Boing Boing 

Salvia smoking safety tips PSA

salvia.jpg The recent footage of Miley Cyrus' epic bong rip has the mainstream media dredging up various doofi to tut-tut her actions. You can find those clips if inclined all over the web. According to various head shop owners, a lot of people are suddenly looking into Salvia divinorum as a possible recreational drug. As a public service announcement, I want to point out that Salvia, while currently legal and frequently fun, is no joke. It should only be done with an experienced trip sitter under safe and relaxed conditions. Various YouTube videos of morons screwing with people who are under the influence of Salvia make me cringe, because they are messing up a potentially transcendent moment for the taker, and possibly causing the person some significant trauma. Here are the warnings inside one commercially-available brand sold in a lot of head shops.
Warning: Salvia Divinorum is a very, very powerful plant. Research the history of Salvia divinorum online before burning. Please burn responsibly! Common sense guidelines
  • • Always have someone there with you when burning.
  • • Never burn in a public place.
  • • Never burn on a balcony.
  • • Never burn near dangerous objects such as glass, knives, guns, etc.
  • • Do not burn when drinking alcohol.
  • • Do not burn with any other substances.
  • • Turn off your phone.
  • • Lie down and relax.
Those are all good rules. I'd also recommend putting on a playlist of songs that make you relax and have personal significance for you. Make sure any pets are calm and not making noise. Find a place where sudden noises will be at a minimum (traffic, honking horns, other people's music, yelling or screaming). Ask your trip sitter to keep everything quiet and relaxed the first time you try it, then you can move on to experimenting. I have supported Erowid over the years as a member, and I encourage you to read their excellent salvia divinorum vault. Have a nice trip! (image: Andrea James for Boing Boing)

Silver Swan automaton of 1773

(video link) On one of my favorite blogs, The Futility Closet, I found this video of the Silver Swan, made in 1773 by a London silver work dealer named James Cox and an inventor named John Joseph Merlin. The automated swan is on permanent exhibition at the Bowes Museum in England.
When the mechanism of the silver swan is wound up, the glass rods rotate, the music begins, and the swan twists its head to the left and right and appears to preen its back. It then appears to see a fish in the water below and bends back to catch it. It swallows the fish as the music stops and returns to its start position. The piece contains 8 different tunes. Cams control the actions of the swan and fish and one in the form of a track on the rim of a drum, travels through the neck. A chain passing upwards through the rings, which form the neck, controls the elevation and depression of the neck. A spring and a 'lazy tong' mechanism eject the concealed fish from its beak. The silver swan was described in Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad. John Bowes purchased it for 5000 francs (£200) in 1872. Other pieces by James Cox do exist. Perhaps the most famous of these is the gold Peacock Clock, which can be found in the Hermitage Museum, Russia.

Atlas Obscura has additional information about the history of the Silver Swan. I'd never heard of John Joseph Merlin before. He sounds like an interesting person. He designed a "perpetual motion" clock, and other kinds of automata, and may have been the inventor of the rollerskate.

The Silver Swan automaton

Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Ari Pescovitz

Dad's Eulogy
by Ari Pescovitz
December 16, 2010

"UFB" my dad would say if he were the one giving this talk. With such a huge turn out he would have insisted on turning this into a fundraiser and charging twenty dollars a head for one of his many passions. Unfortunately... I have to try to give it.

From the day of my birth (my dad's 30th birthday) I have shared a special bond with my father. Beyond the usual requisites of a father, my dad was my best friend, my inspiration, and my strength. Growing up, my memories are filled with minor league baseball games, trips to the shooting range (against my mom's best judgment), afternoons at the opera, state fair, and art festivals, as well as a shared passion for travel and exotic food.

But no matter what activity, what will always stay with me are the conversations. Some knew my dad as a man of few but powerful, and often humorous, words, but the man I knew could talk for hours about everything. He taught me about science, always knowing the answer to a young child's questions. He taught me about what it means to observe the world around me and to think about everything, and he taught me, most importantly, how to make. To explore science, art, religion, not simply by observing and thinking but by creating and inventing.

I make art (and in particular Jewish art) as the highest manifestations of his gifts to me. I have never before made a work that I did not consult with him on. He was my truest critic. Always providing me with a helpful push while never doing any of it for me. A trait he learned from his own father. As I got older our conversations stayed diverse and as my knowledge grew they became deeper and richer.

Over Thanksgiving, Ramzy, my dad, and I took a walk through the foothills of Tucson, working on dad's final photo project for his class at Heron. Along the way, we discussed the evolutionary and developmental history of cacti and tried to understand their growth cycle and what caused a new appendage to bud. This conversation soon digressed into a witty mixture of quantum mechanics, anthropology, and art, often with pauses to consider how a particular photo shot may or may not work for his final assignment. This walk was not a rare occurrence. Every time we were together I could expect a similarly intellectual and inspiring discussion.

I want to be him, I want to think like him, I want to imagine like him, and I want to love life and everything in it as much as he did. From now on, however, I will have to use the imagination he instilled in me to complete the other side of these discussions, to act as my critic and supporter, and to approach the world the way he innately saw it.

