Editorial note — Cow Week is a tongue-in-cheek look at risk analysis and why we fear the things we fear. It is inspired by the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, the popularity of which is largely driven by the public's fascination with and fear of sharks.Read the rest
I loved Science Blogs contributor Orac before I was diagnosed with cancer. I love him a whole lot more now. I'll get to why in a moment, but I want to share something personal first (cracks knuckles).
Well-meaning friends have suggested I try coffee enemas and Burzynskian "antineoplastons" and oxygen therapy to cure my breast cancer; others have told me the reason some of my cells went mutinous is because I offended the Great Invisible Beardy Man in the Sky.
Dude, I've heard it all.
I am active on Twitter in talking about cancer, sharing the experience of my treatment (which fucking sucks), and connecting with fellow persons with cancer.
One of those fellow travelers yesterday tweeted this link, which praises the work of "ND" Judy Seeger. In alternative healing parlance, ND stands for naturopathic doctor. I like Orac's definition better: "not a doctor."
Let me be blunt: I think people who sell fake cancer cures are murderers.
I spoke about the content of that blog post with my radiation oncologist yesterday, after I lay down under the linear accelerator for another daily (yep, daily) blast of rays to kill any remaining lurking cells that might want to off me a few years down the road.
I hate radiation treatment, by the way. HATE IT. But I hate cancer more.
Mary Blair is best know as a Disney illustrator, whose modernist, stylized illustrations formed the basis for the It's a Small World ride and facade, as well as several of the best-loved murals in the parks. But she also worked as a general commercial illustrator, producing a good sheaf of advertising work as well as five illustrated Golden Books.
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A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books, a new volume, collects these books in one absolutely essential volume. Blair's work is always fantastic, but you couldn't ask for a better showcase than her book-illustration portfolio. One of the anthologized titles is I Can Fly, written by Ruth Krauss, which won the Picture Book Honor at the 1951 New York Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival, but each one of these is worthy of an illustration award, and collectively they showcase both her breadth and the unity of her vision.
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Michael J Nelson on MST3K and the heavily anticipated return of Manos: The Hands of Fate, and RiffTrax
In a sure sign that our dreams are really coming true, Manos: The Hands of Fate is returning to movie theaters for all of us to experience on the big screen. No, this won't be the restoration you've been hearing about -- it's the next RiffTrax Live event, and for the first time, the riffers and stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett will be revisiting a classic movie from the show in front of a live audience this Thursday night at 8:00 PM (EST). I spoke with Nelson about Manos and the mission to restore it, as well as MST3K, RiffTrax, and potential future riffs and live events.
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Meet Richard Nolan: quartermaster of the Whydah, captain of the Anne, former coworker of Blackbeard—in general, pirate. He is also—at least through Labor Day—my friend Butch Roy.Read the rest
Searching for Magic in India and Silicon Valley: An Interview with Daniel Kottke, Apple Employee #12
Daniel Kottke lives and works in Palo Alto, Ca. Here, he talks about the genesis of his 1974 trip to India with Steve Jobs.
Daniel Kottke was one of Apple's first employees, assembling the company's earliest kit computers with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in a California kitchen. In 1974, Jobs and Kottke backpacked across India in search of themselves; now, they are industry legends. Along the way, he debugged circuit boards, helped design the Apple III and the Mac, and became host of Palo Alto cable TV show The Next Step. Read the rest
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20 AUGUST—34°42' N 140°19' W
In the middle of the night, I dream that I am at the wheel of a great ship, sailing the Pacific Ocean. A hundred and fifty feet of steel, crowned with a dozen broad sails, forces itself forward through the waves. The rigging creaks with the roll of the ship. Water hisses along the lee rail. I adjust the wheel, peering at the binnacle to see our heading.
We’ve been at sea for nearly a week, and for weeks more we have no hope of seeing land. What we do hope to see, though, is something much rarer, something that amounts to a new and dark wonder of the world.
We are aboard the Kaisei, sailing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
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Neal Stephenson is a talented essayist, a fact that anyone who read his seminal In the Beginning... Was the Command Line will be aware of. Some of the finest moments in his fiction is really nonfiction, essays that make up part of the story, which some critics take umbrage at. I love it. I happen to love discursive novels. But that said, Stephenson's essays are even more enjoyable than the discursions in his novels, which is saying something.
