Boing Boing 

William Gurstelle: How to make a smoke bomb

My friend William Gurstelle is a frequent contributor to MAKE. He's one of the best all-around DIYers I know, has an intense curiosity about everything, and is really fun to hang out with. You can get a taste of this human dynamo by picking up his new DVD, Barrage Garage, which is full of explosively fun projects. Here's an excerpt that shows how to make a smoke bomb.

Best-selling author William Gurstelle (Backyard Ballistics and MAKE Magazine contributing editor) blends science, humor and the Barrage Garage Gals into an explosive new instructional DVD. It's MythBusters meets Baywatch. It's the hobbyist's ultimate video guide to all things that go boom. Bill shares the origin, historical significance and simple step-by-step instructions for safely creating high-voltage experiments including the Night Lighter 36 Taser-Powered Potato Cannon, Smoke Bombs, a Jam Jar Jet engine, and the world famous Mentos Fountain. Then he turns it over to the Barrage Garage Gals to help do some field testing and high-test high-jinks ensue. Dale Dougherty, Publisher of MAKE Magazine raves, "Bill Gurstelle's enthusiasm and knowledge come through on Barrage Garage. Bill makes you want to build something to amaze your family and friends. It's like magic, only there are no tricks involved."

Sneak peek at Amy Crehore's Dreamgirls and Ukes show

Sour Harvest has a couple of sneak peek photos of paintings in Amy Crehore's upcoming art exhibition, Dreamgirls and Ukes.
My solo exhibit at Thinkspace (February 13-March 6, 2009) is entitled Dreamgirls and Ukes. In this show, I will feature a new series of oil paintings of playful, iconic nudes and introduce some new characters (in addition to my cats, pierrots and monkeys): a lion, a tortoise, and large flying insects. Ukuleles will play a role in these narratives, giving the works musical ambience. Some of these dream sequences will take place in nature, others in curtained rooms.

I am also painting over a dozen antique ukuleles as part of this exhibit. Most of these instruments are from the American ukulele boom of the 1920’s. I have personally hand-picked a collection that represents a variety of styles and designs including banjo ukes, mahogany and koa ukes, as well as art deco novelty ukes. On these ukes, I will incorporate motifs from my paintings, plus I’ll be adding creative type and logo design. My long-time music partner, Lou Reimuller, is also a luthier and he has lovingly restored each of these instruments. These ukes are all “players” as well as fine art objects.

Dreamgirls and Ukes by Amy Crehore

Proto-steampunk ironworks of 1865

Behold! The Vulcan Ironworks sign on Cumberland Street in Charleston, South Carolina, circa 1865. Such steampunky exuberance! Teresa sez, "I count wagon wheels, a plow, an anvil, what may be some wagon springs, a great deal of ornamental ironwork, a purely ornamental sword, what look like some arrow fletchings (except those aren't normally made out of iron), a wrought iron hand holding a wrought iron candlestick, a rather fine alligator or dragon, and a small cannon. I'm sure that's not the complete list."

Vulcan Iron Works Sign, Vulcan Iron Works: 1865 (Thanks, Teresa!)

India: 80+ Reported Dead, 200+ injured in Bombay Terror Attacks

Just spotted on Twitter (search: mumbai or #mumbai) and via chat sessions here in the Boing Boing tv studio: Attacks in Bombay (NYT), and here's a snip from the Times of India report:

Terrorists struck at India's financial capital late Wednesday night as at least seven near-simultaneous firings and explosions rocked areas in the vicinity of posh hotels in South Mumbai, leaving ten persons dead and several injured. ( Watch )

Armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades, a couple of terrorists entered the passenger hall of crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal (CST) railway station and opened fire.

Ten people were killed in firing at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station, police said. Over 30 people were injured in firing at CST, a senior police official said.

Director General of Police A N Roy said at least two terrorists were holed up inside the Oberoi Hotel where firing was on.

Three people, employees of Taj Hotel in South Mumbai, were killed after being fired upon by terrorists and an equal number of people died in a bomb blast in a taxi at Dockyard Road.

The best live streaming TV coverage I've found is on CNN-IBN (CNN's partner in India). I'm watching the stream now, as I type. Mumbai Metblogs has a post up, I'd imagine they'll be posting more.

One of the BBtv crew members is from Bombay, and I think he looks to the Times of India for breaking coverage of events such as this -- looks like they already have a lot of news online. Neha Viswanathan at Global Voices has a comprehensive roundup of what's happening (thanks, joncamfield). Toronto Globe and Mail coverage here. (thanks, howlabit). Al Jazeera's coverage is here.

A number of independent blogger/journalist types in Bombay right now are posting a lot of updates to Twitter, someone just recommended Dina Mehta, another points to Karishma, both of whom are near the attack site. Noah Shachtman at WIRED has a post up here. There is a very well-constructed Wikipedia page evolving here.