I feel like the boy in the Princess Bride, our family's, and in particular our dad's, favorite movie, when the grandfather reads about the princess marrying the villain. The kid stops the grandfather in mid-sentence and says "That's not right, you're read it wrong." The grandfather immediately apologizes and says "that's what it says, do you want to stop reading?" To which the boy responds, "no its ok, please read on." And that is what I must be able to do. I must be able to go on with the book with the same conviction, strength, and imagination that have been fostered in me from the beginning. At the end of the Princess Bride, when the hero finally gets the girl, the hero remarks "Death cannot stop true love. It can only delay it for a little while." I will always love you dad.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Aliza Pescovitz

Dad's Eulogy
by Aliza Pescovitz
December 16, 2010

We used to tease my dad that he was the least social person in the family and that talking to people was basically torture. But looking out at all of you, I can see that we clearly underestimated our father's threshold for pain.

I have so many wonderful memories of my dad. In fact, standing before you now, I have at least several dozen stories that I could tell just off the top of my head. Although, I'm extremely heart broken at the loss of my father, I feel extremely blessed to have had the sweetest, most caring, and, frankly, the best father in the whole world. I want to share just a few memories of my father with you today.

My parents always urged me to work as hard as I could in school. In fact, in 8th grade, even though I only tested into pre-algebra, my dad sat with me every night for two months trying to teach me algebra so that I could transfer to the higher class. What I didn't know at the time, was that my dad was teaching me algebra using calculus. It wasn't until after I finally managed to switch into the algebra class that I realized that algebra really wasn't as hard as I thought.

When I was 13 years old, I was determined to wear my talit, or prayer shawl, to prayers at school. Although I could have fought with the principal for days on end without rest, I was unable to articulate my arguments for why I should be allowed to wear it, in a coherent and persuasive manner. My dad saw my fledgling legal skills and bought me a book about Women in Jewish Law. He then worked with me for hours; reading through the book and helping me to structure my very first legal argument. Actually, my only legal argument to date. I'm proud to say that thanks to my dad, I won my first case. I don't know if either of us knew it at the time, but my dad is responsible for setting me on my path towards becoming a lawyer.

When I was 17, I decided to go visit my old summer camp, which was only 15 minutes from the house. I forgot how to get there, and was too embarrassed to ask for directions. Before I knew it, I was about an hour away from home and half-way to Lebanon, IN. I finally called my dad for help. Even though I had no idea where I was, my dad somehow found me and came to my rescue. I later found out that he was really mad at me, but at the time, he gave me a hug, handed me a map of Indiana (which I couldn't read), and led me home, going not more that 40 mph on the expressway so he could make sure I was following him.

My dad was always there for us. There was nothing more important to him. He even left the operating room in the middle of surgery to come sit on top of me while the dentist pulled a tooth. He never missed an important event in our lives. He was our great motivator, our source of strength, and our nurturer. He taught me how to remain (somewhat) calm in a crisis. He didn't talk much, but when he did we all stopped to listen. The truth is, words cannot express the amazing way he has affected my life and the affect he will continue to have on me. Even though he's gone he'll still be with me always; guiding me, helping me, and making me laugh. I love you dad.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Naomi Pescovitz

by Naomi Pescovitz
December 16, 2010


It's impossible for me to believe I'm standing here right now. You have been such a constant force in my life, in our family's life, in this community's life-- to have been taken from us is unfair to all of the people who didn't get to know you and love you and hug you and feel your warmth.

Mom said it best in the first few hours after we knew you were gone, "we've got a lot of growing up to do now," because you were the backbone of this family. But what's so funny about that-- is that you were such a kid.

We would go out to eat and every time, without fail, you would sit there trying to balance your fork and knife as we waited for our food. A stupid joke never ceased to impress us. It's true, you taught me how the solar system worked and what makes rain droplets form-- but more importantly, you taught me, while you can pick your friends, and you can also pick your nose, you can't pick your friends nose (though i always begged to differ).

You didn't have to say much, and you often didn't. We knew how much you loved us and we loved you back, too. You couldn't say no to a single request and lit up at the chance to bring happiness to our lives. On my birthday this past summer, you called the newsroom-- in the middle of a very busy 6 am hour of news-- to make sure they knew the most important news of the day, that it was your daughters 23rd birthday. Then, there were I think 20 pounds of popcorn delivered to KVOA studios in Tucson. You told me you wanted to get me a gift that not only I would love, but something I could share. It was so perfect and so you. And the newsroom ate and loved every piece with you in mind.

Your constant love followed me all the way to my first real job in Tucson. As the morning reporter for the NBC affiliate there, you would watch me from your computer on our live stream every morning -- even if I was doing a story on a stray ferret at the humane society. And after every live shot-- I would check my droid and there would be a little note from you with either a "perfect report" or "woops... you'll get it next time." I don't know how I'll have the confidence to get behind the camera again, without knowing you're watching from a computer somewhere-- I hope they make Ipads wherever you are.

Dad, we will miss you with every step, every smile. We'll miss you as we walk down the aisle, we'll miss watching you hold your grandchildren in your arms. We'll never know why you were taken so early, but we'll always know why you were put on this earth. You touched so many people in so many ways, and to me you were dad. I loved you for that most of all... and always, will.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Don't Mess With the CSS: Cyber-liberties geeks rap an update to "Don't Copy That Floppy"

Yale's Elizabeth Stark sez, "Who says digital freedom nerds can't rap? My students recently released a modern sequel to "Don't Copy That Floppy," with geek references galore:"

My homie Seth Schoen wrote a CSS haiku,
He threw some writtens down like a verbal tycoon.
(MCss: Huh, Programming, poetic? Man that's pathetic!)
[MC++]: Man, if you'z smarter you'd listen to my rhetoric.

