Boing Boing 

Ouija planchette ring

 Il Fullxfull.288018308 The multitalented JL Schnabel, aka BloodMilk, created this delightful planchette ring, complete with glass window. Do I like it? The Ouija says… YES. (Thanks, Stacey Ransom!)

Scary science, national security, and open-source research

I've been following the story about the scientists who have been working to figure out how H5N1 bird flu might become transmissible from human to human, the controversial research they used to study that question, and the federal recommendations that are now threatening to keep that research under wraps.

Read the rest

Car lands on van

N Pg03Myvifly This photo was taken in Kota Bharu, Malaysia on Wednesday. According to news reports, the small car "went out of control and hit a pile of sand before landing on the van." It's not clear if the driver lost control after hitting the Turbo Boost or before. "Freak accident ‘launches’ MyVi on top of van" (The Star, via Fortean Times)

Hulk rob bank

The Hulk is wanted for robbing a bank in Hamburg, New York on Monday. The Hulk attempted to disguise himself by wearing a brown jacket, jeans, and a necklace as opposed to purple shorts. "Man in Hulk mask robs Hamburg bank" (WIVB)

Google: We're "mortified" a team working on Google project "misrepresented" relationship with Mocality

A followup to this morning's post, The Google-Kenya Ripoff. Nelson Mattos, Google's Vice-President for Product and Engineering, Europe and Emerging Markets, writes:

We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites. We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved.

Conclusion to "Existential Dread" - a history of Anonymous's activities in 2011

Quinn Norton has completed her triumphant history of Anonymous's actions in 2011 for Wired and this installment is amazing, containing real insight into how the world sees Anon, how Anon sees itself, and how those two mix. I was really taken with the following section, which reminds me a lot of Clay Shirky's idea that the pre-Internet world was one of "select, then publish" but that now we live in the world of "publish, then select":

The Freedom Ops are useful in explaining how Anonymous ops work. At any time on IRC there were ops for any number of countries, not just Middle Eastern ones. There were channels for Britain, Italy, Ireland, the USA, Venezuela, Brazil, and many more, as well as Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and most of the rest of the Middle East. Most of the ops had few participants, so those who were there linked to a press release or video about problems in that country with a bold call to action, but, for long stretches, nothing would happen.

That was OK; that is how Anonymous proposes ideas to itself. This reverses the order that the media was used to. In most of the world, the bold proclamation comes after the decision to act. In Anonymous, hyperbolic manifestos and calls to apocalyptic action show you want to talk about an issue. For many people reporting on Anonymous, it often looked like Anonymous was all bluster and no action.

But that’s the wrong way to look at it. For the lulzy hive mind, bluster can be the point itself. Other times, quieter, less dramatic actions would spring up and fill the channel, only for it to go quiet again when anons had moved on to another action. For the Freedom Ops, lying fallow was no shame, and dormant ops often sparked up in response to news events from the relevant region.

Quinn notes that this installment is "longer than the first two parts [part 1, part 2] put together, and only covers 2011-- a doozy of a year! ...I think 2012 may be an even crazier year with the hive mind."

2011: The Year Anonymous Took On Cops, Dictators and Existential Dread (Thanks, Quinn!)

(Photo: Quinn Norton)

RAW Week: The Gnosis magazine interview

Back in the late '80s, when Gnosis Magazine was just beginning to find its audience, we were lucky enough to have Robert Anton Wilson as one of our contributors. Over the span of six issues he contributed three major articles and one book review. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm cooled soon after that, as he was miffed that I'd written in a review of his Schrödinger's Cat trilogy that it largely read like outtakes from the Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was my honest opinion, but RAW didn't take kindly to such literary criticism.

It wasn't until ten years later, in the fall of 1998, that he agreed to appear in Gnosis again, this time in an interview for our 50th issue. Little did we know then that #50 would be the next-to-last issue of the magazine. An unauthorized, OCR'd version of the interview is online, with all the little glitches that often creep in through OCR. Still, Wilson's voice comes through loud and clear, amused and bemused by the perennial question: what is reality?

[Note: Copies of the back issue of Gnosis #50, in which RAW's interview appeared, are available from Fields Books]

Here's a link to the unauthorized version of the interview.

Oakland cops complicit in covering name-badges at Occupy protests disciplined

Remember this video, in which protesters ask an Oakland PD officer why he illegally covered his name-badge, then, when he won't answer, ask a supervisor why this was so? Well, both the cop and his supervisor have been disciplined for their roles in the incident (the cop for covering his badge, the supervisor for failing to report the illegal conduct). The supervisor, formerly a lieutenant, has been busted down to sergeant, and the officer has been suspended for a month (no word on whether he will be paid during the suspension, which he is appealing).

After an internal investigation, Hargraves was ordered suspended for 30 days, and Wong was demoted to sergeant for failing to report the incident to internal affairs, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because the department considers the case a confidential personnel matter...