PHOTO: A blogger named Vinu in Bombay is uploading photos of damage from the attacks, including the image above; more photos are being uploaded as I type this post (thanks, Maurice Reeves).

Please add other pointers in the comments thread.

Geeks try to cook Gordon Ramsey's fancy recipe

Hugh sez, "We wanted to find out if three-star chef recipes were all they were cracked up to be, and if people like us (read - enormous geeks) could cook them. So we took one geek, one Gordon Ramsay recipe, a few hours, and a camera to film the results..."

Normal Person vs ... Gordon Ramsay (Thanks, Hugh!)

Tony Benn's War on Terror diaries -- an inspirational look at the life of a princpled fighter

I've just finished listening to Tony Benn's More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-2007. Benn was a long-serving left-wing British Parliamentarian who also served as Secretary of State and has been key in the anti-war movement. I was only vaguely aware of him until I saw his amazing appearance in Michael Moore's fantastic movie Sicko, and since then, I've found him popping up all over the place.

This volume of Benn's diaries covers the 9/11 attack, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Hutton inquiry, and many amazing turns and twists in domestic and global politics. Benn -- now 83 -- is incredibly insightful, thoughtful, and principled in his analysis of these events, and is an inspiring whirlwind of activity as he packs his days with interviews, position papers, lecture tours, private meetings with everyone from Kofi Annan to Iraqi dissidents. In between, he's absolutely charming with his grumbles about his flagging health and energy, his search for his favorite frozen pizzas, his overwhelming pride in his family, and his ruminations on an extraordinary life in politics.

Benn hails from an era in politics characterized by thoughtfulness, civility, passion and deep commitment to principle. Listening to him narrate his diaries is an education in what politics can and should be, and what it means to give yourself over to public service. The world's a better place for Benn -- and I feel like I'm a better person for having lived inside his diaries for a few hours.
More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-2007

Anti-materialist Thanksgiving movie from the Cold War

Master archivist Rick Prelinger sez,
It's 1951, and America fears Communism and the Bomb. Since the Johnsons, a working-class Midwestern family, can't afford a Thanksgiving turkey, they decide to spend an evening writing up what they're thankful for, and share their thoughts around the dinner table.

Unlike almost every other Cold War educational and industrial film, this film doesn't equate freedom and happiness with material things. Made by Centron, the same visionary company that spawned Herk Harvey and his "Carnival of Souls," and written by Margaret "Trudy" Travis, one of the few women creating ephemeral films at the time, it's deeply patriotic, yes, and anti-Communist as well, but it runs counter to many of the Fifties clichés we hold dear.

Download a high-quality version from the Internet Archive and watch it with your family!

A Day of Thanksgiving (1951)

EU set to extend copyright on sound recordings -- call your MEP!

Glyn sez, "The flawed proposal to extend the term of copyright protection afforded to sound recordings, robbing consumers in the name of performers but for the benefit of the world's four major record labels, is being fast-tracked through the democratic process. It's vital that you contact your MEPs now and tell them why term extension is bad news. The Open Rights Group describes what has been happening so far and their meeting with MEPs in Europe. How ever they say that the best lobbying tool know to man is a constituent writing to their MEP, and now's the time to do it."
They proposed a host of worrying new amendments which threaten to:

* Weaken further already inadequate measures intended to allow orphan works, and commercially worthless but culturally significant recordings to pass into the public domain (Culture (CULT), Internal Market (IMCO) and the Industry, Technology and Research (ITRE) committees draft reports).

* Allow record labels to deduct “costs” from a fund intended to benefit session musicians, further shrinking the pot of money made available to performers in favour of labels (IMCO committee draft report).

* Dramatically widen the scope of the Directive to include audio-visual recording, even though no relevant impact assessment has been conducted into what effect this might have on consumers and follow-on innovators. (JURI and ITRE committee draft reports).

From bad to worse: MEPs to rush through disembowelled term extension directive. (Thanks, Glyn!)

Fake-piss-dispenser inventors busted

The makers of the Whizzinator, a fake penis that dispenses fake, drug free piss so that you can beat workplace urinalysis tests, have been convicted of "conspiracy." They'll be sentenced on Friday. The BBC calls their operation a "fake penis scam," but I think the real scam is employers who think your piss is their business. I don't take drugs or drink, but I think that the right to choose what state of mind you want to be in when you're off the clock is fundamental, and no one's business but your own.
The device was sold with a heating element and fake urine to help people test negative for illegal substances.

They could face up to eight years in prison and a $500,000 (£334,000) fine.

Men guilty over fake penis scam (Thanks, Fee!)

The Mighty Quince

Quince is an oddly shaped fruit with a subtle, distinct fragrance. It's not something to eat like a pear but it looks like a knobby version of one. Quince needs to be prepared as a paste or jelly, utilizing all its natural pectin, but then quince achieves its mighty satisfying status in flavor and rose-red color. Quince comes from the Caucasus region, near Iran and Georgia, just like the pomegranate, which I'll cover later today.

