Snow buries area in upstate New York

Boston Globe:

More than 6 feet of lake-effect snow was dumped in the Buffalo, N.Y., area over the last few days with reports of more on the way. Storms closed a 100-mile plus section of the New York State Thruway, and the US National Guard has been called in to help dig out.

Some amazing photos included in this story. Being from Canada, I’ve experienced these kinds of snow falls when I was a kid – it was a lot of fun then but as an adult, I’m glad I don’t live somewhere I’d have to deal with this on a regular basis.

An astronaut reveals what life in space is really like

Wired:

There’s no way to anticipate the emotional impact of leaving your home planet. You look down at Earth and realize: You’re not on it. It’s breathtaking. It’s surreal. It’s a “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” kind of feeling. But I’ve spent a total of 55 days in space, over the course of five missions for NASA, and I’ve learned that being out there isn’t just a series of breathtaking moments. It’s a mix of the transcendently magical and the deeply prosaic. It can be crowded, noisy, and occasionally uncomfortable. Space travel—at least the way we do it today—isn’t glamorous. But you can’t beat the view!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Hell, I still do.

Amplified: “This Reporter Likes Bondage”

On this episode, Jim and I talk about Uber, the Mac’s “Second Act”, how to learn to play guitar and what effects pedals are!

Sponsored by lynda.com (Start learning something new by visiting lynda.com/thebeard and get a FREE 10-day trial where you can access all of their 2,400+ courses), Animoto (use code AMPLIFIED at checkout and you’ll get 10% off a new Pro Annual subscription), and Backblaze (Click the link to get a two week free trial and then it’s just $5/month per computer for unlimited backup, and it backs up fast).

Blood bikers: how volunteer motorcyclists are saving lives

The Guardian:

Their name might sound a bit ominous, but the 1,500-strong gang…is a long way from the Hell’s Angels.

They’re called the blood bikers: men and women all over Britain who dedicate a few evenings a week to transporting hospital deliveries across the country as stand-ins for the daytime professionals. They are all volunteers, and in 2013 they responded to around 35,000 urgent requests from hospitals, saving the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds. They take everything from blood and platelets to medicine and breast milk.

Great story about how volunteers on motorcycles transport medical supplies around Britain. Reminds me of another great organization called “Riders for Health” who do something similar in Africa.

When twins take over the town

Narrative:

In 1976, America turned 200 and cities around the country planned bicentennial celebrations. Twinsburg, a suburb of Cleveland, turned the event into double the reason to celebrate by dedicating one day of its bicentennial celebration to twins. Thirty-seven sets of twins attended that first celebration.

The world’s largest gathering of twins and multiples still attracts around 2,000 sets the first weekend of every August.

What a weird, cool place that would be in August.

Learning to read corpses at the Texas State Body Farm

Vice:

It wasn’t just a smell; it was a force. With the first whiff, I thought, Camembert. But as the golf cart got closer, the smell became sweeter—noxiously sweet. You could call it the smell of death, but really it was the smell of what comes after: an obscene eruption of microbial life.

In the driver’s seat was Dr. Daniel Wescott, director of the Texas State Forensic Anthropology Centre.

He pointed to the corpse at our feet—one of the dozens of donor bodies exposed to the elements here in the forests and fields of Texas State University’s 26-acre decomposition research facility. Most of the local kids who tell ghost stories about the place just call it “the body farm.”

I had the opportunity to see the University of Tennessee’s version of this but chickened out.

Facebook, Google and Apple lobby for curb to NSA surveillance

The Guardian:

A coalition of technology and internet companies is lobbying to curb US National Security Agency surveillance powers and for more transparency on government data requests.

The Reform Government Surveillance coalition, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple, added its support for the race to pass a bill through the US Senate before the end of the year, which would inhibit mass data collection from emails and internet metadata.

Even if their motives aren’t 100% altruistic, it’s still good to see these companies shining a light on the issue.

The lesson of Monument Valley

TechCrunch:

I’m fascinated by the reviews left by Monument Valley players in the wake of the decision by the game’s developer (ustwo) to price a recent content update at not-free. Ustwo had released the original game at $4 featuring 10 levels. The game was a labor of love and earned many just awards. It also went to sell in excess of 1.4 million copies – a feat that exemplifies how arty mobile gaming can work very well. This latest pack brings 8 new levels to the game and costs a pretty trivial $2. And yet in its wake came a surge of 1-star reviews. But why?

First lesson is people can be cheap and petty.

How a pioneering journalist won a race around the world in 1889

Grantland:

Nelly Bly’s idea was to try to beat the time of Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s massively popular 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. She’d send dispatches back to the paper, make an adventure out of it. Her editor was in favor, but the World’s business manager — who liked the concept — wanted to send a man.

“It is impossible for you to do it,” he told her. “You are a woman and would need a protector.” Even if she could travel alone, he said, she’d want to take too much baggage. “There is no use talking about it,” he insisted. “No one but a man could do this.”

