Uranium disposal cells

This is a uranium disposal cell in Green River, Utah. It's one of several dozen sites around the United States that are the burial grounds for nuclear waste. BLDBLOG posts about this form of "Perpetual Architecture" and links to a new exhibit at Los Angeles's fantastic Center for Land Use Interpretation. "They are time capsules, of sorts, designed to take their toxic contents, undisturbed, as far into the future as possible." Read the rest

National Trust audio tour of Soho London's darker side

The UK's National Trust has released a free smartphone audio tour of London's Soho that apparently focuses on the neighborhood's bohemian, vice, and criminal roots that sprouted with the emergence of the jazz scene in the late 1940s. It's part of the National Trust's efforts to seem, er, hip. From The Telegraph (CC-licensed photo by -AX-):

Listeners, who will be restricted to those aged over 17, will be able to listen to drunken tales from the Groucho Club while another details how gangster “Mad” Frankie Fraser operated his protection rackets.

Other more colorful stories include those of Francis Bacon, the homosexual artist, being whipped and a former vice-squad officer pointing out a phone box that was a front for a crack den.

Ivo Dawnay, the London director of the Trust who is married to Rachel Johnson, the sister of mayor of London Boris Johnson, defended the new initiative.

“British rock-and-roll, feminism and gay liberation were all born in Soho, and this new technology allows us to deliver those stories in a vivid way,” he said.

"National Trust launches new tourist guide to Soho's red light district" (The Telegraph)

Soho Stories app (National Trust) Read the rest

Treasure Island Music Festival 2012 lineup

Our friends at San Francisco's Treasure Island Music Festival announced the lineup of this year's extravaganza, taking place October 13-14, and it's a doozy. Unlike many of the big music festivals, Treasure Island is a much more intimate scene. (Seriously, 25,000 people really is intimate if you compare it to, say, Coachella's 85,000 punters!) The setting, right on the San Francisco Bay, is breathtaking and with just two stages, you won't spend too much time fighting the crowds. The full list is below. I am most excited to see M83 (video above), The xx, Public Enemy, Best Coast, Youth Lagoon, The War On Drugs, Grimes and plenty of bands I've never heard before. Stay tuned to Boing Boing in the coming weeks for your chance to score free tickets! The line-up:

Saturday, October 13: Girl Talk, Public Enemy, The Presets, SBTRKT, araabMUZIK, Grimes, Toro y Moi, Porter Robinson, Matthew Dear, Tycho, and Dirty Ghosts.

Sunday, October 14: The xx, M83, Divine Fits, Best Coast, Youth Lagoon, Los Campesinos!, The War on Drugs, Ty Segall, Gossip, Imperial Teen, and Hospitality.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2012

Read the rest

Probably false article claims Madonna worries that her fans want her DNA

An report in the Melbourne Herald-Sun, quoting an unlinked article in the UK Mirror (a truly awful tabloid) claims that Madonna has a DNA cleanup crew who sterilize all the surfaces and vacuum all skin cells and hair follicles after Madonna uses a dressing room, to prevent fans from getting hold of her genetic material. Given the stupid provenance, it's almost certainly not true, but it's a great plot-point for some future science fiction story.

Madonna thinks fans want her DNA | Herald Sun (via Kottke) Read the rest

Louis CK direct-sells tickets to his next concert tour - no fees, no scalpers

Having disrupted the traditional concert DVD distribution system with his ground-breaking DRM-free $5 download video, comedian Louis CK is now preparing to go on tour and he's going to cut out all the sleazy ticket brokers slimy scalpers, and other middle-men, and sell the tour tickets direct to fans. Tickets are a flat $45 each. He says he'll make less than he would if he went with an expensive ticketing service, but he wants to make his shows affordable.

Making my shows affordable has always been my goal but two things have always worked against that. High ticket charges and ticket re-sellers marking up the prices. Some ticketing services charge more than 40% over the ticket price and, ironically, the lower I've made my ticket prices, the more scalpers have bought them up, so the more fans have paid for a lot of my tickets.

By selling the tickets exclusively on my site, I've cut the ticket charges way down and absorbed them into the ticket price. To buy a ticket, you join NOTHING. Just use your credit card and buy the damn thing. opt in to the email list if you want, and you'll only get emails from me.

Also, you'll see that if you try to sell the ticket anywhere for anything above the original price, we have the right to cancel your ticket (and refund your money). this is something I intend to enforce. There are some other rules you may find annoying but they are meant to prevent someone who has no intention of seeing the show from buying the ticket and just flipping it for twice the price from a thousand miles away.

