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Perfect coffee through science, emoji mosaics and more in this week’s Staff Picks

Staff Picks 8_23_2013 header

molly mchughMolly McHugh: Game of Hoops

Obviously you like Games of Thrones, because you are reading this and that means you’re a human with an Internet connection. So again, obviously you like Games of Thrones. And if you don’t we can’t be friends anymore.

But since you obviously like Games of Thrones, your favorite character is obviously Tyrion Lannister. OBVIOUSLY. He is everyone’s favorite character and if he’s not then again, we can’t be friends anymore.

Well turns out our favorite character – er, the actor Peter Dinklage who plays him – partook in some fun extracurriculars, i.e. hula hoop dancing at a gay bar. And not just any hula hoop, an electric one! I’d venture to say that if anything in your life is going wrong, one look at this and you’ll feel many times better.

Dear reader, it only gets better: There’s video.

In these dark times, this is what we need more of.


caleb-denisonCaleb Denison: Please don’t judge me

Every week I’m tasked with the responsibility of finding something cool on the Internet, then writing up some sort of witty blurb introducing it for this, our Staff Picks column. It sounds like the easiest thing ever, doesn’t it? And maybe it should be. But it turns out that I’ve gotten really good at taking what should be the easiest part of my week and making it extremely difficult. I will sometimes spend an hour searching for something I really like because – and I realize this is a major hang-up – I have this crazy idea in my head that what I pick says something about me, and I just can’t have the Internet thinking I’m a dork.

Dammit, I’m too late, aren’t I?

Well, then, since I’m pretty sure the six of you who read this already think I’m a goob or just really don’t care, I’m rolling with a comedian doing Diva impressions to a tune made famous in the 1980’s (oh, he’s an old dork! Nice!) by Bonnie Tyler called “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Yes. My middle-aged nerd status is now complete. Check out Christina Bianco doing some impressive impressions of Divas young and old, including Adelle, Cher, Christina Aguilera (my personal favorite) and, of course, Barbara Streisand. She’s pretty damn good at it.

Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: Make perfect coffee, with science!

Until I lived with a woman whose addiction to coffee surpassed my addictions to everything else, I wasn’t a big Joe drinker. Nowadays, however, coffee is perhaps the most important substance in my house. If we’re out of coffee, everyone suffers. Not only do I now have a caffeine addiction, but I am now an amateur coffee snob. The brew needs to be strong, and it needs to be flavorful. Whatever the hell it is that Starbucks secretes out of its machines just ain’t gonna cut it. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve the coffee we have at home. And now I have the perfect guide.

The Atlantic this week published a thorough explainer piece on “How to make perfect coffee.” Authors Micahel Haft and Harrison Suarez take a deep dive into the science of coffee making, from what makes a good coffee bean to the precise temperature your water needs to be to produce a superior brew. Thanks to this, I’ll move up to intermediate coffee snob in no time.

Fine Tuning_main

natt garunNatt Garun: Disney has nothing on Cinderonce

The secret to every good weekend is to start it with a little bit of Beyonce. I mean, come on, how can you hate Beyonce? She’s basically the real American first lady. Except this time, Beyonce comes with a twist in this magical little video where YouTube comedy director Todrick Hall tells the fairytale story of Cinderella… using only Beyonce songs. It’s the kind of thing you’d totally pay good money to see on Broadway, but why do all that when it’s free on the Internet? Cinderonce is a genius piece of work. Thanks, Internet, for delivering yet another piece of totally weird, random, but adorably amazing content. Disney should take some notes.

jennifer-bergenJen Bergen: Emojify turns your photos into an emoji mosaic

Let’s face it; we all love emojis. They’re there for us when we don’t know how to use words to describe that we want ice cream, they’re there when we have no other way to translate how excited we are about something (a string of 10 different smilies and hand clap emojis usually does the trick), and they’re there when we’re just too lazy to respond with words (a simple heart can take the place of “I love you, too”). So when we heard about the Emojify app, which takes the ASCII art days of yore and puts a contemporary spin on it, we were instantly searching for an appropriate emoji to relay our excitement.

Emojify lets iPhone users transform the pixels of a photo into emojis, creating a mosaic made up entirely of emojis. VoidWorks, maker of Emojify, suggests that your photo be a single subject matter with a clear contrast of light and shadows. The app can export up to 16 megapixels, so you can even print your Emojified as posters and hang them up at home.

The app is only available for iOS at the moment. Until it’s released on other platforms, the rest of us will just have to find the appropriate crying emoji to portray our sadness.

Emoji-imageryan-fleming-6-94x94Ryan Fleming: Preseason NFL is still better than mid-season baseball

Look, I like baseball as much as the next guy (assuming the next guy also doesn’t like baseball), but it’s time we re-examine this whole “National Pastime” business. You had a good run, baseball, but it’s time to hand over the crown to the true American sport of choice: football. Baseball has its moments, especially the playoffs, but as it enters week 614 of the regular season, it’s nice to know this weekend, sports fans will have options.

Sure, it’s still pre-season, but week three is traditionally where the NFL starters play the majority of the game rather than then 9th string kicker/QB. It’s also getting to be crunch time for the unfortunate few who are on the bubble and may not make the team, so you may see some real potential unleashed. The games this week won’t come close to matching the intensity of the regular season that debuts on September 5, but with baseball in it pre-exciting phase leading up to the playoff push next month, sports fans can rejoice.


