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The Octonauts Are Where It’s At

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As promised, here’s a post about kids’ books, and specifically Meomi’s fabulous The Octonauts series.

We’ve tried to give Mark F. credit for turning us on to The Octonauts, but he refuses to take it, going so far to insist that he’s never seen these books. OK, fine. The books in question are The Only Lonely Monster, The Sea of Shade, and the new release, The Frown Fish. All hold the attention of the grownups, the teenager, and the school-age tike in the house. Seriously, everyone should run out and get these.

But how to describe the books? They’re cute and creative. There’s a hip Japanese influence and engaging storylines. The 6-year-old says, “They live under the sea in a big Octopod. They’re cool. They have adventures.” Nuff said.

The Octonauts

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Boing Boing tv Best of 2008: TCHOcolate Magical Mystery Tour Trilogy


Continuing in our retrospective of favorite BBtv episodes from 2008, today's feature is an encore presentation of our three-part visit to the delicious, trippy, techy TCHO factory in San Francisco. The "chocolate for a new generation" startup was hacked together by a space shuttle technologist, Timothy Childs, and the founder of Wired, Louis Rosetto.

Part one is embedded above, parts two and three below, and here are direct MP4 links to all: one, two, three. Snip from the original post:

In part one of Boing Boing tv's multi-part exploration of Tcho, we begin in the lab, and learn about the origins of chocolate: it's a weird looking fruit with biological roots in faraway tropical lands. How this fruit is cultivated, harvested, and cured determines the flavor of the final product, and we learn about the hedonics -- the sensual nuances -- of this exotic and temperamental element.

Blog posts with more chocolicious background on all that we experienced there:


Tiny microhabitat to study marine organisms

Ecosystemgummm
MIT researchers have built a tiny microhabitat to study the food chain of marine microbes. The microbial ecosystem is about the size of a piece of chewing gum, or microscope slide. From the MIT News Office:
The MIT study is one of the first detailed explorations of how sea creatures so small -- 500,000 can fit on the head of a pin -- find food in an ocean-size environment...

Depending on the organism being studied, nutrients or prey are injected with a syringe-based pump into the device's microfluidic channel, which is 45 mm long, 3 mm wide and 50 micrometers deep. "While relying on different swimming strategies, all three organisms exhibited behaviors which permitted efficient and rapid exploitation of resource patches," (professor Roman) Stocker said. It took bacteria less than 30 seconds, for example, to congregate within a patch of organic nutrients.

This new laboratory tool creates a microhabitat where tiny sea creatures live, swim, assimilate chemicals and eat each other. It provides the first methodological, sub-millimeter scale examination of a food web that includes single-celled phytoplankton, bacteria and protozoan predators in action.
Tiny ecosystem

More Resistance to Free Range Kids

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I know Lenore Skenazy’s terrific blog, Free-Range Kids, has been mentioned on BB before, but IMHO it’s relevant, especially when our kids are home from school for two weeks and we as parents have to choose between letting them zone out for hours with the new videogame Santa brought them, or giving them the opportunity to explore the world around them and perhaps push their abilities with a difficult project.

For Skenazy, Christmas Day included a call from the police about her son because he was trying to ride a commuter train by himself to visit a friend. The friend’s parents were waiting on the other end, but that apparently wasn’t good enough for the train conductor. She describes their experience:

He – Izzy – has ridden this route solo a dozen times before. It’s a straight shot on a commuter train and, as always, he was being met at the other end by his friend’s family. But today’s conductor was appalled to see a boy riding alone.

For some reason, the conductor wouldn’t talk to me, even though Izzy called from the train when the ordeal began. The man had no interest in hearing me state what Izzy had already been telling him: We believe a child of 10 is perfectly capable of taking a half hour journey by himself.

So instead the conductor and his superior got off at Izzy’s stop and then, as the train just sat there (I’m sure no one was a rush to get to their families on Christmas day), they awaited the police. I got a call from the friend’s dad who was waiting to take Izzy home. “We cannot leave the station,” he said.”

“Why not?”

“The police have to decide what to do next.”

