Boing Boing 

Worst Beatles cover ever

Mrs Miller's Greatest Hits is a novelty vinyl rarity featuring a woman named Mrs Miller doing random covers in a kind of Aunt-Bea-contralto with really inappropriate crisp diction and crazy off-key whackiness (a reminder that the difference between crazy and eccentric is how much money you have). There are a couple of Real streams of her excruciating Beatles and Petula Clark covers linked off of this page.
Mrs. Miller's album is definitely over the top, but I get the very sinister feeling from the liner notes that while Miller herself may have been completely serious about what she was doing, whoever coaxed her to make this album was laughing on the inside, and probably egging her on to be even more extreme. The sarcasm is very subtle, just enough to give the wink to record collectors like us while keeping poor Mrs. Miller in the dark. References to her "impeccible diction" and "scintillating delivery" abound, as well as the accolade "one of the most interesting voices extant... one that brings to mind the tonal qualities of a Florence Foster Jenkins or a Mrs. B. J. Fangman".
Link (Thanks, miles!)

Elmore Leonard's 10 rules for writing

Elmore Leonard's ten rule for writers. Brilliant.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.

(this is my third link from Teresa Nielsen Hayden in one day, which has to be some kind of record) Link (via Making Light)

Tokyo Trader Vic's makes a mean goddamned mojito

The mojitos at the Tokyo Trader Vic's come in a ~8" tall block of ice, bored out to make room for the drink, served with a fat-ass novelty straw (that's a dinner-plate, shown for scale). 20,000 Yen! Link (Thanks, Howard!)

Boing Boing is grey for Grey Tuesday

Kottke's got the right approach: I can't afford the bandwidth to mirror the Grey Album, but Boing Boing is going grey for 24h to protest EMI/Capitol's heavy-handed response to DJ Danger Mouse's brilliant Grey Album project. Apologies for reduced legibility. is grey today because I believe that musical sampling without prior consent of the copyright holder should be legally allowed because it does our society more good than harm.

Capitol Records ships threatening Grey Tuesday letter

In honor of tomorrow's Grey Tuesday civil disobedience event (in which sites are encouraged to mirror copies of DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, which mixes together the Beatles' White Album and Jay Z's Black Album, a 3,000-pressing CD that attracted the maximal wroth of Capitol Records's bullying copyright lawyers), Capitol Records has already produced a threatening letter telling you just what you can expect if you take their precious. Good to see copyright protecting creativity here, by stamping it out -- as if the existence of this album will cost either The Beatles or Jay Z a single, solitary sale.
We are aware of the so-called "Grey Tuesday" event, sponsored by and described on the website as a "day of coordinated civil disobedience" in which participating sites will make the unlawful Grey Album available for downloading, distribution, and file-sharing in order to force "reforms to copyright law that can make sampling legal." Your site is listed among those that will engage in this openly unlawful conduct. Any unauthorized distribution, reproduction, public performance, and/or other exploitation of The Grey Album will constitute, among other things, common law copyright infringement/misappropriation, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment rendering you and anyone engaged with you in such acts liable for all of the remedies provided by relevant laws. These remedies include but are not limited to preliminary and permanent injunctive relief as well as monetary and punitive damages necessary to remedy your openly willful violation of Capitol's rights.
Link (Thanks, Kevin!)

Spam filters that are better than people

Interesting Slashdot thread about two spam-filters that score higher accuracy that human beings:
Based on a study by Bill Yerazunis of CRM114, the average human is only 99.84% accurate. Both filters are reporting to have reached accuracy levels between 99.983% and 99.984% (1 misclassification in 6250 messages) using completely different approaches (CRM114 touts Markovan, while DSPAM implements a Dolby-type noise reduction algorithm called Dobly).

TSA mistakenly nabs one of its own

Henry sez: "Another Brazil-style 'Tuttle-Buttle' situation:"
Michael Bills thought he had a pretty good gig with the federal Transportation Security Administration. His job as a screener at Love Field was government work--good bennies, nice retirement package. An ex-Marine and former quality inspector for a company in Garland before he was laid off, Bills says he even turned down other potential employers to stick with the TSA, where he worked for about 12 months.

