Who is hanging these suicidal teddy bears around LA?

If you live in one of the hipsterer parts of LA (Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Silverlake, Hollywood on a good day) you’ve noticed these mysterious, suicidal? teddy bears hanging from telephone wires.

you said you’d play with me forever

Like the misplaced toys of some enormously tall child or an MLB pitcher’s offspring, Winnie-the-Pooh lookalike teddy bears with pink facemasks (chic!) are popping up through the neighborhood.

But just who would do this…and frankly…why?

Enter Leyla Safai, food truck queen (yup, that pink HeartsChallenger ice cream truck is hers) and half of HeartsRevolution, a JPop-inspired band.

According to the band’s facebook:

This is what you do when you have too much free time on your hands.

Damn hipsters.

It’s unknown what the project is promoting, but probably something viral (doesn’t that mean HIV is a really aggressive form of viral marketing?)

Share & comment if you’ve seen these. Who knows, they may have cameras and can be silently watching and recording us all (ESPECIALLY our bad car singing…)


Google employee: our employees are too smart, ruining Google

When you think of working for Google, you think of sitting on a yoga mats and munching on an organic salad while your coworker cartwheels by to drop off a memo.

they even have foosball!

It seems like heaven while you’re drinking two-day-old coffee at your incredibly uncomfortable gray particleboard desk where your boss just dumped a stack of files that need to be done by the end of the day, right?

According to Avery Pennarun, a Google Fiber engineer, it may not be as great as you think.

Pennarun begins by bragging how smart Google employees are. For any smarter-than-average kid who has had to go through public school, this may seem like a blessing.

But when you get that many smart people in one place—it’s a recipe for disaster.

Pennarun says:

Smart people have a problem, especially (although not only) when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.

Oddly, the smarter someone is, the more confident they will feel in explaining something well past its ability to be explained. Which is frustrating enough if you’re the parent of a smart child who tries to explain everything, and really frustrating if you have an employee that won’t accept blame.

For example: what happens when a project doesn’t work? Google has their share of failures, from Google+ (social network nobody used) to Google Wave (real-time project editing nobody used).

this gives me anxiety just to look at.  also, it’s in swedish

Pennarun explains:

It’s a setup that makes it very easy to describe all your successes (project not canceled) in terms of your team’s greatness, and all your failures (project canceled) in terms of other people’s capriciousness. End users and profitability, for example, rarely enter into it. This project isn’t supposed to be profitable; we benefit whenever people spend more time online. This project doesn’t need to be profitable; we can use it to get more user data. Users are unhappy, but that’s just because they’re change averse. And so on.

Bottom line: according to Google engineers, it’s your damn fault you’re not using their brilliant new product because their brilliant new product is perfect unlike you, flawed human, who simply won’t CHANGE.

Which is ironic, because the types of employees that work at Google, according to Pennarun, are the ones who have the most trouble with change:

If you know all the constraints and weights – with perfect precision – then you can use logic to find the perfect answer. But when you don’t, which is always, there’s a pretty good chance your logic will lead you very, very far astray.
Most people find this out pretty early on in life, because their logic is imperfect and fails them often. But really, really smart computer geek types may not ever find it out. They start off living in a bubble, they isolate themselves because socializing is unpleasant, and, if they get a good job straight out of school, they may never need to leave that bubble. To such people, it may appear that logic actually works, and that they are themselves logical creatures.

Think about it. You go to school. You quietly rise to the top of the class. You prefer working by yourself to working with others. You only have yourself to blame for failure. But you don’t fail because you’re smart and can generally work through whatever comes your way. You’re in your early 20s, you’re out of college, and you’ve never left your tiny island of solitude where the real world doesn’t exist. And now you work at a place with other people who had that exact same upbringing. Your average user is not one of your coworkers across the “campus” from you. It’s a mom in Omaha looking up recipes. It’s a coach in Sheffield looking up the latest World Cup score. It’s an elderly man in Mexico City trying to see what all this fuss is about online. These people don’t care much about a new social network or real-time work-edit program. And you can’t rationalize them away by saying “well, the old man will die soon, the coach isn’t educated enough to use our product and at least we got the mom’s data when she signed up for a Google+ nobody uses”.