Some Remarks is a new collection of mostly reprinted, mostly nonfiction. I've read nearly every word in this collection before, some of it multiple times, but nevertheless found it to be a breezy, fast, and thoroughly enjoyable read.
The collection is dominated by Mother Earth Mother Board a "hacker tourist" travelogue that tells the story of the FLAG transoceanic cable, a pioneering privately funded project that was originally published in Wired magazine, which deserves kudos for having the bravery to commission an essay that runs to more than 100 pages in this 300-page book. This essay still stands as a kind of Moby-Dick for undersea cabling, a ferociously detailed, gripping account of an obscure but vital field that manages to be both highly technical and highly dramatic. I found my 2012 re-read of this essay much different from my original reading of it in 1996, in particular because of all the references to politics in middle eastern countries like Libya and Egypt, which have been so much in the news lately. There's a little frisson of history-in-the-making from this essay, as you realize that the establishment of redundant, high-speed network links into the region prefigured a vast, global change that we are still experiencing.
There are many other pieces in this book, including two pretty good short stories (Stephenson readily admits that he's at his best with fiction at much longer lengths), as well as some classic interviews and a speech in which Stephenson lays out a theory of the sort of work that he writes and its place relative to literature and culture.
There's an unabashedly esoteric and absolutely delightful account of Leibniz's metaphysics, and an evocative piece on life as a child in a midwestern college town. In short, there is the sort of highly varied and erudite contrasts that make Stephenson's novels so pleasurable (and important).
Stephenson lightly edited these essays to remove anachronistic irrelevancies, but some of them still stand as perfect reflections of the period in which they were written, time capsules and core samples of the heroic days of the early commercial Internet. This is, in short, a fantastic book and an indispensable companion to Stephenson's canon.
I'm also delighted to note that there's a Brilliance audio MP3CD unabridged audiobook edition.
It began with a few small mistakes.
Around 12:15, on the afternoon of August 14, 2003, a software program that helps monitor how well the electric grid is working in the American Midwest shut itself down after after it started getting incorrect input data.Read the rest
Power was restored today in India, where more than 600 million people had been living without electricity for two days. That's good news, but it's left many Americans wondering whether our own electric grid is vulnerable.Read the rest
Call your Senator today and stop the Cyber Security Act of 2012: it legalizes spying on your email, chats, photos, social behavior, and location for any purpose
Tiffiny from champion SOPA-fighters Fight for the Future says:
This year, grassroots movements defeated SOPA in the US and ACTA in Europe. We might be able to make another bad-idea bill, CISPA, go down in flames too (or get the privacy protections we've been fighting for). CISPA-- which already passed the House -- would give government access to all your personal data with no restrictions on what they could do with it. The Senate version of CISPA, which is slightly better but could be made much, much worse is going to final vote today.
If you have a secret --
Or think it's creepy that the government listens in on your cell phone calls, knows your location right now, reads your emails, all without a warrant? A bill going to vote today in Congress would make all of this government spying legal.
Millions of us aren't aware of this bill or don't realize how far they go.
That's why we're sharing this link: doyouhaveasecret.org
We took some time to try to capture exactly what's so dangerous and disturbing about having secrets at all.
This year, grassroots movements defeated SOPA in the US and ACTA in Europe. We might be able to make another bad-idea bill go down in flames too (or get the privacy protections we've been fighting for).
This could be the year for internet freedom and the open internet to prevail above huge amounts of lobbying dollars. And racking up wins on SOPA, CISPA, ACTA -- that'd be unprecedented. Millions of people could help make that happen.
Photo: Shimelle (cc)
The epithets attached to the Olympic opening ceremony piled up: eclectic, spectacular, monumental, shambolic, parochial, world-beating, hideous, embarrassing, filmic, and even inspiring. In its parts, the spectacle was all of these things because of the whole, which formed a gush of free-floating anxiety, a confession on a therapist’s couch.
