 to the Marine Mammal Center, where I have been known to volunteer.

Also, gun ownership regulation as soon as possible please.

Anyone with information about the killings can call (888) 334-2258.

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Recomendo: six cool things to see, hear, read, eat, and do

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Want to get Cool Tools’ Recomendo a week early in your inbox? Sign up for the Sunday newsletter here.

Travel Tip:

A Global Entry pass is a true bargain if you do any international travel. You don’t need to wait in line for immigration at reentry to the US. But it also serves as validation for the TSA Pre-check short-cut for security screening at most major US airports. Much shorter lines. To get in the program requires an appointment to get fingerprinted and $100 every five years. Well worth it. — Kevin Kelly

Edible:

Before I take a flight, I toss a few Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt Kind bars into my travel bag. The crunchy bars are gluten free and have just 5g of sugar. The perfect snack for plane or hotel room. — Mark Frauenfelder

Destination:

If you’re in Northern California and have yet to visit Amador County, I could not recommend it more. The county is steeped in Gold Rush history and offers 40+ wineries, romantic B&Bs and historical small towns, all within a short drive of one another. Side note: I was once the Lifestyles Editor for the county newspaper, which might make me a bit biased, but I also have enjoyed enough time there to know it makes for a magical getaway. — Claudia Lamar

Readable:

The Library of America publishes high-quality hardbound books with multiple novels per volume. I’m reading Ross Macdonald: Three Novels of the Early 1960s, which contains three excellent novels about fictional Los Angeles detective Lew Archer. These tightly-written page-turners have kept me up way past my bedtime. — MF

Enjoyment:

I’m more audio book than podcast listener, but On Being with Krista Tippett is one of my favorite things ever. Her guests vary from artists, scientists and activists, and the conversation is always centered around the intangible aspects of life. It’s philosophical without being pushy, and I’m quickly working my way through the archives. — CL

Follow:

The best photographer blog and/or photo magazine for both pros and newbies, and for all photographers in between, is on the web as PetaPixel. Sure, they have the latest nerdy camera gossip, but they also have plenty of features about the million different ways people actually capture and use images. Every day I am amazed and informed. Add it to your RSS feed. — KK

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Gregor's Run by Saxon Andrew

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In Gregor’s Run a young man with a mysterious past is on the run from two of the universe’s most powerful organizations. Generally broke, and with no idea of who he is or what the bad guys want, the titular Gregor just wants to get drunk.

This was a fun, fast and poorly edited Kindle Unlimited recommendation! Packed with the requisite action and adventure, Gregor’s Run tells a witty and entertaining version of a familiar story. The backstory and world building are well done, and the characters interesting, Gregor is certainly a different hero.

Not-safe-for-the-grammatically-nitpicky, this remains a fine example of Kindle Unlimited fare.

Gregor’s Run: The Universe is too Small to Hide via Amazon

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Awkward Zombie – From the webcomic that parodies video games of all kinds

awkzom

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Awkward Zombie: We’re Going To Be Rich

by Katie Tiedrich

2012, 164 pages (softcover)

From $10 Buy a copy on Amazon

Or $19 from Level Up Studios

Awkward Zombie is one of my favorite webcomics. Creator Katie Tiedrich writes a comic that focuses on parodying video games of all kinds, with the occasional strip drawn from poking fun at her own life. Fans of video games will find a lot to laugh at here. We’re Going to be Rich! collects the first 100 comics originally posted to Tiedrich’s website, Awkward Zombie, and is available in softcover or special edition hardcover format.

In this first volume, Tiedrich primarily writes about Nintendo games like Super Smash Bros and various entries in the Legend of Zelda series, with other games popping up occasionally. If you’re a fan of those games you’ll likely love every panel, as Tiedrich has a great ability to point out the funny logical problems present in these games. One of my favorite such comics makes a joke about the potential difficulties with surfing in Pokemon. Even if you’ve never played a particular game she’s referencing, the jokes tend to be broad enough to understand by more general video game fans. You may have never played World of Warcraft, but if you’ve played any role-playing game you may understand the humor in a large character trying to fit into stolen armor that logically should be much too small for them.