“Very well,” she said. “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”

With our world considered made so small with instantaneous communications, high speed train, plane and car travel, it’s hard to imagine what kind of true adventure, in every sense of the word, this would have been in 1889

Heyday automatic journal

Heyday:

Heyday transforms the photos and videos on your iPhone into a beautiful journal, presenting you with a delightful way to rediscover your most important memories. And since life happens when you least expect it, Heyday automatically chronicles the places you go and the things you see so you’ll never forget a meaningful place or moment again.

I mentioned and did a bit of a video review of Heyday on the Your Mac Life show last Wednesday. I’m not a “daily journal” kind of guy but Heyday is great for “following you around” and noting the places you’ve been, collating the pics you took and, at your leisure, allowing you to add notes, thoughts and impressions after the fact. Free in the iOS Store.

A definitive ranking of the most overrated and underrated dog breeds

Vox:

This chart, from David McCandless’ fascinating new book Knowledge is Beautiful, ranks 87 dog breeds and compares those rankings to the actual popularity of those breeds in the US.

The ranking is based on a number of factors: trainability, life expectancy, lifetime cost (including the price of food and grooming), and suitability for children, among others.

The result: Border Collies, according to McCandless, are the finest dog breed in existence. Labs, Beagles, and Golden Retrievers, while not at the very top, are other popular dogs (at the top right of the chart) that he rates highly.

Where does your dog fit into this chart? If I had a dog, it would likely be a Labrador. Happily, they score highly on this chart.

What one entrepreneur learned from working for Steve Jobs

Inc:

Imagine going to work for Steve Jobs as a recent college graduate. That’s what happened to Mark Tacchi, who dropped out of graduate school in 1993 to take a job at NeXT, the computer company Jobs founded after being forced out of Apple.

In time, Apple acquired NeXT in a deal that put Jobs back at Apple’s helm. Tacchi spent a total of four years at NeXT and Apple, and he learned a lot about how to run a business, and how not to.

Jobs had a (deserved) reputation as a tyrant but he also taught many in Silicon Valley how to serve the customer.

Amplified: I Put My Disco Pants Away

Jim and Shawn talk about the Amazon Echo, how we communicate and left handed guitarists!

Sponsored by Squarespace (use code GUITARS for a free trial and 10% off) and Animoto (Visit the link and use the code AMPLIFIED for 10% off a new Pro Annual subscription).

Landing on a comet, 317 million miles from home

The New York Times:

The Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae lander has touched down on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Amazing pictures. Amazing achievement.

WireLurker, Masque Attack malware only a threat for users who disable Apple’s iOS, OS X security

AppleInsider:

Mac and iOS users are protected from viruses and malware by default unless the user bypasses their security systems, by jailbreaking an iOS device; by disabling the protections of Mac OS X’s GateKeeper; or by choosing to “Trust” app installs that iOS identifies as being from an “Untrusted App Developer.” Here’s how those systems work, and how users can avoid being tricked into turning off their own security.

Short version? Don’t be stupid.

9 questions about network neutrality you were too embarrassed to ask

Vox:

President Barack Obama announced on Monday that he supports taking strong measures to protect network neutrality. The announcement was not terribly surprising — Obama has long been an avowed supporter of network neutrality. But this is the first time Obama has proposed a specific legal strategy for protecting network neutrality. And his comments will raise the profile of what was already the most contentious policy debate in the technology world.

If you’re just tuning in now, it can seem a little overwhelming. What is network neutrality? What’s “reclassification?” And why have people been arguing so angrily for so long? Here’s an explanation that starts from the very beginning.

This is an important issue but sadly one the vast majority of internet users don’t know or don’t care enough about.

52 of the world’s most widespread myths and misconceptions, debunked

io9:

A dropped penny won’t kill you, alcohol doesn’t keep you warm, and swallowed gum doesn’t take seven years to digest. These are just three of the more than fifty rumors debunked in this compendious collection of common myths and misconceptions.

We’ve all heard many of these. We might even believe some of them are not myths. But, according to these guys, they all are. I knew most of them weren’t true but got caught by the one about bananas.

Delve into H.R. Giger’s world with a new documentary trailer


A.V. Club:

H.R. Giger, the Swiss surrealist sculptor and painter who died earlier this year, is the subject of the new documentary Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World. While the film is not available in the U.S. yet, a trailer is now online. The reclusive Giger was best known for his Academy Award-winning design contributions to the Alien franchise. This new documentary shares the last years of the artist’s life, and reveals how deeply he resided within his own dark artistic visions.

I’ve never enjoyed being creeped out more than when I see Giger’s wonderfully macabre art. I’d love to see this movie.

Hollywood can’t compete with this supercut of NASA footage in HD

The Roosevelts:

Using 80GB worth of photos captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station between 2011 and 2014, timelapse filmmaker Guillaume Juin created this awe-inspiring video of the Earth entitled “Astronaut.” And thanks to the incredible cameras aboard the ISS, this footage rivals the best visual effects that Hollywood has to offer.