Many commented on the ceremony’s focus on times past, in what viewers outside of Britain took as a flamboyant history lesson or, less charitably, as a statement of a country with no future. This was, however, no simple portrayal of past events, but a raid conducted to shore up a particular view that exists at this time; a malaise suffered here and now. Read the rest
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It's almost time for Outside Lands, the massive music festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. This year's festival, August 10-12, features the likes of Foo Fighters, Beck, Sigur Ros, Regina Spektor, Explosions in the Sky, Yacht, Tame Impala, Die Antwoord, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Franz Ferdinand, Norah Jones, Metallica, and dozens of other diverse acts. Wanna go? Our friends at Outside Lands provided a pair of 3-day tickets for the festival, a $450 value, to give to someone in the BB community. Here's how to win them:
Snap a photo that is quintessentially "summer." Then pick a song from one of this year's Outside Lands artists that epitomizes the image. (Or start with the song and then take the photo!) Next, post the image and the song title/artist to Instagram with the hashtag #OSLBOING. And if you're not into Instagram, you can post the image and song title/artist to Twitter using the #OSLBOING hashtag. Or if you really don't like either of those options, post the image and the song/artist to Flickr or anywhere else and link to it in the comments thread below. You have until 11:59pm PT on Tuesday (7/31). On Wednesday (8/1), I'll post our three favorites. Those three finalists will all receive Boing Boing t-shirts! And Friday (8/3), we'll announce the winner of the Outside Lands 3-Day Tickets! Please only one entry per person.
On Monday, I published a letter from my husband, Christopher Baker, to the Boy Scouts of America. In that letter, Baker returned his hard-earned Eagle Scout award and explained that he no longer wanted to be associated with an organization that discriminated against gay teenagers and GBLT parents.Read the rest
From a public perspective, biology in the oceans, like biology on the land, tends to favor the charismatic megafauna. Stop by your local aquarium and you'll find masses huddled around the seal pool or the shark tank.Read the rest
A Colorado gunman walked into a 12:30 a.m. showing of the The Dark Knight Rises, tossed a gas can into the crowd, then began shooting. At least 12 are dead, according to reports, with another 50 hurt.
The police took him into custody and are searching for explosives at his apartment. Redditor iteg3r collated an exhaustive timeline based on local police scanner broadcasts, tweets, and TV bulletins as the night unfolded.
In claimed video of the aftermath (right), a bloodied patron is seen leaving the theater amid confusion and chaos.
At least 12 have been killed, and at least 38 are confirmed wounded, according to Colorado law enforcement. Victims include a 3-month-old baby. The shooter, according to eyewitnesses speaking to local TV news reports, ran in to the theater, lit a "gas can," shot into the ceiling, then into the crowd.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the First Lady have cancelled presidential campaign activities today. Obama: "This is a day of prayer and reflection for the victims."
A suspect is in custody: James Holmes, a 24yo white male who is said to have been wearing a gas mask, a bulletproof vest. According to law enforcement, at least four types of guns were used in the shooting, including an "AK-type" assault rifle, a shotgun, and two handguns. The suspect also used a canister of what is presumed to have been tear gas.
Among the dead was Jessica Ghawi (aka Redfield), a young female sports reporter who narrowly missed being killed at a shooting rampage in a Toronto shopping mall last month. She blogged about that experience here.
I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.
Her final tweet is below, sent last night just before the massacre.
@jessespector MOVIE DOESN'T START FOR 20 MINUTES— Jessica Redfield (@JessicaRedfield) July 20, 2012
This week, I'm reporting from the Aquarius undersea research base in Key Largo, Florida. The habitat is the world's last undersea research base. Because NOAA is pulling funding from the 22 year old facility in September, this week's mission is its last scheduled one.
This is a video of oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle that was taken a day or two ago. She's being filmed on Aquarius a Red Camera that is in a waterproof housing tethered to an internet connection in the base. Sylvia's helmet, which is a custom variation of a helmet that working divers use, is equipped with a point of view camera and audio comms. The entire thing was streamed over Ustream a few days ago. This section of the video is of her answering the broad and simple question--Why should we care about the ocean? Read the rest
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I've mentioned Kathe Koja's fantastic, erotic, terrifying debut novel The Cipher before, and celebrated her recent return to horror after a long stint of writing amazing YA novels.
Now I'm delighted to report that The Cipher is back in print as a $3.99 DRM-free ebook, thanks to the good folks at Roadswell, a new ebook imprint.
Full Body Burden: Memoir about family secrets, government secrets, and the risks of industrial pollution
Image: A worker at Rocky Flats handles a piece of plutonium using gloves built into a sealed box. The plutonium was bound for the innards of a nuclear bomb.Read the rest
[Video Link: Our episode recap and review, with a room full of ABQ locals.]