Tiedrich’s art stye is perfectly suited to the sort of sideways world parody she excels at. The first couple of comics may seem crude, but they become more refined as the book progresses. It’s kind of funny actually because as Tiedrich develops her own style and the characters begin to resemble each other, she even further exaggerates the physical attributes that make them unique. Being a parody, each character resembles the character it parodies just enough to get the idea, but it isn’t as if Tiedrich is trying to do copies of those characters. She usually makes them even more cartoony than they already are, with fun results (look at how goofy Luigi looks, but it is still clearly Luigi).

One thing I wish was translated into the book a bit more frequently is Tiedrich’s tendency to explain the comic with a note underneath. She self-deprecatingly references this in one of the comics, but it only pops up a few more times after that. Tiedrich seems to think it’s a hokey device, but those are some of my favorite bits of comedy and I miss them here.

If nothing else, it is my hope that you may read this book and follow Tiedrich’s work on her site. She has many more comics available and updates semi-regularly. Fans can even suggest comic ideas on her forum, which she periodically produces. Sadly, We’re Going to be Rich! is the only book she’s released so far, but hopefully there will be more to come.

– Alex Strine

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What we think about when we try not to think about global warming

Great Courses Plus

In this episode, psychologist Per Espen Stoknes discusses his book: What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming.

StoknesStoknes has developed a strategy for science communicators who find themselves confronted with climate change deniers who aren’t swayed by facts and charts. His book presents a series of psychology-based steps designed to painlessly change people’s minds and avoid the common mistakes scientists tend to make when explaining climate change to laypeople.

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This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries taught by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Everything we now know about the universe—from the behavior of quarks to the birth of entire galaxies—has stemmed from scientists who’ve been willing to ponder the unanswerable. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

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Mack WeldonThis episode is also brought to you by Mack Weldon who believes in smart design, premium fabrics and simple shopping. All of their products (shirts, socks, sweats, underwear) are naturally antimicrobial (which means they eliminate odor). They want you to be comfortable, so If you don’t like your first garment, you can keep it, and they will still refund you. No questions asked. Go toMackWeldon.Com and get 20% off using promo code SOSMART.

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Links and Sources

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Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

The Leadership LAB

Per Epsen Stoknes Website

What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Music video features trash-talking UN smackdown

nobody speak

The official video for Nobody Speak, by DJ Shadow and Run The Jewels, was directed by Sam Pilling and stars Igor Tsyshkevych and Ian Bailey as very NSFW diplomats on a tear.

The video depicts a meeting of leaders that quickly descends into chaos, a scene not unlike what is unfolding in governments around the globe… Says DJ Shadow: “We wanted to make a positive, life-affirming video that captures politicians at their election-year best. We got this instead.”

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Save 73% on this premium vaporizer bundle

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These days, the vape market is saturated with low-quality products, making it nearly impossible to separate the gems from the duds. The Atmos Rx Dry Herb Vaporizer stands out from crowd for two reasons: its impressive battery life and durable construction.

This high-end little gadget is compact enough to fit in your pocket, and packs a powerful punch, too — up to 72 hours of vaping on a single charge.

The ceramic heating chamber is wickless and heats dry herbs or waxy oils, meaning you get the freshest pulls without all the gunk. And the included e-liquid adapter and two different e-liquid flavors mean you can vape whichever way you prefer (because some of us just prefer oils to dry herbs).

Vaporizer-Review.com calls the AtmosRx “one of the best pen-style vaporizers on the market, thanks to its durability and long battery life.”

Grab this deal with free shipping for just $59.99 (that’s 73% off the retail price) in the Boing Boing store.

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How to change people’s minds on social issues with "deep canvassing"

Great Courses Plus

Oddly enough, we don’t know very much about how to change people’s minds on social issues, not scientifically. That’s why the work of the a group of LGBT activists in Los Angeles is offering something valuable to psychology and political science – a detailed map of uncharted scientific territory.

Over the last eight years, and through more than 12,000 conversations, The Leadership LAB has developed a new kind of persuasion they call deep canvassing. Volunteer’s go door-to-door, talking to strangers, and often change their attitudes about things like same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

Unfortunately, the first scientist to measure the technique’s effectiveness also committed scientific fraud by copy/pasting some data from another study and cutting corners in other ways, creating a wave of negative publicity that threatened the reputation of the people who created the technique, even though they were just the subjects of the study and not involved in the wrongdoing.

