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Vixen Motorhomes

I saw a Vixen RV yesterday! Then I saw this incredible video advertisement. I was stunned!

The opening pitch of this video is over-the-top awesome!

The words innovative and unique are over used.

Slapped on so many cookie cutter imitations that the words have lost their meaning.

So, if you have become numb to all the plain vanilla vehicles that call themselves innovative and unique, Get Ready.

They just hammer home how incredible and amazing this vehicle is! How is it there were only 587 made?

Learn more about the Vixen RV.

Rare footage of Walt Disney playing with backyard trains in 1948

Amid sez,

I recently finished a biography of Disney animator and director Ward Kimball, which the Disney Company's lawyers have gone to great lengths to keep from being published, but that's another story. In the process, I uncovered lots of interesting materials in Ward's personal collection, including this unseen home movie footage of his boss, Walt Disney.

Tomorrow, it will be exactly 65 years since this film was recorded (April 4, 1948). In it, Ward and Walt Disney visit the home of Dick Jackson, a wealthy businessman who operated a scale-railroad in the backyard of his Beverly Hills home. I believe this to be the first time that Walt Disney personally operated a scale-railroad. It's amazing that the footage still exists.

Exclusive: Unseen Home Movie Footage of Walt Disney

What walled gardens do to the health of the Web, and what to do about it

David Weinberger took great notes from what sounds like a barn-burner of a talk by Anil Dash at Harvard's Berkman Center on what has happened to the net, and where it's headed:

“We have a lot of software that forbids journalism.” He refers to the IoS [iphone operating system] Terms of Service for app developers that includes text that says, literally: “If you want to criticize a religion, write a book.” You can distribute that book through the Apple bookstore, but Apple doesn’t want you writing apps that criticize religion. Apple enforces an anti-journalism rule, banning an app that shows where drone strikes have been.

Less visibly, the laws is being bent “to make our controlling our data illegal.” All the social networks operate as common carriers — neutral substrates — except when it comes to monetizing. The boundaries are unclear: I can sing “Happy Birthday” to a child at home, and I can do it over FaceTime, but I can’t put it up at YouTube [because of copyright]. It’s very open-ended and difficult to figure. “Now we have the industry that creates the social network implicitly interested in getting involved in how IP laws evolve.” When the Google home page encourages visitors to call their senators against SOPA/PIPA, we have what those of us against Citizens United oppose: now we’re asking a big company to encourage people to act politically in a particular way. At the same time, we’re letting these companies capture our words and works and put them under IP law.

A decade ago, metadata was all the rage among the geeks. You could tag, geo-tag, or machine-tag Flickr photos. Flickr is from the old community. That’s why you can still do Creative Commons searches at Flickr. But you can’t on Instagram. They don’t care about metadata. From an end-user point of view, RSS is out of favor. The new companies are not investing in creating metadata to make their work discoverable and shareable.

[berkman] Anil Dash on “The Web We Lost” (via Beyond the Beyond)

Attacks on punks and goths are now hate crimes in Manchester

Manchester, England has expanded its hate-crime laws to include attacks on the basis of dress or an "alternative sub-culture identity." The expansion follows on the fatal 2007 attack on Sophie Lancaster, whose attackers chose her because of her goth identity.

"People who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime," Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said.

Manchester police said the change would enable officers to give more support to victims of anti-punk or anti-Goth crime. But it won't necessarily mean tougher sentences.

Although British judicial guidelines call for people convicted of hate crimes to receive tougher sentences, the Manchester decision has not been recognised nationally.

Manchester police to record attacks on goths and punks as hate crimes [Guardian/AP]

(Image: Lancashire Police)

Pat Robertson: "simple, humble" foreigners get miracles because they aren't corrupted by education and science

Pat Robertson scores a "Christ, what an asshole" prize here, in which he explains that the reason that "simple, humble" Africans and other foreigners experience miracles is that they are free from the sin of over-education. As Charles Johnson has it, this is "the wingnut trifecta... anti-intellectual, anti-science and patronizingly racist."

Pat Robertson: Simple Africans More Likely to Experience Miracles Than Over-Educated Americans (via Skepchick)

Cory's HOW I WORK interview

I did a How I Work interview for Lifehacker, where I talked about the tools I use, and how I use them:

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?

