Boing Boing 

Stephen Fry debating Ann Widdecombe on the worth of the Catholic Church

Here's a fascinating ten-minute animation to accompany audio from a debate between Stephen Fry and Ann Widdecombe, a UK Tory politician turned novelist. They're debating the motion, "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world" (Widdecombe is a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism), and Fry is both charming and relentless, and scores some incredible points. If you like rhetoric, atheism debates, philosophy and animation, this is ten minutes very well-spent.

iq2 Shorts - Stephen Fry vs Ann Widdecombe: Catholic Church Debate (Thanks, Chippy!)

Incubot shiroi "voltron + shiroi nekobot USB" Japan tsunami relief

Greetings from Tokyo! Sean Bonner, who I'll be meeting in a few days along with the Safecast crew, shares word of a nifty, limited-edition USB gadget to benefit Japan tsunami relief.
The tsunami and earthquake have faded from the headlines, but the need for aid is still real. Incubot, in conjunction with partners World Events Productions and CustomUSB, have created a line of Japan Relief customs 2G USB drives: limited edition, fully licensed, and in colors honoring the japanese flag. Packaged in "Ganbari Japan!" custom boxes. 100% of profits go to Japanese Red Cross Society and to Safecast radiation monitoring efforts.

Fire-breathing pony

[Video Link] I, for one, welcome our plastic, flame-shooting horsey overlords. Shown at Maker Faire Detroit 2011.

Haters Gonna Hate: microscopic edition

Funniest captioning of a motor-protein ever. (after the jump, so I don't get lynched for a 2.5MB image on the front page) Haters gonna hate. [crosspost from r/gifs]

Read the rest

Perma-cookie wars continue: KISSMetrics sneaks cookies back onto your computer even if you turn off every cookie vector

A group of respected security researchers have published a paper documenting the tactics used by KISSmetrics -- a company that counts Hulu and many other Internet giants among its customers -- to install and read back cookies on your computer even if you don't want them. Using a kind of kitchen-sink approach, KISSmetrics is able to track your computer even if you've got cookies, Flash cookies and other common cookie-setting vectors turned off. It's one thing for companies to say that they only gather information about users who allow such tracking; it's another thing for a company to go to endless lengths to circumvent their users' best attempts to shield themselves from tracking.
“Both the Hulu and KISSmetrics code is pretty enlightening,” Soltani told in an e-mail. “These services are using practically every known method to circumvent user attempts to protect their privacy (Cookies, Flash Cookies, HTML5, CSS, Cache Cookies/Etags…) creating a perpetual game of privacy ‘whack-a-mole’.”

“This is yet another example of the continued arms-race that consumers are engaged in when trying to protect their privacy online since advertisers are incentivized to come up with more pervasive tracking mechanisms unless there’s policy restrictions to prevent it.”

They point to their research that found that when a user visited, they would get a “third-party” cookie set by KISSmetrics with a tracking ID number. KISSmetrics would pass that number to Hulu, allowing Hulu to use it for its own cookie. Then if a user visited another site that was using KISSmetrics, that site’s cookie would get the exact same number as well.

So that makes it possible, the researchers say, for any two sites using KISSmetrics to compare their databases, and ask things like “Hey, what do you know about user 345627?” and the other site could say “his name is John Smith and his email address is and he likes these kinds of things.”

Flash Cookies and Privacy II: Now with HTML5 and ETag Respawning (paper)

Researchers Expose Cunning Online Tracking Service That Can’t Be Dodged (Wired) (via /.)

Official London anti-terrorist publication says anarchists should be reported to local police

The City Of Westminster Counter Terrorist Focus Desk publishes a weekly briefing on safety called Griffin Weekly, full of useful advice. For example, this week's briefing contains these helpful tips on Anarchism: "Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local Police."

Right, that's my weekend sorted -- I'll be down at my local police station, reading the works of Kropotkin aloud for the constables.

(More seriously: Seriously? These are the terrorism experts who are making official evaluations of risk and official plans to mitigate it? Seriously?)

