Boing Boing 

At the edges of libraries

186-Booklabel.jpg Here's an annotated list of things that are not quite libraries, not just books. Thanks for hosting me as a guestblogger this week as I've scooted around the country with a bag full of books and a laptop. - Shelf and ownership marks at the Princeton University library including a list of ownership marks of collections and libraries absorbed into the main collections (highlights). - Library of Dust - BLDGBLOG's review of a book of photography and essays.
an Oregon state psychiatric institution began to cremate the remains of its unclaimed patients. Their ashes were then stored inside individual copper canisters and moved into a small room, where they were stacked onto pine shelves.... Over time, however, the canisters have begun to react chemically with the human ashes held inside them; this has thus created mold-like mineral outgrowths on the exterior surfaces of these otherwise gleaming cylinders."
- Publishing Food #2 - Edible Geography looks at miniature cookbooks and chocolate letters and robotic food chefs. - Fore-Edge book painting comes in classic and modern forms - Brian Dettmer's book art - American Woodworker shows people how to make a Lumber Library to show off fancy woods. Another Wood Book. - Typo of the Day for Librarians - a compilation of common library catalog typos. - The International Edible Books festival album pages always make me hungry, for words and snacks - A few more library mash-ups from an old MetaFilter post. And BibliOdyssey is always good for more biblioporn. In memory of Steve Cisler, Apple's digital librarian and all-around awesome guy.

Scalzi explains Amazon's tactical mistakes

John Scalzi brings the sarcasm and the smarts in this cogent analysis of why it was strategically foolish for Amazon to delist Macmillan's titles over the weekend, without any announcement, and for reasons that the authors and readers of those books had no control over.
3. Amazon Lost the Author's Fans. The interesting thing about the fans of authors: They feel somewhat connected to their favorite authors. So when their favorite authors kvetched on their blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter feeds about the screwing Amazon was giving them, what did many of these fans do? They also kvetched on their blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. So in pissing off a myriad of authors, Amazon also pissed off an exponential number of book readers, many of whom followed their favorite authors' leads in complaining about Amazon, and who themselves were read and followed by an exponential number of others. Even on a weekend, the traditional slow time for the Internets, that's a lot of pissed-off people.

So, two and a half days of the Internet being angry at Amazon. To be sure, there were people taking the side of Amazon, too. But those people lacked the social cohesion of an aggrieved class (writers) backed up by a mass of supporters -- not to mention the relatively high profile of these writers online, which, if you were a journalist looking for reaction quotes while on deadline, made them the go-to sources.

All The Many Ways Amazon So Very Failed the Weekend

Clay Shirky on information overload versus filter failure

This Clay Shirky talk from Web 2.0 Expo NY ("It's Not Information Overload. It's Filter Failure") challenges the idea that we've got information overload problems (we've had more books than any human could read for hundreds of years), what we have is a series of filter failures, as our systems for managing information abundance are swamped by the growth of information.

Web 2.0 Expo NY: Clay Shirky ( It's Not Information Overload. It's Filter Failure. (via Joho the Blog)

Barefoot runners' gait protects them from hard heel-strikes

A Harvard study published in this week's Nature confirms what barefooters have been saying for years: shoes teach you bad walking and running habits, while barefooters have a different gait that protects them from shocks when they run, even without the padding.

I have flat feet and associated back problems, and I've worn orthotic inserts since I was 17. Stick me in shoes without these inserts for 48 hours, and I'm in agony.

Unless I'm wearing a pair of Vibram "barefooting" shoes on holiday, in which case, I'm fine. (Only one data point: remember, the plural of "anecdote" isn't "fact.")

"People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," says Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature. "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes."
Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes

(Image: barefoot, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike image from kisocci's photostream)

San Francisco's secret public spaces that are privately owned

Marylin sez, "Even people living in San Francisco may not know there are 68 semi-secret privately owned public spaces in the city, and that's why the concerned citizens of SPUR (San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association)has made a map that shows the locations of 45 of them, with short descriptions. A POPOS can be indoors or outdoors, on rooftops, past security guards, or beyond unmarked doors; some have been around since 1959; some are barren but others feature public art, fountains, and seating. These public spaces are (perhaps deliberately) not well marked, but the work of SPUR, recently published on Strange Maps, should help people find them."

