Every year for the holiday gift-buying season, mainstream news outlets – particularly The Today Show – make a habit of posting “most dangerous toys” articles for our edification. It seemed like a fun idea to write a similarly-themed article as a means to highlight the year of news, so I set myself to the business of writing. What big news stories of 2015 could I weave into my “dangerous toys” narrative? I was excited to take a poll.

I did my research. Lots of other sources have already done “best of” type stories, so it’s a good place to start. I googled “best of 2015.” I read through a page or two of results. I googled “worst of 2015.” I browsed this list. It was then that the answer hit me in the face:

2015 sucked. There isn’t a nice way to put this, it just sucked. It was awful, violent, acrimonious, depressing and seemingly irredeemable. It sucked.

Straw purchases and dead bodies and racist bilge seeping out of every pipe and fitting of our aging, hobbled political system. Grift and opportunism and showmanship, paving the way for inequity and belligerence and injustice.

A year riddled with bullet holes. Holes taped over by plot gaps, logical fallacies, willful disbelief and other, even less savory bandages. A year that seems to shake it’s fist impotently from it’s hospital bed. At every enemy, every slight, every defeat. A year that leaves us very little room to hope for a brighter successor.

Still I can’t completely write off an entire year, least of all 2015. This was an amazing, banner year for my family. We bought an amazing lake shore-adjacent home that has been my life-long dream. My son has blossomed in this new place into a strong-willed, bright and creative toddler.

We hosted a Thanksgiving feast for our extended family and even reconnected with family that had grown much too extended from us. I end the year blessed to work with the talented BreAnna Bugbee as my intern, serving up fantastic content and making DFE no small amount better for her efforts. 2015 has been good to me.

I’m not sure whether the dichotomy I feel looking back on this year makes it a more or less capricious little universe we live in, where so many suffer so deeply while the rest of us skate by. It is easy to feel conspired-against by a cruel universe; as easy as it is to believe we are the Masters of our own Universes when things go our way. But if we felt exactly the contrapositive, we would be as correct, by the numbers.

Because let there be no mistake: chaos and decision making rule our lives in equal measure. Freewill exists, to the extent that it exists at all, at the momentary vertex of these two forces. One protozoan jinks left, the other right, one gets lucky. One wolf splits from the pack, the other stays. Both choices have their odds of success. But there are no statistics for the individual in that moment. There is only a final tally.

Everything about biology bears this out, down to the organic chemical level: it is hardly the best-evolved trait that flourishes in an evolutionary world. It is merely the one borne on the DNA of the species most likely to reproduce. “Survival of the Fittest” is itself a capricious process.

But before we drown our tears in the fickle frothiness of the multiverse from which our universe is sprung  – before we throw our hands up in the face of a hopeless battle against unknowable odds – it’s worth noting that we were born into a universe with enough artistry to allow only one-way travel along the 4th Dimension.

We live in the universe where traveling backward in time would require accelerating past the speed of light. In this universe, doing so would require an infinite amount of energy and stop time for the traveler. Thus, redoing history is impossible. You cannot go back and improve your station. You cannot go back and ruin it. The dark times that haunt you live only in your mind. And the happy times can live there forever, too, if you allow it.

In this world, as the phrase goes, let me have my world. Because it is only in that world that history can have any meaning, or that grieving can know closure. Wonderful moments can be halcyon. Thunderclouds can recede. And for all of these reasons, I wish the Year 2015 safe journey downstream. Let it float away and be what memory will have of it.

Thank you very much, all my friends and followers and readers. Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing you in 2016!

Why hello, late shopper! You’ve got the wild-eyed look of a man who has once again nearly fucked up Christmas. Really? Bravo. And you’re probably looking for a couple of good suggestions for what to get the people you love enough to shop at the very last minute?

Well, I don’t have any. But in the interest of at least avoiding any unnecessary unpleasantries, I do have an approved list a la conventional media’s incessant fear mongering over dangerous toys.

5. “Steve Harvey Reads From Cards.”

Sure. It’s a cheap gift, which makes it pretty attractive. But you get what you pay for with this one.