Ubuntu and the suite of GNU tools in any robust Unix system. A good text editor (currently Gedit)—I keep all of my working files at .txts. A robust, highly configurable browser (Firefox/Firefox for Android). A fast RSS reader (presently Google Reader, likely to be Newsblur next). A tetherable mobile connection—I use EasyTether for Android to circumvent tether-blocking as deployed by some of the carriers I use around the world, especially Rogers in Canada. AirDroid for moving files on/off Android devices in my life. An external USB battery (currently PowerGen 5200mAh External Battery Pack).

A rugged, roomy, weatherproof backpack (currently a Bagjack Skidcat). A moneyclip. A small, six-card credit-card wallet. LibreOffice spreadsheets for bookkeeping. GPG, cryptsetup, and TrueCrypt for information security. A high-performance mailer with functional scripting engine (currently Thunderbird with a ton of rules and a huge black-listed kill file and white-listed address book). A titanium Widgy keychain prybar (pictured at right)—useful as a pocket knife but flies (heh) under TSA/BAA radar. No-name, easy to replace earbuds with integrated mic for phone. Exeze waterproof MP3 player for swimming. AquaSphere Seal swim goggles—I swim everyday for about an hour and listen to last night's CBC's As It Happens news podcast. Exeze + Aquasphere are a reasonably priced, reliable goggles/MP3 combo. GoToob silicone bottles for shampoo/soap for the pool—these have strong, reliable suction cups that stick them perfectly to the shower wall.

A no-name, cheap mini screwdriver set—I get these confiscated about six times a year by airport security, especially the jerks at Gatwick airport, but it's worth buying a new set every time. Catering-sized sachets of Tabasco—these don't show up as liquid on airport scanners, unlike the mini bottles. I put Tabasco on everything. I'd use it for contact-lens solution if I could. Aeropress—the single most versatile and reliable way of making coffee, especially on the road. Perfect when paired with a Porlex hand-grinder.

I’m Cory Doctorow, and This Is How I Work

Parents in danger of having six-year-old daughter taken away for letting her walk to their local post office on her own

A reader of Free Range Kids is in danger of having his six-year-old daughter taken into protective services custody because he let her walk a few blocks to the post office in their Ohio town. The kid, Emily, asked for a little independence, and was given permission to take some unsupervised, short walks. Neighbors and cops freaked out, detained her, detained her parents, sent CPS after them, and has made their life into a nightmare -- one that's just getting worse and worse.

Day 41: We are served with a complaint alleging neglect and dependency. The County wants to take Emily into “protective supervision” or “temporary custody.” The complaint contains many factual errors and inaccuracies.

There is also a motion for “pre-dispositional interim orders.” As I understand it, this is a mechanism by which CPS can intervene even before the merits of the case against us for neglect are even heard, but less decided. It is scheduled to take place more than a month before the hearing on the neglect charge. It asks the court to force my wife and I to “allow ______ County Children Services to complete an assessment with the family. This is including allowing the agency access in the home, allowing the agency to interview the children, and participate openly in the assessment process.” In other words, they want to search our house, interrogate the children, and force us to testify.

We are trying our best to raise Emily to be responsible, curious, and capable. We have chosen to include teaching her about using the library, navigating the neighborhood, and mailing letters as elements of her homeschooling. Needless to say, this entire ordeal has been quite distressing for the entire family, and we view it as a threat to our homeschooling her, our parental rights, and both my and Emily’s civil liberties. Since our family is being threatened by legal action, I have tried to confine my comments to a dispassionate statement of known facts.

As Lenore Skenazy notes, this shouldn't deter you from letting your own kids move independently about their towns: "I am posting this story NOT because it is common and we should all worry about being hounded by CPS if we let our kids go outside. I am posting it in utter outrage at the idea that a child on her own could be considered neglected or in danger when she is so obviously, clearly, and indisputably neither."

They're looking for pro bono legal assistance.

6-y.o. Who Walked Alone to Post Office May be Removed from Her Home

Homophobic, player-abusing coach sacked

Rutgers University somehow didn't get around to firing its abusive, homophobic, slur-spewing basketball coach until months after someone filmed him at it.

Stainless steel, refillable Sharpies

If you love Sharpies (as I do), but actually manage to hold onto them until they run out, rather than losing them at the rate of several a week (as I do), then you might benefit from the refillable, stainless steel Sharpie ($5.78), which would spare you the sad sensation you get when you drop your dead Sharpie into the trash.

