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Audioblogging manifesto

Maciej has posted an audioblogging manifesto that is really a hell of a thing. 4.1MB Link, Transcript Link (via Waxy) (Thanks, -d!)

Soros responds to drug-lord accusation

George Soros has responded to Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert's accusation that he is financed by narco-gangsters in a great, stiff letter that demands an apology:
You do a discredit to yourself and to the dignity of your office by engaging in these dishonest smear tactics. You should be ashamed.

For the Speaker of the House of Representatives, even in the midst of an election season, to descend to a level of political discourse where innuendo and slander replace reason, truth and argument is unacceptable.

This past Sunday, on national television, you suggested that I might be a criminal simply because I have exercised my First Amendment rights to dissent from the policies of the Bush administration...

I must respectfully insist that you either substantiate these claims -- which you cannot do because they are false -- or publicly apologize for attempting to defame my character and damage my reputation.

Go gettim, George! 52k PDF Link (Thanks, Raypride!)

Other Earths?

gl436_graphicTwo teams of astronomers announced today the discovery of a new class of planets that are tiny compared to the gas giants previously detected outside of our solar system. Indeed, one of the two Neptune-sized spheres they found may have a solid surface and temperature conducive to life. From a CNN report:
"We are closer to answering the question, 'Are we alone in the universe?'" said Anne Kinney, director of NASA's Universe Division, Science Mission Directorate. "We aim to answer that question by looking for planets, eventually imaging them and ultimately diagnosing the presence of life on those planets."
One of the planets is 41 light years from Earth and the other is about 33 light years away. UC Berkeley's star planet hunter Geoff Marcy was a member of one of the teams that revealed their discoveries at a NASA press conference this afternoon:
"If you look at the 135 or so extrasolar planets found so far, it's clear that nature makes more of the smaller planets than the larger ones," he said. "We've found more Saturn-size planets than Jupiter-size planets, and now it appears there are more Neptune-size planets than Saturn-size. That means there's an even better chance of finding Earths, and maybe more of them than all the other planets we've found so far."

Bonus Zen of Death round: Tuscan deathblog from Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling is cyberpunking it up around Tuscany, the bastard, and has been shooting some lovely images of funerary sculpture. Start here, move back for more: Link.
See also previous BoingBoing post: Zen of Death

Vintage Girly pinups

Why is it that the women in these oldschool cheesecake illos always appear shocked, surprised, and totally unprepared to perform even the most mundane of tasks? The expression is, like, "Heavens! Someone's just crammed a red-hot poker up my butt!" I mean, take the image shown here, from Art Frahm. Maybe she's a midcentury bimbo wearing loose drawers, right? OR, maybe she's an undercover leet hacker and card-carrying MENSA member. Having just finished a phone phreak session in this public booth, she disguises her sinister, geeky hijinks with a bag full of carbs and a sight gag to divert that sneaky federal agent in black. "Smile now, narq," reads her invisibly eeevil thought-balloon, "1 PWN3D J00!" Anyway, here's an extensive online gallery of digital babes from yesteryear. Link to "Painted Anvil" gallery (via Fleshbot)

PSAs for Google AdWords

Dave sez, "Designed for 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, Google Grants is a unique in-kind advertising program. It harnesses the power of our flagship advertising product, Google AdWords, to non-profits seeking to inform and engage their constituents online. Google Grants has awarded AdWords advertising to hundreds of non-profit groups whose missions range from animal welfare to literacy, from supporting homeless children to promoting HIV education." Link (Thanks, Dave!)

Star Trek's James Doohan gets star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Blogger, photographer, and citizen geek Jason DeFillippo took photos, including the one shown here. He says, "I am really bummed I missed the [Trekkie] convention on Sunday but this made up for it. I'll remember it every time I walk by his star. Safe journeys Scotty..."

Mr. Doohan, who played the character "Scotty" on the famed scifi series, was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (Link to more info, thanks Paul)

Link to Jason's photo gallery, which includes some wonderful snaps of other Star Trek cast members in attendance

Dawn of the dead?

