Boing Boing 

How to turn a PR nightmare into a dream

Ever since the Keystone XL Pipeline (originally slated to transport Tar Sand bitumen from Alberta to Nebraska) was stalled, the attention on finding a new delivery route for this tar sand oil has focused around my own neck of the woods, British Columbia. And it seems like every time I open the paper, there's some new story about big oil PR shenanigans [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. All of this, of course, makes you wonder what a big oil PR session actually entails, and whether a memo like the fictitious one below (a.k.a. me having a little fun), is not so far from the truth...

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The secret history of shipping pallets

Tom Vanderbilt's "The Single Most Important Object in the Global Economy," in Slate is an absolutely fascinating look at the role that pallets play in the modern world, starting with their origin in the long US supply lines for the Pacific theater in WWII (and the "four way pallet" innovation by Norman Cahners of the Navy Supply Corps) to the modern fights over standardization, innovation, and product design. Ikea optimized one of its products, a mug, three times, for pallet packing, ending up with a product that cost 60% less to ship -- and shortly after abandoned pallets altogether in favor of the "Optiledge."

It's a story about the knapsack problem, a P=NP kind of secret history, and it's right up my alley

As USDA Forest Service researchers Gilbert P. Dempsey and David G. Martens noted in a conference paper, two factors led to the real rise of the pallet. The first was the 1937 invention of gas-powered forklift trucks, which “allowed goods to be moved, stacked, and stored with extraordinary speed and versatility.”

The second factor in the rise of the pallet was World War II. Logistics—the “Big ‘L’,” as one history puts it—is the secret story behind any successful military campaign, and pallets played a large role in the extraordinary supply efforts in the world’s first truly global war. As one historian, quoted by Rick Le Blanc in Pallet Enterprise, notes, “the use of the forklift trucks and pallets was the most significant and revolutionary storage development of the war.” Tens of millions of pallets were employed—particularly in the Pacific campaigns, with their elongated supply lines. Looking to improve turnaround times for materials handling, a Navy Supply Corps officer named Norman Cahners—who would go on to found the publishing giant of the same name—invented the “four-way pallet.” This relatively minor refinement, which featured notches cut in the side so that forklifts could pick up pallets from any direction, doubled material-handling productivity per man. If there’s a Silver Star for optimization, it belongs to Cahners.

As a sort of peace dividend, at war’s end the U.S. military left the Australian government with not only many forklifts and cranes, but about 60,000 pallets. To handle these resources, the Australian government created the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, and the company eventually spawned a modern pallet powerhouse, CHEP USA, which now controls about 90 percent of the “pooled” pallet market in the United States. Pooled pallets are rented from one company that takes care of delivering and retrieving them; the alternative is a “one-way” pallet, essentially a disposable item that is scrapped, recycled or reused when its initial journey is done. You can identify pooled pallet brands by their color: If you see a blue pallet at a store like Home Depot, that’s a CHEP pallet; a red pallet comes from competitor PECO.

The Single Most Important Object in the Global Economy

(Image: Pallets, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from hisgett's photostream) (via Hack the Planet)

Space Mountain construction advertorial

The Vintage Ads LJ group is having a theme-park ad theme-week, and as you might expect, this pleases me greatly. It's no surprise that the redoubtable Man Writing Slash has come through with some of the best submissions, including this smashing Space Mountain construction advertorial.

Amusement Parks in Ads

Little Free Library #2646 is open for business

Back in May, I posted about a nearby Little Free Library I happened upon, and promised to open my own. Well, we did it yesterday. You can see it in person here.

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Complaint about a carved fish

Perch or notThis photo of a fish sculpture is from the October 1949 issue of Popular Science. It was carved from cherry wood by Clark Battle Fitz-Gerald.

ComplaintThe January 1950 issue ran a letter of complaint from Al Gingras, a self-styled ichthyologist from Baldwinsville, MA.
A Google image search suggests Mr. Gingras is correct. Has this ancient dispute been settled?

Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Fest this Saturday, August 25

It's time for the Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival!

