Boing Boing 

Artificial cartoon-character skeletons

This Korean art exhibition explores the fictional anatomy of cartoon characters, with elaborate faked-up skeletons for Looney Toons characters, anatomical drawings of Mickey and friends, and many other artifacts from the study of toon anatomy. Link (Thanks, Noah!)

Kick-ass free software/open source con coming to Toronto, Oct 26-27

Toronto's Seneca College is throwing an amazing-sounding free/open source software conference called FSOSS on Oct 26-27, to be held on the York University campus. They've done tons of outreach to local open source groups, and kept the admission down to $20 to ensure wide participation. A substantial number of senior Firefox developers will be there (if the schedule holds, they'll launch Firefox 2.0 from the event), and Mozilla is the big sponsor of the event. The speaker list is quite impressive as well: Chris Blizzard, Nat Friedman, Mike Shaver,  Neil Deakin, Phil Schwan, Marcel Gangne, Marcus Bornfreund to name a few. Organizer Bob Boyczuk (also a talented sf writer) notes:
* We want to be inclusive; we've been working hard to reach out to the sundry OS groups in Toronto and get them involved - and to introduce them to one another. In fact, I've been working hard to attend all the pub nights the various groups hold!

* We want to provide a focus for people looking to plug into projects like OLPC, Firefox, and Linux, and into groups like Creative Commons.

* We want to bridge the gap between content people (artists, writers, etc.) and developers.

* We want to make people aware of the larger OS issues like licensing and DRM.

Link (Thanks, Bob!)

US to spend $20M to generate positive press spin on Iraq

Snip from Washington Post story:
U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have put out for bid a two-year, $20 million public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq.

The contract calls for assembling a database of selected news stories and assessing their tone as part of a program to provide "public relations products" that would improve coverage of the military command's performance, according to a statement of work attached to the proposal.

Link (Thanks, Hal Bringman)

Lockheed wins $4B NASA deal for "Apollo on steroids," Orion

NASA today announced that Lockheed Martin will design and build the agency's next-gen human space exploration craft, Orion. The initial contract value was reported to be approximately $4 billion.

Link to press release, here's a wire service report via NYT, and here's more at the NASA website.

Image: (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press) "NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Doug Cooke, left, and Orion project manager Skip Hatfield today with a scale model of the Orion spacecraft."

Earthlings will have much cause for cheer if whatever Lockheed comes up with is half as funky as an earlier starship Orion from 40 years ago.

This one was celebrated with joyous frugging in the pre-Star-Trek "space opera" Raumpatrouille ("Space Patrol," 1965-1966). Previous BB posts mit dem kitschy videos: one, two.

Here's what the Orion looked like in that TV series:

Reader comment: Jay M. in Minneapolis says,

It's interesting that NASA has resurrected the "Orion" moniker for their latest moonshot. Before Apollo (and even before NASA was NASA) the US floated the idea of spaceships powered by atomic explosions. The idea was not only plausible, but on the drawing boards! It turned out to be not-so-popular, esp. in light of their incredible destructive power. Physicist Freeman Dyson was one of the scientists who worked on this project. His son George Dyson detailed the early exploits of the original Orion project in his book "Project Orion." Another good clearinghouse for Orion info:

Mark Warner's Second Life appearance - transcript

Wagner James Au, fresh from Governor Mark Warner's appearance in the online world Second Life, sends us this: "A lightly edited transcript of Governor Warner's whistle stop appearance in Second Life is up now, a brief but wide-ranging interview on some of the important issues of the day, conveyed through the Governor's avatar to an audience of some 50 SL residents-- including Senator Ted Steven's version of the Internet, in avatar form."
MW: Next week, I hope to lay out some immediate steps we can take to better protect our homeland and ensure that the resources we spent get real results...

Taking Nap [from the audience]: Governor, do you favor fixed timetable in Iraq? Over here!

HA: Save audience questions for the next event with the Governor, please!

