December 22, 2014

Oh deer

Let's hope it wasn't Donner or Blitzen or Cupid or Dasher or...

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Taking 'Bah, humbug!' up a notch

How One Man Is Terrorizing Neighbors With a Hostile Holiday Decoration Display

Homeowners on Fairley Road in Ross Township, Pennsylvania, say their neighbor Bill Ansell is terrorizing them year round with his hostile anti-Christmas spirit.

"Any opportunity he has to make our life a hardship, he does," resident Chris Hebda told ABC News' "20/20."

"He's an angry person that's very unstable," resident Pamela Heck told "20/20."

Ansell, an electrician, has a display on his yard that features a beheaded choir, a hanging Mickey Mouse and even a urinating Santa Claus that lights up at night.

Neighbors Chris and Joanne Hebda said they have had to stare at the unpleasant decorations for the past six years. Fairley Road is a unique cul-de-sac; a circular street with Ansell's house right in the middle, surrounded by six other homes. That makes it hard to avoid his handiwork.

"There was a Virgin Mary here, and he placed a knife through her head, right there on the edge of our driveway," Joanne Hebda told "20/20." "I thought it was a terroristic threat."

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More of the year in pictures

Here's an image from CNN's 2014: The year in pictures

March 9: The Northern Lights appear over snow-covered mountains in Iceland.

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December 21, 2014

Reflection Canyon

Photo from a gallery of images of Lake Powell on the Arizona/Utah border by Mike Reyfman.


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Somebody set up us the bomb

Sony Hack: Activists to Drop 'Interview' DVDs Over North Korea Via Balloon

Whether or not North Korea is behind the Sony hack, Kim Jong Un better brace himself because The Interview is headed to his country. Human rights activists are planning to airlift DVDs of the Seth Rogen comedy into the country via hydrogen balloons.

Fighters for a Free North Korea, run by Park Sang Hak, a former government propagandist who escaped to South Korea, has for years used balloons to get transistor radios, DVDs and other items into North Korea — not to entertain the deprived masses, but to introduce them to the outside world.

In the past two years, the Human Rights Foundation in New York, created by Thor Halvorssen, has been helping bankroll the balloon drops, with the next one set for January. The Interview likely won't be out on DVD then, but Halvorssen says he'll add copies as soon as possible.

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At the Seattle airport

I assume that means Sea-Tac

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December 19, 2014

Animated optical illusions (3)

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Heh (17)

"Hey, let's steal a car we can't drive!" What maroons...

Stick shift defeats carjackers in downtown Ocala

Police say two carjackers almost got away with a vehicle near Ocala's downtown skating rink Wednesday night — but they didn't know how to drive a stick shift.

Ocala Police Department officers spoke with the owner of a 2014 Toyota Corolla near the city's ice skating rink. The man told them he was sitting in his car talking on his cellphone when a man with a gun tapped on the driver's side window. Another man stood by the passenger's side window. [...]

The victim handed over the keys and quickly walked away from the car and headed west toward Southeast First Avenue. He said he saw the robbers trying to drive away, but they had trouble making the car move.

The victim, meanwhile, stopped another motorist and asked the person to call police. Before officers arrived, the robbers ran from the car, which still had the keys in the ignition.

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Still more of the year in pictures

Winners of the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest at The Atlantic's InFocus blog.

Honorable Mention, Nature. "Stag Deer Bellowing" Stag Deer Bellowing in Richmond Park, London. (© Prashant Meswani/National Geographic Photo Contest)

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December 18, 2014

A crosswalk in Kyrgyzstan



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The happiest mile you'll ever run

The Beer Mile: Chug Four, Run One

After church one Sunday morning, 44-year old Chris Kimbrough rolls by the Bailey Middle School track in Austin, Texas, craning her neck to see if anyone is occupying the oval. She takes note of a man sauntering slowly down the backstretch at the otherwise vacant facility. Satisfied, she sinks her foot into the accelerator of her Toyota Sienna and races home.

"The track is empty, let's go!" she says to her husband as she throws on her running clothes and blue New Balance training shoes. She grabs four cans of a local craft brew and a stopwatch as they rush out the door. [...]

On her husband's mark, the 5-foot-3-inch, 108-pound Kimbrough cracks open a can of the ale and throws her head back, letting it drain down her throat like a fraternity pledge. Ten seconds later, the can is empty. She tosses it to the grassy infield and takes off on her first lap, barreling around the worn, rust-colored rubber track.

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Best of YouTube 2014

According to Zapatou and these 233 video segments.

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December 17, 2014

Merry Crimbo

Just doesn't sound the same, does it?

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Mobile mistletoe mishap

Drone strike! Our photographer injured by TGI Friday's mistletoe copter

Turns out a moment of awkwardness wasn't the worst that could happen when a popular family restaurant chain unleashed indoor aircraft with the mission of prompting diners to kiss on camera.

