How coconut crabs may have absconded with Amelia Earhart’s skeleton

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So, there’s a new theory about what happened to Amelia Earhart: She crash-landed on a Pacific island, and after death, her body was slowly eaten and pulled apart by coconut crabs.

Lemme break this one down for you.

Earhart, as you may remember, vanished in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the planet. No-one’s ever found her plane or her body, but one intriguing clue emerged in 1940: On Nikumaroro, a small Pacific island, 13 human bones were found. An analysis at the time concluded they were male bones and thus couldn’t be Earhart’s, and the bones were subsequently lost. Then last year, a new analysis of the original bone report (previously) argued that 1940 analysis was wrong — the bones were indeed consistent with a woman’s body type, and thus it was entirely possible they were Earhart’s.

The question is, why were there only 13 bones found?

The new hypothesis: They were all absconded with by the island’s teeming hordes of coconut crabs.

Coconut crabs, as National Geographic notes, are pretty ferocious. They climb trees, are “the same size as an explorer’s hiking boot,” have a pinch as powerful as the bite of an animal, and devour not just coconuts but “birds, rodents, other crabs — and carrion”. (Their nickname is “robber crabs”.)

Is it possible the crabs devoured the human body and dragged the bones back to their burrows? Back in 1940 when the researcher originally found the site with the 13 bones, he noted that “coconut crabs had scattered many bones.” To test if this crab-theft were possible, a Earhart-hunting expedition that has been exploring the island performed a few experiments:

In one, they brought a pig carcass to the island and filmed what happened to it.

Read the rest

Ditch the capsules and get this precision drip coffeemaker for 75% off

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Are we done with capsule coffee makers yet? Sure, they’re easy. But they are not so easy on the environment, and it’s debatable whether they actually make a better cup. Luckily, there’s never been a better time to switch back to the good old reliable drip method – especially when drip coffeemakers have quietly been improving over the years.

Case in point: The Wilfa Precision Automatic Coffee Brewer.

This sleek-looking unit won a 2013 Red Dot Design Award, but the real beauty is in the operation. It was designed in cooperation with barista artist and coffee guru Tim Wendelboe to be a failsafe conduit to consistently great coffee. All you do is follow the measurements for coffee and water on the water tank, press and watch. A no-drip lock on the filter prevents spillage, and the leftover water gets automatically removed after each brew. There’s even a child safety lock for extra security.

You can get the Wilfa Precision Automatic Coffee Brewer in silver aluminum or black plastic, both of which are 75% off the retail price. Read the rest

Paul Bunyan and other fiberglass advertising giants ride again at Bell Plastics in Hayward California

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Before we had several tiny screens to entertain us on road trips, we were confined to but one: the window. Imagine being stuffed into the back seat of your mom’s gold Plymouth Duster, rolling through endless miles of dust, fields, and mountains, your eyes feeding your brain a never-ending litany of “tree….tree…cow….tree….rock…rock…tree…” and then, “…Paul BUNYAN??”

Beginning in the early ’60s, a brethren of Colossus began to fan out across the American countryside. These 14-to-25 foot tall fiberglass giants stood sentry outside tire shops and cafes, designed to act as a homing device for the family station wagon. Though they were known collectively as “Muffler Men,” they also took the form of Paul Bunyan, space men, pirates, cowboys, bikini babes, an Alfred E. Neuman look-a-like, even a chicken or two. A company called International Fiberglass in Venice Beach, CA produced about a thousand of these advertising giants during their heyday, transforming small roadside businesses into landmarks worthy of an ogle.

The proliferation of freeways and uptight city zoning laws contributed to the decline of Muffler Men. All of the original molds were destroyed when International Fiberglass closed in 1976. Though a few can still be spotted in the wild, many now belong under the stewardship of private collectors.

One such collector, the Bay Area’s Bell Plastics, is refuge to what is perhaps the world’s largest conglomeration of original muffler men. Once a year, they invite the public into their warehouse for a unique opportunity to wander amongst various advertising giants, including the rare Uniroyal Girl (a bikini-clad female “Muffler Man” who is said to be modeled after Jackie Kennedy), two of San Francisco’s beloved Doggie Diner heads, a slightly demented Santa, a pair of industrious car washing octopi, and other oversized company shills. Read the rest

Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, in jail for life, draws a photo of his prison cell

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Ross Ulbricht, the creator of The Silk Road darknet marketplace, is serving a double life sentence plus forty years with no possibility for parole for “money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics by means of the Internet.” [Wikipedia] Above, a detail from his incredible drawing of his cell and cellmate in the Tucson United States Penitentiary.

