Boing Boing 

The Saudi Marathon Man

A new crime, apparently: being brown while being bombed.

A twenty-year-old man who had been watching the Boston Marathon had his body torn into by the force of a bomb. He wasn’t alone; a hundred and seventy-six people were injured. But he was the only one who, while in the hospital being treated for his wounds, had his apartment searched in “a startling show of force,” as his fellow-tenants described it to the Boston Herald, with a “phalanx” of officers and agents and two K9 units.

Earlier, our Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote about the science behind our tendency to blame the "other."

Homebrew Duck Hunt pinball table

Skit-B Pinball built this custom Duck Hunt pinball machine by modding a 1962 'Williams Valiant' table and hybridizing it with a PC to provide sound effects and other nifties. The project was a little break from Skit-B's main undertaking, a gonzo-awesome pinball adaptation of Predator.

(via Geekologie)

Fun quadcopter for kids

I bought Jane a $60 quadcopter from Banggood for her 10th birthday. One of the motor wires was broken on arrival so I had to solder it back on, and the battery charger was for a European power outlet so I broke it open and soldered on a US plug. Now it works and it's a lot of fun. It has a built in video camera, too!

It has two control modes. Mode 1 is the "beginner mode," which doesn't allow for tight turns. We like Mode 2, because it's actually easier to control. You can flip the captor 360 with the touch of a button on the transmitter, which Jane loves.

Here's a video of Jane flying it and me being paranoid that she's going to get it stuck in a tree. She ends up landing it in the street, and I say a naughty word.

Med Express uses broken Ohio law to silence critics who say true things

Are you a lawyer in Ohio? If so, your pro-bono services are urgently needed to defeat a trollish, bullying legal action from Med Express, a company that sells refurb medical equipment on eBay. The company is suing one of its customers for providing accurate, negative feedback on eBay's comment system, trying to establish a precedent that saying true things on the Internet should be illegal if it harms your business. They're relying on the fact that Ohio has no anti-SLAPP laws -- laws designed to protect people against the use of litigation threats to extort silence from critics -- and have admitted that, while they have no case, they believe that they can use the expense of dragging their victims into an Ohio court to win anyway. Ken from Popehat has more:

This is the ugly truth of the legal system: litigants and lawyers can manipulate it to impose huge expense on defendants no matter what the merits of their complaint. Censors can abuse the system to make true speech so expensive and risky that citizens will be silenced. Regrettably, Ohio does not have an anti-SLAPP statute, so Med Express and James Amodio can behave in this matter with relative impunity. If Ms. Nicholls has to incur ruinous legal expenses to vindicate her rights, the bad guys win, whatever the ultimate outcome of the case.

Unless, that is, you will help Amy Nicholls stand up — not for $1.44, but for the freedom to speak the truth without being abused by a broken legal system.

If you are an attorney practicing in Medina County, Ohio, please consider offering pro bono assistance. Mr. Levy will be coordinating assistance, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is a privilege to work with him. Help give Med Express and James Amodio the legal curb-stomping they so richly deserve. Justice, karma, and the esteem of free speech supporters everywhere will be your reward.

If you aren't an attorney, you can help, too. Med Express should not be permitted to act in this manner without consequence. The natural and probable consequence is widespread publication of their conduct. Help by publicizing the case on Facebook, Twitter, on your blog, on forums, and on every other venue available to you. Ask yourself — would you want to do business with a company that abuses the legal system to extract revenge against customers who leave truthful negative feedback?

The Popehat Signal: Stand Against Rank Thuggery In Ohio

Report: one of Boston Marathon bombs possibly made from kitchen pressure cooker

LA Times: "Investigators believe at least one of the two bombs in Boston was made with a pressure cooker, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials." MSNBC: Authorities have recovered forensic evidence that leads them to tentatively conclude the bombs "consisted of an explosive and shrapnel -- BBs and pieces of nails -- packed inside a pressure cooker," then hidden in a backpack. Boston Globe: a circuit board was found near the blasts.

