Flynn Flush Rescues ‘VIX Elephant’ As ’50 Cent’ Backs Up The Truck

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The “VIX Elephant” has awakened. And “50 Cent” is back.

That’s the mysterious-sounding ointroduction to a notable market insight from Bloomberg this mornig as they note the turmoil surrounding Mike Flynn headlines – spiking VIX and slamming stocks – provided two big options market ‘whales’ with some relief and room to move…

First, the trader who’s known as the Elephant for making big moves in the VIX — but who’s been surprisingly quiet in recent weeks — returned with a vengeance to start December, buying and selling more than 2 million contracts Friday to continue betting on a modest rise in the Cboe Volatility Index. That’s three times the average daily volume for all VIX options.

 

The Elephant caught a major break thanks to the sharp retreat in the S&P 500 Index following reports that former national security adviser Michael Flynn would implicate members of President Donald Trump’s transition team in the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The VIX spiked to as high as 14.58 as equities tumbled.

Pravit Chintawongvanich, head of derivatives strategy at Macro Risk Advisors, said the investor had been poised to lose $20 million to $30 million on the December leg of this trade before Friday, but was able to escape with a loss of less than $2 million in closing up those positions.

“They got really lucky with the selloff today,” Chintawongvanich said.

 

“They were down a lot on the December position, and this allows them to get out of it without too much of a loss.”

The mystery trader also initiated positions in January VIX options to roll over this trade, selling 262,500 puts with a strike price of 12 and 525,000 calls with a strike price of 25, while purchasing 262,500 calls with a strike price of 15.

Huge volumes rolled through the VIX 25 Calls (From Dec to Jan)

 

And the VIX 15 Calls (again Dec to Jan)

 

And finally, funded by the VIX 12 Puts (rolled from Dec to Jan)

For VIX futures, the Elephant’s stampede amounts to 13,700 December futures to sell and 10,700 January futures to buy, according to Chintawongvanich.

Additonally, as Bloomberg details, it’s also a good day for ’50 Cent’ – the options buyer who’s been saddled with the same nickname as rapper Curtis Jackson III for buying options at or close to 50 cents.

Early on Friday morning, 50,000 January VIX call options with a strike price of 21 were purchased at 49 cents apiece before the Flynn tumult began.

Today’s turmoil reminded a few of just how fragile and illiquid these markets can become at times.

Should the VIX suddenly spike, the repercussions of such a move would be further complicated by the billions of dollars sitting in various VIX-linked ETFs. Because individuals sellers would probably disappear from the market in such a situation, the ETF market makers would find it nearly impossible to hedge their positions, potentially triggering the dissolution of the funds, or even the collapse of some of these firms. The Macro Tourist’s Kevin Muir explains:

There’s $1.2 billion of the XIV, which is the short ETF. There’s $1.3 billion of the SVXY, which is another short one. These are staggering numbers.

 

In my days, when I was on the institutional desk, we had this big – I did index arbitrage, and we used to go out and buy the baskets and sell the futures. One day the risk manager came to me and said, if you had to take this position off (because we had accumulated this big position) how long would it take you? And who would do it?

 

And I said, the reality is that there’s nobody. You know, we were the biggest player in the market and there was nobody that was going to take this off of us. The only way was to go all the way to expiry.

 

Well, the reality is that these numbers are way bigger than any market player can absorb. And, if we get a situation where – as Francesco says, all it’s going to take is a return of the VIX from its current level of 10 to its average level of 18 or 19 to wipe out these products.

 

I guess that’s the point that I want to make: If you’re actually owning these things, you should be aware that all it will take is a move of 80% and then they’re going to wind down these products. So the XIV, when it moves up, if all of a sudden VIX goes from 10 to 18 in a day, they’re going to wind down that product.

 

And what’s going to be really scary is the amount of VIX futures that is going to have to be bought, because they’re short all those VIX futures and they’re going to have to buy them back.

 

And I just don’t know who’s going to sell it to them. For the first time – for a long time, I didn’t view this VIX as that big a deal, and there were some smart guys like Jesse Felder that were going on about it – I just think that it has been taken to a level that is becoming increasingly worrisome. And it actually could create a market dislocation in itself.

 

And what is it Warren Buffett says? What the wise man does in the beginning the fool does in the end. Well, VIX, at this point, we’re hitting a point where if you’re actually continuing to bet on it you’re going to be in the fool category.

