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Lessig launches UK CC licenses in London, Oct 4

Larry Lessig is coming to London on Oct 4 to launch the UK Creative Commons licenses!
Professor Lawrence Lessig, Stanford University Law School

12-2pm Monday 4 October 2004

Edward Lewis Theatre, Windeyer Building, UCL, Cleveland Street, London W1


Interstellar sugar cloud: not Atkins-compliant

An enormous cloud of high-carb, life-giving frozen sugar has been discovered at the end of the Milky Way.
Molecules of a simple sugar, glycolaldehyde, were detected in a cloud of gas and dust called Sagittarius B2 about 26,000 light years away.

Observations indicated large quantities of the sugar frozen to a temperature only a few degrees above absolute zero, the point at which all molecular movement stops.

Link (via Futurismic)

Computer industry to entertainment industry: we lied (right on!)

This amazing open letter to the entertainment industry, signed by the computer industry, is a nigh-perfect expression of what constitutes a successful approach to Internet technology. And it made me laugh my ass off.
We lied to you. In the golden 80s and 90s we told you micropayments and content protection would work; that you would be able to charge minuscule amounts of money whenever someone listened to your music or watched your movie. We told you untruths which we well knew would never work - after all, we would've never used them ourselves. Instead, we wrote things like Kazaa and Gnutella, and all other evil P2P applications to get the stuff free.

We told you these things so that you would finance the things we really wanted to build, not the things that you wanted to be built. We knew all along that DRM schemes do not work, and we knew that whatever we create can be broken by us. We don't care anymore, because your money made us bigger than you.

Look at us: every year, we churn out more computer games than your entire industry is worth. You know how we do it? We like our customers. We don't treat them like potential criminals, and try to make our products do less. We invent new things like online role-playing -games, where the money does not come from duplication of bits (which cannot be stopped, regardless of your DRM scheme) but from providing experiences that the people want.

We saw that you were old and weak. So we took advantage of it: told you things that you wanted to hear so we could kick you in the head in twenty years. Some of us told you that the future is going to be interactive - what did you do? You started to think how to make interactive movies (CD-I, anyone?), which is not what it really means, while we wrote games and tried to understand the new mediums, not how to bolt it on onto old things.

We lied to you. And we apologize for that, but it was for the greater good. So we're not the least bit sorry.

Signed: The Computer Industry

Link (via Blackbeltjones)

Gravity Lamp -- lighting design concept

The "Gravity" lamp reclines and goes to sleep when you're not in the room. When you enter, it awakens, stands up, and turns on.

Fun Furde says, "The Gravity is equal parts cute and creepy. Cute because it's sort of like a pet that's happy to see you when you come home. Creepy because it's a lamp that moves by itself! No idea if they're actually going to make this or how much it will cost if they do. Or how they keep the lightbulb from smashing when it hits the ground."


Plane diverted over former Cat Stevens as security risk

BoingBoing reader Greg says, "I thought that the No-Fly list was scrapped, but it turns out it was just renamed."
A plane bound for Washington from London was diverted to Maine on Tuesday after passenger Yusuf Islam - formerly known as pop singer Cat Stevens - showed up on a U.S. watch list, federal officials said. One official said Islam, 56, was identified by the Advanced Passenger Information System, which requires airlines to send passenger information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection's National Targeting Center. TSA was then contacted and requested that the plane land at the nearest airport, the official said.
Link to AP news story. John Battelle comes up with an infinitely better hed for this post than I: Link

Zapping the brain's fear center

Researchers at New York University claim to have located the part of the brain that "extinguished fear."
In their experiments, the researchers presented the subjects with either blue or yellow squares. One color was associated with a mild electric shock. Using this method, the subjects acquired a fear of the colored square associated with the shock.

Phelps's team then extinguished the fear response by presenting the colored square associated with the shock, first with a gradually reduced shock and then with no shock at all.

Link (via Futurismic)

Comic Art #6 on sale

comicartI picked up issue #6 of Comic Art magazine last week. What a treat. sethThere's a long article about Seth (creator of Palookaville) with plenty of pictures, including a cardboard city he built (seen on the cover) and a page from his sketchbook (which I scanned here -- incredible! Click on thumb for enlargement). Unfortunately, no pictures of Seth. I've only seen other people's drawings of Seth. (He's always wearing a vintage hat and suit and chain smoking when people draw him.)

6dThere's another article about Virgil Partch (aka "VIP"), a delightfully wacky cartoonist from the 40s and 50s. If you look closely at the hands on VIP's characters, you'll notice that they have more than five fingers. Sometimes they have as many as 12 fingers on a hand! He did this because he used to work at Disney, where he was forced to draw four-fingered characters. The extras fingers were his way of evening the score.