There's only one time in my life that I actually used up a Sharpie: when I was signing the title-pages for something like 5,000 hardcovers of this graphic novel, and I had the curious sensation of uncapping a fresh Sharpie and signing until it ran dry -- it was something like using up an entire chapstick, a weird kind of accomplishment.

Sharpie Stainless Steel Fine Point Permanent Marker (via Core 77)

Butterfly in a skull's eye-socket

Marko Popadic's photo "Oko" captures a spooky, sweet moment in which a butterfly alights in the eye-socket of a skull.

Oko (via Neatorama)

Ready Player One author Ernest Cline to host pilot of Geek Out TV show

The premise for AMC's Geek Out (working title) sounds fun. The pilot will be hosted by Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One, one of my favorite science fiction novels.

Geek Out will feature Cline and his co-host as they pay it forward by traveling the country and surprising obsessed fans. Whether it be the guy who turned his apartment into an exact replica of the Starship Enterprise, the comic book fan whose body is covered in X-Men tattoos, or the suburban mom whose entire house is overflowing with Twilight memorabilia, it explores why that person is a super-fan and offers the surprise of a lifetime when the fan is given an awesome, otherwise unattainable experience related to their obsession.
Read Press Release after the jump

Algorithmically constructed news

In Wired, Steven Levy has a long profile of the fascinating field of algorithmic news-story generation. Levy focuses on Narrative Science, and its competitor Automated Insights, and discusses how the companies can turn "data rich" streams into credible news-stories whose style can be presented as anything from sarcastic blogger to dry market analyst. Narrative Science's cofounder, Kristian Hammond, claims that 90 percent of all news will soon be algorithmically generated, but that this won't be due to computers stealing journalists' jobs -- rather, it will be because automation will enable the creation of whole classes of news stories that don't exist today, such as detailed, breezy accounts of every little league game in the country.

Narrative Science’s writing engine requires several steps. First, it must amass high-quality data. That’s why finance and sports are such natural subjects: Both involve the fluctuations of numbers—earnings per share, stock swings, ERAs, RBI. And stats geeks are always creating new data that can enrich a story. Baseball fans, for instance, have created models that calculate the odds of a team’s victory in every situation as the game progresses. So if something happens during one at-bat that suddenly changes the odds of victory from say, 40 percent to 60 percent, the algorithm can be programmed to highlight that pivotal play as the most dramatic moment of the game thus far. Then the algorithms must fit that data into some broader understanding of the subject matter. (For instance, they must know that the team with the highest number of “runs” is declared the winner of a baseball game.) So Narrative Science’s engineers program a set of rules that govern each subject, be it corporate earnings or a sporting event. But how to turn that analysis into prose? The company has hired a team of “meta-writers,” trained journalists who have built a set of templates. They work with the engineers to coach the computers to identify various “angles” from the data. Who won the game? Was it a come-from-behind victory or a blowout? Did one player have a fantastic day at the plate? The algorithm considers context and information from other databases as well: Did a losing streak end?

Then comes the structure. Most news stories, particularly about subjects like sports or finance, hew to a pretty predictable formula, and so it’s a relatively simple matter for the meta-writers to create a framework for the articles. To construct sentences, the algorithms use vocabulary compiled by the meta-writers. (For baseball, the meta-writers seem to have relied heavily on famed early-20th-century sports columnist Ring Lardner. People are always whacking home runs, swiping bags, tallying runs, and stepping up to the dish.) The company calls its finished product “the narrative.”

Both companies claim that they'll be able to make sense of less-quantifiable subjects in the future, and will be able to generate stories about them, too.

Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?

Paleo author reviews anti-paleo book

The new book, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live, is billed as an "exposé of pseudoscientific myths about our evolutionary past and how we should live today." It was written by Marlene Zuk, a professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota.

Many people who follow the paleo regimen have reviewed the book on their blogs, but my favorite review so far is by Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint (my favorite paleo book). He says the problem with the book is that no one who follows paleo believes any of the straw man premises she sets up. In other words, Zuk's idea of Paleo is the real paleofantasy and her arguments against her own straw man version of paleo were explored and accepted years ago by the Paleo community.

After reading the book, John Durant tweeted “Paleofantasy shouldn’t have been a book in 2013, it should have been a blog post in 2010,” and that’s as good a description as I can think of.

