Boing Boing 

Bag Lady Syndrome: women's anxiety about being poor

Bag-lady syndrome is a non-medical term for a common anxiety among women: the fear that they will end up destitute and on the streets. It affects women from all social strata and can be crippling. One psychiatry prof calls it a specialized form of psychotic depression -- but it's surely telling that this particular anxiety is common at this moment, when consumer debt is on the rise, crazy "exotic" mortgages are the norm, and scaremongers are telling us that Social Security is doomed.
Bag-lady syndrome plagues, puzzles and, in more extreme cases, paralyzes women who want to get a better grip on their financial lives, according to Olivia Mellan, the author of “The Advisor's Guide to Money Psychology” and a Washington, D.C., therapist who specializes in money psychology. Lily Tomlin, Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine and Katie Couric all admit to having a bag lady in their anxiety closet.

"It cuts across women of all social groups; it's not like wealthy women don't have it," says Mellan. "Heiresses, women who have inherited wealth, have big bag-lady nightmares because they really feel like the money came to them magically and can leave them just as magically."

Link (via Fark)

Hactivists hang anti-DRM banner at Berlin tech conference

Wetter sez, "Hacktivists from the Chaos Computer Club publicly protested against copy protection and DRM at todays starting IFA - consumers electronics trade fair in Berlin. The goal is to be seen by mainstream media reporting about IFA, HDready, DRM and others by giving the pictures and critical statements to journalists and consumers. The slogan on the big self-painted banner is 'copy protection is incapacitating' (Kopierschutz entmündigt)." Link (Thanks, Wetter!)

Kid's paper robots spawn Japanese toy franchise

Kami-robo (paper robot) is a hot new toy line in Japan -- whimsical, childish papercraft robots that also come as plastic replicas of papercraft robots. Their designer, Tomohiro Yasui, came up with the idea when he was an obsessive toy-collecting 11-year-old who made paper "play-copies" of his metal robots so that he could leave the originals in mint condition. Now it's a commercial success, with cartoon and card-game being spin-offs.
Tomohiro Yasui started crafting them in 1982, at age 11, because he couldn't bear the thought of playing with his precious store-bought bots – what if the paint chipped or an arm fell off?! So he used cardboard, scissors, wire, tape, and markers to construct his own durable automatons.

Avant-garde jazz derived from math concepts and sequences

Avant-garde jazz saxaphonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's latest CD, Codebook, blends improvisational jazz with rhythms and melodies derived from beautiful mathematical concepts and equations -- while the drummer beats out hidden Morse Code messages. The Wired News review has links to sample MP3s and lots of crunchy details on what sounds like a fantastic CD. My dad -- jazz aficionado, PhD in math education -- will go bonkers for this.
The very first track, "The Decider," is a groovy primer on how to turn math into music. Its bristling melody (.mp3) is derived from the Fibonacci sequence, an infinite series of integers that governs the structure of everything from pineapples to the Parthenon...

Returning to the realm of number theory, the tune "Further and In Between" is based on the cyclical number 142857. Like all cyclical numbers, this one has some very strange properties; for example, if you multiply it by 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, you get the same digits in a different configuration (for example, 2 x 142857 = 285714).

Link (Photo thumbnail clipped from an image on

Fight off Teletubbies with a chainsaw

Teletubbies Kill: a Flash shooting gallery game where you fight off bouncing Teletubbies with a chainsaw, finishing them is a fountain of gore and tubbiegobbets. Link (via Wonderland)

Exotic debt-trap mortgages about to turn on their owners

It's amazing that banks can get away with offering these "option ARM" mortgages that let people buy way more house than they can afford, and then give them the option of actually making no mortgage payments so that the interest owed is added to the principal, in a cascade of compound-debt that will rapidly mount.

The only question I have is whether the banks will be able to cash in on all those repossessed houses after the real-estate tumble, or will prices be so low that they also lose their shirts?

In order to get the $800,000 house he bought early last year in California's Silicon Valley, Joe got an "option ARM," an adjustable-rate loan that lets him choose from a variety of payments every month. The smallest payment included no principal and less than 100 percent of the interest due. The unpaid interest was tacked onto the principal, creating "negative amortization..."

