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Hobby Lobby, IUDs, and the facts

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide later this year whether a corporation can have religious beliefs. Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the science of birth control, and how it might inform the debate.

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This Day in Blogging History: Free Conan audiobooks; RIP JG Ballard; EFF vs bullshit patents

One year ago today
Great free reading of Robert E Howard's "Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast": This is the Ur-stuff, the sword-and-sorcery material that turned me into a stone Conan freak when I was 12 years old. It's all mighty thews and straining jaws and blood-drenched swords -- and pirates and sinuous dances and so on.

Five years ago today
JG Ballard (1930-2009): "Picturing the psychology of the future is what it's all been about." --JG Ballard

Ten years ago today
EFF waging war on bullshit Internet patents: EFF is going to start actively busting bullshit Internet patents, hunting down prior art and getting the USPTO to revoke the patents.

Kickstarting Maker's Alphabet: an ABC book that celebrates creativity

Melody writes, "We're grad students in the MFA Interaction Design program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. We launched a Kickstarter project called Maker's Alphabet. It's an ABC book that features whimsical illustrations and verses to celebrate creativity of all stripes."

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Scattered: Short film adapted from Ken MacLeod story

Joshua sez, "This atmospheric film is the first ever screen-adaptation of the work of award-winning sci-fi author Ken MacLeod. Scattered examines society's relationship with its past through a son's relationship with his father, and challenges our established ideas of destruction and terrorism through a crime that is as surprising as it is all-consuming. As all great sci-fi should, Scattered offers a vision of the future that illuminates the present."

McCloud's work is brilliant -- have a look at my review of his dystopian masterpiece Intrusion. (Thanks, Joshua!)

UK tax authority caught sneaking in plan to sell Britons' private financial records

Just weeks after a plan to sell "anonymized" sets of British health-records collapsed in the face of massive public criticism, a new plan has emerged to sell the country's tax records to companies and researchers, prompting an even more critical response. One Tory MP called the plan "borderline insane," and tax professionals are in an uproar. The plan was buried as a brief mention in the autumn budget. HMRC's defense rests on the idea that the information in the datasets will be anonymized, something that computer scientists widely believe is effectively impossible.

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Spooky music made by abusing turntables and cutting up and reforming vinyl records

Knitmeapony sez, "This is the raddest, most atmospheric thing ever. All kinds of delightful, spooky distortions, creepy static, half-heard voices and mashed-up music, created by physically altering vinyl records and record players and manipulating them as they go. A serious delight."

Craigslister seeks woman to sit in bathtub full of ramen noodles

Brooklyn women who have bathing suits, are down for a 30 minute soak in a tub full of ramen noodles, and are looking to make a quick $175: Look no further.

There's got to be an anime about this already.

Woman to sit in my bath tub full of ramen noodles (brooklyn) Thanks Tessa!

Tetraflex, treat dispensing dog toy

My dog Pretzel tries out another treat dispensing toy, this time it is the Tetraflex! This dimpled ball with cupped opening is simple, durable and has provided well over an hour of entertainment to a young Cavalier this evening.

I went with the medium size, knowing that Nemo, my Great Pyrenees, doesn't have a ton of interest in these types of toy. It is a pretty good size for dogs 15-40 lbs. A larger dog would destroy it. Perhaps the size Large is made of thicker rubber.

Tripple Crown Treat Dispensing Tetraflex Pet Chew Toy, Medium

Previously on Boing Boing:

Treat Triad dog puzzle

Another great dog distraction - the Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble

KONG Extreme dog toy

Kickstarting a film adaptation of "Dark Side of Disney" - guide to getting high, drunk & laid while on Disney vacation

Ricky sez, "Director Philip B. Swift has announced a feature-length documentary film called 'The Dark Side of Disney' based on Leonard Kinsey's travel guide of the same name, to feature topics like finding and buying dirt cheap park tickets and time shares, drinking around Epcot, having sex in the parks, obtaining and using drugs while on an Orlando vacation. The film has just hit Kickstarter, trying to raise $20,000. Last year Swift released 'The Bubble,' a documentary about the Disney-created town of Celebration just outside Walt Disney World."

