Category Archives: Entertainment

Facebook “Messenger Kids” lets under-13s chat with whom parents approve

For the first time, Facebook is opening up to children under age 13 with a privacy-focused app designed to neutralize child predator threats that plague youth-focused competitors like Snapchat. Rolling out today on iOS in the US, “Messenger Kids” lets parents download the app on their child’s phone or tablet, create a profile for them, and approve friends and family who they can text and video chat with from the main Messenger app.

Tweens don’t sign up for a Facebook account and don’t need a phone number, but can communicate with other Messenger and Messenger Kids users parents sign-off on, so younger siblings don’t get left out of the family group chat. “We’ve been working closely with the FTC so we’re lockstep with them. ‘This works’, they said” Facebook product management director Loren Cheng tells me. “In other apps, they can contact anyone they want or be contacted by anyone” Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus notes.

Special proactive detection safety filters prevent children from sharing nudity, sexual content, or violence, while a dedicated support team will respond quickly to reported or flagged content. Facebook even manually sifted Giphy to build a kid-friendly version of the GIF sharing engine. And with childish augmented reality masks and stickers, video calls with grandma could be a lot more fun and a lot less silent or awkward.

Something like this would have gone over with me like a “fart in the church”. My boss likened it to “going to a D.A.R. meeting with Mom”

Facebook won’t be directly monetizing Messenger Kids, automatically migrating kids to real accounts when they turn 13, or collecting data so that it complies with Children’s Online Privacy Protections Act (COPPA) law. But the app could prime kids to become life-long Facebook users, and lock their families deeply into the platform where they’ll see ads.

“When you think about things at scale that we do to get people to care more about Messenger, this is one that addresses a real need for parents” say Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus. “But the side effect will be that they use Messenger more and create family groups.” Marcus tells me he’s excited about getting his 8-year-old into the family chat alongside his 14- and 17-year-old children.

How Messenger Kids Works

It’s important to understand that kids under 13 still can’t sign up for a Facebook account. Instead, parents download the Messenger Kids app to a child’s iPhone or iPad (Android coming soon). Once the parent has authenticated in with their own account, they set up a mini-profile with their kid’s name and photo. Then, using the Messenger Kids bookmark in the main Facebook app, parents can approve anyone who is friends with them as a contact for their kid, like aunts and uncles or godparents. Messenger Kids is interoperable with the main Messenger app, so adults don’t actually have to download the Kids app.

Kids still can’t be found through Facebook search to protect their privacy. So if a child wants to be able to chat with one of their classmates, their parent must first friend that kid’s parent, and then will see the option to approve that adult’s child as contact for their own kid. This is by far the most clumsy part of Messenger Kids, and something Facebook might be able to improve with a way for Messenger Kids to let children perhaps photograph a QR code on their playmate’s app to request that their parents connect.

When children open the Messenger Kids app, they’ll see a color-customizable home screen with big tiles representing their existing chat threads and approved contacts, with their last message and the last time they were online. From there, kids can dive instantly into a video chat or text thread with their contacts. No message content is collected for ad targeting (same as Messenger), and there’s no in-app purchases to worry about. Kids can block and unblock their parent-approved contacts.


Southern California Metrolink Trains Now Allow Surfboards

US News & World Report via California Rail News

Catch a wave — after you catch a train.

Surfers can now bring their boards along when taking Southern California’s Metrolink train service to the beach.

The railroad said Thursday it has added surfboard storage to cars that previously were designated for bicycles.

Metrolink says every train on all lines will have a bike-and-board car, each with room for five surfboards

Los Vegas Raiders May Be Perfect Answer For High Seed Rail

A Chinese-American joint venture plans to build a long-awaited high-speed train connecting Las Vegas and Southern California. Construction on the XpressWest line could begin in September.

The high-speed rail project long left for dead by critics might have new life, thanks to a key study, the arrival of the Trump administration and an unexpected wild card — the Las Vegas Raiders.

Transit agencies use ‘Pokemon GO’ to encourage ridership

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and other transit agencies are using the “Pokemon GO” game to encourage public transit ridership.

Several of Metro’s rail stations serve as “gyms,” where players of the game can train and battle Pokemon, the agency announced this week. Additionally, many stops serve as “Pokestops,” where players can gather equipment needed for the game.

“For those of you who aren’t too keen on walking long distances, Metro buses and trains are a good traffic-beating option with many stations near the type of community gathering places favored by the game,” Metro officials said in a press release.

Additionally, the agency created a Twitter handle dedicated to updates about the augmented reality game, which requires players to walk around their environments to capture virtual creatures.

However, Metro cautioned players to remain alert and aware of their surroundings while playing the game. On Twitter, MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) and several other agencies have issued similar warnings.

Meanwhile, Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Miami-Dade Transit and others also sent out tweets encouraging Pokemon GO players to use transit to catch Pokemon.

