When it comes to irradiation, you might need a primer. (I did.) Simply put, irradiation — first approved by the FDA in 1963 to control insects in wheat and flour — kills pathogens in food by passing radiation through it. It doesn’t make the food radioactive any more than passing X-rays through your body makes you radioactive; it just causes changes in the food. Proponents say those changes are beneficial: like killing E. coli or salmonella bacteria. Opponents say they’re harmful: like destroying nutrients or creating damaging free radicals.
Many people are virulently for or against. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says that irradiation “could do for food what pasteurization has done for milk.” (The main difference between irradiation and pasteurization is the source of the energy used to kill microbes.) Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch — which calls irradiation “a gross failure” — told me it was “expensive and impractical, a band-aid on the real problems with our food system.”
There are a few people in the middle. Former assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Carol Tucker-Foreman is mostly anti-, but said that if she ran a nursing home or a children’s hospital — a place where people with weaker-than-average immune systems were cared for — it “might be something I wanted to do.” Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition professor and the author of “Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety” (and a food-movement icon), allows that “the bottom line is that it works pretty well if done right, and I’m not aware of any credible evidence that it does any worse harm to foods than cooking. But it isn’t always done right, and foods can become re-contaminated after irradiation.”
In this video, you'll learn how to use an ultraviolet LED to kickstart a chemical reaction capable of sending a cork flying halfway across a lecture hall. It's a hazardous science demonstration! Hooray!
Quick note: The sound quality gets a little sketchy at times. If you click on the CC option in the lower-right corner of the player window you'll be able to read the English subtitles.
Hey, it's July 29, and that means that it's Sysadmin Appreciation Day, and once again, it's time to all the systems administrators who toil through the nights, the holidays and the weekends to keep all our machines and networks running. I've been a sysadmin, but I was never fit to power-cycle the router of the administrators whom I am privileged to work with today, including the incomparable Ken Snider, who has kept Boing Boing running for years and years, through thick and thin, but not forgetting the likes of Boing Boing's Dean Putney, our spamfighting sumbission-ninja Chris Smith, Mark Perkel, the folks at Canonical, and all the other skilled technicians, gurus, troubleshooters, firefighters, and technological saviours I've had cause to rouse at odd hours to fix things that they didn't break.
Thank you, sysadmins: you keep the universe running!
Here's a great clip of Bill Nye the Science Guy gently, but firmly, explaining to Fox News's Jon Scott that the potential existence of extinct lunar volcanoes doesn't disprove global warming. Scott believes that "...if the moon erupting volcanoes a few million years ago, you know, it's not like we've been up there burning fossil fuels." Whatever that means.
NYE: Uh, no, volcanoes are not connected to the burning of fossil fuels, it's connected to mining, but the big thing for us, on my side of this thing, is the science is true, and so when you discover -- the people who got really got involved in climate change, got involved in it often by studying Venus, the planet Venus. So the physics, the science that happens on Venus, is the same as the science that happens on the earth, the science that happens on the moon, in this case the geology the study of rocks, that happens on the moon, is the same science that happens on the earth. So when you say to yourself, well, I'm going to ignore all the evidence of climate change, you're saying, I'm going to ignore the best ideas anybody's ever had, that's science. And so this is quite troubling to those of us on our side of it.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted 19-10 for H.R. 1981, a data-retention bill that will require your ISP to spy on everything you do online and save records of it for 12 months. California Rep Zoe Lofgren, one of the Democrats who opposed the bill, called it a "data bank of every digital act by every American" that would "let us find out where every single American visited Web sites." Here's commentary from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who've got a form for contacting your rep to ask her or him to kill this:
The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have recognized. Requiring Internet companies to redesign and reconfigure their systems to facilitate government surveillance of Americans' expressive activities is simply un-American. Such a scheme would be as objectionable to our Founders as the requiring of licenses for printing presses or the banning of anonymous pamphlets. Today's vote is therefore very disappointing, but we are especially thankful to GOP Representatives Sensenbrenner, Issa and Chaffetz, who chose principle over party-line in opposing this dangerous tech mandate. We hope that bipartisan opposition will grow as the bill makes its way to the House floor and more lawmakers are educated about this anti-privacy, anti-free speech, anti-innovation proposal.
