Boing Boing 

Howard Rheingold's 1994 sketches for HotWired

Howard Rheingold is scanning and posting the awe-inspiring pages from his notebook with sketches and notes for the design of HotWired, Wired's groundbreaking (and defunct) website. I love his use of color. Link

Coin jar calculator

Picture 1-135 Do you want to know how much your jar of change is worth?

First, weigh the jar, then grab a handful of coins and enter the number of pennies, nickels, etc. into the form and click "Get Estimation." Link (Thanks, Mouser!)

20-sided die tattoo

200712311139 If you're going to tattoo a Platonic solid on your arm, it might as well be a gamer's "d20" icosahedron die. Link (Thanks, Church!)

Record industry practices revisionism about music recording

The Record Industry has changed its tune on personal use of music you own. It used to say that copying songs from your CDs was fine, but now it's pretending it didn't say that.

The Washington Post reports:

200712311121-1 Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,'" she said.

On Dave Farber's IP mailing list, Dan Gillmor points out that the recording industry used to have a different opinion on personal use. It removed the following statement from its website (but you can still read it on

"If you choose to take your own CDs and make copies for yourself on your computer or portable music player, that's great. It's your music and we want you to enjoy it at home, at work, in the car and on the jogging trail."
Gillmor adds: "Also, from the Supreme Court oral arguments in the Grokster case, Donald Virrelli, on behalf of the entertainment companies:"
The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it's been on their Website for some time now, that it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod. There is a very, very significant lawful commercial use for that device, going forward."

Make your own "Moon Sand" for under 60 cents a lb

Make your own moldable sand with ordinary play sand, corn starch, and water.
200712311007One of the hot Christmas items this year was Moon Sand. But while it's certainly not a bank-breaker, it is costly for what is basically wet sand. So, I did a little digging around (pun intended) and discovered a way to make your very own moon sand. Here's the best part...the homemade stuff will set you back less than 60 cents per pound!

As you may know, there are several Moon Sand kits out there, and they come with all sorts of the usual play-dough style gadgets and molds. But if you just want a bucket of the stuff, the best deal I have found so far is at Amazon, where a 7 1/2 lb tub will cost you $18.74, down from $29.99 (at the time this article was published).

Link (Thanks, Will!)

UK declares War on Terror over

Chris Spurgeon says: "According to a story last week in the London Daily Mail newspaper, the British government has had enough with the "War on Terror" hype. (Link is to, one of the many sites that has reprinted the Daily Mail article.)"
Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless "death cult."

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: 'We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language."

London is not a battlefield, he said.

"The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers," Macdonald said. "They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way."

Good to see the UK coming to its senses. Hopefully the US won't be far behind. Link

Knot science

How is it that phone cords, earbuds, and the string for my son's gyroscope so often end up a knotted mess? To find out, biophysicists and mathematicians are developing experiments to exploring how knots can spontaneously form so quickly. Their research may provide insight not only into the tangled web of power cords behind your desk but also natural knots, like those in proteins and DNA. From Science News:
 Articles 20071222 A9136 1490 By tumbling a string of rope inside a box, biophysicists Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith have discovered that knots–even complex knots–form surprisingly fast and often. The string first coils up, and then its free ends swivel around the other coils, tracing a random path among them. That essentially makes the coils into a braid, producing knots, the scientists say...

In topology, a knot is any curved line that closes up on itself, possibly after a circuitous path in three dimensions. A circle is regarded as the "trivial" knot. Two loops are considered to be the same knot if you can turn one into the other by topological manipulation, which in this case means anything that does not break the curve or force it to run through itself.

Topologically, a knotted string is not a real knot, as long as its ends are free. That's because either of the ends can always thread back through any entanglement and undo the knot. An open string, no matter how garbled, is the same as a straight segment. (Mathematicians usually think of strings as being stretchable and infinitesimally thin, so in topology there is no issue of a knot being tight.)

Strictly speaking, then, the string in Raymer and Smith's box was never knotted. But it was still a mess.