"[An video the officer had seen on the net involving another officer] called for violence against the officer, including burning down his home," Hargraves wrote. "This caused me great concern for the safety of my family."

But civil rights attorney Jim Chanin said Wednesday, "That's like saying that you can steal from a store because you're poor. If you take that to its logical conclusion, every police officer every day faces possible exposure and danger because their names are on their badges."

Chanin added, "Officer Hargraves could have asked to get an undercover assignment. He could have asked to be taken off duty that day. Instead, he decided to go and get his pay and violate the law. There's no excuse for that."

Oakland cops disciplined for name-covering episode (via JWZ)

Look Around You turns 10

[Video Link]

Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz's wonderful mock-educational-film-parody BBC2 show "Look Around You" celebrated its 10th anniversary this week. Robert writes,

We had a fantastic night at the BFI in London, which showed all 8 eps back to back. The amazing Jonathan Ross hosted the evening, and our brill director, Tim Kirkby, joined us for a fun Q and A. It was a really touching, lovely event full of our old crew members and Look Around You aprreciators. Thanks all for coming. It meant a lot to us.

Anyway, Peter and I made a new short especially for the evening. So, here it is for everyone else. Hope you like our ‘Intermission Film’…

Congratulations, Robert and Peter! I raise a glass of sulphagne to toast your achievement. And below, an interview for Boing Boing with Peter and Robert on the occasion of "Look Around You" DVD release.


Read the rest

Alaskan town has 176 inches of snow on the ground

Hey, guys, I figured out where all of Minnesota's winter snow went. It's in Cordova, Alaska.

Since Nov. 1, storms have dropped 176 inches of snow and more than 44 inches of rain on the town, about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Temperatures warmed overnight, and residents awoke to standing water because of stopped-up drains. The rain also made the existing snow heavier.

The warmer temperatures - about 35 degrees midday Wednesday - brought another hazard to the Prince William Sound community of 2,200 people: avalanche danger.

There's one road leading out, and it was closed though it could be opened for emergency vehicles.

"We have the National Guard right now using the standard shovel, and they're getting pretty trashed every day - not the shovels but the Guardsmen themselves," he said.

That's from an AP story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the whole thing to learn about the intricacies of snow shovel design, and why a standard shovel just ain't enough to deal with 176 inches of snow. Better ones are being airlifted in.

The image above—taken by the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management—gives you an idea of what it's like to dig out of a snow pack like this. I will admit, as much as I realize what a disaster it would be to live in Cordova, Alaska right now, there is a part of me (the part that is approximately 5 years old) that just looks at this photo and thinks, "I will build the most AWESOME fort EVER!"

Tim Powers's Last Call: a mind-altering journey into superstition, Vegas style

I just got through re-reading Tim Power's World Fantasy Award-winning 1996 novel Last Call, which is truly one of the triumphs of modern fantasy literature.

Read the rest

60 senators won't meet with activists to talk about PIPA: will yours? Call in & ask them to reconsider!

Fight for the Future has compiled a list of 61 senators who won't meet with them to discuss PIPA (the Senate version of the Stop Online Piracy Act) before Jan 24, when a critical vote will take place. These senators won't sit down with them, nor will they assign a staffer to do so. Fight for the Future (who run the Stop Censorship site and coordinated many of the major, net-wide actions on SOPA and PIPA) are asking constituents of these senators to call in and demand that their representatives meet with the activists.

They've already gotten satisfaction from Rhode Island senator Jack Reed. One down, sixty to go -- please go see if your senator is on the list and take two minutes to call in and ask for a hearing on this vital issue.

The January 24th Senate vote is our best chance to stop SOPA. The EFF, Public Knowledge, Demand Progress, CDT, and anti-SOPA lobbyists all agree on this.

So together we've been organizing meetings with Senators in their home districts. The Senate's in recess until the 23rd, so it's the perfect opportunity for a) a local show of force and b) actually convincing Senators that these bills are flawed.

Here's the problem: the following Senate offices are ignoring our requests for meetings before the 24th. It's not just that the senators are busy; we're asking for meetings with staffers too.

Redditors! Can you call the offices below and ask them to meet with us? Even if your state isn't on this list, calls are helpful. It's fine (and encouraged!) to call the entire list. Be polite, but insist that the senator or staff members meet with concerned constituents.

These 61 Senators are refusing to meet with their constituents before the critical Jan 24 vote on PIPA/SOPA. Oh Reddit, can you call them?

The Marimba ringtone heard 'round the world: symphonygate update

The 60-or-70-something businessman and symphony-goer whose iPhone halted Mahler? Don't hate on him, hate on bad UI. The ringer mute switch on iPhone doesn't silence alarms. (via @jswatz)

Paula Deen, celebrity chef criticized for diabetes-inducing cuisine, has diabetes

Update: More in the NYT, including details on the drug sponsorship deal.

