Adorable Minecraft creeper and candy

Brand sez, "My little girl (age 8) put together her costume this year based on her favorite video game creature: the Minecraft Creeper. I've seen a few creepers this year, but none as good as hers."

Sad Creeper has a candies (Thanks, Brand!) Read the rest

Third Person Effect: an excerpt from You Are Not So Smart

The Third Person Effect, an excerpt from the new book You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself, by David McRaney

The Misconception: You believe your opinions and decisions are based on experience and facts, while those who disagree with you are falling for the lies and propaganda of sources you don’t trust.

The Truth: Everyone believes the people they disagree with are gullible, and everyone thinks they are far less susceptible to persuasion than they truly are.

I can see right through that politician’s lies. People are such sheep. People are so stupid. People will believe anything. I prefer to lead, not follow.

Have you ever thought like this? Would it blow your mind to know everyone thinks this?

If everyone thinks they aren’t gullible and can’t be swayed by advertising, political rhetoric, or charismatic con artists, then someone must be deluding themselves. Sometimes it’s you.

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Spa offers massage, facials, shamanic journey

I recently attended a conference at a luxury hotel in Marina, California where the spa brochure lists services like massage, facials, and, er, shamanic journeys. Ostensibly, the shaman is a white dude in southwestern resort ware who will place shells on your body and wave a feather over you as he "engages the forces of nature and the ancestors' ancient wisdom to create lasting changes for physical, mental and emotional well-being." Your shamanic journey includes illumination, soul retrieval, destiny retrieval and divination, and bands of power. Man, bands of power would alone be worth the $250 fee. Click the menu to see it larger. The shaman's red cast is either an artifact of my lousy scanner, or it's his aura. Read the rest

Recreating reality in Lego

In 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney pumped birdshot into a friend's face, simultaneously upping his thug cred while inspiring Lego fan Thom Beckett to depict the scene in plastic bricks. Read the rest

Fire at LA's famous Magic Castle

Hollywood's legendary Magic Castle, where Boing Boing has held yearly partner dinners, is on fire. Reports say the kitchen and dining room were extensively damaged, and that the other floors are also damaged. This is sad news as the Magic Castle is a beautiful and historic building.

UPDATE: Magician Lary Crews tweeted details: "120 firefighters got it out in 1hr. Started in attic. No injuries. Castle is closed tonight."

Fire erupts at Hollywood Hills' Magic Castle

Photo: Firefighters battle blaze at Magic Castle on Monday. Credit: KTLA-TV. Read the rest

Air Space - a trip through an airport detention center

The Iceland Air lounge has helpful staff—the welcome desk offers helpful tips on avoiding airport hassles and even provides free internet access. They'll help you read your boarding pass and even answer questions about all its confusing symbols. Should one ever be in the unfortunate position of having the dreaded 'SSSS' marked upon it, the help desk will suggest you wait until the exact boarding time before even approaching customs. They'll even apologize, as if they had any hand in the process. And that was their recommendation to me, when I had it clearly printed on mine. It was not my lucky day.

Gweek podcast episode 024: John Hodgman

Our guest co-host is John Hodgman, actor, "resident expert" on The Daily Show, celebrity judge, and book author. The third and final installment in his trilogy of Complete World Knowledge -- That Is All -- comes out on November 1.

John spoke with Rob Beschizza, Ruben Bolling, and me about his book and many other things, including:

Our favorite comic book stores:

Bergen Street Comics (New York) Forbidden Planet (New York) Secret Headquarters (Los Angeles) Meltdown (Los Angeles) Gosh! (London) Forbidden Planet (London)

The Judge John Hodgman podcast

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Faster-than-light neutrino update: What's going on behind the scenes?

The publication process for a research paper about physics works a little differently than other subjects. That's because of arXiv. Funded by Cornell University, this site posts research papers, before they're formally published in a scientific journal. Unlike most scientific journals, which charge big fees for subscriptions or even to view a single paper, arXiv is free and open to the public. You can read everything published there—more than 700,000 papers about physics, math, computer science, and more. The other big difference: arXiv isn't peer reviewed. At least, not ahead of time.

A lot of the time, when you read a newspaper article about a new study in one of those fields, the study hasn't actually yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It's just been posted to arXiv, which sort of becomes a crowd-sourced peer review peer review of its own. Especially for headline-grabbing research making big, bold claims.

That's the background you need to understand what's going on right now with the study that claimed to find neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. That announcement was made in an arXiv paper. Putting those results on arXiv was as much a way of saying, "Woah, we just found something crazy, please tell us if you see something we've done wrong," as it was a formal declaration of scientific discovery.

Since that paper was published in September, there have been more than 80 follow-up papers, also published on arXiv, offering criticism of the original research or proposing theoretical explanations of how that seemingly crazy finding could fit into physics as we know it. Read the rest

Vintage Hallowe'en postcards

Here's a beautiful gallery of vintage Hallowe'en postcards from the New York Public Library Picture Collection on Flickr.

Haunted Postcards (via How to Be a Retronaut) Read the rest

The problems with the Gates Foundation malaria vaccine

Don't get too excited about the RTS,S malaria vaccine, the development of which is being funded by the Gates Foundation. At present, the vaccine doesn't seem to work well enough to make a difference and nobody knows what it's going to cost (a big deal when you're talking about a disease like malaria, which goes hand-in-hand with poverty). Beyond that, several leading vaccine researchers are questioning the methodology used to analyze the results of RTS,S trials. The vaccine may be even less effective than previously thought. Bottom line: The research is valuable, but this particular vaccine probably won't be the breakthrough people are hoping for. Read the rest

How yogurt can alter gene expression

Scientists don't actually know how the bacteria in yogurt and other fermented foods help humans digest food easier. But a recent study hit on a possible explanation. Turns out, some probiotics seem to be capable of altering gene expression in our native gut flora.