NewImageThis Saturday, August 25, The York Emporium Bookstore and the city of York PA will host the Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival This event has become the biggest cigar box guitar fest in the world with an expected audience of 2000-4000 people this year. It coincides with the YorkFest fine arts festival, bringing in attendees from throughout the US Mid Atlantic States. The Saturday CBG Fest will have 14 acts on two stages, instrument vendors, food and more. Performances include Chicago blues legend Glenn Kaiser, Make Magazine contributor One String Willie, April Mae and the Junebugs, Cigar Box Guitars author, David Sutton and the "king of the cigar box guitar," Shane Speal (pictured).
Official news/info: PA Cigar Box Guitar Fest on Facebook

MakerPlane open source hardware airplanes

John sez, "MakerPlane is an open source aviation organization which will enable people to build and fly their own safe, high quality, reasonable cost plane using advanced personal manufacturing equipment such as CNC mills and 3D printers. The project will also include open source avionics software to enable state-of-the-art digital flight instruments and display capabilities. Basically we are designing an aircraft that can be built on a CNC mill at home, or at a makerspace which is easy to assemble and quick to build. The plans and instructions will be available for free to anyone that wants them!" | Open Source Aviation (Thanks, John!)

Gweek 065: Super Tight

Click here to play this episode. Gweek is Boing Boing's podcast about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff.

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HOWTO be the number one SF writer in Russia

Practically everyone at the SF Assembly in St Petersburg, Russia was clutching a copy of this humorous board-game from, which is a kind of Candyland-style game lampooning the dreams of "hot young writers" who yearn to make it big. Some of my hosts were good enough to translate the gameplay for me:

1. You've decided to become a SF writer.
2. You're writing a short story. Miss a move
3. Your mother likes your story very much!
4. You've received a comment "Drink a cup of poison!" on a fan fiction site
5. You've registered a LiveJournal account. Start the game from the beginning.
6. You've written a novel. Five moves forward.
7. You've started saving your small change in order to participate in some con.
8. Your first publication in Orkneys Pixies and Zombies Magazine.
9. Your novel is accepted by the publisher.
10. Your short story is accepted in Asimov's. Make the second move.
11. You're writing a short story for the relatively obscure Internet contest. Miss a move.
12. You must read the 70 short stories of the relatively obscure Internet contest. Miss a move.
13. SF Con. You've chosen the right con and the right hotel and the right room next to George R.R. Martin.
14. Your favourite publishing house has gone bankrupt.
15. The relatively obscure but very demanding Internet critic praised your novel. Make the second move.
16. You've received the proposition to become the ghost writer. Miss a move.
17. Your novel's sales were a disaster. Miss a move.
18. You're writing a new novel. Miss a move.
19. Your novel is published in Russia! And Japan.
20. You're in the middle of the existential crisis. You drink. And drink. And drink.
21. The movie based on your book was made by Uwe Boll.
22. You are the best author of the EuroCon.
23. You're the star of the talk shows and con panels. 20 steps back.
24. You are the SF writer number one in Russia.

Lux Interior on SpongeBob Squarepants

Mark and I were just discussing our admiration of Lux Interior and The Cramps. Neither of us realized that Lux was on a 2002 episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, singing as the lead singer of the Bird Brains!

Cthulhu balloon

Redditor Frostbite795 asked a Bar Mitzvah balloon twister for a Cthulhu, and the twister delivered.

Asked for a Cthulhu. Balloon guy at bar mitzvah delivers. (

Researchers: Friday best weekday

According to science, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are equally as loathsome as Mondays. [BBC]

Syrian insurgency front lines

The complex zones of control in Arab Spring uprisings can be baffling. Here's the BBC's new map of Syria's myriad front lines (compare to religious demography), which makes everything perfectly clear.

RIP comedian Phyllis Diller

She was 95. "You can say the nastiest things about yourself without offending anyone."

Pastor claims holy black currant drink will cure cancer, HIV, diabetes

The Manchester Evening News's Richard Wheatstone has done a good investigative series on the Victorious Pentecostal Assembly Manchester, which hard-sells a "holy" cure-all (made from black currant drink and olive oil) that the church's leader, "Pastor Mbenga," claims will cure cancer, HIV and diabetes. In one article, the reporter presented himself to Mbenga, saying that he was worried about his uncle's cancer. The pastor advised him to pray and buy a lot of miracle cure, which the pastor would bless. The pastor's hard sell included stories of people with cancer and diabetes who "had been able to throw away their medication after making a full recovery." The pastor instructed the reporter to dilute the blessed sugary drink three to one with olive oil and administer it to his uncle, whereupon "God will take over with divine intervention and the cancer will disappear."

When subsequently cornered, the pastor insisted he harmed no one and framed his sales of the "cure" as an issue of religious freedom:

He said: "It is the word of God, it is in the scriptures that God can heal these illnesses and that is the message we are passing on to people.

"I wasn’t aware of that law, but we live in a free society and if this is what people believe then people should be free to believe in it and carry out their faith.

