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Portable watermelon fridge


Tama-chan is a portable watermelon refrigerator on wheels. The Japanese device retails for 19,950 yen (about $200) and can handle watermelons or similarly shaped comestibles, such as poultry, roasts, or severed heads. The device itself weighs 6.3kg, and charges from a car lighter socket.

ポータブル温冷庫/The Portable Watermelon Fridge — Could It Be The Perfect Gift For The Person Who Has It All?

(via Digg)

Today is the anniversary of LSD inventor/discoverer Albert Hofman's death (*epilepsy warning)

TIP: mouseover to animate; don't mouseover if you have photosensitive epilepsy.

Five years ago today, the man who first synthesized Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) died at 102 years old. There's an informative Wikipedia article here, and the Albert Hofman Foundation website is here. The 5-year anniversary is the one where you take 5 tabs.

Hitler’s food-taster: "Every day we feared it would be our last meal"

"Margot Woelk was one of fifteen girls who spent two-and-a-half years testing Adolf Hitler’s all-veggie diet to make sure it wasn’t poisoned." When the Russians captured her (and the rest of the surviving food-taster girls), they raped her for two weeks. [barfblog] Xeni

How to barf in space

"How do you upchuck if there is no up or down? ISS commander Chris Hadfield explains what astronauts do if they have to vomit." More information on this very important skill for space travelers here.

Gold ring in the form of a dinosaur eating a chicken leg

Just what you always needed, but did not know until it existed, and it exists now: "A super detailed T-Rex eating fried chicken leg," which is available in dark oxidized silver or gold brass and sterling silver. Endorsed by Zach Galifianakis. Has crystal eyes (the ring, not Mr. Galifianakis). A hundred bucks. [verameat.com via @llaurappark]

How much time should you spend automating a routine task?


Today's XKCD really tickles me. "Is It Worth the Time?" is a handy chart showing how much time you can invest in automating any recurring task in order to save time, on balance, over five years. I am an inveterate automator of recurring task, always looking for ways to shave seconds.

On the other hand, I think I'd halve the figures Randy gives in this chart, because many of the routine tasks you automate will change in some significant way in less than five years and require further work. Also, the chart fails to account for the losses in innovation and serendipity you suffer when you over-optimize a routine task so that you effectively can only do it in one highly constrained way.

Finally, there's the opportunity cost of clearing a relatively scarce large block of time to spend on automation, which may be a better bargain than giving the task more time overall, where that time comes out of a pool of more abundant small snips of time.

In other words, a five day block of time given to automating a task might cost more (that is, might crowd out more productive work) than ten half-day blocks of time or 40 one-hour blocks.

Still: this is crack for me.

Is It Worth the Time?

What's big, corrupt, terrifying and worse than ACTA? TPP. Here we go again!


Remember ACTA, the terrifying, secret SOPA-on-steroids copyright treaty that the US government tried to ram down the world's throat? Well, it's back, only this time it's called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it's limited (for now) to the Pacific Rim. The TPP negotiators are meeting (in secret, natch) in Peru to twirl their mustaches and cackle, and EFF has posted a great infographic summing up their nefarious plan (see the whole thing after the jump):

The TPP is likely to export some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law to Pacific Rim countries: a broad ban on breaking digital locks on devices and creative works (even for legal purposes), a minimum copyright term of the lifetime of the creator plus seventy years (the current international norm is the lifetime plus fifty years), privatization of enforcement for copyright infringement, ruinous statutory damages with no proof of actual harm, and government seizures of computers and equipment involved in alleged infringement. Moreover, the TPP is worst than U.S. copyright rules: it does not export the many balances and exceptions that favor the public interest and act as safety valves in limiting rightsholders’ protection. Adding insult to injury, the TPP's temporary copies provision will likely create chilling effects on how people and companies behave online and their basic ability to use and create on the Web.

Read the rest

Minnesota taxman says real musicians don't tour or let their stuff be played on public radio

Jon sez, "Minnesota Department of Revenue tells musical artist during lengthy audit: You clearly aren't interested in profit, as you've "allowed" your music to be played on Minnesota Public Radio, you have had enough years of touring, so there is currently no need for any further promotional touring, and you should be signed to a major label by now."

Icelandic Pirate Party lands three seats in Icelandic parliament

The Icelandic Pirate Party has won three seats in its national Parliament in the Pirates' best-ever showing on the world stage. They form a small part of the opposition to the "center-right" Independence Party (Americans, please note that the Independence Party would be considered socialists by present US mainstream political standards). One of the new Pirate parliamentarians is Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic MP who volunteered for, and campaigned for Wikileaks. The Icelandic Pirate Party is only five nine months old!

