Boing Boing 

Robogames coverage

Ambiguous.org's Quinn Norton covers last weekend's Robogames event for the O'Reilly Network:
A sensor board coordinates data from two infrared controllers at 45° and 135° (angled to give some advanced data about the angle of the walls just in front of the robot). The sensor board also takes in data from a front-mounted sonar unit that tells the robot how far away the wall is (bumping a wall in the Trinity challenge is a penalty). Finally, there's a pair of line detectors pointing at the floor. These allow it to see the lines that mark the entrances to rooms, as well as the fire circle and the starting circle.

The last part of Larson's basic board kit is the CPU board, which pulls in data from the other boards, and spits out decisions to the motor.

Many of the decisions about what the sensors are seeing is farmed out to processors on the other boards, which come to an agreement using a subsumption architecture, the distributed decision-making architecture invented by Rodney Brooks in the 1980s. But at the top, the CPU board's Microchip PIC CPU (a 18F6621) uses a traditional maze-solving routine to map its way to the candle.

Link

Library of Congress deletes whistle-blower's comments

Joe discovered that when the Library of Congress posted the comments it got on the "Orphan Works" proceeding, it failed to redact the personal info of the submitters, simply covering them with a white box, which anyone could see through with a simple copy-paste operation. He complained to the Library of Congress, so they deleted his comment.
I had assurances from the LoC that they had fixed this personal information disclosure. However, working with the folks at freeculture.org, it appears that their "solution" was to remove my comment document only (instead of a more general solution). Moreover, all the original unredacted files are available in the ZIP file they offer... which hasn't been updated.

Man, doesn't anyone know someone at the LoC who can get things done? Well, I guess that's the price I pay for providing feedback (participation tax, I suppose).

Link (Thanks, Joe!)

Euro-RIAA justifies breaking iTunes, endorses fairy-tale of "open DRM"

Charlie sez, "While Jon Johansen ported PyMusique to C#, now called SharpMusique, a head of IFPI Norway says they don't care about PyMusique and that all the blame is on Apple and its proprietary DRM:"
To the degree that iTunes sells music based on proprietary barriers, this is not something that has happened with the recording industry's blessing and celebration. We are skeptical to this. This is a problem Apple has to solve." [...] "As far as I can see PyMusique does not violate the DRM system in iTunes, it only keeps the music away from the (iTunes) program.
It's funny to see the European equivalent of the RIAA saying that Apple deserves to have its DRM broken, of course.

But the REALLY funny thing here is the nonsensical term "proprietary DRM." DRM is by definition proprietary. Even in the "standards bodies" where they are setting out DRM systems, these are not freely implementable -- instead, you have to go on bended knee before a cartel of studio executives and beg permission to have your implementation approved. Shipping an unapproved DRM is a one-way ticket to an anti-circumvention lawsuit.

Among the grounds for refusing to approve an "open DRM" is that you want to include an output to some other DRM that hasn't been approved -- if you build to a "DRM standard," you have to waive your right to contract with anyone building to different standard.

But it gets worse: say you get permission to include an output for some other DRM system that you think your customers want and use. If, at some time in the future, the cartel decides that the other DRM system is no good (say, because Jon Johansen has released OtherDRMMusique), they demand the right to force you to eliminate that DRM from your system -- even if you have a contract with that DRM provider promising to include it.

So you not only waive your right to contract up to the moment that you implement the "standard," but also for the indefinite future.

It's like a schoolyard friend who says, "If you want to be my pal, you have to promise not to talk to the goth kids -- only the jocks." So you end up in a study group with a bunch of jocks and your erstwhile friend says, "I hate jocks now. Stop hanging out with them. From now on, you have to hang out with the D&D nerds." When you protest that if you walk away from your study group you'll flunk out of school, your "friend" just shrugs and says, "I told you when I agreed to be your friend that this might happen. Tough."

Implement a DRM "standard" and be prepared to have your devices redesigned at regular intervals, to the whims of the most paranoid, power-drunk, technophobic executives in the world. Link (Thanks, Charlie!)