With some of the more expensive toys, you get things like warrantees, replacement bulbs and reading glasses. But the no-frills appeal of a Steve Harvey is hard to ignore. But as we can see with this case pretty clearly, leaving it to fate is not recommended.

4.  Trump Co.’s Kamp Kaliphate Play Set

Kamp Kaliphate

Ok, so you say you want your kid to learn counting and letters? At first blush, The Trump Corporation’s Kamp Kaliphate Play Set seems to have it all: characters with prisoner ID tags on their jackets, escapee counting games, even cell blocks with big, colorful letters. But a deeper look reveals that this play set has some serious flaws about it.

For example, even though the set says it’s only for Muslims, why are there so many Christians and Bhuddists in there? And the guy in the 7-11 uniform? Also, having to deal with the included ACLU Lawyer characters is just a pain, when you should really be focusing on the fun stuff like the Waterboard Challenge.

3. The Geoff Marcy “Little Lookers” Astronomy Set for Girls


Who doesn’t want their little girl to grow up to be an inspiration to their someday professor? I know I do! So I was particularly excited for world-famous astronomy professor and recent sexual harassment victim Geoffrey Marcy’s new toy set.

But instead of focusing on the stars, Professor Marcy’s guidebook seems a lot more focused on the astronomer’s choice of clothing, perfume and makeup. There are numerous references to “Cleavage,” “The Gap” and “Muffin Top,” which as far as my research shows, aren’t even constellations. And I’m given to understand that the telescope is nowhere near as powerful as he keeps insisting it is.

2. Straw Purchase! the Video Game


Try use your crappy phone to teach your kid some basic money math and these are the thanks you get. Predictably, this is one of those games you play that says it’s free, but every time you turn around, the costs keep adding up. And least, for about half the players.. Fail.

1. Doc McShkreli’s Malaria Bed Playtime Set


If you’re seriously considering this toy, you probably want to reassess your value system in the first place. But not for us to judge.

The mosquito netting is cheap. The towels haven’t been washed. And of course, the whole thing is about 700% more expensive than it deserves to be. Besides which, Doc McShkreli’s face just makes you want to give him a swirly while repeatedly punching him in the gnads. Till he passes out.

Ooh! Was that my “out loud voice?” Anyway, Merry Christmas to my friends, followers, readers and tweeters. Make it a safe and happy one!

As we look over the precipice of a new year, it’s always fun to consider what has happened in the previous year, and how that may change in the coming one. It’s a guess, of course, and one which if successful will be shouted from rooftops at this time next year. Because that’s how bloggers roll.

Nevertheless, my predictions list is more about predicting trends than declaring “The next Hitler.” What will I be writing about in 2015, and what will the science community be researching? Here is my totally-not-hedged-upon List of Predictions:

5 Predictions for Science in 2015:

5. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Research

The University of Rochester is part of a constellation of schools currently researching and mapping the glial system of the human brain. This research has lead to the discovery of a complex interdependence between the so-called “grey matter” that processes information and the “white matter” that regulates the brain. This research will continue into the new year, possibly leading to breakthroughs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.

4. Wearables are Here to Stay

As hard and as unsuccessfully as Google has pushed this year to make Glass the new iPad, you’d be forgiven for thinking that wearable tech in the form of glasses is as dead as Google Glass battery.

But other companies such as Epson and Vuzix have quietly attempted a very different track, one that has served computer technology well in the past. They’re working on making Heads-Up Display a functional technology for business and first responders, rather than an inscrutable technology to drive people at Starbucks nuts. Meanwhile, Recon Jet is moving into providing data for athletes like bicyclists. Once the technology becomes ubiquitous in business and sports, the rest of us will find reasons to need it as well.

3. Drones are Headed for a Legal Explosion

When this many different interests all converge on a single technology – virtually without the effort afforded HUD – you know those interests will sooner rather than later collide in a court room. From Constitutional questions about the use of drones for government surveillance and monitoring to legal questions about airspace and private use, expect some serious fireworks this year.