A fertility scientist at the Kentucky Center for Reproductive Medicine, Panayiotis Zavos, claims to have taken cells from dead humans and cloned them. He stopped short of implanting the embryos, but the scientific community is in an uproar. According to New Scientist, one of three cases used DNA from a young girl killed in an automobile wreck. Apparently her parents kept the tissue in the refrigerator for a few days until sending them along to the maverick scientist.
“This man preys on the strong desires of the most vulnerable people in society - giving them false hopes,” says Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at the UK's National Institute for Medical Research. Other scientists argue that, even if cloning a person were possible, the risk of major birth defects is huge.
Zavos's claims have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Link

Neuroscience of revenge

Researchers at the University of Zurich have shown that revenge is, well, sweet. Their experiment, described in Scientific American, was based on a game where one player was given the opportunity to punish another player for financially screwing him. PET scans revealed that when a player contemplated revenge, his striatum, a "reward center" in the brain, became energized.
This sort of causal relationship may explain why people are willing to discipline a stranger even when there is no immediate gain in it for them. "Emotions play a proactive as well as reactive role," remarks Brian Knutson of Stanford University who penned an accompanying commentary (to a paper about the study in the journal Science). He notes that "passionate" forces may need to be included in economic models because, as this research shows, “people show systematic deviations from rationality."

Web Zen: Zen of Death

streatham cemetary
death masks
blog of death
celebrity death beeper
dead or alive
who's alive who's dead
a strange ghost
ready teddy death
death clock
Image: The death mask of English poet John Keats. web zen home, web zen store, (Thanks, Frank).

Update: Bonus round -- Tuscan deathblog from Bruce Sterling. Link

Help name the 50 best sf films

John Scalzi (an amazing sf writer and the author of several great nonfic compendia of trivia) is doing a book on great sf films and he needs your help:
As some of you know, I'm currently writing The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film, which will be a general overview of the history of Science Fiction in films, with chapters on some various themes (science in science fiction, SF film icons, crossover subgenres, etc) and so on. The heart of the book, however, will be the Science Fiction Film Canon: The 50 classic Science Fiction films. In my own brain, I see this list as the list of the most significant science fiction films, as opposed to the "best" or the most financially successful. This gives me latitude to, say, include films that are influential on science fiction filmmakers, but not necessarily the audience (or, vice versa, as the case may be).

(You rightly ask: And why do I get to choose the Science Fiction Film Canon? Well, because someone paid me to, basically. But also, I'm both a professional film critic of more than a dozen years standing, and I'm also a professional science fiction writer. If someone's going to compile this list, it might as well be me.)

I of course already have a preliminary list of 50 films ready to go. BUT! Even with my rather extensive knowledge of science fiction, film and science fiction films, I am more than willing to entertain the notion that my list has gaps: Films that should be on the list may not be there -- films that I have on the list may not deserve to be there.

So, this is where you come in: Suggest me some science films (one or more, as many as you like) which you feel are especially significant. If you want to jot down a sentence or two as to why you think they're significant, that'd be swell (to be clear, any comments you make on films are for my personal edification -- I won't cut and paste into the book. I do my own writing). Any films you might care to think of are appreciated...


Keyboard with 512k of memory, 700h battery life

The AlphaSmart Neo is a full-sized keyboard with a little LCD screen on the top. It acts as a word-processor, letting you type into its 512k cache while it draws power from 3 AA batteries. When you get back to your Mac or PC, you just dump the text over USB or IR. The thing runs for 700 hours on a 3 AA batts and costs $250, and weighs about 2 lbs.

My only complaint about this thing is the storage: 512k? I know that's a whole novel and then some, but geez, flash-RAM is so cheap now -- why not just give it a SD slot and I could use an old 64MB card from my last camera? Link (via Engadget)

Update: Chris Taylor points out that AlphaSmart has a model that supports memory cards -- and it comes with WiFi and PalmOS.