Pennarun calls this a curse:

What I have learned, working here, is that smart, successful people are cursed. The curse is confidence. It’s confidence that comes from a lifetime of success after real success, an objectively great job, working at an objectively great company, making a measurably great salary, building products that get millions of users. You must be smart. In fact, you are smart. You can prove it.

Confidence, and eventually arrogance, eventually collides with reality. And the results aren’t pretty.

Ironically, one of the biggest social problems currently reported at work is lack of confidence, also known as Impostor Syndrome. People with confidence try to help people fix their Impostor Syndrome, under the theory that they are in fact as smart as people say they are, and they just need to accept it.

To a really smart person, everything you do is an extension of yourself. A normal person who makes a stupid choice is more likely to admit, “you know what? I failed. I will try something else”. A smart person is more likely to say that everything they did is right and you’re wrong—because their intelligence is validated only by what they do. They grew up knowing they were smart and being told they were smart. Failure is not an option.

Until they reach a crisis where their intelligence is challenged. Then—their whole world just breaks. “Maybe I’m not as smart as everyone says I am?” they wonder. “Maybe I’m stupid. Maybe I’m a phony, working here around all these smart people, pretending to be smart!” That’s Impostor Syndrome.

Screenshot 2014-07-07 09.12.59

you can tell who this affects just by seeing the second result on Google

Impostor Syndrome, or lack of confidence, may be the key to making companies like Google (lots of smart people unwilling to accept blame or admit fault working in one place):

Impostor Syndrome is that voice inside you saying that not everything is as it seems, and it could all be lost in a moment. The people with the problem are the people who can’t hear that voice.

The 20th century was won on a combination of intelligence, improvisation, and guts. One failed without the other. World War II, for example, was won with brilliant military leadership willing to improvise along with “the Greatest Generation” of hardworking soldiers who gave it all. On the contrary, our smartest minds got us into Vietnam, and while we had valiant soldiers, we were unwilling to improvise or stomach the war at home.

When you look at Google, it’s like one big experiment. At few points in history has that much IQ been concentrated in one place for peaceful ends. The result is a constant struggle for a group of smart people to understand the real world.

Screenshot 2014-07-07 09.14.50

for instance, letters aren’t that big in the real world

Makes that gray office desk with the stack of files you should be working on instead of reading this seem a lot better in comparison.

too smart

Mark Cuban talks about his SnapChat Killer, Cyber Dust

“Every spoken word isn’t recorded. Why should your texts be?”

That’s the motto of Cyber Dust. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban on his new messaging app designed to lessen our digital footprint and protect users privacy in ways SnapChat promised to but falls short.

More Details on the startup that is growing now for less than 1 Million:

Cuban took his idea to app developers and launched Cyber Dust to address his privacy concerns. “The minute we hit send on a text we lose control,” says Cuban. “We are all going to have to learn to shrink our digital footprint.”

Yet Cyber Dust is not the only app for ephemeral messages. Snapchat recently added text to its service, after popularizing “selfie” photographs.

Although Cyber Dust has a way to go before reaching Snapchat’s millions of users, Cuban says that his app will appeal to users who are looking for something truly private. “The minute we turn off the server it’s gone forever,” says Cuban.

Cyber Dust does not store messages on hard drives. Snapchat, on the other hand, recently got in trouble with the FTC, saying it misled the public about the extent of its privacy.

Last fall, Snapchat reportedly turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook (FB). Cuban says he told Snapchat they were “crazy” for turning down Facebook. “There’s a lot of things that you can do in your life that transcend money when you don’t have to worry about money.”

Is Bitcoin Really “Real Money”? and will it last?