Corporations are already gathering detailed information on private citizens’ movements and personal property, largely without the question of propriety even having been asked. Local governments are gearing up to use drones for traffic monitoring and other law enforcement uses. And with the cost of drones now edging down below $1000 per unit, you can guarantee that enterprising private citizens will come up with whole new ways to violate each others’ privacy.

Drones have the promise of doing amazing things for our species, some too far off to predict. But in the meanwhile, there will definitely be a few legal questions to iron out, starting this coming year.

2. Space Travel Goes Mainstream

There are no less than three separate entities rapidly building towards useable space planes, including the European Union and a company called XCOR. All have plans to release their first practical models in 2015. What will the price of a ticket be? Well, that’s a good question. But they’ll be available by the end of the year.

1. Forensics on the Stand

One big meta story that’s not getting a lot of attention except when high-profile cases hint at it, is the crisis unfolding within the forensics, law enforcement and criminal justice communities. The use of DNA evidence in criminal court cases has been heavily scrutinized, especially locally, where District Attorney Sandra Doorley was recently in hot water over what some regard as fluffing otherwise pretty thin DNA evidence.

Right now, Renee Bailey has just been released from prison and is awaiting a potential new trial on the basis of faulty research on Shaken Baby Syndrome. This boogeyman of parents everywhere may have always been a myth, and cases all over the country are getting overturned.

4.

As a blogger, I’ll certainly look back on 2014 as the year the site’s focus on science and technology really got sharp. It was the year that the balance between day-t0-day news blogging and the in-focus sci/tech articles was struck. Best of all, this is the year that, since I brought news posts into the site’s fold, I’m actually able to tell you about the awesome things we all watched this year based on your interest in my articles.

DFE’s Top Ten Most Popular Articles:

10. Drones, drones, drones.

This year also featured the addition of a new voice on the website, Tristan Tomaselli. And among the subjects that most interested you this year was the ever-burgeoning world of Unmanned Vehicles, or “drones.” What can they do for you?

9. Daryl Pierson.

The reverberations of this one death in Rochester are still being felt, and getting all mixed up with national, cultural and racial politics of all varieties. But however easy it may be to conflate a lot of topics around one tent pole, in the end, this is the story of one brave man and the friends and family who loved him.

8. Such a Lovely mess.

Oh, our endlessly-misunderstood Mayor in Rochester, Lovely Warren. Constantly on the wrong side of a rookie mistake and acting like a 16 year old thief. It began with her ill-fated yet prophetic first 10 days in office. But oh, it hardly ended there. This site being a sci/tech blog, I didn’t cover everything. But when Lovely (or someone with access to her Facebook account, ahem) decided to go off half cocked on one of her detractors, boy were you interested. From Dissecting a Fail to asking whether a crime has been committed, DFE readers have shown an almost inexhaustible interest in our inexcusable Mayoral dance recital.

Sidebar: it turns out that even Lovely Warren is starting to see a problem and is currently actively seeking someone who will run the government for her.

7. Hot Dog Vigilantes.

It was a huge, silly debate on social. A woman at the East End Wegmans saw a dog in a car and decided to take matters into her own hands by smashing the window with a brick. Noble though the thought might have been, I decided to pen a quick love note to all would-be vigilantes that perhaps this wasn’t in anyones best interest. I’m also proud to say that this is the only legitimate listical on this particular top 10 (which, yes, is a listical).

6. Deputy Mayor Redon’s DWI.

You can make the argument that this was yet another Lovely mess. But alcohol and it’s affects are a purely private affair, and this one is all Deputy Mayor Redon’s. But even better than that, for the sake of this website, Redon’s DWI charge was a reason to explore the various means of breath analysis and how they work, which included debunking the myth that diabetes can trick breathalyzers into thinking you’re drunk.

5. Penn Yan’s epic flooding.

Back in May, heavy rains left amazing holes in what used to be the Penn Yan area. Whole roads were flooded out and disappeared by overtopped creeks. DragonFlyEye took a look at the fluid dynamics physics of how this is possible and just why running waters can do so much damage in so short a span.