The price of Comic Art is $9, which is a good deal, because it's glossy color throughout. Link

UPDATE: Aaron sez: In response to Mark's post on Comic Art #6 where he mentioned never seeing a photo of Seth, I figured I'd point him over to the NYTimes article from July 11th. Along with a great interview of Seth, Joe Sacco, Chester Brown, Adrian Tomine, and Art Spiegelman, there's a nice photo of them all together. Seth is in the top right of the photo. Link

Eddie Campbell interviewed in The Graphic Novel Review

Great, long interview with Eddie Campbell in The Graphic Novel Review.
One problem, for instance, is that when a paper like Publishers Weekly does a spread on the graphic novel, they need to justify it with some advertising. And who can afford that kind of ad? DC of course, so the image of the latest Batman paperback will dominate the page, and any blather we spout about the serious intent of the graphic novel will be somewhat wasted.

Zombie apocalypse novels serialized

Wireless Ink is offering two serialized science fiction novels called Monster Island and "Monster Nation".
Monster Island is a 60 chapter serial novel published to mobile phones under Creative Commons license by David Wellington (an indie author) about a Zombie Apocalypse in New York City. Monster Nation, the second novel in the trilogy, will be available in September 2004.
Mobile Link (Also available at under "Featured Sites.")

UPDATE: Jef sez: [Here's] the full webpage for David Wellington's "Monster Island". The mobile phone serial concept is dandy, but the winksite pages contain very little content per click, which is necessary for mobiles, but frustrating if you want to read it online or cut/paste to upload to a PDA.

UPDATE: David Harper of Winksite sez: "Great point about reading Monster Island from the desktop. Let me explain a bit on what is going on. When you point your browser to Monster Island ( you are presented with a version appropriate for your mobile phone or PDA. The version that pops up when you enter that address from a PC is intended to emulate/demo the mobile experience. We certainly would not expect or suggest anyone to read the novel from their desktop in that manner.

The mobile version of Monster Nation, the prequel to Island just launched today at and can be reached from your desktop at Chapters are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Over the next couple of weeks feeds of each of the novels will be made available for syndication. In addition, as each novel in the trilogy is completed, a downloadable PDF version will be made available under Creative Commons license.

UPS wants its shirt back

Darren sez, "A month or so ago, you guys referenced an entry about my UPS shirt. I though you might be interested in this follow-up.

"The blogosphere giveth, and the blogosphere taketh away. UPS got wind that I had one of their shirts, and they called and want it back. Here's my description of the first call. And here's my explanation today of why I'm giving it back.

Weinberger: "free access to every work of creativity in the world is a better world"

David Weinberger, author of the brilliant and seminal Small Pieces Loosely Joined, has posted a draft of a great speech on copyright that he's giving at the World Economic Forum in NYC tomorrow:
[F]or one moment, I'd like you to perform an exercise in selective attention. Forget every other consideration – even though they're fair and important considerations – and see if you can acknowledge that a world in which everyone has free access to every work of creativity in the world is a better world. Imagine your children could listen to any song ever created anywhere. What a blessing that would be!

...We publish stuff that gets its meaning and its reality by being read, viewed or heard. An unpublished novel is about as meaningful and real as an imaginary novel. It needs its readers to be. But readers aren't passive consumers. We reimagine the book, we complete the vision of the book. Readers appropriate works, make them their own. Listeners and viewers, too. In making a work public, artists enter into partnership with their audience. The work succeeds insofar as the audience makes it their own, takes it up, understands it within their own unpredictable circumstances. It leaves the artist's hands and enters our lives. And that's not a betrayal of the work. That's its success. It succeeds insofar as we hum it, quote it, appropriate it so thoroughly that we no longer remember where the phrase came from. That's artistic success, although it's a branding failure.

Link (via

Globe and Mail site jumps the shark

Misha sez:
The Toronto Globe and Mail has totally re-jigged their web site.

1) You need to register to see just about anything

2) Worse: From a quick glance, most of the feature writing, editorials, columns, etc now requires a *paid* subscription. They want $14.95/month for access to this. Even if you already subscribe to the print edition, they want you to pony up an extra $6.95 a month for full access to the web site.

Ah well, one more reason to get your news elsewhere. Link (Thanks, Misha!)

Elvis Costello disclaims antipiracy warnings on his own CD

Elvis Costello's new CD "The Delivery Man" is plastered with obnoxious FBI anti-piracy warnings. Over these is this legend: "THE ARTIST DOES NOT ENDORSE THE FOLLOWING WARNING. THE FBI DOESN'T HAVE HIS HOME PHONE NUMBER AND HE HOPES THAT THEY DON'T HAVE YOURS. Link (Thanks, Gary!)

