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TWTW

The week that was

Researchers at University College London redesigned optical cables so they can transmit data at 178 terabits per second. This speed is double the capacity of any system currently used in the world and is able to download the entire Netflix library in just one second.

The Greenland glaciers have melted to “the point of no return” and has gone beyond a tipping point that will bring them back.

A man who lives on his farm in the middle of Narita Airport popped back in the news to report that he, “finds farming easier now with less air traffic disruptions due to Covid-19.”

Hobbies have kicked into overdrive during the pandemic driving up prices of collectibles everywhere, including houseplants. One person bid over $5000 for a single plant, approximately $1300 per leaf.

KFC marketers decided that during a time where we are supposed to avoid touching our faces it might be best to pause the finger lickin’ good slogan. McDonald’s doubled-down and will release a spicy Chicken McNugget.

One particularly dedicated prankster managed to completely mess up the entirety of the Scottish version of Wikipedia. “The sheer size and scope is something to behold: look at virtually any of the 57,000-plus pages and you’ll find a nonsensical mishmash of English and Scots.”

Our diets have all gone to hell so the folks at Lucky Charms have decided to cut to the chase and now sell just the marshmallows. What does, “magically. delicious” mean anyway?

As part of a deal to resume the playoffs, which the NBA suspended in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake, all league arenas will be opened as polling places in the upcoming election.

The law finally caught up with a Southern California man who has been posing as a Homeland Security Agent for years. Federal agents grew suspicious when Donovan Nguyen, 34, showed up at a raid wearing full tactical gear and no one knew him.

Can someone get into the Exclusive Website and report back what it’s about? I can only listen to the hold music for so long.

Cover Image: “The New American Gothic” by Criselda Vasquez, Oil on canvas, 2017

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email or forward to a friend.

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Current Events

Lennon meets Wilson

This story of the night John Lennon met Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys), told by Alice Cooper is too good not to re-publish.

As told by Alice Cooper:  

“I was sitting backstage after the 1974 Grammys with Bernie Taupin (Elton John’s lyricist) and John Lennon. This was when Brian was really having some mental issues. During the course of the conversation, I kept seeing Brian out of the corner of my eye, just kind of staring at us from different angles.”

“Finally, he came up to the table, bent down and whispered in my ear ‘Hey Alice, introduce me to John Lennon.’ I couldn’t BELIEVE that these two men had never met! They were virtually neck and neck in the 60’s as the greatest bands on the planet, and I’m SURE they must have crossed paths at some point. But then I thought to myself, ‘Wow, if they REALLY have never met, I’m going to be the one to introduce them and become a part of rock history!’”

“So I merely said, ‘Brian Wilson, this is John Lennon. John Lennon, this is Brian Wilson.’ Lennon was very cordial and polite, saying things like ‘Hello Brian, I’ve always wanted to meet you. I’ve always admired your work, and Paul and I considered Pet Sounds one of the best albums ever made.’ Brian thanked him and walked away, at which point Lennon went right back to his conversation like nothing had happened.”

“About ten minutes later, Brian came by our table again, leaned down and whispered something to Bernie, and all of a sudden, Bernie was saying ‘Brian Wilson, this is John Lennon. John Lennon, Brian Wilson.’ Lennon was just as cordial and polite as the first time, saying essentially the same thing about always wanting to meet him. As soon as Brian walked away, John looked at both of us and casually said in his typical Liverpudlian accent, ‘I’ve met him hundreds of times. He’s not well, you know.’”

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Dean Elmore

Boston University’s Dean Elmore has the unenviable task of leading BU’s student population safely thru the pandemic. He is normally jolly and approachable and, when you meet him, his love of BU is plainly infectious.

Here he is taking the plunge into the Charles River after challenging at least 2,011 seniors (more than half the class) to donate to the 2011 Class Gift campaign.

But these are different times.

Today, Dean Elmore sent out a letter to the BU students reminding them of their responsibility to their fellow students. His letter was picked up in the local news which is how I found out about it. In it he makes very clear that, “if you host or attend a large off-campus or on-campus gathering, social or party, you will be suspended from Boston University.”

But he balanced his firmness with an aspirational challenge.

Like you, I’ve been cooped up and, sometimes, felt alone. That’s why I am excited to get reacquainted with my peoples – especially since they are close and not always on a screen. However, in seeing my friends, I’ve incorporated a lot more planning in my socializing to be more thoughtful, less hapless and more diligent about thinking about others. Our actions have consequences. We have got to use our collective power to maintain an environment where we can all live and learn. To succeed, we have to work together.

