Anti-laptop-mist for $45

French cosmetics company Clarins is selling an "anti electromagnetic radiation mist" that costs about $45 and protects you from the supposed aging effects of your laptop screen:
Apparently, electro magnetic radiation is now a real cause of skin ageing, or so say Clarins. But before you cower away into a technology-free cave, rest assured that lo and behold, Clarins will be releasing an anti-electro magnetic radiation mist to protect you. It'll be available in January at a cost of €39, but I think this is one risk I'm happy to live with.
Link (via Shiny Shiny) Read the rest

Evolutionary basis for self-delusion?

David Byrne posted a thought-provoking rumination on the evolutionary basis for religion and other forms of self-delusion -- it may help us live longer if we can fool ourselves into thinking that life has a point:

The truth may set you free, but you might not be as carefree and happy. It will eat away at you – what hurts you does not necessarily make you stronger.

I would maintain that a healthy (i.e. substantial) amount of denial is therefore genetically heritable, that it allows us to blithely go on (despite reading Beckett) and to ignore the basic sadness and desperation of life. We can live in an illusion – in fact we are genetically predisposed to do so. These illusions can be small – I am just as good at catching game as Bob, my rival, for example – or they can be very large – that death is not the end and that I will be rewarded for my faith and Bob, the apostate, will rot in Hell.

Either way, they allow me to go on, to persevere in the face of unlikely odds or limited chance of success. We have evolved to be less rational that one might think, and to be slightly more delusional and even stupid.

Link Read the rest

Linux music player will sell DRM-free music from Magnatune

Amarok, an excellent free music player for GNU/Linux (Mark Pilgrim: "It’s just like iTunes except it automatically fetches lyrics from Argentina, automatically looks up bands on Wikipedia, automatically identifies songs with MusicBrainz, and its developers are actively working on features that don’t involve pushing DRM-infected crap down my throat.") is shipping a new version that includes a music-store selling DRM-free music, including tunes from the CC-friendly, non-evil music label Magnatune.
Amarok continues to blast ahead with release 1.4.4. We're thrilled to be able to take our long association with Magnatune to new heights with the addition of an integrated DRM-free music store with full-length mp3 previews. Magnatune's "we are not evil" attitude guarantees that you can purchase awesome tunes and the artist receives half of the purchase price.

With 1.4.4 comes basic support for the Rio Karma. Many bug fixes and additions for the other media device plugins have also been made. Now Amarok is truly your "one-stop-media-device" shop, supporting nearly all the major media device's on the market.

Amarok 1.4.4 may very well be our closest to being bug free release ever! Over 100 bugs have been closed for this release, thanks in no small part to the tireless effort of our development team. Martin Aumueller and Alexandre Oliveira in particular have been on a bug squashing craze for this release, and first-time contributor, Ovidiu Gheorghioiu, has submitted a large bundle of patches and fixes to improve Amarok's efficiency and response.

On another note, we still need artists!

Read the rest

eMusic bones subscribers with downgrade

Pete sez,
I received an email from eMusic today saying that, after November 21, all new subscriptions will cost the same, BUT GIVE YOU LESS.
Read the rest

Prison built to house Pitcairn rapists

Half the men on Pitcairn Island, a remote British colony in the middle of the Pacific, are to be imprisoned in a new on-island jail being built to house them. The men were convicted of rape after a woman left the island to attend school in New Zealand and reported on systematic, society-wide rape of virtually every woman on the island. The convicted men were the only people capable of operating the long-boats that were the only way on and off of the island. The islanders are the descendants of the mutineers on Captain Bligh's Bounty, who took Tahitian wives.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said seven New Zealand prison officers would be dispatched to establish a new prison, Her Majesty's Prison Pitcairn, on the remote South Pacific island. Britain will pay the bill, expected to total about £500,000 ($1.2 million) a year.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said on Monday the six men had lost their appeal to the Privy Council, which rejected their argument that English law had not been promulgated on the island and it was not under British sovereignty.

Link (Thanks, Cyrus!)

See also: Half the men on small island charged with rape Pitcairn rapists convicted but not jailed Read the rest

Adopt a microbe - parasites personified

Dani sez, "This creative, insightful and deciededly funny blog is written by Australian medical student Emma Lurie. She draws cute personifications of different bacteria microbes. With each drawing comes different facts associated with what the bacteria is, what is does, how you catch it and how it affects the human body. Educational and fun!"
Hola. I'm C. jejuni. I am a curved Gram Negative rod.

You can find me in lots of domestic animals. I am part of the normal bacterial flora of poultry and cattle. I get into people through dirty drinking water or undercooked meat, especialy chicken. I cause food poisoning, with a self limiting bloody diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and fever.

Link (Thanks, Dani!) Read the rest

Neil Gaiman's HOWTO create a literary will

Neil Gaiman has published a free template for writers to use for creating a literary estate. He was inspired by the death of his friend Mike Ford, whose lack of a proper will meant a lot of expense and hardship for the people who loved him. Making a literary will is simple and fast, and every writer should do so:
Others make wills, but don't think to take into account what happens to our literary estate as a separate thing from the disposition of their second-best beds, which means unqualified or uninterested relatives can find themselves in control of everything the author's written. Some of us are just cheap.

