US-VISIT immigration system spent $15 million per crook caught

The US-VISIT program subjects visitors to the USA to a humiliating round of being mug-shotted and fingerprinted, and has cost at least $15 billion. Since January 2004, it has caught a paltry 1,000 immigration cheats and crooks (no terrorists, though), at a cost of $15 million per apprehension. As Bruce Schneier points out, this is a pretty cost-ineffective way of catching crooks.
I wrote about US-VISIT in 2004, and back then I said that it was too expensive and a bad trade-off. The price tag for "the next phase" was $15B; I'm sure the total cost is much higher.

But take that $15B number. One thousand bad guys, most of them not very bad, caught through US-VISIT. That's $15M per bad guy caught.

Surely there's a more cost-effective way to catch bad guys?

Link Read the rest

Law firm fires clerk for personal opposition to DRM

Fred sez, "Last week, Free Culture @ NYU's president, Inga Chernyak was fired from her legal clerk job at an intellectual property law firm in midtown New York. The reason? Her opinions on DRM differed from those of her employer's. During her final meeting with HR at the firm, Inga was read the recent Village Voice article which featured an interview with her about her DRM activism and Free Culture @ NYU. Though she was reassured her rights to her opinions and to free speech, she was told she could no longer work at the firm because her views were incompatbile with what the firm did. Read on for the full story, and wonder if there really is free speech about DRM."
As an active member of, and the president of the NYU chapter, I feel both obligated and prepared to stand behind the organization’s stance on where copyright is headed, and where it should be. I can not, in good conscience, renounce my beliefs in the hopes of gaining a rung on the corporate ladder.
Link (Thanks, Fred!) Read the rest

Speakers' bureau for science fiction

Thomas sez, "The new Speculation Speakers website is maintained by AboutSF, which is a joint venture of SFWA, SFRA, Tor Books (see below), and several other donors. SF experts can post and maintain their own online speaker profiles in an easily searchable database. The aim is to help schools, libraries, businesses, and other folks who might want to hear about SF find experts who are willing to tell them about it." Link (Thanks, Thomas!)

Update: Tor Books's Patrick Nielsen Hayden sez, "We're donors; we're not joint-venturers." Read the rest

Kerouac curator invents copyright laws to keep photographers away

The scroll of paper on which Jack Kerouac wrote the original draft of his magnificent novel On The Road is on tour, but the person running the tour has prohibited photography of this important document, citing copyright.

Thomas Hawk has written a great open letter to Myra Borshoff Cook, Tour Organizer for the book in which he spells out why her excuses for restricting the liberty of people who shoot the manuscript are bogus.

It's possible that shooting this with a flash might have long-term negative effects (though we're not talking about the Constitution here, and besides, it's under glass, so you won't get anything but glare if you use your flash), but that's a reason to ban flashes, not photography. The manuscript is a palimpsest of Kerouac's thought processes and revisions and it photographs beautifully.

Ms. Borshoff Cook, you have been entrusted with running a tour of one of the great pieces of literature of the written English language. Even more significantly *how* it is written is of great historical import. This document deserves to be shared beyond the confines of a small room in a basement of the San Francisco library. This document deserves to be shared with everyone online. They deserve to see the time worn type and corrections that Jack made to his document to get a sense of the historical uniqueness of it. Rather than allow the public an opportunity to share in this experience, you position weak copyright objections which don't hold up. Are not most books and documents in the San Francisco Public library copyrighted?
Read the rest

Attaboy's new book of postcards

Attaboy is the co-founder and editor of Hi-Fructose, the excellent new magazine about candy, toys, and monsters. He also creates his own incredibly-inspired and beautiful illustrations. Last Gasp has just published a book of 32 postcards by Attaboy titled Floating Submerged. I can't wait to get my copy! From the Last Gasp description of the book:
Thirty-two full-color, removable, oversized postcards, perforated for your pleasure. Attaboy's maniacal undersea creatures and otherworldly vermin are together here for the first time. This postcard set features fans' favorite images seen the world over, along with characters from Atta's Vinyl Toy and Plush line, including the Axtrx and Gooberry! A great gift to send anyone for their next goo-filled visual vacation. A renegade toy designer whose goo-filled images glow with an eerie, distrubed, childlike sensibility, Attaboy has emerged as a one of the many leading talents in a toy and design movement that might be called "Creaturism." His images appear in galleries, magazines, comics, strange candy devices, calendars, and toys all over. His T-shirts are sold in Japan, his art has appeared in numerous galleries, and his candy-coated stickers and eyesore-causing books are sought after by young and bold. Enter the toof-decayed and festering Yumfactory of Attaboy!
Link (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Engineering dream jobs

The current issue of IEEE Spectrum includes their excellent Dream Jobs 2006 Special Report. Included in their list of ten technologists with "dream jobs" are Martin Cooper, who restores works of art using lasers, Mythbuster Grant Imahara, Disney Imagineer Manni Wong, and fountain designer Anthony Eckersall. From the profile of Eckersall:
When Eckersall started at Wet Design, he was asked to double the height of the Bellagio's water spray to its current 160 meters–"high enough," he says, "that the Federal Aviation Administration has complained that it shows up on radar." The shooters he helped design can propel water so powerfully that it disappears into a vapor. The new design also greatly improves control of the sprays. Today, the oarsmen can direct water to nearly one-thousandth of a degree. That lets the show designers pick the precise point at which two streams touch during the show. Surprisingly, Eckersall says, one of the biggest challenges with the Bellagio fountain is maintaining the seemingly mundane housekeeping computer. It controls, among other things, the pond's filters, which catch everything, "from coins to nappies," he says.
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Perplex city

Guy says: "Perplex City is a cross between collectible-card game and Alternate Reality Game. It's centered around a stolen artefact, and there's a $200,000 reward for whoever can find it. The cards themselves are rather beautiful and feature a diverse range of mind-bending puzzles, while Anton Bogaty (who you just featured) does much of the artwork for the game. I think it's primarily worth mentioning because it's the first self-supporting ARG, as opposed to marketing something else (or being made on a lo-to-no budget basis.)

