2014 will mark the first year since its inception in 1976 that no artist’s album will be certified as platinum from sales. The award is given by the RIAA to mark one million units sold, and with only a few weeks remaining in the year, no album is even remotely close to making the threshold.
The two records nearest the magic number are Beyonce’s self-titled album and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine,” but neither have even crossed the 800,000 mark, with sales of both having tapered off months ago. There is one caveat, and that is the fact that the soundtrack to the animated film Frozen has moved well over three million units; but it being a soundtrack and not a single-artist release places it into a slightly different category.
In a stinging defeat for the Obama administration and a number of civil rights groups in a major test case on voters’ rights, a divided Supreme Court told the state of Texas early Saturday morning that it may enforce its strict voter ID law for this year’s general election, with early voting starting next Monday. Three Justices dissented from the ruling, which was released a few minutes after 5 a.m. folllowing a seemingly lengthy study.
This apparently was the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminated against minorities. A U.S. District Court judge in Corpus Christi struck down the ID law last week after a nine-day trial, but it now awaits review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked the trial judge’s ruling.
The Justice Department has indicated that the case is likely to return to the Supreme Court after the appeals court rules. Neither the Fifth Circuit’s action so far nor the Supreme Court’s Saturday order dealt with the issue of the law’s constitutionality.
In 1923, legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille built an epic Egyptian dreamscape on California’s Central Coast for the silent black-and-white movie “The Ten Commandments.”
Twenty-one giant sphinxes lined a path to an 800-foot-wide temple. Legend has it that after the filming was done, the set was too expensive to move and too valuable to leave for rival filmmakers to poach — so DeMille had it pushed into a trench and buried.
I love that I get to use the archaeology tag for something that happened less than a hundred years ago.
This is pretty neat by the way, I hope they get the cash for preservation.
FedEx Ground didn’t pay overtime or contribute to Scalercio’s Social Security benefits. That’s because since acquiring RPS and introducing its ground service, the FedEx unit has treated drivers as independent contractors, not employees. “The saying around the building was, ‘It’s their sandbox. We only get to play in it,’ ” says Scalercio, who no longer drives for FedEx Ground but is one of hundreds of current and former drivers suing the FedEx subsidiary, seeking back pay for overtime worked and for paycheck deductions.
Beth Ross, who represents plaintiffs in California, says the potential damages FedEx Ground faces in all the class actions are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The same week as the Kansas ruling, the National Labor Relations Board rejected FedEx Ground’s claims that its drivers are independent contractors, finding that they were in fact employees and that FedEx had violated the law by not bargaining with a group of them. “As FedEx’s counsel acknowledged at oral argument,” the Kansas Court said in its decision, “the company carefully structured its drivers’ operating agreements so that it could label the drivers as independent contractors to gain a competitive advantage, i.e., to avoid the additional costs associated with employees.”
At 12:34 pm, the Game King lit up with its seventh jackpot in an hour and a half, a $10,400 payout. Now Williams knew something was wrong: The cards dealt on the screen were the exact same four deuces and four of clubs that yielded Kane’s previous jackpot. The odds against that were astronomical. Williams called over the executive in charge of the Silverton’s slots, and they reviewed the surveillance tape together.
The evidence was mounting that Kane had found something unthinkable: the kind of thing gamblers dream of, casinos dread, and Nevada regulators have an entire auditing regime to prevent. He’d found a bug in the most popular video slot in Las Vegas.
The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a Nevada case that goes to the legal heart of what counts as work time employees should be paid for.
Workers at Amazon.com warehouses near Reno and in Las Vegas sued claiming they should have been paid for the 25 minutes they were required to wait to be searched at the end of each shift to make sure they weren’t stealing merchandise.
Several of the judges were apparently openly skeptical of the case, but I just found the legal argument here to be really hilarious.
(One of the plaintiffs worked in a factory very close to me, which immediately invested me in the story.)
A federal judge likened Texas’ strict voter ID requirement to a poll tax deliberately meant to suppress minority voter turnout and struck it down less than a month before Election Day — and mere hours after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a similar measure in Wisconsin.
Perhaps Auernheimer has more empathy for Sierra now, considering he knows a little more about what he put her through. Remember, Auernheimer said he published her social security number and lied about her being a prostitute because he wanted to punish her for speaking out, for seeking assistance. One of the ironies about this is that since his arrest, Auernheimer has repeatedly asked for help. He also complained that the government robbed him of his right to free speech, though by making Sierra a target for identity theft and physical attacks, he intimidated her into silence. Auernheimer complains that the government wrongly used its considerable resources and power against him. That has to be the biggest irony of all.