Now the Curse has been lifted and the Power has shifted,
we're unLocking the content you greedy Fuckers encrypted.
Oh, what was that? Your DRM has been breached? (THAT'S RIGHT)
And you can't do shit, cuz my Code is free speech

Put yo' hands up in the air for generativity,
Creativity in code is expressive novelty,
Sorry b, if I offended you, you will soon see,
that the tides are shifting for expressive technology.

Don't Mess with that CSS (feat. B-Rad) (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch

by Ammiel Hirsch
December 16, 2010

This will be the twelfth remembrance of Mark today. I am not quite sure what he would have made of this. He was not a man of flowery rhetoric. He was reflective; more a man of action than of words - although, when Mark did speak, privately or publicly, it had a thunderous effect. He spoke with precision, brilliance, depth and that subtle incisive sense of humor so engaging to those of us who loved him.

All of our moving heartfelt testimonials do not actually do Mark full justice because who he was and what he represented, and the effect that he had on people, cannot be captured by words alone.

On behalf of the Hirsch family: We feel enormous gratitude that Mark came into our world. We are privileged that our paths crossed and our lives touched. Our sister, Ora, needed someone like Mark. He was so complementary and complimentary to her in practically every way.

Our family had never actually met anyone like Mark before. He was a revelation. To really get to know Mark took time, but the effect that he had on you was profound and permanent.

Here was someone who was loved without trying to be loved. He was admired without trying to be admired. He was respected without trying to be respected. He was trusted without trying to be trusted. He had authority without trying to exercise authority. He had quiet charisma, the product of a humble self-confidence.

Mark was stable, reliable and consistent. Day after day it was the same. He never disappointed you. He always displayed those same rich, deep, honest attributes. That is how you knew that this was really Mark.

Mark was a righteous soul. He was driven by ideas and his ideas were big ideas.

It is not only, as was said by his brothers, that he was a renaissance man. He was that as well. He had an approach to the world that Leonardo would have recognized. He loved and was intrigued by all things: science, math, art, aesthetic beauty, and music. He was so brilliant and so multi-textured that one marveled at how a person could know so much. One of the many tragic outcomes of Mark's death was that the vast storehouses of knowledge locked away in the vaults of his mind have gone with him.

But even his broad range of interests and expertise wasn't the heart of it.

Rather, it was that Mark was completely devoted to the central principle that science served humanity, not the opposite. He dedicated his life not to abstract science but to real human beings. His goal was not simply research for publication, but results for application. He stuffed his mind and filled his heart with an endless quest for discovery, not only for its own sake, but to serve people and to make the world a better place. He yearned, not merely for information but for understanding. He sought beauty, and he could find it in a photograph as well as an equation.

Mark's dedication to others was not incidental to his personality. It was at the core of who he was. He used his enormous intellectual gifts for good. We are born with natural proclivities; we call them God-given gifts; but what we choose to make of them is our own decision.

That Mark was dedicated to humanity and channeled his extraordinary scientific brilliance to service - not in the abstract, but to real people and real causes - this was the most precious gift of all. It was this animating thread of Mark's life that led him to the lab room, the operating room, the committee rooms and the board rooms of so many different causes.

In the end I think that it was the reason that people naturally gravitated towards him. It was not only his dazzling brilliance; it was also his radiant soul. The combination of these two qualities is what was so rare. You could live an entire lifetime and never meet another person like Mark.

To all of us who loved Mark: we would have wanted more time. Our tragedy is compounded by the knowledge that Mark may have had decades of life ahead of him.

And yet: we are grateful for the time that we had. Mark lived life on his own terms. He packed more into his fifty-five years than most people in several lifetimes. Underneath that prematurely grey hair was a man of exceptional vigor, vitality and strength.

We all yearn for a long life. The eye never has its fill of seeing. But old age, too, exacts its price. If God grants us length of days, our advancing years will sap us of the vitality of yesteryear. We will end our lives fully depleted.

Mark was never more vital and never stronger than on the day of his death. He was in the full blossom of mature adulthood. He was happy and content with his life. His accomplishments were prodigious. There was no sign of the inevitable decline that will seize those who succumb to old age.

And therefore, for those of us who loved and admired Mark, he will remain in our eyes the same. We will grow old, but he will stay as he always was. Even many years from now, in our mind's eye, Mark will be as he was on the day of his death: ever green and ever vital.

There is a Jewish legend of the Lamed Vav Tsaddikim. According to Jewish tradition there are thirty-six special people in the world, whose role in life is to justify the purpose of humankind in the eyes of God. They travel the world doing good deeds and through their conduct hold the pillars of the world in place. Were it not for their deeds, the world would collapse.

Every generation has its own Lamed Vav Tsaddikim. The thirty-six are anonymous. Their identities are unknown to one another. They, themselves, do not know that they are in the ranks of the thirty-six. Tradition holds that if one of the thirty-six dies, their role is immediately assumed by another.

Who knows but that Mark was one of these thirty-six. He had all of their qualities. He was a man of enormous integrity. His heart was pure. He was accomplished and yet humble; he was modest and overflowing with love of life and humanity. He traveled the world doing good deeds for people. Through his good deeds he held the pillars of the world in place. It should bring us comfort to imagine that now that he has gone to his eternal rest, someone else has taken his place.

