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Save $80 on the Bose SoundLink around-ear wireless headphones II

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

If you’re looking for an excellent pair of Bluetooth headphones, we’ve got a deal you might be interested in. The Bose SoundLink around-ear wireless headphones II are normally $279.99 and just received a price drop to $229. Now, they’re on sale for just $199. 

While these might not be as high-end as the $349.99 QuietComfort 35 II, they’re still pretty damn good. You’re not getting Google Assistant built in like on the QC35 II, but you are getting great sound, a comfortable listening experience, and a design that won’t make you stand out in the crowd for the wrong reasons. 

The headphones can connect to two devices at the same time and switch between them with a simple flip of a switch. My current pair of headphones (unfortunately not these Bose headphones) can also pull off the same trick. Its perfect for listening to audio from my computer but still being able to monitor my phone as well. Since these come with a microphone built-in, you can take calls without taking off the headphones too.

Bose claims that the headphones will give you up to 15 hours of listening time. There’s also quick charging built in that Bose claims will give you two hours of play time on only 15 minutes of charging. Touch controls on the side of the headphones allow you to control your music and calls and voice prompts give you updates on your battery life, device connection status, and caller ID.

Really, the only negatives we can find with these things are that they don’t have Active Noise Cancellation and charge via micro USB.

If you’re interested in grabbing a pair, hit one of the buttons below. Also, don’t forget to check out the rest of the deals we’re tracking in our Black Friday deals roundup post


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A photosynthetic organism's 'Water World'

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Following the path of radicals and being able to identify many damaged residues because of incredibly accurate, expeditious and sensitive mass spectrometry, three scientists studied the great granddaddy of all photosynthetic organisms — a strain of cyanobacteria — to develop the first experimental map of that organism’s water world.

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How to Escape From Roy Moore’s Evangelicalism

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Some evangelicals have grown so frustrated with their tradition’s captivity to a particular brand of politics — and the idolatries of white supremacy and the free market — that they have proposed a radical withdrawal from both Moral Majority-style activism and modern consumer culture. Worship, after all, is not just something that happens in church.

The philosopher James K. A. Smith, who teaches at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., has argued that our lives are shot through with unconscious acts of worship, whether we genuflect at the Apple Store or wake up whispering prayers for our child’s admission to the Ivy League. “We are, ultimately, liturgical animals because we are fundamentally desiring creatures,” he writes in his book “Desiring the Kingdom.” “We are what we love.”

In that case, rooting out idolatries means radical lifestyle change. Some disillusioned conservatives have embraced what the Christian writer Rod Dreher calls the “Benedict Option”: a retreat from the world to preserve the values of Christian civilization during these new Dark Ages, in the spirit of St. Benedict.

He argues that Christians should stop trying to “make America great again,” abandon the ends-justify-the-means politics that leads them to defend predators and scoundrels like Mr. Moore, and focus instead on nurturing local Christian community. “Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians,” Mr. Dreher writes in “The Benedict Option.”

This kind of intense localism may lead one to befriend unfamiliar neighbors, and hospitality is a major theme of Mr. Dreher’s book. But at a time when many Americans live in economically and ethnically segregated communities, it seems doubtful that further withdrawal from the world will stimulate radical empathy. The urge to batten down the hatches may actually feed the cultural patterns that enabled the election of Donald Trump: the impulse to associate only with people like ourselves and grow even more certain that evil forces are persecuting us.

Luma Simms likes to say that she tried the Benedict Option before it was trendy. She emigrated to California from Iraq as a young girl. Her father was Syrian Orthodox, her mother a Chaldean Catholic, but the desire to assimilate drove her to convert to evangelical Protestantism. “When I asked myself, what does it mean to become American, part of the answer was espousing an evangelical Protestant worldview,” she told me. “I wanted to be on the political side that believed America was good.”

After Ms. Simms became a parent, she began to worry about the influence of secular culture on her children as well as the politicization of mainstream evangelicalism. In 2006 her family moved to Arizona to join an insular church that promoted home schooling and strict patriarchal authority. “We were protecting our children, raising them up to be stronger citizens of a rightly understood America, so that when American culture starts collapsing like Dreher keeps telling us it will, they would rise up, having been well disciplined and educated, to become leaders,” she said.

The community was so cloistered and dogmatic that it estranged her from her oldest daughter and pushed her to cut off contact with her own parents. The church “made families like us view almost everyone outside that circle as a potential enemy of our thoughts,” Ms. Simms told me. After a dispute over the pastor’s authority, the church disintegrated in 2010.

Even mainstream churches can inadvertently encourage this kind of cultural quarantine: Most Americans still bow their heads in congregations dominated by a single racial or ethnic group. Although the diversity of congregations is growing nationwide, eight in 10 Americans still attend a house of worship in which one ethnic group makes up at least 80 percent of the congregation, according to the most recent National Congregations Study.

Reformers have long been working to build multiracial bridges in Christian academia and media, but these efforts alone won’t desegregate religious fellowship. Ekemini Uwan is a Nigerian-American who has ventured farther than most black Christians into the citadels of white evangelicalism. Last year she graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pa. For most of her time there, she was the only black woman in her program, she told me (the school has a sizable Asian student population, but fewer than 6 percent of students identify as black or Latino). She writes for traditionally white evangelical media, like Christianity Today magazine. But she has continued to attend “a predominantly black church” in Philadelphia, she said.

Ms. Uwan is used to keeping her guard up in scholarship and journalism, but worship is different: It requires the freedom to be vulnerable. “There’s what we theologians call an eschatological intrusion. It’s a foretaste of what we’re going to experience with God around the throne in the new heavens and new earth. It gets us out of our own world for an hour or two. You’re lost in worship, in wonder.” In a largely white worship setting, “when you have to prove yourself all the time, when your orthodoxy is always in question due to your blackness, you’re not safe to be vulnerable and honest,” she said.

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, he was acknowledging the special power that ritual and community have to stoke or weaken both love and hatred. There is no substitute for sharing the bread and wine — the climax of the Christian liturgy — with people unlike yourself, Ms. Schiess said. She called for fighting false idols with right worship: “Fox News forms a fear, a caricature of other people; if communion were done in churches with diverse populations, it would counteract that fear.”

A new theology of communion appealed to Ms. Simms, the Christian in Arizona. A few years ago she converted to Catholicism, moved by the Catholic balance of otherworldliness and earthly compassion: “The sacraments elevate us,” she said. For Catholics, the bread and wine are not metaphors for Jesus’ body and blood, but the real thing — a miraculous, fleshly conduit between God and creation. The Vatican has stressed the doctrine of the “mystical body of Christ” — which includes, at least potentially, all human beings — in response to racism, genocide and other atrocities of the 20th century.

Catholic theology is not inherently more moral than Protestantism, and the sacraments have not saved the Catholic Church from its share of hypocrisy and crime over the centuries. But for some evangelicals, a stronger sense of participation in holy mystery offers a metaphysical jolt to the system — at a time when the relationship between evangelical worship and politics seems broken.

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar and prolific author who runs the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, was surprised when his publisher told him that his books on Christian contemplation and the power of liturgy are most popular with young evangelical men — who see a direct connection between changing worship and changing politics. “So many of the millennial evangelicals I work with, they’re so disillusioned with their good parents’ inability to deal with racism, sexism and homophobia — the issues tearing our country apart,” he told me.

Other young Christians are pursuing new forms of worship outside of traditional churches altogether. If you’re wondering what the future of not-so-organized religion looks like, look to the community that has grown up around “The Liturgists,” a podcast hosted by Michael Gungor, a musician, and Mike McHargue, a science writer (both are former evangelicals).

When they began the podcast in 2014, “we started it out of a sense of existential loneliness,” Mr. Gungor told me. They broadcast liturgical music, meditations and interviews with theologians and activists. The podcast has nurtured a community with a life of its own. Listeners find one another through social media, and the co-hosts travel the country to convene events where fans eat, drink and worship together — groups that often continue meeting after Mr. Gungor and Mr. McHargue leave town.

“As America deinstitutionalizes and moves away from religion, people — especially millennials — have lost something. Their community becomes primarily virtual, they’re seeing people through a screen and not flesh and blood, and there’s great data that this leads them to loneliness and depression,” Mr. McHargue said. “The core of every podcast is, ‘you’re not alone,’ and that draws people in, but we can’t stay there. We have to draw them into some kind of communal practice.”

One to two million listeners download the podcast each month, and it is surely one of the most theologically diverse subcultures on the internet. The audience includes atheists, evangelicals, mainline liberal Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians, all seeking new spiritual community.

All these people have one thing in common: the instinct that worship should be an act of humility, not hubris. It should be a discomfiting experience, not a doubling down on what’s easy and familiar. The battle for the soul of evangelicalism, the struggle to disentangle it from white supremacy, from misogyny — and from the instinct to defend politicians like Roy Moore — demands sound arguments grounded in evidence. But the effort must also advance at the precognitive level, in the habits and relationships of worshiping communities. Fellowship has the power to refashion angry gut feelings and instead form meek hearts and bounden duty.

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Your Brain Swells As You Learn Things, Then Kills Off Cells to Shrink Again

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Every time you learn a skill, new cells burst to life in your brain. Then, one after another, those cells die off as your brain figures out which ones it really needs.

In a new opinion paper, published online Nov. 14 in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, researchers proposed that this swelling and shrinking of the brain is a Darwinian process.

An initial burst of new cells helps the brain deal with new information, according to the paper. Then, the brain works out which of these new cells work best and which are unnecessary, killing off the extras in a survival-of-the-fittest contest. That cull leaves behind only the cells the brain needs to most efficiently maintain what it has learned, the paper said. [10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Brain]

The initial swelling or burst of brain cells is “rather small, of course,” said lead author Elisabeth Wenger, a researcher at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. “It would be quite impractical to have huge changes” inside the skull.

Researchers have long known that brains change in response to learning. A classic 2003 study, for example, observed major volume differences between the brains of professional and amateur musicians. But the new study is the first time researchers have watched that growth in action over a fairly long timescale, Wenger said, and offered a hypothesis as to how it works.

Wenger and her colleagues had 15 right-handed study subjects learn, over the course of seven weeks, to write with their left hands. The researchers subjected the enterprising learners to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans over the study period. The gray matter in the subjects’ motor cortices (regions of the brain involved in muscle movement) grew by an additional 2 to 3 percent before shrinking back to its original size, the researchers found.

“It’s so hard to observe and detect these volumetric changes, because, as you can imagine, there are also many noise factors that come into play when we measure normal participants in the MRI scanner,” Wenger told Live Science. (“Noise” refers to messy, fuzzy artifacts in data that make it difficult for researchers to make precise measurements.)

