Cactus flowers: an intro to the indie game mind warps of Jonatan Söderström

With just a handful of years under his game development belt, 24 year old Jonatan Söderström -- better known by his handle Cactus -- has already become something of a cult legend in indie circles, particularly for his relentless, near-manic prolificness, as illustrated above by Crayon Physics creator Petri Purho's inspirational desktop background. And Purho's point is only half-ironic: by Cactus's own count, he released some 16 games in 2008, after nine in 2007 and another 12 the year before that. But quantity's only half the story: Söderström's oeuvre wouldn't be nearly as well regarded were it not for the fact that each is fiercely original and unmistakably his own. Read the rest

Supreme Court upholds Obama ban on release of detainee torture photos

The US Supreme Court today rejected an appeals court ruling that ordered the release of photos that document war-on-terror prisoners being tortured by U.S. military personnel. At first, President Obama said he would not ban the release of the images, then changed his mind. The ACLU say they'll keep fighting. Read the rest

Hamster rides teeny-tiny subway (photos)

"Edie's Big Adventure," spotted on Dangerous Minds. Says Edie the hamster's "person," Victoria Belanger, who shot these photos:

I'm a photographer for the [New York City] DA's office and there is a women there who makes these models (trains, apts, buildings, etc) for court cases, as a visual aid for the jury. The train is perfectly hamster sized so I brought my super tame hamster into work yesterday for a little photo shoot. They came out better than expected. I'm really excited about them.
(, alternate link for partial gallery is here) Read the rest

Food choices, obesity, and health care: one provocative stat to chew on

On eating, obesity, and health care in the United States: "If the incidence of obesity fell to its 1987 level, it would free enough money to cover the nation's uninsured population." Read the rest

Website documents iPhone apps rejected by Apple

The website tracks mentions of applications that have been rejected by Apple for sale in the App Store. More at readwriteweb. Read the rest

Why paywalls won't help most big newspapers


A few years ago, I moved a small local newspaper's online edition behind a paywall. Most free content was removed from the web. Instead, we sold a PDF of the newspaper. Web traffic plummeted from about 15,000 views a month to about 8,000. The PDF edition attracted only a few hundred subscribers on top of the daily print run of about 9,000. In other words, it was a big success. Read the rest

Interactive map of growing food stamps usage in US

"The number of food stamp recipients has climbed by about 10 million over the past two years, resulting in a program that now feeds 1 in 8 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 children." Read the rest

Rusting space-marine robot toys

Man, I am all over these $45 space-marine "Bertie" robots from Tenacious Toys -- rusted and beat up and full of character, designed by Ashley Wood.

Bertie (via Superpunch) Previously:Junk robot sculptures - Boing Boing Junk robot sculptures from Guy Robot - Boing Boing Junk robot sculptures -- Boing Boing Gadgets - Boing Boing Junk robot sculptures from Jason Lane - Boing Boing Small robot sculptures made from junk - Boing Boing Homemade R2D2 steampunk junkbot - Boing Boing Vietnamese junkbot builder - Boing Boing Kitchen appliance junkbot - Boing Boing Nerdbots: found-object junkbots - Boing Boing Read the rest

Game-guilds can be modelled using the math of street gangs

The structure of guilds in video games mirrors the structures of criminal gangs in the real world, and both can be modelled using the same mathematics, say a group of Chinese and American scholars. Unfortunately, their paper isn't published in a proper open access journal, so we can't review their findings -- only the abstract.
Quantifying human group dynamics represents a unique challenge. Unlike animals and other biological systems, humans form groups in both real (offline) and virtual (online) spaces--from potentially dangerous street gangs populated mostly by disaffected male youths to the massive global guilds in online role-playing games for which membership currently exceeds tens of millions of people from all possible backgrounds, age groups, and genders. We have compiled and analyzed data for these two seemingly unrelated offline and online human activities and have uncovered an unexpected quantitative link between them. Although their overall dynamics differ visibly, we find that a common team-based model can accurately reproduce the quantitative features of each simply by adjusting the average tolerance level and attribute range for each population. By contrast, we find no evidence to support a version of the model based on like-seeking-like (i.e., kinship or "homophily").
Human group formation in online guilds and offline gangs driven by a common team dynamic (via /.)