4. Superintelligence

This one surprised me. But maybe it was just Tristan’s awesome writing that drew people in. Regardless, among the subjects you can plan on seeing a lot more of next year (predictions post to come!), “superintelligence,” or super computing on a quantum level, will be at the top of the list. Tomaselli posits that perhaps instead of an Armageddon of Machines, our species may simply be quietly disused by it’s inventions.

3. Hypothermia as an Attention Getter… for Charity!

Ugh. This whole thing. The incredibly popular Ice Bucket Challenge forced some of us to rethink the nature of social pressure. It’s fine to do things for charity, and have fun doing them. But there is a point at which social pressure takes over and people don’t even realize how heedless they’re being. Apparently, a lot of you were interested in the psychology of this phenomenon.

2. Kimberly and Beck and the Transgender Bunch.

Wow, this one got some mileage on it. Kimberly and Beck got suspended for one thing, then fired for another, then rehired by their former employer’s competitor. I guess it all comes out in the wash. Regardless, their comments on the transgender identity did not fall on deaf ears, much to their collective chagrin. Also: they were just flat wrong on health care, as if anyone cared about that part.

1. HOTHCHESTER STRIKES BACK!

After a brutal, bone-chilling winter, the sudden heat of summer also brought with it a major news story. That story: people on highways getting cracked windshields. The first culprit posited by the media was a lurking teenager (presumably) with a pellet gun. DFE offered you up a much more banal and practical answer: everybody’s windshields were a little less stable due to the cold and heat. What I was able to offer up was proof both that the physics of a pellet gun piercing a windshield are not plausible, and strong evidence to support the fact that spring always brings a rash of cracked windshields.

In other words, DragonFlyEye can proudly say that on this issue, it brought was it’s mission is: direct, science-based analysis of the facts of the case. Instead of interviewing people who may not know shit about the subject at hand, DFE finds the facts and offers an educated opinion on the news of the day. I’m very proud of the work I’ve been able to do this year and look forward to another great year of context and clarity.

Editor’s Picks!

Regardless of how popular they were, there are a few articles of which I am personally very proud. These three represent some of the best work I did this year and the kind of thing that I hope to be able to continue on with in 2015. In fact, in a few cases, I can guarantee that the subjects will come up again:

  1. Resting on Shaky Ground. You’ll be seeing a lot more of this in the future. Evidence once thought iron-clad by prosecutors is starting to be undercut by modern science.
  2. Cornell University and the Facebook Trawling Scandal. Too little scrutiny has been paid to the academic side of this controversy.
  3. Ward, Jr and the Toxicology of Weed. This was a somewhat underappreciated (IMHO) analysis of how marijuana gets broken down by the body and how that affected the decision not to prosecute Tony Stewart in the death of a young racer’s life.

The Headlines!

In addition to the most popular articles on DFE, I can now reveal the top ten most popular headlines I tweeted out this year, at least for the last half. This tends to be a bit on the lighter side, naturally…

  1. Jessica Nigri is Just Amazing
  2. Arrow Season Three
  3. Dwarf Strippers Can Getcha Pregnant, Too
  4. Lions Tailgating is Quite a Sight To Behold
  5. Renee Zellweger’s Weird Face
  6. DiGiorno Pizza’s Epic Social Media / Domestic Violence Fail
  7. FapChat: Don’t Send Your Girlfriend Private Masturbation Videos Unless You Are Sure
  8. Jessica Rabbit and a Lady Stormtrooper
  9. Merry Christmas Shithead
  10. Dude Arrested for “Unmentionables” With Stuffed Animal

“But it’s all in good fun! And it’s for a great cause!”

If you’ve found yourself on the receiving end of these rationalizations, you are not alone.  If your Facebook feed is filled with shocked-but-not-shocked faces beneath cataracts of chilly water – celebrities great and small, politicians and friends – and it leaves you with even less reason to check Facebook, you are not alone.

