The week that was

The world’s longest glass-bottom bridge opened in Hongyagu, China.

Following up on the 911 story from Florida last week we have another Florida incident where a drunk man called 911 to report a drunk driver – himself.

Auto burglaries are up dramatically in San Francisco. This week, Marissa Castelli, a figure skater headed to next month’s 2018 Winter Olympics, had her car broken into during a visit here for the US Championships and lost two custom made costumes and her skates.

Thieves in France made off with 700 blocks of Saint-Nectaire cheese.

In Washington DC, a man broke into a Chipotle and ate $60 worth of barbacoa.

A California man tried to kill a large spider with his lighter. The flaming spider ran under his bedroom mattress which caught fire and set ablaze his drapes and the rest of the apartment.

Northern Australian scientists have confirmed that birds are spreading wildfires by, “deliberately carrying burning sticks and embers to set alight other bits of grassland” to flush out their prey.

Scientists have confirmed that the ozone hole is getting smaller.

A woman expecting to fly back with her family from Italy to San Jose, California was dismayed to learn from the person sitting next to her that her separately booked flight was instead headed to San Jose, Costa Rica.

As legalized marijuana grows in popularity, instances of pets stoned on edibles left on the ground are on the rise. In other news, dogs that sniff out pot for the police are now out of work.

Remember that elderly California couple busted in Nebraska on their way to Vermont with 60 Lbs of weed in the back of their truck? They got busted again, in Nebraska.

Sales of another Fire & Fury book are up. “I haven’t seen this level of interest since the book first came out,” said Randall Hansen, author Fire and Fury, the allied bombing of Germany.

There was not much to see at the Consumer Electronics Show when the power went out for two hours.

Artist Daniel Jacob created a $6500 pair of Air Jordan 1s encrusted with thousands of gold crystals.

Police looking for a bank theft suspect arrested said suspect when he applied for a job, with the police.

In Key Biscayne, the local iguanas were falling out of trees, groggy from the unusually cold temperatures. One man gathered them up and loaded them in the back of his car (BBQ iguana being a delicacy in his home country). When the iguanas thawed out during the ride they caused a commotion in the back seat and caused an accident.

A musician who uploaded a 10-hour long video of white noise to YouTube has been served 5 separate copyright violations.

The company that makes the frozen snack Dippin Dots is sharing their expertise and expanding into the cryogenics industry.

A Russian base in Syria was the victim of the first ever drone swarm attack.

The US military announced that it’s making laser-powered bat drones.

The China space program announced that it will attempt to grow potatoes on the dark side of the moon.

The Week that Was (1/5/2018)

In San Francisco, people are paying $36.99 for something called “raw water”

Philip Morris announced that it’s getting out of the cigarette business.

A Delta flight out of Detroit was forced to turn around after a bird tried to hitch a ride to Atlanta and refused to leave the cockpit. An Alaska Airlines flight out of Oakland was cancelled because of a loose rat. Finally, a Delta flight from Atlanta to London had to turn around after taking off, twice.

A man’s car brakes failed and would not shift gears because it was stuffed chock full of acorns.

A mosque in Arkansas  raised money to pay off fines to keep the man who vandalized them out of jail. If the story sounds familiar, both the mosque and vandal were featured in a powerful podcast segment by The Daily.

While searching for a cure for diabetes, researches accidentally found a potential cure for Alzheimer’s.

A Jeopardy player was docked $3200 because he pronounced gangsta as gangster.

Theunis Botha, a professional big game hunter was killed when the female elephant he wounded was killed by another hunter and fell onto Mr. Botha, crushing him.

A Florida woman arrested for misuse of the 911 system called 911 again, from the back of a police car.

Two people died in Japan after choking on mochi rice cakes, a traditional snack during the New Year holiday. This is the same death toll as last year but down from nine who expired in 2015.

In other news, Steve Bannon called the president’s son “treasonous.” President Trump said his former top adviser has “lost his mind.” Paul Manafort is suing Bob Mueller and Bill and Hillary Clinton’s home in Chappaqua caught fire.

Black Mirror Meta

Black Mirror has a very active sub-reddit community that pours over every episode, turning it inside out with theories, interpretations, and insights. The community and the show feed off each other and every so often the director will drop easter eggs as a hat tip to the community.

I will not spoil the plot of the episode (Crocodile) but one eagle-eyed Reddit user shared this screen capture.

The circled text on the image says:

Of course the real question is why anyone would pause what they’re watching just to read a sentence in a printed out newspaper article’, says a voice in your head – before advising you to go and share this finding on Reddit.”

And the crowd went wild.

The Week that Was (12/30/2017)

A man wearing a “Trust Me” t-shirt was arrested after stealing a car that was left unlocked on the street idling to warm up.

Mary Horomanski in Erie, Pennsylvania received her December electric bill and her, “eyes just about popped out of my head” when she saw that the total due was more than the entire GDP of Chile.

A hotel in Dallas put up 500 homeless for Christmas and welcomed them with a red carpet and lunch banquet.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch from Jesse Watson on Vimeo.

