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The sparkling wit of Ann Coulter

I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) October 23, 2012
It's really something, isn't it?

Pussy Riot activists sent to secret harsh labor camps


Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been sent to regions known for hosting Russia's harshest hard-labor camps, places that once served as Soviet gulags. The 24 and 22 year old mothers -- who performed a song protesting the Russian Orthodox Church's connection to the Putin regime in a cathedral -- have been sentenced to two years of hard labor. Though the regions to which they've been dispatched is known, no one -- not even their families -- has been allowed to know exactly which prison-camps they are incarcerated in. The Guardian's Miriam Elder reports from Moscow:

"These are the harshest camps of all the possible choices," the band said via its Twitter account on Monday.

...Confusion reigned on Monday as relatives and lawyers tried to assess exactly where the women were sent. Both Perm and Mordovia host several prison camps, some of which comprised the Soviet-era gulag system. Prison authorities declined to comment on the women's whereabouts.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova had petitioned to serve their sentences in Moscow, arguing that they wanted to be close to their children. Alyokhina has a five-year-old son named Filipp, while Tolokonnikova has a four-year-old daughter named Gera.

Pussy Riot band members sent to remote prison camps

(Image: Free Pussy Riot Posters & Designs 07, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from centralasian's photostream)

Voter fraud is a fraud

The New Yorker's "Voter-Fraud Myth" by Jane Mayer is a good, fair, investigative piece tracking the rise of the Republican orthodoxy that says that voter fraud is rampant, and that it favors Democrats. Mayer makes a reasoned, factual case to show that there is no substantial voter fraud problem (much-vaunted incidents like the scores of dead voters in Georgia were later revealed to not have a single verifiable instance of a dead person voting). Mayer also shows how anti-fraud measures disproportionately target young people, poor people, and visible minorities. This is a great piece to refer to when discussing the subject with friends who've been convinced that voter ID laws amount to anything other than partisan voter suppression.

Von Spakovsky offered me the names of two experts who, he said, would confirm that voter-impersonation fraud posed a significant peril: Robert Pastor, the director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management, at American University, and Larry Sabato, a political-science professor at the University of Virginia. Pastor, von Spakovsky noted, had spoken to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about being a victim of election fraud: voting in Georgia, he discovered that someone else had already voted under his name.

When I reached Pastor, he clarified what had happened to him. “I think they just mistakenly checked my name when my son voted—it was just a mistake.” He added, “I don’t think that voter-impersonation fraud is a serious problem.” Pastor believes that, compared with other democracies, America is “somewhere near the bottom in election administration,” and thinks that voter I.D.s make sense—but only if they are free and easily available to all, which, he points out, is not what Republican legislatures have proposed. Sabato, who supports the use of voter I.D.s under the same basic conditions, says of the voter-impersonation question, “One fraudulent vote is one too many, but my sense is that it’s relatively rare today.”

Hasen says that, while researching “The Voting Wars,” he “tried to find a single case” since 1980 when “an election outcome could plausibly have turned on voter-impersonation fraud.” He couldn’t find one. News21, an investigative-journalism group, has reported that voter impersonation at the polls is a “virtually non-existent” problem. After conducting an exhaustive analysis of election-crime prosecutions since 2000, it identified only seven convictions for impersonation fraud. None of those cases involved conspiracy.

The Voter-Fraud Myth

Gweek 072: A History of Halloween

An interview with horror author and screenwriter Lisa Morton, author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween


Have you ever wondered about the origins of Halloween? Where does the word Halloween come from? What is the origin of the term trick or treat? Why do we carve jack-o'-lanterns? And how did costumes come into play? I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But luckily we have someone here who does know. Joining me today is the horror author and screenwriter Lisa Morton. Lisa’s novels and short stories have won numerous awards, including the Stoker Award. She’s written screenplays for feature films and television and has appeared as a Halloween expert on The History Channel's The Real Story of Halloween. And that’s what we are going to talk to Lisa about today because she has a book that just came out called Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween, published by Reaktion Books.

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Keyboard made from beer-cans

Here's a cute way to gimmick a keyboard out of a grid of beercans, using Raspberry Pis and Arduinos:

We did this at Webstock, event which took place in Bucharest in September. Staropramen, one of the sponsors of the event asked us for an innovative way to offer a trip to Prague to one of the event's guests.

So, we came up with a keyboard made out of 44 Staropramen beer cans. Each beer can was a key, and whenever someone touched it, the corresponding letter appeared on a large plasma screen (just like any regular computer keyboard).

