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Category Archives: Mind Uploading
Posted: at 11:18 pm
I’m a bit of a Canon fanboy from my time working at Best Buy and Circuit City, but when given the opportunity to review Nikon’s latest DSLR, the D5600, I jumped at it.
While I actually own a Canon Rebel T5i, I was excited to learn what advances have been made in the years since. Although I love my camera, I don’t always use it as often as I should due to occasional issues with transferring photos. It’s what I filmed the video blogs on my YouTube channel on though, and I do love the quality I can get despite my noob status.
Of course the biggest upgrade from the D5500 is SnapBridge, which maintains a Bluetooth connection to an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. NFC and WiFi connections are also possible (the latter is required to transfer photos to the smartphone). The idea intrigued me, though it’s a bit buggier than I’d have liked.
Overall, the D5600 isa great camera, but I still found it easier to transfer photos through a direct cable connection. It’s still a great start in the right direction, and I’m excited at the prospect of getting a hold of Canon’s version.
The Nikon D5600 is a midrange DX-format camera with specs nearly identical to the D5500: a 24MP CMOS sensor,no optical low-pass filter (OLPF) and the brand’s latest EXPEED 4 processor. It has an ISO range of 100-25600, 5 fps burst shooting, and advanced depth perception usinga 39-point auto-focus system, and can also record 1080p HD video at 60 fps.
Customization options run deep down to the point you can specify when sensor cleaning should take place (at startup, shutdown, both, or neither), and Nikon’s Stepping Motor provides a smooth and nearly silent autofocus.
Photo Quality and SnapBridge
If you’ve spent any time on my blog (or with me in real life), you’re aware I’m pretty lazy. It leaks into my work, and I’ll often take a minimalist approach to things. It wasn’t until late in 2015 that I was in the financial position to even buy a camera – until then my blog was built entirely from smartphone pics.
Having the D5600 available, I made a conscious effort to integrate it into my routine and try to use it for photo shoots. Here are a few pics I took on it from my recent run of product reviews. Keep in mind the pics are highly compressed before uploading on my website.
Now aside from the fact I’m not the greatest photographer, I did learn a few things while using the D5600 this month. One thing I already understood is better quality photos come with larger file sizes, so I was intrigued at how well the photos would transfer to my phone and how quickly said phone would fill up and freeze on me.
It turns out SnapBridge (which itself takes up less than 30MB) already compresses the files when transferring to your phone, although these settings can be adjusted to transfer the raw file. This made it easy to upgrade my Instagram images with professional-looking photos (although once I send this thing back to Nikon, I’m going back to the old way of doing things).
Initially setting up SnapBridge was easy enough, but the problem I had the first dozen times I tried to connect and download photos was a popup to login to the WiFi network on my Samsung Galaxy. This made it impossible to actually transfer the files manually (although it was able to transfer a handful of photos automatically the first night I used it).
I was also unable to pair the devices using NFC (which the Galaxy S7 is capable of, and I’ve used for a variety of wireless speakers and headphones so I know works on my specific phone). A cloud storage option (called ImageSpace) is available, but I knew the phone was a loaner and didn’t implement it to avoid being spammed.
When it did work, SnapBridge was very handy to have, but I spent so much time trying to coax it to work that I soon found myself just plugging the USB cable into my desktop, where the photos would ultimately need to go for some adjustments and uploading onto my blog anyway. A wireless connection to my laptop/desktop would’ve been much more useful in the long run.
The feature that really made good use of the WiFi connection is another app called WirelessMobileUtility that lets you use your smartphone as a remote. I often find myself needing a remote and having to make do with other ways (i.e. turning the camera on manually, positioning myself, then trimming that off the beginning). Like SnapBridge, WirelessMobileUtility was great…when I could convince my phone to stay connected.
Although buggy, the few glimpses I got into a working connection between my phone and camera were enough to see how useful it could be.
I wasn’t exactly happy withmenu navigation however.Taking a video on my Canon is a one-button affair, whereas on this Nikon D5600, I found myself jumping through hoops figuring out how to do it. With only a touchscreen to navigate through some options, I would’ve hoped for a better experience touching the screen, but far too often I took a pic when I was trying to select an option.
Nikon’s D5600 has a lot of good things going for it – greatsensors and lenses, customization options, and wireless connectivity. However, it takes two separate apps to take full advantage of the WiFi connectivity, and both were plagued with connectivity issues.
Still a great camera, I’d expect more for $800, which is about what I spent on my Canon that included a case, SD cards, tripod, and a variety of lenses/filters. I don’t know that I’d trade all that in for a spotty Internet connection.
