This has been an interesting day on Boing Boing. I think puppies would be a good idea right now. "Crazy dogs by david" [MySpace, thanks, #739Anonymous] Read the rest

US promises to stop treating Nelson Mandela like a terrorist

George Bush has signed a special bill that allows Nelson Mandela to travel freely to the USA without going through a special process because the DHS classes him as a "terrorist." Nelson C. adds, "Now, if only people who aren't world leaders could get off watch-lists so easily...."
A US senator said the new legislation was a step towards removing the "shame of dishonouring this great leader".

Under the legislation, members of the ANC could travel to the United Nations headquarters in New York but not to Washington DC or other parts of the United States.

Link (Thanks, NelsonC!)

See also: Nelson Mandela and the ANC are on the US terrorist watchlist and need waivers to enter the country Read the rest

London Mayoral vote can't be verified due to e-voting irregularities

Glyn sez,
The Open Rights Group's report into e-counting of votes cast in the London Elections is out today. The report finds that:

"there is insufficient evidence available to allow independent observers to state reliably whether the results declared in the May 2008 elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly are an accurate representation of voters' intentions."

Votes for London Mayor and the 25 member London Assembly were counted electronically, and overall the election was well-managed by the independent body set up to run elections in London, London Elects.

However, transparency around the recording of valid votes was a major issue, leading many of our team of 27 official observers to conclude that they were unable to observe votes being counted. And while hundreds of screens set up by vote scanners showed almost meaningless data to observers, London Elects admit that the system was likely to be recording blank ballots as valid votes.

The report also details how London Elects are unable to publish an audit, commissioned from KPMG, of some of the software used to count the London vote, because of disputes over commercial confidentiality. The situation highlights the problems that arise when the very public function of running elections is mixed with issues of commercial confidentiality and proprietary software. In the context of a public election, it is unacceptable that these issues should preclude the publication of the KPMG audit.

Link (Thanks, Glyn!) Read the rest

Ask Canadian Industry Minister questions about the DMCA at the Calgary Stampede this Saturday

Industry Minister Jim Prentice -- who has consistently dodged direct questions about his proposed Canadian DMCA -- is doing a live appearance at the Calgary Stampede this coming Saturday.

Here's how Prentice's version of the CDMCA spin works: "The Canadian DMCA is a balance. It guarantees a whole bunch of consumer rights, like time-shifting and format-shifting." But you also criminalize breaking DRM, even when it takes away those "guaranteed" rights. "Yes, but no one would use DRM to take those away." But people have. "The market will solve it."

Minister Prentice has apparently never heard of what economists call Moral Hazard: "the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk." In other words: if you give the entertainment industry a tool by which they can ban time-shifting, format-shifting, etc, and charge extra for the "privilege" of exercising those "rights," then they probably will.

Are you near Calgary? Planning on going to the Stampede? Maybe you could find Minister Prentice -- preferably while holding a video camera -- and ask him about this. Link (Thanks, RajSmith!) Read the rest

Chaos Communications Congress 25 call for participation

Fukami sez, "German hacker group Chaos Computer Club (CCC) posted a call for participation for the 25th Chaos Communication Congress 2008 (25C3). The Chaos Communication Congress is the annual four-day conference of the CCC and taking place in Berlin, Germany. The Chaos Computer Club has always encouraged creative and unorthodox interaction with technology and society, in the good tradition of the real meaning of 'hacking'. You can find the preliminary agenda and additional information on the 25C3 website. There is also a blog where news and progress will be published. As always, the date of this event is December 27th to 30th." Link (Thanks, Fukami!) Read the rest

Buzzball human hamster toy

The Buzzball is a human-sized, motorized hamster ball. Laughing Squid has more info and a video. Looks like great fun! Buzzball (Laughing Squid) Previously on BB: • Woman lives like hamster Read the rest

