January 7, 2016

You've Been Floorthed


Thoday in History: January 7, 1901

Alferd Packer went down in history as one of Colorado’s most notorious – and macabre – criminals. Nicknamed the “Man-eater,” Packer was tried and found guilty of eating five of his fellow travelers on an expedition from Utah to Colorado in 1874.

The group originally included 21 people, with Packer acting as guide. As they worked their way toward Colorado, the weather took a turn for the worse and conditions became impassable. The majority of the group felt it unwise to press on, but Packer and five others decided to continue.

It did not take long for the small group to become lost in the San Juan mountains. ...

'Darth Niño' may bring heavier snows to Boulder County in late season

Currently, 'action has shifted southwards' — but that could change

If this is "Godzilla," when does the show begin?

"Godzilla" was the name coined by a NASA climatologist late last summer for the historically strong El Niño that has taken hold in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, and is expected to send unusually heavy moisture into some regions of the United States in the months ahead.

The phenomenon, which is also credited for the northern states so far experiencing a relatively mild and dry winter, also has earned another film-world reference, via the nickname "Darth Niño."

With snow back in the forecast for Friday — but probably only a few inches — some Boulder County residents might be wondering if this Godzilla talk is just so much meteorological monkey business.

Klaus Wolter, a research scientist at the Earth System Research Laboratory at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, makes a special focus of his work the application of statistical methods to climate phenomenon, such as the impact of what is known as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation on worldwide climate.

He was asked Wednesday to gauge how the extremely warm surface waters of the tropical Pacific might drive Front Range weather in the coming months.

He made no mention of apes. ...

Google apologises after labelling Russia 'Mordor'

Translation glitch saw Russians described as "occupiers" and the Russian foreign minister described as "a sad little horse"

Russia is “Mordor,” Russians are “occupiers,” and the country’s top diplomat is a “sad little horse”.

That’s according to Google Translate’s Ukrainian to Russian function, in a bug that has seen the Internet giant issue an embarrassed apology and sent its engineers scrambling to adjust the programme’s algorithms.

The bug was gleefully pointed out by Ukrainian users of Twitter, Facebook, and the Vkontakte social network, who posted multiple screen shots of insulting translations over the weekend.

Posts showed that the Ukrainian word for “the Russian Federation” appeared in Russian as “Mordor.”

The word for “Russians” translated to “okkupanty”, or “occupiers,” in an apparent reference to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for a secessionist armed movement in east Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the surname of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, showed up as “grustnaya loshadka”, or “sad little horse”. ...

10 Cool Subcultures You’ll Want To Join

Within every culture, there are various subcultures just waiting to be recognized and appreciated by a curious onlooker. Some of these subcultures can be rather unusual and perhaps even threatening, while others seem completely normal and ordinary.

10. Russian Stilyagi

In the 1950s, Moscow’s stilyagi (“hipsters”) were teenagers who wore modern haircuts, daring makeup, and brightly colored Western clothes despite the heavy cultural repression of the USSR. In secret, they listened to strictly forbidden American jazz and rock music. Their belief in freedom of expression was so fervent that they were willing to risk being arrested by the Russian police, who organized daily roundups.

Since it was hard to find vinyl in the Soviet Union, the stilyagi rescued discarded X-rays from hospital wastebins. Then they cut the vinyl into crude circles and burned cigarette holes in the middle. A copy of a Western record album was etched into each vinyl circle, resulting in homemade records that were known as bone music.

The quality was poor, and they could be played on one side only. But they were cheap to make and did the job. These homemade records often contained surprises within them, such as a mocking Russian voice saying, “So, thought you’d take a listen to the latest sounds, eh?” ...

Gun companies in fear of NRA unlikely to help Obama’s cause

Recent history suggests that the gun industry is more afraid of offending the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association than confronting the White House

The White House intends to “engage” with gunmakers to “explore what more they can do” following Barack Obama’s tearful announcement of expanded background checks on gun buyers. With an eye on the manufacturers, the president called for new technologies to make weapons safer, such as trigger locks.

But recent history suggests his appeal will fail to persuade an industry that is more afraid of offending the gun lobby than confronting the White House.

In 2000, Smith & Wesson, one of the US’s oldest and largest gun manufacturers, broke ranks and agreed to work with the federal government to strengthen gun controls. It made a deal with the Clinton administration to install locking devices on handguns, develop “smart guns” capable of being fired only by their owners, and to design weapons blocked from accepting magazines holding more than 10 bullets. Smith & Wesson also agreed to sell only to responsible dealers and not at gun shows that do not require a background check for all sales. ...

