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Google's New Crossword-Style Trivia Game Wants Puzzlers to Search

a google a day
Fellow puzzle fans, Google has brought us joy. The engine's newest venture, A Google a Day, asks cunning participants not to use the knowledge they have but rather the knowledge they can unearth with Google search to solve riddles. Much like crossword puzzles (possibly your author's favorite pastime), the questions ask the solver to change the way they think. For today's riddle, searching "two presidents signed" automatically gives some good hints -- but the Google Gods seem to want us to rely more on search suggestions rather than our own acquired trivia.

Using instead of the regular Google shields you from real-time questions and answers, so your network and top hits won't spoil the fun. Searching down the 'Net's rabbit hole is kind of interesting, but Google really needs a way to track your success. After all, puzzle fiends solve for the glory and the feeling of completion, not the quiet satisfaction of "knowing things." Duh.

PEW PEW! U.S. Navy Fires Lasers at Sea

Good news, everyone! The future is finally here, and we'll soon leave bullets behind for a much sexier laser alternative, filled with "PEW PEW" and plenty of cat-shaped guns. The U.S. Navy successfully fired a high-energy laser at another boat, continuing its research into using lasers to blind or disable smaller vessels. The BBC has video but no sound, so you'll have to improvise the "BEYOO!...

Level Up Your MMORPG Character Using Developing Economies

'world of warcraft'
Next time you are scoring that amazing Amethyst Helm of Schadenfreude for your Level 38 Warlock Raider (I just made that up, but I hope something like that exists), you may be helping people in developing countries to make some cash. According to the BBC and a report released by the World Bank -- which is apparently now studying the effects of 'World of Warcraft' (PDF) on the economy -- when Western players want high level items or mined gold, they'll often use real currency to buy from players in Vietnam and China who are paid to level up.

These virtual goods are nothing to sniff at, with certain accounts laying out megabucks for whatever helms and chainmail they fancy. The report estimates that the largest Chinese suppliers of in-game "gold" net nearly $10 million, while other firms can make up to $1 million; the whole worldwide virtual market is nearly an $8 billion dollar industry. The good news is that, because there are no real supply costs, a large portion of the profits go into the hands of the worker, directly benefiting them instead of a corporation. The bad news is that, with Western gamers shelling out all of their money to buy better in-game goods, they'll never be able to save up money to move out of Mom's basement. Bad-um!

About Time! 'This American Life' Finally Goes iPad

this american lifeNot to make gross generalizations, but it is pretty amazing that 'This American Life,' the NPR talk show hosted by hip geek Ira Glass, took this long to get to the iPad. NPR and iPads should have an intrinsic relationship, like Volkswagens and Macs, Starbucks and the New York Times. Once again, these are broad assumptions, but the Cult of Mac's reputation as NPR-listening, Toms-wearing folk isn't for naught. Too bad it's text only, but we certainly hope "Squirrel Cop" makes an appearance.

Disclaimer: This author works on a Mac and listens to NPR, and this was written while sipping a soy chai latte in a Brooklyn coffee shop.

Tony Montana Would Not Approve of a 'Scarface'-Motivated Killing

Well, this is the world that we live in now: 22-year-old Texan Alejandro Garcia pleaded guilty to shooting his then-17-year-old cousin over who would get the next turn to play 'Scarface: The World Is Yours.' The world certainly doesn't belong to either cousin now; Garcia has a sentence of 30 years, and his cousin was killed in the tragic event. Life imitates art, which sucks when the "art" is...

Turn Your Friends Into Stock With Empire Avenue's Social Game

empire avenue
Social networking is a numbers game. Not only do you try to get the "right" amount of friends on Facebook and a good follower/followed ratio on Twitter, but it's all about wielding some social currency: who knows whom, where you get invited, if you'll get the scoop on the latest celeb death. Nowadays, social networking is quantifying the power of your friendships.

But talking analytics will make the average Facebooker's eyes glaze over. Transitioning it into a buy/sell/trade stock market game, however, suddenly turns your socialite friend into a hot commodity. Empire Avenue, a "social influence stock market" has now launched its Facebook app, which allows players to "buy and sell" the people they know, leveraging profit. The idea is that active, socially "fluent" people are worth more -- the more you tweet, post and share, the higher your value is. Then, you can take the game's currency, called "eaves," and purchase in-game items, which can also increase your value. The more people you invite, the greater access you'll have.

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FBI Turns to Crowdsourcing to Crack Unsolved Code

Crowdsourcing unsolved codes has been done before. (Remember the San Francisco Chronicle appealing to the masses to crack the Zodiac killer's mystery missives?) But, it hasn't been done often by the FBI. So it is strange to see the Bureau open up a 12-year-old case, in which a man was found murdered with nothing but a bizarre note in his pocket, to the public. Perhaps the distance between the date of death and now makes it a good tool to get amateur crackers, erm... cracking, but the truth is that the FBI may be banking on the public's love of a good puzzle.

