October 31, 2019

"Eagles These Days Text Too Much," Said Putin (Or Did He?)

"Eagles These Days Text Too Much," Said Putin (Or Did He?)
You’d never guess it, but this gal is a texting fiend. Центр реабилитации диких животных

Quote of the Week

“The family likes the series Jeeves and Wooster and they want the candidate to pay attention to the main character of the series (Jeeves), to see what is expected from the butler.”

— One rich Russian family’s job posting for a butler

Voracious Vegans and Didactic Deepfakes

1. Think teens text too much? Then check out the eagles of Novosibirsk, which send thousands of dollars in texts every season. Of course, they’re not the ones texting — rather, scientists have hooked them up to SMS transmitters that ping the scientists with their location. Nevertheless, these eagles give the scientists as big a headache as if they were texting teens. This summer, one eagle racked up 7,000 rubles ($117) per day, forcing the scientists to crowdfund to “Top Up the Eagles’ Mobiles.” Fortunately, their data provider noticed their unusual flight plight and promised to give them a discount. So the next time you get overcharged for texting, just blame the eagles.

2. Some Russians don’t believe that Putin would ever say “I’m tired, I’m leaving.” Thanks to a new AI, however, their dream may come true. The AI, Vera Voice, takes voice recordings of anybody — Putin included — and any text you want that person to say, and generates a recording of that person saying that text. Now, this kind of AI creates all sorts of risks. But its creators hope people use it for wholesome things like audiobooks and films. They themselves have used it to make Putin’s voice lecture listeners about the dangers and benefits of AI. See, now we’re listening.

AI imitates reality. / Video: Vera Voice

3. Russians aren’t known for loving meatless food, but they do love discounts. At least, that’s what one of Russia’s largest restaurant operators is betting on as it pioneers Meatless Mondays in Russia. Since mid-October, restaurants in seven cities have been offering Monday discounts on meatless delivery orders. It’s an uphill battle in terms of awareness, though. Some vegetarians will love the move; others point out that, in the end, most people just would rather stay with their meaty traditional dishes. Nevertheless, if there’s two things people vote with, it’s their stomachs and their pockets, and maybe the pockets will win in the end.

In Odder News

  • Opposition activist Alexei Navalny staged a photo where he took a selfie while his wife was about to smack him with a frying pan. Memes ensued.
Navalny meme
“Thirtieth birthday” / “Nineties kids” / @oldLentach
  • Survivor, meet Orthodoxy. A Russian TV channel is launching a reality show bringing together ten people to live in a monastery for a month.
  • Meet four bands leading Russia’s underground feminist punk scene.
  • Bonus: On Wednesday, the oldest woman in Russia passed away aged 124. She lived through the February and October Revolutions, not to mention World Wars I and II and the end of the Soviet Union. Read more about her life.

Thanks to David Edwards for a story idea!

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