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Cory Doctorow

I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

Rockabillly space-skeleton DJ backpack


This is a pretty perfect dads-and-grads season item: a backpack featuring: a) a skeleton with; b) sideburns and a quiff, wearing; c) a spacesuit, standing on d) the moon, while e) working a set of turntables. That's the whole package, all right.

Mojo Blast Off Backpack (via Crazy Abalone)

Spotters' guide to UFOs, 1967


Found in Bruce Sterling's tumblr: UFO typologies, 1967

Kinetic sculptures made from popsicle sticks


Joyce Lin, a design student at RISD, has produced a wonderful set of kinetic sculptures made from popsicle sticks and other media, produced in spare time during the semester. They're incredibly fun to watch and I'm sure they're a delight to play with in person. The rest of her portfolio is equally exciting.

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Google's Project Ara: a click-in/click-out modular concept phone


Modular mobile phone design feels important; I've been excited about the idea since Xeni posted about Phonebloks last September. Now, Google and New Deal Design have floated a concept for a modular Android phone ecosystem called Project Ara that's got me even more worked up. Project Ara lets you swap modules (batteries, radios, cameras, screens, etc) around between "exoskeletons." They call it an "ecosystem" because third parties are meant to be able to supply their own modules for an open spec.

A good overview in Wired discusses the possibilities this opens up (night vision, 3D imaging, biometrics) but I'm more interested in the possibilities for surveillance-resistant open source hardware, and hot-swapping modules that lock phones into carriers. Plus, as a serial phone-shatterer, I love the idea of being able to click out a busted screen and click in a fresh one.

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Shakespeare's Beehive: analysis of newly discovered dictionary that Shakespeare owned and annotated


Here's a review of Shakespeare's Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, a newly published analysis of a recently discovered Elizabethan dictionary that Shakespeare used for his plays, and which he heavily annotated. The dictionary, "An Alvearie or Quadruple Dictionary," written by John Baret in 1580, came to light in an Internet auction, Beehive's authors make a compelling case for this book having been annotated by Shakespeare himself. They proceed to analyze Shakespeare's annotations in light of his works. It looks fascinating, and as with all great works of scholarship, there are dirty parts:

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HOPE X conference: Dissent in NYC


Emmanuel from 2600 writes, "It should come as no surprise that dissent is playing a prominent role at the HOPE X conference this July in New York. So many technological developments of late involve standing up to authority and questioning the status quo. Whether it's using social media to organize people into doing something worthwhile, exposing security holes in the face of threats and lawsuits, becoming a whistleblower by using the information and technology we have access to, or just getting the word out about the latest laws, restrictions, and threats to our freedom and privacy, a lot of what we talk about constitutes one form or another of dissent. And it feels pretty good and healthy to speak out and share knowledge."

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Reddit's /r/technology demoted over scandal of secret censorship that blocked Internet freedom stories


Alan sez, "According to various media reports (e.g. BBC) the technology subreddit has scrubbed its moderator team after users discovered that the sub was holding a secret censorship list of banned words that included 'National Security Agency', 'GCHQ', 'Anonymous', 'anti-piracy', 'Bitcoin', 'Snowden', 'net neutrality', 'EU Court', 'startup' and 'Assange'.

On its face, this looks like a list of politicized terms, and blocking them looks like a highly political and partisan act -- for example, by blocking "net neutrality," then stories that are critical of network discrimination would be blocked, while straight news stories that overwhelmingly quoted corporate spokespeople using uncritical terms would make the front door.

More charitably, it may have been the act of overworked (and ultimately irresponsible) moderators to simply ban hot-button topics altogether.

Here's the Reddit post that outed /r/technology's moderators.

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Appeals court orders Obama administration to disclose the legal theory for assassination of Americans

The Obama administration has lost a high-stakes lawsuit brought against it by the New York Times and the ACLU over its refusal to divulge the legal basis for its extrajudicial assassination program against US citizens. The Obama administration declared that it had the right to assassinate Americans overseas, far from the field of battle, on the basis of a secret legal theory. When it refused to divulge that theory in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, the Times and the ACLU sued. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has found in the Times's and ACLU's favor.

The Obama administration had insisted that the legal memo in question was protected as a national security secret. However, the court found that because the administration had made statements about the memo, assuring the public that the assassinations were legal, it had waived its right to keep the memo a secret. There's no work on whether the administration will appeal to the Supreme Court.

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Afterparty: neuro-technothriller


Afterparty is a new, excellent science fiction novel by Daryl Gregory, about drugs, God, sanity, morals, and organized crime. Its protagonist, Lyda Rose is a disgraced neuroscientist who once helped develop a drug that rewired its users' brains so that they continuously hallucinated the presence of living, embodied Godhead. Now Lyda is in a mental institution, where she is attempting to win over the therapists who oversee her -- as well as the angelic doctor that manifests only in her mind.

