Boing Boing 

Daily Show on Wal-Mart

Lisa Rein has just posted a scathing and high-larious Daily Show commentary on Wal-Mart, in which Jon Stewart rebuts the latest round of feel-good PR from the retail giant. Link

Disney park family videos from yore and present

On the Webjay community playlist, an amazing trove of Windows Media (ugh) clips of family videos of Disney parks. I'm utterly taken with this 3.1MB WMV clip of a family enjoying the long-gone Disneyland Flying Saucers in 1961. Also available: the entire Monsanto plastic house of the future audio, a 1959 tour of the monorail, and some very funny clips of British families trying to make sense of the parks. Link (Thanks, Kirby!)

Paid volunteer opportunities for tech work in Africa

Wayan Vota of Geekcorps says:
In bringing the world wide web to the whole wide world, [we are] looking for a few volunteers to travel to Africa for four challenging IT projects that are changing the role of information and communication technologies in the developing world.
Link to details about Geekcorps' paid volunteer assignments in Mali, Ghana, Senegal, and Kenya. (via DMCA-Discuss listserv) Despite what the BBC reported of Bob "Mr. Bloody Africa" Geldof's comments today, Africa is not neccesarily "boring." (via Warren).

FCC spectrum sale attracts billion$ in bids

Wireless tech companies and others bid nearly $1 billion last Wednesday during the first day of an FCC auction of spectrum in the 1850 MHz to 1990 MHz bands. Nearly 250 licenses were up for sale in what some analysts say may be the last major spectrum auction until mid-2006. Link to NYT story, link to NYT reg-generator. (Thanks, Frank Keeney)

More on twinkie-oid food and sushi-esque chocolate

Last week, in the throes of a low-carb-induced delirium, I posted a bunch of stuff on BoingBoing about high-concept chow. Twinkies, sushi, chocolate, and combinations thereof. One of those entries pointed to a photo of "savory twinkies" by reader Ranjit Bhatnagar; he has now very kindly blogged the recipe for us all. He says, "Of course, it really comes down to 'Wrap cheese with polenta, bake, and serve,' but it was more fun to do a photo essay." If you look closely at the recipe photos, you can see a few clumps of snow from last week's New York blizzard. Link to Ranjit's recipe, and Link to a beautiful collection of "produce scans" on his blog.

Speaking of odd food, here's some Hello Kitty-shaped sushi (thanks numlok), and there is a chocolate cake disguised as a giant head of cabbage. (thanks, heidi). Special thanks to all the readers who submitted that website about people in Japan who carve elaborate designs in the flesh of watermelons -- but I'm kinda holding out for the website about people in Japan who carve elaborate watermelon designs in their own flesh.

Previously: Yet another chocolate sushi site; chocolate solar system, Twinkie Sushi, Candy Sushi, Chocolate Sushi.

Pramulator: Bloblike baby carriage

 Images Art Pram.6.A1This baby carriage, manufactured by Bent Fabrication, makes me want to have a third child so I can push it around in one of these. Link (via The Cartoonist

Claire Robertson's stuffed animals

 Journal Images Kittendoll02Loobylu blogger Claire Robertson sure makes cute stuffed animals. Link

Services that insert sounds into mobile phone conversations

A growing number of tech providers now offer "sound insertion" services for mobile phone users. Think: ringtones you plug into the "body" of a voice conversation. Sonic emoticons. Ronan Higgins of says:
Lightwav for PalmOne Treo smartphones has a feature called "CoverUp Sound" where you can trigger sounds to play in the phone conversation.

I hear that this application is popular in Japan with cheating "salary men" husbands. They'll trigger sounds of a train station, a busy office or a bar, while explaining to their wives why they won't be home until later. Single men trigger the sound of a girl in the background saying "come back to bed" to make their male friends jealous.

I use it to insert a bad connection effect: "I can't hear you, you're breaking up on me, I'm losing signal, I'll have to call you back about that. Kshhhh."

