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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

California got its name from fanfic

California's name comes from fan-fiction:
California is named after the island of California, home of Queen Calafia, her beautiful black amazons and their man-eating griffins, as all detailed in Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo's Las Sergas de Esplandian, which was the Sword of Shanarra of its day, a highly unauthorized but popular sequel to the much more highly respected Amadis de Gaul, more The Lord of the Rings of its day. At the end of Don Quixote, Cervantes had this to say about Esplandian: "Verily the father's goodness shall not excuse the want of it in the son. Here, good mistress housekeeper, open that window and throw it into the yard. Let it serve as a foundation to that pile which we are to set a-blazing presently."

That being said, Las Sergas de Esplandian was the pulp novel the conquistadores had on board when they sailed around and encountered the Baja peninsula. What's more, when the Portola party went up the coast, thinking the descriptions in LSdE were based on actual travelers' tales, they thought the California condors were Queen Calafia's big black man-eating griffins.

And so on to the present day where California is ruled by Conan the Barbarian.


Update: Ape Lad points out that Idaho got its name as the result of a hoax: "When a name was being selected for new territory, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested 'Idaho,' which he claimed was a Native American term meaning 'gem of the mountains'. It was later revealed Willing had made up the name himself, and the original Idaho territory was re-named Colorado because of it. Eventually the controversy was forgotten, and modern-day Idaho was given the made-up name when the Idaho Territory was formally created in 1863."

Update 2: Andrew sez, "The author of the quoted blurb is off in the placement of their Don Quixote quote. It's not from the end of Don Quixote, but rather from Volume I, Chapter VI, when the curate and barber go through Don Quixote's library and dispose of books they deem improper (or, rather, that Cervantes deems worthy of mockery) -- which means it's near the very beginning of Don Quixote, rather than the end."

posted by Cory Doctorow at 06:21:37 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Xeni Tech on NPR: Living in Star Trek -- for real.

On this week's edition of the NPR program "Day to Day":
Tony Alleyne loved the Star Trek universe so much, he wanted to live in it. So after a bitter breakup, he remodeled his condominium to look like the inside of the Starship Enterprise.

Since then he's started a science fiction interior design business to recoup the cost, and now he's an Internet hero.

Link to "Xeni Tech: Living in the 'Star Trek' Universe -- For Real." Image: a recently upgraded transporter room inside Mr. Alleyne's "Star Trek Apartment." Last year, he placed the apartment on auction at eBay for a price he knew was steep -- $2 million. He plans to auction it again next month at a more modest price.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 05:07:34 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Kids eat a bag of chips for every hour they spend watching TV

A US study has concluded that children consume the caloric equivalent of a bag of potato chips for every hour they spend in front of a television. Food advertising in implicated in causing unconscious eating among young viewers.
The study followed 550 children aged 11 to 13 over a period of 20 months. For each hour they spent watching television, their food intake was found at the end of the period to have increased by 167 calories a day. (A packet of crisps contains around 180 calories, while a can of Coke has 140)....

Numerous scientific studies have shown that children who watch more TV have a higher calorie intake, but advertisers argue that this is a result of their more sofa-bound lifestyle rather than of the adverts they are watching.

Dr Wiecha, however, said her work contradicted this. "Although children and youth are encouraged to watch what they eat, many youth seem to eat what they watch," the report's authors wrote.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:44:39 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Complete set of AA comix, 1968-1974

Here's a complete collection of Alcoholics Anonymous inspirational comic strips from 1968-1974. Link (via Waxy)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:41:55 PM permalink | blogs' comments

RIP Jane Jacobs, urban activist

Jane Jacobs has died at 89 in Toronto. Jacobs was an urban activist and writer about cities. Her book Death and Life of Great American Cities is the best book I've ever read about cities -- how they work, how they change. Reading that book rendered visible whole rafts of secrets about how the world around me functioned. It was like taking off a blindfold.
"The key with Jane was that she believed that the world was a complex place. It was not a simple place, it was a complex place, and you couldn't just think in straight lines," said Sewell.

"You had to think about context, how things fit together. That was the key about her."

"Jane Jacobs will be remembered as one of the great urban thinkers of our time," Toronto Mayor David Miller said Tuesday in a statement.

"Her contributions and insights have forever changed the way North American cities are developed.

Link (Photo credit: Juan Freire, Flickr) (Thanks, Dave!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:37:29 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Mark Cuban's new radio show on Sirius

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will host a weekly talk show on Sirius, starting this summer. The New York subscription-based satellite radio company said Mark Cuban's Radio Maverick will air Sundays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Sirius channel 102. Sirius said Mr. Cuban, a billionaire technology entrepreneur who bought the Dallas Mavericks basketball team in 2000, will take calls from listeners and talk with guests while discussing sports, business and everyday life.
Link. On the "pho" digital entertainment list today, Mr. Cuban said "You can bet I'm going to be talking about the 'new' and 'improved' Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)."

posted by Xeni Jardin at 04:30:24 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Why fan fiction is so important

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, an editor at science fiction publisher Tor Books, posts this stirring defense of fan fiction, or fanfic:
In a purely literary sense, fanfic doesn’t exist. There is only fiction. Fanfic is a legal category created by the modern system of trademarks and copyrights. Putting that label on a work of fiction says nothing about its quality, its creativity, or the intent of the writer who created it.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year went to March, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, published by Viking. It’s a re-imagining of the life of the father of the four March girls in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Can you see a particle of difference between that and a work of declared fanfiction? I can’t. I can only see two differences: first, Louisa May Alcott is out of copyright; and second, Louisa May Alcott, Geraldine Brooks, and Viking are dreadfully respectable.