All this bothered me, and still bothers me.

Shortly after Mike Ford's death, I spoke to Les Klinger about it. Les is a lawyer, and a very good one, and also an author. I met him through Michael Dirda, and the Baker Street Irregulars (here's Les's Sherlockian webpage).

Les immediately saw my point, understood my crusade and went off and made a document for authors. Especially the lazy sort of authors, or just the ones who haven't quite got around to seeing a lawyer, or who figure that one day it'll all sort itself out, or even the ones to whom it has never occurred that they need to think about this stuff.

Link (Thanks, Mike!) Read the rest

Miami Zoo mounts giant shit exhibition

The Miami Zoo's "Scoop on Poop" exhibit exposes visitors to a football-field-sized arcade of shit, featuring photos of animals en flagrante, samples of turds great and small, and lots of other shit:
The Scoop on Poop is a traveling exhibition based on the popular book by Dr. Wayne Lynch. The exhibition leads visitors on an investigation of what poop is and how animals and humans use it. The Scoop on Poop treats the subject with a tactful blend of good science and fun.

The Scoop on Poop features large colorful graphic panels, three-dimensional models, and fun interactive components. Visitors are invited to listen in on an animal’s digestive system, learn the language of poop in countries around the world, examine fecal samples in a veterinarian’s lab, compete in dung beetle races, track wild animals by clues left in scat, see how long it takes an elephant to poop their body weight, improve their #2 IQ in stool school, and meet a dinosaur dung detective.

Link (Thanks, Michael!) Read the rest

Last minute changes snuck into Aussie DMCA

Australia is fast-tracking its own version of the US's disastrous Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- the country became obliged to impose this when PM John Howard signed the Aussie-US free trade agreement into law. The worst part of the legislation is undoubtedly the "anti-circumvention" provisions that ban breaking software locks, even if you own the material they lock away. Anti-circumvention lets any company impose any terms it wants on you, like Apple: "you can only play the music we sell you on the players we make or authorize." Anti-circumvention creates anti-competitive lock-in situations, takes away fair dealing rights, and punishes people who buy their media instead of getting infringing copies.

A last minute change has been introduced into the new bill and it's so arcane that legal experts differ strongly on what the effect will be. But with the bill fast-tracking through Parliament, it's likely that this mystery clause will be passed unless the brakes are put on the process. EFF has information on the changes and how Australians can get involved:

While the new version’s TPM ban is broader, the Bill does contain two carve-outs: First, there’s no legal protection for region-coding access control technologies on video games and DVDs. That is likely to avoid some of the potentially anti-competitive impacts of geographic market segmentation via TPMs – a practice that involves no copyright right. The carve-out is presumably designed to preserve the 2005 Australian High Court ruling in the Sony v. Stevens PlayStation modchip case, but unfortunately, does so in the narrowest possible way.

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Haunted Mansion tribute from a young filmmaker

A young filmmaker produced a stop-motion animation short film based on Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, ingeniously blending construction paper backgroups, doll-house props, plastercine figures and artwork from the original ride. This is great fan-art, and as a dyed-in-the-wool Haunted Mansion lunatic, it gives me quite unseemly pleasure.
This is a movie I made a long time ago. It's the same as the Haunted mansion ride at Disneyland. I made the sets out of construction paper and paper bags. I redid the audio because my high little kid voice doing the Ghost Host just sounded stupid.
Link (Thanks, Stephen!) Read the rest

Rotting Soviet-era Ministry of Transportation building

Regine from We Make Money Not Art visted a show called Spectacular City at Netherlands Institute of Architecture that features giant photos of "spectacular" buildings. She's featuring the best of them in a series on her blog. Today's entry really caught me -- a rotting ex-Soviet Ministry of Transportation in Tbilisi, Georgia:
The image for today is the Ministry of Transportation. Shot in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, the photography brings out the conflict between a symbol of progress and its current state of decay.

By Antwerp-based photographer Geert Joiris.

Link (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest

Stanford panel on Whole Earth Catalog influence, 11/9

Copyfighting video archivist Rick Prelinger sez, "The WholeEartharati are convening for a public panel on 11/9 at Stanford. The event's going to be moderated by Fred Turner, author of the new book From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Catalog, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, and the eminent panelists will be Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and Howard Rheingold. Like many others, the Catalog and its successors played a major role in my development -- I'll definitely be there."

Count me among those who were heavily influenced by the Catalogs. I have a complete set in a storage locker in Toronto. I used to pore through them for hours on rainy days, marvelling at the flowering of the mission of "access to tools and ideas." And when a friend slipped me the "Is the Body Obsolete?" issue of the Whole Earth Review in the 80s, I knew I'd found something special, a publication about something that I had always hoped was out there, but had never found. Even now, I have a WELL account! Link (Thanks, Rick!) Read the rest

FairGame cracks iTunes using iMovie

Matthias sez, "This script package takes an Apple-DRM-protected song (.m4p), and converts it *using iMovieHD* into an unprotected .mp3 file. I've tried this with six songs now and it works great, though you have to be careful to not actually, like, do anything else with your computer while it's running as it tends to make the script throw up and die. So you might want to run it overnight if you've got a lot of protected files to free from your Apple shackles. Does this mean Apple will be forced to file a DMCA C&D against the publishers of iMovie?" I've done this with regular iMovie before and it worked pretty well.