In a Medium essay titled Life in a Box, Ross writes:

Try, if you can, to imagine being in this 65-square-foot cell, just you, your cellie and a pet mouse. Mail comes in and out. You get the occasion visit or phone call, but otherwise this and the prison is your universe. Now imagine living here day after day. You lay down in the bunk at night and wake up in it every morning. You eat here. Some days you weep here. Year after year, this is it. No breaks, no weekend off, and you are told you will never be let out, ever.
What can one live for under these conditions?
Surprisingly, there is much. At the very least, I know that rarefied states of mind, states of pure bliss that dedicated monks experience after many years of devotion, are available to me if I live a spiritual life in here. I know also that all the world’s knowledge is still available to me between the covers of books (some I was reading at the time I drew “Life in a Box” can be seen stacked on my bunk).

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Rochester, Buffalo: My band The Delorean Sisters plays your cities this weekend

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Hey upstate NY state folks: My band The Delorean Sisters is in your neck of the woods, tonight and tomorrow!

We’re a country-Americana band — our first album was a fun concept project, where we took 80s synthpop hits by acts like Depeche Mode and Eurythmics and transformed ’em into country/bluegrass, with three-part country harmonies and banjo. (This worked surprisingly well, since wow — 80s synthpop has some of saddest damn lyrics I’ve ever heard. It’s basically already hurtin’ country music.) Our second album from this spring is an EP of originals‘, in the same vein of Americana. ‘Tis all on Spotify, or Bandcamp if you’re looking for glisteningly DRM-free MP3s or vinyl.

Tonight, Fri. Aug. 23 we’re in Rochester, playing at Abilene Bar & Lounge at 9 pm; tomorrow night, Sat. Aug. 24 at 8 pm we’re in Buffalo, playing Sportsmen’s. Come on out and hassle me!

(In the photo, that’s our three singers, Gary, Lizzie and Diane, with our bass player Danny — I’m hiding behind Diane, on electric.) Read the rest

The “One HTML Page Challenge”, a great example of view-source culture

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Behold the “One HTML Page Challenge” — to build a one-page site using just the code in a single html file: “Practice your skills with no assistance from libraries, no separation of files, and no assistance of a modern framework.”

There are a just few entries so far, but they’re pretty cool — like this one that creates a slowly-growing ant colony in ASCII, or this racing game, or this quiz to see if you can identify the correct name of a color.

I dig the constraints here — all code in one file, no outside code libraries — because it really honors “view source” culture.

When I was interviewing developers for my latest book Coders, all the ones who grew up during the late 90s and early 00s web talked about how powerful view-source was in teaching themselves to code and make stuff online.

But web development these days has grown byzantine in its complexity; if newbie is trying to learn, view-source is liable to just cough up a slurry of incomprehensible, minified javascript. It closes off the easy onramps that existed back in the earlier days of the web.

So, projects like this one-page challenge are awesome, because the whole goal is to encourage the writing of web-site code that’s more legible and tractable. If you view-source any of the entries, some might be a little complex for newbies, but if you spend enough time walking it through, you can figure out what’s going on. Read the rest

Dataviz of burger-satisfaction rankings

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The market-research firm Market Force Information surveyed 7,600 people to find out which burger chains the liked the most and least, ranking them by eight attributes, like “food quality”, “speed service” and “staff friendliness”.

Over at Flowing Data, Nathan Yau took that info and charted it out in a superb dataviz:

What’s interesting here isn’t just the burger info. What’s fun is noticing how beautifully Yau’s dataviz here takes eight tables of data — hard to look at, hard to spot patterns in (you can see the original tables here) — and transforms it into something that tells a story at a glance: The customer approval for chains like In-N-Out and Whatabuger are pretty well-rounded, while people seem to have only one big thing they like about chains like Steak ‘N Shake (value for the money) or Jack in the Box (speed of service.)

Yau’s stuff is always good, but this one is a particularly nice object-lesson in the value of well-done data visualization. Read the rest

Viral black and white Roku’d TV now available as glow-in-the-dark enamel pin

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Remember the guy who rigged up his first-gen Roku to an old black-and-white TV to watch The Twilight Zone? Well, that “guy” is my artist pal Josh Ellingson and he’s taking his viral moment to the next level. He’s created glow-in-the-dark enamel pins of his Roku-enabled 1975 General Electric model 12XB9104V TV. That’s cool on its own but he’s also made a pack of stick-on screen decals that make it look like a vintage show or movie is playing. The pin shown in the photo above depicts the Moon landing but there are others, like the Nosferatu below. He’s made the pins available on Indiegogo for $10 each, or two for $18, which includes the sticker pack. As of this writing, the campaign is 931% funded.

