Boing Boing 

Massive fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX

A fertilizer plant in West, Texas caught fire and exploded last night. According to one eyewitness, "Every house within about four blocks is blown apart." The small town is north of Waco, and the early details are horrifying, including the collapse of a crowded nursing home. People reported hearing the explosion 45 miles away. The tweets have more detail, as does this MeFi thread. A sense of the size of the explosion can be garnered from this video.

TODOCAT: a cat-meme-based to-do-list manager

Soma of the Brooklyn Brainery created TODOCAT, a to-do list manager based on the elegant cat meme. I fucking hate cat memes, but I love to-do lists. I love this cat meme to-do list manager.

TODOCAT (via Waxy)

The secrets of bomb forensics

At the New Yorker, Paige Williams visits forensic chemist Adam B. Hall to talk about the surprising things you can learn about bombs and their makers by looking at the effects they produce — from the type and color of the smoke, to the smell that lingers in the air, to what the "boom" sounds like. I'd take Hall's speculation about the Boston Marathon bombings with a grain of salt (he's making his judgements from low-grade video and isn't part of the investigation), but the process he describes is absolutely fascinating.

Rep Steve Israel trying to score points with 3D printed gun hysteria

Michael Weinberg from Public Knowledge sez "Last week, Rep. Steve Israel introduced a bill designed to regulate firearms that cannot be found by metal detectors. The bill makes a passing reference the 3D printing, which is fine. But the rhetoric that Rep. Israel is using to promote the bill is both muddled and overblown, and focuses almost exclusively on 3D printing. He sent a letter to his fellow Members of Congress titled 'Co-Sponsor Legislation to Ban 3D Printed Guns.' This is a problem."

Comic book keyboard

A nice find from our G+ BB Community member D.S. Deboer.

At least 34 people have died in earthquakes in Iran

A 6.3 earthquake and one with a magnitude of 7.8 hit Western Iran in the course of just a week. These are largely rural areas, with a lot of mud brick buildings that tend to collapse when the earth shakes. It's hard to say how many casualties there are, in total. Scientifically speaking, the earthquakes were also fairly interesting, writes Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous. They happened in different — in fact, totally opposite — ways, with the smaller one happening as plates crashed into one another and the larger caused by tectonic plates moving away from each other. This was along the same plate boundary. How's that work? Rowan has the details.

Wired Magazine's 1992 media kit

Brian sez, "Fasten your seatbelts for a trip back in time, to 1992, when a tiny little startup called Coconut heard, in August 1992, that a new magazine was brewing, something called WIRED. We contacted them, they sent us a media kit. I kept it. Enjoy."

You have to remember that the World Wide Web was in its infancy. Not everybody had email. If you wanted to contact somebody you used the phone or wrote a letter for the most part. Unless they were on The WELL or worked at one of the few companies that had Internet and email. And most didn't.

So I made a few inquiries and found out WIRED's phone number in August 1992 and gave 'em a call. I spoke with Coco Jones, an ad sales rep who was just starting out on long media career. She sent me a WIRED Media Kit, which for some crazy reason I've kept for 21 years. I doubt anyone's seen this thing in 21 years, including me.

Revisiting the Original 1992 WIRED Media Kit (Thanks, Brian!)

HOWTO make Wonder Woman bracelets out of toilet paper rolls

Here's a great tutorial for making your own glittery superhero paper bracelets out of toilet-paper rolls. The trick is to use blue painter's tape backing to keep the cardboard intact while it's all gluey.

This may seem like a strange way of doing things - to cut and then stick back together etc - but we went through a couple of versions of this before the toilet roll pieces survived - when you paint the toilet roll it tends to collapse go floppy. This was the best process we came up with.

After you have cut, taped and stuffed your toilet roll you are ready to:
- paint (allow to dry)
- apply a light layer of glue and then roll in glitter (allow to dry)
- seal on the glitter by applying a layer of gluey glaze (1 part glue to 2 parts water) (allow to dry)
- add some super hero gems/sparkles

Once all your paint, glitter and glue is dry remove the newspaper and painters tape from inside and round of the corners.