MW: ... But I also think the fifth anniversary of 9-11 serves as an opportunity to challenge Americans to remember that sense of civic engagement we all felt in the aftermath of that tragic day. As I've said elsewhere, the fact that the President didn't call upon that spirit to take on some of the major issues, from our energy crisis to restoring America's stature in the world, was a missed opportunity.

Link (Thanks, James!)

Anti-DRM day coming on Oct 3 - mark your calendars

Defective by Design, who campaign against DRM, have declared October 3 to be the the Day Against DRM and they're seeking your ideas for protest actions:
"If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed" - Disney Executive.

Defeating DRM is all about awareness. The direct actions that we have taken are all about this. Whether it means protesting outside Apple Stores in Hazmat suits or getting HUGE press coverage for announcing the Bono petition (sign it now). Action gets attention, and creates space for debate. And as our friends at Disney recognize, if there is a debate, we will have won.

Clear your schedule for a world wide day of action against DRM. On Tuesday October 3rd we will all be taking action to raise the stakes and attempt to increase awareness to the threats of DRM - in a very significant way.

Submit your ideas now and by October 3rd we will be ready to make it happen. Tell us how you think we can, together, raise awareness to defeat DRM. We will award prizes for the best ideas.

Link (via Digg)

To do in SF: New tech bubble, ergo new reason to drink.

Scott Beale says,
Not only is there a new Bubble, but web geeks are happily celebrating the fact that they are in the middle of it.

Tonight, Thursday, August 31st, will be the first ever Bubble Thursday. The bubble bursting drinking will begin at 7pm at Dada in San Francisco.

Link. Photo, by Scott Beale: Kevin Burton of Tailrank at the Naked Conversations TechCrunch Party.

What would the TSA do about exploding ID?

Quinn Norton has a delicious hypothetical:
I think someone should try to blow up a plane with a piece of ID, just to watch the TSA's mind implode.
Could the TSA muster the will to fight a war on identification? Link

German sex-ed book for kids is oddly illustrated (UPDATED)

Update: After the jump, a full English translation in which we learn the meaning of the obscure biological term "Mother-Cake."

BoingBoing reader Hamilton says,

During a "writing for the web" course I was taking, the professor did a Google search for "Untitled Document" to illustrate a point.

One of the first results was entitled "Where Babies Come From In Germany."

With a title like that how could I resist clicking further? What I found was one of the strangest picture books I have ever seen.

Link. Look, li'l baby goatse!

Reader comment: Brian Johnson says,

That German sex ed book for kids? I don't know if it was originally German or what, but I first discovered that book in the kids section of a book store in England. I was about 7 or 8 years old at the time and THAT book, weird illustrations and all, clued me in to EXACTLY how babies were conceived. I was stunned at the time. That was a revelation that obliterated the concept of "girl cooties".

One bit of text that stuck with me through the years was something along the lines that "when the man gets a loving feeling, his penis becomes big" and cue the "wokka-chikka wokka-chikka wow wow" music... What a weird blast from the past!

Till Westermayer says,
What a pity doesn't tell us where this book is coming from. The text is German, ok, but the visual style of the pictures (e.g. the flower-power VW Beetle) as well as some elements of the text suggest for me that this book is from the 1970s. If that is true, I guess, that explains why it is like it is. I mean, that's the time of Willy McBride and -- I don't know if it was translated, and I can't find scans on the net -- Günter Amendts book "Sexfront" (that's more or less the same as the scanned childrens book, only without the baby, and with real photos of naked adults and also naked kids, and more slang in the text ...). Born 1975, I find it quite difficult to image a society were books like those were accepted by the societal mainstream. Even if Germany is not as puritanistic as the USA are, as far as I know, someone who would write such books in such a style today would be looked at rather strange.

So, to cut it short: it would be great if BoingBoing could research from when the book the pictures are from really is, and what the context is.