MRIs use complex physics to peer through the walls of the skull into the brain. But the machines aren’t perfect and can introduce errors in fine measurements. And the human brain swells and shrinks for reasons other than learning, Wenger said. For example, your brain is a lot more thick and turgid after a few glasses of water than if you’re dehydrated, Wenger said.

That’s why it’s taken so long for researchers to make good observations of this growth and shrinking over time (or, as the scientists call it, expansion and renormalization), Wenger said. It’s also why they can’t yet offer more detail as to exactly which cells are multiplying and dying off to cause all that change, she said.

Some mix of neurons and synapses — as well as various other cells that help the brain function — bursts into being as the brain learns. And then some of those cells disappear.

That’s all the researchers know so far, though it’s enough for them to develop their still-somewhat-rough model of expansion and renormalization. In order to deeply understand exactly how the process works, and what kind of cells are being selected for, the researchers need to study the process at a much finer level of detail, they said in the paper. They need to see which cells are appearing and which are disappearing.

In attempting to do that, however, researchers face the constant challenge of neuroscience: It’s not exactly ethical to slice into the skulls of living people and poke around with microscopes and needles.

Wenger said the next steps will involve fine-tuning MRIs to help provide the finer level of detail the scientists need. The researchers will also do some poking around in the brains of animals, where expansion and renormalization is already somewhat better-understood, she added.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Unlucky Truck Driver Gets 'Beaker-Faced' by Fellow Trucker

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

No further intel.

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The Wild Way Star Wars Actors Are Transported Around Set

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

How clandestine. But in this day and age where everyone has a camera, you can never be too careful. The insane amount of security Kelly Marie Tran described in Sci Fi Now Magazine, Issue 139, sounds like a wise decision on Lucasfilm’s part. While speculation is fun, most people do not want the movie spoiled for them by some grainy set photo. It might not seem like it, but there are all kinds of information that can be gleaned from actors being transported around set. If Mark Hamill is seen hopping in a car with Adam Driver, one could surmise that they might have a scene together. The black robes are also a smart play. With all the debate about who will go dark and flip-flop (it’s happened before) in that galaxy far far away, a simple costume could give something away. Heck, a spy photo of Daisy Ridley in a black robe might elicit cries of ‘Rey goes dark! She’s a Sith!!!’, when in fact she is merely moving around the set in a stealthy fashion.

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A Japanese train company apologized after train left 20 seconds early

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

train japanKoichi
Kamoshida/Getty Images

  • A Japanese transit company issued an apology after one
    of its Tokyo trains left a station 20-seconds too
  • Japan’s train system is known to be meticulously

Japan’s train system is
known for many things
, but mainly that its services are timed
to be perfectly punctual.

So when the No. 5255 Tsukuba Express train left the
Minami-Nagareyama station, in a suburb east of Tokyo, at 9:44:20
a.m. instead of 9:44:40 a.m. on Tuesday as scheduled, the
meticulously-timed commute was slightly affected.

While all hell broke didn’t break loose, the company still saw
fit to apologize.

Before the end of the day, the Tsukuba Express management posted
a response on its website saying “We deeply apologize for the
severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers.”

According to a reporter at SoraNews24
, the slightly early
departure could have affected traveler’s commutes because some
people plan to arrive at the platform just as the train pulls up,
and even synchronize their watches with the clock at their local
train station. A missed departure could then have a flow-on
effect for down-the-line transfers.

This isn’t the first surprising apology a Japanese company has

Last year, the Japanese frozen dessert company Akagi Nyugyo
issued an apology via a somber nationwide commercial when it

raised the price of its Garigari-kun popsicles by 9 cents

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Here’s what one of the leading minds in private equity thinks – GeekWire

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Robert F. Smith, left, of Vista Equity Partners speaks at the EY Strategic Growth Forum. (GeekWire Photo)

PALM DESERT, Calif. — There’s been a lot of chatter in recent months about the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on jobs. And while automation may wipe out hundreds of thousands — or millions — of jobs around the planet, we should not be too fearful.

At least that’s the take of Robert F. Smith, the co-founder and CEO of private equity powerhouse Vista Equity Partners. Smith has a unique insight into the coming wave of innovation, since his 17-year-old firm has invested $30 billion across a wide array of software companies, including MediaOcean, Marketo, EagleView, Vertafore and Zapproved.

The way Smith sees it, artificial intelligence will not wipe out jobs completely.

Robert F. Smith (photo via EY)

“There will be what I call the augmentation of the human experience and work, not the complete displacement,” said Smith, speaking at the EY Strategic Growth Forum. “And I think there is going to be that transformation.”

Smith pointed to Vista Equity Partners’ investment in Omnitracs, a Dallas-based maker of fleet management software.  Smith admits that driverless trucks are in the future, with the potential to impact 800,000 truck drivers across the country.

However, Smith said it will likely be 10-15 years before we see fully-automated driving, and by that time many truck drivers will have transitioned to new roles within the industry. For example, he said that truck drivers will likely transition to “field technicians” — perhaps staying in the truck cab for longer periods of time to make sure they are monitoring the systems and making sure they are operating properly.

Over time, he said the role of truck driver will be phased out. But that does not mean all jobs will disappear. He continued:

“While the adoption will be faster than we all think, I think there is going to be a thoughtful dynamic of the utilization of people in that context. Again, I think it is going to be the augmentation as opposed to the complete displacement.  Just like when we went from an agrarian economy to an industrialized economy, yeah a lot of farmers went out of work, but their kids decided I am not going to be a farmer, I am going to learn how to read and I am going to actually learn how to work in a factory. We are going to have that same sort of dynamic. There are generations who say: ‘I am going to need 10 to 12 years of this. They are going to have to either retool, or get displaced. But that next generation after that … I think they are going to actually be more digitally enabled than that prior generation.”

Of course, not everyone is as bullish as Smith on the future of AI and jobs.

“U.S. factories are not disappearing: They simply aren’t employing human workers,” Moshe Vardi, an expert on artificial intelligence at Rice University, told GeekWire last year. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also weighed in on the issue earlier this year, offering a similar viewpoint to Smith about the importance of retraining the workforce.

“We need technological breakthroughs that drive growth beyond ‘us’… in the world. … We now have to do our very best work, both as tech industry, the rest of the industry, the public sector, the government, in being able to help our people get skilled for the jobs of the future. That, I think, is the most pressing need. So now we’ve got to say, what are the moral equivalents of that? Not only are we going to upscale everyone for new jobs, [we also have to] talk about the returns on capital vs. labor achieving equilibrium. Those are, I think, the pressing challenges of modern democracies.”

Previously on GeekWire: Outcry rises when Trump’s treasury chief, Steve Mnuchin, scoffs at AI impact on jobs

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Tesla Brings Back the Roadster: 0-60 in 1.9 Seconds, 620-Mile Range

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

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HAWTHORNE, Calif. — This is how to run a crowdfunding event, Tesla style. It was billed as the unveiling of the Tesla Semi, the 500-mile electric truck. But surprise: Thursday night’s event was also the unveiling of the second-generation Tesla Roadster and its amazing performance figures. An equally impressive figure was the quarter of a billion dollars Tesla plans to take in on reservations.

The first 1,000 Roadsters are Founders Series cars. You put up the full $250,000 price in advance, and then wait until the 2020 (projected) delivery date. Others who want to reserve put down $50,000 and wait along with the founders.


What is the Tesla Roadster?

The first Tesla Roadster lived from 2008-2012 and put the company on the map. This is an all-new design with serious performance chops. These are specs Tesla CEO Elon Musk laid out:

The Tesla Roadster, as it is again called for now, is a four-passenger electric sports car with a removable glass roof panel, whereas to purists roadster connotes a two-seat, sporty convertible. So it’s more like a Porsche 911 Targa, only costlier. But close enough.

Tesla’s spec sheet says the new Roadster is awesome. First, there’s the 1.9 second clocking for 0-100 kph (0-62 mph), quicker than any other street legal car. One hundred miles per hour comes up in 4.2 seconds. At a drag strip, you’ll trip the quarter-mile lights at just 8.8 seconds. Top speed? “More than 250 mph,” and, Musk said, “This is just the base model.”

The battery is 200-kWh, twice as much as on other Tesla. It’s good for 620 miles or 1,000 kilometers of driving (depending on how you drive). Power goes to three motors, two in back and one in front, making this an all-wheel-drive car.

With these kinds of performance numbers, the days of combustion-engine supercars may be on the wane.

Elon Musk unveiling the 2020 Tesla Roadster outside Los Angeles Thursday.

Reality Check: When Will It Ship?

At the rollout, after watching a Roadster prototype zoom into and out of view, Musk said, amid cheers, “People asked us for a long time, ‘When are you going to make a new Roadster?’ We are making it now.”

Technically,”now” is really 2020 as the promised ship date, and for Tesla, ship dates should taken with a grain of salt. Meanwhile, if all 1,000 Founders Edition cars sell, as well as another 1,000 regular ($50,000) reservations for the regular-price $200,000 Roadsters, Tesla has $300 million in the bank to get the Roadster out the door. All crowdfunding should be so successful.

The original Tesla Roadster, 2008-2012.

Tesla Roadster I vs. Roadster II

The first Roadster was a two-seater with a removable soft top, and sold for $109,000 to $128,500. Tesla worked with Lotus on the body, which it produced as a glider — no running gear — and shipped to Tesla in California.

The 288-hp electric motor drove the rear wheels only. Production ran until early 2012 and sales amounted to just under 2,500. Production of the Model S sedan began in 2012, and Tesla moved from a small, niche car company to a less small, serious car company that earlier this year had the fourth largest market value (market cap), behind Toyota, Daimler, and Volkswagen.

It’s unclear if Tesla will ultimately choose a different name for the second-generation Roadster. There is some confusion here, because later production of the first generation model was called the Roadster 2.5.

With the Tesla Semi and Roadster, Tesla now has five vehicle lines: Model S, X, and 3 currently shipping, and Tesla Semi and Roadster on the way. A pickup truck is in the offing.

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An Interview with ‘The Breadwinner’’s Nora Twomey and Saara Chaudry

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Nora Twomey.
Nora Twomey.

“We’re in a time when we are looking to pull cultures apart, and tell them they don’t have the right to tell their stories, which is the opposite of what we should be doing,” Twomey told me in a Hollywood hotel suite adjacent to the Animation Is Film festival, shared with Saara Chaudry, the voice of The Breadwinner’s persevering protagonist, Parvana. “We should all be trying to tell each other’s stories, to understand and participate in each other’s stories, so that we can learn about each other and have some of hope for the future.”

