Boing Boing 

Noney - what's it worth?

Noney is money with a face value of zero. But the creator wants you to try buy stuff with it. Reminds me of the work of money artist J.S.G. Boggs. Link Discuss

The Insect Company - Oddities and rarities

Photo gallery of insect freaks, from The Insect Company, which sells insect specimens. Link Discuss (via Ookworld)

Island Chronicles -- "Welcoming Dance,"

Our latest Island Chronicles dispatch, entitled "Welcoming Dance," is now up on the LA WEEKLY web site.

Link (To see past dispatches go to archives) Discuss

Karl Schroeder's Permanence wins the Aurora Award!

Congratulations are due: my friend and writing collaborator Karl Schroeder won the Aurora Award -- Canada's answer to the Hugo -- today, for best novel, for his book Permanence.

Permanence is Karl's second novel, and it's brilliant -- at its core is a massive, hard-sf conceit: that because tool-use expends more energy than adaptation (i.e., when confronted with a marsh, it's easier to be a marsh-bird than to figure out how to drain it), that over time, all the races of the universe will use genetic engineering to adapt themselves to their habitats and so become nonsentient. Layered on top of that are braided adventure stories, religious cults, and a kind of intellectual property imperialism driven by smart dust and twisted by lightspeed lags. This is the kind of book that changes you, and he deserved the hell out of this award.

Go, Karl! Link Discuss

Suburbia makes you fat

Suburbs built without sidewalks are strongly correlated with net weight gain for residents of those regions: John Q. Roundass of the Levittown Roundasses, at your service.
All other factors being equal, each extra degree of sprawl meant extra weight, less walking, and a little more high blood pressure, he concluded. Someone living in the most sprawling county - Geauga County outside Cleveland - would weigh 6.3 pounds more than if that same person lived in the most compact area, Manhattan.
Link Discuss (via Futurismic)

Ping Pong in The Matrix

A funny performance piece from Japanese (?) TV depicting an anti-gravity game of Ping Pong. Link Discuss (Thanks Vann!)

Female Baghdad blogger

Baghdad Burning is (another) blog written by an Iraqi with a very good command of English and a nice, breezy prose-style. However, the blogger here is a woman, and her perspective is different enough from Salam Pax's that this makes for a fascinating counterpoint (or at least alternative) to his very good blog.
The Myth: Iraqis, prior to occupation, lived in little beige tents set up on the sides of little dirt roads all over Baghdad. The men and boys would ride to school on their camels, donkeys and goats. These schools were larger versions of the home units and for every 100 students, there was one turban-wearing teacher who taught the boys rudimentary math (to count the flock) and reading. Girls and women sat at home, in black burkas, making bread and taking care of 10-12 children.
Link Discuss (via William Gibson)

Teslar Watch: Tinfoil beanie for your wrist

Celebrities and other fools are availing themselves of the Teslar Watch, a wrist-watch that purports to deflect radiation from its wearer. The Wired News headline, "A Watch Powered by Snake Oil," says it all -- and whomever wrote it deserves a raise for pithy wit.
"There is not a chance in the world that (these types of devices) will do anything but lighten your wallet," said John Moulder, a professor of radiation oncology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who said he's seen a slew of products that claim to do the same thing, including radio-frequency-proof lingerie.

Harezi first developed the Teslar chip in 1986 to help people with extreme sensitivity to electricity, from televisions to vacuum cleaners. She said the "environmentally handicapped" people who wore the watch were able to resume their lives.

Link Discuss

Sterling on Open Cultures

Bruce Sterling's latest column in Wired is a snarling and sharp-edged commentary on the Open Cultures conference in Vienna:
Logically - indeed, free-software geeks are the most logical hippies in the whole wide world - the revolution is at hand. Why should anybody pay for software? What do you get for your money besides shrink-wrap licenses, potential lawsuits, DRM cuffs around both wrists, and a cloud of viruses? "Property relations" are blocking social and technical progress. Secure computing and digital rights management are coercive regimes that would make George Orwell blush. The free market is a tissue of political fiction as brittle as an Eastern European regime. With open source code on tap, the software trade will collapse under its own weight.
Link Discuss

