The UK’s Most Disappointing New Visitor Attraction 

Friday, August 21st, 2015

I’ve always found guerrilla artist Banksy interesting enough, particularly when selling his own pieces as fakes. However, his new creation is really something else. Over in England, he’s created a dystopian theme park named Dismaland, and it’ll be open to the public for the next month. Christopher Jobson reports in detail:

The event has all the hallmark details of a traditional Banksy event from a shroud of ultimate secrecy (the event area was plastered in notices designating it as filming location for a movie titled Gray Fox) to general themes of apocalypse, anti-consumerism, and anti-corporate messages. However there’s one major deviation: the emphasis of Dismalanded is largely on other artists’ work instead of Banksy himself.

This trippy piece alone is enough to make me jealous of those who can go:

Ariel, Sort Of
Do not adjust your eyeballs.

I have to imagine Disney’s lawyers will be all over this whole thing. Heck, the park even bans them (“The following items are strictly prohibited: knives, spray cans, illegal drugs, and lawyers from the Walt Disney corporation.”). If you have a chance to go, it definitely seems worth it.

Pretty Damned Good for Around a Thousand Pixels

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Back in October, I wrote about Square Cash, my favorite service for both exchanging money with friends as well as being amused by the imagined negotiating process of an complete moron. Last year’s post provided me with a brief trickle of $1 referral bonuses, netting me something like $18, so naturally I’ve been itching for another chance to write about Square Cash. Square has since upped their referral bonus to $5 for both sides, so, ya know: Sign up for Square Cash and get yourself a Lincoln.1

Anyhow, the Square Cash iPhone app was recently updated to include support for the Apple Watch. Our glorious future truly has arrived, because it’s now possible to send money to your friends right from your wrist. Open the app and tap your desired recipient to see a screen like this:

The Apple Watch Square Cash app
“Select Amounts” is kind of a weird instruction.

To send cash, you tap the relevant bills to add up to the desired whole number (no change!) you wish to send, then tap “Pay”. Within seconds, and without any further verification or chance of cancelling, your money will be flying off to someone else’s bank account. As your money wings away, there’s even a ridiculous animated image of dollar bills fluttering down.

The Apple Watch Square Cash app
No matter how long you stare at this image, it won’t move, because it’s just a still. Feel free to cash $PBones to see the full animated version though.

I’ve previously written that you do not have to make an Apple Watch app. However, good third-party apps for the watch are certainly possible.2 The Square Cash watch app is definitely well made, and it offers functionality I’ll describe as at least potentially useful, which means it’s better than most Apple Watch apps to date. Perhaps the best thing the Square Cash Apple Watch app does, however, is advance the cause of gender equality.

Allow me to back up slightly. You may have seen a recent push to put Harriet Tubman on America’s $20 bill, fully replacing Andrew Jackson. Hey, according to this article, Old Hickory might not have minded the change:

[Jackson] also hated paper currency and vetoed the reauthorization of the Second Bank of the United States, a predecessor of the Federal Reserve.

This proposed change has also led to other women being considered for placement on American currency, and it appears that the next re-design of the $10 bill will at least provide Alexander Hamilton with a female co-star. That’s some progress, at least, but the idea of placing Harriet Tubman on the $20 has also laid bare some incredible stupidity. Take a deep breath and try to absorb this:

Jimmy's Stupid Comment
I think it’s the exclamation point that really gets me.

Oh jeez. I honestly try to avoid highlighting this sort of depressing idiocy. I figure it’s best to let it die quietly in the dark, rather than than live and spread in the light. Some things are just so feebleminded that they must be skewered, however, and this is one of those things. So, how dumb are you, Jimmy Pecoul? Let me count the ways.

A list of the ways in which Jimmy Pecoul has shown off his ignorance, in increasing order of stupidity

  • Problem #1: Thinking that only presidents belong on our banknotes

    While this is wrong, I wouldn’t be surprised if a not-insignificant number of people believe this, and think that both Alexander Hamilton (on the $10 bill) and Benjamin Franklin (on the $100 bill) were presidents.

  • Problem #2: Mistaking Harriet Tubman for Rosa Parks

    These are two entirely different woman, who are famous for their work winning progress in different areas (abolitionism for Harriet Tubman and civil rights activism for Rosa Parks), and who were active nearly a full century apart.

  • Problem #3: Having no understanding of what Rosa Parks did

    Rosa Parks did not “stand up to bullies on a bus”. Rosa Parks defied a despicable law and set off the Montgomery bus boycott, which helped bring about the end of segregation in America.

  • Stupidity #4: Thinking he’ll stop using $20 bills

    I like to imagine how this might go. Jimmy would have to avoid just about every ATM in America, for one thing. The interactions with cashiers, waiters, bartenders and the like ought to be something to see as well. I’d give him a week managing to boycott the bill, and that’s being generous.

  • Stupidity #5: Believing that “most” people will stop using the $20 bill

    I doubt even one person in the entire country would stop using yuppie singles if the picture on them changed from Jackson to Tubman. Most? MOST? Jesus Crist.

