Boing Boing 

Historical origins of obesity

Long, interesting Harvard Magazine article about the historical shifts in diet and lifestyle that led to America's obesity epidemic.
"We are not adapted to handle fast-acting carbohydrates," Ludwig continues. "Glucose is the gold standard of energy metabolism. The brain is exquisitely dependent on having a continuous supply of glucose: too low a glucose level poses an immediate threat to survival. [But] too high a level causes damage to tissues, as with diabetes. The body is designed to keep blood glucose within a tight range, and it does this beautifully, even with extreme nutrient ratios: we can survive indefinitely on a diet of 60 percent carbohydrates and 20 percent fat, or 20 percent carbohydrates and 60 percent fat. But we never [before] had to assimilate a heavy dose of high-glycemic carbohydrates."
Link (via Kottke)

Superhero dayjobs photoshopping

Today on Worth1000's photoshopping contest: day-jobs for superheros. Link

A million love songs

An MP3 blog devoted exclusively to sloppy, silly, sappy songs of romance. Evidences an emphasis on ironic postmodern '80s schlock: Abba, Dolly, ELO, Manilow. If you're in the throes of a crush (pobrecito), whatever you do don't click -- you may not make it out alive. Link (Thanks, Jean-Luc)

Chinese company makes soy sauce from human hair

A resourceful Chinese company got in trouble for brewing soy sauce out of human hair.
China Central Television (CCTV), the state television station, first raised public worries over the quality of domestic soy sauce by uncovering a substandard workshop in central China's Hubei Province, where piles of waste human hair were found. The hairs were treated in special containers to distill amino acid, the most common substance contained in soybean sauce.

Human hair is rich in protein content, just like soybean, wheat and bran, the conventional and legally accepted raw ingredients for the production of soy sauce.


Russ Kick on Afghan food drop fiasco

Our current guestblogger Russ Kick wrote a great piece for Loompanics about the US food drop to Afghanistan.
You know those little packets in vitamin bottles and clothes that are supposed to keep them fresh? Well, many of the little meal packs dropped on Afghanistan contained one of those packets (called a desiccant) to keep the food fresh. Unfortunately, the Afghans aren't familiar with desiccants so they tore them open and ate the powder. Some thought it was medicine, so they noshed it straight. Others figured it was a funky American spice, so they sprinkled it on their beans, rice, or pasta. Lots of Afghans got sick, though we don't know if any deaths occurred. In fact, it's hard to say whether people got sick from chowing down on desiccant or because the food in the packets was usually spoiled.
Link (Via Reality Carnival)

Postmodern furniture for pets

catfurnitureNifty scratching posts and other stuff for your pet available here. Link

One-wheeled asphalt skiier

easygliderThe Swiss-made EasyGlider will ship in October 2004 for US$1,000. Looks like fun, but where do you use it without getting busted in a world that hates all kinds of novel transportation? Link (Via Sensible Erection)

Extra pretty rocket paintings by Peter Thorpe

rocketpaintingArtist Peter Thorpe (a well-known book cover illustrator) has a bunch of acrylic paintings of rockets for sale. I don't know how much they cost, but he says prices are available upon request. Link (via The Cartoonist)

Geeky doormat

Thinkgeek is selling these wicked-geeky doormats. Please direct pedantic remarks about the superiority of "There's no place like ~/" to /dev/peevish. Link (Thanks, eyelessloki!)

BBC to use Creative Commons licenses

Digital Lifestyles is reporting that Larry Lessig has been named to a BBC advisory board and that the BBC's Creative Archive project (which aims to put the BBC's archives online for non-commercial re-use) will use Creative Commons licenses:
Professor Lawrence Lessig, chair of the Creative Commons project was clearly excited: "The announcement by the BBC of its intent to develop a Creative Archive has been the single most important event in getting people to understand the potential for digital creativity, and to see how such potential actually supports artists and artistic creativity." He went to enthuse "If the vision proves a reality, Britain will become a centre for digital creativity, and will drive the many markets – in broadband deployment and technology – that digital creativity will support."
Link (Thanks, Simon!)