I’m just a tad cynical about authors who rage against fanfic. Their own work may be original to them, but even if their writing is so outre that it’s barely readable, they’ll still be using tropes and techniques and conventions they picked up from other writers. We have a system that counts some borrowings as legitimate, others as illegitimate. They stick with the legit sort, but they’re still writing out of and into the shared web of literature. They’re not so different as all that.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:19:01 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Hourglass-shaped desk-clock - lovely

This striking desk-clock is shaped like an hour-glass, with hours displayed on the bottom and minutes on the top. Link (via Popgadget)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:17:09 PM permalink | blogs' comments

New magazine from Make: Craft

 Images Covers Craftcover From the makers of MAKE -- CRAFT, a new magazine devoted making cool stuff. It's launching in Fall 2006 and will be edited by Carla Sinclair (my wife!). Link

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 01:51:53 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Make robo-logo

Picture 4-4 (Click on thumbnail for enlargement) I demonstrated the Gocco printer at the Maker Faire last weekend, and printed this little robot I drew onto the canvas bags handed out to attendees. Learn more about these cool printers at Save Gocco! Link

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 11:19:58 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Tattoos inspired by webcomics

200604251052 A gallery of ultra-nerdy tattoos from webcomics. This self-referential tattoo is my favorite. Link (thanks, Marisa!)

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 10:53:32 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Jenny Hart's roller derby embroidery patterns

Jenny Hart, founder of Sublime Stitching, just started selling her roller derby embroidery iron-on patterns for $3. Carla has used Jenny's patterns before (she embroidered a tiki dishtowel) and really enjoys it.
200604251039Flaming skates, a bat to thump rivals're set with this sheet. Iron these babies on your messenger bag or decorate a sweat towel to offer the jammer as she zooms by. She'll thank you later- if she doesn't roll over you first. Bruises not included.

One 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of multi-imprinting, iron-on embroidery patterns. Just iron on to any fabric and stitch along the lines. Each pack comes with complete instructions for getting started in embroidery!


posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 10:41:06 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Cory's a Locus Awards finalist in three categories

Just found out that three of my works from 2005 are finalists for this year's Locus Award: Best Fantasy Novel (Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town), Best Novella (Human Readable) and Best Novelette (I, Robot). Thanks to everyone who voted for me -- fingers crossed for the win in one or more of those catgories! Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 06:59:13 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bossa Nova greats cover Disney songs

I just scored Bossa Disney Nova, a Japanese CD of legendary Brazilian bossa nova artists performing groovy, loose interpretations of Disney classics. It's completely enchanting: with performances like the Jota Morales Group's "Parada Eletrônica na Rua Principal" (Main Street Electrical Parade) and especially the demented DJ 524's Incredible Samba Band mix "Mickey Mouse Club Samba" you can't miss. It's just genius. Link (Amazon's pulled their listing for this, here's the same CD at Amazon UK)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 06:02:06 PM permalink | blogs' comments

How fiction paperbacks lose or make money

Livejournaller and Tor employee Anna Louise has posted a brilliant, engrossing exposition on the economics of fiction publishing -- how a publisher makes or loses money on a book. It uses real numbers from real books to illustrate in painstaking depth how marketing, printing, and preparation costs interact with margins from different retailers and wholesalers to make or break a book. I think that every writer alive (myself included) harbors some cherished illusions about how publishing works. This lucid, entertaining and vivid portrait of the inside workings of a fiction publisher is an excellent way to disabuse yourself of them.
Book #1 is a mass market romance novel called Crichton is an Idiot by a brand new author named Aeryn Sun. She doesn't know anyone, and no one's heard of her. You, her loving and caring editor, call in every single favor you've got, but no one has time. You do not take this as a bad sign that no one really likes the book at all, but you take everyone at their word. (This is your mistake. Although, of course, you've already bought the book -- there's not much you can do at this point.) Your closest friend, an author who sometimes hits the Waldenbooks Top 20 Romance List, gives Aeryn a pity blurb.

"Crichton is an Idiot is a romp through a crazy alternate reality!" --nationally bestselling author Buffy Summers

At the meetings, people shake their heads and sigh, but you are an obnoxious editor who loves your book. You bother people enough until your publisher gives you a full page 4/c (four color -- aka full color) ad in Romantic Times BookClub Magazine, and puts four other small books in the ad, so the price gets split. You bug more people, and you get 4/c bound galleys and a mailing to a couple of independent bookstores and a bookmark for the author to hand out.

