Boing Boing 

Lisa Katayama

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.

TEDWomen Day 2 highlights: personal robots, breast cancer detection, and parenting taboos

I departed TEDWomen feeling very inspired, happy, and exhausted. The event was amazing, though I do think they could have done a better job of bringing more smart women who can talk about traditionally non-women issues — math, sports, science not related to breasts or pregnancy — to the stage. (Hearing Danielle Fisher talk about how she felt when she became the youngest woman to climb the Seven Summits, for example, would have been more fulfilling to me than listening to a parade of political figureheads talk about what it was like to be both a grandmother and a leader.) I hope TEDWomen will catalyze bringing more women to main TED, and that we'll be able to dig deeper beyond the rhetoric female empowerment and gender disparity to stories about women who do really cool shit and don't necessarily have to frame it as a woman thing.

Here are some highlights from day two (see also: Session 1 highlights & Session 2 highlights.):


Cynthia Breazeal, founder of the Personal Robots Lab at MIT, talked about how personalized robots can be used to improve communication, health, and media. She's been fascinated with personal sidekick robots since watching Star Wars as a child and has expanded her research based on the idea that robots = social technology. "People respond to robots a lot like how they respond to people," she says — by how likable, engaging, and trustworthy they are.

Read the rest

Highlights from TEDWomen Session 2:, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, and A Call To Men

There were three really amazing talks in the second session of TEDWomen this evening. (Highlights from session 1 are here.) Here's a quick summary:


Courtney E. Martin, the 30-year old co-editor of, gave an engaging and deeply moving talk at Session 2 of TEDWomen today about how her generation is re-imagining feminism. She explained it as three paradoxes:

1. Reclaiming the past and promptly forgetting it.
Martin, the daughter of liberals, grew up denying that she was a feminist until she saw Manifesta co-author Jennifer Baumgardner in fishnet stockings. Part of the challenge of feminism, she says, is to acknowledge that aesthetics, beauty, and fun do matter. "My feminism is very indebted to my mom's, but it's very different. [She] says patriarchy, I say intersectionality... she says protest march, I say online organizing... Feminist blogging is the 21st century version of consciousness raising." Feminism is no longer about man-hating and Birkenstocks.

2. Sobering up about our smallness and maintaining faith in our greatness.
Shortly after graduating from Barnard College in 2002, Martin became disillusioned by the lack of impact she felt she was having even though she worked at a non-profit and took part in volunteer protests. When she sat down to tell her family about it, her mom said to her: I won't stand for your desperation. Even if what you're doing feels small, you still have to have faith in the grandeur of it all.

3. Aiming to succeed wildly and being fulfilled by failing really well.
Martin quoted Parker Palmer, who said:

We are whiplashed between an arrogant overestimation of ourselves and a servile underestimation of ourselves.
After she picked herself up from her disillusion, Martin realized that life is not about glory or security; instead, you have to embrace the paradoxes, act in the face of overwhelm, and learn to love really well.

Read the rest

Highlights from TEDWomen Session 1: finance in Iceland, Hans Rosling on washing machines, and how women + humor = change

I'm at TEDWomen, which takes today and tomorrow at the International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The organizers have turned this venue into a wonderful little sanctuary with massage stations, a cartoon exhibit, and lots and lots of coffee — much needed after the red eye that brought me to the biting cold East Coast just this morning. Here are some highlights from the first session:


Hans Rosling gave a funny talk that posited economic development against the proliferation of the washing machine. When Rosling was seven, he watched his mother load a washing machine for the first time in his life. They invited his grandmother over to watch — she has been heating stoves on firewood to handwash clothes for seven children with her entire life — and the grandmother sat mesmerized in front of the contraption through the entire wash cycle. "To [her], the washing machine was a miracle."

It doesn't take much research to know that the bottom two billion people live on less than $2 a day — below the poverty line — and that one billion people spend more than $80 a day — above what he calls the "air" line. Rosling did some serious digging and number crunching to divvy up the economic scale by washing machine ownership. It turns out that an additional one billion people own washing machine, i.e. live above the "wash" line. These people spend about $40 a day. This means that, in a world with seven billion people, two billion have washing machines and the remaining five billion still wash their clothes by hand. This is a task that mainly falls on women, who spend hours every week performing this heavy-duty task by hand, often lugging water to their homes or their laundry to a water source far away. "They all want a washing machine. There's nothing different about their wish than my grandma's two generations ago in Sweden."