I have a medium-sized quince tree, which is very productive. For a while, I didn't know what to do with quince until last year when I began making quince paste. The Spanish call it dulce de membrillo and feature it with manchego cheese.

As quince ripens, the skin turns from green to yellow. Quince have a grey-white fuzz, so the first thing is to give the quince a good scrubbing. Then, place the 4-5 quince in the oven to bake until they're cooked through. Once they've cooled, peel them and remove the seeds. This is somewhat tedious and messy. (Some recipes call for boiling the quince.)

Next, blend the quince in a food processor until the pulp is smooth. Remove to a saucepan, measuring equal amounts of sugar and quince puree. Cook thoroughly, a couple of hours or more. Slowly, the color of the quince mixture will begin to darken.


My wife, Nancy, put some of the liquid quince at this stage over ice cream and she thought it tasted like butterscotch. She decided to save some in a jar for future desserts.

After stovetop cooking, scoop the quince mixture into a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Warm the oven and put the dish in it. Leave it overnight or longer until it begins to turn rose-red. The idea is to let the quince dry out and harden.


Next, with a spatula, try to separate and remove squares of the mixture on to wax paper. The bottom side of the mixture will still be soft but I find that it continues to dry later on. Fold the wax paper to cover the quince paste and refrigerate. It keeps for months and I think it gets better over time. If you want to give some as a holiday gift, place the packet in a plastic bag.


To serve, scrape the paste away from the wax paper and place in a shallow bowl. Surround it with cheese and crackers and fresh fruit for a wonderful appetizer or snack. You won't want to move to the main course.

Passwords suck

Google cryptographer and all-round security expert Ben Laurie's been blogging some great security thinking lately. Today he's got a really fascinating, thoughtful piece about the problems of passwords:
So, where does this leave us? Users must have passwords, so why fight it? Why not admit that its where we have to be and make it a familiar (but secure) process, so that users can actually safely use passwords, phishing-free?

The answer to this is deeply sad. It is because we have done a fantastic job on usability of passwords. They’re so usable that anyone will type their password anywhere they see the word “password” with a box next to it. Phishing is utterly trivial because we have trained the world to expect to be phished every time they see a new website.

Of course, we can fix this cryptographically - that’s easy. But let’s say we did that. How do we stop the user from ever typing their password into a phishable box from this day forward? So long as they only ever type the password into the crypto gadget that does the unphishable protocol, they are safe, no matter who asks them to log in. But as soon as they type it into a text box on a web page, they’re screwed.

So, this is why passwords are the worst usability disaster ever.

Do Passwords Scale?

BBtv + Offworld: Status Report Edition, Brandon's Still a Death Gnome (video)

Over at, Brandon "Shiny-Eyed Death Gnome" Boyer says,

While we here at Offworld gather exclusive content for future editions of Offworld's BBtv transmissions, our second update is a status report, telling the wider world what we've been getting up to over the past week (including the rapid growth of our Boing Boing Steam group, as we all gather for Left 4 Dead extended plays), and a quick rundown of the new things coming to the site in the following weeks.

As usual, here's the direct MP4 link, if you prefer a downloadable rather than the Flash.

Video duration: 3:14. Let Brandon know what you think of this week's video report from the slums of Azeroth here in the Offworld comments thread.

Previous BBtv/Offworld video updates: Offworld BBtv premiere: What's Offworld?

(Special Thanks to the PROJECT LORE düdes, namely SaintGermain. Big Orc-hugs, guys!)

Make's gift guide to Arduino

Over on the Make blog, there's a great list of a bunch of Arduino kits, books, and add-ons.
The Arduino open-source microcontroller platform can be programmed and equipped to perform a nearly endless list of functions. It's likely the best all-around centerpiece to a modern electronics project. But one of the tasks Arduino is best used for is straight-up fun - the open design means there's an Arduino board suitable for almost any project, and a wealth of add-on "shields" extends its abilities with ease.
Make's gift guide to Arduino

Boing Boing's Holiday Gift Guide part one: Kids

Well, it's coming up to the holidays and I've started to make my list and fill it in. As a starting point, I went through all the books and DVDs and gadgets I'd reviewed on Boing Boing since last November and looked at what had been the best-sellers among BB's readership, figuring you folks have pretty good taste! As I was taking a walk down old review lane, I realized that many of you would probably be interested in seeing these lists too, so I've turned them into a series of blog-posts that I'll be sticking up, one per day, for the next week or so. Today I'm starting with kids' media and media about kids and child-rearing. Later this week, I'll do fiction, nonfiction, comics and graphic novels, CDs and DVDs and gadgets and everything else, one a day. Hope this helps you with your holiday shopping as much as it's helped me with mine!

