Boing Boing 

Why can't pacemaker users read their own medical data?

In this ten minute TEDx talk, Hugo Campos explains his frustration with the fact that his pacemaker is designed to let his doctor read his biometric status, but to stop the patient from doing the same. As a result, Campos isn't able to use his pacemaker as a diagnostic tool to help make good choices about eating, exercise and other activities. He writes,

I have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for primary prevention of sudden cardiac arrest. I have been fighting for my right to access the data collected by the ICD for about 3 years now, without much success. Data about my heart is regularly collected from the implanted device by its manufacturer over remote monitoring.

The modern ICD is a sophisticated computer capable of detecting and treating malignant arrhythmias. It is also capable of wireless telemetry, a feature that is used by all device manufacturers for remote patient monitoring. Today, there are about 5 top manufacturers of pacemakers and ICDs and 1MM patients being remotely monitored on a regular basis. Not a single one of these patients is allowed access to their device's data.

I am sure you'd agree that this is an objectionable practice and it must be stopped.

TEDxCambridge - Hugo Campos fights for the right to open his heart's data

Vancouverites! Coming to Kidsbooks!

As part of my Pirate Cinema tour I'll be coming to Vancouver's Kidsbooks on Oct 21 at 7PM. You've got to buy a $23.50 ticket, but it comes with a copy of the book, which normally retails for $25. Kidsbooks is one of the last independents standing in Vancouver, and they're a great store, so we really want to make the event a big success for them.

TV news programs ignore false claims in the thousands of political ads that pay their bills

Josh Levy from Free Press sez, "My colleague Tim Karr just released a report exposing the billions spent on political ads around the country -- and how that money is pocketed by local TV stations. Are these stations offering any local news coverage to debunk the lies in these ads? Are they exposing the deep-pocketed interests behind the groups buying ad time? The short answer is: No. The local stations we looked at in the report provided no local stories exposing the special interests behind these ads, and only one station among the 20 surveyed devoted even a few minutes to investigating whether these ads told viewers the truth."

Here are some details from our new report, Left in the Dark: Local Coverage in the Age of Big-Money Politics:

* The Super PACs vs. Justin Bieber: The hundreds of hours of local news that aired in the two weeks prior to Wisconsin's June 5 recall election included no stories on the 17 groups most actively buying time on Milwaukee's ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates. While these stations were ignoring the impact of political ads, they found time to air 53 local news segments on Justin Bieber.

* Fact-Check Fail: The ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates in Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Milwaukee did not once fact-check the claims made in political ads placed locally by the nation's top-spending Super PACs and independent groups, even though these groups had spent tens of millions of dollars on frequently deceptive ads in those markets.

* Hush Money: Cleveland's four affiliate stations provided no coverage of the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity, despite airing the group's anti-Obama attack ads more than 500 times. Americans for Prosperity has reportedly spent more than $1.5 million to place ads on Cleveland television stations.

* News Out of Balance: Affiliate stations in Tampa aired on average more than 200 political ads a day throughout August. Yet only one station, WTSP, devoted news time to fact-checking any of the most prominent groups buying these ads. In a single segment running less than three minutes, WTSP rated an Americans for Prosperity ad as false, a finding that didn't stop the station from running the group's anti-Obama ads more than 150 times that month.

TV Stations Accept Political Ad Cash -- and Leave Viewers in the Dark (Thanks, Josh!)

Nude Psychotherapy (vintage seventies magazine ad)

"Be the first on your block to know about nude psychotherapy." A 1970s-era magazine ad, scanned and shared in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool by Boing Boing reader v.valenti.

Mystical experiences without significance

Ed from Aeon sez, "The Scottish science fiction writer Ken MacLeod, (Intrusion, The Night Sessions) has a short essay in Aeon magazine exploring two strange sensations. Each one sounds like a mystical experience, but 'solves no problem, conveys no insight, and yet leaves me with an impression of significance'. Are they mere glitches in the mechanism by which his brain makes meaning? Are they rare or common? Do they mean anything?

"Aeon is a new online magazine about nature, culture, ideas and experience. One of its themes is finding new ways to grapple with spirituality, whatever it might be."