Rosling wrapped his talk with two important points: one, that as the population grows, the top consumers of money and energy need to spend less energy and transfer some of the current energy usage to green energy usage. Two, having a washing machine allowed him and his mother the time to enjoy things like reading books.

Read the rest

The Last Hospice

I'm a volunteer at Maitri, the only remaining AIDS hospice in San Francisco. Once a week, I hang out with its 15 residents, run errands for them, and — sometimes — sit at their bedsides as they go through the process of dying. I do it because I like to face my fears, and death is the one thing that I fear the most.Read the rest

Longshot Magazine's treasure map: follow it and win $750

tumblr_l7mo9w9KW61qz4udc.jpg Over the weekend, the staff of Longshot Magazine (previously known as 48 Hour Magazine) hid $750 somewhere in San Francisco. Now they've revealed four clues on their web site — including this treasure map by Wendy MacNaughton — to help you find it. If you locate it, the cash is yours. So what are you waiting for?

The Great Longshot Treasure Hunt

Climb On!

I want to entertain an offhand theory that I've had ever since I became obsessed with indoor rock climbing two and a half years ago: It's great for geeks, and we should all be doing it.Read the rest

Watercolor painting depicting cell division

artologica_celldivide.jpg Artist Michele Banks uses watercolor to depict natural, scientific, and medical phenomena. This one above shows cell divisions (note that it's not meant to be completely accurate); another one I like is a bright blue canvas with a single line showing someone's heart rate. Her work is available for sale in the Makers Market/Boing Boing Bazaar!

[via Try Handmade via Submitterator]

Japanese TV commercial for jock itch cream

Check out this great Japanese TV commercial for Delicare M's, a jock itch cream. Tokyo gets really hot in the summer, and men still have to wear suits to work, so the idea of a refreshingly itch-less crotch is likely to appeal to many salarymen.

[via Spoon & Tamago via TokyoMango]

Octopuses? Octopi? Octopodes?

What's the plural of octopus? Octopuses? Octopi? Octopodes? According to this video by Merriam Webster editor Kory Stamper, all three are technically correct. Video link.

(via Jen Phillips' Twitter)

August Titanic expedition will create 3D map of the wreckage

e39e630d-f038-4298-aaa4-7bd3bf302d17_part6.jpgOn August 18th, an expedition team will be heading out to the Titanic site to create a 3D map of the wreckage 2.5 miles beneath the sea. 1,522 people died in the Titanic shipwreck in 1912; oceanographer Robert Ballard discovered the remains in 1985, and since then a bunch of different expeditions have headed out there in an attempt to salvage artifacts or take photos. But this one appears to be by far the most technologically intensive and expensive mission.
The "dream team" of archaeologists, oceanographers and other scientists want to get the best assessment yet on the two main sections of the ship, which have been subjected to fierce deep-ocean currents, salt water and intense pressure.

...The expedition will use imaging technology and sonar devices that never have been used before on the Titanic wreck and to probe nearly a century of sediment in the debris field to seek a full inventory of the ship's artifacts.

New Titanic expedition will create 3D map of wreck [SFGate]

My Fair Lady X zombies t-shirt


This seems like the perfect shirt for those of you who are theater geeks and zombie geeks. Art by Kyle Strahm.

Product page (Thanks, SamCostello! via Submitterator)

Pen ad features intricately tattooed Lego characters


Boing Boing developer Dean Putney found these great advertisements for Pilot's Extra-Fine ballpoint pens. They're so thin you can draw these intricate tattoos on Lego people!

[via Flavorwire]

Man finds Ansel Adams negatives, worth $200 million, at garage sale

A garage sale enthusiast from Fresno, California scored big time when he bought two small boxes of glass plate negatives for $45 a decade ago. He has just confirmed that these belonged to the famous Yosemite photographer Ansel Adams, and are worth $200 million.

Clock shows world time as a spiraling line graph


This is one of those design-y objects that is conceptually and visually neat but might be hard to justify in daily life. It shows world time via an arm that connects different time zones.

The Wrong Objects [via Dezeen]

Remix of scenes in Mad Men of people smoking cigarettes

The latest creation from Joe Sabia is this video of people smoking cigarettes in Mad Men. They write:

This video will have one of two results. This repetitious, perfunctory and seemingly pointless act of inhaling smoke may turn you off to smoking cigarettes. Or, the fact that this repetitious, perfunctory, and seemingly pointless act is carried out by such debonair, dashing human beings will make you run to your corner store and chimney down a carton before dinner. Either way, advertising works.

Cigarettes or not, I just love the aesthetics of this show. And the music in the background.

