Category: Humor

Safe housing for the paranoid

Paraguayan home Caja Oscura, by local architects Javier Corvalán and Laboratorio de Arquitectura, consists of a basement structure, with a manually-operated tilting metal box placed atop. With no natural light available when the box is closed, this unusual dwelling is probably not suitable for those who fear being trapped in a small enclosed space, but it is arguably the perfect place to ride out the Apocalypse …

The property measures 914 sq ft and contains a bedroom and bathroom in the crypt-like basement, with a kitchen and living area located in the metal box above (access is offered via a staircase). This latter area is transformed into a semi-outdoor space once raised with a hand-crank, and the metal box itself is constructed from iron tubes, with a galvanized corrugated metal exterior and MDF interior.

When closed, however, the structure appears to be very robust, safe from prying eyes, and more importantly, virtually impenetrable.

To our minds…it’s obviously envisioned as the perfect post-apocalyptic retreat ready for the inevitable zombie rising

The hideaway was built for about $27,000 which should make it perfect for the average cheapskate survivalist. All you need to add is gun ports for the United States. Sturdier is possible – throwing more dollars at the project; but, if you expect nothing more than zombies this should be adequate.

App turns iPhones, Android phones into burner phones

Despite what you might think from watching “Law and Order,” it’s not only crooks who want disposable phone numbers.

There are all kinds of reasons people don’t want to give out their number, in part accounting for the popularity of cheap cellphones, often called “burners.”

But it’s not really the cellphone most people want to replace. It’s just the number.

So one startup has built its business around letting people use their cellphone with multiple “burner” phone numbers.

Ad Hoc labs, a nine-person, Los Angeles-based startup, created Burner, an iOS and Android app that lets people get one or more temporary numbers. The app is free to download, but customers pay for more than a minimal amount of use or for more than one burner number.

And it’s built a pretty good business, with Burner frequently ranking near the top of the best-grossing apps in the utilities section of Apple’s App Store…

Soon, the company is adding a few new tricks, most notably the ability to send picture and video messages. Prior versions could make calls and send text messages, but not handle multimedia messages…

Burner is also extending its usual free trial period, giving new iOS users a year of limited use. It’s not giving a ton of minutes or texts for free, but CEO Greg Cohn said it is enough for casual use and for a more serious user to see the value of the paid service.

Now – could you use something like this?

I don’t need anything like this – right now. But, there have been occasions in my past when having a disposable, untraceable phone number was handy. Sure, snoops with legal power can eventually trace when and where the number was used. They can subpoena the carrier. Useful to an extent – and slow.

This still sounds like something that would piss off the FBI, maybe lazy local police departments, maybe even the NSA. Reason enough for me to post this wee article.

Who is most likely to take truly idiotic risks and lose their lives?

Every year, a dozen or so people receive a Darwin Award. In the words of the award committee, “Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.”

Their stories — though tragic — are often criminal, and will stretch your understanding of just how idiotic humans can be.

Take, for instance, the South Carolina man who spray-painted his face gold to disguise himself while robbing a Sprint store, then asphyxiated from the fumes. Or the pair of Belgian bank robbers who attempted to use dynamite to break open an ATM, but ended up demolishing the entire building, burying themselves in debris, and dying.

Recently, a group of British researchers decided to analyze the data provided by the Darwin Awards as a way of finding out whether men are more likely to engage in foolishly risky behavior than women — as has previously been indicated by studies of hospital records and financial risk-taking.

Their finding, published…in the British Medical Journal, isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s still pretty jarring: 88.7 percent of the Darwin Awards winners were male…

The researchers note that there could theoretically be some selection bias at play, and that the disparity might also just reflect known differences in rates of crime and alcohol consumption between men and women.

Still, the lesson here is clear: men are much, much more likely to take truly idiotic risks that cost their lives.

I’m not surprised. Are you?

Michigan rocketeers launch porta-potty

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Mission accomplished! A group of rocket enthusiasts launched a porta-potty into the sky Saturday in southwestern Michigan. It made an arc and almost landed on a spectator’s pickup truck, 2,000 feet away.

A group of Michiana Rocketry club members planned the project for more than two years. The club is trying to increase awareness of rocketry as a hobby and prove it’s possible to turn a porta-potty into a rocket and launch it successfully.

…liftoff occurred in a soybean field near Three Oaks in Berrien County. About 30 people worked on the rocket, from engineers to sales people who lined up sponsors.