In the show, you will meet two scientists who uncovered the fraud and got the paper retracted, and then decided to go ahead and start over, do new research themselves, and see if the persuasion technique that the original researcher was supposed to be studying truly worked.

Can you reduce prejudice with a single 20-minute conversation? Can you flip people’s opinions in just one encounter? Learn what the latest science has to say about deep canvassing in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast.

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This episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries taught by
Neil deGrasse Tyson. Everything we now know about the universe—from the behavior of quarks to the birth of entire galaxies—has stemmed from scientists who’ve been willing to ponder the unanswerable. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

This episode is also sponsored Casper Mattressesby Casper Mattresses. Buying a Casper mattress is completely risk free. Casper offers free delivery and free returns with a 100-night home trial. If you don’t love it, they’ll pick it up and refund you everything. Casper understands the importance of truly sleeping on a mattress before you commit, especially considering you’re going to spend a third of your life on it. Get $50 toward any mattress purchase by visiting www.casper.com/sosmart and using offer code “sosmart.” Terms and Conditions Apply.

Mack WeldonThis episode is also brought to you by Mack Weldon who believes in smart design, premium fabrics and simple shopping. All of their products (shirts, socks, sweats, underwear) are naturally antimicrobial (which means they eliminate odor). They want you to be comfortable, so If you don’t like your first garment, you can keep it, and they will still refund you. No questions asked. Go to MackWeldon.Com and get 20% off …read more

How the "separate spheres" ideology is still affecting us today

women-1

Common sense used to dictate that men and women should only come together for breakfast and dinner.

According to Victorian historian Kaythrn Hughes, people in the early 19th Century thought the outside world was dangerous and unclean and morally dubious and thus no place for a virtuous, fragile woman. The home was a paradise, a place for civility, where perfect angelic ladies could, in her words, “counterbalance the moral taint of the public sphere.”

By the mid 1800s, women were leaving home to work in factories, and they were fighting for their right to vote and to get formal educations and much more – and if you believed in preserving the separate spheres, the concept that men and women should only cross paths at breakfast and dinner, then as we approached the 20th century, this created a lot of anxiety for you.

Despite their relative invisibility, a norm, even a dying one, can sometimes be harnessed and wielded like a weapon by conjuring up old fears from a bygone era. It’s a great way to slow down social change if you fear that change. When a social change threatens your ideology, fear is the simplest, easiest way to keep more minds from changing.

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we explore how the separate spheres ideology is still affecting us today, and how some people are using it to scare people into voting down anti-discrimination legislation.

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This episode is sponsored by Blue Apron who sets the highest quality standards for their community of artisanal suppliers, family-run farms, fisheries and ranchers. For less than $10 per meal, Blue Apron delivers the best ingredients along with easy-to-read, full-color recipes with photos and additional information about where your food came from. Check out this week’s menu and get your first three meals free with free shipping by going to www.blueapron.com/YANSS

This episode is also sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Fundamentals of Photography filmed in partnership with The National Geographic and taught by professional photographer Joel Sartore. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

Terry Kogan

Terry Kogan clerked for the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and practiced law in Boston before joining the University of Utah where he teaches law concerning contracts, copyright, trusts, art, and sexuality. According to his official bio, “He has spent the past decade considering the rights of transgender people, in particular issues surrounding the legal and cultural norms that mandate the segregation of public restrooms by sex.”

In every episode, after I read a bit of self delusion …read more

This innovative pan makes for great food and minimal clean up

masterpan

If you’re like us, you occasionally get ambitious with your dinner and try to cook multiple sides plus a main dish. These efforts usually end as a cold meal plus a pile of dishes to wash.

MasterPan Multi-Sectional Meal Skillet makes it super easy to make multiple dishes at once without the hassle. This heavy gauge bottom pan is divided into five sections and is specifically designed to distribute heat flow so you can cook multiple dishes at once, all on the same burner.

Now you can spend less time cooking, less time cleaning, and way more time eating. Plus, there are no heavy metals, lead, cadmium, or PFOA in the pan, meaning your food won’t be full of toxins. For a limited time, you can get free US shipping and 50% off the MasterPan in the Boing Boing store.

