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Kickstarting a literary studio for serialized fiction

Jennifer 8 Lee sez,

Plympton is a new literary studio dedicated to producing serialized fiction for the digital age. They've just launched with their first three titles through the newly created Kindle Serials program, and have several more titles in the works. Plympton has one aim: to bring back the incredibly fun tradition of the serialized novel, improving the lives of readers and writers everywhere. Serials provide a steady stream of great content at a competitive price. They also bring readers the added pleasures of anticipation and speculation, a benefit we've all come to know and love from watching great cable dramas such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Reading fiction that unfolds over weeks or months gives new intimacy and immediacy to the reading experience -- as does having the chance to give writers feedback as they spin a plot to its resolution.

Plympton sees itself as what it calls a "third layer" in the publishing world, a nimble alternative to the major publishers and the online markets. They believe that serialized fiction, with its competitive digital price-point, its great capacity for audience-building, and its built-in emphasis on strong storytelling, is the perfect medium for creating this third layer.

PLYMPTON: Serialized Fiction for Digital Readers (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Wikipedia will encrypt to fight UK spying

Jimmy Wales says that he'll configure Wikipedia to encrypt all user traffic to undermine the UK government's "Snooper's Charter," which will institute bulk, warrantless Internet spying on the whole nation. (via /.)

Street Shofar featuring IKAR's Sexy Shofar Man

[Video Link] My old Wired pal Jonathan Golub and his friends at IKAR made this hilarious "shofar-bombing" video for Rosh Hashanah. It was directed by Isaac Feder and features Michael Brous as Sexy Shofar Man (AKA Rabbi Sharon Brous’s brother).

IKAR is a progressive, egalitarian Jewish community, driven by a passionate belief in the relevance of the Jewish tradition and its power to infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. We believe that Jewish religious practice challenges us to wake up to our responsibilities as Jews and as human beings, and that the upcoming High Holy Days are nothing short of a call to transform our lives, our city and our world. So we sent our Sexy Shofar Man to hit the streets with his sweet shofar blowing to beckon the people of Los Angeles to wake up and think about what’s possible in 5773.

High Holy Days at IKAR

UK transport secretary broke a cyclist's neck through careless driving

What's worse than a new UK health secretary who believes in homeopathy? How about a new transport secretary who broke a cyclist's neck while recklessly driving a 4x4 through the streets of London? (via @bengoldacre)

Mitt Romney: I believe in basic science, and by "basic science" I mean "cold fusion"

I'm not entirely sure what to say about this excerpt from a Washington Examiner interview other than, "*headdesk*".

Mitt Romney: I do believe in basic science. I believe in participating in space. I believe in analysis of new sources of energy. I believe in laboratories, looking at ways to conduct electricity with -- with cold fusion, if we can come up with it. It was the University of Utah that solved that. We somehow can’t figure out how to duplicate it.

I'm putting the entire quote after the jump, so you can get the full context of where this came from. It is worth noting that Romney seems to be referring to the 1989 experiments done by Stanley Pons (who worked for the University of Utah) and Martin Fleischmann. If you've ever dug into that particular bit of history, you'll find it sounds a lot like the arsenic life story from 2010—scientists announce huge news by press conference (in the case of Fleischmann and Pons the press conference happened before the research had even been through peer review); media goes apeshit; other scientists try to replicate the results and the vast majority fail miserably; finally, it eventually becomes clear that the researchers made some big errors in their data analysis and the original conclusions turn out to be incorrect.

Wikipedia has a pretty good breakdown of this history. Another good place to read about Fleischmann and Pons is in Charles Seife's book Sun in a Bottle, which details the history behind why fusion, in general, has long been more hype than happening. There is some good science going on the world of "hot" fusion, and there's some spotty evidence of weird anomalies that might or might not be cold fusion, but Fleischmann's and Pons' work is almost certainly not going to pan out. And, as energy technologies go, cold fusion is not the one most likely to give us the best bang for our buck.

Read the rest

3D printed guitar

Rachel sez,

Olaf Diegel, professor of mechatronics at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand has been leading the charge in a new way of creating instruments: 3D Printing. Although there are plenty of pictures of his incredible ODD instruments online, it's a little harder to find them played in well-recorded audio or video. Until now.

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Dave Marks has decided to play this guitar (and every other instrument in this video) so the world can enjoy a quick burst of 3D-Printed-guitar-love. Olaf will be exhibiting his collection of 3D printed guitars and basses from 19th-21st October at 3D Printshow London. This event will showcase all of the top brands and most incredible creatives working in the world of 3D printing today.

