Previous “Links” posts

How Do You Do, Fellow Kids? 

I only just now noticed that Lenny Wosniak has not one, but two, skateboards.

It was funny when “21 Jump Street” sent 20-somethings back to high school. It was even funnier when “30 Rock” parodied that.1 But when a near 30-year-old in New Jersey does it, it’s just odd.

A 2017 picture of the criminal

Even in a photo from 2017, this woman did not look 14. I am very curious to know why she did this, and how she thought she’d get away with it.


Footnotes:

  1. The video is archived here. ↩︎

Chattin’ With Apes 

“Tearing strips from a leaf with teeth is a…gesture of flirtation.”

Have you ever wanted to talk to a chimpanzee or a bonobo? You might just be able to.

Humans share elements of a common language with other apes, understanding many gestures that wild chimps and bonobos use to communicate.

Various ape gestures, shown visually

Now if we could just figure out the gesture for “Please don’t rip my face off”.

Jailbreaking Metal 

Fortunately, we’re still a ways off from the T-1000.

Do you want terminators? Because this is how you get terminators!

In a cheeky video featuring some strong T2 callbacks, a Lego man-shaped mold of the magnetoactive solid-liquid can even be seen liquifying and moving through tiny jail cell bars before reforming into its original structure. If that last part seems a bit impossible, well, it is. For now.

“There is some context to the video. It [looks] like magic,” Carmel Majidi, a senior author and mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon, explains to PopSci with a laugh. According [to] Majidi, everything leading up to the model’s reformation is as it appears—the shape does liquify before being drawn through the mesh barrier via alternating electromagnetic currents. From there, however, someone pauses the camera to recast the mold into its original shape.

If a robot can melt itself to escape, but it can’t reform into a solid, we’re probably pretty safe from it. Maybe scientists can stop there.

Continued Improvements in Blood Donor Screening 

We’ll get there.

For as long as I have been donating platelets (a specialized form of donating blood), there have been restrictions on donations by men who have sex with other men. Though these limits were enacted during the AIDS crisis in the ’80s, when I began donating in 2005, any man who’d ever had sex with another man was still barred from donating. This was eventually softened, with the rules prohibiting “only” men who’d had sex with another man in the past year, and eventually down to the past three months.

Going from “The government views your blood as permanently tainted” to “Fine, we’ll take you, as long as you have a lousy sex life” is an improvement, yes, but it’s still not great. With new rule changes from the FDA, however, we should be getting a bit closer to a reasonable standard.

The new risk assessment is expected to ask potential donors, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, if they have had any new sexual partners in the past three months…They can give blood if they say no. Those who have had new sexual partners would be asked if they had engaged in anal intercourse in the past three months; those who have would be asked to wait three months to donate.…This will allow sexually active men in monogamous relationships with other men to give blood for the first time since 1985.

Each and every time I’ve filled out my screening questionnaire, I’ve been bothered by the unnecessary limitations on others trying to do something selfless. Concern about the safety of America’s blood supply was understandable, but previous restrictions were inconsistent, and advances in testing were slow to be incorporated into the rules.1 I’m glad to see improvements continuing to be made.


Footnotes:

  1. As nursing student and activist Cole Williams bluntly noted in the article, “I could have as much unprotected sex with as many women as I wanted, and the FDA would have no problem with that.” ↩︎

This Might Not Actually Mean Very Much 

This is a cheap shot and I don’t care a whit.

ChatGPT is an artificially intelligent chatbot that uses massive language models to appear very knowledgeable about many topics. The general public has had access to it for a couple months now, and the results it’s produced are often impressive, or at least amusing. Recently, I saw the headline “ChatGPT passes MBA exam given by a Wharton professor”.

Now, that might sound impressive, but let’s bear in mind that Donald Trump also managed to graduate from Wharton. So, the bar may not be very high.


Update (January 27, 2023): See also “Law school exam” and “Rudy Giuliani”.

The Lights Remain On 

“Make technology an addition to your setup, not a dependency” is very good advice.

Well, this is just re-goddamned-diculous:

The lights at Massachusetts’ Minnechaug Regional High School burn ever bright. They actually never turn off. They can’t turn off. The smart lighting system for the entire building is broken, and it’s stuck in the “on” position. It has apparently been this way for over a year now, and the electric bills are really starting to pile up.

The original design of this system was very bad, and its designers ought to be ashamed of themselves.

You Can’t Get Away With Defrauding a Dog 

Can you get any lower?

I first wrote about George Santos, the ludicrous liar elected to the US House of Representatives out of New York’s 3rd congressional district, last month. Since then, the list of his falsehoods has continued to grow. Alas, to date, there has been precious little in the way of consequences.

But surely, surely, society won’t put up with a man who stole $3,000 from a cancer-stricken dog, right? Particularly not given that the dog belonged to a homeless veteran? Please?

Monorail! 

It really is a fantastic episode.

In the early ’90s, before Conan O’Brien was Conan O’Brien, he was a staff writer for “The Simpsons”. While there, he led the creation of one of the greatest episodes of all time, “Marge vs. the Monorail”. Three decades later, friend-of-the-site Oliver Y. tipped me off to the Ringer’s excellent look at how the episode came to be.

A Canine for Wildlife 

Who knew this was a job?

Though some dogs might appear distressed to be sniffing poo in the name of science, others revel in it. Down in Australia, Max the English springer spaniel is tracking down koalas by the scent of their scat. By all accounts, he loves his job.

“It’s very hard to be down in the dumps when you have a dog who’s looking so joyous and having such fun doing what he’s asked to do.”

Good boy, Max!

Extremely Low Paid Data Collectors 

Surely that $30 is below minimum wage.

Would you like a free robot vacuum cleaning your house for a few weeks? That sounds pretty good. What if, on top of that, you received $30 to $120? Amazing! Oh, and your naked ass might wind up on the internet? But still, $30!