Jenn Harris on The Los Angeles Times's Daily Dish blog:
Police are investigating an incident involving a Tampa, Fla., family who reported having hallucinations after eating meat found to be tainted with LSD last week.
After eating the meat last Monday, Ronnie became ill, and shortly after, Rosado and her husband were hospitalized. The two daughters, 6 and 7, said they experienced hallucinations. The family was released from the hospital later in the week.
In a cosmic first, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the disintegration of an asteroid in deep space.
Astronomers have seen comets break apart as they near the sun, but they’d never witnessed anything similar in an asteroid in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter — until now. Hubble images show that the asteroid, known as P/2013 R3, has fragmented into as many as 10 pieces.
… scientists think P/2013 R3’s fragmentation is driven by something called the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect, which describes how sunlight can cause an object’s rotation rate to increase over time.
Trevor Graff and John Eligon for The New York Times:
Kansas’s highest court ruled on Friday that funding disparities between school districts violated the state’s Constitution and ordered the Legislature to bridge the gap, setting the stage for a messy budget battle in the capital this year.
The debate over school funding in Kansas heated up in the 1960s when the Legislature added an article to the Constitution that read, “the Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance” of public education. That led to a court case decades later that ended with lawmakers agreeing to provide $4,492 in base aid per student.
But because of the nationwide financial crisis, the Legislature never reached that level of spending. It went as high as $4,400 by the 2008-9 school year, but under Gov. Mark V. Parkinson, a Democrat, the figure began a downward slide, which has continued under Mr. Brownback. The figure is now $3,838, and Mr. Brownback called for maintaining it in a budget proposal he released in January.
The reduction in school financing over the years led to the current lawsuit.
I hadn’t heard a single thing about this battle until right now.
Rodain Joubert of QCF Design on adding female portraits to Desktop Dungeons halfway development:
Quite frankly, we wanted the women in DD’s universe to be adventurers first and runway models second. This adjustment turned out to be startlingly non-trivial – you’d think that a bunch of supposedly conscious, mindful individuals would instantly be able to nail a “good female look” (bonus points for having a woman on our crew, right?), but huge swathes of our artistic language tended to be informed by sexist and one-dimensional portrayals. We regularly surprised ourselves with how much we took for granted.
… Shorthands for the feminine kept crawling into our work when we weren’t paying attention – smooth skin, homogenised facial structures, evidence of makeup, you name it. Even characters who we thought would easily sidestep trouble (like the female wizard) simply looked like young, pretty women in grunge costume rather than hardboiled dungeoneers.
It’s a pretty honest assessment of where they succeeded and where they failed.
The SAT college admission test will no longer require a timed essay, will dwell less on fancy vocabulary and will return to the familiar 1600-point scoring scale in a major overhaul intended to open doors to higher education for students who are now shut out.
The College Board also pledged to offer new test-preparation tutorials for free online, enabling students to bypass pricey SAT-prep classes previously available mostly to affluent families looking to give their children an edge.
Researchers are reporting that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs protected monkeys for weeks against infection, a finding that could lead to a major breakthrough in preventing the disease in humans.
Two studies by different laboratory groups each found 100 percent protection in monkeys that got monthly injections of antiretroviral drugs, and there was evidence that a single shot every three months might work just as well.
If the findings can be replicated in humans, they have the potential to overcome a major problem in AIDS prevention: that many people fail to take their antiretroviral pills regularly.
Just an animal trial, so let’s hope it’s effective in humans too. Long-term vaccination might be preferable to the pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment requiring periodic shots that’s under study, but all progress is progress.
Timothy Snyder wrote a summary for The New York Review of Books on what’s been going on in Ukraine: what lead to the protests, what happened during the protests, and what’s been happening since Viktor Yanukovych’s deposition both there and in Russia.
As specialists in Russian and Ukrainian nationalism have been predicting for weeks, the claim that the Ukrainian revolution is a “nationalist coup,” as Yanukovych, in Russian exile, said on Friday, has become a pretext for Russian intervention. This now appears to be underway in the Crimea, where the Russian flag has been raised over the regional parliament and gunmen have occupied the airports. Meanwhile, Russia has put army battle groups on alert and sent naval cruisers from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of the Maidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home. They have an experience of revolution that we do not.