The publisher tells you to get some in house reads, because she isn't sure this is a wise use of resources -- without blurbs, you're going to have a hard time. Plus, you're on your second cover -- the art department just can't get it right. You spent $4,500 hiring an artist. Now the art director is working on the cover himself, using stock art. You still have to pay for stock art -- it costs $1,400.

Link (via Copyfight)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:52:19 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Tom Rielly on Maker Faire

Tom Rielly of TED wrote a great review of the Maker Faire on the TED Blog.
200604241607Where can you find a man riding a giant giraffe robot, a fire-spewing electric cart equipped with sheep's wool seats, a plug-in Prius that gets 100 mpg, teams playing Segway Polo, model rocket launches, fashion shows with inflatable dresses, and parents and children enjoying every minute of it? Why, at Make: magazine's first ever Maker Faire, held this weekend in San Mateo, CA, bien sûr.

Update: Here's Bonnie Burton's review of the show.

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 04:08:06 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Pokemonetise: Making money off of obsessive collection response

Some nice new jargon: "Pokemonetise: to make money by appealing to the stupid human instinct to collect dumb things." I have been lured in by pokemonetising more than once, I admit. Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:31:54 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Photogs: tell your TSA horror-stories here

Tyler sez, "Kathleen Shafer, an MFA candidate at the Maryland College Institute of Art, has created a blog to ask photographers to email her with their TSA-related horror stories. Mostly she's soliciting stories of how TSA has failed to follow its own guidelines in handling film and/or cameras at airport security screening stations, potentially destroying film. This is a big deal to photographers: Imagine spending $1500 to travel and shoot for an upcoming gallery show, only to have TSA destroy it at a screening station." Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:30:10 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Proposal to let employees use personal laptops

Here's a fascinating proposal for anywone who's ever fought corporate IT for the right to use their personal laptop at work, or on the road (and who wants to carry two laptops?):
Basically treat the employee's laptop as you would treat the employees's pants: require it, pay the employee enough to buy it, and provide the infrastructure that works with it, but that's all. Give the employee the price of one laptop per two years, plus, say, the price of one major troubleshooting session per six months.
Link (via Kottke)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:28:46 PM permalink | blogs' comments

DMCA revision proposal will jail Americans for "attempting" infringment

A new proposed set of amendments to the US's loathsome DMCA -- the 1998 copyright that paves the way to censorship, arresting security researchers, and creating monopolies for entertainment and DRM companies -- will make the law even worse. The Department of Justice has proposed the amendments to Congress, and IPac and others have action-pages up that will help you fight them. Texas's Lamar Smith sponsored a bill to pass the amendments into law. If you have the poser to campaign for Smith's opponent, the 2006 elections would be a good time to do so -- that guy's evidently so deep in Hollywood's pockets that he'll send Americans to jail for downloading music.

The new law would send you to prison for attempting to infringe copyright. It would make it even more illegal to own tools that could be used to remove copy-restrictions, like DVD-ripping software -- it could even bust Symantec for making software that removed the Sony rootkit malicious software that the company distributed with its CDs last year:

This is a concerted effort to escalate Hollywood's war on America by creating a generation of criminals and sending them off to jail. That's right: the "Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006" (IPPA) would double the authorized prison terms for existing copyright infringement, create a host of new offenses, and establish a division within the FBI to hunt down infringers. The Members of Congress in the pockets of the Hollywood cartels want to divert $20 million a year and FBI agents from fighting real criminals so they can go after people without computers.
Link (via Digg)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:27:02 PM permalink | blogs' comments

VIsta's endless parade of warnings won't create security

Vista, the new version of Windows, throws up an endless, irritating parade of "security" warnings anytime you do anything remotely out of the ordinary. Bruce Schneier nails how this will fail to create security, but will, instead merely cover Microsoft's ass:
Paul Thurrott: OK, fine. You can click a Continue button to "complete this operation." But that doesn't complete anything. It just clears the desktop for the next dialog, which is a Windows Security window (Figure). Here, you need to give your permission to continue something opaquely called a "File Operation." Click Allow, and you're done. Hey, that's not too bad, right? Just two dialogs to read, understand, and then respond correctly to. What's the big deal?

What if you're doing something a bit more complicated? Well, lucky you, the dialogs stack right up, one after the other, in a seemingly never-ending display of stupidity. Indeed, sometimes you'll find yourself unable to do certain things for no good reason, and you click Allow buttons until you're blue in the face. It will never stop bothering you, unless you agree to stop your silliness and leave that file on the desktop where it belongs. Mark my words, this will happen to you. And you will hate it.

Schneier: These dialog boxes are not security for the user, they're CYA security from the user. When some piece of malware trashes your system, Microsoft can say: "You gave the program permission to do that; it's not our fault."

