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Bloomsbury edition of Lessig's REMIX goes CC

Larry Lessig sez, "The Bloomsbury Academic Press version of REMIX is now Creative Commons licensed. You can download the book on the Bloomsbury Academic page."

REMIX now ccFree

Shatnerquake: bizarro novel about every Shatner character sucked into reality to hunt down William Shatner

Rose sez, "Shatnerquake is a book by Jeff Burk, available now from independent publisher Eraserhead Press who specializes in publishing bizarro cult fiction."
It's the first ShatnerCon with William Shatner as the guest of honor! But after a failed terrorist attack by Campbellians, a crazy terrorist cult that worships Bruce Campbell, all of the characters ever played by William Shatner are suddenly sucked into our world. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the real William Shatner.
William Shatner? William Shatner. William Shatner!

Buy Shatnerquake

Kids' Diplomacy board made out of a pizza box

Ken sez, "Kids on a school trip to Costa Rica made a Diplomacy board out of a pizza box:"

I just got back from chaperoning a high school trip to Costa Rica. While there, some of the kids put together a make-shift Diplomacy game out of a pizza box top. Playing gave the kids and me fun lessons in leadership and negotiation.
Diplomacy is Fun Leadership Training (Thanks, Ken!)

Android app uses G1 compass as a metal-detector

Here's a little Android mobile phone app that turns your handset into a metal-detector, using the compass as a magnetometer. Not super-accurate or sensitive, but possibly useful for grubbing in the beach looking for your car-keys.

Use Your G1 As... A Metal Detector? (via Waxy)

US Trade Rep lies about Canadian piracy

The US Trade Representative is once again trying to pressure Canada into adopting a version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (a 1998 US law that's enabled rightsholders to sue tens of thousands of music fans as well as technology companies, without having any effect on downloading). The strategy is the same as last time, putting Canada on the "Priority Watch List" of countries that are soft on pirates.

Now, you may say that the US has no business telling Canada what sort of copyright laws it should have, and you'd be right.

But as Michael Geist points out, the idea that Canada is a pirate nation is just wrong -- even using the US copyright lobby's own numbers, Canada is a model citizen.

Not only is Canada not even remotely close to any other country on the list, it has the lowest software piracy rate of any of the 46 countries in the entire Special 301 Report. Moreover, it is compliant with its international IP obligations, participates in ACTA, has prosecuted illegal camcording, has the RCMP prioritizing IP matters, has statutory damages provisions, features far more copyright collectives than the U.S., and has a more restrictive fair dealing/fair use provision.
The Absurdity of the USTR's Blame Canada Approach

Why neutrality is more important than connection speeds

David Isenberg's posted the text of "Broadband without Internet ain't worth squat," a speech he gave to the Broadband Properties Summit this week, arguing that the most salient characteristic of the Internet is that it allows anyone to deploy any app or service, and that we lost that when we concentrate on making it "broadband" or what-have-you.
This talk is a 30,000-foot view of why our work is important. I'm going to argue that the Internet is the main value creator here - not our ability to digitize everything, not high speed networking, not massive storage - the Internet. With this perspective, maybe you'll you go back to work with a slight attitude adjustment, and maybe one or two concrete things to do.

In the big picture, We're building interconnectedness. We're connecting every person on this planet with every other person. We're creating new ways to share experience. We're building new ways for buyers to find sellers, for manufacturers to find raw materials, for innovators to rub up against new ideas. We're creating a new means to distribute our small planet's limited resources.

Let's take a step back from the ducts and splices and boxes and protocols. Let's go on an armchair voyage in the opposite direction -- to a strange land . . . to right here, right now, but without the Internet.

Broadband without Internet ain't worth squat

White tea contains anti-obesity substances

BioMed Central's Nutrition and Metabolism journal published the results of a study at Beiersdorf AG that found that an extract of white tea inhibits the growth of new fat cells and and breaks down the fat in existing fat cells.
After treating lab-cultured human pre-adipocytes with the tea extract, the authors found that fat incorporation during the genesis of new adipocytes was reduced. According to Winnefeld, "The extract solution induced a decrease in the expression of genes associated with the growth of new fat cells, while also prompting existing adipocytes to break down the fat they contain."
White tea -- the solution to the obesity epidemic?

Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change, by Bonnie Burton


Our friend Bonnie Burton Burton has a terrific new book out called Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change. In it, Bonnie explains the "mean girl" syndrome, and why even nice girls sometimes can be mean to other girls. I'm saving it for my daughters.

Written for all teen girls, this insightful book discusses different types of girl-on-girl cruelty, why it happens, and how to deal with it. With details on various forms of abuse common between girls—including betrayal between friends, cyberbullying, hazing, and the silent treatment—this useful guidebook will help teen girls understand why they show aggression to each other, cope with difficult situations, gain confidence, and work together as teams, while also suggesting when to get help from adults when situations get out of hand. It includes quotes and inspirational stories from famous role models who have had firsthand experience with girl meanness, such as Jane Wiedlin, founding member of the Go-Go's; Jenny Conlee, bandmember of The Decemberists; and Tegan, bandmember of Tegan and Sara.
Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change

Give yourself horse legs

Seattle artist Kim Graham made herself a pair of horsey legs, and now she's making more to sell. They'll cost you about $1000 with the optional spring loaded hooves.

Digigrade leg extensions (Via TYWKIWDBI)


Making better panhandling signs for a homeless man


The Mt Holly Mayor posted some photos of signs his friend made for a fellow named Ed who is out of work. Ed says the signs are working!

My pal, and frequent Mt. Holly tourist, Todd Norem ( created these media appropriate and proven effective outdoor boards for his client Ed who reported at least a 800% increase in gross income on days his media ran.
See other signs at the link. Pan Handling Competition is Running Hot in Minneapolis

Using a blog to find help for a homeless family in San Francisco

Danny sez, "Blogger Julie of TangoBaby was walking past a begging homeless woman, K, and her two kids in San Francisco, agonising about how she couldn't do anything to help -- when she realised she could. She wrote up the story of the family, took photos, and started telling their story on her blog. Now she's working with her readers to get a fair deal for K in SF's bureacratic system for handling the homeless in the city, and recording the troubles and opportunities they're having on the way."

We talked, and I learned her name was K. and asked her about the shelters in town. She rattled off the names of homes that I know are where abused women and children escape to when their lives are in danger.

None of the shelters had rooms for her and her children.

Then it dawned on me that maybe I could do more than give her $30 and hope someone else gives her another $30 so the young family can find a place to sleep tonight. I asked her if we could share her photos and her story so that somewhere, some of you might be able to help.

K's eyes are perpetually brimming with tears. She's tiny and her hands are chilled. Baby M is sleeping under a blanket on her chest. The two younger children, D and Little K, are relatively quiet considering their ages. At 7 and 9, they could be tearing up the sidewalks, but they're not.

When I explain to K about my blog and that I hope that maybe someone out there reading might have a way to help, she thinks it's a good idea and says it's okay to take the pictures. "It can't be any more embarrassing than what I'm doing now," she says.

K's Story and YOU CAN HELP! (Thanks, Danny

Free Comic Book day this Saturday!

Eyal sez, "The Saturday, (May 2nd 2009)is 'Free Comic Book Day' all over the world. Here is the scoop, you go into any participating comic book store (and there are a lot of them) on Saturday and you get to choose a free comic from over 30 comics. That's it. No catch. As a 40 year old self professed comic geek and a dad of 3 boys who is always looking for ways to get them to read more. The first Saturday in May is a great way to combine both activities. I am in no way affiliated to this promotion or its sponsors. I just feel it's a shame more people don't know about this great day. Did I mention that the comics are free?"

Free Comic Book Day (Thanks, Eyal!)

Godaddy: Don't Buy dot-TV Domains, The Island is Sinking.