My aviator boyfriend Miles O'Brien and I are flying in his plane from California to the east coast this week, before I start 6 weeks of radiation treatment for breast cancer. When you fly in a single-engine plane like his, you have to stop every 4 hours or so for fuel. When we woke up Sunday, the day the first episode of the new season of AMC's BREAKING BAD would air, we thought: hey, why not plan today's stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the show is based? And why not try to find some fellow fans, and invite ourselves into a ABQ BrBa premiere viewing party tonight?
So we did. I put out the call on Twitter, and hours later, a fellow fan in ABQ named Shanna Schultz tweeted back, come on over.
"Booze-wise we're making an asston of blue jungle juice in honor of the blue meth," Shanna said, "plus we'll be grilling."
I've always admired Steve Martin. He's smart, funny, and avoids engaging in the kind of behavior that ends up in celebrity tabloids. (He's also a terrific banjo player.) I recently read his autobiography, Born Standing Up, and now I admire him even more.
This short book is about Steve Martin's career as a stand-up comic, which lasted about 20 years and ended abruptly (by his decision) in the 1980s. Martin starts with his childhood, which is full of wonderful anecdotes about working in the magic trick store at Disneyland as a young teenager, and doing magic and comedy routines at Knott's Berry Farm. Martin highly praises the old vaudevillians and magicians he worked with at the theme parks. These stage show veterans took Martin under their wings and mentored him in the art of timing, patter, trick presentation, and joke delivery. Fortunately for Martin, the Orange County high school he attended didn't assign homework, so he was able to spend every waking minute outside of school at the theme parks, learning his craft. (If he had been required to do as much homework as a student does today, he may very well have ended up working alongside his dad as a real estate agent, albeit a funny one.)
Martin goes on to describe how he went on the road, spending years developing his unique style of stand-up. As he describes it, he was not doing stand-up. Instead, he played the role of a foolish comic doing stand-up. In the 1960s, he experimented with his routines in the small clubs of San Francisco's North Beach, sometimes to a completely empty room, save a bartender.
Martin's rise to fame was gradual. But that all changed in the late 1970s when his brand of quirky humor caught on in a big way (thanks in large part to his frequent appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show). Martin went from filling 100 seaters to 1000-seaters. His success begat more success. In a period of months, his audience grew to arenas filled with 20,000, then 40,000, then 60,000 people. His brand of physical humor was impossible for most people in a mega-sized venue to appreciate. Martin was just a white dot on the stage.
The resulting fame, while not entirely unwelcome, was often a drag for Martin. An admittedly shy and private man, Martin said he felt uncomfortable when people on the street would excitedly recite his jokes back to him and expect him to be a wild and huh-razy guy."
Martin rode the wave for a few more years, but when he realized that he was no longer doing stand-up, but instead had become a kind of party host for giant throngs of people who wanted to hear him deliver the same stuff over and over again, he called it quits and never did another stand up show. Martin says that until he wrote this book, he rarely gave a thought to the stand-up up career that had made him famous.
I think the best way to read Born Standing Up is to listen to the audiobook, read by Steve Martin himself. That way, you get to hear the way he says his stock lines ("Excuuuuse meeee!") and you get to hear his emotions when he talks about his father (a cold-hearted man who wrote a negative review of Steve Martin's
movie The Jerk first appearance on Saturday Night Live, in the company real estate newsletter he produced).
I hope Martin writes a follow-up book that covers his movie and music career, too.
[Update] commenter Petzl says:
Speaking of Martin's self-effacing manner, for years he's been (quietly) famous for handing out these cards.
They're brilliant: he doesn't have to give his personalized signature (which must get old after the first 1000 or so); he gives his fan something uniquely Steve Martin to take away, as well as giving them a "funny story"; it allows him to exit cleanly and quickly.
Fantastic news coming out of Comic Con: They are remaking What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?! It's such fun news that there is no way to properly punctuate the end of the sentence! Walter Hill, who just finished directing Sylvester Stallone in the cop drama Bullet to the Head, will direct and write the screenplay, because a movie about an abusive, deranged former child star torturing her crippled sister while both wither away in obscurity is clearly the next logical step in his career. Now that the news is out of the way, let's cast this thing! (And maybe look at more pictures of Bette Davis looking out of her blessèd mind!)