With a fixed app, refreshed approach to menu navigation, lower price point, and 4K video, Nikon would have a hit on its hands. For now, we’ll make due with what we have.
Here is the original post:
Posted: at 4:15 am
As the activist and their judges in the 9thCircuit Court wrestle with President Donald J. Trump over immigration and executive orders, one of the most dangerous mistakesconsistently being repeated by politicians and academics is still being overlooked. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) with real, recent operational experience are not consulted and detailed solutions are rarely considered.
Perhaps this is best exposedwhen considering the immigration screening issue. Call them immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers. it really doesnt matter because there is a breakdown of epic proportions when it comes to fingerprinting immigration applicants and collecting data of any type in their country of origin and uploading and running that data through the Department of Defense (DOD) secured data basis that contains information on an unknown number of dangerous people that have been caught and released in a war zone, or people that may be associated with them.
Currently in the United States there arehundreds ofongoing investigations of individuals that have come to the US (some as long as 10 years ago) that were originally caught by the DOD in the Middle East making bombs, planting IEDs etc. The DOD fingerprinted these individualsbut that information was neverput in databases that are shared with State Department or Border patrol. Because remote locationswhere immigrants are submitting their applications for admission into the US oftendo not offer the technologyto scan fingerprints or upload data, individuals are not fingerprinted in places like Djibouti whereindividuals from Somalia get screened when they seek to immigrate to the US.
Even in the places where immigrantsare fingerprinted, those prints are not uploaded to databases fora total and complete scanof their history. Even phone numbers are not beingrun properly through DODdatabases during this process they go unknown as well. Yet many immigrants are still put on a plane by our State Department and sent to the US.
When these immigrantsdoarrive in the USit is ensured that they are fingerprinted, but in most cases thoseprintsand other important dataare still not ranthrough the classified DOD databases.Yet the process continues and they are processed and cleared to enter into the US from whatever holding facility in which they arrive.
Interestingly, the one time when the DOD systems can be accessed isntuntil years laterwhen immigrants approach ICE to get benefits. That is apparently when information is finallyranthrough the DOD system.
Now, hundreds of cases are being investigated involving immigrants that have been residing inside the US for long periods of time (in some cases over 10 years) that areconnected to bombings and other crimes from war zones the Middle East. Their information had been collected by DOD operators in the field, and uploaded to DOD databases with no plan to share with other agencies.
There are more details to this story butit is problematic in that no one really knows exactly what is screened and at what point and it is a problem that has largely been overlooked, even by the current administration.If President Trumps administration concentrated on these types of details that subject matter experts working on the ground understand, these gaps could be closed and our immigration security could take a huge leap forward.
As a former FBI special agent, my investigative mind tells me these issues will continue to plague immigration screening because so much attention is being placed on executive orders and hiring more Customs Officers and not on these types of simple solutions.
The Devil is always in the details, thats why simple issues always cause such massive problems. Dont believe me? Just ask someone that is working at the ground level, like the policy makers should be doing!
See the rest here:
Posted: at 4:15 am
You know that PewDiePie guy youve been hearing about lately? I have a funny story about him.
I made this YouTube video back in 2012, wherein a bunch of us mocked PewDiePie using a satirical version of The Fine Bros. React videos. I made the centerpiece the fact that, back then, PewDiePie tended to use the word rape quite a bit.
Please note, as many get wrong, I dont think he was making rape jokes at all; it was just yelling the word more than anything. The video blew up a little and prompted him to make a specific apology video to his viewers.
PewDiePie has since actually turned over a new leaf. He had a video called Old vs. New PewDiePie in which he watched his old content and appeared to be a little surprised at his original self. In fact, he contacted me and we had a very cool email exchange, in which he said that my video led to him thinking more about the things he said and re-examine the kind of jokes he was making.
Wow! My trolly little video where I made trouble for a really big YouTuber although not quite the biggest, back then had inadvertently caused some self-reflection and ultimately some good in the world. Not a bad deal!
Well, thats my story. It was a little short for a Polygon article, but alls well that ends well and there has never been, nor will there ever be, any new developments there. Im positive of this fact. Not even gonna Google it.
Now to read my favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal …
Well, instead of just deleting the previous few paragraphs, what say we just go ahead and write a whole article about this?
I go by slowbeef, and Ive been doing Lets Plays and related content since about 2007. Im certainly not rich off of, or successful from my videos, but I run in those circles because Ive been doing it for so long in addition to my day job. Some people even consider me a progenitor of it. I talk to a lot of the A-Listers the people whose names you know rather often and I have some insight into that world. I have one foot in the door, and see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes.