And the surprise was fantastic! The user experience and engagement overcame any expectation. Every single person who attended Webstock tried the keyboard and participated to the contest.

Behind the scene, the system is built around an Arduino board and a few capacitive controllers (just like the ones which are inside smartphones' touch screens), connected to a Raspberry PI board which controls the plasma screen display.

The Beer Cans Keyboard Movie (via Hacker News)

Mold growing behind refrigerator looks like Jesus

"I took a picture on my mobile and then wiped it off -- it might look like Jesus but I've got three kids and can't be doing with mould in my house." -- Kenny Iddenden, atheist. (Via Arbroath)

How a Haunted Mansion addict fell in love with the greatest ride on Earth

This post is sponsored by Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two the video game:


I fell in love with the Haunted Mansion in 1977. I was six years old, and we'd gone to Fort Lauderdale to visit my grandparents. They lived in a seniors' condo complex called Century Village -- my dad called it Cemetery Village -- and it wasn't a great place to be a six-year-old. My parents loaded me into a rental car and we drove down to Orlando, pulling in at truck stops to buy Vac-U-Formed souvenir plastic oranges and to collect mountains of colorful brochures for Busch Gardens, Alligatorland, and Parrot Jungle.

Back then, Walt Disney World used the A-B-C-D-E ticketbook schemes, where A tickets got you on the least exciting rides ("horse-drawn carriage down Main Street!") and E tickets were the most coveted, providing admission to the likes of Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion.


Two (amazing) days later, we had seen and done (nearly) everything. I had my mouse-ears, had enjoyed a pineapple Dole-Whip, and was generally as overstimulated and amazed as a six-year-old can be without exploding. The park was about to close, and we had a final E-ticket left in our ticket books. My dad squinted at the guide-book (a proper booklet in those days, not a mere brochure), and enumerated the E-ticket options remaining to us. When he came to the Haunted Mansion, my Mom broke in:

"I think Cory might be a little young for that."

Which was all the excuse I needed to demand, furiously, that I be allowed to ride the Haunted Mansion.

Read the rest

Zuca: rollaboard luggage with drawers doubles as a chair


Speaking of bags and luggage, Ben Hammersley swears by the Zuca Pro, an overhead-legal rollaboard bag that you can sit on, and that organizes its contents into drawers. It's been years since I've bothered with rollaboards (I hate gate-checking luggage), but this is pretty danged cool, and Ben is one of the few people I know who logs as much mileage as I do.

I imagine those drawers are seriously useful, especially if you pre-packed a bunch of them like travel cartridges ("beach," "business meeting," "in-room coffee stuff") and stacked them as the trip required.

• 41" Telescoping handle

• Aluminum alloy frame is light, super strong and rated to safely support 300 pounds

• The removable, hand washable, insert bag is made from premium water resistant 1680D ballistic nylon and coated with water resistant polyurethane

• 4" lightweight polyurethane wheels absorb shock and make for a seriously silent ride. And, because the wheels are recessed, the luggage meets FAA specifications for carry-on baggage

• A gear platform to carry additional loads

• Feet, made of nylon 6, go easy on scratchable surfaces

• Chrome plated, rust resistant screws

Zuca Pro (Thanks, Bill!)

Join MAKE editors for live Google+ hangout, Oct 23


Stett Holbrook says:

MAKE magazine’s latest issue goes on sale tomorrow and to mark the event, MAKE editors, designers, and contributing writers will participate in a Google+ hangout on air tomorrow, Oct. 23, at 2pm Pacific Standard Time to give readers a behind-the-scenes look at the magazine and how it came together. Log on to watch and post comments at google.com/+make. The hangout is the first of a series of MAKE editor hangouts.

Volume 32 focuses on design and is a packed with great stuff. The new issue includes:

Twelve pages on master costume maker Shawn Thorsson.

An interview with Arduino creator Massimo Banzi by Dale Dougherty.

An appreciation of toy designer Marvin Glass.

Dezso Molnar’s quest to build a flying motorcycle.

The debut of MAKE: Believe, a new video series on the people who turn fantasy into reality. This one features toy sculptor Scott Hensey. Plans for nearly two dozen projects.

We’ll also be discussing our just-finished, first-in-the-world (that we know of) buyers guide to 3D printers. It’s a MAKE special issue that comes out next month. You’re gonna love it.

