February 21, 2017


Today in science that turns out to be totally bunk: Citronella candles warding off mosquitoes. At least, the natural “repellant” doesn’t seem to have any effect on one of the most notorious disease-spreading blood suckers on Earth.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Insect Science, scientists put several types of mosquito repellant to the test, among them spray, mosquito-repelling bracelets, and candles. Recent events, like the Zika virus outbreak, have spurred an interest in new ways of controlling mosquito populations. But it turns out some old standbys—like Citronella candles—don’t really work at all.

Just as I’ve always suspected.

A lot of great actors have played Sherlock Holmes over the years, but none did as great a job as Jeremy Brett. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the greatest Sherlock Holmes of all.

This is Insider:

Before Hollywood’s biggest night, the 25 top nominees and host will have the opportunity to receive a pretty sweet swag bag.

The “Everyone Wins” nominee gift bag is not affiliated with the Academy Awards, but entertainment-marketing company Distinctive Assets has independently provided Oscar nominees with gifts ahead of the big night for the past 15 years.

Distinctive Assets founder Lash Fary told INSIDER this year’s 26 bags will include over $100,000 worth of goodies that will be sent out to recipients in the weeks leading to the Academy Awards. This year’s items range from a Hawaiian getaway and three-day mansion stay in Northern California to a luxury handbag, maple syrup, and customized Crayola crayons.

These stories come out every year and every year, the gift bag gets more and more insane.


Travelling thousands of miles above the Earth, into the great inky unknown, is hard work. It’s stressful and scary. So why shouldn’t astronauts treat themselves to an end-of-Earth-day cocktail to unwind?

Unfortunately for space explorers looking to wet their whistle, consuming alcoholic beverages is widely prohibited by the government agencies that send them to places like the International Space Station.

Aside from the obvious reasons (“We don’t allow car drivers or jet pilots to be drunk and in charge of their vehicles”), there are many others you may not have thought about.

Atlas Obscura:

Every time he returns to the hospital, the 74-year-old retired sales and marketing professional contemplates whether or not he should pop in to give his old heart a visit.

Because at Baylor University Medical Center, Bell can do something very few people will ever be able to experience: hold his own heart in his hands.

“It was fairly emotional, that first encounter,” Bell, who lives in Fort Worth, recalls. “I can’t actually explain why. I was just almost overcome with emotion when I was able to hold it.”

This would be incredibly weird, creepy, and emotional.

Glassblower makes intricate horse effortlessly

I love watching glassblowers.

Steve Albini’s imprint on the sound of rock is undeniable. Having worked on seminal albums by the Pixies, PJ Harvey and, perhaps most notably, Nirvana’s milestone record “In Utero,” his sonic DNA is in the fabric of productions that have helped create a new branch in rock history. This collection of drums captures the incomparable sonic fingerprint of not only Steve Albini but also the ambience of his very own studio, which he personally built and designed. Welcome to Electrical Audio in Chicago, IL, and a truly unique collection of drums.

I love Toontrack’s drum packs and use them all the time when I’m writing songs.

Ars Technica:

I tested a handful of wireless buds to see how the AirPods stack up in terms of ease of use, comfort, music quality, and battery life. I’ve done an anecdotal assessment of music quality for all the buds I reviewed. I spent hours with each pair, listening to a variety of music including pop, rock, jazz, and classical in environments with different levels of outside noise.

Apple’s AirPods have renewed interest in wireless earbuds so Ars picks a few and tests them against each other.

In Monday’s test, a drone launched from the roof of a UPS vehicle flew autonomously toward its destination, dropped a package and then returned to the vehicle as the driver continued on a delivery route.

This is clearly coming.

Bored Panda:

We all know what fruit and vegetables look like when they’re sitting on the shelf in the supermarket, but have you ever wondered what they look like before they’re ready to harvest? Then check out this list, compiled by Bored Panda, to see some of your favorite foods in a totally new light.

Some of these were very surprising to me. I had no idea cashews and Brussel Sprouts grew/looked like that. FYI, there are three pages of images.

The Macalope just makes me smile.

Springsteen pulls fan up from the audience, gives him chance to play. Does not disappoint.

I grew up in New Jersey, been a Springsteen fan my entire life. This is Bruce, down to his core, and part of the reason I am such a fan.

I realize that this was likely pre-planned, but I found it cool nonetheless. Think that kid will ever forget this day?

