Boing Boing 

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

Prison life dos and dont's for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell


Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is about to spend two years in prison on federal corruption charges. Tim Mak of The Daily Beast asked two other well-known politician/felons -- ex-congressman Bob Ney and lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- what advice they could share about making prison life less unpleasant. They said McDonnell should:

  1. Not use lawyers as a "source of prison-yard guidance," because they don't really know "what happens to a defendant after sentencing."
  2. Be nice to your fellow inmates "Almost everyone there will be a decent person and treat you well."
  3. Not work for the warden. "Work somewhere else amongst the other inmates.”

How to build a 1-string cigar box diddley bow

If you like what you hear, build one. It will take practice to play as well as Justin Johnson does, but even a rank beginner can make good music with a diddley bow. (Watch Justin play a full song at the 16:00 minute mark). (Thanks, Kent!)

Plastic pan scrapers are wonderful


This chip of plastic is a pan scraper. It’s my favorite new kitchen tool. See how the corner radii are different sizes? That's so you can scrape burnt food from the curved sloping edges of different kinds of pots and pans.

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WATCH: Fireworks factory explosion

"At least two people have reportedly been injured when a fireworks factory exploded in Colombia."

This ingenious machine turns feces into drinking water

"I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water." Bill Gates reports on the Omniprocessor, a machine that converts sewer sludge into clean water and electricity.

Sony's new $1200 Walkman targets audiophile true believers

The new Walkman ZX2 runs an antiquated version of Android and has a textured faux-leather skin. Sony calls it "the fruit of continuous refinement in high audio quality technologies." At $1,200 it's definitely 240 times better than buying a new-in-box LG 800 for $5 and using it as a media player. [via]

FBI asserts right to monitor cell phones without a warrant


The Obama administration has already let people know they have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" when they use their cell phones, so it shouldn't be surprising that the FBI claims it has the right to install fake cell phone towers and "use them to track cell phones' locations and users while intercepting the contents of calls and texts."

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Interview with man who coined the phrase “the Internet of Things"

Arik Gabbai of The Smithsonian interviewed innovator Kevin Ashton, who coined the phrase “the Internet of Things." He has a new book called How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery.

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Oklahoma GOP wants to outlaw hoodies, unless you are part of a minstrel troupe

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WATCH: UFO releases orb

The guy who posted this video claims he recorded it in Southern California. What is it?

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CNN's "doomsday video"

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.55.38 AM

Here is "never-before-seen video the last living CNN employee will be required to play before succumbing to radiation poisoning, the plague, zombies, or whatever crazy end Turner saw coming."

Obama’s Department of Justice says marijuana as dangerous as heroin

In December, Obama signed a bill containing a provision that prevents the federal government from interfering with states' medical marijuana activities. Yet, two weeks later, Obama’s Department of Justice filed "a strenuous defense of the drug’s Schedule I classification — the same category reserved for heroin."

This isn’t an abstract issue relevant only to constitutional obsessives. It’s a basic principle of ordered liberty that arises from even deeper foundations than our founding document. When the laws are in such discord and conflict as our drug laws are now, the enforcement of the law becomes of necessity an exercise in executive whim—compounding the capriciousness of arbitrary, selective application that Obama has made so conspicuous in his approach to governance.

At a time when the legitimacy and uniformity of government coercion has come into deep question among urban blacks in addition to suburban whites, the president needs to realize that in dithering on marijuana law he is playing with fire. His haphazard and contradictory mismanagement of America’s shift toward pot reform lends dangerous credence to the growing sense that our government no longer cares to guarantee our equal protection under the law.

Daily Beast: Obama’s Pot Policy Is Refer Madness

Learn the techniques of professional monster makeup artists with Hollywood Makeup Lab

Hollywood Makeup Lab is not a beginner’s monster makeup book. The projects are mainly for people with experience making molds and prosthetics, and who are familiar with airbrushing and different kinds of makeup. But a beginner who wants to make a killer Halloween character can learn a lot from going through this book, which covers color theory, bruises, burns, zombies, aging, hair, bald caps, fangs, and tattoos.

See sample pages of Hollywood Makeup Lab at Wink.

