What unholy hellspawn gave birth to this abomination?
Seriously, who the hell saw the final result from the CGI tests and said, “This! This is what we want! Something that looks like a mad scientist’s fever dream of human/cat hybrids gone horribly wrong.”
To be fair, I’m not a fan of the Broadway musical of the same name. I’m familiar with the songs because people I know and love really like the musical and own the soundtracks and have played them many times over the years in my presence, but all I’ve seen of the stage play is the clips they use in the advertisements when it’s in town. I thought the play’s costumes were a little funky, but they worked.
This? This lands solidly in the uncanny valley which is weird because those are real humans prancing about that look like someone forcibly inserted an animatronic tail in their assholes while injecting them with the world’s worst hair growth formula. They look vaguely cat-ish with realistic ears, but they have human eyes and teeth. And I thought the CGI hedgehog in the upcoming Sonic movie looked disturbing. This takes it to a whole other level. The oddest part is that they somehow seem even more naked than if they were actually naked.
I suppose if you’re a fan of the Broadway show this will do nothing to dissuade you from seeing the movie, but at the same time this does nothing to lure non-fans into the theater.
What has been seen cannot be unseen so my only relief was to share my pain.
Fifty years ago on July 16th, 1969 American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins took flight to the moon in a Saturn V rocket. I was just under two years old at the time so I don’t have any recollection of this historic event.
Fortunately for me, CBS News did a live stream of four and a half hours of coverage of the event — including the commercials aired at the time — and that live stream is still available to watch on YouTube. Or you can watch it right here:
I have to admit that I find this interesting not just for the historic event itself, but for the slice of America that it preserves. Between the commercials, which are surprisingly calm and dulcet compared to many commercials today, and the newscast it really puts into perspective how much has changed in 50 years. Some of it good and some of it bad. What’s also amazing is just how much of an emotional experience it still is to watch the launch even after 50 years of routine space flight with the shuttles and the space stations.
You may not want to sit through the full four and a half hours, but it’s worth watching at least some of this video. Especially if, like me, you aren’t old enough to remember it first hand. It really is incredible that we pulled this off using onboard computers with way less computing power than what your phone you carry around with you is capable of.
Have you seen all the people on Facebook posting selfies of themselves after they’ve run it through the FaceApp? It’s all the rage right now probably because the results tend to err on the very flattering side. If this app is to be believed, everyone is going to look amazing. Just a few more wrinkles and lots of grey hair. Personally, I don’t need to use that FaceApp to see what I would look like as an old person because I am already an old person.
True story: On the way into work this morning I could not for the life of me remember my age. I knew I was 50-something, but I wasn’t sure if I would be turning 52 or 53 next month on my birthday. I had to literally do the math in my head while driving at 70 MPH on the freeway because it was bugging me so much that I couldn’t recall if I am currently 51 or 52 years old. (For the record, I am currently 51 about to turn 52.) I almost went as far as to ask Google because they almost certainly know my age, but I did the math instead because I didn’t want to interrupt the song streaming on Pandora at the time. So, yeah, I’m old. Not super old. Not even eligible for senior discounts at most places yet, but old enough to have the bloodhounds at AARP on my ass about signing up. I’ve got another three years before I outlive my biological father who died at 55, but I doubt I’ll match my great grandmother who died at 99.
Speaking of that FaceApp, you might want to think twice before playing with it depending on how much you care about your image potentially being sent to Russia for a foreign company to do whatever they want with it. The folks at Slate have a good write up on how worried you should be about the app with responses from the company that makes it:
Privacy Matters and several news outlets (some in rather alarming terms) pointed out that when you use the app, you grant Wireless Lab a lot of rights. That includes a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content … without compensation to you.” That basically means FaceApp can do whatever it wants with your photos, according to New York Law School professor Ari Waldman. “You retain copyrights and photos that you upload, but you grant them the opportunity to pretty much do anything they want with the photos that are stored on their servers,” Waldman told me. And in many cases, it’s not just photos of the individual using the app—people upload images of their friends and families, too, meaning such a database of faces would be massive, and that same policy would apply regardless of who is in the photo. “It’s pretty broad, to say the least,” Waldman said.
