Author Archive | majestic

The (Unintentional) Amazon Guide to Dealing Drugs

Some fantastic data mining detective work is revealed by Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic:

One day, some drug dealer bought a particular digital scale—the AWS-100— on the retail site, Amazon.com. And then another drug dealer bought the same scale. Then another. Then another.

Amazon’s data-tracking software watched what else these people purchased, and now, if you buy the AWS-100 scale, Amazon serves up a quickstart kit for selling drugs.

Amazon drug list

Along with various scale-related paraphernalia, we find:

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Philatelists’ Delight? The Gay Bondage Stamps of Finland

Courtesy Itella Posti Oy; original image: Tom of Finland Foundation

Courtesy Itella Posti Oy; original image: Tom of Finland Foundation

You have to hand it to the Finns: they may have singlehandedly created a whole new generation of philatelists. Slate reports on the new gay bondage stamps designed by Tom of Finland:

The United States has some pretty cool stamps and, once the Harvey Milk stamp is released next month, at least one commemorating an openly LGBTQ American. But it’s difficult to imagine a future where America’s stamps are as amazingly, graphically gay as Finland’s. This fall, the country will begin selling stamps that feature the “confident and proud homoeroticism” of Tom of Finland, an artist renowned as “beyond question the most influential creator of gay pornographic illustration.”

Itella Posti Oy, the Finnish equivalent of U.S.P.S., boasts that Tom of Finland—also known as Touko Laaksonen—is “considered one of the most well-known Finnish artists around the world”:

His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion.

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Cosmos: Creationist Version

If you’ve been watching the new version of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, now presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson, you’ll have noticed that Tyson goes out of his way to put down creationism’s idea that the universe is 6,000 years old, evolution is false, etc. It’s not exactly balanced in its approach, so Funny or Die decided to set that right and make a creationist version of Cosmos:

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Watch The Moon Turn Red – Tonight!

While it is true that the Moon will appear red in the Western Hemisphere, tonight is a bit of a stretch: it should take place roughly between 3 AM and 5 AM EST tomorrow morning, April 15th. Caused by the Earth, moon and sun aligning, the resulting full-lunar eclipse will give the Moon a red hue. Enjoy it if you can stay awake (or you’re in a more conducive time zone)!

The November 2003 Red Moon. Photo: Oliver Stein (CC)

The November 2003 Red Moon. Photo: Oliver Stein (CC)

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How To Escape From Scientology’s Sea Org

2008 06 Sea Arrrgh - I Joined the Sea OrgIt’s supposed to be near-impossible to leave the “church” of Scientology’s elite paramilitary offshoot Sea Org, but Vocativ reports that Jillian Schlesinger found a way:

On the morning that 29-year-old Jillian Schlesinger finally decided to leave the Church of Scientology, she awoke early and wondered whether she was losing her mind. Was she about to do something she’d always regret? A native Californian, she’d spent most of her life in the church. Her parents were Scientologists, as were her friends—basically everyone she knew. If she left, they’d disown her. On the other hand, if she stayed, her misery would continue. Either way, Schlesinger knew her escape attempt would change her life forever.

She was not just a member of the church, she was part of its elite, the Sea Organization, Scientology’s management body of members who sign contracts promising to serve the group for a billion years. She lived at Scientology’s big blue West Coast headquarters on Sunset Boulevard, known as the Pacific Area Command, or PAC Base.

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Have an Out-of-Body Experience (OOBE) – NOW!

Doubles2xUnless you’re one of those few people who have spontaneous Out of Body Experiences (OOBEs), you need some help to get there. The Kernel reveals how:

You can have an out of body experience right now, and it isn’t even that hard. Some people can do it more easily than others, and it may take a little practice. But it is something that anybody can do, and it can be done scientifically.

SENSES AND THE SELF
Let’s start with a question: Where do you feel like the center of your “self” is right now? Most people feel like the center of their consciousness—the vantage from which they are experiencing the world—is somewhere behind their eyes. This makes sense: Your eyes are there, your ears are there, and even your mouth and your nose are there. Four out of five of your senses are all focused in a single area, so it’s no surprise that you feel like the center of your self is “in your head.”