Mind blowing. Watch on the biggest screen you possibly can.

New clock may end time as we know it

NPR:

America’s master clock is one of the most accurate clocks on the planet: an atomic clock that uses oscillations in the element cesium to count out 0.0000000000000001 second at a time. If the clock had been started 300 million years ago, before the age of dinosaurs began, it would still be keeping time — down to the second.

Try that with your fancy-schmancy Apple Watch.

Night time Eiffel Tower photos are a copyright violation

TorrentFreak:

It may sound absurd, but taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower at night and sharing that online may be copyright infringement. The stance is confirmed by the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, who note the following on their website.

“Daytime views from the Eiffel Tower are rights-free. However, its various illuminations are subject to author’s rights as well as brand rights. Usage of these images is subject to prior request from the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel.”

A weird and little known quirk of copyright law. So, you can take and sell daytime shots of the Eiffel Tower to places like stock photography sites but not of the night time shots because the evening light show on the tower (which is quite lovely) is copyrighted.

Apple to sapphire supplier: “Put on your big boy pants and accept the agreement”

Gigaom:

Since GT Advanced Technologies declared bankruptcy in early October, the vast majority of documents detailing its deal with Apple to supply sapphire crystal have been under seal.

On Tuesday, Judge Henry Boroff issued an order unsealing an statement signed by GTAT CEO Daniel Squiller as well as its attached documents, which include details on the reasons GTAT filed for bankruptcy and its business relationship with Apple, its largest creditor. On Friday, the Squiller statement entered the public record.

There’s never been any doubt that Apple plays hard ball with its suppliers. I’ve spoken to many companies who have to deal with the company and the stories all have one thing in common – you don’t negotiate with Apple. They dictate the terms to you.

Office goes free on phones and tablets: What you get, and what you don’t

Macworld:

With the news that Microsoft is making all of its mobile Office apps free—the iPad and upcoming Android tablet versions—you knew there had to be some caveats.

I’m glad I don’t have to use Office any more but for those of you who do, my sympathies and this article will help you figure out this news.

‘Sports Night’: An oral history, starring Aaron Sorkin and his cast

EW:

Set in the high-stakes world of a live sports news program, the Aaron Sorkin-scribed dramedy followed the behind-the-scenes exploits of fictional “Sports Night” coanchors Casey (Peter Krause) and Dan (Josh Charles), their brilliant producer Dana (Felicity Huffman), harried associate producer Natalie (Sabrina Lloyd), gruff executive Isaac (Robert Guillaume), and whip-smart researcher Jeremy (Josh Malina).

Such a shame this show wasn’t a hit. While set in a sports world, it wasn’t specifically about sports but about the workplace and relationships much like Sorkin’s other shows. It also had amazing actors and Sorkin’s typical great writing.

Green army men, Rubik’s Cube make “Toy Hall of Fame”

Yahoo! News:

It’s mission accomplished for little green army men.

The molded plastic must-haves for generations of pretend soldiers were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame on Thursday, along with the 1980s stumper Rubik’s Cube, and soap bubbles.

Hard to argue with these choices. I loved my little green army men as a kid and still enjoy popping bubble wrap (although, I wouldn’t call it a “toy”). And even though I hated the Rubik’s Cube (I was never smart enough to solve it), it is undoubtedly a classic toy.

Download the “Complete Sherlock Holmes”, Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece

Open Culture:

I still remember the thrill I felt when I happened upon a set of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories at an antique store. For a mere ten dollars, I acquired handsomely bound, suitably patina-of-age-bearing editions of each and every one of the sleuth of 221B Baker Street’s adventures that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote.

These days, especially given the recent ruling (just re-affirmed by the Supreme Court) that Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories “are no longer covered by United States copyright law and can be freely used by creators without paying any licensing fee to the Conan Doyle estate,” you can download the complete Sherlock Holmes canon in a variety of ebook formats, from PDF to ePub to ASCII to MOBI for Kindle.

At age 11, I received the complete works as a Christmas present from my grandmother. I devoured the stories before New Years and read them over and over again for years. I’m downloading this as we speak.

Space oddity

Chris Hadfield:

When David Bowie wrote and recorded Space Oddity in 1969, I wonder if he ever imagined it being played in orbit? Even more so, would he have imagined (or worried about) the legal concerns of extra-planetary music?

When the original video was pulled, there was a lot of complaining and misunderstanding of the reasons. Hadfield does a great job of explaining the story.

My favorite iOS 8 features, big and small

Dan Frakes:

Here are some of my favorite iOS 8 features, in no particular order, with an emphasis on things that haven’t been exhaustively covered elsewhere. I hope you discover something new and useful.

Dan has some great tidbits here. My favourite is the SMS relay feature.