It’s all very uncontroversial:

There is no one paleo diet.

Who’s saying that? Humans have spanned the globe for millennia, surviving and even thriving in environments ranging from tropical to temperate, from arctic to near-aquatic, all the while subsisting on the wild foods available to those regions. Same basic diet of animals and plants, different configurations.

Evolution doesn’t just stop and humans didn’t just reach a state of perfect adaptation back before agriculture from which we’ve never progressed.

Sure. I talked about how we’re still “evolving” last year, even mentioning Zuk’s favorite topics – lactase persistence (35% worldwide, which is far from 100%) and amylase production. She discusses a few more recent changes, like malaria resistance, adaptation to high altitude, and earwax differentiation, but that’s it. If she wanted to, I’m sure she “could keep adding to the list” and mount an overwhelming case for widespread genetic adaptations to grain consumption, chronic stress tolerance, and sedentary living, but she’s saving up material for the next book. Or something. Either way, I’m not very convinced by her “list” of rapid evolutionary changes, especially considering most of them have little to do with the mismatches we discuss in this community and none of them are even present in a majority of humans.

Zuk is also quick to misrepresent “our” arguments so she can swoop in and take the sensible position – positions the ancestral health community has long occupied!

Is It All Just a “Paleofantasy”

Ugo Serrano: armorer

Daniel sez, "Ugo Serrano is the greatest living armorer, really. A man who camps at the Pennsic war in a 15th Century Italian villa (hat he built/designed that also flat-packs for storage and transportation). The props he makes for the movie/television industry are a who's who of geekdom from Firefly to Riddick to the Haunted Mansion through Zorro. A man whose art helped begin the entire steampunk movement, yet he's almost unknown outside of the SCA, where his themed parties are as legendary as his tent. If you catch him at the right time, he'll give you a pilgrimage badge that he cast in pewter by hand, just for taking the tour.

Ugo Serrano

Update: In the comments, Chris Gilman sez, "I would like to correct the above artical. Ugo is a talented guy and love him dearly, but I built and own the Italian house and if you catch me at the right time, I will give you a pilgrimage badge, made by Robert MacPherson, who in my opinion is the greatest living armourer."

TOM THE DANCING BUG: The Education of Louis - Spectator Sport

Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH Louis wrestles with the concept of tribal surrogate ritualized warfare. And suffers through a baseball game.Read the rest

More dazzling design/art from We Buy Your Kids


NewImageFrom the Instagram feed of hyper-talented Australian design/illustration duo We Buy Your Kids (aka Sonny Day and Biddy Maroney): the cover art for a 2008 split 7" vinyl by Cloud Control and Telekinesis! and poster for a 2012 Eleanor Friedberger concert. webuyyourkids on Instagram

River of Stars, excerpt and passage introduction by Guy Gavriel Kay

Here's a passage from Guy Gavriel Kay's new novel River of Stars, along with Kay's introduction to the passage:

As a rule, my reading passages come from early in the novels. It took me too many years and books to figure out why that makes sense. But ... I don't like doing long backfill explanations at a book launch or reading event, and early passages avoid the worst of those, obviously. Long preambles can put people to sleep, and I try to avoid having listeners in such a state before I even get started reading. It is counterproductive, in my carefully considered opinion.

I do like passages with wide swings in mood or tone. They 'perform' better. Our state of mind in an audience is not the same as it is when we're alone with a book. I also look for some humor, even if small. A book reading isn't standup comedy, but there's a good effect (as writer, as performer) in hitting listeners with an emotional or tense moment right after they've been chuckling, or vice versa. Contrast is useful. (See: keeping listeners awake, above.)

The reading passage I like from River of Stars breaks my "read from the beginning" rule, although it isn't the first time I've done that. It is a very self-contained episode, however and it showcases one of the two main protagonists and reveals aspects of the historical setting. There's also a kick at the end that points forward ... a hook. (Can a kick be a hook?)

What do you need to know before reading this? Not a lot. River of Stars is inspired by the Song Dynasty of China in the 1100s. The two men introduced here, Daiyan and Ziji, are outlaws, important ones in the area where this scene unfolds. Both come from respectable backgrounds, which matters. They are in a small town which ought to be safe for them to visit quietly, but 12th Dynasty Kitai, my slightly-skewed China, isn't a time or place where safety can be assumed or assured. -- Guy Gavriel Kay

Read Excerpt