Snyder’s stance is very pro-Ukraine; one of the thrusts of his piece is that the revolution there has been distorted by pro-Yanukovych and pro-Russia propaganda. I’m not saying this as a value judgment or to discredit him, because I’m pretty much 100% on his side.
Davey Wreden, author of the game The Stanley Parable, on his feelings after the game’s critical acclaim and inclusion of many “game of the year” lists:
To help myself better understand and isolate the feeling of depression around the GotY awards, I wrote and drew a comic to explain what I had been feeling. It was simply the best expression I had for the thoughts and emotions that were running through my head at the time at the time, I just wanted to put it into some words to help make it less nebulous and unknowable. I wanted something I could hold in front of myself and say “This. This is what I am experiencing.” It’s nice to get it out of your head.
The point of the comic was purely just to clarify that financial and critical success does not simply make your insecurities go away. If you were insecure about other peoples’ opinions of you and addicted to praise in order to feel good about yourself, the dirty truth is that there is no amount of praise you can receive that will make that insecurity goes away. What fire dies when you feed it?
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who took over the league from David Stern on February 1, had some strong words about this, as reported by Tim Bontemps for the New York Post:
"I have mixed feelings, because I’m enormously proud that the first openly gay player is playing in the NBA," Silver told The Post in a phone interview prior to Sunday’s game. "On the other hand, this is so long overdue that I don’t think this should necessarily be on the list of the greatest accomplishments of the NBA.
"This is an area where no one in sports should be too proud. Sports has led society in so many critical areas … this is one where we fell behind."
Colin: As he would agree, it’s sad that that that attitude is so surprising
Leigh Alexander wrote an excellent piece for Gamasutra on the closing of Bioshock developer Irrational Games, the development of the Bioshock series, the roles and responsibilities of journalism in video games, and the mistreatment of video game developers. I loved this paragraph in particular, although it doesn’t quite work as well out of context
The culture of silence that enshrouds game development allows poor quality of life at best, professional abuses at worst to continue. The good headlines are all some board member guy who checks in once a month ever sees. Silence is what preserves the dichotomy between the guys from the floating paradises Ken Levine imagines and the underclass he often depicted as both dangerously-furious and pitiful.
Ben Cosman on The Wire (formerly The Atlantic Wire):
Amtrak has begun offering “writers’ residencies” to, well, writers – long roundtrip rides aboard Amtrak trains dedicated solely for the purpose of writing.
After New York City-based writer Jessica Gross took the first “test-run” residency, traveling from NYC to Chicago and back, Amtrak confirmed that it is indeed planning to turn the writers’ residencies into an established, long-term program, sending writers on trains throughout its network of routes.
PBS NewsHour had a segment last night with Atlantic Council senior fellow Adrian Karatnycky, who talked exclusively about Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. I’ve heard a lot about the protests and the opposition in the Ukraine, but not a whole lot about what’s been going on politically, so I found this pretty enlightening.
But a bill was already tabled for Mr. Yanukovych’s impeachment. And given the fact that firm majorities and veto-proof majorities have emerged in the Parliament and the elite, including many of Mr. Yanukovych’s former backers, is — is working hand in glove with the opposition suggests that the signal’s being sent that his future is not very secure, even through institutional means.
Karatnycky sees several signs that Yanukovych is going to be ousted in the very near future.
Video game player turned racing driver Jann Mardenborough has been taken on by Red Bull’s driver development programme and will race in the GP3 series this year for Arden.
Mardenborough won the Playstation GT Academy in 2011 - a competition based around the computer game Gran Turismo - and has been working his way through the motorsport ranks ever since. Last season he competed in Formula 3, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and took part in tests in both GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5.
'Ili: What if all video games were like that.
'Ili: Being really good at Call of Duty gets you drafted into the army.
'Ili: Okay never mind
Colin: What would happen if you got really good at Mario?
'Ili: The Koopa War is a hell to be.
Colin: I was thinking more like, do a lot a mushrooms, hang out in sewers.
'Ili: I don't think that's something you need recruits for.
