Boing Boing 

Experts in use of force shocked by video of Oakland police shooting photographer

A story in the San Jose Mercury News today on the video we published yesterday here on Boing Boing, which shows an Oakland Police officer shooting a photographer with a projectile, for no apparent reason.

Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor who's an expert in police decision-making and use of force, said the video left him "astonished, amazed and embarrassed."

"Unless there's something we don't know, that's one of the most outrageous uses of a firearm that I've ever seen," he said. "Unless there's a threat that you can't see in the video, that just looks like absolute punishment, which is the worst type of excessive force."

Read the rest here.

Anonymous 101: Introduction to the Lulz

Quinn Norton has a definitive introduction to Anonymous up at Wired.com's Threat Level today. It's a must-read. Quinn was on the NPR radio program Morning Edition today to talk about her research. It's a great segment, but I was disappointed to hear the host echo what may be falsehoods by repeating the "Anonymous takes on the Mexican Drug Cartels" headline without addressing the layers of smoke and mirror beneath. Quinn could have capably done that herself, of course; if they let her address it during the interview, that didn't make it to the final cut. (Solution, ATC? Bring her back on!)

Billionaire Koch brothers building vast database for political campaigning

"The secretive oil billionaires the Koch brothers are close to launching a nationwide database connecting millions of Americans who share their anti-government and libertarian views," reports the Guardian. The tech project was seeded by the Kochs 18 months ago with $2.5 million, and is being developed by a secretive team of advisors. The database will be called Themis, after the Greek goddess who imposes divine order on human affairs.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: old time jazz from New Orleans

Last year, I found myself in New Orleans for a rather epic birthday party. One place I knew I wanted to visit was Preservation Hall, (which I'd written about here), a legendary unamplified jazz club. It was everything I'd heard and more.

I bought the whole run of Preservation Hall CDs, and they've been in heavy rotation here. Of the bunch, my favorite is "Songs of New Orleans," and I always know it's going to be a good day when the random number generator smiles on me and shuffles a track from the double CD into my music player, especially if that track is Go to the Mardi Gras, which played about ten minutes ago and put a smile on my face that's certain to last the day through.

I've just noticed that there's a new(ish) Preservation Hall Jazz Band CD, American Legacies, which, alas, I can't say anything about, because the Amazon MP3 store won't sell it to me (I'm in Germany and my credit card is registered in the UK, so they shut me out).

Songs of New Orleans

ACLU's public records request about Oakland police's use of force against OWS is refused

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Oakland Police Department for information about what happened during incidents of excessive force against Occupy Oakland demonstrators. "The department is refusing to hand over information about what really happened," the ACLU reports.

Brain Rot: In The Name Of Art...

Read the rest

Researchers to build Babbage Analytical Engine

Over the next decade, a group of researchers in the UK will attempt to construct a working version of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, which he dreamed up a hundred years ago, but did not complete. John Markoff has the story in the New York Times today, and here's a related interactive feature. Cory blogged about the project recently on Boing Boing, and the legacy of Babbage, a great mathematician, philisopher, and engineer, is a favorite topic in our archives (see links below).

Boyett's Mortality Bridge: Rock n' roll Dante meets Orpheus

Mortality Bridge is Steven Boyett's first book since his comeback novel Elegy Beach, published last year as the 25-years-later sequel to his breakout novel Ariel. Superficially, Mortality Bridge is a very different novel from Boyett's earlier work, an existential horror novel about a man who goes to hell to rescue his lover, but like Boyett's best work, Mortality Bridge is a gutwrenching novel about loss and redemption, deserved guilt and betrayal, with an antihero whose quest is at once the stuff of cracking adventure stories and a tragic tale of facing up to one's own cowardice and weakness.

Niko is the antihero in question. Once a junkie rock-star who'd hit bottom, Niko signed a deal with the devil that rocketed him back to stardom, got him clean of his addictions, and brought back Jemma, the love of his life, whom he'd chased away with his doping and mercurial temper. What Niko didn't spot in the fine print of his diabolical deal was that his "chattels" were also forfeit to Hell, and now that Jemma has given him her heart, it has become his chattel, and so when Jemma begins a slow, agonizing death from cancer, Niko realizes that he has damned her along with himself.

Niko -- who has already been lost and redeemed once -- can't bear to let this come to pass. And so he formulates a mad and cunning plan to follow Death as he ferries Jemma's soul to hell, and there, he will play his guitar for the devils and the damned, and win back his love.

