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Hotel break-ins blamed on flaw in keycard system

Back in August, I blogged about a presentation at Black Hat, where a security researcher named Cody Brocious presented a paper on a vulnerability in hotel-door locks made by Onity, showing a method for opening many hotel-room locks with a simple, Arduino-based device.

Now comes the first reported case of a hotel-room break in using this technology "in the wild." A Hyatt in Houston's Galleria district was broken into using this method, according to the hotel, which had not replaced its locks even though it knew about the vulnerability.

In a statement sent to me, a White Lodging spokesperson says the company became aware of the vulnerability in its Onity locks in August, based on reading one of the stories I wrote about Brocious’s lock-hacking technique over the summer. But White Lodging says Onity only implemented a fix for that flaw in its locks after the September break-ins at the Houston Hyatt, around two months after I first alerted Onity to Brocious’s work.

Following those September incidents, White Lodging resorted to plugging the port at the bottom of its Onity locks with “epoxy putty,” according to the letter it sent to guests at its Houston location. The hotel company says it’s now working with Onity to put a more permanent solution in place, either plugging the locks’ ports or replacing their circuit board at every location it manages. “We sincerely regret that these thefts occurred, and hope that measures we have taken satisfy your concerns,” reads the letter to guests from White Lodging vice president Thomas Riegelman.

Security Flaw In Common Keycard Locks Exploited In String Of Hotel Room Break-Ins [Forbes/Andy Greenberg]

Great moments in pulp fiction: "Lady, That's My Skull"

Cover scan link.

John Elmslie of Toronto shares this in the Boing Boing Flickr pool and writes,

Vintage paperback. "A Harlequin Book", Toronto, 1951. So Harlequin was publishing more than romances in 1951. The original paperback book is quite faded looking. The scanner pepped it up quite well, even though I hadn't asked it to. I'll have to look into that. :)

Meet Sveta, Pussy Riot’s perky, pro-Putin antithesis

In the NYT, a piece by Sophia Kishkovsky on Svetlana Kuritsyna, "the very antithesis" of the imprisoned protest-art group Pussy Riot. Sveta is described as "a disarmingly direct, red-cheeked, 20-year-old Putin supporter from an impoverished rural region" who stands out "for her very normality and has become an accidental celebrity after an innocent, and somewhat inarticulate, video interview in which she glowingly praised Mr. Putin." The clip became a meme, with more than 2 million YouTube views, she now has her own reality show.

Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) on "pay what you want" show archives

In this Mother Jones video interview, Ian MacKaye, co-founder of Dischord Records, discusses why he decided to offer the Fugazi show archives on a pay-what-you-want scale, but did not offer them online for free. Here's a longer-form text piece about MacKaye at MoJo.

A visceral, passionate, politically astute post-punk band that spurned music industry conventions, capping ticket prices at around $5 and insisting on playing for all-ages crowds, Fugazi won over hordes of loyal fans and helped kick off a nationwide movement of DIY bands and record labels. Fugazi and Dischord were living proof that starting your own band, making your own records, and booking your own shows worked. "It was the label that was very exciting at the time," says Ian Svenonius, whose former bands the Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up released several albums on Dischord in the '80s and '90s. "It had a staunchly anti-commercial outlook and it was explicitly independent and local."

MacKaye at Dischord HQ (photo: Mother Jones)

Collaborative critical study of one-line BASIC program written for the Commodore 64


Nick sez,

Remember those BASIC programs you typed into your C64? Now there's a book written about one. And the program is only 1 line. And 10 people wrote this book. As one. And they're not lunatics but teach at MIT and USC and other fancy places. And they even wrote programs to study it.

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 is a book of Critical Code Studies that looks at the code and culture of a 1-line program that ran on the Commodore 64. This book uses that 1-liner to explore BASIC programming culture in the 1980s and to reflect on its role in inspiring programmers to take the next step. By Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample and Noah Vawter

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 (Thanks, Nick!)