Paper Roll Craft: Super Hero Bracelets (via Craft)

Goodnight Moon as a horror movie

David sez, "Did the children's book "Goodnight Moon" help put you to sleep as a little kid? Not anymore. Especially after watching its dark reimagining in this gritty movie trailer. I'm afraid the family-friendly search results for this children's book are going to be ruined as this video makes its rounds. Made by the Gritty Reboots team who most recently brought you Calvin and Hobbes as a dark Hollywood blockbuster."

Goodnight Moon: The Movie (Trailer) (Thanks, David!)

OMNI Magazine collection on the Internet Archive


The complete run of Omni, one of my all-time favorite magazines, is now available for free on the Internet Archive! In its late-1970s and 1980s heyday, Omni was a wonderful blend of technology, science, art, fiction, futurism, and high weirdness. It really inspired my own writing and interests. OMNI Magazine Collection (via Warren Ellis)

In fact, as I've posted before, if I could launch a new Boing Boing print magazine I'd want it to have this logo, courtesy of Mr. Beschizza:


UPDATE: Rob now says that this is what Boing Omni would look like...


Gweek 089: Marina Gorbis, executive director of Institute for the Future

NewImageEarlier this month, Boing Boing posted an excerpt from Marina Gorbis's fascinating new book, The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World. As David wrote, the book is "a compelling, provocative, and grounded book about how technology is enabling individuals to connect with one another to follow their passions and get stuff done, outside of large corporations, governments, and the other institutions that typically rule our lives." David and I spoke with Marina about The Nature of the Future for this edition of GWeek.

When Marina was a child, growing up in the Soviet Union, she lived with her sister and widowed mother, a medical doctor at a government clinic in Odessa. Her mother’s salary was meager, and her mother wasn’t a member of the privileged communist party elite, and yet Marina says she and her sister enjoyed a life filled with the arts, good food, fashionable clothes, travel, and education. It was all possible, she says, because her mother knew the value of social capital. “Social connections,” Marina writes, “were a powerful currency that flowed through [my mother’s] network of friends and acquaintances, giving her access to many goods and services and enabling our comfortable, if not luxurious, lifestyle.”

Marina never forgot this lesson about the incredible power of networked individuals, and it directed the course of her professional life. For the past 7 years, Marina has been the executive director of the Institute for the Future, an independent, non-profit research organization and creative design studio in Palo Alto California where David is also a researcher. IFTF helps organizations think about the future to make better decisions in the present.


Thanks to Soundcloud for hosting Gweek!

Zipper Club: fundraising a comic for kids with congenital heart defects

Dave sez, "THE ZIPPER CLUB is a comic focusing on survivors of childhood congenital heart defects, written by a survivor of such a condition himself. It's on Indie-GO-Go in hopes to put out a first print run. Part of the proceeds will go to the AHA and part of the run will be distributed to pediatric cardiac care centers for the kids who will truly benefit from it."

At age 8, Cliffy Goldfarb was the recipient of an emergency heart transplant. At age 9, Cliffy is now struggling to cope with the limitations his still recovering body is undergoing, and the fact that because of this, he has trouble relating to his peers. When his mom suggests spending his summer at Camp Bravehearts, a place for kids living with heart defects like his own, he has some trepidations about going this camp for “special” kids, but soon learns his worries were all over nothing when he meets a young girl named Rosie who introduces him to a group of new friends who encourage him by showing off their surgical scars to one another and inducting Cliffy into “The Zipper Club”.

Welcome to THE ZIPPER CLUB! (Thanks, Dave!)

Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer for Feature Photography


Javier Manzano won the 2013 Pulitzer Price for Feature Photography for this photo of two rebel soldiers in Syria, taken on October 18, 2012. Yes, those are bullet holes. All of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners were announced on Monday.

