Shh! The NSA Can Identify Your Voice!

(Getty Images/Hoxton/Paul Bradbury)

Soon, they’ll be able to find you anywhere you speak

Big Brother is listening to you. Still. And now he’s got some new tricks up his sleeve.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we already know that the government spies on us. Now, based on information within the documents the former NSA contractor provided back in 2013, they’re dangerously close to being able to track us all down merely by the sound of our voices.

Which can be captured via pretty much anything that has a microphone. Fun!

An article published in The Intercept details the NSA’s efforts to perfect voice-recognition technology, and some of the details are, shall we say, alarming.

Snowden himself tweeted out the article, which is the result of digging through the trove of documents he absconded with in 2013.

The details of the technology are insane, and that’s before you consider the fact that those details are from documents that are already nearly five years old.

Jake Laperruque, Senior Counsel at the Constitution Project, works in the realm of government surveillance and digital privacy, and he launched a Twitter thread in response to the article that might keep you up at night.

To put it in terms you might more easily understand, he compares the NSA’s tech to Bruce Wayne’s scary device in The Dark Knight:

Suddenly those home speakers you have are the least of your concerns:

But hey, at least there are laws against this kind of thing.

Gulp.

To further increase your anxiety, Jake posits an unsettling, “where is the Joker?” scenario:

And asks everyone to remain vigilant.

The Intercept’s story is rife with terrifying details about invasions of privacy, indiscriminate targeting, and technology that is advancing far faster than the laws surrounding its use are able to.

As science and technology continue to make things that once seemed like science-fiction, or “Black Mirror,” possible, guidelines curtailing the government’s use of such technology becomes increasingly important.

Not that laws have ever stopped the government before.

Hacker Turns LEGO Super Mario Into Super Mario Controller

Hacker turns LEGO Super Mario into controller
(Twitter/r1ckp)

There are so many different ways to play video games. Some people prefer PC games, while others flock to the newest gaming consoles. You can use your keyboard, a wheel fit for Rainbow Road, or even your entire body. There’s really no wrong way to play video games, as long as you’re having a good time. A hacker from Hamburg decided to put that to the test, building one of the most unique gaming controllers in existence. VR may let you put yourself in the game, but Rick’s controller let him bring Super Mario out.

Self-proclaimed hardware hacker Rick recently took to Twitter to show the world his incredible creation, a LEGO Mario that he had programmed to act as a controller while playing Super Mario. Leaning LEGO Mario forward makes on-screen Mario move forward. Bouncing LEGO Mario on the LEGO pad makes him jump, and tapping him on the LEGO pipe makes him slide down the on-screen pipe (all of these components came with the LEGO Super Mario set).

“I heard about the Lego Mario set in a podcast and did not find any technical info or teardown on the web. I had a spare amazon giftcard, so I ordered one to reverse engineer it and see what’s in it,” Rick told The Dad. “My wife suggested to play Mario with it and I loved the idea.”

In just four hours, Rick managed to figure out how to intercept LEGO Super Mario’s Bluetooth signals and program them to communicate with the on-screen Super Mario. Rick is far from an amateur when it comes to programming and engineering, if that wasn’t clear. He tinkered around with electronics as a teen, studied electrical engineering at his university, and has worked in the fields of software development and electronic development for 15 years.

The Super Mario project was far from the first fascinating piece of technology Rick has created. “I build a lot of devices that intersect between art and electronics,” he explained.

He’s made a Robo-lamp that tracks objects, reminiscent of the inexplicably adorable Pixar lamp. A reverse-geocache box and pocket-sized device that measures the moisture of face masks are also among this talented hacker’s creations.

“I really like to inspire other people to build stuff” Rick explains, “especially if it‘s just for fun or because you can.”

Teacher Creates a Community Library in Her Garage Amid COVID

teacher creates garage library
(Facebook/MissMartin's Neighborhood Library)

An elementary school teacher in Texas had basically accumulated a personal library for her classroom over the years. Then earlier this year COVID-19 caused her school to move to remote learning. With the closest public library inaccessible for most of the community, she wanted to help fill that void and keep kids interested in reading. And that’s why she started a community library, with more than 2,000 books, in her own garage.

Teachers are amazing people. We see reminders of this constantly, as they go above and beyond for their kids. We see it in the teacher that carried a student confined to a wheelchair on a field trip. We saw it when teachers all over the state of Alabama donated sick days to a colleague caring for his infant with cancer. And we see it in the everyday actions teachers take to help kids learn.

In this case, Jennifer Martin had witnessed reluctant and nonreaders blossom into avid readers after having a positive experience with books, so that’s why she got to work on her garage library. A friend built the shelves and Martin moved in her massive collection of books for kids of all ages.