Tim says,
It appears that it is originally Danish by Per Holm Kudsen. Here is a cite from WorldCat: The true story of how babies are made, by Per Holm Knudsen
* Type: English : Book Book : Juvenile audience
* Publisher: Chicago, Childrens Press [1973, ©1971]
* ISBN: 0516036408
* OCLC: 549281
progosk says,
photographer Will (not Willy!) McBride's extraordinary sex-ed book "Zeig Mal!" (Show Me!) had to be hidden when friends from my 1970's German neighborhood came around; yet if there's anything shocking about it, it's its honesty in focussing on the emotional intensity that should surely be highlighted in any sex-ed. the link is to an article (in German) relating the plight of McBride's book; it includes some of the (sadly NSFW) photos. PDF Link.
Update: Whoah, we now have an English translation of the text for anyone who'd like to know how German goatse-babies are made. After the jump...

Read the rest

Who's your Flat Daddy? 2D proxies of deployed troops ease pain

The Army National Guard is providing life-sized photo replicas of deployed service members to families as a way to ease the pain of separation. So far, the Guard has paid for large-sized photo prints of 100 troop members. Families receive supplies to attach the photo to a foam board. Cutouts are also provided to parents and family members of childless service members. Snip:

Lt. Col. Randall Holbrook travels just about everywhere with his wife Mary and their two sons, Justin, 14, and Logan, 5.

He’s quietly in the background on family outings to the grocery store, to restaurants, camping, even on Mary’s most recent visit to her gynecologist.

Randall has little to say because he’s a ‘‘Flat Daddy,’’ a two-dimensional foam board likeness from the waist up of the Maine Army National Guard officer from Hermon who was sent to Afghanistan in January with the 240th Engineer Group of Augusta.

Link, alternate link. Image: Bridget Brown / Bangor Daily News via AP. "Logan, 3, and Justin Holbrook, 14, rode to dinner with the life-size cutout of their father, Lieutenant Colonel Randall Holbrook, a Maine National Guardsman from Hermon, Maine." (Thanks, Bonnie and DL)

Reader comment: George Murray says,

Can you think of anything more likely to royally fuck a kid up for life than a cardboard cutout of their father in a forced rictus grin? I mean, it would be like perpetually having that scary clown from Poltergeist following you everywhere. Look at the face of the kid on the left. That boy is headed into the arms of a soon-to-be-wealthy therapist. What happens when junior falls down and breaks his arm and flat daddy is still smiling? What happens when the kid spills grapejuice on flat daddy and flat daddy starts to warp and peel? What happens when flat daddy gets bent at the neck and his head starts to loll like overcooked asparagus? Soooo fuuuucked uuuup.

Burning Man: Current TV broadcasts live from the playa

Scott Beale says,
Burning Man 2006 is now in full swing and Current TV is on the Playa and have setup an online television station, TV Free Burning Man.

They have been shooting video, doing interviews and uploading a daily show from Black Rock City. They will be doing a live broadcast the burn on Saturday night (September 2nd) starting at 9pm PST/12am EST.


Katrina, one year later: Two new disaster comms projects

Image: "People's Hurricane Relief Katrina Anniversary March from the Industrial Canal in the Lower 9th Ward to Congo Square in Armstrong Park," 08-29-2006, by NOGoddess (via

Brian Oberkirch of the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog shares news of two new disaster communications projects for which geek-minded volunteers are sought:

# Fix the Gulf

As we saw with the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog, blogs can be efficient tools for gathering current local news and matching resources with needs. There is still a mountain of work to do in all the communities along the coast, and this new project aims to 1) keep the spotlight on the continued disaster, 2) identify specific local needs and match those with people who want to provide help and 3) spotlight other bloggers, videobloggers, podcasters and locals using these tools to spread the word.

I'm looking for editors in each of the affected towns who want to help me aggregate information and outreach for their areas. In addition to the blog, we have a wiki we'll use to let people post up their own links, requests, material, etc.

# HurricaneMind

When a storm comes, we all spend the week asking each other what we're going to do about it. "Are you leaving? Getting your supplies gathered to hunker down? Boarding up? Where you headed?" And so on. HurricaneMind takes that process and writes it large. The idea is to take the wisdom of crowds and apply it to hurricane prep. In addition to telling you what your neighbors are thinking, I'd like the app to map hotel room availability, gather current open evacuation routes, show you where plywood and other supplies are still available and aggregate news sources in one central spot.

