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.
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.
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.
Researchers think they may have found a potential source of antibodies to fight COVID-19 in Alpacas.
One NYC couple decided to take advantage of the lack of crowds in public places and bring their outdoor dining date nights all over the city, including the Brooklyn Bridge. On the flip side, rogue bartenders are taking their mixology on the road and are selling mojitos out of their backpack.
An oil tanker has split in two off the coast of Mauritus, an island in the Indian Ocean. Residents are doing everything they can to save their pristine reefs and beaches including cutting off their hair.
Our unintentional time-capsule of the week are the five cans of Hamms beer and package of Godzilla Heads gum found at the Walla Walla, Washington public library. The 1980s era “secret cache” was discovered after library staff moved some shelves (the Mystery section if you must ask) to accommodate social distancing.
After removing the confederate symbol from the state flag, Mississippi put out the call for a new design and one joker fashioned one featuring a giant mosquito. The design was upvoted by many and gained popularity and even was put on the list of finalists until the powers that be pulled the plug on the idea.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
My kids are sick of me showing them Nike’s latest commercial which was just released this morning and already has almost 5 million views on YouTube and over 50k retweets on Twitter.
It’s just so good.
Not only does Nike tap into the deep longing we all have to get back together and enjoy sports, it also cleverly brings together two sides of our divided world into a message of unity. The message is that unity brings strength with the underlying theme being that we need to work together to fight the challenges we face.
“The film … is a good one. And you don’t have to be so screwed up and cause such a horror for the whole country – you can watch it without that,” said the Ukrainian interior minister after President Zelenskiy (the former comedian) agreed to recommend a niche Joaquin Phoenix film on Facebook in return for the release of hostages.
Rosie the Riveter, is normally depicted with a red bandana to tie back her hair. Today Mae Krier (94), one of the original Riveters, is back serving her country, sewing red bandana masks to cover faces.
A Satanic Temple is offering college scholarships. Interested high school graduates can apply under the Devil’s Advocate Scholarship program.
A guy wearing a “Pugs not Drugs” shirt got arrested for . . . drugs.
Qantas retired their 747 fleet with the final flight by the Australian airline’s first female pilot who took the plane on a flight path that traced a ‘roo in the sky.
In a contemporary version of, “the dog ate my homework” a University of Georgia student begged, pleaded, and was granted a do-over when a meatball from her sandwich rolled out, plopped on her keyboard and logged her out of her Econ final.
Get them while they’re hot? For some reason, Crocs and KFC have a collaboration on a new line of footwear. If greasy chicken and bare feet doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, you can order a pair (or just marvel at the weirdness) here.
Oh! KFC has finally admitted that their chicken nuggets are just reconstituted chicken mush after all. They are now going to print the stuff. Crocs made out of printed chicken mush now kinda makes sense.
Then there’s the popcorn-flavored M&Ms. Yeah, I think we’re seeing the impact of legal weed and work-from-home spitballing impacting new product development.
If you didn’t get around to it last week, you can still upload your view to WindowSwap. If you’re feeling stressed out and just want to scream into the void, may I suggest Looks Like You Need Iceland.
Oh, and if you want to see the video photo up top of Lady Liberty casually ignoring lightning bolts, here’s the video.