Rocket enthusiast Bob Bycraft says it was carefully planned. He says it wasn’t “barnyard engineering.

Har!

Go ahead! Keep texting and your head will fall off

“It is an epidemic. Or, at least, it’s very common,” New York-based spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj told The Washington Post last week. He was referring to something that is being called “text neck,” a purported condition of the spine related to the posture of bending forward to look at a phone…

…It was an interesting account of the suggestions of one private-practice neurosurgeon. But the post and the illustration spread widely around the Internet, and the stakes elevated quickly.

In the past week, the study and the diagram have been published by hundreds of outlets, including The Chicago Tribune, Slate, NPR, Business Insider, The Sydney Morning Herald, NBC News, The Globe and Mail, Today, Time, Yahoo, Shape, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and many others. New York’s headline, for example, was “Look at How Texting Is Warping Your Spine.” At several publications, the story was the most popular post on the site. With claims of epidemic and implications of serious spinal damage, the story has elevated to something that maybe warrants a closer look.

Hunching over isn’t ideal, and it’s worth thinking about sitting or standing up straight when possible. But our necks are made to bend forward, and it’s not something that’s new to humans. Texting invokes the same posture as holding a book.

Or a baby.

Or a rock…

The reality is that an axial load, one applied from the top down onto the spine, at the weights in question is not dangerous. “People can carry a lot more than 60 pounds on top of their head if it’s actually an axial load,” neurosurgeon Ian Dorward said, noting that people have evolved to have their heads flexed in a variety of different angles and postures without issue…

For most people, though, the point remains that good posture is generally good when possible, but texting is not an imminent threat to spinal health.

RTFA for all the details of an unnecessary flap over a non-problem.

What’s in Amazon’s giant mystery box?


Amazon’s Giant Mystery Box Is Back

Nerds went into a tizzy earlier this year when a giant Amazon box was spotted on the back of a flatbed truck. Turned out the box held a Nissan car that was being delivered as part of an advertising deal the car maker did with Amazon.

Guess what? The big box is back. This morning, a Re/code editor spotted the box shown in the photo above on the back of a truck in the SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco. On first look, it didn’t appear big enough to fit a car. I contacted Amazon to get some more information.

An Amazon rep said it is not part of an advertising campaign like last time, but it is part of a “new program” that the company will unveil next week. Fifteen of these boxes are scattered around the U.S., he said.

“We’re excited to be making 15 special deliveries next week as part of the holiday season,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Stay tuned.”

Geeks especially enjoy whimsy in place of advertising dollar$ spent on traditional agitprop.

This can’t be about their new diapers – they debuted yesterday. The same day this article was posted over at Re/Code. So, I’ll be one of the geeks patrolling the Web and watching for news about the Big Box.

I have a thing about Amazon boxes, anyway. I haven’t succeeded, yet – haven’t gotten past the mystery of customer service representatives whose English is a second language. But, since I’m prepaying for a truly cheapo cremation when I shuffle off this mortal coil – I want the absolute minimum which includes my body traveling into the fires of redemption in a cardboard box instead of something really expensive – I’m trying to get a properly sized Amazon Prime box. Appropriately labeled as such.

As a geek who’s been online since 1983 and a devotee of online commerce, I think it would be the best way for me to prep for redistribution of my elemental molecules.

Creepy journal accepts bogus study requesting removal from mailing list

An open-access “predatory” academic journal has accepted a bogus research paper submitted by an Australian computer scientist titled Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List.

The paper, originally written by American researchers David Mazières and Eddie Kohle in 2005, consisted of the title’s seven words repeated over and over again. It also featured helpful diagrams.

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Dr Peter Vamplew, a lecturer and researcher in computer science at Federation University in Victoria, submitted the paper to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology earlier this year after receiving dozens of unsolicited emails from the publication and other journals of dubious repute.

“There’s been this move to open-access publishing which has often meant essentially a user-pays system,” Vamplew said. “So you pay to have the paper published and it’s available to the public for free.”

An academic librarian at the University of Colorado, Jeffrey Beall, told Nature magazine last year that up to 10% of open-access journals were exploiting the model by charging a fee to proofread, peer-review and edit a research paper without actually carrying out the work.

“They’re predatory journals, preying on young, inexperienced researchers who unwittingly don’t realise they’re of questionable quality,” Vamplew said.

Weeks later he received good news: “It was accepted for publication. I pretty much fell off my chair.”

BTW, they still haven’t taken him off their mailing list – even with the event going viral in Australia and elsewhere.