TGI Friday's much-hyped "Mobile Mistletoe" drones drew first blood in their New York City debut on Dec. 4 at the chain's beloved Sheepshead Bay location when one of them hit our intrepid photographer right in the face.

The two remote-controlled helicopters dangling sprigs of mistletoe were intended to spread holiday romance, but one of them flew out of control and clipped Courier photographer Georgine Benvenuto in the nose with one of its spinning, uncovered blades.

"It literally chipped off a tip of my nose," said Benvenuto, using tissues to stanch the blood. "It took off part of my nose and cut me here, right under my chin."

Benvenuto said she's just thankful she wasn't blinded in the name of love.

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And a one...

Parking at the Estonian State Opera



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December 16, 2014

Reuters' best

Reuters' Best photos of the year 2014. This one is of a controlled burn of a house at Lake Whitney, Texas that was falling into the lake.


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I'll bet you could have lots of fun with this

Though perhaps not in the way it's intended.

Wakie, The Social Alarm Clock That Lets You Wake Up Strangers, Finally Arrives On iOS

"Hey there, I'm just calling to wake you up," I said a little awkwardly.

"Thanks. Where are you from?" replied a female voice with a thick Irish accent.

"The UK. You're from Ireland, right?"

"How could you tell?" she said wryly.

"The flag at the top of the screen."

It took 9 months to be approved, but, Wakie — the 'social alarm clock' that lets you wake up (and be woken up by) strangers — has finally arrived on iOS. [...]

"Most people hate alarm clocks, billions of people feel unhappy every day with these classic ringers and ding-congers," Wakie co-founder and CEO Hrachik Adjamian tells me. "We make people happy with the voice of friendly strangers from all over the world who try to make you smile in the morning. A lot of people who use our service say that they started to love mornings. The better you start your day the better you feel yourself for the rest of the day."

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I think he's right

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December 15, 2014

All about that space

Nicely done. Looks like people at NASA are ridin' that Orion buzz.

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The Male Idiot Theory

From the British Medical Journal, no less. (Tip o the hat to Jeff G.)

The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviour

Sex differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency hospital admissions, and mortality are well documented. However, little is known about sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. This paper reviews the data on winners of the Darwin Award over a 20 year period (1995-2014). Winners of the Darwin Award must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive. This paper reports a marked sex difference in Darwin Award winners: males are significantly more likely to receive the award than females (P<0.0001). We discuss some of the reasons for this difference.



However, there is a class of risk—the "idiotic" risk—that is qualitatively different from those associated with, say, contact sports or adventure pursuits such as parachuting. Idiotic risks are defined as senseless risks, where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and often final.

According to "male idiot theory" (MIT) many of the differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions, and mortality may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.16 There are anecdotal data supporting MIT, but to date there has been no systematic analysis of sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. In this paper we present evidence in support of this hypothesis using data on idiotic behaviours demonstrated by winners of the Darwin Award.17 18 19 20 21

Winners of the Darwin Award must die in such an idiotic manner that "their action ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive."20 The Darwin Awards Committee attempts to make a clear distinction between idiotic deaths and accidental deaths. For instance, Darwin Awards are unlikely to be awarded to individuals who shoot themselves in the head while demonstrating that a gun is unloaded. This occurs too often and is classed as an accident. In contrast, candidates shooting themselves in the head to demonstrate that a gun is loaded may be eligible for a Darwin Award—such as the man who shot himself in the head with a "spy pen" weapon to show his friend that it was real.18

To qualify, nominees must improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race using astonishingly stupid methods. Northcutt cites a number of worthy candidates.17 18 19 20 21 These include the thief attempting to purloin a steel hawser from a lift shaft, who unbolted the hawser while standing in the lift, which then plummeted to the ground, killing its occupant; the man stealing a ride home by hitching a shopping trolley to the back of a train, only to be dragged two miles to his death before the train was able to stop; and the terrorist who posted a letter bomb with insufficient postage stamps and who, on its return, unthinkingly opened his own letter.

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The gateway

A nice shot of the Gateway Arch (here in St. Louis)



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December 12, 2014

Cheap paint job

The $383 Paint Job: the cost of 38,300 pennies. (I hate to think how much labor went into this, though.)


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What could possibly go wrong?

This startup wants to pay you to fly with strangers' stuff in your luggage

Fast-growing startups Uber and Airbnb have turned idle drivers and apartment owners into on-demand chauffeurs and hoteliers. Now a new company wants to apply the peer-to-peer "sharing economy" formula to the age-old courier industry.

Indianapolis-based Carry, which launched yesterday, is a new take on long-distance package shipping. Instead of using FedEx, UPS, or the postal service, the marketplace matches people who need something delivered with travelers who are taking the same route. Current listings are seeking someone to take an iPhone to Mexico from Los Angeles for $350, and bring medication from London to New York for $44.

As with Airbnb, Carry is trying to take advantage of an under-utilized resource—in this case, the unused space in your suitcase. If you're already going on a trip, it's a potential way to defray vacation costs. And Carry is pitching itself as a cheaper alternative to express shipping.