StagConf is a European conference on stories and games, to be held in Vienna's adorably insane Natural History Museum (the world's maddest, overflowingest taxidermy displays, including a broke-necked giraffe with Frankenstein stitches, an infamous alcoholic chimp, and many other critters etoufees). It's a one-day affair, on Sept 27: "You will meet game designers and writers who have worked on games in every imaginable form: from adventures to MMOs, from AAA console to the web, from social games to pen and paper RPGs." (Thanks, Alice!)
I am going to Japan for the first time, tomorrow. I will most certainly follow the absolutely serious instructions in this helpful video on Japanese customs. "Always have a little guilt in your eyes." I understand that these guys are responsible: ラーメンズ (Rahmens), Jin Katagiri and Kentaro Kobayashi. Anyone know how to purchase copies? (thanks, Scott Ghelfi/via G+)
A few more clips from them below. The "Japan Culture Lab" videos remind me a lot of Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz's "Look Around You" series.
A newlywed couple in Birmingham, AL had problems with the automatic checkout system at WalMart, which refused to ring up their $2.90 packet of chicken necks. A WalMart employee helped them with the system, and they paid and made to leave. A security guard confronted them and accused them of stealing the chicken necks, despite their receipt, which showed they had paid. The manager was summoned, reviewed the receipt and the security footage, and concluded the couple had done nothing wrong. However, the security guard insisted on calling the police, and then WalMart contacted the INS to alert them to the husband's legal trouble (he hadn't yet been naturalized following his wedding to a US citizen), as well as the WalMart where the wife worked in order to get her fired. The husband was deported, the wife lost her car and home in the ensuing legal battle. They're suing.
Plaintiff told these employees to look again as the item was on the bottom of the receipt and therefore accounted for. The security guard started screaming and asked to see the identifications of the plaintiff and her husband. The security guard screamed at the plaintiff and her husband saying they were going to be deported. The security guard, in overly loud voice, stated plaintiff and her husband were illegal and what were they doing in this country. Plaintiff asked for the assistant manager. The security guard answered by saying plaintiff and her husband were going to jail...
The assistant manager said in presence of plaintiff and her husband: 'I see where she scanned it, I see where it's been rung up.' Plaintiff responded: 'I did scan it, I told you.' Ricky, plaintiff's husband said I'll pay for it again if you want me to. The assistant manager then said to the security guard: 'Well what do you want to do?' The security guard said he wanted to put plaintiff and her husband in jail.
...When the security guard found that Mary Hill Bonin had worked at another Wal-Mart, he called that store and informed it "that she was being charged with a Theft of Property in the Third Degree," even though the assistant manager already had told him that the chicken bones had been bought and paid for, the Bonins say.
Nisha Sondhe's photos from Mumbai and New York compare like-for-like scenes of life in crowded, exuberant urban centers -- trains and fishmongers and butchers and happy people -- and captures each city's distinctiveness as well as the universal character of urban life.
Adam created UnMakers using the Creative-Commons-licensed text of my novel Makers. It opens with the final scene, and invites you to navigate the text that led up to it hypertextually, following character-based indexes to the text. He'd like it if you'd annotate and further link the text, which is in a wiki.
The Czech Pirate Party is incensed that a Czech high school student has been sued for €5M for running a website with links to allegedly infringing downloads. The Party has expressed its outrage by launching Tipnafilm.cz, a site full of movie download links whose motto is "linking is not a crime."
“By bullying young people, the Czech Anti-Piracy Union, with the help of the state, is attempting in vain to salvage the old business model which has ceased to function in the age of the Internet,” say the Czech Pirate Party...
“Yes, we unequivocally declare open war on the Anti-Piracy Union. Bullying ordinary people from their side must stop. The Czech Anti-Piracy Union claimed a huge success when it caught the ‘greatest pirate in the country’. But that is absurd, in fact he was just a small fish. For this student we have built and launched a similar site. The difference is that there are ten times more links on our site,” Ferjencik told TorrentFreak this morning. We denounce that the police should be run by the propaganda of the Anti-Piracy Union and that it should harass anybody who puts a video on his/her web page or Facebook page,” said chairman of the Czech Pirates Ivan Bartoš.
“We challenge the Anti-Piracy Union to stop bullying the under-aged and to aim its preposterous claims at the Pirate Party.”
