Ellsberg on Manning

"[President Obama] is involved in a war against leakers, against whistle-blowers."

Totally amazing painter is totally amazing

...And what's amazing is the process. Joe Sabia shares this YouTube video featuring Chilean artist Fabian Gaete Maureira of arte100cia (Arte Sciencia, or "Art Science") that's making the internet rounds today. Via Reddit, here's the artist's blog, and his Flickr stream with finished works. Dude is like Bob Ross on crack. The one below looks like it could be a cover for a horse_ebook!

Twinkie future threatened amid Hostess woes

Hostess Brands, maker of sugary snacks renowned for their immunity to the laws of thermodynamics, and some of which are filled with indeterminate creams, is preparing to declare bankruptcy for the second time in a decade. [AP]

Gweek 034: Giant Jenga!

Our guest for Gweek podcast 034 is fashion designer Diana Eng, who blends technology with clothing in interesting ways. My cohost is our own Boing Boing science editor, Maggie Koerth-Baker.

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Congressman drops support for SOPA

A sustained campaign coordinated by redditors has evidently convinced Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Budget Chair, to drop his support for the Stop Online Piracy Act:

"The internet is one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history. It should stay that way. While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse. I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House."

Reddit successfully pressures Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to back off support of SOPA. (self.politics)

A Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants

Boing Boing reader Kenneth is a weird-and-rare book lover who is painstakingly scanning and posting online some of his favorite obscurities. Among the Golden Guides he's posted (dig the iconic visual style!) is the exceedingly hard-to-find and out of print "Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants" from 1976. I haven't seen it in the wild in ages; it's as rare as an Amanita Muscaria in Siberia. Where, by the way, the native people once ritually drank each other's pee so multiple people could trip off a single 'shroom.

Do check out the rest of his Golden Guide collection, while it lasts.

Update: Pesco has blogged about the "Hallucinogenic Plants" one before.

Fantastic organized crime comic book, Blue Estate: Vol 2 trade paperback

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One of my favorite comic book series of 2011 was Viktor Kalvachev's Blue Estate. I described it as "a hardboiled crime series that takes place in modern day Los Angeles. It’s got a sleazy action hero actor with a passing resemblance to Steven Seagal, the Russian Mafia, the Italian Mafia, a geeky fanboy private eye in his 40s, a B-movie actress, drugs, alcohol, strippers, hookers, and seedy establishments. It’s dirty and gritty and a lot of fun, in an LA Confidential way.

The series has been anthologized into two trade paperbacks. Vol 1 (collecting issues 5-8) is available now, and Vol 2 (collecting issues 1-4) is due in stores January 11, 2012. If you missed the comics the first time they came around, these anthologies are a great way to catch up on what Comicbuzz.com called “one of the best comics on the racks today, not to mention one of the best crime comics ever.”

EPA to fracking-polluted village: here's some clean water! 24 hours later: Oh hey, nevermind.


Image: A Dimock, Pennsylvania resident who did not want to be identified pours a glass of water taken from his well after the start of natural gas drilling in Dimock, Pennsylvania, March 7, 2009. Dimock is one of hundreds of sites in Pennsylvania where energy companies have raced to tap the massive Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. Residents say the drilling has clouded their drinking water, sickened people and animals and made their wells flammable. Picture taken March 7, 2009.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed a commitment to deliver safe water to residents of Dimock, PA, a small village where natural gas drilling operations have poisoned water supplies. Why? So far, federal officials won't explain why.

Only 24 hours after promising them water, EPA officials informed residents of Dimock that a tanker truck wouldn't be coming after all. The about-face left residents furious, confused and let down — and, once again, scrambling for water for bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets.

Federal Agency Cancels Water Delivery to Pa. Town - ABC News.

In ProPublica's extensive reporting series on fracking in America, Dimock has been mentioned often. Christopher Bateman's 2010 Vanity Fair piece on fracking in rural Pennsylvania is another good read, and focuses on Dimock.

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Building covered in coats


This undated photo from an unattributed newspaper shows the facade of a Danish clothier that advertised its overstock coats by covering the building from top to bottom with over a thousand coats. The display was so successful the police had to come and clear the crowd, but the merchant still cleared out his overstock.

Coats Coat Coat Store as Novel Sales Scheme (via Crib Candy)

The coming year in space exploration

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Ariel "Spacehack" Waldman points us to this survey of "the most anticipated space missions of 2012." Yes, the Space Shuttle has been retired but as Ariel has said, "I see it as more of a beginning of an era than the end of one. It’s due time that NASA no longer has a monopoly on space exploration." Above, an artist's representation of the Planetary Society's LightSail-1, a solar sail-powered spacecraft set to launch this year. At left, an illustration of SpaceX's Dragon capsule docking with the International Space Station. The plan is for the commercial outfit to take over space station supply missions beginning in February.