The very last sentence of the article is a pile of hot crap though, I recommend you not read it.
Frequent travelers often carry personal Wi-Fi hotspots — tiny devices that can connect to the Internet via cell phone towers. For $50 a month, they can connect to the Internet on the move, often avoiding hefty fees charged by hotels, airports and conference facilities. Some people upgrade their wireless data plans to make their smartphones into hotspots.
Last year, a conference attendee at the Opryland hotel in Nashville, Tennessee — which is managed by Marriott — found that the hotel was jamming devices in its ballrooms and complained to the Federal Communications Commission. In the complaint, the guest noted that the same thing happened previously at another Gaylord property. The block didn’t affect Wi-Fi access in guest rooms.
While jamming personal Wi-Fi connections, Marriott was charging conference organizers and exhibitors between $250 and $1,000, per access point, to use the Gaylord’s Wi-Fi connection.
Hayden Dingman of PCWorld with a preview of Cyan’s upcoming game Obduction:
Obduction is built on Unreal 4, and wow. The introductory area places the player in a small moonlit forest clearing, a campfire off in the distance. All of the lights in the scene are currently dynamic, including an oil lamp that Anderson picks up and ignites. There’s a very strong The Room-esque presence in Obduction—you can now pick up, rotate, and interact with objects in the environment, and those objects might have (for instance) secret doors to uncover or codes scratched into the bottom. “It’s the kind of stuff that you wished you could do in Riven when you’d pick up the stuff on Gehn’s nightstand,” says [Cyan’s art director Eric] Anderson.
Take it in while you can—”The only place in the game I think you currently never go back is the starting forest,” says Anderson. Overall, Anderson says the game is “not as non-linear as Myst, and it is slightly less linear than Riven.”
There are some work-in-progress screenshots and bits and pieces of the lore, it’s neat.
Anne Trafton with a report out of MIT’s news office:
… researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have devised a novel drug capsule coated with tiny needles that can inject drugs directly into the lining of the stomach after the capsule is swallowed.
European Space Agency news article about their Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite:
Recently, the high-resolution measurements from GOCE over Antarctica between November 2009 and June 2012 have been analysed by scientists from the German Geodetic Research Institute, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Jet Propulsion Lab in USA and the Technical University of Munich in Germany.
They have found that the loss of ice from West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012 caused a dip in the gravity field over the region.
Keep an eye out for the terrible made-for-TV movie about researchers in Antarctica being flung into outer space, coming soon to Syfy.
Emily Grosvenor writing for The Atlantic on The Oregon Trail (as in the video game) LARPing:
Teams of 2-4 people, many in pioneer garb, build a wagon out of paper and dowel rods before tackling ten challenges inspired by the computer game—things like floating the wagon across a kiddie pool, shooting at game with nerf guns, competing in a three-legged dysentery race to an outhouse. Instead of finding shelter, we built a tarp tent while volunteers sprayed us with water. We survived being pummeled with pool noodles by roller derby girls at the Platte River station.
I don’t have anything to add to this beyond that I found it really, really satisfying to type the phrase “Oregon Trail LARPing.”
At least 30 people are believed to have died near the peak of a volcano in central Japan that erupted without warning on Saturday, trapping scores of amateur climbers and covering a wide area with thick ash.
Police said rescuers had discovered more than 30 people suffering from heart and lung failure; official confirmation that the victims are dead won’t come until doctors have examined the bodies.
Absolutely terrible. The volcano, dormant for 35 years, has apparently been a popular hiking spot.
Mario Takes America is a cancelled action platformer game that was in development from 1992 to 1994 at the Toronto-based Cigam Entertainment for the ill-fated Philips CD-I console. This was intended to be the third Mario game planned for the CDI, following Hotel Mario and the unreleased Mario Wacky Worlds. It would have formed a trilogy of Nintendo-licensed Mario games published by Philips, just like the infamous Zelda CDI trilogy: Zelda’s Adventure (by Viridis), Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Link: The Faces of Evil (by Animation Magic).
Mysteriously, while even the unfinished Wacky Worlds gained some exposure from savvy prototype hunters online, Mario Takes America was since forgotten by the wider world, fading into obscurity, and until recently, next to zero information has been available on it. However, thanks to an anonymous contributor, research by Interactive Dreams, LiamR and a former Cigam employee on the AssemblerGames Forum, we are able to preserve some more memories about this unreleased Mario project.
Sometimes I wish I had a CD-i. The feeling usually passes immediately though.