The three new Icelandic lawmakers include Jón Þór Ólafsson, a business administration student at the University of Iceland; Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, a computer programmer; and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a well-known WikiLeaks volunteer and former member of parliament from 2009 to 2013.

Birgitta is also one of three activists involved in a WikiLeaks investigation currently underway in the United States. In November 2011, a district court judge found that prosecutors could compel Twitter to give up specific information on the three accounts, including IP addresses, direct messages, and other data. In January 2013, a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled (PDF) that Birgitta and the two others have no right to find out which other companies the government sought information from besides Twitter.

The trio, along with other members of Iceland’s digerati (including Smári McCarthy, who also is one of the organizers of the International Modern Media Initiative), founded the party just five months ago.

Pirate Party wins 3 seats in Icelandic parliament for its best result worldwide [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]

Guatemala: Genocide trial said to re-start Tuesday, April 30

A brief update on the trial of former US-backed military dictator José Efrain Rios Montt and his then chief of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez: word here in Guatemala is that the trial will re-open tomorrow in Judge Jazmin Barrios' courtroom. I will be present, continuing to blog the historic trial for Boing Boing. NISGUA has this update on the past week's legal wranglings that led up to today's news the trial will restart. Xeni

Great old indie bookstore in St Louis faces demolition as town considers proposal to site an industrial storage facility on its lot


Thorne sez, "I grew up in a bookstore in a 150 year old Victorian mansion in Rock Hill, St. Louis. I lived in an upstairs room until I was about 10, and we needed the space for more books. This weekend a demolition crew came into my family's store to take measurements for a proposed demolition. An out of state company wants to build an industrial storage facility on this location. This has been an operating independent family business for 30 years and I'm posting it because I believe this type of development needs attention. A friend started a change.org petition over the weekend. Also - it's haunted."

Apparently, the landlord is an "older guy who just wants to sell the property," and the real leverage point here is whether the city grants permission for the demolition and the storage facility.

City of Rock Hill, Missouri: Stop the tear-down and redevelopment of The Book House [Change.org]

Book House Issues Call To Stave Off Eviction [Publishers Weekly]

The Disapproval Matrix: a framework with which to understand The Haters

Ann Friedman writes, "In my ongoing quest for the perfect framework for understanding haters, I created The Disapproval Matrix." With Ann's helpful diagram, one can more easily "separate haterade from productive feedback." [annfriedman.com]

Slash: a new conjunction

"Slash" has emerged as a new conjunction, which is a rarity in slang. I love the fact that people spell out "slash" and then hyphenate it, and find it hard to believe that they're not doing this for the sheer delightful absurdity of it all:

...But for at least a good number of students, the conjunctive use of slash has extended to link a second related thought or clause to the first with a meaning that is often not quite “and” or “and/or” or “as well as.” It means something more like “following up.” Here are some real examples from students:

7. I really love that hot dog place on Liberty Street. Slash can we go there tomorrow?
8. Has anyone seen my moccasins anywhere? Slash were they given to someone to wear home ever?
9. I’ll let you know though. Slash I don’t know when I’m going to be home tonight
10. so what’ve you been up to? slash should we be skyping?
11. finishing them right now. slash if i don’t finish them now they’ll be done in first hour tomorrow

The student who searched her Facebook chat records found instances of this use of slash as far back as 2010. (When I shared a draft of this post with the students in the class to make sure I have my facts straight, several noted that in examples like (7) and (9), they would be more likely to use a comma in between the clauses and a lower-case “slash.”)

The innovative uses of slash don’t stop there either: some students are also using slash to introduce an afterthought that is also a topic shift, captured in this sample text from a student:

12. JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oatmeal raisin cookies at north quad and i miss you

Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore [Anne Curzan/Chronicle of Higher Education]

(via Making Light)

Drop: Minecraft creator's latest game is a typing tutor (or seems like one)

Have at it. My top score is 11 because I can't type.

Reporters, bloggers in Mexico march to protest violence against news media

In various cities in Mexico on Sunday, journalists from newspapers and independent online news organizations marched to protest "violence that has claimed the lives of co-workers and silenced news media in parts of the country." Demonstrators chanted “Justice!” and “Solution!,” and demanded that authorities investigate a string of murders, kidnappings and threats—like the unsolved brutal attack that claimed the life of muckraking reporter Regina Martinez. [LA Times, WaPo] Xeni