In related news -- last week, San Francisco-based Phonebites nabbed a US$3MM venture round. They, too, offer a service that allows mobile phone users to insert a pre-recorded sound clip into a live conversation - like a radio soundboard, but for your cell phone. Here's a related Engadget post from last October: Link. (thanks, Marc Nathan, via the unwired list)

Update: BB reader Daniel says,

There's also such an application available for Seiries60 smartphones. The app is called CallCheater. And it works quite nicely.

Web Zen: Rock Star Zen

learning from iron maiden
electronic superstar
dead rock stars club
top 10 silly black metal pics
reverse rock
more about dead rock stars
rock and roll fantasy camp
fake bands
rock star kenny
backstage pass
cooking with rock stars
Image: Rock Star Kenny, a mid-'80s toy created by a Mattel licensee in Argentina. web zen home, web zen store, (Thanks, Frank).

Spanish-speaking bloggers blogging in English: an aggregator

Blogger and communications professor Jose Luis Orihuela in Pamplona, Spain says: "Thanks to Víctor Ruiz, an idea that's been around for a long time -- an RSS aggregator for feeds of English-language blogs from Spanish-speaking bloggers -- has finally launched. A beta version is available here: Link." There's more background (in Spanish) in this post on Jose Luis' blog: Link

Everything's coming up Gandhi

Where's Mahatma Gandhi? According to this TV ad produced by Young and Rubicam Italia for an Italian telecom -- he's your new cellphone wallpaper! He's on laptops! He's on gigantic plasma screen displays affixed to the sides of buildings! Wait, now he's a ringtone! File under "tasteless corporate appropriation of the dead."
Link (Thanks, Rohit Gupta in Bombay!)

VW car-bomber ad: dispute about more than copyright?

Following up on this previous Boing Boing post, reader raging red says,
I've been doing a tiny bit of research into the German crime of "public incitement" in response to your post about the fake VW ad. This is not simply a copyright infringement issue. The theory here is that this ad could provoke someone to commit a car bombing. Under German law as I read it, even if the ad does not in fact incite someone to commit a car bombing, the two men who produced the phony ad are still subject to a maximum penalty of five years in prison, simply for creating the ad.

Update: raging red says:

Some people [in the comments section of my blog] have corrected me. Apparently the translation from German in the Reuters article is a little off. The crime they may be charged with is a different kind of public incitement. It's called "Volksverhetzung," which apparently means agitation of the public or incitement of hatred. It's basically a hate speech statute. The punishment is 3 months to five years. I haven't verified this information myself yet, but the people in my comments sound like they are correct, and one person has given the text of the statute in my comments.

Soccer Mom Metadata

Move over, Peeing Calvin: another series of car sticker graphics also say "total fucking idiot on board." Boing Boing reader Denise Howell says,
Family tags: In a weird confluence of SoCal suburbia and meatspace metadata, people are tagging their cars with stick figure facsimiles of their family. What's next, the corporate version? (Stick figure CEO holds hand of middle manager holding hands with a legion of cube-dwellers...)

Update: Boing Boing reader Mario Lopez says:

These stickers started appearing in Mexican cities around 2001 and spread like wildfire. Now they are everywhere and even political candidates have resorted to this kind of advertising. They are sold everywhere and are customizable with the name/nickname of your children and pets and whatnot. It is all pretty abnormal and ugly. I can only guess that this fad was brought to the US by chicanos returning from these last holidays in their hometowns.

For once Mexico is not 10 years behind the US, now we are like 3 years ahead in the bizarre family sticker business. When everyone started using these things on their cars, authorities advised to the contrary, they said it was an unnecesary risk to broadcast so much information about your family (names, how many boys, girls, aproximate ages, etc) to potential kidnappers. No one seemed to care.

I will look for some really odd ones on the street and send them if they are really good.