Opening today in L.A. (Nuart Theatre) and N.Y.C. (IFC Center, The Landmark at 57 West), The Breadwinner, being a story about storytelling, finds metafictional hope where it can. From the stories of Parvana’s disabled, quickly imprisoned father to cinematic expressions of Afghan folklore and legend, from letters of tragedy Parvana reads to an ally on the streets to sudden interrogations in the market that can lead to sudden death, The Breadwinner artfully, painfully communicates humanity’s powers to communicate both hope and harm in equal measure.

As such, it stands out among other more mainstream awards season candidates like a must-read message from turbulent planet. I spoke with Twomey and Chaudry about animation using its singular power of expression to make the world a better place, before it is too late.

A still from "The Breadwinner."
A still from “The Breadwinner.”

Cartoon Brew: The Breadwinner is the only awards season animated film I know of that currently has its own study guide

Nora Twomey: I suppose that I would never come at a film with an agenda, in terms of message. I think if I tried to do that, I would probably fail miserably. All I can do, as a filmmaker as well as a mother, is to try and make films that have resonance with me. At the end of the day, I make stories for myself, first and foremost. And I feel that if I make a film that expresses a story from — but also to — me, then I have succeeded in some way, especially if I can gather people around me who also have stories to tell.

The Breadwinner is Deborah Ellis’ book, but it’s also the testimony of all of the women she spoke to in refugee camps in Pakistan, as well as the Afghan caste members who told their stories to inform me and the rest of our cast and crew about the complexity of the story we were trying to tell. And it’s also other people’s stories: We had a young Iraqi woman working who joined the project as a filmmaker and very much invested herself in this film. It’s people from different cultures; it’s more than the sum of its parts, and way more than I could ever have made as a solo project.

The Breadwinner powerfully, and persuasively, balances its myriad sociopolitical, stylistic, and historical components…

Nora Twomey: If anything, The Breadwinner is a massive collaboration between over 300 people, all honestly giving more than they usually would on a film, for their own reasons. And you’re talking about people with different political perspectives as well – on the world, on human rights, women’s rights, and the rest of it. But they are all filtering into the one story.

As a director, you just try to tell the best story that you can, to try and make characters that are as true as they can be, that there is a rawness in there, that there is truth and vulnerability. To be able to get that from your animation performances, to be able to get that from the rendering of the backgrounds, to be able to get that from your voice cast, is always something that you’re chasing after. I mean, I don’t mind making flawed films. If you can make a film that has flaws and cracks in it, that is at least searching for the truth, as opposed to making something that is by-the-book or very polished. For me, that is the joy of filmmaking.

A still from "The Breadwinner."
A still from “The Breadwinner.”

I’ll say that Cartoon Saloon hasn’t made a flawed film yet, which may be another way of saying that the pressure is on. But from The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea to The Breadwinner, Cartoon Saloon makes films that aren’t, for lack of a better term, disposable.

Nora Twomey: I think we at Cartoon Saloon are in a very privileged position. Number one, we are a company created by a group of friends, in order to do the things that we love. And we love telling stories and we love drawing pictures. [laughs] So, that’s where we start from.

And then we live in a country with a film board that supports independent film, and the type of stories we want to tell. That’s a massive boost. We have a tax break in Ireland, and we have co-production partners in different parts of the world. The Breadwinner was made with Canada’s Aircraft Pictures and Melusine in Luxembourg. So it gives us freedom when we can find like-minded studios around the world with people who share our sensibilities and want to create the kind of stories that we want to create. And it’s a freedom to make mistakes; we don’t have a huge financial pressure breathing down on us.

Your social media feeds keep telling me you’re hiring.

Nora Twomey: Yeah, things certainly are great in Ireland’s animation industry at the moment. But all of these things ebb and flow, you know? As successful as things are now, who’s to tell what’s going to happen in the future? When you have this kind of support, films like The Breadwinner become an awful lot more easy to make. It certainly made it a much easier experience for me, as a director, to make a film in that environment.

That sounds like an excellent argument for national funding for cinema…

Nora Twomey: Absolutely, yeah. It asks us: “What do we want to do as a global society? What kinds of stories do we want to tell our kids? Are we pushing the toy everyone wants for Christmas, or are we trying to give our children tools to deal with the world?”

For me, it’s the latter. I mean, I made a choice in my twenties as to what I was going to do. Was I was going to work in a big studio, or was I was going to try and give myself that feeling where it’s six o’clock in the evening and I want to continue working? I wanted to have that exuberance about what I do.

A still from "The Breadwinner."
A still from “The Breadwinner.”

Nora, you’ve said regarding The Breadwinner that animation can help equip our children to deal with the world they’ve inherited. How old do you and Saara think children should be to see it?

Saara Chaudry voices the lead character, Parvana, in "The Breadwinner."
Saara Chaudry voices the lead character, Parvana, in “The Breadwinner.”

Saara Chaudry: The poster says PG-13, but I read this book when I was nine years old, and it did not scare me, and it did not make me feel uncomfortable. Being an absolutely lucky child from Canada, all it did was make me ask questions. After I read the book, I asked my mom a question each day, sometimes 20, because it was all I could think of. If I could handle that at nine, I think as long as children understand what they are about to watch, and as long as they’re prepared to later understand the different concepts and themes of the film, then go ahead and watch.

Nora and I always talk about this: Parents and adults will come out of the theater with tears in their eyes, sometimes worried about their children. Should they have watched it? Should they have been kept at home? But the children come out and they’re laughing about Parvana’s argument with her sister. They find relatable things like that. A girl about seven watched a screening and came up to me after and said, “I want to be just like that girl.” And it just warmed my heart. She kept asking me questions about the movie and the book, which she was also reading. But I found the fact that she wasn’t scared, but wanted to learn more and be like Parvana, to be so special. As long as children are ready to ask questions and learn more about their world, they should watch The Breadwinner.

Nora Twomey: Our job as adults is not to protect children from things that might scare them. Our job is to help children deal with things that will scare them, to deal with their own fears. Because if they grow up not knowing about any of these things, all they are going to do is ignore them, or oversimplify them, or listen to soundbites and not be able to deal with them. If children are exposed to issues explored in The Breadwinner with their families in a supportive way, they will grow up to be stronger adults with the capacity to actually make changes in the world, which to me is the ultimate expression of hope.

A still from "The Breadwinner."
A still from “The Breadwinner.”

How do you think The Breadwinner can equip children to deal with the overheating, war-torn planet world we’ve so tragically created for them?

Nora Twomey: For me, it’s all about empathy. Roger Ebert once said that films at their best are giant empathy machines. For us, a character like Parvana, through all her strength and vulnerability, is still just one human life on this planet, and that can be taken away at any moment. Yet she has inherited all of this history from her ancestors, and she has the capacity to transform her future. She is a character with flaws, which I love. She has a difficult relationship with her sister; she regrets something she did that she felt made her dad think a little less of her. These are all things that are very human, and have happened to me in some shape or form throughout my life, and yet they are still quite universal.

So how does The Breadwinner equip young people? I think the film nods to the complexity of all of the underlying issues that create environments where someone like Parvana would have grown up. I don’t have all the answers to what’s going to happen, or what should happen in conflict areas around the world. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s in Ireland — where we had our own troubles, and our own political situation that took decades to arrive at a level of stability — so I have no blinkers on my eyes, in terms of understanding the vulnerability of peace, or the preciousness of hope and human life. For me, The Breadwinner is a celebration of all of those things.

Escape, not empathy, seems the goal of much of American culture these days. Do you think animation should be seeking less ways to escape the world?

Nora Twomey: I think all storytelling endeavors are one human being reaching out to another. To say that, for this journey at least, you are not alone, and I understand what you are going through. For me, all storytelling is about that. It’s about that moment where you are trying to understand what your life is all about. And you may never know! [laughs] But you will know that someone else is also experiencing it. For me, that’s what it’s about.

Animation — particularly this kind of co-production, with over 300 people from different countries and cultures bringing all of their skills together to make one film and tell one story with one central performance — is, for me, the ultimate expression of hope. We can use different cultures to tell a universal story. In The Breadwinner, Parvana wears the crown of a 2,000-year-old nomadic princess, which is based on an artifact dug up in the ’50s in an area of Afghanistan called the Hill of Gold. To me, the crown represents the Silk Road, the mix of cultures that ran through Afghanistan, and the idea of mixing cultures to tell stories, which is very potent.

Because we’re in a time when we are looking to pull cultures apart, and tell them they don’t have the right to tell their stories, which is the opposite of what we should be doing. We should all be trying to tell each other’s stories, to understand and participate in each other’s stories, so that we can learn about each other and have some of hope for the future.

"The Breadwinner."
“The Breadwinner.”

Cartoon Saloon’s work embodies that philosophy: The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea explore Irish folklore and myth; The Breadwinner is anchored in Afghan culture; and your amazing first film, From Darkness, is based on an Inuit legend. Yet they all teach that storytelling, no matter its geographic origin, is a universal mechanism for unity.

Nora Twomey: Yeah, absolutely. As parents, I think our first urge is to tell our children a story. It is often the first thing they hear from us, which is utterly universal. Certainly, when The Breadwinner’s screenwriter, Anita Doron, looked at what kind of story we could tell for Parvana, it was a universal one, not specifically an Afghan one. It is that story of a hero with three tasks, which is told across different cultures. We very specifically tied it to her own family’s mourning, something that was impossible to express on a day-to-day basis, for fear of losing what sanity their family had.

At our cast and crew screening in Toronto, a cast member brought her dad, who had come to Canada from Afghanistan during the communist era, I think. I could see them holding hands all through the film, and afterward he talked to her in Dari, which is their language, about things that had happened to him and things that he had seen that he hadn’t expressed before. Because you can imagine, you can’t dwell on things when you need to raise a family in Afghanistan; you can’t express yourself if you want to hang on to your sanity.

Stories like The Breadwinner are a means by which we can open a little door to some of these areas in people’s hearts where they keep all of this stuff. Whether it be on that level, or whether it be on the level of a Western family with their own issues to deal with, including lack of families, there are hearts we can explore with films like The Breadwinner in a way that will start conversations.

How do you feel The Breadwinner, which opened the inaugural Animation is Film festival, exemplified the event’s aspirations for animation to be taken more seriously as a cinematic art form?

Nora Twomey: Seeing animation being encouraged like this is incredible. Standing in the theater and watching people walk into the different screenings is such a boost. There is a market for this; people are hungry for films that tell different stories. In terms of animation being film, I’ve probably gone through my whole life trying to fight against animation as genre. [laughs] And I’ve had people tell me that they forget that The Breadwinner is animation, as though it’s an insult to call it animation. I remember being in the back of a taxicab telling the driver about The Breadwinner and he said, “Why don’t you make it a real film?”

