I Bought a Burrow Loveseat, and It's the Perfect Sofa for Small Spaces

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 15:30

A few months ago, I secured a studio apartment that I pictured being my sanctuary. It was a newly renovated unit in a pre-war building and seemed like a safe bet as far as New York apartments go. Since I love interior design, I visually mapped out where I would place everything from my dining table to my couch. Fast forward to a week of moving in: Surprise! There were beetles everywhere. Yes, a true infestation of carpet beetles—just a lovely gift from New York’s cursed apartment ecosystem. With the help of some home remedies, things became slightly more manageable, but not enough; I was ready to bounce after a month of sleeping at my boyfriend’s apartment.

I was able to find a new place to move into within a week thanks to Facebook groups. But, sigh, my new spot was not nearly as nice as the solo studio apartment I was leaving behind (minus the beetles, of course). I now live with two other roommates in a high-rise apartment building, which obviously means that any non-bedroom space is shared (and straight-up limited). My bedroom is not huge, but thankfully, it’s big enough to double as a mini living room of my own so I transformed it into the “studio” of my dreams. 

My number one priority for my bedroom was getting a small-space-friendly couch so I could host friends and have an area to kick back during my gaming sessions. I had limited space to make it work (70 inches of width, to be exact), so my seating options basically came down to a beautiful two-seater to fit the bill. I’m happy to announce that the wall next to my bed is no longer naked thanks to the Burrow Nomad Velvet Loveseat

I’d heard about Burrow on Instagram while scrolling through my feed but had never owned a piece of furniture from the popular direct-to-consumer brand. Burrow focuses on a modular design platform with American Mid-Century Modernism and contemporary Scandinavian style. It sounded up my alley so it was time to put this popular (and very attractive) loveseat to the test.

First impressions 

Besides Burrow’s accent chairs, the Nomad Loveseat is the brand’s smallest couch. It comes in a variety of jewel-toned colors with the option to customize the fabric, leg finish, and arm style. With its handsome good looks, it’s a true “loveseat,” great for a spontaneous game of tonsil hockey while watching the new season of Love Is Blind

I decided to go with velvet fabric in the “Midnight” colorway with a brass metal leg finish. The color “Jade” was also tempting, with its emerald gemstone vibes, but it unfortunately doesn’t match my preexisting color scheme. Oh, and before you balk at the idea of going with a finicky fabric like velvet for a couch I planned to use every day, fear not: The fabric is technically called “performance velvet” since it’s stain-resistant and easy to clean with just a bit of soap and water. Burrow claims it passed a 100,000 double-rub test, which measures the wear and tear of furniture. That means the Nomad Loveseat is virtually immune to red wine spills, Cheeto dust, and melted chocolate. Damn.  

It’s important to note you’re unable to customize the arm style when choosing velvet fabric, but this nearly five-star-rated couch is available in a variety of other fabrics as well. The cushions feature three-layer foam, fiber architecture, and a plush crown to cradle your peach in all the right places.

Putting it together 

Being a 5’2” petite woman, putting this together and maneuvering it was not the easiest, but it was still very doable! (My boyfriend offered to help, but I’m an impatient girl who wanted it done ASAP after it arrived.) I was able to get this sofa to reach “I-can-sit-in-this” status in about an hour. The best part is that no tools are required for assembly. Each side of the sofa locks into each other and is then secured with latches, while twist-on screws are used to attach the legs. The hardest part was attaching the arms. In order for them to securely latch into place, they have to align perfectly into a few holes, so I had to flip the couch over on each side to get the job done. If nothing else: I told my dad I put it together all by myself and he was impressed. 

Why it rocks  I finally have the studio of my dreams.

This sofa was an easy decision, but not just because the measurements are exactly what I need. It’s a tech-savvy sofa that features a built-in USB charger and a 72-inch power cord that plugs into an outlet. Maybe we’re all just addicted to scrolling on social media, but the charging feature gives this sofa easy bragging rights to my friends.

Speaking of social media, while scrolling through TikTok, I got Trader Joe’s cheese puff dust all over the sofa. Fear not, because Burrow thought ahead and included a soft-bristled brush to keep things clean. It worked within seconds and left the couch looking as good as new, making the Nomad Velvet Loveseat the ultimate snacking couch. I will be having many future dinners while sitting on it. 

The Burrow Nomad Velvet Loveseat legitimately feels like a memory foam marshmallow. I can’t count how many times I’ve plopped down on it since it came into my life. It’s pretty firm, making it the perfect WFH couch, but still very comfortable. It’s sturdy and keeps me upright so I don’t fall asleep while grinding through Google docs, but I never feel like I’m not in comfy mode. Some people may not like the firmness in their couches, but, personally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of that sinking feeling some couches have. This couch doesn’t leave that butt indentation from sitting too long (LOL)—and for me that’s a big plus, and it means minimal upkeep in terms of fluffing the cushions. 

