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TWTW

The week that was

While a shocking number of Americans can’t be bothered to wear a mask, this Indian businessman threw down $4000 his own custom gold mask.

A Japanese robotics company turned its attention to the mask problem and made one that does more than just save lives. The charmingly named Donut Robotics invented an internet-enabled mask that can can transcribe and translate speech into text, make calls, or amplify the mask wearer’s voice.

As sports leagues around the world stumble thru working out protocols that will keep everyone safe, the Women’s Roller Derby League surprised everyone with their sensible & straightforward plan.

Of course the Parisians have figured out how to keep everyone socially distanced and look cool doing it.

Coronavirus fashion is now a thing.

Covid-19 has reached the remote jungles of the Peruvian Amazon where there are now six cases among the Nahua tribe who have been living in voluntary isolation since first contact in the 1980s.

Melbourne police were tipped off when someone came into a KFC at 1:30 am and placed a “suspiciously huge order.” Following the car home, they broke up a party in violation of group gatherings and handed out $26k in fines.

Refrigerators stocked with free food are popping up all over Oakland. “Take what you want, leave what you don’t.” The fridges are part of the Town Fridge volunteer network to feed those in need.

A Japanese Inn bought some grapes for $12,200.

The Secret Service dropped $25k on two jet skis to keep the Trump family safe while they swim. Mavericks anyone?

Florida’s command center for statewide emergencies (such as Covid) shut down on Thursday after 12 staffers tested positive for . . . Covid.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse we learn that a squirrel in Colorado tested positive for the bubonic plague.

Trump supporters are getting fed up with the candidate’s pushy text messages. “Pres. Trump texted & YOU didn’t respond. Don’t let him down AGAIN.” Unsubscribe.

Scientists looking up determined that an Andean condor can fly 100 miles without flapping its wings.

Scientists looking down figured out how to make a camera small enough to put on the back of a beetle so they can see things from their perspective.

Scientists looking way up found the oldest star so they could confirm the age of the universe. Happy 13.8 billion years!

Nissan re-designed its logo so it looks better on its electric cars. As far as branding videos go, this one is pretty epic (headphones recommended).

Want a room with a view? Try WindowSwap.

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.

Categories
Current Events

Masked

City council meetings give us a glimpse into the soft underbelly of the American democracy. I remember having to sit through a Pennington, NJ neighbor debate at length with a Verizon representative who wanted to place a cell tower on top of the local firehouse. “Make it a ziggurat,” he said to the perplexed Verizon rep as I walked out the door.

Streaming video technology has opened the proceedings to the rest of the world. What used to be only open to those attending in person is now available for everyone to see. And mock.

Which brings me to Provo, Utah where they recently held a meeting to go over the state’s mandate that everyone at school must wear a mask.

Utah meeting on masks is canceled when residents without masks pack room

“A public meeting in Utah about a mask policy for schoolchildren was abruptly adjourned when people without masks packed the room.” This is how the NBC news report started out. If you watch the video above, the County Commissioner of Provo, Utah opened the meeting with, “This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing,” and was met with a chorus of boos from the packed gallery.

“Science should not stand in the way”

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany

This the where we are today in America. The rest of the world is on the other side of the curve, they worked together, looked out for their fellow citizens, wore their masks and are now on the road to recovery.

They are winning while we’re still arguing over the rules.

Italy, remember how bad it was there? Just 230 cases yesterday. Here in the US, we are setting new records with over 70,000 new cases today and convoys of refrigerated trailers are making their way to Arizona and Texas hotspots to serve as mobile morgues for the anticipated surge in deaths.

Yet people insist on their freedom of choice.

No one wants free masks in Huntington Beach
Bummed out tourist

Meanwhile, as people try to take their attitudes elsewhere, they are being dealt harshly. Americans are blocked entry into many European countries, and Hawaii has strict rules demanding quarantine for any arrivals from outside the islands. Check out the tourist from Utah who has to spend his Kauai vacation behind bars because he didn’t think the 14-day quarantine applied to him. Boy does he look bummed.

Like Tom Hanks says – it’s simple – “do your part, we’re all in this together.” Wear a mask for the your house, your work, your town, and society as a whole.”

Categories
Office

SmartNews goes ダウンタウン

Japanese comedy duo, Downtown, in new SmartNews commercials

SmartNews kicked off a new TV advertising campaign in Japan bringing together Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masanori Hamada from the comedy duo Downtown co-star in a commercial together for the first time in 10 years.

Several features that are unique to our Japanese edition are in the campaign. The hugely popular coupon feature which, if you’re lucky, will grant you a free meal at a local fast food shop and my favorite, the Rain Radar with real-time weather alerts.

SmartNews Rain Radar
Categories
TWTW

The week that was

Nearly $5.5M worth of counterfeit pajamas were confiscated at Port of Los Angeles.

Nudists are debating if wearing a face mask makes you no longer a true nudist.

Billionaire Kanye West’s company was awarded a multimillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus grant so they can continue to make shoes like this.

Ringo Starr celebrated his 80th birthday and Judas Priest announced their 50th anniversary tour.

Olympian sprinter Usain Bolt has a daughter named Olympia. Her middle name is Lightning.

All types of retailers have been hit hard by the lack of shoppers during the pandemic. Both the 202-year old Brooks Brothers and the North American branch of the Japanese brand retailer Muji filed for bankruptcy.

The great scrubbing continued as the North American Scrabble Players Association took a hard look at its dictionary of acceptable words and removed 236 words that it found potentially offensive.

Elon Musk, who surpassed Warren Buffet in wealth this week, sold out of his limited edition red satin Tesla gym shorts that were going for $69.420.