Boyett's Hell is steeped in mysticism and antiquity, borrowing freely from the Greeks, and Dante, and Bosch. Each turn in the underworld gives Boyett a fresh excuse to unlimber new grotesque phrases, stomach-churning descriptions of tortures too horrific to contemplate (though Boyett forcefully insists upon it).

Meanwhile, Niko's race through Hell is one of the greatest supernatural adventure stories of recent memory, surpassing Niven and Pournelle's classic Inferno (itself a very good novel on a similar premise, even if it does turn on the power of Hell to redeem one of history's great monsters). It is not a mere allegory about sin and redeption, cowardice and nobility: it's also a damned good story, which sets it apart from almost all existential allegories.

Mortality Bridge

Sample chapters

"Piracy-stricken" Viacom CEO tops pay-raise charts

Philippe P. Dauman, CEO of Viacom, led the executive compensation raise chart this year with a $50.5 million raise that brought his total annual compensation up to $84.5 (much of the 148.6% raise came in the form of stock options). Meanwhile, Viacom continues to argue that it is in danger of capsizing unless radical changes are made, starting with taking away the right to privately share videos of our personal lives on YouTube.

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Any Chevrolet Volt Drivers Out There?

The Chevy Volt is getting a lot of attention these days, and if you drive a Volt, you are, too! Volt drivers say they’re constantly getting stopped at grocery stores and cornered in parking lots by curious onlookers wanting to know how the Volt works. Surely, you can relate. What is your Volt story?

Maybe it’s about what it’s like to charge regularly and fill up rarely, the furthest you’ve driven on an electric charge, or perhaps how the Volt has made you competitive with maximizing your efficiency. Now it’s your turn to share how you have achieved these amazing feats and how the Volt has changed your life.

Please send your amazing stories to http://goo.gl/pa1Al and you may be profiled for a feature!

This post is sponsored by Chevrolet- It's more car than electric. 

Glitch: dreamlike whimsy and play in a MMO


Ars Technica has an in-depth review of Glitch, the whimsical, free-to-play game from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield (we've written about Glitch here before) and his new company, Tiny Speck. Glitch uses whimsical, cooperative tasks to produce fun and delight, rather than combat:

Tuning the quests and interactions to provide the right level of difficulty and reward was complicated. In beta testing, the development team found that while singing to butterflies was repetitive and boring, people would still sing to butterflies obsessively—because it provided small but guaranteed amounts of experience. The devs tried to balance this by making singing to animals cost energy, but then players simply farmed huge numbers of girly drinks (which made animals interactions cost no energy) and continued to grind the same thing again and again. The girly drinks were then nerfed, and people immediately complained.

"We realized that if we incentivized things that were inherently boring," Butterfield told me, "people would do them again and again—it showed up in the logs—but that they would secretly hate us."

Player housing is implemented, with an apartment-style design that lets anyone have their own home without cluttering up the landscape. You can decorate your home and grow things in your own garden on the patio. Unlike many games, in Glitch it does not take long to save up enough cash for a place of your own, though making it look less than spartan will take considerable effort.

Funny little touches to the game litter the game. For example, getting the right papers to let you purchase an apartment requires multiple trips to the Department of Administrative Affairs (Ministry of Departments) where you spend much time in a waiting area while bureaucratic lizard men play Farmville on tiny computers.

Butterfly milking and pig nibbling: building the strange world of Glitch

My friend Spot

The black-and-white spotted "Dalmatian" horses depicted in some prehistoric European cave art may have actually existed. (Via Steve Silberman)

Ballet shoes as technology

At the Atlantic, science historian Suzanne Fischer has a really interesting post up about the development of pointe shoes. In the early 20th century, at a time when all sorts of technologies were remaking the way people lived, worked, and played, pointe shoes were doing the same thing for ballerinas.

In particular, Fischer writes, pointe shoes were almost the dance equivalent of Henry Ford's assembly line—they standardized bodies and turned dancers into a sleek, modern commodity.

... the new shoes forced dancers' bodies to move in new ways. Dancers on this pointe regimen developed characteristically long, lean leg muscles. Balanchine also encouraged dancers to let the shoes remake their bodies, including developing bunions that gave the foot just the right line. And as their bodies were remade, dancers became "like IBM machines," modern and indistinguishable. This had consequences for labor, too. For one, stars became a less central feature of dance companies as dancers became more interchangeable, and second, dancers came to spend hours working on their shoes -- altering, gluing, and caring for them. In fact, in 1980 dancers threatened to strike -- not over hours or pay, but for better pointe shoes, and better management of them.