TL;DR: Even after a small (beetle-sized) hiccup, I finally was able to set up the “studio” of my dreams, and couldn’t have done it without the Burrow Nomad Velvet Loveseat. If anything, my previous apartment issues prove that everything happens for a reason, because I’m not sure I would’ve initially gone with this particular model if I was still living at my previous place since it was a bigger space. Now I can charge my phone while not giving a sh*t about crumbs and stains (and bugs). No beetles? New couch? Life is good.

The Nomad Velvet Loveseat is available at Burrow.

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Categories: Tech News

Why I Finally Joined the Cult of Smartwool Socks

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 14:57

The older I get, the less I care about what bands or logos are on my shirts and hats, and the more I care about how durable and comfortable my socks and underwear are. Not that long ago, I wasn’t able to leave my house without the right Darkthrone or Motörhead shirt and a fresh hat supporting my fave team or restaurant; these days, I’m much quicker to throw on an old sweatshirt, jeans, and dad cap, spending far more time searching for a clean pair of undergarments that’ll ferry me cozily through my day. With regards to underwear, I am indeed one of the world’s biggest fans of Lululemon’s mens’ boxers and wear them exclusively. (I’m serious, and I wrote about why here.) When it comes to socks, I’ve been on a journey.

For most of my 20s, I’d just get humongous packs of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom socks at Target for daily use, and Sauconys for exercise. A few years ago, someone turned me onto a cool boutique sock brand (I’d rather not name them, since I do think they’re decent socks), which I started wearing regularly for a bit. But the through line between all of these—minus the Sauconys, which are pretty solid—is that they all seemed to wear out quickly, and, while innocuous with regard to look and feel, weren’t really that comfortable. For one, I’m a bigger dude, and I know I put a hurt on whatever footwear I’m sporting. Between going to concerts, visiting the gym, and generally walking around town a lot, I’d find that even my best socks would start getting holes in the toes after a couple months, or would start to fray around the top.

When I changed up my everyday footwear and settled on New Balance 990s and Keen Targhee 3s for general activity, it led me to fully reassess my sock game. My criteria in looking for new socks was that I wanted ones that 1) were extremely comfortable, 2) wouldn’t get toe holes, and 3) would generally last a really long time. During one of my shoe store trips, I asked the expert at the store what socks he recommended. He told me that he only wore Smartwool. “Aren’t those for hiking, and, like, when it’s cold out?” I asked. “Nah,” he assured me. “I wear them all year ‘round. They make pairs for everything.” The thought of becoming a full-time wool sock man sounded, frankly, very bad. Wool socks when it’s 100 degrees out and I’m biking around hot, hot Chicago? Wool socks when I’m crushing elliptical workouts at the gym? Wool socks while making pizzas on my patio? Even as I type all that, it sounds horrible to me. Still, I’m one of those polite, Midwestern dudes who’ll try someone’s advice even if I think it sounds awful (this has, sadly, led to the ordering of countless horrible cocktails and entrees). Anyway, I bought a few pairs of Smartwool socks before I left the store. Now, my dresser is filled with many pairs, as I’ve become simply too discerning to wear anything else—here’s why.

Within the world of Merino wool blends, Smartwool has come up with a ton of variations in texture, cushioning, height, and general thickness, meaning you really can find socks for just about any purpose and outfit.

The running socks

Both the targeted cushion and zero cushion running socks (I’m partial to the ankle height option) are insanely comfortable. Like, I actually love putting them on. (I prefer cushioned, because I’m prone to foot pain, but you can do whatever feels right for you.) In any case, these have “Indestructawool™” (a silly name, to be sure) technology, making them hella durable; they’re super breathable, form fitting, and have a seamless toe zone, making it far less likely that those little piggies will try to escape out the front door next time you go for a run. Basically, you just barely feel anything when you’re wearing these. I cannot tell you how good they feel.

The hiking socks

Guess what? The hiking socks are even more comfortable! I love wearing these when walking around town, and sometimes I’ll even rock them when exercising. They’re thicker than the running socks, but won’t weigh you down or overheat—it’s like wearing a light, cozy down jacket on your feet.

The full cushion crew height hiking socks start to get on the warmer side, so I don’t wear those as much when it’s hot out, but they’re perfect with jeans any time of the year, really (though they’re especially nice when it’s cold, obviously).

The extra-cushion socks

Want a hardcore, nuclear option for when it’s full-on boot-wearin’, soup-drinkin’, coffee-maininling season? Go extra cushion, baby, and know that you aren’t going to have those sweaty feet you get with lower quality, less breathable wool.

