Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

HOWTO make a spiral oak staircase out of cheap IKEA countertops


Bryce Phelps made himself a beautiful oak spiral staircase and saved a ton of money by cutting up cheap IKEA oak countertops for the treads:

I went with a 4" steel pipe from the local steel yard buying 18'. Also purchased some angle and flat steel to frame out the stairs. My treads needed to be 22" long making the whole staircase 4' including the center pipe. The treads are 30 degrees, so you can fit 6 on one side or 180 degrees together. I had a total of 7 treads or runs and about a 9" rise. Take the overall height and divide by the runs = the rise needed. Once all this was welded back supports aren't needed and the stairs are very rigid.

For the treads I headed to Ikea and picked up the 8' NUMERÄR Countertop in Oak, traced and pattern and laid out the cuts in pencil with the grain all going the same direction. I cut the straight lines with the skilsaw and round cuts with the bandsaw. Took the router to the edges and followed up with some sanding and stain. Attached the treads with lags and wiped everything down.

It really turned out better than I thought and for a fraction of the price + you get to tell people you made it.

Spiral Staircase with Numerar

20-foot dinosaur made from balloons


This 20-foot-tall acrocanthosaurus is made out of twisted-together balloons. It was created over four days by Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle's company Airgami for the lobby of the Virgina Museum of Natural History.

airigami (headed by larry moss) has completed a 20-foot long acrocanthosaurus--a dinosaur from the early cretaceous period. this is not the first time the team has built one of the mammoth creatures from their signature medium of balloons, but it is the first occasion in which they have produced and displayed one alongside a cast of an actual skeleton of a prehistoric reptile. finished over the course of four days, the massive inflated beast is installed within the virgina museum of natural history (for as long as it will last).

the core team of marsh gallagher, TJ michael, phil cosmos and dee cosmos who realized the larger than life blow-up sculpture were assisted by many helpers including elementary school students and museum staff.

20-foot dinosaur made from balloons by airigami [Designboom]

Building a Human: new retrofuturist short by Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz

Robert Popper (electrocuted) and Peter Serafinowicz (electrocuted) are back with a new "instructional film made by The Visitors for Human Collaborators on Edité-Frignim (Earth)."

Guatemala: Genocide trial may soon restart; Obama to meet with Central American leaders

PHOTO: James Rodríguez/mimundo.org. "Protest demanding continuation of Genocide trial aganst Rios Montt."

A brief Saturday update from Guatemala, where the genocide trial of former US-backed military dictator Rios Montt and his head of military intelligence Rodriguez Sanchez has been on hold after a series of legal actions involving various Guatemalan courts.

In case you're just catching up: here's the previous installment in our series about a march Friday that honored slain bishop and human rights defender Juan Gerardi.

The sense here today is that the trial could possibly reconvene next week, following Friday's hearing by Judge Carol Patricia Flores involving one set of disputed procedural details. But whether or when the trial will resume is not clear just yet.

Independent Guatemalan online news organization Plaza Publica has an explainer of Friday's proceedings here (Spanish).

And from the Open Society Justice Initiative's riosmontt-trial.org update (English):

Read the rest

Apple won't fix your computer if you smoke near it


Consumerist's Laura Northrup rounds up several years' worth of stories from Apple customers who say they were denied warranty support on their computers because they'd smoked around them. As an annoying ex-smoker, I can sympathize with a tech who doesn't want to work on a machine that smells like an old ashtray, but that's what painter's masks are for -- I've also serviced machines that reeked of BO and other less savory odors. This just feels like a way to weasel out of doing warranty service and forcing customers to pay for new machines. If the company has a policy of not fixing machines if you smoke near them, it should say so when it sells you the warranty: WARNING: IF YOU LIGHT UP NEAR YOUR LAPTOP, WE WON'T EVER FIX IT, EVEN IF IT IS MATERIALLY DEFECTIVE.

