Google Street View Protects Cows Privacy by Blurring its Face

At least Google’s face-blurring technology takes privacy seriously — even for non-humans.

The photo was captured in Cambridge, England and shows a cow grazing by a river with a blurred-out face — something Google usually only does for the humans it captures as it drives about photographing cities for its Street View service.

In a statement to the BBC, Google said, “we thought you were pulling the udder one when we herd the moos, but it’s clear that our automatic face-blurring technology has been a little overzealous. Of course, we don’t begrudge this cow milking its five minutes of fame.”

 

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Here is the real intention. North End Winnipeggers partying on the street.

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Las Vegas Weddings

Las Vegas weddings refers to wedding ceremonies held in Las Vegas, Nevada, which came to be known as the “Marriage Capital of the World” because of the ease of acquiring a marriage license and the minimal costs involved. The city continues to be known as a popular wedding destination for the same reasons, but also as a result of the various types of weddings available.

Nevada marriage licenses are considered notoriously easy to get; there is no blood test or required waiting period. Las Vegas has streamlined the process further. Once a short form is completed and submitted to the marriage license bureau along with $77.00 cash or money order and a government issued photo identification, a marriage license may be obtained within minutes until midnight every night.

Within one year of receipt of the marriage license a wedding ceremony must be performed in order to have a legal union, and marriages are legal and binding throughout the United States under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, as well as most other countries.

There are approximately 120,000 weddings in Las Vegas in a year.  That is roughly 330 wedding ceremonies per day.

There are numerous options for wedding ceremonies in Las Vegas. The least expensive option, costing $75.00, is to marry at the Office of Civil Marriages.

Most weddings performed in Las Vegas may be a civil or religious service depending upon the wedding venue selected.

Most of the city’s major hotels have wedding chapels and many of the local restaurants offer wedding ceremonies. Weddings may also be performed in one of the local churches, synagogues, at one of the many golf courses, or at a free standing wedding chapel. Drive-thru weddings are also available.

A Drive-thru wedding

The majority of the newer wedding chapels are located on the Las Vegas Strip. A local law in the 1970s made it impossible to build a free standing wedding chapel on the Las Vegas Strip. The older wedding chapels will be found downtown.

Many chapels also offer themed weddings. Common themes include Hawaiian, Fairy Tale, Star Trek, Star Wars, Gothic, Halloween, and weddings with an Elvis impersonator or Michael Jackson impersonator. The Tropicana has offered a “rock star” wedding officiated by former Quiet Riot frontman Paul Shortino. Every year an electronic dance festival called Electric Daisy Carnival held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway offers couples to marry during the festival with varied themes, these packages are an option when purchasing entry, prices range from $300-$700.

Graceland Wedding Chapel is a wedding chapel that has been the site of many celebrity weddings. It is one of the oldest wedding chapels in Las Vegas and claims to be the first chapel ever to conduct weddings performed by Elvis impersonators.

A unique song to say the least: My Ding-A-Ling

“My Ding-a-Ling” is a novelty song written and recorded by Dave Bartholomew. It was covered by Chuck Berry in 1972 and became his only number-one Billboard Hot 100 single in the United States. Later that year, in a longer unedited form, it was included on the album The London Chuck Berry Sessions.

The song tells of how the singer received a toy consisting of “silver bells hanging on a string” from his grandmother, who calls them his “ding-a-ling”. According to the song, he plays with it in school, and holds on to it in dangerous situations like falling after climbing the garden wall, and swimming across a creek infested with snapping turtles. From the second verse onward, the lyrics consistently exercise the double entendre in that a penis could just as easily be substituted for the toy bells and the song would still make sense.

The lyrics with their sly tone and innuendo (and the enthusiasm of Berry and the audience) caused many radio stations to refuse to play it. British morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse tried unsuccessfully to get the song banned. “One teacher,” Whitehouse wrote to the BBC’s Director General, “told us of how she found a class of small boys with their trousers undone, singing the song and giving it the indecent interpretation which—in spite of all the hullabaloo—is so obvious… We trust you will agree with us that it is no part of the function of the BBC to be the vehicle of songs which stimulate this kind of behaviour—indeed quite the reverse.”

In Icons of Rock, Scott Schinder calls the song “a sophomoric, double-entendre-laden ode to masturbation”. Robert Christgau remarked that the song “permitted a lot of twelve-year-olds new insight into the moribund concept of ‘dirty'”.

During a short spoken introduction to the song on the single, Berry refers to the song as “our alma mater”.