That’s a pretty permissive and vague terms and conditions, but to be fair to Wireless Lab, that’s true of a lot of apps because it covers their ass in case someone decides to sue for some stupid reason. Still, you should be aware that you are granting them these rights when you use the app. There was also a rumor going around that it wasn’t just uploading the picture you submitted to foreign servers, but grabbing your entire camera roll. Slate asked security expert Will Strafach to take a look at the app to see if that is true:
And, according to FaceApp’s creator Yaroslav Goncharov at Wireless Lab, that data doesn’t get sent to Russia at all unless you are in Russia:
Yaroslav Goncharov, FaceApp’s creator and Wireless Lab CEO, said in an emailed statement that no user data is transferred to Russia even though “the core R&D team is located” there, and he echoed that the entire camera roll is not tapped for upload. Forbes reported that FaceApp uses Amazon servers located in the U.S. and Australia. And, to be fair, FaceApp said it deletes most photos after 48 hours: “We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation.” But, again, all we have here is its word. When I asked Goncharov what Wireless Lab uses the photos for, he didn’t say. “Privacy policies and terms are drafted by lawyers and they always prefer to be on the safe side,” Goncharov wrote in an email. “We are planning to do some improvements here.” I directly asked if the company actively uses personal data for commercial purposes, and he didn’t respond.
So, in the end, it’s entirely possible that FaceApp is an innocuous bit of mindless fun and the folks at Wireless Lab aren’t keeping your data for very long or doing anything with it you wouldn’t want them to. However, the potential for abuse is still there in that terms of service agreement and if they changed their minds because, say, Russian intelligence needed a shit ton of pics to train a facial recognition system with, well, you’d given them the rights to do just that. Even then it’s arguable whether that would have any real impact on you in the long run outside of having helped the Russians to train an A.I., but it’s something you should consider before using the app.
Then again you should probably stop to consider these things with any app you’re thinking of using. Considering I’m all over both Google, Facebook, and this blog I doubt my using FaceApp could do much more damage to my privacy than I’ve already done to myself. I still won’t use it, though, because I already know what I’d look like when I’m old. Now, if it could remember my age for me…
I’ve not blogged anything in awhile in part because my creative juices have dried up and in part because every day there’s so many new outrages to come out of the Trump administration that it’s hard to keep up without being overwhelmed. Children in concentration camps, his unqualified kids sticking their noises in at the G20 summit, and now his big Russian styled military parade for the 4th of July.
This is why the title doesn’t wish you a Happy 4th. There’s nothing to be happy about this year. It’s all starting to feel way too much like the dictatorships Trump loves to buddy up to. More worrying to me, however, is how Trump has shown the willingness of Republicans to tolerate a wanna-be Stalin so long as he’s a Republican giving them want they want. Trump has already done so many things that they would’ve tried to impeach Obama for if he had done them that it really does put to bed any credibility they might have had. There was one Republican who stood up and called for impeachment, but he’s announced that he’s leaving the party so they don’t even have him to point to anymore.
So, have a safe July 4th. That’s the best I can do this year.
As of this past May 1st, I’ve officially owned a home for two years and we’ve lived in it for that long as of June 1st. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in that time it’s that I am not a great gardener or, for that matter, lawn up-keeper. I have a bad tendency of mowing the lawn once the grass has gone to seed which means that so far this year I’ve mowed it a grand total of three times. The lady we bought the house from was amazing at it. For example, when she was here our back yard looked like this:
Today, our back yard looks like this:
The area behind the tree used to look like this:
And today it looks like this:
It’s probably for the best that I apologized to the neighbors the first time I met them. At least with all the rain stuff is relatively green compared to last summer when both front and back yards had a distinct brownness thanks to grass that had gone dormant from the heat. The front yard is still recovering from that and there are areas that are more weed than grass. The little kidney shaped flower garden has also lain fallow since we arrived.
Truth is, neither Anne or I are in much shape to be out on our hands and knees pulling weeds nor do I think we have the requisite skills to keeps things looking quite as good as the previous owner. I keep looking around to see if I can find someone I could hire to help whip things into shape, but you have to have surplus budget for that sort of thing.
So, for now, I will continue to at least try to keep the grass at a reasonable height. I’m also trying to spray weed killer on the stuff growing in the cracks of the driveway and sidewalk, but I think I might have bought weed food instead of weed killer as it doesn’t seem to be having any impact. Frankly, I’m just glad we’ve made it through the first couple of years with the house still intact. The yard, not so much, but the house is still standing.
Received a letter from Credit One Bank today telling me the $435.68 payment on my credit card wouldn’t be accepted until I provided them with a letter from the bank the check was issued from on official letterhead stating that it was an authorized payment and with all this additional information to prove it was legit and in the meantime my account with Credit One was suspended.
Just one problem: I’d never heard of Credit One Bank until I got the letter today and I have never applied for a credit card from them. So, I spent the next hour on the phone with an “Account Specialist” who filed a report asking for the account to be investigated for fraud.
Turns out the account was opened on April 14th, which puts it around the same time as another attempt at opening a card with Capital One happened. That was only foiled because they used my old address in Canton instead of my current address and Capital One called to inquire about the discrepancy. I suppose I should take some comfort in that whoever this asshole opening accounts in my name is they’re at least trying to make payments on them with fraudulent checks? I’m also somewhat amused/annoyed that the amount of verification required for reactivating my “temporarily” suspended account is so much more than what is required to open the account in the first place.
