Monday, 09 December

07:00 EST

How Pranksters Tricked Twitter-Scraping Sites Into Copyright Infringement [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader shares a remarkable story from Fortune's Data Sheet newsletter: The story begins on Dec. 3, when an artist going by @Hannahdouken on Twitter posted an image of hand-drawn text reading, "This site sells STOLEN Artwork, do NOT buy from them!" And asked followers to reply that they wanted the image on a shirt. They were testing a theory. For years, artists posting their work online have found the art turned into t-shirts and other merch without permission or compensation. The theory was that this was being done by automated bots that combed Twitter for images with such enthusiastic replies, and then automatically created merch on sites such as Gearbubble, copthistee, and Teeshirtpublic... Sure enough, automated bots picked up @Hannahdouken's image and placed it on t-shirts... They report that other Twitter users then took the stunt even further, including one who "had a theory: See if he could bait the bots into copyright infringement, and just maybe, a pricey lawsuit." So they produced a drawing of a particularly sassy Mickey Mouse with the caption "This is NOT a parody. We committed copyright infringement and want to be sued by Disney." His version of the stunt succeeded spectacularly. First, the bots came out of the woodwork, drawn by hundreds of tweets from people saying they wanted the image on a t-shirt. Then other artists repeated the trick with infringing images including Pikachu, Mario, and the Coca-Cola logo....

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth" and other Cthulhuian Yuletide classics [Boing Boing]

Oh tidings of madness and woe. Gather 'round the Necronomicon, little cultists, and let's all sing these beloved holiday odes to Elder Gods. All the classics are here: "I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth," "Freddy the Red-Brained Mi-Go," "All I Want for Solstice is my Sanity," and "Awake Ye Scary Old Ones." And who can ever forget that rubber-room holiday favorite "Away in a Madhouse?"

These songs were all created by members of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. You can hear more via this YouTube link.

[H/t Geeks Are Sexy]

I have so many questions about this new video game where you play as Jesus [Boing Boing]

Yes, this is real. Someone actually made a first-person shooter for the New Testament. From the game's Steam page:

"I am Jesus Christ" is a realistic simulator game inspired by stories from the New Testament of the Bible. Get into old times and follow the same path of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Game is covering the period from Baptizing of Jesus Christ and to Resurrection. Have you ever wondered to be like Him - one of the most privileged and powerful people in the world?

Check if you can perform all famous miracles from the Bible like Jesus Christ. It is a simulation game and you can try to save the world as He did. Are you ready to fight with Satan in the desert, exorcising demons and curing sick people? Or calm the storm in the sea?

I have a lot of questions. Like, why is it possible to beat the game without dying? Can you change the outcome of Bible stories, or do you just have to recreate it step by step? Does that mean you get to kick the crap out of a bunch of greedy bankers in the game? Do you actually get to fight Satan, too? Like physically? Does that mean Jesus has attack skills? Are there power-ups to boost the abilities with which you've already been divinely bestowed? Why is Jesus taking Polaroid pictures of everyone he helps? Why isn't Jesus shaking his Polaroid pictures to help them develop before placing them in the Bible? If Jesus made his own picture-book diary as he went about his travels, then why did the Apostles have to write the Bible down 80 years later? And why is everyone white?!

"I Am Jesus Christ" on Steam

06:00 EST

Transcript: NPR's Full Interview With Joe Biden [News : NPR]

Former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to Iowans at Johnson

Morning Edition host Rachel Martin interviews former Vice President Joe Biden aboard his campaign bus about his bid for the Democratic nomination and the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

(Image credit: KC McGinnis for NPR)

Justice Department Watchdog Report On Russia Investigation Due Monday [News : NPR]

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before Congress last year. His report about the Russia investigation is expected on Monday.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz's highly anticipated report about the Russia investigation could offer political ammunition to both Republicans and Democrats.

(Image credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Biden Rejects Calls For Impeachment Testimony As A Trump Ploy To 'Divert Attention' [News : NPR]

In an interview with NPR, the former vice president said no one warned him about the optics of his son working in Ukraine. Biden also defended calling a voter a "damn liar" in Iowa last week.