Warning dialog boxes are only effective if the user has the ability to make intelligent decisions about the warnings. If the user cannot do that, they're just annoyances. And they're annoyances that don't improve security.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:18:48 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Limerick skewers SmartFilter

One of the winners of this year's BBSpot limerick contest skewers everyone's favorite dumbass censorware company, SmartFilter:
If SmartFilter can't tell porn apart
From a site that posts links to some art
(As BoingBoing likes to do),
And will block it for you,
Then their filter is not very smart.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:15:36 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Hole opens in home, swallows man

A massive hole suddenly opened up in the kitchen of an Alta, California home, swallowing the owner and killing him. From CNEWS:
Authorities say the home, built in the 1980s, may have been sitting atop a decades-old underground mine. Recent rains could have softened the ground under the home, in an isolated area near Lake Alta.

"It's unbelievable," Placer County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Dena Erwin said. "From the front of the house, it's absolutely normal. Then, in the middle of the house, is this enormous hole."
Link (via Fortean Times)

posted by David Pescovitz at 11:03:45 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Randy Glass, stipple master

 Images  Misc Misc Stipple Misc-Stipple-Cowboy-Boots  Images  Misc Misc Stipple Misc-Stipple-Elephant
Artist Randy Glass is best known as one of the Wall Street Journal's stipple portrait illustrators. I love his product, animal, and food illos too. Link (via Drawn!)

posted by David Pescovitz at 10:36:55 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Robots photoshopped into fine art

Today on the Worth1000 photoshopping contest: Robots inserted into fine art; I love love love this robotic adaptation of Don Quixote. Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 07:27:27 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Weird booms across the US

A series of strange window-rattling booms or rumbles have been heard and felt in recent months in Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, and, on April 4, in San Diego County. The latest disturbance was said to have set off car alarms, caused waves in a backyard pool, and shook double steel garage doors. It wasn't an earthquake. And the Federal Aviation Administration has no record of planes breaking the sound barrier at the time. Apparently, nobody seems to know what the hell caused the disturbance. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:
By noon on the day of the incident, The San Diego Union-Tribune was being inundated with e-mails from people wondering what could have caused the strange tremors.

“My garage door is double steel and it weighs about 500 lbs.,” a man in University City wrote. “It was rattling back and forth like a leaf in the wind for about 3 or 4 seconds.”

A Mission Beach resident compared the sensation to “somewhere in between an explosion and an earthquake.” A woman in Carmel Valley noted that the rattling was very distressing to her cats...

Among bloggers and Web-based conspiracy theorists, one of the leading explanations for the San Diego disturbance is that the military is testing a top-secret spy plane called the Aurora, which supposedly can travel several times the speed of sound.

“Sir, I've never even heard of that plane before,” an Air Force spokeswoman in Virginia responded when asked about the possibility.

Even UFO experts are baffled by what happened in San Diego. Asked whether a flying saucer might have caused such an event, Peter Davenport of the Seattle-based National UFO Reporting Center said, “Probably not.”

“UFOs almost never generate sonic booms or shock waves,” he added. “They accelerate so rapidly that they leave a vacuum in the sky, much the way lightning does.”
Link (Thanks, Loren Coleman!)

UPDATE: Many readers commented on the UFO expert's quote, pointing out that lightning causes thunder.

UPDATE: If you'd like to share your thoughts on this strange phenomenon, please follow the link to the San Diego Union-Tribune article and email the author, as per his request at the bottom of the story.

posted by David Pescovitz at 04:59:49 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Nepali photoblog with protest reports:

The photoblog is publishing many images each day from the ongoing demonstrations in Nepal. A post from Saturday describes a "sea of protestors" flooding Kathmandu, on the seventeenth day of a nationwide general strike.

Shown here, at left (link to source, shot by Shanker Kharel), this demonstrator has shaved a message into his head. I can't read it, but would welcome a translation from a BoingBoing reader. At right (link to source, shot by Chandra Sekhar Karki) police in Kathmandu beat a protestor with sticks.

The government has imposed a mandatory curfew in Kathmandu. A site admin's message on asks for reader forgiveness over resulting technical difficulties: "We are currently unable to upload your comments due to curfew... we apologize for this!"

Reader comment: Anonymous says,

You asked for a translation of "Loktantra". The Nepali language used "Prajatantra" to mean "democracy". "Praja" means "subjects" (of a King or monarch), so "Prajatantra" actually means "the rule of subjects", which obviously is unsatisfactory. So the new term "Loktantra" was coined. "Lok" means "folk" - so "Loktantra" would be full democracy, as opposed to a half-hearted version.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 04:22:23 PM permalink | blogs' comments

RIAA sues family that doesn't own a PC

The RIAA has filed a file-sharing suit against a family in Rockmart, GA. The family doesn't own a computer.

Good to see a real standard of care in place over there at RIAA sue-your-customers HQ; this is probably more profitable in the long run than suing people who do share music, since those people are statistically more likely to spend money on CDs. Focusing on shaking down people who don't own PCs will keep the music industry from alienating its diehard fans.

"I don't understand this," Walls said. "How can they sue us when we don't even have a computer?"

Walls also noted that his family has only resided at their current address "for less than a year." He wondered if a prior tenant of the home had Internet access, then moved, leaving his family to be targeted instead.