Baby's First Mythos
(C.J. Henderson)
Cthluhoid picture book
Original Boing Boing post

Invention of Hugo Cabret
(Brian Selznik)
Award-winning steampunk graphic novel for kids
Original Boing Boing post

Good as Lily
(Derek Kirk Kim)
Ass-kicking girl-positive graphic novel for young readers
Original Boing Boing post

The Plain Janes
(Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg)
Funny, spirited little story about a gang of girls named Jane at a strait-laced high-school, rejected by the mainstream, and their art adventures.
Original Boing Boing post

Little Brother
(Cory Doctorow)
My bestselling young adult novel about kids who hack for freedom
Original Boing Boing post

The Starry Rift
(Jonathan Strahan)
Science fiction anthology for teens
Original Boing Boing post

St. Trinian's: The Entire Appalling Business
(Ronald Searle)
Ronald Searle's original dark, weird and hilarious St Trinian's comics
Original Boing Boing post

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need
(Daniel H. Pink)
Optimistic and iconoclastic career guide in manga form
Original Boing Boing post

Alice in Wonderland Tattoos

Alice in Wonderland temporary tatts
Original Boing Boing post

Freakazoid - The Complete First Season

The best TV cartoon since the Max Fleischer era, on DVD
Original Boing Boing post

Boy Proof
(Cecil Castellucci)
A compassionate young adult novel about a weird, smart, angry girl
Original Boing Boing post

(Lauren McLaughlin)
Smart YA novel about sex and sexuality
Original Boing Boing post

My Mother Wears Combat Boots: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us
(Jessica Mills)
Kick-ass punk-parenting book
Original Boing Boing post

How to Ditch Your Fairy
(Justine Larbalestier)
Hilarious kids book about the problems with fairies
Original Boing Boing post

(Terry Pratchett)
Moving and sweet young adult novel about science, superstition and decency
Original Boing Boing post

(Marion Bataille)
The best pop-up book in the world
Original Boing Boing post

The Baby Sleep Solution: A Proven Program to Teach Your Baby to Sleep Twelve Hours a Night
(Suzy Giordano)
The best parenting book I've read
Original Boing Boing post

How Children Learn
(John Holt)
Cllassic of human, kid-centered learning
Original Boing Boing post

The Graveyard Book
(Neil Gaiman)
Spooky, magical retelling of The Jungle Book in a graveyard
Original Boing Boing post

How Children Fail
(John Holt)
Angry lessons from failures to teach
Original Boing Boing post

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: A Pop-Up Book
(Sam Ita)
The paper kraken wakes
Original Boing Boing post

(Kimya Dawson)
Weird, jangly, hilarious awesome music for kids
Original Boing Boing post

Zoe's Tale
(John Scalzi)
Scalzi's smart-ass young-adult sf thriller
Original Boing Boing post

Free to Be...You and Me (The 35th Anniversary Edition, Hardcover)
(Marlo Thomas and Friends)
The book every kid needs
Original Boing Boing post

Why CNN Struggles to Cover The Economic Panic

The current economic collapse is a difficult story for TV. It's a peculiar period in between an election and an inauguration. This most important story, this great-or-not-so great depression, is also the hardest for CNN to tell. I have more than enough reasons why in this late-night rant.

1) It's not a hurricane so Anderson Cooper of CNN is unable to position himself in the middle of the storm for optimal drama. In other words, TV anchors can't get wet and windblown, while viewers worry about their safety. The state of the economy is a disaster but not a natural disaster. Nobody's leaving the studio for this one. There's no place to go.

2) It's like a war and we keep losing ground each day. In the place of casualties, we have falling stock indices but it's hard to show the real damage. There's only so much you can do with oversized charts to tell a story. The war on terrorism featured a real enemy. We've just never been able to find them, no matter who goes after them. (Maybe it's not so different.) Campbell Brown ("No Bull, No Bias") should say that what the capitalism's finest did to themselves and to us was worse than any terrorist could have imagined.

3) Few CEOs, fewer economists, and almost no one in the financial industry, want to step forward and say with conviction what will happen. A year ago we couldn't get them to stop telling us what great things to expect in the next quarter. Not now. They don't know what's coming and they aren't willing to say even that much. They are MIA. Insider information is at an all-time low.

Memo to all American CEOs: don't presume in ten years' time to write business books about your leadership skills; maybe there's a gripping survival story to be told about how you held on to your job.

We want them to face the music. Even the Watergate hearings, which had a large cast of characters, were compelling to watch day after day.

4) There is not a President at the center. Bush is just not there. Like us, he's watching TV to find out what to think. Reporting from the White House doesn't have any relevance today. Moreover, the satisfaction in blaming Bush for everything is diminishing.

In addition, with the election over, reporters can't simply ask the candidates to react to the day's bad news. It seldom produced much insight anyway but it filled time. Now Obama is filling time, and he keeps repeating that "there's only one President" but there's really not a President. There's a leadership vacuum waiting to be filled by Obama. (BTW, this story is much bigger and more important than Obama's election and I think he understands that.) Bottom line is we're waiting for a central figure to emerge.