441 - Sense of POPOS: Secret Spaces of San Francisco (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Free Culture conference, Washington DC, Feb 13/14

Fred sez, "Students for Free Culture has organized another awesome Free Culture conference on February 13th and 14th in Washington D.C. and registration is open. Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn and cyberscholar Jonathan Zittrain will be keynoting on the first day, and the second day will be an unconference tackling all the cutting edge issues of the free culture movement. Everyone is welcome to register and pay whatever they like (though last conference's median fee was $26) so signup today and see you in two weeks!"

Man, I wish I could get to this!

Update: Fred adds:

SFC just let me know that they just announced incentives for registration levels (the JZ voicemail is particularly awesome):

If you register at $50 or more, get a DVD with the complete Free Culture 2008 videos archive

If you register at $75 or more, get a signed copy of one of these books:

* Remix by Lawrence Lessig OR
* Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins

If you register at $100 or more, get one of these badges of coolness:

* a email address OR
* a custom answering machine greeting by none other than cyberscholar Jonathan Zittrain

Free Culture Conference 2010 (Thanks, Fred!)

Amazon: we'll agree to Macmillan's terms

Amazon says that it will accept publisher Macmillan's preferred publishing and distribution model.
We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.
The battle over pricing conceals a more intricate and important one over Amazon's place in the book-buying ecosystem [Charles Stross]. Announcement: Macmillan E-books [Amazon] Previously: Amazon and Macmillan go to war: readers and writers are the civilian casualties; Macmillan CEO on Amazon deletepocalypse; Scalzi and MacMillan v. Amazon

Vogue, Jan. 1990

Behold the January 1990 issue of Vogue. The devil may wear Prada, but she evidently wanted you to wear pastel acrylics and then set fire to your hair. [Double D Blog]

What's really on bittorrent anyway?

800px-Leech_bittorrent.png Ed Felten from the Freedom to Tinker blog has written a post with Princeton senior Sauhard Sahi called Census of Files Available via BitTorrent. The survey takes a random sample of files available on a trackerless BitTorrent system. The article is full of caveats--discussion happening in the comments--but does dig into the likely copyright status of the works they found.
"[A]ll files that were available were equally likely to appear in the sample -- the sample was not weighted by number of downloads, and it probably contains files that were never downloaded at all. So we can't say anything about the characteristics of BitTorrent downloads, or even of files that are downloaded via BitTorrent, only about files that are available on BitTorrent."

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Phil Agre located, search not quite over

Follow-up on an earlier post. Phil Agre has been found and is safe according to the LAPD Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The facebook group Fans & Friends of Phil Agre is not as sure about the "safe" designation and is continuing to investigate.

About those blue lego tiles

John Gruber (and Rob Scoble) explain why the iPad's lack of Flash is a bigger problem for Adobe than it is for Apple. Just one example: some of the sites featured in the already-infamous 'blue legos' image already had Flash-free editions.

Liveblogging the 2010 Grammy Awards


(Xeni's in LA at the Grammy Awards, armed with a tactical blogging apparatus. Read the winners, losers and bad fashion in real-time starting after 5 p.m./8 p.m. Update: Thanks for reading! Tweets archived after the jump. - Rob)

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Macmillan CEO on Amazon deletepocalypse

John Sargent, Macmillan USA's CEO, has issued a statement on the Amazon deletion of an appreciable fraction of all of English literature from its store. He confirms that this is a strong-arm tactic in a pricing war. (via Making Light)

Rip Torn charged with breaking into bank with loaded gun

Actor Rip Torn charged with breaking into bank with loaded gun while ripped, torn.