The Counterintuitive Tech Behind Netflix’s Worldwide Launch

Netflix just expanded into 130 new countries, now reaching just about every nation on Earth. And that’s a big deal—not just for Netflix and its viewers, but for the Internet as a whole.

For most Internet services, expanding into foreign markets isn’t very hard. Somebody translates a few app menus into a new language, and that’s that. But Netflix is different. To stream TV shows and movies into foreign countries, it must negotiate a whole new set of rights with those that own the content. And it must deal with all that extra bandwidth. Here in North America, Netflix accounts for about 35 percent of all Internet traffic—far more than any other service, including YouTube—and when it expands into a foreign market, it can top 20 percent of all traffic in as little as 18 months, according to Sandvine, an outfit that tracks Internet usage across the globe.

In pushing so much data across the network, Netflix must worry about performance. We all know how annoying things get when the network bogs down and videos start stuttering. But the company must also consider the cost. Moving such massive amounts of video isn’t cheap. ...

6 Important Things That Are Done With Insanely Outdated Tech

The most unrealistic part of The Avengers isn't the Norse god or the green guy with the anger-management issues -- it's the idea that a government agency would have a high-tech flying base filled with super advanced, holographic computers. In reality, today's government workers are lucky if they get the same 1998 Compaq your grandpa uses to talk to Arby's on The Face Book.

#6. NASA Had To Buy Spare Parts From eBay

NASA is the only U.S. government agency that has sent people to the moon and installed a selfie-taking robot on Mars, so it should come as no surprise that it sits at the "forefront" of technological innovation. Please note the sarcastic quote marks. For starters, before the space shuttle program was retired in 2011, NASA still tested the safety of its booster rockets with Intel 8086 chips -- the same chips used in the original IBM PC in 1981, back when the word "laptop" just meant your crotch.

Because if it's good enough for running over 8-bit donkeys, it's good enough to colonize Mars.

Obviously, Intel stopped making that chip long ago ... so where did the official space agency of the world's mightiest nation procure this essential equipment? In the same place where you get your vintage, lightly used ThunderCats Underoos, of course ... on eBay!...

Massive Windows 10 News Hides 5 Nasty Surprises

Sometimes showing off has a way of coming back to bite you. In an understandably celebratory post Microsoft has revealed Windows 10 is now active on over 200 million devices (though this includes Xbox One upgrades and Windows 10 Mobile smartphones). Then it made a series of boasts which exposed something rather shocking…

In an attempt to illustrate just how much Windows 10 users love the new operating system, Microsoft rolled out stat after stat about growing adoption and momentum (Black Friday and Christmas play their part here). But then things got weird:

“One of the ways we measure our progress with Windows 10 is looking at how people are using Windows,” explained Microsoft Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi. “Recently we reached another milestone – people have spent over 11 billion hours on Windows 10 in December alone, spending more time on Windows than ever before.” ...

This Website Will Rate Your Attractiveness Using Artificial Intelligence

“Hot or not” has gotten smarter.

A new website is using artificial intelligence to tell you how hot you are. Simply upload your photo, and the program will guess your age and rate your attractiveness as one of the following: Hmm.., OK, nice, hot, stunning or godlike. The website is the creation of a partnership between The Computer Vision Laboratory, a Zurich-based company that works with image-based data sets, and the team behind the dating app BLINQ. Try your photo here.

It’s clearly just for fun, and although the companies do link to the research used for this program, they’ve posted a disclaimer on the site saying not to take it too seriously. They add that attractiveness is subjective and say the program was trained mainly using pictures of the BLINQ users, who are mostly Swiss. ...


This Day In History: January 7, 1990

The Cathedral in Pisa’s free-standing bell tower obviously wasn’t intended to be lopsided. When construction began in August of 1173, everything seemed OK at first. But the builders set the tower on a too-small foundation in unstable, weak soil. By the time construction had reached the third floor in 1178, the structure had begun to sink.

Efforts were made to correct the problem by putting longer and heavier pillars on the north side in the hopes of making it straight again. Unfortunately, it looked rather like a droopy, stone banana instead. It was left as it was for a few hundred years while wise guys through the ages no doubt pretended to prop up the tower to make their buddies laugh.

And so it became the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, unwitting tourist attraction, and something that most of us just take for granted. The sun rises in the east, the sky is blue, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa …leans. ...