We’ll just ignore the incredibly foolish acts of posting this publicly to Facebook for the whole world to snigger at, as well as thinking anyone gives a single good goddamn what his “vote” is on this matter, because if we don’t my head might explode. Let’s get back to Harriet Tubman and Square Cash (Square Cash!). Have another look at the buttons for selecting the amount of money you wish to send:

The Apple Watch Square Cash app's buttons

Each button features a pretty good portrait of the corresponding man who appears on that denomination’s bill, but Andrew Jackson on the $20 doesn’t look quite right.

The face on Square Cash's $20 bill

Of course, that’s not Andrew Jackson at all — it’s Harriet Tubman! The image appears to be based on an 1895 portrait of Mrs. Tubman which is part of the collection of America’s National Portrait Gallery. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Pixel Tubman and Photo Tubman, side by side

And here it is, blown up:

Enlarged Pixel Tubman and Photo Tubman, side by side
The pixel version has managed to turn that dour frown upside down.

Not bad! Lest you have any lingering doubt as to the true identity of this image, Square has confirmed that the image does indeed represent Tubman, with a spokesman stating “We put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill because she is an American hero”. Well done. It’s a small gesture, but it’s a good one nonetheless.


Update (August 20th, 2015): Square’s creative director Robert Anderson used his own accidental invention (the @-reply) to link me to a higher resolution version of the Tubman image. He also confirmed that the 1895 portrait seen above was indeed the inspiration for the cartoon version. Neat!

A higher-res $20 Tubman
A higher-res Tubman Twenty


Footnotes:

  1. The bill, not the McConaughey-endorsed vehicle. ↩︎

  2. I should note that the Apple Watch app from USAA has been updated since I mocked it in that post. Now, in addition to showing your account balance (and allowing you to refresh that account balance), the app will show any transactions from the last seven days. That’s actually mildly useful! ↩︎

Early Notes on the Ashley Madison Hack 

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Over at The Awl, John Herman writes about the Ashley Madison hack. The data from this hack appears to be close to being easily searchable by the public, and while the consequences of that have been joked about, they deserve closer consideration:

I’m not sure anyone is really reckoning with how big this could be, yet. If the data becomes as public and available as seems likely right now, we’re talking about tens of millions of people who will be publicly confronted with choices they thought they made in private…Here were millions of people expecting the highest level of privacy that the commercial web could offer as they conducted business they likely wanted to keep between two people (even if a great number of the emails are junk, or attached to casual gawkers, the leak claims to contain nine million transaction records). This hack could be ruinous—personally, professionally, financially—for them and their families.

While it would be easy to say that the people who used this site deserve whatever happens, the fallout from this hack will affect far more than just the users and the implications for the future are also well-worth considering.

Unlikely to Be a Viable Alternative 

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Police departments in Canada and the US are experimenting with a new, less-than-lethal use-of-force option. A device called “The Alternative” allows an officer to fire a single shot gun which may take down a suspect, without killing them. If the shot fails to take down the suspect, the officer’s gun returns to its normal, lethal state.

It’s an interesting enough idea, and the physics of the device itself seem practical. However, it’s difficult to imagine officers attaching the device to their service weapon in the middle of a confrontation. Perhaps even less likely is police departments adopting a device nicknamed the “Clown Gun”.

The Clown Gun Explained
The silver ball was originally bright orange and resembled a clown’s nose.

How to Win Contests and Influence Mexican Soap Stars 

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Hunter Scott won a whole lot of contests via Twitter, all thanks to a bot.

My favorite thing that I won was a cowboy hat autographed by the stars of a Mexican soap opera that I had never heard of.

Few of the prizes were valuable, but the whole experiment is amusing, and that’s worth something.

Chicago Falcons 

Friday, August 14th, 2015

If you want to see ridiculous good photos of peregrine falcons living on a balcony in Chicago, look no further.

Peregrine Stalking Image
Peregrine Falcon on Patrol

You Reap What You Sow 

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Megyn Kelly is getting the short end of the stick from her network as they work to sooth the hurt feelings of one Donald Trump. It’s a deplorable situation all around, but at the same time, what did Kelly expect when she went to work for Fox “News”?

Please Report to the Principal’s Office

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Speaking of anxiety-inducing email subject lines, here’s a doozie:

  • A chat about your bad photos?

When Apple removed the Camera Roll feature of iOS, I briefly used an app called MyRoll. Now, the company is emailing me about a new app called Gallery Doctor, which claims to identify and help you remove bad photos, thereby saving you space on your iPhone. That’s great and all, but how about an uplifting introduction, instead of an email that feels like it’s chastizing me?

There Is, of Course, No Gun 

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Michael Heald has written an incredible story of running a half-marathon behind the walls of Oregon State Penitentiary, where the phrase “The Wall” takes on a very different meaning.

Unwelcome and Superfluous 

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Writer Ralph Jones gets a lot of press releases. Recently, he started replying to all of them with the phrase “I love you”.