Boing Boing 

Clever, vintage covers for Orwell reissues

Spotted these yesterday (though they've been around for a while - see Mark's post from January): Penguin's done a bunch of George Orwell paperback reissues with clever and vintagey covers. The Nineteen Eighty-Four has a black mask over the title that you can scratch off (or leave intact), while Animal Farm and Books v Cigarettes both sport lovely old school covers.

Kris Kross's Chris Kelly aka Mac Daddy, RIP

Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly of Kris Kross has died. He was 34. Kris Kross's big hit, of course, was "Jump" from their 1992 album "All Krossed Out." And yes, they were the kids who wore their pants backwards. (Billboard)

Infographic: how money corrupts Congress, and what to do about it

Money wins Elections is an excellent, scrolling infographic that illustrates how money corrupts the American legislative process, showing that time and again, Congress has voted the way that the big money told it to, against the prevailing popular opinion. It's all in support of the American Anti-corruption Act, and it was created by Tony Chu for part of his MFA thesis project.

Money wins Elections

The Matrix, retold by Mom

Austin filmmaker Joe Nicolosi: "My mom hadn't seen (or heard of) the Wachowski's classic sci-fi film The Matrix. We watched the entire movie together and right after she told me what it was all about."

(via Nikol Hasler)

Guantanamo attorney found dead in apparent suicide

Detainees at Camp X-Ray sit in a holding area with Naval Base Guantanamo Bay military police during intake on Jan. 11, 2002. Camp X-Ray is now an abandoned area. US DoD photo.

Jason Leopold at Truthout reports that an attorney who represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay, where a mass hunger strike is ongoing, was found dead last week in what sources said was a suicide:

Andy P. Hart, 38, a federal public defender in Toledo, Ohio, apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Hart left behind a suicide note and a thumb drive, believed to contain his case files. It is unknown where Hart died, what the suicide note said or whether an autopsy was performed.

Read the rest. Hart leaves behind a daughter, 11 years old.

Bloomberg publishes CEO-to-employee-pay chart

Alan sez, "Bloomberg got tired of waiting for the SEC to implement its own rule requiring disclosure of data on how many times the median salary the CEO makes for publicly traded companies so they did a little sleuthing of public data and a little averaging math and calculated the ratio for the top 250 of the S&P 500 companies. The data are searchable and sortable and there's space for companies to comment, which quite a few have done. To my surprise Oracle is not #1, though it is the only tech firm in the top 10."

Top CEO Pay Ratios (Thanks, Alan!)

Dig the latest videos in Boing Boing's video archives

Rob gave our Boing Boing video post archives a sweet makeover recently. Among the most recent video posts you will find on our all-new video page:

• PBS: The Movie, a PBS Meets The Avengers parody short
• How to barf in space
• A whirling maglev banana
• HOWTO make a HAL9000
• Video of recursive hand illusions
• Baboons raise pet dogs
• Repo Man: Criterion release and interview with director Alex Cox

Boing Boing: Video archives

How Wirecutter's Brian Lam works

My friend Brian Lam, whom I recently visited in Hawaii, knows how to live—and work. He wrote a wonderful piece for Lifehacker that you must read. Snip:

I recommend everyone either fix your job or quit it. The best thing I ever did was get out of news. There is an undeniable truth that when you're in a job, you have to do the job under certain terms and constraints and stresses that you have no way of avoiding. But no one said you have to keep jobs that drive you nuts.
Brian runs The Wirecutter and does fascinating stories about the ocean, some of which we've published here on Boing Boing. He's launching a new site soon.

Here is an adorable photograph of Brian doing kung fu on the beach as a child.

Notable new Vladimir Putin meme surfaces

Meet The Putins [9GAG].

PBS: The Movie, a PBS Meets The Avengers parody short

Steven Hudson of Cinesaurus, who produced this excellent nerd short, says:

It seems that we live in a world where more young people aspire to be future Kardashians and Jersey Shore-folk rather than scientists, teachers, and artists. With recurring threats of tossing PBS onto the federal chopping block, the final hope for our future rests in the hands of our childhood PBS superheroes. Carl Sagan recruits Mister Rogers, Bob Ross, and Bill Nye the Science Guy to form a team that must free young minds from the shackles of reality television. Think PBS meets The Avengers.