I've started a blog and wiki to get a team together to help me build and launch this community service focused application here:

Love to hear from you if any of this strikes a chord. Don't forget about us down here.

Image: Second line musicians, dancers, and memorial participants at the New Orleans Superdome one year after Katrina, 08-29-2006. Shot by NOGoddess.

Keith Olbermann: a special commentary, indeed.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann delivered a particularly impassioned "special commentary" last night in response to this week's speech by Secty. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Here's a partial transcript of Olbermann's response on "Countdown":
[A]bout Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a "new type of fascism." As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that - though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute… I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed, "confused" or "immoral." Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954. "We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear - one, of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of un-reason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men; Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were - for the moment - unpopular."

Link to QT/WMV video and transcript. Text and WMV-only video also here on Olbermann's MSNBC blog. Over at the Guardian UK's blog, Gary Younge has this analysis. (Thanks, Susan, and many others)

Test out Firefox 2 in beta

Attention crash-test dummies! The second public beta of Firefox 2.0 is now live, and ready for your download. This is a preview of the future of browsing, without question. Link

Software beats humans at crossword solving; Web is "shallow AI"

A bilingual Italian-English crossword competition has been swept by software based crossword-solvers that beat the pants off their human competitors in all but the pun-heavy Italian cryptic crossword category. Interestingly, the software used search-engine results and the Web as a "shallow source of human knowledge for artificial intelligence."
WebCrow uses four techniques in parallel to find possible answers to a clue. Two involve looking for the clue or a near match in a database of solved crosswords or using a dictionary. Another uses rules known to work on a kind of Italian clue with two letter answers and the fourth technique is to search the internet.

WebCrow performs a search using key words extracted from the clue. It can usually find the answer by looking at the small previews that appear with the search engine results, but it can scan whole pages if necessary. Words of the right length that crop up most often in the results are taken to be possible answers...

Tony Veale works on software that can deal with human language at University College Dublin, Ireland, and watched WebCrow in action. He told New Scientist he was impressed. "It's part of a trend to use the web as a shallow source of human knowledge for artificial intelligence," he says.


Tobacco companies increased nicotine in kids' and minorities' cigs

A new study shows that tobacco companies have been quietly increasingly the nicotine in the brands most smoked by kids and minorities for the past decade, increasing the toxicity and addictiveness of their products.
The study, reported by the Boston Globe, found that 92 of 116 brands tested had higher nicotine yields in 2004 than in 1998, and 52 had increases of more than 10 percent.

Boxes of Doral lights, a low-tar brand made by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., had the biggest increase in yield, 36 percent. Some of this may have been the result of an increase in the total amount of tobacco put in that brand's cigarettes, one expert said.

The nicotine in Marlboro products, preferred by two-thirds of high school smokers, increased 12 percent. Kool lights increased 30 percent. Two-thirds of African American smokers use menthol brands.

Link (via A Blog Around the Clock)

State Department: misinformed report on skateboarding

The United States Department of State has posted an overview of skateboarding titled "Skateboarding Grows from Casual Hobby to International Sport." points out some of the best moments:
It seems that skateboarding is now a topic of national importance.

If it is they certainly need to work on getting their facts straight. Here are a few highlights:

- “If (tricks are) executed well, fellow skaters will offer their most superlative compliment: “Dude, that stinks!”

- “…the impact cushioned by the kneepads and helmets virtually all skateboarders wear.”

- “Tight jeans are in “because they let you see your feet,”

The article also mentions, “Tee Cherry, an American Muslim, taking a few minutes to skateboard with his young son before heading off to afternoon prayers.” Is it a tad strange to call out a skate Dad as an American Muslim in an article created by the Bureau of International Information Programs or is it just us?
Link to the State Department report, Link to post (Thanks, Dave Gill!)

UPDATE: The article has been taken down and replaced with this note:
The editorial staff of USINFO were surprised by the feedback we received regarding the article "Skateboarding Grows from Casual Hobby to International Sport." We have removed the article from the web site and are determining how we can best present this increasingly popular American sport to interested readers worldwide.

