Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • Your gravestone has an app: Companies sell interactive link for smartphones

    A smartphone can now be used at some grave sites to learn more info about the departed. (Quiring Monuments)The next time you stop by the cemetery, you may learn a lot more about your dearly departed than their names and a few ceremonial words.

    A few companies are now marketing quick response (QR) codes for gravestones, which will allow visitors to connect their smartphones to a website containing a collection of information on a deceased person, including photos, videos and testimonials from family and friends.

    "It's about keeping people's memories alive in different ways," Poole, England based Chester Pearce Associates Managing Director Stephen Nimmo told Reuters.

    "When you lose somebody, whether it be suddenly or ongoing, you can really struggle with things. Talking about them is very important, keeping their memory going is very important and this is just an add-on to that."

    QR codes have become commonplace on advertising campaigns, allowing a smartphone owner to scan the bar code on an ad to obtain more information about the product or campaign online.

    U.S. customers can get their own QR code gravestones as well. Quiring Monuments, based in Seattle, Wash., has created a video for the company's version of the product:

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  • New pedal-free bicycle relies on running momentum

    Could the Fliz be a viable alternative to conventional bicycles? (
    The latest in modern bicycle innovation takes some cues from the fictional mode of transportation used in the "Flintstones" cartoon.

    A new bicycle designed by German engineers does away with pedals and instead requires the rider to run or walk to generate speed.

    Dubbed the "Fliz Bike," it is actually based on the world's first bicycle, the "Laufrad," which also operated without pedals and was created by German inventor Karl Drais in 1817.

    "The prior aim of developing FLIZ was to bring a completely new driving experience to everyone," designers Tom Hambrock and Juri Spetter write on their website. "Its laminated, innovative frame with 5 point belt system provides a comfortable, ergonomic ride between running and biking."

    Riders of the Fliz must strap themselves into a harness (the "5 point belt system"). After building up enough speed, they lift their legs onto footrests located near the bike's rear wheel.

    "The frame integrates the rider and due to its construction it works both like a suspension and like a top carrier whereas the belt replaces the saddle and adjusts your position," the designers write.

    You can watch a video of the Fliz in action below:

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  • Sunglasses manufacturer’s controversial billboard removed

    A new billboard in San Diego stirs debate over whether it is creative or offensive. (
    A billboard in San Diego that read, "Happy to sit on your face" has been removed after stirring debate over advertising content.

    Despite its sexually suggestive overtones, the billboard itself referred to a brand of sunglasses produced by Carlsbad, Calif.-based Spy Optic.

    "Upon receiving feedback from a few local citizens about SPY's new Hwy 101 billboard—that has been widely enjoyed and celebrated by the community—the advertising space's management company has decided to remove it permanently," according to a statement from Spy Optic, the sunglasses manufacturing company that produced the billboard. "Despite the billboard's positive reception, an underwhelming minority made enough noise that the management company decided this afternoon to remove it first thing Thursday morning."

    Before being taken down, the billboard was generating some controversy, and bemused support, from local residents.

    "I thought that I read it wrong," Moonlight Hair Design owner Sarita Mihaly, whose shop sits directly below the billboard, told 10News. "I thought that it was a joke."

    Still, Spy Optic insists that most of the response has been positive. "You know, it seemed fun, seemed like a way to sort of embrace 'let's have a good time with this thing,'" Spy Optic Marketing Director Devon Howard told the station. "We didn't expect the response we've gotten. A lot of the response has been pretty good," he added.

    Still, Howard doesn't deny that some viewers may be offended. "'Hey, if you'd just put the sunglasses up, we would have got what you meant by it.' I think that's fair criticism," he said.

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  • Mary Todd Lincoln to be retried for insanity

    Former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln will get a new trial to decide whether she was actually insane. (Wikicommons)One hundred and 30 years after her death, Mary Todd Lincoln will be retried for insanity.

    The former first lady was declared insane 10 years after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, when her son Robert Todd Lincoln had her committed.

    "Even today, historians disagree whether the evidence against the First Lady was 'trumped up,' whether the procedures used constituted due process, and what would occur if today's modernized health laws were applied to the same facts," reads a statement from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

    Lincoln's mental stability was called into question after she suffered from depression following the deaths of not only her husband but also two of her young children. She allegedly spent the years after President Lincoln's death attempting to communicate with him via seance.

    But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission and the Lincoln Museum are set to give Mary Todd Lincoln a new trial, starting in October.

    The dueling legal teams will dress in period clothes from the era but will argue their case relying on current law. Actors will play the roles of Mary Todd Lincoln and Robert Todd Lincoln, but real-life judges will serve as lawyers for each side in the re-creation of the case. Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar will narrate the trial.

    And adding more theatricality to the performance, members of the audience will reportedly serve as jury.

    Mary Todd Lincoln spent about four months in the Bellevue Place sanitarium after being declared insane in 1875. However, after secretly communicating with her lawyer and writing a letter to the Chicago Times, she was eventually released. In a letter written in August 1875, Lincoln wondered why her son Robert had seemingly turned on her. She later came to believe that her son's actions were an attempt to take control of her finances:

    "It does not appear that God is good, to have placed me here. I endeavor to read my Bible and offer up my petitions three times a day," Lincoln wrote. "But my afflicted heart fails me and my voice often falters in prayer. I have worshipped my son and no unpleasant word ever passed between us, yet I cannot understand why I should have been brought out here."

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  • Gangnam—goldfish style (VIDEO)

    South Korean artist Psy in his "Gangnam Style" video. (YouTube)When in less than two months you have one of the most popular YouTube videos in history, you're bound to generate some imitators. The Psy "Gangnam Style" clip has already surpassed 100 million views since its debut on July 15.