"The only perfect reference work" Nelson's Perpetual Loose-Leaf Encyclopaedia

From Popular Mechanics from 1910 comes this advertisement for Nelson's Perpetual Loose-Leaf Encyclopaedia.

Reviewed by the New York Times in 1908, the set was supposed to be

"A book that never grows old, that is, never antiquated, that will give answer years after its publication to the most modern of queries -- such a book, one imagines, may be found in the great classic of poetry whose verse, metaphorically speaking, breathes the spirit of perpetual youth." Nelson's claimed it had a permanent editorial staff who were "constantly on watch for all important new facts for the benefit of Nelson's subscribers"
It was advertised heavily in many types of publications (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Loose leaf was big business in the early part of the 20th Century. Companies were offering "a loose-leaf system for every purpose." One loose-leaf company began in New York City in 1908 and still makes at-a-glance calendars to this day. Other loose-leaf titles flourished such as Nelson new loose-leaf medicine, Winston's cumulative loose-leaf encyclopedia (read online) and Oxford loose-leaf surgery (read online) Nelson's was still going strong in 1930 where a set cost $99.50 plus $6/year for updates -- buy a set, get a free bookcase -- Nelson's stopped publishing updates sometime in the 1930s. Thomas Nelson & Sons is still around today, the world's largest Christian publisher, but their company history curiously makes no mention of their innovative encyclopaedia. See also: "A Solution to the Problem of Updating Encyclopedias" by Eric M. Hammer and Edward N. Zalta, 1997.

Not a waste of time: Ste Curran's keynote for the 2010 Global Game Jam

We're already just past 24 hours into the 2010 Global Game Jam -- a worldwide weekend where students and developers both indie and professional meet for a high intensity and high concept sprint to develop something new in a desperately short amount of time. Following last year's top 7 Tyra-Banks-channeling (?!) tips for the jammers given by World of Goo creator and Experimental Gameplay Project co-founder Kyle Gabler, this year's keynote has just been uploaded for public consumption by former Edge magazine editor-at-large and current Zoë Mode creative director Ste Curran. Curran -- whose debut music-puzzle game Chime is due for release as part of the charity-partnered One Big Game later this week (and more on that then) -- is also co-host of essential games radio show One Life Left, and here takes Jammers on a personal, Vonnegut-referencing journey regarding wastes of time: as in, are games, and how can developers ensure, above all, that they aren't. Once you're finished with (and are properly inspired by) the video, follow the ongoing efforts of all the individual Jams across the world by visiting the Global Game Jam site and clicking on each team's live stream (if you can tear yourself away from the default puppy cam) and project updates. Continued best of luck to all the Jammers this weekend! Global Game Jam 2010, One Life Left

Airplane bird strikes are now public information

3288866270_23cb40f37c.jpg The FAA has a lot of public data on air traffic safety if you know where to look for it. Last year, in response to a highly publicized bird strike, the FAA went live with their Wildlife Strike Database. The US Bird Strike Committee has had their presentations published in the science journal Human Wildlife Conflicts. Read about A decade of U.S. Air Force bat strikes, Forensic bird strike ID techniques and Suspending vulture effigies from roosts to reduce bird strikes. Not for the squeamish: the wildlife strike photo gallery.
Releasing the data was an about-face for the FAA, which refused to release the records because it felt doing so would jeopardize safety. If the information were made public, the argument went, it would discourage airlines and airports from reporting bird strikes. The agency changed its position under pressure from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who says the move is part of a larger shift toward full disclosure. "The Department of Transportation is, among other things, a safety agency," he wrote on his blog. "Public disclosure is our job. The sea change in government transparency is beginning, and we are happy to be a part of it."
See also: trends in unruly passengers. [Photo from Australian War Memorial]