Prisoners' Inventions: MacGuyver meets the prison system

Prisoners' Inventions is a small-press book comprising an illustrated guide to the ingenious folk-art-cum-contraband manufactured by artisans in America's prison system, from toilet-roll chess-sets to this "water lighter." This stuff makes a joke out of MacGuyver and Gilligan's Island's Professor -- (often) brilliant inventions, refined by thousands of inventors who have necessity in plenty, and passed folklorically from one prisoner to another. Link Discuss (via FARK)

Robert Anton Wilson for Governor

bOING bOING patron saint Robert Anton Wilson is running for California Governor! "After all, why should I remain the ONLY nutcase in California who ain't running," RAW says.
My party, the Guns and Dope Party, invites extremists of both right and left to unite behind our shared goals of:

1. Get those pointy-headed Washington bureaucrats off our backs and off our fronts too!

2. Guns for everybody who wants them; no guns for those who don't want them

3. Drugs for everybody who wants them; no drugs for those who don't want them

4. Freedom of choice, free love,free speech, free Internet and free beer

5. California secession -- Keep the anti-gun and anti-dope fanatics on the Eastern side of the Rockies

6. Lotsa wild parties every night by gun-toting dopers

7. Animal protection -- Support your right to keep and arm bears
More position papers will follow; we know at least 69 good positions.

I haven't been this excited about politics since RU Sirius ran for President! Link Discuss

My WorldCon reading, tomorrow at 5PM

Going to be at WorldCon? My reading is tomorrow night -- Friday -- at 5PM, in the Convention Center, room 203A. I'm going to be reading from the new 21,000-word novella I wrote last week -- your only chance to get at this story between now and its eventual publication, likely a year away.
Trish gathered her staff in the board room and wrote the following in glowing letters on the wall with her fingertip, leaving the text in her expressive schoolmarm's handwriting rather than converting it to some sterile font: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

Her staff, all five of them, chuckled softly. "Recognize it?" she asked, looking round at them.

"Pee-Wee Herman?" said the grassroots guy, who was so young it ached to look at him, but who could fire a cannonload of email into any congressional office on 12 hours' notice. He never stopped joking.

The lawyer cocked an eyebrow at him and stroked her moustache, a distinctive gesture that you could see in any number of courtv archives of famous civil-rights battles, typically just before she unloaded both barrels at the jury-box and set one or another of her many precedents. "It's Martin Luther King, right?"

"Close," Trish said.

"Geronimo," guessed the paralegal, who probably wasn't going to work out after all, being something of a giant flake who spent more time on the phone to her girlfriend than filing papers and looking up precedents.

"Nope," Trish said, looking at the other two staffers -- the office manager and the media guy -- who shrugged and shook their heads. "It's Gandhi," she said.

They all went, "Ohhhh," except the grassroots guy, who crossed to the wall and used his fingertip to add, "And then they assassinate you."

"I'm too tough to die," the lawyer said. "And you're all too young. So I think we're safe."

Link Discuss

Danny on the Beeb's Creative Archive

Danny O'Brien's got a good editorian in the Guardian today, explaining the BBC's Creative Archive project:
The BBC, in theory, shouldn't care how many times you share a copy of, say, Dixon of Dock Green. On the contrary, it should thank you. You're taking the hard work - and cost - out of distributing the works you have already paid for with your licence fee. So not only does the BBC not need to care about Napster and other file-sharing systems - it can actively take advantage of them. Distributing content in this way does not reduce the BBC's income, but it can reduce its costs. Copy protection devices and clampdowns on internet copying just get in the way of the BBC's mission.

Of course, simply allowing anyone to download and copy the BBC's output has its problems. While broadcasts are free, the BBC makes money selling DVDs and tapes of its work, and reselling to other countries. Not a great deal of money - less than 5% of the £3bn it receives in licence fees - but some.