Interview with RFID implantee

Last week, Mark linked to Flickr photos of a guy who had an RFID chip implanted in his hand. The always-fun Body Modification Ezine made contact with the gent, Amaal Graafstra, and posted a lengthy interview. Here's an excerpt:
 News Presenttense 20050330-Rfid-Latch Vid Cap BME: Now, who actually performed the implant procedure?

AG: As I have not asked the doctor for permission to publish their name, I can’t give that out, but they happen to be a cosmetic surgeon, so it seemed the natural choice. However, it was not hard to find someone to do the procedure; I have many MDs for clients and the day I got my chips, I asked two and both said they’d do it...

BME: Ideally, what sort of accessibility do you hope to see this implant give you in the future?

AG: Well, because I’m writing my own software and soldering up my own stuff, pretty much anything I want. Well, more accurately, anything I have the time and inspiration to do. Ultimately though, I think true keyless access will require an implantable chip with a very strong encryption system; right now I’m only looking at this type of thing in a personal context. As for society at large, nightclubs in Spain are already using RFID chips to let customers put drinks on their tabs and enter VIP lounge areas, and I think Australian pubs are doing the same as well. I’m not sure if they use encrypted implants or not. I was more interested in just getting something simple, cheap, and fun to play with.
Link (via Gizmodo)

Boring Boring: Awesome April Fools' parody of Boing Boing


Some anonymous geniuses whipped up this incredibly thorough parody of Boing Boing. I LOLed until my very eyeballs popped out. The detail is frightening (note the "Studious Girls" ads), as is the volume of witty, nuanced little references to actual crap we've blogged. To wit:

HOWTO: De-everybody Boring Boring
Jason Gill says, "Someone has posted a script for GreaseMonkey (a Firefox extension that lets you add your own Javascript code to any website, to remove ads or add features) that automatically removes every post when viewing Boring Boring." We wish we had thought of that.
and
At last, an alternative to Firefox!
Firefox Alternative Chris James sez, "I got so tired of all the updates, lame plug-ins and the W3C evangelism of the Mozilla crowd that I've been looking around for an alternative to Firefox for quite some time. Finally, I've settled on a great free app called Internet Explorer -- and it looks like I'm not alone. According to my site stats, Explorer is running neck and neck with Firefox for marketshare. It's about time somebody gave those thugs at the Mozilla Foundation some competition." Link
Link to "Boring Boring: A Directory of Dull Things." Link to mirror, and Link to another (Thanks for the mirror, Sean). It's a masterpiece. Thanks, smartass(es)!

Update: If you can't access either link, here's a partial screenshot: Link.

Sony to create "iTunes for movies," release 500 films digitally within a year

At a conference in Santa Monica today, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment SVP Michael Arrieta said:
"We want to set business models, pricing models, distribution models like (Apple Computer CEO Steve) Jobs did for music, but for the film industry," [said Arrieta], "I'm trying to create the new 'anti-Napster."

To that end, Arrieta said, his group plans to digitize Sony Pictures' top 500 films and make them available for the first time in various digital environments within the next year. He said the distribution for films like "Spider-Man 2" will go beyond just Movielink, the video-on-demand joint venture of Sony Pictures and several other major studios, which to date has hosted a limited library of Sony's movies.

For example, Sony plans to sell and make films available in flash memory for mobile phones in the next year, Arrieta said. It also will further develop its digital stores for downloading and owning films on the PC, he said in an interview. Sony's plans--and similar moves by other studios--are likely to avoid empowering any one technology company--such as Apple in the music equation--and allow studios to pocket more of the profits. The philosophy in Hollywood is "Define your own agenda or someone else will for you."

Link to ZDNet story. Previously on Boing Boing: The Cuban Revolution

Shirky: stupid (c) laws block me from publishing own work online

Clay Shirky tells Boing Boing:
Welcome to the Copyfight. So, at Etech this year, I gave a talk entitled Ontology is Overrated. I want to put a transcript up online, and Mary Hodder, who recorded the talk, graciously agreed to give me a copy of the video.

When she came by NYC last week, she dropped off a DVD, which I then wanted to convert to AVI (the format used by my transcription service.) I installed ffmpeg and tried to convert the material, at which point I got an error message which read "To comply with copyright laws, DVD device input is not allowed." Except, of course, there are no copyright laws at issue here, since I'M THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.

