Amazon Deals

New at Amazon

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday links

It's W. C. Fields' birthday: quotes, bio and film clips.

Argue amongst yourselves: The 10 Best Superhero Performances in Movies.

Interesting technology improvements in this year's Super Bowl cameras.

Five medieval toothpaste recipes, plus more medieval dental advice.

Family Wraps an Entire Greenhouse around Their Home to Keep it Warm.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the Soviet Army liberation of Auschwitz, forgotten World War II films, the world's longest war lasted 335 years (and ended in 1986), and proof that children are imbeciles (and babies are stupid).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Phone-tracking apps keep telling people (and cops) that their missing smartphones are in this couple’s house in a suburb of Atlanta.

"The ubiquity of the technology may leave the impression that location tracking is always reliable, experts say."

Interesting article at, which sounds like the plot from a TV crime series. Excerpts below:
It started the first month that Christina Lee and Michael Saba started living together. An angry family came knocking at their door demanding the return of a stolen phone. Two months later, a group of friends came with the same request. One month, it happened four times. The visitors, who show up in the morning, afternoon, and in the middle of the night, sometimes accompanied by police officers, always say the same thing: their phone-tracking apps are telling them that their smartphones are in this house in a suburb of Atlanta.
The couple, who are in their 20s, she a journalist and he an engineer, worry the police will kick down their door one day, a scenario that has happened before based on faulty Find-My-iPhone tracking.

“It really drives home how unsafe and fallible some of this technological evidence is,” said Saba by phone.

The missing phones don’t seem to have anything in common. Some are iPhones. Some are Androids. They’re on different carriers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Boost Mobile. Saba and Lee don’t know who can fix it because there’s no obvious guilty party. They filed a complaint with the local police department but that hasn’t helped. 

They’ve already had two visits in 2016.

The Washington Post has more:

So why is it happening? So far, nobody is entirely sure; but several theories have been floated by experts.

A Las Vegas resident with a similar problem hoped that signs might help.
To grasp the problem, it helps to rewind history to the mid-1990s, when cellphone companies were forced to create a way to locate cellular devices so that their coordinates could be sent to police dispatchers... Nearly two decades later, the number of calls to dispatchers from cell phones has increased to 70 percent; but in many cities around the country, the technology has not always kept pace.

The ubiquity of the technology may leave the impression that location tracking is always reliable, experts say.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert from Surrey University, told the BBC that trackers rely on GPS, which isn't available in many locations.

Without GPS, he noted, phone trackers rely on a less accurate process of determining location known as "triangulation."

"All triangulation does is draw a line equidistant between three cell towers and if your house is on that line you'll get visits," Woodward said. "I don't have enough data to know exactly what's going on but I wouldn't be at all surprised [if it was a triangulation error]."

More at USA Today on the difficulty of locating cell phones.

No offence, you guys, but better you than me.

Gallery of Photos From Inside The Wreckage Of The Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

Remember the disastrous wreck of the Costa Concordia (wiki) in January, 2012 off the coast of Isola del Giglio in Italy?

The wreckage was left to rot in Genoa, and incredibly German photographer Jonathan Danko Kielkowski found it unguarded and totally open for exploration when he arrived to snap some pics for his book Concordia. The German photographer swam out to where the ship – which ran aground off Tuscany in 2012 with the loss of 32 lives – is moored.
“Against all odds, I find the shipwreck freely accessible – neither fences nor security personnel. Rather, the doors are open, lights are turned on, no man can be seen”.

Generic map of Every City

It's rather astonishing how similar all cities are, when you come right down to it.

We travel the globe to marvel at the world's diversity; but we dare not ask ourselves the question that negates the time and money we spent to get there: Why does every place look so much like any other place?
All high streets and shopping malls are slightly rearranged versions of each other. Cities have rich and poor areas; big cities have financial quarters and ethnic neighborhoods. All cities have clogged traffic arteries, post-industrial pockets of hipness, and districts that hate each other's guts for no other reason than that they're across the river from each other, or on opposite sides of the tracks.

