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EU working group produces the stupidest set of proposed Internet rules in the entire history of the human race


An EU working group that's been charged with coming up with recommendations for a terrorist-free European Internet has been brainstorming the stupidest goddamned ideas you've ever read, which are now widely visible, thanks to a leaked memo. The group, CleanIT, which is composed of cops, governments, and some NGOs from across Europe, has been given €400,000 to make its recommendations, and a document dated August 2012 sets out some of the group's thinking to date. As mentioned, it's pretty amazingly bad. Like, infra-stupid, containing strains of stupidity so low and awful they can't be perceived with unaided human apparatus. Here's Ars Technica's summary of the ideas in the memo:

* "Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself"
* "Governments must disseminate lists of illegal, terrorist websites"
* "The Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 of 27 May 2002 (art 1.2) should be explained that providing Internet services is included in providing economics instruments to Al Qaeda (and other terrorist persons and organisations designated by the EU) and therefore an illegal act"
* "On Voice over IP services it must be possible to flag users for terrorist activity."
* "Internet companies must allow only real, common names."
* "Social media companies must allow only real pictures of users."
* "At the European level a browser or operating system based reporting button must be developed."
* "Governments will start drafting legislation that will make offering... a system [to monitor Internet activity] to Internet users obligatory for browser or operating systems...as a condition of selling their products in this country or the European Union."

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar tracked down a CleanIT spokesman on his home planet. But Klaasen is the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security*, and he is really upset that we can read this stupid, stupid document full of recommendations that would be illegal in European law. He also can't believe that European Digital Rights, the NGO that published the leaked stupid, stupid document, didn't honor the confidentiality notice on the stupid, stupid cover-page.

* Update Cyrus sez, "Klaasen has corrected his title calling himself now the 'programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security'. Here's his LinkedIn page. He's referred to as the 'project manager,' which as far as I can tell, makes him in charge of the whole thing."

"I do fully understand that the publishing of the document led to misunderstandings," he told Ars. "If we publish like this, it will scare people—that’s the reason that we didn’t publish it. It’s food for thought. We do realize these are very rough ideas."

..."You can compare [this situation] to taking pictures of what someone buys for dinner with how a dinner tastes—you don’t have the complete picture," he added.

..."We really didn’t expect that people would publish a document that clearly says ‘not for publication’—that really surprised us," he said. "I don’t know if it’s naive. Why can’t I trust people?" [Ed: Oh, diddums]

Proposed EU plan to stop terrorist sites even more ridiculous than it sounds

(Image: Clown, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from manc's photostream)

David Byrne and St Vincent performing each others' songs together

Pitchfork's got a couple YouTube clips from the ongoing David Byrne/St Vincent tour, which is in support of their new album and Byrne's new book, both of which are amazing. I saw the tour stop in Toronto and actually wept at one point. I've been listening to the new album, Love This Giant nonstop since, and it's become the soundtrack of my days. I can't remember the last time a new album took over my life so completely.

There are still upcoming shows in NYC, Philly, Brooklyn, Bethesda, Nashville, Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Costa Mesa, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart.

Watch: David Byrne and St. Vincent Perform Each Other's Songs (Thanks, Jonny!)

Interview with Ray Harryhausen

NewImage Here's a 1974 interview with SFX pioneer and "Dynamation" inventor Ray Harryhausen, whose stop motion magic brought to life such classic films as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and One Million Years BC (1967). (via Dangerous Minds)

Guy trying to cure friend's hiccups accidentally kills him

On Sunday evening, US Army private first class Isaac Lawrence Young, 22, was drinking and watching football with his buddies when he got the hiccups. His pal Pfc. Patrick Edward Myers, 27, pulled out a gun to scare him and cure the hiccups, but he accidentally shot Young in the face and killed him. Myers has been charged with manslaughter. (CNN)

Fruit salad trees with six different fruit-bearing branches grafted on them


The Fruit Salad Tree Company of Emmaville, NSW, Australia sells trees that have up to six different fruit-bearing branches grafted on them.

* Stone fruits which grows peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and peachcots
* Citrus which grows a winter and summer orange, mandarins, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangelos and pomelos
* Multi-apples only
* Multi-nashi fruit only

The Fruit Salad Tree can be grown in the ground as for normal fruit trees, or in pots for those people with very limited space. Instead of having numerous different trees with more fruit than your household can consume there is only one tree with all of the fruits ripening naturally over a period of months. There can be more than one variety of an individual fruit on a tree, thus extending the picking time.