Everything Interesting About Volkswagen's New Electric Microbus

Volkswagen pulled the sheet of a modernized re-incarnation of the venerable Microbus for the third (fourth if you count the two-tone T6 Multivan, or fifth if you count the Space Up!) time yesterday at CES. What lurked under that sheet is called BUDD-e, and it’s either fascinating or disappointing, depending on what you were hoping for.

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw it was the realization that Volkswagen is not taking the easy path to getting favorable attention in the wake of the still-lumbering Dieselgate fiasco. If they wanted to go the easy, general-public-pleasing route, they would have done something much more blatantly retro, similar to what they did with Derek Jenkins’ 2000 Microbus revival. ...

‘Found Your Phone In An Uber’ is the accidental dance jam hit of 2016

When Brett Sarubbi left his phone in an Uber in Miami, he might've thought it was gone forever. But not only was it returned to him by a couple of kind-hearted women (or at least one kind-hearted woman, because the other apparently "wouldn't have gave your shit back, yeah"), but the ladies also recorded a NSFW explanation video. Complete with twerking, flowered headgear, and a "shake that ass dance," this is obviously the 2016 anthem that everyone has been waiting for...

10 Historical Myths About Dictators

Absolute power corrupts absolutely and often weirdly. The eccentricities and brutal methods of dictators often strike a strange chord. Perhaps that’s why it is so easy for misconceptions and myths to emerge from their stories, as there is often little difference between the wildest lies and the most shocking truths.

10. Adolf Schicklgruber

It is often claimed that Adolf Hitler was born with the surname Schicklgruber. Hitler’s father, Alois, was born out of wedlock to Maria Anna Schicklgruber, who eventually married Alois’s probable father, Johann Georg Hiedler.

Hiedler didn’t legitimize his son in life, but Alois was later legitimized by his uncle. As historian Alan Bullock said, “From the beginning of 1877, 12 years before Adolf was born, his father called himself Hitler, and his son was never known by any other name until his opponents dug up this long-forgotten village scandal and tried, without justification, to label him with his grandmother’s name of Schicklgruber.” ...

George W. Bush Could Be Key to Stopping Donald Trump, Republican Says

For much of the 2016 Republican primary, conventional wisdom has had it that former president George W. Bush is something of a liability to his brother Jeb's struggling campaign.

But for at least one top Republican in South Carolina—the state that holds the American South's premier presidential nominating contest and only early state that has never dealt a primary defeat to a member of the Bush family–the 43rd president could be the party establishment's answer to stop front-runner Donald Trump in his tracks.

“The game changer is: Will 43 engage?” Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said in an interview about the former president, who was the nation's 43rd commander-in-chief. “If 43 engages, it will matter for his brother, but, really, it will matter for the entire team.” ...

World Bank issues 'perfect storm' warning for 2016

Simultaneous slowdown in Brics economies would jeopardise chances of pick-up in global growth this year, report says

The risk of the global economy being battered by a “perfect storm” in 2016 has been highlighted by the World Bank in a flagship report that warns that a synchronised slowdown in the biggest emerging markets could be intensified by a fresh bout of financial turmoil.

The Bank said the possibility that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – the so-called Brics economies – could all face problems simultaneously would put in jeopardy the chances of a pick-up in growth in the coming year.

It added that the impact would be heightened by severe financial market stress of the sort triggered in 2013 by the announcement by the Federal Reserve that it was considering reducing the stimulus it was then providing to the US economy. ...

6 Creepy Schemes Companies Use To Bury You In Debt

Unless you come from an obscenely rich family, one of the first things you find out when you hit adulthood is that your future might depend on your willingness to take on debt. Do you want to go to college? You'll probably need a loan for that. Need a car? That's going to require a loan. Ready to put down some roots and settle in a permanent place of your own? Unless your name is Mr. or Ms. Money Bags, get ready to borrow.

And the fact that borrowing is a part of adulthood isn't even the bad news. If you were paying attention as a child, you saw that one coming. The bad news is that your car, education, and house are only the tip of the debt iceberg. Beneath the sea is a whole other landmass of ways the world wants to keep you in the red.

#6. Creditors Will Try To Convince You To Inherit Your Dead Relative's Debt

Imagine it's only been a week or so since your parents died in a tragic white-whale-hunting accident. In the middle of making funeral arrangements and divvying up the good jewelry, you start getting calls from a debt collector. It turns out your father ran up a huge debt by stockpiling hundreds of harpoons, and these guys want to know how you intend to pay everything off.

"Wait a minute," you're saying. "I don't have to pay my parents' debts!" And you'd be right. But if you think that's going to stop debt collectors, we admire your optimism. ...