PewDiePie isnt remotely the only e-celebrity to have this sort of scandal, though most controversies tend to be a bit smaller in scope.
Did you ever hear about the streamer who got drunk and told her fans that kids getting cancer was just natural selection? Or the two YouTubers who conveniently forgot to tell their fans they were getting paid for their Ryse gameplay? Or that guy who got caught masturbating on camera during his pre-show? This stuff happens with regularity.
Allow me to extrapolate on a meme those kids today are using: Dude, you had one job. And it looked like a really easy one. Lets Players, streamers or content creators, whatever you like, get to play video games and make jokes while doing so. It seems like a dream gig, so why even risk these sort of gaffes? Why do people risk their jobs for jokes or mistakes that seem easy to avoid?
Well, its complicated. But there are three reasons this keeps happening.
Lets play (ha) a game you cant win. In the comments below, tell me how to get your videos featured, get your subscribers to watch videos or get your related videos in the related videos sidebar as opposed to some other person on YouTube.
Im not joking, go down and do this right now. The rest of the story will be here when you get back.
I can bet that some of you got it right, but the problem is that your answer will become wrong in the next month or so. Content producers get frustrated with the system because the rules keep changing; it always seems like the site is keen to promote someone else, and it can feel impossible to keep up.
For example: subscriber burn, which is a nefarious little side effect of not uploading a new video for a couple of weeks. The term was popularized by the Game Theory channel in 2014; your subscribers stop getting notified of your videos if they stop watching or you stop uploading. Going on vacation? Lets hope you got a backlog, because youll see a big drop in views if you take a week or two off. And they might not come back.
Heres another fun one. If you manage your YouTube settings as a viewer, youll see the selected default option is occasionally notify me of videos and activities from my subscriptions. Occasionally. A lot of viewers dont know this, but YouTube doesnt default to always showing you new videos from their favorite channels.
Youll frequently see uploaders complain that users suddenly get unsubscribed, certain videos no longer appear, or you have to explicitly check a whole new notification setting for some reason. As of this writing, theres a little bell icon next to the subscribe button. The button itself isnt enough to see videos of people to subscribe to, you need to hit the bell and tell YouTube to always send you notifications, the notifications they default you to only sometimes getting.
If this doesnt make much sense to you, you see what we deal with. Its constantly changing. Now, imagine your business hinges on all these random changes.
Most uploaders begin to believe they have to flood the site with videos for a chance one goes viral or to reach subscribers who arent notified or to make up for losing them. And the numbers do go up when you start to do that, leaving many to believe its the only reliable way to keep relevant.
You need ad revenue if you want to make a living talking over video games, which means views and that means uploads. Or at the very least, you need brand deals which means you need clout, which means you need subscribers, which means views, which again means uploads. Most pros create at least one video a day, and its a punishing schedule. Some create as many as three videos a day.
Protip: You can oversaturate your audience, so dont read this as, its good to upload 10 videos a day.
None of this is good for your mental health if you want to do this job or even come up with a standard workflow, which creates the next big problem.
Theres an apparent double standard, right? Comedians tell AIDS jokes, Holocaust jokes, 9/11 jokes and much more. When a popular YouTuber does it, its suddenly being reported by the media (and, cough, other YouTubers). Didnt George Carlin once say no topic is off limits?
Yeah. But like most comedians, he also spent a lot of his time writing those jokes, refining them, trying them in smaller clubs before his big venues, commiserating with his peers, etc. A secret of successful comedians is you dont just spit out jokes that come to you. You develop bits, callbacks, sets, etc. There are legit reasons that Louis CK, Sarah Silverman, and Jim Jefferies get away with questionable jokes and JohnnySephiroth315 doesnt.
Many YouTubers do some of this work, mind, but they also have to prep footage, record it, process it, do editing, transcode it, upload it, schedule it… there are many steps to take before the audience sees the content. And this has to happen, for most, at least once a day. On a platform that changes its rules on the fly, all the time.
Come on, you say. How much work can it be to make a ten-minute video? Try it. Speak about a topic you care about, and then edit out all the pauses and awkward moments but keep your flow. Aim for five minutes, if you like. If you want it to look good, you might have had to do a couple of takes, re-read your outline (you wrote one, right?), mull over editing decisions and make sure the sound is just as good as the video.
Its different for everyone, but there is no process in which you can do this well that doesnt eat up a lot of time and energy. Its a grueling job, especially when positivity is so often tied to success.
There isnt much time to mull over a joke, consult with colleagues, rewrite it, see how smaller audiences take it, and then tailor accordingly. Again, many of us want to have new content every day. The chance youre going to misread your audience and be punished for it goes up with every video you release in this environment. Watch the video below, and imagine having to do this for every joke, on every video for every day of your life.