TL;DR: I am not bullshitting you, my brothers and sisters in sore, stinky feet, that Smartwool is the best sock investment you can possibly make. I sincerely do wear Smartwool socks every single day. I’ll wear them to the gym this afternoon and I’ll wear ‘em to a very nice restaurant later this week, and I’ll surely be rockin’ some hiking socks this fall when I’m moshing at a Tomb Mold show or navel-gazing at the Postal Service/Death Cab for Cutie concert. Yes, a pair will cost around $20, but it will last you for literally years, and will be as comfortable 1,000 days from now as it will be when you buy it tomorrow.

I’ve shocked myself by how willing I’ve become to drop a few extra dollars on some socks. Take it from a reformed generally uncomfortable guy: Life’s too short to wear socks that aren’t dope. You deserve it.

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Categories: Tech News

SBF’s parents were given $16.4M house paid for entirely by FTX, lawsuit says

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 14:50
Joseph Bankman, father of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, walks out of a courthouse.

Enlarge / Joseph Bankman, father of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, leaves after a bail hearing for his son at US District Court on August 11, 2023 in New York City.

Barbara Fried, mother of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.

Barbara Fried, mother of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. (credit: Getty Images | Michael M. Santiago)

FTX yesterday sued Sam Bankman-Fried's parents, alleging that Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried "exploited their access and influence within the FTX enterprise to enrich themselves" at the expense of FTX customers.

FTX's lawsuit against Bankman and Fried was filed in US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware as part of bankruptcy proceedings involving FTX and Alameda Research. "Bankman and Fried siphoned millions of dollars out of the FTX Group for their own personal benefit and their chosen pet causes. This action seeks to hold them accountable for their misconduct and recover assets for the Debtors' creditors," the lawsuit claimed.

The civil lawsuit was filed about two weeks before Bankman-Fried's criminal trial was scheduled to begin on October 3. Four former FTX executives already pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

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Categories: Tech News

Telling AI model to “take a deep breath” causes math scores to soar in study

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 14:38
A worried-looking tin toy robot.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Google DeepMind researchers recently developed a technique to improve math ability in AI language models like ChatGPT by using other AI models to improve prompting—the written instructions that tell the AI model what to do. It found that using human-style encouragement improved math skills dramatically, in line with earlier results.

In a paper called "Large Language Models as Optimizers" listed this month on arXiv, DeepMind scientists introduced Optimization by PROmpting (OPRO), a method to improve the performance of large language models (LLMs) such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s PaLM 2. This new approach sidesteps the limitations of traditional math-based optimizers by using natural language to guide LLMs in problem-solving. "Natural language" is a fancy way of saying everyday human speech.

"Instead of formally defining the optimization problem and deriving the update step with a programmed solver," the researchers write, "we describe the optimization problem in natural language, then instruct the LLM to iteratively generate new solutions based on the problem description and the previously found solutions."

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Categories: Tech News

I Tried Überlube, the Lube Amazon Reviewers Are Absolutely Obsessed With

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 14:33

Finding the perfect lube is a lot like finding the perfect pair of underwear. You have to experience that initial, natural chemistry with its aesthetic, of course, but then you have to see how it interacts with your body. How long will it last? How long will it make you feel not only comfortable, but powerful?

I’ve tried a lot of lubes, from a butterscotch-flavored lube for gargling balls to CBD-infused bottles that smell faintly of Thin Mints (a big win, IMO). But as someone who is very prone to UTIs and is just generally picky with fragrances, I have been dying to get my hands on Überlube’s storied, unscented silicone lubricant for a long, long time.

I don’t remember when I first heard about Überlube, but I know that I never forgot it. I mean, who forgets a name like Überlube? The implied power and Machtbereich of it all! I never would have guessed that it was produced, tested, and bottled in small batches in Chicago, Illinois, and that also makes me love it all the more.

Überlube has often been cited as the bottom-line, top-shelf lube-to-rule-all-lubes to me from sex industry insiders and horny friends alike. Plus, y’all seem to love it; the odorless, fragrance-free lube is a consistent bestseller in the VICE guide to the best must-have items on Amazon, where it has earned a 4.6-star average rating from over 21,100 reviews. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, “This is the least-officious tasting lube I have ever experienced, and I don't mind putting my mouth where this lube was before […] the bottle doesn't leak or spill if you leave it rolling around on the bed next to you”; another wrote, “[It has the] perfect glide, no staining or greasy feeling, no pulling or pilling of product build up,” while another stan just wrote, “Yeehaw!”

Would this GOATed ambrosia be my Holy Grail of luxury lubricants? I dusted off the situationship Rolodex, lined up my finest dildos, and got ready to review the almighty Überlube once and for all.

