RAW quote: disobedience was man’s original virtue

“Every fact of science was once damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and ‘progress,’ everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man’s refusal to bow to Authority. We would own no more, know no more, and be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent. As Oscar Wilde truly said, ‘Disobedience was man’s Original Virtue.”

― Robert Anton Wilson

Fnord

Thin Lizzy vs. The Pixies

Thin Lizzy vs The Pixies, "The Boys Are Back In Heaven," courtesy Phil Retro Spector. (via Greg Dulli)

Powell's 2 store in Portland: Maker heaven

Powells5
Bob Knetzger, who writes the Toy Inventor's Notebook column for MAKE says:

In Portland yesterday I wandered in to Powell's Books. No, not the big, main Powell's Books, but the small satellite Powell's 2 store across the street. Ever been? It's just the technical book selection and, boy, is it Maker heaven in there!

Computer and electronic books, sure, but a fantastic offering of new and used books and technical manuals hard to find elsewhere: vacuum tube amp design schematics, pyrotechnic journals, every Chilton's ever, machinist's handbooks, scientific theory, statistics, explosives, evolution, kinematics, manufacturing, prototyping, aircraft design, plastics and material science..it goes on and on. Where else can you peruse books like "Anvils in America," " "Moving Heavy Things" or "Keep Your Lathe in Trim?" It passes the acid test by having a vintage copy of my favorite, Ingenious Mechanisms for Designers and Inventors. Oh, yeah, and a nice offering of individual back issues of MAKE!

Skip the crowds in the main store and instead go to Powell's Books 2, pull up a Eames chair and geek out in the lounge with your fave tech books!


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Soapy: an even better anti-SOPA browser plugin

Kate sez, "Soapy is a new web browser plug-in that allows users to visit websites blocked by SOPA by automatically redirecting them to the site's IP address. The Firefox version of the plugin is downloadable now; the Google Chrome version will be finished shortly. This free software makes the practical implementation of SOPA impossible, since anyone can download the plug-in and circumvent SOPA. So--if anybody can unblock SOPA, what is the point of SOPA?"

Soapy is written in JavaScript and XML. It automatically redirects the user to the site's IP address or an alternate site where the content is mirrored. These sites include everything from Wikileaks (frequently blocked at the DNS level) to the Computer Science Department at UC Davis (which discusses circumvention). And because only blocked sites or sites at risk are included, normal browsing isn't affected by the plugin. It is resilient because it cannot be blocked. Technically, all of the rules are contained within. It doesn't use an outside site or list or list of blocked websites, which makes it difficult or impossible to block.

The code is available on GitHub for programmers, activists, and informed consumers. Every site that Soapy unblocks has a set of XML rules that are tailored to the quirks of that specific site. Much of the code has been borrowed from HTTPS-Everywhere and NoScript. Templates are available so that unblocking future sites can be crowdsourced by hacktivists inside or outside the United States (Soapy's developer is a member of this community) as quickly as they are identified.

Soapy (Thanks, Kate!)

Open Source PID Controller

I used a PID (proportional–integral–derivative) controller to regulate the temperature of my espresso maker. I wrote about it in my book, Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of Do-It-Yourself. (You can read an except from the chapter on Gizmodo.)

PIDs are often used in Sous Vide cookers, too. (Here's how to make one). If you are looking for a reasonably priced PID controller, here's a new source: Brett Beauregard's open source PID controller, for $85.

Brett's pal, 3ric Johanson (author of Beam Weapon for Bad Bugs in Make Vol 23), says:

My friend Brett Beauregard has been working on this sweet open source PID controller.. and he’s finally published information online about it here.

A PID (proportional–integral–derivative) controller is a device which use hardware feedback with an algorithm; this allows the operator to maintain a target value (temp). Cruise control in car is the classic example: Set it at 60mph, and it will increase the accelerator until you hit 60. There are all sorts of things which can go wrong with closed-loop control systems – - overshoot, ringing, bias, etc. As this device is all open source, as it will make debugging these devices much easier.

It’s currently on “presale” for $85. I think this is a sweet deal. If you want to make your own Sous-vide cooker, this is the ticket. Go buy one, as I want to make sure this type of hardware is available to the masses. I’m excited to get mine.

Leaked DHS internet watchlist lists msthirteen.com, skeevy German site about 13yo girls as MS-13 gang news

So I'm going to be charitable here and presume that whoever compiled that internet monitoring watchlist at the Department of Homeland Security thought that "Miss Thirteen," at www.msthirteen.com, was a site about the ultraviolent Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang, which originated in El Salvador and now operates in a number of US cities.