Via Alexis Madrigal

Image: get the pointe III, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from chrishaysphotography's photostream

Just wash your pants, people

Levi's recommends freezing jeans, instead of washing them, as a way to save water. The idea is that freezing will kill the bacteria that make your pants smell. But Stephen Craig Cary, an expert in low-temperature microbial life, begs to differ.

Cloud computing and labor disputes: University locks striking profs out of their coursework and email

Robert Spahr, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University Department of Cinema & Photography, writes,

I wanted to let you know that we are not only in the middle of a labor strike, but most importantly, a public university has shown by their actions, the dangers of Cloud Computing.

The University has disabled faculty email, and locked them out of their personal work contained in Blackboard (a course management system) as well as censoring pro-union comments from the official University Facebook page.

Myself, and some fellow faculty and students quickly produced a blog and Twitter feed to combat this censorship.

Turns out the uni isn't just nuking pro-union statements, but any questions about the labor dispute posted by its students and other stakeholders.

What happens when you flush a toilet in the world's tallest building

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It's located in Dubai, a city with a lot of other skyscrapers. What Dubai doesn't have: A central sewage infrastructure that can accommodate the needs of a bunch of skyscrapers.

You see the problem.

Last night, while listening to NPR's Fresh Air, I heard Kate Ascher, author of The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper, explain what happens to sewage from the Burj and Dubai's other tall buildings. It's only Tuesday, and this may be the craziest fact I hear all week.

TERRY GROSS: Right. So you know, you write that in Dubai they don't have, like, a sewage infrastructure to support high-rises like this one. So what do they do with the sewage?

KATE ASCHER: A variety of buildings there, some can access a municipal system but many of them actually use trucks to take the sewage out of individual buildings and then they wait on a queue to put it into a waste water treatment plant. So it's a fairly primitive system.

GROSS: Well, these trucks can wait for hours and hours on line.

ASCHER: That's right. I'm told they can wait up to 24 hours before they get to the head of the queue. Now, there is a municipal system that is being invested in and I assume will connect all of these tall buildings in some point in the near future, but they're certainly not alone. In India many buildings are responsible for providing their own water and their own waste water removal.

So it's, it's really – we're very fortunate in this country that we assume we can plug into an urban system that can handle whatever waste the building produces. That's not the case everywhere else in the world.

GROSS: Well, it really illustrates one of the paradoxes of modern life, that we have these just incredible structures that reach, you know, that seem to reach to the sky and then in a place like Dubai you have a 24 hour long line of trucks waiting to dispose of the waste from those buildings.

ASCHER: Right. Well, you know, you have to remember that a place like Dubai really emerged in the last 50 years. It was a sleepy, you know, Bedouin town half a century ago. And what you do is when you bring in the world's, you know, most sophisticated architects and engineers, you can literally build anything, including a building of 140 or 150 stories. But designing a municipal network of sewage treatment is in some ways more complex.

It certainly requires more money and more time to make it happen, so one just seemed to jump ahead of the other.

Image: Big Rigs, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from daveseven's photostream

If Cormac McCarthy was a Yelp reviewer

Yelping with Cormac is a rather arch and very funny Tumblr with a simple premise: what if Cormac McCarthy was addicted to reviewing restaurants and stores on Yelp?

Whole Foods Market
Noe Valley - San Francisco, CA
Cormac M. | Author | Lost in the chaparral, NM
Four stars.

The sheriff and the posse were now a block away and riding seven abreast rifles in hand and horses snorting and wildeyed. The outlaw dropped his pistol and stiffwalked into the parking lot of a grocery store. Around him young women in skintight sporting clothes stopped and stared.

The ground shook as the posse rode up on the parking lot entrance but the sheriff stopped his riders with a raised hand and sawed his palamino around sending the animal sidestepping like a showhorse into a newspaper box which fell over with a great cacophony. When the noise subsided the neighborhood and the parking lot were silent. The riders and the outlaw and the women frozen like actors in some gypsy roadshow.

A rider wearing an elaborate mustache and carrying a Winchester onehanded nudged his quarterhorse toward the sheriff. Hell he’s right there sheriff.

I know it. Im lookin at him same as you.

What are we waitin for then.

We caint touch him now deputy. They got their own way here.

The riders watched as the women left their station wagons and strollers and encircled the outlaw. As if some ancient instinct united them. Silent as wolves and staring intently at the broken man standing there. He saw his mistake and called out to the riders reaching toward them with his one good arm but was struck down with a savage blow from a rolled yoga mat.

Yelping with Cormac (via Making Light)