City Of Westminster Counter Terrorist Focus Desk 29th July 2011 (PDF)

French copyright enforcers: "Pirates are big spenders on legit content"

HADOPI, the French agency charged with disconnecting French Internet users who use the same Internet connections as accused copyright infringers, conducted a study on media purchasing habits by copyright infringers. They concluded that the biggest unauthorized downloaders are also the biggest customers for legitimate media. Just like every other study that's looked at the question, of course, but this time the study was funded and released by one of the most extreme copyright enforcement bodies on the planet.
Joe Karaganis, from SSRC, points us to the news that there's been yet another such study... and this one is from HADOPI, itself. Yes, the French agency put together to kick people off the internet for file sharing did a study on the nature of unauthorized file sharing, too. Not surprisingly (and consistent with every other study we've seen on this topic), it found that those who spend a lot of money on content... were much, much, much more likely to also get content through unauthorized means. HADOPI released the results in a somewhat convoluted way (perhaps trying to downplay this result), but Karaganis reformatted the results to make this clear.
Another Day, Another Study That Says 'Pirates' Are The Best Customers... This Time From HADOPI

Hadopi, biens culturels et usages d’internet : pratiques et perceptions des internautes français. (PDF)

Shareholders take Vodafone to account for network shutdown during Egyptian revolution

AccessNow, an NGO that works for human rights values in telcoms policy, took a resolution to the Vodafone Board meeting in London last week, holding the company to account for its network shutdown during the Egyptian revolution and asking it to endorse a plan to uphold its customers' human rights in future.
"I am asking this question as a proxy and on behalf of thousands of people from over 85 countries who have endorsed this question to the Vodafone Board.

Our question is, in recognition of the challenges that you and other telcos faced during the Egyptian revolution and the lessons you’ve learned from this experience might you be better prepared for any future crises - which is undoubtedly in the wings - by committing to doing a human rights assessment of your licensing agreements in the roughly 70 countries you operate in, to ensure that, for example, you are both able to protect your staff and the integrity of the network, but not in the position of having to once again shut down the internet or send pro-regime messages to your customers as happened earlier in the year in Egypt?

I would like to present you with a five step action plan, consistent with the GNI principles, which we believe would assist you to protect Vodafone's brand and shareholder's profits and ask that you consider adhering to the practices outlined in the action plan."

In addition to prolonging the misery and bloodshed of the Egyptian revolution, Vodafone's network shutdown also resulted in the death of Egyptians who couldn't use their phones to call ambulances during medical emergencies. Not to mention all the money the shareholders lost when millions of Egyptians lost their phone service.

Access’ Questions Vodafone’s Board At Annual Shareholders’ Meeting (Thanks, Brett!)

(Image: vodafone in Egypt, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from emiemihuimei's photostream)

Not quite Kickstarted: Robots Love Ice Cream iPad game

Today I got a message from Burton Posey on Google+ about a Kickstarter project he's working on with his wife. They're making an iPad game called "Robots Love Ice Cream". I liked the art they'd been working on, and I especially liked that they were having music created especially for the game by Disasterpeace. Since it hasn't met its goal yet, I made a small donation to the project. If you'd like to do the same, you only have a couple hours left to do so, as the project's fundraising deadline looms before us. Robots Love Ice Cream on Kickstarter

The Practical Pyromaniac Clerihew Contest

My friend William Gurstelle is holding a clerihew contest to promote his new book, TThe Practical Pyromaniac. Sounds like fun!
“Hello Poetry Lovers” That was often the introduction to “Bullwinkle’s Corner,” a frequent segment of the 1960s cartoon, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. To this day, I still remember many of the poems Bullwinkle recited. Some of my favorite segments included “Wee Willie Winkie,” “Little Miss Muffet,” and umm, “I Love Little Pussy.” To celebrate the publication of my new book, The Practical Pyromaniac, the Chicago Review Press (my publisher), is sponsoring a contest to see who can write the most creative Clerihew about fire, scientists, and similarly geeky subjects. For the budding poet, writer, or wiseacre with a scientific bent, it’s a great opportunity for creativity!