 

Because it’s not going to take much to have a big spike that wipes a lot of people out. And it’s actually very, very worrisome.

Of course, it would take a large intraday move to trigger a truly catastrophic spike in the VIX. But at least one analyst, Bank of America’s Michael Hartnett – whose work we have cited here – believes there could be a 1987-style crash in the early months of 2018. Hartnett’s reasoning? The bearish positioning seen at the beginning of 2017 has completely flipped. Investors’ long positions are larger than they’ve been in years.

And as we’ve repeatedly pointed out, with volatility and volume so subdued, hedge funds have remained overwhelmingly short vol, fearful of missing out on even one tick of the torrid rally for fear of pissing off their clients.

One things for certain: Given the market’s already dramatically overextended rally, the day of reckoning is coming. The only question is will it be a steady decline, or will it happen suddenly?

Given the incredibly stretched nature of positioning, the latter scenario, Muir and Co. believe, seems far more likely.

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How to fix Bitcoin’s energy-consumption problem

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Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of energy. Every once in a while, someone compares this to another random metric — say, the energy consumption of Ireland — and it induces a collective gasp. How can this thing be sustainable?

Well, it probably isn’t. But, long-term, it might not be that big of a deal.

It’s true that Bitcoin mining is an awful energy drain. Hundreds of thousands of application-specific integrated circuits or ASICs — specific hardware aimed exclusively for mining cryptocurrencies — hum in huge halls, mainly located in China, and use enormous amounts of electricity to create new bitcoins. They also power the Bitcoin transaction network, but they do it in a horribly inefficient way. The fact that a huge chunk of China’s electricity comes from fossil fuels makes the situation even worse. 

It just seems so wrong, and on some levels, it is. 

But things aren’t that simple. We don’t know, exactly, how power-hungry Bitcoin really is. And whatever the figure is, Bitcoin certainly doesn’t need that much energy to run. Furthermore, energy consumption issues can potentially be fixed with a future upgrade of the Bitcoin software, which is easier than, say, reducing the energy footprint of Ireland. Finally, there are other cryptocurrencies out there working on a solution to this problem. 

Despite what you might’ve read, we don’t have exact figures on Bitcoin’s energy consumption. A site called Digiconomist keeps stats on how much energy Bitcoin is consuming, and it’s the primary source for the stories circulating on the subject. Some of these stats look horrific: Bitcoin’s current energy consumption is 30.2 terawatt-hours (TWh), which is more than 63 specific countries, and a single Bitcoin transaction consumes enough energy to power nearly 10 U.S. households for an entire day. But we shouldn’t blindly trust those numbers.

Getting exact energy consumption figures for miners, many of whom are secretive and located in China, is not easy, so Digiconomist uses a very roundabout way to make its estimates. The site makes quite a few broad assumptions — for example, that miners, on average, spend 60% of their revenues on operational costs, and that for every 5 cents spent on those costs 1 kWh of electricity was consumed. It’s impossible to say how accurate Digiconomist’s index is, but it could be off by some measure. 

Transactions don’t matter

Furthermore, the energy consumption is rising because of Bitcoin’s quite insane price rise, not because the network actually requires it.  

Bitcoin’s price is at $10,466 at time of writing, up more than 1,000% since the beginning of the year. This price growth is a huge incentive for miners to add even more ASICs and use up even more energy, but it doesn’t really have to do much with the number of transactions on the network. In fact, the number of transactions on Bitcoin’s network hasn’t significantly increased in a year. 

The number of transactions on Bitcoin's blockchain (pictured) isn't significantly bigger today than it was a year ago. And yet, the energy consumption of Bitcoin rose immensely.

The number of transactions on Bitcoin’s blockchain (pictured) isn’t significantly bigger today than it was a year ago. And yet, the energy consumption of Bitcoin rose immensely.

There are two reasons for this. Bitcoin’s network can’t handle many more transactions (though a recent software upgrade, yet to take full effect, should improve this). Furthermore, Bitcoin isn’t exactly doing its job the way its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, had intended. Due to its price rise, not many owners actually use their bitcoins to purchase goods; instead, everyone is either hoarding it or speculating with it. 

This means that talking about the energy cost of one Bitcoin transaction is misleading. A figure that’s thrown around often is the energy cost of one Visa transaction (also a very rough estimate), which is orders of magnitude smaller than that of one Bitcoin transaction. But for Bitcoin, the transactions are not the problem. 