Cory's DRM talk in Finnish

Herkko Hietanen, Tero Tilus, Antti Vähä-Sipilä and Kuisma Lappalainen from EF Finland have translated my Microsoft DRM talk into Finnish, bringing the total number of translations up to 10 (with two more that I know of underway). Freaking cool. Link

Free protest tune download from J. Boogie's Dubtronic Science

Om Records of San Francisco is offering up this dub-techno-protest soundtrack as a free download. Link to info and download for J. Boogie's Dubtronic Science "You're the Murdera."

US Secret Service "harassing" indymedia over RNC delegate data release?

The Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation and is demanding records related to an post which expressed anti-RNC sentiment and listed the names of some 2,200 individual RNC delegates. More on indymedia's site here, and here's a snip from a related ACLU press release:
In a letter sent today in response to a grand jury subpoena issued by the Secret Service, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union said they are representing a web hosting service and administrators of an independent media website regarding the anonymous posting of publicly available information about delegates to the Republican National Convention. The groups said the investigation is but the latest example of government agencies using law enforcement powers to chill free speech and intimidate protesters. (...) Beeson added that the posting did not include anything remotely threatening, but involved political speech fully protected by the First Amendment.
Link to Declan McCullagh's politech law-tech resource, where this news item was first spotted. Link to Washington Post story, Link to CNN's, Link to NYT story.

Update: Micah of Indymedia says, "I'm one of the four system administrators for indymedia that is involved in this... The wonderful ISP we have -- who protects its client's privacy and rights without caving -- Calyx, was forced to turn over any contact information they had for Indymedia... turns out they only have our email addresses, so I expect an email from the SS (Secret Service, not Sicherheitsdienst) any day now. I thought I'd point out this url for more information (including a scanned copy of the subpoena). Link"

Valenti's magical DRM thinking debunked

Ed Felten picks apart Jack Valenti's Engadget interview (in which Valenti compares himself to JFK: "I was in Dallas in the motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963, and I saw that day a brave young president murdered, and a new president take over. The president is dead, long live the president, the nation goes on. No one is indispensable, I learned that day in Dallas. My successor will come into this job and he won't be me, but he might do a hell of a lot better job than I'm doing.")
It may be possible to so infect a movie with some kind of circuitry that allows people to copy to their heart's content, but the copied result would come out with decayed fidelity with respect to sound and color. Another would be to have some kind of design in a movie that would say, 'copy never,' 'copy once.'
Even ignoring the technical non sequiturs ("stuff ... algorithms into a movie"; "infect a movie with ... circuitry"), this is wildly implausible. Nothing has happened to make the technical prospects for DRM (anti-copying) technology any less bleak. We can only hope Valenti's successor stops believing in "technological magic" and instead teaches the industry to accept technical reality. File sharing cannot be wished away. The industry needs to figure out how to deal with it.

Victoria's Secret Disney jammies

Victoria's Secret has released a line of saucy Disney sleepwear. Link (via The Disney Blog)

Paint a movie-screen on any wall

ScreenGoo is a paint-on movie screen compound that can turn any wall into a screen:
Screen Goo is a specially formatted, highly reflective acrylic paint, designed specifically for the video projection industry. Screen Goo acrylic paint allows one to transform any smooth paintable surface into a high performance projection screen.
Link (via Red Ferret Journal)

Update: Fred sez, "Sony has created a new black screen material that rejects ambient light other than red, green, blue. This means that the Achilles heel of front projectors -- rejection of ambient light -- may soon be eliminated. So before you go painting your room in reflective acrylic or blow dough on a plasma screen, you might want to wait until this hits the market. I'm guessing that within a year, you'll have 3 lb. DVD-quality projectors for sub-$1k capable of throwing 90in images onto your hot new roll-up black screen. The TV-in-a-box could well start disappearing from the American living room by decade's end if this technology works out."

MPAA bemoans inability to ban behavior and technology

Ernest Miller and Jason Schultz latch on to this great quote from MPAA hack Fritz Attaway:
"If we can't ban bad behavior and we can't ban bad technology, what is it we're supposed to do, stand back and let people steal our product?'' Attaway said.
Jason's response:
[T]he quote reveals the MPAA approach to every problem: either pass laws to ban behavior or pass laws to ban technology. Innovation, ingenuity, competition -- those are for suckers. More laws and more lawsuits, that's the Hollywood way. Cut past the consumer and go straight to Congress. Oh well, at least they're finally being honest.