When I tell people about it they either look blank or say: ‘Oh! You mean you have that too?’ But it isn’t a bond between us, not a secret, just a peculiarity, an anomaly, perhaps as random a feature of our minds as the ability to roll one’s tongue is of our bodies. It solves no problem, conveys no insight, and yet leaves me with an impression of significance. It has an aftertaste, but no taste. That impression, that aftertaste, may be its empty secret: it may be a tiny glitch in the process by which our brains find meaning in sense.

Like someone is there (Thanks, Ed!)

US naval analyst on science fiction space warfare

NewImageForeign Policy magazine interviewed naval analyst Chris Weuve, a former US Naval War College research professor, about space warfare in science fiction.

Has sci-fi affected the way that our navies conduct warfare?

CW: This is a question that I occasionally think about. Many people point to the development of the shipboard Combat Information Center in World War II as being inspired by E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman novels from the 1940s. Smith realized that with hundreds of ships over huge expanses, the mere act of coordinating them was problematic. I think there is a synergistic effect. I also know a number of naval officers who have admitted to me that the reason they joined the Navy was because Starfleet Command wasn't hiring.

"Aircraft Carriers in Space" (Thanks, Todd Lappin!)

Predictable, but reassuring news: Marc Webb signs on to direct The Amazing Spider-Man sequel

In Stuff We Knew Would Probably Happen, the director of this summer's The Amazing Spider-Man, Marc Webb, has officially been confirmed to helm the sequel. And it's a good thing, too, because it already had a release date of May 2, 2014! That would have been really awkward without a director. Mr. Parker/Spidey, Andrew Garfield, has also signed on to return, but Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) is still in talks. Probably trying to find out if/when that thing that happens to her character in the comics will be happening in this movie or, perhaps, another one. (via /Film)

Treasure Island Music Festival 2012: contest winner!


I'm pleased to announce that the winner of our Treasure Island Music Festival 2012 ticket contest is Russell Walks! Below is his witty winning Haiku, about The xx, who are playing at the festival. Along with the Boing Boing t-shirt that all three finalists scored, Russell receives a pair of VIP 2-Day Tickets to the San Francisco festival October 13-14 featuring The XX, M83, Grimes, Best Coast, Ty Segall, SBTRKT, Youth Lagoon, The Presets, and more than a dozen other eclectic artists. Congratulations Russell and thanks to all who entered!

Russell Walks:

Love the Double X
He says, staring at her shirt.
Man, she hates liars.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2012

iPad left at airport checkpoint ends up at TSA inspector's house

ABC News ran a sting against dirty TSA inspectors by leaving behind iPads (with tracking spyware) at ten airport checkpoints known for theft and following them electronically. One iPad, left at an Orlando checkpoint, moved 30 miles to the home of Andy Ramirez, a TSA inspector at the airport. Initially, he denied stealing the iPad, then he blamed his wife. He has since been fired from the TSA.

I'm sure that he was the only crook working in the entire agency and now we're all safe. Thank goodness.

According to the TSA, 381 TSA officers have been fired for theft between 2003 and 2012, including 11 so far in this year.

The agency disputes that theft is a widespread problem, however, saying the number of officers fired "represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed" by TSA.

...Ramirez produced the iPad only after ABC News activated an audio alarm feature, and turned it over after taking off his TSA uniform shirt.

His explanation for the missing iPad in his home was that his wife had taken it from the airport.

"I'm so embarrassed," he told ABC News. "My wife says she got the iPad and brought it home," he said.

... No TSA official, including director John Pistole, would agree to be interviewed by ABC News about the issue of theft and what steps TSA has taken to address the long-standing problem.

In its statement, the TSA said it "holds its employees to the highest ethical standards."

Republicans have promised to fix this problem by firing the unionized federal workers and replacing them with private contractors. Because private contractors -- not directly accountable to the government, insulated by layers of contractor/subcontractor relationships -- would never, ever abuse their authority. Which is why mall security guards are the pinnacle of policing efficiency.