In fact, you could theoretically run Bitcoin’s entire network on a dozen 10-year old PCs. It wouldn’t be very secure from attacks, though, which is another reason why miners are constantly competing for dominance; no one wants to see any one miner control 51% of the network as that would enable them to take over Bitcoin completely. 

But it’s important to point out that the fact that Bitcoin is currently an enormous energy drain is not due to some irreparable flaw in Bitcoin’s protocol. Bitcoin can run more efficiently; it could probably run more efficiently than Visa as it doesn’t require offices, staff and other overhead energy costs. 

For that to happen, though, something needs to change. 

The problem already has a solution…

One project Bitcoin could take cues from is Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency right now. According to Digiconomist, Ethereum uses roughly three times less energy than Bitcoin; and yet there are twice as much transactions per day on Ethereum’s network. 

Bitcoin uses a ton of energy per transaction, but Ethereum is a lot better with this regard.

Bitcoin uses a ton of energy per transaction, but Ethereum is a lot better with this regard.

And even that could get a lot better in the near future, as Ethereum’s development team plans to gradually switch to a completely different mechanism of verifying transactions. Called proof-of-stake, it replaces the current system, called proof-of-work (also used by Bitcoin). Instead of having miners solving complex math calculations, it would reward owning the coins. The concept isn’t implemented in Ethereum yet (read here for a detailed explanation) but if it does work as intended, the energy costs, compared to proof-of-work, would be orders of magnitude smaller. 

Bitcoin’s developers aren’t looking to switch to proof-of-stake very soon, but they are working on a solution called Lightning Network that would ideally vastly increase the number of transactions on the network without the need for additional hash power. 

…but you never know with Bitcoin

So is Bitcoin’s lust for energy just a temporary issue that will easily go away? Probably not. Ethereum’s leadership has successfully implemented major changes on the network in the past without many problems. Bitcoin, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to implement a far more simple upgrade for years, as any upgrade needs a consensus of nearly all users of the network or a (potentially dangerous) hard fork. And Lightning Network, as promising as it is, is just a concept at this stage. 

But Bitcoin’s problems aren’t insurmountable. The solutions are already out there. Sooner or later, Bitcoin will have to adapt.

If it doesn’t, in the long run some other cryptocoin will solve it and take its place. Bitcoin has the first-mover advantage, but that quickly wears off when everyone else is leaner, faster, and more efficient than you. And that’s perfectly alright; Bitcoin and its energy woes might be forgotten some day, but cryptocurrencies are here to stay. 

Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH. 

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Flynn Prepared To Testify Against Trump; Gold Spikes, Stocks Crash

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Gold is spiking as stocks and the dollar sink after headline reports from ABC that Michael Flynn promised "full cooperation to the Mueller team" and is prepared to testify that as a candidate, Donald Trump "directed him to make contact with the Russians."

Flynn said in court he was acting under instructions from senior Trump transition officials in his dealings with the Russian ambassador, As the WaPo reports, Prosecutor Brandon L. Van Grack said in court that “a very senior member of the transition team directed” Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador at one point. At another, Flynn “called a senior official of the Trump team at Mar-a-Lago” to discuss a United Nations resolution that Flynn talked about with Kislyak.

Reuters adds some color on what is occurring in the court:

  • FEDERAL PROSECUTORS SAY FLYNN SPOKE WITH SENIOR MEMBERS OF TRUMP’S TRANSITION TEAM ABOUT HIS CONVERSATIONS WITH RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR REGARDING U.S. SANCTIONS
  • PROSECUTORS SAY FLYNN SPOKE WITH A ‘SENIOR OFFICIAL’ OF TRUMP’S TRANSITION TEAM WHO WAS AT MAR-A-LAGO RESORT IN DEC 2016 TO DISCUSS WHAT TO COMMUNICATE TO RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR
  • PROSECUTORS SAY FLYNN WAS DIRECTED BY ‘A VERY SENIOR MEMBER’ OF TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM TO POLL COUNTRIES AHEAD OF UN VOTE IN DEC 2016
  • PROSECUTORS SAY FLYNN WAS TOLD BY THE SENIOR MEMBER OF TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM TO REACH OUT TO OTHER COUNTRIES TO INFLUENCE THE UN VOTE TO DELAY OR DEFEAT THE RESOLUTION  

Flynn admitted making false statements to the FBI about asking the ambassador in late December to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed on Russia that same day.” Flynn also told authorities he did not recall the ambassador “subsequently telling him that Russia has chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request,” according to a court filing. That would suggest there was a second, previously unknown contact between Flynn and Kislyak.

