Art of being cold

Amateur digital photographer R. Todd King has posted a set of startlingly gorgeous photos of the snow and ice festival in Harbin, China.
"The temperature in Harbin reaches forty below zero, both farenheit and centigrade, and stays below freezing nearly half the year.  The city is actually further north than notoriously cold Vladivostok, Russia, just 300 miles away. So what does one do here every winter?  Hold an outdoor festival, of course! Rather than suffer the cold, the residents of Harbin celebrate it, with an annual festival of snow and ice sculptures and competitions. The festival officially runs from January 5 through February 15, but often opens a week early and runs into March, since it's usually still cold enough. This is the amazing sculpture made of snow greeting visitors to the snow festival in 2003." Link (Thanks, Michael-Anne!)
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Red Mars: a very belated appreciation

I'm pretty well-read in the modern sf canon, but there are some gaps in there that are almost embarrassing in scope. Take Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars. This doorstopper, clocking in at nearly 800 pages, is the first volume in a trilogy of comparably-sized companion volumes, each of which depicts a different vision of the [dis|u]topiian establishment of a permanent human settlement on Mars. When Red Mars first came out, I was working at Bakka Books, the science fiction bookstore in Toronto, and there was something else in my queue that month, and one of my co-workers had already dived into it and was writing the shelf review, and it seemed like such a commitment that, well, I just never got around to it. With the publication of Green Mars and Blue Mars, it just got worse: if I couldn't clear enough schedule to read volume one, volumes two and three were impossible.

It wasn't that I didn't like Robinson's books. Quite the contrary, I adore them. Pacific Edge -- a gripping, rollicking utopian novel whose plot hinges on a zoning debate over the placement of a baseball diamond -- is one of my all-time favorite books. When Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom came out and the reviewers compared it to John Varley for the technology stuff, I was honoured, but the few reviews that compared it to Pacific Edge sent me over the moon: if Robinson could disrupt his utopia with a zoning fight and make it into a gripping tale, could I do the same with a fight over the politics of Disney ride fandom and design? Read the rest

Colorful Canadian holidays, part umptybillion: National Masturbation Month

BoingBoing pal in France Jean-Luc alerts us to the breaking news that May is National Masturbation Month in Canada.
G-Rap unit Stink Mitt will give a concert tomorrow: May 29 in Montreal at Le Swimming. StinkMitt will also participate in the Masturbate-A-Thon to encourage right-thinking Canadians everywhere to "Come for a Cause". Funds raised will be going to sex worker rights organizations Stella (Montreal) and Maggie's (Toronto). you can find a poster of his concert here.

Update: BoingBoing reader Casey says, "We also celebrate in the USA! Check out for more info." Read the rest

Movie bits you didn't get to see photoshopping

Today on Worth1000's photoshopping contest: "Movie scenes you didn't get to see." Lots of subtle funny stuff here. Link Read the rest

Cory's Vienna photos

I had a killer day in Vienna today -- I am here to give a couple of talks at the LinuxWeek event in MuseumsQuartier. My hosts took me through Prater Park, a cool old amusement park, and then to a beer garden in the old Swiss World's Fair pavillion where I got an entire roast haunch of pig (!), then Monochrom staged a performance of the world's first "massively multiplayer thumbwrestling tournament." I shot a ton of pix -- here they are. Link Read the rest

Toronto-set Bollywood movie

Ouchless sez, "My mother found this Bollywood-esque film "poster" completely by accident. The movie is titled 'Coxwell and Gerrard', which is the main intersection in Toronto's Little India." Link (Thanks, Ouchless!) Read the rest

Airplane grounded by praying pentecostals

A pair of Pentecostal preachers grounded a plane when they panicked passengers and pilots, saying 9/11 was "a good reason to pray."
One preacher told fellow passengers as the Continental Airlines plane taxied down the runway, "Your last breath on earth is the first one in heaven as long as you are born again and have Jesus in your heart," according to FBI spokesman Paul Moskal. Passengers on the Wednesday flight to Newark, New Jersey told a flight attendant, who alerted the plane's captain, officials said. The captain turned the plane around. "They were sincere in their beliefs and were not malicious," Moskal said by telephone from Buffalo. "In the context of 9/11 it may not have been the best way to promote their religion."
Link (Thanks, Read the rest

More RIAA lawsuits, more bizarre tales of unsuspecting defendants

I'm fresh out of snarky intros. Just too bizarre, and too wrong. As one reader on the pho mailing list quipped to this tale of a single mom defendant, "What's next -- breaking kneecaps?"
Tammy Lafky has a computer at home but said she doesn't use it. "I don't know how," the 41-year-old woman said, somewhat sheepishly. But her 15-year-old daughter, Cassandra, does. And what Cassandra may have done, like millions of other teenagers and adults around the world, landed Lafky in legal hot water this week that could cost her thousands of dollars.

Lafky, a sugar mill worker and single mother in Bird Island, a farming community 90 miles west of St. Paul, became the first Minnesotan sued by name by the recording industry this week for allegedly downloading copyrighted music illegally. The lawsuit has stunned Lafky, who earns $12 an hour and faces penalties that top $500,000. (...)