'Ili: btw wanna do shrooms and hang out in a sewer tomorrow
Max Woolf on Twitch Plays Pokémon, a live stream where Pokémon Red is controlled entirely by commands from the stream’s chatbox:
At this point in the stream, the audience hit 30,000 viewers. The increased activity caused an input delay of about 20 seconds from when the Twitch user input the command in chat to when the game recognized the command. This can make navigating menus difficult when an “up” or a “down” command is applied to a menu that isn’t even visible yet.
Additionally, as the number of viewers in a stream increases, the number of trolls increases. And those trolls loved to spam the B button command.
Thanks to these two factors, the channel had failed to teach any Pokemon Cut for over 4 hours. The stream chat became a bloodbath of blame.
2010 A.V. Club interview with director Tamra Davis, where she provides yet another excellent reason to hate the film Billy Madison:
AVC: Do you have a memorable Adam Sandler story?
TD: I don’t know. I just saw Adam recently. When we did Billy Madison, we were in Canada and staying in the same hotel. We had to bond immediately to make that film. We would spend hours talking on the phone about what we were going to do the next day. The day we were going to do the dodgeball scene, I had it all worked out with stunts and balls and kids, etcetera. The night before, Adam calls me on the phone and says, “Tamra, you know, tomorrow we’re going to do this dodgeball scene. I really want to hit these kids.” I’m like, “Adam, you can’t just hit these kids. They’re children.” He said, “No, no, no. Line them up, and ask who would be okay getting hit. Make sure you get the parents to say yes, and I’m really going to hit them hard.” I was like, “You’re crazy.” And he’s like, “No, hurting kids is funny. It’s going to be really funny.” I was like, “Adam!” And that’s what he did—he really hit those kids as hard as he could. And I cut right before you see the kids just fully start crying.
Okay, look, I get it. It’s funny because children are terrible, said the guy on the internet.
But if your immediate reaction to this wasn’t revulsion but rather “haha they took kids who were excited to be in a movie, threw things at them until they cried, and then filmed them,” then you should probably re-evaluate your life up to this point.
And if, like some of the commenters, your reaction was that it would be even funnier if they included the children crying, then you’re probably not even a real human being, just a Cylon in a skin suit.
Andrew Fazekas on National Geographic's StarStruck blog:
Reports of the demise of China’s Jade Rabbit (Yutu in Chinese) lunar rover appear greatly exaggerated. The rover looks to have survived a long, cold night on the moon.
According to state-run media Xinhua, Chinese mission engineers managed to restore communication with the moon buggy late this week, after much angst over a technical malfunction that officials dubbed a “mechanical control abnormality.” The problems started in late January just as the rover entered a hibernation state during the two-week-long lunar nights.
The surprising rover resurrection comes only a day after the troubled explorer was declared dead by China.
Tasbeeh Herwees wrote a beautiful piece for The Toast on the struggles of growing up in America with an unusual name. It’s rather spare, so it’s not really easy to quote anything without losing something, except for maybe this bit:
On the radio I hear a story about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.
I’ve never liked the phrase “the Citizen Kane of videogames.” I suspect no one actually does, which is why it’s become a joke about gamers’ desperate need for validation. But what bothers me most about this ridiculous meme is that it misses the actual message Citizen Kane imparts, and it’s something the game industry needs to hear. With systemic hubris driving business decisions and an almost palpable condescension toward the people that buy their products, one thing’s become increasingly clear: games may not have a Citizen Kane, but the game industry is Citizen Kane.
Street Fighter 2 is one of the game industry’s biggest success stories, but its history is often told secondhand, through official statements and loosely translated interviews. In an effort to remedy that, over the past year we tracked down more than 20 former Capcom employees and business partners and asked them to tell it in their own words.
This is a really awesome special feature, full of stories and production details. Here’s one from Guile programmer Motohide Eshiro, talking about a somewhat famous glitch he was responsible for:
We were having an event where we had invited players and journalists to come play Street Fighter 2. It was one of the first times it was even out there — it was just starting to get big — and the higher-ups picked me to play an exhibition match against some users. We were having the staff play against other people. And a journalist — a game journalist, a Japanese guy — approached me and said, “Hey, check this out. I found this crazy Magic Throw with Guile.” And he showed it to me. When I first saw that, the first thing I thought was, “I have to quit. I can’t do this anymore. I think I’m gonna quit my job.” And luckily, Mr. Nishitani said, “Hey, if you’re gonna let something like that bother you then you can’t make games anymore period. You can’t go to another company and do it either. This is part of the business.” So he stopped me from making any drastic moves. But yeah, I felt terrible.
