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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


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