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Funny fake planning notices

Artist/prankster Phil Lucas puts up fake "planning notices" around Brighton, England, announcing his plans to radically improve the cityscape and inviting people to comment via the local government's planning authority.

I live in Hackney, which boasts England's "worst performing planning authority" (as one MP recently put it in Parliament), so I sympathise with these shenanigans. I've been through multiple planning petitions for permission to put a glass box on my disused balcony to grow plants in and use as a dining room in warm months, and have been turned down because it would "disrupt the street-scene" on my manky, dogshit-strewn, tumbling-down road in east London.

Planning Notices in Brighton (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Library gift-shop, on wheels, in LA

Katie from the Library Foundation of Los Angeles sez, "The Library Store On Wheels, a mobile truck version of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles' beloved Central Library gift store (which LA Weekly named 'LA's Best Gift Shop'this year) hits the road December 10. Over the next two weeks, we'll be taking the mobile store around to different Los Angeles Public Library branches, as well as Amoeba Music. Packed to the gills with the most lovingly-curated selection of lit-themed gifts and nostalgic library decor, all proceeds from the store will go to benefit the Los Angeles Public Library."

Postmortem on the Daily

Writing on Reuters, Felix Salmon has a good postmortem on the demise of the Daily, Rupert Murdoch's iPad-only, $30,000,000 subscription-based newspaper, which folded yesterday. Among other things, he writes about print media's enthusiasm for iPads, and the inability of closed ecosystems to out-iterate the open Web:

When the iPad was first announced, there were lots of dreams about what it could achieve, and how rich its content could be. But in hindsight, it’s notable how many of the dreamers came from the world of print. Web people tended to be much less excited about the iPad than print people were, maybe because they knew they already had something better. The web, for instance, doesn’t need to traffic in discrete “issues” — if you subscribe to the New York Times, you can read any story you like, going back decades. Whereas if you subscribe to a publication on a tablet, you can read only one issue at a time...

Similarly, when the iPad launched, it allowed people to do things they could never do with a print publication: watch videos, say. But at the same time the experience was still inferior to what you could get on the web, which iterates and improves incrementally every day. The iPad then stayed still — the technology behind iPad publications is basically the same as it was two years ago — even as the web, in its manner, predictably got better and better.

I was skeptical of the iPad for this reason from the start:

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who'll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of "content" isn't just that they can get it for free, though: it's that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too. The open platform has allowed for an explosion of new material, some of it rough-hewn, some of it slick as the pros, most of it targetted more narrowly than the old media ever managed.

The impossibility of tablet-native journalism (via Making Light)

Petition to make gender-neutral Easy-Bake Ovens

Mckenna Pope of Garfield, NJ has started a petition -- with just over 23,000 signatures at time of writing (including mine) -- to Hasbro, asking them to produce a gender-neutral version of the Easy-Bake Oven, so that her cooking-crazed little brother won't feel excluded from his passions:

My little brother has always loved cooking. Being in the kitchen is his favorite out of school activity, and he yearns to have the opportunity to cook on his own, or at least with limited help.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into his room to find him "cooking" tortillas by placing them on top of his lamp's light bulb! Obviously, this is not a very safe way for him to be a chef, so when he asked Santa for his very own Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, produced by the Hasbro company, for me to help him be the cook he's always wanted to be, my parents and I were immediately convinced it was the truly perfect present.

However, we soon found it quite appalling that boys are not featured in packaging or promotional materials for Easy Bake Ovens -- this toy my brother's always dreamed about. And the oven comes in gender-specific hues: purple and pink.

I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work.

Hasbro: Feature boys in the packaging of the Easy-Bake Oven (via ThinkProgress)

The making of "It's a SpongeBob Christmas" stop-motion episode

If you're a fan of Rankin Bass style Christmas Specials like I am, you should tune into SpongeBob Squarepants on December 9th [UPDATE: the special will now air tomorrow, 12/6 at 8pm] to watch "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!" (which Jason posted about here in November). I watched a screener and they perfectly captured the look and feel of those delightful old stop motion specials.

Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh directed "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!," which features the beloved iconic character SpongeBob Squarepants animated in stop-motion for the first time. The half-hour holiday special will air on Nickelodeon Sunday, December 6th at 8:00pm (ET/PT). It’s a SpongeBob Christmas! was inspired by the classic Rankin/Bass specials (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town) and the popular SpongeBob song released in 2009, “Don’t Be a Jerk (It’s Christmas),” co-written by Tom Kenny (voice of SpongeBob) and Andy Paley. The special features John Goodman as Santa Claus.