Boston University Dean of Student’s blog

As places of learning and innovation, colleges and universities will have to learn to live together during this pandemic. Students will create a culture and society that will works for them in our “new normal” and teach the rest of us how to go forward. 

Related, kinda:

New York Times is tracking coronavirus cases at all universities and colleges in the United States.

Also:

Boston University’s effort to stay on top of student testing was picked up on NBC News as well.
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TWTW

The week that was

The 71-year old president of Portugal swam out to rescue two women in trouble when their kayak capsized off a beach in the Algarve.

Local authorities in the Florida Keys approved a plan to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes to prevent the spread of dengue fever and other diseases.

Fans of a 2004 video game have taken it upon themselves to work on a modern upgrade to the game based on the latest technology and techniques. Battle for Middle-earth: Reforged uses Unreal Engine, runs on modern computers, and looks amazing.

Record-breaking fires continue to rage, barely contained, in Northern California, almost completely surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area. With state and federal resources spread thin, people are resorting to their own fire prevention methods, including cans of Bud Light.

While sheltering-in-place, Lydia Cambron meticulously recreated 2001: Space Odyssey’s ending scene in her apartment, not only shot-by-shot but nearly look-by-look. (h/t kottke)

Because it’s 2020 the Gulf Coast is going to get an unprecedented double-punch of two successive hurricanes next week.

Goldman Sachs released a corporate font designed to make it easier to read financial reports. Fontheads sneered and accused the font of being “derivative.”

The Japanese city of Tokorozawa spruced up its manhole covers with anime characters and installed LED lights so they glow in the dark.

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email, follow on Facebook, or forward to a friend.

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Scared Kitty

Turn up the volume and find out what scares the kitty so much.
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Current Events

Don’t be UNC

This year, more than ever, college students returning to campus will be tested. Not only tested for COVID-19 but also tested for their maturity to follow the health guidelines put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to other students, their professors, university staff, and the community that hosts them.

UNC-Chapel Hill was in the news two weeks ago when a video surfaced of a large group of students walking out of an off-campus house party without masks, not socially distanced and in clear violation of the university’s ban on large gatherings. This was on August 5th, just two days after the first students started moving back into their dorms. Later the administration took disciplinary action and kicked three students out for not following safety protocols.

Two clusters of UNC students came down with COVID last week and five were sent to isolated housing prepared for students that needed to quarantine from the community. According to the UNC Carolina Together dashboard it looks as if there was not a lot of testing in the weeks leading up to last week which leads me to believe that there were lots of asymptomatic students mingling in the community that revealed themselves once full-scale testing began.

With available beds for those that need to isolate themselves running dangerously low, UNC-Chapel Hill announced today that they are sending students home to avoid further contact and spread.

After only one week of campus operations, with growing numbers of clusters and insufficient control over the off-campus behavior of students (and others), it is time for an off-ramp. We have tried to make this work, but it is not working.

Barbara Rimer, Dean of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health

Both my kids are moving into college this week. I hope the closing of UNC serves as an example of how seriously the actions of a few can spin out of control and impact the entire student population.

Boston University has an extensive program for returning students that includes an on-campus lab that can process 5,000 test results every 24-hours shared on a public dashboard. The students have launched an online awareness campaign with a name designed to be provocative. Daily self-reporting of symptoms and regular testing are required and, if you miss either, your wifi followed by access card stop working until you eventually are asked to leave campus. All results are collected into an app which students use to check in their locations throughout the day. This same app also notifies students if anyone with positive test results was in proximity and will automatically limit the mobility of potentially infected students. All of this is at great cost to the university. They are not bringing kids back to school for the money.

Clark University sent test kits to all students at home a couple of weeks ago to prevent asymptomatic carriers from coming to campus until they can show a negative result. This week Clark is welcoming students and, like BU, are requiring every student to sign a Commitment to follow safety protocols or risk “dis-enrollment.” The university offered all students an online course over the summer, Pandemics. From Horror to Hope, to put our current situation into perspective, and hosted discussion groups for students including tips on how to politely tell someone to put on their mask on (and how to acknowledge someone’s request without sounding snarky). In full transparency, and to help put anxious parents and surrounding community at ease, Clark is publishing all test results on a public website.

All parents want the best for their children. We want them to experience all that college has to offer. We also want them to stay safe. It’s easy to question the trade off in sending our kids to live together during a pandemic. I have to keep reminding myself that they are not kids anymore, they are young adults, and there will be valuable lessons to learn from working together to “stop the spread.”

