Bigots love Jennifer Lawrence, lenscrafting and more in this week’s Staff Picks


andrew-couts Andrew Couts: Jennifer Lawrence + U.S. hate groups = Heil-larious 

On my list of life’s important things, Hollywood celebrities rank somewhere between World of Warcraft and how much gluten is in my food. But every so often, usually in a moment of procrastination-induced weakness, I click through to a celebrity-related story. And earlier this week, I hit the jackpot: Vice’s “What do hate groups think of Jennifer Lawrence?” Writer Jamie Taete took it upon himself to call up six U.S. hate groups, including the Nation of Islam and the Westboro Baptist Church, to find out their opinion of the most recent “Best Actress” Oscar winner. The result is confusion, proselytizing, outright hostility – you know, awesomeness. 

The most surprising item came from Westboro Baptist, which has become infamous for picketing funerals of children and fallen soldiers (among many other despicable things): The spokesperson was actually completely normal, loved Argo (but not Ben Affleck), and thought Lawrence was just as great as the rest of us. I should stop there – this description really doesn’t do it justice. Go read it. Now.

The Cinema Society & Calvin Klein Collection Host A Screening Of "The Hunger Games" - Inside Arrivals

les-shuLes Shu: From sand to glass, Nikon celebrates 80 years of lens making

The digital camera may be a modern invention, but the basic concept of how it works – capturing light through a lens – is a very old technology. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nikon has been making photographic lenses for more than half a century. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Nikon Nikkor lens brand; although the brand was created in 1932 (when Nikon was known as Nippon Kogaku K.K.), the first shipments of the Aero-Nikkor areal photographic lens didn’t go out until 1933.

The Nikkor-branded lenses have had several milestones in between. In 1959, Nikon created the Nikkor-S Auto 5cm f/2 lens for its first SLR, the Nikon F. In Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the “eye” of the HAL 2000 computer was a Nikkor 8mm f/8 fisheye lens (although the actual footage from HAL’s POV was from a different lens). Most recently, Nikkor-branded lenses have been created for Nikon’s 1-series of mirrorless cameras.

To celebrate this moment, Nikon in Japan created a short but beautiful video showing how a lens is made – from raw material that’s mixed, heated, cut, baked, polished, and fitted into the metal housing. There’s no narration, so there’s no need to invite your Japanese-speaking buddy over to translate.

ryan-flemingRyan Fleming: College freaking basketball

If you aren’t at least a little bit excited about the somewhat official start of March Madness, then we can’t be friends, and I want all my stuff back. I’m deleting you from Facebook too.

When most people refer to March Madness they are specifically referring to the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship Tournament that begins next Thursday (not counting the pity games the NCAA added to make four bubble teams dance for their supper). But the real action begins this weekend, as the conference tournaments reach their zenith. There are plenty of good individual stories too.

This weekend marks the final Big East gauntlet tournament that featured 114 teams playing for weeks to win the conference championship. Beginning next season, the Catholic 7 and friends will take their ball and go home, keeping the lucrative Big East brand name with them but cutting the ridiculously lengthy 16 team tournament down to a manageable size. But that is just one of the many conference titles up for grabs, and some of the best games will be found in the Mid-Major conferences, as teams battle for what may be the only chance they have at reaching the Big Dance. Even for the major conferences, the teams on the bubble will need an impressive showing if they want to go on to possibly be upset by and 11 or 12 seed who then fulfill the mandatory “Cinderella” team role.

Consider this weekend a preview of next, with lower stakes (for some), but better rivalries.


bill-robersonBill Roberson: Revisiting the golden age of music videos

Music videos today are so…. serious. And professional. And boringly good. Usually, at least.

This wasn’t the case at the beginning and sad to say, I was there at the beginning – the launch, as it were (ah, Martha Quinn). I even stayed after school to watch Michael Jackson’s Thriller in the A/V lab. There. I said it.

I suppose that’s why I had to do a lot of hand-over-mouth oh-my-goshing when I came across this video compilation and hilarious write-up of some purely unintentionally terrible 80s music videos. But, of course, back then, they weren’t terrible, they were ground-breaking works of art heralding a new era of musical and video entertainment. Or something like that. Now they’re just hilarious. Art can be that way. Just don’t let your tears of laughter burn your pillow.

Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to use it.
Smart Home

Drinkworks and Keurig have created a pod-based cocktail machine

HomeBar, a collaboration between Drinkworks and Keurig, creates cocktails the easy way. The machine creates mixed drinks of all kinds. All you have to do is insert in the pod for the drink you want.

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.

Zoom in on famous works through the Art Institute of Chicago’s new website

Art lovers, listen up. The Art Institute of Chicago has given its website a serious makeover with new features that let you get up close and personal with more than 50,000 artworks by famous (and not so famous) artists.

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.

Over a million veterans now eligible for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program

Comcast's low-cost Internet Essentials program, which provides internet access for just $10 per month, has expanded to include U.S. veterans. One million veterans now qualify for the service.

Google’s Squoosh will get an image web-ready with in-browser compression

Google's latest web app development is an image editing and compression tool, Squoosh. In just a few clicks, it can take a huge image and make it much lighter and web-friendly, all in your browser.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.
Smart Home

Amazon has a huge team dedicated to enhancing Alexa and Echo

An Amazon executive on Tuesday, November 13 revealed the huge size of the team that's tasked with developing the Echo, the company's smart speaker, and Alexa, the digital assistant that powers it.