"The 12 Most Anticipated Space Missions of 2012"

The best account on Twitter

Are you following @horse_ebooks? John Herrman explains why you must: "It isn’t a parody account and it doesn’t tell jokes. It’s a spam bot that sells shitty ebooks about horses, and it might be the best Twitter account that has ever existed." [Splitsider]

What metrics-driven games have a hard time measuring

Raph Koster's on a tear these days on the theory and practice of game design. Today, it's a fab little sermonette on why it's not right to sneer at data-driven, "free-to-play" games that use extensive instrumentation to make games that captivate players' attention without a lot of flair or imagination. But Koster has a codicil to his message embracing metrics-driven game design: there is much that is important about games that isn't captured by metrics:

And the more the audience divorces itself from we who make their entertainment, the more important it is that we be clear-eyed about what their tastes and behaviors actually are. And that, in turn, greatly undermines the value of “experts,” — because we are in many ways, the most likely to be hidebound and unable to see past the blinkered assumptions precisely because we built them up with hard-won experience.

But! And it’s a big but.

Sometimes, though, what works only works within the field of measurement. If it turns out one of those useless mewling babies was going to grow up to be Einstein, we would have been pretty dumb to toss him out when he was a sullen teenager (even if he did get good grades). A lot of things fall outside of the typical field of measurement.

* Anything that unfolds over a very long period of time. By the time you have true long-term data on a split-test, you’ve essentially chosen a path through inaction.
* Anything that lies in the realm of emotion is invisible — we can easily see results, but we cannot see, barring a focus group, the whys for a given action. (There are various measurement techniques, such as net promoter score, which try to get at this indirectly).
* Anything that is a short-term loss for a long-term gain. Many sorts of behaviors players might engage in may pay out when considered as a systemic aggregate, even though regarding them as a funnel may show them to be terrible. One example might be character customization — it’s an extra step that likely costs some users in an F2P funnel, but it may also yield far greater revenue over time due to character customization.
* Anything that exists outside of the game proper, where it can be hard to tie cause and effect together. Examples include things like community development, the value of strategy websites built by players, etc.

Koster endeth the lesson with some constructive suggestions for fusing traditional and data-driven game design to get the best out of both.

Improving F2P

(Image: Metrics and UX, sitting in a tree, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from alabut's photostream)

The world, as mapped by frequency of cholera cases

This really fascinating image comes from a Scientific American guest blog post about the appendix. What does the appendix have to do with cholera? Turns out, the more we study the appendix, the more it appears that this organ—once thought to be useless—is actually a storage system that allows your gut to repopulate itself with beneficial bacteria following a bout with a dramatic, gut-wrenching such as cholera.

This theory makes a lot of sense, but it hasn't been proven yet. The blog post, written by Rob Dunn, tells the story of a couple of studies that seem to add further support to the theory. In one, 11% of people with an appendix had a recurrence of Clostridium difficile infection, while 48% of those without an appendix had a recurrence.

Grendell’s results do not prove Parker is right. Science does not work that way. More tests, even true experiments, need to be done. Maybe there was something else that differed between individuals with and without their appendixes. Maybe the result only applies to the mostly white population Winthrop hospital serves. Maybe the immune system plays a more important or different role than Parker envisions. These “maybes” are part of what make science beautiful — the idea that each question, each test, and each day, lead to more questions. Every good question is a road that goes on forever, diverging and bounding forward, sometimes quickly, other times more slowly, as new paths emerge and some of the old ones run straight into brick walls.

Where does this leave us? In your body is an organ that appears to be/may be/could be helping out the bacteria in your life so they can, in turn, help keep you alive. If you do not have your appendix anymore, you may be at an increased risk of recurrence and even death when confronted with a pathogen like C. diff., cholera or any of a wild kingdom of other pathogens. This possibility raises the question of what to do if your appendix (or your child’s appendix) becomes inflamed. First things first, you should seek medical attention. As for what the treatment should be, while appendicitis can be deadly, recent studies suggest some, but not the majority, of cases of appendicitis can be resolved using antibiotics, though the topic is an active area of research and little is known about the prognosis for individuals treated with antibiotics for appendicitis later in life7. Might there, some day, be solutions other than surgery and antibiotics, solutions that aim at restoring the sanctuary of the appendix? Maybe. Until then, doctors keep cutting infected appendixes out. When they do, when they hold them up, they hold up a symbol — a somewhat gross, pinky-finger-sized symbol –both of our complex relationship with other species and of how little we know.

Kindergartner breaks leg and gets concussion, teacher makes him crawl over 200 ft of icy ground back to classroom

And doesn't call ambulance. "You’re a big boy — I can’t carry you." Skokie school board officials are remaining mum on the advice of their legal counsel.

Of course, no one will be held accountable except the taxpayers, who will pay the settlement.

News reporter's on-camera mammogram results in breast cancer diagnosis

This sure feels familiar.