Four comics panels that never work


Here's Mark Waid's fitting tribute to Wally Wood's "Twenty-Two Panels That Always Work" -- four panels that don't. Also available as a handsome print, suitable for framing and display near to one's drafting table.

Mark Waid's Four Panels That Never Work (via Making Light)

Vintage train fan excited about rare vintage train is the new "Double Rainbow" (video)

[Video Link] Double rainbow, all the way. Oh my god. (via Newley Purnell)

Update: CNN's Jeanne Moos uncovered the even funnier story behind "Double Trainbow," here. And the original it lovingly parodies, by "foamer" and excitable railfan Mark McDonough, is below. His YouTube channel is a thing of beauty.

Read the rest

Back yard DIY PVC rollercoaster with a 12-foot drop (video)

[Video Link] About this video, which is a few months old but new to me, I can put it no more eloquently than Eric Meyerson of Youtube: "There's a fine line between 'world's best dad' and 'Darwin Awards.'"

Slick anti-corruption video takes on US copyright system

This anonymously funded movie satirizing the corruption of the copyright system in the USA has been viewed more than 10,000,000 times. The creators, who maintain the website political-prostitution.com, explain that "the U.S. Government is making a major push to enforce its laws abroad with complete disregard for sovereignty of other nations in order to extradite so-called 'criminals' to the US where they will be tried for their 'crimes' in American court."

Ars Technica's Timothy Lee spoke to some of the creators:

On Wednesday, Ars talked to an individual behind the video. He said he and a friend paid for the video out of their own pockets. They are hoping to "raise awareness" of what they view as America's repressive copyright policies.

The video has three scenes. In the first, the "American Motion Picture Association" announces it has hired "Senator Chris Rodd" (clearly references to the MPAA and its chairman, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)) to represent Hollywood. In the second scene, police carry out a military-style raid on a London home. The final scene takes place in an "undisclosed location." The kid arrested in London is now in chains, wearing an orange jumpsuit and a hood over his head. The young soldier guarding the prisoner asks an older American in a suit what the suspect did, and looks incredulous when he's told that he's been arrested for copyright infringement.

Obviously, the video is over-the-top. Nothing exactly like the incident depicted has happened in real life. The US government doesn't subject copyright defendants to the same harsh treatment as suspected terrorists. But after the commando-style raid on Kim Dotcom's mansion in January, it may be close enough to the truth to make effective propaganda.

As Lee points out, this movie is as slick as a Hollywood film itself.

Anonymous donors bring Hollywood production values to anti-MPAA video

At Gitmo, ‘Fresh Prince’ replaces Harry Potter as entertainment most requested by detainees

President Obama isn't closing Guantánamo any time soon, but prisoners will be well-taken-care-of in the entertainment department, according to this Miami Herald article: they have an endless supply of of Will Smith’s 1990s TV comedy, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with which to while away the years. The sitcom has become a "popular way to pass time among the 168 captives now in their second decade of U.S. detention." Guards say it now eclipses the Harry Potter books as most-requested entertainment. (via @kgosztola)

Advertising supplement from 1880: sweet typography


Advertising supplements were a lot more fun to look at in 1880. Submitted as evidence: this issue of the Philadelphia Grocer.

If you have a thing for typography

What time is it right now on Mars? There's a NASA app for that.

And you can download it right here, for Mac, Windows, Linux, OS/2, and other open operating systems. About:

Mars24 is a Java application which displays a Mars sunclock, a graphical representation of the planet Mars showing its current sun- and nightsides, along with a numerical readout of the time in 24-hour format. Other displays include a plot showing the relative orbital positions of Mars and Earth and a diagram showing the solar angle and path for a given location on Mars.

Created at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

And for iOS, this looks promising. Haven't tried it, and it's not a NASA product, so YMMV.

Social engineer hacks Wal-Mart from Defcon

In a contest at the hacker conference Defcon, security specialist Shane MacDougall successfully penetrated Wal-Mart. "Social engineering is the biggest threat to the enterprise, without a doubt," MacDougall said after his call. "I see all these [chief security officers] that spend all this money on firewalls and stuff, and they spend zero dollars on awareness." (via @kevinmitnick)

Treadmill desk advice sought

After reading Neal Stephenson's essay on using a treadmill desk in Some Remarks, I've decided to try it for myself. But I don't want to ditch my beloved desk (a wooden kitchen table) -- instead, I was thinking I'd raise it on blocks to standing height, get a treadmill, and wedge the handlebars under the desk so that I could walk while using it. Does anyone have any recommendations for a treadmill model? It looks like it's really hard to use a manual treadmill without holding onto the handle-bars, so I'm guessing that means I'll need a motorized one. But motorized treadmills all seem to have their controls in the front, which I envision wedging under the desk, rendering them inaccessible. Have you tried this? Got any ideas? I think I probably want something like this, but available in the UK, and cheaper if possible. Cory

Mexican-US illegal migration has been largely static since the 1950s


Princeton's alumni magazine has an excellent profile of Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research. Massey studies patterns of US migration, particularly illegal immigration from Mexico. His research is the only rigorous census of Mexican-American illegal immigration flows, and its conclusions are that the US perception of Mexican migration is completely backwards, and that the major immigration problems are the result of bad policy, not changes in volume:

The MMP’s reports are freely available to anyone through its website, http://mmp.opr.princeton.edu. But statistics can be sterile things. Get Massey going, and one gets an earful about the true state of affairs along the border. To wit:

* We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants. The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s. The massive influx many have written about never happened.