The holy grail of Apple DRM for me is opening up the audiobooks. These files cost a fortune, can't be easily burned and re-ripped (and some even come flagged as "non-burnable" -- showing that there are crippleware modes in iTunes that aren't widely known). Cracking them through the analog hole using Audio Hijack is time-consuming (I spent six weeks this year running two PowerBooks 24/7 to convert all my iTunes audiobooks to MP3s using this method). Link (Thanks, Matthias!) Read the rest

Creative Commons 3.0 license drafts published

Creative Commons has published the drafts of its next-generation 3.0 licenses, which refine the widely-used CC licenses (over 160,000,000 works were CC licensed in the first 3.5 years). These new licenses contain a number of improvements:
# Clauses 4(a) & (b) (both licenses) - language has been introduced to clarify that the anti-TPM restriction does not apply to private copying, only when a work is being shared.

# Clause 4(a) (both licenses) - the ShareAlike condition has been clarified to confirm that the other jurisdiction licenses under which an SA-licensed work can be relicensed must be of the same license version or later (consistent with relicensing under the same jurisdiction/generic license).

# Clause 4(e) (new generic) - this clause has been substantially revised since the first draft was circulated on the list. The revisions reflect the ongoing work of the CC Working Group that has been set up to look at the issue of CC licenses and collecting societies and represents the agreed on policy for CC licenses going forward as regards the collection of collecting society royalties by CC licensors. It is designed to take into account the different systems that exist in different countries and will be reflected in the jurisdiction licenses that version to 3.0.

Link (Thanks, Ivo!) Read the rest

Henry Ford's Detroit suburb in the Brazilian jungle

Michigan History Magazine has an in-depth feature on Fordlandia, Henry Ford's bizarre planned community/company town/rubber plantation deep in the Brazilian jungle. Fordlandia was built to resemble the bucolic Detroit suburbs that hosted Ford's auto-plants, and had social practices that were a combination of corporate policy and local subversion (I've heard that Ford personally outlawed the traditional Caipirinha in favor of the Tom Collins, a more "civilized" drink).
Fenced in by jungle, Fordlandia was transformed into a modern suburb with rows of snug bungalows fed by power lines running to a diesel generator. The main street was paved and its residents collected well water from spigots in front of their homes–except for the U.S. staff and white-collar Brazilians, who had running water in their homes. The North Americans splashed in their outdoor swimming pool and the Brazilians escaped the sun by sliding into another pool designated for their use. “Villa Brasileira,” as one area of the town was known, boasted tailors, shops, restaurants and shoemakers to serve the local workers. The sweet smell of bread wafted from a bakery; the butcher shop offered beef, pork and chicken at subsidized prices. On paper, it sounded like a dream...

“I’m a worker, not a waiter!” a Fordlandia employee reportedly yelled in the food line one day, sparking the plantation’s most notorious riot. Workers armed with machetes joined the protest against the self-serve mid-western cuisine in a country where food traditionally was served at the table. The seringueiros demolished the cafeteria as North American officials scrambled to the dock, jumped into boats and waited in the middle of the river for Brazilian troops to quell the melee...

Read the rest

Readers panning classic novels on Amazon

Charlie Stross rounds up the best of the worst of Amazon reviews -- readers decrying Marquez for his lack of understanding of supply-side economics, Romeo and Juliet for being "soooo cliched," Robinson Crusoe as being derivative and hackneyed, and The Grapes of Wrath for having too much profanity. I can tell that Charlie just finished a novel -- this is great palette-cleansing activity between deadlines.
1984 by George Orwell:

Caitlyn from Atlanta, GA, wrote: "1984 is the worst book I have ever read. I would advise anyone who is thinking about reading this book to reconcider! George Orwell is not a bad writer, however, this book he does not do evry well on, as some of his others. Prehaps he was getting old and lost his touch. Animal Farm was okay, but 1984 was horrible. It took him forever, it seemed like, to get into the accual book. If someone were to take out all of the useless part of 1984, it would be half as long. Why would he wirte so much about nothing? I havent ever meet someone who could wirte such a boring book about the goverment. I have meet many people who have loved this book, but i dispised it. I am not at all intrested in the goverment. This may be part of the reason that I didnt like it. I would advise you not to read this book."


Update: Aaron sends in an earlier cut at this from Defective Yeti.

Update 2: Cody sez, "There's also the hilarious Amazon World blog, which sadly stopped updating in June of 2004." Read the rest

Snitch sticker in your phone reports water damage

The excellent Architectures of Control blog tackles the "water damage sticker" in your cellphone, a little reactive sticker that changes color if you soak your phone. This is how your phone company can tell whether you are entitled to warranty service, or whether you've subjected your phone to warranty-voiding water-torture. Link Read the rest

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