NASA picked up a faint white dot on the surface of Mars that they believe to be the Opportunity. The 14-year old surface rover has been silent for an agonizing 107 days since going into hibernation to conserve energy from a planet-wide dust storm.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed from the events of the day? At SmartNews we try very hard to keep the number of times we interrupt users of our app to only the “whoa!” type news events but today those types of stories just kept breaking. Here’s a rundown of the day’s events:
Just when we thought we were done for the day – another tidbit would cross the wire. There were other stories too that would have normally qualified but we were getting numb. Tomorrow’s Kavanaugh hearing is bound to bring more fireworks.
In preparation, I’ve remixed a video posted by Taiyo Masuda, a kayaker in New Zealand, that basically summarizes how I felt today and share it here for all to use when you feel it just can’t get any stranger.
Parents in South Korea are hiring intimidating ‘uncles’ to protect their child from bullies. With the ‘Uncle Package’ a big, intimidating man pretends to be a student’s uncle and gives a stern warning to the bullies, and accompanies the student on their way to school. The service costs about $450/day.
After “months of torment” the Ipswich Borough Council finally tracked down why the children’s nursery rhyme It’s Raining, It’s Pouring was eerily playing from the industrial park in the middle of the night. Spiders.
Two things nagging at me as we await what is gearing up to be the showdown of the decade. There’s no about-ness about this. Someone is not telling the truth. It’ll be winner takes all.
Brett Kavanaugh has categorically denied being at the party where Christine Blasey Ford alleges that she was pinned down and almost raped by the current nominee for the Supreme Court.
Late night TV host Seth Meyers has this observation on curious timing of the release of list of women that support Kavanaugh,
Yet, Chuck Todd from NBC asks,
The problem with the denial is Dr. Ford didn’t make a specific allegation of a specific event. She admitted she couldn’t remember which house where this was. So, why does he have a very specific ability to deny?
You know stressed jeans right? A company in Venice is selling sneakers that simulate the old sneaker look.Price? $560.
A man in Florida ran from his car after getting pulled over for speeding. Jumping into a canal to escape pursuit, he later can be heard calling for help. The canal was full of brackish water, overrun by toxic algae. The police rescued him, hosed him off and rinsed his mouth out before taking him in.
A 75-year old Cleveland man spent 14 hours locked in his Cadillac when the electrical system failed and prevented him from opening the doors. Screaming for help from inside his garage and without his cellphone, his neighbors went blissfully about their day until they discovered him later that evening. He was without the car manual that would have guided him to the manual override tucked below his seat.
Photo credit: “There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” – Albert Einstein
XOXO is an experimental festival for independent artists and creators who work on the internet
That is what it says on their website but it’s so much more. It’s a community of people that live their lives online coming together to meet each other face-to-face, share side projects and talk about ways to make the internet feel more human.
I highly recommend this conference to anyone with an interest in online culture, design, or gaming. Because this conference is by invitation-only, there is a bit of an exclusive feel to it but also it means that most people you meet are interesting and talented and excited to share. You will leave refreshed with new sense of optimism about the future.
The invitation to attend comes months in advance along with an invitation to join the XOXO Slack community so much of the fun at the conference is meeting face-to-face all the people you have been communicating with via Slack or Twitter. I arrived Friday afternoon so unfortunately missed some of the social events on Thursday evening at during the day on Friday but what follows are some notes of things I saw. Photos are discouraged so I do not have many photos to share.
Games I saw at the Arcade, an open space demoing indie video games:
Busy Work, an installation of four office cubicles where your team has to frantically answer inane customer service questions.
Kids, more interactive art than a game, it was on an iPad projected on a big screen and had the audience shouting commands to the person “playing” the game as we all tried to figure out how to “win”
Goose Game, where you play a naughty goose and cause havoc.
Cathode Mk1, a turn-by-turn game played across a series of tube televisions by the folks at [public games].
Graham Annable spoke about his uniquely dark view of pets.
Film critic Lindsay Ellis took questions from the audience about how she built her audience and the challenges of delivering serious, academic research via YouTube. Here’s an exhaustive deconstruction of Disney’s depiction of indigenous female characters that got over 1M views.
Bill Wurtz is most famous for his History of Japan video (below) but he has a whole YouTube channel of nonsensical videos which he sampled for us. In Q&A we learned that attempted to do a History of the United States video initially but eventually had to give up because “he know too much” and could not summarize effectively. Japan (about which he knew nothing) was easier because his lack of knowledge gave him the distance to help him summarize it.
At the Art & Code session I missed Baratunde where he debuted his new app in which you are quizzed on headlines to determine if they are real or not as a way of alerting you to the problem of “over-policing.” He shared insights about why he built the app and the importance of data privacy in a Medium post.
Nicole He gave a talk (Yelling at Computers) about the rich space between what technology can do today and what people think technology can do today and shared Twitch videos of people playing her new browser-based game, Enhance Computer.
Diana Smith showed us her amazing digital renderings done entirely in CSS and HTML and then shared how the art beautifully degraded when viewed in older browsers. She then shared how the Internet used [Inspect Element] to fork and remix her work so that each piece lives on and have taken on a life of their own. Try it yourself – it’s an amazing labor of love – you will not be disappointed!
Botnik Studios uses AI to write examples of movie reviews, Twilight Zone episodes, and Tinder profiles.
On the main stage John Hodgman and Jean Grae held court and told stories based on topics submitted by the audience on a large, projected spinning wheel which randomly chose which topic to discuss.
Someone had printed out and put all the terms of service of several social networks side by side. The long yellow one is Snapchat.
There was an art exhibit where you could mail a postcard to yourself in a year’s time. My favorite one said, “Have you asked her yet?” I assume this person is getting ready to marry his (or her) girlfriend.
Because of some work stuff I was in and out of the Sunday sessions but I did get to see a couple.
I came back to see Adam Conover talk about the difficulty of presenting facts to people that don’t want to hear them. Adam has a TV show called, Adam Ruins Everything.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were forced to temporarily plug a small hole with someone’s finger and later with some duct tape and epoxy. As the week progressed, blame shifted from nature (a micrometeoroid) to internal (sabotage) before finally settling on institutional (shoddy workmanship).
A motorcycle broke a speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, topping out at 113 mph, powered by vodka.
Scientists are developing a new type of metal alloy that changes shape and composition at higher temperatures. Such shape-shifting technology holds promise to make more efficient jet engines for quieter airplanes.
If I had to choose one photo to sum up how crazy things were this past week, this would be it. Here’s a run down of SmartNews’ breaking push alerts from last week after a relatively quiet Labor Day weekend:
“As I’ve been saying from the beginning, this process has been a sham,” Senator Booker said. “The fact that tens of thousands of documents revealing a Supreme Court nominee’s views on key issues were deemed Committee Confidential and not available to the public reflects the absurdity of this process. The public has a right to access documents about a Supreme Court nominee’s views on issues that are profoundly important, such as race and the law. This process has demonstrated an unprecedented level of secrecy and opaqueness that undermines the Senate’s Constitutional duty to advice and consent.”
The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold. She’s resourceful, confident, secure. She meets her responsibilities. She speaks quietly because she’s strong. America does not boast because she has no need to. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great. That fervent faith, that proven devotion, that abiding love, that is what drove my father from the fiery skies above the Red River delta to the brink of the presidency itself.