Tor Project is hiring support assistants and translators

Runa from the TOR project sez, "We are hiring support assistants and translators who can help us handle support requests via our ticketing system and our new Q&A website, as well as make sure translations for software and documentation are up to date. We are looking for candidates who are fluent in one of Arabic, French, Mandarin, Burmese, Vietnamese, Spanish, and English. All must be fluent in English."

Raising money for "American Commune," a documentary about The Farm

SF writer Spider Robinson sends along this Kickstarter for "American Commune," a documentary in production about The Farm, a famous hippie commune in Tennessee, being made by two women who were raised on The Farm as small kids, then moved to Los Angeles. They need to raise $50K to finish their post-production (they've already shot and edited the movie, with the help of Emmy-winning editor Michael Levine).

I have a couple of friends who are ex-Farmies, and they're some of the sweetest folks I know. I'm sure that's not a coincidence.

In 1970, 300 hippies founded a commune in the backwoods of Tennessee and set out to change the world. Members shared everything, grew their own food, delivered their babies at home and succeeded in building a self-sufficient society. By 1980, The Farm had 1,500 members and hosted 10,000 visitors a year. Their socialist experiment sowed the seeds for many of today’s most progressive movements, including organic farming, natural birth, vegetarianism, and solar power. Countless reporters—everyone from Dan Rather to Walter Cronkite—have covered The Farm in news segments, but we are the first insiders to tell our story.

American Commune (Thanks, Spider!)

Aelita, Queen of Mars: Soviet Science Fiction film from 1924

In vintage ad archivist Paul Malon's excellent Flickr stream, I stumbled on this beautiful Soviet film poster for a film titled "Aelita."

A quick Googling revealed that this was for the motion picture Aelita, Queen of Mars, which Wikipedia describes as "a silent film directed by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov made at the Mezhrabpom-Rus film studio and released in 1924 (...) based on Alexei Tolstoy's novel of the same name."

Some describe it as the USSR's first sci-fi flick. Archive.org has the entire 80-minute film available for online viewing here, though the quality isn't great. It's also on YouTube, and here's part one.

You can also buy it in higher quality on Amazon, and here's their review:

Read the rest

Adolph Hitler's I Dream of Ants

Lavie Tidhar writes, "Adolf Hitler's I Dream of Ants is World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar's graphic novel collaboration with British artist Neil Struthers. Originally serialised in the pages of now-defunct magazine Murky Depths, it is the story of a man named Adolf Hitler who becomes obsessed with the ants 'infesting' his suburban home."

Fantastic slow motion video of sprinting cheetahs

Few things are as fun as attaching a toy to a string and dragging it behind a jeep at 60 mph to videotape a cheetah chasing it.

Cheetahs are the fastest runners on the planet. Combining the resources of National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo, and drawing on the skills of a Hollywood action movie crew, we documented these amazing cats in a way that’s never been done before.

Using a Phantom camera filming at 1200 frames per second while zooming beside a sprinting cheetah, the team captured every nuance of the cat’s movement as it reached top speeds of 60+ miles per hour.

The extraordinary footage that follows is a compilation of multiple runs by five cheetahs during three days of filming.

Investor Jeremy Grantham: "We're Headed For A Disaster Of Biblical Proportions"

Enjoy these 14 depressing slides from a Business Insider article about investor Jeremy Grantham's report on exploding commodity prices.


"The ever-increasing-yield per acre, by the way, is the result of heavy fertilizer use. And most fertilizers are commodities, too (potassium, for example). So there's no infinite supply of fertilizers, either."

The other 13 graphs in the article (about oil, metals, crop yields) are also going in the wrong direction.

This Grantham dude is bumming me out.

Business Insider: We're Headed For A Disaster Of Biblical Proportions

Sponsor shout-out: ShanaLogic, font t-shirt, and big sale today!

Shoutout

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Russians enraged with bureaucrat motorcades creating massive gridlock on a daily basis

Russians are pissed off at Kremlin bureaucrats who stop traffic with frequent "blue bucket" motorcades.