Paleontologists Dr Rodney Scheetz of Brigham Young University’s Museum of Paleontology and Dr Terry Gates of North Carolina State University and North Carolina Museum of Natural Science have described a new species of hadrosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Neslen Formation of central Utah.
The new hadrosaur, scientifically named Rhinorex condrupus, lived during the Cretaceous period, about 75 million years ago.
Hadrosaurs are usually identified by bony crests that extended from the skull, but Rhinorex condrupus lacked a crest on the top of its head; instead, it had a huge nose.
The Guardian has printed an excerpt of Neil Gaiman’s introduction to Terry Pratchett’s new nonfiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard:
Terry’s authorial voice is always Terry’s: genial, informed, sensible, drily amused. I suppose that, if you look quickly and are not paying attention, you might, perhaps, mistake it for jolly. But beneath any jollity there is a foundation of fury. Terry Pratchett is not one to go gentle into any night, good or otherwise.
He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light. And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.
We’re back again with another post from The Signal: Digital Preservation. This time, Trevor Owens is interviewing Emily Frieda Shaw, Head of Preservation and Reformatting at Ohio State University (I love that this is a job title), about her work restoring data tapes from Explorer 1:
When my colleagues were first made aware of the Explorer mission tapes in 2009, they had been sitting in the basement of a building on the University of Iowa’s campus for decades. There was significant mold growth on the boxes and the tapes themselves, and my colleagues secured an emergency grant from the state to clean, move and temporarily rehouse the tapes. Three tapes were then sent to The MediaPreserve to see if they could figure out how to digitize the audio signals. Bob Strauss and Heath Condiotte hunted down a huge, of-the-era machine that could play back all of the discrete tracks on these tapes. As I understand it, Heath had to basically disassemble the entire thing and replace all of the transistors before he got it to work properly. Fortunately, we were able to play some of the digitized audio tracks from these test reels for Dr. George Ludwig, one of the key researchers on Dr. Van Allen’s team, before he passed away in 2012. Dr. Ludwig confirmed that they sounded — at least to his naked ear — as they should, so we felt confident proceeding with the digitization.
This week’s S.EXE is about the ‘team’ narrative strand of Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis. It’s got clinches worthy of Hollywood. I’ve not seen a kiss in a game that’s ever topped Sophia and Indy’s frequent tonsil-scraping embraces.
People lament the lack of ‘romcom’ in video games, and every time they do I think about Fate Of Atlantis.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone lament about the lack of romantic comedies in video games, but she’s right that it’s excellent in Fate of Atlantis. The whole game is pretty excellent.
Graeme Wood reporting for The Atlantic at a California prison:
At first, we seem to be watching a sullen but semi-random parade of terrifying men—heavily tattooed murderers, thieves, and drug dealers walking past one of five casual but alert guards. Some inmates, chosen for a strip search, drop their prison blues into little piles and then spin around, bare-assed, to be scrutinized. Once inspected, they dress and walk out into the yard to fill their lungs with oxygen after a long night in the stagnant air of the cellblock. The first Hispanic inmate to put his clothes on walks about 50 yards to a concrete picnic table, sits down, and waits. The first black inmate goes to a small workout area and stares out at the yard intently. A white guy walks directly to a third spot, closer to the basketball court. Another Hispanic claims another picnic table. Slowly it becomes obvious that they have been moving tactically: each has staked out a rallying point for his group and its affiliates.
Once each gang has achieved a critical mass—about five men—it sends off a pair of scouts. Two of the Hispanics at the original concrete picnic table begin a long, winding stroll. “They’ll walk around, get within earshot of the other groups, and try to figure out what’s going down on the yard,” Acosta says. “Then they can come back to their base and say who’s going to attack who, who’s selling what.”
Eventually, about 50 inmates are in the yard, and the guards have stepped back and congregated at their own rallying point, backs to the fence, with Acosta. The men’s movements around the yard are so smooth and organized, they seem coordinated by invisible traffic lights.
I don’t remember how I ended up on this, but here’s a 2012 article by Lucy Craft for NPR:
In Japan, a linguist has toiled quietly for decades to compile the world’s first Yiddish-Japanese dictionary — the first time the Jewish language has been translated into a non-European language other than Hebrew.
[Kazuo] Ueda made several trips to Israel, but most of his research was a lonely, solo affair. Isolated from actual speakers of the language, he taught himself, with the help of Yiddish newspapers and literature.