First impressions

My first thought upon opening my Überlube was, Wow, this looks like a bottle of luxury vodka or heritage gin. I should mention that the lube comes in sizes of 55 ml, 112 ml, and even 15 ml travel-sized containers—the latter of which is excellent for my everyday carry sl*t bag of horny wares—but I’m a sucker for the classic, clear glass bottle.

It’s the kind of lube that looks sexy on your nightstand or rolling around your bed, and that’s important. There’s nothing hot about getting tangled in the sheets with your boo and a bottle of lube that looks like cheap motor oil. Instant boner-deflater.

Screen Shot 2023-09-19 at 5.23.52 PM.pngPhoto by the Author

What was rad

Überlube’s signature lube is an unscented, flavorless, and water-friendly silicone-based lube. There’s an entire VICE guide to the best lubes for every kind of sex, but I find that silicone-based lubes are generally better for vaginal and especially anal sex, because they will last longer than water-based lubes, and are compatible with latex and polyisoprene condoms (although, not polyurethane). You’re not supposed to use silicone lube with silicone toys, because it can cause the toy to degrade over time. But sometimes I can’t help it, and I’ll squeeze a little silicone lube over my favorite dildo, which is definitely going to outlast me in a landfill some day unless I recycle or resell it. And, yes, there is a ‘Craigslist’ for sex toys now. But I digress.

Part of what makes Überlube so popular is what isn’t in the lube—no overpowering fragrances or weird thickening agents that feel gloopy. Instead, the lube just has a little bit of vitamin E for skin soothing and hydration.

IMG_1450.jpegPhoto by the Author

I started by squirting some lube in my hand over the kitchen sink. It felt almost enriching, and not at all sticky. Damn, I thought, this is some alchemical wizard shit. There was absolutely zero stick, but the lube didn’t feel thin and useless like water. I rinsed it off my hands, and noticed that my hands felt softer than when I use my Shiseido hand cream.

Then, I put Überlube through the Goldilocks gauntlet with my sex toys, from butt plugs to my go-to 10-inch rabbit vibrator, which normally has to be lubed up like a Butterball turkey to slide in my cooch, but breezed right on in after a single squirt. I started to understand what one Babeland reviewer meant when they wrote, “Water-based stuff just gets too tacky. This feels cushiony without thickness and lasts without feeling sticky.” When I asked one of my own partners about it, they just said, “It’s not gloopy, and it doesn’t smell weird.”

There are so many would-be odorless lubes that just end up smelling like petrol or hot plastic, but Überlube seriously has no scent. In fact, I kind of forgot I had used it at all at one point, and only remembered the lube when I saw the bottle rolling around my bed. I panicked, thinking that it must have spilled or leaked a bit, but the top pump is so secure that it was untouched and unbothered.

What was tricky

The plastic that was sealed over the lid of my bottle was so tight that I had to use tweezers to take it off. But I guess I prefer that to the alternative of a wonky, poorly packaged bottle.


Listen, I’ve tried many silicone lubes over the years, but Überlube is the GOAT—and not just because it’s in that sexy glass bottle, or because it costs less than my lunch in Midtown Manhattan the other day. For me, it’s the best lube because it’s simply invisible. It’s the Mission Impossible of lubricants. There’s no gaggy odor, and no weird gloopy texture; there’s no sticky feel, but just the perfect amount of glide, and a little bit of vitamin E for hydration. In other words, Überlube is my Übermensch.

Purchase Überlube silicone lubricant on Überlube, Amazon, and Babeland.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

DoD hopes $30M BEACONS will shine light on next-gen American battery designs

The Register - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 14:31
And less than half the cost of a single F-35 – bargain!

The Department of Defense has become the latest US government body to push for next-gen battery manufacturing in America, with a $30 million (£24m) investment in an energy storage systems campus in the Lone Star State. …

Categories: Tech News

Daily Horoscope: September 20, 2023

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 14:00

The moon in Scorpio aligns with Neptune in Pisces at 3:06 AM, inspiring our imaginations, and we can feel especially eager to make art and celebrate life as the moon connects with the sun in Virgo at 4:47 AM!

We may be ready to make a change as the moon connects with Pluto in Capricorn at 6:21 AM. New opportunities arise as the moon enters Sagittarius at 10:06 AM, but the moon squares off with Saturn in Pisces at 1:58 PM, urging us not to forget prior commitments.

All times ET.

Read your monthly horoscope for July!

Stay in the cosmic loop with the VICE horoscopes newsletter. Get horoscopes straight to your inbox when you sign up here!