In a statement, Flynn said “it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts. Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right."

Full statement below:

After over 33 years of military service to our country, including nearly five years in combat away from my family, and then my decision to continue to serve the United States, it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of "treason’ and other outrageous acts.

 

Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for.

 

But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.

 

My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.

Separately, authorities say Flynn lied about asking the ambassador to delay a vote on United Nations Security Council resolutions. “Guilty, your honor,” Flynn, dressed in a dark blue suit and blue striped tie, told U.S. District Judge Rudolph “Rudy” Contreras.

Flynn then left the courthouse:

In a statement, White House lawyer Ty Cobb responded to the accusations that "the false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion."

Trump’s lawyers have expected Flynn to plead guilty, particularly after one of Flynn’s lawyers, Robert Kelner, said he could no longer communicate about the probe with Trump’s lawyers.

As part of Flynn’s negotiations, his son, Michael G. Flynn, is not expected to be charged, according to a person with knowledge of the talks, the Wapo adds.

Trump’s Impeachment odds spiked…

The Dollar plunged…

 

Gold spiked and stocks slumped…

 

All major equity indices are tumbling…

And VIX spiked to 4 month highs…

It did not take long for Dianne Feinstein to issue a damning statement:

  • *FEINSTEIN SAYS FLYNN GUILTY PLEA ABOUT MORE THAN LYING TO FBI
  • *FEINSTEIN: PLEA SHOWS TRUMP ASSOCIATE NEGOTIATING WITH RUSSIANS

 

 

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Kushner Said To Have Ordered Flynn To Contact Russia

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When commenting on the Flynn plea deal with Mueller, we said that while hardly evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, especially since all events took place after the election, the real question is who was the "senior member of the transition team" that instructed Flynn to call Russia. Now, according to Bloomberg’s Eli Lake we may have the answer: none other than Jared Kushner, who as Lake says, "could be one of the next dominoes to fall."

According to the Bloomberg report, "one of Flynn’s lies to the FBI was when he said that he never asked Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, to delay the vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. The indictment released today from the office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller describes this lie: "On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution." At the time, the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements was a big deal. Even though the Obama administration had less than a month left in office, the president instructed his ambassador to the United Nations to abstain from a resolution, breaking a precedent that went back to 1980 when it came to one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.

This was the context of Kushner’s instruction to Flynn last December. One transition official at the time said Kushner called Flynn to tell him he needed to get every foreign minister or ambassador from a country on the U.N. Security Council to delay or vote against the resolution. Much of this appeared to be coordinated also with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose envoys shared their own intelligence about the Obama administration’s lobbying efforts to get member stats to support the resolution with the Trump transition team.  

As Lake correctly notes, "for now it’s unclear what to make of all of this" especially since th most important part of a case is missing: motive.

We also know from Flynn’s "statement of the offense" that he lied to FBI agents as the bureau was investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any links between Russia and the Trump campaign in this period. Nonetheless, nothing in the Flynn plea sheds any light on whether the Trump campaign actually colluded with Russia to influence the election.

Here there are two possibilities: one bad for Trump, and one innocuous. As ABC News reported on Friday, Flynn is prepared to tell Mueller’s team that Trump had instructed him to make contact with Russia during the campaign itself.

"If those contacts involved the emails the U.S. intelligence community charges Russia stole from leading Democrats, then Mueller will have uncovered evidence of actual collusion between the president and a foreign adversary during the election. Impeachment could then be in the cards."

That’s the bad case. But, Lake concedes, it’s also possible that the Justice Department became interested in Flynn’s initial conversation with Kislyak on other, less explosive grounds.

One leading theory pushed Friday by Democrats involves a violation of a 1799 statute known as the Logan Act. A relic of the John Adams administration, this discredited law makes it illegal for a private U.S. citizen to undermine the foreign policy of a sitting president in contact with a foreign power. No American has ever been successfully prosecuted under that law.