A record company attorney from Los Angeles contacted Lafky about a week ago, telling Lafky she could owe up to $540,000, but the companies would settle for $4,000. "I told her I don't have the money," Lafky said. "She told me to go talk to a lawyer and I told her I don't have no money to talk to a lawyer." Lafky said she clears $21,000 a year from her job and gets no child support.

Link Read the rest

The Rance Who Wasn't There

OK, no one really believes he's Owen Wilson, George Clooney, or Mister Potatohead anymore -- but we still don't know who Rance is. The true identity of the much-hyped Hollywood blogger is the subject of a Reuters story today. WhatEVER. I mean, "Who's Rance" is like, so Friday April 9, 2004. "Who's Defamer" is what I want to know. Link to "Hollywood mystery man has Internet abuzz." Read the rest

OS X update has Bluetooth caller ID

Gadget Lab's Brian Lam sez: "I noticed that you covered bluephonemenu in the past, so figured I'd drop a line about the new os x panther update. I was just reading the update details and saw this :

"Dialog windows for incoming phone calls and SMS messages for a paired Bluetooth phone now appear in the foreground."

I just tested it. You have to pair your bluetooth phone in address book, and a little pop up comes up, like bluephonemenu. The dialog choices are: add card/log call, sms reply, hang up, answer.

Log call puts the time and date of the call in the address book entry

Unfortunately, the pop up box doesn't show an image of the person calling - that would be freakin' cool

For SMS, the pop-up box has the dialog choices: log sms, reply, and ok.

It's pretty good, and stable, but doesn't sit in the system tray like bluephonemenu. Link

Peter Orosz sez: "This feature was available in 10.3.0 and may have been available as far back as in 10.2.4. What actually makes it useful this time around is the caller-window-to-the-foreground feature. Previously, calls and sms's would still come in but remain lodged behind your other windows and you would find them hours after the call (since the address book is not usually your topmost window)." Read the rest

Jack Black to star in movie adaptation of Rudy Rucker novel

Variety reports that Rudy Rucker's fantastic 1984 novel, Master of Space and Time (you can buy it used on Amazon for $0.01), is going to adapted into a movie. It'll be directed by Michel Gondry, who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and will star Jack Black. Link (subscription required) Read the rest

RFID: good or eeeeevil?

The online publication RFID News just published a fresh feature -- editor John Wehr interviewed representatives of several organizations about public perception of RFID technology, legislative efforts, and privacy best practices. Some thought-provoking stuff in here. Snip:
# "In most cases, asking how a company exploring item-level RFID tagging can protect their customers' privacy is like asking a fox how he can best ensure the safety of your chickens." -- Katherine Albrecht, CASPIAN # "Businesses need to do more to educate the general public on the uses, benefits and issues about the use of RFID, fostering constructive solutions to their concerns." -- Dayna Fried, Hewlett-Packard # "Much of the early work and publicity surrounding RFID was focused much too far into the future and on applications outside of the supply chain." -- Jack Grasso, EPCglobal US # "[Auto-ID Center, now EPCglobal] documents detailed how such a campaign may unfold, citing the need for the development of a proactive plan that would 'neutralize opposition' and 'mitigate possible public backlash.'" -- Cedric Laurant, EPIC
Link (scroll down to bottom of page for "Interviews with the Experts) Read the rest

Wi-fi lifeline for Yak farmers in Nepal

BBC story about a WiFi project in Nepal that allows yak farmers in remote Himalayan locations to keep in touch with their families back home. File under pretty frickin' amazing. Snip:

"They are taking advantage of a wi-fi network set up in a remote region of the mountain kingdom where there are no phones or other means of communication.

It is the result of a campaign led by local teacher Mahabir Pun, and backed by volunteers and donations, to bring the internet to an isolated part of the world.

So far, the Nepal Wireless Networking project has hooked up five villages in the area using wireless technology." Link Read the rest

Flight-capable B52 plane model

This impressive model of a B52 airplane really flies. Link, (Thanks, Mister Todd Lappin of Telstar Logistics!). Read the rest

New interactive art from Flying Puppet

French interactive artists Jean-Jacques Birgé and Nicolas Clauss recently won a slew of awards, and have loaded two new pieces on the Flying Puppet website: Art Cage, a self-portrait, and Nocturne, an interactive painting (screen-grabbed here). Shockwave plug-in required. Read the rest

Robodiscounts: sale on Evolution Robotics' ER1 parts

If you're a garage robot builder, this may be of interest: Evolution Robotics -- the guys who make the beer-totin' ER1 -- are having a Spring Sale on some ER1 accessories. The gripper and the IR Sensor Pack are half off right now, $125 and $100 respectively.
The gripper enables the ER1 to grab and carry objects, giving any ER1 project greater functionality. The IR Sensor Pack harnesses ER1's powerful obstacle avoidance capabilities, providing heightened navigation and awareness.
Link Read the rest


Bluegrass Radiohead cover band. People sometimes save actual Radiohead sound files on P2P networks under that faux band name to avoid detection, so this seems a particularly funny PoMo grass-chewin' homage. The MP3 file they posted is just one big tarball o' tribute, so there are no individual song titles. But if you can audialize what "Subterranean Homesick Critter" or "Thar, thar" might sound like -- you've pretty much got it. Link (Thanks, Sean) Read the rest

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