Delightful news from my home state, reported by Scott Sonner & Brian Skoloff for the AP:
A northern Nevada county is moving ahead with what may be a first-in-the-nation plan to charge county jail inmates for food and medical care, despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union that it’s cruel and unusual punishment and could lead to a court battle.
The Elko County Commission on Wednesday approved Sheriff Jim Pitts’ proposal to charge inmates $6 a day for meals, $10 for each doctor visit and $5 for initial booking into the jail, a move he says will save county taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
Charging inmates for board and keeping a ledger. That’s how we roll in the great state of Nevada.
[University of Groningen researcher Dr. Thomas] Kantermann is a chronobiologist, meaning he studies the differences in people’s circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. A person’s preferred sleep pattern is his or her “chronotype.” This is what we’re talking about when we say someone is a morning person or a night owl. Research has shown that living outside your chronotype, which most of us do—waking ourselves up early with an alarm clock for school or work, or staying out too late at the bars—can lead to all kinds of problems other than just being tired: poor memory, depression, obesity, even a greater risk for some kinds of cancer.
… in July 2013, he, [business developer Michael] Wieden, Bad Kissingen’s mayor and town council, and other researchers from the University of Groningen and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich signed a letter of intent. In that letter, they pledged to promote chronobiology research in the town, to “gather results that are directly applicable to living, education, work, well-being, health, mobility, rehabilitation, and sleep.” It goes on to claim that “the city of Bad Kissingen will be the first in the world realizing scientific field studies in a wider context.”
Kantermann says that this project might result in Bad Kissingen abolishing daylight saving time, which clearly makes it one of the most worthwhile endeavors known to man.
MoMA PS1 has selected the winner of its annual Young Architects Program, a temporary outdoor installation that will open in late June. Hy-Fi, the winning project from David Benjamin of The Living, features self-assembling bricks made of organic material, and will be nearly carbon neutral in its construction.
Benjamin’s bio-design concept will consist of two kinds of brick: some made out of live organic material, and some reflective bricks. For the organic bricks, chopped up corn husks are recycled to combine with mycelium, a kind of mushroom root material. The mixture is then packed into a mold. The reflective bricks, placed at the top of the tubular structure, bounce light off a daylight mirror film coating onto the organic material below, helping them self-assemble into a brick shape and solidify.
The post also includes a video on the project produced by Brooklyn Digital Foundry, but it doesn’t really have any info that’s not in the post. It has some cool renders though.
A tiny minnow that lives only in Oregon backwaters is set to become the first fish ever taken off U.S. Endangered Species Act protection because it is no longer threatened with extinction.
Before European settlement, the Willamette Valley was a complex system of braided river channels, oxbows and beaver ponds, where perhaps as many as 1 million Oregon chub lived, Bangs said. By 1992, there were only 1,000 fish known in eight locations. Today, there are 180,000 fish at 80 locations. The fish was upgraded to threatened in 2010.
Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades.
The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet (13 meters), is one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid’s stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it’s only about 16 feet (5 m) tall.
So this isn’t one of the enormous burial tomb pyramids, but it’s still a pretty neat find. The folks still haven’t figured out why exactly any of these pyramids exist, and I’m always hoping that one of these days the answer to an ancient mystery will turn out to be “just to mess with people 4,000 years in the future.”
While shopping last year at a Goodwill store, Phoenix resident Mary Scanlon found a box of dirty and aged reel-to-reel recordings that the proprietor said were donated by deceased Phoenix businessman and civil rights leader Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr. There were 35 tapes in all, and one proved to be a previously unknown recording of a speech Martin Luther King, Jr. gave at Arizona State University in June of 1964 – less than one month before the landmark Civil Rights Act was signed.
No one knew of any recordings of the speech.
Pretty awesome. They’ve digitally preserved the speech online.
You may recall, NASA recently announced that a strange rock had somehow “appeared” in front of its Mars Opportunity rover. The explanations for the mystery rock were straight-forward: maybe some kind of nearby impact sent a rock toward the rover, or, more likely, the rover knocked the rock out of the ground and no one noticed until later.