ABC News Tracks Missing iPad To Florida Home of TSA Officer (via Beth Pratt)

AMC will stream the season premiere of The Walking Dead for Dish customers

As they did for the season premiere of Breaking Bad this summer, AMC will be streaming the third season premiere of The Walking Dead online for all those frustrated Dish customers who still don't have AMC. It's only good for the one episode -- airing Sunday, October 14 at 9:00 PM EST) -- and then everyone will have to seek out less legal ways to watch the show (or just go to a friend's house). Visit the page especially for Dish customers for more details. (via Bleeding Cool)

Pennsylvania police post perp pix on Pinterest

The Pottstown Mercury, a newspaper in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, recently started posting police mugshots of wanted criminals on Pinterest. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the novel use of a social networking site known best for nail art, cupcakes, and motivational posters with bad typography has become quite a success for local law enforcement. As you can see by scrolling through the board, users are sharing comments on where police might look for each wanted man or woman. Here's an interview with one of the paper's "Pinners," and more context on Poynter. According to an interview with police in the Pottstown Mercury, the project has resulted in a 58% increase in arrests.

"One Day," an animated short (video)

[Video Link] A beautiful, Pixar-esque short from students at the French arts and media school Gobelins. More wonderful shorts on their YouTube channel. (via Short of the Week)

The Star Trek-Psy parody you know you wanted: Klingon Style

This was destined to happen, and it's all in Klingon. What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the internet, all at the same time? (video link) (via Comediva)

Outlaw auction includes Bonnie and Clyde's guns

You could be the new owner of Bonnie & Clyd's personal pistols, Bugsy Siegel's Nevada Project Corporation stock certificate, or a subpoena signed by Wyatt Earp. This Sunday, RR Auction is holding an "American Gansters, Outlaws, and Lawmen" auction with those fine artifacts and many more criminal curiosities. "Bonnie and Clyde's guns go up for auction"

A classic work of entomology, available online in French and English

In 1879, Jean-Henri Fabre wrote a book about insects called Souvenirs entomologiques. Today it's considered a classic of entomology. An English translation, with some absolutely beautiful illustrations like the cicadas pictured above, was published in 1921.

You can read the full book online for free. Yes, both versions. The original French work is available at Gallica. Meanwhile, you can read the full English version at Google Books. Very neat!

Via Alex Wild

This Friday, procrastinate with history!

Perhaps you will enjoy this in-depth analysis of the history of Roman charioteers, their sport, and their role in ancient Roman society. I haven't had a chance to read through this whole thing yet (because, you know, I have to work) but what I have read is fascinating. Be sure to check out the Appendix, which has a translation of a Roman account of a chariot race — so, basically, ancient ESPN play-by-play. (Via Dr. Hypercube)

Help fund Diana Gameros album


Diana Gameros is a deeply talented singer/songwriter in San Francisco who creates soulful, passionate, and enchanting music infused with her Latin heritage. As I've written before, Diana, who was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, writes songs that reflect the 21st century experiences of a young indie artist at the borderlands between cultures, languages, and genres. Diana has launched a Kickstarter to fund the recording of her first studio album of original music. Watch the stop-motion animation video above that Diana created, accompanied by my favorite of her songs, "Enough." The collaborators on the project range from an orchestra in Ciudad Juarez to a group of second graders from Cesar Chavez School in San Francisco.

"The sounds in this album resonate with my desire to integrate my inherited passion for traditional music with the love for contemporary, fresh and soothing musical elements," Diana says.

You can listen to demos of several songs on Diana's Kickstarter page. If you'd like to hear her live, she is opening for Bebel Gilberto this Sunday at Herbst Theater and has many other upcoming gigs. I hope you enjoy Diana's music as much as I do and choose to support this project.

Diana Gameros on Kickstarter

New respiratory virus identified in the Middle East: What you need to know

Coronaviruses are a family of relatively large viruses. The name comes from the fact that, under a microscope, coronaviruses all look like they are surrounded by little halos. Those "coronas" are actually little proteins that cover the surface of the viruses and help them gain access to the cells they invade.

Although scientists think that coronaviruses are actually responsible for a significant percentage of the illnesses that we call the "common cold", the most famous coronavirus is SARS, which killed almost 1000 people in 2003. That doesn't sound like many, but comparing deaths to diagnosed cases reveals a fatality rate of 10%. (There's a good chance this number doesn't give you the full picture. It's likely more people contracted SARS than ended up diagnosed with it, simply because, if your illness isn't severe, you don't usually bother to get diagnosed. To provide some context, the 1918 flu pandemic had an estimated fatality rate of 2.5%.)

All of this explains why a newly identified coronavirus — which may be the cause of two deaths and a couple of outbreaks of respiratory illness in the Middle East — is getting so much attention and causing people to freak out a little. The virus (which doesn't actually have a name yet) is part of the same family as SARS. SARS was a scary virus. So this new virus has everyone a little on edge, too.