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The long and twisted tale of the Nibbler arcade game

nibbler

Never heard of Nibbler? You’re not alone. Nibbler was one of a handful of arcade games produced in the early 80’s by Rock-Ola Manufacturing Company, a company better known for its stylish jukeboxes. Designed by programmers Joe Ulowetz and John Jaugilas, Nibbler is the bastard lovechild of the Pac-Man and the cell phone game Snake, which you may remember playing on your 2001 Nokia handheld. Oft-maligned by classic arcade gamers as less worthy than games like Donkey Kong, Dig Dug or Defender, Nibbler is actually a fun and fairly addictive game which starts out easy and steadily ramps up difficulty as the player advances through levels of mazes. Since only about 1,500 Nibblers rolled off of the assembly line, it was a somewhat rare find in the arcade scene of the day, especially when compared to the hundreds of thousands of Pac-Man cabinets that proliferated, yet interest in Nibbler has endured into the modern era, spearheaded by a coterie of die-hard Nibbler fanatics. You see, what made Nibbler special is that it held a secret, it was the first game of its era that could be played to one billion points and beyond.

The secret was discovered by Tom Asaki, who at the time was an undergraduate at Montana State University studying physics. The founding member of the “Bozeman Think Tank,” Tom had been one of the early arcade pioneers who cracked Ms. Pac-Man (on which he held world records) and he quickly mastered Nibbler. Tom soon noticed that the score counter kept adding places and noticed that the game could hold at least nine digits. This meant that a score of 999,999,999 (or more) would be possible on Nibbler. Tom decided to see how high he could get on the game and realized that reaching the billion point mark on Nibbler would require a nearly two day, non-stop marathon (on a single quarter of course). Tom embarked on a quest to become the first player to score one billion points on a video game and made several grueling attempts at the billion. Unlike today’s console games, the arcade games of yore could not be paused, so in order to take a bathroom break he had to build up a large reserve of extra lives and then dash off and return to the controls before his last man died off. Because of the pain in his elbows, Tom was forced to soak his arms in ice buckets to help reduce the swelling and discomfort that came with his billion point attempts.

During one such record attempt, while playing at the famous Twin Galaxies arcade in Ottumwa Iowa, a sixteen-year-old local farm boy named Tim McVey noticed a crowd gathered around Tom and the Nibbler cabinet. Curious as to why Tom was receiving all the attention, he soon learned that Tom was going for a billion points on Nibbler. Though Tom failed that day, Tim decided to stick a quarter in the game that everyone was making a fuss about. Soon, …read more

Smári McCarthy: a pirate who goes after corporate criminal ships

smari

As the former editor-in-chief of the technology project magazine MAKE, I’ve learned that makers don’t limit themselves to simply making things. Their urge to be an active participant in the world around them means that they also have a strong desire to make the tools, processes, systems, and organizations that empower other people to do the same. One example is Safecast, a global volunteer-centered project that developed a low cost collaborative monitoring network to measure radiation levels in Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Safecast has not only generated the world’s largest open dataset of background radiation measurements, it has also established a standard for collaborative environmental data measurement projects.

Similarly, another program benefiting from maker enthusiasm is the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a non-profit collaborative organization consisting of a large number investigative groups and media from around the world. The chief technologist of OCCRP is an astonishingly prolific activist and maker named Smári McCarthy.

A short version of McCarthy’s resume includes co-founding Iceland’s Pirate Party and the Icelandic Digital Freedom Society, doing pioneering work in the field of digital fabrication, and helping establish Iceland’s first Fab Lab. It was at the OCCRP where McCarthy co-developed, along with OCCRP executive director Paul Radu, something called the Investigative Dashboard Project, a web-based tool to help journalists conduct forensic research across millions of documents and scraped databases, including the ones from the Panama Papers, the mind-bogglingly massive leak financial and legal records that revealed the hidden offshore holding companies used by corporations, wealthy individuals, and criminals to hide their money, evade taxes, and conduct illegal business transactions. Like Safecast, OCCRP makes all the data is has collected available to the public at no cost.