3D Printshow 2012 (Thanks, Rachel!)

How to turn your car’s ashtray into a smartphone dock

Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik shows how to turn your car’s ashtray into a smartphone dock

I hardly know anyone who still smokes and pretty much everyone I know has a little computer in the form of an iPhone or Android phone that's always with them. That means I should really think about some of the vestigial parts of my dashboard. Like the ashtray. Let's change the ashtray's function from supporting the disgusting habit of the 1970s (smoking) to the disgusting habit of the 2010s (constant smartphone use). Here's how to do it.

Oh, and since this will get pointed out, I may as well say this. After I came up with the ashtray-to-iPhone dock idea, I was feeling so smug I was having some shirts ordered that said "ME ARE A GENIUS." Then I decided to Google the smartphone dock/old ashtray idea. I'm not the first. I'm not even close. I cancelled the shirt order, but this just proves it's a solid idea. So, onward.

Cheetah cub and puppy are BFFs!


My friend Michelle Curley runs online media for the Cincinnati Zoo. This is what she saw when she arrived at work today. "Best morning of my Zoo career!" she said. Photo from Michelle's @CincinnatiZoo Twitter feed. More photos at her Google+ page!

Astronauts fix the Space Station with a toothbrush

When NASA's Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide couldn't seem to get a bolt attached to the outside of the space station, ground crews came up with a clever solution: Fix the problem with a toothbrush. At, Denise Chow explains the details:

On Aug. 30, Williams and Hoshide completed a marathon spacewalk that lasted more than 8 hours, but the astronauts were thwarted by a stubborn bolt and were unable to finish connecting the so-called main bus switching unit (MBSU). The stuck bolt forced NASA to add [yesterday's] extra spacewalk.

But, following last week's unsuccessful attempt, flight controllers, engineers and veteran spacewalkers worked around the clock at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to devise a solution to the problem. Using only the supplies available on the space station, the teams came up with creative new tools for Williams and Hoshide to use to install the MBSU.

One was a modified toothbrush that was used to lubricate the inside of the bolt's housing after debris and metal shavings from inside had been removed. Another improvised instrument included a cleaning tool that had been made from wires that were bent back to form a brush, explained Kieth Johnson, lead spacewalk director at the Johnson Space Center.

Read the rest of the story at

Why Barack Obama lost Science Debate 2012

On Tuesday, I linked to the results of the 2012 Science Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I chose to focus in on one of Romney's answers, where he acknowledges that climate change is real, but tries to excuse himself from doing anything about it. At Slate, Laura Helmuth takes a different tack—and one I agree with. Romney has a lot of bad ideas for science policy, but he (or whoever wrote his answers) put a lot more care and effort into Science Debate than Obama did. Obama is the better candidate for evidence-based science policy, but you wouldn't know it from reading Science Debate.

Can't Kate McKinnon just be the one and only Kate McKinnon?

I love covering awesome comedians. I happen to have a soft spot for the lady ones since I have attempted to be a lady comedian myself. But you know what really gets my knickers in a twist? (And it's certainly not reserved for just women.) Calling someone the next "someone else." Today, the NY Post put up a very flattering piece about Saturday Night Live's newest female cast member, Kate McKinnon. And this is great! I love that she's getting positive press, and I'm not knocking the Post for giving the girl the props she deserves. But why do we have to call her "the next Kristen Wiig" when "Kate McKinnon" is awesome in her own right? We already have a Kristen Wiig, and she's great. But she makes movies now, so let's move on and let McKinnon be McKinnon.

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Adobe releases its first free/open type family

Adobe has released a free/open typeface called Source Sans Pro. It's licensed under the SIL Open Font License, which is considered a free license by the Free Software Foundation. The font itself is beautiful, and comes with a set of supporting files that show how the font was developed and are intended to serve as a guide for follow-on designs.

We realize that the majority of users interested in this project will likely only want the fonts. For this purpose, there is a Source Sans font package that includes just these resources. The family currently includes six weights, from ExtraLight to Black, in upright and italic styles. The fonts offer wide language support for Latin script, including Western and Eastern European languages, Vietnamese, pinyin Romanization of Chinese, and Navajo (an often overlooked orthography that holds some personal significance for me). These fonts are the first available from Adobe to support both the Indian rupee and Turkish lira currency symbols. Besides being ready for download to install on personal computers, the Source Sans fonts are also available for use on the web via font hosting services including Typekit, WebInk, and Google Web Fonts. Finally, the Source Sans family will shortly be available for use directly in Google documents and Google presentations. Full glyph complement specimens (793K) are available in the Adobe type store along with informational pages for each style.

