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Katie Fisher Day: bake cookies and send them to a friend

Remember Katie Fisher? She was the 24 year old who was killed crossing the street by a driver who ran a red light, only to have Progressive Insurance -- her own insurance company -- pay to defend her killer in court, and then lie about it. Her brother, comedian Matt Fisher, has decided to honor her memory with Katie Fisher Day, a day when people bake cookies and send them to their friends (Katie sent Matt a batch of cookies every week while he was at university).

Step 1: Pick someone you love. It can be your mom, your brother, your friend, some guy at work. Anyone you’d like to feel a little more loved.

Step 2: Bake them cookies. Any kind will do! Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin. Are you a crappy baker? Send them crappy cookies. Or buy some. It’s the thought that counts. We’ll post recipes here on the site. Post yours if you have a good one!

Step 3: Send those cookies. Mail them. Drop them off in person. Whatever’s easier. Just make sure you send them! The goal is to send them on March 12 or have them get to your person by March 12, but look, if you send someone cookies on another day, we’re cool with that.

Step 4: There is no Step 4. This is a simple thing. Let’s not overcomplicate it. Though we would love it if you told us about your special someone, sent photos of your cookies and/or sent us a recipe.

Katie Fisher Day (Thanks, Matt!)

Principles for 21st century living

A list of principles for the 21st century, from Joi Ito, presently running the MIT Media Lab:

Ito: There are nine or so principles to work in a world like this:

1. Resilience instead of strength, which means you want to yield and allow failure and you bounce back instead of trying to resist failure.

2. You pull instead of push. That means you pull the resources from the network as you need them, as opposed to centrally stocking them and controlling them.

3. You want to take risk instead of focusing on safety.

4. You want to focus on the system instead of objects.

5. You want to have good compasses not maps.

6. You want to work on practice instead of theory. Because sometimes you don’t why it works, but what is important is that it is working, not that you have some theory around it.

7. It disobedience instead of compliance. You don’t get a Nobel Prize for doing what you are told. Too much of school is about obedience, we should really be celebrating disobedience.

8. It’s the crowd instead of experts.

9. It’s a focus on learning instead of education.

We’re still working on it, but that is where our thinking is headed.

Joi Ito of MIT Media Lab

Hacking the Xbox, free in honor of Aaron Swartz

Bunnie Huang's seminal book "Hacking the Xbox" is now a free PDF, released thus by the author in honor of Aaron Swartz. "Hacking the Xbox" is the "Our Bodies, Our Selves" of reverse engineering -- a brilliant and accessible text setting out the case for and the practicalities of reverse engineering and taking control of your devices.

I agreed to release this book for free in part because Aaron’s treatment by MIT is not unfamiliar to me. In this book, you will find the story of when I was an MIT graduate student, extracting security keys from the original Microsoft Xbox. You’ll also read about the crushing disappointment of receiving a letter from MIT legal repudiating any association with my work, effectively leaving me on my own to face Microsoft.

The difference was that the faculty of my lab, the AI laboratory, were outraged by this treatment. They openly defied MIT legal and vowed to publish my work as an official “AI Lab Memo,” thereby granting me greater negotiating leverage with Microsoft. Microsoft, mindful of the potential backlash from the court of public opinion over suing a legitimate academic researcher, came to a civil understanding with me over the issue.

It saddens me that America’s so-called government for the people, by the people, and of the people has less compassion and enlightenment toward their fellow man than a corporation. Having been a party to subsequent legal bullying by other entities, I am all too familiar with how ugly and gut-wrenching a high-stakes lawsuit can be. Fortunately, the stakes in my cases were not as high, nor were my adversaries as formidable as Aaron’s, or I too might have succumbed to hopelessness and fear. A few years ago, I started rebuilding my life overseas, and I find a quantum of solace in the thought that my residence abroad makes it a little more difficult to be served.

While the US legal system strives for justice, the rules of the system create an asymmetric war that favors those with resources. By and far one of the most effective methods to force a conclusion, right or wrong, against a small player is to simply bleed them of resources and the will to fight through pre-trial antics. Your entire life feels like it is under an electron microscope, with every tiny blemish magnified into a pitched battle of motions, countermotions, discovery, subpoenas, and affidavits, and each action heaping tens of thousands of dollars onto your legal bill. Your friends, co-workers, employers, and family are drawn into this circus of humiliation as witnesses. Worse, you’re counseled not to speak candidly to anyone, lest they be summoned as a witness against you. Isolated and afraid, it eventually makes more sense to roll over and settle than to take the risk of losing on a technicality versus a better-funded adversary, regardless of the justice.