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The latest installment in Bill Willingham's astonishingly, consistently great, long-running graphic novel series Fables is volume 17: Inherit the Wind.
The premise of Fables lets its creators use any mythos, any tradition, any narrative, and mix and match as necessary, and Willingham and his illustrators continue to show that these possibilities are indeed endless. While the long arc of the story continues in this book -- movingly along very snappily and satisfyingly -- the real delight is that what that Oz, Dickens, and highbrow narrative theory all climb around on top of each other in a squirming puppy-pile of greatness.
If you've been following the story for all these volumes, then you can rest assured that the Fables are really cracking along -- but you can also be assured that you'll find all the characteristic funny asides, meandering noodly mini-tales that are there for the sheer exuberance of the thing, and sly asides are not set aside for mere plot.
I'm told that this story definitely has an end, but it's hard to imagine. As Fables subsumes literally every other story ever told, and as Willingham shows no sign of boring with his creations, I can easily imagine reading this until Willingham breathes his last (and may that day come a very, very long time in the future). If he keeps writing them, I'll keep buying 'em.
See also: My reviews of the previous volumes
Over at Download the Universe, Ars Technica science editor John Timmer reviews a science ebook whose science leaves something to be desired.Read the rest
I am kneeling on a sun-dappled hardwood floor with stacks of $20 bills in $2,000 bundles in each hand helping to spell out the word "douchebaggery," and thinking: $220,000 just doesn't seem like that much money. I found myself in this position after asking Matthew Inman, the artist behind the cartoon and business The Oatmeal, if I could take pictures when he withdrew the cash he will ultimately hand over to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation in order to use it to make fun of a Web site that threatened him with legal action.
This is the latest episode in a saga that BoingBoing has documented in quite some detail, and which began June 11, when Inman posted an annotated version of a letter he had received from Charles Carreon, a well-known attorney representing FunnyJunk, a user-submitted content site, complaining about a post Inman had made a year ago. Inman complained in 2011 about FunnyJunk's business model, noting, "Most of the comics they've stolen [have] no credit or link back to me. Even with proper attribution, no one clicks through and FunnyJunk still earns a huge pile of cash from all the ad revenue." It's a common problem with sites that rely on submitted items, and each site has different policies on how to manage such unauthorized postings. Inman didn't issue DMCA takedown notices, though he would have been within his rights. He says he's just not interested in engaging in that sort of behavior. (By the way, did you know you have to register an agent with the copyright office to qualify for the safe-harbor provision of the DMCA? Me, neither! FunnyJunk's registration was received May 29, 2012, shortly before its lawyer sent the letter to Inman.)
Back in December, I told you that physicists at CERN thought that by this summer they might be able to say, once and for all, whether the Higgs Boson particle exists.Read the rest
Photo: Ryan Hyde (cc)
"Comic books are cheap, shoddy, anonymous. Children spend their good money for bad paper, bad English, and more often than not, bad drawing." -- Dr. Fredrick Wertham, 1950s anti-comic book crusader, quoted from his book,
"Comic books are cheap, shoddy, anonymous. Children spend their good money for bad paper, bad English, and more often than not, bad drawing." -- Dr. Fredrick Wertham, 1950s anti-comic book crusader, quoted from his book,Seduction of the Innocent.
You know, Dr. Wertham was almost right. If he'd added the words "Ninety-nine percent of…" to the beginning of his blanket assessment, I'd enthusiastically agree with it. I receive dozens of comic book titles in the mail each week (sent to me for review), and I toss almost all of them in the bin because they suck. Once in a while, a gem appears, making it worth opening the packages instead of tossing them straight into the trash.
That's why I'm happy to announce our new monthly roundup of comic book recommendations by Brian Heater. Brian's a senior editor at Engadget and the founder of a wonderful comics blog, The Daily Cross Hatch. In his column, Brian will be presenting lesser-known comics that made it past his crap-filter. Please join me in welcoming Brian! -- Mark
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Photo: Scott Snider
The phone system doesn't allow us to hear people at a distance in the same way they quite literally sound to us when up close. Alexander Graham Bell's accidental dehumanization has been redeemed in part by a technologically related godchild. And it only took about 150 years.