In "It’s A SpongeBob Christmas!" Plankton turns everybody in Bikini Bottom from nice to naughty by feeding them his special jerktonium-laced fruitcake all in an effort to get his Christmas wish -- the Krabby Patty formula. The Nickelodeon premiere will include bonus scenes featuring a stop-motion version of the character “Patchy,” also voiced by Tom Kenny.

Work began on the "It’s A SpongeBob Christmas!" in October 2011 at Screen Novelties production studio, where the Mark, Seamus and Chris Finnegan (Producer) worked closely with Paul Tibbitt (Executive Producer), Steve Hillenburg (Creator) and Vincent Waller (Creative Director) to ensure the two-dimensional cartoon characters were properly translated into three-dimensional puppets.

Inneresting facks about the making of "It’s A SpongeBob Christmas!"

• 60 lbs of baking soda was used to make snow (tried to truck in real snow but it all melted) to create the Patchy the Pirate Winter Wonderland scenes!

• Palm fronds from a tree in a school yard were used to create SpongeBob's Pineapple house!

• 38 different types of foam were used to build the character’s bodies, heads, set pieces, props, ground, mountains, coral… all sorts of fun places!

• 1970's shag carpet was used for the floor of Sandy's house!

• 22.92 pounds of wood chips were used for Sandy's Tree!

• 3 discarded Christmas trees were used for Patchy the Pirate’s Winter Wonderland scenes!

• 1 actual starfish was used in the production!

• 20 boxes of fruit flavored, gluten-free breakfast cereal were used for the coral rocks!

• 6 boxes of chocolate-flavored puff cereal were used to create the "fruitcake" pieces going through SpongeBob's tastebuds!

• 6 months worth of old time Christmas music was played to keep the production in the spirit, which included 83 versions of the "Nutcracker Suite!"

• 21 pounds of googly eyes were used for rivets, texture pieces, knobs etc!

• 42 pounds of glitter were used for the special…basically where you see ground, you see glitter!

• 24 bunches of craft flowers were used to create the parade float!

Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years

Here's my jaw-droppingly professional unboxing video of Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years by David A. Goodman. The book rests in a pedestal that contains a tiny, hidden simulacrum of Admiral Hikaru Sulu, which has undergone rigorous Pavlonian training to recite an introduction to the book every time you press the button!

Assembled as a Special Exhibit on Memory Alpha, Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years celebrates the 150th anniversary of the founding of the United Federation of Planets.

This unprecedented illustrated volume chronicles the pivotal era leading up to Humankind's First Contact with Vulcan in 2063, the Romulan War in 2156, the creation of the Federation in 2161, and the first 150 years of the intergalactic democracy up until the year 2311. Meticulously researched, this account covers a multitude of alien species, decisive battles, and the technology that made the Age of Exploration possible. It includes field sketches, illustrations, and reproductions of historic pieces of art from across the Galaxy, along with over fifty excerpts from key Federation documents and correspondence, Starfleet records, and intergalactic intelligence.

Housed in a pedestal display complete with lights and an audio introduction by Admiral Hikaru Sulu, this edition also features five removable documents from the Federation Archives, including Zefram Cochrane's early sketch of the warp-drive engine, a handwritten letter from young Jim Kirk, and the first-known diagram of a Trill symbiont.

Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years

Open, CC-licensed photo course draws up to 35,000 students

The BBC's picture editor Phil Coomes has a long, excellent feature on the open education photography classes offered by Jonathan Worth and Matt Johnston through Coventry University. The course is open to anyone in the world, via webcast, and runs with up to 35,000 students. The class focuses not just on technique, but on the role of photographers in the 21st century, when everyone has a cameraphone, and when controlling copies of photos on the net is an impossibility.

He uses Creative Commons licenses (CC) for his classes. "I'd always been an avid All Rights Reserved user but it just stopped making sense. The open classes can only work with a CC license, which was a big deal for the university because it turns out education establishment are avid All Rights Reserved users too. Much like me thinking I was just an image maker, the uni thought its product was 'knowledge' and their old business model relied on keeping a tight grip on that.

"Well, I knew it wasn't my product as a teacher. My product is the learning experience and opening the doors online meant that I turned that product into an outward-facing asset.