Ten Perfectly Pure Gadgets

Over at BB Gadgets, John posted their list of "perfectly pure gadget," which he describes as gizmos that don't need any additional technological advancement. From the entry on the mousetrap:
What the guillotine is to the French, the mouse trap is to unhygienic Americans. A spring-loaded mousetrap is (usually) a clean way to kill a mouse. But spring for a non-lethal trap out of the kindness of your heart and when you release that mouse, you'll see it poking out of your Cheerios the next morning. Try a glue trap, and you'll hate yourself for years as you torture a cute, fuzzy animal to death. And poison is a painful crapshoot. Oh, sure. It's a cruel gizmo. But it is perfectly designed: "build the better mousetrap" has become an ironic cultural shorthand for "waste of time."
Ten Perfectly Pure Gadgets (BB Gadgets) Read the rest

Psychedelic-inspired "well being" lasts

Researchers from Johns Hopkins report that most of the subjects in a 2006 study of psychedelic drugs still rate their trips "as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant (experiences) of their lives." Related research in the Journal of Psychopharmacology lays out guidelines for running experiments involving hallucinogens. From Physorg.com:
The two reports follow a 2006 study published in another journal, Psychopharmacology, in which 60 percent of a group of 36 healthy, well-educated volunteers with active spiritual lives reported having a "full mystical experience" after taking psilocybin... Fourteen months later, (Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Roland) Griffiths re-administered the questionnaires used in the first study -- along with a specially designed set of follow up questions -- to all 36 subjects. Results showed that about the same proportion of the volunteers ranked their experience in the study as the single most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful or spiritually significant events of their lives and regarded it as having increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction. "This is a truly remarkable finding," Griffiths says. "Rarely in psychological research do we see such persistently positive reports from a single event in the laboratory. This gives credence to the claims that the mystical-type experiences some people have during hallucinogen sessions may help patients suffering from cancer-related anxiety or depression and may serve as a potential treatment for drug dependence. We're eager to move ahead with that research."
Spiritual effects of hallucinogens persist (Physorg.org, thanks Nick Philip!) Read the rest

Robot superhero plushies

Amy Jenkins is a multitalented crafter who has prototyped an entire line of terrific robot plushies called Lucha Robots. This is what happens, she says, "when robots create their own Super Heroes." She sells various handcrafted wonders at amybean.etsy.com. From her Flickr page:
This catalog hosts the entire collection of Mexican Wrestling Robot toy prototypes called Lucha Robots. My goal is to include simple programmable electronics in the figures so they can talk to each other, and to you. They are currently all out on tour at a variety of shows and stores, or living la vida loca in their new homes after being snatched up by a keen eye for fun.
Lucha Robots on Flickr, Amy's Cozy Rampage blog Read the rest

Weirdest Examples of Mass Hysteria

The excellent Dark Roasted Blend posted about three very curious examples of mass hysteria, basically collective craziness. Along with the Mad Gasser of Mattoon who we've already met here on BB, the post tells the tale of the Monkey Man of New Delihi and the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic. From the post about the laughter epidemic:
Things supposedly started innocently enough. Kashasha, near Lake Victoria in Tanzania in 1962: One girl in a boarding school there told another girl a joke. Maybe, "Have you heard the one about?" or "A Jew, an Indian, and Herbert Hoover walk into a bar …" or "Take my wife, please … " Whatever the setup, the delivery, or punch line, the result was laughter. Whether it was a giggle, a guffaw, a chortle, a snort is irrelevant. The listener found it funny. But then things went dark, weird, and creepy: one girl laughed, but then so did another, and then another, and then another, and then another.
Weirdest Examples of Mass Hysteria (Dark Roasted Blend) Read the rest

Counting monkeys

Monkeys can count! Researchers report a study on macaques that suggests humans may not be the only animal that can do math. From New Scientist:
(Utah State University psychologist Kerry) Jordan and colleague Elizabeth Brannon, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, US, trained two eight-year-old female macaques to equate beeps to dots on a computer screen. So if a monkey heard seven beeps, it knew to tap a square on the screen displaying seven dots. Next, the researchers tested the monkeys’ training in adding dots and beeps together. The animals were presented dots of different sizes flash onto a screen. At the same time they heard a series of short tones. To determine if the monkeys could combine the two, Jordan and Brannon showed the animals a screen with two numerical choices, represented as dots – one the correct sum, one incorrect. Both monkeys did better than 50:50 – one added the sights and sounds correctly 72% of the time, the other 66% of the time.
Monkeys can count (New Scientist) Read the rest

That Violet Blue thing

Update, 07-21-2008: A related wrap-up post was published on Boing Boing on July 18: Lessons Learned.