The controversy was lampooned in The Simpsons episode “Lisa’s Pony”, in which a Springfield Elementary School student attempts to sing the song during the school’s talent show. He barely finishes the first line of the refrain before an irate Principal Skinner pushes him off the stage, angrily proclaiming “This act is over!”

The Power of a South Pole Sunrise After Six Months of Darkness

On September 20, the sun began to rise at the South Pole. It took 30 hours for the sun’s disk to clear the horizon, and weeks later, it is still climbing toward noon. And for the first time in a decade, Robert Schwarz, a.k.a. The Iceman, was not there to see it. “When the sun started coming up, I always thought it was too bad,” Schwarz says. “It means winter at the South Pole is ending.”

Antarctic weather is notoriously bad, so this year’s sunrise wasn’t much to see. But staff at the South Pole say they still laugh with surprise when they step outside into the golden light gleaming off the ice.

In the heart of Antarctica, winter is one long night that lasts six months. As darkness starts to fall in mid-February of each year, a small crowd gathers outside Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to watch a gray C-130 Hercules ski down an icy airstrip and take off. Because no planes brave the sunless Antarctic winter, this flight is the last chance to leave the white continent. Everyone who stays is stuck there until the summer research season starts in November. Antarcticans call it “wintering over.”

As darkness starts to fall in mid-February each year, a gray C-130 Hercules departs Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
As darkness starts to fall in mid-February each year, a gray C-130 Hercules departs Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Schwarz has spent 15 winters at the South Pole, nine of them in succession from 2011 to 2019. When he stepped down from his role this year at the age of 50, he had wintered over at “Pole,” as it is colloquially known, more times than any human in history. On a recent Friday, he was at home in Germany, wearing a yellow shirt emblazoned with the word “ANTARCTICA.” He smiled often and laughed easily. On the wall behind him, a framed poster showed Neil Armstrong standing on the Moon.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t exactly what Schwarz had in mind for his first year back from Antarctica, but he has learned a few things from the isolation of winter at the Pole. “I finally have time for all the projects I missed out on over the last 10 years,” he says. “You have to make the best of it.”

Denis Barkats, a senior scientist who wintered with Schwarz in 2006, recalls an old Antarctic joke: “The first time you winter, it’s for the adventure. The second time, it’s for the money. The third time, it’s because you don’t fit anywhere else.” But that doesn’t seem true of Schwarz, who is cheerful and easygoing, Barkats says. “He has something I don’t have,” he goes on. To return 15 times, one must effectively treat the rigors of winter as one’s job. “You might say, ‘Oh boy, I really want a watermelon!,’” Barkats says with a smile. “Well, you can’t have it for nine months.”

Schwarz doesn’t regard himself as unusual. Still, at the start of each winter, as Pole’s summer population fell from around 150 to under 50, he usually felt relief. “Suddenly everything is quiet, you only hear the wind, and there are only a few people left,” he says. “It’s a great feeling.”

The sun sets behind the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory at the South Pole in 2019.
The sun sets behind the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory at the South Pole in 2019.

For weeks, the small crew watches the sun spiral closer to the icy plateau. (At Pole, one can literally see the Earth orbiting the Sun.) In late March, the sun finally touches the horizon. As it disappears over the course of a full day, it emits an elusive “green flash” rarely seen anywhere else in the world. For the month that follows, twilight slowly fades and the world seems to shrink in every direction but one: upward.

Most research at the South Pole is directed into outer space, and during winter, Schwarz’s job was to look after telescopes. One area, known as the “Dark Sector,” is kept free of light and electromagnetic signals, and houses some of the world’s largest telescopes. Here, in the clearest air in the world, the telescopes look back in time, to the Big Bang and the origins of the universe. “When we look into space, we always look into the past,” Schwarz says. “And the signal we are looking at was 13.8 billion years on its way to us.”

Schwarz holds an advanced degree in astronomy and theoretical physics, but describes himself as a “soldering iron and wrench physicist.” He has done everything from maintaining hardware to debugging software to cryogenics—whatever the telescope needs to continue beaming data out to researchers. “If something breaks, you can’t order new parts,” Schwarz points out. “Well, you can, but they won’t arrive until summer. You have to start improvising.” He considers it a bit like living on another planet.

The history of Antarctic winter-overs is full of grim stories: mental breakdowns, even attempted murders. The Belgian explorers who were first to overwinter on the continent developed a therapeutic routine of walking in endless circles around their ship, the Belgica, which became trapped in the ice in 1899. They called it the “madhouse promenade.”

