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Bronies and ultra-cult fandom

In a Wired report on the Brony Thank You Fund -- a project of My Little Pony fans, AKA Bronies, that used a homemade commercial to raise money for toys for the children of military servicepeople -- delves into the unlikely Brony fandom. It gets interesting when Wired's Angela Watercutter talks with an expert who describes Bronies as part of a new "ultra-cult" era:

Charles Soukup, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Northern Colorado, said that in today’s cultural landscape — where heretofore “cult” topics like science fiction and comic books have become mainstream entertainment — brony-ing up might be the best option for creating a unique identity and nerding out.

“It appears we are moving toward the ultra-cult era in which media consumers discover extremely unexpected and obscure media texts to cultivate uniqueness and distinctiveness for their mediated identities,” Soukup said in an email to Wired. “Bronies are a kind of perfect storm of this new ultra-cult media consumption as they combine an intense unexpectedness (adult male fans of television programs designed for little girls) with the status afforded arbiters discovering undiscovered or under-the-radar media products.”

But My Little Pony fans likely won’t stay under the radar much longer, and twenty-something female scientists might be the beginning.

Bronies’ TV Spot Shows Changing Face of My Little Pony Herd

Solar chargers for Sandy aftermath -- donations and deep discounts


Limor and Phil at Adafruit are still baling out their lower Manhattan factory and living space after Sandy, but they're also using the Adafruit site to pass on information about relief efforts to public-spirited makers. Here's one: Voltaic systems (makers of solar chargers) are offering deep discounts and donations to people who are struggling with no/intermittent power.

Glad to hear you guys are back up and running. If you come across any specific individuals that have need for small-scale solar and/or battery power, we are happy to help with deep discounts and or direct donations. Our warehouse in NJ got power back Friday and we are trying to be helpful where we can. Jeff Crystal http://www.voltaicsystems.com/

Phil adds: "They have deep discounts they can do direct donation as it makes sense. Please write to sandy@voltaicsystems.com for details if you’re still in need of power."

Voltaic systems looking to help folks still in need #sandy

Crypto 101: free Stanford course online

Stanford's Dan Boneh is offering a free Cryptography course through Coursera. It has a 5-7 hour/week workload, and runs for six weeks. It's just started.

Cryptography is an indispensable tool for protecting information in computer systems. This course explains the inner workings of cryptographic primitives and how to correctly use them. Students will learn how to reason about the security of cryptographic constructions and how to apply this knowledge to real-world applications. The course begins with a detailed discussion of how two parties who have a shared secret key can communicate securely when a powerful adversary eavesdrops and tampers with traffic. We will examine many deployed protocols and analyze mistakes in existing systems. The second half of the course discusses public-key techniques that let two or more parties generate a shared secret key. We will cover the relevant number theory and discuss public-key encryption and basic key-exchange. Throughout the course students will be exposed to many exciting open problems in the field.

Cryptography I

In case you were looking for more proof that The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira was awesome, here you go

While she isn't the only cast member of The Walking Dead to have an artsy side job (Norman Reedus is a filmmaker when he's not killing zombies), Danai Gurira seems like one of those spectacularly well-rounded and adventurous people who wants to do a little bit of everything as long as she walks this planet. Hero Complex interviewed the actress, who is also an Obie Award-winning playwright (for In the Continuum) and has forged a whole other, zombie-free career path writing about her life in Zimbabwe and other stories. It's one of the most fun pieces I've read about Gurira, and Walking Dead fans might like to know that she discusses certain (horrific) things that happen between her katana-wielding character Michonne and the Governor in the comics. She has a perspective on it that others probably don't. (via Hero Complex)

Photo credit: Hero Complex, LA Times

Hurricane Sandy's Fibonacci golden spiral


Jim Leftwich says:

I'd seen one of these that had been done for Hurricane Irene going around, that a lot of people probably thought was Hurricane Sandy. I created this one from a NASA satellite image (distributed by NOAA) from Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 1745zulu (6:45pm EDST).

I posted it to my Tumblr, and it's a bit downscaled from my original (3000 x 2400). The satellite photo is public domain and I've given my poster of it a CC license.

Hurricane Sandy's Fibonacci golden spiral

Duriavenator: Thunder lizard or cleaning appliance?

Duriavenator is a dinosaur — a kind of T.Rex-ish, pointy toothed dinosaur that lived in what is now England. But I think it sounds like the name of a 1950s vacuum cleaner company, don't you? Maggie

Electoral College college

It's time for some American Democracy 101. Every election cycle, it frustrates me to no end that most news outlets spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the latest polls without explaining the significance those polls actually have on the outcome of a presidential election that isn't truly decided by the voters. My Halloween wish this year was for someone to explain the electoral college to me, and Twin Cities journalist Frank Bures has obliged*.