The [lender's warning] letters contain hypothetical examples of what lay ahead. One is a California homeowner making only minimum payments on a $402,000 loan. The current full interest rate on the loan is 7.6 percent, but the borrower has been paying just $1,348.47, far less than what's needed to fully amortize the mortgage over its 30-year term. If the loan reset at today's rates, the full payment required would be $2,887.50 – more than double what the homeowner is currently paying.

Link (via Fark)

Blocky dog lamp with curvy skeleton shadows

This milky acrylic lamp is shaped like the silhouette of a dog, if that dog were made out of blocky pixels. Thus, the screened-on shadows of curvilinear bones that show when the dog is lit up are all the more lively and funny, a deeper impossibility in the conflict of square exterior and curved internals. Link (scroll down)

(via Neatorama)

Dress made from sock-monkeys

This dress made out of sock-monkeys is on exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair. Magnificent. Obsessive. Tony Millionaire-esque.

I'm just bummed that there isn't a matching suit. Link (Thanks, Theresa!)

Update: Heidi points out this other sock-monkey dress from the fair, with strategic monkeys.

Presidential candidate to speak in Second Life tomorrow

A former governor of Virginia and an undeclared presidential condidate named Mark Warner will make a live appearance in the multiplayer online world Second Life tomorrow. You can attend.
Mark Warner’s avatar seems presidential, too–tall, stern, and statesman-like. And tomorrow at 12:30pm Second Life Time (i.e., PDT), in a public event sponsored by Forward Together and produced by Millions of Us, I’ll be interviewing him, in a brief conversation that’ll touch on national security, foreign policy, the Democratic Party-- and, of course, future plans for the Governor and his team in Second Life.

Royal Mail may fire anti-spam postman

The UK Royal Mail has suspended a postman for printing and delivering a pamphlet that explained how the people on his route could get the post to stop sending them spam. The Royal Mail, which makes tons of money on the delivery of unaddressed spam, suspended the letter-carrier and may fire him.
Mr Annies decided to act after receiving dozens of complaints from householders who were fed up with the piles of junk mail dropping through their letter boxes everyday.

So, hoping he may have the answer to their prayers, he delivered his own leaflet to residents in Barry, South Wales, explaining how they could opt out of getting mailshots known as 'door-to-door' items by filling out a form.

Link (via Neatorama)

Update: Want to opt out of Royal Mail spam? Here's the form: PDF, DOC -- thanks, Paul!

Ghost town dial-up BBSes still online

There are a few ghost-town dial-up BBSes still alive and kicking, and you can connect to them using VoIP and your machine's modem. They're abandoned towns with half-finished multiplayer games, mouldering message boards, and the occassional old coot holding court:
All this makes me wonder why the Sysops who own these BBSes keep them running with such little traffic. Did they just forget to turn off their machines in 1998 as the Internet finally swept away the traditional US BBS scene? Did the old Sysops die and nobody noticed that the automated machines were still running, undetected, in a dusty back room somewhere? The possibilities are incredibly compelling; they really stir the imagination. That’s why finding such forgotten realms elicits a sense of discovery in me, like being an explorer discovering a long-lost temple in the overgrown jungles of Peru – all the more reason to give the old places a visit.
I got my start with BBSes on my Apple ][+ in 1980 or so, when we got the modem card (we'd have to take out the 80-column card to free a slot for it, so all my BBSing was in upper-case letters). I fell in love on BBSes, fought on them, got jobs through them, organized demonstrations -- and played endless games. I was so hooked on Pyroto Mountain -- I used to show up at the library I worked at with stacks of 3x5 cards with the mountain's trivia questions printed on them and skive off by looking up the answers on the shelves.

Link (Thanks, Jacques!)