Last five tickets to E Coast hacker con auctioned for EFF

Pablos sez, "Thanks in part to an early mention on Boing Boing, the first ever Shmoocon is sold out. Starting Friday is our attempt to have an East Coast security and hacker conference without the marketing crap but with a heavy emphasis on the geek projects that inspire us. The last 5 passes are being auctioned on eBay and their entire proceeds will be donated to the EFF."

Reviews for Make

There's still time to contribute a review to the second issue of MAKE, a technology project magazine I'm editing.

Is there some gadget, tool, web site, newsletter, instructional video, book, magazine, CD-ROM, or instrument you already own and love? Then write about it for MAKE. We'll pay you if we run it.

Reviews should be approximately 100-300 words, and be written in the first person. Think more "recommendation" and "experience" when you write these than "review." We want to hear about your involvement with it.

The old Wired guidelines for reviews went like this: “Write your review. Then write us a letter explaining why we should devote space to your item. Throw away your review and send us the letter.” That's the way to do it.

Send your reviews to

Eyes on the Screen torrent mirror

Eyes on the Screen is an amazing Downhill Battle project that we blogged earlier. The idea is to get people to download the seminal documentary Eyes on the Prize, which chronicles the American civil rights movement. It's a Black History Month perrennial, but because of the prohibitive cost of clearing the copyrights to the archival footage used in the series. Once the series has been downloaded, you'd be encouraged to host a screening party for your friends and neighbors on February 8th, and ensure that the vital messages of this documentary don't fade away due to outmoded laws.

The Downhill Battle torrents for Eyes on the Prize have gone away, but there is still a mirror of them available. Please consider using the mirror to get your own copies and host a party of your own.

At 8pm on February 8th we will celebrate the struggle and triumph of the civil rights movement with screenings of Eyes on the Prize Part 1: Awakenings. Eyes on the Prize is the most renowned civil rights documentary of all time; for many people, it is how they first learned about the Civil Rights Movement (more about the film). But this film has not been available on video or television for the past 10 years simply because of expired copyright licenses. We cannot allow copyright red tape to keep this film from the public any longer. So today we are making digital versions of the film available for download. Join us in building a new mass audience for this film: organize or attend a screening in your city, town, school or home on February 8th.

High schoolers on free speech

A new study reveals that far too many US high school students don't seem to understand the meaning of free speech, aren't taught about the First Amendment, or simply don't care. A few choice excerpts from the AP story:
...When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories...

Three in four students said flag burning is illegal...

About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet.
Who is teaching these kids? Link

UPDATE: Fortunately at least some students aren't being entirely short-changed by their schools, as this email from BB reader Maxx points out:
"I am a junior (11th grade) at Cocalico High School. Our school has a mandatory course named Principals of Democracy. In this class, we are taught everything about the Constitution including an in depth study of the Bill of Rights. The students must also write a essay about a section of the bill of rights and also conduct a formal debate against fellow classmates. On this essay we must use at least 34 sources and my paper turned out to be 16 pages on the second amendment right to bear arms. So, just to clarify, some of us do know a thing or two about the constitution. Also, as students, we do not have the right to free speech, protection from unreasonable search or seizure, or freedom of assembly."
UPDATE: As reader Steve Jones points out, the common "principals" vs. "principles" spelling error in Maxx's email is particularly ironic in this case.

UPDATE: Blogger Britta Gustafson says:
Students do have the right to free speech, protection from unreasonable search or seizure, and freedom of assembly. The rights are more restricted than those of adults, but we have them. The extent depends on your state and school district.

I'm in 12th grade at a high school in the horrible Los Angeles Unified School District. My friends and I started an underground newspaper because the principal insisted on prior review if we did an official one. She can't stop us from publishing and distributing our paper as long as it is not disruptive, libelous, or obscene. We can only be searched randomly or if there is reasonable suspicion. We are free to assemble on and off campus as long as it is not disruptive.