[Video Link] Never would have seen this coming. Paula Deen is said to be planning to step back from being the public face of her "Southern comfort food" empire to become the celebrity endorsement personality for a diabetes drug, in a "multimillion-dollar" deal with a pharmaceutical company. Deen is famous for popularizing creations like the “Lady’s Brunch Burger” seen in the remixed video above. A beef hamburger patty topped with bacon and a fried egg, served on a glazed donut. It's a "sometime food." (via @attackerman)

Bookseller removes apostrophe from own name

British bookseller Waterstone's is dropping the apostrophe from its name, but keeping the possessive form: Waterstones. In a press release, Waterstone's claims that apostrophes are "impractical" in a "digital world of URLs and email"—but others point out that it's not hurting McDonald's or U.K. mega-retailer Sainsbury's.

"You would really hope that a bookshop is the last place to be so slapdash with English," says John Richards of the Apostrophe Protection Society, interviewed by The Independent's Harry Wallop.

The weird thing for me is that the "practical" excuse seems to be a rationalization for a design decision that many companies have made over the years; consider London's peerless Harrods department store. Apostrophes can look awkward in logos. It's as if the capital fund that owns Waterstone's is ignorant both of why the design decision is reasonable and why it is historically and contextually inappropriate here--and must generate extra, stupid reasons that it can justify to itself.

EFF to ask for sanctions against copyright trolling astrologers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking a judge to sanction the lawyers for Astrolabe, who launched a frivolous copyright lawsuit against Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert. These two researchers maintained the critical Internet timezone database, which is used by servers and PCs and phones all over the world to figure out how to correctly display timestamps and local time. The lawsuit claims that Astrolabe has a copyright on the facts of what timezone is in effect in what place, and this is plainly incorrect. US law "requires litigants to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts and law before filing any paper with the court," and any such inquiry would have shown that there was no basis for a suit.

Quick background: last fall, Astrolabe, an astrology software company, sued Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert, researchers who have coordinated the development of a database of time zone information for decades. The database is an essential tool used by computers around the world to determine local time so, for example, files and email messages can organized and time-stamped accurately. Astrolabe claimed that Olson and Eggert had infringed its copyright because the database relies, in part on information in an atlas to which Astrolabe owns the rights (the ACS International Atlas).

We’ve seen a lot of bogus lawsuits over the years, but this one is a doozy. Facts are not copyrightable, which means the developers were free to use the Atlas as a source. What is more, it appears that Astrolabe knew that the database contained only facts from the Atlas – its Complaint states repeatedly that the database developers copied “information” – i.e., facts. Indeed, the case would be laughable but for the dangerous consequences: Confronted by this legal threat, and lacking the resources to defend himself, Olson promptly took the database offline, to the shock and dismay of the many users and developers who relied upon it.

Just the Facts: Lawsuit Against TimeZone Database Deserves Sanctions

Judge orders Zucotti Park barriers removed, jubilant Occupiers return

After a judge ordered the removal of the barriers around Zucotti Park (a privately owned space that is open to the public, built as part of a deal to allow a property developer to put up more buildings), jubilant #Occupy protesters streamed into the "spiritual home" of the Occupy movement. Puzzled private security guards are now jostling for space as the place refills with protesters.

#Occupy Wall Street Returns to Zuccotti Park (#OWS) « naked capitalism

The Google-Kenya ripoff

Mocality is an African startup that has a Kenya-wide business directory. There is no Kenyan yellow pages, so the directory was crowdsourced, paying thousands of Kenyans to help create and validate its database.

Read the rest

Author Diane Duane's bank account cleaned out by ATM skimmers, buy her ebooks at 20% off to help her out!

Much-loved fantasy and science fiction author Diane Duane has had a lot of bad luck lately, but this takes the cake: her ATM card was skimmed and the joint account she and her husband share has been zeroed out, and she has no money left at all to cover daily bills while her bank tries to sort out the mess and restore her balance, which could take a long time. She's asking her fans to buy her ebooks to help her through this brutal patch, and offering a 20 percent discount to sweeten the deal:

W. T. F. My bank card has been skimmed.

It’s toast now (thrown in the fire a few minutes ago, a new one ordered over the phone). But so much for the bills that needed to be paid this week. 2012 had better start getting its act together, as this is not an auspicious beginning.

The bank will cover this expense when its fraud department has digested all the details. But meanwhile, the household is skint. So: if you feel inclined to spit in the eye of the nameless rogue(s) who’ve briefly ruined the domestic tranquility around here, I invite you you to go over to the Ebooks Direct store and buy something using the discount code DDGOTSKIMMED, which will give you 20% off whatever you buy.

Whoopee, our bank account has been cleaned out...* (via Scalzi!)