EVOL, a German artist, excavated a miniature cityscape gouged into an idyllic meadow near Hamburg. Viewers thunder down the mini-scale street-trenches of his X-shaped city block, towering over the rooftops.
Usually I prefer to work on site by interfering with already existing structures. As I came there first, that's what I found: endless meadow, trees and blue sky. Not exactly what I play with usually. So I decided to cut open the idyll, and pretend there is no endless meadow, but only rooftop-gardens of the disgust underneath ... 8 exhausting days of hard work (at least for people who usually cut paper only).
[Video Link] Above: A video David found of someone playing the Firefly.
UPDATE: Dale Webb, the designer of the Firefly has provided additional information about this instrument:
The action is adjustable thru the removal or addition of the fiber washers at the end of the strut where it connects to the drum frame.
The drum head is easily replaceable with the removal of one screw and the wedge. Replacements will be available for about $35 although I don’t expect there will be much need.
Remo manufactures both in the U.S. and overseas. Per our request, all future heads will be manufactured in the U.S. We will pay a bit more but we feel it’s worth it to us to be 100% U.S.A. made (consistent with our other instruments) not to mention the quality and production control advantages. I believe this puts us in a class by ourselves when it comes to U.S.A. made stringed instruments.
For many years I have wanted to add a banjo ukulele to my collection of musical instruments. But I've put it off for two reasons. One, good banjo ukes (aka banjoleles) are quite expensive, and two, they are really heavy. One of the reasons I like ukuleles is that they are portable, or at least supposed to be portable.
So when my friend Jim Beloff, co-proprietor of Flea Market Music, sent to me one of the new Firefly banjo ukuleles, I was overjoyed. The Firefly ($179) was designed by Jim's brother-in-law Dale Webb, who is also the creator of the amazing Flea and the Fluke ukuleles, and it is an example of ingenious elegance. Jim told me Dale was at a music convention last year and saw a hand drum from Remo and a light bulb went off in his head. Dale took a few of the drums home and used them for the body of some banjo ukulele prototypes. The result is this lightweight, bright-sounding banjo ukulele that looks as good as it sounds. It is just beautiful. (See detail photos after the jump.)
Jim also sent me a copy of a ukulele songbook that he and his wife Liz recently published called The Daily Ukulele, which has 365 songs in it raging from old-timey tunes to '60s songs from bands like The Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas. I've been going through the songs and playing them on my Firefly. What a terrific book and what a terrific instrument!
Gordon McComb, who’s been dubbed “the father of hobby robotics,” has been building robots since the 1970s, and wrote the best-selling Robot Builders Bonanza . For MAKE Volume 27 Gordon wrote a how-to article called Teleclaw: Remote Robot Gripper, which is controlled with an ordinary TV remote.
Tell us a bit about yourself — where you live, what you do for a living, what you are interested in?
I come from San Diego, California, best known for its climate, but it’s also a great place if you’re a robot builder. That’s thanks to the US Navy, and all the military surplus it generates. Cheap parts for projects are never far away.
When I’m not building, I’m usually busy writing about something. It might be a book — I’ve done over 60 so far, and new things keeps coming out that I want to write about. I did a 13-year stint as a weekly newspaper columnist, all about computers. I’ve written all kinds of articles for magazines like Popular Science, and I’m jazzed about doing builder projects, like the Teleclaw, for MAKE.
Read the rest at Make: Online
This deeply odd Casey Anthony Latex Rubber Mask just sold on eBay for one million dollars. We'll see if the winner of the auction actually pays up though. From eBay:
Halloween is only a few months away. Forget Freddy, Jason, Meyers, here's your chance to scare the *#&% out of everyone and win every costume contest with this amazing Tot Mom latex rubber mask, possibly the most frightening mask on the planet. And I can almost guarantee it's the 'only' Casey mask on the planet. Sculpted to precision for a parody video by enigmatic pop artist / sculptor Torro, only 9 of these film props were made for production and I got my hands on a few after the video wrapped. One of the best Halloween masks I've ever seen. This one is in excellent condition and it is numbered 6 of 9. I kept one for myself because I know these will be priceless. A significant piece of crime history. No matter what your opinion of the trial is, this is still one heck of a conversation piece. I bet Nancy Grace would love one of these. Fits most heads sizes comfortably. Let's never forget poor Caylee.