How to make sweet potato fries

fry-makerI learned how to make tasty sweet potato fries a few months ago when I listened to the July 8, 2014 episode of Adam Savage's podcast, Still Untitled.

I've made sweet potato fries a few times using Adam's recipe, and I've probably veered a bit from the way he does it, but the results are great. I made some last night and Carla and I gorged on them. I ate the leftovers for lunch today.

Here's how I made them:

  1. Peel the skin from the sweet potatoes. Cut each potato into chunks that will fit into a French fry cutter. I bought the Progressive International Vegetable/French Fry Cutter (above) for $15 and am happy with it.
  2. Put the raw fries into a big bowl of water and soak them for an hour. (According to Adam, this removes the starch.)
  3. Drain the water and pat the water off the fries with a clean cloth.
  4. Put about ½ cup of cornstarch and some salt (and garlic powder, pepper, etc) in a big paper bag. Dump the fries in and shake the bag so the fries get coated.
  5. (I can't remember how Adam fries them, but here's how I do it:) Put a tablespoon of coconut oil in a hot skillet. Toss in some fries. Don't put too many in -- the trick is to make sure each fry is in contact with the skillet.
  6. After five minutes or so, flip the fries and cook them for a few more minutes.
  7. Remove the cooked fries, add more oil to the skillet and cook more fries.

The frying part is a little tedious. I'm very close to pulling the trigger on this $50 deep fryer. I would appreciate hearing about your experience with deep fryers and your recommendations for a great, inexpensive model.

WATCH: Man changes a lightbulb on a 1500-foot tower

At the top he takes a selfie. [via]

Katy makes couches for cats

After Xeni posted a photo of one of my cats sleeping on a doll bed, I received an email from Katy Cone, who makes couches for cats. She offered to make a cat couch for me styled on some furniture we have in our house. I sent her this photo:


A couple of weeks later, the couch arrived. Here's Zelda, trying it out:


We've had it for about a week, and Zelda uses it several times a day. My kids want to sit in it, too, but I won't allow it. It's probably sturdy enough to support their weight, but I'm not taking a chance.

If you are interested in getting a cat couch of your own, visit Katy's site, Meowch.

Making a uniform for daily wear

Over at Root Simple, Erik and Kelly (authors of The Urban Homestead, a book that was inspirational to me) made a list of resolutions for 2015. They are all great goals. The one that interested me the most was Kelly's intention to make a uniform that she could wear each day instead of having to choose a new outfit every morning. She wants to base it off this cool-looking 1920s Russian Constructivist outfit.

The uniform fantasy has been with me for a long time, although the uniform type changes. I’ve never taken the leap into wearing a uniform, though, for two reasons. The first is simply that I’ve been too lazy to construct a uniform. The second is that it is a rather eccentric move– adopt a uniform, and you become known for wearing that uniform more than anything else.

I suppose that if you’re super famous, like Tom Wolfe (white suit) or Erik Satie (identical velvet suits) you can wear the same thing every day and nonetheless your work and your personality will rise above that eccentricity. But I’ve feared that if I wore a uniform I’d become one of those strange local characters, like “the kilt guy” or “the bathrobe lady.”

Still, I do like the idea of fashioning a garment which suits all of my needs (fit, comfort, pockets, good fabric etc.) and making it my very own.

WATCH: freezing a 5-lb Gummi Bear and then blasting it with a shotgun

Tom Edison Jr's Electric Mule — 1891 science fiction story

Alternate title: "The Snorting Wonder of the Plains." As Paul Di Filippo says at Weird Universe, "This cover could hardly be improved upon for macabre glee and impartial offensiveness." Read the story here.

Open-carry cop-watchers say they are "pissed off patriots"

In Arlington TX, a group of Ron Paul style libertarians have become self-appointed cop-watchers. Armed with guns and video cameras, and sometimes wearing police hats with pig ears, they scan police radios to learn where police activity is taking place and drive to the locations to record the police. They also record traffic stops, heckle cops, and "bait cops into on-camera arguments about the Second Amendment and state laws."

Brandy Zadrozny of the Daily Beast reports on the movement in her story, Texas Gun Slingers Police the Police—With a Black Panthers Tactic.