Slime as Engineer - brainless mold mimics Tokyo subway

slimemold.jpg Physarum polycephalum + oat flakes = Tokyo subway map?
Because they couldn't mathematically determine a "perfect" solution, the researchers decided to task the slime mold with a problem human designers had already tackled. They placed oat flakes (a slime mold favorite) on agar plates in a pattern that mimicked the locations of cities around Tokyo and impregnated the plates with P. polycephalum at the point representing Tokyo itself. They then watched the slime mold grow for 26 hours, creating tendrils that interconnected the food supplies. Different plates exhibited a range of solutions, but the visual similarity to the Tokyo rail system was striking in many of them
[via jetlib express, abstract of full article]

Scalzi and MacMillan v. Amazon

John Scalzi says smart things about the Macmillan/Amazon spat: "If Amazon is willing to play chicken with my economic well-being -- and the economic well-being of many of my friends -- to lock up its little corner of the ebook field, well, that's its call to make. But, you know what, I remember people who are happy to trample my ass into the dirt as they're rushing to grab at cash."

Saturday Morning Science Experiment: Beating Metal Heart

A simple experiment makes a drop of mercury beat like a nervous, little mouse heart.

Thumbnail image courtesy Flickr user SharkeyinColo via CC

Terry Bisson's "Catch 'Em in the Act" -- Vonnegut-esque absurdist sf podcast

This week on the excellent short fiction podcast: Terry Bisson's absurdist social commentary "Catch 'Em in the Act." This is vintage Bisson, a simple-seeming tale told with the sneaky light touch of Kurt Vonnegut. As a bonus, Terry himself reads for the podcast, which is a goddamned treat, because I could listen to that dry, wry southern lilt all day long.

In "Catch 'Em in the Act," Lou is a loner and a loser who orders a "Crimestoppers" camcorder from eBay, and discovers that whenever he points it at someone, they commit crimes. All Lou wants is to find friendship, and maybe a girlfriend, but getting people to commit crimes is a tricky method for accomplishing this.

Lou was almost thirty. He had a job and an apartment, but he was lonely. He didn't have any friends. He didn't know why; he just didn't.

So he did what everyone who is lonely does: YouTube and eBay. One day it was eBay.

"Say, look at this!" he murmured. Lou often murmured to himself.

Catch 'em in the Act!
BUY IT NOW: $19.95
Brand New in Box.
Batteries Included.
One to a Customer.
Shipping, $4.99

That didn't seem like all that much. The shipping wasn't bad either. That's usually where they get you. So Lou did what every lonely person with PayPal does. He clicked on BUY.

Four days later, it came. It was about the size of a cell phone, with a little viewscreen that folded out to one side.

It only had two buttons: SHOOT and PLAY. Not a lot of features. But the price was right.

Catch 'Em in the Act (audio)

Catch 'Em in the Act (text)

MP3 link

Podcast feed

Sailor Twain: beautiful graphic novel being serialized on the web

Mark Siegel, the editorial director of the remarkable graphic novel publisher FirstSecond, has begun serializing his comic "Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson" on the web. This is Siegel's labor of love, a wonderful and weird comic that he's been working on for five years now. It's damned exciting to find it online!

Sailor Twain (Thanks, Mark!)

(Disclosure: I am currently in contract negotiations with FirstSecond for a graphic adaptation of one of my stories)

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation signs up with weird American copyright bounty-hunters

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has signed up with iCopyright, the American copyright bounty hunters used by the Associated Press, to offer ridiculous licenses for the quotation of CBC articles on the web (these are the same jokers who sell you a "license" to quote 5 words from the AP).

iCopyright offers "licenses" to use taxpayer-funded CBC articles on terms that read like a bizarre joke. You have to pay by the month to include the article on your website (apparently no partial quotation is offered, only the whole thing, which makes traditional Internet commentary very difficult!). And you have to agree not to criticize the CBC, the subject of the article, or its author. Thanks for fostering a dialogue, CBC!

The cherry on the cake? iCopyright offers a reward of up to $1,000,000 for snitching on bloggers who don't pay Danegeld to Canada's public broadcaster to quote the works they funded.

CBC's new licencing plan: Pay to Print, Email, and Blog, and outsource enforcement to American Copyright Digital Rights Bounty Hunters (Thanks, Cameron!)