Joe Nocera in the New York Times points out that the internet needs a digital currency but that the key trait behind bitcoin could be why it doesn’t fulfill that need:

Whenever I read a story about bitcoin, the virtual currency that has been so much in the news these days, I think about a man named Dee Hock. In the early 1970s, Hock created the credit card system that we now know as Visa. Hock was a man who liked to think grandiose thoughts. When it came to Visa, and credit cards in general, Hock used to describe them not just as a way to get a short-term loan but as a new kind of payment system, an exchange of value that was on par with, and that competed with, cash.

As it turns out — and the bitcoin experience is helping to illustrate this — Hock’s description of credit cards was more than a little hyperbolic. Yes, you could now use a small plastic card instead of cash to buy something, but that card had value because it connected both the buyer and the seller to a fiat currency. People trusted it because they believed in their country’s currency and financial institutions. The exchange of value was never the credit card itself; it was still the dollar, the pound, the yen.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is truly a new form of payment system, unconnected to any currency or any government. Its libertarian proponents in Silicon Valley love that about it; they talk about it as a potential disrupter of traditional financial institutions. It has value not because a government has decreed and backed its value — the classic definition of a fiat currency — but because a community of users has decided to give it value. Its current travails, however, suggest that may also be its inherent flaw: that however much we say we mistrust governments and banks, when it comes to our money, we trust them a lot more than we trust some clever lines of computer code.

Larry Kudlow says Bitcoin is not real money:

Venture capitalist Ezra Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal, “without a regulatory framework, credible payment processors — such as PayPal, Dwolla or Square — cannot service bitcoin exchanges. And because payment processors are vital for converting fiat currencies into virtual deposits, bitcoin operators will be forced to move downstream into the black market.” Mr. Galston concludes by asserting that “the bitcoin community must embrace external regulation to ensure that credible vendors may participate in payment processing.”

Hundreds of bitcoin supporters have tweeted attacks at me for arguing that bitcoin is not real money. But historically, money must be a reliable medium of exchange, and a reliable store of value. Bitcoin meets neither of these definitions.
How can you transact using so-called digital money when prices fluctuate by hundreds of dollars in the space of an hour, or less? You might think you bought something for $500. But by the time the retailer processes payment, the so-called digital-currency price drops to $100.

Both buyers and sellers lose big because bitcoin is not a reliable medium of exchange with a dependable store of value. It is backed by nothing but pure speculation. You can’t even hedge it, because there’s no interest rate. You can barely even get a price quote — not for the value of the product being bought or sold, but for the value of the monetary medium of exchange.

Cars playing leapfrog due to ice and snow in Long Island

This shot from Wantagh Long Island shows some of the damage a little snow can cause:

Man loses hair in background of Obama speech

Or at least that is what the optical illusion of these 2 photographs together would have you believe…

Check out these cool McDonald’s in high places

When people around the world think “America”, one of the first things that comes to mind is “McDonald’s”—cheap, cheerful fast food that feeds over 60 million people per day.

To get a handle on that—the UN World Food Programme, which is the “world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security”, feeds 90 million people per year.

Complaining about McDonald’s is as uniquely American as McDonald’s. Take Anna Hess of “Take Part”, who highlights five “culturally ruinous” McDonald’s around the world, (“The Most Shameful McDonald’s Locations Worldwide”) as if Stonehenge was used to build their newest UK outpost.

Hess introduces by saying:

There are no words to describe the utter disappointment a traveler feels when they’re strolling down the Rue de Julien, craving sole meunière and weightless croissants, only to be assaulted by those Golden Arches.

Unless that (American) traveler is blind, they can easily get croissants and baguettes to their heart’s content everywhere but McDonalds—oh wait—at McDonald’s too.

quelle délicieux!

In fact, if you check out McDonald’s menus around the world, you can find some mouthwatering, culturally-appropriate food, from paneer to gazpacho to pitas.

But that doesn’t stem the tide of the writer’s outraged ink.

First stop: McDonald’s in the Louvre. Hess snarks,

Visitors come here from far and wide to enjoy some of the greatest works of art of all time, including the Mona Lisa—and a Le Big Mac with fries, because when in Rome Paris?