Join MAKE editors for Llve Google+ hangout, Oct 23

The electric dog delights and astounds


No one will suspect that your well-behaved dog is actually a robot! Full build instructions included.


Recapping ‘The Jetsons’: Episode 04 – The Coming of Astro (Via Nerdstink)

Marijuana majority: well-known liberals and conservatives advocating for legalization


Marijuana Majority is a well-designed website that has quotes from hundreds of religious leaders, political figures, law enforcement officials, celebrities, and other notable figures, all advocating for the decriminalization of cannabis. I'm happy to see that Cory and Xeni are on the list!

“I think it's about time we legalize marijuana... We either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars or we legalize it, but this little game we are playing in the middle is not helping us, it is not helping Mexico and it is causing massive violence on our southern border... Fifty percent of the money going to these cartels is coming just from marijuana coming across our border.” -- Glenn Beck

“There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana...$7.7 billion [spent on prohibition's enforcement] is a lot of money, but that is one of the lesser evils. Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven't even included the harm to young people. It's absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes.” -- Milton Friedman

Goggled coat


Luxury retailer Luisa Viaroma at one point sold these $424 Matt Nylon Hooded Down Jackets with integrated, goggled facemasks. In an apparent bid to soften the appearance of alien menace projected by the garment when fully zipped, the vendor added a silly poof-ball at the crown. This latter seems easily removed, and I speculate that it is similar to the little snap-off bit of wink-nudge metal that converts your semi-automatic to full-auto -- that is, a way to claim relative harmlessness at the point of sale. Because once you lose the bogglie-ball, brother, you're pure terror in this one.

I'd Wear It: Winter Jacket With Integrated Goggles In Hood

Matt Nylon Hooded Down Jacket (Product page/dead link)

Whale mimics human speech

From the NMMFoundation:

A new paper published by the National Marine Mammal Foundation in the scientific journal Current Biology sheds light on the ability of marine mammals to spontaneously mimic human speech. The study details the case of a white whale named NOC who began to mimic the human voice, presumably a result of vocal learning.

"The whale's vocalizations often sounded as if two people were conversing in the distance," says Dr. Sam Ridgway, President of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. "These 'conversations' were heard several times before the whale was eventually identified as the source. In fact, we discovered it when a diver mistook the whale for a human voice giving him underwater directions."

A Necronomicon, for your very own bookshelf!

(Video link) A Necronomicon to keep in your home -- it's like the Bible, but not really! Not for reading out loud, great for when your guests can't take a hint! (via Geeks Are Sexy)

Fun Fantasy Adventure Young Adult Novel: The Other Normals

The unlikely hero in Ned Vizzini's young adult fantasy novel, The Other Normals is Perry Eckert, a 15-year-old boy with divorced parents, an alcoholic older brother, and few friends. He is terrified of girls. While other boys his age are developing into young men with deepening voices and growth spurts, Perry's body stubbornly refuses to kickstart the puberty process. He's teased at school, and has been given the nickname Tiny Pecker. Because his life sucks, it's not surprising that Perry frequently retreats into a fantasy world fueled with sword & sorcery roleplaying games. But because he has almost no friends, Perry plays the games by himself.

As the saying goes, nothing's so bad that it can't get worse, and when summer rolls around, Perry's parents ship him off to a summer camp for 8 weeks. The kids at the camp dislike Perry even more than the kids at his school, and they either shun him or pick on him. And when the camp staff takes away the gaming manual he'd brought along, Perry has nothing to look forward to.

The remaining 350 pages of The Other Normals would be depressing if not for the fact that a red skinned humanoid with yellow hair and a tail runs past a window that Perry happens to be looking out of. Perry goes outside and meets the creature, who speaks English and is addicted to smoking pebbles, which make him stoned. The creature's name is Mortin Enaw, and Perry learns that Enaw comes from another dimension. Enaw leads Perry into the woods and he activates the portal (made from mushrooms connected to a car battery) that allows them to enter the World of the Other Normals. Perry finds himself in a real sword and sorcery world, just like the one in his confiscated gamer's manual. He also learns that his assistance is needed to save the World of the Other Normals. This appeals to him, because he would rather battle loathsome half-men/half monsters on a strange planet than deal with the shunners, bullies, and girls at camp. Unfortunately for Perry, his assignment requires him to return through the portal to Earth to kiss one of the girls at the camp. What follows is an enjoyable adventure story that moves back and forth between Earth and Enaw's world as Perry attempts to control escalating situations on both sides of the portal.