From the Financial Times: “When you have to close down half the city so that some official can get to his meeting a little faster, you are understandably going to create dissatisfaction. They close the streets to everyone – to fire trucks, ambulances, everyone,” said Pyotr Shkumatov, head of an organisation known as the “Blue Buckets” devoted to “democratising” Russia’s roads. The name is a joking reference to the blue strobe light atop official cars.

In July, a woman in Kamchatka had her car sideswiped by a van in a motorcade apparently belonging to Mr Medvedev. The footage, recorded on Olga Kuklina’s dashboard camera and featuring her infant daughter screaming in the back seat, has been an internet sensation.

Ms Kulina said the federal bodyguard service blamed her for the collision until they realised she had filmed it.

According to an article in the Argument I Fakty newspaper about the incident, one official was overheard telling another: “If this bitch didn’t have everything on camera, we could do a 1937 on her,” apparently referring to the year at the height of Stalin’s terror.

Here's a GIF of a protestor jumping on a blue bucket car. The driver gets out and knocks the bucket off the protestor's head only to find that the protestor is wearing a smaller bucket under the first bucket!

Check out the Blue Bucket website for more videos of Blue Bucket motorcade abuse.

Popemobile available for rent: stags, hen nights, and photo-ops

The 1979 Irish Popemobile, an armoured car designed to exhibit the Pope on his visit, has been through a €60,000 makeover, and is now available for private hire:

According to a promotional pack, the vehicle has 15 seats, including the original “pope’s chair”. Mr Dunning plans to charge up to €300 an hour plus VAT for use of it .

He said the chair used by the pope was kept in his mother’s home in Greenhills, Dublin, while the vehicle’s makeover was completed.

“Nuns over from Rome were in my mother’s house to see it,” he said.

The promotional pack lists a number of possible uses, including “hen and stag [nights], debs and photo calls”.

Debs, hens and stags to make holy show of Popemobile [Irish Times] (via Memex 1.1)

(Image: Irish Times)

Mad Max meets zombies in indie Aussie movie "Wyrmwood"

Here's a seven-minute teaser for "Wyrmwood," an indie zombie movie from Australia that merges zombies with Mad Max. It's really a very, very good little short on its own, and convinced me to kick in $20 towards the production fundraiser on Indiegogo. I want to see this movie get made!

About two years ago my brother and I came up with the idea to meld Mad Max with Dawn of the Dead and make the best zombie film ever produced in Australia. Cut to now and we’re about a third of the way through the film and still going strong.

We’ve assembled a cracking cast & crew of disgustingly talented actors, filmmakers & make-up artists who are all working their guts out in order to deliver a piece of ‘Oz-ploitation’ cult cinema that will sit easily next to the likes of Evil Dead, Bad Taste & 28 Days Later …

WYRMWOOD: An Aussie Zombie Film (Thanks, Sam!)

Smells like shopping

Expect America's malls to soon become orange-scented. A new study by Washington State University researchers suggests that "simple scents" -- they tested orange -- can stimulate a bump in retail sales. This is compared to no smell or "complex scents" like an orange-basil-green tea blend used in this study. From WSU:
The researchers say the (simple) scent is more easily processed, freeing the customer’s mind to focus on shopping. But when that "bandwidth” is unavailable customers don’t perform cognitive tasks as effectively, says (Eric) Spangenberg, (dean of the College of Business)...
"WSU researchers tie simple scent to increased retail sales"

Medieval manuscript marginalia show rabbits executing a hound


Back in 2010, Carl Pyrdum posted this medieval manuscript marginalia, founded on a text in the British Museum. It depicts a kind of Sergio Argones story about rabbits chasing down a hunting hound, trying it, and hanging it. There's also a delightfully gruesome coda.

But the rabbits, it turns out, are not hunters at all. They’re some sort of rabbit police force. Next stop for the hound is the rabbit judicial system, where he stands trial before a rabbit judge... It’s unclear if the jury was made up of hounds or hares, but the verdict is swift and certain. The hound is bound and carried in a cart to the gallows... For you see, the sentence was death by hanging.