It's not.

Quote, mangle-translated from the original German by Google: "Change in our lives, accompanying us from our childhood into adult life. The hormones go crazy and actually everything is always much too confusing."

Perhaps this was the source for the bad link. And perhaps the fact that this site was included in the watchlist tells us something about how the watchlist was compiled, or how reliable its contents are as a disclosure of what the agency's monitoring.

(thanks, Elizabeth Gettelman!)

Previously: Homeland Security Internet Watch List leaked; Boing Boing sadly omitted from list of must-read sites for domestic spying

Update: Probably a more simple explanation -- the content of the site changed over time. The version of the document at Cryptome was published in 2011. The Reuters article that made the rounds today appears to be based on a new version of the document for 2012, which we haven't seen. BB reader Todd Towles says, "According to DNS Stuff, the current msthirteen.com domain was created in Sep 2011. According to the WayBackMachine, the site was about MS-13 on Feb 2010.

RAW Week: a letter from Robert Anton Wilson (1991)

Raw-1991

I always liked getting letters from Robert Anton Wilson. He enjoyed playing with the fonts on his Mac. In this letter, he thanked me for sending him a copy of my self-published comic book, Toilet Devil (which was the name that Koko the Talking Ape called people she was upset with).

Fnord

Crocheted cyclops


Crochet costumer Veronica Knight has topped herself with this crocheted cyclops outfit. This puts the Z in ZOMG.

Crocheted Cyclops Costume

Homeland Security Internet Watch List leaked; Boing Boing omitted from list of must-read sites for domestic spying

I am outraged that our blog once again failed to make it on to the list of websites the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's command center routinely monitors. The grandfather of all rogue leak sites, Cryptome, published a copy of the 2011 edition of the government document (PDF link to document copy). Apparently, there's a new 2012 version some have seen, on which a current round of news coverage is based.

There's a Reuters article summarizing its significance here:

A "privacy compliance review" issued by DHS last November says that since at least June 2010, its national operations center has been operating a "Social Networking/Media Capability" which involves regular monitoring of "publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards." The purpose of the monitoring, says the government document, is to "collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture."

The document adds, using more plain language, that such monitoring is designed to help DHS and its numerous agencies, which include the U.S. Secret Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency, to manage government responses to such events as the 2010 earthquake and aftermath in Haiti and security and border control related to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"This is a representative list of sites that the NOC will start to monitor in order to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture under this Initiative," the document reads.

Oh fine, so, the imminent Yeti invasion isn't something that needs to be monitored? The anal probe menace posed by illegal Martian invaders? No concerns about the toxicity of homemade sauerkraut as a biological weapon?

I mean, fucking MySpace and Hulu are on the list! Really? I'm surprised Friendster was omitted. And they're watching Flickr and YouTube and Huffpo! But our hard-hitting coverage of steampunk watches and DIY spaceships doesn't merit a click? Whatever, DHS. We don't want those ill-gotten clicks.

But there's still hope. "Initial sites listed may link to other sites not listed. The NOC may also monitor those sites if they are within the scope of this Initiative."

UPDATE: Leaked DHS internet watchlist "mistakes" msthirteen.com, skeevy German site about 13yo girls for MS-13 gang news.

Iraqi restaurant window smashed. Veterans hold "eat-in" to show support for Iraqi refugees.

[video link] Faith in humanity status: restored. They're from Veterans for Peace. There's an article about the incident in the local paper, here.

Babylon Restaurant, the business targeted in the possible hate crime, was featured in this Boston Globe article just one month ago. If you're in Massachusetts, maybe go have a meal there sometime soon and tell them Boing Boing sent you. Some good Yelp reviews on their falafel and grape leaves! (via @adlangx)

Astronomers see more planets than stars in galaxy

Associated Press: "We're finding an exciting potpourri of things we didn't even think could exist,' said Harvard University astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, including planets that mirror Star Wars Luke Skywalker's home planet with twin suns."

Sunflower geometry inspires better solar power plant design

MIT mechanical engineer Alexander Mitsos and colleagues were seeking an improved layout for solar power plants, and found inspiration in the concentric spirals of the sunflower. (via @pourmecoffee)

"Martian Chronicles" reading

The Starship Sofa podcast has produced an excellent reading of my novella "The Martian Chronicles," which was originally published in Jonathan Strahan's YA anthology Life on Mars. The reading is by Jeff Lane, who's really talented. Here's the MP3 (the reading starts around 1:50).