British Academy treats film judges as crooks

The British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) is treating all judges as criminals this awards season. They are supplying special lockware DVD players that can play back the "secure" DVDs that the Academy is distributing. My guess is that anyone elected to judge a film award has a highly tuned, specialised home-theatre setup and that this will represent a serious goddamned pain in the ass for them:
"We are very pleased to be working with Cinea to give our members the opportunity to receive secure screeners. The British Academy takes the threat of piracy very seriously, and we welcome any solution that can reduce the risk of unauthorized copying." said David Parfitt, Chair of BAFTA's Film Committee.

Variety is reporting that it will cost studios US$25,000 (€20,650) per film, plus a license fee to Cinea, to secure the screener disks with the S-VIEW system. Cinea will pay for the players and encoding themselves, and is in discussion with studios for further uses of the S-VIEW technology to secure the post-production process for film makers. It can be used for the secure distribution of dailies and other works in progress, ensuring that digital copies don't end up being leaked onto the internet. Something that was almost impossible with 35 or 70mm film.

Each sv300 player is individually addressable, allowing distributors to decide exactly who views their content, from large groups of thousands to a single individual.

Nice: if you can't sell DRM to users, you can convince paranoid studio execs to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to buy it and shove it down cinephiles' throats. Link (Thanks, Simon!)

Best short story collection of the year

Eileen Gunn, the editor of The Infinite Matrix, has published her first collection of short stories, Stable Strategies and Others. I was honoured to get an advance copy for a blurb ("Gunn's stories are in another league entirely -- like Sturgeon or Chiang, she's *sui generis* and anything but generic. Every one of these stories has a pleasing, sharp flavor unlike anything you've ever tasted. Especially the recipe for fruit crisp. Delicious.") and I was blown away by Eileen's fiction -- but don't take my word for it: see the glowing William Gibson intro to her collection gives you an idea of why you should be picking this up ASAP (“Eileen Gunn’s innate sensibilities and cultural smarts have designated her a nodal entity, one of those human intersections where people and ideas meet, and out of which things change.”). Eileen was in charge of MSFT's marketing for the first several years of the company's existence, and the deep geek cred and creativity shines through here.
“...And now, the man you loved to hate, the man you loved too late, the man everyone loves to second-guess, America's own Tricky Dick!” Applause, and the strains of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” A tanned, well-groomed man in a blue blazer and grey slacks walks between the curtains.

He raises his hands above his head in the familiar double V-for-Victory salute to acknowledge the applause, then gestures for quiet.

“Thanks for the hand, folks.” His voice is deep, quiet, and sincere. “You know, I needed that applause today.” A catch in his throat. “Right before the show, I was on my way down here to the studio...” He shakes his head slightly, as if contemplating the role that Chance plays in Life. “An elderly lady came up to me, and she introduced herself, and then she said, 'Oh, Dick, I'm so pleased to meet you, you know you were my all-time favorite presidential candidate...” He lets the compliment hang there a second, as if savoring it. “...after Jack Kennedy, of course.” The audience laughs, appreciating the host who can tell a joke at his own expense. When the laughter has diminished, but before it stops completely, he continues.


House speaker: Soros is a druglord

The Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert has gone on record as suspecting that billionaire currency speculator George Soros (who made his money on currency speculation) is a drug kingpin. Soros funds a lot of progressive causes (including a lot of drug-law and copyright-reform stuff) and has pledged his financial support to overturn the Bush presidency, so this smear is clearly political in nature:
"You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where -- if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years -- George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."
Link (via Electrolite)

Skype beta for OS X

Skype is the voice-over-IP phone that the Kazaa people invented, eschewing the SIP-phone standards used by companies like Vonage. They've just shipped a Mac OS X beta (finally!). Link (via Joi Ito)

Warren Ellis's device array

Gizmodo's done another of their "What's in your gadget-bag" features, this time with Warren Ellis, whose Transmetropolitan is the best science fictional comic I've ever read.
You just caught me. I'm off to Atlanta in 36 hours or so; jumping from British Summer Time to Eastern Daylight Time for something called Dragon*Con, where I'm a special guest (and also cultivating the Freak Vote in prep for my first prose novel, published next summer).