Deadly poison ricin detected in Senate mail

Politico: "An envelope sent to the U.S. Senate office of Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) included a substance that has tested positive for Ricin, two sources say." A suspect has been identified.

Weird 1972 experiment in marijuana use

Cannabis News: "In the winter of 1972, 20 young women took part in one of the weirdest scientific experiments in this country’s history. For 98 days in a downtown Toronto hospital, their brains, hearts, kidneys, livers, blood and urine were rigorously tested and analyzed. A team of nurses kept round-the-clock records of their behaviour, logged at half-hour intervals. Just how was marijuana affecting the 10 who had to smoke it every day? Forty-one years later, these women are still wondering what exactly happened to them during their three-month stretch as human guinea pigs."

The secret history of a hidden mural at a Los Angeles hotel

The website Mosaic Art Now has a fun story about a tile mosaic of an oil refinery that was discovered behind some wood paneling at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles.

In May 2012, when the renowned Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles was slated to close its doors for good, the owners ran a huge liquidation sale—the entire contents of the hotel went up for grabs. The hotel changed hands over the years, originally the Statler—then Statler-Hilton, then Omni, and finally the Wilshire Grand— remained one of the “see and be-seen” hotspots of the midcentury atomic age.

During the clearance sale, a puzzling discovery was made: a fifteen-foot mosaic mural commissioned by The Los Angeles Petroleum Club was found behind some old wood paneling. The Club had at one time maintained a posh member’s suite at the hotel. This is where the intrigue and mosaic sleuthing begins.

Black Gold: Thar’s Oil In Them Thar Walls (Thanks, Mister Jalopy!)

"Radium Age" science fiction novel with new intro by Erik Davis: The Night Land

Our friend Joshua Glenn, publisher of HiLoBooks says, "I'm thrilled to announce that the HiLoBooks edition of William Hope Hodgson's 1912 dying-earth novel The Night Land, with an introduction by Erik Davis, is available in bookstores and via Amazon. 'One of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written,' claimed H.P. Lovecraft, in 1927; China Miéville agrees, in his 2013 blurb for HiLoBooks: 'A mutant vision like nothing else there has ever been.'"

In the far future, an unnamed narrator, who along with what remains of the human race, dwells uneasily in an underground fortress-city surrounded by brooding, chaotic, relentless Watching Things, Silent Ones, Hounds, Giants, "Ab-humans," Brutes, and enormous slugs and spiders, follows a telepathic distress signal into the unfathomable darkness.

The Earth's surface is frozen, and what's worse — at some point in the distant past, overreaching scientists breached "the Barrier of Life" that separates our dimension from one populated by "monstrosities and Forces" who have sought humankind's destruction ever since. Armed only with a lightsaber-esque weapon called a Diskos, and fortified only by his sense of Honor, our hero braves every sort of terror en route to rescue a woman he loves but has never met.

Hodgson wrote in an archaic style that adds to the story's ever-mounting sense of uncanny anxiety. HiLoBooks' edition of his novel omits two sections which have until now prevented it from reaching a wider audience: the tale's romantic prefatory conceit and its lengthy, relatively uneventful dénouement. Our otherwise unabridged version begins and ends with the most dramatic moments in this epic tale: chapters Two and Eleven.

The Night Land

Comic book panels taken out of context

Panels 2 Ponder is a website that presents comic book panels taken out of their context, likely making them more enjoyable than the source material.

Microplane professional extra coarse grater

This cheese grater has become essential in my kitchen. It won’t take up extra space and grates better than any others I’ve owned. Cheeses ranging in hardness from Parmesan to mozzarella transform almost effortlessly into shreds perfect for nachos or pizza. Though I have a food processor with a cheese grater attachment that works well, I prefer using the Microplane grater since it’s quick, doesn’t crumble the cheese, and is a breeze to clean up.

