Boing Boing 

Ted Chiang at UC Riverside

From Avi: "Ted Chiang will read selections from his work at the University of California, Riverside on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the Department of English conference room, HMNSS 2212"

My books on a Tor hidden service

Part of the plot in Homeland revolves around "hidden services" on the Tor network. Now, a fan of mine in Norway called Tor Inge Røttum has set up a hidden service and stashed copies of all my books there. He writes:

A hidden service in Tor is a server, it can be any server, a web server, chat server, etc. A hidden service can only be accessed through Tor. When accessing a hidden service you don't need an exit node, which means that they are more secure than accessing the "clearnet" or the normal Internet (if you want). Because then the exit nodes can't snoop up what you are browsing. Hidden services are hard to locate as most of them aren't even connected to the clearnet.

I don't have any servers or computers that I can run 24/7 to host a hidden service, but fortunately there is a free webhost that is hosting websites on Tor:

After creating the domain I wrote a dirty bash script to download most of Cory's books and create a HTML file linking to them. It's available on pastebin:

How cool is that?

Rat brains linked in first ever brain-to-brain interface

"Scientists have connected the brains of lab rats, allowing one to communicate directly to another via cables. The wired brain implants allowed sensory and motor signals to be sent from one rat to another, creating the first ever brain-to-brain interface." [Jen Whyntie at the BBC]

Vote for Spock socks!

Cast your vote now on Threadless for these Spock socks (called, predictably enough, "Spocks"). Leonard Nimoy called them "fascinating". Need I say more?

Score Spocks | Threadless (via IO9)

Bradley Manning military trial updates: live-blogs, who to follow on Twitter, and analysis

Army private Bradley Manning pleaded guilty on Thursday to 10 of the 19 total charges made by the US that he leaked unprecedented amounts of classified material to Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organization run by Julian Assange.

Manning entered a not guilty plea to the government's more serious charge of "aiding the enemy," which carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. In a statement before the military court today, Manning said he leaked the classified information to "spark a domestic debate."

Liveblog coverage of his trial: Mother Jones, Reuters.

Ed Pilkington at the Guardian reports Manning first contacted the Washington Post about providing them with some of the classified material while he was on leave in January 2010; the the woman who answered the phone said the "paper would only be interested [in the documents] subjected to vetting by senior editors."

Read the rest

TV pediatrician on CNN says something stupid about transgender girls

A pediatrician on CNN who co-hosts the CBS show The Doctors said something stupid and trans-hatey on the February 27 edition of CNN Newsroom. During a panel discussion about Coy Mathis, a trans girl suing her school district for the right to use female restrooms at her elementary school. Sears warned that the 6-year-old Colorado transgender child might walk around the girls' bathroom with her penis exposed, like "most boys" allegedly do at that age. Christ, what an asshole, MD.

Floating alt-comedy festival on a cruise ship sounds pretty cool

Boing Boing pal Jesse Thorn points us to a fun-sounding comedy/alt-culture cruise: The Atlantic Ocean Comedy & Music Festival, presented by, Splitsider and KCRW. Best url ever: Talent includes: Maria Bamford, Kurt Braunohler, John Darnielle, Dan Deacon, John Hodgman, Hari Kondabolu, Josie Long, Al Madrigal, Marc Maron, Nellie McKay, Eugene Mirman, Jasper Redd, John Roderick, Kristen Schaal, and Nick Thune.

Secret Service denies Truthout's FOIA request for Aaron Swartz documents

Truthout reports: "The US Secret Service has refused to release its records on Aaron Swartz to Truthout. The agency claimed in a letter, sent to Truthout and a researcher in response to two separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, that the release of any documents the agency has on the late Internet activist would interfere with its 'enforcement proceedings." 

Silicon Valley's success squeezes California's immigrant farmers

A Hyphen magazine short documentary on the life of an Asian immigrant farmer near California's Silicon Valley.

Read the rest

Macworld UK: Apple censoring iCloud emails and attachments

Macworld UK: Apple's iCloud email service deletes all emails that contain the phrase "barely legal teen" it was revealed today. (Via D.S. in BB G+)

Mouthstick: mouth-held touchscreen stylus


Griffin Technology, makers of a slew of iPhone accessories and other gear, just announced the Mouthstick, a capacitive touchscreen stylus for people who can't use their hands. It's $29.99.

Skull Brain Porcelain by Emilio Garcia

Skull brains
A zombie's dream - an entire head made of brains! A pricey delicacy, though: 200,00 €

Skull Brain Porcelain by Emilio Garcia (Via This Isn't Happiness)

City in NY forbids un-related people from sharing a home

Reason's Nanny of the Month video producer Ted Balakar says:

Imagine a city forbidding un-related people from sharing a home in a residential neighborhood. That's what happened in Watertown, New York.