Tickle me Melmo, foul-mouthed Mel Gibson-headed plush toy

If Mel Gibson was a talking plush toy...

(Thanks, hyAnis! Via)

Arthur C. Clarke predicted satellite TV and GPS in the 40s and 50s


Above, a letter written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1956 predicting, quite accurately, aspects of the future of communications.

Link [via Letters of Note via dvice]

5-year old girl accidentally kidnapped in carjacking

A 5-year old girl was accidentally kidnapped this morning when someone carjacked her dad's Cadillac while he was paying for gas at a Richmond, CA gas station. The girl — and later the car — were found abandoned on two separate street corners nearby.

The neuroscience of break-ups: it's like craving cocaine!

A study published in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology found that romantic break-ups activate parts of the brain that are associated with addiction cravings:
"This brain imaging study of individuals who were still 'in love' with their rejecter supplies further evidence that the passion of 'romantic love' is a goal-oriented motivation state rather than a specific emotion" the researchers concluded, noting that brain imaging showed some similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving. "The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that romantic love is a specific form of addiction."

The study also helps to explain "why feelings and behaviors related to romantic rejection are difficult to control" and why extreme behaviors associated with romantic rejection such as stalking, homicide, suicide, and clinical depression occur in cultures all over the world, the researchers wrote.

I think most of us have experienced this feeling at one point in our lives, but it's interesting to know it can be backed up by science.

Anguish of romantic rejection may be linked to stimulation of areas of brain related to motivation, reward, and addiction [Science Daily]

The Birthing of Estee Longah

Estee Longah, a fabulous vintage queen and founder of a semi-pro all-Asian drag troupe called the Rice Rockettes, puts on lavish, highly sexualized performances... They're empowering a population of gay men to experiment with a mode of self-expression that is often taboo and sometimes even non-existent in their own cultures.Read the rest

Taste Test: Durian


Durian. Its flesh is so stinky that it's banned from some restaurants and hotels. The fruit is native to southeast Asia and has been part of the regional diet since prehistory. It's rich in vitamin C, potassium, and good fats and proteins. In Java, durian is believed to be an aphrodisiac (if you're not sure about this, maybe try one of these durian-flavored condoms!).

19th century British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace described the taste of durian as "a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, sherry wine and other incongruous dishes." Delicious! But be careful not to eat too much durian at once — it is super high in calories and can cause adverse health effects. (Last week, one Malaysian Parliamentarian ate so much durian that he almost passed out at a banquet.)

I've never tried cooking with durian, but this recipe for Laotian sticky rice with durian looks delicious. Will someone try it and let me know how it turns out?

Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

Image via Amani Hassan's Flickr

The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us, a book about mother-daughter relationships

000001857.jpgIn between blogging and exercising this summer, I've been reading chapters from a book called The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us by Patti Davis, who is the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The book is based on the idea that mothers and daughters are inextricably linked and that, around the age of 40, most daughters come full circle in accepting the parts of themselves that were formed by their moms. She explores this realization through the stories of two dozen women, mostly actors and authors, including Whoopi Goldberg, Alice Hoffman, Judy Garland's daughter Lorna Luft, and Anna Quindlen.

Read the rest

Gangs of women in rural India fight abuse with bamboo sticks

Slate has a fascinating story about gulabis — gangs of women in rural India who wear pink saris seeking justice for abused wives. 40-year old Sampat Pal Devi started the movement with a few friends in 2006. They began by visiting a few husbands who refused to stop beating their wives, intimidating them into changing their minds by brandishing bamboo sticks. The movement now has more than 200,000 members; Pal travels from village to village on a bicycle to keep the momentum going.
100716_XX_SampatPalDeviTN.jpgPal has a long list of criminal charges against her, including unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking a government employee, and obstructing an officer in the discharge of duty, and she even had to go into hiding. Her feistiness has secured notable victories for the community, however. In 2008, the group ambushed the local electricity office, which was withholding electricity until members received bribes or sexual favors in return for flicking the switch back on. The stick-wielding gulabi stormed the company grounds and proceeded to rough up the staff inside the building. An hour later, the power was back on in the village.