What you may be experiencing is a phenomenon sometimes called “Hype Aversion.” It is the idea that it is the social promotion of an idea, more than the idea itself, that you find repellent. The social pressure, the constant discussion, the inescapable nature of a ubiquitous social event makes you ill. If you’re like me, you might feel it better to be anti-social than get swept under what feels like an ever-widening storm. Because most shockingly of all, your friends seem to be having such a moonishly lovely time as they succumb.

The Ice Bucket Challenge

Credit where credit is due: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has done amazing things for the fight against a somewhat obscure and oft-overlooked issue, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In a world overflowing with worthy causes, this worthy cause is getting the attention it deserves. At last check, the ALS Association has raised as much as $40m from folks taking an icy bath on camera.

“They’re brilliant,” says Professor Melissa Brown of the College at Brockport, “I’m not sure they thought about it like this, but humans are a pack animal. And we tend to look first to our alphas for direction.”

And so, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started with Kennedys, Jimmy Fallon and a host of alpha-celebs taking their respective plunges first. And in our everyone-is-a-celebrity social networking culture, the tide moved rather rapidly down the scale until it finally hit me.

I’ll admit that, after a couple cocktails, the vanity of being called out by Jennae Moran was almost too much to resist. Jennae is Rochester’s resident lioness of Autism awareness, and a friendly voice on social. In fact, she knows me only because of the work I’ve done on social media. Out of any number of people she could have picked, she picked me. How could I possibly say “no,” to that?

Because it was for a good cause. Because it was all in good fun. Because vanity. For giving to a charity, I’m to be given a little squirt of endorphins. The Ice Bucket Challenge really does work.

Conformity, Cognitive Dissonance and Justification

Ultimately, I did say no. A well-placed, disapproving eye-roll shocked me out of my revery.

But before you and I go sulking into our selfish little uncaring corners, my dear fellow curmudgeon, consider what we already know about what social pressure does to the mind. Professor Brown referred me to the Asch Paradigm.

Back in the 1950’s, researcher Solomon Asch put subjects into a room with what those subjects believed were fellow participants in a study. But those fellow participants turned out to be stand-ins whose role was to uniformly answer a simple set of questions. Sometimes they answered correctly, sometimes incorrectly. But always in unison.

When researchers allowed everyone in the room to answer honestly, the rate of incorrect answers among subjects was less than 1%. However, when the stooges intentionally answered incorrectly, that rate jumped to one-in-three.

In fact, 75% of test subjects answered at least one question incorrectly in concert with the stooges. The conclusion being that social pressure can over-power one’s own ability to decide for themselves.

… none of which is to say that donating to a worthy charity is an incorrect decision. What I am asking, is whether those who choose to take part in the Challenge actually chose at all? Or did the group choose for them?

It’s just sociology: the study of humans acting in groups. But it is one that our culture is instinctually hostile too. We’re all fiercely independent souls, and none of us fall for peer pressure.

It’s a nice vanity that we all aspire too, but it is fundamentally untrue. And that dichotomy sets into motion another instinct we see repeatedly in the Ice Bucket Challenge: Cognitive Dissonance. Our brains need to rectify the dissonance between our self-image and our actions, so we justify, excuse and defend that glaring logical error away.

You may find your friends unwilling or unable to be satisfied with your answer to the challenge. You and I, dear curmudgeon? We’re just uncomfortable with being dared to follow the leader. Surely, people understand that?

Instead, they’ll point out repeatedly that the Ice Bucket Challenge is “for a good cause,” as though the ends justified the means. And it’s “all in good fun,” as though if you’re not having fun, there must be something wrong with you. And “of course,” dumping a bucket of water on your head is necessary, because everybody else is. Even complete strangers can be openly belligerent with any curmudgeon so bold as to raise any objection.

If some people are having fun, I say, “great!!” If the ALS Association is making money for a good cause, awesome! Have at it.

But before too many more people go pressuring too many more friends into the “fun” of the Ice Bucket Challenge or STFU, it’s worth demanding a Naked Lunch moment. It’s worth our time, fellow curmudgeon, to strip away the justifications and ask them to just look at what’s at the end of their forks. Is it really what they want to eat, just because it’s “for a good cause?”

