Boing Boing 

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.

Design like Barbara Kruger


Here's a fun tongue-in-cheek Graphic Standards Manual to help you design like collage artist/activist Barbara Kruger. From the introduction:
Welcome to the Barbara Kruger Graphic Standards Manual. This guide is intended to service students, artists, designers, and activists that have an interest in juxtaposing text with imagery in the fashion of Barbara Kruger. This has been developed to help you accurately position your own work amongst this famous artist, designer, an/or photographer. As Barbara herself stated, pictures and words have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren't. It is through this combination that we can establish an identity, and by impersonating Barbara's own unique style, you yourself can remain anonymous--in effect being while not being. As Barbara's work evolves using typefaces beyond the Future family and the color red, this guide must evolve as well.
Link (Thanks, Imaginary Foundation!)

Worst Jobs In Science

Popular Science has published its annual list of "The Worst Jobs In Science." The NASA Ballerina I blogged on Saturday was nine out of ten. Here's number one:
1. Human Lab Rat
Warning: Pesticides are bad for you

Pharmaceutical companies have long relied on hard-up college students to act as guinea pigs. (Dudes, I was in a double-blind Viagra trial! And I got paid!) But did you know that the pesticide biz is hiring too?

Last year an industry-funded University of California at San Diego study paid students $15 an hour to have the root killer and World War I nerve agent chloropicrin shot into their eyes and noses. Chloropicrin is also a component of tear gas–that trusty suppressor of Big 10 sports riots–and at high doses can lead to nerve damage and death. Duuude. Because of its irritating qualities, small doses of the chemical are often added to other pesticides to act as a "warning agent," and it's the safety of those doses that the study looked at.

Coincidentally (or not), within a week of the UCSD study's completion, its industry funders submitted the results to the EPA to support chloropicrin's re-registration as an independent pesticide–not as a warning agent. Meanwhile, Congress is debating a moratorium on human testing.

Pastor electrocuted during baptism

A Waco, Texas pastor was electrocuted yesterday while performing a baptism. Apparently the Rev. Kyle Lake, 33, was standing in the baptismal water when he grabbed a microphone. From the Associated Press:
Water in a baptistery usually reaches above the waist, said Byron Weathersbee, interim university chaplain at Baylor University.

Lake was pronounced dead at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, nursing supervisor Pat Mahl said. The woman being baptized apparently had not stepped into the water and was not seriously injured.
Link (Thanks, Paul Saffo!)

700 Hoboes drawings: 30 down, 670 to go

 25 57801776 37A28282Da A lot of artists have been submitting drawings of the hoboes named in John Hodgman's song "700 Hobo Names." (Shown here: Number 357. Mariah Duckface the Beaked Woman, by Ape Lad)
Link (Previous BB post here.)

Bat and Serpent lamp

200510311119 I would like this Bat and Serpent lamp but $1266.00 is too steep for me. The bat's wingspan is two feet.
Inspired by Art Nouveau and the Victorian fondness for artistic design, our Sunset is hand cast using the "lost-wax" technique to capture all the stunning detail of a circa 1892 period original
Link (thanks, Gary!)

43 Folders podcast

The fantabulous productivity, life hacking, and time management blog, 43 Folders, has a podcast. Merlin Mann has a wonderful podcast voice and is very funny, to boot. Link

Cory's Themepunks part eight is live!

Salon has published part eight of my novel-in-progress, Themepunks. In today's installment, the shanty-town finds itself under siege, and shots are fired:
He pulled out the megaphone and went to his window.


The police at the cars looked toward the workshop, then back to the shantytown, then back to the workshop.




The cop shook his head and reached for his mic again, and then there were two gunshots, a scream, and a third.

Link Previous Installments

Bad Mags: compilation of really bad magazines

Bad Mags is a website companion to a forthcoming (?) book of the same name, which catalogs gross-out girly, drugsploitation, true-crime and biker mags from the golden age of such things:
The main reason I wrote Bad Mags was because I wished I had had something comparable when I started looking for and collecting these magazines--a guide if you will. Because Bad Mags attempts to cover such a large selection of subject matter any chapter included in it could have been its own book. Bad Mags is not a complete listing of the magazines and tabloids covering these particular subjects (if such a thing were possible), but is an attempt to give a more complete picture of what was published concerning them at the time.