Previously on BB:
• Scientific study on why knots happen Link
• Many better ways to tie your shoes Link
• Ideal knots spun in 3D Link

Pancakes in a pressurized can

Orgbatterblas Over the holidays, my brother Charles proudly showed me his new favorite convenience foodstuff: Batter Blaster, pancake batter in a pressurized can. It's not only organic, but Batter Blaster is apparently "fast, easy and fun for the whole family." My brother says the pancakes and waffles it produces are quite tasty. Unfortunately, I didn't get to sample them.

Previously on BB Gadgets:
• Batter Blaster: Pancakes in a Can Link

Driver blames pterodactyl for crashing into pole

From Wenatchee World:
A 29-year-old Wenatchee man told police a pterodactyl caused him to drive his car into a light pole about 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

When police asked the man what caused the accident, his one-word answer was "pterodactyl," Smith said. A pterodactyl was a giant winged reptile that lived more than 65 million years ago.

Link (Via Nothing To Do With Arbroath)

Previously on Boing Boing:
Leprechaun opens car door for pantless man

Ice fishing in Japan

Picture 8-14 Short news clip of people in Hokkaido camping on an ice-covered pond, fishing for tiny smelt, then grilling and eating them on the spot. Link

Easy-bend teaspoon

Should Uri Geller ever lose his remarkable ability to bend spoons, he should stock up on these special spoons that are made with a piece of nitinol, which gets soft under hot water.
200712310855 The liquid does not need to be boiling - the spoon will also bend if placed under the hot tap.

To reset the spoon, just cool it under the cold tap, and straighten it again. The spoon can be used many times, as Nitinol is a very flexible metal.


Hello Kitty contact lenses

 Wp-Content Uploads 2007 12 Hello-Kitty-Contacts-2
Hello Kitty Hell posted this photo of a young lady modeling Hello Kitty contact lenses. Link

Girl gets revolutionary note in package instead of iPod

A man bought an iPod from a Wal-Mart. It was a Christmas gift for his daughter. When she opened it, it didn't contain an iPod. It contained a note, set in ransom-letter type, that read:

"Reclaim your mind from the media's shackles. Read a book and resurect [sic] yourself. To claim your capitalistic garbage go to your nearest Apple store."

200712310844Jay Ellis, the girls father, returned the iPod to the Germantown, Md. Wal-Mart store where he purchased it. The store manger told him that another customer returned an iPod with a similar issue.

Mary Blair exhibition in San Francisco

 Images  Memberimages Icanfly Small  Images  Memberimages Small World Small
On Saturday, I visited San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum where i was blown away by the Mary Blair exhibition. A painter and Disney animator in the 1940s and 1950s, Blair is best known for creating the concept art for Disney's Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, designing Disney's It's A Small World world, and illustrating several timeless and magical Golden Books such as "I Can Fly." Blair was a tremendous influence on contemporary artists like BB pal Tim Biskup, Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter, and our own Mark Frauenfelder. This retrospective exhibition is captured in book form in The Art and Flair of Mary Blair. Seeing her wonderful concept drawings and original Golden Book illustrations in person though was the perfect way to end a year filled with great art.

Link to selections from the exhibition
Link to buy The Art and Flair of Mary Blair
Link to Mary Blair entry on Wikipedia
Link to Cartoon Modern posts on Blair
Link to Blair work at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
Link to Disney Legends: Mary Blair

Previously on BB:
• Mary Blair "Small World" designs Link
• "Mary Blair Week" at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive blog Link

Do monkeys have a theory of mind?

The new issue of Smithsonian magazine profiles the work of Yale psychologist Laurie Santos, 32, who hangs out with monkeys on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico to get inside their heads. She draws from cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology to suss out whether these non-human primates have a "theory of mind." The "theory of mind" refers to the ability to recognize and understand others' thoughts, desires, intentions, and feelings--basically to get where someone else if coming from. Santos tries to show that monkeys have this cognitive capacity. The article presents several of her field experiments and the results. From Smithsonian:
"This is what we do," (Santos) says, "hike around looking for monkeys by themselves who are hungry and want to play. It's hard to find social creatures by themselves," she adds as she backs out of the field of view of a primatologist's video camera, "and even harder to find ones that aren't being followed by other researchers..."