This is the sort of story that really chaps my ass. I’m firmly ensconced in the camp that believes today’s kids are being robbed of self-reliance and instead being instilled with fear and couch-potato health. Our own kids have to wear their helmets when biking or skating, but they get to go on adventurous bike rides; the 13-year-old frequently rides on his own or with friends. The 6-year-old doesn’t venture out on his bike without us, but he does explore the few acres of woods around us by himself and he’s so fond of sliding down the hill by our house that we bought him a long rope for Christmas so he can “rappel” back up the hill and slide down again.

And we understand that a small hamlet in the forested hills of Sonoma County isn’t the same as the wilds of NYC or Chicago, but we’re fairly secure in thinking that we’d lean toward the free-range side even in those environs. We make it a point to take our kids to big cities several times each year, and they’re allowed to wander a bit. Sometimes it’s scary – I once lost my then 10-year-old in the American Natural History Museum in NYC for about 20 minutes after he begged me to let him take the top route while I took the bottom. When we eventually found each other I scared him even more by yelling at him; this was my own fear actualized, which I later had to apologize for. But hey, he knows I care and that I’m not perfect, and hopefully I gave him an example of cleaning up your outbursts. And when we returned to the museum this year, he had a great story to tell his little brother.

--Shawn

Free Range Kids

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Video of weird worm

Wormmmmmminverttt Flickr user pokerchampdaniel posted a video of a very strange worm he found under a log in New South Wales, Australia. He couldn't identify it but commenters say it's a Nemertea. It's very odd.
"Strangest Invertebrate Ever" (Thanks, Justin Ried!)

Battelle's '08 Predictions: How'd He Do?


Boing Boing partner and Federated Media founder John Battelle publishes a list of predictions every new year -- and at the end of that year (like, as in now) he revisits them, to see how he did. In short, he was pretty spot-on for 2008. His year-in-review posts are fascinating and insightful, and he's frank about even the parts that missed the mark. Snip:

Reading over my predictions for 2008, I was struck with one thing: It wasn't a list. It was more of a narrative, making decoding how I did that much more difficult. After the narrative, I focused on the biggies - Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, and Newscorp/FIM. I'll have to keep that in mind when I post my predictions for 2009 on Jan 1 next year.
Excerpts from a few of the company-specific predictions, reviewed:
Google:
1. 2008 will be the year Wall Street gets frustrated with Google. Sometimes, a picture says it best [ Image above, at top of post - XJ ]. It's clear the bloom came off the Google Wall St. rose in 2008.

2. Google will continue to struggle with its display advertising business, at least as it is traditionally understood, in part due to a culture conflict between its engineering-based roots and the thousands of media-saavy sales and marketing folks the company has hired in the past two years
I think this clearly occurred (note Armstrong's acknowledgement of this issue here, Comscore noted that Google had just 1.5% of the display market by June), but with the appointment of David Rosenblatt as President, Display, I expect the conflict to be resolved, at least temporarily. I do not believe, however, that this issue is anywhere near off the table. To do display right, you have to act like a publisher.

Yahoo:
1. Yahoo, meanwhile, will spend most of 2008 trying to figure out what to do with what it bought in 2007, and attempting to articulate a strategy that is anything but "we have 500 million users, so we must be important." By mid year, it will have succeeded.
Well, I was right about the first part, and very, very wrong about the second. I guess I was just too optimistic that Yahoo would get its shit together by mid year. Both the bear hug that was the lost Microsoft deal, and then the goat rodeo that was the lost Google deal, killed any clarity at Yahoo. But I do believe there is a comeback story to be written there. It just won't be Jerry writing it.

Predictions 08: How Did I Do? (Battellemedia)

Eyelash growth drug

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new prescription drug, Latisse, for lengthening eyelashes. The active ingredient in the drug was first used to treat glaucoma. Then the manufacturer, Allergan, realized that one of the side effects, eyelash growth, was marketable. From Scientific American:
The med... should be available by March from a doctor or with a prescription from one. Price tag: $120 for a month’s supply. According to manufacturer Allergan, the drug usually nets results two to four months after users start it. Potential side effects: Some 4 percent of users experience eye itching and redness, and it may also temporarily darken the skin of the eyelid, according to the company...