My point is not that “some people” are cruel. It is that we do fall along these statistical borders every day. I’m not always on one side, you’re not always on the other. It isn’t a reflection on one’s character, but it is a reflection on what will and won’t cause discomfort. It seems strange and disconcerting that so many people ignore others’ discomfort, “all in good fun.”

And if our friends cannot see all this, then my dear fellow curmudgeon, I say we’re fine to “Harumph,” all we like.

December always seems to be housekeeping month here at DFE and today I get to announce a new bit of advertising that I’m actually super-excited about and I hope you will be, too. Yes, I realize adverts are the bit about blogs and news websites we generally studiously avoid. But for once, I think I’ve discovered a new service that is much a benefit to my audience as to the website.

The new service is called LocalVox and they’re all about getting you local adverts and getting us little guy blogs a hefty leg up in advertising. I’ve been continually frustrated since I started this blog twelve years ago at the lack of genuine local options for advertising. Google pretends to have local adverts, but if a bigger national company buys into ads at a higher rate (which is always the case for hotter keywords) you still end up getting crappy national ads. Most of which read and look like scams.

There is not to the best of my knowledge a local advert company that is willing to take a fly with us small blogs. Most of the larger news websites roll their own advertising systems. That leaves little to nothing for my audience to look at. I’ve tried a few other options, but blog advertisement companies seem to be getting pretty long in the tooth and a lot seem to be just vanishing.

In steps LocalVox with a dedication to useful local adverts and a business model focused on rather than capitulating to independent publishers like myself. And so far, I have to say I’m pretty stoked about the advertisements that are currently in my sidebar: DogTown Hots, The Public Market, Open Face, the Museum of Play and Victor Gymnastics. All great local businesses, all stuff I know my audience will like. Best of all, instead of just static banners, you get a rolling Twitter-like list of their latest offerings. Up-to-the-minute special deals sound pretty good to me.

But here’s the thing, and here’s where I’m asking your help: in order to keep these great adverts on the site – and in order to increase the number and variety of them – you need to patronize our sponsors. Click on the adverts and let them know you came to them through my website, the LocalVox sidebar! Check back often and see what is new. With your help, maybe LocalVox can be a success here in Rochester and independent science news like what we deliver here every day will continue to grow.

Thanks you guys!

I try not to bore you too much with a lot posts about blogging, which seems redundant. But every once in a while, it is necessary. This is one of those times.

I’ve been trying out various types of email communications for the site, mostly failing. Automattic, the company that drives WordPress’ continued development, as a plugin called Jetpack which comes with a mailer. But I’ve never been all that happy with it, in part because it is just a plain text mailer. I’d like to think that my site and my audience deserves something at least a little snazzier than that.

And so I’ve been looking into MailChimp to deliver my email. Aaah! That’s more like it. Now I can provide you the latest headlines from DFE every morning. The emails are rich with images and scale well for mobile, so its a win/win on that level. And if you’d still like the plain, old plaintext version, well, we can give you that as well.

So I hope you’ll take a moment and sign up to what I hope will be a useful tool for keeping up to date with the science and technology awesomeness that we put out each and every day!

Sign up today!!

Kind of amazing how I remember the whole thing like it was yesterday….

I was working at Sutherland at the time, working an evening shift on the Gateway Computers desk. This is right after Sutherland opened its Jefferson Road shop and long after we’d said goodbye to the smelly old digs on Calkins Rd. We had a set of web pages served from a local machine in the office that served as a rough-and-ready web resource for all the agents on the desk, helping us make sense of the labyrinthine Gateway support site. Having spent a fair amount of my “free” time on the phone playing around with HTML, my boss decided to use my avocation for the good of the desk and had recently asked me to maintain that “website.” Thus began my professional career as a web developer.