If I'm reading the pop-up window correctly, domain registrar Godaddy recommends against purchasing .tv domain names because the island of Tuvalu, which the domain represents, is sinking. One more reason not to get bent out of shape over the fact that CNN bought "" out from under us back in 2007. (via Eddie Codel)

Car Culture and the Fate of the "Urban Manatee"

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

As we all learned in preschool, Muppets are native to New York City, and once freely roamed (in a floppy, yet oddly stiff-limbed sort of way) the whole of the five boroughs. Sadly, those days have passed. But now, kindly urban planning wonks are hoping that new, livable-streets initiatives can help the good old days return.

In the early part of the 1900s, Zozos - large, furry, innocent, purple creatures - once freely roamed New York City's streets, and were seen frequently mingling among its denizens and enjoying the public realm. But with the advent of the automobile their numbers slowly dwindled, until the 1930s when sightings became rare and they were thought to go extinct. But now thanks to a burgeoning livable streets movement and a marked improvement in public spaces in NYC, Zozo sightings have been reported. World-renowned crypto-zoologist Donald Druthers has convinced us to document the facts - and yes, it looks like Zozos could be making a comeback! See the evidence for yourself."

French film-makers and science fiction writers protest new anti-P2P law

Alan sez, "Thought you'd be interested in the following two documents, which I've translated from French, concerning the debate over the anti-p2p 'Hadopi' law in France [Ed: this is the "three strikes" law that would allow copyright holders to have your network connection cut by accusing you of three infringements, without having to show any proof. The law was defeated earlier this month, but is back for another kick at the can]. I think it's pretty important to see that there are significant numbers of cultural producers opposed to the law, something of a first on this scale. The first letter is from the world of cinema, signatories include directors, producers, actors (including Catherine Deneuve!) as well as a former general executive of French anti-piracy agency, ALPA (dedicated to the film sector). The second, I think you'll be particularly interested in, as it is a collective letter of protest against Hadopi by innumerable people in the field of science-fiction"
Artists, creators, all those cultural actors without whom that word would be emptied of meaning, are being instrumentalised for the benefit of a law which, we must remind everyone, contains measures to filter the net, install spyware on individuals machines, and suspend internet connections without the involvement of a judge on the basis of IP numbers (whose lack of reliability has long been established) collected by private companies, and the extension of measures initially conceived for police anti-terrorist activity to the sharing of files between individuals.

Whilst deeply attached to copyright, which represents the sole or principal source of income for many precarious intellectual workers in our ranks, we protest against those who brandish it incessantly to justify measures which, while technically unfeasible, are certainly dangerous, and whose potential to erode our rights is only too obvious in the eyes of those of us whose daily work involves the scientific, political and social thought which is at the core of science-fiction.

Likewise, conscious of the interests and value of creative communities, we also protest against the danger that this law poses to the universe of culture distributed and shared under free licenses, which constitutes a wealth accessible to all.

The internet is not a chaos but rather a collective work, where no actor can demand a privileged position, and it is aberrant to legislate on practices born from 21st century technologies on the basis of schemas taken from 19th. Think about it.

Because the future is our trade.

Sci-fi Against Hadopi: Who Will Control the Future? (Thanks, Alan!)

BB Video review: Tricaster, and the Future of Live Video Online

(Download MP4, or watch on YouTube.) In today's episode of Boing Boing Video, we review the Tricaster, a compact device that facilitates high-quality live internet video broadcast production for a lot less dough than the equivalent amount of traditional TV production gear.

A number of web video productions are now using the Tricaster, including Leo Laporte's, and Mahalo's newly launched Kevin Pollak chat show. I visited the Kevin Pollak set this week to view the device in action with BBV editor Wes Varghese and Richard Metzger. Metzger has also been experimenting with live-to-hard-drive production (= tape his interview show using the Tricaster, then it's ready to go as a produced piece without a lot of editing.).

What interested me most about the device was the possibility of changing the economics of live video online. The Tricaster costs about $10K, and just renting a satellite truck full of switching gear and engineers for conventional live production costs a hell of a lot more - like, start adding zeroes.