It's not clear exactly why Latisse promotes eyelash growth, but the company speculates that the drug may increase the length and amount of hair that sprouts during the growth cycle. It’s possible that the drug may also spur eyebrow and scalp hair growth, doctors told the Wall Street Journal. But Allergan spokesperson Heather Katt says the company hasn't explored using Latisse for those purposes.
New eyelash-lengthening drug approved

Radio for flight simmers

Talk about a niche. Sky Blue Radio is an Internet radio station for hardcore flight simulator enthusiasts. In operation for more than a year, the station says it has 750,000 listeners a month. Of course, real pilots aren't permitted to listen to the radio. From Air & Space Smithsonian:
 Themes Skyblue Images Top Logoleft The music selections are largely pop/rock, old and new, everything from Frankie Valli and the Beatles to John Cougar Mellencamp. “We have a little something for most,” says (founder Richard) Rudd. “We prefer to stay away from songs containing vulgarity, as we like to think of the station as family-orientated..."

When he’s not running his business, Rudd is a flight simulation enthusiast, or “flight simmer.” As a virtual pilot, he favors the Boeing 737-700 for short hops and the 767-300 for longer hauls. He’s also a home-builder of simulated cockpits, with two projects in the works: cockpit replicas of the Aero Vodochody L29 and the Beechcraft 65A. With Sky Blue Radio, Rudd wants to entertain his fellow flight simmers with music, yes, but he also wants to keep his listeners informed about the latest trends in flight simulation. “As far as news is concerned, we tend to only look at things that are happening within the flight simulation community,” says Rudd. “We will not cover world topics. The belief is that people tuned in to Sky Blue Radio are carrying out their hobby, and so do not need or want to have ‘real life’ thrust on them during that time.”
Tuning In

Another Tuvan Throat-singing Bluesman

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Since Tuvan throat-singing seems to be a popular topic around here, I wanted to shine a little light on another throat-singing bluesman from the Bay Area, Seth Augustus. That's Seth on the right in the photo above, way out in the Tiaga in Tuva. Seth studied under Tuvan throat-singing master Paul Pena, and you can check out music from his latest CD on his music site (warning, flash-based interface ahead). From Seth's bio:

Soon after hearing Tuvan music, Augustus met the legendary Bluesman and self-taught throatsinger, Paul Pena (Ghenghis Blues), who mentored him in throatsinging, as well as vocals and Blues guitar. The two became close friends during the last 6 years of Paul's life. In 2000, Seth traveled to Tuva, began to study with throatsinging masters from the group Chirgilchin, and learned to play the Igil (Tuvan 2-stringed fiddle). All of this has colored and lodged itself into his sound.

Seth is playing a free gig this Friday in San Francisco, so if you live in the Bay Area and like this kind of music, head over to the Mission this Friday night. Here's the details from Seth:

I'm doing a free show in San Francisco this Friday, January 2nd at the Socha Cafe, 3225 Mission Street (@ Valencia), from 8 - 11 pm. It's usually pretty quiet there so we'd love it if you come out and help us fill up the place. They have great food/beer/wine and joining me will be Ricky Garrett on drums and possibly Lemon Degeorge on harmonica.

I think the Spider Robinson quote on Seth's site sums things up nicely: "This is the music God hears in His sleep when he has a high fever." (Thanks, Howard!)

-Bruce

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Best Astronomy Images of 2008 Talk in NYC

crabpulsarwind_sm.jpg Dr. Robert J. Nemiroff, the editor of the wonderful Astronomy Picture of the Day site, will be giving a free talk in NYC this Friday, showing off his picks for the best astronomy images of 2008. From the announcement:

As happens every year around this time, an editor of APOD will be reviewing the Best Astronomy Images of 2008 in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History. This year the lecture occurs on Friday, January 2. The lecture begins at 6:15 pm and runs roughly one hour. The lecture will be held in the Kaufmann Auditorium and will be free for all to attend.