In making these fonts open source, it is important to us to make all the source files we used in their production available so that they can be referenced by others as a resource on how to build OpenType fonts with an AFDKO workflow. The full package of source files can be obtained from the Source Sans download page on SourceForge. As part of this ongoing project, we are publishing a roadmap of features that we plan to implement in the near future. At present, this includes items such as expanding the fonts to provide Cyrillic and Greek support, as well as producing a monowidth version of the Source Sans design.

Source Sans Pro: Adobe’s first open source type family

Berners-Lee says no off switch for Internet, photo proves he's wrong

World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee says there's no off switch for the Internet, but he's wrong. I found it and here's photographic proof. Anyway, I still like what he said at yesterday's World Wide Web Foundation Web Index event:

 Wp-Content Uploads 2012 06 Internetswitch

The way the internet is designed is very much as a decentralized system. At the moment, because countries connect to each other in lots of different ways, there is no one off-switch, there is no central place where you can turn it off.

In order to be able to turn the whole thing off or really block, suppress one particular idea then the countries and governments would have to get together and agree and co-ordinate and turn it from a decentralized system to being a centralized system. And if that does happen it is really important that everybody fights against that sort of direction.

"Web inventor denies 'off-switch'" (Press Association)

Sponsor Shout-Out: Watchismo

Many thanks to Watchismo for sponsoring Boing Boing Blast, our once-daily delivery of headlines by email.

Retrogadget watch pioneer Click Watches and Watchismo are proud to introduce the extremely limited edition Click Watches SAFE Watch collection, now in all stainless steel casing and leather straps. Each watch has the individual edition number engraved on the caseback, supply is VERY limited, so don't miss out!

The time is unlocked by pressing the zero, which displays a sequential flashing of led bulbs in corresponding keypad buttons. A number pad, set into an angular steel casing with no distinguishable display, adds up to a cool new way to showcase the hour.

See the entire Click Watch collection at Watchismo.

Shepard Fairey x Neil Young 'Americana' Box Set

 Images Stories 2012 Sept2012 Sept06 Americana-Box-Set-4

Shepard Fairey Neil Young 5 20120906 1122584400

Released today is the Shepard Faire/Neil Young sumptuous "Americana" box set. An edition of 200, it includes 12 signed and numbered prints, song lyric sheet, and a CD of the new Neil Young and Crazy Horse album. (Seems like vinyl would have been an appropriate choice here, but alas.) The box is $850 from Obey and will be available at an unannounced time today. Juxtapoz has a lovely collection of images from the set. "Shepard Fairey x Neil Young 'Americana' Box Set"

"I Fucking Love Science" and "Lost Wormhole" t-shirts

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…and I fucking love these new t-shirts from our friends at the Imaginary Foundation. Also available in this "Bonkers Collection" is a Charles Darwin "Chuck D: Natural Selecta" design. IF has kindly offered Boing Boing readers 20% off any of those three shirts in the Bonkers Collection until midnight PT tomorrow. (Discount code: BOING20) Imaginary Foundation

Travesty of the Day: The straight-to-DVD sequel to A Christmas Story

So, I don't like to make a career out of snarking on things. I prefer to focus on things that don't make me want to break an expensive piece of technology or kill the entire internet with fire. And it's not even the internet's fault, this thing I'm about to show you. It is a trailer for an "official" sequel to the 1983 cult holiday marathon classic, A Christmas Story. It never had to exist, and yet here it is. Existing. It's not coming to theaters, but it is still asking you to spend your hard-earned money (or imaginary money aka credit) on a movie that should have never made it further than a fan-fiction web site.

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New record for quantum teleportation

"Physicists at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences have achieved quantum teleportation over a record distance of 143 km. The experiment is a major step towards satellite-based quantum communication."

Man's Search For Happiness

[Video Link] Philosophy departments around the world are throwing their ontology books away, replacing them with this video, which answers all questions about existence and the meaning of life. (Via CN)

Water bear hunter (video)

[Video Link] If Boing Boing had a mascot animal, it would probably be the tardigrade. As you aware, tardigrades (the scientific name is water bear) came to Earth from outer space.

