Boing Boing 

Bob Knetzger's gross food-making toys

zombie head box.jpg

I was very excited last week at Toy Fair (the toy industry trade show) in NYC to see a classic toy I invented being relaunched. Boing Boing readers (or their younger brothers) may remember having this toy back in 1995: Doctor Dreadful, the line of gross food-making toys. Back then, kids created overflowing potions, bubbling brains and squirming worms with their Doctor Dreadful Food Labs and Drink Labs -- and then ate or drink their "looks gross -- tastes great" concoctions. Here's the original award-winning TV spot:

For today's kids, Spinmaster Toys (the same toy company behind the Air Hogs pump up planes and Havoc micro-sized indoor RC helicopters) has updated Doctor Dreadful with even wilder food experiments and grosser-looking toys. The photo above is a peek at just one of the new versions: Doctor Dreadful Zombie Head Drink Lab.

The toys should be in production later this year and be on store shelves by fall. Wouldn't this zombie head look nice under the Christmas tree?

Sword of Fargoal -- addictive dungeon crawler for iOS


A while back, Rob posted an essay by John Brownlee about "roguelikes," which are simple adventure games that take place in multilevel dungeons filled with monsters and treasures.

I first came across Rogue in 1988 or 1989, when someone at a company in Colorado I worked for gave it to me on a floppy disk. It ran on DOS, and used ASCII characters to draw mazelike dungeons and populate them with monsters, spells, potions, weapons, and armor. It was very primitive, but the gameplay was tremendously exciting. I never made it all the way down to the lowest level of the dungeon, but sometimes I would get pretty deep before a nymph or other powerful foe would smite me.

I played the game off and on for years, obsessing over it for weeks at a time, then cooling off for a number of months before returning to it.

After I started using Windows (and later a Macintosh) I stopped playing Rogue, except for the version I had on my PalmPilot. When I got rid of the PalmPilot, Rogue just became a fond memory, and my sister and I would fondly reminisce over it (she was a fan of the game, too, and I think it was the only computer game she played).

Then I read Brownlee's essay, in which he mentioned a game called the Sword of Fargoal, a remake of a 1982 Commodore C-64 roguelike dungeon crawler that's available for the iPhone, iPad, and OS X. I bought the iPhone and iPad versions a few weeks ago and have been playing them an awful lot ever since. The graphics are gorgeous, with a nod to its retro-origins. The soundtrack by Daniel Pemberton is spooky. Wisely, the creators kept things pretty simple. Earlier this year I tried World of Warcraft and its lush 3D world didn't hook me, not like the Sword of Fargoal has.

I like to play the iPad version of Fargoal while I ride a stationary recumbent bike every morning. It makes the time fly. In fact, I usually ride 10 minutes longer than planned, just because I want to fully explore a level before calling it quits for the day.

What makes roguelikes much fun for me? Part of it is finding potions and spells inside treasure chests -- a popular phrase with people who fish is, "the tug is the drug" --and there is a similar surge of euphoria when I happen upon a Detect Traps spell, a Restore potion, or a Reflective shield. The sense of discovery as I crawl through a dungeon level, pushing away the fog as I do so, compels me to keep exploring, and killing a nasty monster whets my bloodlust. The difficulty level of the game is perfect -- my character has died at least a dozen times, requiring me to restart at the beginning each time. But it's not so difficult that it's discouraging. As soon as I start a new game (the levels, monsters, and goodies are randomly generated so that no two games are the same), my level 1 character is faced with challenges and rewards suited to his experience.

If and when I finally retrieve the titular sword and bring it to the top level of the dungeon, I wonder if I will want to play the game again?

The right way to cook bacon in a pan

Excuse me while I cook some bacon now.

CHOW - You're Doing It All Wrong: How to Cook Bacon

Blacksmithing tutorial - make a paper towel holder

I enjoyed this basic blacksmithing tutorial from Craft that shows you how to shape hot iron into a paper towel holder.

