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Mind-controlled helicopters, Guy Fieri, and sad, sorry end of the Twinkie in this week’s Staff Picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks
caleb denisonCaleb Denison: Sorry, Woody Harrelson, this “Twinkie thing” is over

I’m not ashamed to admit that several late-night, alcohol-induced snack-attacks have culmintated in an all-out assault on my local 7-11’s Hostess racks. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta have sweet, and I’ve got a soft spot for Crumb Donettes. But Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding Dongs, Sno balls and Wonder Bread may soon be a distant memory, as Hostess recently announced it will be shuttering its doors forever and selling off its assets. And to that, I say: good riddance.

Hostess cites a Bakers Union strike as the reason behind its forced finale, but I think we all know there’s more to it than that. Declining sales and mountains of debt have forced the company to file for bankrupcy twice, most recently this past January. Maybe, just maybe, people have started to realize that a 150-calorie snack with 37 different ingredients isn’t worth the 30 seconds of oral euphoria you get from it. And Wonder Bread? Could there be a more miserable canvas for a sandwich? There are rocks in my garden with more nutritional value.

So, while I will miss indulging in a midnight mowing down of assorted snack cakes, I also celebrate the fact that there will soon be fewer worthless foods on store shelves taunting those of us who lack enough self-restraint to limit junk food consumption to the occasional treat. In memorium of a now deceased American icon, I submit to you the following Twinkie-related clip from one of my favorite Zombie flicks (NSFW due to language). RIP Twinkie.

andrew coutsAndrew Couts: The greatest restaurant review ever?

Did you read New York Times food critic Pete Wells’s savage review of celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar? Perhaps you saw the link pop up endless times on your Twitter feed? No? Did you bother to look at anything on the Web this week? Or maybe restaurant reviews just aren’t your cup of gravy? Or did you hear that good ol’ boy Guy got his boxers in a bunch about it on the “Today” show, and thought to yourself, “The New York Times is just a pompous, un-American, liberal rag – I’m not supporting that!”? Because, if that’s the case, perhaps now would be a good time to chill out and give Wells’s masterpiece a read.

New-York-Times-Guy-Fieri
amir IliafarAmir Iliaifar: A brain-controlled helicopter is finally here

While there is no shortage of vehicles to help us get from point A to point B (occasionally point C), when it comes to piloting these crafts, be it an automobile, bicycle, airplane, boat, etc., technology has really only provided one means in which to do so: with our hands. But what if you could control, say, a helicopter with just the electrons pumping through your brain? Pretty damn cool huh? Well, it looks like Kickstarter has provided the platform for yet another awesome invention in the form of the Puzzlebox Brain-Controlled Helicopter. That’s right — brain-controlled!

This nifty toy/gadget, comes packaged with a NeuroSky MindWave mobile EEG headset, remote control, and a pyramid base for the helicopter itself. Users only need to select a flight path, slide on the headset, and channel those brainwaves, while the built-in software analyzes your levels of concentration and navigates the copter accordingly. If that’s not awesomely geeky, I don’t know what is.

Jennifer BergenJennifer Bergen: “It’s Thanksgiving” is the new “Friday,” both terrible and wonderful at the same time 

There are hundreds of Christmas songs – many of which have already started their annual invasion of our airwaves – but where are the songs that celebrate perhaps one of the most beloved holidays of the year, Thanksgiving? Thankfully, 12-year-old Nicole Westbrook is helping fill this void. With over 8 million views, Westbrook’s video for “It’s Thanksgiving” has gone viral. Westbrook got her start with Patrice Wilson, a producer whose site, PMW Live, helps independent artists deliver their music to the world. I should note that Wilson also happens to be the same guy responsible for the summer’s pop sensation Rebecca Black. Like Black’s hit song “Friday,” “It’s Thanksgiving” is simple, repetitive, and pretty ridiculous. However, considering Westbrook actually wrote the song, I think it’s pretty impressive for someone her age. Besides the initial confusion you may experience when watching the video, wondering what kind of parents would allow a houseful of pre-teens to be left alone and cook an entire Thanksgiving meal by themselves, the video is fun to watch.Westbrook clearly isn’t the world’s next Madonna, but anyone who can belt out their love for Thanksgiving while using a turkey leg as a mic has my nod of approval.

jeff van campJeff Van Camp: Passwords are worthless and we’re all waiting to be hacked

If you enjoy being frightened, boy do I have a story for you. Mat Honan, a Wired writer who was famously hacked earlier this year, has written another piece reflecting on his experiences. His big insight: Passwords should no longer exist. There is no way to make them both secure and usable in the age where all of our personal information is on the Web for all to see.

Nearly all simple passwords, even those with numbers and characters, are easily hackable by either brute force or social engineering (a hacker finding information about your life) and passwords can’t really be too complex or you won’t be able to remember them. And if you can’t remember one password, how about a dozen? With the ever-growing number of online services requiring passwords, it’s almost impossible to come up with new, secure, complicated passwords for each one. Writing passwords down is a no-no, and using cloud-based services that manage your passwords for you puts all your passwords in one accessible basket.

So what are we left with? Well, nothing. There are no good solutions. Every month, we’re being required or pressured to perform more actions online, and every month we see more and more high-profile hacking attempts, and successes. Fingerprint readers offer a possible solution, or speech recognition, or even retinal scan, but they aren’t widely available yet. Until then, every one of us is vulnerable in an ever-increasing number of ways.

Mat Honan

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