Saara Chaudry: There is an assumption that it’s supposed to be a live-action film, which is what I am often asked when I tell people what The Breadwinner is about. But animation isn’t supposed to be anything; you can take it in whatever direction you want. When people finally watch The Breadwinner, then they often understand why it is an animated film. It’s fantastic that we have such an incredible movie, based on an incredible book, in a festival that celebrates the choice to use animation.

The Breadwinners opens today in Los Angeles and New York City, and will continue to expand nationwide and globally throughout the winter. For a list of screening dates and cities, visit the film’s website.

"The Breadwinner" American poster.

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Shasta Ventures promotes three to partner

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Shasta Ventures is promoting three of its principals to partner. Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Jacob Mullins and Nitin Chopra have all made it to this coveted venture capital milestone.

Shasta has about $1.3 billion under management across its five funds.  Notable exits include Dollar Shave ClubNest, Apptio, SteelBrick and Skycure. 

The group likes to invest in Series A rounds and places a particular focus on enterprise, consumer, and emerging technology like virtual reality. Each of its new partners has an expertise in one of these categories.

Basu Trivedi has been looking at consumer opportunities, with a particular emphasis on subscription commerce. He currently sits on the board of The Farmer’s Dog and previously co-founded Artsy.

Mullins, who founded Exitround, has been very active in the VR and AR space. He’ll also be looking at emerging categories like the connected home and robotics. Mullins sits on the board of Camera IQ.

Chopra has carved out a niche in enterprise software and also invests in big data. He’s on the board of SlamData and previously worked for BlackBerry at RIM.

Team Shasta believes that it’s important to “bring people up in the culture of the firm and move people along,” said Rob Coneybeer, co-founder and managing director at Shasta Ventures. “We’re really excited about these folks.”

At many venture firms, promotions to partner are rare. The associate job is often described as a “two-year gig,” where the typical next steps are business school or a role at a portfolio company.

Titles differ from firm to firm, but those who make it to principal usually have a better shot at reaching partner status.

Shasta was founded in 2004 and makes investments across the United States. In addition to San Francisco, the group has been looking at opportunities in Austin, Denver, Seattle and New York.


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How well do the Google Pixel Buds translate languages?

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Google’s new Pixel Buds can work with Google Assistant on a phone to translate 40 different languages, and Google plans to add more to that list. We put the earbuds to the test with 10 languages: Spanish, French, Malay, Greek, German, Portuguese, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, and Polish. 

Overall, the headphones performed well. They couldn’t really handle multiple sentences in a row, or long, complicated sentences, but for well-enunciated basic phrases and questions, it was spot-on. The translation takes a few seconds to work, so there’s an awkward pause when you’re using the earbuds to have a conversation with another person.

We also found that the translation was more accurate when the headphones translated from another language to English, but not as well for English into other languages. 

So, there’s room for improvement, but as they are now, they work well for simple communication and are, at the very least, highly entertaining. 

Get the latest Google stock price here.

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The World’s First “Space Nation” Just Launched a Satellite Into Orbit

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

One Small Step for Asgardians

The Asgardia-1 satellite launched aboard the NASA commercial vessel OA-8 Antares-Cygnus from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to the International Space Station (ISS) on November 12. If you’re an Asgardian, you’d probably note the date as November 12, 0001.

In October 2016, Russian scientist Igor Ashurbeyl set out to create the first “space nation.” His creation, Asgardia, is now described on its website as a “space kingdom,” and the Asgardia-1 satellite is its first presence in space.

Piece by Piece: The International Space Station (INFOGRAPHIC)
Click to View Full Infographic

While it’s a rather small presence — the “nanosat” is barely the size of a loaf of bread — the satellite does fulfill a promise Ashurbeyl made to early supporters of his new kind of nation.

“I promised there would be a launch,” Ashurbeyl, who was present during the launch, told CNN. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner…because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.” From the ISS, Asgardia-1 will be deployed into low-orbit space, where it will stay for around five to 18 months before burning out and disappearing.

Indeed, sending Asgardia-1 to space is an achievement for the space nation’s citizens, who are still based on Earth. The nanosat contained 0.5 TB of data from 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, including family photographs and digital representations Asgardia’s flag, coat of arms, and recently ratified constitution.

The launch of Asgardia-1 wasn’t just about fulfilling a promise or sending data into space, though.

To be considered for admission into the United Nations, a nation must meet four conditions. According to an Asgardian press release, three of those conditions — a constitution, a government, and a currency — have already been met: “Asgardia’s Constitution has already been accepted; its cryptocurrency, the Solar, is registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office; and the government formation is underway.”

By establishing the nation’s sovereign territory in space, Asgardia-1 meets the final condition: a territory.

Space Nation-Building

Asgardia is as much a scientific mission as it is a social experiment.

Concretely, it’s a nation-building effort, which is why citizens are working toward recognition from the United Nations. However, whether they gain this recognition or not, setting up a space nation requires more than just a political identity. First of all, Asgardia has to actually be in space. Otherwise, it risks becoming just a group of people who think of space as their home.

Image Credit: Asgardia

To do this, Asgardia plans to establish an orbital space station and a colony on the Moon.“It will be a four-level orbital station. I think the technical details will be defined by the Ministry of Science, which I hope we will have in the autumn of this year,” said Ashurbeyl at a press conference back in June.

How long before that space station and lunar colony come to fruition is anyone’s guess, but the number of people joining Asgardia is quite telling. Today, there are some 114,000 Asgardians from 204 Earth-based nations. That’s a drop from the 211,000 back in June, but Asgardia is only including those who ratified their constitution.

With Asgardia accepting anyone above the age of 18 — even convicts so long as they are clear of charges — what the nation represents, perhaps, is a chance to start over and participate in the formation of an “ideal” society, whether it actually gets off the ground or not.

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Apple delays HomePod until 2018, surrendering the smart speaker holiday market to Amazon and Google

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Apple today announced that the HomePod smart speaker will no longer be made available this year, but rather in early 2018. Missing the holidays could be a major setback for the smart speaker, which will compete with Amazon’s Echo series, Google’s Home series, and other several other smart speakers on the market. Though the smart speaker market is relatively new, the holiday season is traditionally the biggest time of year for sales.

“We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers,” Apple said in a statement Friday. “We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”

Apple first debuted the HomePod in June at its annual WWDC developer conference. At that time, Apple said the smart speaker would go on sale by the end of 2017 for $349. Once it becomes available, the HomePod with Siri inside will be able to do the sorts of things other AI assistants in smart speakers are able to do, like play music, set reminders, and control smart home devices.

VentureBeat has reached out to Apple for further comment on the cause of the delay. We will update this story should we hear back.

More to come.

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Google sells a screen protector for the Pixel 2 XL, but it might not be all that great

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

I was very happy when I received my Pixel 2 XL a few days ago, but I wasn’t thrilled about not having a screen protector for it. Those that are available seem to be mediocre at best, but Google hopes to solve that by finally releasing a glass screen protector of its own.

Power Support was tapped to make the screen protector, which looks to provide “full coverage” with curved sides meant to match those of the Pixel 2 XL. Looks are deceiving, however, with the screen protector only adhering to the sides of the display and not the display itself.

Because of that, it utilizes a dot matrix that, while advertised as making sure touch response remains accurate, is extremely noticeable in certain lighting conditions and looks terrible if you plan to use the Pixel 2 XL for virtual reality. 9to5Google also points out that, because the screen protector covers the whole screen, it might not be compatible with certain cases that wrap around the front of the screen.

Another sticking point is the price – $40 is not an affordable price for a screen protector, and if you mess up, you are on your own. That being said, at least it has all the proper cutouts and might actually fit well, but it’s up to you whether its use of a dot matrix makes or break the offering.

According to Google, the Pixel 2 XL screen protector is “coming soon,” so you have some time to consider whether coughing up the $40 is a good idea. Considering the lack of solid options available, however, some might find it worthwhile to at least give it a chance.

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Seagrass is a key fishing ground globally

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

New research demonstrates that seagrass meadows are important fishing grounds all around the globe. The work highlights that there is an urgent need to start appreciating and understanding this role to be able to build more sustainable fisheries. A study examines the global extent to which these underwater meadows support fishing activity.

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The Bonn Climate Conference: All Our Coverage in One Place

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

• Here are answers to the five biggest questions about Bonn, including: What’s the best-case scenario? And what might set off a fight?

• Here are five world leaders, or sets of leaders, who are emerging as climate change champions as the United States disengages.


At the China pavilion of the climate change conference.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Two years after Paris, the world is still off track

Under the Paris deal, nearly 200 countries submitted proposals for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. Yet not one of the major industrialized nations is on course to hit those goals.

And even those goals are just a starting point — emissions would have to be cut even further to stop global average temperatures from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels, the point at which scientists say drastic consequences will be unavoidable.

• Where do the countries stand now, what have they pledged and what will they eventually need to achieve? These charts lay it out:


Here’s How Far the World Is From Meeting Its Climate Goals

Two years after countries signed a landmark climate agreement in Paris, the world remains far off course from preventing drastic global warming in the decades ahead.

OPEN Graphic

• Separately, a study released on Monday was another indication that the world has not turned the corner on cutting emissions. Industrial emissions had been steady for the past three years, but are projected to rise to record highs this year:


CO2 Emissions Were Flat for Three Years. Now They’re Rising Again.

Industrial emissions of greenhouse gases will likely rise in 2017 after a three-year plateau. It’s a sign that the world is still far from achieving its goals to limit global warming.

OPEN Graphic

• The increase in global emissions is due in part to China burning more coal. Indeed, China is full of climate contradictions — it wants to be a leader in fighting global warming, and is on track to meet its Paris goals, but it is a long way away from weaning itself off coal.

• The Green Climate Fund, established in 2010, was meant to help developing countries tackle climate change. Seven years later, many of the most vulnerable nations have not seen any grants and some projects have raised red flags.

• Led by Canada and Britain, the 19 countries will end their coal power use by 2030. But none of them are big coal consumers.

• Some island nations, extremely vulnerable and frustrated by the slowness of the United Nations process, have started to look elsewhere for aid.

The United States is in an awkward position

• The Trump administration has sent a delegation to Bonn, but the American negotiators are hashing out the details of a climate deal that President Trump has vowed to abandon — “like a spouse who demands a divorce but then continues to live at home,” as our reporter put it.