Soviet-era bootleg rock albums on used X-ray film

In the former Soviet Union, rock-and-roll rebels would bootleg subversive recordings by engraving them on salvaged, used X-ray film. The result is a kind of radiographer's picture-disc, part Samizdata and part pathology.
Owing to the lack of recordings of Western music available in the USSR, people had to rely on records coming through Eastern Europe, where controls on records were less strict, or on the tiny influx of records from beyond the iron curtain. Such restrictions meant the number of recordings would remain small and precious. But enterprising young people with technical skills learned to duplicate records with a converted phonograph that would "press" a record using a very unusual material for the purpose; discarded x-ray plates. This material was both plentiful and cheap, and millions of duplications of Western and Soviet groups were made and distributed by an underground roentgenizdat, or x-ray press, which is akin to the samizdat that was the notorious tradition of self-publication among banned writers in the USSR. According to rock historian Troitsky, the one-sided x-ray disks costed about one to one and a half rubles each on the black market, and lasted only a few months, as opposed to around five rubles for a two-sided vinyl disk. By the late 50's, the officials knew about the roentgenizdat, and made it illegal in 1958. Officials took action to break up the largest ring in 1959, sending the leaders to prison, beginning an orginization by the Komsomol of "music patrols" that later undertook to curtail illegal music activity all over the country.
Link (Thanks, Spluch!)

Kelly Link's magic story "The Girl Detective" - free audiobook

Telltale Weekly has just released a free MP3 reading of Kelly Link's amazing story "The Girl Detective." Kelly's work leaves me jaw-dropped and gob-smacked, and I rate "The Girl Detective" up there with her Nebula-winning, Hugo-nominated novella Magic For Beginners (read this now, run don't walk).

This story also appears in Kelly's Creative Commons-licensed collection Stranger Things Happen.

The girl detective's mother is missing.

The girl detective's mother has been missing for a long time.

The underworld.

Think of the underworld as the back of your closet, behind all those racks of clothes that you don't wear anymore. Things are always getting pushed back there and forgotten about. The underworld is full of things that you've forgotten about. Some of them, if only you could remember, you might want to take them back. Trips to the underworld are always very nostalgic. It's darker in there. The seasons don't match. Mostly people end up there by accident, or else because in the end there was nowhere else to go. Only heroes and girl detectives go to the underworld on purpose.

There are three kinds of food.

One is the food that your mother makes for you. One is the kind of food that you eat in restaurants. One is the kind of food that you eat in dreams. There's one other kind of food, but you can only get that in the underworld, and it's not really food. It's more like dancing.


Payphones of the world

The Payphone Project documents that most armored, most endangered, and most attacked of technological artifacts: the global payphone. Payphones evolve anti-fraud, anti-tampering measures in the ruthless Darwinian public thoroughfares, and they crop up anywhere an entrepreneur sees an opportunity to turn conversation into cash.

The payphones in the gallery are wild, like this floating payphone in the middle of Lake Victoria in Uganda, solar-powered and GSM-networked. Link (via Street Use)

People-watching on Moscow's subway

This gallery of photos of outre riders on Moscow's subway is captivating. The Moscow subways are legendary, the people's palaces, with chandeliers and broad halls and cheap tickets. It's Russia, it's a big city, so you'd expect some boneless drunkards and russo-goths, but commandos with heavy arms? Zoot-suited hipsters? Unconscious, drunken transit cops?

You won't see pics like this from Petersburg's subway: that's because the full-employment-scheme useless transit cops there fine you a hundred rubles if you use your camera in the Petersburg metro. They are indeed valiant guards of the transit authority's precious photons. Link (via Neatorama)

Chinese bloggers declare war on British sex-pat blogger

Chinese bloggers have declared war on a British womanizer in Shanghai who gleefully blogs his sex-pat adventures seducing the delta's women.
Traffic on the Sex and Shanghai blog has surged from 500 hits to more than 17,000, thanks to a swarm of castration threats, anti-British rants and attacks on women who sleep with foreigners. The author, who calls himself Chinabounder, introduces himself as a wastrel, "lacking in moral fibre, but coping with the situation". According to the posts, he is an English language teacher at a university...

The campaign against the blog was launched on Friday by Zhang Jiehai, professor of psychology in the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences under a post titled The Internet Hunt for an Immoral Foreigner. "I have something to tell Chinese men: please think about how these foreign trash have dallied with your sisters and made fun of your impotence," he wrote. "This piece of garbage must be found and kicked out of China!!!"

Link (via Smart Mobs)

Update: Jane sez, "This a great example of chinavenging - a term I coined to describe the culture-specific practice of moralizing 'smart mobs' in China. Now that the Internet is increasingly constrained by local governments, it really makes sense to start talking about Web trends in site-specific terms."