Santos' interest here is in what psychologists call "theory of mind," the ability to impute thoughts and intentions to another individual, one of the cornerstones of human cognition. "Sitting here talking with you," Santos explains, "all I can see is your behavior, but I draw inferences about your desires and thoughts. The interesting question is, how far back in evolutionary time does that ability extend? Can it exist without language?" As recently as a decade ago, the conventional wisdom doubted that even chimpanzees, which are more closely related to human beings than are monkeys, possessed theory of mind. This view is changing, in large measure because of the work of Santos and her collaborators. With her students in tow and a small bag of grapes in her pocket, Santos is now out to demonstrate the phenomenon–if a Macaca mulatta can be induced to cooperate.

Man with tail

Olegtail Occasionally, humans are born with tails that are usually removed surgically shortly after birth. According to this brief video, Oleg Polovski of Moscow appears not only to to have kept his tail but can even, er, "wag" it. I don't buy the description that he's the "first case of human moving tail" but it's still a rare sight if it's indeed real.

Previously on BB:
• Another man with a tail Link

Old Age Rejuvenator Centrifuge of 1935

The August, 1935 issue of Science and Mechanics carried this hilarious article on the "Old Age Rejuvenator Centrifuge" -- a technology that whirled the elderly to keep them supple.

"What shall the prophylaxis (prevention) and therapy (treatment) be? How can the effects of this force be mitigated? Lying down relieves the daytime direction of fatiguing pull in the case of the well or slightly ill; but something more than this is needed by the badly-damaged. We suggest periods of centrifugalization. An individual in special need of treatment might rest at night upon a large revolving disc with his head toward the outer rim; the disc should be so beveled as to carry the head at a lower level than the feet; optimum (best) speed to be determined by laboratory experimentation. Such a disc might be large enough to carry ten or twenty patients. This mechanism would facilitate the functions which during the day are inhibited by gravity. Incidentally, certain cardiac (heart) and vascular disabilities might be especially helped. The decompensated heart, with edematous (swollen) and varicose extremities, might respond well."

BBtv: Happy New Year!

Here's a look back at some of the goofiest, weirdest, or otherwise most memorable moments from Boing Boing tv in 2007. Thanks for joining us, and see you in 2008! Link to video and comments at Boing Boing tv.

Vivid cabbages

Today in my ongoing series of photos from my travels: vivid cabbages from London's Borough Market. Link

Funny sci-fi anti-Canadian DMCA video

The Galacticast netshow has produced a great little end-of-year short calling on Canadians to fight the Canadian DMCA in the coming year. This is the on-again/off-again US-inspired copyright act that Industry Minister Jim Prentice wrote without any input from Canadian interest groups, making it into a kind of wish-list for US-based entertainment giants.

The episode parodies many, many science fiction classics (and the host sports a nifty DMZ tee from The Secret Headquarters!) and does a good job of laying out the basic issues in funny, easy-to-understand ways.

It's a cinch that Minister Prentice will reintroduce the Canadian DMCA in 2008 -- and we're gonna kill it again! Link (via Michael Geist)

Promise and peril of data-scraping

Josh McHugh's Wired feature, "Should Web Giants Let Startups Use the Information They Have About You?," is a meaty, thinky piece about the many risks of data-scraping. The piece investigates the risks to users (your data, slithering around the net), the risks to scrapers (your business entirely dependent on someone else's goodwill), and the risks to scrapees (bandwidth clobbering, your users get screwed and so on):
Giants like Yahoo and Google have thus far taken a mostly nonproprietary stance toward their data, typically letting outside developers access it in an attempt to curry favor with them and foster increased inbound Web traffic. Most of the largest Web companies position themselves as benign, bountiful data gardens, supplying the environment and raw materials to build inspired new products. After all, Google itself, that harbinger of the Web2.0 era, thrives on info that could be said to "belong" to others -- the links, keywords, and metadata that reside on other Web sites and that Google harvests and repositions into search results.