14 Incredible Objections to a Single Boulder Housing Development

Protecting a firefly habitat and curbing “pet density” are among the reasons some city residents are resisting an affordable housing development.

On Tuesday night, leaders in Boulder, Colorado, voted unanimously to incorporate an open field in Boulder County, just outside the city’s boundary, into the city proper. The open field at 4525 Palo Parkway will be the site of a 44-unit development, a mix of owner and rental units for low-income families.

It’s a routine vote for the Boulder City Council. And yet it has spurred a surprising degree of opposition from residents of Northfield Commons, a nearby neighborhood marked by single-family detached homes. The Daily Camera reports that residents objected to the plan to build 20 townhouse and triplex units and 24 apartment units of a range of sizes. Some frustrated residents left before the vote was taken, according to the report.

One Northfield Commons resident even launched a petition opposing the Palo Parkway development. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a shock. After all, Boulder voters seriously considered a change last year in the city charter that would have let neighborhoods control zoning decisions throughout the city. ...

German paper says Volkswagen will likely buy 115,000 cars back from US owners

After defeat device scandal, some models may be too costly to fix.

On Thursday a German newspaper reported that Volkswagen Group "assumes it will have to buy back about 115,000 cars in the United States," according to Reuters.

Volkswagen officials have been working with US regulators to come to an agreement about how best to fix the nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles in the US that were discovered to illegally include software—generically called a defeat device—that thwarts the emissions control system. Defeat devices helped some of Volkswagen Group’s cars pass emissions tests in a lab but allowed the cars to pollute more heavily when driving under normal conditions. In the 2.0-liter engine diesel cars especially, models were found to give off 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) as is permitted by federal law. ...


If you take a peek at a list of pilots who were considered flying aces during WW2, you’ll notice that the top of the list is dominated by Luftwaffe pilots, some of whom scored hundreds of aerial victories during the war. While their skill and prowess in the air is undeniable, it’s arguable that the finest display in aerial combat during WW2 was achieved, mostly by luck, by an American B-24 co-pilot when he scored a single enemy kill with nothing but a handgun, at about 4,000-5,000 feet (about 1.3 km) in altitude, and without a plane. This is the story of Owen Baggett.

Born in 1920 in Texas, after finishing high school, Baggett moved to the city of Abilene to enroll in Hardin–Simmons University. While we were unable to discern what Baggett studied from the sparse amount of information available about his early life, the fact that he went to work at Johnson and Company Investment Securities in New York after graduating suggests he studied finance, business, or another similar subject.

Whatever the case, while still working at the investment firm in New York in December of 1941, Baggett volunteered for the Army Air Corps and reported for basic pilot training at the New Columbus Army Flying School. ...

Netflix is cool with you sharing your account

Don't worry about lending your Netflix password. CEO Reed Hastings says sharing entertainment is a good thing.

Suffering a guilty conscience for borrowing someone's Netflix account? The streaming-video giant says don't worry about it.

"We love people sharing Netflix," CEO Reed Hastings said Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas. "That's a positive thing, not a negative thing."

Hastings' comments come as the growing popularity of video streaming creates a social conundrum for many users of paid digital content services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go. Lots of people do it. At the Emmys in September, host Andy Samberg gave viewers a real HBO Go password. ...

Rubio Is Trying to Win Conservatives by Promising to Rig the Game

Why the Florida senator is backing that strange proposal to hold a constitutional convention.

Sen. Marco Rubio needs conservatives, or at least, the deep red voters who are currently parked behind his immediate rival, Sen. Ted Cruz. Without them, he’s stuck in the middle of the pack, and far behind in states like Iowa, where those conservatives dominate. But Rubio is in a bind. He’s running as a conservative who can win, with a campaign aimed at the general election. Which means that he has to temper his rhetoric; he can’t indulge the red meat and factionalism of candidates like Cruz without risking his appeal as the most electable Republican in the race.

Instead, he has to send quiet signals and speak to more esoteric concerns. And last week, he did as much with a pledge to put “the weight of the presidency” behind a constitutional convention. “One of the things I’m going to do on my first day in office is I will put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states,” said Rubio at a recent campaign stop in Waterloo, Iowa. “You know why? Because that is the only way that we are ever going to get term limits on members of Congress or the judiciary and that is the only way we are ever going to get a balanced-budget amendment.” ...

10 Haunting Last Phone Calls

Once the telephone became widespread, phone calls became a rather mundane part of life. But what if you were just going about your day when your phone rings, you answer the call, and on the other side of the line, you hear a tragedy unfolding?