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NYPD officer allegedly attacks MTA worker

Earlier this week, the NYPD asked citizens for their help in identifying the man in this video, who is suspected of attacking a uniformed female MTA employee. The NYPD said that moments before this video was recorded, the man had "grabbed the MTA employee in a bear hug from behind and pushed her to the platform floor, and then began to choke her." The worker suffered head, neck and back injuries and was treated at the hospital.

When the video was made public, an unnamed NYPD officer turned himself in. When he was questioned, he said the MTA worker cursed at him when he asked her a question, and then grabbed his phone so he wouldn't be able to take her picture. No charges have been filed.

Burn water in your car


I thought that water was already burnt. But I just learned we could have all been driving water-burning cars, if not for the oil cartels who suppressed this amazing invention, introduced in the May 1950 issue of Popular Science.


WATCH: Gentleman uses bomb to make ATM withdrawal

He left without remembering to take his money. I've done that before.

Would-be thief's plan to blow up ATM knocked him off his feet

WATCH: Designer uses nose and lips instead of hands

Michelle Vandy gets severe arm pain when she uses her hands to do design work. She solved the problem by putting a trackpad on a small tripod and using her nose and lips to make her designs.

This year's flu vaccine is not working as well as hoped

The CDC announced yesterday that this year's flu has officially become an epidemic. One reason: the vaccine being used is not working.

This year's most dominant strain is the H3N2, a type of flu that causes more hospitalizations and death. The CDC warned in early December that this year's flu season would be particularly bad because the vaccine it built for this season isn't tough enough to fight against the H3N2 strain.

The problem was caused by a "drift," when the flu mutates to something else that the vaccine wasn't built to protect against. Although these kinds of mutations are common, this year's drift wasn't detected until it was too late to make a new vaccine.

Medical experts like Trish Perl, who heads up the Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention, have told the Post that "the most concerning thing about the flu season this year there is a mismatch between the predominant strain that is circulating and what was put in the vaccine."

This Year's Flu Season Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions

Korean Air exec arrested for macadamia nut temper tantrum

On December 5, Heather Cho, head of in-flight service at Korean Air Lines, was a passenger on Flight 86 from New York to Seoul. As the plane was sitting on the runway, ready for takeoff, an attendant served Cho a bag of macadamia nuts without asking. Cho was infuriated. She “screamed and scolded” the attendant, then ordered the pilot to return back to the gate, where the head of the service crew was kicked off the plane.

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Mystery Box Playing Cards presented by J.J. Abrams

I use standard Bicycle 808 playing cards most of the time (I buy them by the dozen), but I love the Mystery Box playing cards created by Theory 11 (with input from amateur magician J.J. Abrams). The new "Black Edition" was just released. I won't say much about them, other than the fact that they are gorgeous, because I don't want to spoil any surprises. I will add that you should study the cards and box closely.

Blackmail paradoxes

From Futility Closet:

We covered one paradox regarding blackmail in 2010: If it’s legal for me to reveal your secret, and it’s legal for me to ask you for money, why is it illegal for me to demand payment to keep your secret? In the words of Northwestern University law professor James Lindgren, “Why do two rights make a wrong?”

Here’s a second paradox: If you had initiated the same transaction — if you had offered to pay me for my silence, and I’d agreed — then we’d have the same outcome, but this time it’s legal. “It is considered paradoxical that the sale of secrecy is legal if it takes the form of a bribe, yet is illegal where the sale of secrecy takes the form of blackmail,” writes Loyola University economist Walter Block. “Why should the legality of a sale of secrecy depend entirely upon who initiates the transaction? Why is bribery legal but blackmail not?”

Play-Doh frosting extruder to be redesigned

If you want this frosting extruder included in Play-Doh Cake Mountain playset, you'd better be quick about it. Today, Play-Doh posted the following on its Facebook page:

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Rep. Steve Scalise's "no Google" excuse is bogus

scaliseIn 2002 US House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise gave a speech at a white supremacist conference. First he said didn't remember doing it, then he said he might have done it, and now he says he did do it but was "without the advantages of a tool like Google" to research hate groups in 2002. He's wrong. Google was started in 1998.