PewDiePies now infamous sketch? Bit? You know, where he pays a couple of Indian kids on Fiverr … eh, Im sure youve heard of it. There really is a joke there somewhere at Fiverrs expense, and I think thats what he was going for.
The parts are there, loosely, if you cock your head and squint a bit. Theres an air of exploitation (on Fiverrs part, but also often claimed to be on PewDiePies part) but it was a rush job. Seinfeld, in contrast, maps out goofy jokes about Pop Tarts down to the syllable.
PewDiePie ends up looking like the villain because he uses the old South Park haha anti-Semitism! routine, but the whole joke is malformed. People are quick to dismiss it as merely an edgy throwaway when it couldve been meant as a commentary on paid online services. But who can blame them? As it stands, the joke is really hard to read. It doesnt land cleanly at all.
You can actually imagine, if you like, PewDiePie doing a stand-up set and having comedian friends tell him at the bar that man, youve been leaning on the Nazi stuff a bit lately. Or an audience groaning at a smaller venue, which signals to him its time to do a rewrite. Thats why there are workshops, writing sessions and smaller venues and drinks with fellow comedians. You have to fail often when the stakes are low to learn how to get the big wins. Its a process.
Online personalities cant really know that theyve lost the goodwill of the audience, or that the material will gain mainstream anger if theyre famous, until its too late. Theyre already forming tomorrows video without even seeing the storm thats coming.
Even worse is that there is this air of everyone gets sooo offended and, while thats a whole different conversation, some people use the reverse-outrage to mask the fact that they fucked up a joke and have to pay a price. Or they blame others for pointing it out.
Its one of the cons of being an entertainer. But it all adds up to a firestorm thats always a spark away, no matter where you fall on the ultimate outcome. Come to think of it where was Disney and Maker and YouTube in all this? What the hell are they doing to manage their most popular asset?
One time, a much more successful friend, someone with over 500,000 subscribers, was going to be interviewed by a major television network. He spoke with me about it beforehand.
I warned him off the situation; it sounded like he was going to be sandbagged. He was adamant about the opportunity, and I turned out to be wrong. It also turned out I was one of the only people who were trying to offer an opinion on it.
This guy had tons of views and made a bunch of money; didnt anyone at his Multi-Channel Network, or MCN, know or care that he was gonna do this interview? Did they offer advice or prep him for challenging questions? Was there a conversation about avoiding sound bites that can be taken out of context?
MCNs are agencies that partner with you, Maker Studios was PewDiePies MCN, and if youre someone big enough to be worth their time youll get brand deals and opportunities to work with others and increase your audience and revenue. They handle a lot of the backend stuff that most people dont think about when it comes to big entertainers.
The chance youre going to misread your audience and be punished for it goes up with every video you release in this environment
But if someone asks why they should give an MCN 10 percent of their revenue and theyre not a managed partner that means youre in a special relationship because youre big enough for them to really care there may not be much of an answer.
My MCN is typically pretty nice and in touch, but Im not managed and if I decide to do an interview or write this article a PR person wont notice or care. Im completely on my own when it comes to thinking about how my audience views me, for better or worse. I dont have a manager to call for advice, guidance or media training.
Surprisingly, this is also true of some of the biggest names in the business. I dont want to make it sound like MCNs do nothing, they are valuable business partners that make it easier to pay the bills, but they definitely dont curate your content. They dont tell their big talent to lay off the political posting, or dial it back on the hard stuff for a bit. Its all business, no grooming or advice.
I dont think this is due to apathy or greed. Im not sure they know how to handle these things either. I mean, even if youve worked in Hollywood or television, here comes a bunch of kids who get tons of ad revenue for screaming over video games. And heres another batch who pantomime being cartoonishly scared of the games. And heres a channel that comments on their commentary! Its baffling to people who dont like or understand it, so I think most business people dont want to touch the golden goose for fear itll stop laying eggs. They just know people are paying attention, and thats worth money.
PewDiePie is a bit anomalous among even the A-Listers, and consider this: part of his contract was that he retained full editorial control (in retrospect: maybe not a win), and Disney agreed to those terms.
Jesus, do these italics slant any farther over? Disney! There is almost no other company more protective of its intellectual property or image, and they let a guy in his twenties with one of the largest audiences in the world say and do whatever he wanted under their umbrella. If you combine that with a contract that likely gave Disney a lot of easy ways to drop him if things went south, and you have a creator who is in a bad situation without any guidance from people who can help manage the situation.