So, the possibilities I see are much like the possibilities we began to see for web video 10 years ago, when digital video cameras suddenly became a lot more affordable, and video editing software became cheaper, more widely distributed, and a lot easier to use. Bottom line: more live video, in more of it the hands of people who wouldn't be producing live video otherwise.

Newtek, the company that makes the Tricaster, loaned Boing Boing Video a review unit and we're going to be doing some experiments soon.

Below, and after the jump, some screengrabs from backstage video I shot on the Kodak zi6. The featured guest on this installment of the Kevin Pollak show was Jon Hamm of Mad Men. Diggnation/Totally Rad Show/Project Lore star Alex Albrecht was also in the house, as was George Ruiz of ICM, who shot some nicer photos here. Kevin Pollak show crew notes: Alex Miller was running the TriCaster. Kenny Chen was the floor director, Josh Negrin is sitting next to Alex at the Mac Pro and Jason McIntyre is sitting at the 2 iMacs.

Read the rest

Reaching for the Apocalypse

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

The most intriguing, and hard to pin down, questions I've gotten from readers over the past few days have revolved around overblown crises, fear, and why news organizations (and the public) seem to <3 both those things. People cite SARS and the 2006 bird flu publicity blitz, and wonder why the media is so quick to turn into Marvin the Paranoid Android, jumping in every five seconds with, "So this is it, we're all going to die."

First off, it seems pretty clear to me that this phenomenon does happen. While there are some things the media gets unfairly beaten up over, this isn't one of them. As Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communication and former editor of the Miami Herald told the Washington Post this week,

We [meaning the media] have a tendency to reach for the apocalyptic, but the apocalypse hasn't reached us yet."

Obviously, some of this has to do with the format of a modern 24-hour, non-stop news cycle. Unlike 30 years ago, when your news came in fits and spurts, it's now expected to be a continuous stream. But more information doesn't necessarily come along to fill that increased news hole.
If you're CNN, you've long ago committed yourself to the stream. It's a little late for Wolf Blitzer to glance down at his watch, shrug his shoulders, and say, "So that's all we know for today, folks. See ya in the morning." I think that the unconscious pressures served up by that dilemma have been the cause of EXTREME!News (WOOOooo! Rock n' Roll!) at least as often as any temple-fingered, evil-y cackling, calculated push for ratings.

But I've always thought this wasn't just a media thing. The feedback loop of positive ratings that tells CNN to keep freaking you the frack out isn't based only on them manipulating you into being captivated. As any fan of zombies can tell you, average people are going around offering a hand to the apocalypse at least as often as their heavily made-up TV news counterparts. So what gives? Why are we so fascinated with (and almost damn-near excited by) the prospect of civilization collapsing

For a good theory on that, I naturally had to turn to America's #1 Most Trusted News Source...and Philip Alcabes, a man who is surely feeling a strange mix of guilt and elation over the oddly fortuitous timing of his new book, Dread

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Philip Alcabes
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

I'm interested in y'all's thoughts on this.

For the record: I do not think swine, excuse me, H1N1 flu is just a toothless scare. This really is a virus with pandemic potential and, as has been said, you should be concerned...but not freaked out. I don't think there's a lot of point in "what ifing" this into the death of civilization.

Aporkalypse Now: More Reading on Purported Big Pig Agribiz Links.

(Image: Fail Pig, by Fabio Rex Too.)

The excellent foodblog Ethicurean has a good roundup of news links about H1N1 and the pork industry.

Oilpunk Fun in SF Bay Area This Saturday: Boiler Bar

Jon Sarriugarte, whose machine art hijinks I first encountered through SRL, is hosting a fun event this Saturday, May 2, in West Oakland. This installment of the Boiler Bar is a benefit for Jon's Snail Car (an amazing metal/fire/artcar) project, and will feature other cool retro-mechanico creations like the Neverwas Trolly Car. Should be tons of Oilpunk fun.

Tickets and more info: Boiler Bar May Day Event. Here's the Facebook event link, and the Facebook fan club for the snail car and her adventures.

Virgin America: Now, with Absinthe.

