February 21, 2019 in 1,632 words

to set a mood • • •

Your phone and TV are tracking you, and political campaigns are listening in

Smartphones and related devices have become ubiquitous in people’s lives. They’ve also become potent tracking devices that data brokers can use to learn a person’s whereabouts — information valuable to political campaigns

It was a crowded primary field and Tony Evers, running for governor, was eager to win the support of officials gathered at a Wisconsin state Democratic party meeting, so the candidate did all the usual things: he read the room, he shook hands, he networked.

Then he put an electronic fence around everyone there.

The digital fence enabled Evers’ team to push ads onto the iPhones and Androids of all those attending the meeting. Not only that, but because the technology pulled the unique identification numbers off the phones, a data broker could use the digital signatures to follow the devices home. Once there, the campaign could use so-called cross-device tracking technology to find associated laptops, desktops and other devices to push even more ads.

Welcome to the new frontier of campaign tech — a loosely regulated world in which simply downloading a weather app or game, connecting to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or powering up a home router can allow a data broker to monitor your movements with ease, then compile the location information and sell it to a political candidate who can use it to surround you with messages.

“We can put a pin on a building, and if you are in that building, we are going to get you,” said Democratic strategist Dane Strother, who advised Evers. And they can get you even if you aren’t in the building anymore, but were simply there at some point in the last six months.

Getting Lost Makes the Brain Go Haywire

In caves and labyrinths, humans’ cerebral navigation equipment is mostly useless. That can spark panic or free the mind.

On the evening of December 18, 2004, in the hamlet of Madiran, in southwestern France, a man named Jean-Luc Josuat-Verges wandered into the tunnels of an abandoned mushroom farm and got lost. Josuat-Verges, who was 48 and employed as a caretaker at a local health center, had been depressed. Leaving his wife and 14-year-old son at home, he’d driven up into the hills with a bottle of whiskey and a pocketful of sleeping pills. After steering his Land Rover into the large entrance tunnel of the mushroom farm, he’d clicked on his flashlight and stumbled into the dark.

The tunnels, which had been originally dug out of the limestone hills as a chalk mine, comprised a five-mile-long labyrinth of blind corridors, twisting passages, and dead ends. Josuat-Verges walked down one corridor, turned, then turned again. His flashlight battery slowly dimmed, then died; shortly after, as he tromped down one soggy corridor, his shoes were sucked off his feet and swallowed by the mud. Josuat-Verges stumbled barefoot through the maze, groping in pitch-darkness, searching in vain for the exit.

On the afternoon of January 21, 2005, exactly 34 days after Josuat-Verges first entered the tunnels, three local teenage boys decided to explore the abandoned mushroom farm. Just a few steps into the dark entrance corridor, they discovered the empty Land Rover, with the driver’s door still open. The boys called the police, who promptly dispatched a search team. After 90 minutes, in a chamber just 600 feet from the entrance, they found Josuat-Verges. He was ghostly pale, thin as a skeleton, and had grown out a long, scraggly beard—but he was alive.

In the following days, as the story of Josuat-Verges’s survival reached the media, he became known as le miraculé des ténèbres, “the miracle of darkness.”

POINT OF REFLECTION: On this Groundhog Day, perhaps getting lost might be a possibility.

5 New Ways Businesses Are Screwing Their Customers

If I want to, I can go online right now and have Taco Bell, sweatpants, and a python delivered to my house. That’s the beauty of the modern age. However, all of this innovation also means there are bold new ways that we can get screwed out of our money. For example …

5. Uber Drivers Can Charge You For Vomit (That Isn’t Yours)

If you’re not the imaginative type, you may not understand a term like “vomit fraud.” Are Uber drivers forcing their fingers down people’s throats to make them hurl? Probably, but that’s not my concern. Vomit fraud is what happens when an Uber driver picks up someone, drives them to their destination, and then later that someone finds a cleaning charge of up to $150 added to their fare because the driver said they puked.

All a driver has to do is send a picture of throw-up in their car to Uber and then blame you for it. They can do this even if that photo is of someone else’s vomit, robber vomit, or a splattered can of creamed corn. Customers have pointed out that it’s extremely hard to get Uber to reverse the charges, and if you decide to get your credit card company involved, Uber, being good sports, might be inspired to cancel your account entirely.

Nonexistent vomit isn’t the only thing you can get dinged for. While most of us would agree that pissing in a car merits a cleanup bill, some riders have been billed for water that came off their clothes on a rainy day. Generally, it’s very hard to avoid that unless you have those newfangled hover shoes. Again, it’s photo evidence that a driver will use to back their case. A wet floor mat? The horror!

A 30-minute walk may reduce blood pressure by as much as medication

A morning walk can help lower blood pressure.

Just 30 minutes of exercise every morning may be as effective as medication at lowering blood pressure for the rest of the day. A study found that a short burst of treadmill walking each morning had long-lasting effects, and there were further benefits from additional short walks later in the day.

In experiments, 35 women and 32 men aged between 55 and 80 followed three different daily plans, in a random order, with at least six days between each one.

The first plan consisted of uninterrupted sitting for 8 hours, while the second consisted of 1 hour of sitting before 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity, followed by 6.5 hours of sitting down. The final plan was 1 hour of sitting before 30 minutes of treadmill walking, followed by 6.5 hours of sitting, which was interrupted every 30 minutes with 3 minutes of walking at a light intensity.

The study was conducted in a laboratory to standardise the results, and men and women ate the same meals the evening before the study and during the day.

Michael Wheeler at the University of Western Australia in Perth and his colleagues found that blood pressure was lower in men and women who took part in the exercise plans, compared with when they didn’t exercise.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

While Donald Trump keeps pointing to the southern border as the source of America’s opioid crisis, U.S. doctors and pharmaceutical companies are behind aggressive efforts to prescribe patients highly addictive doses of drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl for excessive financial gain.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump and his allies freaking out about a Democratic plan to fight climate change.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

下からねこ5。 View from the bottom of Maru&Hana


Hot, Small, or Couch, Why Potatoes Make Great Idioms.

According to KnowYourMeme, the repository of information about internet trends and slang, the phrase “recorded with a potato,” in various forms, dates back to 2009. Or maybe 2010. Or earlier. It’s hard to tell. But the phrase had a moment among gamers, YouTube commenters, and forum users: If someone posted something lousy or of poor quality, like a dark and blurry photo, users might reply, “did you take this with a potato?” The response got so ubiquitous that someone even made a potato into a camera. (The photos it took are pretty great.)

That use spun outward. People, especially very online people who do not speak English as a first language, sometimes apologize for their “potato English.”

This is just the latest in a very long line of potato-isms. Across the world and throughout history, the potato has been used linguistically nearly as much as it has been used culinarily, with similarly varied results. Hot potato, small potatoes, couch potato, meat and potatoes. And that’s just in modern American English! Why is the potato seemingly the most idiom-friendly foodstuff?

The potato is native to the Andes Mountains, where by the time Europeans arrived, it had become the staple crop for an empire as large and probably grander than any in Europe. “It was like bread in France, or rice in southern China,” says Charles C. Mann, the author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. In the Andes there are thousands of varieties of potatoes, and many preparation methods that are still essentially unknown elsewhere, even though the potato is now a global crop. (One of those is chuños, which are frozen potatoes that have the moisture driven out of them. They end up freeze-dried, which gives them a shelf-life of decades.)

Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Maybe. Probably Not. Groundhog Day.