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

What programming language should you learn?


Udacity created an infographic about different programming languages, showing their popularity over time, their applications, and the average salary one might expect from becoming proficient in one of the languages. Python often appears at the top of the different lists.

(Here's a good book called Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming, which I used to learn how to write a nontransitive dice simulation.)

High-resolution infographic.

Ravens get stoned by rubbing chewed-up ants on their feathers


Ravens are intelligent, better talkers than some parrots, roam in teenage gangs, and get high by rubbing chewed up ants on their feathers.

Mental Floss presents 10 fascinating facts about ravens


When it comes to intelligence, these birds rate up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. In one logic test, the raven had to get a hanging piece of food by pulling up a bit of the string, anchoring it with its claw, and repeating until the food was in reach. Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds. In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast.

If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another. Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes.

Image: Shutterstock

Introduction to Arduino: creating interactive projects


747 people have taken my online Introduction to Arduino course on Skillshare, and the class has a 95% positive review rating. The entire video course runs a bit less than an hour, and I explain what Arduino is, what you need to use it, how to get started, and how to build some simple projects. No knowledge of programming, engineering, or electronics is necessary. The class focuses on hardware to get you using the board right away.

I also have another class on Skillshare called Introduction to DIY: Becoming a Maker. Below are intro videos to both classes.

Trailer for new documentary about The Black Panthers

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is new documentary by Stanley Nelson.

Change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored -- cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph and many others. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.

LED flood light bulbs 6-pack for $36


I've been replacing all the old bulbs (CFL and incandescent) with LED bulbs. They have become very affordable in recent months, and most are rated to last about 20 years (but read Steampunk Banana's excellent post about why this claim is dubious). TCP is selling a six-pack of 65 Watt equivalent flood light LED bulbs for $36 on Amazon. (Dimmable bulbs are available too, for $10 a bulb).

Chicago’s police review agency fires investigator for not exonerating cops


Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) was formed in 2007 to review police brutality. Since that time, IPRA has investigated nearly 400 civilian shootings by cops. It has found only one shooting to be unjustified. But then Lorenzo Davis, 65, a former Chicago police commander who became an investigator for the IPRA, found "a few cases in which he believed police had inappropriately fired their weapons." Suddenly Davis, who had previously been getting stellar reviews for his work on the IPRA, was fired.

Through most of his IPRA tenure, Davis’s performance evaluations showered him with praise. They called him an “effective leader” and “excellent team player.”

The final evaluation, issued June 26, said he “is clearly not a team player.”

Radley Balko of the Washington Post writes, "'Team player' of course meaning 'willing to side with cops who shoot people.'"

And of course this is the city where police were found to have tortured suspects for decades. Conveniently, the city managed to cover up the mess long enough for the statute of limitations to prevent all but one of the officers from facing any criminal charges. In 2008, the city’s most elite police unit was disbanded after officers were accused of a host of crimes from assault to theft to burglaries to conspiracy to commit murder. And just earlier this year, the Guardian reported new allegations of torture, beatings, and other physical abuse at an abandoned warehouse.

Just a thought: Maybe the Chicago PD needs fewer “team players.”

Image: Shutterstock

Official cast released for The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story

We are unabashed Beverly Hills, 90210 fanatics here. So naturally, we are excited about Lifetime's upcoming TV tell-all, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story. Lifetime just announced the cast.

Max Lloyd Jones: Brandon Walsh/Jason Priestly

Samantha Munro: Brenda Walsh/Shannen Doherty

Abbie Cobb: Kelly Taylor/Jennie Garth role

Abby Ross: Donna Martin/Tori Spelling.

Also - David Lennon: Steve Sanders/Ian Ziering, Jesy McKinney: Dylan McKay/Luke Perry, Michele Goyns: Andrea Zuckerman/Gabrielle Carteris, Ross Linton: David Silver/Brian Austin Green.

How Ayn Rand became Libertarians’ sociopathic pixie dream girl

Jill Filipovic's review of Ayn Rand's posthumously published novel Ideal in Vice is less about the book than it is about the "socially awkward white men who seem disproportionately drawn to libertarianism" who admire Ayn Rand so much that they like a novel that Ayn Rand herself knew wasn't good enough for publication.

Like much of Rand's work, Ideal exists primarily as a mechanism through which to present a set of simplistic and self-serving philosophical statements. It's less of a novel than it is a list of ideas, the kind a stoner freshman who just sat through his first political philosophy lecture might doodle out: People are hypocrites. Religion is bad. Socialism sucks. Although one would hope even the stoner freshman would avoid sentences like, "He felt as if there was something—deep in his brain, behind everything he thought and everything he was—which he did not know, but she knew, and he wished he did, and wondered whether he could ever know it, and should he, if he could, and why he wished it."

To be fair to Rand, she knew the book was bad — so bad she never published it, instead reworking it for the stage, a form in which it was only marginally less bad. But there is a large and rabid modern Ayn Rand fan base eager to snap up a "new" title, and so despite Peikoff's own description of the book as "juvenilia," it is now publicly available to anyone who may want to read its (blessedly brief) 125 pages.