Katrina: public service announcement (shot by BB pal photog)

My friend Clayton James Cubitt, who has family roots in New Orleans, IMs:
Ad agency Grey Worldwide worked with the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Ad Council to create a series of PSAs highlighting the need for Katrina surivors to reach out for help.

Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are rampant throughout the survivor population.

They sent me down to photograph survivors. I spent a week in New Orleans and Mississippi. This is the first ad to come out.

Link. The copy reads: "A year after Katrina, all the water still hasn't receded. If you're having trouble coping, trained and caring help is waiting." Here's more about the campaign.

Report: UK gov staff hack into Home Office database

Snip from news report:
Office staff are hacking into the department's computers, putting at risk the privacy of 40million people in Britain. The revelation undermines Government claims that sensitive information being collected for its controversial ID Cards scheme could not fall into criminal hands.
Nicked from Bruce Sterling, who observes:
Okay, let's imagine you're, like, Mr Humble Government Clerk punter bedsit Weetabix-eater guy, and in front of you, every day, is the Brand New British Gigantic SuperAntiTerror ID Consolidated Database. If you're, like, Miss Moneypenny or something, maybe you're so rigidly disciplined that you never peek. But wouldn't you -- just as job one -- check out YOUR OWN entry in the giant Satanic Mill database? And after that, wouldn't you do Enid, in the cubicle down the hall? I mean, how could you not?

Reader comment: Blake says,

You may already be aware, but a very similar thing happened in Australia last week. (Link to story). About 20 Goverment Employment Office staff were sacked and around a 100 others resigned after they were found to be searching through the database illegally.

PA paper fights gov order requiring computer hand-over

Previously on BoingBoing:

As part of a state grand-jury investigation over press leaks, the office of Pennsylvania's Attorney General has seized four hard drives from the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. At issue is whether reporters at that paper were given access to a password-protected law enforcement website with nonpublic information on local crime incidents. The paper is accused of having used some of that information in news reports. Reporters may be charged with felony "computer hacking" if they accessed the website without permission from authorities.

Link to archived post (March 14, 2006).

Lancaster Newspapers did hand over the initial four hard drives. But today, there's news they've filed an emergency petition to block an order to turn over two more computers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will soon decide whether the news organization must sumbit the additional hard drives, as part of the ongoing probe of alleged illicit access to that restricted law enforcement website. Snip:

Lancaster Newspapers surrendered four of its computer hard drives in March after an earlier court battle, but balked at a more recent court order demanding two more computers. It was given a deadline of Aug. 25 to turn over the computers or face a fine of $1,000 a day, according to court documents.
Link (via Romenesko)

California to become first state to limit greenhouse emissions

Limits on all greenhouse gas emissions -- including utility plants, fuel refineries, and other industrial sites -- will become mandatory in California if the bill is signed into law:
The agreement marks a clear break with the Bush administration and puts California on a path to reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by an estimated 25 percent by 2020.

The bill still needs lawmakers' approval, but that appears likely, given that Democrats control the Legislature.


Hybrid BMW Mini Cooper: engines in its wheels, 0-60 in 4.5

Snip from Treehugger:
A British engineering firm has put together a high-performance hybrid version of BMW's Mini Cooper. The PML Mini QED has a top speed of 150 mph, a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. The car uses a small gasoline engine with four 160 horsepower electric motors – one on each wheel. The car has been designed to run for four hours of combined urban/extra urban driving, powered only by a battery and bank of ultra capacitors. The QED supports an all-electric range of 200-250 miles and has a total range of about 932 miles (1,500 km). For longer journeys at higher speeds, a small conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) is used to re-charge the battery. In this hybrid mode, fuel economies of up to 80mpg can be achieved.
Link (Thanks, Wayne Correia)

UK gov bans violent porn

If the plan becomes law, possessing "extreme and violent pornography" in the UK will be a crime punishable by up to three years in jail:
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said the government planned to make it an offence to own images featuring scenes of extreme sexual violence, following a year-long consultation on the issue. The action is a victory for the family of Jane Longhurst, a 31-year-old Brighton teacher murdered in 2003 by a man obsessed with viewing necrophilia Web sites, who have campaigned to block access to such material in the UK.