The key thing to remember, though, is that this new virus is not SARS. And there's a lot we don't yet know about it.

Read the rest

Great Graphic Novels: Zap Comix #2

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

Zap Comix #2

I think it was 1969, so I was 11 or 12 years old. A conservative science teacher with a Marine-style buzzcut had just finished projecting an anti-drug exploitation film for us in class, in which teens were getting hit by cars and launching themselves from buildings as the result of bad acid trips. Just after this, Mr. Buzzcut excitedly announced that he would demonstrate to us what a burning marijuana cigarette smelled like, just so we'd know the odor and be able to avoid areas where it was present. He gathered all thirty students around as he lit up a colorless tablet. None of us could detect any sort of odor at all.

As they usually did for just about everyone who was subjected to them, these anti-drug presentations aroused my curiosity to try the real thing, consequences be damned.

That weekend, I hopped on my Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle to scout out areas where I suspected longhairs would gather. Early one evening I detected an extremely fragrant scent outside a movie theater on Wilshire near La Cienega. Finally, I thought, I had experienced the real smell of "Mary Jane," pot, grass or whatever those exploitation films maintained was the current slang. Later, I discovered that particular odor was patchouli oil, a fragrance common to LA hippies. Continuing my search, I pedaled up Fairfax Avenue toward the strange Orthodox Jewish stores with fancy menorahs and gefilte fish, and on this block found a Free Press bookstore that emanated the strong hippie scent. Winding up my courage, I stepped through the hanging beads at the front door. Maybe, I thought, I would get lucky and ogle some dirty magazines.

Read the rest

Ye Smokiana: 1890 study of smoking



RT Pritchett's Ye Smokiana, from 1890, appears to a very informative "historical" and "ethnographical" study of smoking. It's illustrated with beautiful color drawings smoking implements from around the world, more specifically "pipes of all nations." Ye Smokiana is now on the auction block at eBay. Ye Smokiana (Thanks, Randall de Rijk!)

Tear-off cardboard USB flash-drives

Here's a cute concept-design for tear-off, disposable flash-drives from Art Lebedev, who predicts, "Stick will become even simpler vehicle than once floppy" (mangled Russian-English interpretation courtesy of Google Translate). I wonder if NFC/ultra-wideband wireless transfer will make low-capacity flash drives obsolete before they get cheap enough to make into cardboard disposables, though.

Концепт флеш-накопителя «Флешкус» (Thanks, Dave!)

The Dog Stars: terrific book about life after 99.9% of humans are wiped out

I never get tired of reading novels about life on Earth following a disaster that wipes out 99.9% of the human population. Earth Abides and I am Legend are two of my favorites in this sub-genre. I like these stories fro several reasons: I'm fascinated in seeing how people figure out how to survive after their modern conveniences have been taken away from them. It's also interesting to see why the remaining inhabitants struggle to go on with their lives, and to read about their encounters with people who might or might not want to eat them.

After reading The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller, I'm adding it to the top of my twilight-of-the-human-race-novels list. The story takes place about 30 years in the future, nine years after a deadly flu has killed almost everyone on Earth. Hig is one of the survivors. He lives near a small airport in Erie, Colorado (I know the place well, having grown up a stone's throw from the small town east of Boulder). He's teamed up with a no-nonsense, survivalist type named Bangley who is armed to the gills, but seems to be somewhat unhinged. Hig, who lives in fear that Bangley might consider Hig to be a liability rather than an asset, owns a small plane that he uses to patrol the flatlands for invading hordes of starving people armed with knives, broken bottles, and crossbows, who would happily kill Hig and Bangley to take their food stockpiles, garden produce, and ammunition. They have to constantly look over their shoulder to make sure no one is sneaking up on them. Fortunately for Hig, Bangley is a good shot. He and Hig have had to shoot quite a few people in their years together. Hig has learned how to make human thigh-meat jerky to feed his elderly, but useful, watchdog Jasper.

Hig and his dog sleep away from Hig's house, outside behind a berm, covered in quilts. Whenever invaders are lured to the house's LED porch lights (which run on solar-charged batteries) Jasper wakes up and alerts Hig with a low growl. Hig, in turn, gets on the walkie talkie with Bangley, who shoots the trespassers with a sniper rifle.