Speaking for all the Boingers--

Boing Boing has been caught in the middle of a real internet shitstorm and pile-on over the last few days. A blogger named Violet Blue noticed that we unpublished some posts related to her. Some people wanted to know why.

Bottom line is that those posts (not "more than 100 posts," as erroneously claimed elsewhere) were removed from public view a year ago. Violet behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her. It's our blog and so we made an editorial decision, like we do every single day. We didn't attempt to silence Violet. We unpublished our own work. There's a big difference between that and censorship.

We hope you'll respect our choice to keep the reasons behind this private. We do understand the confusion this caused for some, especially since we fight hard for openness and transparency. We were trying to do the right thing quietly and respectfully, without embarrassing the parties involved.

Clearly, that didn't work out. In attempting to defuse drama, we inadvertently ignited more. Mind you, we weren't the ones splashing gasoline around; but we did make the fire possible. We're sorry about that. In the meantime, Boing Boing's past content is indexed on the Wayback Machine, a basic Internet resource; so the material should still be available for those who would like to read it. Read the rest

Cool old Indian comic books

Jeff Vandermeer sez, "These old Indian comics were one of the three pillars of my childhood reading, the other two being Tintin and Asterix & Obelix. We lived in the Fiji Islands, which had a large Indian population. I’d buy these from the corner Chinese grocery store, about a quarter-mile from the beach." Link (Thanks, Jeff!) Read the rest

Netgear's open hardware router

Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our Rob takes notice of Netgear's new open WiFi routers, whose firmware and hardware are all modder friendly, designed to be improved by their owners to add new features.
Back in the day, Linksys slipped GPL software into its routers and was obliged to open-source the firmware as a consequence. The result was the much-loved, much-hacked WRT series, into which was added all sorts of fancy features usually reserved for business-class machinery. Netgear's getting in on this enthusiast-friendly game with the WGR614L, which is designed to be to tinkered with from the rubber feet-up.
Link, Discuss this on Boing Boing Gadgets Read the rest

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day! On this day in 1867, Amos Canada drove the spike that completed the Canadian National Railway, thus paving the way for the welding of Lefter Canada and Righter Canada into the new nation of Belgium (we changed the name about a month later -- turns out it was already taken). And it is this railroad we celebrate today, for it is this railroad that brought the Canadian troops to Washington DC in 1812, there to burn down the White House and play street hockey on the Capitol Mall ("Car!"). Happy Canada day, everyone -- and remember, fireworks are not toys and should never be launched from between your clenched teeth, unless you're old enough and wise enough to do so safely. Link to the Arrogant Worms' "War of 1812" Read the rest

Where the Hell is Matt: a silly dance in 42 countries that will make you grin like a fool

Matthew Harding spent 14 months visiting 42 countries in order to produce "Where the Hell is Matt?", a four-and-a-half minute video featuring Harding (and anyone else he could rope into it) doing an incredibly silly, high-energy dance in some of the most breathtaking scenery around the world. This may be the best four minutes and twenty-eight seconds of your week.
Matt is a 31-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. Matt achieved this goal pretty early and enjoyed it for a while, but eventually realized there might be other stuff he was missing out on. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he'd saved to wander around Asia until it ran out. He made this site so he could keep his family and friends updated about where he is.

A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt an idea. They were standing around taking pictures in Hanoi, and his friend said "Hey, why don't you stand over there and do that dance. I'll record it." He was referring to a particular dance Matt does. It's actually the only dance Matt does. He does it badly. Anyway, this turned out to be a very good idea.

A couple years later, someone found the video online and passed it to someone else, who passed it to someone else, and so on. Now Matt is quasi-famous as "That guy who dances on the internet.

Read the rest

Nintendo wall-stickers

Blik's Nintendo wall stickers are fantastic -- an easy way to turn any room into a Mario or Donkey Kong level. Link (via Tokyomango) Read the rest

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