Deborah Cavallario doesn't like the fact that her next door neighbor Travis Hartman shares his home with his fiance and two friends, so she convinced the city council to zone out un-related roommates from their residential neighborhood. It didn't matter to her that the 27-year-old Hartman says he was just starting out and needed help paying the mortgage on the home he recently purchased. It didn't matter that, by Cavallario's own admission, Hartman is a good neighbor. It didn't matter that Cavallario was in Hartman's shoes when she and her husband first moved to the neighborhood many years ago:

This is how Linda Morrison explained it at a city council meeting:

I remember very well a well-to-do neighbor who was very much upset about a low income couple that was moving into a house close to her. She considered them “servant class.” One was even a schoolteacher. That couple was Mr. and Mrs. Cavallario. Let the irony not be lost. If a neighbor had her way 30 years ago. Over 80 percent of our neighborhood would not be there today.

Unfortunately, the irony was lost on Cavallario and the council members who support zoning out peaceful living arrangements that make them uncomfortable.

Rob Walker on the cult of Evernote

Count me among the members of the cult of Evernote, a web service (with 50,000,000 users) that stores digital documents and makes them easy to find. I use it with my Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner (here's my review) and would have a very hard time without them. The current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek has our friend Rob Walker's excellent story about ardently devoted Evernote users.

“What you put in Facebook isn’t who you are,” says [Evernote CEO] Phil Libin. “It’s what you want some people to see. And what you put in LinkedIn is certainly not who you are; it’s what you want the professional world to see.” Libin suggests that the addiction to a particular strain of “viral” growth has led to a drastic overemphasis on digital design for extroversion. As a guy who describes himself as too introverted to win over his high school chess team, Libin says that’s an oversight. “What you put in Evernote is who you are,” he continues. “We used to say in the beginning that Evernote is not social. In fact, it’s antisocial; we don’t care about your friends.”
As Evernote's Cult Grows, the Business Market Beckons

Bestiary of unimportant envelopes that look important

The Evil Mad Scientist folks have compiled an annotated bestiary of junk-mail envelopes that are camouflaged to look like important correspondence. It's a fascinating study in meatspace spam.

Often times, these envelopes are quite well done. Above is an example that might cause a genuine double take— with its “FINAL NOTICE ENCLOSED“ — and bank-PIN style tear tabs on the sides...

And then, there’s the fine print, so that you really take it seriously. A $2,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment(!) are threatened under §1702 should you fail to deliver this fine specimen of junk mail letter to its intended victim. (This penalty is true but somewhat misleading; the law refers to obstruction of mail in general, not this “final notice” in particular.)

Envelopes That Claim to be Important

Game theory and bad behavior on Wall Street

An opinion piece by Chris Arnade on the asymmetry in pay (money for profits, flat for losses), which he describes "the engine behind many of Wall Street’s mistakes" That asymmetry "rewards short-term gains without regard to long-term consequences," Chris writes in a new guest blog at Scientific American. "The results? The over-reliance on excessive leverage, banks that are loaded with opaque financial products, and trading models that are flawed." [Scientific American Blog Network]

Perfectly sharpened pencils

I use soft pencils and I bear down hard when I write. As a result, I have to resharpen the pencils frequently. A few years ago I came across this pocket-size two-hole pencil sharpener and now swear by it. It produces very sharp points and does so efficiently.


Hole 1 shaves just the pencil’s wood casing , exposing (but barely touching) the graphite. You are left with a cylinder of graphite sticking out of the pencil tip, as shown below.

Read the rest

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Bach, played on two pianos at the same time, by Evan Shinners

"deux-al pianos." The amazing and gifted musician Evan Shinners demonstrates how to play Bach's double manual keyboard music. Evan's new album of Bach compositions is available as an MP3 download at Amazon: "Evan Plays Seven." (thanks, Joe Sabia!)

Scar makeup tutorial video

MAKE created this fun video that shows how to make realistic scars.

Special Effects Scar Makeup Tutorial

Johnny Marr and Ronnie Wood perform "How Soon Is Now?" last night

NewImageAt last night's NME Awards in London, The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood performed The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" Marr won the "Godlike Genius" award. (The NME has higher-quality but non-embeddable video here.) Marr's solo album "The Messenger" is out this week and he's doing a Reddit AmA today.

"Preserved" plushies in jars


ShelllllfffCanadian artist Ian Baxter's "Animal Preserve" series from 1999 featured hundreds of stuffed animals "preserved" in liquid-filled jars neatly organized on shelves. (via FP)

How will the Sequester affect science

Basic science — the kind of research done for curiosity's sake, in order to better understand how parts of our world work — is the foundation of applied science — research that's aimed at developing a product, or tool, or achieving a goal. In the United States, the federal government is, by far, the number one funding source for basic research. So what happens to that investment in our future when things like the Sequester come along? Obviously, funding goes down. But the details are what's important here. Tom Levenson explains the short-term and long-term impacts.