But beneath all the kumbayas, there's an awkward dance going on, an unregulated give-and-take of information for which the rules are still being worked out. And in many cases, some of the big guys that have been the source of that data are finding they can't -- or simply don't want to -- allow everyone to access their information, Web2.0 dogma be damned. The result: a generation of businesses that depend upon the continued good graces of a relatively small group of Internet powerhouses that philosophically agree information should be free -- until suddenly it isn't.


Privacy state-of-the-planet -- it's not good

Sam sez, "The 2007 International Privacy Ranking rates selected countries in terms public surveillance. Each year since 1997, the US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the UK-based Privacy International have undertaken what has now become the most comprehensive survey of global privacy ever published. The Privacy & Human Rights Report surveys developments in 70 countries, assessing the state of surveillance and privacy protection. The most recent report, published in 2007 is probably the most comprehensive single volume report published in the human rights field."

It's pretty dismal. Basically, no country in the world presents a healthy environment for people who care about their privacy. Link (Thanks, Sam!)

Web Zen: time zen

world time server
voco clock
clock design
wooden gear clocks (* image shown here)

Web Zen Home and Archives, Store (Thanks Frank!)

Sacha Baron Cohen to play Abbie Hoffman in Spielberg's Trial of the Chicago 7

Woah -- Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G, Borat) will play Abbie Hoffman in an upcoming Spielberg adaptation of the Trial of the Chicago 7. I'm a huge Hoffman fan -- his (somewhat fictionalized) autobiography is one of my favorite books -- and Cohen's the kind of merry anarchist who strikes me as the perfect and unlikely casting choice.
Hoffman went on to become an irascible celebrity who, later diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, killed himself with pills in 1989.

Baron Cohen will not have to undergo a big transformation to play the part. Hoffman, who was Jewish, attended Berkeley University in California, while Baron Cohen, an urbane Orthodox Jew more than 6ft tall, cut his teeth entertaining friends at Christ’s College Cambridge with subversive wit and surreal pranks.

Link (via Digg)

Nintendo Wii hacked -- homebrew games ahoy!

During yesterday's Why Silicon-Based Security is still that hard: Deconstructing Xbox 360 Security presentation at the 24th Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, hackers Michael Steil and Felix Domke demonstrated a blown-wide-open hack for the Nintendo Wii. They've extracted the keys for signing Wii code, and now you can run anyone's code on your Wii, not just programs that Nintendo has sanctioned. Incredible as it may seem, there are still companies that think that they should have the right to tell you what you can and can't do with your hardware after you pay for it. Link (Thanks, waltbosz!)

Foxtrot takes a swipe at the DMCA

Today, Foxtrot (easily the geekiest of the mainstream comic strips) took a great little swipe at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the notorious 1998 US Copyright law that makes it illegal to break DRM. Link (Thanks, Kim!)

Mike Brady's angry Shakespearean critique of the Brady Bunch scripts

Robert Reed, who played Mike "Dad" Brady on The Brady Bunch was a frustrated, classically trained Shakespearean actor who sent stroppy memos the show's writers explaining How Drama Works to them in minute, enraged detail. They are a treasure. Here is one of them:
Once again, we are infused with the slapstick. The oldest boy's hair turns bright orange in a twinkling of the writer's eye, having been doused with a non-FDA-approved hair tonic. (Why any boy of Bobby's age, or any age, would be investing in something as outmoded and unidentifiable as "hair tonic" remains to be explained. As any kid on the show could tell the writer, the old hair-tonic routine is right out of "Our Gang." Let's face it, we're long since past the "little dab'll do ya" era.)