Another agent on the desk was trawling the Internet and happened upon a deal by newly-minted web host 1and1.com: a free domain name in exchange for a commitment to 1 year of hosting on their servers. I jumped at the chance to have my own website! What the hell was I to do with it? Well, that was question for another day…

2012: Another Day

DFE in 2005! A screen cap from The Wayback Machine

Twelve years later, here we are. A lot has changed – certainly the look of the site has improved immeasurably! But a lot has stayed the same or even become more of what I wanted than I’ve ever had. We still cover lots and lots of politics, and even back then, we were very interested in science and technology. These days, we do a lot less on the music and food side, but that’s probably for the best. On the plus side, what you see in the Wayback Machine link to the right was done entirely by hand, every single page, so no longer doing that has certainly made writing a much more productive exercise.

I don’t think that, on a bet, I could have guessed that I would ever be taking on interns from RIT on the site. But I’ve been blessed to have had two great classes, thanks to Hinda Mandell’s ( @hindamandell ) partnership. And Ben Ayres, the site’s Weather Wonk (yes, he’ll be joining us again next semester!) has been a huge addition to the site. Thanks also to his professor, Nicholas Metz, for the opportunity.

But the site’s character really has changed for the better with the addition of my good friend and ever-helpful sidekick, Jillian Seaton ( @jillybean2k ). Jillian’s sense of humor and voice have only added the necessary touch of honestly and vulnerability to the site that my writing and the character of the site have missed for all these years. She’s kept the site honest and laughing, and I’m thrilled to continue working with her.

Thanks also to Rachel Barnhart ( @rachbarnhart ), the closest thing to a mentor that I have. It is in no small part because she believed in and appreciated what I do here that the site continues to operate and has expanded in the ways it has. Not only that, but she’s also contributed to this site with counseling, advice and even editing. It has been an honour also to help realize her goals as a blogger on her site, The Rochesterian, winner of the Best Blog honour in the Rochester City Newspaper Best of Rochester competition.

But there is no one I can thank more for my success than my wonderful, funny, beautiful wife. Her enthusiasm for what I do never flags. And our son Sebastian adds new importance to what we’re trying to do at this little site, hopefully making some small contribution to a happier, smarter Rochester community of which he will be a member.

There are so many others I could thank, but of course, I have to make a special effort to thank you, my readers, for sticking with me. Whether by comments, replies on Twitter, likes, shares or just adding your little blips to my Google Analytics by showing up on the site, it is because there is a small corner of our world that cares to read our work that we care to put out what we hope is quality content. We are always trying to improve and enhance what we do and we look forward to hearing from you!

The Next 12:

We’re not going to slow down, in fact, we’re just getting started! We have lots of new ideas and plans in the works, so just you stick around. Thank you!

So yeah….

Remember how, a few years ago, Facebook talked you into “liking” things? And pretty soon, you were just clicking “like” on stuff to tell your friends, “Hey, man! I really ‘like’ The Origami Penises! They’re very experimental!”

Well, if you’ve been missing the folded shapes of penises lately, it’s because Facebook decided that it knows better than you do what you actually want to read. That’s why they came up with the “News Feed” and the “Most Recent Feed.” Ignoring the semantics of “News” being somehow not as recent as “most recent,” the real reason for this whole change was to make Page owners pay money for you to see the content you originally said you wanted.

But there has been plenty of blow-back to that scenario: creating a need, then filling it with a paid option. And the new solution is to add things you like to your “Interests List.”

Fucking redundant. Thanks for making shit difficult, Facebook.

Ok… so let’s also ignore the semantic problems with “liking” something somehow not proving that you’re “interested” in it. Just do me a big-ass solid, if you could, and also add my page to your “Interests List.” I’ll be writing you in a few months to also add me to your “No fucking shit, Facebook, I fucking asked for this content, you douchebags” list. Stand by…

DragonFlyEye.Net is looking for a weatherman!

Because weather science is just so interesting – and because, let’s face it, Rochester loves to talk about the weather – I’m hoping to expand the current offering of science news to include some wonky, geeky weather science goodness. And to do that, we’re going to need a specialist to turn in regular reports.