Since opening the library, they have had more than 60 kids check out books (they can get two at a time, on the honor system). More importantly, it’s a chance for her to connect with her students, and for kids to connect with each other (with masks and social distancing rules in place).

“During this challenging time, it’s even more important to provide opportunities for connection,” she told The Dad. “And there’s really nothing like seeing a student’s excitement about getting a new book!”

Martin has run into some hurdles, such as figuring out the best way to sort the books, but she has been blown away by the support from friends, colleagues, parents, and community members. She said she’s had students she taught 10 or 20 years ago who have been donating books through Amazon or even visited the library to make a donation. Some have even come back to help volunteer at the library.

The library continues to add new titles to the mix, including more Spanish books and continues to thrive. 2020 has brought unique challenges, but it’s also seen more than a few people rise to meet the challenge and help other people.

“Reading provides an adventure for the reader, and now, more than ever, we need adventures,” Martin said.

This Condo’s For You, Listing Showcases Florida Home Covered in Bud Beer Cans

Beer House For Sale
(Facebook/KearneyAndAssociatesFlorida)

Say what you will about 2020 but it’s provided us with some pretty unique real estate opportunities – like a beautiful home that has a complete jail in it. Now a condo for sale in Florida (of course) has come on the market that is completely covered in beer cans. Not, like, post bender empties that haven’t been cleaned out, but more like a meticulous crafting project that included a copious amount of beer drinking (the best kind of crafting!).

We can all agree Dads love beer, whether it’s drinking with your dog, or even enjoying your last beer with your kids. Dads happily embrace the dad bod that comes with a beer hobby, some dads even drink a Dad bod beer.

The listing agent thought the seller had found a unique wallpapering, without realizing it was more like a unique lifelong obsession. The original tenant, who has passed away, was a huge fan of Budweiser and spent years working to cover every single wall and ceiling (except for the bathroom) with beer cans.

Budweiser shared the images of the condo on it’s Facebook page, saying “The perfect house doesn’t exi—”

The home was owned by a Navy Vet, who spent 16 years consuming enough product for the job. The 2-bedroom condo in South Florida is for sale for $100,000, although to sweeten the deal, Budweiser is offering free beer to whoever buys it (as long as they don’t renovate).

Tom Hardy Rumored to be Next James Bond

Tom Hardy as Next James Bond?
(Getty/Andreas Rentz)

So is Bond gonna wear a mask and have a strange accent now?

No Time to Die, the latest Bond flick, and purportedly Daniel Craig’s last as the super spy, has been delayed by the coronavirus, but it will come out eventually. And as soon as it does, people will be clamoring to know who will replace Craig as 007. In fact, the speculation has been rampant for years, fueled but the fact that Craig has long seemed frustrated with the part and even said that Spectre was to be his last before returning for this next one.

For years, people have floated Idris Elba’s name as a potential replacement. They’ve also mentioned Tom Hiddleston and the dude from Showtime’s Outlander. But according to a story from the Vulcan Reporter the producers of the Bond series have already auditioned and selected the next 007: Tom Hardy.

Hardy is a notoriously quirky actor, who seems to relish the challenge of playing roles where he wears a mask or alters his voice (see Bane, Mad Max, Taboo Island, etc.). So it might be hard to imagine him as the suave secret agent. Until you remember him in Inception.

Free of any strange character accouterments, Hardy was a dashing member of DiCaprio’s dream designing crew, and he was totally convincing. This is the Hardy that makes sense for Bond, and would probably be a great one. He’d even carry on some of the sense of danger Craig’s Bond has brought to the series in a post-Bourne world.

Not sure how real the Vulcan Reporter’s report is, so right now it’s just a rumor, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be confirmed before No Time to Die shows itself, and we don’t even know when that will be.

Hopefully, the pandemic has helped Hardy get the mask-wearing out of his system because this sounds like a good idea to me.

What do you think? Does the prospect of Hardy as James Bond leave you shaken or stirred?

Healthcare Worker and NFL Mom Gets Honored on Madden Cover

Miles Boykin Mom on Madden
(Twitter/MBoykin814)

Over the summer, Baltimore Ravens receiver Miles Boykin tweeted that his mom finally discovered he had used her credit card to pay for his Xbox live membership and that she had been paying it for the NFL player since he was in SIXTH GRADE! But, with some help from Xbox and EA Sports, he made up for it by helping his mom, a healthcare hero, become the first female to grace the cover of Madden.

Madden reigns supreme when it comes to sports video gaming (personally, I’m an NBA 2k and FIFA guy, but you can’t deny the Madden popularity over the years), even if the fabled Madden curse has become but a footnote in history thanks to Patrick Mahomes. And NFL players today, like Boykin, grew up playing Madden.