Without belaboring the inequities of the script, which are varied and numerous, the major point to all this is: Once an actor has geared himself to play a given style with its prescribed level of belief, he cannot react to or accept within the same confines of the piece, a different style.

When the kid's hair turns red, it is Batman in the operating room.

I can't play it.

Link, Link 2 (via Dispatches From the Culture Wars)

Circuit City's suicide: firing the people who know stuff

Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our Joel spots a bit of astute analysis explaining what happened to drive Circuit City into disrepute, and how the idiot execs responsible were rewarded with a cool million each:
The basic story is that last March, the wise men who run Circuit City came up with the brilliant idea of laying off their more senior salespeople, who get $14-$15 an hour, and replacing them with new hires who get around $9 an hour. It turns out that this move was not very good for business. One of the reasons that people go to a store like Circuit City, rather than buying things on the Internet, is that they want to be able to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson. Since Circuit City had laid off their knowledgeable salespeople, there was little reason to shop there. ... The Post reports that Circuit City's executive vice-presidents will get retention awards of $1 million each.
Link, Discuss this on Boing Boing Gadgets

Steal This Film, Part II: the Internet makes us into copiers

The folks behind Steal This Film, an amazing, funny, enraging and inspiring documentary series about copyright and the Internet have just released part II of the series. I taught part one (about the PirateBay crackdown in Sweden and the founding of The Pirate Party) in my class last year, and it was one of the liveliest classes we had.

Part II is even better than part one -- it covers the technological and enforcement end of the copyright wars, and on the way that using the internet makes you a copier, and how copying puts you in legal jeopardy. Starting with Mark Getty's (Chairman of Getty Images) infamous statement that "Intellectual Property is the oil of the 21st century," the filmmakers note that oil always leads to oil-wars, and that these are vicious, ill-conceived and never end well. This leads them to explore the war on copying -- which ultimately becomes a war on the Internet and those of us who use it.

This installment includes punchy interviews with a lot of the US's leading copyfighters -- EFFers like Seth Schoen and Fred von Lohmann, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Eben Moglen, Aaron Swartz, Yochai Benkler, Rick Prelinger, as well as folks in the UK, Sweden and Bangalore. Interspersed with this is are smart historical perspectives, and a brief interview with MPAA chief Dan Glickman, who all but twirls his mustache in glee at the thought of punishing copiers. There's also some interesting material here from new artists who embrace copying, but I'm guessing that that's going to be the main theme of a future installment.

Steal This Film II is available as a P2P download (natch) in several formats, including HD, and opens with a stern warning encouraging you to share it as widely as possible. Link (Thanks, Robbo and everyone else who suggested this!) See also: Steal This Movie: documentary on Swedish piracy movement

Pilot to TSA: Let my people go!

Patrick Smith, the airline pilot who co-writes the NY Times's Jetlagged Blog has written a corker of an editorial railing against the bullshit "security" procedures that the TSA has put into place. Smith is hopping mad and stops just short of calling for a revolution. Man, I'd be with him at the barricades.
No matter that a deadly sharp can be fashioned from virtually anything found on a plane, be it a broken wine bottle or a snapped-off length of plastic, we are content wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and untold hours of labor in a delusional attempt to thwart an attack that has already happened, asked to queue for absurd lengths of time, subject to embarrassing pat-downs and loss of our belongings.

The folly is much the same with respect to the liquids and gels restrictions, introduced two summers ago following the breakup of a London-based cabal that was planning to blow up jetliners using liquid explosives. Allegations surrounding the conspiracy were revealed to substantially embellished. In an August, 2006 article in the New York Times, British officials admitted that public statements made following the arrests were overcooked, inaccurate and "unfortunate." The plot's leaders were still in the process of recruiting and radicalizing would-be bombers. They lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives. Investigators later described the widely parroted report that up to ten U.S airliners had been targeted as "speculative" and "exaggerated."

Link (Thanks to HeavyD and everyone else who suggested this one!)