The problem is that students don't have the resources to protect their rights. We get suspended if we don't wear the school uniform -- even though mandatory uniforms are illegal -- and we can't do much about it. The District bureaucrats don't care and legal action is out of reach for most of us.

But we write about it. High school journalism is still alive -- and the best way for us to learn what our 1st Amendment rights really mean.

Good new weather blog

Rising Slowly is a great new blog about the weather -- lots of tasty science and news-of-the-weird on climate.
Bizarre reportage from the India Daily: "In every country of the world, all on a sudden the weather forecasting computer models are failing – human or extra-terrestrial hand in weather manipulation?"

Weather forecasting all over the world is breaking, says the article. Is some unseen hand at work? No, really, look:

"In India, for example, scientists were astonished at the National Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting were perplexed by the deviation of the weather from the that predicted by the Doppler reports."

And that's not all:

"In India, China, Africa, Europe, all over the world the same story is repeating. In every country the meteorologists are thinking that these anomalies are just present in their region. But it is global and increasing every day."

The writer concludes that "someone" may be controlling the weather.

If it's you, do feel free to own up in the comments.


How Hobbits made tools

Stone tools were found alongside the remains of the meter-tall human species recently discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores. One of the many mysteries left behind by Boing Boing's mascot, Homo floresiensis, is how they managed to make sophisticated tools given their small brains. Archaeology graduate student Mark Moore of the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia has a theory that's most easily demonstrated by cutting triangles of cheese. From ABC Science Online:
 Science News Img Palaeo Bladea310105 If you want to make perfect cheese triangles first you have to cut the cheese block diagonally, he says, then you turn one half of the block on its side and slice across it to get regular triangles.

This is an example of hierarchical thinking, which as far as we know is a unique attribute of how modern humans think.

But, says Moore, he has found is possible to make at least one particular type of the tool found alongside the hobbit, called a 'blade', quite incidentally and unintentionally, without hierarchical thinking.

"Origins of Cyberspace" auction at Christie's

Scheduled to take place on Feb. 23 in New York City: an "Origins Of Cyberspace" auction at Christie's. For sale: 255 cool things that point to the history of computation.

Via William Gibson's blog, who quips, "Dang. Hurts a guy's feelings: I read through this whole [auction] (...), waiting for that essential Gollancz first of Neuromancer to pop up, but"

Image: excerpt from Howard Hathaway Aiken and Grace Murray Hopper's "A manual of operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator by the staff of the Computation Laboratory."
Link to auction contents. I bet Alpha-60 is in here somewhere!

Update: Apparently, this story is, like, so two months ago. Link to Wired Magazine item. From (cough) December '04. (Thanks, Adam Rogers).

Here's more on the auction, from the current owner of its contents. Link. In the weeks leading up to the auction, there will be public events in Cambridge, MA, and at Stanford University in California, at which portions of the collection will be displayed.

Beats a plain pine box

Isaac Adjetey Sowah of Accra, Ghana designs and builds fantasy coffins, like this one that reflects its "future resident's" trade in life. From snails to airplanes to Cadillacs, people are just dying to get into one of Sowah's creations. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) From the BBC:
 Media Images 40770000 Jpg  40770401 Shoe Ghana When I asked Isaac about his most unusual commission his eyes light up and a big grin envelopes his face.

"Oh," he says, "An angel, a big white angel".

Now it seems he cannot wait to craft the archangel Gabriel himself.

But for those wanting something more conventional, there is always the Bible coffin which remains a popular design.

Think of a large box in the shape of a leather bound book with the front cover on hinges, and you get the idea.