SHREK@HOME: blue-sky proposal for the future of film production

There's an article on Download Aborted proposing that the producers of Shrek should use distributed rendering screensavers to save money on the renders of Shrek 3.

It's an interesting idea, but I suspect that it's suffering from a failure of imagination. On the one hand, cycles are cheap and getting cheaper -- yes, CGI is processor-hungry and that hunger is ballooning, but CPUs are ballooning faster still. I expect that in the medium-term, the rendering expense will be paltry as compared to custom code development, artists and especially marketing. If you're starting with a couple hundred mil in budget, dropping one, two or even five percent on a bunch of white-box PCs is just not that big a deal.

Now, indie filmmakers, students, and garage auteurs, OTOH, really can't afford the cycles to render a cinematic quality CGI film. These are the kinds of people a SHREK@HOME screensaver could really serve, and if you made it social, it could do double-duty.

Ultimately, the largest expense in an Internet marketplace where anything is available always anywhere is marketing: the more choice, the more expensive influencing choice becomes.

So a social SHREK@HOME could engage its audience not just for their cycles, but for their evangelism. We see glimmers of that in some machinima projects, like Red v Blue or in Flash-shorts like Homestar Runner, a clubbish sense of ownership by its fans that turn them into relentless marketers of the net-art.

The more engaged fans are with work, the purer the evangelism (hence the blogging bore and every other otaku who can run on about her hobby forever). It's hard to be really engaged in the creative process of "shooting" CGI -- I don't know enough about 3D animation or visual art to second-guess those who do. But there are ways that even the unskilled can contribute.

Imagine a distributed renderer that included along the bottom thumbnails of alternate test-renders of the current sequence: different lighting, camera, even new inverse-kinematics and chaining. These different sequences could be created by the filmmaker and/or by more knowledgeable fans. While I render out the authoritative version, I can click on any of these little animated thumbnails and devote an equal number of cycles to rendering it, producing, in effect, an "audience cut" of the movie that can be matched with the foley and ADR in post to allow for different views on the same flick.

On top of that, layer the useful bits MMOs: guilds, pledges, fan-sites, etc. Create affinity communities around different edits and renders. The more excitement you build for your movie, the more cycles end up being devoted to its production: the more cycles, the more variable renders and the more excitement.

The software is pretty do-able, it's the kind of thing Nelson and Marc were doing at Popular Power and Adam "" Beberg was talking about with COSM years ago. The legal apparatus might be harder, but a CC-license could take care of that.

The result would be ten million times more exciting than the mundane process of donating some of your cycles to Shrek 3 -- it would be the basis for an entirely new way of financing and executing film production. Link (via /.)

Word Processing Equipment and airlines

British Airways announces before each flight that "word processing equipment" must be switched off. It's hilarious, I keep picturing someone up there in Posh Bastard Class who's booked an extra couple seats for his Xerox Word Processor and a long-suffering "word-processing-specialist" to operate it. Also, why the hell does Air Canada forbid the use of in-flight "modems and printers" (and how do they reconcile the ban on modems with the fact that they provide hideously expensive in-flight phone service, with modem jacks?)

More on digicams and Iraq: Wartime Wireless Worries Pentagon

Following up on this week's erroneous reports of a "Rumsfeld phonecam ban" in Iraq, I filed this story for Wired News today:
While Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may not have signed a ban on new consumer digital-imaging technologies, he did express clear concern about the unforeseen impact of such technologies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 7.

"People are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon," Rumsfeld said.