"If you wish to create a power team from scratch, you must first invent the universe." Watch: "PBS: The Movie."

High schooler blows stuff up for science — ends up charged with a felony

A Florida high school student with an interest in science mixed together aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner as an experiment. To her surprise, the mixture exploded. Unfortunately for Kiera Wilmot, she tried her experiment on school grounds.

It was a small explosion, and nobody was hurt. Wilmot was, otherwise, a good student with a perfect behavior record. But the school chose to expel her, have her arrested, and is supporting her being charged with a felony as an adult.

Scientists across the country are not amused. Biologist Danielle Lee writes about this incident in context with the discipline gap that treats minority kids more harshly for small infractions.

Through Twitter, scientists and educators speak up about the things they blew up for science, under the hashtag #KieraWilmot.

Mozilla to FinSpy: stop disguising your "lawful interception" spyware as Firefox

The Mozilla Foundation has sent a legal threat to Gamma International, a UK company that makes a product called "FinSpy" that is used by governments, including brutal dictatorships to spy on dissidents. FinSpy allows these governments to hijack their citizens' screens, cameras, hard-drives and keyboards. Gamma disguises this spyware as copies of Firefox, Mozilla's flagship free/open browser.

Gamma International markets its software as a “remote monitoring” program that government agencies can use to take control of computers and snoop on data and communications. In theory, it could be legitimately used for surveillance efforts by crime fighting agencies, but in practice, it has popped up as a spy tool unleashed against dissident movements operating against repressive regimes.

Citizen Lab researchers have seen it used against dissidents from Bahrain and Ethiopia. And in a new report, set to be released today, they’ve found it in 11 new countries: Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Panama, Lithuania, Macedonia, South Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bulgaria, and Austria. That brings the total number of countries that have been spotted with FinFisher to 36.

To date, Citizen Lab researchers have found three samples of FinSpy that masquerades as Firefox, including a “demo” version of the spyware according to Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at the Citizen Lab, who works as a Google Security Engineer. Marquis-Boire says his work at Citizen Lab is independent from his day job at Google.

Mozilla Takes Aim at Spyware That Masquerades as Firefox [Robert McMillan/Wired]

White Men Wearing Google Glass


SterlllllA funny Tumblr: "White Men Wearing Google Glass" (Bonus points for including Bruce Sterling.) (via Jason Tester)

Inexpensive smooth writing pencil: Mirado Black Warrior

The Mirado Black Warrior pencil is made in the USA from high quality materials, available practically everywhere, and, very importantly, cheap (hey, it’s a pencil, after all).

The Black Warrior’s No. 2/HB graphite is darker and softer than standard No. 2′s and has a wax additive to make it smoother. The writing experience is noticeably superior to most other pencils. It’s easier and more satisfying to write with, with less effort involved. The barrel is round, with a good hand feel, but that also means it rolls off inclined surfaces. One other con: the Pink Pearl eraser has pumice in it, which can abrade paper, unlike nylon erasers.

Other than that, it is flawless (and the cedar is pleasingly aromatic when freshly sharpened). Cheaper pencils aren’t a bargain if they’re hard to sharpen, scratchy to write with, and the lead tends to break. More expensive graphite pencils that are more suited to artists, along with the frequently mentioned Blackwings, don’t seem as practical at $20 for 12, in my opinion. They’re like the Ferraris of pencils, and harder to source than the Mirado.

I’ve used these pencils for over a year, and haven’t found one that has more bang for the buck. Paired with the Kum sharpener, these are a no-brainer part of my EDC (every day carry).

-- Tom Anvari

[On my friend Michael Pusateri's advice, I ordered 3 dozen of these pencils. They are about 90% as good as my favorite pencil, the Blackwing 602, which costs five times as much as the Mirado Black Warrior. I now use both! -- Mark]

Mirado Black Warrior Pencil $3.50 a dozen

Rumor: Koch Brothers to buy 8 major newspapers, including LA Times

The Koch Brothers -- billionaire ultra-conservative puppet-masters and Tea Party funders -- are rumored to be in talks to buy eight newspapers, including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant from the Tribune company, which is emerging from bankruptcy protection. Half of the LA Times's newsroom has threatened to quit if the Kochs take over.