Blacksmithing With Meg

2011 Cigar Box Nation recycled material contest results


My friends at Cigar Box Nation have announced the winner of the Recycled Material Contest. The challenge was to build a stringed instrument out of 100% recycled materials. As Shane Speal put it, "If MacGyver had a gig and desperately needed a guitar, what would he build?"

The winner was Scott Winburn, who built the 7D9887, a "time slider" lap steel guitar with a movable pickup and the ability to send sound waves very slightly back in time. (I believe him, because it's based on quantum mechanics!)

2011 Cigar Box Nation recycled material contest results

HarperCollins to libraries: we will nuke your ebooks after 26 checkouts

LibraryGoblin sez, "HarperCollins has decided to change their agreement with e-book distributor OverDrive. They forced OverDrive, which is a main e-book distributor for libraries, to agree to terms so that HarperCollins e-books will only be licensed for checkout 26 times. Librarians have blown up over this, calling for a boycott of HarperCollins, breaking the DRM on e-books--basically doing anything to let HarperCollins and other publishers know they consider this abuse."

I've talked to a lot of librarians about why they buy DRM books for their collections, and they generally emphasize that buying ebooks with DRM works pretty well, generates few complaints, and gets the books their patrons want on the devices their patrons use. And it's absolutely true: on the whole, DRM ebooks, like DRM movies and DRM games work pretty well.

But they fail really badly. No matter how crappy a library's relationship with a print publisher might be, the publisher couldn't force them to destroy the books in their collections after 26 checkouts. DRM is like the Ford Pinto: it's a smooth ride, right up the point at which it explodes and ruins your day.

HarperCollins has some smart and good digital people (they're my UK/Australia/South Africa publisher, and I've met a ton of them). But batshit insane crap like this is proof that it doesn't matter how many good people there are at a company that has a tool at its disposal that is as dangerous and awful as DRM: the gun on the mantelpiece in act one will always go off by act three.

And that's why libraries should just stop buying DRM media for their collections. Period. It's unsafe at any speed.

I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, "Oh, no, sorry, we didn't mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts," the libraries' answers should be "Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing." Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you'll get more negotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won't notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?

You have exactly one weapon in your arsenal to keep yourself from being caught in this leg-hold trap: your collections budget. Stop buying from publishers who stick time-bombs in their ebooks. Yes, you can go to the Copyright Office every three years and ask for a temporary exemption to the DMCA to let your jailbreak your collections, but that isn't Plan B, it's Plan Z. Plan A is to stop putting dangerous, anti-patron technology into your collections in the first place.

The publisher also issued a short statement: "HarperCollins is committed to the library channel. We believe this change balances the value libraries get from our titles with the need to protect our authors and ensure a presence in public libraries and the communities they serve for years to come."

Josh Marwell, President, Sales for HarperCollins, told LJ that the 26 circulation limit was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.

As noted in the letter, the terms will not be specific to OverDrive, and will likewise apply to "all eBook vendors or distributors offering this publisher's titles for library lending." The new terms will not be retroactive, and will apply only to new titles. More details on the new terms are set to be announced next week.

For the record, all of my HarperCollins ebooks are also available as DRM-free Creative Commons downloads. And as bad as HarperCollins' terms are, they're still better than Macmillan's, my US/Canadian publisher, who don't allow any library circulation of their ebook titles.

HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations (Thanks, LibraryGoblin, via Submitterator)

LA Magazine asks me about my favorite places in LA

Photo of Vanalden Cave. See my other photos of the Vanalden Cave.

The inimitable Chris Nichols of Los Angeles magazine interviewed me about some of my favorite places in Los Angeles. I told him about the Vanalden Cave, the Norton Simon Museum, Ramen Jinya, Meltdown Comics, Machine Project, and other places.

Cru: I'm not a vegan or a raw food eater exclusively but I like this raw food vegan restaurant in Silver Lake. You think of raw vegan food as chewing fiber until your jaw falls off from exhaustion, but they have this really good ravioli made with thinly shaved slices of jicama and filled with nuts and spices. You won't walk out thinking, now let's go to the Argentinian restaurant.