Earlier this month I attended the Trivia Championships of North America (TCONA) in Las Vegas. The event was produced by my old high school friend Paul Bailey. I had a great time at the event, even though I was the worst contestant at the event. (Listen to me blather on about TCONA in Gweek episode 009.)
I knew I was in trouble when I sat down for the kickoff quiz on Friday night. It was a written test, and the subject was “North American trivia geography.” The 75 or so people who took the quiz were given 50 minutes to answer 100 questions. Each answer was a 2-letter abbreviation for a state, territory, or province in the United States, Mexico, or Canada (eg, CO, NY, YT, NS, TB, DG). We were supplied with a map that showed all the states, territories, and provinces along with their 2 letter abbreviations.
Paul Bailey kindly gave me permission to post the quiz here on Boing Boing so that you can take the test (remember to set your timer for 50 minutes). The only problem is, I don't have the correct answers (UPDATE: Paul posted them!). I'm hoping that the power of the smart mob (or Adam himself) will come up with an answer set. If you have patience, you can check TCONA's site periodically to see if they have posted the answers. Good luck, and post your score in the comments.
The incomparable Jordan Crane shows off his new kids' book, Keep Our Secrets, which uses thermal inks that change color when your rub them with your fingers, revealing secrets. My goodness, that man is talented.
The Wrongulator is a gag calculator that gives incorrect answers to calculations. I'm fascinated by the idea -- I wonder if they've just got a standard calculator controller in there, and then a secondary system that scrambles the results, or whether it's a pseudorandom number generator, or what. You'd want it to produce plausible outcomes (5 x 5 = 30; not 5 x 5 = 324527) but who knows if the manufacturer paid attention to this.
The Wrongulator is no ordinary calculator, its actually the world’s worst calculator as it never gives the right answer, ever! If your calculator has been exchanged for this one then every single calculation you’ve entered in it has been wrong. It is perhaps the cruelest practical joke you could inflict on your office colleague and the chances are, without being told, they’ll probably never guess….well not before it’s too late anyway! Mwhahahaha!
Last month, the major American ISPs and entertainment industry lobbyists struck a deal to limit Internet access for alleged copyright infringers. This deal, negotiated in secret with the help of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo did not include any public interest groups or comment from the public. As a result, it's as one-sided and stilted as you'd imagine. Corynne McSherry from the Electronic Frontier Foundation analyzes the material that these cozy corporate negotiators left out, the stuff that public interest groups would have demanded. Here's an abbreviated list:
The burden should be on the content owners to establish infringement, not on the subscribers to disprove infringement. The Internet access providers will treat the content owners’ notices of infringement as presumptively accurate--obligating subscribers to defend against the accusations, and in several places requiring subscribers to produce evidence “credibly demonstrating” their innocence. This burden-shift violates our traditional procedural due process norms and is based on the presumed reliability of infringement-detection systems that subscribers haven't vetted and to which they cannot object. (The content owners’ systems will be reviewed by “impartial technical experts,” but the experts’ work will be confidential). Without subscribers being able to satisfy themselves that the notification systems are so reliable that they warrant a burden-shift, content owners should have to prove the merits of their complaints before internet access providers take any punitive action against subscribers.
Subscribers should be able to assert the full range of defenses to copyright infringement. A subscriber who protests an infringement notice may assert only six pre-defined defenses, even though there are many other possible defenses available in a copyright litigation. And even the six enumerated defenses are incomplete. For example, the “public domain” defense applies only if the work was created before 1923--even though works created after 1923 can enter the public domain in a variety of ways.
Content owners should be accountable if they submit incorrect infringement notices. A subscriber who successfully challenges an infringement notice gets a refund of the $35 review fee, but the MOU doesn’t spell out any adverse consequences for the content owner that make the mistake – or even making repeated mistakes. Content owners should be on the hook if they overclaim copyright infringement.
Subscribers should have adequate time to prepare a defense. The MOU gives subscribers only 10 business days to challenge a notice or their challenge rights are waived (a subscriber might get an extra 10 business days "for substantial good cause"). This period isn’t enough time for most subscribers to research and write a proper defense. Subscribers should get adequate time to defend themselves.