According to [DoD spokesperson Lt. Col. Ken] McClellan, some Defense Department lawyers may be reviewing how the spread of consumer digital-imaging technology among military contractors and enlisted personnel affects the military's obligation to abide by a Geneva Convention article against holding prisoners up to public ridicule. "Lawyers may have looked at that and said, 'It's probably a good idea to get these things out of the prisons.' There's no Pentagon-induced rule in the theater at this time ... but there may or may not be some discussion taking place as to how the [Pentagon's April 14 directive on commercial wireless technology] might be supplemented in Iraq to prevent things we saw at Abu Ghraib."

Link to Wired News story; Link to previous BoingBoing post

Cop, sheriff work a little too closely, produce online porn video

The SF Examiner reports that a San Francisco cop is under investigation for making a porn video with a colleague from the sherrif's department. Outraged officials say an internal probe (ahem) is forthcoming.
In the video, which was posted on a pay-per-view Web site, Tenderloin beat cop Darryl Watts played out a fantasy where he pretended to be a john and a sheriff's department employee acted the part of a prostitute referred to as "Myra." [Ed note: Actually, the PPV site we found spells the character's name as "Mira."] The video did not tap into any law enforcement themes common in the pornography industry. No badges, batons, uniforms or pistols were produced during the film, police said. (...)Police sources said that Watts, who has been on the force for three years, is a "good, productive street cop." Last year, he was hailed for capturing a man who was chasing another man with a butcher knife near Union Square.
Link to SF Examiner story (Thanks, Marc). An honorary link-fu degree will be awarded to the first BoingBoing reader who produces a link to a legitimate copy of the illicitly-produced video (or the location of the PPV site where it was first distributed) Update: "masked_superstar" and David both win. Link to free *.wmv clip on the originating PPV porn site, not worksafe, sexually explicit.

Sexy Androids, Electric Sheep

Our friends at Fleshbot purr:
The question here isn't really "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" so much as "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep-Like Beings With Long, Dextrous Tongues That Make Them Moan In Ecstacy?" It's the short story Philip K. Dick never got around to writing.
Link (of course it's not worksafe, silly.)

Napoleon Dynamite

On June 11, Fox Searchlight releases this film, which looks very nerdworthy. I think this dude is my future husband. Jason Calacanis saw the pic at Sundance and blogged this review.
Link to "Napoleon Dynamite" home page and QuickTime trailer

Future-couture sunshades from Bless

The everfab Hint Magazine points to some sharp, sexy sunshades with which to protect your peepers in style this summer. Not sunglasses, they're shields. At $325 a pop, style ain't cheap. Available online from Bless.
Link to manufacturer website

"Girl Photoblogs Chernobyl on Motorcycle" thing a fraud?

Was this story just another web hoax? Yes, says subscriber Mary Mycio on the "e-POSHTA" Ukrainian mailing list, re-posted on Neil Gaiman's website.
I am sorry to report that much of Elena's story is not true. She did not travel around the zone by herself on a motorcycle. Motorcycles are banned in the zone, as is wandering around alone, without an escort from the zone administration. She made one trip there with her husband and a friend. They traveled in a Chornobyl car that picked them up in Kyiv.

She did, however, bring a motorcycle helmet. They organized their trip through a Kyiv travel agency and the administration of the Chornobyl zone (and not her father). They were given the same standard excursion that most Chernobyl tourists receive. When the Web site appeared, Zone Administration personnel were in an uproar over who approved a motorcycle trip in the zone. When it turned out that the motorcycle story was an invention, they were even less pleased about this fantasy Web site.

Because of those problems, Elena and her husband have changed the Web site and the story considerably in the last few days. Earlier versions of the narrative lied more blatantly about Elena taking lone motorcycle trips in the zone. That has been changed to merely suggest that she does so, which is still misleading.

If so -- ah, well. C'est la web. The photos are still amazing. Link (Thanks, chupacabra)

Army reboots GI's tired fatigues

Story by my Wired News colleague Noah Shachtman about the Army's seven-year, $250 million uniform high-tech-ification and redesign project -- dubbed Future Force Warrior, or FFW.
One of the most obvious changes is that the new uniforms are unisex. The zipper has been extended, and the uniform's butt flap has been expanded, so GI Janes aren't literally caught with their pants down if they have to pee.