I already knew I was part of the huge data breach of Equifax back in 2017 and I was wondering how long it would be before someone finally tried to make use of my data. I spent quite a bit more time today getting my free credit report which verifies the Credit One account having been opened and filing a dispute of it with both TransUnion and Experian. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that any other credit cards have been successfully opened under my name. I’ve already put a freeze on my credit with Equifax, but still need to do so with the other two.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve looked at your credit report then now might be a good time to do so. You can check all three reporting agencies at once through Annual Credit Report.com which is run by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You are entitled by law to one free credit report from each of the companies every 12 months. If you need to file a dispute you can do so online through their respective websites. You can also insure information about you is up to date. TransUnion, for example, didn’t have my current address. This is especially important if, like me, you are a victim of the Equifax breach.
A recent United Nations report warned that up to 1 million species are facing extinction thanks to the impact humans are having on the planet.
“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” Watson says. He emphasizes that business and financial concerns are also threatened. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” he says.
The report lists a number of key global threats, from humans’ use of land and sea resources to challenges posed by climate change, pollution and invasive species.
“Insect pollinators are unfortunately an excellent example of the problems caused by human activities,” Scott McArt,an entomology professor at Cornell University, says in a statement about the report.
“There’s actually a newly coined phrase for insect declines — the ‘windshield effect’ — owing to the fact that if you drove your car at dusk 30 years ago, you would need to clean the windshield frequently, but that’s no longer the case today,” McArt says.
There’s a very real danger at this point that if this high number of extinctions does to come to pass that we’ll end up going down with them. So the folks at Jimmy Kimmel Live went out on the street to ask people if we should save ourselves. Specifically, they used the scientific term for humans, Homo sapiens. These are some of the replies people gave:
To be fair, these segments only ever show you the clueless replies and the sample size here is very small, but humans being classified as Homo sapiens is a basic scientific fact that we were all taught (or should have been taught) in grade school. It’s similar to how a lot of folks don’t know that Dihydrogen Monoxide (H2O) is literally water, but that one is a little easier to understand folks not knowing if they didn’t take basic chemistry — not completely understandable as I never took basic chemistry and I know it, but a little more understandable.
I’ve ranted previously about the sad state of science literacy in America and things really haven’t improved much. Periodically the folks at the Pew Research Center conduct a survey to find out what Americans know about science. Their latest was done on January 7th to the 21st, 2019 and consisted of 11 fairly basic questions:
Americans give more correct than incorrect answers to the 11 questions. The mean number of correct answers is 6.7, while the median is 7. About four-in-ten Americans (39%) get between nine and 11 correct answers, classified as having high science knowledge on the 11-item scale or index. Roughly one-third (32%) are classified as having medium science knowledge (five to eight correct answers) and about three-in-ten (29%) are in the low science knowledge group (zero to four correct answers).
The biggest factor in determining how well someone does is the level of education that have managed to acquire:
Americans with a postgraduate degree get about four more questions correct, on average, than those with a high school degree or less education (9.1 of 11 questions vs. 5 of 11). Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) Americans with a postgraduate degree are classified as high in science knowledge, answering at least nine of 11 items correctly. By contrast, about two-in-ten (19%) of those with a high school degree or less perform as well on the scale.
And on each of the 11 questions, those with a postgraduate degree are at least 27 percentage points more likely to choose the correct answer than those with a high school degree or less.
There are also large differences between different ethnic groups which you would think could be tied to the fact that minorities often don’t have the same educational opportunities are whites, but it appears that may not be the case:
Whites are more likely than Hispanics or blacks to score higher on the index. Whites get an average of 7.6 correct out of 11 questions, while Hispanics average 5.1 correct answers and blacks 3.7 correct answers.4 Roughly half of whites (48%) are classified as having high science knowledge on the scale, answering at least nine questions correctly, compared with 23% of Hispanics and 9% of blacks.
Differences by race and ethnicity on science knowledge could be tied to several factors such as educational attainment and access to science information. However, differences between the racial/ethnic groups on science knowledge hold even after controlling for education levels in a regression model.
In a society that is increasingly reliant on technology and understanding the complexity of things such as the climate it’s more important than ever that folks have at least a basic understanding of science and the methodology of the scientific method. This survey suggests we have a long way to go. It’s no wonder we’re letting the planet burn.
You can take the quiz used for this survey yourself by clicking here. My own education level isn’t fantastic; I’ve had some college but I’ve never finished a degree. Yet I managed to get all 11 questions correct which is better than 83% of the public.
There were two questions I had to stop and think about before answering (and, no, I didn’t cheat and Google the answers), but the vast majority of these questions were answerable off the top of my head. That should be true for most people.
