Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Quick Hits: January 27, 2016

More highlights.

THE DRAGNET: How a man accused of million-dollar fraud uncovered a never before seen, secret surveillance device

"On May 6th, 2008, a package containing $68,000 in cash arrived at a FedEx store in Palo Alto, California. The bills had been washed in lantern fuel, as per instruction, then double-vacuum-sealed and placed inside the cavity of a stuffed animal, which was then gift wrapped. The store had been chosen carefully: it was open all night, and located just 500 feet from a Caltrain station. The package was general delivery, to be picked up at the store by a man named Patrick Stout. 
The money was being closely watched. The package had been prepared by a criminal informant, working in cooperation with a joint task force of agents from the FBI, IRS, and US Postal Service, who were investigating a tax fraud scheme. The informant had been arrested and flipped months earlier, betrayed by yet another informant. Now they were after the mastermind."
Really fascinating story about how use of the Stingray surveillance device was being used (illegally, without warrant) by law enforcement.

I have a job and a house. I can vote and join the military. Why can’t I drink?

"I'm a 19-year-old loose in Pittsburgh, living on my own, working in an industrial apprenticeship with a great company. Instead of college — too expensive, too much time, too little payoff — I'm attending a liberal arts academy online. I drive, pay bills, make meals, and have a social life. Yes, I'm trying out adulthood, and mostly succeeding. 
But there is one huge hangup. The law doesn't allow me to buy anything alcoholic: not in stores, not at bars, not anywhere. No beer, no wine, and certainly not my favorite drink, which is bourbon. In almost every area of life, I'm expected to be an adult. In this one area, I'm not allowed to behave like an adult."
Op-ed by a teenager questioning the strange U.S. phenomena of a 21 year old drinking age; a place where "Prohibition still applies to us [18-21 year olds]".

How To Tell Whether "Antique" Furniture Is Really Antique

Just an interesting video on dating antique furniture.

"The video above provides a great introduction to dating antique furniture and what areas should be examined. Take note of the shape of the screws used to hold the furniture together. Are they tapered and pointed with smooth grooves, or are the ends cut and the slots offset? Any combination of these features can help place the age of the furniture. Nails are also a strong indicator of age, as cut nails weren't replaced in construction until the 1880s.  
Examine any locks and look for file marks or any signs of irregularity, which would indicate something that was handmade and therefore probably older. Check out the condition of the finish on the exterior as well as the drawers. Look for areas that have been worn down or replaced.  
Lastly, compare the design of the furniture to other pieces from the same period. Glaring differences are suspect, and a signal that this particular piece might not be what it seems."

Un-PC Lego Making Toys Girls Like

"Lego — the company that makes stackable toy bricks — has become a toy powerhouse in recent years, even surpassing Mattel in toy sales during 2014. Lego has become so popular, in fact, that the company has problems avoiding “brick shortages.” 
Lego’s success has been helped along by the fact that — finally — Lego has managed to find success with girls." 
"Perhaps predictably, Lego has been condemned by feminists and culture warriors for making Lego too “girly.” Those familiar with the Friends line already know how, instead of red and blue bricks for making fire stations, the new line designed for girls features purple and pink blocks (among other colors) for constructing yachts, homes, and restaurants."
Explaining why claiming that a toy is too "boyish" or "girly" makes no sense if it is selling well (very well) to its targeted demographic.

Not all boys like trucks or girls like dolls, but a large percentage of each do and it is not wrong or amoral to sell to children what they prefer. Along the same vein, is it wrong to target yoga pants for women or baggy cargo shorts for men? Shouldn't they advertise and create product equally across genders? Sure there are men who like the snug feel of leggings and women who prefer the utility of cargo pockets, but a large majority of each would not buy these products. If companies were forced to market and product products equally, they would lost a lot more money and be less efficient.

The 4 Tech Trends That Will Explode in 2016

"1. Virtual reality: The world of virtual reality has been blossoming for years, but in 2016, it will go big on a mass commercial scale." 
"2. Consolidation tools: Devices or software that can help improve both business and individual productivity will explode this year." 
"3. Increased security solutions: From identity theft and data privacy to counter-terrorism efforts, improved security tech will remain an area of tremendous growth and focus in the coming year." 
"4. Conversion of aggregate data into useful information: It's one thing to possess data, but it's quite another to access the right data and make it useful to leverage."
Sure it's fun to read these lists, but more fun is to go back and see if their predictions were correct. Hopefully I'll remember to check back and review this list next year.

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