While there is just one grating surface, I don’t miss the others that were on the Kitchen-Aid box grater I had before the Microplane grater. I also own the Microplane zester/grater, and find that the two sizes are all I need. Even together, they take up much less space in my kitchen than a box grater.

Made entirely of stainless steel, the grater features 35 extra-sharp cutting blades. Fortunately, it comes with a plastic guard for when it’s not in use. I’ve owned this grater for almost two years, and even with almost daily use, it’s still incredibly sharp. -- Abbie Stillie

Professional Extra Coarse Grater $22

Congressional Research Service says states can legalize cannabis

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is part of the Library of Congress, and it provides "policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation." This month the CRS issued a report that says Colorado and Washington (where cannabis is legal, according to state laws) can't be coerced to enforcing federal cannabis laws. "While the federal government can ban what it wants," reports Reason, "the Tenth Amendment allows the states to opt out of participating in the law or assisting in enforcement in any way, leaving federal officials to do the heavy lifting themselves." From the report, State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues:

Although the federal government may use its power of the purse to encourage states to adopt certain criminal laws, the federal government is limited in its ability to directly influence state policy by the Tenth Amendment, which prevents the federal government from directing states to enact specific legislation, or requiring state officials to enforce federal law. As such, the fact that the federal government has criminalized conduct does not mean that the state, in turn, must also criminalize or prosecute that same conduct.

States Can Legalize Marijuana (Though Federal Laws Stand), Says Congressional Research Service

(Image: Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from cannabisculture's photostream)

Copyright enforcement as the New Prohibition: Andy Baio's speech on fair use

Andy Baio's "The New Prohibition" is a speech given at a Creative Mornings/Portland event, expanding on his must-read "No Copyright Intended" post, about the way that the complexity of copyright and fair use effectively criminalizes a whole generation of creators. Baio documents his own experience of being bullied into giving $35K to a photographer rather than spend a decade and hundreds of thousands of dollars proving that his limited-run, 8-bit remix of a photo was fair use, and makes some practical suggestions for what a modern fair use should look like, if it is to preserve the new, networked creativity.

The New Prohibition

If you see something, say something: Liveblogging from a lecture about terrorism, security, and visual narratives

When bombs explode in a crowded city street, individuals and governments naturally ask themselves, "Could we have prevented this if we had been paying better attention to people and things that were out of place?" Trouble is, that question leads to a whole cascade of other questions — covering everything from personal privacy to racism.

M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at SUNY-Oswego. She's giving a talk this afternoon on "If you see something, say something" and other campaigns aimed at getting average people involved in public security. I happened to be here on campus for a separate speaking engagement and thought this was something that BoingBoing readers would be interested in "sitting in" on, given the recent tragedy in Boston.

I'll be liveblogging this, updating regularly with key points and ideas from Jayawardane's talk. It's worth noting that her perspective is not the only way to think about these issues. I'm posting this in hopes that it will present some interesting information and spark good conversations. If you're interested in engaging with Jayawardane afterwards, she said that you can reach her via Twitter. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say — and what you all have to say about that.

Read the rest

Samsung had to pay people to trash-talk HTC phones?

Samsung paid sockpuppeteers to criticize rival products online, it is alleged in Taiwan. A subsidiary reported on its facebook page that it had "ceased all marketing activities that involve the posting of anonymous comments". [BBC]

Don't let the Boston Marathon bombing terrorize you, or the bombers win

Bruce Schneier's terrific Atlantic essay on the Boston Marathon bombings is a must-read. As he points out, the terrorists win only if we let this sort of thing scare us. By being empathic toward the victims and indomitable and fearless toward the criminals, we can create a climate where politicians can get away with telling us the truth -- there's no such thing as perfect security -- instead of politically expedient lies that lead to an out-of-control security state that takes away our freedoms, diverts our education, unemployment and health money to security theater, and leaves us no safer.

