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Signing off for 2005: Thank you, dear reader.

Feliz Año Nuevo. Much gratitude to you for visiting our humble blog. I hope you'll come back when the calendar strikes aught-six. Image: Maria Magdalena, shot inside a church in Antigua, Guatemala (2004 / Xeni).

Bootleg copy of 2006 Hooters calendar

Link to scanned image. It's totally worksafe. It's a joke. (Thanks, Wayne Correia!)

Moment of FSM zen: Pasta Club devotional fountain

An intrepid New York City photographer spotted this faith-based fountain in Central Park. It stands in tribute to the secret Pastafarian society known to acolytes as PASTA CLUB. Believe. Link (Thanks, Adam Fields!)

How to break Silly Putty

A couple of days ago I wrote about a Google employee who mashed together 250 lbs of Silly Putty and then had a hard time breaking it up into chunks. Today Dr. Paul J. Camp, from the Department of Physics at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA emailed me to say:
Picture 1-61 "I guess they didn't try smacking it with a hammer.

"Silly Putty is a bizarre polymer, but like most polymers it has a transition temperature at which its physical properties change. In this case, there is a glass transition temperature (Tg) -- below Tg, the polymer will behave like a glass and shatter on impact instead of deforming. For example, PVC has a Tg of 83 C which makes it a reasonable choice for cold water pipes but not for hot water, which would cause it to flow like Silly Putty (addition of various plasticizers can adjust the Tg). However, often the viscoelastic properties of polymers have a rate dependence and this is the case for Silly Putty. Do the same amount of work over a much shorter time (smack it with a hammer instead of pulling) and the SP behaves as if its Tg has been raised. It then shatters into bits.

"You can read a mildly confusing scientific explanation here (from Case Western) along with pictures of Silly Putty subjected to the same force at different rates, or if you prefer a more visceral experience, watch the video from this experiment of what happens when you drop a 50 pound beach ball made of Silly Putty off the roof of a building."

Every #1 song ever to appear on Billboard Top 100 squashed into one long song

R. Luke DuBois has created an interesting piece of music out of the 857 songs that have appeared at the top of the charts in the Billboard Top 100 since 1958. The result, called "Billboard," is 37 minutes long.
Billboard allows you to get a birds-eye view of the Billboard Hot 100 by listening to all the #1 singles from 1958 through the millenium using a technique I've been working on for a couple of years called time-lapse phonography. The 857 songs used to make the piece are analyzed digitally and a spectral average is then derived from the entire song. Just as a long camera exposure will fuse motion into a single image, spectral averaging allows us to look at the average sonority of a piece of music, however long, giving a sort of average timbre of a piece. This gives us a sense of the average key and register of the song, as well as some clues about the production values present at the time the record was made; for example, the improvements in home stereo equipment over the past fifty years, as well as the gradual replacement of (relatively low-fidelity) AM radio with FM broadcasting has had an impact on how records are mixed... drums and bass lines gradually become louder as you approach the present, increasing the amount of spectral noise and low tones in our averages.
Link (Thanks, Arwen!)

Update to iPod meat story

Yesterday, we noted that a Hawaii teenager was surprised to find a piece of raw meat in her xmas iPod box instead of an iPod. Here are more details:
An investigation found that a former [Walmart] employee apparently tampered with a shipment of iPods and put the meat into several packages. The former employee now faces tampering charges, Local 6 News reported.
Link (thanks, Cathy!)

Bloody Mary: War on Xmas over, War on Blasphemy starts

Here's the head of the Catholic League gloating over the organization's victory in convincing Comedy Central to pull a controversial episode of South Park this week:

The episode in question featured a statue of the Virgin Mary spraying blood from her vagina. It was one of the most vile TV shows ever to appear, and that is why I asked Joseph Califano, a practicing Catholic and member of Viacom’s board of directors (Viacom is the parent company of Comedy Central) to issue a public condemnation of the ‘Bloody Mary’ episode; I also asked that he do whatever he could to pull any scheduled reruns of the episode.

“On December 9, the day Califano received our request, he released a statement condemning the episode. He also said that any further decisions would have to be made by Tom Freston, president and chief executive of the New Viacom. For the past few weeks, we have been in touch with Freston’s office awaiting his decision. Yesterday, we received a phone call from Tony Fox, executive vice president for corporate communications at Comedy Central, informing us that there were no plans to rerun ‘Bloody Mary.’

“Already, we are being deluged with hate mail that is as obscene as it is viciously anti-Catholic. All because we exercised our First Amendment right to request that Comedy Central not offend Catholics again! But we’re used to such things and will not be deterred.”