Link Discuss

Fair and Balanced, the play

"Fair and Balanced" is a new one-act play by Brian Fleming:
Fair & Balanced is a scathing satirical attack on Fox News Channel and its claim of ownership to the words "fair and balanced." Playwright Brian Flemming, who co-wrote the Off-Broadway smash hit Bat Boy: The Musical, penned this dark one-act comedy in which "Fair" and "Balanced" are characters—they are prisoners held in an underground dungeon, and every night at 8 p.m. a foul character named "Bill O'Reilly" comes down into the dungeon to torture them.
Link Discuss (Thanks, Brian!)

2D animation's last days at Disney

David Koenig's written a sad and sharp account of the last days of the 2D animation department at Disney.
Eisner has expressed interest in reanimating Disney's classic 2-D features in 3-D.

A computerized Pinocchio, anyone? (In fact, much of the 3-D character animation for Walt Disney World's upcoming Mickey's PhilharMagic was so bad—in particular Ariel from The Little Mermaid—it had to be reanimated by 2-D animators, then transferred into the computer.) The tens of millions of dollars lost on Treasure Planet are fresh on Disney's mind—and executives are bracing for the worst with next spring's Home on the Range.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Greg!)

Franken's Lies book excerpted on Salon

Salon has run an excerpt from Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, a Fair and Balanced account of right-wing punditry that got him sued by Fox.
God began our conversation by clearing something up. Some of George W. Bush's friends say that Bush believes God called him to be president during these times of trial. But God told me that He/She/It had actually chosen Al Gore by making sure that Gore won the popular vote and, God thought, the Electoral College. "THAT WORKED FOR EVERYONE ELSE," God said.

"What about Tilden?" I asked, referring to the 1876 debacle.

"QUIET!" God snapped. God was angry.

God said that after 9/11, George W. Bush squandered a unique moment of national unity. That instead of rallying the country around a program of mutual purpose and sacrifice, Bush cynically used the tragedy to solidify his political power and pursue an agenda that panders to his base and serves the interests of his corporate backers.

Link Discuss

Kinetic human maze

North Pitney has built a human-sized maze that changes as you walk through it. Called the Intermap, the maze will be open from September 1-15 in a vacant storefront at a Berkeley strip mall. The Intermap reminds me of that movie The Cube which, by the way, I think would make a great play. Link Discuss (Via Dorkbot)

Burningman Bingo

Blogger and tech journalist Paul Boutin called for a Black Rock City version of Hipster Bingo, and you responded. BoingBoing reader Lev Johnson created the Burningman Bingo card, and here it is. Link to previous BB post, Discuss

Update: Numerous BoingBoing readers have e-mailed to ask why John Perry Barlow's head was selected to represent "A Bad Trip" (shown at left) That is not John Perry Barlow's head. That is Chuck Norris' head.

Station-wagons from the days when cars were cars and men were men and kids wanted to be cowboys

Beautiful gallery of vintage station-wagon ads. Link Discuss (Thanks, May!)

Sequel to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom on Salon

Tons of people have asked me if I'd do a sequel to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, my first novel. The answer is no. Well, yes and no.

I don't really write sequels. More than half the point of writing sf is thinking up new worlds, and sequels involve revisiting places I've left behind.

But this is different. A couple years ago, right after I sold the novel, I wrote a short-story set in the same world as the book, but a century or more later. It's a parable about Napster, and it's called Truncat, and today, Salon has published it. And you can read it for free.

First, Adrian got on the subway, opting to go deadhead for a faster load-time. He stepped into the sparkling cryochamber at the Downsview Station, conjured a helmet-mounted display (HUD) against his field of vision, and granted permission to be frozen. The next thing he knew, he was thawing out on the Union Station platform, pressed belly-to-butt with a couple thousand other commuters who'd opted for the same treatment. In India, where this kind of convenience-freezing was even more prevalent, Mohan had observed that the reason their generation was small for their age was that they spent so much of it in cold-sleep, conserving space in transit. Adrian might've been 18, but he figured that he'd spent at least one cumulative year frozen.

Adrian shuffled through the crowd and up the stairs to the steady-temp surface, peeling off the routing sticker that the cryo had stuck to his shoulder. His tummy was still rumbling, so he popped the sticker in his mouth and chewed until it had dissolved, savoring the steaky flavor and the burst of calories. The guy who'd figured out edible routing tags had Whuffie to spare: Adrian's mom knew someone who knew someone who knew him, and she said that he had an entire subaquatic palace to rattle around in.