This piece has actually been around since 2000, but I think it's a nice explanation of what the electoral college is, where it comes from, and why it's going to matter to you tonight.

The only votes that count in this election will be cast in mid-December by the 538 members of the electoral college. That's who you and I will vote for on November 7: electors for Bush or electors for Gore, and their votes are the currency of presidential politics. Each state gets as many electors as it has representatives and senators. In all but two states, the winning party takes all the state's electoral votes.

...At first, in several states, there was no popular presidential vote. For decades after 1787, in states like Delaware, New York, and Georgia, the legislatures chose the electors. In South Carolina, there was no popular vote for the chief executive until 1860. But today, party loyalty prevents electors from acting as the free agents envisioned by the founders. In 99% of the cases, the electoral vote is a formality.

...Electors tend to be either ordinary people—teachers, carpenters, middle managers, retirees, and lawyers' or party activists sent to the state capital for half an hour of raw power. Some, like Marc Abrams, a 1996 Oregon elector I talked to in the course of researching this article" are blasé about choosing the most powerful man on earth. They voted in a room in the Capitol basement. It took about twenty minutes, and hardly anyone noticed they were there. When I asked Abrams how it felt, he said, "It was sorta cool. "

Read the full story at Byliner

*Of course, I also wished for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace. And for a million dollars to be placed, in my name, in a Swiss bank account.

Image: doris day, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from velvettangerine's photostream

Voting expert tells The Awl: There are reasons to be concerned about voting machines, but vast conspiracies aren't one of them

Tagg Romney doesn't own Ohio's voting machines. And Joseph Lorenzo Hall, senior staff technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology in D.C., says that a lot of the fears the public has about electronic voting are equally unfounded. The biggest thing to worry about, he tells The Awl's Maria Bustillos, is that we're so busy sending around email forwards about ostensible vast conspiracies that we're not paying enough attention to the very real security and tech problems that do exist in the voting system.

Maria Bustillos: I no longer know what to believe in media reports of electronic election tampering. What are professionals most worried about, at this point, in this election?

Joseph Lorenzo Hall: It's a very complex area and unfortunately one that lends itself to dearths of information and poor intuition… which is how Bello and Fitrakis get way out into left field. Extending email/fax voting to displaced NJ voters is making us very nervous… What I think we expect to see a lot of—and it's not as sexy as conspiracy theory—is the aging of this machinery, as much of it is 10- to 15-year-old computer equipment. Another not-so-sexy source of problems will be from newer online voter registration systems, an electronic version of pollbooks. We may see strange reports of people not being registered or being marked down as already voted. Much of that will seem to some like fraud, but it is more likely poorly checked voter registration rolls. People don't like having to cast provisional ballots, but they need to understand that if you're registered and at the right location, the ballot will count.

Maria: Why do you think we haven't been able to solve these problems, given that we've had years in which to do so?

Joe: Two reasons: 1) no one cares about it until presidential election years, and mostly right before that election; and, 2) there is no regular source of federal funding for elections (when it comes to a state or local government choosing between spending money to fill potholes—which affect people every day—or making elections better, they will fill the potholes).

Read the rest of the interview at The Awl

Image: Lonely Diebold Voting Machine, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from subfinitum's photostream

Halo 4: custom LEGO minifig

NewImage

In celebration of the Halo 4 release today, my nephew Andy Pescovitz completed his Spartan Warrior-4 custom LEGO minifig. See more of Andy's insanely-intricate custom LEGO characters from Gears of War, Modern Warfare 2, Max Payne, and other videogames at his pescovam Flickr stream.

Max Landis lands his first directing gig with Me Him Her

Max Landis, who wrote the screenplay for Chronicle, will get his chance to direct with the quarter life-crisis comedy, Me Him Her. Landis, who is the son of director John Landis (Animal House, Blues Brothers) and is also a very fun person to follow on Twitter, describes the new movie as "totally insane" and that "the devil is in it"; Variety adds that it's like "Reality Bites on acid." So, wacky, satanic, and quotable good times that will look dated in 20 years? Cool! I am so there! (via Splitsider) Jamie

Manuscript auction to benefit Sandy victims

Mary Robinette Kowal sez,

At the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto this weekend, as much as we were talking about fantasy, we were talking about our friends and colleagues who had been hit by the storm. Some of them had to evacuate and had no idea when they'd be able to go home. One editor joked barely -- that his slush pile was actual slush now since his office flooded.