Read the rest

Theatre Bizarre posters


Theatre Bizarre (see the documentary trailer) is here at Maker Faire in Detroit and John Dunivant's hand painted signs for it are incredible. They are about six feet tall.

(Thanks, Zombo the Clown!)

Assemblage brooches and chokers that mix found objects, junk jewelry and vintage military insigia

Jennie Sharman-Cox's assemblage jewelry uses a wide variety of materials, including a lot of pieces of British military regalia, encrusted with fake pearls and found objects. She's got a great compositional eye and the finished pieces are really beautiful; I just bought one for my wife at Luna and Curious in London.

Jennie Sharman-Cox

Chester Winowiecki's handmade music

20110730-111638.jpg I met Chester Winowiecki at Maker Faire Detroit (happening this weekend). He makes cool stringed instruments out of pie pans and cookie tins. They sound great! I've asked him to write a pie pan banjo uke how to for MAKE. I can't wait to make one myself. Watch a video of Chester

Recreational lockpicking workshop at Maker Faire Detroit

20110730-110425.jpg If you are at Maker Faire Detroit come join me at the lockpicking workshop that is conducting!

Kaleidoscopic maps: Rorschmap

James Bridle created Rorschmap, which kaleidoscopes the satellite views of your favorite spots (shown here, the center of Manhattan).

Rorschmap (via Waxy)

Well-engineered pizza box keeps grease out of the cardboard for easier recycling

Scott from Scott's Pizza Tours is obsessed with pizza box engineering, and posts YouTube videos about the pizza boxes people send him from all over the world. In this installment, he explores a fantastic box from Eataly that is coated with a recyclable, reflective finish that keeps the food hot and prevents the grease from getting on the cardboard. Pizza boxes with grease on them can't be recycled (and they really screw up the recycling system if they slip through!), so this is a major breakthrough.

Scott Presents: The Greatest Pizza Box On Earth (via JWZ)

Ladies! Cannonball cure for constipation

In 1901, this Ladies Guide in Health and Disease ad advised women that they should let an "eminent German physician" cure their constipation by rolling a leather-encased cannonball around on their tummies.

Well then, that's good to know.

Sleepy English town to be entirely surveilled in case criminals forget and drive through it on their way to crimes

Royston, a small market town of 15,000 people in Herts, England, is being completely encircled with license-plate cameras that will record the comings and goings of everyone who passes in or out of the town, and store them for up to five years. There's not really much crime in Royston. But the automatic number plate recognition manager for the region says that he will catch lots of criminals and terrorists because they might forget that this one town is totally surveilled and drive through it on their way to and from crimes and atrocities in other towns.
Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “It is such an arbitrary and intrusive method. To do this in what is essentially a sleepy market town is ridiculous.

“Logging the movements of tens of thousands of innocent people living in the area is grossly disproportionate to the crime fighting abilities of the system and an abhorrent invasion of people’s privacy.”

Inspector Andy Piper, Hertfordshire Police’s ANPR manager, said: “On first sight, the ANPR coverage of such a low crime town as Royston may seem an unusual choice, but ANPR works both as a deterrent and a detection tool.

“When we look at the bigger picture in terms of Hertfordshire, as well as nationally, the position of the cameras makes a lot of sense strategically to target those criminals travelling into the county on the main roads in that area – not to mention counter-terrorism."

'Sleepy market town' surrounded by ring of car cameras (Thanks, Richard!)

(Image: These days there's no escaping from the #SS - even in our beauty spots :o( #anpr, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from zombie's photostream)

Reddit explains the debt ceiling to you like you're five

Yesterday and today on Reddit, the subreddit section explain like I'm five, where users explain current news and tough topics as though they're talking to a five-year-old, saw a huge surge in posts and interaction. One of the gems from this influx of interest is a post on what's going on with the US government's debates over the debt ceiling. Redditor The_Cleric lays it out for my five-year-old self:
This is how I understand it. Pretend you have a credit card. And this credit card has a limit, we'll say $1000. This credit card is pretty near maxed out and you don't really have any cash. You need to buy some stuff soon, and you know that between now and August 2nd you need to buy some things, and you have no choice but to buy them on the credit card. At that point the credit card will be completely maxed out. This credit card is our debt ceiling. We will hit the limit of our borrowing limit on August 2nd. Now let's continue further. We know we have some bills next month, and we also know that we have some cash coming in, but when we look at what we have coming in vs what we have to pay, we don't have enough to cover it. Let's just say we know we'll be short by $100. So now we know ahead of time that we'll be short, and we only have one real option: call the credit card company and ask them to raise our limit. This is what the debt ceiling legislation is trying to do: raise our credit limit.