The <em>aurora australis</em> and the Milky Way over the Dark Sector, June 2018.
The aurora australis and the Milky Way over the Dark Sector, June 2018.

These days, those who overwinter at Pole bid farewell to the last flight by watching all three versions of The Thing, about an Antarctic station crew torn apart by paranoia and an alien invader. (They used to watch Kubrick’s The Shining, but now they save that for midwinter.) “People who are curious have a great time,” Schwarz says. “It doesn’t matter if you have a PhD, if you’re a cook, if you’re a mechanic—everybody’s equal.”

The winter crew try to keep busy, filling their social calendars with parties, pickup basketball, and movie screenings. “One of the doctors I wintered with three times taught us how to assist during surgery,” Schwarz says. And when the temperature drops to 100 degrees below zero, you can join the exclusive “300 Club” by jogging naked from a 200° F sauna to the South Pole marker and back. Naturally, Schwarz has joined several times over.

Paula Crock, a telescope engineer currently wintering at Pole, agrees that it helps to stay curious and open-minded. “I’ve learned not to get fixated on thoughts of what I am missing up north,” she writes via email from Antarctica, “but instead focus on the opportunities that I have down here.” She has self-care rituals, too: sleeping in sometimes, having some ice cream at night. “It’s important to not take it personally if one of your crewmates is having a bad day, and forgive and forget easily if they take it out on you,” Crock says.

Of everything he experienced at Pole, Schwarz misses the aurora australis, or southern lights, most of all. Every day, he would walk 30 minutes from the main station building to the Dark Sector. On his “commute,” Schwarz would listen to the crunch of his boots on the frozen ground and the wind passing over the polar plateau. “Sometimes you’ll walk and see the snow flashing green,” he recalls, “and you’ll look up and see this awesome aurora display above you.”

Sunrise from the South Pole in 2019.
Sunrise from the South Pole in 2019.

The river-like flow of an aurora is formed by bursts of charged particles from the sun. When these “solar storms” strike the Earth’s protective magnetic field, the collision releases energy in a dazzling array of colors that stream towards the poles. “A rule of thumb is the brighter they are, the faster they move, and they can move really, really fast,” Schwarz says. “The auroras alone are worth going there for.”

Outside of Antarctica, Schwarz actually considers himself a summer person. “Back home, six months, no sun? It would be crazy, I can’t imagine it,” he says with a laugh. “But at Pole, things are in many respects so different. I actually enjoy the real darkness there.”

After spending a quarter of his life in Antarctica, living in Germany has taken some adjusting. His email signoff still reads: “Antarctica – best place on Earth.” Unable to travel far due to pandemic restrictions, he is exploring the mountains close to home, and even found a bit of astronomy at a nearby museum: the Nebra Sky Disk, an ancient bronze map of the heavens. “You have to live with what you have,” he says. “When things come back, you’ll enjoy them even more.”

atlasobscura.com

New Barbie Dolls available in ‘curvy, tall and petite’ sizes

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Barbie, the iconic plastic toy doll model, is getting three new body types this year.

The US company behind the famous toy, Mattel, is adding “tall, curvy and petite” body shapes to its line-up of the fashion dolls.

Several skin tones, eye colours and hair styles will also be added to the collection, the company said.

Barbie’s figure has come under fire for years, with critics arguing it set an unrealistic body image for girls.  With the new body shapes, the toy makers say they are “offering girls choices that are more reflective of the world they see today”.

Last year, the company introduced 23 new dolls to its so-called Fashionistas line with varied skin and hair colours, and a much touted flat foot – replacing Barbie’s signature heels.

With this year’s update, the Barbie Fashionistas line will feature:

  • 33 new dolls
  • 30 hair colours
  • 24 hairstyles
  • 22 eye colours
  • 14 face shapes
  • 7 skin tones
  • 4 body shapes – original, plus tall, curvy and petite

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Barbie is finally sort of all-inclusive: almost all shapes, heights and races. Way to go Mattel.

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However, some people think Mattel hasn’t gone far enough. Since Mattel is trying to include young females from all possible life scenarios, here are some life situations that Barbie experiences that are real and unabashed.

 

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Hot sensuous Barbie

 

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Couch-potato dope smoking plump Barbie.

 

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Sedentary and lethargic Barbie.

 

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Addicted to crack street Ho Barbie.

 

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Barbie and Ken EXPLOSION!