FFW's body armor is probably the biggest improvement, however. It sits on a series of foam pads around the rib cage, so there's a 2.5-inch gap between the harness and the body. It keeps the GI cool. And it's almost imperceptibly light -- unlike today's bulletproof vests, many of which are about as comfortable as that lead apron the dentist makes you wear during X-rays. But the scarab-like shell can take five to seven direct hits from a machine gun, and it doubles as a holster for ammunition and grenades.


Cool pre-WW2 Japanese Postcards

John Rambow -- editor of the kick-ass blog from travel guide publisher Fodor's -- says:

"Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has a big exhibit of some very beautiful Japanese postcards, many of which can be seen on the museum's Web site. If you want to see them in person, hurry -- the show closes 6 June. And who couldn't love this monkey-trainer New Year's card [thumbnail at left --XJ]?

Reading, Writing, and Robots: kids build bots at CeBIT

StreetTech has some great snapshots of the robot-building competition between local high-schoolers in NYC, called NYC FIRST, which exhibited at NY CeBIT. (Thanks, Nate!)

Clarification: BoingBoing reader Jason correctly reminds us that "NYC First" is part of the national competition US First started by Dean "Segway" Kamen more than a decade ago.

Tech question about results of Google image search for "Abu Ghraib"

Boingboing reader Greg asks,
I find it interesting to note that Google image search doesn't have any of the pics of the Abu Ghraib abuse that are floating everywhere else on the net. A search for "Abu Ghraib" does bring up photos, but none of the ones that we all saw on CNN and in the Wall Street Journal. I had searched there not long after the story broke and found none of them, but I figured it was just too new. Now, after weeks of spidering time, they still aren't there. Anyone have an idea why?

UPDATE: Intrepid BoingBoing reader Andrew says, "I tried the image search at (making sure to turn off "family filtering" or whatever) and some of the abuse photos turn up if you hit "next" enough. Strangely, searching for "Abu Ghraib abuse" turns up *nothing* and searching for "Abu Ghraib torture" turns up virtually nothing with"

UPDATE 2: Tim Ireland says, "This happens because Google only updates its image database every 6-12 months. The last update was January 2004, before the publication of these images and their broadcast on the web."

Cookie Monster Tribute Heavy Metal Band

BoingBoing reader Greg confesses, "I found this site at 2:30 in the morning, so it might be less funny in the light of day. It is a speed metal sesame street cover band. The singer actually sounds like cookie monster too."

This reminds me of browsing through the bins at my favorite punk rock record store when I was a teenager, and seeing that some snarky, pop-hating employee had creatively relabeled the bin for one famous hair-rock band as "Oreo Speedcookie." Snip from Cookie Mongoloid website:

Cookie Mongoloid is Sesame Speed Metal! See the Cookie Mongoloid in all his blue, furry, googly-eyed glory backed by the baddest of gender mixed metal bands as they decimate and regurgitate your childhood favorites in an abrasive metal wrath. See their harem of gothic gyrators, the Cookies, demonstrate such elemental concepts as up and down in a blaze of lights, smoke and pyrotechnic cookie shrapnel.

Update: Chronicle Books editor Alan Rapp says, "Part of the joke here (I think) is that "cookie monster" is a vocal style associated with black metal and grindcore, notable for its deep basso eeeevil rumble. "


nanotrees Researchers at Lund University in Sweden grew "nanotrees" out of semiconducting materials, Science News reports. Lars Saumelson and his colleagues spray gold nanoparticles onto nanowire "trunks," just a few microns in length. (In comparison, a human hair is around 100 microns thick.) Exposing the seeded trunk to a mixture of specific gasses causes branches to grow. The trunk and the branches can even be composed of different materials so that the parts have specific functions:
"For instance, in one experiment, the Lund team made trunks out of gallium phosphide and parts of the branches out of gallium arsenide phosphide. The researchers expect combinations of materials such as these to produce a light-emitting diode: The trunk would carry current to the branches, where the gallium arsenide phosphide would convert it into light. Alternatively, the branches could serve as light-harvesting structures, as in a solar cell, which would then shuttle excited electrons into the trunk." Link

