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Accidental CC from wedding planner to couple reveals thriving English class snobbery

A couple in England have gone public with the news that a wedding planner at the Stoke Park country resort (used as a location in James Bond: Goldfinger) accidentally cc'ed them on an email where she advised her colleagues that they were not the "type of people that we would want" to get married at the hotel. The couple are presumably too petit-bourgeois for the resort: she's a drug counsellor, he's a Ministry of Defense engineer with an eyebrow piercing. Cory

Amino acid necklace spells out "we are star-stuff"


Colette Taylor is a molecular biologist and crafter who makes some rather lovely pieces, including the amino-acid inspired necklace shown here (which I saw in person tonight), which reads "We are star-stuff."

There are certain phrases or ideas which sometimes need reminding. Just to keep us sane, to remind us what is important. This is We Are Star Stuff in Amino Acids. This is a big one for me, a reminder from Carl Sagan that we are all made of the same building blocks, and the same amazing pieces. Not only are we made of the same stuff, it is particles of the universe. This is a reminder of not just how insignificant an individual is, it’s a reminder that every individual is a beautiful and brilliant thing. It’s so awesome that a person, made of the same thing as everyone else, manages to carve out a unique and original existence. This is a reminder that being is pretty much the coolest thing ever, and should never be taken for granted.

The Efforts of a Scientist and Compulsive Crafter

ADELE (Boing Boing TV, 2008)

I won't say Boing Boing TV *discovered* Ms. Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, but I will say that our old pal Russell Porter introduced her to many of our readers and viewers for the first time, in this classic Boing Boing TV episode from 2008.

The "heartbroken soul" sound captured in her debut album, 19, won her a Mercury Prize that year. Russell caught up with her backstage at the awards show.

One year later, she would take home two Grammys, then in 2012 she nabbed an unprecedented six, cementing Adele's role as one of the most powerful and famous female vocalists in contemporary popular music.

The video for her song "Chasing Pavement" excerpted in this BBTV episode was directed by Matthew Cullen.

Just a few days ago, by the way, the 24-year-old songstress gave birth to her first child—a beautiful baby boy.

Florence + the Machine (Boing Boing TV, 2008)

A classic Boing Boing TV episode from our vaults: Russell Porter interviews Florence Welch of Florence+the Machine at the 2008 edition of the Standon Calling festival.

Nobody in the US knew who these guys were in in 2008! Includes an interview and an impromptu, unplugged performance outside of their trailer.

Entropy versus warranty: how companies figure out how breakable their products are


The current Wired has a long feature by Robert Capps on the significant changes in product testing and warranty service brought about by the combination of highly accurate computer modelling and disclosure laws that force firms to publish details of the costs of their warranty plans. The latter was most interesting to me, as it offers insight into what had formerly been a black box for gadget-watchers.

One of the world’s foremost experts on the cost of product failure lives and works in a fifth-floor apartment on a modest block in Forest Hills, Queens. His name is Eric Arnum, and he runs a one-man newsletter titled Warranty Week. Tall and soft-spoken, he can (and often does) talk about warranty accruals, payment rates, and reimbursement policies for hours without stopping. Most of his days are spent in his small office, working on a vast array of spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides—files that contain detailed warranty information for 1,107 companies. Collectively, these sheets hold perhaps the most comprehensive accounting of product failures on the planet.

Warranty information is one of the most closely guarded secrets in corporate America. Companies are loath to share how much they spend on warranties and why. It’s understandable, as talking about warranties is the same as talking about the fact that your products break when they’re not supposed to. Because of this, nobody just gives data to Arnum. He has to dig it out, one company at a time.

Arnum owes his livelihood to Enron. In the wake of the scandal that took down the energy juggernaut, the Financial Accounting Standards Board made changes to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principals—the rules that, among other things, govern how companies write financial statements. As of November 2002, companies were required to provide a detailed reckoning of their guarantees, including their warranty reserves and payments, in quarterly and yearly filings. The result was that, for the first time in history, someone could look at, and compare, how US public companies handle claims—how much they pay out, how much they hold aside for future payments.

Why Things Fail: From Tires to Helicopter Blades, Everything Breaks Eventually

Louis Coulon and his 11-foot beard that holds his cat


Abraham Piper says: "I vote this guy for President of the Internet"

Former inmate's description of minimum security Federal prison: sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll

I recently started listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Wikipedia describes Rogan as an "American martial artist, stand-up comedian, actor, writer and color commentator."

In the latest episode Rogan interviews Victor Conte. From Conte's Wikipedia entry:

Victor Conte (born c.1950)is a former musician with Tower of Power and the founder and president of BALCO, a sports nutrition center in California. He served time in prison in 2005 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering.