The psalmist wrote that one may lie down weeping at night but joy comes in the morning. One morning there will be joy again in our lives. Whenever we see a person doing a good deed, may Mark come back to us, as fresh as the morning air. Whenever we observe a kind gesture; whenever we witness an act of compassion, may we think of our beloved Mark and may his memory bring us joy; for these are the acts that sustain the pillars of the world.

May we honor Mark's memory by living long, good and decent lives.

As the years unfold and we look back upon these days may our tears turn to smiles of warm memory so that even this distress will be a joy to recall. We had the great good fortune to have shared our lives with a remarkable man. He was the kind of person who made others glad to be alive.

Yehi zichro baruch: May the memory of this good, generous, compassionate, righteous soul be blessed.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Dr. Ora Pescovitz

by Ora Pescovitz
December 16, 2010

On behalf of our family, I want to thank each and every one of you- our remarkable family and friends -- for this incredible outpouring of support reflected in your presence here this afternoon. I think Mark would have been blown away and actually, a bit embarrassed by all of this attention -- as most of you know, he was a modest guy.

Mark and I first met on September 22, 1974, the first day of new student week. Mark was a sophomore and we were both in the Honors Program for Medical Education- a six year medical education program at Northwestern University. Mark was 'checking out' the freshman girls and, I don't know why, but, he fell in love with me right away. As I got to know Mark, I found myself instinctively attracted to his incredible intellect, his insatiable curiosity, his creativity and his love of just about everything. I found it so sexy that, at the age of 19, on top of carrying a heavy school load, and being the Northwestern photographer, he was secretly planning to become an astronaut, had just taken up the violin, and had started studying Russian. He was the most extraordinary person I had ever met. We married five years later.

I once read that you could tell that a marriage would last a long time if a couple saw eye-to-eye on four things: Religion, Money, Children and Sex

In our 31 year marriage, we never once argued about those things, although we certainly had pretty healthy 'debates' on just about everything else! Our life together was fulfilling, rich, diverse, exciting, gratifying and never dull. We supported one another's personal and professional ambitions to the fullest.

Mark had a remarkable zest for life and an incredible ability to love every day and just about everything.

Mark loved science and medicine. I think he must have come out of the womb as a scientist. Although I wasn't there at the time, I have always imagined his birth, the second of seven children to wonderful parents, Anita and Harold. I imagined him with a full head of hair, looking something like his hero, Einstein- wanting to do his first science experiment before he could talk or walk......wanting to blow something up, or make a rocket to take him to space. In high school, he was a finalist for the Westinghouse competition, he graduated second in his medical school class, and first in the country on his surgery boards. Craig told you about his scientific and medical contributions - but, he didn't tell you how much Mark loved his patients and how much they loved him. Wherever we went, patients would stop him to thank him for saving their lives or for showing them humanity. But, secretly, he still always wanted to be an astronaut..... even when he died, he was still in regular discussions with Astronaut David Wolf to see how he could make that happen.

Mark loved his faith and the Jewish community. I always thought it was ironic that I, the daughter and sister of rabbis, had to take Judaism lessons from Mark. And, he was so sincere about it- he would remind me of when the holidays were and suggested to me that we attend services or make trips to visit my family in Israel. In fact, several times over the years of our marriage, he visited my family in Israel without me. And, my extended Israeli family came to believe that I was the in-law relative instead of Mark.

Mark loved music and all forms of art. Mark had a natural gift for every form of creativity. I always thought he had hyper-acuity of all five senses and a sixth sense for beauty. It was uncanny, but he just knew when something was beautiful and this is why he loved photography because he was always trying to capture and document those moments. But, in his usual way, he was always trying to fine-tune his abilities, which is why he was taking a college course at Herron with undergraduate students unafraid to be taught by them on how to improve his skills. He was supposed to submit his portfolio and get a grade on his latest work on Monday morning. I bet he is bummed that he missed the class.

Mark loved the community and he was enormously generous with both his time and his money. The kids and I always found it hysterical that so many community boards wanted Mark as a member since he did so little talking at home; we always wondered what he did at all those meetings. But, we learned from others that when Mark did speak, people listened because his comments were so insightful, witty and powerful and they always did something to make the community a better place.

Mark loved family.......all of you! He loved each of you- his siblings, your spouses and, especially, your children. He loved my brothers, your wives, and your children. He loved my parents and they treated him like their fifth child......actually, the four of us thought he got special treatment because my mother cooked him his special foods and my parents went out of their way to cater to his every whim. Mark never missed a family event--- even extended family events, no matter how far he had to travel to get there and he was THE source of information for every family member on EVERY topic from financial to medical to travel advice.

Mark loved me. He enthusiastically supported me in every way both personally and professionally from fixing every little broken thing in the house to pushing me hard to pursue my professional aspirations--- both the successful and the unsuccessful ones. Mark supported my move to Michigan even though he hated waking up in an empty bed on weekday mornings. He missed our shared drives to and from work at IU every day......... once the kids left for college, until I left for Ann Arbor, we had been inseparable. But, in spite of how hard my move was on him, he desperately wanted me to continue to achieve professional gratification, and so, he regularly came to Ann Arbor on weekends to support functions and events that were important to me.

