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Social graph analysis reveals criminal conspiracy of slumlords

OrgNet, a data-mining consultancy, describes how it mined the social graph of the interlocking, every changing owners of several slum-buildings to show that they were all in a criminal conspiracy to avoid having to do the legally required maintenance necessary to keeping their buildings habitable and safe.

Figure 6 shows the complete conspiracy. It was now obvious that properties exchanged hands not as independent and valid real estate investments but as a conspiracy to avoid fixing the building violations. The green links represent borrowed money flowing into the buildings through new mortgages. As time went on, and the buildings appreciated in value during a real estate boom -- loans from the mortgage company allowed the owners to "strip mine" the equity from the buildings. This is a common slumlord modus operandi -- they suck money out of a building rather than put money back in for maintenance.

...The city attorney combined the network analysis, along with the city's own extensive investigation and was able to get a conviction of key family members. Later, all of one building's tenants filed a civil suit using much of the same evidence and won a sufficient award to allow all of them to move out into decent housing. Several tenants used a part of their award to start businesses.

Uncloaking a Slumlord Conspiracy with Social Network Analysis (via Kottke)

Pulse-sensing headband

[Video Link] Becky Stern made this video about her cool pulse-sensing headband, which makes a heart-shaped LED array flash in time to your heartbeat. You can build one yourself by following the instructions at Make: Projects. It's also one of many cool "DIY Superhuman" projects that we have in Make Vol 29, which is will hit newsstands soon!

Righthaven domain sells for $3300

After a few days on the block, copyright troll Righthaven's domain name sold for $3,300 this afternoon. The funds go to creditors of the bankrupt firm, which tried -- and failed -- to build a business shaking down websites that excerpted content from its clients' publications.

We almost bought it just so we could redirect it at humorously-chosen sites, but it got a bit too racy for us around the $2k mark. The whois currently remains the law firm that seized it; if you won it, get in touch!

Previously: Righthaven in its death throes, domain going up for auction

The photographic fascination with twins, by Martin Schoeller

Jan Ngm Cvr 2012 The January 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands now, features fascinating photos of twins by Martin Schoeller.

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Loretta (left); Lorraine (right)

When Loretta was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, Lorraine was in the doctor’s office with her. Loretta asked if Lorraine should be checked as well. The doctor discovered that Lorraine also had breast cancer. After receiving treatment, the sisters are both in good health.

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Marta (left); Emma (right)

The 15-year-old sisters want to go to the same university and become opera singers. They both like to draw as well but have a different approach to their art. Marta depicts finely detailed faces, while Emma prefers more expansive images: the sky, the rain, objects in motion.

Twin Mm7780 Jan013 Set

Jeff (left); Steve (right)

In grade school it didn’t matter that Jeff Nagel wasn’t good at spelling—Steve was. The twins dressed identically save for wristwatches, which could be secretly switched before a test. Now 44, they work different jobs in Ohio but still fool people sometimes. Jeff, a chef, once asked Steve to lend a hand at a catering gig. The guests became so alarmed at how quickly Jeff moved in and out of the kitchen that they told him to slow down, not realizing more than one man was on the job.

See more twin photos Martin Schoeller

Photos of snake handlers and faith healers of the 1940s

Snake Faith1

"They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them."

"Snake Handlers, Faith Healers of the 1940s" (

Supercute! "Dumb Dumbs"

[Video Link] The wait is over! Here's a new Supercute video, called "Dumb Dumbs."

According to Alec Cumming, dad of Supercutester Julia Cumming, "Dumb Dumbs" is "a uke-driven cautionary tale about the addictive qualities of sugary treats vs. drugs, or something like that."

See more Supercute! coverage on Boing Boing

Canadians: tell Parliament to preserve Canada's public domain!

Michael Geist sez,

Canada celebrated New Year's Day this year by welcoming the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Carl Jung into the public domain just as European countries were celebrating the arrival of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, 20 years after both entered the Canadian public domain. Canada's term of copyright meets the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years, which has now become a competitive advantage when compared to the United States, Australia, and Europe, which have copyright terms that extend an additional 20 years (without any evidence of additional public benefits).

In an interesting coincidence, the Canadian government filed notice of a public consultation on December 31, 2011 on the possible Canadian entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, trade talks that could result in an extension in the term of copyright that would mean nothing new would enter the Canadian public domain until 2032 or beyond. The TPP covers a wide range of issues, but its intellectual property rules as contemplated by leaked U.S. drafts would extend the term of copyright, require even stricter digital lock rules, restrict trade in parallel imports, and increase various infringement penalties.