• Yet delegates from other countries have refrained from openly criticizing the United States. “What is to be gained?” a United Nations official asked.

• On Thursday, the top American diplomat at the talks, Judith G. Garber, struck a conciliatory tone, mentioning climate change and not coal, and drew polite applause.

• But the Trump administration also sent representatives from energy companies to promote coal, natural gas and nuclear power, industries that Mr. Trump has pledged to support. Their presentation was met with jeers from protesters on Monday.

• A shadow American delegation is also at the talks, led by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, who have vowed that states, cities and businesses are “still in” the Paris agreement, even if the federal government is not.

Syria announced last week that it would join the Paris climate accord, meaning that every country in the world has now signed on to the pact or intends to join — and only one, the United States, has signaled its intention to withdraw from it. (Nicaragua, another holdout, said last month that it would join the agreement.)

• On the Friday before the conference opened, 13 federal agencies released a comprehensive scientific report that affirmed that humans are to blame for most of the global warming that has occurred since the start of the 20th century. That will not surprise anyone at the Bonn conference — but it does directly contradict statements from some top Trump administration officials.


A sphere on display at the Indian pavilion at the conference.

Patrik Stollarz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Here’s some of our best climate coverage this year

The Bonn conference is a good occasion to catch up on some climate change reading.

• We answered 17 often-asked questions about climate change. If you’re looking for a climate F.A.Q., look no further. You can even send us your questions at the bottom.

• There is no silver bullet for climate change, but you might be surprised by a particular solution that would be more effective than others. See if you can guess which one it is.

• We went to Antarctica to see its flowing ice sheets for ourselves, and to learn about what they might portend. Read our Antarctic Dispatches here, and take yourself there in virtual reality.

• We also went to Alaska, and found out that its permafrost is no longer permanent. And as it thaws, it is dumping carbon into the atmosphere.

• Arctic sea ice is disappearing, too. Take a look at the trend in this chart. (It will be pretty easy to spot.)

• Shifting from ice to heat: Summers are getting hotter. You aren’t imagining it, and it wasn’t always this way.

• In those hotter summers, the most extreme hot days — with highs of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, or 35 degrees Celsius — are expected to multiply. And if countries renege on their Paris pledges and take no action, it will be even worse.

Could you fix the world’s carbon budget? This feature from The Times’s Opinion Pages lets you try.

• And here are six maps that explain how Americans think about climate change. It turns out that people agree on certain issues more than you might expect.

Continue reading the main story

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Watch Disaster Robot Do Backflips and Leaps

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

New Video Shows a Creepily Human-Like Robot Doing a Backflip

A new version of a humanoid disaster robot, called Atlas, can do half-turns in the air and even a backflip.

Credit: Boston Dynamics

A new video shows a robot performing amazing acrobatic feats, from backflips to half-turn jumps.

The eerily humanoid robot, called Atlas, is 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighs 165 pounds (75 kilograms), and uses Lidar and stereovision to navigate in its surroundings, according to Boston Dynamics, which makes the robot. Atlas is designed to be able to take on emergency situations where human life would normally be put at risk, such as going into buildings that have crumbled after an earthquake, or dealing with patients who have deadly, highly infectious diseases, according  to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In the video, the newest version of the humanoid does a kind of jump training called plyometrics, leaping between raised platforms, doing a 180-degree turn in the air on raised platforms and performing a backflip off a platform. Though he may not give American gymnast Simone Biles a run for her money right now, the robot does manage to stick the landing. [Machine Dreams: 22 Human-Like Androids from Sci-Fi

Other videos show the robot stacking boxes on a shelf, ambling on a walk in the snow with a human “friend” and chasing after, and picking up, a box that’s deliberately moved out of its reach. According to the Boston Dynamics website, Atlas can carry payloads up to 24 lbs. (11 kg).

Atlas has other human-like abilities, such as a sense of balance, so it resists toppling when pushed, and can get back up after a fierce shove.

The current version of Atlas isn’t yet as agile as the average human; when it walks, it uses an awkward gait resembling a person who really, really has to get to a bathroom. And though it can travel over rough terrain, video seems to show it stumbling where a human might be fine.   

Still, the current version of Atlas is a dramatic improvement over its ancestors: In 2013, when it first debuted at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, Atlas weighed 330 lbs. (150 kg) and required a cord for power, Technology Review reported at the time

Originally published on Live Science.

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Watch: The little boy, in an earthquake hit area, brings his friend saying "you didn't give her food."

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

The little boy, in an earthquake hit area, brings his friend saying “you didn’t give her food.”

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How The Justice League Movie Nods At Steve Trevor

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Later on, the team is discussing the best course of action to take in dealing with the looming threat, and Wonder Woman and Bruce Wayne find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. Wayne goes after Diana for being MIA from the world for so long, when she could have been of great value. He takes her to task for only reappearing after Lex Luthor found a picture of her “boyfriend” Steve Trevor. Diana snaps a little bit at the use of Trevor’s name against her, and gives Bruce Wayne a punch to the chest that knocks him across the room.

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Seattle is building the world’s first floating light rail

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

seattle light rail
rendering of a floating light rail that will connect Seattle and
Bellevue, Washington.


  • Construction has begun on a light rail on a floating
    bridge in Seattle, Washington.
  • Set to be complete by 2023, it will likely become the
    first floating light rail line in the world.
  • It’s part of a larger $3.7 billion project to construct
    a light rail corridor that connects Seattle with Bellevue,

Seattle, Washington is no stranger to ambitious transportation
projects. The city is already home to four of the world’s longest
floating bridges. (Unlike a traditional bridge, a floating one
often uses massive pontoons — watertight concrete
blocks filled with air —
to support its road
deck.) Earlier this year, Seattle also completed

an earthquake-resistant bridge

Now the city is embarking on an even more ambitious transport
project. Local transit agency Sound Transit is build the
world’s first light rail (a passenger train designed for light
traffic) — on a floating bridge over Lake Washington by

The bridge will include two pairs of 300-ton trains that will
travel up to 55 mph. It’s part of a larger $3.7 billion
to construct a light rail corridor that connects
Seattle with Bellevue, Washington.

As The Seattle Times
, there’s not a lot of room for error with the project’s
floating component. Sound Transit is expecting 50,000 daily
riders for the new rail. If a train were to go off the bridge’s
tracks, it would sink 200 feet to the bottom of the lake.

Like Seattle’s other floating bridges, over two dozen giant
pontoons will connect to make it buoyant,
according to
CityLab. Below the deck, steel cables will
anchor the pontoons to the lake bed, which will protect the
bridge from rocking during strong waves or wind. The city will
also perform routine maintenance checks for cracks.

According to
the Times, two of the project’s
goals to reduce car traffic and carbon emissions in Seattle.
Sound Transit has said that it aims to
the city’s light rail system over the next 25 years.
If successful, it would be one of the largest transit projects in
the United States.

Other cities around the US have
similar efforts
to increase their public transit
options. Los Angeles’s City Council recently approved
the Mobility
2035 Plan
, which aims to build a new network of bus-only
lanes and bike lanes. Meanwhile, Phoenix, Arizona
plans to extend
its existing streetcar and rail systems in
almost every direction.

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Don’t flip out, but even the robots are more athletic than you — watch the latest from Boston Dynamics – GeekWire

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

I can’t even do jumping jacks without fear of pulling something. Now the robots do backflips?!

In a new video posted on YouTube Thursday, Boston Dynamics further proved that the droids we’re looking for are going to see us way before we see them.

The company’s Atlas humanoid jumps up onto a series of boxes while maintaining its balance. It spins around and jumps back to the ground, and then jumps to an even higher box. Then it spins, crouches and backflips. Atlas sticks the landing and even raises its arms above its head in triumph.

Great. I skipped two steps on the way out the door today and thought I knew parkour.

There’s a slo-motion replay if you really want to take it all in. And at the very end there are a couple bloopers, where the machine loses its balance and even falls robot-face first into the box. Thanks for adding that, Boston Dynamics. I’ll take that scenario in the nightmare where it’s chasing me.

The video comes just a couple days after the company, formerly part of Google parent Alphabet, and sold to SoftBank in June, released a video of SpotMini, a robot dog that will run up to you and crouch down to get a better look.

Then the thing trots off … probably to find Atlas and tell him where you’re hiding.

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The Nintendo Switch, SNES Classic Just Beat the Snot Out of Sony, Microsoft

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

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If a report from the NPD Group is accurate, Nintendo is eating Sony and Microsoft’s lunch in the United States. The Switch was the #1 selling console in October, while the Nintendo SNES Classic is #2. Add in 3DS sales, and the Nintendo Empire supposedly accounted for a stunning 66 percent of video game hardware sold in the US in October. Nintendo cheekily notes that the US console hardware market broke one million units in October for the first time since 2011.

Super Mario Odyssey managed to take the #1 spot on NPD’s sale chart despite launching on October 27, while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Breath of the Wild took spots #10 and #11 respectively — not bad for games that have been out so long.

The big challenge for Nintendo will be maintaining this momentum in November and December. The PlayStation 4 doesn’t have a lot going for it this holiday season as far as major new launches — Sony launched both VR and the PS4 Pro last year and while the company is certain to do some promotional activity, it’s not the same as Nintendo with its wildly popular new console or Microsoft, with its Xbox One X.

Xbox One X

What’s going to be particularly interesting to watch is how the two consoles shake out in November (adjusted for the fact that Microsoft only launched the Xbox One on the 7th). Initial sales figure for the Xbox One X look good, at least in some markets. Microsoft reports 80,000 sales in the UK, for example, matching the Switch’s debut.

In some ways, the Xbox One X versus the Nintendo Switch is a match-up worthy of the three-way split we saw back when the Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3 were new. While the overall quality of the Wii’s motion controls was debatable and a hell of a lot of shovelware got shipped for that platform, Sony and MS were both trying to sell gamers on a more-expensive future that required 720p and/or 1080p televisions and took advantage of high-end audio sound systems. Nintendo, in contrast, had the Wii: A diminutive console at a lower price, with unusual, easy-to-grasp motion controls, and that promised compatibility with the TV you owned already. Measured in terms of total hardware shipped, the Wii beat both its rivals, even if the games you could play on it never looked as good.

Now Nintendo and Microsoft will go head-to-head once more, pitting two completely different visions of gaming against each other. Microsoft is making a power play, emphasizing 4K visuals and cutting-edge technology in a $500 console. The Nintendo Switch can’t match an original Xbox One’s performance, but Nintendo doesn’t want to talk about that — it wants to talk about gaming-on-the-go, a mobile experience that transfers to the living room, and its own highly regarded first-party games. While you need to spend more than $300 to make the Switch work well, its base price is still $200 below MS, which does open up a pricing gap.