Although both philosophers and scientists are still developing theories about exactly what our sense of self is really for, they all agree that it plays a key role in organizing all of the information that comes in through our senses.

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Jesus’s Wife Manuscript Genuine

Papyrus fragment: front. Karen L. King 2012

Papyrus fragment: front. Karen L. King 2012

A couple of years ago Harvard University Divinity professor Karen L. King caused a furore in certain circles by revealing an ancient papyrus fragment that actually refers to Jesus having a wife. The Boston Globe now reports that the papyrus checks out and is not a forgery:

New scientific tests have turned up no evidence of modern forgery in a text written on ancient Egyptian papyrus that refers to Jesus as being married, according to a long-awaited article to be published Thursday in the Harvard Theological Review.

The findings support the argument of Harvard professor Karen L. King that the controversial text, the first-known explicit reference to a married Jesus, is almost certainly an authentic document.

The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” was introduced to the world by King at a conference in Rome 18 months ago. The announcement made headlines around the world, and many of King’s academic peers, as well as the Vatican newspaper, swiftly dismissed it as a fake.

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Federal Government Seizes Cattle In Nevada: Battle About to Commence?

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.09.05 AMIt’s probably not going to be a disaster on the scale of Waco or Ruby Ridge, but the US Government’s Bureau of Land Management has a real battle on its hands in Nevada and the usual suspects (e.g. Glenn Beck’s The Blaze) are making an awful lot of noise about it. Report from UPI:

The federal Bureau of Land Management has moved to round up 900 of Cliven Bundy’s cattle, causing an outcry over government overreach.

Bundy, 68, has been in a two-decade battle with the BLM over allowing his cattle to graze on public lands that surround his farm without paying grazing fees. The BLM finally decided to round up and seize the cattle, and closed the land until May 12 to give them time to get all the beef cows.

The herd has grown since 1993 and Bundy flatly refuses to pay the grazing fees, saying the family has been there since since 1870, well before the creation of the BLM in 1946.

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Fracking Linked To Increase In Oklahoma Earthquakes

page1-311px-United_States_Shale_gas_plays,_May_2011To no one’s great surprise, scientists have linked the elevated seismic activity in Oklahoma to increased oil and gas exploration, especially hydraulic fracturing (a/k/a tracking). From the Independent:

Between 1975 and 2008, Oklahoma recorded an average of no more than six earthquakes per year, yet now it is the second most seismically active of the contiguous United States, beaten only by California. Scientists have linked this surge in seismic activity to a parallel increase in oil and gas exploration, including fracking.

In 2009, there were almost 50 quakes in Oklahoma. The following year, that number leapt to more than 1,000. Most were not “felt” earthquakes – those of magnitude 2.5 and above, which can be detected by humans. However, the state’s annual record of 222 felt quakes, set in 2013, has already been broken this year, with 253 so far. Seismologist Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey told Reuters: “We have had almost as many magnitude 3 and greater already in 2014 than we did for all of 2013… We have already crushed last year’s record for number of earthquakes.”

Earthquakes rarely cause damage unless they are of magnitude 4 or higher.

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Why Street Protests Don’t Work

Demonstrations and protests 1212“How can so many demonstrations accomplish so little?” asks Moses Naim at The Atlantic:

Street protests are in. From Bangkok to Caracas, and Madrid to Moscow, these days not a week goes by without news that a massive crowd has amassed in the streets of another of the world’s big cities. The reasons for the protests vary (bad and too-costly public transport or education, the plan to raze a park, police abuse, etc.). Often, the grievance quickly expands to include a repudiation of the government, or its head, or more general denunciations of corruption and economic inequality.

Aerial photos of the anti-government marches routinely show an intimidating sea of people furiously demanding change. And yet, it is surprising how little these crowds achieve. The fervent political energy on the ground is hugely disproportionate to the practical results of these demonstrations.

Notable exceptions of course exist: In Egypt, Tunisia, and Ukraine, street protests actually contributed to the overthrow of the government.

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