Of course, you can pick your own favorites from their massive archive of the largest collection of annotated astronomical images on the Internet. The picture here is an x-ray image of the Crab Pulsar wind nebula. (Thanks, Howard!)

-Bruce

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Maile Waltz on Uke


Amy Crehore found this sweet video of John King performing "the Maile Waltz" on ukulele.

Maile Waltz on Uke

What's the deal with the 250 mini-earthquakes at Yellowstone?


Radley Balko of The Agitator is having fun by posting a news brief about "250 small earthquakes that have occurred in Yellowstone National Park since Friday," along with a link about the supervolcano sleeping under Yellowstone:

This last happened at the Yellowstone volcano approximately 650,000 years ago. The caldera that it left is 53 miles long and 28 miles wide. In the area surrounding Yellowstone, 3000 square miles were subjected to a flow of pyroclastic material composed of 240 cubic miles of hot ash and pumice. Ash was also thrown into the atmosphere and blanketed much of North America. It can still be identified in core samples from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

...

Another catastrophic eruption is also possible. The effects of such a disaster are hard to even comprehend. Bill McGuire, professor of geohazards at the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre at the University College of London told the UK Daily Express, "Magma would be flung 50 kilometers into the atmosphere. Within a thousand kilometers virtually all life would be killed by falling ash, lava flows and the sheer explosive force of the eruption. One thousand cubic kilometers of lava would pour out of the volcano, enough to coat the whole USA with a layer 5 inches thick." He adds that it would once again bring "the bitter cold of Volcanic Winter to Planet Earth. Mankind may become extinct."

Supervolcano at Yellowstone

Is the Jim Woodring pinball machine a reality, or a fever dream?

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Please let the Frank pinball machine be real. (Click image for big.)

Group moves homeless people into foreclosed homes

Following up on our post yesterday about skaters transforming swimming pools at foreclosed homes into impromptu skate bowls, Boing Boing reader Dan Rosen points us to a related story. The short version: "underground housing activists" in one neighborhood are moving homeless folks into the homes of folks who've lost their homes. Man, that's complicated and sad all around. Snip:
“We're matching homeless people with peopleless homes,” he said with a grin. [Max] Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new “tenants” with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.

“I think everyone deserves a home,” said Rameau, who said he takes no money from his work with the homeless. “Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?”

Rameau, who makes his living as a computer consultant, said he is doing the owners a favor, saving the properties from drug dealers, vandals and thieves. He said he is not scared of getting arrested.

“There's a real need here, and there's a disconnect between the need and the law,” he said. “Being arrested is just one of the potential factors in doing this.”

Group moves people into foreclosed houses (Charlotte Observer). Image: AP. "Marie Nadine Pierre holds her baby, Nennon, and looks out the window of the 'peopleless' house where she lives in Miami." J PAT CARTER.

MAKE: television debuts on public television this weekend


I'm really excited that MAKE: television is premiering on public television this weekend. It's based on MAKE magazine, and is produced by Twin Cities Public Television. I've seen the first four episodes, and they really capture what MAKE magazine is about.

SHOW DESCRIPTION
Make: is the DIY series for a new generation! It celebrates "Makers" -- the inventors, artists, geeks and just plain everyday folks who mix new and old technology to create new-fangled marvels. The series encourages everyone to invent, revent, recycle, upcycle, and act up. Based on the popular MAKE magazine, each half-hour episode inspires millions to think, create, and, well, make.

Make: premieres nationwide on Public Television stations and online at makezine.tv in January 2009. It's produced by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) in St. Paul, Minn. Full episodes will be available at makezine.tv as well as PDFs of all the DIY projects on the show. (Makers can submit their own videos for the Maker Channel segment of the show at makerchannel.org)

AIRDATES
Broadcast feed starts January 3, 2009, at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Television premiere is January 3 on some stations, but air dates differ (see list below). See your local public television station for air dates and times.

Web premiere is January 3 at 7 a.m. Eastern time at makezine.tv

PROGRAMS
Season 1 consists of 10 half-hour episodes; all will be available at makezine.tv and also on iTunes. MAKE author John Park hosts the Maker Workshop (DIY) segment, and MAKE author Bill Gurstelle is the technical consultant for the show. Preview video is available at makezine.tv.

