Citizen journalist documents giant propane explosion in San Fran

A Hertz heavy equipment rental depot near EFF's San Francisco offices has spectacularly exploded, as its giant propane tanks went up, one after another. My friend Quinn was on the scene and snapped a massive Flickr set of photos as it unfolded:
At a little past 2:45 explosions boomed out, audible from many blocks away inside the Hertz employees were running for the door with propane tanks exploding behind them. One mechanic had the presence of mind to hit the gasoline cutoff, but the propane kept exploding for nearly 20 minutes. One woman cried about losing her purse and her car, facing the burning building while about four firetrucks poured water in on the fire from all directions. None of the Hertz employees knew how the fire had started, but did say all of the employees were accounted for and unharmed.
Link (Thanks, Danny!)

Shag: The Art of Josh Agle

 Images P 081185096X.01.In04. Sclzzzzzzz Just got my copy of Shag: The Art of Josh Agle, published by Chronicle Books. In addition to Shag's sly, swank, and surprisingly sweet arworkt, the intro was ably penned by my lifelong friend, Colin Berry. Colin and I met each other many years ago in Colorado when we were both playing in bands, and we lived together for a few years in Silicon Valley. (Make sure to read his blog about living in the wilds of Northern California.)

It's guava time at my house

GuavaGuavas are falling from our tree faster than Fortean toads. I've given away at least 50, and I still have over 100. I didn't even know guavas could grow in California. I'm scooping them up, removing the skin with a vegetable peeler, and devouring them. There are no hard seeds -- you can eat the entire fruit, one juicy chunk at a time. I've had five today, and just writing about them is making me hungry for more.

Update: A number of kind readers have informed me that these are feijoas, not guavas. After seeing pictures of feijoas, I agree with them.

Emi Guner's blog

Picture 1-50 I first came across the work of Swedish web artist and writer Emi Guner in 1995 (here's a remnant from a hideously laid-out page of Boing Boing, circa 1996). Her creations were way ahead of what most people were doing on the web at the time. She sort of disappeared for a while, but she's back, with a wonderful new blog called Letters to Marc Jacobs. It's great to find her again!

Videos of how stuff is manufactured

There are a bunch of videos of cool stuff being made at, the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers. It's very satisfying watching machines crank out thousands of identical whatever-they-ares onto a conveyor belt.

This 12-minute video takes you form aluminum sheets all the way though the finished cans -- and ends -- being loaded by fork lift on the the trailer, to take 'em off to be filled with good stuff.

Indy cafe servers dressed as Starbucks employees

 Wp-Content Images Ritual Roasters Ritual Roasters is one of my favorite cafes in San Francisco. (Here's a Wired News article about the joint.) BB pal Scott Beale stopped by Ritual today and snapped this photo. Apparently the Ritual espresso bartenders are celebrating Halloween dressed as zombie Starbucks employees!

2005 Illegal Soapbox Derby

Todd Lappin took a bunch of killer photos of the 2005 Illegal Soapbox Derby, held this weekend in San Francisco.
200510311424 A proud Bernal Heights neighborhood tradition, the Illegal Soapbox Derby Society enforces only one rule: Every car must have a beer holder.

Sony DRM uses black-hat rootkits

Steve sez, "A technical dissection by the mighty Mark Russinovich of Sony's rootkit-based DRM. Sony uses genuine black-hat techniques to install a rootkit, even choosing a Windows-sounding name for a service just like your favourite backdoor, and about as easy to detect or remove. Basically, Sony puts the sort of malware on its customers' PCs that the rest of the world spends alot of money fighting."
Last week when I was testing the latest version of RootkitRevealer (RKR) I ran a scan on one of my systems and was shocked to see evidence of a rootkit. Rootkits are cloaking technologies that hide files, Registry keys, and other system objects from diagnostic and security software, and they are usually employed by malware attempting to keep their implementation hidden (see my "Unearthing Rootkits" article from the June issue of Windows IT Pro Magazine for more information on rootkits). The RKR results window reported a hidden directory, several hidden device drivers, and a hidden application...
Link (Thanks, Steve!)