(Image: Guild Wars, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike photo from dalvenjah's Flickr stream) Previously:Shrink: I will create a WoW guild of shrinks to treat WoW addiction Game Guilds are "distributed cognition" - Boing Boing Boing Boing: Ban on gay-friendly guilds attracts queer-rights ... Read the rest

EU memo on secret copyright treaty confirms US desire for global DMCA

Michael Geist sez, "The European Commission analysis of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement's [ed: a secret, restrictive copyright treaty that the Obama administration will not release on "national security" grounds] Internet chapter has leaked, indicating that the U.S. is seeking to push laws that extend beyond the WIPO Internet treaties and beyond current European Union law (the EC posted the existence of the document last week but refused to make it publicly available). The document contains detailed comments on the U.S. proposal, confirming the U.S. desire to promote a three-strikes and you're out policy, a Global DMCA, harmonized contributory copyright infringement rules, and the establishment of an international notice-and-takedown policy."

EU ACTA Analysis Leaks: Confirms Plans For Global DMCA, Encourage 3 Strikes Model (Thanks, Michael!) Previously:New ACTA copyright treaty dodges the UN, poor countries and ... Secret copyright treaty leaks. It's bad. Very bad. - Boing Boing EFF analyzes the legal creepiness of ACTA, the secret copyright ... Everything you want to know about the scary, secret copyright ... Secret super-copyright treaty MEMO leaked - Boing Boing Consumer groups around the world demand transparency on secret ... Petition to Obama government to disclose secret copyright treaty ... Read the rest

David Carr on the changing news biz: "all reigns are temporary"

NYT's David Carr on the changing news biz, as witnessed from Manhattan: "[A] life of occasional excess and prerogative has been replaced by a drum beat of goodbye speeches with sheet cakes and cheap sparkling wine. It's a wan reminder that all reigns are temporary, that the court of self-appointed media royalty was serving at the pleasure of an advertising economy that itself was built on inefficiency and excess. Google fixed that." Read the rest

Turkey wants universal email surveillance from birth

Evgeny sez, "The Turkish government has a very disturbing Internet plan, which includes 1) creating a new search engine that would reflect 'Turkish sensibilities' (i.e. filter out certain results) 2) supply each of 70 million Turkish citizens with a 10 GB email account that would be linked to their national ID numbers (in fact, they will be provided with an email account from birth). This is all done under the pretense of strengthening national security, as the government doesn't want communications data to 'leave Turkey and then come back'."

Turkey tests new means of Internet control (Thanks, Evgeny!)

(Image: CAMERA ISTANBUL, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike photo from Material Boy's Flickr stream) Previously:Boing Boing: Update on Turkey bans YouTube: all a "you're a fag ... Scroogled in Turkish, Japanese and Slovak - Boing Boing Turkey bans any web content that insults founding leader Atatürk ... Read the rest

Deadly cyanobacteria bloom takes over Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (NASA photo)

Guatemala's Lake Atitlán, surrounded by volcanoes and Maya settlements, has been taken over by a massive bloom of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). I'll be traveling to a K'iche' Maya village not far from this place in a couple of weeks. The image comes from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite.

It's no shock to realize that decades of environmental damage have led to this, but it is still very weird to see an image that shows this huge, seemingly pristine body of water transformed into a big pool of slime, with growing "dead zones" where fish and other critters can no longer survive. Guatemala is facing a widespread hunger crisis already -- so, for the at-risk human populations around the lake who live off a subsistence farmer/fisher lifestyle, this means more hunger, more death.

Cyanobacteria are a serious problem both because they are toxic to humans and other animals and because they create dead zones. As the bacteria multiply, they form a thick mat that blocks sunlight. Dense blooms can also consume all of the oxygen in the water, leaving a dead zone where other plants and animals cannot survive. The density of the bloom also affects the cyanobacteria. Since only the top layer of the bloom receives life-sustaining light, the bacteria in the rest of the bloom die and decay, releasing toxins into the water. These highly toxic harmful algal blooms cause illness in people and other animals.
The Guatemalan government says it will cost 32 million dollars Cost estimates to "clean up the lake, install water treatment plants, and implement other measures to limit the flow of pollution into the lake to prevent future outbreaks" are around 350 million dollars, according to a source quoted in TIME. Read the rest

BBC photographer prevented from shooting St Paul's because he might be "al Qaeda operative"

A BBC photographer was stopped from taking a picture of the sun setting by St Paul's Cathedral in London. A real police officer and a fake "community support officer" stopped the photog and said he couldn't take any pictures because with his professional-style camera, he might be an "al Qaeda operative" on a "scouting mission." Now, St Paul's is one of the most photographed buildings in the world (luckily, there is zero evidence that terrorists need photographs to plan their attacks), and presumably a smart al Qaeda operative with a yen to get some snaps would use a tiny tourist camera -- or a hidden camera in his buttonhole. The reporter An ex-MP goes on to describe being stopped for talking into a hand-sized dictaphone in Trafalgar Square (where thousands of people talking in their phones -- most of which have dictaphone capabilities -- can be seen at any given time).