Spaced Out is Vice's show about space on Earth. In the new episode, Motherboard travels to the Virginia wilderness to visit self proclaimed naturalist Mike Shaw on his hunt for the tardigrade, a "water bear" that can survive in situations that almost no other living organism can... and could have totally come from another planet.

Vice: First Animal to Survive in Space

Ransom & Mitchell's phantasmagoric photo narratives, San Francisco show

I've posted many times about the genius of Stacey Ransom and Jason Mitchell whose phantasmagoric photo illustrations are like pages from a living comic book. Stacey builds incredibly-elaborate sets, essentially from scrap, flea market finds, and duct tape, and Jason takes photos (and makes films) with the eye of a master painter. The results are noir narrative images that, for me, convey the feelings of the surreal reality I inhabit in my dreams. Ransom and Mitchell have their first solo show of photographs opening this Saturday, September 8, at Varnish Fine Art in San Francisco. The exhibition, titled "Smoke & Mirrors," includes images from their ongoing series of artist portraits in which they worked with underground and pop surrealist creators and other fringe characters like Scott Musgrove, Mike Davis, Jess "Bloodmilk" Schnabel, Greg "Craola" Simkins (top), Charmaine Olivia (above left) to bring alive these subjects' inner visions. I was deeply honored when they invited me to be part of this series and created the magickal portrait above right. From Stacey's blog post that includes a preview of the exhibition, behind-the-scenes photos of the shoots, and the transformed gallery space:

Through a combination of cinematic lighting, theatrically-designed sets, and an illustrative approach that is inspired by the Italian and Dutch Master painters, we aim to create worlds that cannot exist (and quite possibly shouldn’t).

In our show “Smoke & Mirrors,” we are presenting two unique bodies of work, consisting of fourteen cinematically themed tableaus, twenty seven artist portraits and two short films. For our narrative pieces, we have combined epic scenes of lush grandeur with uncomfortable emotional themes that address issue of obsession, consumption and longing.

For our portraiture, we have sought to tell personalized stories about each artist and filled their scenes with clues about their inner truths.

Preview "Ransom & Mitchell's Smoke & Mirrors" (Ransom Notes)

More images below...

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Cheetah robot runs 28.3 mph

[Video Link] Eric Weinhoffer says: "Boston Dynamics have improved their Cheetah bot. It can now run faster than 28 mph, and still doesn't have a head. They push it to the limit at the 55 second point."

An interesting moment from Kate Bush's œuvre

The last two minutes of Get Out Of My House, from Kate Bush' 1982 album The Dreaming, clearly rank among the finest moments of her work. [via @dogboner of Your Kickstarter Sucks]

Videos from H2K2 hacker convention online

Emmanuel Goldstein from 2600 Magazine sez, "H2K2 was an historic hacker conference that took place in 2002 in New York City. It happened a mere 10 months after 9/11 shook the city and changed the country. The threat of the PATRIOT Act was one of the main themes here, along with visions of future technology being used to suppress freedom worldwide. This really is an incredible time capsule that shows how hackers understood from the beginning the implications of increased government power, and the use of fear to drive new policies that would wind up affecting the world. There are 67 videos now restored and online for the first time, discussing everything from crypto for the masses to airport security to steganography."


Seattle's mystery hum

Residents of West Seattle are reporting on the return of a mysterious hum that was first heard several years ago. Apparently, the hum shifts in frequency, goes away and then returns. The West Seattle Blog, that first mentioned the intermittent hum back in 2009, has posted a recording of it. The site is investigating whether it's industrial noise from a nearby plant. So far though, the source is unknown. Perhaps the West Seattle hum is participating in a hum symphony with the Taos Hum, New Zealand Hum, and the Bristol Hum. "Is ‘the hum’ industrial noise? Many reports, few complaints – so far"

US Rep. Jared Polis's DNC speech

[Video Link] Here's Boing Boing T-shirt owner Rep. Jared Polis giving a great speech at the Democratic National Convention about respecting diversity.

See also: Happy Mutant Congressman has at least two Boing Boing T-shirts in his wardrobe, Top US drug cop can't tell the difference between marijuana and heroin, "The Internet is For Porn" entered into official SOPA debate record

Patrick Warburton has provided some deliciously vague non-hints about the upcoming season of The Venture Bros.