NASA’s only camera to have made it to the moon and back as part of the Apollo manned missions will be auctioned in Vienna on March 22, organisers said Thursday.
The boxy silver-coloured camera, which could be attached to the front of an astronaut’s suit, is estimated to be worth 150,000-200,000 euros ($200,000-270,000), Peter Coeln, owner of the Westlicht gallery holding the auction, told AFP.
CCP Dolan, a community manager of EVE Online, on an enormous battle that took place in the game a few days ago:
In the early hours of January 27th, 2014 CONCORD (the NPC police force”) came to collect the sovereignty bill for a dead-end system in the Immensea region called B-R5RB. One of over 7,500 in game, this particular system – with its 9 planets, 66 moons and 12 asteroid belts – had recently been transferred to a player corporation called H A V O C, a corp used by the alliance Pandemic Legion to handle sovereignty transfers between Alliances (which are collections of Corporations). Unfortunately, when CONCORD tried to extract the ISK (EVE’s currency) that would maintain sovereignty in the system for another month, they found that H A V O C had left their automatic payment unchecked. Without the necessary payment, sovereignty in the system immediately dropped leaving the system up for grabs.
This single missed payment sparked off what would become the most expensive battle in EVE Online history.
Conversion of the in-game currency to real money is pretty volatile, but they estimate that the total value of the ships destroyed could be over $300,000 USD. I did not mistype that.
A gay man was improperly excluded from jury service because of his sexual orientation, a federal appeals court has ruled, illustrating the widening influence of a key U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay rights.
"Strikes exercised on the basis of sexual orientation continue this deplorable tradition of treating gays and lesbians as undeserving of participation in our nation’s most cherished rites and rituals," 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.
The juror was excluded by Abbott Laboratories with a peremptory challenge, which lets you reject a potential juror without stating a reason. A peremptory challenge is useful if, for example, you don’t want to seat a gay man in the case about how you hiked up the price of an HIV medication by 400%, but don’t want to say that out loud in front of a judge and court reporter.
For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees.
Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB — the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.
I have an exceedingly hostile opinion of the NCAA and the economics of college sports (which I’ll spare you from because it’ll quickly devolve into a stream of curse words punctuated with phrases like “robber barons”), so when I first heard this story on TV, my immediate reaction was a boisterous cackling. And I haven’t really stopped.
I wish these kids the best. It sounds like they’re probably going to need it.
Calls reporting pet poisonings by marijuana have increased by about 30 percent since 2009, from 213 calls that year to 320 in 2013, according to the Animal Poison Control Center, a division of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Those calls probably represent only a fraction of poisonings related to cannabis.
In Boulder, Colo., where marijuana recently became legal, Dr. Matt Booth said his veterinary emergency center sees about a case a month.
Dave Martin writing for the AP about St. Joseph’s Abbey in Boston, Massachusetts, which recently became the first Trappist abbey outside Europe to begin brewing beer:
After more than 20 trial batches, the monks in Massachusetts settled on the recipe for what would become Spencer Trappist Ale, a “refectory ale” of 6.5 percent alcohol. The cloudy, golden beer is all-American yet rooted in European tradition with sweet, yeasty notes familiar to fans of other Trappist ales.
With beer in his suitcase, [Father Isaac] Keeley flew last month to Belgium, seeking his brother monks’ blessing. He first delivered a PowerPoint presentation on the new brewery, then poured glasses of Spencer Trappist Ale for his European counterparts.
"They approved it unanimously," he said, "and after the vote there was applause."
The Associated Press has severed ties with a freelance photographer who it says violated its ethical standards by altering a photo he took while covering the war in Syria in 2013.
The news service said Wednesday that Narciso Contreras recently told its editors that he manipulated a digital picture of a Syrian rebel fighter taken last September, using software to remove a colleague’s video camera from the lower left corner of the frame. That led AP to review all of the nearly 500 photos Contreras has filed since he began working for the news service in 2012. No other instances of alteration were uncovered, said Santiago Lyon, the news service’s vice president and director of photography.
Contreras was one of a team of photographers working for the AP who shared in a Pulitzer last year for images of the Syrian war. None of the images in that package were found to be compromised, according to the AP.
Pretty weird development, but props to the AP for sticking to their guns over the minor manipulation of a single image. I hadn’t heard of Contreras before this.