Got that? I am in possession of a video, of me, shot by a friend, copied to a piece of physical media given to me as a gift. In the video, I am speaking words written by me, and for which I am the clear holder of the copyright. I am working with said video on a machine I own. Every modern legal judgment concerning copyright, from the Berne Convention to the Betamax case, is on my side. AND I CAN'T MAKE A COPY DIRECTLY FROM THE DEVICE. This is because copyright laws do not exist to defend the moral rights of copyright holders -- they exist to help enforce artificial scarcity.

Copyright holders in my position, who want to use Creative Commons licensing to share material, are treated as pathological cases, because we're not behaving in the extortionate manner that current regulations are designed to protect.

I've gotten the copy another way, and the transcript will go up, but this is the state of the world, circa 2005: I can be prevented from copying my own words from my own devices, precisely because I want to share them freely, a use the law is perfectly prepared to regard as irrelevant.

Boing Boing reader Thomas provides further evidence of unjust copyright cockblocking:
I have also found that when trying to take screenshots of DVDs (whoever holds the copyright) it is usually disabled by the OS. Similarly, if a miniDV device is asked to record a copyrighted DVD, it will not permit it, regardless of who tagged the disc and who is operating the miniDV device.

The bullshit continues.

d3 says:
I was reading this bb post about Shirky being unable to copy his DVD content using ffmpeg. The software does prevent the user from copying directly from a DVD, but it is possible to copy the .vob files to the hard drive and then ffmpeg will happily convert the files. Personally, I prefer using DVDxDV, which is pretty much a one-click operation from DVD to a DV file. No copying of .vob files neccessary. Strangely, I was just dealing with this issue yesterday. Maybe this can help. I agree that it is ridiculous, but at least there are some people writing tools to help us out.
Leland Johnson says:
The OS doesn't "permit" taking screenshots of DVDs because it's faster to do overlay rendering (direct communication with the video card). Some computers can't update their screens the normal way because it takes more CPU power. If you want to play videos/DVDs and take screenshots of them, the excellent and free Media Player Classic [link below] can be easily forced to never use overlay by selecting the output filter VMR9, which makes screenshots possible.
Link BB reader daniel says:
If you're an os x user, snapz pro x will happily capture screens from a dvd (or anything else you like, in fact). Link
And M. Noel adds:
OS X users who don't want to pay for Snapz can take screencaps of DVDs by using the screencaputre shell (Terminal.app) command. It comes with the OS, so there's nothing to buy. I always type the command into a terminal, move the window as far offscreen as possible, and then press Enter to execute -- so you don't have to see much (if any) of the Terminal window.
Link

Early bird syndrome linked to genetic mutation

In this week's issue of Nature, neuroscientists report that they've implicated a single gene mutation in Familiar Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (FASPS), or "early bird syndrome." Often, people who have this condition have no choice but to crash in the early evening and wake up long before dawn. From National Geographic News:
"The net result is you can feel very isolated," (FASPS sufferer Susan) Middlebrook said. "Who wants to party at three in the morning? Nobody I know, and I'm not headed to the local bar to see who's still there." Instead, she quietly cleans the house, makes breakfast, or cuddles up with a book.

About three-tenths of a percent of the world's population lives like this, including two of Middlebrook's sisters, her daughter, and her mother. "Their whole clock is shifted," said Ying-Hui Fu, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco...

The researchers are not yet certain how the gene mutation works to shift people's sleep time. But laboratory experiments suggest mutation slows the activity of a protein called casein kinase I delta (CKIdelta). "The next step is to figure out why," Fu said.
Link

Library of unusual materials

Inside the basement of King's College London's engineering department, Mark Miodownik curates a "cabinet of curiosities" for materials scientists. He started the collection in 2003 after noticing that his colleagues trashed all kinds of unusual materials at the end of their research projects. From News@Nature:  News 2005 050328 Images Bowl
His collection now includes more than 300 samples, including artificial skin made of rubber composites, and a material known as a superslurper that absorbs 400 times its own weight in water....

Miodownik trawls the globe in search of additions to his collection. On a recent trip to Australia, he found himself in the remote uranium-mining town of Broken Hill in New South Wales. He started hunting through antique shops there to find a special type of glass.