Vintage Italian pulp comix covers

 Blog Uploaded Images 3D 1 B.Jpg-775460 Over at FLOG!, Fantagraphics art director Jacob Covey has posted a wonderful gallery of Italian pulp horror/SF/fantasy comic covers from the '60s and '70s. Sites like The Groovy Age of Horror showcase a lot of this work and link to other galleries of pulp art masterpieces. Covey's FLOG! post is just a taste.

UK government censors YouTube vid it posted itself

The UK cabinet office has censored a video that another branch of government had previously posted off of YouTube -- ironically, the video was about how the government could be more coordinated:
A video called Transformational Government can no longer be viewed on the site, instead users get a box of red text stating: "This video has been removed at the request of copyright owner COI Television because its content was used without permission."

COI Television is actually part of the Cabinet Office and the further irony of the video being about transformational government was not lost on one critic.

A spokesman for independent body Public Sector Forums, told "The COI is part of the Cabinet Office. So it looks like the Cabinet Office's initiative has fallen at the first hurdle and ironically, it's thanks to a lack of joined-upness between parts of its own ministry."

Link (Thanks, Glyn!)

Apple's lawyer sends bogus nastygram to blogger

A lawyer working for Apple has sent a DMCA takedown notice to the blogger at CrunchGear for linking to a YouTube video that demonstrates features of the next version of Mac OS. The letter is a remarkable example of bad lawyering -- sending a takedown to the blogger instead of YouTube is just the start. The letter also contains a "confidentiality notice" and the legend "NOT FOR POSTING." This lawyer, Ian Ramage of O'Melveny & Myers LLP, apparently believes that you can create a confidentiality agreement merely by stating that one exists, even if the other party doesn't actually agree to anything.
Ian, it a YouTube video. That’s at Get them to take it down if it’s a violation of your IP and it will stop showing at crunchgear and the other sites.

And Ian, when you are done, please take the time to send your client, Apple, a similar email for posting basically the same material on their own site.

Link (via Digg)

Missing Munch paintings recovered

Authorities in Norway have found the Edvard Munch paintings--The Scream and Madonna--that were ripped off at gunpoint two years ago from the Munch Museum. The thieves were convicted in May but the paintings hadn't been recovered. From BBC News:
463Px-The Scream The Scream and Madonna were found in a "police action". "We are 100% certain they are the originals. The damage was much less than feared," police said.

UPDATE: Thanks to all the readers who point out that the paintings were found just days after Mars, Inc. offered 2 million dark chocolate M&M's for the return of The Scream. Link

HOWTO make a twin-engine solar rolling robot

Solarbot Over at Street Tech, BB buddy (and old-school bOING bOING contributing editor) Gareth Branwyn explains how to build this beautiful twin-enginer solar-powered robot that rolls around on a pair of hard disk platters. The robot was designed by Zach DeBord who exhibits his elegant mechanical creations here on Flickr. DeBord's bots were all built using a design approach called BEAM (Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics). In most BEAM robotics, simple analog circuits are used in lieu of microcontrollers, eliminating the need for programming. Gareth says, "If you built my beginner solarroller from the cover story in MAKE: Vol. 6, this could be a perfect follow-up project."

McDonalds McFlurry cups redesigned for hedgehog safety

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has won a years-long fight with McDonalds to shrink the size of the opening in a McFlurry (a frozen edible-oil dairy slurry) reduced. The present wide-mouth McFlurry cups serve as fatal hedgehog traps by sucking in 'hogs who lick up the left-over slurry, get stuck, and die.
Up to now the opening in the container has been large enough for hedgehogs to get their heads into for a lick of the left-over dessert -- a trap they have then been unable to withdraw from, so dying of starvation in untold numbers.

But from September 1, the wide-mouthed opening in the lid of the McFlurry containers will be reduced in size, making them too small for the sugar-loving animals to get their heads into.