Fruit Salad Tree Company (via Kottke)

Google launches underwater Street View, a new virtual map of oceans

Today, Google Maps unveils a new Street View feature: underwater panoramic views of six special sea spots. The idea is to create a virtual map of the oceans, documenting the state of fragile ecosystems as they change over time, and sharing a vivid experience of part of our world that few humans get to see up close and in person, in real life.

The ocean collection on Google Street View is now available at maps.google.com/ocean, and includes coral reefs and the creatures who live in them, in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii.

The panoramic images were collected by Google's partner, The Catlin Seaview Survey (Google+). I spoke with Richard Vevers, Project Director at Catlin, and asked why the organization chose to partner with Google on this project.

"The biggest problem with the ocean is that it's out of sight and out of mind for most of us," said Vevers. "99% of people have never gone for a dive and never will. One of the biggest issues around conservation is engaging people with the ocean, and this is a powerful way to accomplish that. It is a scientific project to create a baseline for observing how the oceans are changing, but it also creates awareness of why that matters."

Read the rest

Laptop rental companies reach cash-free, pointless settlement with toothless FTC for taking secret naked pictures of customers having sex, harvesting medical records and banking passwords and more

The FTC has settled with seven rent-to-own companies and a software company called DesignerWare of North East Pennsylvania for their role in secretly installing spyware on rental laptops, which was used to take "pictures of children, individuals not fully clothed, and couples engaged in sexual activities."

Under the terms of the settlement, the companies are free to go on engaging in this behavior, but now they'll have to notify customers. They won't pay a fine. The FTC won't say if it's referred any of the companies for criminal prosecution. The rental companies used the spyware to harvest renters' bank passwords, private emails to doctors, medical records, and Social Security numbers, and they used it to pop up deceptive windows on customers' computers to trick them into entering personal information.

Wired's David Kravets has more:

The software, known as Detective Mode, didn’t just secretly turn on webcams. It “can log the keystrokes of the computer user, take screen shots of the computer user’s activities on the computer, and photograph anyone within view of the computer’s webcam. Detective Mode secretly gathers this information and transmits it to DesignerWare, who then transmits it to the rent-to-own store from which the computer was rented, unbeknownst to the individual using the computer,” according to the complaint.

Under the settlement, the companies can still use tracking software on their rental computers, so long as they advise renters, the FTC said. The companies include Aspen Way Enterprises Inc.; Watershed Development Corp.; Showplace Inc., doing business as Showplace Rent-to-Own; J.A.G. Rents LLC, doing business as ColorTyme; Red Zone Inc., doing business as ColorTyme; B. Stamper Enterprises Inc., doing business as Premier Rental Purchase; and C.A.L.M. Ventures Inc., doing business as Premier Rental Purchase.

Rent-to-Own Laptops Secretly Photographed Users Having Sex, FTC Says

Debunking the NYT feature on the wastefulness of data-centers

This weekend's NYT carried an alarming feature article on the gross wastefulness of the data-centers that host the world's racks of server hardware. James Glanz's feature, The Cloud Factory, painted a picture of grotesque waste and depraved indifference to the monetary and environmental costs of the "cloud," and suggested that the "dirty secret" was that there were better ways of doing things that the industry was indifferent to.

In a long rebuttal, Diego Doval, a computer scientist who previously served as CTO for Ning, Inc, takes apart the claims made in the Times piece, showing that they were unsubstantiated, out-of-date, unscientific, misleading, and pretty much wrong from top to bottom.

First off, an “average,” as any statistician will tell you, is a fairly meaningless number if you don’t include other values of the population (starting with the standard deviation). Not to mention that this kind of “explosive” claim should be backed up with a description of how the study was made. The only thing mentioned about the methodology is that they “sampled about 20,000 servers in about 70 large data centers spanning the commercial gamut: drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies and government agencies.” Here’s the thing: Google alone has more than a million servers. Facebook, too, probably. Amazon, as well. They all do wildly different things with their servers, so extrapolating from “drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies, and government agencies” to Google, or Facebook, or Amazon, is just not possible on the basis of just 20,000 servers on 70 data centers.

Not possible, that’s right. It would have been impossible (and people that know me know that I don’t use this word lightly) for McKinsey & Co. to do even a remotely accurate analysis of data center usage for the industry to create any kind of meaningful “average”. Why? Not only because gathering this data and analyzing it would have required many of the top minds in data center scaling (and they are not working at McKinsey), not only because Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, would have not given McKinsey this information, not only because the information, even if it was given to McKinsey, would have been in wildly different scales and contexts, which is an important point.