An open letter from bunnie, author of Hacking the Xbox

Things, organized neatly: a kentucky site for knollers

Things Organized Neatly is a Tumblr devoted to excellent knolling photos in which things are, well, organized neatly. Zomg, but this tickles something vulnerable in my hindbrain. Show here: a RepRap (in bits), and Cannoli in Buenos Aires.

Things Organized Neatly (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Trauma shears: Inexpensive plastic and sheet metal cutter

Several years ago I needed about half a dozen tools for a series of workshops I was hosting. I needed a hand tool that could safely and easily shape plastic and thin sheet metal, but not break the bank. I found trauma shears at the local hardware store for a couple dollars each and bought every pair they had. Although I had misgivings about the price they worked great. I still have them and they all get constant use and abuse.

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Numbers stations on Twitter and other spook-y tweets

Ken Layne takes us on a tour of weird, possibly espionage-related Twitter accounts, from a "numbers station" that has tweeted 318,000 hexadecimal numbers since 2009 (possibly from Khabarovsk), to a "joke" CIA account that seems to have a lot of inside dope, to a massive cluster of accounts that tweet nothing but "Iowa City schools ask state for an audit," over and over again.

Here are some of the 38 followers of an inscrutable account called @googuns_staging—many of these are obvious fraudulent accounts with randomly generated profiles such as, "I like Jonathan Richman/The Modern Lovers to listen and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The to watch. I'm brave and chivalrous." Well, of course you are!

GooGuns posts nothing but strings of letters and numbers, like b39e65fa00000000 in intervals of about five minutes on average. The string of characters always ends with zeroes, occasionally with the location service turned on, so you can see that 554705fa00000000 was allegedly tweeted from the "Region of Khabarovsk." This has been going on all day and all night, for years, with more than 318,000 tweets posted since 2009. But why?

There is an iOS game called GooGun with its own website and a dubious iTunes graphic with the words "No Longer Available" over it. "Space robots are attacking," says the promotional video showing game play on this game that is not available to play.

The Real Weird Twitter Is Espionage Twitter [Ken Layne/The Awl] (via Wil Wheaton)

Video of flame-shooting giant robotic octopus

Gawain Lavers shot this short video of El Pulpo Mecanico at Pier 15 in San Francisco. It was part of the festivities to celebrate the grand re-opening of The Exploratorium.

New Brazilian environmental political party based on social networking

Gmoke sez, "Former Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva and recent Green Party Presidential candidate (she came in third to force a run-off election) launched the Sustainability Network in Brasilia on 16 February, 2013 and seeks to collect the required 500,000 signatures by September 2013 to become a legally recognized political party. From Sustainability Network's political manifesto (PDF):

We believe that networks, as a means for meeting and organising, are an invention of the present that bridge to a better future. Therefore, it is through networking with society that we want to build a new political force, with alliances underpinned by an Ethics of Urgency, aiming to construct a new model of development: sustainable, inclusive, egalitarian and diverse.

Former Brazilian Minister’s New Party Mixes Sustainability, Social Media · Global Voices (Thanks, Gmoke!)

(Image: José Cruz/Agencia Brasil (CC BY 3.0))

BoomCase suitcase speakers/amp


BoomCase transforms classic old luggage (and lunch boxes) into one-of-a-kind, er, artisanal amps/speakers that run on batteries and accept any audio input. The BoomCase (Thanks, Patrick!)

Starry night: skies over New Zealand

Photo: Ngauruhoe Rise, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (2.0) image from astronomr (aka Jason Brown)'s photostream, shared in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool. Another beautiful shot, showing trails as the stars move across the sky, is here. Photographer Jason Brown has a blog with more wonderful astronomy photos, and says,

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Biggest threat in the Pacific, according to top U.S. Admiral? Climate Change.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, "no smelly hippie," according to Wired News, believes the consequences of a warming planet are likely to “cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” According to Danger Room, he said, “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.” [Danger Room |]

YouTube co-founder develops possible rival; thinks Denny's is nice place to have breakfast

Adweek reports that YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley is working on some kind of collaborative video startup, possibly to rival YouTube, sort of. He left the company in 2010; since then, the company has changed much under Google's ownership.

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Bedouin "solar mamas" can't get backing for solarizing their village in Jordan

Gmoke sez, "Two years ago, two Bedouin women, Rafea Al Raja and her aunt Seiha Al Raja (Um Bader), returned from a six-month solar engineering training at the Barefoot College in India as 'solar engineers' to start a training center for other women. Although they solarized 80 houses in their village, the government of Jordan, NGOs and international organizations have shown little or no interest in their work. Even with a documentary on their training and projects at home, 'Solar Mamas', there hasn't been enough funding to sustain their work and their dreams.

“We are still not working and the training has not started either,” Rafea told The Jordan Times in an interview on Saturday.