10. Laura McComb

On May 23, 2015, Laura McComb, her husband, her children, and another family of five were vacationing together in Wimberley, Texas, when a violent storm hit the area. It caused the Blanco River to flood, and the waters rose 8 meters (26 ft) within one hour.

That water surrounded McComb and her family and forced them onto the second level of the cabin. At 11:11 PM, McComb called 911 and told them that she and her family were on the second floor. The dispatcher said they would send help but did not give them a time frame.

Less than 18 minutes later, the cabin where the two families were staying broke away from the foundation. McComb called her sister in Austin and said, “We are floating in a house that is now floating down the river. Call mom and dad. I love you . . . and pray.” ...

I quite literally ran around a virtual arena and loved it


We've been watching the development of Virtuix's Omni VR treadmill since 2013. The company debuted a fully-functional production model at CES 2016 and I was lucky enough to take the $700 device for a test drive -- or rather test run.

The treadmill doesn't work like the one at your gym, mind you. There aren't actually any moving parts. Instead, the user wears special, $60 super-slippery soled shoes adorned with accelerometers that track their movement as the user slide-steps atop the unit's floor. The user is also strapped into a lower body harness to keep them centered above the unit, which also allows them to shuffle their feet faster. All this physical movement translates into in game movement -- walk forward, to move forward in the game; back pedal to reverse course. Easy, right? ...

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee: Steve Martin

S7 E2 “If You See This On A Toilet Seat, Don't Sit Down”

The full video goodness is at the link.......

The 5 Least Anticipated Pop Culture Moments Of 2016

Ugh, 2015 has finally come to an end. As has been widely reported, it was kind of a shitty year. Good thing we have so much great stuff to look forward to in 2016, right? Yeah, probably. But there's also some total bullshit masquerading as good times on the horizon. We talk about a few examples on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...

... where I'm joined by comic Maria Shehata and Cracked art bro Randall Maynard. It's also what I'm talking about here today. Let's have at it!

#5. The Summer Olympics

es, I agree that the Olympics are indeed kind of fun to watch. By that, I of course just mean that track, swimming, and gymnastics are fun to watch. But still, we only get to care about those sports without seeming like total weirdos once every four years (same deal with figure skating). Far be it from me to deny that the Olympics come with immense potential for action and enjoyment.

That said, like so many other things in life, the pleasure we get from putting our nation's ever-declining dominance on display for all to see comes at a huge cost to the poor people of the world. As I've brought up previously, this year's Olympics in Brazil are no exception. Bad things seem to follow when the Olympics show up anywhere.

Like the mascots that terrorized the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.


The Bill Clinton scandal machine revs back up and takes aim at his wife

The ghosts of the 1990s have returned to confront Hillary Clinton, released from the vault by Donald Trump and revved up by a 21st-century version of the scandal machine that almost destroyed her husband’s presidency.

This is a moment that her campaign has long expected. What remains to be seen is whether a reminder of allegations of sexual impropriety against Bill Clinton — which were deemed to have varying levels of credibility when they were first aired — can gain new traction in a different context.

The fresher case being made is that Hillary Clinton has been, at a minimum, hypocritical about her husband’s treatment of women, and possibly even complicit in discrediting his accusers. ...

FCC Chairman: Comedian John Oliver Helped Drive Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler took the stage at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Wednesday to discuss big issues before the FCC this year, including the spectrum incentive auction, reflect on victories including net neutrality and thank comedian John Oliver for furthering the debate.

“John Oliver took the ultimate arcane issue, Title II, and made it something that got people interested. And that’s good,” Wheeler said of the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” who during an episode of the satirical news show discussing net neutrality in 2014 that went viral, likened putting Wheeler — a former telecom industry entrepreneur and lobbyist — in charge of the FCC to “needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.”

In his annual discussion with Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro, Wheeler gave Oliver credit for more than just prodding him to look up “dingo” in the encyclopedia. The comedian, he said, helped spark interest in an important telecom issue with “real, live consumer impact.” ...


Several artists have died on stage while conducting live performances; however, one case is highly unique and probably the most ironic at the same time. The incident involved actress Edith Webster.

Webster was a relatively unknown actress who never managed to make a name for herself during her lifetime, but left her mark in history with her bizarre death. During The Drunkard, which was being performed at the Towson Moose Lodge in Baltimore, the 60-year-old Edith Webster was playing the role of the grandmother. According to the plot of the play, during the second half of the show, just before the end, the grandmother had to sing “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” after which she was to slump dead onto the floor. ...

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