Universities are places of learning and innovation. This year, students will learn to live and study together in a time of pandemic. They will develop a culture and society that works in our “new normal.” Unlike the UNC community, successful schools will collectively enforce acceptable behavior and redefine what is cool. We will have much to learn from these pioneers.

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TWTW

The week that was

Three men stranded at a remote island in the Pacific were rescued by the oldest form of communication, an SOS message drawn in the sand.

A cat was taken into custody at a high-security Sri Lankan prison for smuggling drugs to inmates (two grams of heroin, SIM cards and a memory chip in a plastic bag tied to its collar). Now the cat has escaped.

People in a Berlin park were treated to the spectacle of a nudist bather chasing after a wild boar who made off with his laptop in a bag.

Things are not going well for the Trump campaign. First the governor of Ohio tested positive for COVID-19 and could not host him. Then a tone deaf staffer picked Live and Let Die as the walk-on music, not the best theme song for the pandemic. Finally, the sinking campaign chose to schedule a talk at a Whirlpool factory resulting ironically less-than-ideal background graphics.

Sensing opportunity in thousands of college students stuck at home with another semester of remote learning, two Princeton grads have reserved space in a hotel off Waikiki Beach and are accepting applications for 150 students to join them in their remote learning bubble in paradise. What could possibly go wrong?

Giuseppe Paternò, 96, graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of Palermo. He was first in his class with top honors and is now considering a graduate degree.

The scientific body in charge of standardizing the names for genes has decided to rename several genes which have run into problems because of Microsoft Excel’s overly helpful auto-formatting feature. Turns out a gene such as Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1 or MARCH1 for short is cheerfully transformed by Excel to 1-Mar which can be disastrous, if not fatal for the recipient.

Apparently there is a huge community of witches on TikTok that are lending their services to cast protection spells on BLM protestors via livestream. They call it WitchTok. Do Microsoft or Twitter know what they are buying?

I leave you this week with a video of popcorn popping in extreme slow motion.

Stay well.

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email, follow on Facebook, or forward to a friend.

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Old Film, Transformed

Two cities, each on the other side of the world, captured on old film which has been digitized, colorized, and upscaled using neural networks to 4k and 60 frames/second.

Tokyo 1913 – 1915
New York City 1911

Some of the technical details about what Denis Shiryaev, a YouTuber known for restoring vintage videos does to achieve his magic:

4k upscale – Each frame can be upscaled using specifically-targeted data that perfectly aligns with your footage. Our neural network will “redraw” the missing data and increase the frame resolution 4x or more.

FPS boosting – A neural network trained via slow-mo movies will artificially generate additional frames for your footage. Even 14 fps films can easily be boosted to 60 fps.

Denis also ran his algorithms across the famous Trip down Market Street film (recorded just days before the 1906 earthquake). As he narrates, over the course of half a month, he upscaled the origianl and transformed it into a 50,000 frame, 380 gb file, using the algorithms to fill in information that was not captured in the original.

More examples of his work and services at https://neural.love/

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TWTW

The week that was

A man’s Roomba was a bit too helpful when it cheerfully tried to clean up after the dog while he was out and spread dog shit all over his house.

Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, famous for his refusal to wear a mask, tested positive for the ‘rona during a pre-flight screening for a campaign visit to his home state with the president on Air Force One.

The let’s-just-leave-this-headline-as-it-is award goes to AFP. Trump retweets viral video of doctor saying US government is run by ‘reptilians’

Tom Hanks and his wife Rita became Greek citizens.

Scientists poking around at the the bottom of the ocean discovered they can revive bacteria from 100 million years ago. Don’t we have enough to worry about?

Up top in Siberia, a massive “thaw slump” of permafrost is melting away and exposing what locals call a “gateway to the underworld.” Global warming has made the slump to almost 900 meters wide.

A considerably more chill group of scientists have figured out how to modify a strain of cannabis to be an effective against certain strains of cancer.

Play the games, fake the crowds. Instead of having empty stadiums for the baseball games on TV, Fox Sports is using video game software to fill in the seats with virtual attendees.

The NBA has a different approach. For each game played in “the bubble” 320 fans are invited to watch via videoconference. They are not only seen but also heard on the court. In order to keep it clean, each team assigns several crowd monitors who have to be ready to eject anyone who gets too spicy for family TV. Watching the crowd instead of the game, worst job ever.

Two Taiwanese octogenarians made the New York Times when their Instagram profile went viral. They run a laundromat and model the clothes that people leave behind. It was their son’s idea, “I had no idea so many foreigners would take interest in my grandparents.”

If you’re looking for something feel-good, check out Alanis Morissette singing her new song, Ablaze, with her daughter on Jimmy Fallon.