One thing sure to happen if the Koch brothers take over the paper is a conservative agenda on the editorial page. As other newspapers have cut back on editorials and endorsements, the Times is now often the only LA news outlet that issues endorsements on political candidates and on ballot measures and initiatives. This is particularly crucial in California, where even the most educated voter is left clueless and confused -- or worse, tricked -- after reading the state propositions put on the ballot by Californians who simply gathered enough signatures to push a private agenda.

If the Times' editorial page is filled with the Koch brothers' libertarian opinions, other journalists in LA will need to step up and voice opposing views.

If Koch Brothers Buy LA Times, Half of Staff May Quit (VIDEO) [Kathleen Miles/HuffPo]

(via Reddit)

(Image: LA Times, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 24293932@N00's photostream)

New Canadian $5 celebrates the space programme

I'm pretty fond of the design of the new Canadian plastic $5 note, which is much improved if you draw Spock ears, eyebrows and hairline on old Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The new Canadian $5 bill has just destroyed every single other piece of currency in the world (IMO) (

In the Leech Library: Behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History

This is the second story in a four-part, weekly series on taxonomy and speciation. It's meant to help you as you participate in Armchair Taxonomist — a challenge from the Encyclopedia of Life to bring scientific descriptions of animals, plants, and other living things out from behind paywalls and onto the Internet. Participants can earn cool prizes, so be sure to check it out!

On the sixth floor of New York's American Museum of Natural History — far away from the throngs of tourists and packs of schoolkids — there is a cold, white room, filled with white, metal cabinets.

The cabinets are full of dead things; leeches, sea anemones, lobsters ... any kind of invertebrate you can imagine. Even a giant squid. All of them have been carefully preserved. Each soaks in its own, luxuriant ethanol bath. Here they sit, some for a hundred years or more, waiting for scientists to pull them out into the light.

It's a bit like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but for slimy, crawly, spineless things. There are collections like this all over the world, containing every species of animal, plant, and microscopic organism. Together, they serve as a record of Earth's biodiversity, a library of life. In them, you'll find more than just random specimens. Some of the individuals are special. Called "type specimens", they serve as ambassadors for their species, real-world models that define what each species is. For instance, the leech species Myxobdella maculata is both a group of leeches and exactly one leech — A leech that I got to meet on a behind-the-scenes tour with invertebrate curators Estefania Rodriguez and Mark Siddall.

Read the rest

Disney floats the idea of Haunted Mansion-themed hotel rooms

After a Walt Disney World family holiday, Dr. James Martin was sent an online poll by Disney asking if he'd be interested in returning and staying in a hotel room themed after one of the park's iconic rides, including the Haunted Mansion or Pirate of the Caribbean, or a princess room. The Haunted Mansion room mockups are pretty exciting, and remind me of my lifelong ambition to open a 12-room boutique haunted hotel someday.

Come spend the night with a few of the happy haunts who play in an enchanted bedroom inspired by the Haunted Mansion. Rest atop the floating Doom Buggy beds with a couple of friendly spooks and watch glow-in-the-dark, cartoon-like footsteps mysteriously appear as the evening sets in. A sliding bookcase creates a hidden passage to the bathroom and is the perfect hiding place for a hitch-hiking ghost. Oversized furnishings with curvy lines and bright colors add to the whimsy in the room. Guests will delight in finding the hidden special effects that play up the merry, rather than scary, room ambiance.

Would you stay in a Haunted Mansion themed hotel room? [Matt Roseboom/Attractions Magazine]

(via Mouse in Mansion)

Looking at the link between red meat, eggs, and heart disease

Two recent papers about heart disease from the Cleveland Clinic are making the rounds. The studies report that red meat and eggs cause heart disease because our gut bacteria converts carnitine and choline into Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a heart disease trigger.