Earlier this year, Institute for the Future invited McCarthy to come to its public gallery in Palo Alto and share with a standing-room-only crowd what he’s learned about global corruption. There’s enough bribery, assassinations, money laundering, treasury embezzlement, mob shoot-outs, and poisonings in his talk to fill the pages of an espionage thriller. The only difference is it’s all true, and it’s still happening.

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Wine saver pump

wine-pump

My wife has been using this wine saver vacuum pump for several years now. It creates an airtight vacuum in the bottle to preserve the wine.

The pump comes with two rubber stoppers with one-way valves. You insert the stopper into a partially full wine bottle, then suck the air out with the pump. It looks like a little bike pump. After several strokes, you’ll hear a “click,” which means you’ve drawn out as much air as you’re going to be able to remove. At $8.50 am Amazon, it’s paid for itself many times over.

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Tobin's Spirit Guide

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“The architect’s name was Evo Shandor. I found it in Tobin’s Spirit Guide. He was also a doctor, performed a lot of unnecessary surgery. And then in 1920, he started a secret society… ” — Dr. Egon Spengler

If you are a Ghostbusters fan, you’ve been hoping, since 1984, to get your hands on a copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide. Here it is!

Fantastically illustrated by Kyle Holtz, and written by Erik Burnham, Tobin’s Spirit Guide shares the backstory of many familiar Ghostbusters ghosts and demons. From Class 5 Free Roaming Vapors to Vigo the Carpathian, they’re all here!

Certainly a fun book to have in your collection!

Tobin’s Spirit Guide via Amazon

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Bone is possibly one of the best fantasy series ever told

bone

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Bone: Coda (25th Anniversary Special)

by Jeff Smith

Cartoon Books

2016, 136 pages, 6.4 x 8.9 x 0.5 inches (softcover)

$13 Buy a copy on Amazon

If you haven’t read Jeff Smith’s Bone series, just stop. Stop reading right now, mid sentence, and go pick up his masterpiece. It’s wonderful. Quite possibly one of the greatest fantasy stories ever told. Once you’ve read that and fallen in love with Smith’s humor and characters, then you can appreciate this follow-up that gives you a reason to revisit the Bone Brothers.

If you aren’t familiar with the Bone series, this coda won’t interest you. It’s a companion piece that includes interviews of Smith, an oral history by comic historian Stephen Weiner, and early illustrations of the Bone characters. I found it compelling to hear that Bone was a story that almost wasn’t. But through determination, some luck, and careful maneuvering, Smith was able to get the comic off the ground. It’s great inspiration for any independent artist out there.

But the best part about this book is that there’s a new Bone story to be had! The brothers and Bartleby are still in route back to Boneville, when in true Bone fashion things go awry. It’s not a long story, or a deep one, but it’s a reminder about everything that was so great about this series. It’s a little heartbreaking that Smith makes a point to define coda as “the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the base structure.” Hopefully we’ll see more from this world, but for now this is a pretty good sendoff. If you’re a completest, you’re going to need to pick this up.

– JP LeRoux

August 26, 2016

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Before Breitbart, before Trump, Bannon bullied people in Biosphere 2

Steve Bannon, head of  Breitbart News, was named to the new position of campaign chief executive officer. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Breitbart chief and Trump campaign CEO’s sexist bullying was evident in the early days of Biosphere 2 in Arizona, then a quasi “space colonization” and environmental research project.

Stephen K. Bannon, who recently took a leave from running Breitbart.com to become Donald Trump’s chief campaign executive, once bullied women in the historic environmental research project known as Biosphere 2.

He called a female science researcher who wrote a report about safety concerns a “deluded” “bimbo,” and threatened to “ram it down her (expletive) throat.” He also threatened to “kick her ass.”

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Gentleman angry over sap cuts down tree, which falls on his house

mazzarella

Raymond Mazzarella of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania thought he would teach a tree a lesson. The tree was in his neighbor’s yard and had dripped sap on his parked car. He retrieved his chainsaw and went to work on the 36-inch wide trunk. The tree landed on his apartment building.

The apartment building was condemned and evacuated. Mazzarella was sent to the hospital.

Upon his release Monday afternoon, a neighbor saw Mazzarella trespassing near the apartment house and called police. When the neighbor confronted him, Mazzarella punched him. The neighbor pulled out a stun gun to protect himself. Mazzarella then started hitting him with a baseball bat.

