7/29/10 – Five by 8: Changing habits

1) We’ll start off with something light today: comedy troupe Improv Everywhere has struck again, this time on the New York subway system.

The group, based out of NYC, is known for large-scale public improv sketches, often in high-profile locations, like this one in an iconic New York library.

(via BBC)

2) According to the National Resources Defense Council, Minnesota has some of the cleanest beaches in the U.S. Surprisingly, this news comes almost immediately following the discovery of zebra mussels in Lake Minnetonka:

Several small zebra mussels have been found in Lake Minnetonka, a large, popular recreation and fishing destination in the western metro area, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday.

However, Minnesota is still better off than Florida, apparently…

According to the report, Minnesota, New Hampshire and California have some of the cleanest beaches around, in terms of water quality and state monitoring programs, while some parts of Florida, Maine and Mississippi have among the worst.

This weekend, if you’re looking to go fishing, boating, or swimming, you’re in luck; zebra mussels may be the only thing you need to look out for. Good weather ahead. Not that zebra mussels are something to be taken lightly:

How bad can it be? A swimmer exposed to beach water pollution is at risk for stomach flu, skin rashes, pink eye, dysentery, hepatitis, and neurological disorders, to name a few. Incidents have been growing steadily over the past few decades, and will likely continue, the report says.

(via Pioneer Press)

3) So, you wake up in the morning, brew a pot of coffee, shower, put toast in the toaster, and check your Facebook account. It’s OK; it’s normal. On the flip side, if you haven’t changed your privacy settings to make your account invisible from search engines, there’s a good (and I mean 1 in 5 good) possibility some of your Facebook information has just been leaked.

The 2.8GB torrent was compiled by hacker Ron Bowes of Skull Security, who created a web crawler program that harvested data on users contained in Facebook’s open access directory, which lists all users who haven’t bothered to change their privacy settings to make their pages unavailable to search engines.

This setback rides on the heels of the announcement by co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that the social networking site had surpassed 500 million users. Will this be a problem for the site? Given their track record of previous security leaks and loopholes, probably not.

(via THINQ.co.uk)

4) Who want’s to be a millionaire? Who wants to be an imam?


Bright studio spotlights illuminated the faces of four nervous young men, arms linked as they anxiously awaited their fate. Cameramen stood poised, ready to capture the climactic moment. Finally, the chief judge broke the suspense.

So now, after TV game show’s long and complex history seemingly comes to a head, we are greeted with Malaysia’s program to see who the next big imam will be — they are also given a plethora of supplies, gifts, money, a position as an imam and more.

The prize pool, too, offers a clear indication of the detour the show takes from the usual reality show script. Cash and a new car are up for grabs, but the winner will also be offered a job as an imam, or religious leader, a scholarship to study in Saudi Arabia and an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.

Does this mean that ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ will soon be ‘Who wants to be a priest’? They would give you a confessional, a crucifix, and a brand new Escalade. I’m thinking that ratings may go down…

(via the New York Times)

5) Last but not least, a disturbing yet slightly comforting message about Google’s very long arms.

Google Alarm from Jamie Dubs on Vimeo.

You see, you’re never alone out there. Google’s always watching.

Even outside Gmail and YouTube you are constantly sending Google your information through their vast network of “tracking bugs”: Google Analytics, Google AdSense, YouTube embeds, API calls… all of this data can be used to monitor & track your personal web browsing habits.

You can breathe easy knowing Google’s got your back, and will protect you from Facebook security breaches, scientists destroying the earth looking for the Higgs boson particle, and problems with your iPhone 4 — whether you like it or not.

(via Free Art and Technology)