How well this attack succeeds depends much less on what happened in Boston than by our reactions in the coming weeks and months. Terrorism isn't primarily a crime against people or property. It's a crime against our minds, using the deaths of innocents and destruction of property as accomplices. When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we're indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail, even if their attacks succeed.

Don't glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a "war on terror." Wars involve two legitimate sides. There's only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we're scared.

Empathize, but refuse to be terrorized. Instead, be indomitable -- and support leaders who are as well. That's how to defeat terrorists.

The Boston Marathon Bombing: Keep Calm and Carry On

The blogging family tree

"At the close of 1998, there were 23 known weblogs on the Internet. A year later there were tens of thousands. What changed?" [Mat Honan / Wired]

How the face changes with shifting light sources

Nacho Guzman demonstrates how much a face appears to change with differing lighting positions, in a teaser for a forthcoming music video from OPALE.

Mark Ryden: preview of new "Gay 90's" art book

G90 SPREAD1


G90 COV2

Pop surrealism master Mark Ryden has just released a new book, compiling the exquisite paintings from his Gay 90's Olde Tyme Art Show that took place in 2010. The book was published by Rizzoli and designed by the talented Brad Keech of Pressure Printing/Porterhouse Fine Art Editions. More spreads from The Gay 90's below.

Read the rest

Guatemala: Rios Montt genocide trial, day 18. "If I can't control the Army, then what am I doing here?"

Rios Montt listens to a prosecution witness, during the tribunal.

I am blogging from inside the Supreme Court in Guatemala City, where the trial of former Guatemalan Army General and US-backed dictator Guatemalan José Efrain Rios Montt and his then chief of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez has reconvened for the 18th day. Here's a good recap of Monday's proceedings, and here's another.

For the past two weeks, I have been here in Guatemala with Miles O'Brien, observing the trial in court and interviewing people involved in the story for a forthcoming report on PBS NewsHour. We have interviewed Rios Montt's daughter, Zury Rios, who is her father's most diligent defender. We have interviewed scientists whose work is entered as evidence in the trial. We traveled to the Ixil area where the conflict at the center of this trial took place, and we interviewed Ixil Maya survivors about their experiences in the US-backed counterinsurgency attacks. We interviewed government officials who worked closely with Ríos Montt, who believe that what happened was not genocide, but the unfortunate collateral damage of a just war against "International Communism."

As covered in previous Boing Boing posts, the past few weeks of the trial have included personal testimonies from dozens of Ixil Maya survivors of mass killings, rapes, torture, forced adoption, and displacement. More than two dozen forensic anthropologists from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) have testified about human remains exhumed and analyzed from mass graves. Many other expert witnesses, or "peritos," have testified: among them, Patrick Ball of hrdag.org, who analyzed data of deaths during the armed conflict, to help judges make their decision about whether the mass killings constituted a focused attack by the Guatemalan Army, led by Ríos Montt, against the Ixil Maya ethnic group.

In other words: Was this genocide?

Not according to "The Foundation Against Terrorism," which published a 20-page paid newspaper supplement over the weekend here in Guatemala. "The Farce of Genocide in Guatemala: a conspiracy perpetrated by the Marxists with the Catholic Church." It's an interesting read.

The 18th day of the tribunal began this morning with defense witnesses for Ríos Montt and Sanchez.

Read the rest

Vintage ad for cockroach racing set

NewImage

Early 20th century ad for a cockroach racing kit (complete with roaches) sold by the International Mutoscope Reel Company, makers of arcade machines and dime museums. "Holds the crowd… Gets the money." (via Weird Universe)

Busted: teen nightclub disguised as rave church

DarkSide was a Dallas teen dance club whose owners attempted to wrap it in a legal spiritual envelope to stop it from being shut down. In the Dallas Observer, Anna Merlan looked into "The Bizarre Life and Troubling Death of DarkSide, the Dallas Rave Church That Never Was." Here's the best quote:
"The media made it out to be a sex-infested, drug-infested underground rave club that was run by a pedophile and raver kids who didn't give a damn," (DJ John Wayne) says now. His voice rises a little. "That's bullshit. Yes, there were drugs. Yes, Tommy is a pedophile. But there was a deeper purpose, a deeper meaning, a deeper connection. This wasn't just something we did on weekends. This was our life."