They came with hope, she said, but this hope is fading away. The government, NGOs and international organisations are showing little or no interest, according to FES officials, leaving the project stranded in the desert.

“Now even our fellow villagers have started to make fun of us because they see nothing is happening on the ground,” said Rafea, who with her aunt were received with festive firing and an “official” ceremony upon their arrival from India.

The situation took a dramatic turn for both Rafea and Um Bader. Although they provided solar energy to 80 houses in the village, they are now facing the darkness of personal problems that have plighted them since they completed their training in India.

Hopes fade for two bedouin ‘solar engineers’ [Gaelle Sundelin/Jordan Times]

(Thanks, Gmoke)

Bloombergian ban on large sodas in NYC blocked by judge with awesome name

A state judge has blocked New York City's ban on large soft drinks in restaurants, movie theaters and other establishments. Calling New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban "arbitrary and capricious," the judge banned the ban one day before it was to take effect. But, the buried lede? The judge's name. Meet Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, folks. [Reuters, via @normative]

David Carr's "Geeks Telling Jokes"

New York Times media columnist David Carr invited some "media geeks" to tell jokes, for a video played during Carr's talk at SXSW yesterday. I have a very brief cameo, at the end. Before you hurl tomatoes, remember: none of us have plans to quit our day jobs. Also, The Aristocrats.

About the silly project, below:

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BDSM inflatable rubber egg based on Giger's Alien

The "Alien Egg Enclosure" is a huge, inflatable egg based on Giger's Alien, as featured in the Ridley Scott movies. It's billed as a "masterstroke of total Sensory Deprivation" intended for BDSM play:

We recommend entering the Alien Egg before it is fully inflated. Once inside, you put the respiratory mask on and you can either sit down, kneel or adopt a foetal position which add the full dimension to the inside-egg experience, just like being held in a womb. The four panels are then zipped up enclosing you completely. Once inside, although your movements are tightly restricted, you will still be able to move your arms with a little effort in order to reach the inside zip runner. This is a security feature that we thought necessary to ensure a safe emergency exit in case your play partner was unexpectedly unavailable.

As a sub inside, you are sure to appreciate the complete sensory deprivation and the utter isolation. From outside, you will enjoy the multiple two way zip runners which open to allow full access anywhere inside the Egg without having to open it from the top down. The player outside may use this feature to startle the wearer inside with random tickles, pinches or in anyway you can imagine. The Alien Egg can be enjoyed naked or in full rubber gear. Sharp objects should however be avoided. Alien Egg Enclosure (via JWZ)

Dad genderswaps Donkey Kong for his five-year-old daughter

Mike Mika's five-year-old daughter wanted to play Donkey Kong as Princess Toadstool, so he hacked the ROM to effect the genderswap (see the Damsels in Distress episode of "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" for more). He's even posted a patch (ZIP) for the original ROM so you can play it yourself, or with your kids.

My three year old daughter and I play a lot of old games together. Her favorite is Donkey Kong. Two days ago, she asked me if she could play as the girl and save Mario. She's played as Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros. 2 and naturally just assumed she could do the same in Donkey Kong. I told her we couldn't in that particular Mario game, she seemed really bummed out by that. So what else am I supposed to do? Now I'm up at midnight hacking the ROM, replacing Mario with Pauline. I'm using the 2010 NES Donkey Kong ROM. I've redrawn Mario's frames and I swapped the palettes in the ROM. I replaced the M at the top with a P for Pauline. Thanks to Kevin Wilson for giving me the lead on the tools and advice.

Donkey Kong: Pauline Edition (via Waxy)

How SpaceX saved the Dragon capsule from destruction

On March 1, SpaceX ran a test launch of Dragon, the capsule in which it hopes to someday transport human beings into space. Dragon was due to connect with the International Space Station, but very quickly into the launch things started to go all wrong. This is a short summary of the SpaceX team managed to stop their capsule from tumbling out of control.

Puritanical ice-cream clothes

My goodness, but the Ice Cream Colors in this 1949 Puritan Sportswear ad look sytlishly delicious. Not entirely puritanical, either.

Dairy Contest

An obituary for Harry Stamps

Who is Harry Stamps? Excellent question. He was the dean of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, but, as his excellently written and tear-inducing obituary explains, he was also "a ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler" who held the secrets of the world's greatest BLT sandwich and went to his deathbed despising Daylight Savings Time (aka The Devil's Time). A man after my own heart.

Sucking up to shrimp

Say you're a marine biologist and you want to study the little bitty creatures of the sea — shrimps and worms and things like that. How do you go about capturing them?

Why, with an underwater vacuum, of course.