Gerald McBoing-Boing

 Archive Week 05AHere's the latest vintage kiddie record download from Basic Hip Digital Oddio: Gerald McBoing-Boing. You can download the MP3 and cover art using a Bit Torrent file. Link

Blind painter

Esref Armagan is a Turkish painter who has been blind since birth. His paintings are amazingly realistic, incorporating color, perspective, and great detail. To determine how this may be possible, Harvard neurologists Alvaro Pascual-Leone Amir Amedi are scanning Armagan's brain. From New Scientist:
 Gallery Armagan Images Room1 Esref1Ba Pascual-Leone and Amedi want to see what Armagan's brain can tell them about neural plasticity. Both scientists have evidence that in the absence of vision, the "visual" cortex - the part of the brain that makes sense of the information coming from our eyes - does not lie idle. Pascual-Leone has found that proficient Braille readers recruit this area for touch. Amedi, along with Ehud Zohary at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, found that the area is also activated in verbal memory tasks.

When Amedi analysed the results, however, he found that Armagan's visual cortex lit up during the drawing task, but hardly at all for the verbal recall. Amedi was startled by this. "To get such extraordinary plasticity for [drawing] and zero for verbal memory and language - it was such a strong result," he says. He suspects that, to a certain extent, how the unused visual areas are deployed depends on who you are and what you need from your brain.

Even more intriguing was the way in which drawing activated Armagan's visual cortex. It is now well established that when sighted people try to imagine things - faces, scenes, colours, items they've just looked at - they engage the same parts of their visual cortex that they use to see, only to a much lesser degree. Creating these mental images is a lot like seeing, only less powerful. When Armagan imagined items he had touched, parts of his visual cortex, too, were mildly activated. But when he drew, his visual cortex lit up as though he was seeing. In fact, says Pascual-Leone, a naive viewer of his scan might assume Armagan really could see.

Billy-Bob says floss!

A few years ago, Mark frequently made me fall into hysterics by answering the door wearing his Billy-Bob Teeth and "acting the part." Now Richard Bailey, inventor of the Billy-Bob Teeth and a practicing dentist, is putting his money where his mouth with a Floss Across America campaign. Using the motto "No Smile Left Behind," Bailey will promote good oral hygiene to kids. From the Associated Press:
He's still associated with Billy-Bob Teeth, but is no longer involved in production and sales.

"I want to give back because I've been accused of earning a living off other people's afflictions," he said.

Are you listening to me?

My latest article for TheFeature is about software that detects how engaged you are in your telephone conversations:
Picking up the phone when it rings is like signing a legal contract: "You hereby agree to actively participate in this conversation, responding in a timely manner and allowing the dialogue to run its course. Only with the consent of both parties can this contract be prematurely terminated without holding one of the aforementioned parties liable for rudeness." Of course, other forms of audio communication have very different unspoken contracts. For example, in social situations, push-to-talk over cellular has a lot in common with online instant messaging. Each party agrees to reply to the other when convenient. The conversation is less of a commitment. If mobile video calling takes off, it too will have its own specific terms-of-polite-use. Meanwhile, conference calls require an entirely unique set of rules to avoid a cacophony of separate conversations.

To help negotiate these social mobile-communication contracts, computer scientists at the Palo Alto Research Center, a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation, are developing software systems that analyze the subtleties of conversation. Unlike automated voice menus or other natural-language processing systems that attempt to identify what we're saying, the PARC software listens for how we're saying it.

Board game under CC license

Andrew invented a strategy board-game called Dugi that looks like a fair bit of fun (looks a little like Pente or Go -- he bills it as being "as simple as checkers, as strategic as chess). He's released it under a Creative Commons license and invites you to improve on it. Though I'm pretty sure that this isn't the first "open source boardgame," it certainly looks like it would be fun to play!
PLAY: Players take turns moving one piece per turn. The pieces may be moved ‘forward’ (toward or away from the centre of the board) or ‘sideways’ (left or right around the ring). The pieces may be moved as far as the player wishes, but must not leave the board on the outside, enter the dead zone, move diagonally or ‘jump’ a piece in its way.

To capture a piece, you must move your piece so that it completes a ‘surround’, then remove the captured piece from the board.

Link (Thanks, Andrew!)