Valentina Palledino, Ars Technica, with a detailed compare of AirPods, Powerbeats3, Skybuds, and Verve One earbuds.

Limited usefulness, perhaps, but definitely interesting. I tested this and it does work as advertised.

Marco Arment, on the design remake of Overcast:

Overcast 3 is now available, and it’s a huge update, mostly in the design and flow of the interface. I’ve been working on it since last summer, informed by over two years of testing, usage, and customer feedback.

I designed Overcast 1.0 in 2014 for iOS 7, and it was a product of its time: it used ultra-thin text and lines against stark, sharp-edged, full-screen white sheets and translucent blur panes, with much of the basic functionality behind hidden gestures. That fundamental design carried through every update until today.

Marco clearly went over every inch of this app with an interface updater. The app still feels familiar, but there are a ton of nuanced changes.

If you are a podcast fan, take a few minutes to make your way through this post, learn about the tweaks, bells, and whistles.

February 20, 2017

The Guardian:

Özbilici had the composure, bravery and skill to take the photograph that is today named World Press Photo of the Year, the judging of which I chaired. It’s the third time that coverage of an assassination has won this prize, the most famous being the killing of a Vietcong suspect, photographed by Eddie Adams in 1968.

Özbilici’s is an impactful photograph, no doubt. Yet, while I was all for awarding it the spot news prize that it also won, I was strongly opposed to it becoming photo of the year. I narrowly lost the argument. I voted against. Sorry, Burhan. It’s a photograph of a murder, the killer and the slain, both seen in the same picture, and morally as problematic to publish as a terrorist beheading.

I’ve been following this discussion since the photo was given the “World Press Photo of the Year” award. It’s been a fascinating discussion on several levels. I honestly can’t decide on which side of the fence I fall. I can see the excellent points both arguments make.

I’ve watched all the hubbub around Alexa since it first came out, but I never pulled the trigger and picked one up for myself. I know people that own them and they have nothing but praise for the device. It’s an intriguing proposition, but I’m still not sure if it’s something I’d use everyday or if it would be more of a novelty item.

Amazon is making a big push into the home market with Alexa, partnering with other manufacturers, which is a really smart move. The more I look at Alexa, the more I want to try it out, but I’ll still on the fence.

I need a pipeline of Heineken to my house. Still, this is pretty amazing.

The New York Times:

I once received a lot of blowback for an Upshot article in which I showed (with evidence) that exercise is not the key to weight loss. Diet is. Many, many readers cannot wrap their head around the notion that adding physical activity, and therefore burning more calories, doesn’t necessarily translate into results on the scale.

Well, here we go again because some of those folks also believe that fitness devices — Fitbit, Vivosmart, Apple Watch — must be helpful in losing weight. Unfortunately, evidence doesn’t support this belief either.

Interesting article and, while the conclusions may be slightly controversial, it does make sense as described. I think fitness devices don’t “make” you more fit but they can help you track your fitness goals.


A number of Mac apps failed to launch for users over the weekend because of a change to the way Apple certifies apps that have not been bought directly from the Mac App Store.

Several users of apps including Soulver and PDFPen who had downloaded the apps from the developers’ websites all reported immediate crashes on launch. Developers of the apps quickly apologized and said that the issue was down to the apps’ code signing certificates reaching their expiration date.

This is a minor annoyance and the fix is relatively simple.

Om Malik:

All I want to know from reviews is how it feels in hand, the pictures it makes and what is the actual performance from a daily usage stand point. The sensor size, the sensor type and what kind of processors mean absolutely nothing — what matters is the photos.

The challenge you have with the official reviews is that they don’t really post as many photos with their reviews, mostly because they actually are mediocre photographers and are unable to come up with visuals that can act as testimonials for the quality of the camera.

I wouldn’t go far as to say they don’t matter but I do agree with the overall premise – take the reviews with huge truckloads of salt. The only camera review site I trust implicitly is Digital Photography Review. Their reviews are both technical and creative and contain a wealth of information. But nothing replaces your own experience and word of mouth when it comes to camera reviews.

Weird Al releases rare Beatles cover as a sneak peek at his late 2017 boxed set

Weird Al has a career-spanning boxed set in the works, due for release this November. One track in the set is a never-commercially-released Beatles cover (video embedded below). I’m told that Weird Al recorded this in his garage, sent it to Dr. Demento, but Beatles’ lawyers sent him a cease and desist to prevent him from releasing it. Not sure what’s changed.

