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What to Know About Airbnbs New Halloween Booking Policy

https://lifehacker.com/what-to-know-about-airbnbs-new-halloween-booking-policy-1845331391

What to Know About Airbnbs New Halloween Booking Policy

Illustration for article titled What to Know About Airbnbs New Halloween Booking Policy

Photo: VGstockstudio (Shutterstock)

Airbnb definitely does not want people to rent properties on their site for the purpose of hosting parties. First, they came out with a global ban on parties in August. Then, they instituted a policy that blocks people from making last-minute bookings in their hometown. Now, Airbnb has issued new guidelines for Halloween rentals, which center on—you guessed it—preventing parties. Here’s what you need to know.

Halloween restrictions

Beginning on October 2nd, Airbnb stopped permitting one-night bookings for entire-home listings on Friday, October 30, and Saturday, October 31, anywhere in the United States or Canada.

If you managed to make an entire-home one-night booking for the 30th or 31st before this new policy kicked in, Airbnb will cancel the reservation and reimburse you. The company has indicted that it will absorb the reimbursement costs, ensuring that hosts still get paid for the canceled bookings.

Here’s the reasoning behind the new policy, per a statement from Airbnb:

The great majority of guests are respectful of our hosts’ homes and neighbors, and we understand that this initiative will disrupt many one-night reservations that might not have led to parties. This action is designed to help protect our hosts and the communities they live in. We will also be introducing additional measures to complement the two-night minimum in an effort to stop as many large gatherings as possible.

Additional Halloween precautions

And that’s not all: Airbnb has also announced the following precautions ahead of the holiday:

  • As the Halloween weekend approaches, we plan to deploy more stringent restrictions on two- and three-night reservations that may pose heightened risk for parties. For example, we will leverage our technology that restricts certain local and last-minute bookings by guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb and also block reservations within an expanded radius.
  • Also as the weekend approaches, we plan to remind guests making successful reservations to take place between October 28 and November 1 that parties are not allowed in listings. They will also be required to attest that they understand that they may be subject to removal from Airbnb or legal action if they violate Airbnb’s rules on parties.
  • In case any individuals are able to avoid Airbnb’s defenses and host parties, trained agents from Airbnb’s neighborhood support line will be on call throughout the weekend to quickly respond to issues raised by neighbors.

So if you’re hosting a Halloween party, you may want to rethink your plans, whether or not they involve a one-night booking at an Airbnb—we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and gatherings may not be the best decision, from a public health perspective.

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Captain in Santa Barbara boat fire indicted on manslaughter charges – The Guardian

https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/dec/02/captain-santa-barbara-boat-fire-indicted-manslaughter-charges

Captain in Santa Barbara boat fire indicted on manslaughter charges - The Guardian
California

Indictment accuses Jerry Nehl Boylan of causing deaths of 33 passengers and one crew member in Labor Day weekend boat fire

Reuters

The captain of a dive boat that caught fire and sank off the California coast in 2019, killing 34 people in one of the state’s deadliest maritime disasters, was indicted on Tuesday on federal manslaughter charges, US prosecutors said.

Each of the 34 seaman’s manslaughter counts returned against Jerry Nehl Boylan, 67, of Santa Barbara, carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if he is convicted, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

The indictment accuses Boylan of causing the deaths of the 33 passengers and one crew member who perished in the Labor Day weekend boat fire by way of “his misconduct, negligence, and inattention to his duties”, the prosecutors’ statement said.

The grand jury cited three specific federal safety violations – failures to assign a night watch or roving patrol aboard the boat, to conduct sufficient crew training or to conduct adequate fire drills.

The victims had been sleeping below deck aboard the 75ft Conception when the vessel went up in flames in the early morning hours of 2 September 2019, while anchored in Platt’s Harbor near Santa Cruz Island, off the Santa Barbara coast, during a sport diving expedition.

The five surviving crew members, including Boylan, had been above deck in berths behind the wheelhouse and escaped by leaping overboard as the burning boat sank into the Pacific. They told investigators that flames coming from the passenger quarters were too intense to save anyone trapped below.

Coroner investigators determined the victims died of smoke inhalation.

Following the disaster, the US Coast Guard issued a safety bulletin urging limits on the use of lithium-ion batteries and chargers aboard passenger vessels. The document suggested investigators were looking into the possibility that such batteries may have ignited the Conception fire.

Neither Boylan nor his attorneys were immediately available for comment.

