This weekend on TokyoMango

This weekend on TokyoMango, I wrote about cool sci-fi self-portraits by Erina Matsui; a teddy bear that doubles as a cell phone; Japanese Internet bad-boy Hiroyuki Nishimura; rollerskating ninjas; and an electropop music video by Omodaka featuring 8-bit kimono-clad women.

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.) Read the rest

Gustav: Online resources are up, Blackwater gears up, Twitter blows up.

(1) Here is an interactive, Java-animated map of Gustav's path, courtesy NOAA.

(2) Mercenary army outsourcers Controversial private security contractor firm Blackwater is gearing up for disaster in the Gulf, as Hurricane Gustav approaches. Snip from a "help wanted" ad on the firm's website:

Blackwater is compiling a list of qualified security personnel for possible deployment into areas affected by Hurricane Gustav. Applicants must meet all items listed under the respective Officer posting and be US citizens. Contract length is TBD.
Via Clayton Cubitt. Update: Noah Shachtman at Wired Danger Room has much more on Blackwater's renewed presence in the region.

(3) Sean Bonner of metblogs writes:

This morning I've stumbled across a good number of online resources for Hurricane Gustav and New Orleans and thought it would be good to start a list here to keep track of them. Feel free to add any in the comments and I'll try to keep this list updated with any links posted.
Gustav resources online (hub.metblogs)

(4) You can follow Twitter chatter about #gustav here. Needless to say, the search string updates very frequently right now.

(5) Wikipedia says the Swedish name "Gustav" means "Staff of the Goths."

(image: by Flickr user Maitri V-R, shot this weekend in the French Quarter of New Orleans.)

(6) Here is a Hurricane Gustav Wiki.

This is the wiki for information relating to Hurricane Gustav and its approach to the northern Gulf coast. It's intended to be centralized site for links to information everywhere else on the web; please publicize it far and wide.
Read the rest

Muttley from The Wacky Races presents the weather report

(via Arbroath) Read the rest

Millimeter wave scan machine at Denver Airport

I snapped this photo of a passive millimeter wave scan machine set up in the main entrance hall at Denver International Airport on Friday evening. The machine was swiveling back and forth, searching people who didn't even know they were being scanned. I'm sure some of the people scanned weren't passengers; they were simply coming to pick up or drop off friends and relatives.

I wanted to see if they would scan my 11-year-old daughter as she walked by so I walked over to the desk with the computer monitor on it. I got a peek at the monitor for a second or two before one of the bald guys to the left of the TSA agent jumped in front of me and said I wasn't allowed to look. I couldn't tell which person was undressed on the monitor.

If federal agents set up this system at a shopping mall, would people care?

The TSA's blog states that the scanner's monitor be placed in a "remote location":
A couple of bloggers have advocated for the officer viewing the image to be out in the public area. We specifically require the remote location to protect the privacy of passengers using the machine. We just don’t think it’s appropriate for other passengers, airport, airline employees or just anybody walking by to see the images, much less snap a photo with a camera phone or anything else and post that image to or who knows where. That’s also why officers are not allowed to bring anything, including phones, bags or other items into the remote viewing location.
Read the rest

Federal court blocks beef exporter from testing for mad cow disease

The USDA tests 1% of cattle of mad cow disease. Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef exporters wants to test 100% of its cattle for mad cow disease. But the Bush administration took Creekstone to court, and a US federal appeals court ruled that the USDA has the authority to stop meatpackers from testing more than 1% of its cattle.
The dispute pits the Agriculture Department, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.

Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.

The AP reports that "The Bush administration says the low level of testing reflects the rareness of the disease." The Bush administration should apply the same logic to the TSA. Terrorists are extremely rare, so only 1% of passengers ought to be checked by airport security. Link Read the rest

Akino Kondoh's black-and-white video art

Akino Kondoh is a Japanese contemporary artist who makes neat black-and-white video art. This one is called Ladybirds' Requiem. She uses pencil, pastel, and acrylic for the original illustrations, combines them on Photoshop, and then adds motion using After Effects. The music was created just for this piece by Toshiaki Chiku, former member of a band called Tama. Kondoh started off doodling pencil drawings as a kid; during high school, she drew a comic book series called Memoirs of a High School Girl. "I've been drawing in black and white since childhood," she says.