Democrats' Impeachment Process To Resume Monday — As Will Battles With GOP [News : NPR]

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., hears testimony from constitutional scholars on Dec. 4. His committee is holding a hearing on the intelligence panel

Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., says members must be briefed on the findings of the House Intelligence Committee. Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga., wants a hearing of his own with his own witnesses.

(Image credit: Pool/Getty Images)

05:00 EST

Ten Years of Philosophical Disquisitions [Philosophical Disquisitions]




Once upon a time, I used to mark yearly anniversaries on this blog. I stopped doing that a few years ago but since today is the 10th anniversary of this blog I though I should mark the occasion. For better or worse, this blog has been a major part of my life for the last 10 years. I have published over 1100 posts on it. (This was the first one). The blog itself has received just over 4 million pageviews. At the moment it is averaging about 70,000 pageviews per month. Given the way the internet works, I'm guessing about 90% of those pageviews are robots, but in light of my own stated philosophical views, I guess I shouldn't be too concerned about that!

As I have said before, I don't do any of this in the hope of getting readers. I do it mainly as an outlet for my own curiosity and understanding. That may well sound selfish, but I believe that if I didn't focus on the intrinsically fascinating nature of what I was reading and writing I wouldn't have sustained this for 10 years. Fame and fashion are, after all, fickle things.

That said, I do appreciate the fact that so many people seem to have derived some value from the things I have written on here. It amazes me that even one person has read it, never mind hundreds of thousands.

Anyway, in light of the occasion, here are the ten most popular posts from the past ten years:




The most popular post is the one on intoxicated consent to sexual relations. I guess that says something about what gets popular on the internet. One thing that I find interesting about this list is that the philosophy of religion doesn't feature much on it. This is despite the fact that the majority of the articles I wrote in the first few years were largely focused on that topic.





04:00 EST

Free Software Foundation Offers Benefits and Merchandise In Its Annual Fundraiser [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader writes: The Free Software Foundation is holding its annual fundraiser, with a goal of attracting 600 new members by the end of December. (New members so far: 112.) "We are still fighting the oppressive nature of proprietary software," explains the campaign's web page. "We have made solid inroads, and the community is as passionate as ever." As a 501(c)(3) charity the group's membership dues are all tax deductible, and associate memberships are just $10 a month ($5 for students). They come with special benefits including up to five email aliases in the member.fsf.org domain, eligibility to join the nonprofit Digital Credit Union, free admission to the annual LibrePlanet conference in Boston, and 20% discounts on FSF merchandise and GNU gear (including this delightful stuffed baby gnu). And for its special year-end fundraiser, different levels are also eligible for patches, backpacks, a thermos, and a public thank you at gnu.org. "With your things neatly organized in a backpack covered with patches, and coffee forever to go, you will be ready to fight for freedom!" And finally, they've also created images to share on social media, writing thta "It is not always easy to explain to your neighbor or friend what free software is, or why it is so important. But taking the time to explain it, and motivating the people in your community to think critically about how much control they actually have over their software is the only way to keep our community growing and counter the billions of dollars that proprietary software companies use to strip our user rights."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Watch the trailer for "Wonder Woman 1984" [Boing Boing]

It's not the The New Adventures of Wonder Woman that I grew up with but it does have that Stranger Things/mallwave appeal, and a New Order song. It also has Steve Trevor who most certainly died in the first film but no matter.

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch), RIP [Boing Boing]

Legendary puppeteer Carroll Spinney, who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on Sesame Street, died today. He was 85. Here's the New York Times obituary. And from the Sesame Workshop:

Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending. His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.

In 2018, Spinney retired from Sesame Street. Below is Sesame Workshop's video tribute to him and the following is from a New York Times profile from the time:

Although they had previously crossed paths in the 1960s, Spinney pinpointed a fateful encounter at a Salt Lake City puppeteers’ festival in 1969, when (Muppets creator Jim) Henson watched him try to perform a multimedia show that went gradually awry.

As Spinney recalled, Henson came to him afterward to say, “I liked what you were trying to do.”