Federal prosecutors informed his lawyers of the indictment after it was filed, and he is expected to surrender to authorities in coming weeks, the US attorney’s statement said.

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How to See the 1960s Rocket Booster That Will Fly by Earth Today

https://lifehacker.com/how-to-see-the-1960s-rocket-booster-that-will-fly-by-ea-1845782045

How to See the 1960s Rocket Booster That Will Fly by Earth Today

Illustration for article titled How to See the 1960s Rocket Booster That Will Fly by Earth Today

Photo: NASA image library

The 1960s were a time of great technological optimism and international competition, and space exploration was reason—and the venue—for much of it. Yet everything futuristic will one day pass into history, and it turns out that some of the 20th century’s most sophisticated rocket technology is now little more than space junk that, on occasion, circles back into Earth’s orbit. Such circumstances provide us an opportunity to reflect on the arc of history. They can also make for prime viewing for those with an interest in astronomy and the science of space exploration.

That’s what’s expected to happen today, as a mysterious object believed to be a Centaur rocket booster from the 1966 launch of the Surveyor 2 rocket traverses the skies 31,000 miles from the our planet. Originally launched as part of the American Surveyor program, the unmanned lunar expedition failed to reach the Moon, relegating what was a key vessel in U.S. efforts to claim supremacy in the Space Race into a wayward piece of debris floating through the solar system.

Here’s what we know about the object—which could still be an asteroid—and how to see it.

What is this object?

While it’s unclear if this flying object is a rocket booster or an asteroid, it does have an official name. The object was first discovered by astronomers using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope at Haleakala, Hawaii, and given the name 2020 SO. Though it was quickly noted as an asteroid, researchers discovered a few distinctions that led them to believe otherwise.

As Earth Sky notes:

However, 2020 SO was quickly seen to have some features that set it apart from ordinary asteroids. According to NASA/JPL calculations, the object sped past Earth’s moon at a speed of 1,880 miles per hour (3,025 km/h) or 0.84 km per second (.5 mi/sec). That is an extremely slow speed for an asteroid.

Paul Chodas, the Director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, discovered in November that the orbital history of 2020 SO bore a striking resemblance to the launch of the Surveyor 2 rocket.

He said in a NASA news release:

“One of the possible paths for 2020 SO brought the object very close to Earth and the Moon in late September 1966. It was like a eureka moment when a quick check of launch dates for lunar missions showed a match with the Surveyor 2 mission.”

How long will 2020 SO remain in Earth’s orbit?

On a galactic scale, this is just a brief rendezvous: According to NASA, 2020 SO will remain in Earth’s orbit until March 2021, when it’s pulled back into a solar orbit.

As the space agency notes:

On Nov. 8, 2020 SO slowly drifted into Earth’s sphere of gravitational dominance, a region called the Hill sphere that extends roughly 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet. That’s where 2020 SO will remain for about four months before it escapes back into a new orbit around the Sun in March 2021.

The duration of the object’s stay in our orbit will classify it as a mini-moon of Earth, albeit only for a short time. It’s proximity to our planet will peak on December 1—which is today.

How to see it

Unfortunately, you can’t see this thing with the naked eye, but the Virtual Telescope Project has a livestream that you can keep open on your computer all day. Today is a pivotal day in determining whether the object is a piece of history or a regular asteroid, and it’s close proximity to Earth will give researchers their best chance to make that distinction.

And if you access the livestream, you can accompany them on this scientific journey.

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The Out-of-Touch Adults Guide To Kid Culture: Viral TikTok Overload

https://lifehacker.com/the-out-of-touch-adults-guide-to-kid-culture-viral-tik-1845774631

The Out-of-Touch Adults Guide To Kid Culture: Viral TikTok Overload

Illustration for article titled The Out-of-Touch Adults Guide To Kid Culture: Viral TikTok Overload

Illustration: art_inside (Shutterstock)

Internet CultureThe Out-of-Touch Adults Guide To Kid Culture: Viral TikTok OverloadInternet CultureIt’s hard to keep up with internet culture, but don’t worry: Each week we’ll tell you the best of what you need to know.

When it comes to kids and teenagers, it’s all about TikTok. Competitors can try to clone it, the president can try to shut it down, but the made-in-China video sharing service just keeps on rolling, with around 850 million people estimated as active users. Even if you don’t like it, TikTok is the marketplace of ideas for anyone under 25, whether it’s silly arguments about the occult, deadly serious ones about COVID-19 vaccines, or heartwarming reimagining of mid-2000 kids’ movies.

