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...
Terry Pratchett creates a sword with meteorites
He said: "It annoys me that knights aren't allowed to carry their swords. That would be knife crime."
(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
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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.
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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)
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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
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.
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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.
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.
The Eccentric Englishman
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.
(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
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
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
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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
CC-licensed photo by Stefan Munder
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia have issued a warning about LSD-laced gummi bears . Apparently they found a bag of the psychedelic bears during a drug raid. From CANOE:
"While the police don’t want to create panic, because most persons who would purchase such an item want it for personal use, they do want parents to be aware of the presence of these gummi bears in the Cranbrook area," police said in a release.
"Gummi bears laced with LSD a new trend: RCMP" Read the rest
Pithy fashion advice from The Guardian
on how to wear this year's hot accessory, the satchel-bag: "You are the small child, standing in the parade, pointing at the empress of fashion, Alexa Chung, and crying: 'Look! A bag that crosses a lady's chest is only going to look good on the particularly lithe! On everyone else it's going to smush one's boobs until one points north, one points south, and one's chest resembles a busted compass. Can no one else see this? I feel like I'm eating crazy pills!'"
I wore a messenger bag with my laptop in it for several years, and all I've got to show for it is weirdly disproportionate psoas muscles, mild spinal curvature, and back pain.
How are you supposed to wear a satchel bag?
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Mark Rayner is running another "Vintage Ads of Fictional Futures" photoshopping contest: "find a vintage ad, and then create a product from a created world -- it can be from a book, movie, TV, etc. It doesn't have to be science fiction; you could go with a fantasy world, an alternate reality, whatever. The only proviso is that it has to have been written by someone else, so none of your own bizarre fictional futures."
Here's a great source for raw materials: the LiveJournal Vintage Ads group.
Vintage Ads of Fictional Futures, Mark II
Vintage Marlboro ads targeted at moms
Another nice Texas Instruments Photoshop: Elephant and head ...
Vintage ads depicting abused and domesticated women
Vintage-style ads for Facebook, Skype and YouTube
Vintage ads from a contrafactual history
Vintage ads where kids leer demonically at food
Demon children want you to eat
Creepy vintage print ads
Vintage tech commercials
101 Classic Computer Ads
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I've come to accept that the closest I will ever get to time travel is matching up modern photos to historic shots of the same place. Usually, that means extensive time travel is restricted to cities, places where lots of people were taking lots of photographs at lots of different points over the years. The Third View project is a notable exception. Starting with geological survey photos from the late 1800s, the project then adds second shots of the same spots taken as part of a Rephotographic Survey in the 1970s. Finally, new images, taken between 1997 and 2000, show how the lonesome west changed over the course of 100 years.
It's not entirely what you might expect. Sure, some places got more populated, but a surprising number of the sites are still as empty and wild as they were in the 19th century.
I'm particularly fond of this trio of images taken at Nevada's Comstock Mines, where you can see the way strip mining changed the landscape, and how nature is reclaiming the now-mostly abandoned site.
The Third View Project Read the rest
San Franciscans: the latest installment of the excellent, free science fiction reading series SF in SF is coming this Saturday, Sept 11, featuring Amelia Beamer and Mark Van Name
. Free to attend, highly recommended. Read the rest