Ueda would later publish a series of books on the Jewish language and people, but he considers that a prelude to his magnum opus — the 1,300-page, 28,000-entry Idishugo Jiten, or Yiddish-Japanese dictionary, published several years ago. His publisher wouldn’t release details but conceded sales are most likely tiny for the dictionary, which costs more than $700.
A nudist resort in Los Gatos struggling to stay afloat during California’s drought has been accused of stealing more than 280,000 gallons of water from a local creek, which authorities say sustains area wildlife.
But Lupin Lodge owners say they have a historic right to the water, which they said they have used since a drought in the 1970s and maintain to support fire suppression efforts.
Truly a crisis of the modern age.
Water rights are a serious deal during a drought, though.
Ishaan Tharoor on The Washington Post's WorldViews blog:
If you’re following the ongoing crisis in Iraq, you’ve probably encountered the conflicting acronyms used for the jihadist group storming through the country. The Washington Post has been referring to the organization as ISIS, shorthand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is how most news organizations that operate in English began identifying the outfit when it emerged as a dangerous fighting force two years ago, launching terror strikes and carving out territory amid the Syrian civil war.
But the acronym that’s now deployed by many agencies as well as the United Nations and the U.S. State Department — and President Obama — is ISIL, for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Etymology is always welcome here on Nullary Sources.
Morgan Ramsay has a 7.1 GB database of news articles from video game media outlets, because that’s a totally normal thing to collect, and he decided to investigate whether video game journalism has been overwhelmed by feminism, as apparently sad people on the internet fear:
Of the 84,796 articles downloaded in 2013, only 0.4493% of those articles, published by 28 of the 33 tracked outlets, mentioned feminism, sexism, or misogyny and their -ist counterparts. Less than half of a percent!
Of the 65,950 articles downloaded during the first six months of 2014, only 0.4428% of those articles, published by 27 of the 33 tracked outlets, made similar references. Also less than half of a percent! But during a six-month period.
ESPN.com on the second NBA owner this year to lose his team due to doing some racist stuff:
Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is selling his controlling interest in the team, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Sunday.
In July, Levenson self-reported an email he wrote to the team’s co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry in August 2012 that he called “inappropriate and offensive.” The league commenced an independent investigation after being made aware of the comments.
Levenson writes in a statement that the racially offensive comments came as he pondered ways to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide and increase fan attendance at Hawks’ games.
"In trying to address those issues, I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive," he said. "I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e. hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e. that white fans might be afraid of our black fans). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans."
Derek Thompson writing for The Atlantic on the effects of the adoption of strike zone cameras in Major League Baseball:
The strike zone morphed in the age of camera technology, as well. Before cameras, it turned out, umpires had been ignoring strikes around the knees. Pitches between 18 and 30 inches above the plate, which are technically in the strike zone, had been called balls for years. But the presence of cameras encouraged umpires to lower the strike zone.
As you’re about to see, this swung the balance of power from the batters box to the pitching mound, shutting down baseball’s thrilling home-run parade and inaugurating the Era of the Pitcher.
He summarizes some research and data by Brian Mills, and there are some neat graphs.
However, it’s probably best to ignore the title and final several paragraphs of the article and just focus on the data, because the numbers aren’t clickbaity and don’t evangelize.
On September 18, Scotland’s citizens will go to the polls to answer a really big question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
This question, of course, raises lots of other questions about what a yes vote might mean for the future of Scotland, England and the United Kingdom. Here are some basic answers to some basic questions about the upcoming vote.
As an ignorant Yank who vaguely knows the history but is otherwise blissfully ignorant of just about every aspect of Scottish independence, I found this pretty nice. She even has a list of news sources to follow for future updates.
62-year-old world-renowned composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is completely suspending his musical performances, so he can devote himself to the treatment of mesopharyngeal carcinoma in New York. His record company Avex made the announcement on Thursday.
The New York resident began feeling something unusual in his throat and underwent an examination in early June. He was diagnosed with mesopharyngeal carcinoma in early July.
I only just heard about this now. It doesn’t look like there have been any updates on his status since this was published.
Ecuador is planning to create what it calls the world’s first digital currency issued by a central bank, which some analysts believe could be a first step toward abandoning the country’s existing currency, the U.S. dollar.
The electronic money, which Central Bank officials say they expect will start circulating in December, does not have a name and officials would not disclose technical details, though they said it would not be a crypto-currency like Bitcoin. The amount of the new currency created would depend on demand.
Deputy director Gustavo Solorzano said it is to exist in tandem with the greenback and, by law, be backed by “liquid assets.”
[insert bitcoin joke here]
This is an interesting national experiment though, hopefully it won’t end in disaster.