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Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com  

Daily pixel art club celebrates anniversary

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Ben Porter started @Pixel_Dailies, a pixel art club on Twitter, and the collected results are wonderful, like an inventory of memories from a computer you never owned.

Is Alphasmart STILL the ultimate writers' tool?

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I've written about the Alphasmart before, but David Kadavy explains succinctly why it's so good: the creative focus of a typewriter, and you get a text file.

The things that are crappy about this piece of “technology” are the things that make it great for writing. Productivity is all about mind management, not time management, and this pile of plastic helps me keep my mind in the right brain state for writing – and writing only. 1) It doesn’t connect to the Internet. 2) It has a tiny, nearly useless, screen. 3) Editing on it is a pain in the ass. 4) It doesn’t connect to the cloud. (It hardly connects to your computer.)

There's still not much like it. The Freewrite (formerly the Hemingwrite) is a new gadget which is functionally similar, but it's $350, significantly larger, and looks very silly indeed.

There are various other instant-on writing gadgets like the Alphasmart, lurking in the vintage no-mans-land between "focused" and "maintenance hell"—the Cambridge Z88 has a cult following, and folks out there are still obsessed with their Portable Tandys.

pomeraThe Pomera Note DM100 appears to the best current answer to all these devices, but I haven't had a chance to give it a whirl. The NEC MobilePro 780/900, an instant-on Windows CE device similar to these but with a more traditional display, was my favorite writing gadget until it died. It has a cut-down Microsoft Word. The email and web browser are 15 years old and so useless at this point they should not distract from writing. But … maybe they will. It's got plenty on it to let you noodle around not writing.

Kadavy even praises the Alphasmart's crummy operating system, which makes editing so difficult you won't bother. More focus on creative dumping!

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He's got a point, but there's a place for something more refined. No more features—just well-designed.

Here's what I would like: a compact bluetooth keyboard with a full-width e-ink display and an open-source OS. Turn off the BT and it goes into word processor mode. No fuss: just bluetooth, USB and at least one actually nice typeface.

It would look an awful lot like this Logitech keyboard. Imagine a nice high-dpi e-ink display instead of the solar panel. It would also come in green.

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Alabama governor orders Confederate flags removed from state capitol

Another southern state tears down the popular symbol of racism and slavery. In this Reuters photo, state workers take down a Confederate national flag on the grounds of the state capitol on Wednesday in Montgomery, Ala.

2016 presidential candidates: black metal edition

3047747-inline-i-8b-2016s-presidential-hopefuls-redesigned-as-black-metal-bands-copy Christophe Szpajdel rebranded the hopefuls with more elaborate and distinctive imagery than is permitted by the blandly inoffensive standards of election campaigning.

Study finds nice people sometimes win

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The perception is that they finish last, but "jerk perks" are overrated, reports Olga Kazan: "other research shows that in many situations, it pays to be nice. Not because it helps other people, but because it helps you."

It’s not just Rand’s studies that celebrate workplace menches. People in all industries increasingly desire leaders who are more like Gandhi and less like Gordon Gekko. As I wrote last year, there’s evidence that people are embracing female leaders in greater numbers, in part because, according to a meta-analysis from 2011, “Leadership now, more than in the past, appears to incorporate more feminine relational qualities, such as sensitivity, warmth, and understanding.”

In its 2014 leadership survey, the PR firm Ketchum wrote that there’s a “seismic move away from an outdated, ‘macho’ model of solitary leadership—a command-and-control approach centered on one-way rhetoric, obsessively controlled messaging and solitary decision-making—and towards a new, more ‘feminine’ archetype.”

A certain confusion sometimes sneaks into this discussion due to different understandings of what "nice" means. So-called "Nice Guy" behavior is often just passive-aggressive smarminess, with intentions all-too-obvious to those subjected to it.

These men will continue to finish last.

Since 911, domestic radicals deadlier in US than Jihadis

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Even excluding the Charleston massacre, white supremacists and their like are way ahead of Muslim extremists, reports The New York Times.

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Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.

The methodology excludes Sandy Hook and other killings deemed non-ideological. [Photo: Reuters]

Cable bills cut after FCC complaints

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Christopher Ferguson's Comcast bill was bullshit. When he complained, the company offered him alternatives that cost more. So he turned them in to the FCC and got relief.

Two customers, one of Comcast and one of Time Warner Cable, told Ars that the cable providers gave them price breaks last week shortly after they complained to the FCC about what they claim are unfair billing practices. These two complaints weren’t about net neutrality violations, but both customers we talked to seemed to be spurred into action by the FCC expanding its complaint system. Moreover, the FCC’s net neutrality order also reclassified broadband providers as common carriers, allowing for penalties if their billing practices are “unjust” or “unreasonable." The FCC has not said exactly what constitutes unjust or unreasonable pricing.

Photo: Comcast Center, Philadelphia, Mordor. Courtesy @funruly.

Amazon and eBay to ban Confederate merchandise (UPDATE: And Etsy too)

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Following the announced removal of the popular symbol of slavery and racism from state capitols, license plates and big box stores, online retail giants are following suit.