And, most, most of all---- Mark loved his children, Aliza, Ari and Naomi. Of Mark's myriad passions, he loved his children most. Not one day would go by when Dad didn't tell me how much he loved each one of you. He was so very proud of you. Dad marveled at your talents, independence, capabilities, confidence and compassion. Because his Judaism mattered so much to him, he was thrilled to discover that it matters to each of you as well. He was awed by how kind and gentle each of you are with others and how, even at this young age, you are each exhibiting strong philanthropic tendencies and doing volunteer work to serve others in the communities in which you live. Dad was thrilled to know that you have wonderful relationships with Ramzy, Allison and Adam and he felt lucky to have gotten to know them so well too; he loved them very much and because he didn't talk about his emotions, he would have wanted me to tell you this. He would be so happy to know that they are here now with you to support you during this difficult time. Mark died a happy man. And, our last day together was Mark's version of a perfect day. In fact, we managed to cover all four things that ensure a perfect marriage: Religion, Money, Children and Sex.

After a cup of coffee, we sat at our respective computers and each did our 'thing'. While I was working, Mark was paying bills electronically. At one point, I asked him......Mark, I don't know how to pay those bills, what happens if you died? He laughed and said- "it is good you still need me for something...... I will have to hang around a little longer then". Well, I guess I will now have to learn how to pay those bills.

Then, we talked about Judaism, philanthropy and all the contributions we would like to make before year's end. Mark talked about how we could give more and that we should keep giving more to our communities. We decided to bump up our annual contributions to several organizations and added several new ones to our list. Some of the checks we wrote that morning were in the car that crashed.

Then, Mark said 'let's plan a visit to Ema and Abba! They have been ill recently, they are aging and we need to support them'. So, we bought airplane tickets on-line to visit them. We called them in Israel to tell them and they were thrilled.

When we got hungry, we decided to go out for Chinese food- one of Mark's favorites. The snow was falling and Ann Arbor was transformed into a storybook winter wonderland. When we came back to the house, we opened all of the shades so we could see the snow falling all around us and we got into bed. We made love and then lay there snuggling, watching the snow while we talked about our lives. We talked about how fortunate we were...... we were at the pinnacles of gratifying careers, we lived in two beautiful and supportive communities, and we had hundreds of incredible friends from around the world. We had the most amazing families whom we adored and we knew they adored us too and then, we talked about our children, Aliza, Ari and Naomi. We marveled at how we had managed to produce the most remarkable three children any parents could wish for and we talked about what it would be like when you would be married.

Mark died happy. His life was nearly perfect and his last day was just the way he liked it. The day was ideal in its simplicity, just like Mark, the man.........but, in the end, it was so complex too----- just like Mark, the man.

And so, there is so much to celebrate in Mark's all-too short, but remarkable life....... And yet, I do have two regrets.

First, one could never surprise Mark with a gift because he always bought himself whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. So, we rarely bought him any presents. But, the kids and I were thinking of a big one and we had talked about one day buying him a trip to space as a tourist since it didn't appear he was going to get there as an astronaut.......... Even though we Jews might not believe in this.....just perhaps, he has found another way to get there now.

And, my other regret, Mark would have been the world's most wonderful grandfather. I am so sorry that our children's children will never get to know their grandfather.......this loss is just so hard to imagine.

But, with those two exceptions, we should celebrate a life well-lived. Mark never wasted one moment. He lived life to its fullest; he was fulfilled and gave so much back to the rest of us.

Ayze hu hamichubad? Hamichabed et habriyot. Who is honored most? One who accords honor to fellow human beings. I loved him so much.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Barnacle penises are really fascinating


By the time we see them—usually while doing boat maintenance—barnacles hardly seem alive. Even when they are more active, these animals are basically immobile. So you'd never suspect that barnacles are the species with the longest penis, relative to body size, in the world. That long filament in the photo above? That's a barnacle penis. Even more astounding: ThisCreature Cast video that shows barnacle penises in action, reaching out to investigate and (hopefully) mate with, nearby barnacles.

Naturally, where there are giant penises, there are experts who dedicate their lives to the study of giant penises. Southern Fried Science has a nice write up about the most recent discoveries published by J. Matthew Hoch, barnacle penis researcher.

Some of his interesting findings were that both wave action (yes! the motion in the ocean... this makes SO much more sense to me now). His study organism, the Atlantic acorn barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides, is known to have a penis with a exoskeleton with "accordion-like folds" that allows it to stretch to many times its relaxed length in order to find a mate.

Barnacles on wave exposed shores grow larger and their penises grow thicker/wider. They aren't necessarily longer than those that live in protected sites, nor do they have more folds allowing them to stretch greater distances. They just have thicker penises. This is likely a result of the water action. These barnacles have to have thicker penises for more support, making them less likely to break in the wave action and more likely to produce successful mating attempts.

Anyway, that's what Hoch is up to. The photo in this post was taken by another barnacle penis researcher (yes, there is more than one!) named Chris Neufeld who works out of the University of Alberta. He's found that stout-penised barnacles aren't the genetic result of generations of barnacles evolving to live in choppy water. Rather, the penises are pliable. No matter what kind of penis its parent had, a barnacle that finds itself living in rough water will develop a thick penis.