This path is likely a dead end: some conservatives urged the George W. Bush administration to prosecute former House speaker Nancy Pelosi under the Logan Act in 2007 when she visited the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, when the White House was trying to isolate him. Nothing ever came of that.

Still, a Logan Act investigation would explain the bureau’s interest in Flynn’s conversations about the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israel. This is what Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Friday: "This shows a Trump associate negotiating with the Russians against U.S. policy and interests before Donald Trump took office and after it was announced that Russia had interfered in our election. That’s a stunning revelation and could be a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign power."

If that is the extent of Mueller’s charges, it’s nothing and Trump walks away scott free. As Lake notes, "if that’s all there is, then the whispers of collusion will look foolish. Nonetheless, it may be enough to take out not only Flynn, but also the man who married the president’s daughter."

Of course, if Kushner is the last casualty of all this, it is likely safe to say that not many tears will be shed.

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A Bunch Of People Revealed Their First Celebrity Crushes And We Know Exactly How They Feel

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Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Who among us does not remember the many, MANY crushes we had on celebrities as impressionable youths? I know that personally, I had more than my fair share of crushes, almost all of which appear on this list today.

So how was this nostalgic list of people’s favorite childhood celebrity crushes compiled? Very simply. Reddit user DeeDubb83 asked the internet one basic question: Who was your first celebrity crush?

And the answers he received will bring back an absolute FLOOD of memories. This much I can guarantee.

Here were many of the top responses, plus some commentary, which also included the lovely lady pictured at the top of the page, one Jennifer Love Hewitt…

Kim Possible. Doesn’t matter she isn’t actually real… she sure was back then! ~ ukulele_joe

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Wait…she’s not real?

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Natalie Portman in Star Wars, especially Episode 2 in the white outfit. ~ thiney49

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Emma Watson easily. I (literally) grew up with her. ~ horny_fuckers

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Kelly Kapowski. ~ dupontcircle

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Larisa Oleynik from The Secret World of Alex Mack. My parents helped me send a letter to her, and I received a signed photo of her. Hate it was lost to time. ~ fakeeric

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Amy Jo Johnson. ~ luisgustavo-

I didn’t understood the feelings I got when looking at her, but man did I love her so much! She is still pretty! ~ bbhatti12

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Christina Applegate. I watched Married with Children as a kid. ~ downsouthcountry

Puberty hit me like a ton of bricks watching that show. ~ supraman2turbo

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Winona cause I likes em crazy. ~ indifferentpangolin

I felt so old when the first episode of Stranger Things ended and I was like “uhmmm so where’s Winona? I guess she’ll eventually appear in a future episode” then it slowly started sinking in… ~ yusbarrett

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Rachel Weisz. ~ Tychy

The Mummy sealed it for me. ~ cutti

She was my first inkling that I may not be 100% straight. ~ Merykare

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Topanga. ~ ukulele

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I’m in my early 40s, and one of the first I can remember is Alyssa Milano. ~ man_mayo

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Hilary Duff. ~ auCoffeebreak

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Curly haired Dark Angel season one Jessica Alba. ~ boring_name_here

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Kate Beckinsale. ~ Attackonlatexpanties

Literally the only reason the Underworld movies keep being made. ~ hillerj

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Rachael Leigh Cook after watching Josie And The Pussycats. ~ monkeyclawattack

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Probably Denise Richards in Starship Troopers. ~ danielle_giammarino

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Alicia Silverstone from Clueless and the music videos. ~ yauch

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Some of the other crushes that were also mentioned include Gillian Anderson, Christina Ricci, Shakira, Britney Spears, Mila Kunis, Anne Hathaway, Milla Jovovich, Alyson Hannigan, Gwen Stefani, Halle Berry, Christina Aguilera, Katie Holmes, Melissa Joan Hart, Shirley Manson, Angelina Jolie, Geri Halliwell, Belinda Carlisle, Cameron Diaz, Mischa Barton, and Winnie from The Wonder Years.

H/T FHM

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The complete antithesis of the iPhone

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The PocketC.H.I.P. is basically the one gadget I wished I had when I was 12. There’s so much to love about everything that constitutes the PocketC.H.I.P. from its bare, exposed design highly reminiscent of Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator synths, to the small hexagonal hole in the bottom left corner that allows you to slide pencils on and make the PocketC.H.I.P. stand upright. It isn’t just the outer aesthetic that appeals to the senses, it’s also the fact that the PocketC.H.I.P. is a completely consolidated and capable P.C. that can literally fit in your pocket or hang from your neck.