Even if you get past all of these seemingly insurmountable problems through an act of sheer magic, you end up with another problem altogether: server power is not just about “performing computations”. If you want to simplify a bit, there’s at least four main axis you could consider for scaling: computation proper (e.g. adding 2+2), storage (e.g. saving “4″ to disk, or reading it from disk), networking (e.g. sending the “4″ from one computer to the next) and memory usage (e.g. storing the “4″ in RAM). This is an over-simplification because today you could, for example, split up “storage” into “flash-based” and “magnetic” storage since they are so different in their characteristics and power consumption, just like we separate RAM from persistent storage, but we’ll leave it at four. Anyway, these four parameters lead to different load profiles for different systems.

a lot of lead bullets: a response to the new york times article on data center efficiency (via Making Light)

Fantastically detailed miniature replica of Katz's deli


Miniatures sculptor Alan Wolfson was commissioned to make a teeny weeny, fiendishly detailed diorama of the legendary Katz's Deli. Wolfson doesn't do miniature people, so he needed a plausible reason to make an empty Katz's (it's normally mobbed). He opted for a "closing time" Katz's, complete with tiny dirty dishes. There's tiny neon outside, too!


Katz’s Delicatessen is one of those legendary New York locations. It’s been in business on the lower east side of Manhattan since 1888, and is New York’s oldest deli. Telling someone to “meet me at Katz’s..,” is almost the same as telling them to meet you under the clock in Grand Central - everyone knows where it is.

The collector who commissioned the piece no longer lives in the city and wanted something that reminded him of the many times, when he was a boy, that he and his family had eaten at Katz’s.

"KATZ'S DELI / CLOSING TIME" (2012) (via Waxy)

Silcon Valley's high-tech bus commuter lines visualized

Stamen, a design firm in San Francisco, was commissioned to study the private transport networks that run from San Francisco down to Silicon Valley. The traditional commuter dynamic for cities is suburbanites coming into the city to work, but in San Francisco it runs both ways, as city-dwelling tech workers catch a variety of semi-luxurious, WiFi-equipped buses with power outlets and work tables to tech campuses down the peninsula. I watched this with some amusement when I was in San Francisco this summer, observing how a crowd of googlers with Android handsets would magically converge on a corner near Dolores Park just as a big black Google bus pulled up and whisked them away (A friend at Google tells me that his bus has its own mailing list where they recently had a kerfuffle when some enthusiastic people proposed a weekly festive party-ride on Friday afternoons, to the horror of the more sedate riders).

Fun fact: apparently Twitter employees refer to the entire Mission district as "the campus" (though I assume that this is ironic).

We enlisted people to go to stops, measure traffic and count people getting off and on and we hired bike messengers to see where the buses went. The cyclists used Field Papers to transcribe the various routes and what they found out, which we recompiled back into a database of trips, stops, companies and frequency. At a rough estimate, these shuttles transport about 35% of the amount of passengers Caltrain moves each day. Google alone runs about 150 trips daily, all over the city.

We wanted to simplify that, to start thinking about it as a system rather than a bunch of buses, so we began paring down the number of stops by grouping clusters where the stops were close to each other.

The subway map is the end result of that simplification; it's not a literal representation, but it's much more readable than the actual routes. We also wanted to show the relative volumes, so the map segments are scaled by how many trips pass through them; you get a sense for just how much traffic the highways get, and how the routes branch out from there to cover the city. We only mapped San Francisco shuttles, many of these companies operate additional routes in East Bay, the Pennensula, and around San Jose, including direct routes from Caltrain stations to corporate campuses.

The work was commissioned by ZERO1 and partly funded by the James Irvine Foundation.

The City from the Valley (2012) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Dolphin giving birth

Here's a rare look at dolphin birth, from Dolphin Quest Hawaii at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Jump to 17s for the main event.

Video Link [The Telegraph (h/t CSM)]

Six-eyed reveler wows Folsom Street Fair

From Carolyne Zinko's SF Gate story and slideshow from San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair (a kink/fetish event), this fantastic mask on an unidentified "reveler." I want to wear something like this on an everyday basis.