Miodownik explains that in the early twentieth century people thought that radioactive materials had beneficial health properties. For this reason, they manufactured glassware containing uranium, especially in places such as Broken Hill that had an abundance of the element.

In the Australian antique shops, Miodownik flashed an ultraviolet light on various glass pieces to find one that glowed, a sign that it contained uranium. When he found a bowl that did just that (pictured here), he brought it back to London and added it to the library.
Link

Schiavo parents to sell donor data to direct-marketing firm

The parents of rececently-deceased Terri Schiavo will sell their list of supporting donors to a direct-mailing firm.
The company, "Response Unlimited" pays about $150 a month for 6,000 names and $500 a month for 6,000 e-mail addresses. A spokesperson for the Schindlers confirmed that they had agreed to sell the information, but won't say for how much.
Link (Thanks, Steve). Update Here's a more in-depth piece co-authored by John Schwartz in the New York Times: Link

707 panel as decorative lighting

Todd Lappin has finished installing his 707 jet panel in his house. It looks incredible!
 7900634 Ef15D64C4D M This hangs on one wall of our living room, above the stairway that leads down to the garage. As you walk up the steps, you get this view.

My 707 has come a long way since I first found it at an aircraft scrapyard in Tucson. Here's a daylight view, shortly after I stripped off the paint. The illumination comes from rope lights mounted on the structurally-cool back side. (Next time you rest your head against a window-seat wall to snooze, this is basically what lies underneath.)


Link

Wing Sings

Her voice sounds like the cry of a shy hamster in whose rectum a hot poker has just been inserted.

The New Zealand-based performer's squeaky, ear-shredding rendition of "Dancing Queen" (Link: MP3) was featured in a South Park episode last week. I really need to get out on the internet more often, I don't know how I missed this -- Jesus, I just figured they'd made the character up.
Link to Wing Tunes, the official Wing website. Her new album of ABBA covers is magnificent: Link. Here's the South Park episode: Wing, first aired 03-23-2005. (thanks, pelle)

Update: %20 says:

I did a cut up of Wing's "My Favorite Things" following Negativland's infamous version. Link to MP3, and try this folder if the direct link doesn't work.

Government docs torrents

Thad sez,
Wanted to tell you guys about some more cool new torrents I've put up:

- Commission on Intelligence Capabilities WMD report & other key WMD documents
- Betamax legal documents
- Betamax mp3s
- National Security Archive Pre-9/11 intelligence documents

Link (Thanks, Thad!)

Wearing John Malkovich: actor launches men's clothing line

Snip from Theater News item:
John Malkovich, the renowned stage and screen actor, is also the designer of the Uncle Kimono clothing line -- and he will showcase his autumn/winter 2005-2006 men's wear collection at a trunk sale to be held at The Performing Garage (33 Wooster Street) in SoHo on Saturday, April 16, from 10am to 5pm. A percentage of the proceeds will benefit The Wooster Group.

(...) According to Malkovich, "Uncle Kimono is a men's wear collection that resonates with the late 1950s Californian beach boys, some Palm Springs Rat Pack, a touch of lounge lizard, and a recollection of a Swiss banker who's been let go."

A few months ago I was out having sushi with some pals in West Hollywood, and a very dapper Mr. Malkovich sat down at an adjacent table with friends. He was dressed in an extremely funky-fresh outfit, so this news comes as no surprise. He is one stylin' guy. Link to news report, and here is John Malkovich's website. Site also includes some pretty cool t-shirts, like the one shown above, but yow -- they're $70 a pop. (via blogging.la)

Katamari Damacy 2 screenshots

Check out these screenshots for the sequel to Katamari Damacy: "Everybody Loves Katamari Damacy." Christ, I want this game on my Powerbook. Link (Thanks, Tallpat!)

Google owns leet-speak version of google.com

466453.com (which spells google.com in at least one variant of hacker number-letter substitution code) is 0wned by Google and resolves to google.com. Link (Thanks, Mark!)

Update: Mark sez, "I believe that 466453.com exists for users who are accessing google via mobile phones that don't have T9 text entry."