The scenes where Hig and Bangley encounter other people (who are almost always "Not Nice," as Hig says) raised the hairs on the back of my neck and sent my pulse racing. Hig freely admits he doesn't have the survival skills or the take-no-prisoners attitude that Bangley possesses, and when I read Hig's descriptions on these intense encounters I know I'd make the same potentially deadly mistakes that Hig makes.

It's a grim life, and that explains why Hig likes to get away from the airport to go fishing and hunting in the mountains west of Boulder. Bangely doesn't approve because it puts both of their lives at risk, but Hig can't help himself. He's sad that the trout have died off due to global warming, but there's carp. They don't put up a lively fight like the trout did, though.

Written in the first person from Hig's point of view, the text is fragmented, and almost poetic. I was a bit put off for the first 15 pages or so, but I got used to the writing style and grew to appreciate it.

There's no reason to describe what else happens. I'll just say that there's a plot, and it's a good one. There's also humor and hopefulness, which make the story, more, not less interesting.

The Dog Stars

Curiosity adds to evidence that water once flowed on Mars

When a narrow stream, flowing downhill, meets a wide, significantly-flatter valley, you get an alluvial fan — a place where the flow of water spreads out, slows down, and leaves behind all the rocks and sediment it's no longer moving fast enough to carry. At least, that's how it works on Earth.

Once upon a time, it may have worked that way on Mars, too. Yesterday, NASA announced that the Curiosity rover had documented geology that looks very much like an alluvial fan and rocky deposits that also look very much like what would be left in an alluvial fan on Earth. You can see the comparison of some of those in the image above. In these Martian geological features — as in an Earth-bound stream bed — you find smooth, rounded pebbles and conglomerates, masses of pebbles cemented together over time. The rocks photographed by Curiosity are also too large to have been blown into this sort of arrangement by the wind.

All of this adds to the long string of evidence that Mars once had flowing water on its surface. In fact, reading up for this post, I was surprised to see how much evidence there actually is for this, some direct and some indirect, stretching all the way back to the Mariner 9 orbiter mission in the early 1970s. And, of course, there is water on Mars right now. It's just not flowing water. Previous probes have measured a small amount of water in the Martian atmosphere, and the planet's polar regions contain both frozen carbon dioxide and frozen water. Viking 2 took pictures of frost on the ground in the late 1970s, and in 2008, the Phoenix lander literally dropped out of the sky onto a patch of ice.

Read the rest

F.T.C. plans new privacy protection regulation, "for the children"

COPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, requires web sites for kids to obtain parental consent before collecting personal data, but much has changed online since 1998. The NYT reports that Federal regulators "are about to take the biggest steps in more than a decade to protect children online," by restricting the ability of sites and apps to collect "details like children’s photographs or locations of mobile devices. The concern is that the information could be used to identify or locate individual children." Read more.

Mystery around anti-muslim filmmaker and fraudster deepens as yet another alias is revealed

As if "Sam Bacile," "PJ Tobacco," and dozens more colorful fake names weren't enough, the "Innocence of Muslims" guy apparently had yet another alias. A California judge has detained him for violating the terms of his probation by using a computer to make and upload the crappy and controversial film to YouTube.

Yarn bomb transit protest in Edinburgh

An unknown yarn-bomber has taken to the streets of Edinburgh with a political message, opposing the tramway expansion underway there. Yarnivore Rose says, "Actual political speech in yarnbomb form, rather than 'mere' decoration! BRING IT!"

More from The Scotsman:

Grant McKeenan, who owns the Copymade Shop on West Maitland Street and who has started his own anti-tram poster campaign, said he thought the protest was “excellent”, adding: “Anything speaking out against the trams is good in my book, and clearly someone’s gone to a lot of 

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader confirmed that the council had removed the colourful protest.

“When unofficial banners are put up it’s normally the process that they are removed, in case they come loose and flap into the face of a pedestrian or into the path of a cyclist.

“It did look like nice crochet work though, someone had clearly spent a lot of time on it.”

The city council added that the blanket was still in their possession if the owner wished to claim it, no questions asked.

Mystery knitter vents Edinburgh trams fury in ‘yarn-bombing’ blanket protest

(Thanks, Rose!)

(Image: a downsized, cropped thumbnail of "The embroidered tram work protest which was attached to the fence on Princes Street," a photo by Mary Gordon)