Now is the opportunity to help preserve the public domain in Canada by speaking out against TPP copyright provisions that would extend the term of copyright or impose even stricter digital lock rules. The consultation is open until February 14, 2012. All it takes a single email with your name, address, and comments on the issue. The email can be sent to Alternatively, submissions can be sent by fax (613-944-3489) or mail (Trade Negotiations Consultations (TPP), Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division II (TPW), Lester B. Pearson Building, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2).

Help Preserve the Canadian Public Domain: Speak Out on the Trans Pacific Partnership Negotiations

Delicious rotten cheese

"The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a 'pitter-patter' sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten" [Wikipedia]

Gingerbread cuckoo clock with gingerbread gears

Instructables virtuosa Mezcraft made a (sadly non-working) geared gingerbread cuckoo clock with internal gingerbread gearing. She kind of beats herself up for the mechanical unsoundness of gingerbread, but that's hardly her fault!

Well - this is a bit of a fail so this is where it gets sad. After all my research and all of my effort my gears have stuck to the axle and will not turn. Two of them have some movement but the other two are stuck. If anybody out there has tips on how to avoid getting icing down onto your axle I am all ears! I still haven't given up on this idea. I might try it again another time..I think also the weight of my top gear pieces limited the ability for the gear to turn. Ah well.. It was really fun to try and do. Plus my clock feels slightly more authentic, like it has a gingerbread gear heart on the inside. No Hollow Gingerbread house for me, that's right, I got a Gingerbread house with soul...

I spent a good deal of time "cleaning up" the edges of the gears with an exacto blade attempting to give them smooth surfaces in which to turn well. I then added wax paper "washers" as I was worried that icing might stick ( this was not an unfounded worry), and that the gingerbread might rub weirdly on all other gingerbread. My initial test before icing of the gears worked well. It turned and it had promise. I then assembled the whole gear section together with icing and crossed my fingers that it would not stick together...

So all that work on my gears that didn't work and got stuck AND you cannot even see them through my clock face! Not enough light I suppose...Pretty funny though. At least I know that they are there. I think next time I should set up some major lighting if I want to put something on the inside of a gingerbread house. LESSON LEARNED.

Edible Gingerbread Cuckoo Clock with Internal gears (via Craft)

Papercraft Paris

This tiny, adorable papercraft Paris playset is a free download. Good fun for a weekend's pretend voyage -- spice up your romantic life by bringing your loved one a Continental breakfast in bed with a miniature Paris on the tray, and deliver it wearing a beret and nothing else. Or use 'em to decorate the kids' French toast.*

It's a positive externality of Paper City Paris, an ambitious larger project from Made By Joel.

Travel Size Paper City Paris! | Made by Joel (via Super Punch)

* Whatever floats your boat. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, "Hey, it's the 21st century, anything you can do to have a good time let's get on with, as long as it doesn't cause a murder."

HOWTO make a custom snowglobe of your house

A clever fellow called Qarl figured out how to make a custom snowglobe of his family's house as a surprise gift for his wife. He auto-modelled it in Google Sketchup, cleaned it up some, added a snowy hill, sent the model to a 3D printing company, and popped it in a snowglobe kit. Voila!

1) order a custom snowglobe kit. ebay has a bunch to choose from. try to find one that tells you its exact dimensions so you can size your model before the globe arrives in the mail.

2) take pictures of your house. you probably want at least eight circling the perimeter. more can’t hurt.
i also grabbed a top-down view of my house from google’s satellite maps. it’s very low-res, but the house is going to be tiny, so it works out.

3) build a cg model of your house.
i tried a handful of the “automatic” systems to build models. microsoft’s photosynth, autodesk’s 123D catch, a couple lesser known programs. none of them worked well enough to produce a final model - they did well for 75% of the model, but then horribly mutilated the last 25%. in the end i went with google’s sketchup - its photo match tools are great for building models from photos of buildings.

the weather outside is frightful (via Super Punch)

Ben Marcus's The Flame Alphabet novel and short film

Author Ben Marcus sent me a link to this video based on his new novel due out next week, titled The Flame Alphabet. Judging by this animation and Ben's description, I expect it to be a delightfully dark and weird tale. Ben says:

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The novel is about a toxic language that comes from children. It has an invented religious cult in it (with sermons transmitted by underground radio), and it has weaponized languages that give children a level of power they cannot handle. It's also about families--how impossible and yet necessary they are. And it's about communication itself--what, if anything, we are without it.

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (Amazon)

Artist Robert Brandenburg "hijacks" found oil paintings

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Ohio artist Robert Brandenburg "hijacks" existing mass-produced oil paintings to great effect. He has a solo show, appropriately titled "Pooh… and Other Sh*t," opening tomorrow at Gallery 1988 in Venice, California. From his artist statement:

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These pictures began as a family tradition of giving each other 'gag gifts' for Christmas; I took cheap oils from a local flea market and embellished them with absurdities. Do I ever feel guilty about painting over someone else's work ? Nope. I only modify artwork and objects that have been mass produced as general consumer goods: these can be found in commercial flea markets, 'starving artists sales' at hotels, the supermarket, or ordered directly from the source (production line paintings made in China). An original, unique piece of art is off limits; even if it's a stinker from a 7th grade art class. I take the mundane and turn it into something special.