5) Real experts are hard to find, especially ones with big hair. So over-present talking heads such as Suze Orman ramble on and on in front of Larry King and others. Here's an incredible ramble from Suze Orman on CNN:

People feel they need medication because they are panicking. It’s as if the economy right now is in the I.C.U. unit of a hospital. We are in intensive care and they are throwing everything type of medication at us to cure what is going on. They are panicking because why? Nothing is working. They tried this, it didn’t work. They tried that medication, it didn’t work. They are running out of prescriptions to give it. We are going to be in the I.C.U. unit for a while. Eventually, I don’t know when that will be, six months, a year, year and a half, we will get out, we’ll be in the hospital then. We’ll stay in the hospital for about a year or two. After another year or two we will end up in rehab and then we’ll be okay. This is a long stretch. People have to stop panicking.
CNN link
Makes me think of Amy Winehouse singing "They try to make me go to rehab, I say no, no, no." Rehab is taking place over on CNBC.

6) Where are the winning and losing teams? We have learned more about Al Queda cells and Saddam Hussein's Elite Guards than about the people in power behind CITI, Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers, AIG, etc. We know more about the New York Jets than we do about CITI Bank. Are the slow-moving Detroit Manufacturers competing head-to-head against the fast-talking Wall Street Financiers? Please tell us more about these teams as we're entrusting them with such large amounts of public money. Maybe we need to start thinking that, as with football, we care because we're betting on teams to win. We have our money at stake.

7) I can almost hear producers wondering each night if there isn't a better story to lead with. "Isn't there a story we can do on Sarah Palin? Like her or hate her, people can't get enough of her." At least that appears to be the thinking behind her getting the most air-time in the week following the election. Would you rather hear about Sarah Palin pardoning a turkey or David Gergen saying no one knows what to make of the economic mess? At least, the Palin piece will have something interesting going on in the foreground and the background.

8) "Why can't this be happening to Russia or China? If it was only happening there, and not here, we would know how to cover it." CNN would send Christiane Amanpour there. "Live from...". We don't have visuals like people knocking down walls, rushing into the streets or standing in lines. The Fall of the Berlin Wall is the Fall of Communism, the fall of Saddam's statue -- now these are stories of new freedoms. In America today, we have a big fall without a distinctive symbol, without a video loop, without an exotic locale.

Also, how do you explain that China is providing the bail for the bailout? As David Gergen said tonight on CNN, "China's become our banker." Even harder to tell that kind of "freedom" story.

9) The problems aren't going away and there's no timeline. So, where's the equivalent of "America Held Hostage: Day XN"? Nightline evolved from a special report to become a nightly hard-news program to follow the ongoing story of Iran holding American hostages during the Carter Administration. Why isn't this economic story played front-and-center in the same way? Isn't there a TV journalist saying "Holy Christ, this is the biggest story of my career and I'm going to bring it to you every night"? Ted Koppel, Edward R. Murrow, where are you?

Here's my list of names for a new Nightline-like special series on the economy:

  • America's Panic Attack
  • The Joke's on US
  • Invisible Hand-Wringing
  • Capitalism on the Ledge
  • The Economy on the Couch
  • Future Shock & Awe
  • Hitting the Wall And Falling on the Street.
  • America Sucks Right Now
  • US: Out of Order

10) Lastly, the TV media is no better off than we are at understanding this complex crisis. On a gut level, viewers know what the story is, that it's about them, their future and their children's future. They have specific questions that are difficult to answer (see the Suze Orman blog on CNN where it is promised that she'll answer these many, many questions; she doesn't, of course.) and they have general worries (should I panic?) that are hard to resolve. While we try to absorb as much information as possible, we keep having the same conversation over and over:
Q. What's going on?
A. I don't know. It's hard to tell.

Today at Boing Boing Gadgets

colby2.jpgToday at Boing Boing Gadgets, we told stories. John recounted how he was a pre-teen Christian supercomputer:
Ever since I was ten, Colby has been a part of me, like a small, sentient circuit board lodged in my brain. He wasn't always like this. When I first met him, he was autonomous: a Moloch Machine, a literal deus ex. Beneath the brim of his red baseball cap, unblinking eyes bulbously stared, plunged, hypnotized.
Joel looked back to when he interviewed Bill Gates:
As CES 2005 rolled around, it was clear that Gizmodo was losing the gadget blog war. ... I was ready to lose, though. Although I had been running Gizmodo for less than a year I was already about to burn out. As I leaned back into the fake leather seat, my phone rang. "Hey, Joel? It's Larry Cohen from Microsoft. I know it's sort of last second, but would you be interested in interviewing Bill Gates at CES?"
Rob remembered finding a computer, a motorcycle and a giant pig in a forest clearing near Worthing, England.
A few feet away was a TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer, half-hidden by the ivy. ... The display glowed green in the dark. But this was the mid-1980s: one did not simply run into portable computers in the middle of the woods.
Don't miss the time a friend of John's met Steve Jobs—and his formidable temper.