Wikileaks: Assange released

Julian Assange has been released from prison (Rob Beschizza's earlier post today on the legal machinations leading up to his release is here.) "It's great to smell the fresh air of London," said Assange, addressing a crowd of some 100 reporters and supporters outside the court. He thanked his lawyers and supporters, and the British justice system: "If justice is not always the outcome, at least it is not dead yet." More here.

Wax Cylinder: Occult Sonic Technology of a Bygone Age, Good as New

(Photo: Thomas Adank, courtesy Touch)

Move over, cassette-tape and 8-track reanimators. There's a far older—and arguably more beautiful—retro-tech sonic fetish object in town: the wax cylinder.

The original tech dates from the late 1870s, when serial tinkerer Thomas Edison was at the prime of his powers, having installed himself in his famed Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory.

The device has been revived by Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Michael Esposito, who have released a brand new cylinder, titled The Ghosts of Effingham, as noted on the website of the publisher Touch this past weekend. Effingham has been released by Ash International, a hub of experimental sound whose splendid motto is "R&D not A&R." Oh, and just to one-up Edison, the Effingham cylinder glows in the dark.

Read the rest

Ladybug plays with sprinkles

(video link) Okay, so the ladybug batting around the little round sprinkles in this video probably isn't really "playing" with them, but it looks like she is and that what makes this so much fun to watch. (via Blame it on the Voices)

The Business of Malware


Information designer Jess Bachman's latest creation explores the "financial motivations and transaction that take place in the underground malware and trojan markets." The flow chart "follows the point of infection to monetary gain of the botmasters, scammers and fraudsters who operate these nefarious lines of code." View the full image.

Vintage hypnosis rotating disc machine

vintage-hypnosis-rotating-disc-machine1.jpgIf you stare at this vintage hypnosis rotating disc machine long enough you probably will find yourself forking over the $1685 required to purchase it.

I wish the website had a video showing the device in motion. It would be a fun how-to project to replicate this.

UPDATE: I forget that Kaden Harris made a hypno disc machine for David!

Dr. Hietrick's Vertigo Therapy. Bi-Directional Rotating Metal Disc (Via Dinosaurs and Robots)

Pilot duped medical industry into believing he was a cardiologist

For nearly two decades, pilot William Hamman lied about also being a doctor, specifically a cardiologist. And he got away with it—co-authoring peer-reviewed journal articles, amassing grants, and becoming a popular speaker whose specialty was teaching teamwork skills to emergency room staff, based on lessons he'd learned in the aviation industry. What's interesting about this case is Hamman seemed to be good at what he did, and didn't necessarily need the fake medical credentials to do the largely management-centric work he was known for. The lies have, rightly, cost him his career ... but they were lies that probably didn't need to be told to even get that career. It reminds me, in many ways, of the story of former Notre Dame football coach George O'Leary. Though, of course, O'Leary was able to bounce back and works as a football coach today.

Bamboo utensils & case by Ramshackle Solid

bamboo-utensils.jpgMy friends at Ramshackle Solid have started an Esty store. Their first offering is this set of reusable bamboo utensils with a fabric case. it costs $15, and there are two sets currently available. What a terrific stocking stuffer this would be for someone!

Bamboo utensils and case

Topless striptease acrobats perform for Pope

Nothing remotely homosexual about this whatsoever.

Video Link

(Thanks, Joe Sabia)

Behold, the awesome power of The Mantis Shrimp

The stomatopod might be one of my new favorite animals. He looks a bit ridiculous—with day-glo red, pink and blue appendages set against a profile that suggests an ill-tempered Mr. Magoo. And he's loaded up on epic, make-thine-enemies-tremble nicknames, like The Mantis Shrimp and The Thumb Splitter. When your Wikipedia entry includes a note that the ancient Assyrians called you The Sea Locust, you know you're a badass animal.

And then there's the stomatopod hunting strategy. Explained in this charmingly illustrated video made by Brown University sophomore Natividad Chen, a stomatopod kills hard-shelled prey like crabs and snails by moving its appendages at speeds upwards of 42 miles per hour—much faster than can be accounted for by the stomatopod's relatively small muscle mass. How's it work? A lot like a spring ...

Via Creaturecast.

Video used with permission under noncommercial CC license.

Sheriff's database of confidential informants and victims released

not-me-spirit.jpgFrom the Dept. of Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me (via AP): "A Colorado sheriff's online database mistakenly revealed the identities of confidential drug informants and listed phone numbers, addresses and Social Security numbers of suspects, victims and others interviewed during criminal investigations, authorities said. The breach potentially affects some 200,000 people..."

The EPA approved a pesticide against advice of its own scientists

There's a very long and detailed story up at Grist about evidence for apparent wrongdoing by the Environmental Protection Agency. Here's the short version: Seven years ago, the EPA granted conditional approval to a Bayer pesticide, even though EPA scientists were concerned that it could be toxic to honeybees. Bayer was supposed to conduct a study to determine harm by 2004, but the EPA let them put that off until 2007—which is when Bayer turned in a poorly done bit research, showing, surprise, no impact on bees whatsoever.

But wait, it gets worse.

Language in the paperwork makes it sound like the approval of this pesticide was wholly dependent on the quality and outcome of a study of harm. Leaked documents now show that EPA scientists noticed the problems with the research Bayer gave them, pointed those problems out, and explicitly stated that this evidence didn't count as proof that bees weren't being harmed.