Link (via Fark)

Update: The McFlurry is dairy, not oil. Here's the ingredients (thanks, Matt!):

Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: Whole milk, sucrose, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, imitation vanilla flavor, carrageenan, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate. Contains milk ingredients. Mini M&M'S® Candies: Milk chocolate (sugar, chocolate, milk, cocoa butter, lactose, soy lecithin, salt, artificial flavors), sugar, less than 0.5%: coloring (includes yellow 5 lake, red 40 lake, blue 1 lake), cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrin. Contains milk and soybean ingredients. May contain peanuts.

Inbred fundamentalist Mormon breakaway town plagued by birth-defects

A fundamentalist breakaway Mormon sect in Colorado City, AZ, is being overtaken by a rare birth-defect brought on by inbreeding. The cult's leader arranges all marriages between community members, who are descended from two founding families. The cult's members view the severe disabilities brought on by the inbreeding as a test from God, and those who question this are excommunicated and thrown out of the community.
By the late 1990s, Tarby and his team had discovered fumarase deficiency was occurring in the greatest concentration in the world among the fundamentalist Mormon polygamists of northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Of even greater concern was the fact that the recessive gene that triggers the disease was rapidly spreading to thousands of individuals living in the community because of decades of inbreeding...

Doctors and family members interviewed by New Times say up to 20 children from families in the polygamist community are currently afflicted with the condition that requires full-time attention from caregivers. Victims suffer a range of symptoms, including severe epileptic seizures, inability to walk or even sit upright, severe speech impediments, failure to grow at a normal rate, and tragic physical deformities.

"They are in terrible shape," says Dr. Kirk A. Aleck, director of the Pediatric Neurogenetics Center at St. Joseph's Hospital. Aleck is a geneticist who participated along with Tarby and others in the groundbreaking study of several polygamous families with fumarase deficiency in the late 1990s.

Link (via Gene Expression)

Update: Mike sez, "That inbred cult is (was?) led by Warren Jeffs, who just got picked up Tuesday by authorities during a routine traffic stop in Vegas-- with 'cell phones, laptop computers, wigs and more than $50,000 in cash when he was arrested.' Richard Abowitz, who's been covering the FLDS for some time, has been doing a great job tracking the story on his Las Vegas blog, the Moveable Buffet."

Have you seen Dinosaur Jr's stolen gear?

Dinosaur, Jr's entire collection of gear has been stolen out of their trailer, and they're trying to recover it before they have to start cancelling gigs:
After a blistering set last night in Brooklyn, NY the band awoke this morning to find that the their trailer had been broken into and all of the gear has been taken.

J's Amma guitar, the mountain man guitar, Lou's Rickenbacker... EVERYTHING IS GONE. They are still taking inventory to see what else is gone but they were pretty much wiped out.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! Spread the word to everyone you know, every music store, pawn shop, club... anywhere you can think they may show up.

If you have ANY information let us know -

Link (via Digg)

Update: Andrew points out the entry for Dino Jr's kit on, which helps bands recover their stolen stuff.

HOWTO make a glowing pickle-lamp

You can make a glowing pickle-lamp by jamming power-boards into either end of a pickle that's resting atop a non-conducting surface and then plugging it in. No idea whether this will burn your house down, but it may be worth it. Link (via Digg)

Update: Sputnik sez, "Where can I see this without getting my fool self electrocuted? As always, YouTube to the rescue!"

Update 2: Mike sez, "Years ago when I worked at Digital Equipment Corportation, this hilarious 'research paper' from DEC's Western Reseach Lab was widely circulated. Entitled Characterization of Organic Illumination Systems, it details arcing pickles and other assorted vegetables."

Update 3: Wayne sez, "I conducted this experiment years ago as my final high school chemistry project, trying to figure out why only one end of the pickle glows. I came to the same conclusions mentioned about the sodium, but was unable to figure out the polarization. makes reference to this scientific mystery of pickle polarization:"

Why does only one end of the pickle light up and glow? Look at the amazing electrical storm jumping through the pickle. (Results are best viewed in a dark room. This is better than Star Wars! Don’t worry the pickle will make all the light you need.) Unplug the pickle; reconnect the wires on the opposite side and it still only glows on one end. There is yet no definitive scientific answer to explain the polarization of a pickle connected to AC current.