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Identify this mysterious animal skeleton


Spotted yesterday at the Cedar Avenue in Hakone, Japan: a mysterious skeleton. What is it?

This Day in Blogging History: Covering the Boston Marathon bombing coverage; Clute on Ballard; Finger booty trick

One year ago today
Covering the Coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings: Hilary "Chartgirl" Sargent breaks down the highs and lows of the media coverage of this week's attacks in Boston.

Five years ago today
JG Ballard eulogized by John Clute: His late novels never flinch from addressing the "elective psychopathy" that increasingly riddles the anaesthetised world we are now beginning to inhabit. It is a fate Ballard had been predicting for half a century.

Ten years ago today
Digital camera silliness: secret finger trick: This page has dozens of photos like the one shown here. Safe for work, but if your boss catches you checking it out, you'll have to let her/him in on the secret.

This Day in Blogging History: Warren Buffet v goldbugs; Norwegian pirates buy more music; Dozois leaves Asimov's

One year ago today
Warren Buffet vs goldbugs: “If you put your money into gold or other non-income- producing assets that are dependent on what someone else values that in the future, you’re in speculation,” he said. “You’re not into investing....”

Five years ago today
Norwegian P2P downloaders buy more music: There's a simple explanation for this: if you really love music, you do lots of music-related things. If you're in the 20 percent of fans that buys 80 percent of records, you're probably in the 20 percent of downloaders that download 80 percent of music, the 20 percent of concertgoers that buy 80 percent of the tickets, and so on. The moral is that music superfans love music and structure their lives around it.

Ten years ago today
Gardner Dozois stepping down from Asimov's: Gardner's won the Hugo for best editor 14 times, making him one of the award-winningest editors in the history of the field, and the stories in Asimov's are stunningly well-represented at every year's Nebula and Hugo awards.

Zentai: full-body masked spandex subculture from Japan

Zentai (short for "zenshintaitsu," Japanese for "full body suit") is a largely obscure Japanese subculture whose adherents go out wearing full-body patterned spandex suits that cover their faces. In a relatively unsensational article in the Japan Times, Harumi Ozawa talks to a few zentais about their hobby, and learns that for some proponents, being completely covered is a liberating experience. The zentais in the article describe the suit as an anonymizer that frees them from the judging gaze of society, which is a fascinating study in contradictions, since the suits undoubtably attract lots of judgmental looks, but these seem to adhere to the suit without penetrating to the wearer within.

Some zentais wear their suits in superhero fashion, and do good deeds in public, while others wear the suits for sexual kicks. They are often mocked in Japanese pop culture. One academic cited in the article believes that the wearers use the suits to hide their appearance in order to force others to deal with their "true" underlying identity.

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Playing Jenga with heavy earth-moving equipment

In Stack competitions, a bunch of earth-moving equipment plays a monster-scale game of Jenga with 600lb blocks of wood -- pretty amazing skill on the part of the operators!

This is pretty amazing, but don't get too excited about Cat's equipment. Remember, this is the company that bought an Ontario factory, got a huge, multi-year tax break out of the government, then, pretty much the day it ran out, demanded a 50% wage-cut from the union, refused to negotiate, then closed down the factory, fired its workforce just before Christmas, and split town, having waxed fat on corporate welfare. No amount of fun promotional Jenga games can change the fact that if Cat's corporate personhood was literal, the company would be such an obviously dangerous sociopath that it would be permanently institutionalized to protect the rest of society.

Built For It Trials - Stack: Largest Board Game Played with Cat Excavators (via JWZ)

Profile of Aeropress and Aerobie inventor Alan Adler


Alan Adler is a Stanford engineering professor and inventor who's had two remarkable -- and wildly different -- successes: the long-flying Aerobie disc, and the Aeropress, a revolutionary, brilliant, dead-simple $30 coffee maker that makes pretty much the best cup of coffee you've ever tasted. I've given Aeropresses to a dozen friends, I keep one in my travel-bag, and I've got Aeropresses at home and at the office. I use mine to make hot coffee and to filter cold-brew (including hotel-room minibar cold-brew that I brew in breast-milk bags).

Zachary Crockett has a great, long piece on Adler and the process that led to the creation of these two remarkable products. Adler's first success, the Aerobie, was the result of lucking out with the major TV networks and magazines, who provided him with the publicity he needed to get his business off the ground (literally). But with the Aeropress, the defining factor was the Internet, where a combination of coffee-nerd message-boards (where Adler could interact directly with his customers) and an easy means for coffee-shop owners all over the world to order Aeropresses for retail sale made the Aeropress into a global hit.

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