Someone trained a neural network to write Christmas Carols and the results were. . . interesting.

A Japanese chemist accidentally invented a type of glass that glues itself back together after cracking.

Far-right performance artist Milo Yiannopoulos’s autobiography was in the news as his publisher released editorial commentary on the manuscript in their defense. “stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats” reads one comment, “The use of phrases like ‘two-faced backstabbing bitches’ diminishes your overall point,” was another.

A Florida patron of Crabby’s Seafood Shack called 911 to complain about the size of his portions. Twice.

Two friends who have known each other since grade school in Hawaii found out after 60 years that they are brothers.

Jimi Hendrix & BB King in 1968

One of the pleasures of working from home over the holiday week is that I can to listen to music and explore the depths of an inherited music collection passed on from friends (thanks Alex, thanks Charlie) over the years.

Today I was dipping into the 330+ song Jimi Hendrix section and stumbled across this amazingly soulful version of Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone by Hendrix at an impromptu concert in NYC. Before you press play, let me set the scene.

It’s a few days after the assassination of MLK in Memphis, Tennessee. The nation is in shock. Jimi, who had been spending his days soaking in the New York blues scene, gets together with BB King who was also in town along with Buddy Guy, Al Kooper, Elvin Bishop and Paul Butterfield to put on a memorial concert that will go down as one of the greatest blues jam sessions ever caught on tape.

The entire performance is worth a listen but it is Jimi’s soulful rendition of Dylan’s requiem for the 60’s that is emotionally hair-raising. The performance  features Al Kooper on organ who came up with the riff that became that song’s signature when it was originally recorded.

When Jimi sings we can’t help but feel what Dylan’s biographer called the song’s “loss of innocence and the harshness of experience.” What a night that must have been.

The Week that Was (12/22/2017)

A man in London spontaneously burst into flames.

So much rain fell on Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi during Hurricane Harvey that the earth’s crust flexed.

People stealing packages left on front porches is such a big problem that one man has gone into business selling booby trap devices that set off a small explosive to deter would be thieves. Others have resorted to more creative solutions.

A California couple were pulled over in Nebraska on their way to Vermont. Patrick Jiron, 80, and Barbara Jiron, 83 were subsequently arrested when 60 pounds of high grade marijuana were found in the back of their Toyota Tacoma.  The couple claimed they were bringing Christmas gifts.

In January, recreational pot will be legal in California. Fast food chain Jack in the Box is already prepping for the influx of stoners with a new Merry Munchie Meal which they will test market at the price of $4.20.

You can now buy a bicycle that can pedal across water.

China testing Black Mirror episode IRL

You know that Black Mirror episode about how your social network ranking has a direct impact on your access to an apartment, preferred rates, a spare seat on an airline?

Nosedive is a chilling tale of a dystopian world connecting the trend lines of the technology evolving all around us. What if your online behavior and relationships had real world consequences? That is in fact what is happening today in China.

Mara Hvistendahl details in Wired how mobile payments providers are working with the Chinese government to integrate subscriber payment history, connections, and other behaviors are harvested and used to calculate a version of social credit that governs access and mobility.

The State Council has signaled that under the national social credit system people will be penalized for the crime of spreading online rumors, among other offenses, and that those deemed “seriously untrustworthy” can expect to receive substandard services. Ant Financial appears to be aiming for a society divided along moral lines as well. As Lucy Peng, the company’s chief executive, was quoted as saying in Ant Financial, Zhima Credit “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.”

Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking


Alabama Getaway

With last Tuesday’s ground-breaking repudiation of Roy Moore this past week in the Alabama special election a Facebook friend shared a few lines that opened up a journey down a rabbit hole that I had to share.

Thirty two teeth in a jawbone
Alabama cryin for none
Before I have to hit him
I hope he’s got the sense to run

If you know me, you know I’ve had an obsession with the Grateful Dead that spans many years. There are so many aspects of this band that make them an endless well of lore and history. While I get my own special satisfaction from their music it is the rich history of their songs and performances that makes them so fascinating. Like an intricate Tibetan mandala, the closer you look, the more you see.

Reason those poor girls love him
Promise them anything
Reason they believe him
He wears a big diamond ring

Go to Heaven was released in 1980 during the dying days of disco. Funkytown, Captain & Tennille, and the Commodores were in the Billboard 100 but green shoots of something new were coming through from Blondie, The Police, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Rolling Stone was impressed by the band’s cover photo which they felt was “very contemporary, very artsy, airbrushed soft-focus portrait” but not by the music which they dismissed as “uninspired fluff”

What many didn’t seem to realize is that the incessant pranksters were pulling an epic inside joke on the entire music industry. This was their last album under their disastrous record contract with Arista before they could go back to releasing live albums which curated the best music from the shows which they and their fans loved so much. Go to Heaven was the band’s giant kiss off.

Alabama getaway
Alabama getaway
Only way to please me
Turn around and leave
and walk away

Which brings me to Alabama Getaway. Ever the free love, why-can’t-we all-just-get-along types from Northern California, the band has always had a love/hate relationship with the South. Tracing their roots from jug bands and bluegrass pickers from folk America, many of their songs told tales of cowboys and the backwoods spirit of frontier folk. But while they celebrated the spirit of the individuals, they shunned the racist and divisive culture from where they came.