In defense of MP3 blogs

Check out this rant from an MP3 blog reader -- a blogger who posts tracks that he's digging to get his readers interested -- on the threatened medium:
We're all familiar with blogs (ummm, you're reading one now), but now, we have unashamed folks who are not afraid to provide you with a daily song that has been gracing their ears. Good stuff, big bands, and totally the definition of fair use. The average blog user has 12 readers... so... if I give one song to 12 people a day, that seems entirely fair, when compared to say, WOXY radio that had to shut down because it couldn't afford the licensing and bandwidth of its 50,000 listeners.

So, I love it! It's the best of fair use, with the peer spice. Now all we need, is about 3 kabillion more so that these brave souls aren't overloaded, or targetted otherwise.

Best of all is the long list of MP3 blogs, which are a sampler's paradise. Link (Thanks, Th0m!)

Fafblog on gay marriage

On Fafblog, a very funny fake interview with James Dobson, leader of the anti-gay-marriage nutbars "Focus on the Family":
FAFBLOG: So! How's the Family?

JAMES DOBSON: The Family is in deadly danger, Fafnir.

FB: Danger? Oh no! I like families!

JD: Yes, danger from the homosexual agenda which has been trying for decades to destroy it.

FB: I never knew homosexuals had an agenda! I just thought they were ordinary people who were easily stereotyped as lovers of musical theater.

JD: So they and the gay-controlled Hollywood elite would have you believe. But the Forces of Gay are now closer than ever to destroying the divine institution of the civil marriage certificate, and with it, the family itself.


Game Guilds are "distributed cognition"

Constance Steinkuehler, a Learning Sciences researcher from UWisc, gave a talk at the Comwork ("Managing Multiplayer Culture") seminar in Copenhagen last week called " "MMOG Guild Leaders as a Com/Dev Resource." Her slides are up as a gargantuan PDF, but they're well-worth the download, as they are a positively mind-blowing look at the failings of the Cognitive Science model, and the way in which MMO guilds can be thought of as distributed cognition. Yum. 50MB PDF Link (via Terra Nova)

My Canada includes AccordionGuy

Joey "AccordionGuy" DeVilla, a Filipino-born Canadian, has written a spirited editorial in response to a jackass racist blogger who asserts that the Canadians who died in the Boer War (!) and elsewhere certainly didn't intend for Toronto to be annexed by the "Third World," and says that the non-whites of Canada are less Canadian, with "no knowledge or affection for the old Canada, in either their hearts or minds."

Joey's response: "Fuck you, eh." And the banner, above. Link

US troops kidnapping family members of Ba'athists and locking them in Abu Ghraib

This is a heart-rending account of an Iraqi woman whose father was a low-ranking Ba'athist. US troops came to bring him in for questioning, but he was out of the country, getting prostate surgery, so they kidnapped her husband, took him to Abu Ghraib, and declared him to have "intelligence value." The prison guards -- whom the Red Cross have documented as torturing others with "intelligence value" -- tell her that she can have her husband back if she produces her father. I read this and I ask myself: how can the US ever convince the Iraqi people of their goodwill sufficiently to abide under a US-declared "democratic ruler?" How will the US ever get out of Iraq and what kind of hollowed-out, failed state will it leave in its wake? Link (via Electrolite)

Donald Duck remixed with everything

Die Duckumenta is an exhibit of remixes of the iconographic phiz of Donald Duck with great works of visual art down through the ages. Wonderful. Link (Thanks, Johannes!)