I travel light. I'm the guy whose bag hits the luggage carousel last. I'm the guy who's still there at three in the morning in an empty hall, with tumbleweed blowing past, sitting there next to horse skeletons and starving vultures, waiting for the airport workers to finish their smack break and grub around in the back of the airplane for my bag. Which usually comes out looking like they've been having group sex on it. So, five or six years ago, I decided that if it didn't fit into a carry-on bag, I wasn't taking it.


Love note to a cigar

Ben Hammersley -- gentleman adventurer, RSS hacker, dog-nut and committed smoker -- has taken on a cigar company as a sponsor on his blog, and is reviewing their wares, writing these over-the-top love-poems about cigars:
Lighting was smooth, though there was a little channelling (caused, I fear, by my own cackhandedness rather than any rolling fault, but easily rectified). Impressively firm ash, with the typical Nicaraguan whiteness to it, and solid to at least two inches. It’s a medium smoke, a good newspaper and coffee smoke, with non sense of bitterness at all. Indeed, once up to cruising speed, it’s rather blissful: it draws very well, doesn’t linger on the palate, but it calls to you from your hand. Fruity, perhaps, with a slight hint of spice, but nothing too post-prandial. The Sumatran wrapper gives some sweetness, and the ligero filler the complexity and the ummmph. In all, bloody nice.

Friendster cans coder for blogging

Joyce Park is a coder who worked at Friendster, leading the charge to re-engineer the poky, Java-based back-end with fast PHP. She blogged about it, got slashdotted, got written up in the press -- and got fired. Even though there was nothing confidential in her blog posts, the new CEO shitcanned her.
[I]t's especially ironic because Friendster, of course, is a company that is all about getting people to reveal information about themselves...
Link, Link to Jeremy Zawodny's instructions for resigning from Friendster (Thanks, Jeffreyp!)

Michael Moore at the RNC

USAToday has hired Michael Moore to cover the Republican National Convention:
Hanging out around the convention, I've encountered a number of the Republican faithful who aren't delegates. They warm up to me when they don't find horns or a tail. Talking to them, I discover they're like many people who call themselves Republicans but aren't really Republicans. At least not in the radical-right way that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Co. have defined Republicans.

I asked one man who told me he was a "proud Republican," "Do you think we need strong laws to protect our air and water?"

"Well, sure," he said. "Who doesn't?"

I asked whether women should have equal rights, including the same pay as men.

"Absolutely," he replied.

"Would you discriminate against someone because he or she is gay?"

"Um, no." The pause — I get that a lot when I ask this question — is usually because the average good-hearted person instantly thinks about a gay family member or friend.

Link (Thanks, Alfie!)

Bode's Cheech Wizard animated

Nigel Hendrickson, a professional computer animator, has produced a fannish animated adaptation of Vaughn Bode's classic "Cheech Wizard" comic. The movie is a little over two minutes long, and it's not only hilarious and raunchy -- as any good adaptation of Bode should be! -- it's also drop-dead gorgeous. Link (Thanks, Drewkeig!)

Diebold voting machines vulnerability

Diebold's voting machines have a stunning security defect:
Manipulation technique found in the Diebold central tabulator -- 1,000 of these systems are in place, and they count up to two million votes at a time.

By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location, a second set of votes is created. This set of votes can be changed, so that it no longer matches the correct votes. The voting system will then read the totals from the bogus vote set. It takes only seconds to change the votes, and to date not a single location in the U.S. has implemented security measures to fully mitigate the risks.

This program is not "stupidity" or sloppiness. It was designed and tested over a series of a dozen version adjustments.

Link (Thanks, Michael!)

UPS shirt appreciated

Darren Barefoot recently thrifted a UPS shirt and he's posted an annotated photo of him wearing it in which he marks up all the grace-notes in its design. Link (Thanks, Darren!)