Due to the pandemic, fashion catwalks have gone virtual at this year’s Haute Couture Week. Each fashion house posted videos online to show off this year’s collection. Here’s Chanel.

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.

Categories
Current Events

Death as Art

These are the times we live in. Artist James Beckwith plotted each death from January thru June along a timeline, on a map and set it to music, “each country is represented by a tone and an expanding blip on the map when a death from Covid-19 is recorded” says Beckwith on his YouTube page.

This work was emotionally a difficult piece to write and may be upsetting to some people. I created it to highlight the terrifying spread of this virus and to try and understand how frightening its exponential growth has been. There seems to be something much more real and chilling about these numbers when you hear them, as well as seeing them.

James Beckwith

Beckwith took his inspiration from an earlier piece by the Japanese artist (and former foreign exchange dealer) Isao Hashimoto who created 1945-1998 an audio/visual representation of nuclear proliferation which you can see below.

“1945-1998”
Categories
Current Events

Deep Fake Chaff

There’s a thing called chaff that fighter aircraft use as a counter-measure against radar. It’s basically strips of aluminum foil which, when deployed in a cloud behind a plane as flies through the air, confusing the enemy radar with multiple targets.

I think of chaff when I think of how a Boston University team has figured out how to add invisible visual noise to images to throw off Deep Fake algorithms. Clever!

Source images on top row, distorted images below

The BU team’s algorithm allows users to protect media before uploading it to the internet by overlaying an image or video with an imperceptible filter. When a manipulator uses a deep neural network to try to alter an image or video protected by the BU-developed algorithm, the media is either left unchanged or completely distorted, the pixels rendering in such a way that the media becomes unrecognizable and unusable as a deepfake.

Protective Filter Defends Images and Video against Deepfake Manipulation
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TWTW

The week that was

The president will be spending the Forth of July at Mount Rushmore watching a half-million dollar “fireworks extravaganza.” Meanwhile, the Covid situation in Arizona has gotten to the point where Mexico is seriously thinking maybe they should finish that wall themselves, to keep out the Americans.

Xiaojie Zheng of San Francisco was assaulted while out walking her dog. When the police asked for a description, she did one better. Xiao has a photographic memory and is a renown portrait artist.

Protestors traveled out to Michael Bloomberg’s estate in the Hamptons to protest income inequality and brought pitchforks* with them.

Principals from 40 schools in the Bay Area gathered for a in-person meeting to coordinate the complicated procedures required for schools to open in Fall. Public confidence in those protocols were shattered when they learned everyone was exposed to the coronavirus at the meeting.

A film with a $70 million budget about the dangers of trying to perfect human DNA will have a robot as the lead actor.

Perhaps taking inspiration from the Barcelona Opera, a local bluegrass band played to the animals at the Oakland Zoo (which have become quite lonely lately). We later read that the zoo is in deep financial trouble.

After 50 years, Boeing will stop production of the 747 Jumbo Jet.

The Finger on the App thing announced last week finished last night with the final four contestants winning $20k each for keeping their finger on the app for a 3 whole days. If you haven’t seen it, check out the compilation video of people getting booted after Siri tried to “help.”

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.

*article updated later to say they were plastic

Categories
Current Events

Europe puts up a wall

The headline said, Alabama students throwing ‘COVID parties’ to see who gets infected but the reality is so much worse. It was a contest – they would invite someone they knew tested positive and threw parties as some sort of dare. And they did it multiple times.

They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot.

This is why the European Union has put a ban on travelers from the United States. No country that’s trying to get a handle on the pandemic is going to risk the possibility of letting one of these wing-nuts in.

Which brings me to the now infamous Palm Beach city council meeting. The meeting went on for hours to make time public comment about a mask-wearing ordinance and provided many choice highlights of unique American craziness. Thankfully the City Council voted 7-0 in favor of requiring masks to be worn in public but the public debate was as ugly as it was ridiculous.

This is how democracy works in America, you open things up in an effort to be transparent and listen to the concerns of your citizens and constituents and the only people that show up are those that have enough time on their hands to fall into YouTube and Reddit rabbit holes and wait for hours for their 2 minutes at the mic. The great American Experiment has gone off the rails. The Dream is a nightmare. We have become a parody of ourselves.

Heh, Tyler passed this on to me – I’m not the only one who’s made the connection.

Categories
Current Events

Dock Ellis and the LSD No-Hitter

On June 12th, 1970 Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates threw a no hitter against San Diego – while high on LSD. The story has so many twists and turns that make it even more incredible including one tidbit I only learned about later – Dock woke up the next day and didn’t even recall he pitched or threw a no-hitter.

“I’m as high as a Georgia pine,” Ellis said.

Dock Ellis’s no-hitter on LSD, 50 years on

Would you believe some yarn from a puckish ball player who claimed he “couldn’t pitch without pills” and was known to pull a leg or two (look up the curler incident)? Dunno. There is no footage of the game so any visual evidence has been lost to the sands of time. But it’s a great story and, as a comment on the YouTube video above notes that Dock’s entry in the box score would have been, “Ellis, D.”

Watch the video above to hear the story in his own words.

The story of the no-hitter was told by Ellis in an interview on NPR. That audio is used for the animation by cartoonist James Blagden above.

Categories
Current Events

Little Big

Anybody who thinks that the Russians have no sense of humor has not seen Little Big, Russia’s entry in this year’s Eurovision contest.

With over 125M views, Little Big’s Uno video is the most watched video on the Eurovision channel. The annual contest was unfortunately cancelled this year due to the pandemic but there’s plenty more to see on the Eurovision YouTube channel.