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A human harp, terrifying sinkholes and more in this week’s Staff Picks
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Andrew Couts: Trolling Congress
Global warming is real, and is caused or exacerbated by the inconceivable amount of crap we've pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Don't take my word for it, take NASA's. "The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years," writes the U.S. space agency on its website. Despite the overwhelming evidence in support the phenomena of global warming, a shocking number of people in Congress – the people with power to curb some of the destruction – deny that we humans have anything to do with the spike in the Earth's temperature.
Which is why the latest campaign from environmental group is so freakin' brilliant. Dubbed "The Climate Name Change," the campaign seeks to name hurricanes after "climate change deniers," like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Republican Minnesota Representative Michele "Crazy Eyes" Bachmann. The video the group produced to exemplify its idea is pro-level trolling. Even if you don't "believe in" global warming, you have to admit that the new naming scheme is hilarious. So sign the petition – support it for the lulz.

Amir Iliaifar: One way to ruin a party
What you see here is not a summer sci-fi blockbuster filmed on hand-held camera. No, it’s Mechnikovo beach, near Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.
It appears these sunray-seeking Ruskies were busy enjoying their day out when a 500-ton Zubr-class military hovercraft landed on the beach, unloaded a cadre of Russian troops, and promptly asked people to scram- crapping in everyone’s proverbial cereal.
I mean, how would you feel if a massive hovercraft capable of carrying 400 armed troops, missile launchers, and God only knows what else, stormed the beach while you were in your speedo and asked you to split? And you know they would be the revealing kind because hey – it’s Europe!
Apparently, Russian authorities were more than a little surprised that the hovercraft incident pissed off so many people. According to the Russian authorities, Mechnikovo beach is government property and the Zubr landing was merely a tactical exercise. And, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, people shouldn’t have been on the beach to begin with.
But you wanna know what I think, comrade? Somehow Miley Cyrus snuck aboard and couldn’t stop twerking and sticking out her tongue, forcing an emergency landing and everyone to GTFO. Yeah, that must have been it.

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The perks of delinquency, 80s dashboards and more in this week’s Staff Picks
the perks of delinquency 80s dashboards and more in this weeks staff picks 08 17 2013 header

Jeff Van Camp: Stephen Colbert confronts the ‘Gay Mafia’
I cover iPhones and Galaxy phones all day long, but when I get home from work, I usually unwind with some Daily Show or Colbert. This is one of the best segments I've seen on the show. Apparently there are parts of the south where a small town can have an openly gay mayor and pass an ordinance banning discrimination of those in the LGBT community. Colbert is, naturally, extremely disappointed in the progress of this "Gay Mafia."
Hopefully we're getting to the point where more people around the country think like this, finally.

Andrew Couts: Everything that's wrong with YouTube
It has been a long time since I last went on a YouTube binge. For whatever reason, my habit of clicking through an endless array of videos, each more odd and obscure than the next, seems to have dwindled away with my fondness for MySpace. In other words, I'm now just busy and old.
Fortunately, YouTube user JelloApocalypse, a self-described "writer and voice actor," has released a brilliant new animated video that makes me appreciate all the time I've not wasted on the world's largest video-sharing site. From the poor design to the wretched comments, the video (above) gives you a sense of all that's wrong with YouTube. The damning summation almost makes it seem as though Google, YouTube's parent company, has given up on improving one of its most popular properties, just to screw with us. Perhaps YouTube's saving grace is that this video is itself hosted on YouTube.

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Barrel rolls, inside Walter White’s house and more in this week’s Staff Picks
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Caleb Denison: Meet the lady who lives at Walter White’s house
For fans of the show, Breaking Bad, these next couple of days are going to be tough. Frankly, the anticipation is killing me. I joined the Breaking Bad fan club late and intentionally scheduled my binge viewing session so that I would catch up just in time to join up with season six as it began airing, but my plans were dashed when the season premiere was pushed back. I seriously considered suing AMC for emotional damages – for like a couple of seconds, anyway.
In the meantime, I’ve done what I could to keep myself from weaning off of the crack-like addiction that is this TV show. I’ve revisited old episodes, joined nerdy forums and practiced my Jesse Pinkman impression in the mirror (it’s getting really, really good). Then today I discovered this video in which a team from Machinima visits with the lady that actually lives at the “White House.” Seriously, it’s an actual house in Albuquerque, New Mexico – not just a studio stage mock-up – and the lady that lives there is the most patient sweetheart of a woman I’ve seen in a long time. Especially considering she probably deals with way more pizza-throwing assholes in the space of one month than most folks do in an entire week. Please enjoy.

Les Shu: With Street View you can pretend you're a wealthy Emirati
Despite the privacy concerns, Google’s Street View is a pretty neat tool for the armchair traveler. How else can you plop yourself down on the Champs-Élysées and then fly over to faux Paris in Las Vegas the next minute? Google has been enhancing Street View where you can now explore really exotic locales like forests and abandoned places, but the latest virtual tour, I think, is one of the best yet: inside an airplane. But not just any plane, mind you, an Airbus A380.
The double-decker is part of the fleet belonging to Dubai-based Emirates, the largest operator of this mega plane. Not only is it big, but it’s also one of the most luxurious, filled with wondrous amenities – that is, if you’re sitting in one of the premium cabins. For those of us who can’t afford the $10,000-plus ticket for a first-class suite (yeah, suite, not seat), we can now explore this part of the plane via Street View. You can also “walk” through the coach cabin, but why bother?

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