Thats huge, and its also telling. It feels like Disney was thinking, Were not exactly sure what you do, or how it makes money, but it does, so lets partner and leave shit alone and hope it keeps making us money. But when you get in trouble, well, bye.
I think most business people dont want to touch the golden goose for fear itll stop laying eggs
Theres always someone else with a funny screen name and a million subscribers who can reach the same audience. But youd think this whole situation couldve been avoided if there were somebody checking in when the first few issues with the content begun. This controversy didnt happen all at once, there were plenty of chances for someone to step in and try to cool things down or provide help or advice when the media got involved.
Yes, real celebrities do mess up. But there are publicists and agencies that try to prevent this from happening and then help with damage control. YouTubers start their careers doing everything solo, get into the Ill take care of it all myself mentality, and MCNs dont seem super equipped to deal with the downsides to some of that.
So you end up with very famous and very rich (and often, very young) personalities with no one to help manage genuine crises. Which means the bad decisions continue.
On the surface, humor seems easy and I think people make the mistake of thinking it just comes naturally. People think Lets Play is just I get paid to play video games and talk?!
But creativity takes time and reflection and refinement and work. Content creators are in this system where theyre incentivized to pump it out faster and faster, which means a lot of jokes come out half-baked and rushed. Short-term controversies cause everyone to rush to make their own reaction video, which is the YouTube version of the hot take, or thinkpiece.
Eager to compete with each other, you get misleading titles and custom thumbnails its kinda clickbaity, really. Hell, even PewDiePie uploads daily despite the fact that hes on top and every publication in the world wont stop telling me how much he makes.
I dont think this system will be improved any time soon, but I would like to end on a positive note. If there is someone whos making the stuff you enjoy (and maybe that still is PewDiePie), find ways to contribute. If they have alternate payment systems like merchandise or Patreon, consider it so they dont have to play the ad revenue works in volume game. Support the people you like and boost their signal. Get them out of the realm where they need to make a video a day.
YouTube has a speed and quantity problem, and it affects all aspects of the business. If you are a content creator, take a little time with controversial stuff. It really is fun to make things, but irreverent, boundary-breaking stuff is high-risk/high-reward. Dont just spit it out: run things by friends and people not in the business. Test the tone before you go live. Sleep on it. That way, you too can be a successful celebrity with a long, stalwart career like Mel Gibson or Michael Richards, only with video games involved, somehow.
Sorry to end this early, but I have a video to upload. Later!
Michael Sawyer goes by the alias “slowbeef” and has been doing Let’s Plays since 2005, despite being incredibly unsuccessful at them. He is a self-described video game humorist and is officially way too old to being doing that. You can find him on Twitter, Twitch or YouTube.
See original here:
How To Run A Rogue Government Twitter Account With An Anonymous Email Address And A Burner Phone – UPROXX
Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:19 pm
How To Run A Rogue Government Twitter Account With An Anonymous Email Address And A Burner Phone
Keep in mind that this location is now tied to your burner phone, so you might wish to do this step when you're traveling in another city. Using Tor Browser, I navigated to … Be careful about uploading photos for tweets or your profile. Photos often …
It's very hard to maintain an anonymous Twitter account that can withstand government-level attempts to de-anonymize it
Continue reading here:
Posted: February 18, 2017 at 4:18 am
Carl Gorhams grieving memoir of his partners death is most effective when it focuses on their daughter, writes Molly McCloskey
Carl Gorham: Days. Weeks. Months. Faster and faster. We have no time to lose. Because life is uncertain. We dont wait. We do.
Book Title: The Owl at the Window: A Memoir of Loss and Hope
Author: Carl Gorham
Guideline Price: 14.99
It may be middle age, but it seems to me that everyone is talking about death. On the one hand are the transhumanists, proponents of radical life extension, mind uploading, and cyrogenics the latter in the news recently when a terminally ill 14-year-old in the UK won the right to be cyrogenically preserved.
Then there are those who exhort us to live well and accept death. In this camp are the death doulas, the death positivity movement, and the Order of the Good Death (Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety of modern culture is not). Death cafes where strangers gather to discuss death are springing up around the world.
I cannot imagine these salons and I wouldnt want to try one, though as Raymond Tallis notes in The Black Mirror, a work in which he observes himself from the imagined vantage point of being dead, talking about death may be even more evasive than remaining silent: we cant but sound portentous or hollowly laconic.
While transhumanists want to live forever, or at least for a lot longer, many of us (and I include myself here; few things cause me greater anxiety than the thought of thawing out, defenceless, in an unimaginable future) want to fear death less and die feeling human. Atul Gawandes hugely successful Being Mortal is about improving the quality of end-of-life, as is the well-known work of BJ Miller, a triple amputee and hospice and palliative medicine physician.