Aries glyph Aries: March 20, 2023 - April 20, 2023

The moon enters fellow fire sign Sagittarius today, which could find you making exciting travel plans or rediscovering your passion for learning. If you’re in school, the moon in Sagittarius can bode well for your studies. The moons squares off with Saturn in Pisces, urging you to follow a strict schedule whether you’re studying, traveling, or simply going about life as usual.

Taurus glyphs Taurus: April 20, 2023 - May 21, 2023

The moon in Scorpio aligns with the sun in Virgo, which can bode well for open communication within your partnerships. The moon enters Sagittarius, too, which may find you and your partners discussing money.

Gemini glyph Gemini: May 21, 2023 - June 21, 2023

The moon enters your opposite sign Sagittarius today, which can find you connecting with new people or engaging with established partners in a deep way. The moon squares off with Saturn in Pisces, and you and your partners may be assessing plans and responsibilities.

Cancer glyph Cancer: June 21, 2023 - July 22, 2023

The moon in Scorpio aligns with Neptune in Pisces, inspiring a whimsical and romantic atmosphere! Your focus might turn to more mundane matters, like tackling your to-do list, as the moon enters Sagittarius.

Leo glyph Leo: July 22, 2023 - August 23, 2023

The moon enters fellow fire sign Sagittarius, inspiring romance and creativity! The moon squares off with Saturn in Pisces, which could find you and your partners having serious discussions about expectations, especially with money or other resources.

Virgo glyph Virgo: August 23, 2023 - September 23, 2023

A sentimental and emotional discussion with a partner can take place as the moon in Scorpio aligns with Neptune in Pisces. The moon enters Sagittarius, too, bringing your focus to your home and family life.

Libra glyph Libra: September 23, 2023 - October 23, 2023

The moon enters Sagittarius, encouraging open communication, and discussions about the past, boundaries, expectations, or responsibilities in your personal life take place as the moon squares off with Saturn in Pisces.

Scorpio glyph Scorpio: October 23, 2023 - November 22, 2023

The moon in your sign, Scorpio, aligns with Neptune in Pisces, inspiring a hugely romantic atmosphere! It’s a fantastic time to make art. Conversations about money could kick up as the moon enters Sagittarius.

Sagittarius glyph Sagittarius: November 22, 2023 - December 21, 2023

The moon enters your zodiac sign, Sagittarius, encouraging you to focus on self-care and connect with your emotions. The moon squares off with Saturn in Pisces, which could find you setting important boundaries in your personal life.

Capricorn glyph Capricorn: December 21, 2023 - January 20, 2024

The moon enters Sagittarius, encouraging you to slow down and rest. The moon squares off with your ruling planet Saturn in Pisces, which could spell communication blocks or delays. Perhaps having extra time to do research or think things over is for the best!

Aquarius glyphs Aquarius: January 20, 2023 - February 18, 2023

The moon enters Sagittarius, bringing your focus to your social life—it’s an exciting time to network! The moon squares off with your ruling planet Saturn in Pisces, which could find you making an important financial decision.

Pisces glyph Pisces:  February 18, 2023 - March 20, 2023

The moon in Scorpio connects with your ruling planet Neptune in your sign, Pisces, which could bring a wonderful opportunity your way! You might visit a place or explore an idea that fills you with awe. The moon enters Sagittarius, too, boosting your popularity and planting you in the spotlight.

Categories: Tech News

Marvell disputes claim that Cavium backdoored chips for Uncle Sam

The Register - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 13:55
Allegations date back a decade to leaked Snowden docs

Cavium, a maker of semiconductors acquired in 2018 by Marvell, was identified in the documents leaked in 2013 by Edward Snowden as a vendor that cooperated with US intelligence agencies to backdoor its chips, it is alleged.…

Categories: Tech News

Russian allegedly smuggled US weapons electronics to Moscow, says US govt

The Register - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 12:55
Feds claim sniper scope displays sold in sanctions-busting move

A Russian national helped smuggle, via shell companies in Hong Kong, more than $1.6 million in microelectronics to Moscow potentially to support its war against Ukraine, it is claimed.…

Categories: Tech News

Archaeologists find 500-year-old board game carved in ruins of Polish castle

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 12:34
game board carved into stone slab with a ruler to show scale

Enlarge / Archaeologists excavating the ruins of an early 16th-century Polish castle discovered a carved strategy board game called Mill. (credit: Tomasz Olszacki)

Some 500 years ago, construction workers in the midst of building Ćmielów Castle in Poland carved a simple game board into a slab of the sandstone floor as a diversion for their leisure time. At least that's one possible scenario for the existence of a game board recently discovered by archaeologists in the castle ruins; it's also possible the board could have been carved by children or by servants after the castle was completed, or it may have been meant as a symbolic message.