What I’m looking for is a regular report of weather happenings in Rochester and the surrounding area that focuses on the science, rather than just a summary. Tell us about the precipitation, sure. But tell us why it happens in the way that it does. How clouds are formed; how that differs from season to season; what effect our position relative to the sun has. You know: COOL SCIENCE SHIT!

The key is your writing ability: can you write a short, punchy article with good information in a friendly, fun voice? Word count is not strictly important all the time, but the article should always seem just a little shorter than it could have been: don’t waste people’s time, but always leave them wanting more.

For those in college, if your school will accept this type of writing as internship, I’ll gladly work with your professors to get you what you need. DFE already works with one RIT proff, we’re happy to accommodate another!

Anybody who is interested can contact me here for further information. Thanks!

Seriously? $750 million for a “mixed use” mashup on a swamp? Yep. And as @rachbarnhart reports, the developers are looking to get $250m out of the State of New York in the form of sales tax-paid financing. But that’s only part of the story of this past week. Photos of the Gemini mission stole the show on Monday, followed by a sun pillar on Tuesday. Apparently, the photography thing is really working!

Plus lots of tech in the classroom news, including some original reporting by RIT journalism students Michael Roppolo and Lyndsay Saunders. That article will be part of what will be a larger series, analysing local schools’ policies on personal electronics. Look for it this week! Speaking of which, have a great one!

A Martian sunrise » NPR.org

Photo: NASA/JPL


Beautiful photography to start the week off, this one coming courtesy of NPR and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. A view of a sunrise very few have ever seen before, from a rover on Mars.

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A “sun pillar” over Michigan » Earth Science Picture of the Day

Photo: Kevin Povenz @ Flickr.com


Another one of those strage phenomenon of earth science which, if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably never heard of it. Sun pillars are caused by light from the sun reflecting off of plate-shaped ice crystals in clouds.

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NYC schools issue first-ever social media guidelines for teachers » First Amendment Center

Photo: mrsdkrebs @ Flickr.com


In what is most likely to be a trend, New York City schools adopt new rules for teachers regarding social network availability and students.

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Medley Center wants $250 in financing from the state » 13WHAM.com

Photo: Labelscar.com


The project to replace Medley Center drags on an on, and now the project is estimated to cost $750 million, of which developers want $250m to come from State financing. For perspective, the F22 fighter – latest plane in the U.S. fleet – is estimated to cost around $668m.

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Technology in the classroom: how do local schools handle personal electronics? » DragonFlyEye.net

Photo: Gustav H @ Flickr.com


I’m very pleased to see this article be as popular as it turns out to have been. This is part of what will be a series of articles dealing with local schools and personal electronic devices. RIT journalism students Michael Roppolo and Lyndsey Saunders help me out analyzing Rochester City, Gates-Chili and Hilton Central School policies.

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This week’s Top Five includes lots of bizarre politics, from Planned Parenthood investigating alleged undercover activism to Justice Antonin Scalia comparing undocumented workers to bank robbers. And the fun doesn’t stop there! The importance of being social, photobombs and more.

Remember that to join in the fun each week, follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus! See you next week!

Planned Parenthood fears it may be the target of undercover activist stings » Huffington Post

Photo: bluecheddar.com

Apparently, James O’Keefe has friends in the Conservative movement and they’re staying on the case. This time targeting Planned Parenthood over what they allege are “sex-selective” abortions.

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The importance of being social » Scientific American

Photo: Digital Environments on Blogger

The science behind the noted health benefits of being social. It’s not just something you “ought to do,” socializing appears to improve general health and increase life span.

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SCOTUS Justice Scalia compares undocumented workers to bank robbers » Talking Points Memo

Photo: The Higgs Boson @ Flickr.com

Apparently ignoring the question of whether undocumented workers living in this country have committed any crime by being here – which they haven’t – Justice Antonin Scalia moves straight on to demonification. A handy guide to just how he comes down on this issue..

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Boobstagram allows social networkers to get a little skeevie » Gizmodo

Photo: Gizmodo.com

We may as well just get to the point: girls who want to look pretty on their favourite social networks tend to just show off their boobs, regardless. Why not one site to focus on just that?

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