Perhaps the increase in people narrating their own last days Christopher Hitchens, Jenny Diski, Oliver Sacks, Tom Lubbock, Paul Kalanithi is a reflection of the growing desire to claim ownership of this final process. Of course, it may also be the logical next step to our having narrated every other aspect of our existence.
What also proliferates are the memoirs of those left grieving. One of the latest is The Owl at the Window by Carl Gorham, the award-winning creator of the animated sitcom Stressed Eric and numerous other sitcoms and film scripts.
In 1997, Gorham and Vikki Sipek are two thirtysomethings living the dream she flying high in the fashion industry and he enjoying a US bidding war for his work, their lives a living, breathing Sunday supplement. Then Vikki finds a lump in her breast. So begins 10 years of operations, chemotherapy and scans, awaiting results, fearing the worst.
[W]ere in a different race now, Gorham writes. Were running, running, trying to stay ahead of it. And time feels different. It seems to race by. Days. Weeks. Months. Faster and faster. We have no time to lose. Because life is uncertain. We dont wait. We do.
They give birth to a daughter, Romy, who is three when her mothers cancer returns. On a family trip, passing through Hong Kong, Vikki lapses into a coma. While she lies in hospital, Gorham and his daughter wander, dazed, through the surreal landscape. A friend of a friend offers them a house. Imagining a luxurious refuge, they instead find themselves in a ramshackle cottage, its environs distressingly apposite: to get there they must walk through an unlit wood and across a graveyard where snakes and Komodo dragons lurk.
Vikki dies in Hong Kong, and Gorham embarks on the business of grieving and of single-parenting, the day-to-day of keeping Romy connected to her mother: too much talk of Vikki sounds false and hectoring, but too little and Romy may lose the sense of Vikki altogether.
Grief, like all abstract nouns, is difficult to narrate, and when such a narration has power it is because an intense particularity has been brought both to the day to day and to the person being mourned. Vikki, unfortunately, remains frustratingly distant. She is always quiet and unassuming but also bustling with brilliant energy, and she never quite assumes dimensions. Grief itself falls victim to too much telling and too little showing: I cant accept it. Not now. Not yet. I cant contemplate it. The thought of never seeing her again. Its too much. Too utterly terrifying.
It is Romy who animates the narrative, enacting her grief in a way that seems instinctive, primal and delicate. Nine months after her mothers death, Romy constructs a cardboard reproduction of Vikki, which she christens Cardboard Mummy. Cardboard Mummy is one of the family, watching TV, propped up at the dinner table, belted into the passenger seat on trips to the supermarket. Romy talks to Cardboard Mummy about all manner of things and solicits her advice.
When Romy decides to bring Cardboard Mummy to school for show-and-tell, her father fears the worst bullies tearing Mummy to pieces, his daughter a laughingstock. But Romy manages the performance with exceptional poise, telling the class about her mummys illness and everything that happened in Hong Kong . . . and how Mummy is in the ground at the church now and how we are all so sad and how we will always be sad.
This turns out to have been an astonishingly intuitive act of catharsis, because after that, Cardboard Mummy begins to recede. She sits in the hall, and Romy doesnt pick her up as often, though shes happy Mummy is there. Mummy is now spoken of with fondness and nostalgia, like an old friend who has moved away to the other side of the world.
In exteriorising her mothers presence through a cardboard effigy, Romy seems to have marked for Vikki a territory in her own life and psyche. It is a reminder of how, with our sophistication and our lack of ritual, we have lost the hang of being with the dead.
It also reminds us of what we all vaguely know and which may give us solace or pause as we contemplate our own demise: that biological death is an endpoint to existence on one plane only. The impact we have on others doesnt cease when we do.
As philosopher Gabriel Rockhill noted in a recent New York Times column on discussing death with his son and how these psychosocial dimensions of ourselves persist: In living, we trace a wake in the world.
Molly McCloskeys new novel, When Light Is Like Water, will be published by Penguin Ireland in April.
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Posted: at 4:18 am
New York Times
Tax Software: The Basics Work, but Peace of Mind Costs Extra
New York Times
This year, Block sharpened its technology it even beat TurboTax on a critical task, uploading a prior year's return while TurboTax improved its telephone helpline. TaxAct kept doing things its own quirky way, as it long has, but it capably …
Posted: at 4:18 am
Yes, after pulling herself out of her 1950s rutas a swimsuit model to become everything from a doctor, lawyer, computer scientist, astronaut and even the president of the United States, Barbie has now become a 3D-animatedhologram that canserve up the weather on command.