Locusts Like It Cool

According to an article in New Scientist, global climate warming may actually suppress plagues of locusts. One less thing to worry about, eh?
Zhibin Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues have trawled through 1000 years of historical records documenting locust swarms and compared it with 1000 years of temperature, drought and flood data estimates. 40EF982D-A323-4652-AD40-4DE7B07B48A9.jpg
image from wikipedia.

They found that the Oriental migratory locust (Locusta migratoria manilensis), which has been named as one of the most damaging agricultural pests in Chinese history, operates on a climate-driven cycle. Every 160 to 170 years, the swarms get bigger then subside again.

Counterintuitively, the timing of the largest swarms coincides with cooler periods.

"The popular view is that global warming may accelerate natural and biological disasters like drought and flood events, and outbreaks of pests, as predicted by the IPCC," says Zhang. "Our results suggest that warming reduced climatic extremes and locust plagues in ancient China."

That doesn't mean swarms won't happen. (Add this back to the list of things to worry about.) This month in Australia, drought followed by heavy rains in New South Wales has brought enormous swarms of locusts. One swarm is six kilometres long and 170 meters wide.

Here's a BBC video of the swarms. It's kind of like watching Hitchcock's "The Birds".

Permission for Persimmons, please

Please allow me to sing the praises of persimmons. Bright orange persimmons are about the last fruit to ripen in the fall. There are two main types of persimmons, and I have both in my yard: fuyu and hachiya. Persimmons come from China originally but the common varieties that we find in California are from Japan. The fuyu persimmon is round, more like an apple, while the hachiya is distinctively acorn-shaped. Fuyu are ripe now, while the hachiya ripen later. [I've changed Fuya to Fuyu.]



The best thing about the fuyu is that it can be sliced and eaten like an apple or not-quite-ripe pear. You don't need to peel fuyus. My favorite use for fuyus is sliced or diced in salads. Last Thanksgiving, I created a relish with diced fuyu persimmons and pomegranate seeds mixed together.



The hachiya persimmon is more familiar to people, and the trees are also more commonly planted. Hachiya need to be very ripe before using them. [I have not eaten one but other report they are good eating when soft.] Putting them in a bag helps to force ripening.

Hachiya persimmons are very astringent - your mouth will be unusable after taking a bite. Just don't eat them off the tree, like a fuya. Typically, this kind of persimmon is turned into pulp and then used to make a sweet bread or a pudding. I saw a recipe for a persimmon sorbet, which I'll have to try, maybe for the Christmas holidays.

In short, you can't have enough fuyus but you'll easily have too many hachiyas.

Boing Boing Gadgets: Joel Reviews T-Mobile Cameo Picture Frame (BBtv video)

In this week's Boing Boing Gadgets review episode on Boing Boing tv, Joel Johnson reviews the T-Mobile Cameo Picture Frame, which displays digital photos but also sort of works like a phone. Joel's thumbs were neither decisively up nor down, but rather pensively wrapped around a scotch SORRY, *BOURBON* tumbler.

Link to post on Boing Boing Gadgets where you can discuss (and by "discuss", I mean make fun of Joel's holiday sweater). Here is an MP4 for your downloading pleasure.

Below, a slide show of images submitted by Boing Boing Gadgets readers to Joel, for use in preparing this video review of the Cameo Picture Frame.

Update: Joel here. One correction from what I said in the video. There is a way to copy all the images off of the device onto an SD card at once. It didn't work for me the first time, but I then I tried it again later and it did. Don't know what I did differently, but it makes a big difference in how easy it is to get images from the Cameo to your computer.

Boing Boing Gadgets Astroturfed By Viral Marketer Working for Motorola

Over at Boing Boing Gadgets, our Joel has an extremely funny and acidic post up about a viral marketer who appears to be astroturfing in our comment threads on behalf of Motorola. Boing Boing Gadgets commenters respond in kind, and a comment war of wall-to-wall LOL ensues. Go read the whole thing, please: Motorola, could you please tell your viral marketer to get out of our comments? (

Oh, and hey, Joel -- I'm so glad my boss isn't like that! I'm working for Boing Boing right now, and became a huge fan of the Yeti Robot Sex blog post genre. I especially like YouTube dance remix. It's awesome!

Iran, a Nation of Bloggers (video essay)

My friend Elizabeth Stanley writes in to Boing Boing to share the video above, which explores how the digital world "allows many Iranians access to ideas and freedom of expression they haven’t had for close to thirty years." Elizabeth explains:

Kate Tremills wrote a "video essay" script for the Digital Design department at the Vancouver Film School (VFS) several months back. They turned it into this amazing piece – which has received attention from Motionographer. Here's the link on the VFS site and on the Motionographer site.