HOWTO defeat Pentagon censorware and cast absentee ballots

The Pentagon is blocking websites that help overseas military personnel cast absentee ballots in the upcoming Federal election. The Verified Voter Foundation has initiated a program to create a distributed mirror of absentee voting info and to provide anonymizing proxy services to defeat the military's unconstitutional censorware.
The International Herald Tribune reported on September 20th that "the Pentagon has begun restricting international access to the official Web site intended to help overseas absentee voters cast ballots." Pentagon spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Ellen Krenke confirmed that a number of Internet service providers worldwide had been blacklisted "to thwart hackers." Such measures are generally recognized to be ineffective against hackers while blocking legitimate users.

Apparently, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website is now blocked to civilians overseas trying to find out how to obtain absentee ballots in at least 25 countries--including Japan, France, Great Britain, and Spain--although military personnel overseas have other mechanisms for requesting absentee ballots.


Cory's DRM talk as a print-centric PDF

Change This, the org that publishes manifestos on the Web as print-centric, beautifully laid-out PDFs, has republished my Microsoft DRM speech as a printable, laid-out, typographically sophisticated and pretty PDF. How cool! Link

ETCON call for proposals closes in a week!

The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Confernece call for participation closes on Sept 27 -- just under a week from now. ETCON, held annually in San Diego (this year's dates are March 14-17, 2005) is the best tech conference on the planet. I've averaged more mind-blowing experiences per ETCON than at any other event I've ever attended. I'm proud and honoured to sit on the conference jury, and we're now gearing up for the selection process -- looking forward to seeing your proposal on the list!
The theme for this year's ETech is "Remix," encompassing those nexus points of iterative hacking and large ideas that have a way of transforming technology:

* The phone has become a platform, moving beyond mere voice to smart mobile sensor–and back to phone again, by way of voice-over-IP.

* Geolocation, once the provenance of government and geologist, provides a sense of "there" and facilitates ad hoc group forming with feet in both the virtual and physical worlds.

* Peer-to-peer brought us the concept of the average PC as "the dark matter of the Internet," even more applicable to the mobile devices in our pockets. These devices, networked in a mesh, are starting to behave more like colony creatures than stand-alone devices.

* The grand unimaginative vision of web services as B2B EDI replacement has given way to recombinant data services and syndicated e-commerce for the rest of us.

* Geeks with screwdrivers are risking "letting the magic out" of their computers, game consoles, and other assorted gadgets, discovering instead that there's even more magic to be had when you've taken the screws out.


Cory speaking in London, Terre Haute this month

Just a reminder that Cory will be at two conferences in the coming weeks:

* I'm the evening's guest at the British Science Fiction Association meeting in London, this Wednesday, 5:30 - (The Star Tavern, 6 Belgrave Mews West, London, SW1X 8HT, 020 7235 3019)

* I'm a speaker at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology WWW@10 conference in Terre Haute Indiana, Sept 30 - Oct 2

Cool government pubs blog

CoolGov is a new blog devoted to interesting documents discovered on governmental websites.
From the "Explaining Barbeque to the World" desk at the State Deparment Bureau of International Information Programs: BBQ is a "method of cooking meat very slowly over coals was adopted by the early European settlers in North America and called barbecue. When it is done, the tender meat is chopped or shredded, topped with sauce that varies from region to region, and often made into a sandwich with a soft roll and some cole slaw. As with so many cooking methods, there is great debate among purists over what constitutes real barbecue, but none over its stature as a delicious and uniquely American dish."
Link (via Waxy)

Burning Man payphone stories and build-notes

Brad Templeton deployed a ruggedized WiFi/VoIP-based phone booth at this year's Burning Man -- here are build-notes, photos, maps of call-destinations and so forth.
A considerable number of folks invited to use the phone said they didn't know the phone numbers of any of their friends. Today, many people keep all numbers in their cell phone's address book, and never dial the numbers directly. Many of them called their own voice mails since they knew at least that number, and often exclaimed in amazement at just that. (Alas, many of the voice mails they left themselves will have been somewhat garbled due to the internet traffic issues.)
Link (Thanks, Brad!)

Google building custom Moz browser?

Some compelling evidence that Google is developing its own Mozilla-based browser; besides the registration of, there's the annotations in the Mozilla bug-tracker like this one: "this is a duplicate of a private bug about working with Google. So closing this one." Link

Blogs and politics timeline

David Sifry's put up a Wiki to collaboratively edit a timeline of "when weblogs had a significant impact on politics." Link

Feds defend secret law with secret brief

Bill sez, "The Justice Department continues to demand the right to file a secret brief in Gilmore vs. Ashcroft, a case that involves secret law. In response to a September 10th ruling by the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals that rejected DOJ's attempt to file their arguments in secret, the DOJ filed a motion asking the Court to reconsider its decision." Link (Thanks, Bill!)