Man of Steel trailer #3

NewImageNew Man of Steel trailer with scenes of Krypton, Jor-El, Lara, Pa, young Clark, bearded Clark, shirtless Clark, supervillains, Lois, Superman, and the icy Fortress of Solitude which this time, I hope, can only be unlocked with an enormous key disguised as an airplane flight path marker -- as it was written. In theaters June 14.

Video: Nirvana's first live performance of "Teen Spirit," 22 years ago today

Twenty-two years ago today, Nirvana played "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time in public, at the OK Hotel in Seattle. This is video of the performance, five months before the release of Nevermind. The video is included on the box set Nirvana: With The Lights Out.

Homophobic attorney general, foiled by Constitution, announces Plan B

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (@KenCuccinelli), the blow job foe who failed to trick the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit into forgetting the Constitution, announced his plans to unleash an army of homophobic robots designed to break down doors and apprehend same sex couples. Here are two different designs. (Images via X-Ray Delta One)

Vintage cyanotype photos


Over at House of Mirth, esteemed vernacular photo collector Robert E. Jackson posts about the allure of collecting cyanotypes with some wonderful examples. The ghostly image above is from the collection of Erin Waters. Jackson posted this fascinating bit from the cyanotype Wikipedia entry:

The English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel discovered this procedure in 1842. Though the process was developed by Herschel, he considered it as mainly a means of reproducing notes and diagrams, as in blueprints. It was Anna Atkins who brought this to photography. She created a limited series of cyanotype books that documented ferns and other plant life from her extensive seaweed collection. Atkins placed specimens directly onto coated paper, allowing the action of light to create a silhouette effect. By using this photogram process, Anna Atkins is regarded as the first female photographer.
"Collecting Cyanotypes"

Carving an artificial cavern under NYC


New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority is digging an artificial cavern for a future Second Avenue Subway stop below 86th street. Patrick Cashin is photographing the massive operation. Fortunately, the tunnel has been blessed by a Catholic priest. Check out more of Cashin's photos on Flickr and a brief riff on the project by Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG.

Reddit users may have discovered a murder on Google Maps

The image ... is really a Rorschach test more than anything else. Do you see two people standing over a body wrapped in black plastic with an enormous trail of blood behind it? Or do you see two people about to pet a dog that’s just shaken itself off? Here, have another look.

Reddit users may have discovered a murder on Google Maps

Why is it so hard to make a phone call in emergency situations?

When bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on Monday, my Facebook feed was immediately filled with urgent messages. I watched as my friends and family implored their friends and family in Boston to check in, and lamented the fact that nobody could seem to get a solid cell phone connection.

Read the rest

CISPA: Congress wants to create unlimited Internet spying powers - KILL THIS BILL! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

CISPA is the latest Congressional proposal to do something unbelievably horrible with the Internet -- this time, it's letting US law enforcement and intelligence service raid all of your data, all the time, without letting you know, regardless of your service provider's privacy policy, in the name of preventing "cyberattacks," whatever they are.

It's about as horrible as it can be: the House Rules Committee won't even allow privacy-protecting amendments on the agenda; the bill's sponsor Rep. Mike Rogers dismisses people who oppose CISPA as 14-year-olds in their parents' basements; and a bunch of tech companies are lobbying in favor of CISPA because the bill cannily immunizes them from liability for firehosing your personal, sensitive information all over the place.

The sole bright light is this: the Obama White House has taken an uncharacteristically progressive stance on privacy this time around, and has threatened to veto the bill.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is, as always, the best place to go to find things you can (and should, and MUST) do to kill this insane proposal.

TOM THE DANCING BUG: The Great Photoshop War, USA vs. North Korea

Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH North Korea and the United States go to Photoshop-War.Read the rest

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier

Rolf Dobelli, author of the forthcoming book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, has an essay in the Guardian that explains the many reasons why you shouldn't read, listen to, or watch news. I don't agree with everything he says, but I found it thought-provoking.