Anti-vaccine TV presenter claims she was offered top govt. health job

The British government reportedly offered the job of public health minister to Fiona Phillips, a television presenter and an outspoken defender of anti-vaccine junk science. She claims to have turned the job offer down. [via Ben Goldacre]

Flickr to double its Commons collection

Jayel sez, "Flickr staff Cris Stoddard has commented on the Indicommons blog that the Flickr Commons will double the number of participating institutions this year from 31 to 60 GLAMs (art galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) this year alone. I believe that the Commons is Flickr's singularly most important cultural contribution to the world. And it doubling in size means more of the world's photographic heritage and history will be shared with its citizens."

The Commons: Vital, virile, virtual and viral

Buddy Holly's secretly recorded contract negotiation with Decca

Baboomska mcGeesk sez, "In 1956, Buddy Holly traveled to Nashville to record several songs. One of the songs he recorded was "That'll Be The Day", but the producer assigned to his sessions (Owen Bradley) hated rock n' roll, and did a terrible job on the song. After that, Buddy traveled to New Mexico and re-recorded "That'll Be The Day" (the version that became the monster hit) at a different studio with his own (superior) arrangement, but according to his contract with Decca, he couldn't release it, because Decca owned all rights to his music. He decided to call Decca, to try reason with them, and he secretly taped his conversation. They refused to give him the rights to his own song, but he went ahead and violated his contract. Here is the conversation he secretly taped."

Buddy Holly - The Phone Call (Thanks, Baboomska!)

The peculiar challenges of Chinese Braille

chinesebraille.jpg The Braille system, in which the characters of a language are represented via the position of dots in a six-dot cell, is called "the world's first binary encoding scheme" for the characters of a language. Though text-to-speech technology enables many blind people to read via computer, Braille is still considered an integral part of literacy for blind people. Most languages use one cell to represent one language phoneme. All Braille encodings employ the left-to-right evenly spaced cell patterns. Japanese Braille, Korean Braille, and Tibetan Braille (developed in 1992) have reassigned all the Braille blocks to sounds in their own languages. Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese Braille, based on pin-yin, use three characters per syllable: onset, rime and tone. The tone characters are frequently disregarded, creating ambiguity and problems for Chinese Braille students. See also: Chinese-designed super cool Braille embossing printer/labeler, DotlessBraille for info on open source LaTeX and XML to Braille translation software and a terrific Braille FAQ, Moon Code and an early Braille book burning. [photo of performance art exhibit via impact lab]

Amazon and Macmillan go to war: readers and writers are the civilian casualties

When I woke this morning at 5AM UK time, I discovered an in-box full of emails from people asking if I knew what was going on with Amazon.Read the rest

Read Houdini's books via Google Books and Library of Congress

houdini-chains.jpgThe Harry Houdini Collection from the Library of Congress is available (at least 30 or 40 full texts of published materials) through Google Books.
Read titles such as The right way to do wrong: an exposé of successful criminals and Ventriloquism explained: and juggler's tricks, or legerdemain exposed: with remarks on vulgar superstitions. Also at the Library of Congress: Houdini a Biographical Chronology and the Variety Stage: Harry Houdini collection. [via more or less bunk]

La Pequeña Gigante

(Video: live Chilean television coverage, shot off TV set on iPhone so pardon quality).

peqth.jpg I'm in Guatemala for a brief personal trip. I was just now sitting here in the family home after lunch, with the TV on. Suddenly, regular programming was interrupted by a live feed from Chile: a giant mechanical doll-girl has taken over the streets of Santiago. There are a bunch of dudes in red velvet suits yanking her cables. WTF.

"La Pequeña Gigante" is what the Chilean TV announcers are calling her. Turns out she's the creation of French mechanical marionette street theatre company Royal de Lux. She, and they, have been blogged here on Boing Boing a number of times. They've performed in Chile before (and many other cities), and the troupe is headed to NYC later this year. I may be the last to know about the takeover of earth by our giant-doll-girl overlords, but I, for one, welcome them.


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