Dena set up an appointment at the same Apple store. They told me that they would take pictures of the computer – both inside and out before determining whether to proceed and that if the only problem was the optical drive, they’d probably just replace it. Dena called me earlier this week to deliver the “bad news.” She said that the computer is beyond economical repair due to tar from cigarette smoke! She said the hard drive is about to fail, the optical drive has failed and it isn’t feasible to repair the computer under the warranty. This computer is less than 2 years old! Only one person in my household smokes – one 21 year old college student. She said that I can get it repaired elsewhere at my expense. I asked why my warranty didn’t cover the repair and was told it’s an OSHA violation.

Smoking Near Apple Computers Creates Biohazard, Voids Warranty

HOWTO make a magnetic detachable stapler for center-stapled booklets and the like


On Instructables, DIYHacksAndHowTos has a great method for separating a cheap stapler and sticking magnets on both halves, enabling you to center-staple booklets and the like. Every year or two, I do something zine-like that requires this sort of thing, and I always end up wasting money on a long-reach stapler that's always lost by the time the next project rolls around. (Don't get me wrong, long-reach staplers are awesome, but if you only need to do booklets once every year or two, they're a lot of investment). This is what I'll do next time (and as a bonus, it'll be great for kid craft projects where we want to use a staple in th center of a large sheet of paper).

One limitation of a typical office stapler is that it only lets you staple about 3 1/2" into the paper. This isn't enough for a lot of projects. If you want to put together your own comic book or a large banner, you are usually stuck stapling your project onto a piece of cardboard or carpet and then bending the legs of the staple by hand. They do sell extra long staplers or staplers with swivel heads but they still have their limitations.

A better option would be to make a stapler with a detachable base. The base would be positioned under the paper and aligned to the top half of the stapler with magnets. This would allow you to staple any area of a project regardless of location. So in this project, I am going to show you how to convert a standard stapler into a two part magnetic stapler.

How to Make a Two-Part Magnetic Stapler by DIYHacksAndHowTos (via Lifehacker)

Pirate Cinema up for Canada's Aurora Award

The 2013 Prix Aurora Award ballot has been announced, and I'm delighted to see that my novel Pirate Cinema is up for the prize in the Young Adult category. The Auroras are a people's choice award given for Canadian science fiction and fantasy, and I'm delighted to be recognised in the land of my birth! The whole ballot is a great signpost to some wonderful Canadian literature, and the young adult section is particularly strong:

Best YA Novel – English
Above by Leah Bobet, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, Harper Teen
Dissolve by Neil Godbout, Bundoran Press
Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero by Michell Plested, Five Rivers
Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, TOR Teen
Under My Skin: Wildlings Series (Book 1) by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada

2013 Aurora Ballot Announced

Suburban Express bus-line sends bullying, cowardly legal threat to Reddit, discovers Streisand Effect


A convicted cybersquatter named Dennis Toeppen now runs the Suburban Express bus service that is used to take students home from university in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa to Chicago. Suburban Express attracts many online complaints from riders who object to the company's policy of fining riders $100 (charged automatically to their ticket-purchase credit-card) if they present the wrong ticket when they board, and other, similar policies -- and who allege that the company hunts down its online critics and bans them from riding.

But Toeppen and Suburban Express went too far when it threatened a volunteer Reddit moderator with a defamation suit for failing to police the company's critics on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign subreddit, where a banner read, "Don't ride Suburban Express! They're likely to sue you, have terrible reviews, and also this." The banner implied that an anonymous Reddit commenter who accused Suburban Express critics of of being "lonely virgins" was run by Toeppen or his representatives.

The ensuing negative publicity (and a stern note from Ken "Popehat" White) frightened the bullying, cowardly company into withdrawing its threat. But with any luck, the company's public conduct will warn its potential customers away and make the offers presented by its rivals more attractive. If I was running a competing bus service, I'd be buying ad space on the subreddit in question, running ads that say, "Ride with us, we don't fine you, we don't ban you for complaining, and we won't threaten to sue you if you aren't happy!"