As previously reported, there is archaeological evidence for various kinds of board games from all over the world dating back millennia: Senet and Mehen in ancient Egypt, for example, or a strategy game called ludus latrunculorum ("game of mercenaries") favored by Roman legions. A 4,000-year-old board discovered last year at an archaeological site in Oman's Qumayrah Valley might be a precursor to an ancient Middle Eastern game known as the Royal Game of Ur (or the Game of Twenty Squares), a two-player game that may have been one of the precursors to backgammon (or was simply replaced in popularity by backgammon). Like backgammon, it's essentially a race game in which players compete to see who can move all their pieces along the board before their opponent.

This latest discovery isn't quite as old as that in terms of the actual carved board, but the game could be just as ancient. According to archaeologist Tomasz Olszacki, it's a two-person strategy board game called Mill, also known as Nine Men's Morris, Merels, or "cowboy checkers" in North America. The earliest-known Mill game board was found carved into the roofing slabs of an Egyptian temple at Kurna, which likely predates the Common Era. Historians believe it was well-known to the Romans, who may have learned of the game through trade routes.

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Categories: Tech News

Online child safety law blocked after Calif. argued face scans not that invasive

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 12:05
Online child safety law blocked after Calif. argued face scans not that invasive

Enlarge (credit: Click&Boo | Moment)

A California law requiring a wide range of platforms to estimate ages of users and protect minors from accessing harmful content appears to be just as unconstitutional as a recently blocked law in Texas requiring age verification to access adult content.

Yesterday, US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman ordered a preliminary injunction stopping California Attorney General Rob Bonta from enforcing the state's Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (CAADCA), finding that the law likely violates the First Amendment.

"The Court finds that although the stated purpose of the Act—protecting children when they are online—clearly is important," Freeman wrote, "the CAADCA likely violates the First Amendment."

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Categories: Tech News

Starlink speeds ahead in the satellite race but rivals aren't starstruck just yet

The Register - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 11:45
Download rates stabilize after influx of users dragged on service

SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband service has become the provider to beat on speed, according to network intelligence outfit Ookla, although the company faces competition coming soon from a rash of rivals.…

Categories: Tech News

Trepidation, hurt morale precede last-of-its-kind Amazon hardware event: report

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 11:20
David Limp at Amazon's hardware event in Seattle, Washington on September 27, 2017.

Enlarge / David Limp at Amazon's hardware event in Seattle, Washington, on September 27, 2017. (credit: Daniel Berman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As Amazon prepares for its annual hardware event tomorrow, Reuters is reporting feelings of trepidation and weakened morale among the company's flailing hardware team. The beleaguered department is said to be worried about the potential of upcoming products, while being pressured by a push for cheaper hardware and the impending departure of long-time department head David Limp.

Reuters' report today cited "more than 15 current and former employees" of Amazon's Lab126 for developing hardware. The publication said it was able to uncover five devices Amazon was developing:

  • Carbon monoxide detector with Alexa
  • Household energy consumption monitor with Alexa
  • Digital measuring device with Alexa
  • Virus-testing device that was originally "intended to detect COVID," Reuters said
  • Home projector

Some of Reuters' sources pointed to additional projects, but the publication couldn't verify full details. Amazon says it doesn't comment on products in development.

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Categories: Tech News

Google’s AI protein folder IDs structure where none seemingly existed

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 11:06
Cartoon diagram of a three-dimensional protein structure.

Enlarge (credit: LAGUNA DESIGN)

For most proteins, structure is function. The complex three-dimensional shapes that proteins adopt create folds and pockets that can accomplish the remarkably improbable: driving chemical reactions that would otherwise never happen or binding to a single chemical inside the complex environment of a cell. Protein structure is so important that there's an entire discipline, along with several well-developed approaches, to figuring out what a protein looks like when it's all folded up into its active state.

But that's only most proteins. Scientists have also found a growing catalog of intrinsically disordered proteins. Rather than having a set structure, intrinsically disordered proteins seem to have entire sections that can flap around in the breeze of Brownian motion and, yet, were critical to the protein's structure. People haven't been sure whether these proteins temporarily adopted a specific structure to work or the disorder was critical for function.

Now, a new paper describes a case where two intrinsically disordered proteins induce specific structures in each other when they interact. And Google's new AlphaFold AI software was critical to figuring out that structure.

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SCREAM resonates in the race for the Gordon Bell Climate Prize

The Register - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 11:00
A look at America's next top (climate) model...in fine resolution

The Bell will toll for some of the most innovative climate research projects on one of the world's most powerful supercomputers starting this year.…

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Why Do Men Keep Fingering Food

Motherboard (Vice) - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 10:57

Food has always had an erotic element. I’m not talking about aphrodisiacs and the idea that some foods make you hornier. I’m talking about the innate sexual suggestiveness and primal energy of something like a bloody steak, dripping ice cream cone, or ripe peach. Cooking is a physical act, joining body and mind, done in service of another person for their fulfilment and pleasure. The risk, however, is that the moment it's obvious this eroticism is being owned and intentionally performed, it's often lost.