As first reported in Wired, The Hello Barbie Hologram debuted at the New York Toy Fair this week. And like the original Hello Barbie doll, her laser-beamed character combines motion-capture animation with peppy, Amazon Echo-like answers to your childs questions.
Need an alarm? Hello Barbie. Want a nightlight? Hello Barbie. Want to remind your child to brush their teeth? Hello Barbie Hologram does that, too.Just turn her on with the wake phrase Hello Barbie to get her to do your bidding.
In other words, the supposed symbol for girls who can do anything really can become anything, including a personified bot.
Isnt that a bitsexist? Some may balk at the suggestion a holographic female doll botserving up answers is somehow creating a gender imbalance. After all, you may say, its just a doll combined with some cool technology. But, from what we know so far, theres no hologram Ken version and robots and artificial intelligence programs are often designated as female, particularly if they fulfill a subservient role. Helping you mind your schedule and answering questions about the weather fall neatly into that category.
It also undermines Barbie as a real person.Shes a hologram assistant.
Youd think Mattel would be mindful here of how the latest version of Barbie may come across to impressionable young girls, given its many other missteps including and especially in its foray into tech. Wevewritten before about Barbies foibles as a hilariously bad computer engineer who seemed to break everything she touched and didnt know how to code.
Barbie has also been criticized for maintaining unrealistic bodily proportions and putting a heavy emphasis on her appearance throughout the years. Some might say the Hello Barbie Hologram contributes in this regard, as well, by allowing anyone to change the look of the hologram by voice command.
Mattel has tried to counter some of its past criticisms with its Imagine the Possibilities advertising campaign last year, which shows a bunch of little girls doing grown ups jobs. The final caption of the advertisement reads,Whena girl plays with Barbie, she imagineseverything she can become.
Tough to say whata Barbie hologram would help a little girl imagine becoming, but hopefully it does not further engender the stereotype that women are meant to be assistants to everyone else. Mattel may want to consider adding a Ken doll hologram or letting little girls learn how to program skills into the hologram in the future.
Theres also the question of privacy and security. Amazon Echo is always listening and, as it says in its FAQ, recordsa fraction of a second before you say the wake word Alexa. Is Barbie now doing the same, right in your childs bedroom? Mattel insists that, unlike Amazon, Barbie is not recording and uploading conversations to its servers. It also says Hello Barbie is heavily encrypted, meeting the Federal Trade Commissions requirements as outlined in the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Rule.
Hello Barbie Hologram is just a prototype for now, and its not clear when it might be available for consumers. We also dont know the cost of the doll yet, but it will likely fall on the pricier end, as these newer tech-focused toys tend to do. But, according to Mattel, it will likely be less than $300 when the hologram makes her debut.
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Posted: at 4:18 am
For as long as humans have had a way of committing moving images to tape, pixelated frames have been used to document the sinister, the peculiar, and the downright unexplainable. YouTube has long been a repository for some of the creepiest mysteries of the modern age ever caught on camera, and the endlessly obsessive and curious internet hive mind has ferreted out the truths lurking behind many of these eyebrow-raising videos. But occasionally, that is not the case.
These are six of those stories.
One of the most notorious pirate broadcasts of all time, preserved well beyond its intended lifespan, occurred on November 22, 1987, during a Chicago station’s nightly local news broadcast. After turning black for 15 seconds, the picture reappeared but now showed a person wearing a Max Headroom mask, situated in front of a rotating piece of corrugated metal and accompanied by a humming noise. Technicians at the station managed to halt the pirated broadcast by switching the microwave transmitter they were using to broadcast, suggesting a hack by a strong pirate microwave signal nearby.
That same night, PBS member station WTTW fell victim to the same hackers during a broadcast of the Doctor Who episode “Horror of Fang Rock.” This time, the pirates were able to cut in for a full 90 seconds, and used the time to spout advertising slogans and seeming nonsense. The clip ended with the Max Headroom mask-wearer pulling down his pants, receiving a spanking from an unidentified person in a French maid outfit, and yelling “They’re coming to get me!” The WTTW broadcast was being sent from the Sears Tower microwave dish and because there were no technicians on duty at the time, they were unable to trace the signal.
The identity of the hackers and what the videos mean beyond a simple joke remain a mystery to this day. Occasionally, the wide world of the internet will stumble across a character that seems like they could have pulled off the Max Headroom hack, only to dismiss the theory later. The most current thinking on the subject suggests it was someone within the Chicago Broadcasting Community because the technology required to pull off a huge microwave hack wasn’t available to the average consumer in the late 1980s.