At best, it’s a popular café that appeals to the wildly-trafficked museum’s visitors and earns millions for the museum, allowing it to invest in more priceless works of art—at worst, it’s a well-designed Pop Art installation among those hallowed halls.

Next on our tour is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a Milanese shopping center. Hess claims “like all malls, old and new, there’s also a McDonald’s there too.” Somehow, that’s supposed to cheapen this historical mall, as if once malls reach a certain age there’s a rule that certain people can’t afford to eat there.

In Bray, Ireland, there’s a cute little McDonald’s in the town hall. Hess clumsily concludes:

A wyvern, the mythological dragon featured on the Brabazon coat of arms, crowns the outside drinking fountain and is a protector for the town and its hall. But even with such a fierce guardian, Ronald could not be kept at bay.

The McDonald’s in the town hall actually has been named one of the coolest of the franchises, is a tourist destination in itself, and gets high reviews. Once again—only Henn is complaining.

New Hyde Park is home to one of the most unusual McDonald’s in the world—a McMansion. Hyde can’t even muster a kvetch here, claiming:

[this] led to the most elegant American restaurant in the McDonald’s franchise, complete with a glassed-in veranda seating area and a grand staircase.

The building hadn’t been a mansion for over a half a century—and was turned into a restaurant and even a funeral parlor. McDonald’s considered demolishing the dilapidated building but actually saved it—working with the town’s council to preserve the landmark and restore it to its 1926 glory.

downside: no ball pit

And our tour ends at the Piazza della Repubblica in Rome, where a demure McDonald’s exists amongst the columns.

Hess attempts snark again:

The piazza marks the site of the official Roman forum, which dates back to the age of empire; ruins of ancient Roman baths and temples have been uncovered on the south side of the square. Hopefully, a thousand years from now, archaeologists will uncover the ruins of this sacred McDonald’s franchise.

This is anything but holy ground. Considering the amount of blood, guts, vomit and debauchery that the forum saw in its heyday—having a McDonald’s there can’t possibly desecrate it.

Darn it–now I’m hungry.

feeding millions every day isn’t a crime!

Satire about “Marijuana Overdoses” killing Colorado partakers fools social media potheads

The Daily Current is is a satire/fake-news website like The Onion, but with the Onion itself often times being mistaken for real news, it’s copycats fool many more.

Colorado and Washington state approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use in November though statewide ballot measures. Under the new policies pot is legal for adult use, regulated like alcohol and heavily taxed.
One of the principal arguments of legalization advocates was that cannabis has long been considered safer than alcohol and tobacco and was not thought not to cause overdose. But a brave minority tried to warn Coloradans of the drug’s dangers.

“We told everyone this would happen,” says Peter Swindon, president and CEO of local brewer MolsonCoors. “Marijuana is a deadly hardcore drug that causes addiction and destroys lives.
“When was the last time you heard of someone overdosing on beer? All these pro-marijuana groups should be ashamed of themselves. The victims’ blood is on their hands.”

The article is satirizing the people panicking over marijuana legalization. In reality, it is not possible to fatally overdose from cannabis usage.

Even those unfamiliar with the satire website however, needed only to look at some of its other headlines to know it is not real news…

Hoax: Ja Rule Did NOT Leave His Wife For My Male Prison Cellmate

A parody blog called Cream Bmp Daily wrote that the rapper’s wife Aisha Atkins told MTV her husband was dating his male prison mate, and some sloppy blogs picked up the fake story as an actual report.

But Ja Rule quickly took to Twitter to debunk the bogus story.

He tweeted, ”Ok I guess I have to address the idiots these rumors are FALSE LIES made up by some non mf factor website CLOWNS lmao…”

The performer then posted a photo of himself and Atkins flipping off the camera while kissing (see below), along with the message, “Sorry to disappoint all the haters who want the rumors to be true so bad lol. Merry Xmas stupid love Mick&Mal. Lmao.”

Ja Rule was released from jail in May after serving two sentences for illegal gun possession and tax evasion.