Mazzarella is charged with assault and harassment and is locked up in the Luzerne County jail on $10,000 bail.

[via]

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Family gets food poisoning from feast to celebrate surviving food poisoning,

Salmonella. Image: Wikipedia

“We don’t get it. First we were poisoned and then sacrificed an animal for God as a sign of gratitude for gaining our health back. Then we were poisoned once again, as well as the neighbours. May God save us from the worst. Food poisoning became our nightmare.” — Alattin Erdal, one of more than 20 people who were hospitalized after eating a tainted animal at a feast meant to celebrate their recovery from a bout of food poisoning.

[via]

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Cop captures Bigfoot on video

bigfoot

A person claiming to be a law enforcement officer sent this video to The Sasquatch Chronicles, with the following message:

I will make this as short as possible. I have a video from a trail cam which appears to show a bigfoot.

The video is not conclusive as it doesn’t show the face. Here is the history of the video. I am a 20+ year Law Enforcement Officer, three of which were done as a Game Warden. I received this video from a collage of mine. He was assigned to a federal task force working gorilla grown Marijuana.

This group would go into remote areas of Northern California and set trail cams in an attempt to catch the growers on film. This particular trail cam was 27 miles back in the Sequoia National Forest, not accessible by vehicles only ATV then foot. He retrieved the trail cam and found the attached video. He did not know what to do with it as he was afraid of repercussions etc. I openly speak about the subject and my beliefs and another officer referred him to me and he provided me the video. I only ask we discuss what to release about the video before sharing if you decide to.

I also have experienced events, i.e. tree knocks, footsteps, and extreme fear for unexplained reason. I have also found a few footprints.

Comment from The Sasquatch Chronicles:

I spoke to the Law Enforcement Officer today and he said that gamecam appeared to be ripped off of the tree and this creature had buried it in leaves. I spoke to the officer today and he said the camera’s are in such remote locations that they are only set to record 5-10 clips so that guys do not have to go out constantly to replace SD cards. They setup the camera’s to bust drug trafficking.

The officer did not make any claims as to what it is but he severed as a game warden for many years and says “it is not a bear.”

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How Allied prisoners used a Ouija board to escape a Turkish prison camp in World War I

ouija

In 1917 a pair of Allied officers combined a homemade Ouija board, audacity, and imagination to hoax their way out of a remote prison camp in the mountains of Turkey. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the remarkable escape of Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, which one observer called “the most colossal fake of modern times.”

We’ll also consider a cactus’ role in World War II and puzzle over a cigar-smoking butler.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

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Circuitry found linking cerebral cortex to body's stress response

brain

Our autonomic nervous system influences internal organs and governs key functions such as heart rate, digestion, and temperature regulation. Psychosomatic diseases are those without clear physical basis, and are presumed to have a mental component. They are often viewed with suspicion by modern medicine because a neural link between brain areas of cognitive function and the autonomic nervous system has been lacking. Until now.

In a paper appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dum et al. have identified a neural network linking the adrenal medulla to areas of the cerebral cortex in monkeys. These cortical areas are involved in motion planning and control, cognitive function, and emotional regulation. The authors believe this circuitry can provide top-down control of the adrenal gland’s release of stress hormone which govern “fight or flight” responses. They state that:

Taken together, these findings raise the possibility that the areas of the cerebral cortex that influence the adrenal medulla also are key cortical nodes of a “stress and depression connectome.”

An approachable summary of this work can be found here.

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400 years of equator hazings, and how I survived one

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This summer, I spent a month aboard a research vessel in the Indian Ocean. At one point, we crossed the equator, which meant that those of us who had never done that before were treated to a special ceremony. In fact, it was a straight-up hazing, as I describe in a new article at Collectors Weekly.

The minute Pascal tied my hands together, I knew was in trouble. Pascal is a big man with an even bigger laugh, one of two hardworking, and hard-drinking, bosuns aboard a French research vessel called the Marion Dufresne. For his birthday a few days earlier, the crew had given Pascal a ball gag. Pascal thought this was hilarious, and immediately strapped the sex toy over his mouth, contorting his face in exaggerated expressions of mock distress, to the delight of the deckhands and officers assembled in the ship’s bar. Somehow, I couldn’t get that image out of my head, as Pascal, a mischievous grin now creasing his broad face, secured the knots around my wrists and gave me a wink. No doubt about it, whatever was about to happen next was totally going to suck.

