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Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the founding editor-in-chief of MAKE. He is editor-in-chief of Cool Tools and co-founder of Wink Books. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects



U.S. directs federal agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

A sign with a DEA badge marks the entrance to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum in Arlington. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)


A sign with a DEA badge marks the entrance to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum in Arlington. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

The US government trains federal agents how to falsify the sources of surveillance data that the Drug Enforcement Administration gives them, according to a Reuters special report.

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A con man expert talks about the cons in Better Call Saul

Slippin' Jimmy (aka Saul Goodman) and his buddy Marco pulled a number of classic cons in the first season of Better Call Saul, and Megan Friedman of Esquire asked con expert Alexis Conran to weigh in on their portrayal on the show. He says the show did a great job overall.

The Black Money Scam

Later in the montage, Jimmy and Marco convince a few rubes that they have a bunch of cash dyed black, and the perfect formula to remove the stuff. "I was particularly happy to see it in there, because it is an old classic and it's a wonderful scam," Conran says. If the con is done right, there are a few real $100 bills included, and then boxes and boxes of simple paper covered in black paint. Conran has pulled off the scam several times for TV, and says the trick still continues today.

Related: Read the Boing Boing reviews of Better Call Saul's first season.

Comcast wouldn't cancel service for man whose house burned down

fire

When a 66-year-old man's house burned to the ground, he lost his TV set. His daughter called Comcast to cancel his service, but they refused, saying it couldn't cancel it until he gave them his account number (which was also lost in the fire).

His daughter told Comcast, "Here's your choice, disconnect the service or send someone out to fix the cable, because it's not working." She says the Comcast rep replied, "That doesn't make sense, because the house burned down."

Comcast finally canceled the service, and now that the incident has been reported in the media, it has trotted out a spokeswoman who spoke about the blah blah safeguards in place to protect the privacy of our customers blah blah make certain the issue has been resolved to his satisfaction blah blah.

Image: Shutterstock

Black Spider playing cards

Here's a hint about buying specialty card decks: if they aren't made by the US Playing Card Company, they probably suck. All Bicycle cards are made by the USPCC, like this beautiful Black Spider deck, which has full-bleed black cards, and white-on-black backs. (It also comes with a couple of gaff cards, which Jason will enjoy.)

Bicycle Black Spider Deck ($8)

I am tired of people building large backyard pyramids the wrong way

pyramid

Dean E. Hardy will set you straight. [via]

Dying Pig - "the most laughable novelty yet produced"

dying-pig

Almost as funny as watching a real pig begin to squeal as he slowly collapses and finally lies down and dies! [via]

In three states, people like weed more than any presidential candidate

weed

People from Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania say weed is better than anyone running for president.

Mephisto Spiral optical illusion

"The Mephisto Spiral is a neat toy that gives the illusion that you can continuously pull the two spiral halves apart."

It looks like 2 interlocking wire spirals. In your hands, the two spirals seem to wind together or wind apart, completely effortlessly. However when you hand the Mephisto Spiral over to someone else, they find that they cannot replicate the action – the two wire spirals are completely rigid.

Alternatively, by simply moving your hands in one direction, you can make the two spirals appear to unwind, yet however many times you repeat the action, the two spirals never come apart.

[via]

Tax cheaters buy used non-winning lottery tickets to offset winnings

Crooked lottery winners who want to evade paying taxes on their winnings can buy or rent truckloads of used lottery tickets and show them to IRS auditors as "proof" that their gambling losses exceeding their winnings.

Above: eBay sale for "30 bags of $1000 LOSING 2014 NY scratch off lottery tickets. buy what u need"

Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany profiled in New York Times

Orphan Black is one of my favorite shows on TV, mainly because of the star Tatiana Maslany, who plays at least a half dozen characters on the series. Lili Loofbourow profiled her for the New York Times.

She expressed some ambivalence about the way fame produces demand, especially in an age of social media. “People just want want want want stuff,” she said. There are awards shows, red carpets; she appreciates it all, but is careful not to let it control her. “You exist without this stuff,” she said. “This stuff doesn’t define you or anything.” Maslany has pointed out that her “Orphan Black” characters, too, must deal with the discovery that they are — in some sense — property and refuse to let it define them. “That always resonated for me as a woman,” she told Vanity Fair in an interview, “this idea of our bodies not being our own. That they’re owned by someone else. That the image of them is owned by someone else.”

An app to warn you that you are about to get a parking ticket

Years ago I was walking down a street with a friend in Santa Cruz. There were parking meters on the street and a parking enforcement officer was behind us, issuing tickets for expired parking. My friend started putting coins into expired meters next to parked cars. The enforcement officer quickly drove up to us and yelled at my friend, telling him that he was breaking the law.

I wonder if city governments are going to try to outlaw Tixxii, an app designed to enable good samaritans to warn people that their car is about to get a ticket? It also allows them to let car owners know if another car hit their car while it was parked.

Science Babe takes down Food Babe

Food Babe's website.


Food Babe's website.

Yvette d'Entremont ("Science Babe") debunks Vani Hari ("Food Babe") in her Gawker essay, "The Food Babe is Full of Shit."

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Don McLean's 16-page handwritten American Pie lyrics sold at auction for $1.2 million

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Don McLean's 16-page handwritten lyrics for his 1972 hit song "American Pie" sold for $1.2 million at auction. McLean says the manuscript will reveal "everything there is to know" about the cryptic lyrics.

Inspector of the Dead, a Victorian era thriller with an opium-addicted hero

In 1821 Thomas De Quincey published his memoir, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Even though the book sold well, and De Quincey would go on to write other essays with insightful pre-Freudian psychological observations, his life was marred by drug addiction and financial debt.

De Quincey died in 1859, but in 2013 well-known author David Morrell brought him back to life in his historical fiction thriller Murder as a Fine Art, and again in this year's Inspector of the Dead.

Both books are murder mysteries set in Victorian England, and Morrell has taken great delight in researching and presenting the details of daily life for the rich and poor of that era. In both novels De Quincey is a Holmes-ian amateur detective with an extraordinary eye for detail and a keen understanding of human psychology. In Inspector of the Dead, De Quincey and his proto-feminist daughter Emma meet Queen Victoria herself when it becomes clear the Queen is the next likely victim in a series of gruesomely elaborate murders of rich and powerful members of the government. The De Quinceys and a pair of Scotland Yard detectives are unofficially tasked with protecting the Queen and catching the unknown killer.

Morrell, best known as the author of the Rambo novels (which I have not read but am now thinking I should), knows how to write an exciting page-turner, giving it enough historical background, detail, and interesting characters to make it a fulfilling read. I felt like I was really in foggy old England, with snotty aristocrats treating poor people like animals, Bobbies waving their clackers, and horse hoove's clacking in front of Hansom cabs.

I have not yet read the first De Quincey novel, Murder as a Fine Art, but I'm reading it now and it looks like it's going to be as good as Inspector of the Dead. (You don't need to read the first novel to enjoy the second.)

Inspector of the Dead

Sea lion drags fisherman from boat and drags him to the bottom of the bay

sea-lion

A man in Mission Bay, CA was posing with the fish he'd caught when a sea lion jumped out of the water, bit him and pulled him under water for 15 to 20 seconds.

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Realtime chart of "the button" game on Reddit

It started out as an April Fool's joke on Reddit, but "the button" has become an international obsession.

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