At the PNAS First Look blog, David Harris writes that this "SCUBA-tank powered vacuum, called an “airlift,” inhales shrimp, sand fleas, marine worms, and 'things that would swim away if they had the chance.'"

Does the Loneliest Whale really exist?

The 52 Hertz Whale is the cetacean equivalent of a pop-culture phenomenon — a strange creature, known only through recording of whale songs picked up in the Pacific Ocean, who seems to not be a part of any identifiable whale group. Also known as The Loneliest Whale in the World it is a source of pity and fascination among the general public. At PLOS Blogs, Hannah Cheng has a three-part feature on what we do and don't know about the Loneliest Whale. Why, despite 20 years of tracking this thing in sound recordings, do we not have any direct observation of the Loneliest Whale? She's got the answers.

Mummies had a form of chronic cardiovascular disease

Atherosclerosis is what happens when your arteries fill up with layers of fat and white blood cells. It's a disease of chronic inflammation that increases your risk of stroke and heart attack. It's also a disease we tend to associate with the modern era — commonly cited risk factors include cigarette smoking, obesity, and stress. But there are some signs that we may not have a great handle on what actually causes atherosclerosis. That's because ancient mummies, from all over the world, have shown signs of the disease. It's unclear what this means at this point — for instance, just because ancient people didn't light up a Marlboro from time to time doesn't mean they weren't exposed to smoke and particulate matter from indoor cooking fires. But it's fascinating to see a disease of modernity affecting the past.

Ancient forest off the coast of Alabama

Sixty feet under the Gulf of Mexico lie the remains of an 50,000-year-old forest. Diver and photographer Ben Raines took some amazing photos of the site and sent samples of the trees — which still look like trees — to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for radiocarbon dating. You can see sap in a cross-section of the wood and, when it's cut, Raines says it still smells like fresh cypress.

The Aleph: Twitter and Gutenberg mashup tribute to Jorge Luis Borges

A neat project by David Hirmes: The Aleph: Infinite Wonder / Infinite Pity. Sentences from Project Gutenberg and Twitter that start with two words: "I saw..."

You can view only Gutenberg, or only Twitter, or mush them both to produce beautiful word salad like this:

I saw wild hands upcast to the gloom above, a shrunken, pallid face, the gleam of snow-white hair. I saw and smelt that they used real powder. I saw the horrible glare of her eyes, but I could not see so much of her as I wished, and I said that I would call again in the morning. I saw her first five years ago at Gerard's; she came from Switzerland, where she had taken refuge. I saw him the other night, and from what he said, and what she says, I can see pretty well how things are going. I saw a picture of @AmalJamal_ on prom night. lol.

The Aleph is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges in which a man is suddenly able to see all things at once. The website's creator David Hirmes explains:

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Vatican buys enormous gay sauna

The Independent reports that the Vatican has purchased Europe's largest gay sauna. Best conclave ever.

Muppet Musicians of Bremen

The entirety of the wonderful 1972 Tales from Muppetland special Muppet Musicians of Bremen is on YouTube is six parts. I loved this one growing up, and can't wait to share it with my daughter. It's not out on DVD, though you can find old laserdiscs of it if you hunt around.

Muppet Musicians of Bremen

Ryūichi Sakamoto, David Byrne's "Psychedelic Afternoon" anime video by UrumaDelvi for Japan quake aid

Two new music videos have been released today to raise money and awareness for the ongoing plight of victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which claimed nearly 20,000 lives and left many homeless or displaced.

Above, a previously unreleased version of the song “Psychedelic Afternoon,” written by Ryūichi Sakamoto and David Byrne, is performed by David Byrne and Imani with animation by UrumaDelvi. Video Link.

In the video, a boy named Seiji is tormented by tsunami-flashback nightmares; one night he wakes up to an apparition of his beloved grandfather. "With a strum of his grandfather’s guitar, Seiji is transported to a colorful, slightly strange, psychedelic world and finally manages to have a good dream."

And the other video out today from the project, “Blossom,” features the song “Happipola” written and performed by Sigur Rós, with animation by Yutaka Yamamoto. Video Link, and watch it below.

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Cats and optical illusions: Now with control experiments!

Last week, I posted about a YouTuber who thinks his he might have tricked his cat with an optical illusion that's based on very human psychology. He asked other people to test the illusion on their cats, just to get some more data points. Now, the psychologists who created the illusion have pitched in to help out, posting a modified version that doesn't elicit the sensation of motion. Show your cat both versions and see whether it's the paper she's trying to kill, or the "rotating" circles. (Thanks to Diana Issidorides!)

What happy mutants did for fun in 1820

How can you not love a book of projects with instructions that begin with lines like this: "Provide a bladder, into the orifice of which is inserted a metal tube?"

Endless Amusement (Via Lawrence Wilkinson)