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Pasta Salad with Corn, Bacon, and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Pasta Salad with Corn and Bacon

Here’s a great picnic salad for the end of summer—with pasta and corn. We don’t usually think of pairing the two, both being starches, but the combo works great, especially when you toss in bacon, bell pepper, green onions, and basil, and tie everything together with buttermilk ranch dressing.

Continue reading “Pasta Salad with Corn, Bacon, and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing” »

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“Donald still trumps the polls!” fibs Dick Morris

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Prince Charles has confessed to his sons: “I had to kill Diana!” claims the ‘Globe.’ “Your mother was out of control! She was a threat to the monarchy! She had to be stopped before she ruined everything!”

I wonder: which of the trio engaged in this private palace conversation – Charles, William or Harry – phoned the ‘Globe’ to leak this information? My money’s on none of them.
The “shocking face-to-face confrontation” allegedly occurred after Princes William and Harry had their mother’s body exhumed and conducted a second autopsy, uncovering “a Pandora’s box of cover-ups and conspiracies.”

There’s only one small problem with this story: Diana’s body has not been exhumed, there was no second autopsy, no secret report, and therefore no possible confrontation between Charles and his sons. Apart from those small quibbles, it seems like a cracking piece of journalism.

I’m troubled by the ‘National Enquirer’ report claiming that Scientology leader David Miscavige’s big brother Ronald Jr. is the subject of FBI files “detailing a series of increasingly troubling encounters.” Among various sordid allegations of sex and drugs, the ‘Enquirer’ lists this disturbing detail of Ronald Jr.’s alleged debauchery: “Asking a prostitute to stop at a McDonald’s and bring him a breakfast muffin to snack on during a motel tryst.” I’m confused. What’s so bad about asking a hooker to buy a breakfast McMuffin on her way to work? It’s not like she wasn’t going to be reimbursed. It’s probably the most innocuous thing she’d be asked to do all day. Was she asked to buy it after they stopped serving breakfast? Would it have made a difference if he’d asked the prostitute to buy him a four-cheese ultimate bacon Whopper at Burger King? Or did Ronald Jr. then make her eat the McMuffin – because there are some things that even a weathered hooker doesn’t want to put in her mouth? Sadly, the “explosive” FBI files don’t have the answers, but evidently the ‘Enquirer’ considers this a “shameful secret.” I guess if I ate breakfast McMuffins I’d want to keep it a secret too.

“Donald Still Trumps The Polls!” claims the ‘Enquirer’s chief political reporter, former Clinton campaign staffer Dick Morris, in defiance of every opinion poll that puts Hillary Clinton ahead of her Republican rival. Donald Trump boasted endlessly about his polling numbers when trouncing his rivals in the Republican primaries earlier this year, but now he’s behind in the polls Trump apologist Morris calls reporting the results “one of the greatest attempts at disinformation in American political history.” No hyperbole there. Morris rightly points to past presidential polls that in August had indicated big wins for candidates who went on to lose, but you can’t have it both ways, Dick.

Do ‘Enquirer’ headline writers even read their own stories? The mag carries a headline about Johnny Depp’s “$15 million divorce scandal,” though the story below reveals that he made only a “$7 million settlement” – the same figure widely reported by mainstream media. …read more

How you can avoid committing the "conjunction fallacy"

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Here is a logic puzzle created by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

“Linda is single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with the issue of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in demonstrations. Which of the following is more probable: Linda is a bank teller or Linda is a bank teller AND is active in the feminist movement?”

In studies, when asked this question, more than 80 percent of people chose number two. Most people said it was more probably that Linda is a bank teller AND active in the feminist movement, but that’s wrong. Can you tell why?

This thinking mistake is an example of the subject of this episode – the conjunction fallacy. Listen as three experts in logic and reasoning explain why people get this question wrong, why it is wrong, and how you can avoid committing the conjunction fallacy in other situations.

This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the ninth in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here.