The company has developed a bad reputation online, with reviewers on Yelp and commenters on reddit sharing stories of what they claim are the company’s cutthroat business practices. For example, the company's ticket policy includes a "ticket fraud" clause that hits riders who hand the wrong ticket to a driver with a $100 fine, charged to the credit card used to purchase their ticket. "In the event that ticket is used to obtain transportation on another day or at another time," the company's policy statement reads, "or to or from a Chicago area stop other than printed on your ticket, you will be charged full fare for the trip you actually rode PLUS $100 penalty. You will also be permanently banned." The company also has a history of suing passengers for violating its terms and conditions—it has filed 125 tort and contract damage lawsuits against passengers this year alone, according to a report from a student newspaper.

The terms of service don't include not speaking ill of the company online, but apparently they might as well. Some commenters have accused the company's owner, Dennis Toeppen, of hunting down negative reviewers and banning them from the company's buses.

The Internet cauldron of opinion boiled over for Suburban Express after an incident on March 31. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate student Jeremy Leval took to Facebook, describing a driver he saw make derogatory comments to an international student who was having difficulty understanding him—“If you don’t understand English, you don’t belong at the University of Illinois or any ‘American’ University," he reportedly told her.


Update: Aaand here it is: a rival company, Peoria Charter, is advertising to Suburban Express customers with a campaign that stresses that they don't sue their customers. They're offering $2 off if you book tickets on their coaches with the promo code "nolawsuits" -- thanks, Murph!

Express to Internet Hate: Bus company threatens redditor with lawsuit [Sean Gallagher/Ars Technica]

Japanese Star Wars poster dresses


These Star Wars dresses are apparently coming to Hot Topic at some unspecified time in the future.

Her Universe Teases Star Wars Dresses, Makes Us Drool

Bath salts in Britain

The Guardian's Mike Power investigated the "legal highs" industry and found a pretty disturbing world where you can get kilos of LSD, cannabis and MDMA replacement couriered to you for a pittance. But unlike the drugs they replace, these ones are potentially lethal, and sold interchangeably to unsuspecting neuronauts and punters. Cory

Automated constrained poetry, made from Markov Chains and Project Gutenberg

A "Snowball" is a poem "in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer." Nossidge built an automated Snowball generator that uses Markov Chains, pulling text from Project Gutenberg. It's written in C++, with code on GitHub. The results are rather beautiful poems (these ones are "mostly Dickens"):

o
we
all
have
heard
people
believe
anything

i
am
the
dawn
light
before
anybody
expected
something
disorderly

i
am
the
very
great
change

Snowball (also called a Chaterism) (via Waxy)

Congress fixes "sequester" air traffic control disaster just in time for their own flights home


The Congressional deadlock known as the sequester has been tough on America, especially on travellers, as air traffic controllers found themselves with mandatory 10% paycuts (attained through one-day-in-ten furloughs) and the delays on good-weather days at major airports like JFK shot up to snowpocalypse-like 2-3 hour slogs. But don't worry, Congress is on it! They've fixed things for the air traffic controllers -- and just in time! After all, Congress is recessing, and the Congresscritters themselves will all have to fly home.

Unlucky for them -- and the rest of America -- many of the most experienced air traffic controllers who'd been delaying retirement threw up their hands at this situation and left their jobs permanently, leaving a talent gap in one of America's most vital and esoteric industries.

On Thursday night and Friday afternoon, however, the Senate and House were literally moved to action by jet fumes: Congress rushed legislation to patch funding for air traffic controllers furloughed by the automatic budget cuts known as the “sequester” just before jetting home for a week in their states.

The Senate passed the bill without a vote Thursday night. House lawmakers approved the legislation, 361-41, before scampering out of town Friday.

The legislation stopped FAA staff reductions that left planes idling on runways across the country and canceled some flights altogether.

Before members rush for airports, Congress ends sequester flight delays [David Grant/Christian Science Monitor]

(Image: AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL, CONTROL TOWER (INTERIOR), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from publicresourceorg's photostream)