Quietly Terrifying Karl Rove NYT Interview

Meant to blog this when it came out, but it's one of the funniest/creepiest things I've ever read in the Times: a really odd Q&A with Karl Rove. By the time you reach the end, you half expect the guy to bust out the chianti and liver and start hissing at you:
Have you met Barack Obama?
Yes, I know him. He was a member of the Senate while I was at the White House and we shared a mutual friend, Ken Mehlman, his law-school classmate. When Obama came to the White House, we would talk about our mutual friend.

Did you have lunch together? Talk in the hall?
We sat in the meeting room and chatted before the meeting. He had a habit of showing up early, which is a good courtesy.

Are you going to send him a little note congratulating him?
I already have. I sent it to his office. I sent him a handwritten note with funny stamps on the outside.

What kind of funny stamps?

Party Loyalist (Deborah Solomon, NYT; thanks Susannah Breslin)

Previously on Boing Boing:
* Essay: "I'm the proud owner of Karl Rove’s father’s solid gold cock ring."
* Karl Rove's Pierced Family Jewels, part 2: Jim Ward interview (audio)
* Karl Rove's pierced family jewels, pt. 3: Fakir Musafar and PFIQ (audio)

Were McCain Supporters 419-scammed by Nigerian "African Press International"?

tongodeon says,

In the months before the 2008 election, rumors were circulated by everyone from right-wing bloggers to Fox News and members of the McCain campaign about a secret tape containing alarming statements by Barack or Michelle Obama. David LaFontaine at HardNewsInc summarizes the events as the "secret tape" turns into a classic Spanish Prisoner / Nigerian 419 scam with a $150,000 price tag. "The Mountain Sage" deserves most of the credit for putting all the pieces together. One note: it's still unclear to me whether $150,000 was *actually paid* to Nigerians, or whether they just demanded this much. Either way, it was a massive kerfuffle.

Boing Boing tv Update: Virgin WiFi, Obfuscated Code, Comment Poetry, Downfall Housing Remix

In this week's Boing Boing TV update:

* VIRGIN AMERICA LAUNCHES IN-FLIGHT WIRELESS: Our wireless tech reporter pal Glenn Fleishman was on the first Virgin America flight with airborne WiFi service. BBtv caught up with him over video chat from a Virgin America Airbus A320 aircraft (named "My Other Ride Is A Spaceship") 35,000 feet above San Francisco. Also joining us: Jack Blumenstein, the CEO of Aircell, the company providing the "GoGo" air/ground 3G connectivity. The bottom line: no content filtering on Virgin, so you can visit any blogs you like, and they will not block streaming content or video. But, voice over IP will be blocked because the general consensus among airlines and travelers in the US seems to be that nobody wants other people on the plane to be talking on the phone when you're all confined to close quarters. Disclaimer: we really like Virgin America, in part because they carry Boing Boing tv in their in-flight entertainment system.

* BB COMMENT THREAD POETRY CONTEST: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, aka She Who Disemvowels, announced a fun game/contest recently -- write some poetry inside the comment threads using "natively BoingBoing" themes. We can has a winner.

* OBFUSCATED CODE CONTEST: here's Joel's blog entry announcing the Safari Books / Boing Boing contest. The idea: write a string of "obfuscated code" that generates the words "Boing Boing." Here's the winner, and here's another example we thought was rad.

* DALE DOUGHERTY IS GUEST BLOGGING: He's been checking in from Banff, and I've particularly enjoyed his posts from there about snow, glaciers, and snowman newlyweds.

* DER UNTERGANG HOUSING BUBBLE REMIX: Mark spotted it last week, and lulz rang out throughout the land. One of many we dug.

Here's a downloadable MP4, and here is the BBtv blog post with instructions for subscribing to the Boing Boing tv podcast.

Special thanks to Q Burns Abstract Message for the track that appears in today's ep, UNCERTAIN T, courtesy Eighth Dimension Records.

Below: a snapshot from that Virgin America WiFi flight. I spy Brian Lam of Gizmodo, and Glenn Fleishman, and a few other familar blogging faces!

UPDATE: Hey, what kind of sites exactly was Gizporno's Brian Lam websurfing on that plane? Zoom in a little... wait.. there we go. AHA. Below, the reveal.

Ah, Horseradish!

In anticipation of the great food holiday of Thanksgiving, I'm going to post several food-related items. I'm not necessarily suggesting these items for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner but they all come from a late Autumn harvest. We'll start with the humble but hot horseradish root.

The Horseradish Plant
Last spring I planted horseradish in the garden. I planted a section of root and its green leaves, tightly bunched, grew over summer. With colder weather, the leaves died off and the root can be harvested. This past weekend, I dug out a small piece and set out to make my own prepared or preserved horseradish.