Vizzini's story reminded me of Rudy Rucker's novels, which often have silly, almost cartoonlike, nonhuman characters, but portray human relationships, struggles, and desires in a realistic and engrossing way.

I interviewed Ned Vizzini on Gweek in September 2012. Listen to it here.


The Other Normals

Greenhouse and safety perimeter


The above structure is allegedly a greenhouse surrounded by a safety perimeter to keep the children away from said greenhouse. Redditor Syyraxus's post is called "So my brother in law built this... thing, I had no idea what it was until my sister told the children to keep away from the greenhouse as it wasn't safe. Greenhouse..."

Louis C.K. has more sketch comedy experience up his sleeve than you think

While an undeniable comedic genius, Louis C.K. is not well-known for his wild, wacky array of characters or impressions, so it was weird (though not unpleasant) to hear that he'd be hosting Saturday Night Live on November 3. But recall that the show thrived on hiring standup comedians in the early 1990s -- and they nearly hired Louis C.K. Splitsider has the award-winning comedian's history with the show, including his contributions to TV Funhouse, and why it doesn't seem like such a strange idea after all. (via Splitsider)
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Bollywood Steel Guitar

Just from the title alone -- Bollywood Steel Guitar -- we knew that this installment in the always-amazing Sublime Frequencies series of unusual and under-documented "world music" recordings was gonna be the bomb! Indeed it is. And now on vinyl! The 'exotic' and infectious verve of vintage Bollywood film soundtrack music, performed with electric steel guitar as lead instrument for extra awesomeness, is hard to beat! The steel guitar, bringing with it the groovy twang of Western Swing and Hawaiian fret-sliding flavor, as well as a measure of classical Indian music, easily effects an emotive echo of the human voice that ordinarily fronts Bollywood themes.

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Experimental short documentary on the northern lights

Jan sends us this trailer for Magnetic Reconnection, "An experimental short form documentary contrasting the northern lights with the harsh landscapes and decaying man made remnants littered in the northern Canadian town of Churchill. The film touches upon the power of nature over man and the futility of struggle against the natural processes of decay. Despite our best attempts they are a power far beyond our control or ability to quantify. Featuring a score by Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth, Wilco), narration by Will Oldham (Matewan, Old Joy) and likely some of the best footage of the aurora ever captured."

"Until recently aurora footage was captured on 35mm film at an ISO value of 800 with up to 30 second exposure times,” said Armstrong. “The resulting images often appeared to have very little definition or semblance of what the phenomenon appears to the naked eye and had the appearance of blobs of plasma with small changes. Over the past 10 years advances in digital sensing technology has led to more accurate representations, what you’ll see if you look on YouTube, with 15 second exposures, even 10 second exposure times. While they make for compelling and pretty pictures, these clips are frequently set against with moonlit nights with loads of light pollution suffering from the plasmic blob look because of the long exposure times.

Magnetic Reconnection | NEWS (Thanks, Jan!)

A new animated trailer for the new Graham Chapman "documentary"

Graham Chapman was kind enough to record his somewhat truthful autobiography, A Liar's Autobiography, before he died in 1989. But since he did die, the rest of Monty Python got the chance to turn the recording into a psuedo-documentary and hire 14 different animators to animate it without having to ask permission. A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman will premiere on Friday, November 2 on EPIX and in select movie theaters in the U.S. -- in 3D, no less! You can watch a new trailer at The A.V. Club and an older one on YouTube. (via The A.V. Club)

Hey, Paranormal Activity 4: You're cute, but can we talk about your hot subplot friend?

Paranormal Activity 4 opened this weekend, and it topped the box office. Then, it was announced that there would be one more sequel and a spinoff. But what I want to know more about is the infinitely more interesting witch-related part of the Paranormal saga that is only barely touched on in the movies, but rounds out the creepiness ten-fold. Yes, we've been treated to several moments of suspense and scares throughout the four movies. But I feel like there is a whole other story being glossed over.

It won't be a long discussion, but for the sake not spoiling Paranormal Activity 4, I'll continue after the jump.

Read the rest

Sixth grader gets third eye in school picture


Her father (right) is demanding an explanation. (Via Photoshop Disasters)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/nyregion/rescued-kurt-weill-recording-is-sweet-vindication-for-accidental-discoverer.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes

The vindication of a craphound: a rescued Kurt Weill recording is the prize in this New York Times piece on how a Craigslist ad for old books and records led to the discovery of four 78rpm acetate discs "that even Weill scholars did not know had ever been recorded."