"In a world where everyone with a smartphone is a potential supplier of image content, I had to work out what I did that was different, and it turns out there's a whole bunch of stuff both as an artisan and as a mediator and publisher.

"On a personal level I also found out that this stuff has applications in other areas too - education being a case in point, where I realised the real thing of value was not the knowledge but the learning experience. The message of that experience is amplified by opening it up - hence the success of the open classes."

Worth has shot several portraits of me that are really very, very good, including the one above.

Photography and open education

Plush Fin Fin virtual pet toy needed by distraught Boing Boing reader's grandson

Edwin's grandson fell in love with Fin Fin, a defunct plush virtual pet last offered by Fujitsu in 1996. Now Fin Fin has disappeared and he's desperate to replace Fin Fin for Christmas. If you've got one, he wants to buy it from you. Read his note after the jump.

Read the rest

Major studios send legal threats to Google demanding removal of links to their own Facebook pages and more

One things the movie studios say in copyright takedown discussions is that they're very careful when they send legal threats to Google demanding removal of links to pirated copies of their work. I mean, maybe some little guys out there play fast and loose, but the Big Five? They're grownups, man.

Then, this happened:

On behalf of Lionsgate a DMCA notice was sent to Google, asking the search engine to remove links to infringing copies of the movie “Cabin in the Woods”. The notice in question only lists two dozen URLs, but still manages to include perfectly legal copies of the film on Amazon, iTunes, Blockbuster and Xfinity.

20th Century Fox sent in a DMCA notice to protect the movie “Prometheus”. However, as collateral damage it also took down a link to a legal copy on Verizon on demand, the collection of the Prometheus Watch Company, and a Huffington Post article.

And what about a DMCA takedown request for the Wikipedia entry of “Family Guy” that is supposedly infringing?

Perhaps even more crazy is another request sent on behalf of 20th Century Fox for “How I Met Your Mother”. The DMCA notice lists a CBS URL as the official source of the copyrighted material, but the same URL later appears in the list of infringing links.

There's lots more. For example, BBC Films sent Google a notice demanding removal of links to its own Facebook page.

Movie Studios Ask Google To Censor Their Own Films, Facebook and Wikipedia [TorrentFreak]

Yosemite's Bracebridge Dinner

Last year I had the incredibly good fortune to attend Yosemite's Bracebridge Dinner. This yuletide celebration was designed into the Ahwahnee Hotel! The famous lodge's dining room transforms each December into that of Bracebridge Hall, from Washington Irving's sketchbook A Christmas at Bracebridge Hall.

While the history is as entertaining as the event itself do not miss the performance! The fantastic cast, set and costumes are paired with an incredible meal.

It is a fantastic experience.

Trailer for Breaking the Taboo: documentary about the disastrous results of the war on drugs

Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance says, "Breaking the Taboo, a film narrated by Morgan Freeman about the global drug war, is premiering in December. This is my quote from the film which sums up the insanity of the war on drugs in one sentence: 'If you can’t control drug use in a maximum security prison how could you control drugs in a freee society?'"

Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this groundbreaking new documentary uncovers the UN sanctioned war on drugs, charting its origins and its devastating impact on countries like the USA, Colombia and Russia. Featuring prominent statesmen including Presidents Clinton and Carter, the film follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo and expose the biggest failure of global policy in the last 50 years.
If you can’t control drug use in a maximum security prison how could you control drugs in a free society?

You can be a loser at the game of social ostracism

Now you can play Cyberball — a computer game that psychology researchers use to study the effects of social ostracism and hurt feelings. Normally, the game is played by test subjects who are hooked up to some kind of brain scanning system and who are told that they are playing against other test subjects in other rooms. In reality, they (and now you!) are playing against a computer program that is designed to exclude you and make you feel unwelcome. Why would someone design such a thing? For science! Of course. (Via Rowan Hooper)

How to learn hiragana in one hour or less

A week or so ago I decide to relearn hiragana and katakana (Japanese syllabaries), which I'd completely forgotten. I loaded a hiragana flashcard set onto iAnki (read Gary Wolf's excellent Wired article about the guy who invented the memory technique that iAnki employs) and went to work. Progress was brutally slow.

I looked around the iTunes store and came across Dr. Moku's Hiragana Mnemonics. It presents each character as an appealing and memorable cartoon - a rabbit eyeing a carrot, a dude with food, a farting cow. Each flashcard is a different color (to "refresh your brain" with each new character). Thirty minutes later I had memorized all 46 hiragana. Now my 9-year-old is learning them, and having a lot of fun. (of course, learning to write hiragana is going to take much more time).