Update 2: Tijl sez, "they own gngjd.com as well, but.. that doesn't link to the main page! It's what happens when you type an URL on most phones without going into numerical mode first. T9 is rarely enabled for entering an URL by default (though some phones do). Image the potential! Register gumds.com today, Apple laywers on your doorstep tommorow!"

Update 3:Andrew sez, "http://www.600673.com/ resolves to Google in h4x0r style."

Nude phonecam pix put cops in a fix

A police officer is accused of downloading naked photos of a suspect from her own cell phone after a DWI arrest, according to a report. The officer has been "reassigned" pending the outcome of an internal investigation, as has his partner on the force -- while the department looks into reports that he phoned the suspect's home to ask her out on a date.

Snip from a Houston Chronicle story, via Declan McCullagh's politech:

During the arrest, they discovered that the woman had stored sexually explicit photos of herself in her cell phone, and Green downloaded the images onto his personal digital assistant, according to the search request.
Here's a PDF of the warrant to search the officer's PDA: Link. Politech reader Scott H. says:
[This] sure seems beyond the pale of unreasonable search and seizure (small pun). Hypothetically, what if the phone had a picture of the woman in question standing over a dead person in back of her home? Is this a warrantless search and if they find the body in her home is this fruit from a poisoned tree? Do the police have a right to search through all the "data" a person has in thier possession at the time of arrest? What about a USB flash drive? Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt.
Link to EWeek story, and Declan recommends FileVault and PGPdisk as handy encryption utilities. Here are more.

Update: Looks like my blog-mate Mark Frauenfelder covered this item over at The Feature -- Link.

Joystick made from chopstick, Tinkertoys, thumbtacks and clothespegs

The Chopstick Joystick is a minimally documented project for building a joystick out of a chopstick, tinkertoys, woodscrews, clothespegs and thumbtacks. That's pretty 1337 right there. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the same people who gave us the Trashcade arcade enclosure built of cardboard boxes. Link (Thanks, Robert!)

Last Woman on Earth movie at Archive.org

One Man Safari recommends Roger Corman's Last Woman on Earth (1960), which you can download for free from The Internet Archive.
 Img 180 1916 400 LastwomanI was mightily surprised and impressed to discover it's a sophisticated low-budget gem with lots of cleverly written dialog (by Robert Towne, who later wrote Chinatown), that's more about a love triangle than it is about survival in a world after a nuclear war.

Link

Exhibit of quack imagery

Philadelphia Museum of Art has a new exhibit tracing the history of patent and quack medicine through posters, pamphlets, and prints:
 Us.Yimg.Com P Ap 20050323 Capt.Px20503231908.Art Of Quackery Px205 These range from an early seventeenth-century Dutch engraving, Operation for Stones in the Head, a sleight-of-hand cure for insanity, to Medical Confessions of Medical Murder, a twelve-scene print in which James Morison, a clever marketer of pills, uses quotations from prominent physicians taken out of context to impugn their practices. The Health Jolting Chair, an 1885 color lithograph of a seated woman, demonstrates the ability of electricity to secure the "most highly prized Feminine Attractions"
Link to exhibit page, Link to AP article with photos here and here (via Medgadget, thanks Howard Lovy!)

Creepy Crawlers TV commercial

 Bedazzled Images Creepymanual Spike at Bedazzled has a Creepy Crawlers TV commercial. I had one of the orginal Creepy Crawlers kits when I was a kid. I think it might have been the best toy I ever owned. Nearly forty years later, I can clearly remember the wonderful smell of Plastigoop.

They still make Creepy Crawlers, but the "Thingmaker" cooker is now a crappy plastic box with a light bulb heating element and a safety door that won't let you see your creepy crawler cook. Also, the Plastigoop smells completely different -- quite unpleasant. I feel sorry for kids these days.
Link

Google pre-loads your top search result to eliminate net-lag

Google has added "pre-fetching" for the top result on your searches. This means that when you google for something, the top link is automatically loaded in the background in your browser (this only works for Firefox/Mozilla) so that if you click it, it appears immediately, with no network lag. Link (via /.)

Update: Kwai Chang Caine sez, "the prefetched site gets to set all it's cookies without you knowing (unless your browser is configured to tell you about cookies). Presumably this includes any third party inclusions in the target page."