The Dark Side of Disney [Amazon]

“The Dark Side of Disney” documentary film to explore adult side of theme park vacations, hits Kickstarter for funds [Ricky Brigante/Inside the Magic]

(Thanks, Ricky!)

On the Internet, no one knows you're not the mayor

Matthew says: "Peoria police raided a home, seized computers and phones, and hauled several people in to be questioned about who is running a fake Twitter account of Peoria's mayor." Mark 12

Get a load of these crazy old shoes for rich people


Moorish chopines likely evolved from wooden stilt shoes, like this pair of 19th century Ottoman qabâqi, which were worn by women to protect their feet from the heated floors of public bathhouses. Image courtesy the Bata Shoe Museum.

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says: "Hunter Oatman-Stanford just interviewed Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum, who has spoken to us in the past about high heels and flip flops. This time, we chatted with Elizabeth about chopines, an elevated form of footwear that was popular among aristocratic ladies and courtesans in 16th-century Italy and Spain."

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Get ready for Orphan Black's return tomorrow night with this season one recap

What constitutes a family? Are they the people who give you life, the people who raise you, or the people you choose as your support network? Or are they your identical clones created by a mysterious organization seeking to advance human evolution to the next level? That last one might not be a question most family dramas are interested in asking, but Orphan Black isn’t most family dramas.

Like the best sci-fi shows, BBC America’s addictive Orphan Black uses its fantastical lens to explore realities of the human condition. Where Battlestar Galactica examined politics and terrorism using a fleet of spaceships and Buffy the Vampire Slayer depicted the struggles of adolescence through demons and witches, Orphan Black uses human cloning to explore the nature of family. That unifying central theme, a slew of fantastic characters, and an absolutely stellar central performance (well, performances) from star Tatiana Maslany combine to make Orphan Black one of the best shows of 2013 and one you should absolutely check out before it returns for a second season on April 19.

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Army comes clean about its recruitment AI, accidentally discloses info about pedophile- and terrorist-catching chatbots that roam the net

Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Not too long ago, Boing Boing covered EFF's (at the time) unsuccessful attempt to retreive records about Sgt. Star (the Army's recruiter-bot) using the Freedom of Information Act. We've now received the files and compiled our research: It turns out Sgt. Star isn't the only government chatbot -- the FBI and CIA had them first.

The information about the terrorist/child-abuser bots only came to light because the spy agencies failed to fully redact their responses (the type was legible through the black strikeouts).

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Sword and Laser Podcast 171: The Martian Influx

The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club podcast hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of science fiction / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. Check out previous episodes here.

We're very excited that James S. A. Corey's The Expanse is being made into a TV series! Plus, we sat down to chat with Andy Weir and Daniel Suarez. We learn you shouldn't go for a publisher, but go for an audience, and why you should NOT tell your friends your stories but make them read what you write instead.

Read show notes here.

Sword and Laser is not just a podcast; we’ve also been a book club since 2007! Each month we select a science fiction or fantasy book, discuss it during kick-off and wrap-up episodes of the podcast, and continue that discussion with our listeners over on our Goodreads forums. So come read along with us, and even get a chance to ask your questions to the authors themselves!

Sword and Laser: Subscribe RSS | iTunes | Download this episode

Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree nominated for two Eisners

Congratulations, Ed!

"Hip Hop Family Tree," the roots-of-the genre series by Munhall-based comic-book artist/writer Ed Piskor (right), has been nominated for two Will Eisner Awards: best reality-based work and best lettering. Winners of the annual awards, considered the Oscars of the comics world and named for the pioneering comics creator and graphic novelist Will Eisner, will be revealed at a July 25 ceremony during Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Read Hop Hop Family Tree here at BB weekly; buy the collections from Fantagraphics.