Celebrity chefs have routinely utilized sex appeal to an extent. This plays out most often with women in the culinary world, like Padma Lakshmi, Nigella Lawson, Giada De Laurentiis, and even recently Martha Stewart. But except for Rachel Ray’s famous photoshoot in For Him Magazine, that sex appeal and food were never intentionally combined. All happen to be beautiful women who cook. For the past 20 years, the male version of this has been the cool chef, usually a guy with tattoos, a little rough around the edges, just as comfortable with Michelin stars as a can of Busch. Anthony Bourdain is the crown example, while The Bear has served as a contemporary case study. Again, though, the people involved are attractive, and they cook; they do not try to cook attractively. 

TikToks of men, specifically, cooking sexily, highlight how jarring this combination can be. Over the last few years, several accounts have emerged with the obvious and often over-the-top intention of being hot while cooking. They feature men caressing raw chicken breasts, spanking mounds of dough, and even flicking their tongues on halved oranges. 

One creator notorious for this behavior is Cedrik Lorenzen, who posts “recipe” videos several times a week that often amass millions of views. The food, notably, does usually look pretty solid. He usually creates semi-elaborate but still accessible desserts, like chocolate churros or jelly donut French toast. The overarching concept seems to be that a man could prepare these for a date night with a woman. 

However, one would likely have trouble following the steps demonstrated in the video despite him routinely listing out the ingredients and process in the caption. At one point in the French toast video, for example, he draws a few dozen little hearts on the counter in what appears to be strawberry syrup, only to immediately wash them away with soap and water in long strokes that show off his arms. It's apparent that these videos aren’t actually designed to help men prepare a meal but rather to sell the fantasy that men would do this to women. The captions reveal this as well. Above the recipe notes for the French toast, for example, Lorenzen wrote, “Date night dishes that will keep her wet for more.”

Further popularizing his videos are several duets from other creators responding in disgust, frustration and confusion. Lorenzen’s videos are cringe, and he knows it. As he told The Cut in July, “I don’t always get my page right. Some of my stuff is a bit too extreme, maybe a bit too, let’s say, ‘sexual,’ or maybe a bit too cringey.” 

But while there are countless comments, tweets, and TikTok stitches showing that “cringey” is indeed the primary word most would use to describe these videos, there is just as much feedback from women who, apparently, find all this hot. “Mkay, but why did my ankles tingle watching this? 🤔🫣🫠🫠🫠,” one woman wrote in his comments. “Suddenly my marriage doesn't seem so important,” said another. 

This relationship between genuinely sexy and cringe in the food world often plays out much more subtly. Creator @ohmontaine went viral over the last year for his clips dolling out relationship advice and anecdotes while preparing dinner. In them, he stands before his camera, propped up on his counter, and talks as he dices and chops. Most often, he doesn’t even say what he’s making. 

For months, he was admired for his clearheadedness and Jeremy Allen White looks, but his reputation began to turn over the summer. General suspicion of him grew, particularly among other men—they called him a “biggest pick me, where’s-my-hug-at energy” type of guy, a “walking red flag.” In part, this suspicion might have been jealousy. Montaine was (and still is) popular among women and made content with women as his audience. But rather than ignore these comments from men and continue on with his schtick, Montaine decided to respond… with a rap.

“Step one, I never get tired of the hate. You gotta be good ‘fore you ever be great,” his song begins, performed in a video in July. “I know the hate comments only happened cause they board [sic],” goes the next line, lyrics appearing on the screen. He doesn’t quite say “cause they bored,” but rather “cuh dey board,” which many have interpreted as a pun about the cutting board that typically appears in his videos. 

Since then, “cuh dey board” has become the biggest phrase associated with Montaine. If he was getting hate from men before, now he’s experiencing it tenfold. There are dozens and dozens of videos—some of which now have millions of views of their own—highlighting the lyrics and making jokes about it. And while Montaine is still making his typical content on top of occasionally responding to the drama, and even though plenty of women still seem to interact with him the same, his overall reputation on the app has soured: When you search his name, the majority of videos are about the song or otherwise critiquing him. He has, in other words, become cringe, too.

As soon as Montaine acknowledged this whole thing he had going, it became clear that he is doing it for the spectacle. He is trying to be hot. And look, so is most everyone else on the internet, but food isn’t something that requires the extra performativity. Cedrik Lorenzen and those like him could make videos of them cooking normally as their handsome muscle-y selves, and the content would likely be even sexier. It would get to the truth of the eroticism of food in itself. 