"Also, Boing Boing itself is on one of the cards!

"There are also some live events coming up in New York and London, making it especially news-worthy right now - anyone can participate, as they aren't especially about PXC, just friendly puzzlin' competitions. Although the London event is closed to sign-ups, after 600 people applied..." Link (Here is Guy's quick-start guide to the game.) Read the rest

The art of Anton Bogaty

Nobody wields color markers as skillfully as Anton Bogaty. I've long admired his drawings and just learned that he has a sketchbook for sale. I just ordered mine. It costs $12 + $2 shipping and is limited to 100 copies. Link Read the rest

Rudy Rucker signing at San Francisco's Booksmith Feb 21

Rudy Rucker, one of my favorite science fiction authors, is signing his books at the Booksmith, one of my favorite San Francisco bookstores, on February 21st. The Booksmith writes:
In the 21st century, we no longer think of reality as particles and force fields. Instead, scientists and philosophers view the world as a sea of computation. "The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul," by Rudy Rucker, explains and expands upon this new way to understand nature, society and the mind. In other words, its about what gnarly computation taught the author about ultimate reality, the meaning of life, and how to be happy.

Rudy Rucker is a mathematician, novelist, software engineer, BoingBoing contributor, and former professor of computer science at San Jose State University. He is well known for his popular books about science, as well as his thirteen novels. He is considered one of the core cyberpunk authors, and is the two time winner of the Philip K. Dick Award. For more info, see

Tuesday, February 21st at 7 pm, Booksmith (1644 Haight Street in San Francisco, between Clayton & Cole), 415-863-8688. Link (Thanks, Booksmith!) Read the rest

EFF suing AT&T for helping NSA illegally spy on Americans

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing AT&T for rolling over and helping the National Security Agency execute illegal warrantless wiretaps against American citizens:
AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuits alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.

Read the rest

Make spaceships from aspirin bottles and toilet Items

On the Make Blog, Phil Torrone, linked to a great how-to on "scratchbuilding" your own sci-fi props from household objects. Link Read the rest

The Daily Monkey

It's all monkeys, all the time at Brian Biggs' Daily Monkey weblog. Brian is a talented illustrator who takes time away from his critically important drawing work to post a new monkey related photograph and quotation each day. For this, I am thankful.
"I'm shooting a special for MTV and they told me all I had to do was push my lips out a little and the monkey would give me a peck, but instead she rammed her tongue inside my mouth and swept it all around in a circle.

She touched every inch in there! It was the most disgusting thing ever!"

– Jessica Alba

Link Read the rest

Burning Man photos from 1998 on

Neil Guy, a talented photographer, has been taking pictures at Burning Man since 1998 -- he's collected them in a site called BurningCam. There's some really nice work here, and the year-by-year archives are strikingly different and similar at once. Link Read the rest

Your Senator needs an iPod!

Ren sez, "Remember how Ted Stevens, the 82 year-old Senator from Alaska, morphed into an advocate for the public's fair use rights after his daughter bought him an iPod? We think that's awesome, and we want to spread the love. That's why IPac launched the Congressional iPod Education Fund, where we're collecting money for iPods, stuffing them with public domain and Creative Commons-licensed content, engraving them with 'Listen to the People,' and shipping them to the campaigns of Senators who work on tech and copyright policy. Check it out!" Link (Thanks, Ren!) Read the rest

99-word essay explains Fair Use

Norm sez, "I am in the midst of a 'haiku essay' project: each essay is exactly 99 words long, plus one for the title. With the Sony Rootkit, ubiquitous DRM and plugging the analog hole on everyone's minds, I took this opportunity to make the fair use case in 99 words."
I love music, movies, and books. I also love technology. I want to use technology to deliver the media I love anywhere, anywhen, with anyone.

This is fair use: I bought it, let me use it. I will tell all my friends about my favorite music. I might play it for them or even give them a digital version of a song. This is evangelism, not theft. This is advertising you cannot buy.

Restrictive copyright is like a vegetarian knife. You bought the knife, but if you cut meat with it, we'll sue you. Excuse me? Let's think again.

Link (Thanks, Norm!) Read the rest

Law and Order Valentines

Brandon Bird has created an hilarious set of 10 Law and Order themed Valentines, and he'll sell 'em to you. Link (Thanks, Andy!)

Update: Lyle sez, "He's no longer taking orders." Read the rest

Prosecutor demos BDSM session

Yesterday, dominatrix Barbara Asher, AKA Mistress Lauren M, was acquitted of manslaughter. You may remember that she was accused of letting a submissive who suffered a heart attack die on the rack. Her boyfriend chopped up the body and dumped it behind a restaurant in Maine. I love this Associated Press photo taken during the prosecutor's closing argument. As my pal Carlo Longino said, "If the gimp mask don't fit, you must acquit." From the AP:
During his closing argument to the jury, prosecutor Robert Nelson put on a black leather mask with a zippered mouth opening and re-enacted the bondage session. With both hands, he reached back and clutched the top of a blackboard as if strapped to the rack. Then he hung his head as if dead. Asher's lawyer objected, and the judge agreed. "That's enough Mr. Nelson," Judge Charles Grabau said. "Thank you for your demonstration."
Link Read the rest

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