At Huffington Post, Chris Kresser has questions about the papers:

[W]hile at first glance the papers from Dr. Hazen's group might appear to be the final nail in the coffin for the omnivorous among us, a closer inspection of their data reveals some troubling questions. First, a study back in 1999 found that seafood generates much higher levels of TMAO than red meat, eggs, or any of the other 46 foods tested. One species of fish, halibut, produced 107 times as much TMAO as beef, and 53 times as much TMAO as eggs. If high TMAO levels cause cardiovascular disease, and eating fish increases TMAO more than any other food, we'd expect to see high rates of heart disease in people who eat the most fish. Yet that is the opposite of what research shows. In fact, some studies have found eating more fish (particularly cold-water, fatty fish like salmon) reduces the risk of heart attack by a greater margin than statin drugs!
In fact, whole grains could play a role in elevating TMAO levels:
In their second paper, Dr. Hazen's team raises the possibility that the foods we eat aren't the primary driving force behind our TMAO levels, because most people are able to excrete excess TMAO that accumulates in the blood via the urine. This suggests that something else may be to blame for high TMAO. What could that be? One possibility, which the researchers themselves demonstrated in the first paper, is that differences in our gut bacteria could account for the higher TMAO levels observed in some people. They showed that those with greater amounts of a type of bacteria called Prevotella in their gut generated more TMAO after eating carnitine. And what might lead to a higher concentration of Prevotella in the gut? Ironically, previous research has shown that the people who eat large amounts of whole grains are the most likely to fit this pattern. This would suggest that a diet high in whole grains -- and not red meat or eggs -- could increase the risk of heart disease by elevating TMAO in the blood.
Red Meat and Eggs on Trial Again, But Jury Is Still Out

Asdfaksdfl-Class Transorbital Skimmer has near miss with primitive Earth vessel

The BBC reports: "The Airbus A320 was making its final approach to Glasgow Airport on 2 December when an object passed about 300ft underneath it. The pilot of the aircraft said the risk of collision with the object, which did not show up on radar, had been "high". A report by the UK Airprox Board said investigators were unable to establish what the object had been."

TOM THE DANCING BUG: Hollingsworth Hound - "The Sequester and YOU"

Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH Hollingsworth Hound explains the Sequester, and YOU!Read the rest

The techie novels of Nevil Shute

Last month I had a conversation with Dale Grover (co-founder of Maker Works in Ann Arbor, Michigan -- read his profile at Make) about the late author Nevil Shute. Shute is best known for the novel On the Beach (about a dying Earth after a global nuclear war) but we discussed a lesser-known novel of Shute's called Trustee from the Toolroom, which I read five or six years ago and absolutely loved.

Trustee from the Toolroom is a tremendously compelling and well-plotted adventure story from 1960 about a mild-mannered English columnist for a hobbyist magazine called Miniature Mechanic who is duty bound to recover a container of valuable jewels from his dead brother's wrecked yacht in the South Pacific. (Fun fact from Wikipedia: "Trustee from the Toolroom was voted #27 on the Modern Library Readers' list of the top 100 novels. The top ten in that poll, though, included four works by Ayn Rand and three by L. Ron Hubbard -- according to David Ebershoff, Modern Library's publishing director, 'the voting population [was] skewed.'")

During our chat, Dale told me he's read a bunch of Shute's other books, and he was kind enough to email me the next day with mini-reviews of them. I asked Dale if I could run his email on Boing Boing and he said OK. Here's what he wrote:

You have started with what I think is Nevil Shute's best book, but there are some really, really good ones:

A Town Like Alice No engineering, but a wonderful story about an English woman caught up in the Japanese invasion in Malaysia, then her transformation of a village and town later. It was made into a really well done mini series. (And a so-so version later on. Go for the long one, 6 hours but worth it.)

Slide Rule Shute's autobiography. You knew he started out in aviation engineering? One of his first jobs was helping to design one of a pair of airships for the British government. (He went on to found an aviation company, and later in life he had a home machine shop and made model engines.)

No Highway Another engineering one. A "boffin" (nerd) in aviation R&D has to act in the real world on his scientific beliefs. Was made into a great movie (was available on YouTube in its entirety at one point, but I don't see it now), and soon after a great radio drama (should be available online), both starring Marlene Dietrich and Jimmie Stewart. All are highly recommended!