San Vicente Mountain Park: L.A. used to have a bunch of Nike Ajax supersonic missile launch sites. The one on Mulholland Drive is now a park and the view is beautiful. It has these really cool looking structures that used to be a radar system with metal platforms. There's even a sign posted about the cold war with Kruschev's famous line "We will bury you."

My LA to Z: Mark Frauenfelder

Irish Minister denies new sneaky copyright law

Irish Enterprise Minister Mary Hanafin denies that she will sneak in a three-strikes-and-you're-off-the-net censorship law without debate, using a statutory instrument: "'The Government cannot perform this legislative sleight of hand on the eve of polling,' [former minister for communication Eamon Ryan] said." (Tx, Diane!)

Alan Dean Foster: Predators I Have Known - tiger

predators-i-have-known.jpg Tiger-finding-you.jpg

So iconic and blatant is the tiger in its coloring, that to observe one close-up and in the wild is like seeing a cartoon come to life. There's a slight disconnect in the brain, as if this enormous mass of brightly striped orange sinew and muscle and bone has been dropped into the real world from some other reality. Real cats don't look like tigers. They're more subdued in hue, more shaded into their surroundings.

It's only when the tiger moves, when it gets up and walks around, or yawns to display teeth like daggers, that it fully impresses its reality on you, and you're grateful for however much distance exists between the two of you. Because no matter how somnolent and lazy it appears, the quiet, brooding cat is the pawed equivalent of a Remotely Operated Device fully capable at any moment of blowing up in your face. Or taking it off.

Report: Feds spying on NYT's James Risen in CIA leak probe

From Politico: "Federal investigators trying to find out who leaked information about a CIA attempt to disrupt Iran's nuclear program obtained a New York Times reporter's three private credit reports, examined his personal bank records and obtained information about his phone calls and travel, according to a new court filing."

Artist vs. eBay bootleg artist from China


Paul Richmond is an artist who paints amazing homoerotic paintings as part of his "Cheesecake Boys" series, based on classic pinup girl art from the 1940s and 1950s. In this video, Paul explains how he discovered that an artist from China was making forgeries of his Cheesecake Boys paintings, and the funny way he punk'd the copycat using Nigerian-spammer befuddlement tactics.

Paul Richmond punks Chinese copycat artist

Shard fox evicted

A fox was found living at the top of the Shard, a supertall skyscraper under construction in central London. He was taken to an animal center for rehabilitation.
Ted Burden, the centre's founder, said: "We explained to him that if foxes were meant to be 72 storeys off the ground, they would have evolved wings. "We think he got the message and, as we released him back on to the streets of Bermondsey shortly after midnight on Sunday, he glanced at the Shard and then trotted off in the other direction."
UPDATE: I have added a video of the essential soundtrack to this post. Fox lived in the Shard skyscraper at London Bridge [BBC]

Quotable Charlie Sheen

"Look what I'm dealing with, man, I'm dealing with fools and trolls."—The one thing Charlie Sheen has ever said that I can relate to. This internet link includes 18 more Oblique Sheen-isms. (thanks, Gabe Delahaye!)

Slowly fuming used bookstore clerk seethings

Take it from a former used bookseller, Michael Leaverton's "This Is Why Your Used Bookstore Clerk Hates You" is gospel truth.
You Stole All Our Bukowski
It's hard to keep Bukowski on the shelf when he keeps getting stuffed in the pants of street punks when no one is looking (but we are looking!). Although punks love him (he's so easy to read) so does the staff (Hank worked a menial job for years, drank an eternity, and still ended up famous). He provides hope for apprentice alcoholics who are going to start writing sometime tomorrow or Thursday for sure. If you do steal him, please sell him back to us when you're finished.

You're Spending Too Much Time in the Erotica Section
Huh, and you're totally and creepily not moving.