Starting in May, the airline that offers Boing Boing Video episodes as an entertainment option, the same airline that allowed us to name one of their planes "Unicorn Chaser" -- well, they're going to start serving absinthe in the skies. At left, the "herbal liqueur" company's spokesfairies, who may or may not appear magically in the seat next to you.

Le Tourment Vert's website offers some interesting cocktail recipes, including "Corpse Reviver II."

Fun facts about this beverage: yes, it is legal in the USA. Yes, it contains thujone. I do not know if it will cause you to hallucinate, but it is indeed brewed with wormwood. More about Le Tourment Vert (in French: "The Green Torment") from absinthe aficionado website

INGREDIENTS (as found in all traditional absinthes) Holy Trinity: Anise, Fennel & Grand Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium). Plus, it contains aromatic herbs including Sage, Rosemary and Coriander. Le Tourment Vert contains the maximum dosage of thujone currently allowed by the United States Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
Incidentally, Virgin America (which today started service to/from Orange County) is also expanding the number of craft in its fleet that offer in-flight WiFi. Absinthe + internet + idle time? Can't wait to read the mile-high tweets that result.

Clay Shirky Debunks the WSJ's "Bloggers For Hire" Feature

("Origami dollar t-shirt" photo by Flickr user Vaguely Artistic, under a CC license).

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a breathless "microtrends" piece by Mark Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne titled, "America's Newest Profession: Bloggers for Hire," which begins:

In America today, there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers. Already more Americans are making their primary income from posting their opinions than Americans working as computer programmers or firefighters.

Paid bloggers fit just about every definition of a microtrend: Their ranks have grown dramatically over the years, blogging is an important social and cultural movement that people care passionately about, and the number of people doing it for at least some income is approaching 1% of American adults.

The best studies we can find say we are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That's almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click -- whether on their site or someone else's.

And went on to talk of $75K/year incomes, and $200/post pay rates. More bloggers than bartenders! A permalink in every pot! I asked Clay Shirky to analyze the piece and its findings. He kindly obliged. His essay follows.
Blogging for Dollars
Clay Shirky

Picture you chillaxin at home, flipping through stories on Digg, and just cold bloggin' those links. It's fun to share your opinions about Susan Boyle or the coup in Antananarivo, but can you do it for a living? Mark Penn and Kinney Zalesne say yes! The co-authors of the book Microtrends, put together a Wall Street Journal story about a hot new microtrend, blogging for dollars, and the news is good: "It takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year." Sweet, no?


The Penn and Zalesne piece is worthless as a guide to the economics of blogging. For starters, it's methodological garbage. They take their figures from "[t]he best studies we can find", without noting whether these studies are the crème de la crème, or simply the least lousy parts of a bad lot. (Hint: Lousy.) They never note that their key figure -- 2% of bloggers claim it's their primary source of income -- would be well below the margin of error for data collected by a serious polling organization, much less for self-reported data, making that figure useless as an input. (And Penn was a pollster, no less.)

Never mind the bad data -- there's a microtrend to invent! -- and so they press onward, taking that 2% and multiplying it by a bigger self-reported number of bloggers making any money at all, concluding that 452,000 people blog as their primary source of income. (As Kevin Marks says "Any anecdote times a made-up number can be a big number.")

Then come the weasel words. They write about people making serious money from "posting their opinions", but later make it clear that many of these bloggers are flacks, paid only to post the opinions of the PR department, not their own. (The inclusion of employee-bloggers also complicates their later assertion that barriers to paid blogging are low. Where the barriers are low, the pay is minuscule, and where pay is high, the barriers are enormous.)

They also use "profitably" without meaning that revenues exceed expenses, they say "Americans" a lot, even though the report they reference covers Europe and Asia as well, and, most egregiously, they deliberately confuse "primary source of income" with "making a living." They never explain that students running AdWords could have blogging as a primary source of income without coming close to making a living at it. How many bloggers do make a living at it? I have no idea, and neither do they, but it is a much much smaller number than 452,000.