If you like Weird Al, this is some excellent work. Enjoy.

GoWatchIt tracks all the major sites (Netflix, Amazon video, HBO Go, Hulu, iTunes, etc.), along with DVD, Blu-ray, in theater, and on demand. Add shows you want to watch to your queue and GoWatchIt will email you when your show or movie is available.

As an example, I wanted to watch The King of Comedy (very obscure Martin Scorsese, Robert Di Nero movie), but it never seemed to hit on cable. Just got an email that it is showing on Starz. DVR set. Would have missed this. Thanks, GoWatchIt.

If you are interested in music or games, this is a fantastic post. Cabel Sasser, founder of Panic, Inc., takes us on a deep dive into the creative process as he starts with a melody noodling around in his brain and, step-by-step, brings it to life as the music for the new iOS game Stagehand.

Watch the videos in order, top to bottom. I absolutely love this.

If you play Pokémon Go, take the time to dig into Rene Ritchie’s post showing all the new stuff and how it works. Excellent job. Very helpful.

Tim Bajarin, writing for Time:

Despite Amazon’s success, Apple has no apparent interest in copying the Echo. After talking with Apple executives, I’ve come away with the impression that they’re more interested in turning Siri into an omnipresent AI assistant across devices, rather than designing a single device specifically to serve as a Siri machine.

Interesting point. The Amazon Echo exists simply to listen for, and fulfill, Alexa requests. Every other Apple device serves many purposes and also serves the ecosystem. More bang for the buck.

Apple’s new iPad Pro campaign

These four spots started running on Friday. As Rene Ritchie points out, these spots have that “I’m a Mac” feel to them.

The difference is that there is no character carry, no one who appears in all the ads. The design and tone is what carries from spot to spot.

See what you think.

February 19, 2017

The Washington Post:

But I’d never been to a dog show before a few days ago, when I went to New York to cover Westminster. Like many people, my main point of reference was the Christopher Guest satire “Best in Show.” So I learned a lot about the show-dog world, not least of which were the names of breeds that I’m sure weren’t in my family’s book, such as Xoloitzcuintli and Portuguese podengo pequeno.

Here are a few other things I learned.

I’ve never been behind the scenes at the Westminster show but have been for other much smaller shows and many of the things mentioned here are common throughout. It’s a fascinating world.

Drive Tribe:

It’s muscle memory, this business of riding a bike. The first tiny touch of counter steer to initiate the turn, feeling rather than seeing the road as it curves in from the left and then dipping a shoulder into my own turn as it starts, shadowing the road’s moves, squeezing in power, feeling it tighten, feeling the grip from the tyre as surely as running the palm of a gloved hand along the tarmac. It’s muscle memory.

Adjusting the bike’s trajectory by moving a shoulder or shifting a hip, I am reconnecting with the business of working as a team, machine and rider, sharing the goal of playing with the road’s curves and straights and dips and stringing them together to form a perfect whole.

Richard Hammond, of “Top Gear” and “The Grand Tour” fame, is not just a car guy. He also loves motorcycles. If you’ve ever wondered why those of us who ride do this incredibly dangerous thing, read this article. The feelings he describes in the beginning of the piece are bang on for many of us, as is the camaraderie you have with random other riders – they may be complete strangers but you have the “brotherhood” that ties you to each other in ways hard to understand or describe.

Den of Geek:

The film itself had no right to be as good as it turned out. Yet even from the start it’s a remarkably confident movie. It begins with everyone dying, no less. Considering Spock’s death being widely publicized before the film, this was a masterstroke. It sets the possible stakes while simultaneously subverting them, introduces the new character of Saavik, and sets up the theme. Kirk then enters, backlit and looking every bit the 18th century swashbuckler, before the lights go up and the artifice is revealed – these are cadets, on a training exercise, and Kirk is looking decidedly middle aged. Middle aged, and lacking a purpose. It was a theme touched upon in The Motion Picture, but here it is again, with gusto.

Khan is arguably the best Star Trek movie. At least, I think of it as being the most enjoyable out of a long list of pretty mediocre movies in the franchise. I won’t ever watch it again because I’m afraid it’s not as good as I remember it to be.