Baphomet TikTok is best TikTok

You know who’s gaining popularity on TikTok? Satan’s little pal Baphomet! The goat-headed deity first rose to fame in 1307 during the Inquisition of the Knights Templar, but he/she/it is still hip. Baphomet is all over the Tik these days, with gothy (and ironic) teens using the app’s “Time Warp” feature to pay tribute to the dark one by making themselves in its image. 

It’s the today version of throwing up horns at an Ozzy show, and like the Satanic Panic of the 1980s that Ozzy and friends birthed, religious TikTok is not happy with the movement. I, however, love everything about this trend. I love the edgy teens making so-super-spooky Baphomet videos—my people! I love the Christians who are earnestly (or smugly) warning their peers about the totally real dangers of devil worship. But most of all, I love this guy, the Ned Flanders of the occult.

A serious note for parents: Baphomet isn’t real (it’s a long story), but if your kid is into techno-devil-worship-biz, it’s probably because they’re creative and school is boring. If they’re into warning other kids about Baphomet, it’s probably because they’re pure-hearted and idealistic. So let’s cut everyone some slack.

Vaccine TikTok is also best TikTok

Even if they don’t realize it, the most important thing happening on planet earth for teens is the development and deployment of vaccines for coronavirus. But because this is a dark and terrible time, people are actively spreading misinformation about potential pandemic-killing injections. Luckily, a group of users on TikTok are countering the spread of vaccine lies by creating a place for experts to provide valuable and truthful information to curious teenagers. (Disappointingly, it turns out the vaccines being developed don’t implant a microchip in your bloodstream so the Illuminati can track your movements.)

There is, of course, a counter-movement—a group of cranks and weirdoes on TikTok trying to convince people of the dangers of the vaccines, but unlike the well-meaning Christians worried about Baphomet, these people aren’t endearing, but despicable.

Viral video of the week: Exploding apples

Before the internet, if you wanted to see an apple being spun so fast it explodes, you’d have to do a lot of mescaline in the produce section of your local supermarket, but thanks to technology, now you just have to go to YouTube.

The (presumably mad) scientists of The Slo Mo Guys channel have posted a video for you where apples are blowed up real good. They not only used compressed air to spin an apple at 6,565 RPM, they also captured the resulting apple-‘splosion on a camera running at 28,500 frames per second. Because I hate apples with my entire being, this video is like porn to me; I’m all, “Take that, apple!” Over a million viewers have watched the video in only its first couple days online, and I suggest you do as well.

This week in video games: New glitch livens up ‘Red Dead Online’

I love amusing and useful glitches in video games, and a gamer on Reddit has discovered a great one in Red Dead Online. Here’s how it works: There is a wooden bridge between Macfarlane’s Ranch and Armadillo, and if you throw some knives or tomahawks at the third or fourth plank, the bridge will begin bouncing wildly. Step on it, and you will be launched into the stratosphere, where you can fly for incredible distances, and even visit otherwise inaccessible parts of the game’s map.

Check out this video to see the glitch in action. Whether RockStar, the game’s developer, will patch this mistake remains to be seen, but they’ve been known to leave amusing or popular glitches alone in other games, so let’s hope they see space-launch-bridge as a feature and not a bug.

This week in movies: ‘Ratatouille’ returns

The hottest movie this week on TikTok is 2007’s Ratatouille. Musical theater-nerd TikTok has taken it upon themselves to create a musical version of the Disney movie, complete with original songs, dance numbers, and more.

As the movement grew, “real” people in the business started noticing. Playbill compiled the “official (fake) Ratatouille Playbill.” Patton Oswalt, voice of Ratatouille, started tweeting out songs. Disney has even played nice and refrained from suing anyone yet. I hope a real version will come to a theater near me when all this madness is over.

It’s all so impossibly adorable I can’t stand it. Here are these kids who love musical theater more than I am capable of loving anything, but they can’t attend any shows because a plague stalks us all. Rather than cry and give up, they wrote their own show. It’s like a musical from the 1930s: They got the gang together, sewed some curtains, and put on a show in the old barn. They collaborated with each other, worked their crafts, and ended up creating something amazing out of a terrible situation. I’m sort of choked up by how fragile and beautiful life can be sometimes. Maybe theater nerd TikTok is the best TikTok.