One of America’s most well-known conspiracy theories — that an alien ship crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1950s — is still giving willing theorists thrills more than 50 years later. In 2011, a new YouTube user named “ivan0135” uploaded a series of four videos that claimed to have been culled from leaked classified material. The uploaded information and film footage introduces us to a purported test subject known as “Skinny Bob,” who appears to be an eerily realistic alien life form.
Is it real? The videos claim the footage was collected between 1942 and 1969, but post-production techniques seem to have been applied. If you look at the bottom left of the Skinny Bob video, the timecode appears to be flashing at a different rate than the footage, suggesting a digital post-production trick.
Even if the ivan0135 tapes probably aren’t actual aliens (just like Roswell was most certainly not an extraterrestrial craft), the computer animation skill on display is an impressive work of special effects that has still gone uncredited for five years.
In 2008, on a 4chan board for paranormal posts, a user put a link into the “unsecured webcams” thread that showed a live-stream of a woman who was unconscious — possibly even dead — in a contorted position. The stream was coming from Seoul, South Korea. The woman woke up 10 hours later, and revealed that she had merely been sleeping in an odd position, but the attention of the internet had been piqued.
The woman, dubbed Chip-chan, was constantly broadcasting on webcam and falling asleep at odd times and in odd positions. She kept a blog and a YouTube channel where she told her odd story. The woman apparently never left the apartment and started making signs that were translated into various paranoid accusations like: “Don’t get tricked, don’t get fooled. Early every morning. If someone comes that paralyzes the person. I can’t be stopped.”
Over years, internet detectives pieced together a dossier of information on Chip-chan, including her contact e-mail and exchanges with the woman herself. She claims that a Korean police officer she calls “P” implanted something called a “Verichip” in her that keeps her forcibly in her apartment and can cause her to fall asleep at will. After Chip-chan’s apartment was found via Google Earth sleuthing, concerned parties contacted the police in Seoul who said they were aware of a mentally disturbed woman who kept to herself except for occasional appearances at anti-government protests where she would photograph police officers.
In March 2015, a YouTube user named “unfavorable semicircle” sprang into existence and began uploading videos a month later. Most of them were only seconds or minutes long. Some included distorted voices uttering a letter or number. But the most notable quirk of the account was the sheer number of videos it uploaded: tens of thousands, causing YouTube to shut it down for violating the spam-related portions of its terms of service. Since then, the unfavorable semicircle project has continued on Twitter and a new YouTube account that continues to release videos to this day.
Most speculation about what unfavorable semicircle is trying to accomplish is centered on finding a reliable way to decode the videos. A similar YouTube channel that had puzzled online sleuths in the past had specialized in uploading videos featuring colored geometric shapes and tones, and it was eventually revealed to be the still active Google test channel Webdriver Torso. Unfavorable semicircle’s return after the first channel was blocked has led most theorists to suspect it is some sort of coded art project or even an electronic numbers station.
More than likely just an amateur film about two students’ exploration of an abandoned asylum, the “Pennhurst Found Footage” has yet to be attributed to a filmmaker or individual. It also hasn’t been reliably connected to a real-life crime, which casts doubt on its claim that the footage involves “missing” college students. Nonetheless, the film’s two parts are prefaced by intentionally creepy text stating that the students seen in the video have never been found.
The mysterious part of the video is its ending, which cuts suddenly from a staircase inside the abandoned mental institution to a scene in the surrounding forest in daytime, even though the time code on the camera shows only 32 seconds elapsing (which wouldn’t have been enough time to exit the facility from the stairwell where the students had been investigating).To date, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for this likely hoax, even as internet mystery-hunters are still trying to find answers.
An “ARG” is the abbreviation for an “Alternate Reality Game,” or a fictional experience that extends its narrative into real life. There have been ARGs to promote products like movies and albums, and there have been ARGs that exist purely as an experience you have offline. Because of the nature of these types of games and experiences, sometimes it’s hard to tell which parts of them are real and which aren’t.
Such is the case with “deeper,” a channel that uploaded cryptic videos with distorted audio and old camcorder footage in 2016. The hive mind of internet sleuths, particularly on 4chan, quickly set about trying to decode the mysterious videos by running the beeps that appeared at the end of certain clips through a spectrogram — a process that revealed the names of actual cold cases from the state of Colorado in the 1980s. Different codes have continued to be hidden in the videos and their associated descriptions, but nothing has led to a big reveal, nor have any of the cold cases referenced been solved.
It’s unlikely that this ARG was posted by a murderer who grew a conscience and decided to confess through YouTube ciphers that use old Daniel Johnston songs, but then again… The last video was uploaded two months ago.
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Dave Gonzales is a frequent contributor to Thrillist Entertainment and loves internet mysteries.