I enjoyed the entire interview, but the most interesting part to me was hearing Conte talk about his four-month prison sentence at the Taft Correctional Institution (near Bakersfield, CA). It's a privately-run minimum security federal prison with 1,700 inmates, and Conte's account of the goings on there is astounding:

Sports complex "The first morning, when I woke up it was a kind of university-campus like setting. I walked out and in the middle of the courtyard was a huge sign that said 'Sports Complex.' Basketball, football, baseball, soccer, bocce ball, volleyball, handball. And I looked around and there were about 500 guys there. And they all had on equipment; there was a soccer game and a baseball game going on."

Rec center "I looked over I saw the rec center. And I walked over to that and looked in and there were six pool tables, six foosball tables, six ping-pong tables."

Music department "Then I went through this door and there was this huge music department. Three different musical groups were practicing. I said, 'Do they have concerts here?'

'Oh yeah! We have a routine on Friday nights and the bands play concerts outside.'"

Drugs This is my first 10 minutes -- I was on the compound I started walking with some guys around the walking track and I went [sniff] -- 'Are they smoking weed around here?' And they said, 'Yeah! You want some weed?'

I said, 'Listen, I don't want anything to do that with this kind of stuff. I don't want to get in any more trouble that I'm already in.' But yeah, anything that you wanted -- alcohol -- any and every type was $25 for 8 ounces. They had meth, they had steroids, they had cocaine."

No fences "There's no fences around the the place, about every 200 feet they have a sign on a stake that says 'Out of Bounds.' I got there on December 1 of 2005. That Christmas, about 25 guys just walked out on the freeway and they had their families pick them up and they left. So it's kind of an honor system."

Female prison guards as hookers "It didn't take me long to figure out, they had several really nice-looking female correctional officers there. You know, hair done up, big chest. It was kind of stunning to me. And they said 'Listen, you want some action?' I'm telling you the straight scoop. My understanding is on average they were making about $30,000 a month."

Some prisoners don't want to leave "This young kid came in that same first day I was there and my cubie was a guy named Evil. And he said 'Evil, I'm going to have to do something bad because I'm supposed to go home tomorrow.' And I said 'You're supposed to go home and you want to stay here?' He said, 'Yeah if I go home I've got to start paying rent!'"

JRE #277 - Victor Conte, Brian Redban

Free To Be...You and Me -- a retrospective

If you read Boing Boing, you probably know that I was raised on Free To Be...You and Me, the brilliant book/record/film about gender equality and self expression (I even donated FreeToBeYouAndMe.com to the foundation that controls the series). So I was fascinated and delighted (and a little saddened, see below) to read Dan Kois's excellent a three-part series on Slate about the origin, aftermath and present-day status of F2BY&M.

Mary Rodgers recruited her neighbor and friend, Fiddler on the Roof lyricist Sheldon Harnick, to collaborate with her on “William’s Doll,” based on the one book suggested by children’s publisher Ursula Nordstrom that Thomas liked. (It was written by Charlotte Zolotow, Nordstrom’s protégée.) Harnick, on the advice of all the feminists he was meeting through Free To Be, read Sisterhood Is Powerful, and one chapter on the politics of cleaning inspired him to write a poem about how no one likes housework; Thomas added it to the roster. (A decision the team would later regret.) Hart’s literary agent suggested she contact children’s author Betty Miles; Hart assigned Miles an adaptation of the Greek myth of Atalanta, a princess racing against young Melanion, who desires her hand in marriage. Miles rewrote the tale’s original ending—in which Aphrodite helps Melanion win the race and get the girl—to reflect a more liberated time.

For Carol Hall's second assignment, “It’s All Right To Cry,” she went to the Little Red Schoolhouse in downtown Manhattan and quizzed her son’s classmates on their feelings about crying. “Crying gets the sad out of you,” one child suggested. “It’s like raindrops from your eyes,” said another. Chuckles Hall today: “Poor little darlings, their names are not on the copyright. Thank you, children!” Once again hoping Thomas might sing the song, Hall tailored it to her. “How am I going to say this so that in print it sounds graceful?” Hall muses now. “Marlo is a wonderful, wonderful performer, but she is such a perfectionist that I knew that singing was not something she was accustomed to doing that much. So because I thought that Marlo might sing it, I wanted to aim it to her, melodically, so I made it very, very simple.”

The song was accepted, and then, Hall says, “I was about to pop to get a third thing on the record, because nobody else had three.” (She was getting updates from her agent, Shukat.) She composed a song for Kris Kristofferson, who’d written the liner notes for her first album and sent it to him without telling anyone. “Oooh, Carole Hart was mad at me because I sent it to Kris directly.” Kristofferson turned the song down; he would later appear on the Free To Be TV special. And Hall did eventually land that third song, about friendship between boys and girls, “Glad to Have a Friend Like You,” which wound up closing the album.