Read the rest

iPhone reviewed

Animal's Joel Johnson has completed his review of the iPhone. Read the rest

Search masterclass

Daniel Russell is a search guru in the employ of Google. He addressed a crowd of journalists with a lecture on the super-advanced search techniques, and posed this riddle: "What’s the phone number of the office where this picture was snapped?" (solution here).

John Tedesco from the San Antonio Express-News took excellent notes on Russell's speech, and has summarized it for the rest of us. I consider myself a very proficient searcher, but Russell's tips were often surprising and enlightening for me. Here's a great one:

Force Google to include search terms.

Sometimes Google tries to be helpful and it uses the word it thinks you’re searching for — not the word you’re actually searching for. And sometimes a website in the search results does not include all your search terms.

How do you fix this?

Typing intext:[keyword] might be Google’s least-known search operations, but it’s one of Russell’s favorites. It forces the search term to be in the body of the website. So if you type:

intext:”San Antonio” intext:Alamo

It forces Google to show results with the phrase “San Antonio” and the word Alamo. You won’t get results that are missing either search term.

How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques (via Making Light) Read the rest

Dead Battery and Live Skype

Photo: Diorama Sky (cc)

I stood at the top of the stairs of a friend's apartment building in Washington, D.C., with a dead iPhone, a burned-out porch lamp, and no idea of how to reach him. This was the culmination of a long drive from the wilds of Pennsylvania, and I was exhausted and out of options. Read the rest

Rebuttals to David Lowery's indictment of "free culture" and its alleged murder of musicians

The Internet has been abuzz with Emily White, a intern at NPR, and her article about how she has never bought music and probably never will. and the response from David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Lowery's response is a powerful piece of writing, and contains some valuable insights into what the old music industry did well, but it's also a mess. He has some weird conspiracy theory that the "free culture" movement is funded by large tech companies as a stalking horse for their issues. Speaking as someone who's raised a fair bit of money for that movement, I'm here to tell you that he's just wrong. For example, most of my wages when I was at the Electronic Frontier Foundation were funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. He also blames the tragic suicides of two musicians on the free culture movement and the alleged effect this has had on musicians' fortunes. Even if you stipulate that the fall in those musicians' fortunes could be blamed on the "free culture" movement (a pretty weird idea in itself), this would logically put the blame for all musicians' suicides prior to the Internet's disruption of the music industry on the shoulders of the major labels.

I thought Lowery's piece was so badly flawed, with its conspiracy theories and sloppy appeals to emotion, that it didn't warrant a response. But others didn't feel the same way. Techdirt's Mike Masnick has posted a guided tour of the best rebuttals, including Jeff Price from Tunecore on the real data on musicians' income in the Internet age; Steve Albini on the false picture Lowery paints of a golden age of the labels that never existed; Jonathan Coulton on the perversity of mourning for a loss of scarcity; former Warner Music CTO Ethan Kaplan on how the labels cut their own throats by fighting innovation; Travis Morrison from Dismemberment Plan on how access to music and compensation for artists are separate issues. Read the rest

Miami Heat owner sues blogger over photo

Miami Heat stakeholder Ranaan Katz is suing a blogger over an "unflattering" photo published online, reports Tim Elfrink in The Miami New Times. In the lawsuit, Katz claims copyright violation; coincidentally, the blogger—who has not removed the photo at his site—is a noted critic of Katz. Katz's lawyer, Todd Levine, even threatened the New Times in a Streisand-tastic effort to prevent it running a story about his lawsuit. [New Times via GigaOm] Read the rest

King City: awesomely weird, silly/funny sf comic

King City collects Brandon Graham's magnificent Tokyo Pop comic serial in one mammoth, $11 (cheap!) trade paperback edition, and man, is that a deal.

Take the sprawling, weird, perverse cityscape of Transmetropolitan, mix in the goofy, punny humor of Tank Girl, add ultraviolent gang warfare, the impending resurrection of a death-god, and a secret society of cat-masters whose feline familiars can serve as super-weapons and tactical material, and you're getting in the neighbourhood of King City.

Graham's black-and-white line drawings have the detail of a two-page spread in MAD Magazine and a little bit of Sergio Argones in their style, if Argones was more interested in drawing the battle-scarred veterans of a Korean xombie war who consume each others' powdered bones to drive away the madness.