Majordomo Billy Bojangles
Sit down and have a drink with me
What’s this about Alabame
Keeps comin back to me?

I think Alabama Getaway, the opening song on Go to Heaven, is the band’s way of sneaking in a political message wrapped in a hard-driving Chuck Berry beat that would have fans in the South swinging their hips before they knew what hit them. References to male privilege, corruption, and lynching are woven throughout the cryptic verses, hidden in plain sight.

Heard your plea in the courthouse
Jurybox began to rock and rise
Forty-nine sister states all had
Alabama in their eyes

Neil Young didn’t do himself any favors by so directly confronting the South with his accusatory anthem Southern Man. I’m sure he stirred up quite a bit of controversy and probably wore out his welcome. Lynyrd Skynyrd even took his message and turned it into their own hit with Sweet Home Alabama’s rallying cry, “A Southern Man don’t need him around, anyhow.”

Alabama getaway
Alabama getaway
Only way to please me
Turn around and leave
and walk away

The Grateful Dead were more subtle. Like a Shakespearean court jester they will have you laughing and singing before their deeper message sinks in. Yes, they wanted to send a message but knew they would not be able to do so shouting down at people or dividing their fans against their friends. As any “social media consultant” will tell you today, the best way to crowdsource a movement is via your core fans. The only way to deliver this particular medicine was with a spoonful of sugar.

Why don’t we just give Alabama
rope enough to hang himself?
Ain’t no call to worry the jury
His kind takes care of itself

But none of this was really obvious to me until I carefully parsed the lyrics and consulted the lore. It was not until I looked into the history of this song that I unlocked the masterful prank being played. Go to Heaven was released on April 28, 1980. That very evening, the band made a special trip for a one-day concert at the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama. The first song? Alabama Getaway.

Twenty-third Psalm Majordomo
reserve me a table for three
in the Valley of the Shadow
just you, Alabama and me

It cracks me up to think that all these years the band would play this song all across the South with no one the wiser. Look at the photo on the album cover again. They are all trying desperately to keep from smirking, determined to play the part of cool disco kings – only Phil Lesh, in the back, can’t keep from cracking up. Merry Pranksters indeed.

Alabama getaway
Alabama getaway
Only way to please me
turn around and leave
and walk away

If you want to listen to the Grateful Dead playing Alabama Getaway at that concert in Birmingham in 1980, visit this page and click play. It’s the first song.

The week that was (12/15/2017)

A mummy of a “senior official” from 3,500 years ago was uncovered in Egypt. Wonder if they buried him with his paperwork.

Scientists at the Arctic University of Norway found a shark swimming in the North Atlantic estimated to be over 512-years old. What happened in 1505? Martin Luther had yet to present his 95 thesis that kicked off the Reformation.

Every material scientist’s favorite wonder compound, graphene, will be used to make the first running and fitness shoe. 200 times stronger than steel, the one-atom thick material will, “deliver a combination of traction, stretch and durability never seen before in sports footwear. 2018 will be the year of the world’s toughest grip.”

inov-8 graphene shoes due out in 2018

When tone-deaf Silicon Valley faced a shortage of women at their year-end parties, they hired models to stand in and balance the mix. Los Angeles, facing a shortage of hardcore football fans for the LA Rams, put out a casting call for  stand-in fans.

“One whiff and you’re stiff” says a local who lives in Ireland, near the factory that makes the drug Viagra and claims the fumes from the plant give him a unique contract high.

In Tokyo, the police are tracking down a monkey who has eluded capture since mid-October and has now made its way North from Yokohama into Tokyo.

In Hamden, Connecticut police are asking for the public’s help in solving an armed robbery of a bag of cheeseburgers.

To prevent injury, Marks and Spencer in the UK has developed an avocado with softer skin and no pit.

A UN official who tours the globe investigating extreme poverty said that areas of Alabama are suffering the most dire sewage disposal crisis of any place he has visited in a developed country. This week they at least got rid of some of it.

An anonymous person dropped a single gold Krugerrand worth about $1,200 in a Salvation Army kettle in South Carolina.

A Japanese company has developed a drone that will hover over worker’s desks when it’s time to go home to prevent them from overworking. The drone will play Auld Lang Syne but I think the annoying buzz is what will really do the trick.

Meanwhile, the SF branch of the SPCA had second thoughts about it’s use of autonomous security robots to suffle away homeless from its downtown campus and parking lot.

France’s education minister has announced that cell phone will be banned from school describing the government’s decision as a matter of “public health.”

A longtime SoMa communal gathering spot, San Francisco’s cafe-laundry institution Brainwash has closed permanently. Meanwhile, another SF institution, the Elbo Room in the Mission is testing new waters with an East Bay branch in Oakland.

A 54-year old man in Ireland came up with the best reason for skipping jury duty, and it was granted, “Then you GO and you GO with my blessing.”