Vader and Yoda carved from 1,000lb block of butter

Kevin sez, "Each year at the Tulsa State Fair, an artist is commissioned to make a sculpture out of butter. In past years, cows, farmers, and baseball players were created out of hundreds of pounds of butter. This year, in celebration of Star Wars's final episode, TSF is featuring Darth Vader and Yoda, all dairy-like." Link (Thanks, Kevin and Icky Bob!)

Suncomm encourages people to break its DRM

Barry bought a CD by the band My Morning Jacket, only to discover that it was crippled with Suncomm DRM, apparently as a ploy by Sony to make keep its music from being played on iPods (which compete with Sony's own proprietary players). The band apparently loathes the DRM and wishes it wasn't there. When Barry wrote to Suncomm to complain, they sent him back an FAQ with instructions for breaking their DRM.
We at ATO Records are aware of the problems being experienced by certain fans due to the copy-protection of our distributor. Neither we nor our artists ever gave permission for the use of this technology, nor is it our distributor's opinion that they need our permission. Wherever it is our decision, we will forego use of copy-protection, just as we have in the past.
Link (Thanks, Barry!)

Chunky kids' keyboard

This "kids' keyboard" has big, chunky, colorful key ad looks somewhat ruggedized. I want a Powerbook with a build-in keyboard with this look and feel. Link (via Gizmodo)

Public Enemy's Internet strategy

Great Wired News editorial on Public Enemy's Internet strategy -- releasing albums online, encouraging remixes, etc. Public Enemy was nearly wiped out by lawsuits arising from the band's use of samples, and now they're working to make sample-friendly music:
As a jab to PolyGram, Public Enemy's distributor at the time, the group released There's a Poison Goin' On over the internet and on zip drives, until the band was finally released from its contract. Emboldened by the success, they went on to form their own record label. They created Rapstation to showcase new hip-hop talent. And they built into a highly trafficked website, where among other things, they make a cappella versions of their songs available and encourage fans to make remixes.

Even more remarkable is the way Public Enemy has structured its distribution deals. Whereas many bands sell publishing rights to their record labels in exchange for an advance, Public Enemy grants its distributors a limited license. After a specified period, the rights revert back to the group.

Add to the mix Chuck D's weekly talk show on the Air America radio network, his own channel on AOL Radio and the band's regular tours of Asia, Europe and the United States, and Public Enemy becomes a prime example of the success that follows from a properly executed do-it-yourself strategy.


Disneyland's high-tech experiments

Wired runs down the latest high-tech projects underway at Disneyland -- most of it is old news, but this is pretty cool:
Vincent-Phoenix said she has also seen test products that allow guests to interact with existing attractions. Earlier this year, Disney tested handheld products that could help ambitious park-goers find Injun Joe's treasure on Tom Sawyer Island or capture ghosts at the Haunted Mansion, she said. "These are attractions that have existed for years but where they are trying new things," she said.

RIAA/MPAA make appearance in Foxtrot

Today on Foxtrot: the kids dress up as RIAA and MPAA lawyers and try to cadge some door-to-door candy. Link (Thanks, Darren and Gary!)

Mirror therapy for pain

University of Bath researchers report that people with particular kinds of persistent hand pain could ease the ouch by looking at their healthy hand in the mirror. From a press release:
This ‘cortical’ model of pain suggests that the brain’s image of the body can become faulty, resulting in a mismatch between the brain’s movement control systems and its sensory systems, causing a person to experience pain when they move a particular hand, foot or limb.

Researchers believe that this kind of problem could be behind a host of pain-related disorders, such as complex regional pain syndrome and repetitive strain injury.

In an investigation of whether this system can be corrected using mirrors to trick the brain, researchers asked a number of patients with complex regional pain syndrome (a chronic debilitating condition affecting 10,000 – 20,000 patients in the UK at any one time) to carry out routine exercises in front of a mirror.

More than half experienced pain relief during and after the exercise and further investigations showed that even greater improvements can be achieved if the tasks are practiced beforehand.