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Your Office Doesnt Need a Virtual Holiday Party

https://lifehacker.com/your-office-doesnt-need-a-virtual-holiday-party-1845774122

Your Office Doesnt Need a Virtual Holiday Party

Illustration for article titled Your Office Doesnt Need a Virtual Holiday Party

Photo: AleksandarNakic (Getty Images)

Even as the pandemic stretches into a nine-month slog, upending lives and shattering economies around the world, a pretty much universally reviled corporate custom still threatens to rear its ugly head: the office holiday party.

This year, your office holiday party will be different, or at least it really should be. Instead of piling into some rented venue, you and your colleagues will sit in front of your computers and attempt to ring in some holiday cheer via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or HouseParty. The typical awkwardness of video chat will abound, and your colleague’s presumably smiling faces will be sequestered into grainy squares on a monitor. And for what, exactly?

Holiday parties, in the best sense, are a chance to let loose and informally get to know the colleagues you spend more time with than your actual family. But this year, you won’t even get to enjoy the unexpected silliness of seeing your work acquaintances get weird after one too many spiked eggnogs. If the pandemic has given us a chance to shatter any rote tradition that few people actually look forward to, it’s the corporate holiday party. Because it just won’t be the same on a video chat.

Video chats are awkward

When there’s an objective at hand, video chats aren’t as awkward; if you’re going through a corporate agenda or presentation, people know they have to pay attention because it’s pertinent to their jobs. But if the context is less formal, workers with little rapport outside the office are going to flounder and your well-intentioned holiday soiree will feel like social purgatory.

Just think of video chat’s trademark hiccups: washy internet connections, lapses in conversation, people talking over each other, stragglers who forget to mute their microphones. It’ll be harder, or impossible, to mingle and let casual conversation flow. When one person talks in a video chat, everyone has to pipe down and listen. These tools weren’t really designed to facilitate the spontaneous and organic environment of parties.

That’s one reason your Zoom party will suck. It’s one thing to deal with the annoyances of relying so heavily on technology for the sake of work in this COVID-stricken environment, but why willfully subject yourself to it for the sake of manufactured fun?

It’ll be depressing

I hate to be so negative in this time of pestilence and economic decay, but I’m not here to lie to you. The holidays call for merriment and gratitude, and logging on to a work holiday party might feel like papering over the horrifying reality of what the world is going through right now.

Want to feel sad? Stare into a lonely computer monitor at several other solitary faces trying their damndest to celebrate the holidays with a group of relative strangers. Trying to pretend that things can be normal when they’re so glaringly the opposite isn’t going to make it feel like Christmas, or Hanukkah, or any other festive tradition.

Like I said, I hate to dwell on the misery of our times, but let’s not pretend a virtual party with work colleagues is going to make things feel less terrible.

None of the usual fun stuff will happen

Silver linings may be in short supply this year, but there’s usually a pretty consistent one with office holiday parties—or at least there was in the Before Times. It comes when your colleagues do something unexpectedly funny. It’s always a treat when a colleague gets a little too toasty and breaches the corporate decorum, or when that one working stiff from accounting shows that he can, despite all presumption, really throw down on the dance floor.

None of that impromptu stuff will happen this year. You will occupy a window on a screen, perhaps nodding mechanically to a mundane conversation about how weird it is to be isolated during the holidays. In this remote setup, you can’t be the free-floating social butterfly who has different conversations about different topics with different work friends.

Video chat parties are for friends and family

Let’s be honest, our personal and leisure time is fleetingly small, and it’s best to spend it with those you really know well and care about. This is no disrespect to your coworkers (you might be close friends with them, after all) since they have friends and family whom they’d probably rather be doing holiday stuff with as well.

With all this in mind, it might be better just to shelve the office holiday party until next year, when we at least have a chance of making the most of them.

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The Life and Death of the Instagram Influencer Who Never Was

https://variety.com/2020/digital/global/ziv-schneider-idfa-doclab-sylvia-1234841619/

The Life and Death of the Instagram Influencer Who Never Was

Instagram is full of wannabes, but there was only one Sylvia. Describing herself as a “coffee-operated robot living her best life,” Sylvia was born in May 2020, made her online debut on July 4 at the age of 30, and passed away last week at the grand old age of 80.

Sylvia made a lot of friends in that brief window of time, saw a lot of people sliding into her DMs, and experienced everything a woman could in cyberspace, from protestations of love from middle-aged men to innocent requests for boy advice from 13-year-old girls. Much of this surfaced at an emotional online wake for Sylvia, which was held online as part of documentary festival IDFA’s new media strand, after Ziv Schneider’s art project had its world premiere in the DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling.