50 shades of fetish at Folsom St. Fair (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail from a larger photo by Carolyne Zinko)

AMC casually confirms a fourth season of The Walking Dead

Good news! AMC has all but confirmed a fourth season of The Walking Dead -- by nonchalantly mentioning it while talking about something else entirely! In an announcement for not the show, but a blood drive for the American Red Cross, a prize entailing a trip to the set during the show's fourth season was offered up. So, hopefully that's a sure thing that is definitely happening, because people are literally going to allow themselves to be partially exsanguinated to visit that freaking set. (via Arrow in the Head)

Toyota's new robot

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This is Toyota's new arm-wresting robot. Apparently, its other application is for "human support" such as assisting disabled people and caring for the elderly in their homes. The robot's body can raise up and down and its tablet head is well-suited for telepresence. Toyota's Human Support Robot (via IEEE Spectrum)

Mitt Romney: "I don't know" why airplane windows don't open

Update: Apparently, Mitt was joking

At a $50,000/ticket fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hilton (home to one of the great Trader Vic's of America, I might add), Mitt Romney expressed his controversial views on aerospace engineering, as recounted by the LA Times's Seema Mehta:

Romney’s wife, Ann, was in attendance, and the candidate spoke of the concern he had for her when her plane had to make an emergency landing Friday en route to Santa Monica because of an electrical malfunction.

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

I expect that's the sort of insight into technology that Romney acquired while creating jobs by remaking American industry to be more efficient.

Mitt Romney pulls in $6 million at Beverly Hills fundraiser

(Image: Virgin Atlantic Window, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from aplumb's photostream)

From opium antiques collector to addict

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Steven Martin (not the comedian) is the author of Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction. Interestingly, Martin started as a collector of antique opium accoutrements. Then he really immersed himself in his hobby and ended up an addict, refilling his pipe thirty times a day. Above is his smoking gear, photographed in 2007. Now clean, Martin visited the offices of Collectors Weekly:

NewImage

At first, of course, there were these opium dens in Laos that I could get to quite easily. Vientiane was an overnight train ride from Bangkok, where I was living. I would take tools up to the opium dens and see if the old smokers there knew what they were. Often they did, although they hadn’t seen some of the pieces in years and years. They would show me how a piece was used. For example, a lot of different tools are used as rolling surfaces, as they call them. When you’re preparing opium for a pipe, you form it into a little pellet of opium on the end of the what’s called an opium needle, which is just a skewer, basically, because you can’t work the stuff with your fingers; it’s too hot. There are lots of different tools for rolling the opium pill, as they call it, into the correct shape before inserting it onto the pipe bowl.

That’s why I started hanging out in these opium dens, to learn what I had. Then I started experimenting with the drug.

"How Collecting Opium Antiques Turned Me Into an Opium Addict" (Collectors Weekly)

Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction (Amazon)

New collection of interviews with JG Ballard

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Extreme Metaphors is a brand new anthology of interviews with one of my all-time favorite writers, JG Ballard, master of surrealist science fiction, dystopian visionary, and brilliant cultural critic. Co-edited by Simon Sellars of the Ballardian blog and Dan O'Hara, the book collects 44 interviews with Ballard by a fantastic array of contributors including BB pals Mark Dery, V. Vale, and Richard Kadrey, along with Iain Sinclair, Jon Savage, David Cronenberg, and others. Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard 1967-2008 (Ballardian, thanks Mark Dery!)

And now, the ballad of the the NFL ref strike, as performed by the replacement refs at the Seahawks-Packers game

Storytime: Last night, during Monday Night Football's presentation of the Seattle Seahawks versus the Green Bay Packers, an insane thing happened that illustrated exactly why the NFL's referee strike is a very bad thing for the game (as great as it is for ratings). In the last seconds of the game, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard Hail Mary to the end zone, where Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings caught the football half a second before Seattle receiver Golden Tate got his own hands on it -- after Jennings pulled the ball into his chest, establishing possession (aka "MINE!"). What you see pictured is a screenshot of one referee signaling a touchdown for Seattle. The other referee is signaling an interception by Green Bay, meaning the touchdown didn't happen. As a result, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers, 14-12 -- the Green Bay Packers. After the jump, the insane play, followed by the incredibly bad call. Packers fans (including my Uncle Bobby): my deepest condolences.