Now it's time for Dr. Moku's Katakana Mnemonics.

Fun family science project — electric lighting from trash

The Joule Thief is a way of producing enough electricity to run small, but useful, electric lights using cast-off trash like pop-can tabs and "dead" batteries. It's especially handy in the Himalayas, writes inventor and Google Science Fair judge T.H. Culhane. There, electricity is a precious resource. But the components needed to build a Joule Thief are abundant, thanks to climbers and tourists who leave behind all sorts of surprisingly useful litter.

Last week, Culhane joined a G+ hangout sponsored by National Geographic and Girlstart to talk about the value in things we throw away and walk viewers through the construction of their very own Joule Thief. You can watched the video of the event, or read the instructions for building a Joule Thief at Culhane's blog.

The fact that the Joule thief allows one to run a 3V LED from a 1.5 or 1.2 Volt battery would itself be astounding, because it means you only need half the number of batteries to get the same light.

Some of you are thinking "wait, maybe it enables you to use a single 1.5 volt battery to light a 3V LED instead of the usual two, but doesn't it just make that battery last half as long? Great question, but the answer is that the Joule Thief, which works by building up and collapsing a magnetic field around the torus (which acts as an electromagnetic inductor) actually is more efficient than using a battery directly because it PULSES the energy to the LED. You see the lightbulb shining brightly, but in fact it is turning on and off very rapidly as the magnetic field of the inductor builds up and discharges again and again. That means that though the light appears to be on all the time it is actually turning on and off and saving energy because it isn't on all the time.

It turns out that the Joule Thief enables the battery to keep supplying electrons to the light long after the battery is normally considered DEAD. So the battery actually lasts much much longer than a normal battery. I've observed "dead" batteries working down to about 0.5 Volts. Normally a 1.5 V battery is considered dead when it reaches 1.0 volts. But the Joule Thief can "steal" the remaining energy much below that. And that got me thinking -- could I use other sources of between 0.5 and 1.0 Volts to run a 3V LED?

T.H. Culhane's post on The Joule Thief (includes instructions for making a Joule Thief with batteries and alternative electricity sources)

Watch the video at National Geographic Newswatch

Amazing Insects - a short video featuring cute insects made from random junk, set to weird synth music

Jonathan Golub says: "Steve Belfer made this short video featuring cute insects made from random junk, set to weird synth music."

I like it because it's an example of how you can make a video that's creative and entertaining on a next-to-nothing budget.

The effects of space travel on the human body (past and present)

Last week, an American and a Russian — Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko — were selected to spend a year living continuously in space, aboard the International Space Station. Only four other people have done this before. All them were Russian, so Scott Kelly is going to break the American record for time spent in space.

The mission won't start until 2015, and it's part of a much longer term goal — sending people to Mars. We know that spending time in space does take a toll on the human body. For instance, hanging out without gravity means you aren't using your muscles, even the ones that you'd use to support your own weight on Earth. Without use, muscles deteriorate over time. Bone density also drops. Basically, after a few months in space, astronauts return to Earth as weak as little kittens. Which is, to say the least, a less than ideal situation for any future Mars explorers.

Having Kelly and Kornienko stay up for a year will give scientists more data on what happens to the human body in space, give them a chance to test out preventative treatments that could keep astronauts stronger, and allows them to see how the amount of time spent in space affects the amount of time it takes to physically recover from the trip. As an extra research bonus, Kelly is the identical twin brother of Mark Kelly, the astronaut married to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Which means that there will be a built-in control to compare Kelly to when he comes back from his mission.

In honor of that upcoming experiment, here's an old video that will give you an idea of what we knew (and didn't know) back at the dawn of the space age. Science in Action was a TV show produced by the California Academy of Sciences. In this 1956 episode, they explore the then-still-theoretical physiology of space travel ... with a special guest appearance by Chuck Yeager!

Wikipedia page on the effects of space travel on the human body

Science in Action: Aero Medicine — Part 1 and Part 2 at the Prelinger Archives.

"Shot-for-Shot" Prisoner intro remake

Band Do Not Foresake Me Oh My Darling made this amazing "shot-for-shot" remake of the Prisoner's opening. It is astonishing!

There is more information and a side-by-side comparison to pore over too. I would love to drive the Lotus Se7en!