However, the RIAA's lawsuit maintains that Carma Walls, through the use of a file-sharing program, has infringed on the copyrights for the following songs: "Who Will Save Your Soul," Jewel; "Far Behind," Candlebox; "Still the Same," Bob Seger; "I Won't Forget You," Poison; "Open Arms," Journey; "Unpretty," TLC; No Scrubs," TLC; and "Saving All My Love for You," Whitney Houston.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:04:07 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Maker Faire photos

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BB pal Scott Beale of Laughing Squid posted his first set of photos from MAKE: Magazine's big Maker Faire happening this weekend in San Mateo. If you're in the area, please come by today! I was thrilled not only by the hundreds of projects and demonstrations but also the many thousands of people there of all ages walking around with wonder and delight in their eyes! Photos above: Jeffrey McGrew and Jillian Northrup of Because We Can, Mr. Jalopy's World's Biggest iPod, and one of the Faire's happy attendees.
Link to Laughing Squid post, Link to Maker Faire, Link to MakerFaire-tagged photos on Flickr

posted by David Pescovitz at 09:01:39 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Boing Boing ambigram

This Boing Boing ambigram is pretty cool -- it says "Boing Boing" both upside-down and right-side-up. Link (Thanks, Carlos!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:43:47 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Digital cameras have unique "noise" fingerprints?

A researcher at SUNY Binghamton reports that he can tell which camera took any given photo by matching the photo's unique "weak noise-like pattern of pixel-to-pixel non-uniformity."
Like actual fingerprints, the digital "noise" in original images is stochastic in nature – that is, it contains random variables – which are inevitably created during the manufacturing process of the camera and its sensors. This virtually ensures that the noise imposed on the digital images from any particular camera will be consistent from one image to the next, even while it is distinctly different.

In preliminary tests, Fridrich's lab analyzed 2,700 pictures taken by nine digital cameras and with 100 percent accuracy linked individual images with the camera that took them.

(via MeFi)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:42:02 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Court throws out RIAA attempt to sue little girl

A judge in Michigan has thrown out a case where the RIAA attempted to sue a small child for file-sharing, after failing in its attempt to prosecute the child's mother. The recording industry attempted to have a "Guardian Ad Litem" appointed, which would have made it possible to sue Britanny Chan, the daughter, who was 13 at the time of the alleged acts; they also sought to have Brittany's family pay for the expensive guardianship. They failed to meet the procedural requirements for this, and the court threw out their case. Link (Thanks, NelC!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:40:12 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Mitch Kapor: Politics is Architecture, and Architecture is Politics.

"I’ve become completely convinced that we need to begin a process of fundamental political change in the U.S.," says Mitch Kapor.

"Not in the form of a new party per se, but a new multi-faceted movement of ideas, organizations, and cultures, based around a vision of democracy which is fundamentally open, participatory, and decentralized."

Kapor is developing those ideas on his blog (posts so far: 1, 2, 3). Here's a preliminary peek at what he's thinking (article continues after the jump):

When it comes to building a new movement, the converse proposition, “politics is architecture” holds true as well. The architecture (structure and design) of political processes, not their content, is determinative of what can be accomplished.


posted by Xeni Jardin at 02:54:52 PM permalink | blogs' comments fight to preserve 'net neutrality

Snip from the manifesto for, which launches on Monday:

We believe that the Internet is a crucial engine for economic growth and democratic discourse. We urge Congress to take steps now to preserve network neutrality, a guiding principle of the Internet, and to ensure that the Internet remains open to innovation and progress.

Network neutrality is the Internet’s First Amendment. Without it, the Internet is at risk of losing the openness and accessibility that has revolutionized democratic participation, economic innovation and free speech.

From its beginnings, the Internet was built on a cooperative, democratic ideal. It has leveled the playing field for all comers. Everyday people can have their voices heard by thousands, even millions of people. Network neutrality has prevented gatekeepers from blocking or discriminating against new economic, political and social ideas.


posted by Xeni Jardin at 02:46:20 PM permalink | blogs' comments

South Carolina may outlaw sex toys

Death penalty? Check! Handguns? Check! "Hello Kitty" vibrators? Bzzzzt! Banned in South Carolina, if a proposed bill is made law:
Lucy’s Love Shop employee Wanda Gillespie said she was flabbergasted that South Carolina’s Legislature is considering outlawing sex toys. But banning the sale of sex toys is actually quite common in some Southern states.

The South Carolina bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Ralph Davenport, would make it a felony to sell devices used primarily for sexual stimulation and allow law enforcement to seize sex toys from raided businesses.