SPONSORSHIP
Major funding is provided by Geek Squad.

MAKE: televsion

The Future of NASA


(Update: I accidentally posted this with comments turned off, slip o'the'blogger, not intentional. I've republished with comments turned on. Blame it on the leftover 'nog!)

The latest -- and final -- chunk of that epic New York Times space series by John Schwartz is out today. It's the last big feature the paper's longtime space/science reporter will write about NASA before he becomes the Times' national legal correspondent. Congrats, John, but I suspect the rocket booster set is weeping tears of Tang at the news of your departure. Anyway, snip:

NASA has named the rocket Ares I, as in the god of war – and its life has been a battle from the start.

Ares I is part of a new system of spacecraft being designed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to replace the nation’s aging space shuttles. The Ares I and its Orion capsule, along with a companion heavy-lift rocket known as the Ares V, are meant for travel to the Moon and beyond.

Technical troubles have dogged the design process for the Ares I, the first of the rockets scheduled to be built, with attendant delays and growing costs. And in an age of always-on communication, instant messages and blogs, internal debate that once might have been part of a cloistered process has spilled into public view.

Some critics say there are profound problems with the design that render the Ares I dead on arrival, while other observers argue that technical complications crop up in any spacecraft development program of this scope. The issues have become a focus of the members of the presidential transition team dealing with NASA, and the space program could undergo a transformation after Barack Obama takes office.

The Fight Over NASA’s Future (NYT), and here's a related Times slideshow from which the image above was ganked. Description:
In this artist's concept illustration, the first and second stages of the Ares V heavy-lift vehicle separate after launching. The image evokes earlier photographs and film from the days of the Apollo program. Photo: John Frassanito and Associates/NASA
Another must-read piece from Schwartz, which explores the case of SpaceX founder and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk: With U.S. Help, Private Space Companies Press Their Case: Why Not Us?

A Michael Franti Christmas

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Music, film, kids' books, and yoga. It must be a Michael Franti Christmas. At least that's how it felt around our house this year, and it was all my fault. I bought the limited edition boxed set release of Franti's latest CD, All Rebel Rockers, for our 13-year-old (and myself), his beautifully illustrated children's book, What I Be, for our 6-year-old, and his Yoga DVD for Shawn.

I admit right off the bat that I'm a huge Michael Franti and Spearhead fan, and I'm sure many readers of Boing Boing are at least familiar with some of their music. But I couldn't pass up this opportunity to turn on some others to this inspiring man and offer up a few links. Franti's music is hard to categorize, but if you like reggae, hip-hop, and funky beats with intelligent and positive lyrics, I highly recommend checking him out. For me, grooving to the Sly and Robbie-powered dub versions from All Rebel Rockers was a highlight of my holiday.

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As I read about the latest news of more violence in Gaza, I also can’t recommend enough Franti’s 2005 documentary film about the Iraq war and the Middle East, I Know I’m Not Alone. I had the fortunate opportunity to take my son to a screening of I Know I’m Not Alone that Franti presented at a local high school, and we both found it to be a deeply moving film and experience. I was a little concerned about taking my young son to a documentary about war, but Franti has an amazing ability to take on the most serious, heavy, and depressing topics and still offer an uplifting message. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to put a positive spin on what’s been happening in Iraq and with the Palestinian conflict (he deals with both in the film, traveling to Baghdad, Israel, and Palestine), but Franti somehow sees the good in all of us and uses his music as a powerful force for peace.

I really do believe that the world can be changed by music, and Michael Franti is out there doing it. Shawn just chimed in, saying that she thinks his acoustic version of “Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong” should be played at Obama’s inauguration next month. At the very least, we’ll be playing it in our household to drown out Rick Warren’s invocation and keep us thinking positively about the future. Along those lines, Franti’s just added his own Obama-themed song to the mix of musicians paying homage to hope. It’s available for a free download. Power to the Peaceful!

--Bruce

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)