Eat Rabbit Justice, Hound (Mmm… Marginalia #82) (via Retronaut)

This week's The Walking Dead recap is full of ugly situations and withheld information! [SPOILERS]

We're getting closer and closer to a very merry Dixon reunion, but first, there is some business to attend to -- checking in on Glen and Maggie, seeing if Rick let Michonne into the prison, and eventually introducing the survivors to Woodbury and the Governor. Have you been waiting for the Gov to show us his nasty side after weeks of seeing him act merely weird and a little dickish? You're in luck, if you like watching awful people do awful things! But meanwhile, what's going to happen when Merle and Daryl see each other again, now that Daryl has made himself very comfortable with the survivors who abandoned his brother, and Merle... hasn't changed all that much?

As usual, a discussion that includes spoilers will commence after the jump.

Read the rest

Tardigrade is plump, loveable

Who's a chubby little water bear? Yes you are. Ooh, yes you are.

This moment of straight-up cuteness is brought to you by Bob Goldstein, who researches tardigrades at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Tardigrades are, of course, microscopic animals that live in moss and the muddy sand on beaches. They can survive high temperatures, freezing, and crushing pressures by drying themselves up into a little hard ball, called a tun. Stick a tun in water and — no matter what horrible conditions it's dealt with — it will rehydrate and regenerate back into a tardigrade. Beyond that, though, we know shockingly little about these animals. Even their place on the evolutionary tree of life is up for debate. Among other work, Goldstein and his team are in the process of sequencing the tardigrade genome. It may well be the most adorable genome on Earth.

Dr. Goldstein's quick introduction to the tardigrade.

Thanks to Xeni for finding this in the BoingBoing Flickr pool!

Justice League as jazz-age vigilantes


On DeviantArt, Genesischant has a great "Jazz Age Justice League" poster complete with back-stories for all the reimagined, Gatsby-era vigilantes. I especially love Wonder Woman as a flapper, and the Green Lantern as a soldier-turned-jazz-musician-turned-crimefighter.

The J.L.A. is a borderline legal bounty-hunter/vigilante group with limited governmental sanction ("Department of Justice Licensed Agency"). Made up of individuals from various walks of life, all are committed to the take-down of the rising criminal empires that threaten America.

Jazz Age Justice League (via The Mary Sue)

Japan's school for mascots

The Telegraph visits Japan's Choko Group mascot school. "When I see a real hand poking out of the costume's hand, or their mask slips, it's very disappointing…," says school founder Choko Oohira. "I want to show the world how to fully become the character and explain that's how to make children happy." (Thanks, Chris Arkenberg!)

Monsanto House of Tomorrow: better living through plastics

Here's a 15-minute industrial film promoting the Monsanto House of Tomorrow, an all-plastic house shaped like a wheel of gouda, which guarded Disneyland's Tomorrowland for many years, starting in 1957. As John Frost notes on The Disney Blog:

There was a time when Disneyland’s Tomorrowland positively reeked of futurism. Mass transportation, space exploration, and the benefits of scientific research were all put on a pedestal for the American public. One of the most famous examples of this was a partnership with Monsanto, MIT, and Imagineering to build a home made of plastics.

The home sat at the entrance to Tomorrowland, where the Pixie Hollow meet & greet is now, from 1957 to 1967. Touring inside the “House of the Future”, you would find a variety of innovations each with the promise of making living easier and more comfortable. From plastic furnishings to a microwave oven or electric dishwasher guests were wowed with what the future would bring. At least for a few years before these things actually did start to make it into the common household.

House of the Future Video

It is not good to be a weightless fish

Maybe somebody who speaks German can explain why this poor goldfish is being tortured. It's certainly interesting to watch the water in its tank float and blob around — while the fish struggles to follow. But I'm really unclear on the point of this particular experiment.