Still, it’s always funny when a professional athlete with a multi-million dollar contract has his mom paying for his Xbox live membership. He tried to intervene and take over the payments, but she said she might as well just keep picking up the tab.

Boykin appealed to Xbox for help. And they came through, in a big way.

Boykin’s mom, Felicia, is a healthcare worker, so Xbox and EA decided to help Miles show his appreciation for her. She not only received an Xbox Game Pass (so she’ll finally stop getting charged for Miles’ subscription), she also got a copy of Madden with herself on the cover, which will also go to some of her healthcare hero colleagues (along with new Xbox consoles).

Miles also takes the chance to tell his mom how much she’s meant to him and his development.

“You’ve always been there. You helped me become the man I am today and I will forever be grateful to you. I would give you the world if I could and you would still deserve better,” he said. “You not only supported my passion for football but also my second love of gaming.”

She also received a custom Xbox One controller, a pair of new Nike Air Zoom Pulses, and a pair of custom cleats for Miles to wear with her image painted on them.

It’s a great way for Miles to repay a parent, and I will now consider this the threshold for all kids going forward when it comes to recurring subscription fees.

National Museum Helps Oldest Living World War II Veteran Celebrate 111 Birthday

Lawrence Brooks and Victory Belles
(YouTube/The National WWII Museum)

As people who have the privilege of enjoying the freedom and safety of life in the US, we owe a huge amount of gratitude to veterans. Veterans sacrifice their own safety, time with their families, and sometimes their lives to ensure that we are able to live our own lives in relative safety.

Veterans are essential to the sense of security we have living in the US, and we do what we can to show how much we appreciate them. Actor Gary Sinise created a foundation to support veterans and their families in 2011 and continues to provide assistance nearly a decade later. Earlier this year, a 104-year-old veteran received over 70,000 Valentine’s Day cards, from people around the country who wanted to make his day a bit brighter. Now, the world’s oldest World War II veteran is getting the birthday celebration he deserves.

Lawrence Brooks, a veteran who served during World War II in the 91st Engineer Battalion, has been celebrating his birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans since he turned 105. Due to the pandemic (what else is new), the museum had to put together a safe and socially-distanced celebration – and they absolutely did not disappoint.

According to a post they shared on Instagram, the museum arranged a performance by a vocal trio called The Victory Belles, a military flyover, a birthday cake, and nearly 10,000 birthday cards they collected from a national card drive.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

The National WWII Museum celebrated the 111th birthday of Mr. Lawrence Brooks, a New Orleans native and the oldest known U.S. veteran of World War II, at his home last Saturday. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we arranged a socially distant birthday celebration. The Victory Belles, performed a series of numbers including “Happy Birthday,” and Mr. Brooks enjoyed military plane flyovers courtesy of the @aeroshellaerobatic and @bigeasywingcaf. We additionally presented Mr. Brooks with a cake and nearly 10,000 birthday cards that were collected as a result of a national card drive. #WorldWarII #worldwar2 #WWIIVet #happybirthday #oldestlivingwwiiveteran⁠ ⁠ Click the bio link and then this image to watch the full video.

A post shared by The National WWII Museum (@wwiimuseum) on


The museum’s vice president, Peter Crean, told FOX News after last year’s celebration, “We absolutely love Mr. Brooks. We’ve told him, ‘As long as you keep having birthdays, we are going to keep having birthday parties for you here.’”

Though circumstances didn’t allow for Brooks to celebrate at the museum itself this year, Crean kept his promise by bringing the celebration to Brooks’s home. The 111-year-old smiled from his porch, surrounded by balloons, a birthday banner, and everyone who came to celebrate with him (from a safe distance). Though Brooks lost his wife Leona in 2005 to Hurricane Katrina, he is surrounded by the love of his five children, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great grandchildren.

Brooks told FOX, “I’ve started to think about not having many birthdays left. But I’m not worried about it, because God has let me live this long already. I think it’s because I’ve always liked people so much. Oh yes, I do.”

Let us throw our birthday greeting onto the ever-growing pile – happiest of birthdays Mr. Brooks, and thank you for your service.

Relationship Argument Leads Couple to $177K Lotto Win

Argument leads to lottery win
(Courtesy Virginia Lottery)

Relationships aren’t easy. There’s always going to be disagreements, arguments, and fights about those arguments. That’s a healthy part of the relationship (assuming those fights aren’t WWE-style), as ignoring problems can just make them worse. For one Virginia woman, having an argument with her boyfriend paid off with a lottery win and hopefully, they don’t argue about splitting it. because the payout was substantially more than the $1 jackpot we previously reported on.