* Net illegal migration has stopped almost ­completely.

* Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.

* There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home — not because more are sneaking into the country.

* And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.

Mull over that last point for a minute. If Congress had done nothing to secure the border over the last two decades — if it had just left the border alone — there might be as many as 2 million fewer Mexicans living in the United States today, Massey believes.

Crisis Contrived (via Wil Wheaton)

(Image: Illegal Immigration, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from qwrrty's photostream)

Interview with a Mars rover driver: Scott Maxwell of JPL

Photo (NASA JPL): The first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's "head" or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground.


Thomas Hayden at science blog The Last Word On Nothing has a wonderful little interview with Scott Maxwell (@marsroverdriver), who works at JPL as a Mars rover driver. Coolest job ever, right?

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Maxwell at JPL a few weeks before Curiosity touched down, when I accompanied Miles O'Brien on a shoot about MSL for PBS NewsHour. Loved him, and I love how he describes what makes his job so exhilarating:

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I drove her.  It was just a few meters along a simple path — we wouldn’t even bother to yawn at it today — but it was magic to me then, as it’s magic to me now.  I went home and should have slept, but all I could do was stare at the ceiling, in awe that right then, on Mars, there was a robot doing what I told it to do.  It was dead amazing, and that feeling has never left me and I hope it never will.

Read the rest here: SCUBA Diving through the Endless Martian Desert : The Last Word On Nothing.

Mars Curiosity image of the day: first pic by Navigation cameras includes an augmented reality tag

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory today received and published the first photograph shot by the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover.

It shows the shadow of the rover's now-upright mast in the center, and the arm's shadow at left. The arm itself can be seen in the foreground. The navigation camera is used to help find the sun -- information that is needed for locating, and communicating, with Earth. After the camera pointed at the sun, it turned in the opposite direction and took this picture. The position of the shadow helps confirm the sun's location. The "augmented reality" or AR tag seen in the foreground can be used in the future with smart phones to obtain more information about the mission.

(via spaceref.com. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Shuttle Endeavour retires to Los Angeles: details on her transit to LA released

"Space shuttle Endeavour, retired from service after 25 missions that spanned 123 million miles, will star in a remarkable 12-mile parade through the streets of Los Angeles on October 12-13, traveling from the city's international airport to the California Science Center for display at the children's learning complex." More from our friends at Spaceflight Now.

A watch that displays time on both Earth and Mars

Looking for a gift for the NASA Mars rover flight controller in your life who has everything? Executive Jewelers makes watches that display Martian time, and watches with dual displays so you know what time it is on Mars *and* Earth, at a glance. (via @milesobrien)

Former MPAA CTO who switched sides explains to the White House why SOPA is stupid

You may remember Paul Brigner, the geek who quit his job as CTO of the MPAA to work for its arch-rival net-freedom advocates at the Internet Society, who manage the .ORG top-level domain. He has just filed comments with the White House's IP Czar rubbishing the techniques proposed in SOPA, which contemplated censoring the Internet by tinkering with the domain-name service in the hopes of reducing copyright infringement. At the time that Brigner left the MPAA for ISOC, a lot of us were worried that he'd officially endorsed SOPA and argued in favor of it at Congress. Brigner and ISOC both assured us that he'd had a genuine change of heart, and these comments are the proof in the pudding. As Mike Masnick notes, Brigner was a pretty half-hearted, ineffective SOPA advocate, but he's a rip-snortin', ass-kicking critic of it.

We are also of the opinion that any enforcement attempts – at both national and international levels – should ensure and not jeopardize the stability, interoperability and efficiency of the Internet, its technologies and underlying platforms. The Internet – a network of networks – is based on an open and distributed architecture. This model should be preserved and should surpass any enforcement efforts. For the Internet Society preserving the original nature of the Internet is particularly significant, especially when enforcement is targeting domain names and the Domain Name System (DNS) in general. There are significant concerns from using the DNS as a channel for intellectual property enforcement and various contributions have been made on this issue by both the Internet Society and the technical community. It needs to be highlighted that from a security perspective, in particular, DNS filtering is incompatible with an important security technology called Domain Name Security Extensions or DNSSEC. In fact, there is great potential for DNSSEC to be weakened by proposals that seek to filter domain names. This means that DNS filtering proposals could ultimately reduce global Internet security, introduce new vulnerabilities, and put individual users at risk.

Our second recommendation relates to the legal tools that should be in place in any enforcement design. ISOC would like to stress the absolute need for any enforcement provisions to be prescribed according to the rule of law and due process. We believe that combating online infringement of intellectual property is a significant objective. However, it is equally important that this objective is achieved through lawful and legal paths and in accordance with the notion of constitutional proportionality. In this regard, enforcement provisions – both within and outside the context of intellectual property – should respect the fundamental human rights and civil liberties of individuals and, subsequently, those of Internet users. They should not seek to impose unbearable constitutional constraints and should not prohibit users from exercising their constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression.

As a general recommendation, we would like to emphasize our belief that all discussions pertaining to the Internet, including those relating to intellectual property - both at a national and international level - should follow open and transparent processes.

Former MPAA CTO Tells The White House Why SOPA Is The Wrong Approach For IP Enforcement