“The PocketCHIP is like a 2007 pocket PC from an alternate timeline where the iPhone never existed.” says Paul Miller of The Verge, and he’s right. The tiny device runs Linux and comes with a full tactile Qwerty keyboard and even a touch-sensitive screen. In every sense of the term, it’s a device that’s the complete opposite of the iPhone. Meant for people who love to tinker with hardware and software, the PocketC.H.I.P. (yes it’s a pain typing the name) comes with no restrictions or boundaries. It can be used for anything from coding, to gaming (using PICO-8’s inbuilt games or playing games like DOOM or Minecraft). You can even use it as a regular computer, connecting peripherals to it via USB… and most importantly, it comes with a headphone jack!

Click here to read more about what the PocketC.H.I.P. is capable of.

Designer: Next Thing Co.

pocket_chip_1

pocket_chip_2

pocket_chip_3

Pocket Chip

Pocket Chip

pocket_chip_6

pocket_chip_8

pocket_chip_7

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WhatsApp Down: Outages Reported Around The World

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In an apparent global system outage, WhatsApp users have been shut out from sending or receiving messages on Thursday afternoon. As of 2:10pm ET the worst-hit are Brazil, the Netherlands, the US, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, India, and the Middle East.

On Downdetector.com reports started spiking after 1:20pm ET with a peak of 3250 reports at 2pm ET.

The app is not sending or receiving messages according to multiple users, many of whom have taken to social media to highlight the issue according to The Independent. It is unclear if the problem is focused on one particular part of the world but many users appear to be affected.

The outage appears to be focused on South America, particularly in Brazil, where users are currently unable to send or receive messages through the app. 

A spokesperson for Whatsapp said: “WhatsApp users around the world are unable to access the service. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to fix the issue as soon as possible.”

Users on social media said they could not send or receive any messages which has sparked a trending topic on Twitter #whatsappdown.

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Talented baker creates stunningly sculpted pies that are just too beautiful to eat

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Forget all you knew about pies, because this woman has taken the delicious pastry dish to a whole new level. 

30-year-old Seattle native, Lauren Ko, is a whiz at creating beautifully sculpted desserts that’ll leave you stunned and craving for a slice.

Although Ko’s typical 9 to 5 is working as an executive assistant to the chancellor at Seattle Colleges, she moonlights as an amateur baker crafting stunningly gorgeous pies too incredible to eat. 

Ko told Mashable baking usually occurs during the weekends and week nights after work and typically takes up to four to five hours from start to finish with multiple steps including making the dough, making the pie filling, and finally creating the crust design. 

“I come from a family of good eaters and phenomenal home cooks, so it feels a bit as if I’ve been cooking and baking my whole life,” said Ko. “I have a lot of memories growing up of being in the kitchen and baking with my mom or watching my grandmother cook. I do really enjoy cooking and baking, so have continued to do it on my own since.”

Driven by color and pattern, Ko constantly brainstorms color combinations and geometric patterns that she replicates with pie dough and fruit. Science! 

“I usually have some nebulous idea in my head for design and then improvise as I go along, depending on how well the dough or fruit cooperates with my vision,” said Ko. “My final products are generally happy accidents.”

The feedback she’s received for her delicious designs have been nothing but positive for the Seattle baker. 

And although Ko only cooks for fun, her Instagram page (lokokitchen) has been so popular, professional culinary chefs have already begun to reach out to her. 

“I created this account simply to separate my food photos from my personal account and I started with about 300 followers, all family and friends, and now three months in, I have almost 70,000 followers,” said Ko. “I’m perpetually shocked, a bit overwhelmed but mostly just really grateful.”

Unfortunately, Ko is not selling her pies at the moment but she may be open to the idea of having her own “sweet treat” business. 

“Opening a pastry shoppe is not my end goal,” said Ko. “But never say never, right?”

We might have to take a trip to Seattle just for a taste.

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How to Control Your Fire TV With Alexa Voice Commands

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Amazon is making it even easier to control your Fire TV without straining yourself with the use of a physical remote. After adding the ability the control your television through an Echo speaker over the summer, the company announced an update on Thursday that adds even more voice-based controls across even more streaming apps.