You Camp Out in the Self-Help Section
What is it about the self-help section that attracts people who take off their shoes and eat fruit salad right in the stacks? Or what is it that doesn't attract them, amirite? Though we don't mind you blocking the aisle, making your little piles of books and scribbling action items in your notepads (this means we can avoid the section), at least tidy up when you're finished for the night. This goes for everyone in the spiritualism section, too. See you all tomorrow.
This Is Why Your Used Bookstore Clerk Hates You (via Confessions of a Science Librarian)

(Image: Ted's Used Books, Santa Barbara, CA, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from brewbooks's photostream)

Voices and pictures from Madison, Wisconsin, protests

We Are Wisconsin from Finn Ryan on Vimeo.

Last night, I joined the scattered groups of people walking down Madison, Wisconsin's State Street towards the State Capitol Building. There weren't the mighty throngs from last weekend, but for a Thursday night, at 8:00 pm, the smaller clutches still made an impact. They came up both sides of the block. A group of five here. Another three over there. Four coming up right behind them.

I wanted to see, for myself, what was happening in Wisconsin—what it really looks and feels like when a diverse swath of Americans band together for a common cause. From that first realization that all the people on State Street were going to the same place I was going, I knew this was going to be a new experience.

Read the rest

Oddly infantalizing breakfast cereal ad

In this strange ad for a cereal called Muffets, a woman helps her husband get the benefit of the milk in his coffee by giving him a cereal whose benefits are seemingly aimed at children. Either they wanted to target infantalizing spouses, or couldn't make up their mind.


XKCD's nerdy nanotech humor

What's funnier than grey-goo nanotech humor? XKCD knows: it's nanogoo humor that hinges on hubris about the appropriate order of magnitude in network address space!


6 things scientists can learn from science journalists: The video

Yesterday, I spoke in Madison, WI, about the 6 Things Scientists Can Learn from Science Journalists. I'll be giving the same speech today in Milwaukee. Can't make it to Wisconsin? The University of Wisconsin-Madison has helpfully posted a video of the whole presentation online.

Rothfuss pledges to buy Firefly from Fox and give it away

Bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss has pledged to help actor Nathan Fillion buy the rights to Firefly from Fox. Fillion, who starred in the series, has publicly said that if he had the money to get Firefly back from Murdoch and Co, he'd make it free and release it on the net:
Here's the deal. My second book is about to come out. My publisher tells me there's a decent chance of us selling a truly ridiculous number of copies. If this happens, I will have more money than I'll know what to do with.

Except that's not exactly true. I know exactly what I'd like to do with that money. I'd like to help you buy the rights to Firefly back from Fox.

I'm only a fledgling author. But by a strange twist of fate, I happen to be a fledgling author who is also an international bestseller.

Left to my own devices, I will probably spend my royalty money on useless bullshit. I will buy rare books and narwhal horns. If the book sells extremely well, I expect I'll probably do something like buy an abandoned missile silo and convert it into my secret underground lair.

An open letter to Nathan Fillion (via Copyfight)

Google tweaks algorithm; content farms and splogs wail and rend their spammy garments

Google this week launched a significant change in search algorithm intended to push down low-quality, SEO'd-out-the-ass content farms in favor of less spammy sites with more useful information. NYT article here, and the original Google announcement is here. Google says the change "noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries." So far, it's US-only, but will roll out to other countries over time.

Wonder how this will affect popular sites like HuffPo, or other blogs and news sites that repurpose a lot of content from other sources? And reportedly, folks at eHow aren't bothered by the news: they perceive their content to be so high quality as to not be targeted by the shift.

Mental ads for London mentalist

Warren Ellis's readers have unearthed a pair of advertisements for a London psychic that deliver the pure vein of unadulterated crazy.

Dr Uba's Clinic

Gadaffi jams satellite phones and TV, mobile phones

The desperate Gadaffi regime in Libya has deployed powerful radio jammers that are blocking satellite-based TV networks and satellite phones around the region, as well as screwing up mobile phones across the nation.
On Monday, Al Jazeera television said Libya's intelligence agency was behind the powerful jamming that has disrupted the widely watched Arab satellite broadcaster's signal across much of the Middle East and North Africa.