Link (Thanks, Todd Jackson, headline swiped from H.O.T).

Previously on Boing Boing:
"Bloody Mary" resurrected: censored South Park hits P2P

Reader comment: Damien says,

I've added some information regarding the controversy to the episode's Wikipedia page itself. Link
Reader comment: Steve Wallace says,
Here's the link to Comedy Centrals feedback form if anyone wants to send them a note letting them know how you feel about the whole South Park censorship deal. Maybe enough viewer mail will let them know they made a bad decision.
Reader comment: IZ Reloaded says,
Comedy Central may have pulled down the rerun of the South Park episode Bloody Mary after the Catholic League successfully issued a complaint but over at its South Park Studios website, it is still making available clips of the episode for download. Link
Reader comment: Keith Blackwell says,
I just read that Catholic League reply to the South Park episode; "... All because we exercised our First Amendment right to request that Comedy Central not offend Catholics again!" Their first amendment rights? What about the First Amendment rights of people to broadcast satirical cartoons? Why can't they not watch if they are so easily offended?

Truth is, you people want more horse sex.

A Seattle Times columnist bemoans the fact that the paper's top-read online story in 2005 was the one about the guy who died from intimate relations with a four-hooved member of the equine persuasion.
So we in the news business enter 2006 with one eye on the future and, whether we admit it or not, one eye fixed firmly on our Web stats. It could lead to some schizophrenia, like that old Saturday Night Live skit on subliminal news: "The state Legislature convened today in Olympia (horse sex), and Seattle officials (bestiality) requested funds for a new viaduct (perforated colon)."
Trigger, please! Link to Danny Westneat's editorial. We could use a traffic boost around here, too. Expect more horsebuggery posts on Boing Boing in 2006. (thanks, Rob)

John Battelle on RSS and IM mashups

Boing Boing's general manager John Battelle has written a great post about an emerging use for IM that will make the mobile internet truly useful.
 Images Bb Bot So remember that prediction I made back in 2004, the one about mobile busting out in some kind of Web 2.0 way in 2005?


I think MakeBot is it. Or at least, what MakeBot points us toward is it. And the beauty is that a couple of code jockeys like Phil Torrone and his partner Sergio Zlobin can make it happen in a few days, using platforms (IM) and data structures (RSS) that already exist.

This all comes not from a major mobile company, or a hot new Internet startup, but from Make magazine, where Phil - who has been banging this drum for a long, long time - works. MakeBot points the way toward a possible end around the walled gardens of mobile carriers.

Read the rest... Link

Ignoring UK ban, bloggers publish leaked torture memos

Snip from The Register:
Former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has harnessed the Internet in his long-running feud with the UK Government. A forthcoming book covering his time as ambassador is currently being blocked by the Foreign Office, which has demanded he remove references to two documents from the book and his web site. Murray has responded by publishing the documents in full there, and by encouraging bloggers to disseminate the documents as widely as possible.

The documents consist of a Foreign & Commonwealth Office legal opinion concerning evidence that may have been obtained by torture, and several letters sent by Murray to the FCO during his time as ambassador. These letters state that the use of torture is routine in Uzbekistan, that US policy there (which the UK supports) is focussed on oil, gas and hegemony rather than democracy or freedom, and that by knowingly receiving evidence obtained through torture the UK is in breach of the UN Convention on Torture. "With Tony Blair and Jack Straw cornered on extraordinary rendition," says Murray, "the UK Government is particularly anxious to suppress all evidence of our complicity in obtaining intelligence extracted by foreign torturers."

Link to Register article by John Lettice.

Link to the former ambassador's blog, here is the Wikipedia entry on Craig Murray (which currently also includes text of the banned memos) and here is a related thread on MeFi.

Here's an excerpt from one of Murray's banned documents:

Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.

Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform(...). In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.

Image: Fatima Mukhadirova, with photos of her son, prisoner Muzafar Avazov. Despite photographic evidence to the contrary, authorities in Uzbekistan reject reports that he was immersed in boiling water until he died, with his fingernails torn out. The 63-year-old woman was jailed in 2004 after pressing officials for information about her son's murder (BBC News link).

Reader comment: Dave Monk says, "This website is tracking mentions of the banned memos as they hit the net."

EFF and Sony BMG Reach Preliminary Settlement on rootkit

Snip from Electronic Frontier Foundation announcement:
"The proposed settlement will provide significant benefits for consumers who bought the flawed CDs," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Under the terms, those consumers will get what they thought they were buying--music that will play on their computers without restriction or security risk. EFF is continuing discussions with Sony BMG, however, and believes that there is more they can do to protect music lovers in the future."