Read the rest

Apple has more cash right now than the US Treasury

Matt Hartley at the Financial Post was the first to point this one out:

As Republicans and Democrats continue to work towards a compromise to the country’s debt ceiling crisis, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday that Washington now has a total operating balance of only US$73.768-billion. Meanwhile, Apple currently boasts a cash reserve of US$75.876-billion, as of its most recent quarterly earnings report at the end of June.
More nuance and analysis around the web: NPR, Apple Insider, Fortune.

Photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage to discuss the iCloud service at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, June 6, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

The "Moon Buggy Mission," Apollo 15

This week marks the 40th anniversary for Apollo 15, the less famous of manned lunar missions including Apollo 11, Apollo 13 ("NASA's finest hour"), and Apollo 14 (the one where Alan Shepard played golf on the moon). Ben Cosgrove of LIFE points us to a related gallery of classic images, and explains:

While Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the lunar surface was mind-blowing, the idea of Irwin and Scott cruising around on a 450-pound moon buggy that they'd carted a quarter-million miles from Earth -- during a basically flawless mission when Scott and Irwin spent three full days on the moon's surface -- makes XV the coolest of all the Apollo missions.

National Archive food and government exhibit: "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?"

 Food Files 2011 07 30-0492A
 Exhibits Whats-Cooking Preview Images Kitchen 07-Lg Right now, the National Archives in Washington DC are hosting an exhibition about government and food. Titled "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?," it covers everything from government regulations on food processing and labeling to nutritional campaigns for such things as, er, "Vitamin Donuts." Smithsonian magazine was particularly intrigued by the exhibition's information about US presidential diets. Above, Richard Nixon's last meal in the White House, "slices of pineapple arranged around a plop of cottage cheese, paired with a glass of milk and served on a silver tray." "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?: The Government's Effect on the American Diet" (National Archive)

Fabric made from spider silk

This 13-foot-long textile was woven from silk produced by more than a million Golden Orb spiders from Madagaskar. It's currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago and moves to London's Victoria and Albert Museum in January 2012. From The Telegraph:
According to experts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, spider's silk has not been woven since 1900, when a textile was created for the Paris Exposition Universelle - but that no longer survives. This will be the first time spider silk has been exhibited in Europe since.

The earliest recorded weave using the silk of spiders dates from 1709, made by a Frenchman, Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, who successfully produced gloves and stockings and supposedly a full suit of clothes for King Louis XIV. Later, in the early nineteenth century, Raimondo de Termeyer, a Spaniard working in Italy, produced stockings for the Emperor Napoleon and a shawl for his first wife, Empress Josephine.

To create the textiles, spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in specially conceived ‘silking’ contraptions. Trained handlers extract the silk from 24 spiders at a time.

Unlike mulberry silk from silkworms, in which the pupa is killed in its cocoon, the spiders are returned to the wild at the end of each day.

"Rare spider silk textile to come to V&A"

Bush explains reaction to 9/11 attack news during historic "My Pet Goat" reading

"I wanted to project a sense of calm." George W. Bush explains, for the first time, why he reacted as he did after having been advised that the US was under attack on September 11, 2001.

"Narcosubmarine" carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine nabbed in Honduras

With help from the U.S. Navy, authorities in Honduras have snorted recovered 2.7 tons of cocaine from a submarine off the Central American nation's Caribbean coast. There is more, they say: the boat's carrying 5 and a half tons, total. AP item:
The submarine-like craft is floating about 15 meters (50 feet) under the surface because the crew tried to sink it. Osorio said Thursday divers will need another two days to recover all the cocaine.
The sub was intercepted two weeks ago, en route to the US from Colombia. More from Reuters.