Link (thanks, Baptiste)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 02:13:52 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Library design from salvaged passenger jets

Memepunks sez,

Architects Lot-Ek have designed a public library made from the reclaimed fuselages of 727/737 passenger jets. The fuselages are the one part on an airliner that is more expensive to recycle than it is to just junk. Hundreds of old jet bodies litter the countryside, and now someone finally found a use for them.
Link to an architectural news website from Argentina (the architects' own website is all crudded up with Flash, with no direct linking possible to the library design images).

posted by Xeni Jardin at 01:50:50 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Knitta, please: urban "knit tags" for purls gone wild

"Knit taggers" craft unsolicited cozies for stuff out there in the world like car antennas, door handles, and stop signs, unleashing a fury of fuzzy on an unsuspecting public. How you like my stitches, bitches? Link (thanks, Grace M)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 01:41:39 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Chernobyl, 20 years later: "Nuclear Nightmares"

At the Pixel Press website: "Nuclear Nightmares," a stunning series of photographs by Robert Knoth with reporting by Antoinette De Jong.

The photo-essay documents the ongoing human impact of Chernobyl on those who survived, their children, and the extended communities around them.

This photo (link to full-size), taken by Knoth in Minsk, Belarus:

Twin brothers Michael and Vladimir Iariga, 16 years old. Michael, with hydrocephalus, is five minutes older than Vladimir, who is deaf.

(...) Some areas in the closed zones around Chernobyl are so contaminated that they will have to remain closed off for up to 900 years.

Link (thanks, Ray Brown)

Reader comment: Mike says,

Thanks for letting people know that there are still repercussions from the Chernobyl disaster 20 years later. I've been fortunate to work with the Chernobyl Children's Project based in Boston as they help children in the region who suffer from radiation-related ailments. CCP provides medical care to those in need and, thanks to the generosity of volunteer host families, brings groups of children to the U.S. for month-long visits. A series of events to commemorate the anniversary of the disaster and to make sure these children aren't forgotten.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 01:32:34 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Man with 12 nails in his head

An Oregon man suffering from a terrible headache went to a hospital for an examination. Turns out he had 12 nails in his head. And he had put them there himself. From the Associated Press:
The man at first told doctors he had had a "nail gun accident." It wasn't until later that the patient admitted he'd used meth and the injury was a suicide attempt.

The patient was in remarkably good condition when he got to OHSU, according to the study. While even one nail to the head can be fatal, these nails came close to major blood vessels and the brain stem but did not pierce either.

The nails still posed a threat to the patient's health and doctors decided to operate quickly. Because of the number of nails, doctors decided to fully sedate him rather than keep him partially awake, which is done in some surgeries to monitor neurological responses.

Surgeons were able to remove the nails with needle-nosed pliers and a drill because the nail heads did not penetrate the skull.

UPDATE: BB reader Jason Gill recalled that the 2001 Darwin Awards honored another gent who shot himself a dozen times in the head with a nail gun and lived. Link

posted by David Pescovitz at 11:49:44 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Friday, April 21, 2006

CIA fires senior officer over secret prison leaks

Snip from NYT article:
The Central Intelligence Agency has dismissed a senior career officer for disclosing classified information to reporters, including material for Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in The Washington Post about the agency's secret overseas prisons for terror suspects, intelligence officials said Friday.

The C.I.A. would not identify the officer, but several government officials said it was Mary O. McCarthy, a veteran intelligence analyst who until 2001 was senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, where she served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush.


posted by Xeni Jardin at 08:24:44 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Chernobyl: 20 years ago this month.

On 26 April 1986, at 1:23 AM, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded. The radiation released was over a hundred times more than that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At, a site dedicated to the longterm consequences of the disaster, there's a list of commemoration activities planned around the world for April 26, 2006. The site also contains historic details, an extensive index of projects aiding survivors, and interviews with people who lived through the disaster.

A related NPR news item ran today: "Voices of Chernobyl': Survivors' Stories" by Melissa Block featured some incredibly moving personal accounts from survivors who lost friends, family, and all their worldy posessions: Link to archived audio.

There are plans to install a new, billion-dollar cover over the disaster site to more effectively contain the 200 tons of radioactive fuel still present. The structure will cost about a billion dollars, and is scheduled to be in place by 2009. More info here, and NPR also ran a story on this today with background from Warren Stern of the U.S. State Department: Link.

A "sarcophagus" -- a steel and concrete shell built soon after the disaster to contain the radiation is increasingly unstable. Engineers plan to slide an enormous Quonset hut-shaped cover over a breached reactor to keep more radiation from reaching the atmosphere.

(image: Vladimir Repik/Reuters, 1986. "An aerial view of the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after its explosion.")

posted by Xeni Jardin at 08:01:35 PM permalink | blogs' comments

In memoriam: Computing pioneer Kathleen Antonelli

Jessica Reed says:
Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli,one of the earliest computer programmmers and widow of ENIAC and UNIVAC co-inventor John Mauchly died last night at age 85.

She and other women mathmeticians were recruited to work on the secret ENIAC computer during WW2. Since then Antonelli contributed to the understanding of early computer history through speeches and articles.

I am one of 29 grandchildren of this entirely remarkable woman.

Link to a site with Ms. Antonelli's biography.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:31:56 PM permalink | blogs' comments CEO Steve Berkowitz ankles for MSN

Snip from WSJ article:
The Redmond, Wash., software maker next week is expected to announce that Steve Berkowitz is joining Microsoft as the vice president in charge of MSN, the Microsoft division that includes the MSN Internet portal and search businesses.