Via Miriam Goldstein

NASA downplays still-unannounced findings from Mars

Just before Thanksgiving, the lead mission scientist for the Curiosity rover told NPR that his team had found something that would "be one for the history books." Naturally, we all began speculating about the presence of life, giant obelisks, and half-buried Statues of Liberty. Yesterday, however, a different NASA spokesman basically asked the world to not get its hopes up too high, revising the level of importance down from "earthshaking" to "interesting". So far, nobody has said what, exactly, was discovered. (Via Colin Schultz)

Cairollers: Cairo's first rollerderby team


Lex sez, "I've just posted an interview with Indie Hannah of the Cai Rollers, Cairo (and Egypt's) first roller derby league. They're a mixture of local women and international residents, and are finally practising after the project has been over a year in the making. They're had to fight hard to get to this point, and have plenty of struggles ahead of them."

Who are the CaiRollers? Many leagues in far-flung places are conglomerations of ex-pats with little local involvement. Something tells me that's not the case for you...

Nope, CaiRollers are as diverse as the city. Right now, we have about eight skaters, one coach and two volunteers who make up the foundation and are all working equally as hard to get this league going. Skaters include Egyptian natives, Egyptians with dual citizenship who are third world kids having grown up around the world, and some ex-pats from other parts of the world including America and Argentina. Our volunteer--hopefully future refs--are equally as diverse from Africa and America. Our belief and value systems range from Muslim to Christian, Agnostic to Buddhist. We range from teachers and nonprofit workers to female entrepreneurs.

Up Close and Personal with the CaiRollers of Cairo, Egypt

Exclusive excerpt from Creative Illustration, by Andrew Loomis



Titan books has just released the fourth book in mid-century illustrator Andrew Loomis' multi volume instructional art library, Creative Illustration.

Here's what I've previously written about Loomis:

Andrew Loomis was an American illustrator whose work appeared in many magazines in the mid-20th century. In addition to his beautiful editorial work for magazines, Loomis also wrote and illustrated a half dozen or so instructional drawing books, and for the last 30 years or so they've been in great demand, even though they've been out of print.

But recently Titan Books has been republishing high-quality and very affordable facsimiles of Loomis' books: Figure Drawing for All It's Worth, Drawing the Heads and Hands, and Successful Drawing.

Here's a gallery of pages from Creative Illustration

Videos of people playing bass flutes

Back when I was a junior-high flute player, I once heard somebody mention the existence of bass flutes. I was instantly intrigued. But, in the days before readily available Internet access, I wasn't able to track down examples of what they looked or sounded like.

Today, YouTube is filled with examples of deep-voiced, husky flutes — ranging from the simply extra-long alto flute to the gigantic subcontrabass flute, which is basically a percussion instrument with some woodwind features.

It's fascinating stuff, and a handy reminder that flutes can do really interesting things ... like improvisational jazz, and beatboxing. I've put together a small playlist of videos. Enjoy!

Texas Medical Board discontinues prosecution of noted cancer quack

As regular readers of this blog know, cancer quackery is a topic relevant to my interests as a cancer patient.

Robert Blaskiewicz has written extensively about the epic quackery of one of the most well-known "cancer cure" promosters, Stanislaw Burzynski (left).

The Texas-based "alternative cure practitioner" fails to liberate patients from cancer, but has a remarkable talent for liberating them from their money.

Today, Blaskiewicz shares an update on the Texas Medical Board's long-running prosecution of Burzynski.

The short version: He's free to continue exploiting cancer patients there.

Come to think of it, a ham sandwich could probably get a medical license in Texas, these days.

Read the rest

Rockabilly pioneers Johnny & Jimmy (1956)

https://youtu.be/HpvL6sFL-sE

Some excellent vintage rockabilly, courtesy of Bedazzled. I love the guitar solo about 1:30 in.

Do these conjoined twins share a mind?

In the New York Times, a piece by Susan Dominus on two twins joined at the head ("craniopagus") who are "beyond rare" because of the way their brains fused inside their skulls. "Their neural anatomy is unique, at least in the annals of recorded scientific literature," she writes. "Their brain images reveal what looks like an attenuated line stretching between the two organs, a piece of anatomy their neurosurgeon, Douglas Cochrane of British Columbia Children’s Hospital, has called a thalamic bridge, because he believes it links the thalamus of one girl to the thalamus of her sister."