A lot of authors and editors could not make it because they live in New York. Many of those who did make it headed straight for their rooms and had their first hot shower in a week. A lot of them said that they had been unable to see images of the storm damage because they had been without power and so were seeing some things for the first time.

To help raise funds for relief, I'm auctioning off a manuscript of my novel WITHOUT A SUMMER. This is book 3 in my series and isn't out until April 2, 2012. I'll mail the winner a signed manuscript of the book five months before it's in the stores. If the fundraiser goes over $500, I'll also include book 4, VALOUR AND VANITY, which won't be out until 2013. If it goes over $1000, I'll tuckerize the winner into the series. Note: depending on your name, you may or may not be a character but your name will be there. The books are set between 1814-1818 so I do have to be cautious about committing to character names.

Over $1500, and I'll include a manuscript of a book that we haven't even announced yet. All I can tell you is that it is also historical fantasy. If it goes over $2000, I'll think of something cool. All the proceeds will go to American Red Cross in Greater New York.

Mary's Regency-plus-magic series is a delight. Here's my review of book one, and here's my review of book two.

Hurricane Sandy relief auction -- Signed manuscript of WITHOUT A SUMMER (Thanks, Mary!)

After much waiting, the Elfquest feature may finally be on its way!

After it looked like all hopes for a feature based on Richard and Wendy Pini's beloved graphic novel series Elfquest were gone, news has broken that producers Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes have acquired the film rights and are moving forward with development. If those names sound familiar, it's because they are the pair behind the live-action short, Elfquest: A Fan Imagining, which has been making the convention rounds and can be found on YouTube. An Elfquest movie had been in the works for a while, but was seemingly dead when Warner Bros. dropped it, claiming they didn't want to compete with The Hobbit.

And in case you weren't already aware, Boing Boing runs new Elfquest strips every Monday! Here is the most recent installment, "The Palace Disguised." You can also find all the strips in convenient post form here.

(via Spinoff Online)

Previously: All 6500+ pages of Elfquest online and Great Graphic Novels: Elfquest, by Wendy and Richard Pini

David Tennant makes an adorable Star Wars droid

I know I just posted about Star Wars, but I really can't help myself after reading this story. Former Gallifreyan Doctor David Tennant lent his voice to a droid character named Huyang for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. His episode, "A Test of Strength," will air this Saturday, November 10 at 9:30 AM on Cartoon Network. (For now, at least. Due to the Disney/Lucasfilm deal, the show is expected to end its five-season run in 2013, then move to Disney XD.) In the meantime, watch an exclusive clip at IGN. You will probably agree that Tennant is pretty much perfect as a droid.

Photo credit: IGN

(via IGN)

Comics Rack: Boing Boing's comic books picks for November

Stocking stuffers? We thought about it, but in spite of what laundromat radio stations might lead you to believe, it IS too early to start thinking about the holidays. And besides, Chris Ware, for one, has clearly gone out of way to only produce work that could never in a million years be stuffed into anything resembling a stocking. So we guess you'll just have to keep these ones all to yourself. Don't say you've never done anything nice for you.

Building Stories by Chris Ware. Pantheon

Part way through the “14 distinctively discrete books, booklets, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets,” you wonder why you started reading, because you already knew that Chris Ware cuts like a knife deep into the heart of modern human isolation. And every few pages or so, like clockwork, something makes contact and utterly destroys you all over again. All that coupled with the knowledge that, try as you might, you’ll never be capable of producing something of this magnitude -- Ware is just one of those sorts of outliers who makes everyone else toiling away in a given medium feel that much worse about their own limited set of tools.

But as ever, it’s a beautiful journey, painstaking detailed and mind-numbingly crafted, without a single errant line, because we all know that a perfectionist like Ware would never be able to live with such an abhorrent thing. Thankfully, the cartoonist is fully capable of creating near perfect things, works of art that some how feel underpriced at $50 a pop.

Read the rest

Steampunk clockmaker Roger Wood among his creations

Stephen sez, "Masterful gadget-maker Roger Wood poses alongside some of his whimsical clock creations at his Hamilton-based workshop and steampunk emporium, Klockwerks. When he came out in his goggles and steampunk kit, I told him, 'You look so much like an inventor.' He answered, 'I AM an inventor.'"

Roger was my neighbour for a decade, and his workshop was always a wonderland. I haven't been to his new place in Hamilton, but if this picture is any indication, it's every bit as wonderful.

Steampunk Thing-Maker Roger Wood and Assorted Klockwerks (Thanks, Stephen!)