RAW Week: Mindfucking Since 1976, by Gareth Branwyn

Illuminatus

Above: Gareth's original copies of The Illuminatus Trilogy.

“It's not true unless it makes you laugh, but you don't understand it until it makes you weep.” -- Illuminatus!

I first discovered Robert Anton Wilson when I was 18 years old. I'd just moved to a commune in the tobacco fields of central Virginia and was working for the magazine that the community published. Wilson and Bob Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy had just been published and I sent off for a review copy on the magazine's letterhead. I was shocked when Dell actually sent me the books. I had no idea what Illuminatus! was; I thought I was getting some free trash sci-fi to kill time down on the farm.

The first few chapters in and I knew I wasn't reading sci-fi, not any kind I recognized, anyway. Reading the first book, The Eye in the Pyramid, then the second, The Golden Apple, and then the third, Leviathan, was like going on an extended acid trip, complete with that phasing delirium of humor and the absurd, flashes of diamond clarity and numerous a-ha moments, awkward sexual arousal, plenty of cartoonery, fear, paranoia, and maybe a little out-and-out terror. (It's no coincidence these books are divided up into ten “Trips.”) There is so much to Illuminatus!, an almost fractal density, that you have to unhinge your mind (like a serpent would its jaw) to fit it all in. I read the trilogy, and then read it again. (When my late-wife and I hooked up, we read them out loud to each other, and after Bob died, I read them for a fourth time.)

There are few works of art or pieces of media that have altered my nervous system to the extent that Illuminatus! has. In 1976, I was this awkward, alienated Wiccan teen, a restless seeker. But I was also a science and space nerd. I could never reconcile these two and constantly switched between them, rejecting one for the other, at least for a time. But here was a world where these points of view were not mutually exclusive, a playfully plastic world where open curiosity, creativity, absurdity, and skepticism leavened all explorations, whether religious/mystical/artistic or scientific. It was Robert Anton Wilson who turned me onto the concept of “hilaritas” (what he described as being “profoundly good natured”). These books (and all of RAW's oeuvre) are steeped in that spirit.

Illuminatus!, and all of the Robert Anton Wilson books that I read after that (which is all of them), have formed an amazingly steady through-line in my life. I've gone through many intense changes since that 18 year old kid scammed free reading material, and my belief systems (or “BS” as RAW called them) have oscillated wildly, but most of my takeaways from Wilson have remained. His basic approach of being “open to anything, skeptical of everything” is how I've tried to live my life. This allowed me to finally embrace both parts of myself, the part that wanted to be open to magick and spirit and the part of me that needs extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims.

In recent past, I'd somewhat fallen out of touch with RAW's unique brand of “guerrilla ontology” until a few years before he died. Some friends were on their honeymoon, traveling through the deserts of Utah. They found the 5-volume set of audio interviews that Bob had done called Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything: Or Old Bob Exposes His Ignorance, in the bargain bin of a truck stop. They aren't particularly into this sort of thing, but more based on my interest, they bought the set. They listened to it on their honeymoon and enjoyed it so much, they bought me a copy. I now listen to it regularly and can't recommend it highly enough.

Read the rest

Muslim student claims sexual harrassment, school ignores, she's falsely reported as a terrorist, FBI shows up at her door

Balayla Ahmad, an observant African-American Muslim student at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was sexually harassed by a male student in 2009 for months on end, but that university officials showed "deliberate indifference" to her repeated complaints—and that she was then reported to the FBI in revenge for having complained. From the Associated Press:

When she complained to a teacher, she was told that the university generally doesn't get rid of students right away over such incidents, the lawsuit said. Another teacher asked her if she were married and asked her not to report it to the dean because he would speak with the harasser, the suit said.

Ahmad then reported the harassment and fears for her safety to the university's president and dean, who promised to meet with her. But she said when she met with the dean, he said, "My hands are tied. What do you suggest I do?"

After reporting the sexual harassment in April 2009, Ahmad said she was approached by two university security directors who told her someone had made allegations against her and they threatened to call the FBI and have her arrested.

Later, two FBI agents knocked on Ahmad's apartment door, questioned her and left a business card, according to the lawsuit. She said she learned that her harasser or his associates had fabricated a story falsely accusing her of being a terrorist in apparent retaliation for having made a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Muslim who claims harassment sues Conn. university (AP)

Update: A Boing Boing reader who once attended and lived near the University of Bridgeport points out that the school went bankrupt some decades ago, and was effectively bought out by an affiliate arm of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The history's a little complicated; here's what looks to be a reasonably neutral Wikipedia article about that.