Moustache dreams

Moustache After seeing my post yesterday about the World Beard and Moustache Championships, reader Rohit Gupta of Bombay points us to this short video by Soumyadeep Paul documenting a moustache competition in Rajasthan, India. I especially like when this entrant plays two nose flutes simultaneously. Link

You Have Died of Dysentery t-shirt from Oregon Trail

This "You Have Died of Dysentery" tee is a loving tribute to Oregon Trail, the classic 80s computer game that challenged you to get your settlers to their destination without their succumbing to cholera, dysentery, or other thermonuclear versions of turista. Jason on Preshrunk has written a lovely memoir of the game:
I spent three arduous weeks trying to circumnavigate the Columbia River. After that, I spent six weeks trying to hunt enough buffalo to feed my party. All the while my party kept dying of dysentery and cholera. It took me five months to beat that goddamn game, but I loved it.

Since I like to show off my scars and broadcast my shortcomings, I adore Busted Tees' "You Have Died Of Dysentery" shirt. It reminds me of swing sets, pizza day in the cafeteria, cub scouts and kickball. Besides, what's not to love about a shirt that basically says "you died from a bad case of the shits"?

Link (via Preshrunk)

Update: Mlahumlaha sez, "In December you linked to this Apple 2 emulator. I think it would be convenient to link to Oregon Trail itself."

Update 2:Chris B sez, "Zug columnist Scott Taylor recently returned to The Trail to see if he'd be able to find love on the American Frontier (or a pixelated approximation thereof)."

Update 3: Matt sez, "The great comic Achewood had a story about Oregon Trail being hacked."

Update 4:Ramit sez, "I originally designed it over at www.BitterShirts.com (and then licensed it out to BustedTees)."

Pulp art of Norm Eastman

 Shows Previousshows 2003 Eastman CuthairIn 2003 La Luz de Jesus gallery in Los Angeles exhibited the work of Norm Eastman, one of the best known men's adventure magazine illustrators from decades past. Judging from the paintings in this exhibition, the readers of those magazines seemed to like reading stories about Nazis torturing (and in this illustration, cutting the hair of) scantily clad women.
Link (via PCL LinkDump)

Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens

I've just finished an advance review copy of The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, the first installment of a new anthology series edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Jane Yolen. This is an idea whose time has well and truly come: the editors pick stories that are suitable for teens from among the general selection of all the fantasy and science fiction published in the last year.

There's an old bon mot about science fiction: "the golden age of science fiction is 12." When I was about that age, I was haunting my local science fiction bookstore and library, reading everything a could get my hands on, a book every day or sometimes more. Those formative years made me into a lifelong reader of science fiction -- and a lifelong customer for science fiction writers.

But as anyone who attends science fiction conventions knows, fandom is aging without any especially large cohort of adolescents coming in behind it. Young people are still thoroughly engaged with sf, but it's through gaming, comics, and TV/films. All worthy endeavors, but to the extent that they're crowding out novels and stories, it's bad news for those of us who write sf -- and those of us who read it, since publishers won't be able to publish to the dwindling niche of genre readers forever; eventually we'll cross over into a market too small to serve.

And that's why this anthology (and New Skies and New Magics, two anthologies of sf and fantasy for kids edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden) is so important. It's not that the field lacks work that's appropriate for young people; it positively bursts with it. And as Yolen notes in her introduction, the precocious youngsters who come to sf are not easily intimidated by the notion that they are reading books intended for adult readers. But it's not enough: for those professionals and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and mentors looking to introduce their young friends to the field, it is hard to find the good stuff that will get them started and hook them for life (Jumper and its sequel Reflex, which I reviewed here earlier this month, are good choices for this task).

In creating and sustaining a new series of books that consistently identify quality, age-appropriate science fiction and fantasy, Yolen and Nielsen Hayden are doing important work -- providing a road-map for newcomers to the field, and a friend that they can visit with every year. What's more, the introduction to each story includes a suggested reading list of sf and fantasy novels of note that you should read if you like the story.