No doubt, Montaine is emulating a bit of Bourdain, and surely Bourdain was at least trying (and succeeding) to be cool. But he never made a point of combining his culinary life and his physical appeal. That’s part of why he was hot and why so many men since him have wanted to take on his role.

Again, plenty of women seem to find these exaggerated portrayals of culinary hotness effective—perhaps they are starved for intimacy elsewhere in their lives. But whether it’s these subtler videos of a guy chopping up vegetables or the more overt Magic-Mike-meets-Top-Chef genre, the line between genuinely erotic and uncomfortably showy is thin, yet difficult to turn back from once crossed. In some ways, now that some TikTokers have leaned into it, the once-subtle divide is all the more apparent.

Categories: Tech News

SpaceX sues US attorney general in bid to stop hiring-discrimination case

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 10:52
A pen and book resting atop a paper copy of a lawsuit.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | eccolo74)

SpaceX has sued US Attorney General Merrick Garland and two other Department of Justice officials in response to the government's allegations that SpaceX discriminated against asylees and refugees in hiring. SpaceX denied the hiring discrimination claims and alleged that the DOJ's administrative process for handling the discrimination complaint is unconstitutional.

The Justice Department filed an administrative complaint against SpaceX on August 24 alleging that from at least September 2018 to at least May 2022, Elon Musk's space company "discriminated against asylees and refugees throughout its hiring process, including during recruiting, screening, and selection, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act."

The DOJ suit alleged that "asylees and refugees had virtually no chance of being fairly considered for or hired for a job at SpaceX." The DOJ complaint was filed through its own administrative hearing office in which cases are heard by administrative law judges. SpaceX is trying to stop that process by filing a lawsuit in US District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

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Google’s AI assistant can now read your emails, plan trips, “double-check” answers

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 10:35
A robot swearing to tell the truth with its hand on a bible.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Google announced updates to its Google Bard AI assistant—its version of ChatGPT—including integration with Google apps (such as Gmail, Docs, Drive, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Flights) and a feature to double-check Bard's answers against web content. It also added language support for over 40 languages.

Notably, Bard's new "double-check button" has been designed to provide a counter against confabulations where Bard produces inaccurate information or makes things up (a concept often called "hallucinations" in the AI field). It's a very public admission that Bard often lacks accuracy and isn't a dependable factual reference. Here's how Google describes it:

Starting today with responses in English, you can use Bard’s “Google it” button to more easily double-check its answers. When you click on the “G” icon, Bard will read the response and evaluate whether there is content across the web to substantiate it. When a statement can be evaluated, you can click the highlighted phrases and learn more about supporting or contradicting information found by Search.

To use the double-check feature, users can click a small "G" logo below Bard's results. Bard will perform a search of the web and highlight sentences in its output that match affirmatively with a green highlight. Bard statements that contradict Google Search results get a peach-colored highlight. From our experiments, the double-check button reinforced some statements but did not always catch logical flaws in its output.

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Google Slides adds live collaborative mouse pointers

ARS Technica - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 10:16
Google Slides adds live collaborative mouse pointers

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google Slides, Google's PowerPoint competitor, is getting a fun new collaborative feature: live mouse pointers. When multiple people are editing a presentation, they'll be able to see everyone else's mouse cursor, as if they've suddenly booted up a remote desktop instance.

Google Docs and Sheets have long had multiple typing indicators for each person, representing what sentence or cell they're working on. That sort of thing doesn't work well for presentations, though, which often involve images and rearranging things on a free-form layout. Slides will now offer live remote mouse pointers from other people participating in an edit, which will smoothly move around the screen just like a real mouse. This doesn't seem particularly useful without some other form of communication, but if you're on a voice or video call, the live cursor could let you easily point to things while you explain them.

Google Slides with multiple multicolored mouse pointers.

Google Slides with multiple multicolored mouse pointers. (credit: Google)

Unlike Docs and Sheets collaborative indicators, each person must individually opt-in to sharing their pointer location. There's now a pointer button in the top-right corner that will turn on sharing, or it can be turned on via the menu at "View > Live pointers > show my pointer." If the idea of brightly colored mouse pointers dancing across the screen sounds too distracting, the option to hide other people's mouse cursors altogether can be found at "View > Live pointers > show collaborator pointers."

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Venture capital firm makes 'unsolicited' bid for MariaDB buyout

The Register - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 10:15
Database company, which went through an IPO in December last year, was still in search of credit facility as of August

Venture capital firm Runa Capital has made a bid for MariaDB, the database company which endured a disappointing IPO last year and is still in discussions for additional funding.…

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