One of the inspirations for Schneider’s creation was Lil Miquela, a 19-year-old Brazilian-American girl who appeared out of nowhere in 2016 and quickly amassed over a million followers on Instagram before modelling for luxury brands like Calvin Klein and Prada and branching out into music, releasing a single just a year later. The fact that Lil Miquela had, in such a short space of time, joined the ranks of the internet’s controversial “influencers” wasn’t what drew Schneider’s eye, it was more that she managed to achieve so much simply by being young, pretty and without aging a day. “My issue was primarily with the design of the virtual influencers,” says Schneider, “and, as we start to see more virtual beings among us, what that means about how we will start to perceive our own bodies, our own aging, and our own human experiences.”

Variety talked to Schneider in the virtual space that DocLab created for Sylvia’s memorial…

What was the starting point for this project?

I work as a creative technologist and a researcher at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University [in New York], which has been very supportive. We’re based in the journalism school, and my work there is mostly tied to journalism. For this project, we’ll be writing and drawing conclusions about it, but it’s not directly tied [to journalism]. However, I am looking into immersive technology for journalism and also synthetic media, so those are two areas that I’m very interested in. When I began, I mapped out everything that I was interested in, and I saw that virtual influencers were something that I was really interested in looking into in a more in-depth way. I’m really fascinated by this world—and not so much in a positive way.

Why not?

A lot of virtual influencers are presented, in a misleading way, as robots and AI, and they’re completely not. They’re rendered, puppeteered CGI characters. And another thing is the issue of how they’re being portrayed. I guess the idea behind this, the business model, is that you can design a human being and use them to promote brands and basically make money off them forever. None of them had age designed into them. They were all designed to be very young, and none of them were changing. And I was just really curious about that: what would happen if we tested out this idea, first of all, of an older virtual influencer? That’s where it started.

So what is Sylvia?

She’s a hybrid. Her visual side is designed the way all other virtual influencers are, using Daz 3D and assets from that 3D modified with ZBrush, and garments rendered by Marvelous Designer—the whole process is the same. Her writing is partially generated, so every other image has computer-generated text that’s modeled on influencer writing—to progress the story in a way that makes sense, it’s my writing [that’s] actually portraying her, but when she’s looking at the world, the way she talks about it is computer-generated, essentially. [For that] we created a language model tweaked by the language of influencers, in general, that we collected. We scraped their texts and then created this [algorithm] that can write like an influencer, essentially. But it’s also curated, in the sense that I generate a lot of different texts and then I select the one I’m going to use. But that’s how a lot of the generative stuff is being done these days.

Lazy loaded image

Sylvia
Courtesy of Ziv Schneider

Why did you decide to make Sylvia age so quickly?

I wanted to do an experiment where you would see her age before your eyes—so you noticed the difference. I mean, we hardly ever see a whole adult life in one place, because we switch from one platform to another. The specific pace of that aging was impacted by the connection with DocLab and building towards [our exhibition slot in] November, because the idea of aging her then led to the idea of her dying, I decided that we could work in this time span to age her and then get to the point where she would die in November. That was the experiment that I decided on, partly because I also don’t have a whole lifetime to [spend on this]. But it’s also a comment on the fact that virtual influencers are chosen to be made super-real. There’s all these tricks and illusions to make them seem real, but they’re all going to live forever—none of them age.

Was it intended as a satirical comment on that world?

There was definitely a satirical element. I think the people that followed her at first thought that she was a parody, and there was definitely a lot of that. But it was also important for me that she would seem like just any other influencer, which is what the virtual ones are trying to do as a business model—seem like other [human] influencers, but computer generated. But the idea with Sylvia was that, slowly, you’d see that something was different, and slowly you’d see that she was starting to change—and then all of a sudden you’d understand that she was aging. There was definitely a satirical element in her, and especially in what she chose to post, but she wasn’t just that. She was also people’s friend. She was someone that we designed with a lot of love.

Is the project completed now? Are you done with Sylvia?

Yeah. Aside from signing out of her account and putting together a landing page with all the information, I think that the only part that I still want to do is write and reflect on it. I’m not going to do anything else with her. No reincarnation, no ghost animations.

Ziv Schneider would like to thank the team behind Sylvia:

Styling and Art Direction: Odie Senesh
Character Artist: Halime Maloof
Celebration Director: Bethany Tabor
Natural Language Processing: Alex Calderwood
Digital Installation Design & Development: Tong Wu
Music: Philippe Lambert
Aging Researcher: Alexa Fleet

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