Then the TSA fired him last October; said he failed to pass his background security check. Even worse, the TSA called him a sex offender--and worse than that, a child molester.

Except he isn't. The TSA--remember, these are the people who are supposed to weed out the terrorists from the regular airline passengers--got the wrong man.

"What hurt me the most is they accused me of being a sex offender," Bills says. "To me, that's the worst thing you can do."


FBI shuts down entire ISP to investigate one customer

Eli the Bearded sez: "The FBI completely shut down an ISP by confiscating all its servers for about a week. Gotta love that sensitivity to keeping a business viable."
According to the warrant, it appears that the Bureau is investigating whether someone hosted on our network hacked and attacked someone else.

After several hours of attempting to track down, inspect and audit the terabytes of data that we host, the FBI determined that it was more efficient (from their point of view) to remove all of our servers and transport them to the FBI local laboratories for inspection. This was completed at 7:00 pm EST same day.

The FBI has assured us that as soon as the data has been safely copied and inspected, the equipment will be promptly returned. Unfortunately, the FBI has not been able to tell us when they will be completed with their inspection.


Chris Siebenmann sez: " This may not be what it seems. At least some people in the newsgroup believe strongly that Foonet/ are either spammers or active, knowing supporters of spammers. The FBI raid was reported in NANAE, in a thread starting at message-ID Xns949086FF99721bruns2mbitcom@, and it has been suggested (strongly) that it may not have anything to do with the reason that is claiming for it.

"Both SPEWS and Spamhaus have listings for some or all of Foonet. The SPEWS listing is and the Spamhaus listings can be accessed through their SBL-search-by-ISP web page (under '', not '')."

Stuart Hughes covering Tehran elections

Stuart Hughes, the incredibly brave blogger and BBC reporter whose work I've posted about previously on BoingBoing, writes:
Greetings, Xeni, from Tehran! I managed to get an Iranian visa to come over and cover the elections. This afternoon I've uploaded what could be the very first Iranian videoblog...take a look at
(and yes, as Cory blogged -- I'm on the road in Central America this week, so blogging will be thin where I'm concerned... please send suggestions via our form, not by email to me personally).

Help take apart a pro-war astroturf letter

If you recently received a letter in support of the Iraq war, urging you to pass it along to your local paper, have a look at Teresa Nielsen Hayden's online, interactive, participatory shredding of it before you do:
Let's look at the "worst" president and mismanagement claims.

FDR led us into World War II. Germany never attacked us: Japan did. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost, an average of 112,500 per year.

Germany declared war on us shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

As for direct attacks, on 31 October 1941 a German sub attacked and sank the Reuben James in the North Atlantic. You can look it up. There's even a song.


John Shirley on The Nader Illusion

John Shirley has some smart things to say about Nader:
The Nader Illusion is that both major parties are alike. He claims the Demos and the GOP are just the same, both beholden to special interests to such a degree that they're essentially paralyzed, no point in choosing one over the other. This is mostly hogwash. Yes they're beholden to special interests, but there are limits on that factor, and in fact there is a very distinct policy difference between the two parties. It *matters* which one you choose. There's not a chance that Gore would have supported --or that Kerry will support --a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Bush will try to push one through and with a Republican congress he may well succeed. Gore or Kerry--never happen. And this is a watershed issue, like so many that distinguish GOP and Dems. Such an amendment erodes the distinction between church and state, sets a bad precedent, and of course puts a Constitutional imprimatur on discrimination against a class of people, gays.

Bush has been a one-man environmental disaster, weakening the clean air and water acts, allowing mercury and arsenic pollution to go on. Gore would NOT have done this. The air will be dirtier because Bush was elected.

Gore would have encouraged an increase in the minimum wage; Bush is against it. People will be paid less because Bush was elected.

Too many special interests? Yes and that needs to be changed. But it matters which party you choose. Nader's preaching a fantasy.