The Peeled Root
You can see the root at the top of the photo. First, I cleaned and peeled the root. It is a lot like a cross between carrot and parsnip. Then I diced it. Wondering how it tasted raw, I chewed a small piece of the root. It was like a flash of white lightning. Very sharp, coming on in a sudden burst, a bit like wasabi but different. I spit it out, and then immediately regretted doing so. It's cool-hot like a radish, but it really is a horse of a radish.

The Prepared Horseradish
Next I put the diced horseradish root in a food processor, added cider vinegar, and gave it a whirl. That's all it took. As you can see from the photo, the result is milky white.

Next time, I will try to grate the horseradish instead of dicing it. The chunks of the horseradish from the food processor were a bit too coarse.

Now, this prepared horseradish can be tasted as is, and it is tasty. I could also add the horseradish to ketchup with some lemon juice for shrimp. Honestly I could skip the shrimp altogether and just lap up the horseradish sauce. It's a nice ingredient to add to salad dressings, especially Asian style dressings. Of course, it's an ingredient in Bloody Mary mix. My favorite horseradish application, though, is on a good piece of beef, like prime rib. I don't know how it would mix with turkey but I might just try it. Let me know if you have any ideas.

According to, Dagwood Bumstead enjoyed horseradish regularly in the popular comic strip, "Blondie," created originally by Chic Young in 1930.

Mythical Female Snipers Stalking Russia?

Noah Shachtman at WIRED's Danger Room blog says,

Russia's top investigator is claiming that their wartime foes, the Georgians, deployed a cadre of female snipers from Ukraine and Latvia. The shooters sound an awful lot like the mythical "white tights" -- the exotic, stone-cold, blue eyed, Olympic bialthete killers of Chechen war lore who were said to pick off hapless Russian conscripts.
Read the post at Danger Room, by Nathan Hodge: The Return of 'White Tights': Mythical Female Snipers Stalk Russians

Blue Box Evidence Images from the FBI, 1971

Boing Boing reader Phil Lapsley, the guy who introduced us to details of the legendary phone phreaker Joybubbles' life after he passed away, says:

I just posted some oddly haunting old photos from an FBI file covering a 1971 blue box bust in Montana at I thought you might enjoy them, especially the telephone handset with the evidence tag on it, which seems like somebody ought to be able to use for some cool art project!

Bailout costs more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war, and NASA's lifetime budget -- *combined*!

Barry Ritholtz sez,
In doing the research for the "Bailout Nation" book, I needed a way to put the dollar amounts into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars.

People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

Phone scrambler of 1966

Someone's got to reproduce these 1966 "phone scramblers" in all their silky, chunky plasticky glory, leaving all but one tiny corner hollow, filling that tiny corner with a modern crypto device.

This scrambler keeps private phone conversations safe from wiretappers and eavesdroppers. Fitted to an ordinary handset, it needs no electrical connection, has its own power source. To hear, a person needs an unscrambler coded identically. Delcon Division, Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., sells it for $275, keeps your name and code locked in its vault
Wiretap-proof telephone (Jan, 1966)

Selectable Output Control in Make

MAKE's put my latest column, "Selectable Output Control," online -- it describes a proposal to the FCC to allow broadcasters to shut down parts of your home theater while you're watching their channels, and the consequences for Makers.
Chances are, you haven't heard of Selectable Output Control (SOC), a proposed digital TV technology that would allow broadcasters or copyright holders to tag their video with a list of receiver-outputs that were allowed to carry it. That's because it's an insane idea.

Picture this: you power up your home theater, an near-incomprehensible tangle of game-consoles, AV switchers, cable boxes, PVRs, DVD players, 5.1 speakers, amps -- maybe a home theater PC or a projector, too. After some fiddling and locating the correct remote, you start to surf up the dial. All good. Then you hit MTV and the gorgeous, perfectly balanced sound stops. Why has it stopped? Because your cable-receiver has received a SOC flag from MTV disallowing high-end audio unless it has some obscure DRM that isn't compatible with any of your gear (especially not your beautiful hand-built tube-amp). MTV doesn't want you digitizing the songs that accompany the (increasingly rare) music videos they play, so if you want sound while watching MTV, you've got to turn on the tiny internal speakers that came with your TV.

You flip up the dial (get up again and turn off the internal speakers), and flip to HBO and your screen goes dark. That's because HBO is showing a movie that has been flagged as "no analog" -- which means that your beautiful, 42" plasma display won't work because you connected it via the composite analog video cables coming off the back of your AV switcher, rather than via the DRM-locked HDCP output. To watch the movie, you'll need to move the entire shelving unit (remember to take down the family photos first, doofus, otherwise you risk shattering the glass if they tip over), disconnect the analog cables, find the HDCP cable that came with the TV (or was it the cable box?) in the garage, and rewire your set. When the kids want to play a couple hours of Paper Mario on the Wii, you're going to need to move it again and reconnect things. (Coming soon to a Make issue: HOWTO put your home theater on wheels for easy rewiring).

Selectable Output Control