The third part, which describes the reversals suffered by feminism in the last few decades, the widening wage-gap, and ongoing systematic discrimination, left me feeling very sad. I want my daughter to inherit the world we saw in Free To Be, and I'm going to work for it (and I know she'll join me).

Free To Be (via Kottke)

Solving Laugh Out Loud Cats #2100


Apelad sez, "I posted the 2100th Laugh-Out-Loud Cats comic last night. My kids had me print it out so they could cut out each panel to try and recreate the tunnel route. It's not easy!"

Laugh-Out-Loud Cats #2100

NYPD officers beat homeless man to a pulp

Radley Balko says: "And it wouldn’t be a police beating without the obligatory charge against the victim for assaulting the police officer’s fist with his face."

Two officers from the 71st precinct, one male and one female, arrived and woke the man. Confused as to why he was being accosted by police, the man refused the officers’ attempts to escort him outside, insisting that he had permission to be there and asking that they allow him to prove it.

His pleas fell on deaf ears, and they proceeded to place him under arrest.

When he resisted arrest, the male officer flew into a rage and began to beat the defenseless man. As can be seen in the video below, the officer assumed a boxing stance and then lurched towards his victim, pummeling him from all sides.

Over the next couple of minutes the man is also pepper-sprayed and beaten with a truncheon by the female officer, all while posing no threat to the officers’ well-being whatsoever.

Cops Beat Homeless Man

AirTracks: Kickstarter for an inflatable dollying system for SLRs

Tom Baker (no relation) has nearly funded his Kickstarter for "AirTracks: Inflatable All-Terrain Camera Slider" -- a dollying system for SLRs that will cost you about $275 in pre-support (assuming the project is successfully completed). Baker's product design experience is a little unspecific, but his prototype is impressive, and produces even-more-impressive videos. I can imagine that there are people for whom an AirTrack will open previously inconceivable possibilities.

As soon as you're ready to shoot, un-clip the dolly from your bag and pull out the tracks. Within two breaths and a few squeezes of the built in hand pump, you have a 5-foot dolly ready to use wherever you are. The weight limit for the AirTracks is 8 pounds. That's a lot in the world of DSLR's, because the average camera / lens set-up weighs in at around 3 pounds. (Go-Pro Cameras and cell camera phones weigh even less!) And if it's a pretty windy day, the grommets around the edge allow you to hold it down with tent stakes. As soon as you're finished, twist the mouth valve to instantly release the air, roll it up and you're on your way. The AirTracks were made to get dirty, so once you get home just spray it down with a hose and they'll be dry in no time.

AirTracks: Inflatable All-Terrain Camera Slider (via OhGizmo)

Trailer Tuesday: new documentary about "The Central Park Five"

The lesson here is clear: if you are a minority without a lot of money and a prosecutor wants to put you in prison, you will be imprisoned.

The Central Park Five is the story of the five young men who were wrongfully convicted for the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. It examines how the legal system's rush to judgment - fueled by a city racially divided and fearful of crime - resulted in false confessions and no reassessment of the charges as conflicting evidence came in. This left a brutal rapist on the streets and robbed five innocent kids of their youth, all of whom served out their full terms. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, after directing a thorough re-investigation when the actual rapist came forward and confessed, and realizing his office's mistakes, joined with the defense to request that the convictions be vacated, which was instantly granted by Judge Charles Tejada.

Set against a backdrop of a decaying city beset by violence and racial tension, The Central Park Five tells the story of that horrific crime, the rush to judgment by the police, a media clamoring for sensational stories, an outraged public, and the five lives upended by this miscarriage of justice.

The Central Park Five

iPhone 5 Panorama

Here's a link to larger view of this panorama I just took with the iPhone 5. First try and it works pretty darn well. At full size you can see the camera trickery, especially in the center where the image washes out -- but it looks great just a little bit smaller.

Original contract for Moby-Dick


Lowering the Bar has a copy of Herman Meville's publishing contract for Moby-Dick, made 161 years ago between Harper and Brothers of the city of New York, Publishers and Melville. Melville got 50% of the profits (which seems fishy to me, given that the publisher has near-total leeway in accounting for its expenses-before-profit on the book), which apparently amounted to $556.37 (~$16K in inflation adjusted 2012 dollars).

HarperCollins posted this on October 18, which was the 161st anniversary of that certain work entitled "The Whale" but commonly known as "Moby Dick." The contract provided that the said Herman Melville would get half the net profits from the sale of said book in the United States for the next seven years, although once the publisher had recovered the cost of the plates used to print it, Melville could have the terms changed so he would get a "sum certain" for each copy sold.

There She Blows! 'Tis the Contract for Moby Dick!

Nails painted with a printed circuit board motif


My nine-year-old daughter would like to have her nails painted this way, I think. These were created by Erin Hatebury. (via The Mary Sue)