Read the rest

Recently at Boing Boing Gadgets


• A water-propelled jetpack that lets you jog on water.

• Joel parked his keister on to two fancy ergonomic chairs.

• Some novelist wrote 100,000 words of his book on a smartphone (and man are his thumbs tired).

• The pizza box of tomorrow, today (even yesterday).

• Building an iMac G4 out of LEGOs = rad. Including a working LCD = RAD.

• Recycled plastic bags as art light fixtures.

• How to make a Moleskine notebook using a cereal box (!)

• We tested a powder that combats "monkey butt".

• Reports of another mysterious "brick in a box" from Best Buy.

• A pre-revolutionary wooden clock from Russia can cost $20,000.

• A PSP look-a-like that lets you play classic games.

• First-look at a reusable to-go cup for eco-conscious coffee drinkers.

Edison's prefab, permutable fireproof concrete houses

For months now, the Story Spieler podcast (which features readings of public domain texts from Gutenberg Project as well as some CC licensed works) has been working through a 1910 book called Edison, His Life and Inventions by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin, a glowing biography of Edison. I've always thought of Edison as a kind of jerk and a plagiarist who took credit for his juniors' inventions (a narrative familiar to fans of Tesla), but there's some really remarkable stuff in here. Most recently, the podcast included the chapter on Portland cement, and a remarkable account of a prefab, three-storey concrete house that Edison invented, which could be erected for $1200 (as opposed to $30,000 for a comparable cut-stone house). The house-moulds could be varied and permutated so that each house came out differently, and the houses were intended to form industrial suburbs around factories, so that working people could own their own homes.
Edison's conception of the workingman's ideal house has been a broad one from the very start. He was not content merely to provide a roomy, moderately priced house that should be fireproof, waterproof, and vermin-proof, and practically indestructible, but has been solicitous to get away from the idea of a plain "packing-box" type. He has also provided for ornamentation of a high class in designing the details of the structure. As he expressed it: "We will give the workingman and his family ornamentation in their house. They deserve it, and besides, it costs no more after the pattern is made to give decorative effects than it would to make everything plain." The plans have provided for a type of house that would cost not far from $30,000 if built of cut stone. He gave to Messrs. Mann & McNaillie, architects, New York, his idea of the type of house he wanted. On receiving these plans he changed them considerably, and built a model. After making many more changes in this while in the pattern shop, he produced a house satisfactory to himself.

This one-family house has a floor plan twenty-five by thirty feet, and is three stories high. The first floor is divided off into two large rooms--parlor and living-room--and the upper floors contain four large bedrooms, a roomy bath-room, and wide halls. The front porch extends eight feet, and the back porch three feet. A cellar seven and a half feet high extends under the whole house, and will contain the boiler, wash-tubs, and coal-bunker. It is intended that the house shall be built on lots forty by sixty feet, giving a lawn and a small garden.

It is contemplated that these houses shall be built in industrial communities, where they can be put up in groups of several hundred. If erected in this manner, and by an operator buying his materials in large quantities, Edison believes that these houses can be erected complete, including heating apparatus and plumbing, for $1200 each. This figure would also rest on the basis of using in the mixture the gravel excavated on the site. Comment has been made by persons of artistic taste on the monotony of a cluster of houses exactly alike in appearance, but this criticism has been anticipated, and the molds are so made as to be capable of permutations of arrangement. Thus it will be possible to introduce almost endless changes in the style of house by variation of the same set of molds.

EDISON PORTLAND CEMENT (via Story Spieler podcast)

(Image: The Thomas Edison Papers)

Wiimote cufflinks

Treasures like these sterling silver Wiimote cufflinks make me wish that t-shirts could somehow be adorned with French cuffs. Alas, I already own about six sets of cool cufflinks, and I wear French cuffs about once a year, if that.

Wiimote Cufflinks (via Craft)

Chunky crapgadget used to conduct the US census (kind of)

Ethan Zuckerman grilled the census worker who came to his door about the giant, clunky, dysfunctional PDA the US government uses to conduct its census with. It's a crapgadget par excellence.