Starting now, you can control Bravo, CBS All Access, Hulu, NBC, Showtime and Sony PlayStation Vue. That’s in addition to all the apps that already work with Alexa voice controls like Netflix, Prime Video and HBO NOW.

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To watch a specific show on any of those apps, just say something like “Alexa, watch Star Trek Discovery” or “Alexa, play The Handmaid’s Tale” or whatever else you want to watch. If you pay for Hulu’s live TV option or PlayStation Vue, you can also use Alexa to switch between channels supported by those services with commands like “Alexa, go to ESPN” or “Alexa, tune to FOX.”

Once you pick a show or movie, you can still use Alexa to control what’s happening on screen. Just use one of these phrases to navigate what you’re watching without ever picking up the remote (let alone actually getting off the couch):

“Alexa, pause.”

“Alexa, fast-forward.”

“Alexa, fast-forward 5 minutes.”

“Alexa, rewind.”

“Alexa, rewind 5 minutes.”

“Alexa, play.”

“Alexa, next episode.”

“Alexa, last episode.”

“Alexa, start over.”

“Alexa, play from the beginning.”

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I wrote about how much I hate my iPhone X — and an army of Apple fans attacked me online

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iphone x

  • I wrote an article about why I hate my new iPhone X.
  • A lot of people didn’t agree with me.
  • That doesn’t change my opinion.

When I published my article on the iPhone X, I was prepared for a bit of hate mail.

After all, I was going against the consensus, and I knew many people didn’t think my biggest complaint — that it’s difficult to use with one hand — was anything to make a stink about.

And if I didn’t know that before I published, I certainly would have realized soon after. Both my inbox and my  Twitter notifications flooded with reader responses, almost all negative and condescending.

Apple fans are a notoriously loyal bunch — the company regularly appears on lists of consumers’ most-loved brands — so it’s no surprise the article’s publication stirred a hornet’s nest.

Some people seem to have taken personally my wish to have a phone that works for me. Some told me to stop driving and texting at the same time (I don’t own a car). Others insinuated I might be new to technology or Apple products (I’ve used an iPhone since 2012).

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One reader email used a flawed example of how we have adapted to touchscreen technology over time, and how my issue is no different. This reader conflated issues of adaptation and ergonomics. I say you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.

There were, of course, jokes about the size of my hands. I like to think of my hands as relatively average-sized, but they might be below-average. The point being, there are plenty of people with smaller hands than me, who probably would also like to use Apple’s latest device with one hand.

Apple fanboy tweetApple fanboy tweetApple fanboy tweet

Many, many people told me to enable "reachability," Apple’s solution to using large-screened phones with one hand. Some even went so far as to tweet screenshots of the function’s location in settings. Very helpful.

If they actually read the post, they would have seen that I had enabled reachability, but I found its usability very poor and very inconsistent. Oh, well.

The general sentiment was that I was using the phone wrong, and that if I could just fix that, the phone would be perfect. I don’t know if the anger was directed towards me out of loyalty to Apple, or to justify their own choice to spend $1,000 on a phone. It was obvious that much of the criticism came from people who had never used the phone themselves.

Many readers guessed correctly that I was not a user of the Plus models of iPhones before. I believe I am in good company here, as Apple’s smaller phones remain their most widely used models. If the iPhone is going to reach a mass audience, it needs to take concerns like mine into account.

Macalope, a pseudonymous Apple blogger, even featured my post as one of his "big complaint" features. I was honored. 

Apple fanboy tweetApple fanboy tweetI understand his point — I should have anticipated the difficulty based on how big of a screen the phone has. But the fact is, as much as I had read about it, I didn’t. I was focused more on how the case size seemed so similar, which ended up being misleading. There’s only one X size, after all.

A lot of Android fans told me I should consider defecting. No chance there. Despite how alluring the new Android-enabled handsets are, I’m way too deep in the Apple ecosystem now.

I was prepared for the criticism — but not how ridiculous it all was.

For what it’s worth, I did receive some positive notes from readers. A number of people agreed with me, with some saying that they returned their iPhone X after just a few days with it. I’ve also talked to a fair number of people in person who agree with my take.

Who knows, though. It’s hard to tell who is just humoring you when it’s face to face and not over the internet.

SEE ALSO: I’ve been using my iPhone X for nearly a month, and I’ve decided I hate it

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