The appointment is part of a recent restructuring at Microsoft that attempts to retool the company to better compete with Internet search giant Google Inc.

Link (paid subscribers only) and here's an extensive entry on John Battelle's Searchblog with more background: Link.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 06:31:58 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Access to Knowledge copyfight con kicks off at Yale

David sez,
This evening is the start of the blockbuster Yale Law School ISP Access to Knowledge (A2K) conference. The conference's major goal is to bring together different strands of the A2K movement -- access to medicines, telecoms, textbooks, software, libraries, to name a few -- and build normative frameworks and coalitions to pave the way for substantial political change. Jack Balkin just kicked off the conference by arguing that A2K is not just an issue of economic development, it is a demand of justice and democratic participation.

The conference brings together an astounding collection of scholars, activists, and government officials to bang their heads together and help figure out how best to promote access to knowledge for human development. Among the leaders here are Sisule Musungu, Jack Balkin, Jamie Love, Manon Ress, Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Geidy Lung, Terry Fisher, Richard Jefferson, Yochai Benkler, Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, Theresa Hackett, Richard Owens, John Howkins, Ronaldo Lemos, Joaquim Falcao, Madhavi Sunder, Anupam Chander, Volcker Grassmuck, William Drake, Lawrence Liang, Michael Geist, Anriette Esterhuysen, and many many more. Wow.

Conference notes will go up on Lawmeme and the conference wiki. Speakers and the conference schedule are on the official site.

Link (Thanks, David!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:06:18 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Upcoming numerically cool dates in 2006

Some cool upcoming dates in 2006:
06:06:06 06/06/06 (6 minutes and 6 seconds past 6 on June 6th, 2006)

11:10:09 08/07/06 (10 minutes and 9 seconds past 11 on 8th of July 2006 in the UK system or on 7th of August 2006 in the US system)

(Thanks, Khurram!)

See also: A moment in time: 01:02:03 04/05/06

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:50:33 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Miroslav Tichý's home made camera

Ben says: "The Micheal Hoppen Gallery in London is holding an exhibition of Czech photographer / artist Miroslav Tichý, displaying some of his hand-developed prints. His photographs were shot on his home-made camera, which in itself is a work of art."
200604211532 Tichý wandered his small town in rags, pursuing his obsession as an artist with the female form by photographing in the streets, shops and parks with cameras he made from tin cans, childrens spectacle lenses and other junk he found on the street. He would return home each day to make prints on equally primitive equipment, making only one print from the negatives he selected.

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 03:33:50 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Hacker-con videos: "150 hours of hardcode nerd education."

Videos from the Chaos Communication Congress, a hacker con, are online -- Tim Pritlove calls this "150 hours of hardcode nerd education."
The 22nd Chaos Communication Congress (22C3) is a four-day conference on technology, society and utopia. The Congress offers lectures and workshops on a multitude of topics including (but not limited to) information technology, IT-security, internet, cryptography and generally a critical-creative attitude towards technology and the discussion about the effects of technological advances on society.

The Chaos Communication Congress is the annual congress of the Chaos Computer Club e.V. (CCC). The Congress has established itself as the "European Hacker Conference" bringing in people from all over Europe and even further away.

Link (Thanks, Jake!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:32:25 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Laptop stand designed for airplane seat-back tables

The Aviator laptop stand is specifically designed to elevate your laptop and position its screen on a narrow, cramped airplane seat-back tray. I nearly blew my wrists out writing novels on airplanes, typing with my hands practically vertical. This $20, flat-folding 9oz laptop stand could be a godsend if it works as well as it looks like it would. Link (via Gizmodo)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:21:42 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Floral-print pliers

These floral pliers are genius -- provided the finish holds up! Also: floral box-cutters! Now I want a floral nailgun! Link (via Gizmodo)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:18:55 PM permalink | blogs' comments

PimpMySnack: homemade, gigantic versions of snack food

PimpMySnack documents projects to recreate familiar snack foods at gigantic scale -- huge home-made candy bars ahoy!

Is this the biggest KitKat Chunky in the world – I do hope so! It looks magnificent, and whilst I chickened out of writing “ in chocolate dribbles on the top, I started to wonder how on earth this thing could be eaten. I should have realised. The chocolate is way too thick at the corners, but for a first attempt, it is something to be proud of, and to love.
Link (via Wonderland)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:11:03 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Cute tiki plush doll

200604211508 The excellent and gorgeous tiki blog, Humu Kon Tiki, has an entry about a neat-looking tiki plush doll, designed and made by Kristen Tercek. Link

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 03:10:44 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Mark Ryden's book, Fushigi Circus

Last Gasp is the only US company I know of that is selling Fushigi Circus, a 128-page book of Ryden's paintings.
200604211504"Fushigi Circus" is a hardcover, clothbound collection of the works of Mark Ryden. This Japanese language book features newer works, including Blood, Sweat, Tears, and The Creatrix, and a survey of 55 of Mark Ryden's most impressive works from past shows to the present.