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The Jetsons: 50 years later

Fifty years ago this week, The Jetsons premiered. It only lasted 24 episodes (not including the mid-1980s "revival"), but it truly embodied the tech optimism of the time. In the world of professional futurism, The Jetsons (like a lot of science fiction) can be a great provocation for discussion. For example, every episode is filled with examples of futuristic tech that never happened, at least in the way that we imagined them in the 1960s. (Roomba vs. Roomba!) Clips of The Jetsons are also a fun way to draw out insights about the history of the future and why certain visions of tomorrow caught on at specific points in history. Over at Paleofuture, Matt Novak is has launched a series of posts titled "50 Years of the Jetsons: Why The Show Still Matters." His introductory post and recap of the first episode ("Rosey the Robot") are fantastic. From Paleofuture:

NewImage“The Jetsons” was the distillation of every Space Age promise Americans could muster. People point to “The Jetsons” as the golden age of American futurism because (technologically, at least) it had everything our hearts could desire: jetpacks, flying cars, robot maids, moving sidewalks. But the creators of “The Jetsons” weren’t the first to dream up these futuristic inventions. Virtually nothing presented in the show was a new idea in 1962, but what “The Jetsons” did do successfully was condense and package those inventions into entertaining 25-minute blocks for impressionable, media-hungry kids to consume.

And though it was “just a cartoon” with all the sight gags and parody you’d expect, it was based on very real expectations for the future. As author Danny Graydon notes in The Jetsons: The Official Cartoon Guide, the artists drew inspiration from futurist books of the time, including the 1962 book 1975: And the Changes to Come, by Arnold B. Barach (who envisioned such breakthroughs as ultrasonic dishwashers and instant language translators). The designers also drew heavily from the Googie aesthetic of southern California (where the Hanna-Barbera studios were located)—a style that perhaps best represented postwar consumer culture promises of freedom and modernity.

"50 Years of the Jetsons: Why The Show Still Matters"

UK government spent millions arming and training Congolese and Sudanese soldiers

The UK government has spent £2.4m on training and arming the military forces in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- two places where soldiers are known for atrocities, gang-rape, torture, electoral fraud and vote suppression, and gross human rights abuses. The Guardian's Diane Taylor and David Smith report:

The Enough Project, which works with the American actor George Clooney to expose human rights abuses in both Sudan and Congo, says the two countries are the scene of some of the world's most serious mass atrocities.

In information revealed in a freedom of information response from the Ministry of Defence a total of £75,406 has been spent on providing 44-week courses at the elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for Sudanese and Congolese forces. Other support includes military logistics, advanced command and staff courses, strategic intelligence and evaluating challenges to state sovereignty.

A total of £952,301 was spent on international peace support, which includes border security and stabilisation.

As the Sudanese opposition leader Dr Gebreil Fediel said from London, "If it was and is the intention of the UK authorities to teach Sudan's police and security officers how to conduct these matters in a democratic manner, it has failed. The brutality and genocidal activities of government of Sudan state organs against its own citizens is widely documented."

UK spent millions training police from oppressive regimes

Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection

NewImageAvailable today is Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection on Blu-ray and DVD. (Of course, "complete" is arguably a misnomer because the set doesn't include Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again which were independent productions apart from the official series.) Bond 50 is $150 on Blu-ray and $100 on DVD.

Telephone management skills, 1957 edition: Stephen Potter

From the wonderful blog "Vintage Scans," a page from Lifemanship lesson from Stephen Potter, 1957 (11th impression). Potter was a British writer known for dry, mocking, self-help books, and the TV and film projects they inspired.

Homebrew Nintendo laser zapper is powerful, awesome

"The plan was simple. Take a nostalgic NES "duck hunt" Zapper, and retrofit it with a ridiculously powerful laser."

A project from North Street Labs. In case it's not obvious, this is dangerous, and could lead to death or blindness without safety precautions.

Components: "2.1A input buck driver, 2x 750mAh 35-70c Lipo batteries, M140 445nm diode, G2 lens. homemade custom heat-sink, turn key safety switch."

Learn how to build your own, here. But remember, kids, always wear protective safety goggles. And, wear the right kind for the laser you're working with. [Video Link].

Great Graphic Novels: Carnet de Voyage, by Craig Thompsom

GreatgraphicnovelsLast month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark

“This is not 'the Next Book', but rather a self-indulgent side-project -- a simple travel diary drawn while I was traveling through Europe & Morocco from March 5th to May 14th, 2004."

This is how Craig Thompson introduces Carnet de Voyage, his book between Blankets and Habibi and, hands-down, my favorite thing he’s done.