On Saturday, Arbor Networks, a U.S. company that monitors Internet traffic said Internet service had been cut off in Libya for a second consecutive day.

Thuraya satellite telecom says jammed by Libya

UPDATED: Tolkien estate censors badge that contains the word "Tolkien"

Update: I was wrong. Writing on behalf of the Tolkien estate, Steven Maier, partner at the Oxford law firm of Manches LLP, says, "Zazzle has confirmed that it took down the link of its own accord, because its content management department came across the product and deemed it to be potentially infringing."

Not content to censor a book that combines literary criticism and fiction by including JRR Tolkien as a character, the Tolkien estate has shut down Adam Rakunas, who makes and gives away buttons that have the word Tolkien on them:

Back in the late 2009, I got into a Twitter conversation with Madeline Ashby about geek culture, fandom, and a bunch of stuff like that. Madeline wrote, "While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion." I thought this was an excellent encapsulation of the divide in SF/F/Whatever fandom, and thus took to Zazzle to make little buttons with her quote. I bought a bunch, handed them out at a few conventions, then I had a kid and promptly forgot all about it.

Until today, when Zazzle emailed me to say they were pulling the buttons for intellectual property right infringement.

And guess who complained about their rights being infringed?

I've tried to come up with something more to say about this, but I'm too angry and confused and tired to say anything more than I did in the title of this post. Have fun milking your dad's stuff, Christopher Tolkien!

The Tolkien estate has long had a censorious bent -- a writer I admire was forced to put a series of books that in no way infringed upon Tolkien's copyrights out of print because the estate threatened to make her publisher's life a living nightmare (not naming names, because the writer has chosen not to go public with the story). The professional descendants making millions off a long-dead writer have become a serious impediment to living, working writers -- and readers. If this isn't the greatest proof that extending copyright in scope and duration screws living creators and impedes the creation of new works, I don't know what is.

The JRR Tolkien Estate Can Go Fuck Itself (via Futurismic)

Libya: Audio interview w/ man dodging gunfire as militias attack protestors

NPR's All Things Considered interviewed a man on the street near Tripoli, dodging bullets: "There's a lot of machine guns here. The opposition [are] ready for the Gadhafi's regime's people to come in. They closed all the roads coming to the square. They have tanks here. They have machine guns. They have artilleries. They have small handguns and machetes, and you name it. They have the weapons, and they are ready for the bastards."

Night attacks in Afghanistan cause high civilian casualties

A Reuters report from Afghanistan begins with the heartbreaking story of a family of non-combatants in which multiple members were killed in a midnight NATO attack: "They were casualties of a night raid, a controversial tactic that has been stepped up dramatically since General David Petraeus took over running the Afghan war last year, despite strong opposition led by President Hamid Karzai. There were nearly 20 each night over the past three months, according to a senior NATO official who requested anonymity."

Tips from a "prolific dumpster diver"

A self-described "prolific dumpster diver" in the UK was mass-interviewed on Reddit yesterday, and wrote some detailed, intriguing, and potentially useful descriptions of how he lives and thrives on trash:
Besides food, what are some of the other products that you come across most frequently and use?

Nothing has such a short shelf-life as food, so other things don't get come across really that regularly. Charity shops are always VERY varied so not much same-ness there, except for foot bath/massagers. Oddly I see one at least every couple of months. CRT TVs are common, as are george foreman-style grills. Toiletries are pretty common, and there is waaaaay too much washing powder/liquid for us to use as it apparently leaks often. Flowers are really really common, we always have fresh flowers on the kitchen table and I'm gradually adding the kind of pot-plants you get in a supermarket to our small garden... Yep, the supermarket tends to throw out £50 worth of flowers per week! Currently we have three bouquets of lillies in the house.

IAmA prolific dumpster diver. I have not bought any food for the last 6 months. AMA!

Julian Assange vs. Mr. Humphries ("Are You Being Served")

(Via Reddit, via Dean Putney, but seriously, Rob and I stumbled upon this realization weeks ago)

Investigating accidents: a career for the inexperienced and uneducated

Uneducated? Inexperienced? Have a penis? You can investigate accidents! I don't see how anything wrong can go with this.