Friday Freak-Out: The Hi-5's "Did you have to rub it in?" (1965)

[youtube link] Friday Freak-Out: The Hi-5 perform "Did you have to rub it in?" (1966), now available again on Follow Me Down: Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era.

Vintage psych on Vanguard Records? Indeed! While Vanguard, formed in 1950, is best known for its essential folk/blues offerings in the 1960s by the likes of Joan Baez, Country Joe and Fish, Buddy Guy, and Otis Rush, the label also released some very fine nuggets of psychedelia -- many of which were 45s by bands that vanished almost as quickly as they made the scene. Recently though, my dear pal and DIY musicologist David Katznelson of Birdman Records and Vanguard staffer Stephen Brower dug deep in the label's archive to compile the best of these "lost" recordings. The vinyl release of Follow Me Down: Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era is a beautiful double-gatefold, 18-track compilation. It's also available as MP3s, but, well, I encourage you to dust off the old record player for this groovy set. Now then, what's the story with the Hi-5's "Did you have to rub it in?"

 Wp-Content Uploads 2011 02 78149-1 Followmedown1 A classic rock and roll tale of a band that was so very close to superstardom, but fell short. The band were regulars at the famous Café Wah, when Beatles manager Brian Epstein walked into the club and signed the Hi-Five to management. Soon after, labels like RCA and Columbia were cutting demos on the band. But when Epstein died at 32 of a drug overdose, the doors that had been opened were slammed shut. It was then that Vanguard, who had also had been interested in the band, offered them a single deal.
Follow Me Down: Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era

Baby crocodiles, hatching

Caretakers display newly hatched Philippine crocodiles at a crocodile farm in Manila July 28, 2011. The Philippine crocodile, also known as the Mindoro crocodile, is a freshwater reptile considered to be among the endangered species. (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

Cosplay of excellence: Gender Bent Justice League

Liz Ohanesian covers counterculture, cosplay, and cool music for the Los Angeles Weekly. She hit Comic-Con with photographer Shannon Cottrell, and came back with some great photo-essays. "I thought you might be interested in seeing our favorite cosplay of the con," she writes, "they're The Gender Bent Justice League." Above, Kit Quinn as Superma'am and Tallest Silver as Batma'am.

Gender Bent Justice League is a group of cosplayers who have taken characters associated with DC's Justice League and transformed them into something that is more Rule 63 than it is crossplay.

"A couple of us like to do female versions of preexisting male characters. One of our friends, Psykitten Pow, she had a female Flash," says Tallest Silver, who organized the group and who dresses as Batma'am. "One night, we were all hanging out and I said how funny it would be if we had a whole Justice League with swapped sexes."

How To: Make your science/Lady Gaga mashup better

Lady Gaga parody videos filmed in laboratory settings have become a hot meme among scientists. Want to make your own? Carin Bondar has some tips for quality video production.

Fuck and the law

"Fuck" is a 2006 scholarly paper by Ohio State U law prof Christopher M. Fairman, published in Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper Series No. 39. It starts with anecdotes about three legally trained people -- a Master's student in law, a sheriff, and a federal judge -- reacting irrationally to the word "fuck," and goes on to explore the way that psycholinguistic factors makes English speakers go crazy in the presence of the word, and the effect that has had on law. Fun reading!
This Article is as simple and provocative as its title suggests: it explores the legal implications of the word fuck. The intersection of the word fuck and the law is examined in four major areas: First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. The legal implications from the use of fuck vary greatly with the context. To fully understand the legal power of fuck, the nonlegal sources of its power are tapped. Drawing upon the research of etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, psychoanalysts, and other social scientists, the visceral reaction to fuck can be explained by cultural taboo. Fuck is a taboo word. The taboo is so strong that it compels many to engage in self-censorship. This process of silence then enables small segments of the population to manipulate our rights under the guise of reflecting a greater community. Taboo is then institutionalized through law, yet at the same time is in tension with other identifiable legal rights. Understanding this relationship between law and taboo ultimately yields fuck jurisprudence.

(Image: FUCK, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from giacomospazio's photostream)