And then the EPA approved the pesticide anyway.

This leaves me furious. Pesticides, in and of themselves, are not inherently evil. But it should be just as obvious that some will be dangerous and we have to make choices and balance risks against benefits, based on scientific evidence. If the agency that's supposed to be handling that job is ignoring evidence and just approving everything? Well, we're pretty screwed.

It's unlikely that this specific pesticide is a silver bullet cause of colony collapse disorder—that was already happening before the pesticide was released. But it could certainly be a contributor. There's evidence that colony collapse disorder is the work of more than one problem—possibly a fungus and a bacteria, but that team could also be aided by weakened bee immune systems. Certain pesticides, including this one, are thought to be able to damage bee immune systems. "Thought to", because, as you've seen, good research hasn't been done yet to know for sure. That's the real problem here. Research and evidence should come before profit margins. And, in this case, things seem to have gone the other way around.

Courtroom sketches of Julian Assange

cd0.jpg English judges are less inclined to allow cameras, recording devices and other newfangled distractions into courtrooms than their American counterparts. This point was highlighted in recent days by Justice Ousley's unprecedented decision to temporarily allow reporters to hammer away on Twitter as Julian Assange's bail case was heard.

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Assange to be freed, bail raised to $370,000

tumblr_ldgnumkIYG1qd5ygvo1_500.jpg Julian Assange is to be freed. A British judge, after ruling that he would no longer permit journalists to report 'live' on twitter from his courtroom, denied an appeal against Assange's conditional bail today. It emerged yesterday that the appeal was pursued by prosecutors in England without co-operation from their Swedish counterparts, whose allegations of sexual assault led to Assange being taken into custody by British police. Assange denies the allegations, and some suggest that prosecutors in both countries are allowing themselves to be politically influenced. Assange is the founder and coordinator of whistleblower clearing house Wikileaks, whose steady drumbeat of disclosures has embarrassed the U.S. government and others. His lawyer, Mark Stephens, said he was shocked by British prosecutors' decision to independently challenge Assange's release, despite his having been accused of no crime in the U.K.: "They said yesterday that they were acting on behalf of the Swedish authorities ... It's fair to say that this is all a bit fishy." Justice Ounsley's ruling was made at 1 p.m. GMT and Assange is expected to be released as soon as paperwork on his £240,000 bail is done, according to the BBC. He'll be under 'mansion arrest' at the country home of a wealthy British journalist, having handed over his passport. Photo: Reuters Update: Assange isn't out yet: the NYT reports that there will be tighter movement restrictions, and that 'formalities' may result in him not being released today.

Humble Indie Bundle 2: pay what you like for 5 great indie games, support EFF and Child's Play!

The Humble Indie Bundle is back -- for the second year, a group of indie game developers are making a bundle of really top-notch games available on a pay-what-you-like basis. A portion of proceeds raised go to charity, divided among the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play. Last year's Humble Indie Bundle was an astonishing success, raising over $1 million in less than ten days, and the developers did a public service by offering detailed breakdowns of how people gave, broken down by operating system, region, etc.

Pay what you want. If you bought these five games separately, it would cost around $85 but we're letting you set the price!

All of the games work great on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

We don't use DRM. When you buy these games, they are yours. Feel free to play them without an internet connection, back them up, and install them on all of your Macs and PCs freely. There is no time-limit on your downloads.

You can support charity. Choose exactly how your purchase money is divided: Between the game developers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the Child's Play Charity. Also, if you like this deal, a tip to the Humble Bundle itself would be much appreciated!

Humble Indie Bundle

New Humble Indie Bundle: Pay-What-You-Want for Games and Help EFF, Again!

Dataviz: 200 years' worth of economic and health data from 200 countries

From an episode of BBC Four's The Joy of Stats, watch as charming and animated Swedish statistician Hans Rosling runs through 200 years' worth of augmented-reality data-visualization telling the story of economic development and health in 200 countries over 200 years in a mere four minutes.

Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four (Thanks, Alan!)

Harry Belafonte's lost, post-apocalyptic screen debut: "The World, the Flesh and the Devil"

Dwiff sez, "Harry Belafonte's screen debut may be of interest to the boingboingeratti - a precursor to The Quiet Earth in many ways - in which Harry Belafonte walks through haunting vistas of a depopulated New York searching for some signs that he is not the last man on Earth following a nuclear disaster. And like The Quiet Earth, he first discovers a woman, and then a man... Anyway, the film is finally out on DVD in a very nice remastered edition - has not looked this good in years."

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (Thanks, Dwiff)

Greenpeace v Big Oil, the CC-released environmental game

Just in time for the holidays, Greenpeace has released a Creative Commons-licensed, free, print-and-play game that satirizes and dramatizes the Greenpeace fight brewing against big oil in the Arctic.
If you're the oil company you'll need to head straight for deep water. Sure it's risky, but that's where the money is. Set aside those moral scruples and go for the money. Do try and avoid the endangered species though, if any species becomes extinct, the PR backlash could shut you down and it's game over for both sides. If you're playing as Greenpeace you need to protect the ocean by setting up marine reserves. You can slow the oil companies down with direct actions (like occupying their rigs) but it's the creation of marine reserves that will finally end their deep sea drilling ambitions.