Beyond that Bad Mags is a book devoted to strange, bizarre and peripheral magazines because the back alleys of the publishing industry have been little explored in print. In most cases there isn't any information readily available, limited only to the information given in the periodical itself.

NSFW Link, Previously on BB: "Interview with publisher" (via We Make Money Not Art)

Google Print -- great debate on Farber's list

On Dave Farber's Interesting People list, a gang of luminaries like EFF's Cindy Cohn, Julian Dibell, Seth Finkelstein and Tim himself have been hashing out the debate over Google Print this weekend -- it's fascinating reading, and Tim has provided links to the best of the debate:
So what are the Authors Guild and the publishers complaining about? They're complaining that Google hasn't offered to share the profits that might accrue thanks to ads Google may someday display, or that are attributable to the marginal increase in general Google traffic. But on what basis do they claim entitlement to that brand new revenue stream? The money is not based on the public copying the book -- which is what copyright protects against -- it's based on the public FINDING the book in the first instance.

Now I suppose that the Authors Guild folks want to claim that they should get a share of any way of making money related to locating their works. That's an interesting argument, but it's not a copyright claim. If copyright owners approached libraries and demanded a share of library funds because of the existence of the card catalog it would be difficult to stifle the giggles. Yet isn't the same thing going on here? Stealing an analogy from law Prof Tim Wu, we have never given real property owners the right to "opt out" of any mechanism that helps people find their property -- maps. That's just not in the bundle of rights you get when you buy a home and preventing location tools is also not in the bundle of rights that come with copyright.


240-acre underground UK bunker-city for sale

A subterranean bunker-city under a UK military base is for sale. The city is 240 acres in area and has 60 miles of underground roads. It was intended to house a Tory PM and 4,000 bureaucrats in the event of a nuclear attack:
Already two uses are being considered: a massive data store for City firms or the biggest wine cellar in Europe. More outlandish ideas put forward include a nightclub for rave parties, a 1950s theme park or a reception centre for asylum seekers. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has ruled out any suggestion of using it to store nuclear waste or providing open public access because of the dangers that still lurk below...

A system of underground power stations would have provided electricity to the 100,000 lamps that lit its streets and guided the way to a pub modelled on the Red Lion in Whitehall...

Hundreds of swivel chairs delivered in 1959 are still unpacked. There are boxes of government-issue glass ashtrays, lavatory brushes and civil service tea sets.

Pictures of the Queen, Princess Margaret and Grace Kelly are pinned to the walls. The canteen has murals of British sporting scenes painted by Olga Lehmann who went on to design costumes for films such as The Guns of Navarone and Kidnapped.

Link (Thanks, Jamal!)

Baen Books to launch online sf mag edited by Eric Flint

Copyfighting SF writer Eric Flint will be editing a new online adventure sf magazine for his publisher, Baen Books. The magazine will be called Baen's Astounding Stories Universe.

The magazine will focus on publishing side-stories from the long-running serials that are Baen's stock-in-trade, and promises to pay enough that writers could make a substantial portion of their living from for them.

Eric's first book, 1632, was a cracking alternate-history/military sf novel about a small working-class mining town in contemporary Virginia that gets magicked back to Germany in the midst of the 30 Years War and where the local miner's union sets about using its technology advantage to bring democratic reforms to Europe, devoted to toppling monarchies in favor of technocentric constitutional democracies.

Eric convinced Baen to release its books as free, freely redistributable downloads, a move that has sold lots and lots more books, making it good karma and good business.

Baen's Astounding Stories Universe will sell for $6 an issue -- I'm guessing we're talking about a PDF here? -- and individual stories for a dollar. I'm not a huge believer in the market for pay-to-read electronic books, but it's really cool to see a publisher playing with it. Let's just hope they don't screw it up by adding DRM to it!