"Sony agreed to stop production of these flawed and ineffective DRM technologies," noted EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "We hope that other record labels will learn from Sony's hard experience and focus more on the carrot of quality music and less on the stick of copy protection."

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) joined in this preliminary settlement agreement with Sony BMG this week to settle several class action lawsuits filed due to Sony's use of flawed and overreaching computer program in millions of music CDs sold to the public. The proposed terms of settlement have been presented to the court for preliminary approval and will likely be considered in a hearing set for January 6, 2005 in federal court in New York City.

Link to media advisory, and here's coverage from the BBC today.

Previous posts on Boing Boing: Link.

"Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia" spreads like frosting

Newspapers, magazines and broadcast networks around the world are chomping down on the "Lazy Sunday" meme as if it were delivered in a box from Magnolia Bakery.

But faithful Boing Boing readers know that the Lonely Island dudes' overnight success was a long, long night in the making -- we were fans of Jorma, Andy, and Akiva years before they got their big SNL break.

Of the many headlines they made this week, none is so delightful as this Babelfish-translated item from Der Spiegel:


Freshly baked Muffin RAP star could be abserviert therefore fast ice cold: "perhaps we stand there next Monday without ideas. And that is intimidating ", said Schaffer. "we can use each assistance."

Do you read German? I don't care. Please don't send a real translation. I just want to remember "Klick-Kult mit Gangsta-Rap" in unadulterated bot-grish.

And of the dozens of links to fan projects we've received, this one takes the (cup) cake: Boing Boing reader Nate says,

I was totally inspired by the SNL skit to produce a t-shirt for a developer I work with and so I want to send it out to anyone else who wants to upload it to cafe press or whatever.
Link to "DIY Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia t-shirt." Or whatever.
(Thanks, Micah!)

Reader comment: Graham says,

Someone put up some Lazy Sunday bobbleheads on eBay. It's even got a background thing-a-majig. Link

Wales: Ads on Wikipedia are a possibility (UPDATED)

Wikipedia's founder told a UK paper this week that the user-edited online encyclopedia may carry advertisements at some point. Given current traffic levels, such a move could generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Snip from article:
Jimmy Wales told Times Online that despite widespread "resistance to the idea" of advertising on Wikipedia, "at some point questions are going to be raised over the amount of money we are turning down."

Wikipedia would be in a prime position to exploit the current boom in online advertising. It expects to record around 2.5 billion page impressions this month and traffic volumes are doubling every four months. According to figures released this month by Nielsen/Netratings, it was the ninth-fastest growing site on the web in 2005.

Link to UK Times interview. (thanks, Kevin)

UPDATE: On Jimmy Wales's Wikipedia User Talk page, he says the quote has been taken out of context for the sake of hype and headlines.

Please read the story, not the headline. :-) I said to this reporter the same thing I have been saying to everyone for years. Nothing has changed. What I have been saying forever is that I think we will eventually, as a community, face the question of whether the amount of money we are turning down, and the amount of good we could do with that money towards our charitable mission, is worth more than our pride in being ad free. The way I like to put this is as follows:

it is easy for us to sit in our safe Western wealthy nations with broadband internet connections and pat ourselves on the back for not having any ads, but if, for example, having some google-style ads on the search results page only could bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars per month, and that money could be used to bring Wikipedia to millions of people who currently have no access, I think that we, as a community, have to be serious and thoughtful about that decision.

Having said that, I personally remain opposed to having ads in Wikipedia. It's just that a serious NPOV discussion of the matter necessarily would involve us being really serious about what we are turning down and why. This is exactly what I've been saying for years. If you know why the press likes to run inflammatory headlines every few days, well, please let me know. I find it all a bit baffling to be honest.

A statement from me "I am personally opposed to having ads in Wikipedia" somehow becomes "Wikipedia chief considers taking ads".

-- Jimbo Wales 16:46, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

(Thanks, Calton Bolick)

Web Zen: animal games zen

chicken tic-tac-toe
cow herding
pig balance
catching tales
dog frisbee
dog boounce
panda bounce
spider jump
bug on a wire
worm battleship
seagull bomber
bear and cat

web zen home, web zen store, (Thanks, Frank).

Reader comment: Colby Griggs says, "I'm sure I won't be the only one that says 'Where's the Yeti?' Link. Specifically - Pingu Throw SE. It's been updated so you can control the flight of the penguin after the Yeti bats him."

Reader comment: Andrew says, "Forgot Spaced Penguin -- Link."