Last time around, Nintendo won the war. It’s certainly been raking the profits in this year. Will the Xbox One X finally shake off the Xbox One’s subpar performance and establish itself as more roadblock than door stop? We’ll know next year.

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Apple pushes HomePod release to early 2018

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

So much for the holiday rush. Apple announced this morning that its premium HomePod smart speaker won’t be making the company’s initial December ship date. According to a brief statement issued by the company, the production process needs “a little more time” to bake.

A spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”

Of course, it’s always smart to spend a little extra time getting things right, rather than rushing into production — a less numerous tech co’s have learned in recent years. But this delay has got to be a a bummer for a product Apple was banking on for the holidays. The $350 speaker is the first home device to feature Siri baked in, a high-end competitor to Echo and Assistant offerings from Amazon and Google.

We had a chance to experience the smart speaker first hand when Apple unveiled it at WWDC back in June. It wasn’t a full hands-on opportunity, but the HomePod definitely sounds great as advertised, featuring 360-degree sound, and full, room-filling audio. Unlike earlier takes on the category, the HomePod emphasizes the speaker part of the smart speaker category first.

Of course, since that initial announcement, the competition has introduced similar offerings. Amazon introduced a new version of the standard Echo, improving upon the earlier product’s audio with Dolby sound, coupled with a 2.5-inch subwoofer and 0.6-inch tweeter. Google, meanwhile, introduced an even more direct competitor in the Home Max, a $399 smart speaker that appears to still be in line for a release next month.


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Here are all the women who’ve accused George H. W. Bush of harassment

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Heather Lind George bushFormer President George H.W. Bush, left, receives a tri-corner hat from actress Heather Lind, right, at a private screening in Houston, Texas. Lind says Bush sexually assaulted her at the same event.Aaron M. Sprecher/Invision for AMC/AP Images

After actress Heather Lind accused former President George H. W. Bush of sexual harassment, five other women have since come forward with their own experiences with Bush, all of which involving him groping their buttocks during photo shoots.

Here are all six of the accusers:

Heather Lind

Heather Lind

Actress Heather Lind at a benefit gala in New York City in June, 2016.Andy Kropa/Invision via AP

Heather Lind posted on Instagram in October saying Bush had sexually assaulted her.

Lind, who starred in the AMC series “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” wrote that the former US president touched her from behind repeatedly at a press event in March 2014. The photograph in which Bush touched Lind can be seen here

Bush’s spokesman apologized to Lind on Bush’s behalf.

“President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind,” his statement read.

Unnamed woman in 1992

Another woman said Bush groped her while he was a sitting president in 1992 during a campaign event in Dearborn, Michigan.

The woman, who did not wish to disclose her name for fear of unwanted media attention, said that Bush grabbed her buttocks while she took a photo with him and her father.

“We got closer together for a family photo and it was like ‘Holy crap!'” she told CNN. “It was like a gentle squeeze.”

The woman says she was taken aback by the groping, but didn’t feel comfortable calling attention to it at the time and rationalized it to herself, thinking, “it was probably an accident.”

Rosalyn Corrigan

A woman named Rosalyn Corrigan described a similar incident that took place when she was 16 years old in 2003, during the presidential term of Bush’s son, former President George W. Bush.

The alleged incident occurred at a gathering of CIA officers Corrigan had attended with her parents, one of whom was an intelligence officer. Corrigan told Time that the president, then 79, grabbed her from behind as she posed for a photo with him and her mother. 

“As soon as the picture was being snapped on the one-two-three he dropped his hands from my waist down to my buttocks and gave it a nice, ripe squeeze, which would account for the fact that in the photograph my mouth is hanging wide open,” Corrigan told Time.

Corrigan and her family did not go public with the accusation for fear of jeopardizing her father’s job at the CIA.

After she did, Corrigan said Bush’s subsequent apology made her even more upset.

“When I heard that was the reason, like, ‘Oh, he’s just an old man and he doesn’t know any better and he’s just being harmless and playful and it’s just where his arm falls’… I just burst into uncontrollable sobbing,” Corrigan said. “I just couldn’t sit with that. I can’t. I cannot sit with that. I can’t sleep anymore, because that’s not true, and it’s not an excuse.”

Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline

Kline in the East Hamptons, New York, in August 2015.Mark Saglioco/Stringer via Getty Images

Novelist Christina Baker Kline came forward with her own accusations against the former president last month in a piece that was originally published on Slate. She said that during a photo session with Bush in April 2014, the former president had a curious exchange with her.

“You wanna know my favorite book?” Bush whispered as the cameraman was getting ready for the shot.

Just in time for the shot, Bush told her it was “David Cop-a-Feel,” while simultaneously squeezing her buttocks. 

In the car ride home, when Kline mentioned the incident to her husband, their driver seemed to imply she had heard it before.

“I do trust you will be … discreet,” she said to them.

Jordana Grolnick

New York actress Jordana Grolnick told Deadspin that Bush groped her during a photo op at a theater in Maine last year, and used a strikingly similar tactic to the one he used on Kline.

“We all circled around him and Barbara for a photo, and I was right next to him,” Grolnick told Deadspin. “He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, ‘Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?’

“As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, ‘David Cop-a-Feel!'”

Grolnick said that people in the room “laughed politely and out of discomfort” and that the former first lady Barbara Bush “said something along the lines of, ‘He’s going to get himself put into jail!'”

“I just thought, ‘Whatever. He’s a dirty old man,'” Grolnick said.

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A Telescope 100X Stronger Than Hubble Will Unveil Parts of the Cosmos We’ve Never Seen

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

A Closer Look

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has detailed the 13 proposals that will comprise the initial set of scientific observations carried out using the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

“I’m thrilled to see the list of astronomers’ most fascinating targets for the Webb telescope and extremely eager to see the results. We fully expect to be surprised by what we find,” said John C. Mather, Senior Project Scientist for the Webb telescope and Senior Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, in a news release.

These studies will cover a wide breadth of the research that the telescope will facilitate, ranging from observations of our own solar system to some of the most distant galaxies on record. All four of the JWST’s instruments will be utilized, thereby fully demonstrating its capabilities.

The Space Telescopes of Tomorrow [Infographic]
Click to View Full Infographic

The scientific community is eager to make use of the JWST. In fact, the STScI received eight times more requests for subscription to the Early Release period than it could facilitate. “It’s pretty competitive,” Neill Reid of the STScI told Futurism, but researchers have every reason to be excited about the JWST.

“Webb is six-and-a-half meters. There’s orders of magnitude increase in sensitivity with that, so there’s really an enormous area of discovery space,” said Reid. “You can do bright objects much, much faster. You can do much fainter objects than you could have ever done before with any telescope.”

“In order to see things fainter, we need a larger telescope to collect more light,” Jonathan Gardner, deputy senior project scientist for the JWST, told Futurism.

According to Gardner, the JWST has several advantages over the Hubble telescope, and one of its major strengths is its ability to provide researchers with a look back in time, allowing them to observe faint galaxies as they first formed many light-years away.

Another reason the JWST is so popular is its relatively short timeframe for operation — no one wants to miss their chance to take advantage of it.

“The limiting factor for Webb is basically fuel,” said Reid. “Because it’s working in infrared, all of the instruments need to be kept really cold. The way that that’s done is not by using liquid nitrogen or anything like that — there’s a giant Sun shade that unfolds that basically puts the telescope into the shade.”

Keeping the Sun shade in the right place and moving between different objects requires tweaking the telescope’s orbit using rocket fuel. The JWST will operate for at least five years, but the team is optimistic that it will have enough fuel for at least 10 years of operation.

Plans for Exoplanets

Even during just this short period, the JWST could deliver exciting new observations related to exoplanets. The telescope is fitted with several spectrographs that will work at infrared and near-infrared wavelengths, allowing researchers to probe regions that haven’t previously been accessible in the hunt for relatively small exoplanets.

“We’ll be able to study their atmospheres in much more detail than we’ve ever been able to before,” said Reid.

Gardner told Futurism about a program that was chosen as part of the Early Release period that will use a process called coronagraphy to look at the characteristics of the atmospheres of exoplanets as they travel in front of their stars.

“One of the most exciting things, I think, is that as the planet is transiting the star, the light from the star actually goes through the atmosphere of the planet and reaches our telescope,” said Gardner. “When we subtract that out, we can get a direct spectrum of the atmosphere and determine its constituents.”

Given that these are just some of the earliest plans for the JWST and that it could be in service for nearly a decade, the telescope could offer up all manner of insights to the scientific community before its final transmission.

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Spotify acquires Swedish collaborative audio recording startup Soundtrap

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Spotify has acquired fellow Swedish startup Soundtrap, which offers a collaborative online music and audio recording studio. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 2012, Soundtrap had raised around $8.5 million to target amateur musicians with a cloud-based recording platform that works across mobile and desktop. Though its initial focus was on the music world, Soundtrap gained popularity as an educational tool, which led the company to launch a version for educators.

In terms of what Spotify has in store for Soundtrap, well, that’s not yet entirely clear. The entire Soundtrap team will join Spotify in Stockholm, and Spotify has confirmed that the Soundtrap service will continue to operate as is.

However, it’s easy to see how Spotify could leverage a service such as Soundtrap: A world in which Spotify lets artists record audio directly through its platform, similar to what SoundCloud already offers, is entirely plausible. “Soundtrap’s rapidly growing business is highly aligned with Spotify’s vision of democratizing the music ecosystem,” Spotify said in a press release.

“Our two teams are culturally, creatively, and strategically a great fit, so Soundtrap — including all our staff — will continue to revolutionize the music-making process for consumers, educators, and students from within the Spotify family,” Soundtrap added in a separate statement.

Soundtrap is Spotify’s 12th known acquisition, and the fourth of 2017, following content recommendation startup MightyTV, blockchain startup Mediachain, and French machine learning startup Niland.

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HTC U11 Life (Android One) review

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

If you want a Google Pixel 2 but don’t want to drop so much money on a phone, the HTC U11 Life with Android One is the next best thing. It’s one of the “mid-range Pixels” made under the auspices of the Android One program, only it’s made by the actual manufacturer of the regular-sized Pixel 2.

For all its highlights, the HTC U11 Life Android One still suffers from some of the same issues as the Pixel 2 and HTC U11, chief among them being an arguably inflated price tag for what you get. There’s a lot to like about the U11 Life, but a few things to be wary of. Find out more in our HTC U11 Life Android One review.