AllTranstek tackles imploding tank car legend on MythBusters TV show

The tank car imploded only after sustaining significant external damage.
Photo: AllTranstek LLC

In mid-January, the Discovery Channel aired an episode of MythBusters that featured the TV show’s biggest logistical operation to date: an investigation into the legend of the imploding tank car.

The premise was that a tank car would collapse if its internal pressure fell significantly below outside air pressure. According to legend, the scenario played out for an unsuspecting locomotive engineer who steam-cleaned a car during a rainstorm. He stepped out and sealed the unit full of hot steam, which condensed and contracted from the rain. The resulting pressure differential supposedly caused the car to crumple.

The team behind the long-running popular science series had been hoping to tackle the myth for nearly a decade, says Dan Tapster, MythBusters’ executive producer.

“We had numerous attempts but never really made much progress at all,” he says. “For our final season, this was the sort of big story that we wanted to do, so we pulled out all the stops and decided to go for it.”

One of the biggest hurdles the producers faced? Obtaining cars they could test. So, the MythBusters team got in touch with rail consulting firm AllTranstek LLC, which provided general guidance, two DOT-111 tank cars, and a site in Boardman, Ore., to carry out the experiment.

“They were exactly the kind of ‘one-stop shop’ that we needed for an experiment of this nature,” says Tapster.

In the wake of several high-profile derailments involving the same DOT-111 cars shipping crude oil, AllTranstek’s leaders initially were hesitant about linking the company name with the experiment. After further consideration, they decided that participating in the show could actually be a positive thing for the company and the rail industry as a whole.

“It was a good technical experiment that we wanted to participate in,” says Dave Ronzani, director of rail-car regulatory compliance at AllTranstek. “We were going to be able to bring some data to the industry.”

Plus, the company could help the crew carry out the experiment safely.

“These guys were going to do it anyway, and we wanted to make sure they did it the right way and with the right supervision,” adds Dick Kloster, senior vice president and chief commercial officer at AllTranstek.

The show, whose final season wrapped up earlier this month, typically takes on multiple myths in each episode. But this time, the producers slotted an entire episode to explore the imploding tank car myth.

During the episode, the show’s hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage tested the myth’s premise on increasingly larger objects, beginning with a one-gallon metal can and eventually moving on to a DOT-111 tank car. They sealed each one with steam and then allowed it to cool to initiate the implosion.

Each object crumpled except the tank car, which didn’t budge even after being steam-cleaned and sprayed with cool water.

In an attempt to initiate an implosion, the MythBusters team first steam-cleaned the rail car (top photo) and then hosed it down with cool water (bottom photo).
Photos: AllTranstek LLC

“Everyone involved had told us repeatedly that the tank car would crush with the pressure differential we were dealing with,” says MythBusters’ Tapster. “So when it didn’t we were all left scratching our heads.”

The team rolled out a second tank car to try again, but it was to no avail. Finally, the MythBusters crew dropped a 3,200-pound concrete slab on the car, which created a six-inch dent on top of the unit. With its structural integrity compromised, the car imploded.

As a result, Hyneman and Savage declared the imploding tank car myth “busted.” Absent significant damage, the cars will remain intact, even with the massive pressure differential.

Still, it’s not “completely uncommon” for a tank car to implode, says AllTranstek’s Ronzani, noting that this kind of incident could happen at a shipping facility if a car has been been mishandled or misused.

“We thought the car was going to implode a lot easier than it did,” he says. “I think that it should give some level of satisfaction that the cars are tougher than maybe some people had expected.”

After the show aired Jan. 16, the rail industry’s response was positive, Ronzani says. Most folks that reached out to him found the episode interesting, with some asking a few specific technical questions about the experiment. Others asked how the company got involved and what it was like to participate in the show.

And as for meeting the MythBusters duo?

“It was a lot of fun,” he says. “Both guys posed for pictures with us and autographed our hard hats.”

The Discovery Channel’s trailer for the imploding tank car episode.

Daniel Niepow, Associate Editor

Transit Museum in NYC shares MTA history, interactive exhibits

New York’s Transit Museum is in the former Court Street station on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

The station opened in 1936, but closed 10 years later because it wasn’t used enough, explained Regina Asborno, director of the museum. There were plans at the time to eventually connect the station to the Second Avenue line in Manhattan, but that never happened.

Since the museum is inside a former station, the entrance is just like any other entrance to a below-ground subway station. There is also a handicap-accessible entrance, but this is the main entrance.

In 2015, the museum had a record year with 170,000 visitors,

There was a shuttle train that operated at Court Street, but it only brought passengers to one other station about three blocks away, so it wasn’t necessary to keep. It was turned into a museum in the summer of 1976.