Despite the fact that this is a very, very funny story, it manages to be more than a comedy. Joe the cat-master's lost love, Pete the bagman's moral crisis, and Max the veteran's trauma are all real enough to tug at your heart-strings, even as you read the goofy puns off the fine-print labels on the fetishistically detailed illustrations showing King City and its weird and wonderful inhabitants.

JWZ wrote "It's the best comic-book-type thing I've read in quite some time. The trade is a huge phonebook-sized thing and it's awesome." He's right.

King City (via JWZ) Read the rest

Interviews with Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson about futurism, society, technology and science fiction

I did a series of interviews with Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson, as part of my involvement in The Tomorrow Project, which resulted in my writing Knights of the Rainbow Table. Here they are! Read the rest


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Great moments in pedantry: Scientists point out flaws in the science of Prometheus

I've not yet seen Prometheus, but as a genre, I honestly enjoy articles that are all about applying a (perhaps overly) critical lens to the way science is portrayed in science fiction. I think there's a lot to learn from this sort of story—both about how science really works, and how to write more believable stories. In this piece on Forbes, an archaeologist, a geologist, an animal biologist, and two physicists critique the methodology and professional practice of the fiction scientists aboard the Prometheus. (Via Miriam Goldstein) Read the rest

Sonic.net stopped saving logs for more than 14 days in order to frustrate copyright trolls

Sonic.net is a great ISP. Not only are they technically proficient, but they also spend their own money fighting stupid subpoenas on their customers' behalf. They won't seal a police request unless they get a court order (many big ISPs will refuse to tell their customers about police snooping if the cops ask them not to, even without a judge's involvement). They noticed that neither their sysadmins nor the cops ever needed logfiles going back more than 14 days, and that only scummy copyright trolls benefitted from longer log retention, so they cut their logging to two weeks. Forbes's Andy Greenberg interviews Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper:

DJ: So, what we saw was a shift towards customers being made part of a business model that involved–I don’t know if extortion is the right word–but embarassment for gain.

An individual would download a movie, using bittorrent, and infringe copyright. And that might be our customer, like Bob Smith who owns a Sonic.net account, or it might be their spouse, or it might be their child. Or it might be one of his three roommates in a loft in San Francisco, who Bob is not responsible for, and who rent out their loft on AirBnB and have couch surfers and buddies from college and so on and open Wifi.

When lawyers asked us for these users’ information, some of our customers I spoke with said “Oh yeah, crap, they caught me,” and were willing to admit they engaged in piracy and pay a settlement.

Read the rest

The man who made his own toaster

I spent the weekend at the Aspen Environmental Forums, and one of the presenters I got to see there as Thomas Thwaites—a man who built a toaster from scratch. As a project for his design degree, Thwaites reverse-engineered a cheap toaster from the British equivalent of Wal-Mart and used it as a blueprint to build his own. The catch: Thwaites made everything that went into the toaster. He mined the metal. He drew out the wires on jewelry-making equipment. He even found a way to make the plastic casing.

The point of this project wasn't to suggest that everybody ought to be capable of DIY-ing up their own toaster. (Really, if you wanted toast in a post-apocalyptic world, you'd really just be better off with an old-fashioned, pre-electric toaster, which held bread in a metal grille so you could toast it over the fire). Rather, Thwaites was trying shine a light on how much we rely on other people, on their skill sets that we don't necessarily share, and on centuries of technological advance. It takes a village to make a toaster. Or, rather, in this modern world, it takes lots of villages, all over the planet.

Thwaites' project was also an interesting perspective on industrialization. There are drawbacks to producing goods this way. But there are benefits, too. And when we have the necessary conversations about how to make our world more sustainable, we need to consider both sides of the coin ... and how we can get the benefits for less risk. Read the rest

Key to the Gustavademecum

Last week, I posted about the The Gustavademecum for the Island of Manhattan, a delightfully geeky, DIY-made, mid-20th century dining guide produced by a physical chemist for the benefit of traveling scientists and engineers.

One of the key features of the guide was an elaborate series of symbols and letters that provided a lot of information about various restaurants in a small amount of space—and which look like some kind of crazy alchemical shorthand. In the original post, I included a page from the guide, so you can look at that to see the symbols in action.

Hugh Merwin, who wrote the story on The Gustavademecum for Saveur, also scanned a page from the guide's key, which didn't appear in the original story. You can see some of it above, and visit his personal website to see the full key. Read the rest

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