Update 4: Dan sez, "Years ago, I figured out that if you buy one of those hot dog cookers that runs current through the meat to cook it, you could use it as a (somewhat) safe version of the glowing pickle lamp."

Update 5: Pat sez, "Penn and Teller cover the glowing pickle trick in the 1992 book How to Play with Your Food. It's a great resource for all kinds of food related mischief."

Hairy people who made PT Barnum proud

 Articles 209 Hairy-Fam4 At the Fortean Times site, Dr. Jan Bondeson, author of the classic book A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, profiles history's hairiest wonders. These individuals suffered from hypertrichosis aka "Werewolf syndrome." In Bondeson's article, you'll meet Barbara Urslerin, the "Hairy Maid" who played the harpsichord, the "Sacred Hairy Family of Burma" who worked for PT Barnum at the end of the 19th century, and, of course, Jo-Jo The Dog-Faced Boy, billed as "the most prodigious paragon of all prodigies secured by PT Barnum in over 50 years."

Sony BMG settles Canadian DRM class action

Sony BMG has settled the Canadian class-action lawsuit brought against it for deliberately deploying music CDs infected with rootkits and spyware as part of a misbegotten anti-copying scheme.
The settlement, which must still be approved by a Canadian court, features similar terms to those found in the U.S., including the right to cash compensation or music downloads. The settlement site features a full list of the affected CDs including Canadian artists such as Sloan, Our Lady Peace, and a Canadian Idol compilation.

See also: Sony anti-customer technology roundup and time-line

Facts about Death

The new issue of Discover magazine includes a list of "20 Things You Didn't Know About Death." For more on the subject, I heartily recommend Mary Roach's excellent book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. From Discover:
3 No American has died of old age since 1951.

4 That was the year the government eliminated that classification on death certificates.

5 The trigger of death, in all cases, is lack of oxygen. Its decline may prompt muscle spasms, or the "agonal phase," from the Greek word agon, or contest.

6 Within three days of death, the enzymes that once digested your dinner begin to eat you. Ruptured cells become food for living bacteria in the gut, which release enough noxious gas to bloat the body and force the eyes to bulge outward.

10 The vultures are now dying off after eating cattle carcasses dosed with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory used to relieve fever in livestock.

Cory's When Sysadmins Ruled published in Baen's Universe magazine

My story When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth, about the last days of the Internet as seen from a data-center after a series of terrorist attacks, has been published in Baen's Universe magazine. Baen's Universe is a tremendous experiment in short sf publishing: $30 gets you six issues over the course of a year, each issue bearing several novels' worth of verbiage from top writers. The stories are all vigorous adventure tales, and I share issue number two with the likes of Garth Nix, Brian Herbert and Catherine Asaro (issue one included an original story by Charlie Stross, along with Greg Benford, Elizabeth Bear, John Barnes and Alan Dean Foster).
He piloted the car into the data-center lot, badging in and peeling up a bleary eyelid to let the retinal scanner get a good look at his sleep-depped eyeball.

He stopped at the machine to get himself a guarana/modafinil power-bar and a cup of lethal robot-coffee in a spill-proof clean-room sippy-cup. He wolfed down the bar and sipped the coffee, then let the inner door read his hand-geometry and size him up for a moment. It sighed open and gusted the airlock’s load of positively pressurized air over him as he passed finally to the inner sanctum.

It was bedlam. The cages were designed to let two or three sysadmins maneuver around them at a time. Every other inch of cubic space was given over to humming racks of servers and routers and drives. Jammed among them were no fewer than twenty other sysadmins. It was a regular convention of black tee-shirts with inexplicable slogans, bellies overlapping belts with phones and multitools.

Normally it was practically freezing in the cage, but all those bodies were overheating the small, enclosed space. Five or six looked up and grimaced when he came through. Two greeted him by name. He threaded his belly through the press and the cages, toward the Ardent racks in the back of the room.


Podcast: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6