The real damage from terrorist attacks doesn't come from the explosion. The real damage is done after the explosion, by the victims, who repeatedly and determinedly attack themselves, giving over reason in favor of terror. Every London cop who stops someone from taking a picture of a public building, every TSA agent who takes away your kid's toothpaste, every NSA spook who wiretaps your email, does the terrorist's job for him. Terrorism is about magnifying one mediagenic act of violence into one hundred billion acts of terrorized authoritarian idiocy. There were two al Qaeda operatives at St Paul's that day: the cop and her sidekick, who were about Osama bin Laden's business in London all day long. Read the rest

Starfish Eating a Baby Seal

From the "Cute Animals Devouring Other Cute Animals" file, I bring you this BBC video showing a mob of starfish ravaging the carcass of a seal pup. (That starfish covered mound in the picture? Seal pup.) Granted, they do this very, very slowly. The video speeds things up with time-lapse photography, which only adds to the alien creepiness as you watch thousands of starfish (plus sea urchins and giant meat-eating worms) damn-near gallop across the ocean floor.

How do starfish eat a seal? Glad you asked. Turns out, they latch onto the seal's side, pop their stomachs out through their mouths, dump digestive juices onto the seal flesh and then slurp up the dissolved "soup". Happy Monday.

Oh, and beware the scene at about 1:50 into the clip. It's a little, erm, not cute. Nature, red in tooth and claw, and all that. Fair warning.

BBC Life: Timelapse Of Swarming Monster Worms and Seastars

Previously:Another Hardcore Moment from Nature - Boing Boing Eagle Vs. Reindeer - Boing Boing Read the rest

HOWTO use con-games to improve information security

"Understanding scam victims: seven principles for systems security" by Cambridge University's Frank Stajano and Paul Wilson is an excellent look at the principles involved in "short cons" (confidence games that only take a few minutes to "play") and how they can be applied to information security. The authors examine the mechanics of scams demonstrated in the BBC show "The Real Hustle" and then extract the principles that drive them and show how they are also used in online ripoffs:
This illustrates something important. Many people feel that they are wise to certain scams or take steps to protect their property; but, often, these steps don't go far enough. A con artist can easily answer people's concerns or provide all sorts of proof to put minds at ease. In order to protect oneself, it's essential to remove all possibility of compromise. There's no point parking your own car if you then give the valet your keys. Despite this, the mark felt more secure when, in actual fact, he had made the hustler's job easier....

...Much of systems security boils down to "allowing certain principals to perform certain actions on the system while disallowing anyone else from doing them"; as such, it relies implicitly on some form of authentication--recognizing which principals should be authorized and which ones shouldn't. The lesson for the security engineer is that the security of the whole system often relies on the users also performing some authentication, and that they may be deceived too, in ways that are qualitatively differ- ent from those in which computer systems can be deceived.

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Boing Boing Gift Guide 2009: comics/art books! (part 6/6)

Mark and I have rounded up some of our favorite items from our 2009 Boing Boing reviews for the second-annual Boing Boing gift guide. We'll do one a day for the next six days, covering media (music/games/DVDs), gadgets and stuff, kids' books, novels, nonfiction, and comics/graphic novels/art books. Today, it's comics and art books!

The Wolverton Bible (Basil Wolverton): Wolverton wasn't just a funnybooks illustrator: he was also a member of a millenarian evangelical church called the Worldwide Church of God, a sect that believed in obeying Old Testament lifestyle laws and the literal truth of Revelations. So it was natural that Wolverton ended up with a regular, paid gig illustrating a series of Bible stories for kids and adults published in the Church's magazines like Plain Truth and in booklets with titles like Prophecy and The Book of Revelations, overseen by Church leader Herbert Armstrong, who had converted Wolverton to his faith. Full review | Purchase

Norman Saunders was a prominent illustrator for Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, Modern Mechanics, pulp detective, western, war, and science fiction magazines, men's adventure magazines, and bubblegum cards and stickers, including Wacky Packages and Mars Attacks. Anyone interested in 20th century magazine illustration pretty much has to have this book in his or her library. I devoured the 368 technicolor pages filled with examples of his work from the 1920s to the 1980s. Full review | Purchase

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