(RED) Read the rest

Fairyland donkeys react to classical music

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Children’s Fairyland, the mid-century theme park for little kids in Oakland, California, posted this video of their resident donkeys reacting to classical music that is too cute not to share.


Donkeys get a kick out of classical music! We were testing out our PA system and Gideon and Chiquita got into it. As Brett, our staff mechanic, notes, “It’s like a real-life Fantasia!”

When they aren’t digging classical music (or doing whatever donkeys do), they can be found grazing on grass in the big field when the park is closed:

Previously on BB: Children’s Fairyland, the mid-century storybook theme park that inspired Walt Disney and where Frank Oz got his start Read the rest

This Linux computer plus router is the size of a ring box

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If there’s one thing that stayed consistent through the last decade or so of tech industry turmoil, it’s the love affair between techies and Linux. There’s just a ton you can do with the OS, and its open-source format means you can customize your rig from the ground up.

Apparently not content with that level of devotion, the good folks at VoCore have gone and made a tiny Linux computer that is impossibly cute, on top of its multiple applications.

The VoCore2 Mini Linux Computer packs a wireless router and 16M of onboard storage into a cube about the size of a coin. Just hook it up to any display monitor through a standard USB2.0 port, and you’re ready to put it to work. With 128MB of DDR2 memory and an MT7628AN MIPS processor, it’s equally useful as a streaming station, VPN gateway, data storage – you name it.

The standard VoCore2 package comes with an Ultimate Dock that takes MicroSD cards for $42.99 – a full 14% off the list price. For those who want to get cracking right out of the box, there’s a VoCore2 Mini Linux Computer Bundle for $69 (a 13% discount), including an 800 X 480 screen just perfect for the tiny powerhouse. Read the rest

USB half-golfball with one USB port

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There’s an unlimited wealth of useless USB gadgetry to be acquired, obviously, but something about the USB half-golfball with one USB port [Amazon] posted to Twitter by @foone (whose epic threads about subjects such as “possibly cursed USB adapters” are easily the best thing on Twitter right now) captures the very essence of the genre. I immediately bought one, as it’s the perfect gift for an older boomer-age male relative who has never in their life played golf.

Tell me about your conspiculously pointless, low-effort USB gifts in the comments! No prizes for Cuecats. Read the rest

Bees added to Minecraft, finally

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My “bee”-obsessed young son will not be delighted to see the addition of bees to Minecraft, as he is still too young to have played Minecraft or, indeed, to have become cognizant of the difference between bees and other winged insects.

We’re buzzing with excitement!

• Bees are cute, fuzzy, neutral mobs
• Don’t hurt them, they don’t want to hurt you
• If a bee does sting you, it will leave its stinger in you and eventually die, dropping nothing 🙁
• Bees love pretty flowers and spend their lives gathering pollen from them
• After gathering pollen, bees fly back to their home nest
• Bees help you by growing crops while carrying pollen back to the nest
• Bees can be bred using flowers
• Bees like sharing the location of their favorite flowers with other bees
• If a bee can’t find nectar, after a while it will return home for a bit
• If a bee doesn’t have a home nest, it will wander around until it finds one it can use
• Bees don’t like the rain and they sleep at night. They will go back to the nest in these cases

In keeping with Minecraft’s rougueish leanings, there’s an entire ecology of honey production to go with it. Can’t wait! Read the rest

Scratch-and-sniff wallpaper that smells like weed

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From the far-out folks at Flavor Paper comes Cannabliss, a subtly psychedelic scratch-and-sniff wallpaper that smells like weed. They write:

We have nailed a very pleasant yet dank scent that is made from true flowering hemp terpenes to ensure we’re keeping it real. CBD for your eyes and ol factory. Dope.

As Alex writes at Weird Universe, “Most of the people who will buy this already have rooms that smell like marijuana.”
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How Joe Strummer got through this interview is anyone’s guess

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Joe Strummer was born on August 21, 1952 in Ankara, Turkey. The music he made in his 50 years on this rock changed damned near everything, speaking of rebellion, love and everything in between. He would have been 67 years old today.

From all reports Joe wasn’t a huge fan of being interviewed and man, I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t thrilled with being interviewed by this fella. Despite constant being talked over, baiting, uninformed questions that no one should have to answer and a number of awkward silences, he managed to make it through this 22 minute interview with grace, calm and dignity. I’m not sure I would have been able to manage it, were I in his shoes. Watching this makes me love him, all the more.

Happy birthday, Joe. Wish you were here.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of John Joe Coffey Read the rest

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