A clamor of swallowing noises filled his ears, as the crowd subvocalized, carrying on conversations with distant friends. Adrian basked in the warm, simulated sunlight emanating from the dome overhead. He was going outside of the dome in a matter of minutes, and he had a sneaking suspicion that he was going to be plenty cold soon enough. He patted his little rucksack and made sure he had his cowl with him.

Link Discuss

Emerging Tech 3 call for participation

Hey, you! Doing something cool involving technology? Propose a talk for the O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference, where geeks show up and show off. Cheapest way to attend ETCON is to propose a talk! Seriously, we've done two of these so far, and number three is coming up February 9-12 in San Diego. The first two were stone brilliant techfests where my mind got utterly blown AT LEAST twice a day. The third's gonna be even better:
Interfaces and Services: Sherlock, Watson, and Dashboard; micro-content viewers and RSS; laptop, palmtop, hiptop, and cellphone interfaces; web services.

Social Software Software: for describing and exploring social connections, FOAF (friend-of-a-friend networks), Flash Mobs, MeetUp, and related applications.

Untethered: WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular networks; Rendezvous, SMS, and ad hoc networking; Symbian and J2ME mobile development environments.

Location: GPS/GIS technologies and devices, location based services, navigational devices, geospacial annotation tools, and visualization software.

Hardware Hardware: hacks and mobile devices, sensor arrays, RFID tags, TinyOS, and sub-micro computing.

Business Models: Who is putting a stake in the ground and attempting to build the new applications, network, and online culture -- and how are they doing it?

Link Discuss

Yahoo News is now available via RSS feed

Praise the code. Link, Discuss

Photos of 737 after assault by hail storm

Todd Lappin points us to "pretty amazing photos of in-flight damage to an EasyJet 737 caused by golfball-sized hail a few days ago, after takeoff from Geneva. As they say on all those police reality-TV shows, 'Incredibly, no one was hurt.'" Link Discuss

Lazyweb: Can someone make Burningman Bingo cards?

Paul Boutin, fellow hack and blogger, is en route to Black Rock City like me. He wonders aloud by e-mail: someone should make Burningman Bingo cards a la Hipster Bingo. So, to you, dear BoingBoing readers, I pose his question today. Tall Naked Dude Wearing Penis Gourd. Unwashed Chick on Ecstasy. Port-a-pottie. Mushroom Shaped Rave Tent. White Guy With El-Wire Woven Into His Dreadlocks. Help me out here, people. Discuss

Who uses Free MIT?

Two years ago, MIT "open sourced" its course-catalog, putting online the kind of course that most universities charge big bucks for as part of a "distance ed" program. Wired'd got a great piece on who uses MIT-free and why:
Lam Vi Quoc negotiates his scooter through Ho Chi Minh City's relentless stream of pedal traffic and hangs a right down a crowded alley. He climbs the steep wooden stairs of the tiny house he shares with nine family members, passing by his mother, who is stooped on the floor of the second level preparing lunch. He ascends another set of even steeper steps to the third level and settles on a stool at a small desk, pushing aside the rolled-up mat he sleeps on with one of his brothers. To the smell of a chicken roasting on a grill in the alley and the clang of the next-door neighbor's metalworking operation, Lam turns on his Pentium 4 PC, and soon the screen displays Lecture 2 of Laboratory in Software Engineering, a course taught each semester on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Here," he says, pointing at the screen. "This is where I got the idea to use decoupling as a way of integrating two programs."
Link Discuss

CAPPSII relaunched -- who needs the Constitution when you're fightin' air terrorism?

Bill Scannell sez,
CAPPS II testing has been restarted.

The Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration continues in its attempts to set up defacto internal border controls at our nation's airports.

In response to the collaboration of Galileo, a subsidiary of Cendant, Inc. in this test of the CAPPS II system, a disinvestment campaign has been launched.

