Urinals sort your pee by alcohol content

Spotted in the toilets of a restaurant next to the Burgerhaus Sonne Eduard-Schmidt-Saal in Alsbach, Germany on last night's tour stop: these urinals spoof the ubiquitous German recycling-bins with labels reading BEER, WINE, NON-ALCOHOLIC, and OTHER, under the heading PLEASE HELP US SEPARATE.

I'm on tour here in Germany until Wednesday, then it's off to Amsterdam for PICNIC and the Bits Of Freedom event.

Urinals that sort wee by alcohol content, Darmstadt, Germany It's not a urinal, is it? Overflowing urinal cascade Gentleman mistakes urinal and urinal cake for sink and soap ... Urinal targets and other helpful nudges Cute elephant urinal cleaning robot That's not a mouth-shaped urinal, it's a *travesty* Privacy urinals Read the rest

Long-running web series relaunches

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has up a story about "Something to be Desired," which was one of the longest-running web-video shows on the net. Creator and director Justin Kownacki moved to Baltimore last year, bringing the show to an end after seven years. He now plans to relaunch the show under a new name, "Baristas," according to the Gazette. The modest Kickstarter project set up to fund it shows just how inexpensive it is, these days, to make moving pictures. Read the rest

Joe Haldeman on writing without distraction

Mitch Wagner sez, "I talked with legendary science fiction author Joe Haldeman for the Copper Robot Podcast about why he writes with a fountain pen in bound books in a room lit by oil lamps, to create stories that explore advanced, future technology. Joe is a Hugo- and Nebula-award winner, author of 'The Forever War' and the recent 'Marsbound' and 'Starbound.'"
"There's something special about writing by hand, writing with a fountain pen, and there's something special about writing into a book, to take a blank book and turn it into an actual book. I guess there's a sort of superstitious or mystical aspect to it," Haldeman said. "I like the physical action of writing down by hand, and I don't just use it for writing my fiction. I carry a notebook and write down things to do, and I write out thoughts and stuff like that."

He added, "I think it goes way back to when I was a teenager, and I guess it's just a habit of thought that you either have or don't have. If I had had a thing like an iPad when I was a kid, then I never would have gotten into the habit of writing things down by hand."

Science fiction writer Joe Haldeman discusses unplugging to create Ridley Scott to adapt Haldeman's Forever War Joe Haldeman's excellent online diary Photos of science fiction writers' nests Read the rest

Reading Playboy to the blind

Taping for the Blind is a Texas non-profit that does exactly what it says—turning printed material that isn't available in audio book format into custom-made tapes and CDs. They also do audio descriptions of live events, like the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and various theater performances. Volunteers read and describe publications by request, and one of the publications requested turns out to be Playboy. NPR interviewed Suzi Hanks, a radio DJ who took over Playboy duty after the guy who used to read it got married, and his wife asked him to stop.

Hanks reads the articles ... and describes the pictures. But that latter task is more than just titillatingly talking about tits.

"Basically I'm their eyes. All I'm doing is providing accessibility to what's there on the page," she says. "I don't have to try to be sexy when I'm describing the pictures. I'm just a woman reading it, and it comes out sexy whether I want it to or not."

It's more than just body parts, she says. "That would get boring. You're painting a picture. She's conveying something through her eyes, through her facial expressions."

Hanks will look for details in the photos like nautical sheets on the bed, or make observations like, "interestingly enough, in the centerfold, it looks as if the tattoos have been airbrushed out. The tattoos are gone."

Almost as interesting to me is the fact that Taping for the Blind has its own radio station that you can pick up in the greater Houston area. Read the rest

William Gibson and me, live on stage in London, Oct 4

I'm delighted to announce that I'll be interviewing William Gibson, live and on stage for London's Intelligence^2 event on Oct 4. Bill and I always have great conversations, and this one should be a lot of fun, since I've been bugging his old friends for interesting conversational veins that go beyond the usual. Plus there's the fact that his latest novel, Zero History, kicked eleven kinds of ass (I hope that we will be able to enumerate all eleven of them, but I'll settle for one or two). Hope to see you there!

William Gibson on 'Zero History' Read the rest

Terry Pratchett makes his own magic sword with meteoric iron

Having been knighted by the Queen, Sir Terry Pratchett decided he needed a sword, so he made one. He mined the ore from a field near his house, chucked in a bunch of meteoric ore ("thunderbolt iron, you see -- highly magical, you've got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in it or not") and then got a local blacksmith to help him fashion a silver-chased blade out of it. Then he hid it away, because he was worried that England's knife-crime-maddened coppers would come over to his house and confiscate it.
With help from his friend Jake Keen -- an expert on ancient metal-making techniques -- the author dug up 81kg of ore and smelted it in the grounds of his house, using a makeshift kiln built from clay and hay and fuelled with damp sheep manure...