"My daughter Sue and myself are very pleased that after 30 months of intensive campaigning we have persuaded the government to take action against these horrific Internet sites, which can have such a corrupting influence and glorify extreme sexual violence," Longhurst's mother Liz told the BBC.

Link. The adult industry trade news site reported:
[A] spokesman for a BDSM group called criminalization of possession troubling. “The theory that people should be punished for viewing an image that simply involves the idea of sexuality with violence shows the proposal being made is to introduce a form of thought crime,” the spokesman said.

Director of the Libertarian Alliance Shaun Gabb said that extending the ban on possession of such content gives the police “inquisitorial powers to come in your house and see what you’ve got.”

The change in the law applies to England and Wales. Plans are underway to extend the law to Northern Ireland. The Scottish Executive is expected to announce its plans separately.

Link to full text of article.

Image above -- shibari (worksafe definition) photos by Phillippe Boxis: NSFW link.

Reader comment: Tom says,

In a typical example of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, the British government has announced plans to ban violent pornography because one man who enjoyed it killed his girlfriend [a woman]. Last time I checked, killing people was still illegal, so why do we need a new rule outlawing fantasies?
Erith says,
What's actually been announced is the end result of a consultation process. Parliament is not in session, and there is as yet no Bill, never mind an Act passed into Law with Royal Assent. It will require seperate legislation in Scotland.

The report itself states that a bill will be brought before Parliament "when the legislative calendar allows", giving those who oppose it plenty of time to continue the campaign against this legislation.

Paddlestar Galactica: sf-fan video folkart starring kids

"Starbuck, Lee, and the President come across some pylons and toasters in their search for home." Link to video starring three young fans of my favorite sf tv show, Battlestar Galactica. Shot in Quebec. (thanks, EmilyTheKid)

New tech to track traffic by "cellular stream" speeds

A two-week trial currently taking place in Florida evaluates a new way to map traffic patterns in real time by processing "non-voice data streams generated by cellphones." Organizations involved in the test include the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, DOT, FedEx, UPS, and various cellular carriers. Snip:
Every cellphone is tuned into multiple relay towers. The towers determine the phone's position twice a second when someone is talking and once every 30 seconds if the phone is idle. The towers send phone position information to the carrier's local computers where, for the most part, [engineer Ron Herman] says, "it falls on the floor and nobody pays any attention to it."

Atlanta-based IntelliOne probes that data stream and converts it into real-time traffic congestion reports. The reports detail the exact locations and extent of the congestion, and the average speed of traffic. "If there are 50 or 100 phones out on I-275 moving at 10 miles an hour in a 65 mph zone, there's a problem," Herman said.

There are no privacy issues. The IntelliOne probe taps a data stream, not the voice stream, so it can't listen in on calls. There also is an anonymity filter, so the system doesn't know whose phone it is tracking.

"There are no privacy issues." Heh. Link (Thanks, Rusty Hodge / via FriendsOfWayne)

Reader comment: Michael Keukert in Aachen, Germany writes:

the previous issue of the German edition of MIT's "Technology Review" reports that such tests are being conducted in several areas of Germany for quite a while already. Germanys crowded network auf "Autobahn" is heavily affected by traffic jams, so a network of permanently mounted detectors have been installed. Data is also acquired by "floating car units", many of them put on the road by BMW. The research project tries to use the cellphone data to further detail the current traffic situation and to have an early warning for jams.

Guy uses looped audio response to drive telemarketers nuts

creativebastard writes:
A little while ago I put together a little application on our phone system so that when a telemarketer calls in, I can transfer them to this extension and annoy the hell out of them. I thought about it a bit more and decided to make it a little more interesting, so I can get them to hold on the line as long as possible. Today I recorded a bunch of different voices sounding really interested in what a telemarketer would be offering. Have a listen (...) Once I gather enough calls, i'm gong to setup a little podcast of all the best calls from a fortnightly period. Enjoy!
Link to page with MP3 audio of a simulated interaction between a faux telemarketer and an audiolooped pretend-dude. I can't wait to try this out at home! (thanks, Denis Drye)