About this review: I’ve been using the HTC U11 Life Android One for eight days, on the Blau network in Germany. The device is running Android 8.0 Oreo with build number 1.06.401.8 and was provided on loan from HTC’s German PR agency.

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At half the price of the HTC U11 or Pixel 2 but with a lot of similar perks, the U11 Life Android One looks great on paper. It runs a stock+ version of Android Oreo, augmented by a full-fledged version of HTC Edge Sense and HTC USonic audio tuning. It comes with guaranteed OS updates for two years and security patches for three via Google’s Android One program.

At half the price of the HTC U11 or Pixel 2 but with a lot of similar perks, the U11 Life Android One looks great on paper

It has an IP67 water-resistant rating, a relative rarity at this price point, some of the best bundled earbuds I’ve ever tried, and a really competitive camera for this tier. It borrows the flagship design language of the HTC U11, has an excellent LCD display and fairly decent mid-range specs. But once you scratch the surface, there’s a little more to it that needs discussing.


It all starts with the design. While I applaud HTC for so faithfully emulating their flagship styling in a mid-tier offering, the U11 Life necessarily makes some concessions to its price point. Rather than Gorilla Glass wrapped around an aluminum frame like the U11, the U11 Life puts a Gorilla Glass front on top of a polycarbonate frame with an acrylic back panel.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the U11 Life feels cheap, but it is clearly plastic. It sounds hollow, is very light and scratches much easier than a glass-backed phone. Considering how terribly this phone picks up fingerprints, I’d recommend using a case, even if its plastic construction makes it less likely to break than glass.

Changes in material choice are pretty standard in a mid-range phone. The same can usually be said of bigger bezels, but considering HTC only just managed to reduce its bezel size in the upcoming U11 Plus, the HTC U11 Life has basically the same bezel situation as the flagship U11. Unfortunately, the U11 Life doesn’t inherit the BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition speakers found on the larger U11 models.


The U11 Life uses its large bottom bezel to house capacitive navigation buttons and a solid-state fingerprint scanner. The navigation buttons work fine and can be constantly illuminated or switched off entirely. It’s a bit of a shame HTC didn’t offer on-screen navigation buttons as an option. The fingerprint scanner is reliable but not as fast as you’d find on a more expensive phone.

The USB Type-C port is offset to the right of the mono bottom-firing speaker, something my lizard brain just couldn’t get used to no matter how many times I jabbed at the speaker with the USB Type-C charging cable or headphones.

There’s a microSD card slot in the nano-SIM tray on the top edge of the phone, which lets you expand the 32 or 64 GB of built-in storage. Those versions come with 3 and 4 GB of RAM respectively, with the 4 GB/64 GB version being an online exclusive available only via HTC.com. Considering the very minimal price difference between the two, the 4 GB/64 GB version is the natural choice (I reviewed the 3 GB/32 GB version). The mid-range Snapdragon 630 chipset lies at the heart of the U11 Life. While it might have been nicer to see a 660, the 630 is still used to good effect.

With its IP67 rating, the U11 Life can withstand submersion in a meter of fresh water for up to a half hour, which is a nice addition for a mid-range phone. Like other U11 models before it, the Life doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, though HTC tries to make up for it in other ways, which we’ll cover further later.

An IP67 rating is a nice addition for a mid-range phone, but the Life doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack

The U11 Life supports Bluetooth 5 so you can enjoy higher throughput or longer range on compatible accessories – for more on how Bluetooth 5 works check out Gary’s excellent primer. The U11 Life also supports always-listening hotword detection, NFC, VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling, and Cat. 11 download speeds of up to 600 Mbits/s and uploads of up to 75 Mbits/s.


The 5.2-inch Full HD LCD display on the HTC U11 Life was a very nice surprise

The 5.2-inch Full HD display on the HTC U11 Life was a very nice surprise. The Super LCD panel offers rich colors, good dynamic range, stable viewing angles, decent if not exceptional outdoor visibility (in excess of 500 nits), and was generally a lot better than I was expecting.

It wasn’t always very responsive to touch input, requiring some pretty forceful jabbing at times to register presses. This is a concession one has to make at lower price points, but it is more than made up for in the overall quality of the display.


HTC’s Edge Sense is a particularly nice addition to the U11 Life. Despite the Android One software experience, HTC managed to get a fully functional version of its squeezable frame technology on board, something even the Pixel 2 hasn’t got right now.

Some may see a pressure sensitive frame as a useless gimmick, but I found it very intuitive and used it a lot. The default options are pretty much the most useful, with a short squeeze taking you to the camera app whether the phone is unlocked or not. While in the camera, a long squeeze switches between front and rear lenses and a short squeeze takes a photo. Obviously this is a handy feature while in the water, wearing gloves or when you’re otherwise unable to use the camera as normal.

Outside the camera app, a long-squeeze typically launches Google Assistant (you can, of course, modify any or all of the default Edge Sense actions to your liking). Assistant can also be activated via voice or by long-pressing the home button. Unlike the US-bound Sense version of the U11 Life, HTC Sense Companion and Amazon Alexa are not included in the software out of the box.

HTC Edge Sense also lets you enable various in-app squeeze actions that you can customize at will. It takes a little memory to remember what everything does but once you’ve got the hang of it it’s really quite useful. You can also adjust the pressure sensitivity of the squeeze gesture or disable it entirely if it’s not your thing.

The HTC U11 Life runs Android Oreo out of the box, with a guaranteed update to Android P and Android Q thanks to Android One

The HTC U11 Life runs Android Oreo out of the box, with a guaranteed update to Android P and Android Q thanks to Android One. Android One devices are also assured security patches for three years, putting a very healthy shelf life on a mid-range phone. As sad as it sounds, this was a pretty unusual situation until Google re-pitched Android One for the mid-range market.

The near stock version of Android Oreo on the U11 Life runs just as smoothly and reliably as you’d expect. HTC has never had any real issues with software performance even with its Sense skin, so this should come as no surprise. Various Oreo-specific benefits are present here too, like background execution and cached data limits to better utilize the phone’s available resources and prolong battery life.


HTC also has its USonic audio tuning baked into the Settings menu. The U11 Life comes bundled with a pair of excellent USB Type-C USonic earbuds too. They can be used with the USonic software to tune the U11 Life’s audio to your particular hearing profile.

If you’re unfamiliar, HTC USonic essentially uses sonar to map your ear canal. There’s really nothing to it, simply insert the super-comfortable buds, tap a button to emit a short audio signal and it’s done. Your USonic active noise cancelling earbuds are now tuned specifically to your ears. Of course, the tuning can be disabled at any time.

I’m far from an audiophile, but even my ears can appreciate the richer bass and punchier highs USonic enables. Disabling the feature flattens everything out a little, and while this adds more to the mid-range I prefer the crispy highs and solid low end the USonic buds produce. They’re also admirably spatial for included headphones and have active noise cancellation to boot, another rare bonus at this price point.

Audio on the HTC U 11 Life is also fine if you want to use Android Oreo’s high-end Bluetooth codecs like Sony LDAC or Qualcomm aptX and aptX-HD with compatible wireless headphones. The absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack will be make or break for many, and there isn’t even a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box. HTC sells a digital adapter on its website though, which includes a built-in DAC.

Despite the excellence of the USonic earbuds, your alternative audio options are limited. Besides the bundled USonic buds, there’s not many USB Type-C headphones on the market that we’d actually recommend. You can buy the dongle from HTC for your wired cans (because a regular “dumb” adapter won’t work with the U11 Life) or you can switch to Bluetooth headphones.

It’s also worth noting that the USonic buds won’t work with the majority of other phones either. Plug them into the USB Type-C port of the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 or Pixel 2 and audio will continue coming out of the external speakers rather than switching to the buds. This is because HTC uses a digital protocol not supported by many other companies. The USonic buds worked just fine with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro though.

The USonic earbuds are really your best option, with no BoomSound stereo speakers

Even without the wired headphone issue, there’s no stereo BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition speakers on the U11 Life, just the single mono speaker on the bottom edge. Although the U11 Life’s speaker is apparently “built to be heard from the front”, don’t expect it to be anywhere near up to par with other U11 devices. I’ll grant that it’s relatively loud, it just doesn’t sound great. As far as audio on the U11 Life goes, the USonic buds are really your best option.


At this price range you have to expect less than flagship performance, but the U11 Life still performs admirably. Despite its mediocre specs sheet, which it shares to a large degree with the Moto X4, the U11 Life performs decently in benchmarking apps, the results of which you can peruse below. More importantly than numbers, in everyday usage the software runs as smooth and stable as most smartphones that cost twice as much. It’s just not as snappy.

Oreo runs as smooth and stable as most smartphones that cost twice as much. It’s just not as snappy

The U11 Life is naturally not up to the serious processor-hungry tasks a power user might demand, and apps are slower to launch than a flagship owner would be used to. Over the course of a week I never encountered any circumstances where the U11 Life simply couldn’t handle a task or took too long to launch an app or menu. It’s simply a matter of adjusting your expectations and moving on.

If you’re at all concerned about performance (and even if you’re not), you might want to pop the extra cash to get the version with more storage and RAM, just to be on the safe side. The Snapdragon 630 is a slightly disappointing chipset choice, because considering the Google Pixel 2 also ships with 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM, a U11 Life with a slightly beefier chipset could have been very competitive.


The upshot of the Snapdragon 630 is that the U11 Life does a lot with the minimal battery capacity it has. A 2,600 mAh cell won’t get anyone excited, but combined with Android Oreo and the small, low resolution display, the U11 Life regularly got me between 4.5-5.5 hours of screen-on time. I was never worried about it dying before the end of the day, but it did occasionally get close later at night.

With the included 5V/2A brick, the HTC U11 Life Android One takes a little over an hour and a half to fully charge a depleted battery. Half an hour or so of charging will get you just under 50 percent battery.

As with most choices in the mid-range, it’s a game of trade-offs. I might lament the absence of a beefier chipset that would’ve nudged the U11 Life a little closer to the Pixel 2 in terms of performance, but the Snapdragon 630 does a good job of keeping the lights on as long as it does. But battery life is far from a strong point of the U11 Life, and might even be its weakest point barring audio options beyond the bundled earbuds.


On the other hand, the camera is a surprising strength. The phone’s 16 MP f/2.0 cameras on the front and back produce very good photos for a phone in this price range. There’s no dual-camera bokeh trickery or zoom lenses, but the basics have been nailed.

As with practically any phone these days, the true measure of a camera comes in low light conditions. An f/2.0 aperture isn’t super wide, but it’s perfectly sufficient for most low-light scenes. You’ll need a decently steady hand though, as the U11 Life doesn’t feature OIS. Its phase detection auto-focus (rear camera only) is reliable though.