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitization.

News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can't act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is "learned helplessness". It's a bit of a stretch, but I would not be surprised if news consumption, at least partially contributes to the widespread disease of depression.

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier

Effort to criminalise oral sex fails

A homophobic politician's attempt to recriminalize anal and oral sex has ended in failure in Virginia. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wanted to revive the state's “Crimes against Nature” statute; the Fourth Court unanimously blew him off.

Guatemala: Rios Montt genocide trial, Day 19

Former General and dictator Rios Montt, in a crush of reporters in the Guatemalan Supreme Court. Photo: @xeni.

I am blogging from inside the Guatemalan Supreme Court in Guatemala City this morning, on day 19 of the trial of former Guatemalan General and genocide and de factor dictator Rios Montt, and his then-head of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez. Montt's 1982-1983 regime was supported by the United States; during this era many thousands of non-combatant civilians were killed.

My report from yesterday's proceedings is here.

An excellent report from Kate Doyle is here at, a project of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The court adjourned at mid-day yesterday, as Judge Jazmin Barrios scolded Ríos Montt's defense team for effectively delaying the judicial process by failing to have defense witnesses present.

This early closure of the trial followed a dramatic moment: the court played series of interviews with Ríos Montt and two senior Army figures, filmed in 1982 by American documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates (Granito, When the Mountains Tremble). The silent, 86 year old Ríos Montt leaned back in his chair and looked up at the younger version of himself at the height of his physical and political vigor; it was a surreal scene, here in the courtroom.

Read the rest

Evil pheasant stalks seniors

An angry bird attacks Ben and Ann Hudson, a septuagenarian couple in England, every time they leave their Shropshire residence: "The 2ft tall thug pheasant, nicknamed Phil, swoops at the family as they come and go," but leaves the rest of the village unmolested. [Daily Mail]

The Portuguese Man-of-War

Jakob Schiller interviews Aaron Ansarov, who collects dead men-of-war from the beach with his wife, then takes astounding photographs of the remains. [Wired]

On riding motorcycles into storms

Joel Johnson is on a vision quest: "Not a bad way to put it. For my whole adult life, I've developed a good technique for dealing with bad situations: I run away. It's real effective. Stressful job? Quit it. Girlfriend upset? Leave her. Save money? Nope. Better to buy a motorcycle, pack up the bags, and hit the road."

How Ophira Eisenberg slept her way to monogamy

Photo: Matt Bresler

Whatever you do, don't call Ophira Eisenberg a comedienne. That's an outdated, patronizing term from an era when men patted women on the head (or, unsolicited, on the ass) and called Amelia Earhart an aviatrix.

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Welcome to your Awesome Robot: instructional robot-making comic now out in the US

Last month, I blogged a review of the kids' instructional comic book Welcome to Your Awesome Robot:

Welcome to Your Awesome Robot is a fantastic book for maker-kids and their grownups. It consists of a charming series of instructional comics showing a little girl and her mom converting a cardboard box into an awesome robot -- basically a robot suit that the kid can wear. It builds in complexity, adding dials, gears, internal chutes and storage, brightly colored warning labels and instructional sheets for attachment to the robot's chassis.

More than that, it encourages you to "think outside the box" (ahem), by adding everything from typewriter keys to vacuum hoses to shoulder-straps to your robot, giving the kinds of cues that will set your imagination reeling. For master robot builders, it includes a tear-out set of workshop rules for respectfully sharing robot-building space with other young makers, and certificates of robot achievement. I read this one to Poesy last night at bedtime, and today we're on the lookout for cardboard boxes to robotify. It's a fantastic, inspiring read! You can get a great preview of the book at NoBrow.

As of today, it's available in the US!

Welcome to your Awesome Robot by Viviane Schwarz [NoBrow]

Welcome to your Awesome Robot [Amazon]

Read the rest