How to make the invisible visible

Even when your eyeballs look still, they aren't still. Every time your heart beats, it creates almost imperceptible changes in your skin tone as blood moves through your body. Tall buildings and construction cranes wobble slightly in the wind, even though our eyes can't usually catch them at it. Now, a team at MIT has figured out how to spot these small movements using a computer program that goes through video frame-by-frame and pixel-by-pixel, amplifying minute changes in color and motion and making them visible to us. The New York Times' Bits blog has a video with some awesome demonstrations of the system.

Official names of McNugget shapes


McDonald's Chicken McNuggets aren't just weirdly-shaped forms of "white boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning [autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid], sodium phosphates, natural flavor (botanical source), water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dextrose, and corn starch." The shapes actually have official names: ball, bone, bell, and boot. And if you're in Canada, the "bone" is officially a "bow-tie." McDonald's paid for Business Insider to visit their corporate headquarters where they learned all about the McNugget experience from the McDonald's (Mc)Sensory Team." (Business Insider)

DIY weaponry of Syria's rebels


The Atlantic has a fascinating photo gallery about the DIY Weapons of the Syrian Rebels. Homebrew explosives are the norm, as are catapults (Reuters photo above) and tele-operated machine guns controlled with scavenged video game controllers.

The birth of a volcano

On February 20th, 1943, Dionisio Pulido watched as a crack in his farm field collapsed in on itself and began to vomit out ash, rock, and fire. The birth of Mexico's Parícutin volcano is a story I've heard before, but I really enjoyed Dana Hunter's two-part series on the occasion of its 70th volcanaversary. Her posts really get into the perspective of Pulido and other local residents in a way I haven't seen in other accounts, and she does an amazing job of giving you a sense of just how well-documented the birth of this volcano was and why that fact matters so much. Here's Part 1 and Part 2.

Christian Marclay's "The Clock" video montage

Pioneering sound/video collage artist Christian Marclay's "The Clock" (2010) is a 24-hour montage of appropriated film clips related to time. OK, I'll admit that I haven't seen the whole piece, but the chunks I've watched are fantastic. Above is a phonecam recording of some of it, recording at one of its installations. The Clock will be on view at the SFMOMA starting April 6, which is appropriate given the museum's imminent closure in June for (gasp) three years of construction. "SFMOMA Presents Christian Marclay’s 24-Hour Cinematic Masterpiece The Clock"

Racist Businessweek cover

Watch out, white America! Dark people are buying houses again. [via Slate]

Update: The artwork (which does not include the text) was by Andres Guzman, who was born in Lima, Perú. [hat tip: Greg B.]

Did a cover for Businessweek about the current housing market boom. I was asked to make an excited family with large quantities of money. I slipped in my lovely cat, Boo which was my favorite part. Too bad I wasn’t asked to draw large quantities of cats. Drawing dollars was a drag.

This suggests that as far as the artist was concerned, the depiction was a creative, rather than an editorial decision. But there's more to a cover than the art: there's the text added to it and the context created by the story it illustrates. Jamelle Bouie:

It's not just the black and Latino caricatures—the whole cover plays into the widely-debunked myth that unreliable minority borrowers were responsible for the financial crash. As Ryan Chittum notes for the Columbia Journalism Review, the truth is that they were disproportionately victimized by unscrupulus lenders. This cover, however, all but implies that minorities are primed to cause another crisis. It's garbage.

Update 2: BusinessWeek apologizes. [Yahoo News]

"Our cover illustration got strong reactions, which we regret," Josh Tyrangiel, Bloomberg Businessweek's editor-in-chief, said in a statement to Yahoo! News. "If we had to do it over again we'd do it differently."

More accurate, but less reliable

This is a fascinating problem that affects a lot of scientific modeling (in fact, I'll be talking about this in the second part of my series on gun violence research) — the more specific and accurate your predictions, the less reliable they sometimes become. Think about climate science. When you read the IPCC reports, what you see are predictions about what is likely to happen on a global basis, and those predictions come in the form of a range of possible outcomes. Results like that are reliable — i.e, they've matched up with observed changes. But they aren't super accurate — i.e., they don't tell you exactly what will happen, and they generally don't tell you much about what might happen in your city or your state. We have tools that can increase the specificity and accuracy, but those same tools also seem to reduce the reliability of the outcomes. At The Curious Wavefunction, Ashutosh Jogalekar explains the problem in more detail and talks about how it affects scientist's ability to give politicians and the public the kind of absolute, detailed, specific answers they really want.