Reminds me a bit of the Nine O'Clock Service, a cyberdelic early-1990s rave church in the UK that fell from grace after the minister was investigated and ultimately confessed to abusing young women in the group.

"The Bizarre Life and Troubling Death of DarkSide, the Dallas Rave Church That Never Was" (Thanks, Vann Hall!)

Big pictures of small change

Pesoooo

Artist Martin John Callanan and the Advanced Engineered Materials Group at the UK's National Physical Laboratory used an infinite 3D optical microscope to capture 400 million pixel images of the lowest denomination coin from many currencies. "The Fundamental Units"

Recording everyone's cursors as a music video

Touchhh

Light Light created a fun page to "crowdsource" their new music video by recording visitors' cursor movements. "Do Not Touch" (NSFW)

Wooden chef's knives


I have no idea if FDRL's "Maple Set" knives are practical or even useful, but they are extremely beautiful.

With this project we wanted to explore an alternative emotion to the standard kitchen knives you see every day. The focus is drawn to the high polished blade, while the rest of the knife's Maple wood body sits warmly in the hand and blends in to its surroundings. The wood is sealed and food safe to allow for easy cleanup. The knife gives the appearance of being lightweight; however their weight is balanced to ensure that they can be used by any level of chef.

Maple Set (via Core77)

Baghdad burning, ten years later

In 2003, a blogger identified as a 24-year-old Iraqi woman began publishing a blog from Baghdad called "riverbend," about her experience in the war. She described her site as a "Girl Blog from Iraq," where readers were invited to "talk war, politics and occupation."

In her first blog post, she described herself: "I'm female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That's all you need to know. It's all that matters these days anyway."

"River" continued publishing first-person accounts on Riverbend until 2007, when she says she fled Iraq with her family and joined other war refugees in Syria. In a recent blog post, she says she has since moved from Syria to another country, to escape the attacks on civilians there by the Syrian government.

On April 9, the 10th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, she published her first blog post since 2007. She explains that it may be her last. What have we learned in ten years of the US-led war in Iraq, she asks:

Read the rest

Detect your pulse with your webcam


Thearn released a free/open program for detecting and monitoring your pulse using your webcam. The code is on github for you to download, play with and modify. If this stuff takes your fancy, be sure and read Eulerian Video Magnification for Revealing Subtle Changes in the World, an inspiring paper describing the techniques Thearn uses in his code:

This application uses openCV (http://opencv.org/) to find the location of the user's face, then isolate the forehead region. Data is collected from this location over time to estimate the user's heartbeat frequency. This is done by measuring average optical intensity in the forehead location, in the subimage's green channel alone. Physiological data can be estimated this way thanks to the optical absorbtion characteristics of oxygenated hemoglobin.

With good lighting and minimal noise due to motion, a stable heartbeat should be isolated in about 15 seconds. Other physiological waveforms, such as Mayer waves (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayer_waves), should also be visible in the raw data stream.

Once the user's pulse signal has been isolated, temporal phase variation associated with the detected hearbeat frequency is also computed. This allows for the heartbeat frequency to be exaggerated in the post-process frame rendering; causing the highlighted forhead location to pulse in sync with the user's own heartbeat (in real time).

Support for pulse-detection on multiple simultaneous people in an camera's image stream is definitely possible, but at the moment only the information from one face is extracted for cardiac analysis

thearn / webcam-pulse-detector (via O'Reilly Radar)

American oligopolies are the new monopolies

Tim Wu sez, "I wrote something quick in the New Yorker about America's big blind spot when it comes to big business -- if its not a monopoly, its no problem, so highly concentrated industries can get away with whatever they want."