There should be adequate assurances that the reviewers are neutral. The MOU requires that reviewers must be lawyers and specifies that the CCI will train the reviews in “prevailing legal principles” of copyright law – an odd standard given the complexity of, and jurisdictional differences in, copyright law. We’re especially interested in the identity of these lawyers, and why they are willing to review cases for less than $35 each (assuming the CCI keeps some of the $35 review fee for itself). Perhaps there will be a ready supply of lawyer-reviewers who are truly independent. Given the low financial incentives, another possibility is that the reviewers will be lawyers tied—financially or ideologically—to the content owner community. To ensure that the reviewers remain truly neutral, reviewer resumes should be made public, and checks-and-balances should be built into the reviewer selection process to ensure that the deck isn’t stacked against subscribers from day 1.
This is American corporate private law, a topsy-turvy world where the burden of proof is on the accused, where companies get to tear inconvenient laws out of the statute book, and where the judges are trained by the plaintiffs and instructed in which parts of the law to pay attention to.
Students in the University of Washington Computer Science project have created "ShareMeNot," a Firefox Add-On that defangs social media buttons like the Facebook "Like" button (and others) so that they don't transmit any information about your browsing habits to these services until (and unless) you click on them. That means that merely visiting a page with a Like or a Tweet or a +1 button (like this one) doesn't generate a data-trail for the companies that operate those services, but you still get the benefit of the buttons, that is, if you click them, they still work. Smart.
ShareMeNot is a Firefox add-on designed to prevent third-party buttons (such as the Facebook “Like” button or the Twitter “tweet” button) embedded by sites across the Internet from tracking you until you actually click on them. Unlike traditional solutions, ShareMeNot does this without completely removing the buttons from the web experience.
Our friend Paul Krassner is the founder of The Realist, which was a huge influence on my decision to launch bOING bOING in 1988. Paul is turning 80 next year and he wrote an essay for Counterpunch called “My Lesson in Mindfulness,” about how a brutal beating he received from a billy club wielding police officer in 1979 eventually led to his life of mindfulness.
In 1979, my life changed while I was covering the trial of Dan White for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Former police officer White had confessed to killing the progressive Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was becoming the gay equivalent of Martin Luther King. ... it came to pass that a double political assassination was transmuted into simple voluntary manslaughter. White would be sentenced to serve only seven years behind bars. No wonder there was a post-verdict riot in front of City Hall.
A dozen police cars had been set on fire, which in turn set off their alarms, underscoring the angry shouts from a mob of five thousand understandably outraged gays. The police were running amuck in an orgy of indiscriminate sadism, swinging their clubs wildly and screaming profanity-laden homophobic epithets.I was struck with a nightstick on the outside of my right knee and I fell to the ground. Another cop came charging at me and made a threatening gesture with his billy club. When I tried to protect my head, he jabbed me viciously on the exposed right side of my chest. Oh, God, the pain! It felt like an electric cattle prod was stuck between my ribs.
I had a fractured rib and a punctured lung. The injuries affected my posture, and I began to develop an increasingly unbalanced body -- twisted and in constant pain.
When I saw Paul a few years ago in Los Angeles, he walked up to a stage to give a talk and his leg gave out, causing him to fall on the floor. He sprang right up and jumped on the stage.
My Lesson in Mindfulness
The second post-show wrap-up report from Oric Scott De Las Casas. Here's the first.
Artist's Alley is the place at Comic-Con where one can find both the rising indie stars and the legends of the comic book world. Over the years, this area has become a source of controversy as Hollywood, toy manufacturers and the major publishers have pushed the once epicenter of Comic-Con to the fringes of the convention center. An attempt was made this year to draw more attention to Artist's Alley by installing two overhead displays, which cycled loops of artwork from participating artists. I found the exercise to be marginally effective, but was happy to see an effort was being made to preserve what is, in my opinion, the heart of SDCC.
While there, I had an opportunity to visit with the uber talented artist and creator Chris Moreno (above), whose work includes Dracula vs. King Arthur, Disney’s Toy Story for BOOM! Studios and Sidekick from Image Comics. He gave me a peek at his upcoming creator-owned project, the wonderfully twisted Zombie Dickheads. My personal favorite is his collaboration with Eisner Award winning writer D.J. Kirkbride, Do You Believe In Ninjas?, a collection of kick-ass ninja poetry.