Of course this isn't just a game. The world's oil companies really are trying to drill in some of the riskiest and most environmentally sensitive areas in the world. Marine reserves - think national parks at sea - really are the answer. World Park Antarctica is closed to industry because you helped us win the campaign to protect it. There's no reason we can't do the same in the Arctic, where oil companies are licking their lips as, without a trace of irony, they welcome the shrinking of the ice caps due to climate change. See, retreating ice frees up more places they can drill for oil. Unfortunately that will lead to more climate change. You see the problem here. We like to call this humanity's "Stupid Test."

Free "print & play" game: Big Oil Vs Greenpeace to save the Arctic

(Thanks, Brianfit, via Submitterator)

Human rights organizations around the world condemn Wikileaks censorship

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Katitza Rodriguez has rounded up the responses of many human rights organizations around the world to the commercial and governmental attacks on Wikileaks. It coincides with EFF's new Say No to Online Censorship campaign.
• On December 10, International Human Rights Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed this issue in her statement: "While it is unclear whether these individual measures taken by private actors directly infringe on states' human rights obligations to ensure respect of the right to freedom of expression, taken as a whole they could be interpreted as an attempt to censure the publication of information thus potentially violating Wikileaks' right to freedom of expression."

• Amnesty International ~ "Freedom of expression is an internationally recognized human right that limits the power of the state to prohibit the receipt and publication of information. The burden is on the state to demonstrate that any restriction is both necessary and proportionate, and does not jeopardize the right to freedom of expression itself."

• Human Rights First ~ "This issue transcends the particulars of the Wikileaks case. No matter what you think of Julian Assange, anyone who cares about Internet freedom should be concerned that in its zeal to cripple Wikileaks, governments and companies are taking steps in this case that pose a threat to fundamental rights."

• Reporter without Borders ~ "We stress that any restriction on the freedom to disseminate this body of documents will affect the entire press, which has given detailed coverage to the information made available by Wikileaks, with five leading international newspapers actively cooperating in preparing it for publication."

Human Rights Organizations Worldwide Decry Attacks on Freedom of Expression

3D printed icosidodecahedron

Francesco De Comite's uploaded a selection of the icosidodecahedron geometries he's had 3D printed at Shapeways, which lets you upload your own 3D models and runs them up on 3D printers.

3D Printed Icosidodecahedron Geometries

(Image: Following the edges of the icosidodecahedron : from the data file to the non-virtual object. The chain is complete., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from fdecomite's photostream)

DanKam: mobile app to correct color blindness

Legendary DNS hacker Dan Kaminsky has a new, out-of-left-field project to mitigate color blindness with augmented reality software for mobile phones. DanKam is a mobile app that you calibrate so it knows the specifics of your color blindness (I can't see a lot of greens), and then it automatically color-corrects the world as seen through the phone's lens to compensate for your deficit.
In terms of use cases -- matching clothes, correctly parsing status lights on gadgets, and managing parking structures are all possibilities. In the long run, helping pilots and truckers and even SCADA engineers might be nice. There's a lot of systems with warning lights, and they aren't always obvious to the color blind.

Really though, not being color blind I really can't imagine how this technology will be used. I'm pretty sure it won't be used to break the Internet though, and for once, that's fine by me.

Ultimately, why do I think DanKam is working? The basic theory runs as so:

1. The visual system is trying to assign one of a small number of hues to every surface
2. Color blindness, as a shift from the green receptor towards red, is confusing this assignment
3. It is possible to emit a "cleaner signal", such that even colorblind viewers can see colors, and the differences between colors, accurately.
4. It has nothing to do with DNS (I kid! I kid! But no really. Nothing.)

DanKam: Augmented Reality For Color Blindness (Thanks, Dan!)

UBS's 43-page dress code requires tie-knots that match your facial morphology

The Union Bank of Switzerland has released a new, 43-page dress-code for employees in four test branches that specifies things like what color underwear you're allowed to wear (underwear that matches your flesh-tones); what kind of tie-knot you're allowed to have (one suited to the "morphology" of your face); prohibitions on new shoes, millimetre-specific fingernail length requirements; and the dictum that any scent must be applied as soon as you leave the shower and no later. The code is meant to help restore confidence in UBS, which was a central player in the reckless, planet-destroying subprime gambling spree. If the code is "successful," all employees will be subjected to it.
"Light makeup consisting of foundation, mascara and discreet lipstick ... will enhance your personality," the code says, while advising women not to wear black nail polish and nail art.

The hair-care section notes studies have shown that properly cared-for hair and a stylish haircut "increase an individual's popularity."

On the other hand, designer stubble is out of the question for men, as is excessive facial hair.UBS's advice for men even extends to underwear, which should be of good quality and easily washable, but still remain undetectable. Black knee-high socks are preferable as they prevent showing bare skin when crossing legs, it says.

Update: From the comments, SimonBarsinister sez,
Page 43. Code 4763: Socks will have a single gold threading along the front seam.

Page 43. Code 4764: Finally, Please refrain from investing in worthless financial instruments, falsifying the credit worthiness of those instruments, burying those worthless instruments in complex derivatives to hide their valueless state, selling those worthless instruments to other institutions and government entities, and maneuvering government entities into absorbing the cost of these worthless financial instruments.

Codes 1-4763 are mandatory and must be obeyed at all times as a condition of employment at UBS. Code 4764 is optional but recommended.

Dress to Impress, UBS Tells Staff (via Lowering the Bar)