The first exhibit in the museum is called “Steel, Stone, and Backbone: Building New York’s Subways, 1900-1925.” It takes visitors through the stages of building the subways. Asborno said many of the pictures they have of the construction were taken for insurance purposes at the time. Since the construction was quite dangerous and could potentially affect the buildings above ground, photographers were hired to take pictures along the routes of the first tunnels, she explained.

On the original platform and tracks of the station, the museum features vintage trains that were used starting in 1904. The train doors are open so people can go inside.

Asborno said there are also vintage buses, but they are too large to be shown at the museum. They are kept in various MTA bus depots and brought out for special occasions, such as the annual Bus Festival in September.

Take a step back to 1904 by walking through the oldest trains at the museum. The trains were used on the elevated tracks at the time, Asborno said. They are made of wood, which makes them lighter and more functional on elevated tracks but not practical for underground tracks.

These trains only had doors at either end of the cars, and at each stop, the gates had to be manually opened by an operator on each car. The operators communicated with the conductor using bells on each car to let him know he could start the train again.

The term straphangers, used to describe commuters, comes from the straps that hung from the top of these original cars.


Advertisements have always been a part of the subway system. While the ads on each of the cars are replicas of originals, they give visitors an idea of the time period. Asborno said trains have a 40- to 60-year life span, so the ads would have changed many times in each of the cars.

A 10-car trial train was built in 1949 in anticipation of the Second Avenue subway line. Each car cost $100,000 to build, which is how it got its name, The Million Dollar Train. At the time, “The New York Times” deemed it the “car of tomorrow” because of its modern look, including new fluorescent lighting. But the train was never in full operation, as the Second Avenue line has yet to be built, and the cars were redesigned to operate with existing trains.

The newest car in the exhibit is just like many that run today. Asborno said this car is a favorite for kids because they usually aren’t allowed to explore the cars when they ride the subway. It’s also used for programs to help people with social or intellectual disabilities learn social skills to help them ride the subways, Asborno said.

SubwayturnstileRemember when the subway fare was only 15 cents? Neither do we, but you can see what the turnstiles looked like when it was that cheap. The earliest turnstile from 1904 didn’t even have a spot for coins, tokens or cards. Commuters would buy their tickets, hand them to an operator and the operator would allow them through the turnstile by pressing a pedal.

The “Bringing Back the City: Mass Transit Responds to Crisis” exhibit gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how the MTA operates. There are first-hand experiences from MTA employees about the attacks on 9/11, the 2003 Northeast Blackout, the Blizzard of 2010, Hurricane Irene and superstorm Sandy. Asborno said people often don’t realize how many different jobs there are in the MTA, which employs over 60,000 people.

The Transit Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children and senior citizens.

By Nicole Brown

Circus Trains Have Changed A LOT!

Circus Trains have changed a lot since the picture above from our Circus Trains WebSite.

The circus part has changed and so has the railroad part.

Thanks to Bill Bunge for a great video.

As Bill says: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Blue Train, NS 047, 14MAR16, NS Lurgan Branch LG 35.5, in the wind and rain. I was holding my hat over the camera to keep it dry while I tried not to slip off of the muddy hill.



All aboard! Iconic Lackawanna Railroad character Phoebe Snow to be celebrated at gala this weekend

Above: Diana Pohl, assistant director of public safety at Cabrini College has portrayed Phoebe Snow since 2005.

It all started with a girl in a white dress.

In 1900, Lackawanna Railroad became the premier means of travel in the Northeast, thanks to Phoebe Snow, a fictional New York socialite and habitual passenger of the railroad.

Phoebe Snow was said to exclusively ride Lackawanna Railroad trains because they were powered by clean-burning anthracite coal, which was found in abundance in Scranton, the site of Lackawanna Railroad’s operating headquarters, as well as the city’s surrounding regions.

The Electric City honors Lackawanna Railroad’s leading lady Saturday during The Phoebe Snow Gala at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave.

“Phoebe Snow ties together so many themes from our area in particular,” said Dominic Keating, chairman of Pennsylvania Regional Railroad Authority and a part of Friends of Northeast Railroading Association. “Footprint of Lackawanna Railroad is everywhere in Scranton.”

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., folks will learn the history of Phoebe Snow, her preferred way of travel, and the streamline passenger train that was named after her, through lectures, artifact and photo displays, and informational tours of the original Lackawanna Railroad mosaics in the hotel lobby.

Guests can get up close and personal with the namesake of the event as Diana Pohl, a Phoebe Snow impersonator, mingles with the crowd. A “Little Miss Phoebe Snow” contest will take place at noon, featuring a group of girls ages three to six, decked out in their best all-white ensemble.

There is a $10 suggested donation at the door which will benefit restoration of Boston & Maine steam locomotive No. 3713 and Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Society. Admission is free for children under 12.

Advertising executive Earnest Elmo Calkins first came up with the idea of Phoebe Snow while working on an ad campaign for Lackwanna Railroad.