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This episode is sponsored by Bombas – game-changing socks. Bombas decided to take socks seriously, by designing the most highly engineered, best-fitting, comfortable socks humans have ever imagined – and they look cool too. Go to Bombas.com/SOSMARTfor 20% off your first order.

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This episode is also sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Fundamentals of Photography filmed in partnership with The National Geographic and taught by professional photographer Joel Sartore. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

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BobBob Blaskiewicz is an assistant professor who teaches, among other subjects, critical thinking at Stockton University. He also writes about logic and reasoning at skepticalhumanities.com, and is a regular guest on the YouTube show The Virtual Skeptics.

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Julie Galef is the president and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, a non-profit devoted to training people to be better at reasoning and decision-making. She is also the host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast and writes for publications like Slate, Science, Scientific …read more

Far future of libraries

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Business Insider’s Chris Weller asked me to draw from our work at Institute for the Future, where I’m a research director, to take a long-distance look at the far future of what libraries could become:

In 50 years’ time, Pescovitz tells Business Insider, libraries are poised to become all-in-one spaces for learning, consuming, sharing, creating, and experiencing — to the extent that enormous banks of data will allow people to “check out” brand-new realities, whether that’s scaling Mt. Everest or living out an afternoon as a dog….

The definition of a library is already changing.

Some libraries have 3D printers and other cutting-edge tools that makes them not just places of learning, but creation. “I think the library as a place of access to materials, physical and virtual, becomes increasingly important,” Pescovitz says. People will come to see libraries as places to create the future, not just learn about the present.

Pescovitz offers the example of genetic engineering, carried out through “an open-source library of genetic parts that can be recombined in various way to make new organisms that don’t exist in nature.”

Libraries of the future are going to change in some unexpected ways(Business Insider)



(image: “The Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin”)

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The Mainstreaming of Psychedelics

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From MDMA as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder to Ketamine for beating depression, there’s a psychedelic revival afoot, one that is firmly rooted in science and medicine. In High Times, Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, policy manager of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), writes about the “Mainstreaming of Psychedelics“:

“What brings you to Canada?” the Border Patrol asked Dr. Michael Mithoefer in the spring of 2015. Mithoefer, a psychiatrist, and his wife Annie, a psychiatric nurse, are pioneers in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Mithoefer had been invited to Toronto to address the largest gathering of psychiatrists in the world—the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association—on the results of their research into treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using MDMA.

Needless to say, if there’s ever a time to avoid ruffling feathers with the mention of psychoactive substances, international border-crossing fits the bill. Mithoefer succinctly explained that he was presenting his PTSD research at the APA conference.

“PTSD? Did you know that researchers are using MDMA now to treat war veterans?” the border agent asked him incredulously.

Mithoefer recounts this story to me with delight after he arrives at the APA conference. It’s a sign of how much the times are changing: Not only is the famously old-fashioned APA hosting a panel on the use of psychedelics, but a recognition of their therapeutic value seems to be seeping into the public consciousness.

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How to Wrap Five Eggs is a real inspiration for both designer and maker

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

How to Wrap Five Eggs: Japanese Design in Traditional Packaging

by Hideyuki Oka (author) and Michikazu Sakai (photographer)

Harper & Row

1967, 203 pages, 10 x 11.6 x 1.2 inches (hardcover)

From $35 Buy a copy on Amazon

This book is a museum of traditional packaging artifacts from Japan. Before the age of plastic, the Japanese perfected the art of packing consumables in incredibly ingenious ways. They excelled in using natural materials such as paper, straw, clay, and wood. Much of the packaging looks astonishingly modern, even though the form may be hundreds, if not thousands of years old. In fact, packages in Japan today often are wrapped in the same way. I recently received a gift from Japan that contained seven layers of boxes within boxes, wraps within wraps, each layer its own exquisite art, the packing at least equal to the cost and worth of the gift inside. There is a mesmerizing variety of packing collected during the last years of traditional Japan on display here. Each artifact is featured in stunning black and white photographs. It is a real inspiration for both designer and maker. Long out of print, this masterpiece of design was first published in 1967; used copies can be found today at rare book prices. It has also been republished in a modified paperback form, that contains some of the original content at a smaller scale.

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