The stories in this anthology range from good to brilliant to jaw-dropping. It is relatively short on science fiction, but the main sf piece, Bradley Denton's "Sergeant Chip" is so good that it practically had me in tears on the bus this morning (no surprise, as Denton is one of the field's towering and under-appreciated geniuses, whose Buddy Holly is a Alive and Well on Ganymede is possibly the funniest book I've ever read). Sergeant Chip is the first-person narrative of an electronically enhanced dog serving in the K9 forces of an American military unit occupying a conquered country that is much like Iraq of today.

Many of the other standouts here are "contemporary fantasies," set in the modern world, American interpretations of magic realism, a favorite genre of mine. Kelly Link's "Faery Handbag" and Delia Sherman's "CATNYP" are the best examples here.

As to the rest, they are a taster's menu of well-executed, broadly chosen stories from every corner of the field, from heroic fantasy to straight-ahead science fiction to high fantasy. Brilliantly, the editors have also included Rudyard Kipling's 1904 story "They" -- and they promise that each edition of the anthology henceforth will include one century-old story from the annals of history.

The book should be appearing on shelves any day now -- it has a May pub-date which usually means that it starts appearing in April. If you have a young person in your life whom you want to introduce to a field that will teach her or him the most important lessons the world has to present; or if you are looking to reconnect with the field after neglecting the short story magazines and anthologies, then this book is the one for you. Link

Yahoo overtaking Google?

Ben Hammersley has a column in today's Guardian about how, feature-by-feature, Yahoo has overtaken Google:
Last month's launch of Google Maps was impressive, but not as cool as Yahoo's placing of live traffic conditions on its map this month. Google's webmail product, Gmail, caused a fuss by offering accounts capable of storing a gigabyte of mail, four times that of Yahoo Mail. No problem, said Yahoo last week, Yahoo mail users can have a gigabyte too. Google's purchase of Blogger gave them a place at the blogger's table, but it has done little with it. Yahoo's blogging tool, Yahoo 360, launches this month, allegedly fully integrated with the rest of the content they produce.

Google has an image organising application in Picasa, sure; but Yahoo just bought Flickr, perhaps the smartest and richest online application ever written. Yahoo has a rich site summary (RSS) aggregator, Google does not. Yahoo has a search engine for online movies, Google does not. Yahoo has quietly launched search.yahoo.com/cc, a search engine engineered to find and index Creative Commons material.

Link

Biometric car lock defeated by cutting off owner's finger

Andrei sez, "'Malaysia car thieves steal finger.' This is what security visionaries Bruce Schneier and Ross Anderson have been warning about for a long time. Protect your $75,000 Mercedes with biometrics and you risk losing whatever body part is required by the biometric mechanism."
...[H]aving stripped the car, the thieves became frustrated when they wanted to restart it. They found they again could not bypass the immobiliser, which needs the owner's fingerprint to disarm it.

They stripped Mr Kumaran naked and left him by the side of the road - but not before cutting off the end of his index finger with a machete.

Link (Thanks, Andrei!)

Outed Internet plagiarist is just a dumb kid, with a mom

The blogger who outed a plagiarist who offered him $75 to write a college paper has posted a followup -- she got back in touch with him and he's concluded that she's a dumb kid who did a dumb thing, but not evil, per se.
And nothing would have stopped me from turning her in right then, except one thing...her mom turned out to be a nice lady.

I basically had the same conversation with her that I had with Laura. She also swore to Laura's diligence as a student, and knew that I was not lying about the plagiarism. She asked whether this was for money or personal reasons, and I told her what I told you blog people, which is that I was legitimately offended on behalf of all the people I know who take their education seriously. Whatever I said, I'm embarrassed to say that I probably used the phrase "scourge of academia." She expressed her dismay over the thousands of dollars this was costing her every semester for her daughter, and I agreed that that was a shame.

Argh, wrongdoers have mothers, apparently.

Link (via Waxy)

Haunted Mansion-style head as a percussion instrument

Drum|head is an interactive project by Murat Konar, a student at London's Royal College of Art. It starts with a wig-stand with a computer-projected clip of a face on it (this is the same effect used for the "singing busts," "Madame Leota" and "Little Leota" at the Haunted Mansion in they Disney parks). A piezoelectric sensor detects it when you whack the head with a stick, cueing a drum sound and a funny facial-expression animation. The video is hilarious. Link (via We Make Money Not Art)