Slow Loris hates having its belly combed

lemur-comb [UPDATE: It's not a lemur, it is a slow loris. Also the slow loris is being tortured, according to this (autoplaying) video. "I pledge not to support and encourage the illegal pet trade in slow lorises. I will not ‘share' or ‘like' any video or photo that shows a slow loris being kept as a pet and, where possible, I will ‘comment' directing people to the International Animal Rescue slow loris rescue information page to help expose the truth and end the suffering." ]

Yesterday I called a jaguar a leopard so this might not be a lemur.

Star Wars "didn't approve, participate in or condone the inappropriate use of our characters in this manner"


Photos for GQ by Mark Seliger



More fun with Plugable's USB microscope


Over the weekend, my 12-year-old daughter and I used our Plugable USB Handheld Digital Microscope to get a close-up look some of the stuff around the house. It's an excellent microscope, especially considering the low price ($35). Another other great thing about a USB microscope is that you don't have to take turns looking at the specimen - everyone in the room can see it on the computer display at the same time. That makes it so much more fun. And you can easily take photos and movie to share with other people. The image above is a rubber clown nose.

I like this microscope so much that I talked to the folks at Plugable and asked them to become a sponsor of our Weekend of Wonder extravaganza (WoW) on September 18-20 in Southern California. The kindly agreed, and now everyone who attends is going to get one of these super cool scopes, courtesy of Plugable! We will have a gross-out contest at WoW with these scopes, so start thinking about the yuckiest thing we can look at.

Here are a few of the things we looked at:

Ball point pen (250X)

Ball point pen (50X)


Sharpie marker

Sharpie dot on paper

Gluten-free bread

Comic book cover

iPhone display

Chewable vitamin

Jane's hair

White stuff on a tree leaf

Tiny scab on Jane's leg

Levi's denim jean fabric

Jane's heel

Register here to join us at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder.

Classic video: James Randi exposes psychic fraudster

I watched An Honest Liar this weekend on Netflix. It's a Kickstarter funded documentary about James "The Amazing" Randi, the accomplished magician who became famous for exposing charlatans. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Before watching this I didn't appreciate Randi because he seemed crabby, but this documentary cleared up that dumb false impression I had.

The documentary included a bit about the time Randi debunked James Hydrick, a guy who claimed to have the power of telekinesis. This happened on a 1981 episode of That's My Line, hosted by Bob Barker. Here's a longer segment from the show.

According to Wikipedia, "in 1981, Hydrick's psychic powers were conclusively exposed as frauds by investigative journalist and professional magician Dan Korem. Hydrick confessed to Korem that he had developed his trick in prison, and that he had not learned it from a Chinese master as he originally claimed. Hydrick confessed, 'My whole idea behind this in the first place was to see how dumb America was. How dumb the world is.'"

(Icky side note, also from Wikipedia: "In 1989, Hydrick was sentenced to 17 years for molesting five boys in Huntington Beach, California. After serving his sentence, he was remanded to Atascadero State Hospital for treatment under the state's sexually violent predator law. He now resides at the Coalinga State Hospital. Hydrick petitioned for release in May 2013, but a trial resulted in a hung jury.")

Ew. hydrick

Pig Goat Banana Cricket - clip from new Nick cartoon series

Our cartoonist pals, Johnny Ryan and Dave Cooper, have created a bizarrely funny and artistically gorgeous cartoon for Nickelodeon called Pig Goat Banana Cricket, which premiered on Saturday, July 18. Watch out the first episode in its entirety here!

Read the rest

Using my 3D printer to fix broken stuff around the house


I'm slowly getting the hang of using my 3D printer to make useful things. Last week, I made sliders for the legs on our pool chairs. This weekend, I made a doohickey to hold our freezer's ice cube container lid in place. The container would often crash to the floor when the freezer door was opened because a plastic hook had broken off. It took me a lot of trial-and-error to make this little doohickey (my failed prototypes are in the picture below) but once I arrived at a solution that worked, it felt good!


If, for some reason, you want the 3D model, I put it on Thingiverse.

Krups electric kettle with tea infuser


Amazon has a good deal on a glass Krups electric kettle. This model holds a liter of water, and you can set the temperature for different kinds of tea. It's regularly $156, and is on sale now for $50.

Florida toll collector fired for paying tolls for drivers who didn't have money

[UPDATE: The real story is more nuanced than reported by Time.] Vladislav (Sam) Samsonov, 77, worked as a toll collector in Boca Grande, Florida. When the Bridge Authority found out that he occasionally paid toll charges for drivers who didn't have the cash, they fired him.

Read the rest

Come to Boing Boing's secret taco party, Friday July 31


Do you love tacos? We love them so much that we are throwing a backyard taco party at my house in Los Angeles on Friday, July 31. Would you like to join us? Just register for our Weekend of Wonder (WoW) extravaganza and you will automatically receive an exclusive invite to this once-in-a-lifetime event. Tacos! Music! Card Tricks! Free Comic Books! Espresso! If you have a special request, we will bend over backwards to accommodate you.

Register for WoW by July 24 at Noon PT to get an invitation.

To get a 15% discount off the listed price on the WoW registration page, enter BOING in the Promo Code field.