H/T Dyspepsia Generation

Wednesday links

Veteran Plows Neighborhood with Wheelchair.

The World's Longest War Lasted 335 Years, and Only Ended in 1986.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include Australia Day (the first convict-carrying fleet arrived in Australia on January 26, 1788), vintage photos of terrible steam-train accidents, the evolution of Lucky Charms, and PSAs on movie theater etiquette from 100 years ago.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday links

It's Australia Day: When the United States declared independence and England could no longer send convicts here, they needed a new penal colony. The first fleet arrived in Australia on January 26, 1788.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include strange habits of geniuses, how Wile E. Coyote explains the world, Burns Day (with extra haggis), why cats meow, and some impressive feats of wartime engineering.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday links

Scots, wha hae - Happy Burns Day! Here's a bio, Braveheart, Burns Supper instructions,and lots of haggis.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include advice from c. 1200 on how to survive the winter, 10 real life MacGyver moments that saved lives, online shopping in the 1950s, and Alton Brown's critique of Amazon's dumbest kitchen gadgets, with bonus Amazon reviews. Also, a roundup of snow-related links.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Children are imbeciles (and babies are stupid)

I ran across this on Twitter and couldn't stop laughing:

It reminded me of this old article from The Onion - I can't find it on their site any longer:

Study Reveals: Babies are Stupid (May 21st, 1997)

LOS ANGELES - A surprising new study released Monday by UCLA's Institute For Child Development revealed that human babies, long thought by psychologists to be highly inquisitive and adaptable, are actually extraordinarily stupid.

The study, an 18-month battery of intelligence tests administered to over 3,500 babies, concluded categorically that babies are "so stupid, it's not even funny."

According to Institute president Molly Bentley, in an effort to determine infant survival instincts when attacked, the babies were prodded in an aggressive manner with a broken broom handle. Over 90 percent of them, when poked, failed to make even rudimentary attempts to defend themselves. The remaining 10 percent responded by vacating their bowels.

It is unlikely that the presence of the babies' fecal matter, however foul-smelling, would have a measurable defensive effect against an attacker in a real-world situation," Bentley said.

Another test, in which the infants were placed on a mound of dirt outdoors during a torrential downpour, produced similarly bleak results.

"The chicken, dog and even worm babies that we submitted to the test as a control group all had enough sense to come in from the rain or, at least, seek shelter under a leafy clump of vegetation or outcropping of rock," test supervisor Thomas Howell said. "The human babies, on the other hand, could not grasp even this incredibly basic concept, instead merely lying on the ground and making gurgling noises."

According to Howell, almost 60 percent of the infants tested in this manner eventually drowned.

Some of the babies tested were actually so stupid that they choked to death on pieces of Micronaut space toys. Others, unable to use such primitive instruments as can openers and spoons due to insufficient motor skills, simply starved to death, despite being surrounded by cabinets full of nutritious, life-giving Gerber-brand baby-food products.

Babies, the study concluded, are also too stupid to do the following: avoid getting their heads trapped in automatic car windows; use ice to alleviate the pain of burn injuries resulting from touching an open flame; master the skills required for scuba diving; and use a safety ladder to reach a window to escape from a room filled with cyanide gas.

"As a mother of four, I find these results very disheartening," Bentley told reporters. "I can honestly say that the effort I have expended trying to raise my children into intelligent beings may have been entirely wasted, a fool's dream, if you will."

Study results also prompted a strong reaction from President Clinton. "All of us, on some primitive, mammalian level, feel a great sense of pride in our offspring," Clinton said. "It is now clear, however, that these feelings are unfounded. Given the overwhelming evidence of their profound stupidity, we have no choice but to replace our existing infant population with artificially incubated simu-drones, with the eventual goal of phasing out the shamefully stupid human baby forever." - The Onion