On the bright side, at the least I don’t have to worry that I’ll end up on one of Kimmel’s idiots-who-don’t-know-basic-science videos.
In addition to being the day Christians think Jesus took a 3 day nap and then vamoosed back to Heaven, today is also our 18th wedding anniversary which, to me, is a much more significant occasion. No one is more surprised that I’ve been married for 18 years than I am.
To say that I was apprehensive would be to put it mildly. Not long before Anne and I tied the knot, two of my good friends — people who seemed to have their shit together way better than I had and seemed to have happy marriages — got divorced. Their marriages ended around the five year mark and I worried that I, someone not known for having his shit together, would end up following a similar path.
To be sure, there were some rocky points early on were it seemed like things would not hold, but somehow we managed to keep it together. True to the vows, we’ve had our share of in sickness and in health and richer and poorer. There were days that we had no idea what we should do so we did the best we could and hoped for the best. So far that seems to be working.
I have nothing deeply profound to offer on marriage other than to remember what it was that brought you two together in the first place and keep working at it. Some days she’s going to need to lean on you and on others you’re going to need to lean on her. I think that’s part of what marriage is all about. Finding your way though life with the help of your best friend. (Note, replace him/her with appropriate pronouns for non-hetero marriages.)
It’s weird how it both does and doesn’t feel like it’s been 18 years. I love you, Anne, and I’m so happy we’ve had all this time together. I’m looking forward to many more years to come.
I often surprise myself by being fascinated by things that, had you told me I would be fascinated by them, I would tell you you’re out of your mind. I blame PBS’ This Old House for making me like this.
You see, for three years or so I worked for a fleet tracking/stolen vehicle recovery service called Teletrac here in the Detroit area as part of the graveyard shift. It was part tech support and part service job. Not only did I keep the computers that ran the system up and running, but when calls came in or a car was stolen I was the person who interacted with the customers and police. The system was pretty stable and calls were infrequent so there was a lot of downtime where my job consisted of breathing and trying to stay awake.
Fortunately we had a TV available to us. Unfortunately it was only over-the-air broadcast capable and at 3AM there wasn’t a whole lot on the big four networks worth watching. Hence my first real appreciation for PBS in general and TOH in particular. Keep in mind, this is a good 30 years before I would actually own a house and I and my co-worker had no real home maintenance experience, but it wasn’t long before we were offering our critical takes on the floor tile choices the people on the show were making. I don’t make a point of watching the show anymore, but when I did I really enjoyed it.
Which brings me to this YouTube video by the folks at My Mechanics which I stumbled across over at Boing Boing. It’s simply 26 minutes of some guy who bought a nasty old metal coffee grinder refurbishing it to pristine quality. That’s it. No real narration other than the occasional bit of text.
In this video i’m restoring an old coffee grinder. A few weeks ago I bought an old bench grinder to restore on eBay. The guy who sold it was actually selling more antiques, he had a room filled with old items. I took a look at his other stuff and this unique coffee grinder caught my attention right away. So I ended up buying it for $35. The one thing that really impressed me on this coffee grinder was the metal body, usually they’re made of wood. I also liked the colour very much. The restoration itself turned out to be a lot more challenging than I first expected. I’m very happy with the final result of this coffee grinder. I really like how the handle turned out.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have neither the know-how or the patience to do something like this that makes it so fascinating, but I watched the whole thing and was impressed with the results. The video doesn’t cover every single second, but it does appear to cover every step and meticulous is definitely a good word to describe the process. There is a part of me that wishes I could to this sort of thing, but another part that knows it’s not something I’d actually enjoy. Watching someone else do it on YouTube? Yeah, I can get into that because what was likely days — if not weeks — of work was compressed down into a mere 26 minutes. Me doing it myself? Probably not a good idea.
A study on mosquito feeding and mating habits published in the journal Acta Tropica says that the bitey little bastards have a hard time eating and/or fucking when exposed to the song “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex. Apparently the low-frequency sounds common in dubstep not only drive your parents up the wall, but cause havoc with the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.
For the experiment, researchers created a “music-on” and “music-off” environment in which they studied the Aedes aegypti and came to some conclusions.
Mosquitos in the music-on environment were less likely to feed on the provided host and were less likely to reproduce than mosquitos in the music-off environment. Researchers believe that these findings can be used to help develop more ways to control Aedes-carried diseases.
SCIENTIFIC STUDY FINDS “SCARY MONSTERS AND NICE SPRITES” BY SKRILLEX STOPS MOSQUITOS FROM HAVING SEX – EDM.com
So the next time your parents try to tell you to turn that shit down, just explain how you’re protecting yourself from yellow fever mosquitos and ask them if they’d rather you got sick and died.