San Diego's hacker con returns next weekend

ToorCon, San Diego's excellent hacker convention, is returning next weekend for its sixth year. I was a guest at this last year and had a great time -- the nerd sports were awesome, like the You 0wn It, You Own It contest, where anyone who could attain root on old *nix boxen got to take them home. Other highlights included the amazing party at the Dachb0den hacker loft, the hackerbot that would roll up to your feet and display all the cleartext passwords you'd sent over WiFi on its LCD, and the tech presentations on poisoning, sniffing, hacking, cracking, defending and fighting back (check out my photo gallery for more) (I'll never forget staying at the apartment that contained one of every Unix system ever, as part of a massive project to create a single shell script to close all non-essential services on any/every flavor of *nix -- the sound of all those fans and the heat made it like sleeping in a softly glowing jet engine!). Link (Thanks, Boogah!)

Little Pony Borg

What a great mod: converting a My Little Pony into an element of the Borg. Link (Thanks, Biz!)

Why some paintings' eyes follow you

A psych prof at Ohio State has used computer graphics apps to determine why some paintings' eyes appear to follow you around the room:
"When observing real surfaces in the natural environment the visual information that specifies near and far points varies when we change viewing direction," he said.

"When we observe a picture on the wall, on the other hand, the visual information that defines near and far points is unaffected by viewing direction. Still, we interpret this perceptually as if it were a real object. That is why the eyes appear to follow you as you change your viewing direction."

Todd said people may be surprised by this phenomenon because of the unique perceptual aspects of viewing a picture. We perceive the object depicted in a painting as a surface in 3-dimensional space, but we also perceive that the painting itself is a 2-dimensional surface that is hanging on the wall.

Link (Thanks, Ernie!)

UK take on Creative Commons

Becky sez, "My piece on Larry Lessig and the BBC Creative Archive was published in the New Media Guardian today. The in-depth article discusses copyright in the digital age and the Creative Commons project.

"Unfortunately, to read the article you need to register." Reg Req'd Link, use "" (Thanks, Becky!)

Publishing-scam vocabulary

Teresa Nielsen Hayden's latest blog-essay on publishing scams explores the vocabulary choices that tip off the likelihood of a sleazy publishing scam:
This is a segment of a larger piece, the working title of which has been "Ambient Misinformation about Publishing and Writing, and the Cultivation of the Reader Mind: A Rant I Didn't Get to Deliver at Noreascon." It has occurred to me that I could write about this one for a very long time without exhausting the subject.

Certain words and phrases are like little genetic markers for scammers. Here's a non-exhaustive list, non-exhaustively explained:

1. "Giving new writers a chance." Also: "Helping new writers."

While agents and publishers frequently do just this thing, they don't talk about it in those terms. For them, it's always a specific new book, a specific new author. Making judgements about which book and which writer they're going to work with is the heart of their job. When you hear someone talking in an indiscriminately general fashion about giving a chance to new writers, there's something wrong.

Same goes for "helping new writers." There might be legitimate projects aimed at helping new writers as a class, but the business they're in isn't agenting or publishing.


Anime murals in Montreal redux

Here are a couple more cool anime murals in Montreal, including one that was defaced by the addition of an obscuring McDonald's billboard. I'm now officially bored with this subject, so there's no point in sending in more Montreal anime mural links (but thanks for the ones you've sent in so far!). Link 1, Link 2 (Thanks, Jeremy and Mark!)

First Belgian book released under CC license

Stefan sez, "With Antwerp named as World Book City in 2004, residents and visitors were being invited to create a biography of the city by SMS. On the 19th September, a selection of the submitted impressions have been compiled into a booklet combined with the focus on the different text points and giving an alternative view on Antwerp and its districts. The booklet (in Dutch) is available for download in PDF, plain text and a special version for iPods. By the end of October a complete English translation will be available under the same license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0"> Link (Thanks, Stefan!)

Sterling engines for space

NASA-funded scientists are designing Stirling engines, first invented in 1816, to power long-range spacecraft that travel too far from the Sun to use solar power. Decaying plutonium heats up helium until it starts a chain reaction of contraction and expansion, producing sound waves that fire a piston.
"Inside the engine, the acoustic pressure is high enough to pop your eardrums," (Northrop Grumman researcher Mike) Petach told New Scientist. "It's louder than a thunderclap." He adds that the sound does not escape the engine, so the device could be used to produce electricity for submarines, which must glide undetected beneath the ocean's surface.