Link Discuss

Cheaper By the Dozen appreciated

WashPo has published a really wonderful appreciation of Cheaper By the Dozen, the memoir of the family of Frank Gilbreth, pioneer of time-motion studies and all they begat -- including touch-typing and surgical procedure. The Gilbreths had 12 children, and they constituted a living labroatory for Gilbreth's kooky notions about efficiency.
My memories of "Cheaper by the Dozen" remained happy over the years, but it was with a measure of apprehension that I opened the book recently. The books of one's childhood rarely age well into one's late adulthood, no matter how affectionate (and dim) one's memories may be. Yes, I love C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower novels as much now as I did when I was a boy, but those are the rare exceptions; mostly the literary pleasures of childhood and adolescence are best left undisturbed in later years.

So it is a joy to report that "Cheaper by the Dozen" still reads remarkably well. It is not a work of literature and no claims will be made for it as such. It is about American family life at a time (the 1910s and 1920s) now so impossibly distant that today's teenage reader may be unable to connect with it. Yet families are families, then as now, and I like to think that young readers would respond to the Gilbreth family's joys and sorrows just as I and millions of other, older readers have.

The prose in "Cheaper by the Dozen" is unadorned and matter of fact, and its organizational structure is a bit difficult to detect, but what matters most is that it is a touching family portrait that also happens to be very, very funny. Paterfamilias Gilbreth is, to paraphrase the Reader's Digest, one of the most unforgettable characters you'll ever meet. His wife was by any standards a remarkable woman, but in the book her role is mainly that of mother and helpmeet. Yes, at a time when a female college graduate was still something of a rarity, she accumulated a bunch of degrees -- when she and Frank married one newspaper wrote, "Although a graduate of the University of California, the bride is nonetheless an extremely attractive young woman" -- but in these pages the limelight only occasionally falls on her.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Paul!)

Wired News: Burning Man never gets old

Wired News published a piece I wrote on this year's edition of Burning Man, which begins today in the Nevada desert. About 30,000 are expected to attend.
"The important thing about Burning Man is that it is the most experiential phenomenon I can think of," says [Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow, who has been making the yearly pilgrimage since 1997]. "It can't be turned into data in any useful way. You can't informatize it by blogging it, filming it or taking pictures of it, because so much of it can't be translated into information."

Burning Man volunteer Jim Graham isn't fazed when he hears the event derided by some as "Girls Gone Wild" with extra helpings of sand and drugs. "Any time someone makes that kind of generalization, I say 'Yeah! It's exactly like that,' and smile. In the beginning, I came for the spectacle. Now, I come back for the opportunity to interact with so many people who possess such mind-boggling creativity."

Sometimes first-time attendees get a little too mind-boggled. "One crew from Israel last year wanted to do a 24-hour falafel camp," Graham recalls. "I said, 'Guys, maybe you should just do it around dinnertime.' They became such a hit, they were all wiped out by the third day. It's still a temporary city of 30,000 in the middle of nowhere, so there are practical considerations. Bikes get stolen, people get in fights over how loud the trance music is, someone still has to coordinate port-a-potties. But it's like nothing else."

Link, Discuss

From RSS to radio with iSpeak It

iSpeak It is an OS X app that grabs a text file, performs a text-to-speech operation to turn it into a read-aloud audio file, then converts it to an MP3 and synchs it to your iPod. Pretty cool -- you could use a script to grab a bunch of news from your RSS reader, suck it into iSpeak It, turn it into an MP3, and put it on your iPod to listen to on your morning commute. Link Discuss (via iPod Hacks)

Neal Stephenson in Wired

Interesting, but frustratingly brief interview with Neal Stephenson in this month's Wired:
For the most part, Snow Crash turned out to be a failed prediction. People have shown limited interest in immersive 3-D technology, so I think it worked better as a novel than as a prognostication. But it provided a reasonable, coherent picture of a particular kind of entertainment technology. That sort of vision is valuable to engineers. Because of the way institutions work, an engineer ends up working on one part of a system but doesn't get to stand back and see the big picture. When engineering types speak highly of some science fiction writer, usually it's not because that person predicted the future. Rather, it's because he or she put together disparate ideas into a coherent vision that could be used as a road map by the people who are actually deploying such a technology.
Link Discuss