This blind spot is of particular significance during an age when oligopolies, not monopolies, rule. Consider Barry Lynn’s 2011 book, “Cornered,” which carefully detailed the rising concentration and consolidation of nearly every American industry since the nineteen-eighties. He found that dominance by two or three firms “is not the exception in the United States, but increasingly the rule.” Consumers, easily misled by product labelling, often don’t even notice that products like sunglasses, pet food, or numerous others come from just a few giants. For example, while drugstores seem to offer unlimited choices in toothpaste, just two firms, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, control more than eighty per cent of the market (including seemingly independent brands like Tom’s of Maine).

The press confuses oligopoly and monopoly with some regularity. The Atlantic ran a recent infographic titled “The Return of the Monopoly,” describing rising concentration in airlines, grocery sales, music, and other industries. With the exception of Intel in computer chips, none of the industries described, however, was actually a monopoly—all were oligopolies. So while The Atlantic is right about what’s happening, it sounds the wrong alarm. We know how to fight monopolies, but few seem riled at “The Return of the Oligopoly.”

Things were not always thus. Back in the mid-century, the Justice Department went after oligopolistic cartels in the tobacco industry and Hollywood with the same vigor it chased Standard Oil, the quintessential monopoly trust. In the late nineteen-seventies, another high point of enforcement, oligopolies were investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, and during that era Richard Posner, then a professor at Stanford Law School, went as far as to argue that when firms maintain the same prices, even without a smoke-filled-room agreement, they ought to be considered members of a price-fixing conspiracy. (By this logic, the Delta and US Airways shuttles between New York and Washington, D.C., would probably be price-fixers, since their prices do vary by how far in advance you buy, but are always identical.)

The Oligopoly Problem

More earthquakes in Oklahoma

A 4.3 earthquake rattled Oklahoma City at around 1:00 am central today. You may recall that scientists have evidence connecting Oklahoma's sudden onset of small quakes to the disposal of liquid left over from gas and oil fracking operations.

Austin Grossman's YOU: brilliant novel plumbs the heroic and mystical depths of gaming and simulation


YOU is the second novel from Austin Grossman, whose 2008 debut Soon I Will be Invincible marked him out as a talent to watch. Now, with his second novel, he confirms his status as a major talent.

You is the story of Russell, who tries to leave behind his nerdy, computer-game-programming high-school life to get a law degree, but by the end of the 90s, he's dropped out and come to work at Black Arts, a game studio founded by three of his school buddies -- the three who stayed true to their nerdy roots. Black Arts is famous for its brilliant simulation engine, which was written by Simon, Russell's old school buddy, who has just died under mysterious circumstances, leaving the company he founded in uncertain shape.

Russell's story weaves in the fascinating fictional canon of the Black Arts games, his history as a teenager encountering the first generation of PCs, and the white-hot fever of a game studio whose existence depends on shipping a game to beat all the other games ever made. As a piece of fiction about life in a high-tech company, You ranks with Microserfs for its portrayal of the romance and heroism of wresting life from endless lines of code, and with JPOD for its pitiless depiction of the alienation and loneliness of a life inside a machine.

But Grossman isn't just chronicling the rise and fall of a company, or of a character, or even an industry. Rather, he uses YOU as a tool to prise open the mystical center of what art is, what games are, what fun is, and how they all mix together. Some of YOU reads as pure poetry, others like a fascinating treatise on the unplumbed depths of the ludic urge, and taken as a whole, it is a novel that both uplifts and entertains, and reframes the world we live in and the things we do in it. It is easily one of the best books I've read this year.

Incidentally, Austin Grossman comes from quite an exceptional family. His identical twin brother is Lev Grossman (author of the fantastic novel The Magicians), while his sister, Bathsheba Grossman, is a justly renowned sculptor who produces 3D printed mathematical solids. I am pleased to say I have many works from all three siblings in my office.

YOU