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What a Christmas card

I'm sure they're not cheap but I'd buy some.

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December 11, 2014

Yee haw! (2)

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It's on the house

So much for the old adage, "Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel."

From Dallas's top kitchens, reviewer Leslie Brenner is feeling the heat

DALLAS — Leslie Brenner's money is no good at Proof + Pantry. Or at Lark on the Park, Spoon, Meddlesome Moth and a number of other restaurants here. These free meals are not intended as bribes to influence the Dallas Morning News restaurant critic into writing a positive review.

No, they're intended to prevent a review altogether.

In early November, after a town-hall-style meeting, at least 10 Dallas-area restaurants agreed to adopt a practice first employed in October at Proof + Pantry, where the owners refused to present Brenner with a bill, setting off a widely publicized standoff over who would eventually pocket the $500 that the critic left in cash to cover the check. (Short answer: charity.) The policy is designed to generate either an ethical conflict for the critic, who cannot accept freebies, or an embarrassing public scene, which would cast doubt on the critic's ability to write a fair review.

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2014 in pictures

2014: The Year in Photos, January - April at The Atlantic's In Focus photo blog. This is one of forty pix in the first of three collections. Here are May-August and September-December.

Homemade rockets streak through the sky above Vrontados, Greece, on April 19, 2014. Two rival parishes of Vrontados village fire thousands of rockets every Easter Saturday aiming at the opposing church's bell tower in a centuries-old tradition. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)

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December 10, 2014

Snowman done right



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What we used to call Progress we now call Disruption. Curious, eh?

The 85 Most Disruptive Ideas in Our History

Number 38 on their list is

Modem 1959 AT&T releases the Bell 101 modem for commercial use after a year of military testing.

This may bring back some memories (though I doubt that the Bell 101 sounded like this):

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Clever that

And not too badly rendered.

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December 09, 2014

Getting a handle on chores

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Is that a rocket in your pocket?

Booker Winner Ben Okri Nabs Bad Sex Prize

The Literary Review sent an unmistakable message to authors at a ceremony in London on Wednesday: If you're going to write a sex scene, it's probably best not to mention rockets — symbolic or otherwise. The magazine awarded its 22nd annual Bad Sex in Fiction prize to Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri, a man who did just that in his latest novel, The Age of Magic.

Okri's past accolades — he, after all, did win the Booker Prize in 1991 — didn't spare him from the dubious honor, which recognizes "poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction." Nor did their plaudits spare Haruki Murakami, Richard Flanagan (who won this year's Booker) or Michael Cunningham, all of whom shared the Bad Sex shortlist with Okri.

Presumably, though, it was the rocket that launched Okri to his win.

"She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body," Okri wrote, in one safe-for-work section of the offending sex scene, all of which can be read here. "The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off."

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um tubarão!

Danilo says, "Got a shark!!! Sunset in São Paulo downtown:"


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December 08, 2014

Nano sculpture

By Jonty Hurwitz. This is one example of several.

The scale is these sculptures approximately equals the amount your fingernails grow every 5 or 6 hours.

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Don't try this at home

I assume that 'Sony' actually means 'someone at Sony'.

Sony Hid Passwords in a Folder Called 'Password'

(Newser) – The latest document dump in the Sony hack has exposed thousands of the company's passwords for various accounts, reports BuzzFeed. The reason this came to light so quickly? The passwords were kept in a file directory called "Password." Among them are hundreds of usernames and passwords for movies' social accounts on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, but also plenty of clearly labeled passwords for everything from Amazon to Fidelity financial services.

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Hot wheels

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December 05, 2014

Who's a good boy? (2)

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Secrets of the Magus

A long article in The New Yorker about Ricky Jay, an expert at sleight-of-hand, among other things.

Secrets of the Magus


Deborah Baron, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, where Jay lives, once invited him to a New Year's Eve dinner party at her home. About a dozen other people attended. Well past midnight, everyone gathered around a coffee table as Jay, at Baron's request, did closeup card magic. When he had performed several dazzling illusions and seemed ready to retire, a guest named Mort said, "Come on, Ricky. Why don't you do something truly amazing?"

Baron recalls that at that moment "the look in Ricky's eyes was, like, 'Mort—you have just fucked with the wrong person.' "

Jay told Mort to name a card, any card. Mort said, "The three of hearts." After shuffling, Jay gripped the deck in the palm of his right hand and sprung it, cascading all fifty-two cards so that they travelled the length of the table and pelted an open wine bottle.

"O.K., Mort, what was your card again?"

"The three of hearts."

"Look inside the bottle."

Mort discovered, curled inside the neck, the three of hearts. The party broke up immediately.

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Confidence (2)

Two USAF pilots with a lot of confidence in one another.

Two U.S. Air Force Thunderbird F-16 Fighting Falcons execute a precision acrobat technique for a crowd March 23, 2014, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.


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December 04, 2014

Pyramid chart



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