As the article points out, women who suffered from human rights abuses like honor killings, infanticide, and child marriages would take their own lives to escape their fate. But recent progress in the political arena — like an affirmative action bill passed in March that would reserve 33% of parliamentary seats for woman — has made women realize that they can find power in numbers and fight back.
The silver lining here is that while Indian democracy is too weak to deliver on the gender equality that is inscribed in its constitution, it is strong enough not to crush movements like the pink gang. This is also thanks to the free media, which has boomed since the '90s and which glorifies the work of the gulabis.
The women's gangs of India [Slate]

The Bechdel Test for women in movies

After watching the delightfully awkward new Duplass comedy Cyrus last night, a couple of friends and I started talking about the Bechdel Test for women in movies. The test, named after 80s lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, asks three questions: 1. Are there two or more women in it that have names? 2. Do they talk to each other? 3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man? As this video from points out, a LOT of popular movies fail miserably. "The entire industry is built upon creating films and movies that cater to and are about men," the woman in this video says. It's a really interesting observation that I hadn't given much thought to before.

(Thanks, Joe!)

99 cent store sued for raising prices to 99.99 cents

The discount chain 99 Cent Only Stores is being sued by customers for raising their prices to 99.99 cents. "If they call themselves 99 Cents Only, it should be 99 cents," Orange County lawyer Dan Callahan told the LA Times.

Coffee table made from old computer parts


This coffee table made from old computer parts is both pretty and geeky.

It's mainly made up of boards/drives from old Intergraph 6000 series machines built in the late 80s early 90s. They had nice big boards. It was a good way to keep around my first real computer after I could no longer find parts to keep it working, an Intergraph 6880 with Edge II graphics. I learned computer modeling, rendering and animation on it and think of it as a mentor. There are also old 2800 baud modem parts and other random parts collected over the years.

No real pattern other than just getting it all to fit together like a puzzle. The LED lights along the perimeter worked out better that I had hoped. I have it wired so it automatically goes on when it gets dark.

The News is Broken [via Make]

Sticker makes it look like you have lots of drugs in your suitcase

suitcase-sticker-1.jpg sells these funny (or not so funny at all?) stickers for your suitcase.

[via NotCot]

A spelling bee for cheaters

Dave Eggers' 826LA is hosting a fun event on August 14th — it's a spelling bee fundraiser that encourages cheating. The more money you raise, the more ways you'll be allowed to cheat. For example, $100 will get you a letter hint, but $1,000 will let you switch places with a team member when you're stuck in a rut.


The contest has some celebrities signed up, too, like Dianna Agron from Glee, John Krasinski from The Office, and Spike Jonze. Sounds like fun! Read the contest rules after the jump.

Read the rest

Flying donkey shocks Russians on vacation

A flying donkey!

World Bank study shows that giving cash to girls may prevent spread of HIV in Africa

At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna this past weekend, the World Bank announced the results of an unusual study on HIV/AIDS prevention — it gave cash to girls in Malawi just for staying in school. Girls between ages 13 and 22 in the southern district of Zomba were paid $15 a month for a year; their behaviors were compared to a control group that was not paid at all. Results showed that the girls who were paid to stay in school seemed to make wiser choices about when to have sex with and with whom:
18 months after the program began in January 2008, biomarker data show that HIV infection rates among girls who received cash was 1.2% versus the control group's 3%. This translates to 60% lower prevalence. Girls in the cash group also had a lower infection rate of herpes simplex virus type 2, the common cause of genital herpes (0.7% vs. 3%). Those findings hold even for a third group of girls who got cash without any schooling or other strings attached.

How did it happen? The key seems to be an "income effect" on the sexual behaviors of young women receiving cash payments. A year after the program started, girls who received payments not only had less sex, but when they did, they tended to choose safer partners, says Berk Özler, a senior economist at the Development Research Group who conducted the study with Sarah Baird of George Washington University and Craig McIntosh at the University of California, San Diego. In fact, the infection rate among those partners is estimated to be half of that of partners of the control group.

The cash transfers may have led to a drop in the so-called "transactional sex." At the beginning of the study, a quarter of sexually-active participants said they started relationships because they "needed his assistance" or "wanted gifts/money." Meanwhile, among the sexually-active schoolgirls in the control group, 90% said they received an average of US$6.50 a month in gifts or cash from their partners. Such "gifts" are significant, given the country's GDP per capita was $287.5 in 2008.

After a year, schoolgirls receiving payments from the cash-transfer program seemed to avoid older men, who tend to be wealthier and are much more likely to be HIV positive than schoolboys. The sexual partners were two years older on average than the girls, compared with three years for the control group.

A similar study was conducted simultaneously in Tanzania, where young adult women were paid up to $60 a year for avoiding unsafe sex and tested against a control group for new STI infections.

Malawi and Tanzania research shows promise in preventing HIV and sexually transmitted infections [World Bank]