He said: "It annoys me that knights aren't allowed to carry their swords. That would be knife crime."

Terry Pratchett creates a sword with meteorites (Thanks, Eric!)

(Image: Terry Pratchett, Powell's, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from firepile's photostream) Pratchett's Discworld: a reading-order guide Match it For Pratchett! Raising £500000 for Alzheimer's research ... Terry Pratchett: Doctor Who isn't science fiction Terry Pratchett has rare, early-onset Alzheimer's Terry Pratchett's "Making Money" -- economic comedy Terry Pratchett gets a knighthood Terry Pratchett fan-afghan -- the Pratchgan Pratchett donates $1 million to Alzheimer's research Read the rest

Journal of a 6 year old's 3-year whaling ship voyage in 1868

In October, 1868, 6-year-old Laura Jernegan and her family set sail on a three-year whaling voyage. Laura kept a journal of the voyage, which has now been scanned and posted. It's sweet and sad and lovely.

Laura Jernegan: Girl on a Whaleship (via IZ Reloaded) Stealthy anti-whaling powerboat Anne Frank's complete diary on display for the first time - Boing ... Secret Diary of a Specialist in Developmental Neurotoxicology and ... Bob Harris' photo diary of a trip to the North Korea border ... Diary of a UK journalist being hassled by goons at the Bilderberg ... Read the rest

Vintage Rootes automotive ads in Russian and English

LiveJournal Vintage Ads group member valaamov_osel scanned this 1961 Rootes automotive booklet that is inexplicably in both some Cyrillic language (I'm assuming Russian) and English. It's dozens of pages of pure vintage auto-ad gold, especially the heavy goods/passenger vehicles with names like "Gamecock" and "Avenger."

Rootes ad. 1961. Read the rest

New documentary on China's "colonization" of Africa

Al Jazeera will be broadcasting "The Colony," a documentary about "the onslaught of Chinese economic might and its impact on long-standing African traditions." Filmmakers Brent Huffman and Xiaoli Zhou traveled to the West African nation of Senegal to explore these themes. I am familiar with the subject, having witnessed it in other West African countries I've spent time in—as the promo says, the massive influx of Chinese citizens and China-owned businesses and capital has sparked tensions, and even violence. I haven't seen the film yet, but it sounds interesting. (shared with Boing Boing by the filmmaker himself, Brent Huffman, via BB Submitterator) Read the rest

Tachyon Books birthday party, San Francisco, Sunday Sept 19

San Francisco's Tachyon Books (publisher of my book of essays, Content, and conveners of the excellent SF in SF reading series) is celebrating its 15th birthday this Sunday at Borderlands Books in the Mission, with writer guests including Peter Beagle, Michael Blumlein, James Patrick Kelly, Jim Kessel, and Madeline Robins. Read the rest

Typographic zombie poster

The inaugural poster from a new site called freakingaweso.me features 978 zombie movies, games and books assembled into one awesome typographic zombie hand.

Zombies Zombie meat beef jerkey Zombie at Tiffany's Threadcake Zombie/NPR fanfiction Lawn zombie sculpture Hand printed poster: DANGER. ZOMBIES. RUN. in Bazaar ... Typographic mustaches -- handy identification poster Hot Pocket Ingredients poster in Bazaar Read the rest

Quest to Learn: video-game-based school

Sara Corbett's long NYT feature on the experimental Quest to Learn school in NYC, founded by game designer Katie Salen with some MacArthur and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation dough, is awfully exciting. Q2L uses custom-designed video games and game-like activities to teach and focus attention. Instead of getting grades, you level up ("pre-novice," "novice," "apprentice," "senior" and "master."), and subjects are interdisciplinary -- there's a "Math and English" class. Students design and build their own games, starting with physical prototypes made from cardboard and the like.
In Smallab sessions, students hold wands and Sputnik-like orbs whose movements are picked up by 12 scaffold-mounted motion-capture cameras and have an immediate effect inside the game space, which is beamed from a nearby computer onto the floor via overhead projector. It is a little bit like playing a multiplayer Wii game while standing inside the game instead of in front of it. Students can thus learn chemical titration by pushing king-size molecules around the virtual space. They can study geology by building and shifting digital layers of sediment and fossils on the classroom floor or explore complementary and supplementary angles by racing the clock to move a giant virtual protractor around the floor.

