The week that was (03-23-2018)

A Romanian court ruled that a 63-year-old man is dead despite what would appear to be convincing evidence to the contrary: the man himself appeared alive and well in court. The court told him he was too late and would have to remain officially deceased.

In an effort to save money, the US Navy’s new Virginia-class submarines have replaced the clunky joysticks that used to control their periscopes with a more readily available (and familiar) XBox controller.

Another week, another pet mishap by United Airlines, this one narrowly averted. A flight turned around before reaching its destination once it was discovered the pet was on the wrong flight. Better to inconvenience the passengers on the flight than to suffer another unflattering story in the press. By Tuesday, United announced a temporary suspension to all pet transport.

Ford Motor recalled 1.4 million cars because loose bolts could allow the steering wheel to come off. Unfortunately, these cars are not yet able to take over and drive themselves.

The last male northern white rhino passed away. Scientists efforts to keep the species alive now turn to in vitro fertilization with the last two female northern white rhinos. (photo by @amivitale)

Charles Lazarus, the founder of Toys-R-Us died this week, just one week after the company he founded announced it was closing its doors for good.

Bozo the Clown passed away. Frank Avruch, who played Bozo from 1959-1970 died at 89.

Naomi found an interesting looking rock while digging around in the dirt during her older sister’s soccer game. This week she found out that it was a rare, 65 million-year-old fossil.

For the first time, the French ate more hamburgers than ham-and-butter baguettes.

Sherpas in Nepal removed 200,000 lbs of trash from Mount Everest. The mounds of trash included empty bottles of Tuborg beer, food cans, torn tents, empty oxygen bottles and even bodies of expired hikers.

CryptoKitties, an cryptocurrency-powered collectible game, received an investment of $12 million with high profile VC firms Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures leading a funding round.

Mexico launched a cryptocurrency backed by habanero peppers.

The design for the new post-Brexit British passports was announced. They will be made in France.

A 3-year old was accidentally shot by her grandmother as she was cleaning her AK-47.

Dramatic aerial video shows how Kenya’s Rift Valley is living up to its name.

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The week that was (03-16-2018)

We lost a great mind this week. In all the stories of Stephen Hawking’s life, my favorite was the detail that he used to run his wheelchair over the toes of people he didn’t like.

Mining cryptocurrency generates a lot of heat in the computers that are doing the computations. One French company decided to take advantage of the excess heat and sell them as “plug-and-mine” heaters.

A plane in Russia had a bumpy talkoff, lost it’s rear door and proceeded to dump $368 million in gold bars and diamonds all over the runway and 16 miles of desolate countryside Siberia.

Canada announced that they have hired their first female head of the mounties. Brenda Lucki, will take over as commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in mid-April.

Those people that steal your delivered boxes off your front doorstep? They have a name now, they’re called “porch pirates.”

Walmart filed a patent for robotic bees.

A giant, yellow, inflatable rubber duck escaped from western coast of Australia.

Google Japan released Google Street View from a dog’s perspective. This follows up a 2015 project when they released Google Street View in Hiroshima from at cat’s perspective.

Japan’s Sanrio announced that a Hello Kitty bullet train will start operating this Summer on the Osaka-Fukuoka route. This will join ANA’s Pokemon Jet which has it’s own website lovingly laid out in Comic Sans.

A hippo was discovered living in a pond in Southern Mexico. No one knows how it got there but the residents of the town have come to love the animal so much they have nicknamed it “Tyson.”

The Swindles were moving from Oregon to Kansas and took a United flight with their 10-year-old German shepherd Irgo in the hold. When they went to pick up their dog in Kansas City, a Great Dane was there instead. United mixed up the two and sent Irgo on a 16-hour flight to Japan. Apparently United has a pretty poor record for pet transportation.

The New Zealand post has a much better record. They successfully delivered a package addressed to, “Kay and Philip, on a farm, situated up a long drive with cows, opposite Cust pub or thereabouts”

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The week that was (03-09-2018)

The big storm that hit the East Coast brought down a 227-year old tree planted by George Washington.

The Florida state Senate can’t seem to agree on banning assault weapons but it took them less than a minute to pass the Sunshine Protection Act which bans Daylight Saving Time in the state of Florida.

Colorado state law permits lawmakers to carry concealed weapons into the state Capitol because it’s their place of business. In fear for their safety, two lawmakers now wear bulletproof vests to work.

A restaurant in Pasadena has turned over burger flipping duties to a $60,000 robot.

The Vatican announced that it’s hosting a hackathon.

A toddler in China managed to lock his mom’s iPhone after numerous failed attempts to guess the PIN. Thanks to a feature which increases the lockup period after each unsuccessful attempt, the phone will remain locked for the next 47 years.

The world’s oldest known message in a bottle was found half-buried on a West Australian beach nearly 132 years after it was into the Indian Ocean.

The Utah State Bar has opened an internal investigation to figure out how a photo of a topless woman was included in an email sent to all state lawyers.

Costco is selling a $6,000 “doomsday-prepper” food kit that can feed a family of 4 for a year.

Goodyear unveiled a eco-friendly tire concept at the Geneva Motor Show that features moss that inhales carbon dioxide from the air and converts it into oxygen.

As part of a settlement with the US Government, Martin Shkreli turned over the only known copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” (which he bought for $2 million). No word on what the feds will do with it but he’s not going to take it to jail.

A suspected drunk driver fleeing police jumped out of his car to make a fast getaway but his car thought better of it and ran him over.

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The week that was (03-02-2018)

Multiple businesses discontinued special discounts for members of the NRA. Companies included several rental car companies, Delta and United Airlines, and Walmart.