I posted her other video, Maybe It's The Train, on TokyoMango a couple of weeks ago.

Akino Kondoh main page

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.) Read the rest

RIP Geoffrey Perkins of Hitchhikers' Guide and Father Ted

Graham Linehan sez, "Geoffrey Perkins died yesterday. Terrible loss, but I think of interest to Boing Boing readers because of his importance in the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' story...he produced the radio series, and after working with him on 'Father Ted', I feel confident in saying that he was probably one of the reasons it became such a huge success. He was an incredibly influential figure in British television comedy--something his skeletal Wikipedia entry doesn't quite communicate--and I just thought people should know that we lost someone very important yesterday."
Geoffrey was the man who found our early ‘Ted’ script, (at that time, written as a mock-documentary) and suggested we turn it into a sitcom. He was the man who chose the house that became our iconic central location (poring over a pile of location photographs, stabbing it with his finger and saying “That’s the one”). He also persuaded us to use Neil Hannon’s ‘Songs of Love’ as our theme music.

This last one was a sticking point for a while. Arthur and I preferred a song by Neil that would later become ‘A Woman of the World’ off the ‘Casanova’ album. That song was jaunty and silly and to us perfect in that it seemed to be subtly making fun of the form we were working in.

Geoffrey Perkins (Thanks, Graham!) Read the rest

German firefighting porta-sprinklers of 1931

A golden age of firefighting was upon us in February, 1931, when Modern Mechanix magazine ran this article on Germany's bizarre portable shower for firefigters:
IT’S a far cry from the old bucket brigade to modern fire-fighting efficiency. Even now the American fireman is known as a “smoke-eater,” but that term would hardly fit the present day fire laddie in Germany, for with the new portable sprinkler system adopted by some of the larger cities of that country a fireman may approach quite close to the flames without becoming singed.

The outfit, which looks like a deep sea diver’s uniform is equipped with a sprinkler helmet which operates off a connection attached to the nozzle of the hose. The fireman can control the spray by a simple movement of a hand lever.

German Firemen Protected by Odd Sprinkler System (Feb, 1931) Read the rest

Who scrubbed Wikipedia's entry for Sarah Palin just before nom announcement?

Friday's edition of the NPR program All Things Considered included a piece by Yuki Noguchi on some suspicious whitewashing that went down in Sarah Palin's Wikipedia entry just before she was revealed as the GOP's candidate for vice-president. Snip:
Someone – and apparently it was just one person – felt like the existing biography wasn't appropriate for a vice-presidential candidate. On Friday, 15 minutes before the rumor that John McCain had picked Palin as his running mate, a Wikipedia editor discovered 30 mostly favorable changes had been made to the Alaska governor's profile.

She was called "a politician of eye-popping integrity" and sections on her participation in a beauty pageant and her alleged use of influence to get her former brother-in-law fired were diminished.

That user is one "Young Trigg." He or she was thanked and lauded by other Wikipedia editors for thoroughness, before questions of a possible conflict of interest emerged.

Brian Krebs at the Washington Post writes:

Perhaps more tellingly, some of the same users editing her page were almost simultaneously updating McCain's Wiki entry, adding information dealing with accuracy, sources and footnotes to each.
Palin's Wikipedia Entry Gets Overhaul (NPR) Tug of war over Wiki entry on Palin (SJ Merc) Wikipedia Edits Forecast Vice Presidential Picks (Washington Post) Read the rest

New Orleans mayor: "We really don't have the resources to rescue you after this."

Hurricane Gustav has hit Cuba, and is heading straight for New Orleans with great force. From mayor Ray Nagin, who was, of course, also the city's mayor when Katrina struck 3 years ago this week:

"This is very, very serious, and we need you to heed this warning," he said. "We really don't have the resources to rescue you after this."
Mandatory evacuations to begin Sunday morning in New Orleans (CNN, via Clayton Cubitt)

Related: On the other side of the globe, Monsoon flooding in Northern India today has displaced more than 2.5 million people, and killed more than 2,000. Read the rest

Report: Massive, warrantless raids on peace protesters in Minneapolis, ahead of RNC.

Glenn Greenwald at reports that protesters in Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention will soon begin, have been subjected to massive, pre-emptive police raids. Those arrested include members of Food not Bombs, and a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee," and a group that uses video to protect civil liberties by documenting police activity at first amendment events. Snip:
[They have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly.

