Disney goes high-tech with new wristband

Compliments of Wired

imagine how the world will look in just a few years, once our cell phones become the keepers of both our money and identity, skip Silicon Valley and book a ticket to Orlando. Go to Disney World. Then, reserve a meal at a restaurant called Be Our Guest, using the Disney World app to order your food in advance.

The restaurant lies beyond a gate of huge fiberglass boulders, painstakingly airbrushed to look like crumbling remnants of the past. Crossing a cartoon-like drawbridge, you see the parapets of a castle rising beyond a snow-dusted ridge, both rendered in miniature to appear far away. The Gothic-styled entrance is teensy. Such pint-sized intimacy is a psychological hack invented by Walt Disney himself to make visitors feel larger than their everyday selves. It works. You feel like you’re stepping across the pages of a storybook.

If you’re wearing your Disney MagicBand and you’ve made a reservation, a host will greet you at the drawbridge and already know your name—Welcome Mr. Tanner! She’ll be followed by another smiling person—Sit anywhere you like! Neither will mention that, by some mysterious power, your food will find you.

“It’s like magic!” a woman says to her family as they sit. “How do they find our table?” The dining hall, inspired by Beauty and the Beast, features Baroque details but feels like a large, orderly cafeteria. The couple’s young son flits around the table, like a moth. After a few minutes, he settles into his chair without actually sitting down, as kids often do. Soon, their food arrives exactly as promised, delivered by a smiling young man pushing an ornately carved serving cart that resembles a display case at an old museum.

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AT&T still throttling unlimited data

Compliments of Arstechnica 

How long will AT&T continue to get away with throttling unlimited data plans? Even after the Federal Communications Commission’s recent net neutrality ruling banned throttling, the FCC isn’t saying whether it will put a stop to it.

All major US cellular carriers impose some form of throttling on unlimited data plans, but AT&T’s throttling seems most likely to fall afoul of the FCC’s rules. The big carriers generally reserve the right to slow down data speeds for customers with unlimited data plans after they hit a certain usage threshold each month, but they only do the actual throttling when the user is connected to a congested tower. AT&T, on the other hand, slows its unlimited LTE users down for the rest of the month once they’ve hit a 5GB threshold, and the throttling happens at all hours of the day and in all locations regardless of whether the user is connected to a congested tower.

More than any other throttling policy enforced by a major carrier, this one seems designed to push customers with grandfathered unlimited data plans onto newer, more expensive plans that charge automatic overage fees when customers go over their caps.

AT&T claims it will change its system sometime in 2015 so that it will throttle unlimited LTE plans only in times and places of congestion, but it’s fighting against government attempts to make it stop right away. AT&T is facing a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit over the practice butclaims the FTC lacks jurisdiction. The FTC argued in a new court filing this week that AT&T is wrong.

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Colorado Cannabis Sales raises over 2.3 million dollar for schools

Compliments of the Cannabist 

Colorado pot businesses sold a record amount of marijuana in January, resulting in an excise tax of nearly $2.35 million designated for public schools, state officials said Wednesday. Based on the Colorado Department of Revenue data, around $36.4 million of recreational marijuana was sold this January, compared with about $14.69 million sold the same month last year.

“This is really what we expected and hope to see: a shift in the underground market to a regulated market,” said legalization advocate Mason Tvert. “It’s clearly generating significant revenue for the state.”

Tvert said that because most pot shops didn’t start opening until later in 2014, looking at sales numbers from this year to last might not be the best comparison. From here on out, he said he expects the amount of revenue to continue to grow, fluctuating with the ebb and flow of tourists.

Euflora, a recreational dispensary, opened on Denver’s 16th Street Mall in April.

Another Euflora location opened in Aurora in October, and a second Aurora store is opening next month.

In contrast to the statewide data, Euflora owner Jamie Perino said January was one of the 16th Street Mall location’s slowest months for sales but one of the Aurora store’s best.

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US Senate committee advances cybersecurity bill

Compliments of The Guardian 

The Senate intelligence committee advanced a priority bill for the National Security Agency on Thursday afternoon, approving long-stalled cybersecurity legislation that civil libertarians consider the latest pathway for surveillance abuse.

The vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, 14 to 1, occurred in a secret session inside the Hart Senate office building. Democrat Ron Wyden was the dissenter, calling the measure “a surveillance bill by another name”.

Senator Richard Burr, the committee chairman, said the bill would create avenues for private-to-private, private-to-government and government-to-private information sharing.

The bill’s bipartisan advocates consider it a prophylactic measure against catastrophic data theft, particularly in light of recent large-scale hacking of Sony, Target, Home Depot and other companies.

Private companies could share customer data “in a voluntary capacity” with the government, Burr said, “so that we bring the full strength of the federal government to identifying and recommending what anybody else in the United States should adopt”.

“The sharing has to be voluntary, not coercive, and it’s got to be protected,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s vice-chair, adding that the information would pass through the Department of Homeland Security – and “transferred in real time to other departments where it’s applicable”.

Feinstein said the bill’s provisions would “only be used for counterterrorism purposes and certain immediate crimes”.

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Climate sceptics attempt to block Merchants of Doubt film

Compliments of The Guardian

On screen, the man widely regarded as the grandfather of climate denial appears a genial participant in a newly-released expose about industry’s efforts to block action on global warming.

But behind the scenes, Fred Singer has lobbied fellow climate deniers to try to block the film, Merchants of Doubt, and raised the prospect of legal action against the filmmaker.