As new as the Smallab concept is, it is already showing promise when it comes to improving learning results: Birchfield and his colleagues say that in a small 2009 study, they found that at-risk ninth graders in earth sciences scored consistently and significantly higher on content-area tests when they had also done Smallab exercises.

Read the rest

Englishman Who Posted Himself: biography of a postal experimenter

A new book called The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects tells the amazing story of W. Reginald Bray, a stamp collector who experimented with mailing odd objects (including himself) through the Royal Mail. Whoever said philately will get you nowhere?

The New Yorker has a small and edifying gallery of his postal experiments.

Perhaps most remarkably, he posted himself, becoming the first man to send a human through the mail in 1900, and then, through registered mail, in 1903. Tingey's book includes a picture of Bray being delivered to his own doorstep--presumably the sort of package likely to please the lady of the house.

And Bray did not stop there. He sent postcards crocheted by his mother. He made out address fields in cryptic verse, or to the inhabitants of empty caves, or describing only the latitude and longitude of the destination, or with a picture of the location to which the article was meant to be delivered (see, in the slideshow below, the postcard made out to "The Resident Nearest This Rock," for example). He threw messages into bottles and solicited the world's largest collection of autographs, including ones from Gary Cooper and Laurence Olivier, Charlie Chaplain and Maurice Chevalier. The image that emerges from this antic and visually arresting volume is of a blithe English rogue, testing the system, stretching its limits--an experimenter, playing the most relentless, and amusing, of pranks.

The Eccentric Englishman (Thanks, Fonsecalloyd, via Submitterator) UK government wants to secretly read your postal mail Britain's postal-code database online at Wikileaks: produced at ... Read the rest

Just look at this awesome banana shoe.

Just look at it.

Banana 2010 (Thanks, Knutmo!) Previously: Just look at this awesome banana boat. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana skateboard. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana Viking helmet. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome slow-moving performance artist whose face has been covered with exploding bananas. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome EU banana curvature regulation. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome anti-banana-ripening bag. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome Korean banana-ripening facility. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana peeler. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana peeling simulator. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana slicer. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana saver clip. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana bunker. Boing Boing Read the rest

Foetus's middle-name naming rights for sale to highest bidder

A Los Angeles couple is selling middle name rights to their adorable foetus: "Our list of hopefuls includes SONY, SAAB, Jet Blue, Converse, Hot Pocket, Gibson, and Ludwig (we're musicians). 5-year renewable contract. $750,000. We'll throw in a tattoo of your company's logo for a million." No idea if they're serious, but whatever floats yer boat. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest

Learn like a kindergartner all your life: play, design and share

Here's MIT Media Lab prof Mitch Resnick talking about "Lifelong Kindergarten," a one-hour talk on "how new technologies can help extend kindergarten-style learning to people of all ages, enabling everyone to learn through designing, playing, and sharing."

Lifelong Kindergarten: Design, Play, Share, Learn (Thanks, Aviso, via Submitterator!) Alex Pang on Tinkering Read the rest

Rolf Potts is traveling around the world with no luggage

In a recent Boing Boing guest post, I talked about Neo-Minimalism and the rise of the Technomads. Both terms describe a wide array of practices relating to reducing the stuff you own and becoming more mobile.

In what is potentially the most minimal "technomadic" experiment ever, Rolf Potts (author of one of my favorite travel/lifestyle books Vagabonding) has set out on 6-week, 12-country, round-the-world trip without a single piece of luggage.

His trip is sponsored by ScotteVest (covered frequently here in the past), and yes, it's kind of a stunt. But it's also a super interesting experiment in travel minimalism. Exactly how much do you need to bring with you to get by on a trip like this?

I've written before about how travel is a great way to help you pare down and figure out what you truly need.

This no-baggage adventure will be more than a stunt to see if such a thing can be done: At a time when intensified travel-stresses and increased luggage fees are grabbing headlines, it will be an experiment to determine how much we really need to bring along to have the trip of a lifetime. What items, if any, are essential to the enjoyment of a journey to other countries? How does traveling light make a trip cheaper, simpler or easier (or more difficult)? What lessons from this no-baggage adventure might apply to day-to-day life—both on the road and at home?
The trip started in New York City, and Rolf has already made his way through Europe. Read the rest

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