Reader comment: Geoffrey says, "Don't forget Bird Snatchers! Link."

New West goes to a gator farm

New West has an excellent article (and photos) by Ted Alvarez about Colorado's San Luis Valley. In this piece, the first installment of a series, Alvarez gets up close and personal with the residents of a gator farm, and those who wrangle the reptiles.
 Images Thumbnails Feature Slv1 Jayyoung1-1
Jay Young, 27, the son of Colorado Gators founders Erwin and Lynne, holds several gator wrestling titles and has spent his entire life wrangling the massive reptiles. The city of Los Angeles recently hired him to attempt to remove a released pet gator from a public lake, and rumors abound that he’s taken a few “meetings” with Hollywood since his celebrated visit made local and national news. When I finally catch this wiry, muddy bayou man sauntering towards me, with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip and stringy hair in his face, it’s easy to see why.

“I learned to handle ‘em when I was small and they were small,” he drawls sleepily. “I mean, I got bit a few times, and each time I learned not to what I did again.” When prodded, he proceeds to name off his injuries nonchalantly, as if ticking off items on his Thursday grocery list. “A 6-footer–Tinkerbell–got my arm,” he says, pointing to a lengthy scar on his ropy forearm. “I let my arms get to far out to the side. Three fingers got crushed and held in a big one’s jaws…teething, I guess.”
Link (Thanks, Jonathan Weber!)

Why not to shoot a gun into the air for fun on New Year's Eve

Over at Bill Gurstelle's new and excellent blog, Notes from the Technology Underground, there's an entry about the foolish practice of "celebratory firing," that is, shooting rounds of ammunition straight up in the air for fun.
...the terminal velocity of your typical bullet coming back down varies a lot but is normally more than 200 feet per second.

And, other writers on the subject (there have been quite a few) say that tests on cadavers show that skin is punctured and underlying organs messed up (my words, not theirs) at bullet velocities that exceed 180 feet per second. And, since falling bullets typically strike people in the head or shoulders, this appears to me to be a very dangerous practice.


Reader comment: David says: "I worked my way through much of my higher education as a night clerk in ER's, and every year at Xmas and the 4th of July there'd be a few falling gunshot wounds. I'd like to reiterate that the bullets are going more than fast enough to kill people when they hit the ground--there have been cases where a bullet punched through a car roof and hit someone inside. Moreover, the falling trajectory gives the bullet a much longer path through the human body than a flat trajectory, making the wounds much more gruesome than a typical gunshot, even if they don't hit the head or shoulders.

"Speaking as someone who's seen the results I can honestly say that shooting in the air is a Really Bad Thing. Really--don't."

Reader comment: Jamie of Slashdot says: "In their answers to the questions our Slashdot readers sent them, the Mythbusters team recently promised an interesting report on the 'bullets fired straight up' question...

What is your favorite Busted Myth and your favorite Confirmed one? ADAM SAVAGE -- I've always been partial to the Penny Drop myth, i.e. will a penny dropped from the Empire State Building kill you when it hits the ground? To me, that was one of the most elegant and simple applications of science to a question that we've done. Until last week. We just worked on a myth called "bullets fired up" -- i.e., will a bullet fired directly vertically kill you when it comes back down. We did tons of research on it, and in the end, added significantly to the body of knowledge that's out there on the subject. I won't give away the ending, but we nailed this one.

Reader comment: Ben says: "Despite every attempt to do so, I couldn't find an archived news story of the following very real tale (sorry). I know this might ring of a FOAF urban legend, but it's not! Trust me!

"In my hometown of Erie, PA, about 10-12 years ago, there was an incident just as described in your post. An adolescent girl was struck in the head with a falling bullet as she watched New Year's Eve fireworks...the irony of the situation was that she was attending on of those 'alcohol-free, family-friendly' New Year's Eve events, whereas the guy who shot the gun (who, incredibly, was eventually caught) was at a party a few blocks away.

"In the relatively crime-free location of Erie, where shootings are rare, this story was huge, and the criminal trial (as well as the girl's recovery) was followed by the media for weeks to come."

Google founders Brin and Page to finance indie film

Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page will make their first foray into film finance as co-executive producers of Broken Arrows.

Set for release in late 2006, Reid Gershbein's sub-$1M feature tells the tale of "a man who loses his pregnant wife in a terrorist attack and then takes a job as a hit man."

Link to SF Chronicle story, and here's the movie website. No, wait, it's a movie blog. A mlog, 'cause we're truncated like that, yo.
(via Defamer, where there's more)