Like, literally, in real money, not in relationship building or coming to a better understanding of each other. Chyanne Creel got into an argument with her boyfriend and they decided to go for a drive to cool off.

When they stopped for gas, she sent her boyfriend inside to buy some snacks (essential) and some lottery tickets (why not?). One of the scratch-off tickets hit the grand prize of $177,777. She won almost $200K because of this fight.

There are some important lessons we can all take away from this. She didn’t elaborate on what the fight was about. Was it about improperly loading the dishwasher? A disagreement about the distribution of household chores? Could they not come to an agreement about what to watch on Netflix?? Who knows what the magical elixir was here? So, the take away is to ignore what popular literature would tell you about not sweating “the small stuff.”

Instead, sweat it, sweat it all. Never miss a chance to argue or fight, and make sure to chase every single argument with a lottery ticket. This is a proven path to success both financially and in a relationship. Is she grinding your gears because she’s hogging the remote? Don’t hold back, because that could be what brings a massive influx of cash into your lives.

I mean, sure, she hit the big prize on odds that were greater than one in a million. So yeah, it may take some time for this path to bear fruit. But even if you don’t deliberately go searching for an argument, at least you know in the back of your head, should you find yourself in a fight, there is more than one way to make-up and get lucky.

Daughter Saves Dad’s Taco Truck With a Tweet

Twitter Taco Plea Saves Dad's Business
(Instagram/taqueriaeltoritoofficial)

The global pandemic has crushed huge swaths of the economy, decimating entire industries. Few have been hit as hard as restaurants, travel, and entertainment. We’ve lost thousands of great, independent restaurants and dive bars, the places that give communities character (along with great meals and memories). And some shops have needed some extra help to stay open in these brutal times.

One of these was a taco truck in Texas. A young woman in Texas had been checking in regularly with her dad, as his taco truck business began to slow to a crawl. One day, after hearing he had only made $6 during a 12-hour shift, she decided to try and help the best way a young person can: by posting about it on social media.

His daughter Giselle posted: “Hey Twitter!! I wouldn’t normally do this, but my dad’s taco truck business is struggling, he only sold $6 today. If you could retweet, I would appreciate you so much!!”

And retweet they did, as it quickly went viral, getting more than 10,000 RTs. And it worked, as he has had more business than he can handle.

His daughter tearfully posted a thank you after customers came in waves until he was sold out. He’s been working ferociously since, as his daughter’s plea to give her dad’s cooking a chance has been heard far and wide.

She said her dad doesn’t understand social media, but “is so grateful for everyone who is spreading the word.”

“COVID has been a nightmare for small businesses, thank you for putting a smile on his face,” she added.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Tortas Cubanas made FRESH to order 💕

A post shared by @ taqueriaeltoritoofficial on

It’s a sweet story of a daughter’s love for her dad helping save his business, but the broader takeaway is just how hard this time is on a lot of people, and the only path forward is for communities to come together to help those who need it most in any way they can.

This LEGO ‘Brickroll’ Is Never Gonna Let You Down

Lego Brickroll
(YouTube/Domy13)

The 80’s was overflowing with great music. With songs like Take On Me by a-ha, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” still making regular appearances nearly 40 years later, it was undoubtedly a golden age of music. There was one song, however, that has withstood the test of time no matter how freaking hard we’ve tried to avoid it. Some might even say that this particular song is never gonna give us up. Of course, we’re talking about Rick Astley’s iconic “Never Gonna Give You Up”. It’s a fine song, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect to emerge from an era fueled by Garbage Pail Kids and cocaine.

Over time, this song transformed into its own beast. Meme culture got its sticky little hands on it, and now it’s virtually inescapable. You’ve likely heard this song way more times than you ever intended to, clicking completely unrelated links only to be hit with the ol’ “bait-and-switch”. The sweeping phenomenon known as the “Rickroll” has been going on for well over a decade, with no sign of slowing down.

Astley himself eventually accepted his meme fame, using a float to Rickroll anyone watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008. In another live-action Rickroll, Astley showed up at a Dave Grohl show and the two proceeded to duet Astley’s inescapable song to over 60,000 fans.

Most recently, a new take on the iconic Rickroll has us conflicted. On the one hand, it’s still a Rickroll – but it’s so impressively done that we kind of love it. If we’re going for accuracy, we should clarify that it’s less of a “Rickroll”, and more of a “Brickroll”. Specifically, a LEGO Brickroll.

In his first Youtube animation, a user named Domy13 created an entirely Lego-based recreation of the iconic ‘80s music video. The detail is incredible – in fact, Domy13 was so confident in his Lego rendition’s accuracy that he even posted a side-by-side comparing his animated version to the original. Regardless of how tainted your opinion of the Astley hit may be, this video is well worth a watch.

Now do Freebird!