The device she had strapped to her hand was a Harris HTC, which looks either like the ugliest cellphone you've ever seen, or a Palm Pilot designed by the US government. We scrolled through bad, inaccurate maps of the area, which looked like they'd been dumped from an early version of MapQuest, wondering how the ridgeline behind my house had magically been transformed into a navigable road, and talked about the device...

They're not making a whole lot of friends with this new device. Last year, the Government Accountability Office added the 2010 Census to a list of high-risk programs. Basically, it sounds like requirements changed several times, and Harris ended up very late to market, with a somewhat buggy device. This freaked people out, and the Census quickly announced that they wouldn't actually be using the devices - they'd use them just to conduct the first stage of the census, checking addresses, while the actual census (conducted door to door, of people who hadn't sent in the forms themselves) would take place using clipboards and paper.

In other words, the relatively lame device my friendly enumerator was carrying, which cost $600 million, doesn't actually work well enough to use for its intended purpose, is still being used in the field, perhaps so that it can be readied for 2020? Anyone believe that we'll be able to do better than a half-pound, paperback-book sized plastic brick within ten years?

If US government contractors had designed the iPhone

Ward off pig-death with soaps shaped like baby-hands

Now that the Coughing Pig Death has finally legitimized your compulsive handwashing tendencies, there's no better time to revisit Etsy seller Foliage's line of hand-soaps shaped like tiny disembodied baby-hands: "You will get at least 10 hands (at least/about 100 grams of soap). This soap is made from goat's milk and vegetable glycerin with a light scent. Your hands come packaged in a pretty bag...all ready for gifting to a friend with dirty paws!"

handsoap set (via Bioephemerma)

Land of books: 1938 notional map

The Bucherland map from Alphons Woelfle (1938) depicts an imaginary and lovely land of books: "The Land consists of about half a dozen distinct territories, most of which are explicitly named: Leserrepublik (Reader's Republic), Vereinigte Buchhandelsstaaten (United States of Booksellers), Recensentia (a realm for Reviewers), Makulaturia (Waste Paper Land), and Poesia (Poetry). The capital of the US of B is the city of Officina (Latin for workshop, and the origin of our 'office'; the name seems remarkably unremarkable. Possibly there is an old reference or a German word-joke here we're not getting)."

373 - A Map of the Land of Books (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Solitary confinement is torture: psych expert

Wired Science interviews UCSC's Craig Haney, a psychologist who's an expert on long-term solitary confinement, and concludes that solitary confinement is unequivocally torture. It makes people go insane. And 25,000 Americans are in long-term solitary in the US penal system.
First let me note that solitary confinement has historically been a part of torture protocols. It was well-documented in South Africa. It's been used to torture prisoners of war.

There are a couple reasons why solitary confinement is typically used. One is that it's a very painful experience. People experience isolation panic. They have a difficult time psychologically coping with the experience of being completely alone.

In addition, solitary confinement imposes conditions of social and perceptual stimulus deprivation. Often it's the deprivation of activity, the deprivation of cognitive stimulation, that some people find to be painful and frightening.

Some of them lose their grasp of their identity. Who we are, and how we function in the world around us, is very much nested in our relation to other people. Over a long period of time, solitary confinement undermines one's sense of self. It undermines your ability to register and regulate emotion. The appropriateness of what you're thinking and feeling is difficult to index, because we're so dependent on contact with others for that feedback. And for some people, it becomes a struggle to maintain sanity.

That leads to the other reason why solitary is so often a part of torture protocols. When people's sense of themselves is placed in jeopardy, they are more malleable and easily manipulated. In a certain sense, solitary confinement is thought to enhance the effectiveness of other torture techniques.

Solitary Confinement: The Invisible Torture

Hand-cranked phone charger in a hollow log

This hand-cranked cell-phone charger mounted in a hollowed-out log was apparently discovered in Chechen fighters' encampment. Some of the components -- the pull-string, presumably -- are said to come from toy cars.

Chechen fighter's homebrew phone-charger (via Red Ferret)