Read the rest

The Dalai Lama talks about his brother, his family

The Fall issue of Buddhadharma magazine has a feature-length profile I wrote of Tendzin Choegyal. He is the Dalai Lama's youngest brother and was once an influential member of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala. Choegyal is a highly intelligent, worldly guy who isn't afraid to say "bullshit" and "reincarnation" in the same sentence, all the while showing great reverence for his famous brother and Tibetan Buddhism. One of the highlights of reporting this story was that I got to ask the Dalai Lama about his family life.
“My brother…,” the Dalai Lama says, an amused look on his face. He then does something he rarely does in public: he rewinds his memory back to the day he was born, and talks about each of his siblings.
You can read an excerpt here or download the PDF to read the full story. Also, here's a link to a shorter Q&A I did with him for Giant Robot.

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.) Read the rest

Credit-card companies killed Mythbusters segment on RFID vulnerabilities

Update: Adam Savage retracted this statement and says that the segment wasn't killed by TI or the credit-card companies.

Check out the first two minutes of this clip of Mythbusters' Adam Savage telling the folks at the HOPE hackercon about how the Discovery Channel was bullied by big credit-card companies out of airing a program about how crappy the security in RFID tags is. Arphid Watch: Mythbusters and RFID Read the rest

India's underground CAPTCHA-breaking economy

ZDNet's Dancho Danchev has a nice little investigative piece about the underground economy in cheapo Indian data-centers that break CAPTCHAs for spammers all day long:
Data processing as a mentality is visible in all the applications a human CAPTCHA solver is using. Basically, there’s no indication which service’s authentication model they’re currently abusing, CAPTCHA breaking is replaced with CAPTCHA solving making it look like it’s a some sort of a challenge that they have to solve.

Recruitment of the people that would be later tested for whether on not they quality for the job by exposing them to CAPTCHAs from different services, and a timer running in the background, is mainly done through advertisements like the following :

* easy work * no learning needed * no investment needed * weekly payout * work from home * work when you want * flexible working hours * highest rates in the industry

Inside India’s CAPTCHA solving economy (via /.) Read the rest

Disaster papercraft

Disaster Dioramas: a collection of free, downloadable papercraft depicting great historical disasters. The Hindenberg and the Titanic are presently available and more are to come. Disaster Dioramas (via Make) Read the rest

Dumbest salvo yet in the war on terror, courtesy of the London police

Today I spotted this sign at a Tesco's grocery store in Islington, London -- it might just be the single stupidest salvo in the war on terror to date, courtesy of the London Metropolitan Police:
Terrorism: If you suspect it, report it

TERRORISTS NEED INFORMATION Observation and surveillance help terrorists plan attacks. Have you seen anyone taking pictures of security arrangements?

TERRORISTS NEED TRANSPORTATION If you work in vehicle hire or sales, has a sale or rental made you suspicious?

TERRORISTS NEED TO TRAVEL Meetings, training and planning can take place anywhere. Do you know someone who travels but is vague about where they are going?

TERRORISTS USE COMPUTERS Do you know someone who visits terrorism-related websites?

TERRORISTS NEED COMMUNICATION Anonymous, pay-as-you-go and stolen mobiles are typical. Have you seen someone with large quantities of mobiles? Has it made you suspicious?

Translation: god help you if you worry about CCTVs in your neighbourhood, get into an argument at the car-rental agency, don't feel like telling your co-workers that you go off to have regular dialysis treatments, look at websites that the guy next to you in the Internet cafe isn't familiar with, or can't get credit and use pay-as-you-go phones instead. After all, the police here don't even need to charge you with a crime in order to lock you up for 42 days. Absolutely the stupidest salvo in the war on terror to date, Tesco's, Islington, London, UK Read the rest

Gamer's Bill of Rights

Edge Magazine's Brad Wardell has a great, provocative 10-point Gamer's Bill of Rights that runs the gamut from DRM to quality assurance:
1 Gamers shall have the right to return games that don't work with their computers for a full refund. 2 Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state. 3 Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game's release. 4 Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game. 5 Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will adequately play on that computer.
The Gamer's Bill of Rights (via /.) Read the rest

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