“It’s exactly what we talk about in the film. It’s a product of a playbook which is to go after the messengers and attack and try and change the conversation, and try to intimidate, and it is very effective,” said Robert Kenner, the filmmaker.

Since the film’s release, Kenner, and Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor and co-author of the book on which the documentary is based, have come under attack in climate denier blogs, and in email chains.

The backlash appears to have been initiated by Singer, 90, a Princeton-trained physicist who has a cameo in the film of Doubt film exposes slick US industry behind climate de

Singer dismisses the dangers of secondhand smoking. He also denies human activity is a main cause of climate change. “It’s all bunk. It’s all bunk,” a seemingly jovial Singer says in the film.

By last autumn however Singer appeared to be having second thoughts about his participation in the project.

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Streaming now the dominant source of media

Compliments of The Washington Post

 

Traditional television watching is declining faster than ever as streaming services become a mainstream feature in American homes, according to new research by Nielsen.

Adults watched an average of four hours and 51 minutes of live TV each day in the fourth quarter of 2014, down 13 minutes from the same quarter of 2013, according to Nielsen’s fourth-quarter 2014 Total Audience Report. Viewing was down six minutes between the fourth quarter of 2013 and 2012. And between 2012 and 2011, viewing time actually increased for live TV.

At the same time, more homes turned to online video, with 40 percent of U.S. homes subscribing to a streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu compared with 36 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Nielsen. Netflix is by far the most popular streaming service, in 36 percent of all U.S. homes, and Amazon Instant Video is in 13 percent of homes.

The trends have rattled the entertainment industry, with broadcast and cable networks scrambling to take on new competitors on the Web. Cable networks have seen steep ratings declines, which got much worse in the last six months of 2014. Cable ratings among adults fell 9 percent in 2014, three times the rate of decline over 2013, according to Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Moffett Nathanson research.

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Number 1 problem in America? Government

Compliments of Gallup

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans continue to name the government (18%) as the most important U.S. problem, a distinction it has had for the past four months. Americans’ mentions of the economy as the top problem (11%) dropped this month, leaving it tied with jobs (10%) for second place.

Trends in Top "Most Important" U.S. Problems, March 2014-March 2015

Though issues such as terrorismhealthcarerace relations and immigration have emerged among the top problems in recent polls, government, the economy and unemployment have been the dominant problems listed by Americans for more than a year.

The latest results are from a March 5-8 Gallup poll of 1,025 American adults.

While the ranking of the top two problems is similar to what Gallup found in February, mentions of the economy dropped from 16% to the current 11%. In a separate measure, Americans’ confidence in the economy had been dipping further into negative territory in late February and early March, but has been improving in recent days.

The state of U.S. healthcare also became less of a problem to Americans in March, as 7% mention it this month, compared with 10% in February.

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Petition seeking treason charges for Iran letter hits 100,000+ signatures

Compliments of Sun Times

Backlash continued to mount Tuesday after 47 GOP senators sent to a letter to Iran’s leaders on Monday warning any nuclear deal wouldn’t be valid without congressional approval.

Not only was a White House petition started urging charges be filed against “against the 47 U.S. senators in violation of The Logan Act in attempting to undermine a nuclear agreement,” but by Tuesday night, it had hit the 100,000 signature threshold required for an official response from the White House.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.38.06 PM

The Logan Act, which was enacted in 1799, states “any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

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Solar Is The New Energy “Powerhouse”

Compliments of Wired

This story was originally published by Mother Jonesand is reproduced here as a part of the Climate Deskcollaboration.

We’ve noted here before the many ways in which solar power is blowing up in the United States: Adding tons of jobs, driving progressive policies, and attractingmillions of dollars in investment from major corporations. It’s not slowing down anytime soon: New data from market analysis firm GTM Research finds that 2014 was solar’s biggest year ever, with 30 percent more photovoltaic installations installed than in 2013. Check it out:

solar-1-chart
 GTM

Those numbers are even more impressive when you compare them to other types of energy sources. Even though solar still accounts for a small share of US electricity generation (less than 1 percent), last year it added nearly as many new megawatts to the grid as natural gas, which is quickly catching up on coal as the country’s primary energy source. (Coal, you can see, added almost nothing new in 2014.)

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Bill would end daylight saving time in Oregon

Compliments of Katu

The ritual of springing forward and falling back – and spending days (or longer) catching up on adjusting every clock in the home – is being questioned by lawmakers who would like to see it come to an end.

Some are considering a renewed effort to put the state in line with Hawaii and Arizona, the only two states that have exercised their privilege to stay on standard time all year long.

Daylight saving time was instituted to give people an extra hour of sunlight in the spring and summer evenings – something that was originally thought to save energy.

Some see the change as antiquated, and find that losing the hour isn’t worth the hassle.

Senate Bill 99 would let Oregon voters decide if the state should recognize daylight saving time.

Washington lawmakers saw a similar bill introduced this year, which would put the state on Pacific Standard Time year-round.

“What I’m suggesting is that we save time by simplifying our lives,” state Washington Rep. Elizabeth Scott.

She said the bill to drop daylight saving time would reduce heart attacks, car wrecks and work accidents found to increase with the sleep-schedule disruptions. Farmers she checked with already run their combines at night using aircraft-scale headlights, and dairy cattle care about the sun, not the time on the clock face.

But if only one state or the other decides to ditch daylight saving time, that could make a mess for commuters, and there are thousands of them, that go back and forth between Oregona and Washington everyday.

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