"Although the magazine is focused toward established popular writers, we also intend to make it a good place for new writers to emerge," Flint said. "To that end, we're setting aside a special 'Introducing ... ' section of the magazine, which will be reserved entirely for new writers. We will publish at least one such story per issue, and probably two or three." Readers can also expect to see some classic reprints from authors who are no longer living.

In addition to the fiction, the magazine will also feature several factual articles in each issue. "Some of these will be straight-forward factual pieces, of the sort that SF magazines have been publishing for decades," Flint said. "Others will be more personal, anecdotal accounts of the interface between writers, scientists and the rest of the world that we think readers will find interesting."


Update: Eric Flint writes "In answer to your question, why in God's name would Baen started screwing around with DRM when we've never encrypted _anything_???? The magazine will come completely unencrypted, as do all Baen electronic products.

"PS.  It's not at all accurate to say that I "convinced" Jim Baen.  Jim started Webscriptions on an unencrypted basis before I knew anything about it.  And the Free Library got started when I put up MOTHER OF DEMONS -- at Jim's suggestion."

Update 2: John Joseph sez "Baen has changed the name of the mag to Jim Baen's UNIVERSE. Rumor has it they were contacted by the rightholders to the name ASTOUNDING (Dell Magazines, one would assume), and rather than fight it out, they just dumped the name in favor of a new one."

Majority of UK SciFi Channel viewers are women

The UK Sci-Fi channel reports that more than half its viewership is now female:
The digital television channel Sci Fi UK has seen a 10 per cent rise in the number of female viewers over the past eight years and 1.4 million women now tune in - 51 per cent of the audience. The channel, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, links the rise in "girl geeks" to the proliferation of heroines such as Buffy, Lara Croft and Xena.
Link (via /.)

Creative Commons fundraising badges for your site

Today, Creative Commons launches a trio of fundraising badges for your blog or site -- choose from "$5 for the Commons," "Become a Commoner" and "Support the Commons." CC needs to raise small donations from a large number of donors to maintain its charitable status with the IRS. Link (Thanks, Larry!)

NYT on Gothic fashion

Today's New York Times has a feature on Goth style and its influence on mainstream fashion. Lest we forget though, for some "everyday is Halloween." From the article:
These days Goth is "an Upper East Side way of being edgy without actually drinking anybody's blood," said Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys. With a wink he added, "Who doesn't like a vaseful of ostrich feathers at the end of the day?"

The costumes and ornaments are a glamorous cover for the genre's somber themes. In the world of Goth, nature itself lurks as a malign protagonist, causing flesh to rot, rivers to flood, monuments to crumble and women to turn into slatterns, their hair streaming and lipstick askew.

Some scholars see the Gothic mood as especially resonant in periods of uncertainty. Allen Grove, an associate professor of English at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y., theorizes that during war or in the aftermath of disaster, whether wrought by a hurricane or a terrorist cell, dark themes surface in part as a way to confront society's worst fears.

"We're somehow trying to deal with calamity and death," said Dr. Grove, who teaches a popular course on the literature of horror. "Revisiting Gothic themes might be one way to embrace those things and try to come to terms with them."

Iran's liberal-democratic society

The Independent runs down ten liberal-democratic elements of Iranian society that you probably didn't know about (I sure didn't):
2 In the form of Shia Islam practised in Iran, Muslims are allowed to enter into temporary marriages with each other, sometimes lasting only a few hours. Critics say this in effect legalises prostitution, and women who enter into these sigheh contracts are often ostracised. But the practice is defended as a legal loophole to provide inheritance rights for children who would otherwise be born out of wedlock. Sigheh websites have been set up to offer advice to prospective brides and grooms...

6 While official dress codes are very strict, many young Iranians delight in pushing back the boundaries of what is acceptable. Teenage girls in Tehran wear the most vestigial of see-through headscarves and tight overcoats that barely cover the bottom. This season gypsy-style scarves are in, featuring traditional Turkmen floral designs. Cosmetic surgery is all the rage, with girls proudly displaying a plaster to show their nose has recently been "fixed".

Link (Thanks, Justin!)