It’s a canny move, saying right up front that it’s not his “Next Book.” Blankets was a genre-busting success. It won comic awards & wound up on dozens of comic & non-comic “Must Read” lists. As a 500+ page coming of age/struggling with religion story, it was the “graphic novel” that non-comic readers loved. His next book, whatever it was, was guaranteed to be sensation, this time burdened with expectations of greatness.

So we’re told on page one not to expect anything. Totally unnecessary. It might not be the “Next Book” but it’s wonderful.

Carnet is a travel diary -- a one-day-at-a-time record of the places Thompson went, the people he met & the emotions he was feeling. Mostly he was feeling loneliness, as he’s just out of a relationship, in that phase where you’re still partially in it. Compounding the usual loss of a break-up is his ex-girlfriend’s (unexplained but seemingly serious) illness. So, alone & self-conscious of his loneliness, Thompson spends large parts of his trip achingly desperate to fall-in-love.

Read the rest

Turn your personal mob into an army


The startup team behind Human.io.

Human.io is the new thing from Joshua Schachter, founder of bookmarking site del.icio.us. This time, however, he's not suggesting you share your travels with a few friends—he's suggesting that you turn them into an army.

"If you want to build a flash mob, but have it actually do something useful, this is your API," Schachter said. "It lets you invite your audience to become part of the action."

The concept—developed by Paul Rademacher, creator of legendary Craigslist/Google Maps mashup Housingmaps, and Nick Nguyen, formerly of Yahoo and Mozilla—is straightforward enough: Human.io is a platform for performing "micro-tasks".

First, you publish a simple, crowdsourceble activity, such as voting on something, going to a particular location, or taking photos—anything that might be accomplished with a smartphone's UI and its sensors. Then you tell your readers, followers or friends about it. They start the app, get cracking, and, finally, the results are sent back to you.

Read the rest

A perfect political ad (Video)

I love firemen! I love brotherhoods! I love gay marriage! This ad has everything!

Brain Rot: Hip Hop Family Tree, The Art Scene, Basquiat, Fab Five Freddy Meets Charlie Ahearn

Read the rest of the Hip Hop Family Tree comics!

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The Mongoliad: Book Two - exclusive excerpt

In April we ran an excerpt from The Mongoliad: Book One, a shared universe epic written by Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, Cooper Moo, Mark Teppo. Book Two is out today and we have an exclusive excerpt. Read it after the jump.

This riveting second installment in Stephenson and company’s epic tale focuses on the aftermath of the world-shattering Mongolian invasion of 1241 and the difficult paths undertaken by its most resilient survivors.

The Shield Brethren, an order of warrior monks, search for a way to overthrow the horde, even as the invaders take its members hostage. Forced to fight in the Mongols’ Circus of Swords, Haakon must prove his mettle or lose his life in the ring. His bravery may impress the enemy, but freedom remains a distant dream.

Father Rodrigo receives a prophecy from God and believes it’s his mission to deliver the message to Rome. Though a peaceful man, he resigns himself to take up arms in the name of his Lord. Joining his fight to save Christendom are the hunter Ferenc, orphan Ocyrhoe, healer Raphael, and alchemist Yasper, each searching for his place in history.

Deftly blending fact and fantasy, The Mongoliad: Book Two captures the indomitable will to survive against immense odds.

Read the excerpt

Awesome action alert: Gina Carano signs on for lady-filled action ensemble flick

That moment that MMA fighter-turned-action star Gina Carano is having? It's going to continue. The breakout star of last year's Haywire has just signed on for an upcoming action ensemble movie that will feature an all-female group of asskickers. It's not exactly going to be a huge studio movie; indie production company 1984 Private Defense Contractors is behind the project. But if it means that Gina Carano is on her way to become a go-to action star, then that's something to look forward to. This is a woman who was trusted by Steven Soderbergh, of all people, to carry an action movie with a pretty short acting resume to show for herself. (And a stellar athletic career, to be sure.)

The movie is still in the very early stages of production, and it doesn't look like it has a title or a director yet. (Dutch Southern is attached to write the screenplay.) But the prospect of a movie filled with women who can knock people to the ground (ahem, Zoe Bell, please) sounds like a jolly good time to me.

Photo credit: Haywire Official Site

Gina Carano signs on for lead role in Expendables styled female action film [The Daily Blam]

How to write with style, by Kurt Vonnegut, the 1980 edition

Larger size here, so you can read all the text. Writing Tips from Kurt Vonnegut, 1980, sponsored by International Paper Company. Shared in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool by vintage ad archivist MewDeep.

Update: Oooh, here's a PDF of the whole ad series.