Vanity Fair article: John Ashcroft is nuts

Mike Harris sez: Vanity Fair article on John Ashcroft from February 2004 issue. Among other things, describes how Ashcroft fears calico cats, how he attended opponent Mel Carnahan's funeral against the family's wishes, how Ashcroft's dad put him at the controls of a plane with no training at age 8, and how parts of Justice Department boilerplate were altered because they conflicted with the Seven Deadly Sins." Link

Weblog of Fortean phenomena

Undiscovered is a nice looking site that reports on unusual "Fortean" style events, and takea a particular interest in a 19th century priest in France who built a lavish church, Rennes le Chateau, which is full of still-undeciphered symbols. Link

Here are some pics of the Rennes le Chateau.

Cory signing/reading at San Francisco's Booksmith this Wednesday

A reminder: I'm doing a signing and a reading for Eastern Standard Tribe at 7PM this Wednesday at San Francisco's Booksmith in the Haight at Clayton. This'll be my last west-coast signing for the foreseeable future -- hope to see you there! Link

SXSW set-list available over iTunes on free WiFi networks

Jim sez, "My friend Rich in Austin is running LESS networks, a 'free wifi' startup that actually has a revenue plan. The first real crack of this involves making the SXSW '04 set list available via iTunes at any of their 25 Austin locations." Link

Personal Nautilus sub

This guy has built an 18' long personal replica of the Nautilus sub from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Link (Thanks, Lev!)

Phone-support confessions

Salon's continuing its series of workplace horror stories with the inside story of an outsource telephone tech-support outfit where the only thing the staff know how to do is keep call-times down, but are clueless as to how to fix any tech problem you may have.
A punter is someone who gets rid of problems by giving them to someone else. Punters tell customers that their problem is not really with their computer, but with their software, their printer, their phone lines, solar flares, whatever they can make sound believable. Then a punter will look at the piece of paper hanging above their phone and read you those four magic words. We don't support that. If you want your problem fixed, a punter will tell you, you'll have to call someone else...

Ted is someone I don't speak to. Ted is a formatter. Ted, and those like him, have only one solution to their customers' problems. Erase everything on the computer's hard drive and start over from scratch. While this can be effective for solving all sorts of software troubles, it's like amputating someone's leg to fix an ingrown toenail. The solution is usually worse than the problem. Most times Ted doesn't actually follow through with his plan. The entire strategy is just a bluff. Most people will balk at the proposition of losing everything and decide they can live with whatever problem they've called to complain about. At the very least they'll decide to hang up, back up their data, and call back -- at which point they'll become someone else's problem.


Tube-map as constellation-strewn sky

An apopheniac's illustrated guide to unintentional animals hidden in the constellations of the London tubemap. Link (via Kottke)

How to get an agent

Teresa Neilsen Hayden's essay about how to get a book agent and how not to get a rotten book agent is fantastic.
Not very helpful agents have some knowledge of and connection with the industry, but what they know isn't current, and the people who were their best connections at various houses no longer hold those positions. They tend to have one or two notable clients plus a bunch of small fry and marginal types. These agents have two virtues: they won't deliberately cheat you, and they can get you past the "agented mss. only" barriers. It's still a bit like marrying someone you don't care for because at least that way you'll get laid: the imagined benefits will rapidly pall, while the underlying discontents will only become more irritating.

Mediachest has a Boing Boing group

Nick Douglas has started a Boing Boing group on the media sharing network, Mediachest. There are currently only four members but they are sharing 400 items! Link

ZigBee Spins The Carousel of Progress Forward

I wrote an article about a new wireless standard called ZigBee for TheFeature.
ZigBee, which operates at 2.4-GHz, is two-way so it'll be able to log your house's electric, water, gas usage, and send it to your computer for analysis. (That way, you'll have documented evidence next time you yell at your kids for leaving the lights on.) Because ZigBee has a range of only about 30 feet, and sends data in infrequent bursts, batteries could last for a couple of years without having to replace them. Light switch and thermostat manufacturers have joined the ZigBee alliance, along with the usual suspects, such as Philips, Motorola, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard.