Humans can cause earthquakes

We don't have a great handle on predicting earthquakes. But we do know enough about them to know that they aren't all purely forces of nature. Humans can actually cause (or maybe just prompt) the Earth to shake. We've talked before here at BoingBoing about man-made earthquakes — caused by lubricating rocks deep underground, or by shifting the distribution of weight on the surface of the Earth in significant ways (think: building a reservoir). At Scientific American, David Biello has a short piece on what we do and don't know about this phenomenon. In light of the ruling in the L'Aquila earthquake trial, I found it particularly interesting to learn that, even when we know we're doing something that could trigger a 'quake, we still aren't very good at figuring out how strong that quake is likely to be.

When I hear the word "DJ"...

...I think of Wolfman Jack. Here's a great audio clip of his fine work on the radio. Additionally, Pesco wanted to be sure we didn't forget the Wolfman's work on Battlestar Galactica 1980.

BagJack: Berlin's handmade courier-bags


Conversations with William Gibson are always a treat. Yesterday we sat down for a chat after our joint appearance at the Vancouver Writers' Festival, and talked about everything from how dead people use the Internet to the existential dilemmas of hipster time-travellers. Somewhere in there, Bill mentioned BagJack, a German messenger bag manufacturer that supplies some of the biggest (and most expensive) Japanese brands, and from whom you can buy at much lower prices (though the bags still run &eur;150-300).

The handmade bags really do seem lovely. I've ordered one to try out, and I'll let you know if it turns out to be the winner it looks like. In the meantime, have a look for yourself (Bill mentioned the extremely clever tablet holster that swivels around to prop your tablet open against your chest, which is awfully martian in the very best way).

BagJack (Thanks, Bill!)

Engineering photo competition winners

Described in this video, the winning entries of the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering 2012 Photography Competition. Many of the amazing entries can be viewed here on Flickr.

Brain-on-a-chip for drug testing and injury research

Draper Laboratory and University of South Florida researchers are developing a prototype "brain-on-a-chip." No, it's not an AI but rather a combination of living cells and microfluidics in a bio-artificial model of the brain's nerovascular unit, the system of neurons, capillaries, and other cells that control the supply of nutrients to the brain. Eventually, such a device could be used to test medications and vaccines. And that's just the beginning.

“In addition to screening drugs, we could potentially block vascular channels and mimic stroke or atherosclerotic plaque," says lead researcher Anil Achyuta. "Furthermore, this platform could eventually be used for neurotoxicology, to study the effects of brain injury like concussions, blast injuries, and implantable medical devices such as in neuroprosthetics.”

"Draper Laboratory Developing “Brain-on-a-Chip”"

Russell Means, Native American activist and actor, dead of cancer at 72

Native American political activist and actor Russell Means, founding member of AIM, has died at 72 of esophageal cancer. A NYT obituary is here. More: russellmeans.com.

Enjoy classic illustrations of the micro world, for free

This illustration of a flea comes from Robert Hooke's Micrographia — an amazing collection of illustrations drawn from microscope images, first published in 1665. Think of it like a proto-viral blog post that somehow fuzed Nature and Buzzfeed. Something with a headline like "15 UNBELIEVABLE IMAGES OF EVERYDAY THINGS!"

Micrographia — the whole thing — is now available in ebook form. For free. In several different formats. To give you a sense of why this is worth checking out, here's Carl Zimmer on the book's social/scientific impact back in the 17th century:

In January 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he stayed up till two in the morning reading a best-selling page-turner, a work that he called "the most ingenious book I read in my life." It was not a rousing history of English battles or a proto-bodice ripper. It was filled with images: of fleas, of bark, of the edges of razors.

The book was called Micrographia. It provided the reading public with its first look at the world beyond the naked eye. Its author, Robert Hooke, belonged to a brilliant circle of natural philosophers who--among many other things--were the first in England to make serious use of microscopes as scientific instruments. They were great believers in looking at the natural world for themselves rather than relying on what ancient Greek scholars had claimed. Looking under a microscope at the thousands of facets on an insect's compound eye, they saw things at the nanoscale that Aristotle could not have dreamed of. A razor's edge became a mountain range. In the chambers of a piece of bark, Hooke saw the first evidence of cells.

Hooke gave a lecture to the Royal Society about these investigations, and the members of the Society were so impressed that they urged Hooke to publish a book--a visual argument for the new scientific method.

Read the rest of Carl Zimmer's review, and check out links to the various ebooks of Micrographia