The Far Country A sweet story (Shute had a romantic side), plus Shute was not happy about what was happening politically in England, and saw Australia (where he eventually moved) as offering the opportunities no longer possible in England.

Round the Bend Aviation mechanic starts a religion -- Engine maintenance as soulcraft. Set in the mideast post WWII.

The Chequerboard, Pastoral, Landfall, In the Wet -- all worth reading. And On the Beach is possibly his most well-known book for the powerful image of the results of a world-wide nuclear war. (It was made into a major movie, but I have not seen it.) It is not an upbeat story, though. Movie has some differences from the book that Shute did not like.

Shute's well-known trip to Australia by small plane is captured in Flight of Fancy by James Riddell. Bali is where Riddell lost his heart. There's some advantage in reading it after reading some of the books that came out of this flight -- A Town Like Alice, Round the Bend, The Chequerboard, In the Wet. (Aha -- that's where that scene came from.) It's on the outside looking in on Shute. Widely available used for about $15.

Be sure to poke around on the website for the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation. They do loan out books and movies (I donated my copy of the mini-series of A Town Like Alice). And every few years they have an international gathering. Next one is in NZ, I think.

Homeless man's A/B test of generosity based on faith

Redditor Ventachinkway caught a photo of a homeless man conducting a clever exercise in behavioral economics disguised as an inquiry into the levels of spontaneous generosity as determined by religious creed or lack thereof.

When I passed him he proudly announced "The atheists are winning!" ( (via Glinner)

"Oxyana," new doc on how Oxycontin addiction is destroying Appalachian communities

"Nothing here but Oxy and coal," says one of the subjects of Sean Dunne's new documentary Oxyana, which just won Special Jury Mention at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. From Capital New York's review: "The 'here' is Oceana, a once-bustling mining town in West Virginia, now decimated by Oxycontin addiction to the point where the media have rebranded it 'Oxyana.'" More at Indiewire and Cinema Blend. Dunne is the same director behind the Insane Clown Posse doc "American Juggalo." (HT: nils_gilman)

Design jargon bullshit: a Tumblog of greatness “Driving brand equity throughout the brand portfolio, providing an on-going strategy to support growth objectives.” “Our proven methodology includes the identification of what we call the ‘nugget of truth’ that exists in every brand.” “Our digital department eat, sleep & drink digital, then regurgitate it into information.” (HT: @notrobwalker)

Name-your-price SOPA history

Alan sez, "Demand Progress, part of Aaron Swartz's legacy, has been working for a while on a collection of essays and thoughts by people including Aaron, Lawrence Lessig, Techdirt's Mike Masnick, and Kim Dotcom. The collection is now available in ebook and paperback form. You can even pay in bitcoins, if that's how you roll."

You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack: a collection of Tom Gauld's brilliant cartoons

My glib description of Tom Gauld's cartoons would be "a science fiction Edward Gorey." It's unfair though, because there's is only a superficial stylistic resemblance between the two writer/illustrators.

To read a Tom Gauld cartoon or illustrated book (see my reviews of The Gigantic Robot and Goliath) is to be entertained, but also to be affected on a deeper level, where timeless truths about the human condition wait for talents such as Gauld to tap a line into them and provide lesser mortals like me with a chance to taste them.

Gauld's new book, You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack came out yesterday, and it consists of single panels that explore the passage of time, absurdism, and most of the 7 Deadly Sins, all presented with a sense of graceful whimsy that makes his work such a delight to read. Below, a sampling of You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack.

Read the rest

Why do shark embryos eat one another?

Tia Ghose: "[they] cannibalize their littermates in the womb, with the largest embryo eating all but one of its siblings. Now, researchers know why."

"Peeping Toms" tumble into ladies' restroom

In Atlanta, a pair of Peeping Toms reportedly fell through a bathroom ceiling as they tried to spy on women below. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the 26- and 27-year-old men are suspected of climbing up into the men's restroom ceiling area, crawling over the womens' side, then promptly falling into a lavatory stall.

300 gallons of urine stashed in house

The police in Newtown, Conn., are mulling whether to file charges against a man who stored "as much as 300 gallons of human urine" in his home. For reference, writes local reporter Libor Jany, the average person produces about six cups a day.