Amazon confirmed that it will pull "Confederate flag merchandise" from the website Tuesday afternoon, about an hour after eBay banned sales and auctions of similar stuff.

Sales of the flags were skyrocketing at Amazon at the time of the announcement. At the time of publication, a cheapo polyester Confederate battle flag remains the top seller in the site's flag category, knocking the ever-popular Swastika into second place.

The sudden revulsion at the flag follows last week's killing of nine people by white supremacist Dylann Roof, who has been charged with the murders and returned to South Carolina to face trial.

UPDATE: And Etsy too!

"Today, we are removing confederate flag items from our marketplace," the company said. "Etsy's policies prohibit items or listings that promote, support or glorify hatred and these items fall squarely into that category."

Virginia governor: take the Confederate flag off our license plates

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Terry McAuliffe announced the decision today, citing the recent killing of nine people at a black church by a white supremacist.

“Even its display on state issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people,” McAuliffe said in a statement.

McAuliffe said he's asked Attorney General Mark Herring to take steps to reverse a 2002 federal court decision that said Virginia could not block the Confederate Veterans from displaying its logo -- which includes the Confederate flag -- on state license plates.

At the same time, McAuliffe has asked his secretary of transportation to replace the plates depicting the flag.

“These steps will, I hope, make clear that this Commonwealth does not support the display of the Confederate battle flag or the message it sends to the rest of the world," McAuliffe said in a statement.

The move will ensure that vehicles such as the one pictured above will no longer promote the divisive emblem, symbolic of racism and slavery, on their number plates.

The move follows the announced removal of the flag from store shelves and South Carolina's government buildings. Several states offer similar plates; the Supreme Court ruled last week that states could refuse to issue them.

The first ever Nintendo Famicom ad

nintendo-famicomPerhaps not the model you remember, but in Japan in 1983, this was where it started. YouTuber Satoshi Matrix has uploaded many many more like it. [via r/games]

Australian comedian Jim Jefferies on guns and gun control

jimjefferies "Protection? What the fuck are you talking about? You have guns because you like guns." [NSFW. video link]

Rent-a-crowd agency happy with business from politicians

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Are you occasionally confused by the sparkly, shrieking jubilation of political rallies? Easily put down to partisan ardor, it is like so much else, often plainly fake.

Read the rest

Lenovo announces tiny Stick computer

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The IdeaCenter Stick 300 isn't much larger than a USB dongle, but claims to offer enough grunt to turn any monitor or TV into an "entertainment station."

Read the rest

Walmart to remove Confederate flag from stores

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America's largest retailer is to rid its shelves of flags and other tat sporting the popular symbol of slavery and racism.

Read the rest

Skinny jeans blamed for health troubles

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Warning, wearers of close-fitting denim! A woman in Australia had to be "cut out" of her skinny jeans after suffering muscle and nerve damage.

Read the rest

James Horner, 1953-2015

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The creator of legendary soundtracks to Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, Aliens and countless other famous movies died yesterday in a plane crash in California.

"We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent," Sylvia Patrycja, his assistant, posted to Facebook. "He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road."

He was the only occupant of the small, single-seater plane, which went down about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara.

Horner, 61, won two Oscars for his soaring work on Titanic. In scoring Avatar, his work came to define the emotional landscape of the two most successful movies of all time. He was reportedly working on the score for Avatar's forthcoming sequel at the time of this death.

Director Ron Howard wrote that Horner would "live on through the ages." At her website, Titanic collaborator Celine Dion wrote that she was deeply saddened by the loss: "He will always remain a great composer in our hearts. James played an important part in my career. We will miss him."

Investigators are examining the crash site near Ventucopa, an unincorporated community in the upper Cuyama Valley.

ISIS bans everything

pigeon-genitalsCigarettes are among the many fun things prohibited in the area controlled by Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq. The Associated Press interviews a smuggler daring to defy them.

“I swear, it’s out of hunger,” he said he pleaded with the men. The father of six told them he was the only breadwinner for his extended family and was helping his neighbors as well.

The fighters took him to the checkpoint commander, who warned Jamil he’d go to prison and his car would be confiscated. Jamil promised never to do it again. “Just let me go this time for the sake of my children,” he said. “If I don’t have money, what can I do? Should I steal? If I steal, you’ll cut off my hand.”

Among the other things banned by ISIS is the breeding of pigeons.

ISIS also demands that locals report anybody who continues the practice of pigeon breeding to the ISIS religious police, Hisbah. According to the order, those violating the ban for the first time will be flogged and fined a substantial sum of money, while repeat offenders will be jailed in an ISIS prison.

It was widely assumed earlier, when the rumors about the ISIS pigeon ban began to circulate, that the reason for such a measure was the use of pigeons for smuggling anti-ISIS messages or cigarettes.

However, the document clearly states that the ban “is intended to put a stop to the greater criminal act of harming one's Muslim and Muslim women neighbors, revealing the [pigeon's] genitals and wasting time,” the Daily Mail quoted it as saying.

Note that the reason given, if not the ban, was apparently fabricated by a tabloid newspaper for its readers' amusement.