    The wacky song and video by South Korean rap artist Psy is described on his official page as "characterized by its strongly addictive beats and lyrics, and is thus certain to penetrate the foundations of modern philosophy."

    "Gangnam Style" is a term used to describe the luxurious life inside South Korea's Gangnam District, an upper-income area in Seoul.

    The song itself is said to be a parody of the trendy, affluent style in the Gangnam District. Los Angeles Times tech columnist Deborah Netburn has called it "one of the greatest videos ever to be uploaded to YouTube."

    So, naturally, we came across this parody video from the Pet Collective, featuring a goldfish, cat and rabbit:

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  • Dana Crow-Smith ran into trouble with the law after giving away free water (ABC15)Dana Crow-Smith first got into trouble with Arizona police when she stepped onto public property while handing out free bottles of water during a July arts event. But the Phoenix resident now says she was expressing her Christian faith and has enlisted the help of at least one national organization that is threatening to sue the city.

    Police issued Crow-Smith a warning, saying she needed a vendor's permit after handing out the water during a First Friday Art Walk on July 6. A Phoenix city memo states that Crow-Smith violated an ordinance requiring permits for "vending, selling, serving, displaying, offering for sale or giving away goods, wares, or merchandise or food from either a mobile vending unit or a mobile food vending unit."

    "I don't even think it's about religious beliefs, I think anybody should be able to give away water, on the sidewalk to anybody. It's hot, and it's a nice thing to do," Crow-Smith said in an August interview with a local ABC affiliate.

    The Arizona Republic reports that an online protest campaign has gained steam since the incident was first reported.

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  • Fact check: 4.5 million new jobs created under Obama?

    Three women attending the DNC wear Obama T-shirts stating, "He saved our jobs." (Mladen Antonov/AFP)
    With the Democratic National Convention in full swing, a number of party leaders are attempting to boost President Barack Obama's re-election effort by asserting that 4.5 million new jobs have been created during his term.

    Obama himself has recently claimed more job growth in the past 27 months than President George W. Bush created "during the entire seven years before this crisis."

    "Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we've seen 4.5 million new jobs," San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said in his keynote address at the DNC on Tuesday night.

    That statistic was echoed by virtually all of Tuesday night's speakers, including first lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who previously served as Obama's chief of staff.

    However, CNN fact-checked that claim and found it to be "not the whole picture." Instead, CNN found that there has been a net increase of just 300,000 nonfarm payroll jobs since Obama took office. And if you count government jobs, there are actually 400,000 fewer people working today than in January 2009.

    When Democrats use the 4.5 million jobs number, they're referring to jobs created after the economy bottomed out in January 2010, one year after Obama took office. That time frame excludes the worst job losses, which took place in 2009, and which many Democrats argue were the result of Bush policies.

    CNN concludes: "The figure of 4.5 million jobs is accurate if you look at the most favorable period and category for the administration. But overall, there are still fewer people working now than when Obama took office at the height of the recession."

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  • A prison photo of Charles Manson (ABC News)An independent record store owner is preparing to release a record of largely unheard Charles Manson songs, after running a successful online fundraising campaign to sponsor the effort.

    "Be a part of history, help spread the music of Charles Manson," Manuel Vasquez wrote on the project's Kickstarter page. "This project is not about death, drugs,1969, etc... It is about MUSIC."

    Vasquez, 26, says he plans to issue 999 vinyl pressings of the songs, which were recorded by Manson in prison. Manson, 77, is serving a life sentence for conspiracy in connection to the murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. The leader of the infamous Manson Family reportedly gave his personal blessing to Vasquez's effort but will not receive any proceeds from the sales.

    "I've gotten some hate mail from it," Vasquez told the Los Angeles Times. "There are people not appreciating the release of music by him. People say they don't understand why I'd want to associate myself with this or why I would

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  • Watch a man age 12 years in 8 minutes (VIDEO)

    Noah Kalina has been posting a self-portrait every day for 12 years. (YouTube)Photographer Noah Kalina has just updated his self-portrait project with more than six years of new daily snapshots.  The project, titled "Everyday," has existed for more than twelve and a half years and now contains 4,514 photographs in a rapidly moving montage of imagery.

    The stunning photographs show Kalina maintaining the same expression as viewers watch him age 12 years before their eyes in just under eight minutes.

    Kalina started taking the photos in January 2000 when he was 19 years old. When he launched "Everyday" in August 2006, the video went viral and has amassed more than 23,000,000 views. Watch the sequel:

    — a viral video (hyperlinked to showing him aging 6 years in 6 minutes has amassed more than  23,000,000 views. You can watch the sequel below:
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  • Michelle Obama’s speech wows critics and lights up Twitter

    Michelle Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention (ABC News)Michelle Obama already had high expectations going into her Tuesday night address at the Democratic National Convention. But the first lady exceeded even those, wowing viewers and eclipsing the entire social media traffic generated by the Republican National Convention in a single speech.

    Twitter's official blog noted that Michelle Obama's speech generated 28,003 tweets per minute, nearly double those created during Mitt Romney's acceptance speech at the RNC last Thursday. At the time, Romney's speech was the most tweeted news event of 2012.

    In fact, just one line from Obama's address, "We've got so much more to do," was on its own the catalyst for 22,004 tweets per minute. Overall, the DNC's Twitter traffic is set to far outpace that of their Republican counterparts. The first night of the DNC had already generated three million tweets as of Tuesday night, not too far behind the four million tweets produced throughout the entire week of the RNC.

    "Michelle Obama owned this convention

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