Duke Rape Accuser got 5,233% more coverage on false accusation than murder conviction

Crystal Mangum, the stripper who incited a national scandal in 2006 when she falsely accused Duke University lacrosse players of rape has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend, Reginald Daye.

Mangum claimed that she fatally stabbed her boyfriend in self-defense after he threw knives at her, but in interviews before he died, he said that she stabbed him several times, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. The LA Times reports that the jury concluded that photographic and blood evidence didn’t match up with Mangum’s story. Mangum’s criminal history leading to this point became part of the trial:

Prosecutors in the murder case pointed to another incident, in 2010, when Mangum was found guilty of contributing to the abuse of minors in an episode where she trashed Daye’s car and set fire to his clothes.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a more serious arson charge, and she was sentenced to time served.

Her relationship with Daye appears to have been trouble from day one. When Daye’s nephew called 911 the day he was stabbed, the man immediately referred to her notoriety.

“It’s Crystal Mangum. THE Crystal Mangum,” he told the emergency operator. “I told him she was trouble from the damn beginning.”

Daye died in the hospital 10 days later.

Revisiting the Duke scandal:

“You have all been told some fantastic lies, and I look forward to watching them unravel in the weeks to come, as they already have in weeks past…. The truth will come out,” lacrosse player David Evans said after he was indicted.

The case did slowly fall apart as DNA evidence failed to tie Mangum to any of the 46 white players on the team. She eventually recanted her statement and said she was not sure she had been raped, although she insisted some sort of sexual assault had taken place.

In court, defense lawyers revealed that the prosecuting attorney and the lab director had withheld evidence that showed that the DNA on Mangum’s body did not match the defendants, and that it matched other men. The defense claimed that the district attorney who was prosecuting violated police policy by using a photo lineup that showed photos only of lacrosse players and did not mix in other men.

“She was, in effect, given a multiple choice test in which there were no wrong answers,” a defense motion said.

The district attorney withdrew from the case, resigned and was disbarred.

The North Carolina attorney general took over the case, and after a 12-week examination he dropped all charges against the defendants. Evans, who was indicted the day after he graduated from Duke, said the case Mangum brought against him and the other defendants had taken them “to hell and back.”

The intense and extensive coverage of the false story vs the whispers on the conviction highlights a bias in media attention and news reporting:

The story was explosive and politically correct: privileged white lacrosse players at a prestigious college rape underprivileged young black woman. As events developed, three lacrosse players were eventually arrested and charged; the Duke lacrosse coach, Mike Pressler, received threatening phone calls and was forced by Duke to resign; the president of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, suspended the entire lacrosse team for the season; liberal Duke faculty members, the “Group of 88,” signed an advertisement in the Duke Chronicle that reportedly  suggested the rape claims were true; the initial prosecutor, Mike Nifong, was disbarred for his misconduct and convicted of criminal contempt; all charges against the 3 players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were dropped.

Although the rape claims by Mangum were totally false, she was not charged with a crime.

The lacrosse players Finnerty and Seligmann were arrested on Apr. 18, 2006, and charged with rape and kidnapping. In the five days following, Apr. 18 – 22, a Nexis news search of the terms Duke, rape, and lacrosse in “All English Language News,” shows there were 673 news stories, 160 of which were from major television news outlets (and six that were on NPR).

Those 160 major television news outlets included ABC’s World News Tonight, Nightline, Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, the Today show, NBC Nightly News, CNN Live, Fox News, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country and Countdown, and myriad other TV news programs.

The coverage of accusations surrounding Mangum dropped 5,233%:

The big television networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC – and the liberal MSNBC and NPR did not report on Mangum’s murder conviction.

The difference in coverage is noteworthy:  160 stories vs. 3 stories in the first five days of each event. That’s a ratio of 53 to 1, and a difference in coverage of 5,233%.

The television news industry (and NPR) gave 5,233% more coverage to the dubious allegations against the three lacrosse players — which were proven to be completely false and politically charged — than they gave the jury-tried murder conviction of Crystal Mangum, the false accuser.