The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary (yes, that one) in Pennsylvania churchgoers brought their AR-15s to a wedding ceremony.

“Excessive flatulence” led to an emergency landing this week for a flight in Europe. The Dubai-Amsterdam flight was diverted to Vienna after a fight broke out.

An Apple repair center outside of Sacramento has been warned after devices from that location were found to be excessively calling 9-1-1; over 1600 times.

Barbara Streisand revealed that her two puppies, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, are actually clones of her previous dog, Samantha, that died last year.

Traffic was held up in Moreno Valley, California by three men who set up a full-sized trampoline session.

Nineteen dealers in Kenya were arrested for defying the recently imposed ban on plastic bags. The raid targeted individuals hoarding the plastic bags and selling them late at night.

In Japan a tomato grower was arrested for stealing 160 Chinese cabbages from a nearby field.

A computer algorithm trained to spot errors in legal contracts beat a team of twenty lawyers in a competition to spot errors in five non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an industry organization responsible for sharing data about cybersecurity and phishing attacks, was hacked by a phishing attack.

Hanwha Systems in Korea announced that they are working on a new weapons system that would use artificial intelligence to “search for and eliminate targets without human control.” Why I think this is a very bad idea.

Vancouver police are asking for “volunteer drinkers” to get drunk on the police department’s dime. They need subjects to train their new recruits on how to conduct a sobriety test.

A boy in China was plunged into darkness and trapped in an elevator after pissing all over the buttons.

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Slaughter Bots

Another terrifying development at the nexus of autonomous weapon systems and artificial intelligence. Korea announced that it’s developing a system that,

would search for and eliminate targets without human control, are called the third revolution in the battleground after gunpowder and nuclear weapons.

Such weapons would include an AI-based missile that can control its speed and altitude on its own and detect an enemy radar fence in real time while in flight. AI-equipped unmanned submarines and armed quadcopters would also be among autonomous arms.

Project launched at Korean institute to develop AI weapons

Every time Boston Dynamics publishes a new video showing the latest features on its killer robots we all laugh nervously about Skynet and our new overlords but the shit is getting real.

Concerned? Educate yourself and take action at

The week that was (02-23-2018)

Fergie brought down the house at the NBA All-Star Game with her jazzy rendition of the national anthem. Not in a good way.

As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley she lost to Arnold Schwarzenegger to be governor of California. Now Elizabeth Swaney hacked the qualification rules for the Olympics and made it into the the Ladies Ski Halfpipe to add another skill to her LinkedIn profile.

A second Russian athlete was busted for doping. Nadezhda Sergeeva, who was photographed earlier this month wearing an “I don’t do doping” sweatshirt.

Scientists at Bayer invented an onion that doesn’t make you cry.

In a sign of the times, the makers of Lucky Charms breakfast cereal are retiring the antiquitated hourglass charm and replacing it with a unicorn.

Apple’s new corporate headquarters officially opened at their new “spaceship” campus. The miles of curved glass walls are spotless of course but the problem is, people keep running into them.

This individual will moderate one of the debates in the upcoming Pennsylvania governor’s race. Who is Alex Trebek, the host of the TV game show Jeopardy!

Police in Argentina arrested six people for running a cocaine smuggling operation out of the basement of the Russian Embassy.

A nation sick of inaction over last week’s shooting took matters into their own hands to cut off one source of funding and political influence. While #boycottNRA trended on Twitter, multiple companies announced an end to special discounts for NRA members.

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Native Podcast Players

The New York Times app added a native podcast player that does an excellent job of complimenting their news rather than competing with it. The player was launched to support The Daily, their flagship news show.

What is really interesting about this player is that it lets the user continue to browse while listening. Tap play to listen and then swipe away when you’re done. That’s it.

What’s great about this is that it keeps you in the NYTimes app and doesn’t send you elsewhere to consume audio. You remain in the NYT experience.

  1. Simple and unobtrusive.
  2. Allows simultaneous browsing and listening.
  3. Continues to play in the background, even if you switch apps or put the phone in your pocket.
  4. Dual platform, iOS and Android
  5. Provides link to subscribe to future episodes in your phone’s default podcast app. It does not try to compete with your existing podcast app.

The Experience

When you tap on play, you get a welcome message with simple explanation of how the player works.

As you’re listening, the player goes grey so as not to visually compete with text of the article. This use case is immediately obvious because you can browse the show notes while reading the article or read the source article while listening to associated podcast (The Daily often features interviews with the authors behind major feature pieces).

The podcast will continue to play while browsing other stories or checking other apps, it’ll also play in the background after you put your phone in your pocket.

Audio switches if you listen to another audio app (ie. music app, YouTube). The NYT player saves your place so you can go back to the NYT app and pick up where you left off.

Swipe left to dismiss.

Tapping on the player “chicklet” brings up more controls so you pause/play and scrub back and forth or skip forward or backwards 10 seconds. There is also a link to subscribe to the full podcast via your installed podcast app (Apple Podcast app on iOS, RadioPublic Free Podcasts App on Google Play Store on my Android device).

From the NY Times press release announcing the player,

The in-app player will allow audio to continue playing even if you navigate away from it, leave the app or put your device to sleep, allowing you to read through related articles and other content while you listen. Audio can be controlled within the app, with the device level controls, or even with an Apple Watch.

I think the level of integration of the New York Times podcast player is perfect. It’s just enough to extend the story without getting in the way.  All it takes is a tap to play or a swipe to dismiss but there are hooks into a full-fledged podcast app should you want to subscribe or download for late.

I see more of this and it would be really cool if the NYT Labs could share their code on their Github repository so others can take advantage of what they’ve done and perhaps improve on it.

Other native players

Others publishers are adding native players to augment their text stories as well.