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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.

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

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. A second study compared the Smallab approach with traditional hands-on lab experimentation, with the group that used mixed-reality again showing greater retention and mastery. As it is more generally with games, the cognitive elements at work are not entirely understood, but they are of great interest to a growing number of learning scientists. Did the students learn more using digital mixed-reality because the process was more physical than hearing a classroom lecture or performing a lab experiment? Because it was more collaborative or more visual? Or was it simply because it seemed novel and more fun?

Learning by Playing (Thanks, Menachem!)

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)

Just look at this awesome banana shoe.


Just look at it.

Banana 2010 (Thanks, Knutmo!)

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!)

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!)

Rolf Potts is traveling around the world with no luggage

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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. He's posting frequent written and video blog posts on this site tracking the trip. You can also follow him on Twitter. As someone with a growing interest in super-minimalism who travels all the time, this is totally relevant to my interests. I missed running into him in Paris by just a few hours, but with any luck, we'll cross paths at another point on our respective journeys. I'm following along closely to see what issues arise and how he handles them.

Canadian police concerned about acid candy

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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"

On the wearing of satchel-bags

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?

Vintage ads from fictional futures photoshopping contest

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 (Thanks, Mark!)

The American West: 1890, 1970, 1999

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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.

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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

Amelia Beamer and Mark van Name at SF in SF reading series, Sept 11

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.

Jonathan Coulton, Wil Wheaton comedy interviews at PAX

Here's Yeshmin, a YouTube character whose schtick is somewhere between Yakov Smirnov and Andy Kauffman, wandering the halls of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX: a nerdgasmic gamer/culture convention run by the Penny Arcade webcomic), chatting with the likes of Wil Wheaton and Jonathan Coulton. Funny stuff!

Yeshmin Goes to PAX (with Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Coulton & Paul and Storm) (Thanks, Greg!)

Death Star/TIE-fighter ear tattoo


Tattoo artist Jacob Walsh got this fabulous bit of space-battle tattooed on his ear: "I have the severed hand of Luke, still clutching to his lightsaber on my right arm. It needs a bit more work but I'd say it's about 90% completed."

Let's Hear It For This Cool Star Wars Ear Tattoo (via Geekologie)

Missed Connections personal ads from Dragon*Con attendees

Creative Loafing gathers up the best of this year's Craigslist "Missed Encounters" messages from Dragon*Con in Atlanta, the awesome nerdfest that ran last weekend:
You - WOW blond wizard. Me - ancient wizard. You were pressing awfully hard into me during our photo. Just wondering if there was a lingering interest. Put your robe color in Subject Line of first email...

I can't figure out why I left without getting your contact information. I know your name is Dan, and you make leather jackets. You were the best Wolverine I've ever seen. We talked for a while, just standing in the crowd. I wish I could find a picture of us. Hopefully, I'll see you at another convention soon. :)

I was dressed up as Eddie Riggs and saw you in the Marriott Saturday night. You invited me over and we talked about our costumes with your boyfriend (?). He was dressed as Eddie as well but I was getting the feeling that he didnt want me around. My friend took some pictures of the three of us together and I got a couple of pics of you and your Eddie. I'd like to get the chance to talk with you some more if you're interested. If nothing else I'd like to send you copies of the photos we got. Hope to hear from you soon.

Alien vs Predator Interstellar Swinger Party (Dragon Con - Sheraton). Full Alien or Predator costume required. All single women and couples will be accepted. There will be limited spots for single men. I will send out the time and room number to all who qualify.

Dragon*Con missed connections warm the heart (via MeFi)

Atlanta appeals court: It's "nonracial" to call an adult black employee "boy"

A black man who worked for a Tyson chicken plant in Alabama sued his employer for discrimination, after being passed up for promotion in favor of white workers from another plant—and after being referred to regularly and derogatorily as "boy" by his supervisor, as were other black co-workers. An appeals court in Atlanta, GA ruled that calling an adult black man "boy" in this context was "nonracial." Notably, the NYT article skips the euphemisms. Core values, anyone? (via David Carr)