Soon after, Henson invited Spinney to play two Muppet characters that were being developed for “Sesame Street,” which made its debut on public television later that year. One was Oscar, who was envisioned as a cranky, trash-loving purple character. (He was orange in his earliest appearances, before taking on his familiar green hue.)

The other was Big Bird, who was performed in a full body costume and who, Spinney said, he was originally asked to play as “a funny, dumb country yokel.”

After a few episodes, Spinney made a suggestion to the show’s producers. “I said, I think I should play him like he’s a child, a surrogate,” he recalled. “He can be all the things that children are. He can learn with the kids.”

top image: "Caroll Spinney with Oscar the Grouch, May 2014" by Neil Grabowsky/Montclair Film Festival (CC BY 2.0)

A gin company already made a sequel to that dystopian Peloton ad [Boing Boing]

Looks like "Grace from Boston" has fallen on some hard times. It's not clear if she's pounding back that smooth Aviation gin during her year-long exercise binge, or after she realizes that her husband's seeming-generosity is actually some terrifying voyeurism. But at least she has some friends looking out for her, right?

(Also, props to this actress and to Aviation gin for getting this out so fast)

01:00 EST

Former Oracle Product Manager Claims He Was Forced Out For Refusing to Sell Vaporware [Slashdot]

A former Oracle employee filed a lawsuit against the database giant on Tuesday claiming that he was forced out for refusing to lie about the functionality of the company's software. The civil complaint, filed on behalf of plaintiff Tayo Daramola in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, contends that Oracle violated whistleblower protections under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, the RICO Act, and the California Labor Code. According to the court filing, Daramola, a resident of Montreal, Canada, worked for Oracle's NetSuite division from November 30, 2016 through October 13, 2017. He served as a project manager for an Oracle cloud service known as the Cloud Campus BookStore initiative and dealt with US customers. Campus bookstores, along with ad agencies, and apparel companies are among the market segments targeted by Oracle and NetSuite. Daramola's clients are said to have included the University of Washington, the University of Oregon, the University of Texas at Austin, Brigham Young University and the University of Southern California. The problem, according to the complaint, is that Oracle was asking Daramola to sell vaporware -- a charge the company denies. "Daramola gradually became aware that a large percentage of the major projects to which he was assigned were in 'escalation' status with customers because Oracle had sold his customers software products it could not deliver, and that were not functional," the complaint says. Daramola realized that his job "was to ratify and promote Oracle's repeated misrepresentations to customers" about the capabilities of its software, "under the premise of managing the customer's expectations." The ostensible purpose of stringing customers along in this manner was to buy time so Oracle could actually implement the capabilities it was selling, the court filing states. As Daramola saw it, his job as project manager thus required him to participate "in a process of affirmative misrepresentation, material omission, and likely fraud." "We don't agree with the allegations," Oracle told The Register "and intend to vigorously defend the matter." The article also notes that in 2016 Oracle faced another whistleblower lawsuit, this one brought by a former senior finance manager at Oracle who'd said her bosses directed her to inflate the company's cloud sales. Oracle settled that lawsuit "while denying any wrongdoing."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sunday, 08 December

22:00 EST

Disney Warns 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Effects Could Cause Seizures [Slashdot]

"The Walt Disney Co. is asking exhibitors worldwide to warn moviegoers that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker may pose a seizure risk to audience members with photosensitive epilepsy," reports Deadline: In an unusual move, Disney has sent a letter to theater owners and operators worldwide with a recommendation that special steps should be taken to alert moviegoers about the visual effects and flashing lights in the J.J. Abrams-directed interstellar adventure. "Out of an abundance of caution," the letter opens, "we recommend that you provide at your venue box office and online, and at other appropriate places where your customers will see it, a notice containing the following information: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker contains several sequences with imagery and sustained flashing lights that may affect those who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or have other photosensitivities." The Burbank-based Disney is also working with the Epilepsy Foundation, which issued an advisory of its own and commended the studio for taking the initiative on the audience safety issue. About 3.4 million Americans have epilepsy and about three percent have photosensitivity issues that puts them at risk of seizures triggered by flashing lights or other visual patterns.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

FIVE HUNDRED AND ONE []

From the Utopian Imagination exhibit, curated by Jaishri Abichandani, plus Lola Flash’s Syzygy I (more here).