Jeffrey Gordon, a microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, and his team gave a commercially-available probiotic yogurt containing five strains of bacteria to healthy adult volunteers and administered the same five strains to mice that harbored a subset of genetically-characterized human gut microbes. The yogurt bacteria did not significantly alter population structure in any of the entrenched gut microbes, in humans or mice—a result that is not surprising, according to Mills. “To assume that you could eat a yogurt and numerically challenge what’s in your gut is kind of like dumping a gallon of Kool-Aid in your swimming pool and expecting it to change color,” he said.

But RNA sequencing of the human gut microbes in the mice revealed that the probiotic bacteria changed the expression of gut microbe genes encoding key metabolic enzymes, such as those involved in the catabolism of sugars called xylooligosaccharides, which are found in many fruits and vegetables. Mass spectrometry of metabolites in urine, which result from the ramped up metabolic processes in the probiotic-fed mice, confirmed the alterations, and when the researchers ran similar analyses on gut microbes from the human yogurt eaters, they found upregulation of the same genes.

This study won't be the final word on the subject of how probiotics work. Read the rest

The Decemberists: live and interview

Directed by Scott Compton for Boing Boing Video Read the rest

Oakland PD told a judge it wouldn't use projectile weapons any more

The Oakland PD's use of projectile weapons such as flashbang grenades used in the assault (possibly by non-OPD officers) on the Occupy Oakland camp seems to violate the 2004 court settlement it agreed to in a class-action settlement with Iraq war demonstrators who were assaulted by police: "You would think that after signing an agreement and paying out taxpayer money to 'compensate' for abusive police practices, the Oakland Police Department would learn how to behave in a civilized fashion when dealing with people exercising their First Amendment rights." (Thanks, Cowicide!) Read the rest

The 2011 DIY Halloween costume open thread

One artfully torn dress from Goodwill, white face paint, and some of that hairspray-style hair dye to color my hands and feet = A weekend of explaining what a "wight" is to people who have never read Game of Thrones. (Sadly, the cheap blue contact lenses I picked up at a gas station wouldn't go into my eyes successfully.)

What did you dress up as this year?

Open thread: your DIY Hallowe'en costumes?DIY Hallowe'en: The GrayscalesDIY Hallowe'en: Minecraft CreeperDIY Hallowe'en: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and alleged source Bradley ManningDIY Hallowe'en Costumes: Ghost Rider Johnny AngelImpaled Zombie Skateboarder DIY Halloween Costume - Boing Boing Read the rest

Circusleaks: documents show cruelty to elephants at Ringling Bros.

Mother Jones has published the results of its yearlong investigation that rips the big top off how Ringling Bros. circus treats its elephants. "The Cruelest Show on Earth." Read the rest

Hollywood production in Chinese city of Linyi attended by human rights abuses

According to Chinese activists, the production of a Hollywood movie called "21 and Over" from Relativity Media in the Chinese city of Linyi has led to human rights abuses. Local activists accuse the government of Linyi of horrific corruption and violence, and the arrival of the production crew has been attended by gangs of unidentified thugs who stone and beat activists, diplomats and journalists who try to visit the site.

In the past several weeks, dozens of activists and Chen's supporters have risked being violently assaulted to attempt visits to his home in a bid to draw attention to his plight. The latest group was made up of 37 petitioners who traveled there by bus from Beijing on Sunday and fled after being attacked by about 50 unidentified thugs as they approached Chen's village, said one petitioner, Peng Zhonglin, from Jiangxi province. Linyi police refused to comment when reached by phone.

Human Rights Watch's senior Asia researcher, Nicholas Bequelin, said it was puzzling that Relativity appeared comfortable cozying up with the city's political leadership.

"They seem to be eager to assume this role of being a prop in Linyi's propaganda campaign to cast itself as a civilized municipality that promotes culture when the reality is that it is not only holding one of China's most prominent human rights defenders, but going to extraordinary lengths to persecute him," Bequelin said.

Activists slam US studio for filming in China city Read the rest

Inn at the Crossroads: A "Game of Thrones" cooking blog

I've long been a big fan of modern attempts to cook medieval cuisine (see:, University of Chicago Press' The Medieval Kitchen, and all the various scanned, historic cookbooks available through Wikipedia). There's something about the cultural anthropology of food that just really appeals to me. Plus, I love the way historic cookbooks assume you know how to do then-basic parts of household labor and will start a recipe with instructions like, "First, butcher and dress a pig." Oh, okay. Sure.

The Inn at the Crossroads blog combines the geeky joy I get from medieval cooking with the geeky joy I get from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. The results: A brilliant collection of recipes for dishes mentioned in all five of Martin's novels, many developed using medieval cookbooks and techniques.

In a way, this blog is almost inevitable. I haven't read a series of books this obsessed with the food its characters eat since Little House on the Prairie. Unlike Laura Ingalls Wilder, however, George R. R. Martin doesn't provide much instruction in how to make that food. So bloggers Sariann and Chelsea should get serious props for reverse-engineering recipes for everything from medieval pork pie , to marinated goat with honey, to honey-spiced "locusts" (actually crickets). This is one of those food blogs that's totally worth gawking over, even if you never plan on cooking the recipes.

Thank you, Laci Balfour!

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