Update: Tom sez: How about an entire Zine of paper strategy games that is under a CCL? Countermoves has put out about 5 issues that can be had as a print ready PDF or from a few game stores and conventions when folks get around to printing them off in enough numbers to share. Gurilla Publishing for Gamers. There are a ton of games in the issues that have come out and the zine is just about to spawn an entire CCL game system called the Countermoves Micro Game Engine. Folks will be able to take the rules and create pretty much any micro sized strategy game with it.

Song of the South fansite

Song of the South is a classic Disney animated feature that retells the "Uncle Remus" stories, which were created by a nineteenth century newspaper columnist, based on African-American storytellers he'd known. They are thought to be folkloric descendants of stories that were brought over by African slaves.

The film is controversial due to its treatment of race and class, and there are those who claim that it makes use of racial stereotypes, while other critics treat its use of dialect and slavery-times themes as historical, as opposed to stereotypical.

Eisner's Disney organization has staunchly resisted re-releasing the Song of the South, and even though the Splash Mountain rides at Disneyland and Walt Disney World are inspired by it, you can't buy the video or see the movie in theatres.

This website is dedicated to pressuring Disney into bringing back Song of the South, containing critical essays, histories and backgrounders on the film. Link (via The Disney Blog)

Snow Crash-like wheels from Michelin

Michelin has developed a new non-pneumatic car wheel that has been adopted for various robotics uses. It reminds me of the "Smartwheels" in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash: "Each one consists of a hub with many stout spokes. Each spoke telescopes in five sections. On the end is a squat foot, rubber tread on the bottom, swiveling on a ball joint. As the wheels roll, the feet plant themselves one at a time, almost glomming into one continuous tire. If you surf over a bump, the spokes retract to pass over it. If you surf over a chuckhole, the robo-prongs plumb its asphalty depths."
The heart of Tweel innovation is its deceptively simple looking hub and spoke design that replaces the need for air pressure while delivering performance previously only available from pneumatic tires.

The flexible spokes are fused with a flexible wheel that deforms to absorb shock and rebound with ease. Without the air needed by conventional tires, Tweel still delivers pneumatic-like performance in weight-carrying capacity, ride comfort, and the ability to "envelope" road hazards.

Michelin has also found that it can tune Tweel performances independently of each other, which is a significant change from conventional tires. This means that vertical stiffness (which primarily affects ride comfort) and lateral stiffness (which affects handling and cornering) can both be optimised, pushing the performance envelope in these applications and enabling new performances not possible for current inflated tires.

Link (Thanks, MLE!)

Copyfighters at Speakers' Corner

Yesterday, I threw a "Copyfighters' Brunch and Talking Shop" wherein a bunch of friends gathered on Speakers' Corner in London's Hyde Park amidst the Marxists and evangelicals and gave impromptu speeches. It was great fun. Becky Hogge got some video with her digital camera, and I got some snapshots with mine. Link Updated Link (Thanks, Becky!)
Update: Becky's site was groaning under the load of distributing the videos, so she's found herself a mirror. Please use that instead.

Alex Shulgin profile

Today's New York Times profiles psychedelic pharmacologist Alexander Shulgin:
"At the beginning of the 20th century, there were only two psychedelic compounds known to Western science: cannabis and mescaline. A little over 50 years later -- with LSD, psilocybin, psilocin, TMA, several compounds based on DMT and various other isomers -- the number was up to almost 20. By 2000, there were well over 200. So you see, the growth is exponential." When I asked him whether that meant that by 2050 we'll be up to 2,000, he smiled and said, ''The way it's building up now, we may have well over that number."

The point is clear enough: the continuing explosion in options for chemical mind-manifestation is as natural as the passage of time. But what Shulgin's narrative leaves out is the fact that most of this supposedly inexorable diversification took place in a lab in his backyard.
Link (free reg. required) Thanks for the reminder, Nick Wilson!