Royal Wedding Won't Be Filmed in 3-D, We Cry Lifelike Tears of Sorrow

will and kate in 3-dThe royal wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William is swelling to an unceasing, deafening and overexposed roar. We Yanks have been barraged with imitation wedding rings, iTunes soundtracks of the event and commemorative plates galore (SO. MANY. COMMEMORATIVE. PLATES.) But one sensory assault we won't have to endure is the hyperreal 3-D experience, despite the fact that the Queen Mother is totally down with the technology.

The Facebook updates, live Twitter feeds and other real-time media covering the wedding will still swarm us, but the third dimension is officially out. A royal spokesperson writes: "I know you have all become increasingly enthusiastic about 3-D and I'm sorry that this will come as a disappointment." Apparently, says the New York Times, the size of the 3-D equipment is simply too large for the lobby to handle. Nuts.

NYC Renters Can Find the Worst Landlords on Craigslist

'nyc's worst landlords'
Not even 48 hours ago, your author completed one of the most arduous, mind-and-body-destroying adventures any New Yorker can undertake: moving within the five boroughs. With space at an ongoing premium, the city's horrid rental reputation is well-earned and frankly nightmarish. (I actually had one landlord show me a place without a sink. He did, however, argue that the bathtub is a great place to do dishes. He had a point.) Sure, there are a couple of great resources, like the incredible, but these all require a modicum of tech savvy for brokers to use. In NYC, there are virtually no centralized sources, and nothing is more terrifying than giving large amounts of money to an unknown individual whom you only know by the information they themselves provided on Craigslist.

So, the C-List has partnered up with the office of Bill de Blasio, New York's city public advocate, to hold slumlords accountable by naming the worst of the worst. By culling infraction information -- tallied by four levels of violations -- Craiglisters can now see if their potential landlord is on the dreaded top 50 list of the city's worst landlords. Where was this when I needed it last month?

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Paying For an Online Reputation: Fair, Or Gaming the System?

For everything we do now -- from scheduling a mover to choosing a restaurant for a first date -- we turn to the Web. Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, Citysearch and even Google immediately pull up reviews and hear what the collective voice of the Internet has to say. In fact, when scheduling a doctor, your author crosschecks what her insurance provides with what the consensus says; negative reviews are a big, fat red flag.

While businesses and providers have always had word-of-mouth reputations, these days, with Google caches and irate Yelpers, negative reviews can leave indelible marks. The New York Times tracks those who have been burned by Google: a man trying to erase his history with his ex-wife online, a doctor targeted by a consumer advocacy site, and a former sex columnist that was targeted by Gawker. Google them, and you'll see all sorts of sordid gossip. That's where companies like or Metal Rabbit Media come in, to erase the past to which the Internet so firmly clings.

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Kicks Picks: Memes, Star Wars Dreams and Outer Space Stylus Schemes

We've selected our favorite and most promising Kickstarter projects, and spoke with the creators about why they deserve your time (and money). Check them out for yourself, and if these bright young things inspire you, maybe you can help launch their dreams into reality. Kickstarter doesn't have to be about changing the world -- the simple design of a well-crafted stylus may be groundbreaking... Read more »

Summify Distills Your News Into Five Bites of Personalized 'Net Goodness

The Web 2.0 idea of the Internet -- that it is a vast landscape with feral stories running alongside civilized, "official" ones, a place where liking a story becomes "Liking" a story, and a place where you haphazardly broadcast everything from your dinner location to your fight with your girlfriend -- is getting old. Too many choices. Too much information. The barrage of feeds or check-ins or... Read more »

Wikipedia's Articles Are Printed and Bound to a Massively Tree-Killing Book

In a strange exercise regarding our ongoing fascination with how much crap is actually one the Internet (answer: a lot), U.K.-based photog/artist Robert Matthews printed out all 2,559 featured articles on Wikipedia and bound them in a massive, footstool-sized tome. We have a couple of questions: Why didn't he use a double-sided printer? Is that paper stock unnecessarily thick? Why are his shoes... Read more »

Electric Wands May Snuff Out Fires, But More 'Star Wars' Than 'Harry Potter'

Aguamenti! Firefighters, it appears, may be invoking wand-like magic in order to put out the flames. (Sadly, 'Harry Potter' incantations won't be needed.) Ludovico Cademartiri, a Harvard University physicist, will be unveiling an electrical solution to extinguishing the fires of the future. Employing large electric fields to disrupt a fire may help to eliminate blazes more quickly, and will... Read more »

Read This: How the iPod Has Changed Our Cultural Fabric

The danger now is different. The man no longer needs a monopoly on musical taste. He just wants a few cents on the dollar of every song you download, he doesn't care what that song says. Other times he doesn't even care if you pay that dollar, as long as you listen to your stolen music on his portable MP3 player, store it on his Apple computer, send it to your friends through his Verizon... Read more »
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