20:00 EST

Ohio Neighborhood Temporarily Evacuated Over Misplaced Fears of a Homemade Nuclear Reactor [Slashdot]

"A 911 call Thursday led to a precautionary evacuation of an entire street in a Northwest Side neighborhood in Columbus over concerns about a possible small nuclear reactor and alpha waves reported by a resident who said he sustained burns in his garage on the device," acocrding to the Columbus Dispatch. Slashdot reader k6mfw shared their report: In the end, authorities found no hazard. The man will undergo a mental-health examination and may face charges of inducing a panic. The man, who is in his late 20s or early 30s and who resides on the 6300 block of Chippenhook Court, called 911 about 6:15 p.m. and reported he had been sustained burns from a device he was working on in his garage. Battalion Chief Steve Martin, the Columbus Fire Division's media spokesman, said the man's description of the device suggested he was working on a small nuclear reactor and included references to a particle accelerator and alpha waves. The latter reference led to concerns about potential radiation, he said. Hazmat, bomb squad and other emergency responders -- operating out of an abundance of caution -- evacuated the approximately 40 residences on the cul-de-sac street in the Cranston Commons development while they assessed the situation, Martin said... He said medics determined the man did not appear to be injured, at least not seriously. Radiation level checks were conducted on the man and then at the residence and nothing was found, Martin said. A nuclear specialist brought to the scene found in the garage what was identified as a homemade capacitor, Martin said. A capacitor is a device that consists of two or more separate conducting plates and is used to store an electric charge, not unlike a battery. After it was determined there was no threat, residents were allowed to return to their homes at 9:20 p.m. Depending on the evaluation and further investigation, it is possible the man will be criminally charged with inducing a panic, Martin said. Only one injury was reported: a firefighter in a hazmat suit was injured when he unepectedly came off a curb and twisted his ankle, Martin said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

As the end nears for Yahoo Groups, Verizon pulls out all the stops to keep archivists from preserving them [Boing Boing]

We only have a few days left until Verizon kills off Yahoo Groups, and the volunteer archivists who've been battling with the company to preserve its legacy have just been dealt a crushing blow.

From the Yahoo Groups Crusade Headquarters: "The Archive Team (who is working with to save content to upload to the Internet Archive) was again blocked by Yahoo. The block is wiping out the past month of work done by hundreds of volunteers. This info was reported on their IRC channel."

Yahoo banned all the email addresses that the Archive Team volunteers had been using to join Yahoo Groups in order to download data. Verizon has also made it impossible for the Archive Team to continue using semi-automated scripts to join Yahoo Groups – which means each group must be re-joined one by one, an impossible task (redo the work of the past 4 weeks over the next 10 days)

On top of that, something Yahoo did has killed the last third party tool that users and owners have been using to access their messages, photos and files. (PGOlffine).. Note: not everyone who paid for the PGOffline license is being impacted by the problem. but the developer does not have a workaround. Here is their post about it.

Yahoo’s own data tools do not provide Group Photos and, as in my case, for two IDs I keep getting the data from another Yahoo account.

VERIZON / YAHOO! BAD FORM! [featheredleader/Yahoo Groups Crusade Headquarters]

(Thanks, Kelly Lewis)

Church nativity scene puts the holy family in cages, because that's how America deals with asylum-seekers like Christ [Boing Boing]

Jesus and his fam were refugees, so it's only fitting that the folks at Claremont United Methodist Church decided to put its nativity figures in cages behind razorwire.

As Rev Karen Clark Ristine said, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were "the most well-known refugee family in the world. What if this family sought refuge in our country today? Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus no older than two taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center."

A separate nativity inside the church reunites the family. Nearly 70,000 children were imprisoned by the US government for seeking asylum in 2019.

(Thanks, Kathy Padilla!)

Dang, that’s not an inaccurate picture of how the immune system works [Pharyngula]

Although it is missing the giant cleaner emerging out of the alley to gulp down the corpse & virus. Our immune system is almost as ruthless and brutal as the Florida police.


By the way, the Florida police:

I would never have thought of using a car full of kids to hide behind. Brilliant tactics.

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