Be still my Venture-fan heart -- Patrick Warburton, who voices career assassin-slash-bodyguard Brock Samson on Adult Swim's The Venture Bros., was approached at an event promoting the syndication of his sitcom Rules of Engagement about what was going to happen to his character in the upcoming fifth season of the show. And then he said a group of words that amounted to just about nothing:

“Something happens with S.P.H.I.N.X. [Ed. note: S.P.H.I.N.X.!] Something happens. You like that? And I’m not holding back. That’s all I know. I know something happens. I’m not sure what it is.”

There you have it, folks! Warburton isn't talking. At least he's not talking details. At least not any details that he knows about. But we'll know a teensy bit more next month when the Halloween special airs, and in the meantime, co-creator Jackson Publick released some stills from that special that we can all gaze upon. And honestly, who isn't happy to hear any kind of news from Venture-town, even if it contains exactly zero new information?

Patrick Warburton Teases Brock’s Storyline in Venture Bros. Season 5 [Spinoff Online]

Screenshots from season 5 in glorious extra-color [The Mantis-Eye Experiment]

4chan gets real about software

Illustration: [Pixiv]

9/7/2012: Updated with feedback from moot

4chan, the Internet's long-time dumping ground and butt of many a joke, is getting serious about software by making their biggest public-facing code change in nearly a decade, introducing an API and a bunch of new functionality.

Given its reputation, many commentators have already written this off with a shrug and a laugh. But 4chan is also one of the web's most popular and influential communities. It's the source of so many Internet-age cultural trends that even your grandma may be dimly aware that the clever picture she posted on her Facebook was trawled a thousand copies ago from the dark depths of /mlp/. Given that there's big money in all this, the API offers businesses a direct line to the heart of the machine.

As a professional software developer and long time 4chan user, I think this is a pretty interesting development. I talked yesterday afternoon to some of those who worked on 4chan's code over the years and know a little about why this is such an important development.

Charlie Stross and Cory at Brooklyn's MakerBot BotCave TONIGHT!

Hey, Brooklynites and assorted New Yorkers! Charlie Stross and I will be at MakerBot's BotCave TONIGHT at 7PM (MakerBot Headquarters, 314 Dean Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217)! There are party favors, exciting transhuman humor, and books! And 3D printers!

There's two more stops on this tour: we'll be in Brookline, MA tomorrow night, and at RIT in Rochester this weekend.

Tell your friends!

Awesome Authors To Speak At MakerBot

Immortal Lycanthropes: Required reading for budding happy mutants and their grownups

Hal Johnson's Immortal Lycanthropes is a YA novel unlike any other. It's the story of Myron Horowitz, a horribly disfigured amnesiac orphan whose nice adoptive parents can't protect him from the savage beatings administered by the school bully every day. But then the bully is found bruised and battered and hurled through shatterproof glass, and Myron is found on the floor of the cafeteria, naked, with no sign of his clothes anywhere. And the adventure starts.

You see, Myron is an immortal lycanthrope, part of an ancient mythic race of human/animal hybrids -- one for every species of mammal -- who date back to the dawn of humanity. Nothing can kill him save another immortal in animal form, and there are plenty of those around, as it turns out. They have all come out of the woodwork to attempt to kidnap/kill/rescue/brainwash/claim/manipulate him, because he appears to be the first newborn immortal lycanthrope since the dawn of history.

Myron is off on a madcap trip across America, variously beaten and nearly killed and tricked and conned and even worshipped as he discovers the true nature of his race, and speculates about what animal might lurk within him.

Johnson has taken a slight idea -- his editor says that the book's genesis was a sarcastic remark about writing YA fiction, as in, "What, you want me to write about immortal lycanthropes or something?" -- and made something perfectly wonderful and wonderfully perfect out of it. A few chapters in, I flipped to the beginning of the book looking for an "about the author," only to notice that he'd dedicated the book to Daniel Pinkwater, who is the all-time world champion of weird amazing mind melting brilliant YA fiction. I knew then that I had found a writer who was going to pierce me like a very funny, very weird arrow.

And pierce me he did. Take one part Lemony Snicket, one part Boy's Life adventure, three measures of Daniel Pinkwater, a dash of Tex Avery mixed with Carlos Castenada, and you'd get something like Immortal Lycanthropes.

When I was twelve years old, my brain was blown clear out of my skull and into an erratic orbit by a Daniel Pinkwater novel called Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars. If I wanted to have the same effect on a bright 12 year old proto-mutant today, I might just hand her or him a copy of Immortal Lyncathropes. For the win.

Immortal Lycanthropes