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the low light photos captured by the U11 Life. Having just gotten used to the Mate 10 Pro’s tendency to crush blacks while obliterating all noise, the U11 Life was a nice reprieve. Noise only just creeps into shots taken in very dark environments, the kind that would defeat almost all phones, no matter the cost. Generally speaking, the U11 Life minimized noise to a admirable degree while maintaining good colors and range.

I found that the U11 Life tended to slightly underexpose shots, but you can easily tap to focus and then adjust the exposure compensation slider to get it right for each scene. If you prefer to tap the screen to auto-expose, that’s available as an option in the camera settings. The U11 Life struggled a bit with blown out highlights in dark settings, but that’s true of practically any phone.

Colors are accurate and even, without over-saturation, though they’re unlikely to be punchy enough for some. The U11 Life captures a good amount of detail in good lighting, but things get a little muddy in the dark. Sooner or later noise is unavoidable. The U11 Life’s lowlight shooting was better than I expected and you can see just how well it performs against the Pixel 2 in the images below.

Daytime shots produce very balanced photos and like almost all smartphone cameras nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to mess up a photo on a sunny day. Having the same camera on the front and back of the phone is nice too, especially for the selfie inclined, but a 16 MP selfie shooter seems a little like overkill. I would’ve much preferred a more sedate front-facing camera and the addition of OIS on the main camera instead.

The phone’s 16 MP f/2.0 cameras on the front and back produce very good photos for a phone in this price range

Both cameras have HDR Boost which handles dynamic range quite well, even if it does slow things down a little. The camera app isn’t the fastest thing about the U11 Life and had noticeable shutter lag. I’d love to convince myself it was intentional on HTC’s part to avoid camera shake when hitting the shutter button or using Edge Sense, but it’s ultimately down to the chipset used. Nevertheless, it is something you get used to.

The HTC U11 Life shoots 4K video at 30 fps with a six-minute time limit and supports Hi-Res Audio recording in video (which defaults to off every time you change the video quality settings). The HTC camera app has a variety of other modes including a pro mode with RAW, alongside hyperlapse, slow-motion (720p at 120fps), and the usuals like panorama and selfie beauty mode.

All things considered, I expected the software experience on the HTC U11 Life Android One to be as good as it is, but the camera performance was a very nice surprise. With a little patience and steady hands, you can get very good photos out of the U11 Life far beyond what you might have expected from a phone in this price range.



  HTC U11 Life
Android One
Display 5.2-inch Super LCD
1,920 x 1,080 resolution
424 ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 Mobile Platform
RAM 3/4 GB
Storage 32/64 GB
MicroSD Yes, up to 2 TB
Cameras Main camera: 16 MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture, PDAF, slow-motion video, 4K video recording

Front camera: 16 MP fixed focus sensor with f/2.0 aperture, 1080p video recording

Battery 2,600 mAh
Sensors Edge Sensor
Ambient light sensor
Proximity sensor
Motion G-sensor
Compass sensor
Gyro sensor
Magnetic sensor
Fingerprint sensor
Connectivity USB Type-C (2.0)
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
Network 2G/2.5G GSM/GPRS/EDGE
– 850/900/1800/1900 MHz

– 850/900/AWS/1900/2100 MHz
– HSDPA 42, HSUPA 5.76

– FDD: Bands 1,2,3,4,5,7,12,13,17,20,28, 66 with 2CA, 3CA
– Support Cat 9 LTE: downloads up to 450Mbps, uploads up to 50Mbps
– VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling (where supported)

SIM Nano
Sound Mono speaker
HTC USonic earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation
High resolution audio recording
IP rating IP67
Software Android 8.0 Oreo
Google Assistant
Edge Sense
Dimensions and weight 149.09 x 72.9 x 8.1 mm
142 g

Pricing and final thoughts

Should you spend €350 on the HTC U11 Life? I can’t give you a definitive “yes”. There’s simply too many other competitive devices in that price range right now that now you’d need to check out first, some of which offer dual cameras and other things that might be make or break for you like the presence of a 3.5 mm headphone port.

What I can say though is that if you do buy it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. If the issues raised above aren’t the kinds of things that would immediately put you off a phone, the U11 Life Android One offers a whole lot of good stuff, from software and design to display and camera.

My biggest gripe with the U11 Life is the feeling that it’s slightly overpriced. That’s ultimately due to its chipset and battery size. If and when this phone goes on sale, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it— assuming you can make peace with its slower performance and a smaller battery.

If you do spend €350 on the HTC U11 Life I don’t think you’ll be at all disappointed.

The HTC U11 Life Android One is now on sale in Europe for €349/€379. The Sense version went on sale in the US on November 3 unlocked for $349 and via T-Mobile for $300.

As much as I know the U11 Life is far from the perfect mid-range phone for everyone, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and will be sad to see it go. I opened this review with a reference to the Pixel 2, and I’ll end it with a reference to a device I also came to love, warts and all: the Nexus 5. In some ways the U11 Life feels like the Nexus 5: it has its flaws, but if you’re willing to accept them, you’re in for a real treat.

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A popular tool to trace Earth's oxygen history can give false positives

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

If someone cries ‘Eureka!’ because it looks like oxygen appeared in Earth’s ancient atmosphere long before the body of evidence indicated, be careful. If it was a chromium isotope system reading that caused the enthusiasm, it might need to be curbed.

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California Today: Rain Brings Health Hazards to the Homeless

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

But California has far more unsheltered homeless — around 66 percent of the state’s homeless live on the streets. By comparison, in New York state, just 4 percent of homeless are unsheltered.

Dr. Reinking says the damp conditions outdoors are particularly dangerous for diabetics, who are more susceptible to food infections that can sometimes become so severe they require amputation. He struggles to keep up with needs of his patients.

“Homelessness is an epidemic in California,” Dr. Reinking said. “We are grossly understaffed and under-resourced to respond.”

Winters are of course not as extreme in Northern California compared with cities in the Midwest or New England.

But a number of deaths from exposure were reported last winter in the Bay Area.

Oakland has winter shelters, which opened this week, but some homeless are reluctant to use them because it means leaving their belongings behind, according to Lara Tannenbaum, the manager of Community Housing Services for the City of Oakland.

The city also hands out hats, coats and blankets.

At dusk on Thursday groups of men and women huddled in camping tents under a freeway in Oakland, sheltered from the steady rain but not the dampness. “It’s hard to get warm,” said Eugene Jacobs, 27, who has been homeless for the past three years. “We have to change clothes three or four times a day. Everything keeps getting wet.”

“This is going to be hard,” Mr. Jacobs said about the onset of winter. “And this is the least of it.”

California Online

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Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, during a Judiciary committee hearing last month.

Al Drago for The New York Times

• A Los Angeles radio newscaster accused Senator Al Franken on Thursday of kissing and groping her without consent in 2006, before he took public office. Mr. Franken, a Democrat of Minnesota, has apologized. [The New York Times]

• With help from 11 California Republicans, the House passed a tax overhaul that is expected to negatively effect state residents. Three Republicans joined California’s Democrats in opposing the bill. [The Los Angeles Times]

• California’s state budget is looking good. New projections from a nonpartisan office show the state is on track to finish its 2018-19 budget year with more than $19 billion in reserves. Analysts are recommending that lawmakers sock the surplus away. [The Sacramento Bee]

• State licensing agencies released a package of long-awaited rules that will regulate the sale of recreational marijuana when it becomes legal on Jan. 1. No, you will not be able to get your marijuana delivered by drone. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

• A man described as a “pathological predator” managed to escape a psychiatric facility in Hawaii on Sunday morning. Three days later the authorities arrested the man in Stockton. Exactly how he pulled off his far-flung escape remains unclear. [The New York Times]


Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, revealed the company’s new electric semi truck at a Thursday night presentation in Hawthorne, Calif.

Alexandria Sage/Reuters

• In a presentation in Hawthorne, Tesla unveiled a prototype for a battery-powered, nearly self-driving semi truck. The company promises that it will prove more efficient and less costly to operate than the diesel trucks that currently haul goods across the country. And it won’t emit exhaust. [The New York Times]

• Starting next January, anyone who brings a car to Muir Woods National Monument will need a reservation. The new policy makes Muir Woods the first national park unit in country to require year-round reservations for all vehicles. [The Mercury News]

• In the decades since the Rat Pack era, Palm Springs has gradually shed its conservative political identity. Nowadays, it’s a mecca for the gay and transgender people. And next month, every member of its City Council will be a member of that community. [The Los Angeles Times]

• The Los Angeles Philharmonic lost its lauded leader Deborah Borda to the New York Philharmonic. Now its stealing Simon Woods from the Seattle Symphony to replace her. [The New York Times]

• California’s getting older, fast. According to a new statewide report, the number of people age 60 and older will jump 40 percent by 2030 — an aging boom that figures to have a wide ripple effect. [The Orange County Register]


The Warriors’ Stephen Curry warmed up as Bob Fitzgerald (striped tie) and Jim Barnett did a pregame television broadcast last month. Barnett has been Golden State’s TV analyst since 1985, and Fitzgerald has done play-by-play for the team since 1993.

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

• Remember when the Golden State Warriors stunk? The three guys who have been calling the team’s games for decades do, and they appreciate the current hot streak. [The New York Times]

• Our reporter went hiking in California’s gold country with the composer John Adams. It was Mr. Adams way of mining for the real-life tumult of the early 1850s for his latest opera, “Girls of the Golden West.” It will premiere next week in San Francisco. [The New York Times]


Les Gourmands in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood opened several weeks ago. A loaf of its brioche that serves four people costs $29.

via Yelp

And Finally …

Yes, life has gotten pretty pricey in San Francisco. Rents are astronomical. Parking downtown for a few days will cost you a car payment. And now, some have complained, bread isn’t cheap either.

To be fair: Les Gourmands’ $29 “bread” — the target of recent internet scorn — is actually brioche; and it’s a four-person loaf that costs $29; a smaller taste for one will run you $3.50.

Sylvain Chaillout, the founder of Les Gourmands, is a fifth-generation baker who says the cost accounts for “a bit of everything.” Brioche, he notes, has always been a luxury item that requires great ingredients; his grandfather would be proud, Mr. Chaillout added, because the recipe is exactly the same as it’s always been.

“It’s a reasonable price for a good product,” he said, drawing a parallel between his brioche and top-shelf champagne.

“We’re in San Francisco,” he added. “People have money.”

The New York Times has dozens of journalists based in California. They will be contributing to California Today while we seek a permanent California Today columnist. Check out the job posting for the weekday newsletter here.

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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