Reader comment: Michael Natale says,

Funny idea that would work, but I don't think the call is real. That Indian accent sounds put on to me. [Ed. note: Right-o, it's totally fake.] These are a few years old but absolutely genuine: Link

Nightmare dental instrument from 1939

Amazing to think that the gnathograph, which looks about as comfortable as Clockwork Orange's crazy eye-opener device but for your teeth, was ever considered a good idea. But there it is, in the June, 1939 ish of Popular Science.
WITH the aid of the "gnathograph," an instrument as mouth-filling as its name, a dentist's patients may now be assured of a perfect fit for artificial teeth. Fitted to the jaws as shown above, the new device registers the arrangement of the teeth and the direction of the "bite," to guide the dentist in straightening teeth or fitting inlays, crowns, bridges, and plates. Its inventor, Dr. Beverly B. McCollum of Los Angeles, Calif., demonstrates in the picture at the right how the instrument is then mounted for use in tooling a plate to just the right shape to give the most comfortable fit in the mouth.

Star Trek vs. Simpsons theme

Simptrek This video of a Star Trek/Simpsons TV theme mash-up is a real hoot. I dig the Theremin and the funnel.
Link (via Neatorama)

What ever happened to, Oregon?

A followup on the tale of Halfway, that small Oregon town "bought" and renamed in the Web 1.0 boom years by
[B]ack in 1999, in its Netflix-like heyday, was hot. And then it did something quite remarkable. As a publicity stunt, it bought a town – somewhere in Oregon – and renamed it. This news made the wire services, The New York Times and Wired Magazine.

So what ever happened to, Oregon, the first dot com city in the world?

Link (thanks, William Drenttel)

Katrina lessons: Linux kiosks for post-disaster comms

Snip from an interesting story at about tech entrepreneur Steve Hargadon of His humanitarian tech project involving public web kiosks helped Katrina victims reconnect last year:
Hargadon specializes in Linux thin clients for small businesses and schools. He likes to transform aging Windows networks into high-speed, low-cost, virus-free workstations by using existing PCs, sans hard drives, that act as dumb terminals. Hargadon has discovered that that kind of technology translates easily into community outreach. He started thinking about that as he watched the world's response to the Asian tsunami in 2004. "I wondered, what are people doing on those response teams and in the emergency shelters, and wouldn't it be nice if they could get Internet? I started playing around with some ideas and looking at different live CD versions of kiosk software."

When Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005, Hargadon decided to take his thin client knowledge and the live CD concept and do what he could. "I thought, let's see if we can make a difference." He went to the shelters and to local Red Cross agencies with his proposal: to provide the means for workers and victims to easily and securely access the 'Net. The agencies took him up on that offer.

Hargadon created the bootable CDs with Morphix Linux and a locked-down version of the Firefox browser. The system is configured to clear the cache when Firefox is closed or after five minutes of inactivity. Hargadon also creates custom portal sites for agencies that request the kiosk software.

One problem Hargadon encountered with the kiosks was that FEMA Web sites were not fully accessible with Firefox, so shelters had to have a Windows system available to access that agency's services online. Even so, he says, the kiosks were deployed "fairly widely" in hurricane-affected areas. This year, Hargadon created a custom CD for victims of Tropical Cyclone Larry, which hit Innisfail in Queensland, Australia..

Link (thanks, Mike Outmesguine!)

Peace art grafitti in Beirut

Combat zone grafitti artist Arofish writes, from "one of the most bombed out areas in Beirut":
I was asked by local people to paint something happy, to reflect the spirit of the community. Before starting I banged up a piece of explanatory text on the wall (...) It reads: "When Ramallah, in Palestine, is put under curfew by the Israeli Army, nobody goes outside for days. The streets look completely deserted. But from a tall building, if you look out over the city, you can sometimes see hundreds of many-coloured kites, flown from the roof-terraces by the children of Ramallah. The children you can see here are flying kites to celebrate the spirit of the people of Dahyeh. Some kites you can see are flying away. These are for the children who are no longer here; they are no longer held down to the Earth".
Link to post on Wooster Collective blog, and here are more photos. (Thanks, Susannah Breslin)