At the time, trains were powered by bituminous coal that emitted thick, black smoke and covered passengers with soot.

Lackawanna Railroad trains used anthracite coal that was mined in surrounding regions and burned cleaned. Passengers’ clothing would remain spotless throughout the trip on an anthracite-powered train, and Phoebe Snow’s bright white dress was proof.

Phoebe Snow also was a role model for women at the time. Young women in their 20s in the early 1900s had more money and more freedom. They traveled unescorted, played tennis, and went boating and canoeing.

“Phoebe Snow really set the stage for liberating the image of women from ‘stay-at-homes’ to enjoying healthy and active lives,” Mr. Keating said. “She could get to the places they wanted to go to.”

Though she was a fictional character, Phoebe Snow was a celebrity during her time. Charles Libretto, owner of an electrical lighting business and former Reading Railroad conductor, said about 10,000 people gathered to catch a glimpse of Marion Murray, a professional model who portrayed Phoebe Snow her entire life, when she came to Scranton.

“She was quite popular and brought a lot of fame to the area,” said Mr. Libretto, who also is a part of Friends of Northeast Railroading Association. “She became a big hit wherever she went.”

Ms. Pohl has portrayed Phoebe Snow ever since she entered a look-a-like contest in 2005. Today, she attends many events throughout the year as the character, including Railfest at Steamtown National Historic Site.

She enjoys to be a part of the historical significance of Phoebe Snow and stir up nostalgia for people at events. Ms. Pohl is happy to lend her talents to events that give back, too.

“It’s an honor to be able to portray her and to help for a cause,” she said. “I enjoy helping out.”

Both Mr. Libretto and Mr. Keating agree the likeness between Phoebe Snow and Ms. Pohl is uncanny.

“I feel like I’m with Phoebe Snow,” Mr. Keating said. “I have trouble calling her ‘Diana.’”

Mr. Libretto believes Phoebe Snow is important to the history of the railroad and influenced the growth of Scranton. It’s something he is eager to share with residents at the gala.

“There’s a story there to be told,” he said.

Contact the writer:

If you go

What: The Phoebe Snow Gala

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave.

Details: Lectures, walking tours and refreshments will be available throughout the day. There is a $10 suggested donation at the door. Proceeds will benefit restoration of Boston & Maine steam locomotive No. 3713 and Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Societublished: April 14, 2016

Spotify moves to Google cloud with eyes on big data

Spotify surprised industry observers by becoming one of the most high-profile cloud customers for Google, which is trying to shake the image that it can’t compete with Amazon and Microsoft.

Google scored a coup with its latest big-name cloud customer — and for a company that often touts pricing as a key benefit, it was higher-level services that made the difference this time.

Spotify, the popular music streaming service, plans to migrate nearly all of its privately hosted back-end workloads to Google Cloud Platform. The firm grew to where it had to consider building its own data centers but opted against such a move due to the cost and required expertise, instead choosing Google to help expand its big data capabilities.

“Google is also the world champion at pushing little streams of constantly changing data to individual users, so Spotify is picking the perfect infrastructure,” said Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research in New York.

Spotify has tens of thousands of machines across four data centers worldwide. It started working with Google about 18 months ago, and the goal is to have a “huge chunk of infrastructure” migrated to Google Cloud Platform over the next 18 months, said Wouter de Bie, big data architect at Spotify. The company serves a small group of users from the platform already.

“The main [reason] why we chose Google was their tooling for data processing and data scientists,” de Bie said. “Google is pretty much ahead of the curve when it comes to technology dealing with vast amounts of data.”

Read more of this story

Media Unimpressed as Sanders Barely Gets Seventy Percent of Vote

Bernie Sanders failed to impress major media outlets over the weekend as he barely managed to win seventy per cent of the vote in three western primaries.

The major cable networks briefly mentioned Sanders’s vote tallies in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii but noted that he ran out of steam well shy of eighty per cent.

“There’s no point in sugarcoating it,” one analyst put it. “Rough night for Sanders.”

According to one cable executive, Sanders needs to “put up some big numbers fast” if he expects the networks to continue giving his campaign airtime.

“It’s going to be harder and harder to justify covering him while he’s stuck down in the seventy-per-cent range,” the executive said.

While Sanders campaign officials remain optimistic about the upcoming primary in Wisconsin, media outlets are calling it a “do or die” state after his sputtering finishes over the weekend.

“I think if he limps across the finish line with, say, seventy-five or seventy-nine per cent, it’s going to be time for him to reassess things,” one cable representative said. “That would have to be a wake-up call.”

A spokesperson for CNN could not be reached for comment, as the network was busy preparing a ninety-minute special on the birth of Donald Trump’s new grandchild.

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

28 March 16


The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, “The Borowitz Report.”

World's Greatest Blogger