Robert Brandenburg (Thanks, Greg Long!)

Friday Freak-Out: Os Mutantes perform "Caminhante Noturno"

Friday Freak-Out: Tropicália-psych heroes Os Mutantes perform "Caminhante Noturno" on TV in 1969. (Thanks, Mark!)

Super Punch: "Dell laptops are terribly low quality and you shouldn't buy one"

John at Super Punch had such a farcically bad time trying to get service on a new Dell laptop that turned out to be a lemon that it prompted him to document it in eye-watering detail in a post called "Dell laptops are terribly low quality and you shouldn't buy one." I'm convinced.

I called Tuesday afternoon and was told that the LCD was broken and that my warranty did not cover fixing it. I pointed out that the laptop was only three weeks old, and was clearly defective - - I had never dropped it, and indeed had never taken it out of my house. The service agent was unmoved and told me that he would do me a favor and only charge me $200 to fix the screen (instead of the actual cost of $400).

I asked to speak to a supervisor, who told me that "LCD leakage" occurred, and that such a problem was not covered by my warranty. I asked what would have caused such a problem, and he told me it was likely caused by opening or closing the laptop. I told him that a brand new laptop that breaks on account of its intended use was defective, and thus any needed repair was covered by my warranty. He insisted that I would have to pay for the repairs. I asked to speak to his supervisor. He told me that no supervisor was available, but that one would call me on Wednesday.

Super Punch: Dell laptops are terribly low quality and you shouldn't buy one

Zombie head decanter in Boing Boing Shop

What is a zombie head decanter? According to the description, it's a "decanter shaped like a zombie's head." Only $19.95 in the Boing Boing Shop!

Jack Kerouac's 1957 letter to Marlon Brando: "I'm praying that you'll buy On the Road and make a movie of it."

Marlon didn't bite. But this May, the movie On the Road is coming out. The clip below looks like it was shot surreptitiously by someone who sneaked on the set.

Potrzebie: Jack Kerouac writing to Marlon Brando in 1957

Hamster-powered sub

Two (unnamed?) Ocean Engineering students created a "hamster-powered submarine" from "materials derived from common household objects" that connected a hamster wheel in a sealed, air-supplied vessel to a propeller, allowing hamsters to take themselves on aquatic jaunts. They documented the build in some detail, and supplied a video of the maiden voyage. One of the design requirements was "the life and well being of the hamster must not be compromised in any way."

HPS Hamstar: the Hamster Powered Submarine (via DVICE)

PCs with no pre-installed crapware are now a special product category with a marketing campaign

Microsoft's "Signature" PCs come without pre-installed crapware.

Many new PCs come filled with lots of trialware and sample software that slows your computer down—removing all that is a pain, so we do it for you! Every PC the Microsoft Store sells is put on a software diet and performance is tuned to run the best it can. We call this process Microsoft Signature

This is a positive move, but it's sad that laptops without performance-wrecking advertising trash are now a distinct product category with its own marketing campaign. I hope you like stickers! Meanwhile, Linux and OS X are right where they always were: crapware-free at no extra cost.

How to train children to not vomit when they become astronauts

(Via Phil Are Go)

Quasicrystals win Nobel for discoverer

Ars Technica's Matthew Francis: "The 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Dan Schechtman for his discovery of quasicrystals, materials that do not have the regular lattice structure of crystalline solids."

Village Voice cover

The cover of the latest Village Voice, art directed by John Dixon. I like the way the top line information is in the reflection along the top of the bin. How fun would it be to go through airport security and put this issue in a security bin, with nothing else? (Via coverjunkie, a great site about magazine covers)

Novel way to apply lipstick

Every Friday, artist Mitch O'Connell runs a T.G.I.F. post featuring an image from his massive collection of vintage ephemera. This time, it's an old lipstick add, in which a woman is practicing her lipstick applying skills with no hands and closed eyes. The author of the 1974 book, Subliminal Seduction, which I loved reading as a kid, should have included this image in his book. Maybe it wasn't subliminal enough.

HOWTO make a gory, exposed brain cap

Hallowe'en has come and gone, but it's always the right time for hats that make you look like your skull has been removed, exposing your brain!

It's best to study pictures of the human brain before tackling this project in order to best mimic the brain's convolution patterns when caulking the cap.

Weighing a little less than a pound and a half, this costume is still lighter than most professional bicycle and motorcycle helmets. Use a cap without an adjuster to ensure a perfect fit.