Mark will have a book signing for "Fushigi Circus" at MOCA in Los Angeles, California on Saturday, May 13th, 3 pm to 5 pm:

MOCA Store
250 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 621-1710 • • mapquest directions

A special boxed limited edition of "Fushigi Circus" will be released in summer 2006. We'll send additional information about the boxed set as it becomes available.


posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 03:05:51 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Hypothetical and awesome US stamps

On the Worth1000 photoshopping contest: things you'd like to see on US stamps. I'm inordinately fond of plane-crash infographics as shown here, and also the Brady Bunch set, but there's tons more here to love. Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:04:10 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Thieves discover abandoned Soviet missile silo full of cash

Thieves who broke into a decommisioned missile silo in Kostroma, Russia discovered that the silo was full of expired Soviet Rubles, according to the Regnum news agency.
Four men from Nizhny Novgorod found the silo that had had missiles dismantled and put on maintenance decades ago in accordance with the Soviet disarmament program. They targeted the metals inside and said they had had no idea about the money hidden in the shaft.
Link (via JWZ)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 02:47:46 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Xeni cameo in Diesel Sweeties

Congrats to Xeni on her cameo in the nerd super-comic, Diesel Sweeties! Link (Thanks, Dennis!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 02:33:46 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Bush administration wants mandatory website labeling

Snip from a CNET report by Declan McCullagh:
Web site operators posting sexually explicit information must place official government warning labels on their pages or risk being imprisoned for up to five years, the Bush administration proposed Thursday.

A mandatory rating system will "prevent people from inadvertently stumbling across pornographic images on the Internet," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at an event in Alexandria, Va.

The Bush administration's proposal would require commercial Web sites to place "marks and notices" to be devised by the Federal Trade Commission on each sexually explicit page. The definition of sexually explicit broadly covers depictions of everything from sexual intercourse and masturbation to "sadistic abuse" and close-ups of fully clothed genital regions.

Link. Many responses brewing, including this one from the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA):
[W]e vigorously oppose an added measure included in the draft bill which would require Web sites with sexually explicit material -- material that is legal, but potentially harmful to minors -- to use a government-mandated labeling system. ICRA strongly believes that self- regulation of legal Internet content leads to the best balance between the free flow of digital content and the protection of children from potentially harmful material.

And ISPs are squarely in the crosshairs on this one. Snip from Red Herring article:

“The investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers,” he said. “This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time.

“Unfortunately, the failure of some Internet service providers to keep records has hampered our ability to conduct investigations in this area,” he added.

Mr. Gonzales said he has asked experts at the DOJ to examine the issue and provide him with recommendations. He plans to ask the heads of the major ISPs to cooperate with the effort.


posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:37:51 AM permalink | blogs' comments

In memoriam: aerospace pioneer Scott Crossfield

From the LA Times obituary:
Scott Crossfield, a legendary test pilot who became the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound in 1953 and later flew and helped design the X-15 rocket-powered research aircraft, was found dead Thursday in the wreckage of his single-engine plane in mountains near Ranger, Ga. He was 84.

Crossfield's plane, a Cessna 210A, was found about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta a day after it dropped off radar screens during a flight from Alabama to Virginia, authorities said Thursday. There were thunderstorms in the area when radar contact was lost; the cause of the crash was under investigation.

Link. Image (courtesy NASA): Scott Crossfield in cockpit of the Douglas D-558-2 after first Mach 2 flight in 1953. (thanks, Kazys Varnelis)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:31:33 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Graham Roumieu: how movie theaters suck

Graham Roumieu, one of my favorite illustrators, has a really funny graphix-essay on the CBC website about what's wrong with the movie theater experience today. Shown here:

Complaint 2:
The bathrooms are just too darn far to walk to.

Trekking all that distance: (a) is exhausting, and (b) takes so long that there is a good chance of missing some of the crucial plot points of Big Momma’s House 2 during the time you are gone. With the new discrete seat service, all you’ll have to do is hit a button on your armrest and an attendant will be with you promptly.

Link. Previous posts about Graham's work here.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:03:49 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Web Zen: ASCII zen

ascii art dictionary
ascii artist
image to ascii/html
ascii art wikipedia
Web Zen Home, Store (Thanks Frank!)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 10:58:32 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Video of dementedly awesome fake MacPlus video-game that never was

Paul Robertson's Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 is a completely bad-ass short film that I can't stop watching. I blogged some of the test-sequences for this one back in March, but now that the whole thing's online, I'm loving it even more.

Pirate Baby etc is a screen-movie made from a side-scrolling Mac Classic game that never existed, but should have. It's a demented flick in which two kung-fu player-characters kick the everloving crap out of zombies, monsters, and baddies in a series of progressively weirder battles whose power-ups, animations, and black-and-while pixel-gore are a delight to all the senses. Someone should make this game. Link (Thanks, Carla!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 08:50:23 AM permalink | blogs' comments