"We have seen divine intervention in the past where people have been healed of terrible diseases and believe that God has the supernatural power to bring about miracles.

"This is what we believe and we are just trying to help people, trying to help them live a better life by giving them the power through God to make changes in their lives. We are not hurting anyone."

Pastor: We are trying to help ... we aren’t hurting anyone (via ERV)

Running mate Ryan handsome young suction gold

Machine-translating the official Chinese translation of the New York Times back into English results in curious delights.

Free Pussy Riot [Jasmina Tesanovic]

I used to say, "This will not be my war anyway" to my daughter, to my young colleagues, and friends feminists or not: to girls.

We fought in the seventies eighties nineties for freedom of choice, for divorce, for contraception, for women's human rights, against domestic violence, for peace in the world. We fought incessantly, ruthlessly, risking our careers, our private lives, our security and normality. And we accomplished a lot, all over the world; in Italy, in Serbia, in USA, name it.

The second wave of feminism was standing on the shoulders on the suffragettes from the beginning of the 19th century, who often gave their lives for women's rights. Then I got tired, and not me only. The world took a bad turn, not only in Serbia during the nineties, but everywhere after September 11!

The Globalization of Balkanization put at stake all the conquests of women and not only of women: terrorism, and raging war on terrorism, brought us police right-wing technocrat dystopian states where human rights became just another word for nothing left to lose. I told my young girls then: you must fight it now, this is your world, the one we inadvertedly left you. Learn how much you have inherited from your grandmothers, don't take it for granted because you are may well lose it, step by step, bit by bit. To the church, to the state, to the financiers.

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Anti-suicide nasal spray

The US Army is funding the development of a hormone nasal spray that they hope may ease depression and lift suicidal thoughts. Indiana University medical researcher Dr. Michael Kubek co-discovered a hormone, called TRH, that has anti-depressant properties but isn't effective when ingested or injected. With the army funding, Kubek hopes to create a TRH nasal spray so the hormone can cross the blood-brain barrier. “Today’s commonly used anti-depressants can take weeks to have an effect and carry a black box warning label for suicidal ideation in young adults," Kubek said. "That is why we hope to develop a quick-acting, easy-to-use, non-invasive system that delivers a compound that’s been shown to reduce suicidal thoughts.” "Can nasal spray help prevent military suicides?"

Your daily Twitter enema

Benjamin Jackson recommends daily efforts to kill the 'bots following you on Twitter, for the greater good: "consistently reporting real spammers does work. If you're older than 35 and it helps, you can think of it as picking up litter off the streets of the Information Superhighway." [Buzzfeed]

Headphone reviews

Joe Brown offers a deconstruction of every positive headphone review ever. It's danceable! [Gizmodo]

Cul de Sac Cartoonist Racks His Pen

We told the story of Richard Thompson, the cartoonist behind the fey and subversive comic strip "Cul de Sac," back in April, describing his battle with Parkinson's, and his plans to keep producing the daily cartoon even as the disease progressed. Unfortunately, Thompson says he cannot keep up with the demanding schedule, even using a colleague to handle inking his roughs. The strip's last installment is September 23. Thompson's inker, the cartoonist Stacy Curtis, wrote a tribute as well. Thompson has a gift of combining satire, the blurred memories of childhood, and a delight in life that I'll miss in his strip. I hope at whatever pace he is able, we continue to see new work from him.

Women in atheism: a tour through history

Here's an hour-long lecture and Q&A with Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The lecture recounts the long, honorable history of women in atheism, and explicitly connects feminism and freethought. It's a great tour through the history -- the often secret history -- of women who fought and gave all, risking persecution for speaking out against religion and for women's rights to control their destinies. The lecture was recorded at the Center for Inquiry's 2012 Women in Secularism Conference, and FFRF was founded by Gaylor and her mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor.