Project: Gory Brain Cap

Sponsor Shout-Out: Watchismo

Our thanks to Watchismo for sponsoring Boing Boing Blast, our once-daily delivery of headlines by email.

Check out the DEFAKTO Inkognito. The idea is to display the time with the minimum information while being exact, as needed. This new German-made one-handed watch collection is stripped down to the core, removing all branding from the dial, leaving a single hand to let you know precisely what the approximate time is. DEFAKTO Watches use top of the line Swiss ETA 2824-2 mechanical automatic movements, which can be viewed through the sapphire crystal on the caseback.

The watch is designed for people who don't feel the need to count every second.

Congress wants to limit open access publishing for the US government's $28B/year subsidized research

A new bill in Congress, H.R. 3699 ("To ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector"), creates a regulation that make it hard-to-impossible to publish open access scholarly journals. These are journals that are paid for directly by researchers, who pay a fee that helps pay for peer review, and are then made available free of charge to all comers. They don't make a profit the way that the incumbent commercial journals do, but they have surpassed many of the old journals for quality and "impact factor" (how often articles are cited in other articles) and are used by scholars and institutions who believe them to be better for contemporary science and scholarship than the 18th-century model of the old commercial journals.

Rather than allowing an open marketplace to decide which model is best, Congress -- including Rep Darrell Issa, who has taken a strong stand for open networks in his opposition to SOPA -- is putting its thumb fist on the scales to support the incumbent closed journals.

All of this makes his support for a new bill, the Research Works Act, incomprehensible. That bill would prohibit all federal agencies from putting any privately published articles into an online database, even -- and this is the kicker -- those articles based on research funded by the public if they have received "any value-added contribution, including peer review or editing" from a private publisher. This is a direct attack on the National Institutes of Health's PubMed Central, the massive free online repository of articles resulting from research funded with NIH dollars. Similar bills have been introduced twice before, in 2008 and 2009, and have failed both times. (Letters from universities and libraries opposing the 2009 bill can be found here.)

Unsurprisingly, the bill is supported by the Association of American Publishers, a trade group that has long had issue with NIH's public-access policy, which requires authors who receive any NIH funding to contribute their work to PubMed Central within 12 months of publication. As Paul Courant, the University of Michigan Librarian wrote of the 2008 iteration of the bill, the AAP's claim that the "Government does not fund peer-reviewed journal articles -- publishers do" is simply "not true."

Why Is Open-Internet Champion Darrell Issa Supporting an Attack on Open Science?

Scholarly Societies: It's time to abandon the AAP over The Research Works Act

Huffington Post adds science section

I don't know much about the editor they've hired, former health editor David Freeman, but color me cautiously optimistic. Will this move clean up the HuffPo's notoriously woo-filled science coverage? Cross fingers.

Fish mimics mimic octopus

This is a great find by Not Exactly Rocket Science's Ed Yong. A tourist and a couple of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences have documented an instance of Pacific-dwelling jawfish hiding from predators by blending into the stripes of well-known camouflage guru, the mimic octopus.

This relationship is probably a rare occurrence. The black-marble jawfish is found throughout the Pacific from Japan to Australia, while the mimic octopus only hangs around Indonesia and Malaysia. For most of its range, the jawfish has no octopuses to hide against. Instead, Ross and Rocha think that this particular fish is engaging in “opportunistic mimicry”, taking advantage of a rare chance to share in an octopus’s protection.

Video Link

Thanks, Atvaark!

Earthrise + 2001: A Space Odyssey

Another great example of NASA footage set to sci-fi movie scores. Apparently, we have a thing going here now.

Video Link

Thanks, Avi Solomon!


LA City Attorney to Occupy: pay for brainwashing lessons on limits of free speech and we'll drop the charges

The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has offered Occupy protesters a get-out-of-jail card: all they need to do to skip their court dates is pay $355 for private "free speech lessons" where they will be taught a highly selective version of Constitutional law that holds that the First Amendment doesn't include the kind of protest they enjoy.

It's like they combined traffic school with Maoist "self-criticism sessions" from the Cultural Revolution to make something worse than both combined.

As a civil rights attorney working with some of the approximately 350 protesters who have been arrested in recent weeks noted, the offer is nothing short of "patronizing."

However, it's much more than that. It's a disgusting and cynical way to alleviate the strain on city courts by having protesters pay for an unofficial guilty plea.

In short, the city is offering protesters the chance to purchase courses in which they will learn about the free speech LAPD officers stripped from them.

Apparently, in L.A., you can pay to learn about the free speech you don't actually have.

NOT SATIRE: L.A. Tells Arrested OWS Protesters They Can Pay for "Free Speech" Classes to Avoid Court (Thanks, phosphorious!)

(Image: Police Lines blocking City Hall entrance, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from neontommy's photostream)