A recent analyst report issued by West Technology Research Solutions estimates that by 2008 "annual shipments for ZigBee chipsets into the home automation segment alone will exceed 339 million units," and will show up in "light switches, fire and smoke detectors, thermostats, appliances in the kitchen, video and audio remote controls, landscaping, and security systems."


Infrequent updates this week

Some people have written in asking about blog updates:

I'm really busy preparing for my move (see the FAQ if you have any questions -- particularily about getting together in Toronto or London) and will likely only be blogging a few announcements as I get ready for my departure over the next week or so. Xeni's trekking in latinamerica, and so she's off the grid. Mark and Pesco are still blogging, but with half the team away this week, it might get a little slow around here.

Mediachest -- like eBay, except you borrow instead of buy

Michael sez: "Mediachest is a social software site that allows users to inventory their collection of physical media items and search the collections of their friends and friends-of-friends for items such as DVDs or books that they would like to borrow. The site facilitates the borrowing and loaning of these items in a similar way to how Ebay facilitates online auctions -- there are user profiles, feedback pages, and rankings. In addition to searching the collections of friends you are able to see the items of people that are geographically close to you, or that are members of groups that you associate with (such as a student organization, gym, or work place group)." Link

Decease: The 'zine people are dying to read!

Last summer, I posted that Boing Boing pal Meri Brin was seeking submissions for her new 'zine Decease, about the "cuture of death." This weekend, the first issue debuts at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco! APE is *the* gathering/conference/market for independent 'zine, comic, and book publishers. Congrats, Meri! Link

Collective buying concern for flowers to queued-up SF gay betrothed couples

Given the high cost of shipping flowers to queued-up gay couples waiting to get married in San Francisco, Darren Barefoot is putting together collective flower-buys to save on shipping costs.
Hence, Flowers for Al and Don. I'm using a PayPal account to collect money, with which I'll buy bouquets in bulk for the couples in line. You can donate as much or little as you please, and I pledge that every cent (minus the PayPal fees) that I receive will go to this project. If make a donation, and want your name and/or Web site to be listed below, let me know when making your payment in PayPal.

Build handcranked automata from books of die-cut parts

Wacky Neighbor sez: "I just ran into this while googling Die Fledermaus. Little origami robots for the desktop. They call 'em paper automata, and they're trying to sell them as executive toys. Although I think their real market is the geek sector. And given the lascivious movement of the witch, I think with minor redesigns, they could have a future in the risque novelty market. Whether the titular flying pig appears at life's lineups, a la Kids in the Hall, is another matter." Link


My friend Racelle has made some amazingly useful baby bags. They work well as computer bags, too. Carla and I use them all the time. (And I designed her website, too). Racelle's going to start offering dad-friendly patterns. I'm trying to talk her into making one with J.R. "Bob" Dobbs' smiling mug. Link

Send flowers to a random couple at SF City Hall

A Minnesotan got the idea to have congratulatory flowers delivered to a random gay couple on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, and now s/he's trying to start a movement.
He called a florist and they agreed to do it. He told them to deliver to any couple -- it didn't matter who -- standing in line to get married, with his blessing. The card will read simply "With love, from Minneapolis, Minnesota."

Once they understood, they were very touched and thought it was a great idea.

He told another co-worker who did the same thing. And now we want to start a movement. Wouldn't that be cool if people from all over the country, gay, straight and otherwise, started sending flowers to the people waiting in line to get married.

Link (Thanks, Dan!)

Video: seatbeltless driver falls asleep, crashes

Incredible in-car video of a poor guy who falls asleep while driving, and then gets in an accident. No blood, but he flies all over the car and cracks his head through a window. Link (Thanks, Lorin!)

Help Derek give San Francisco's married gays prints of their happy moments

Derek sez, "Last weekend I was a City Hall, photographing the happy couples descend the steps after their marriages. Now I'd like to track down as many of the couples as I can to give them prints of their happy moment! If you know one of these people, or know someone who might, please put them in touch with me using one of the many social software tools at our disposal!" Link (Thanks, Derek!)