CFI's Women in Secularism Conf. | Annie Laurie Gaylor: "The History of Women in Freethought" (via Skepchick)

Cthulhu idol, one day only

Jason sez, "Available for one day only, The Arkham Cthulhu Idol is Cryptocurium's way of celebrating the birthday of the Earl of Eldritch himself, H.P. Lovecraft. A smaller recreation of the infamous alien statue from the classic tale, 'The Call of Cthulhu', The Arkham Cthulhu Idol is a must have for the true H.P. Lovecraft fan. Each idol is solid hand-cast resin, hand painted and individually signed by artist Jason McKittrick. Measures- 5" x 2.5", $50+shipping"


Clanky the Chocolate Spaceman

[Video Link] Possibly the best robot-shaped chocolate syrup squeeze bottle ever designed. (Via Filled with Chocolate Pudding)

Deleted scene from The Avengers gives us a glimpse of Banner's existential crisis

Remember in The Avengers after the Hulk fell to the Earth, came to as Bruce Banner in a warehouse, then suddenly showed up on a moped? Entertainment Weekly's Inside Movies has a new deleted scene that gives us a little more information on how he made it back to the city for the movie's climactic battle scene... or does it? Is he the Hulk? Or is he a man? Or a Muppet? Or a very manly Muppet? Whatever he is, he's hashing out a lot of things in his head, and now, we get to see a little bit more of that. One thing that isn't confusing: If you had forgotten how much you loved Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, it's all definitely going to come back to you. (via EW's Anthony Breznican on Twitter)

How to talk about technology in education without losing your mind to fear

Dangerously Irrelevant's "26 Internet safety talking points" is just about the best essay I've read on creating a sane, evidence-led, pro-education, anti-fear Internet safety policy for a school. Given that schools are third in line to receive oppressive technology mandates (behind autocratic nations and prisons, ahead of corporate enterprise users and the general public), this is desperately needed.

B. The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.

C. Mobile phones, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs, Wikispaces, Google, and whatever other technologies you’re blocking are not inherently evil. Stop demonizing them and focus on people’s behavior, not the tools, particularly when it comes to making policy. You don’t need special policies for specific tools. Just check that the policies you have are inclusive of electronic communication channels and then enforce the policies you already have on bullying, cheating, sexual harassment, inappropriate communication, illicit behavior, etc.

D. Why are you penalizing the 95% for the 5%? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom, yet you don’t cancel the prom because of a few rule breakers. Instead, you assume that most students will act appropriately most of the time and then you enforce reasonable expectations and policies for the occasional few that don’t. To use a historical analogy, it’s the difference between DUI-style policies and flat-out Prohibition (which, if you recall, failed miserably). Just as you don’t put entire schools on lockdown every time there’s a fight in the cafeteria, you need to stop penalizing entire student bodies because of statistically-infrequent, worst-case scenarios.

E. You never can promise 100% safety. For instance, you never would promise a parent that her child would never, ever be in a fight at school. So quit trying to guarantee 100% safety when it comes to technology. Provide reasonable supervision, implement reasonable procedures and policies, and move on.

It starts at A and goes all the way down to Z. Every one of 'em's a gem.

26 Internet safety talking points

Timelapse movie of building a shed

Building the Shed from RH on Vimeo.

Ryan Haskell says:
I'm trying to install the maker ethos in my kids. When the need came up for a garden shed, rather than buy a pre-built big-box store job or have a contractor come in, I enlisted the help of my 3 and 5 year-olds (and some backyard chickens) to build one from scratch. 32 lbs of screws and 4 weekends later, we had a nice 160 square foot shed. I documented the effort using a homemade arduino-controlled dolly platform to capture 15,500+ digital photos with my DSLR, assembled here into a 9 minute timelapse video.
My favorite part of this video is watching his adorable kids crawl and run around.

Hunter Thompson, Kafka, and a commercial for Goodbooks International

Antfood, Buck, and String Theory created this fantastic faux-Hunter Thompson tribute to Kafka disguised as a commercial for Goodbooks International that donates all of its retail profit to Oxfam. (Thanks, Stacey Ransom!)

Here is your Monday morning dose of Bill Murray

It's not his birthday, but does it even have to be for us to celebrate the existence of Bill Murray? Eclectic Method has put together this short and sweet supercut of Murray moments. Clocking in at just over a minute and a half, feel free to watch it multiple times if needed. It can only make you happier. (via BuzzFeed)

Daredevils and circus acts on Wheaties boxes

 Images 451*600 Elinorsmith1934-Large-600

 Images 456*600 Wallenda-Troupe-Large-600

The first woman on a Wheaties box was the pilot above left. No, it's not Amelia Earhart but rather Elinor Smith who in 1930 set the solo endurance record for a 13 hour (and later 26 hour) flight. Previously, she became the only person to this day to have flown a plane under all four of the East River bridges in New York City. While traditional sports stars like Lou Gehrig (the first person on a Wheaties box) and Bruce Jenner are more typical Wheaties cover models, there were other daredevils who made the grade, like The Wallenda Troupe high-wire act in 1936. "The 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Wheaties"