"You Are Accepted As A Man With A Profession"

StyleKouncil: new "closet curation" consultancy in SF


photos by Peter Samuels

Since I was 14, I've dressed like, well, I'm 14. My uniform has been t-shirt, hoodie, jeans, and sneakers or boots. Thing is, I actually like to dress up. But I don't really know how. Until a month ago, I had a (small) closet packed with nice clothes -- or what I thought were nice clothes -- that I had acquired over the years but basically never wore. And had mostly forgotten. Then my wife Kelly Sparks and her friend Kat Yeh had their way with my wardrobe. I didn't mind because they're professionals. For decades, Kelly has been a fashion designer working for the likes of Levi's, Bebe, and Esprit. Kat spent years at Levi's as a global merchandiser and styled a great cast of assorted celebs and rock stars, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Thurston Moore to Josh Homme and Erykah Badu. When Kelly and Kat emerged from the bowels of my closet, 85 percent of my tired duds were boxed up for donation (1990s shiny suit... buhbye) and they had put together a bunch of cool outfits based on timeless clothes I already had, most of which I hadn't seen in years. They also gave me a list of the key essentials I was missing. Now they're helping me shop (which I generally hate almost as much as a trip to the DMV) for clothes at prices even a cheapskate like me won't complain about. (Target! Vintage! Flea markets! Outlets!)

Whitesuitttt-2 Veroni-2
Why did they do all this for me? I was actually serving as a beta tester for Kat and Kelly's new "closet curation" and personal styling consultancy in San Francisco, StyleKouncil. Unlike most personal stylists, Kelly and Kat won't try to give you a "fashion makeover" or drag you to Barney's, unless of course that's what you want. (Believe me, they know their Prada and Marc Jacobs too.) No matter your budget, the aim is to "explore your style and turn it up a notch," says Kelly. Something about their taste and appreciation for classic and vintage looks mixed with their fashion-forward mindset, total lack of fashion snobbery, and ability to help you buy less but be way happier with what you do buy, has struck a chord. Word of mouth has brought them a bunch of clients and a few weeks ago Jesse "Sound of Young America" Thorn said nice things at his "Put This On" blog and even complimented me on my new look. (That's a first!) And now this month, 7x7 magazine has a four-page spread on StyleKouncil written by Leilani Labong. For the article, Kelly and Kat were asked to interpret fresh (and spendy) runway looks using affordable clothing. Their models included coffee geek Benjamin Kruer (above left), emo rocker Gina Macaraeg, and Tekzilla web video star Veronica Belmont (above right).

I'm proud of Kelly and Kat, even as I get impatient while they scour thrift stores in search of the perfect Steve McQueen Baracuta jacket for me.

"Fashion to the People: StyleKouncil Balances the Budget With the Newest Runway Trends" (7x7)

Jesse Thorn on StyleKouncil (Put This On)

Leilani Labong on StyleKouncil (A Ruffled Feather)

Cory coming to Toronto for talk and reading Mar 5-6

This March, the University of Toronto's Faculty for Information is bringing me to Toronto to give a keynote at its Boundaries, Frontiers and Gatekeepers conference. Admission is free for U of T iSchool students. For others, the keynote is $5 at the door, or the whole event is $7 for non-U-of-T-students and $10 for the general public. The keynote is on March 5, from 5-7PM.

While I'm in town, I'm also doing a reading and signing on March 6 with David Nickle and Karl Schroeder for Chiaroscuro, at Augusta House at 152 Augusta Ave. The event runs 8-11PM, and is free.

Keynote at iSchool Boundaries, Frontiers and Gatekeepers conference
March 5, 5-7PM
University of Toronto Earth Sciences Centre, Bancroft Avenue
Details: iSchool

Reading with Karl Schroeder and David Nickle
March 6, 8-11PM
Augusta House, 152 Augusta Avenue
Details: Chiaroscuro