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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)

Login screens from Penn and Teller BBS, 1987

HappySmurfday has dug up and scanned some printouts of the login screen from Penn and Teller's circa-1987 BBS, Mofo Ex-Machina. They are nerdgasmic and glorious.

Mofo Ex-Machina (Thanks, HappySmurfday, via Submitterator)

Ukrainian salt mine therapy for asthmatics

From Wired's Raw File, a gallery of a creepy Ukrainian salt mine that has been converted into a convalescent home for recovering asthmatics. It's something called Speleotherapy: breathing in salt-saturated air as a means of soothing respiratory problems: "Kuletski describes the atmosphere among patients as 'calm and relaxed' despite the 'appallingly unsafe conditions. ... The presence of kids wearing safety helmets and cheap plastic sheets to protect them from dripping water from the ceiling makes being there even more surreal,' says Kuletski."

Eerie Ukrainian Salt Mines House Convalescing Asthmatics

(Image: Kirill Kuletski/Wired)

Print and fold envelopes lined with Google satellite maps

Here's a service that takes Google maps satellite views and converts them into print-and-fold envelopes you can use for your correspondence, creating a kind of handsome, 21st-century stationery.

MapEnvelope (via Make)

Steampunk horror-show walk-through

Here's a first-person walk-through of "Machine," a steampunk horror show built by hobbyists in their garage. It's jaw-dropping awesomesauceular -- "real horrorshow," as Little Alex might say.

Homemade steampunk walkthrough: Fangoria 2010 (Thanks, George!)

Physics lecturer demonstrating by unicycling across class with juggling student on shoulders

Here's University of Auckland engineering lecturer, Peter Bier riding a unicycle across his classroom with a juggling student on his shoulders, memorably demonstrating some key principles of physics.

University lecturer on unicycle with student on his shoulders - juggling!!! (Thanks, Tim!)

XKCD cake

Pink Cake Box made this custom XKCD wedding cake for one of their customers in New Jersey: "The top of the cake includes cutouts of the comic characters with a red heart on a wire between them. The entire cake is covered in white fondant with black thin bands at the base of each tier. Equations inspired by this comic decorate the remaining tiers."

xkcd Comic Wedding Cake (via Super Punch)

Gibson's ZERO HISTORY: exciting adventure that wakes you to the present-day's futurism

William Gibson's latest novel, Zero History, is his best yet, a triumph of science fiction as social criticism and adventure. Continuing on from 2007's Spook Country, Zero History features a reformed, dried out version of Milgrim, the junkie anti-hero from Spook Country. He's been rehabilitated at the expense of Hubertus Bigend, the shadowy power-broker whom we first met in Pattern Recognition. Bigend has got Milgrim hunting for the designer behind a mysterious line of fetish-denim, in the hopes of remaking it as the basis for a lucrative US military contract; this being Bigend's idea of novelty-seeking good times.

Joining Milgrim is Hollis Henry, the former pop star from Spook Country, still reluctantly in Bigend's employ, but even more conflicted, and missing her ex-boyfriend, a thrill-seeking nutjob whose idea of a good time in jumping off tall buildings in a glidersuit. Milgrim -- and later, Hollis -- track the secret denim from South Carolina to London to Paris and back to London again, and very quickly find themselves embroiled in an intrigue involving US spooks, experimental UAVs, rogue infosec specialists, and a palace coup at Blue Ant, Bigend's legendary design and branding firm.

What makes Zero History into Gibson's best so far is how absolutely perfectly he captures the futuristic nature of the present day. Milgrim -- a junkie dried out after a ten year fugue of living rough and stealing to buy pills -- is well-suited to this task, emerging as if from a time-machine into the 21st century in full swing, able to narrate its essential strangeness without seeming contrived. But all of Gibson's characters are in the business of understanding how we got to this futuristic present, and on every page, there is a jolt of pleasant dissonance as Gibson does the conjurer's trick of making you look at your surroundings with fresh eyes.

Here is a book that is both contemporary, and futuristic -- and anachronistic, filled as it is with characters who long for simpler times, who fetishize antique computers and vintage memorabilia. It's a book that doesn't so much feel written as designed, cunningly filled with trompe d'esprit effects that fool your brain into staring at your own life from the objective distance of a Martian.

And moreover, here is a book that is a novel, filled with people having exciting adventures and romance, developing as characters, chasing mysteries. An even better trick: to make something so smart that is nevertheless enormous fun as well. What a treat.

Zero History

Eight-foot shark caught in Potomac River

Fisherman Wily Dean was trying to catch cow-nosed rays in Southern Maryland's Potomac River for a marine biologist this week, but he ended up netting an 8-foot-long bull shark. Unfortunately, the story doesn't have a happy ending for the shark. From NBC Washington:
 Images 410*307 Shark21 "We had an interesting morning bringing it in," Dean said. "It was quite a fight."

Once the shark was captured, the next question was: What the heck do you do with it?

"I am probably going to have it mounted, maybe the head," Dean said. "Right now, the shark's in the freezer."

"8-Foot Shark Caught in Potomac River"

Hugo Awards 2010: some of the best results in recent memory

Last night, the Hugo Awards, one of science fiction's most prestigious prizes, were presented in Melbourne at Aussiecon 4. The Hugo ceremony is one of my favorite parts of any WorldCon, and last night's event, emceed by Garth Nix, was a particularly outstanding edition. The ballot was extremely strong, with works that I really enjoyed competing in several categories. The voter and nominator turnout were both much higher than usual, and the program moved at a very, very good clip. This year's award, designed by Nick Stathopolous, was gorgeous, incorporating aboriginal motifs and an organic, Belle Époque look inspired by the Paris Metro signs. Kudos to the administrators on a smooth, well-run ceremony!

The fiction prizes were especially sweet this year. Best novel was an almost-unheard-of tie between China Mieville for his brilliant, mind-bending The City and the City and Paolo Bacigalupe for his stellar debut novel The Windup Girl. Best novella went to my collaborator Charlie Stross for Palimpsest, from his wonderful, mind-bending solo short story collection Wireless. Best novelette went to Peter Watts for The Island, from The New Space Opera 2. Boing Boing readers will remember Peter as the SF writer who was beaten and gassed near the US/Canada border when he got out of his car to ask why US customs officers were searching his car; he spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting the charge and the potential two-year sentence; was found guilty but received a suspended sentence. SF fans raised money to bring Peter to Australia, and his acceptance speech in which he called this the "best and worst year of his life," was brilliant. The best short story, which I presented, went to Will McIntosh for "Bridecicle," a lovely story.

Net-based media was a big winner this year: the podcast Starship Sofa (often presented here) won for Best Fanzine. And of course, there was Fred Pohl's Hugo for Best Fan Writer for his excellent blog The Way the Future Blogs.

Other categories whose winners made me especially glad include the Best Editor prize for my editor at Tor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (this was his second prize in the very new category, and he has taken his name out of the running for next year). The graphic novel category went to Phil and Kaja Foglio's steampunk comic Girl Genius. The Campbell Award for best new writer to Seanan McGuire, whose heartfelt acceptance speech made me burst into tears. has the full list of nominees and winners here.

Historic artifact for a holiday weekend


This is the world's first frozen margarita machine, invented and built by Mariano Martinez in 1971 from parts of a soft-serve ice cream maker. His inspiration: A 7-11 Slurpee.

Today, it resides in the collection of the National Museum of American History, where a museum director once called it a, "classic example of the American entrepreneurial spirit."

Smithsonian: Top 10 Inventions from the Collections of the National Museum of American History

A glut of acorns, or a bad case of The Plague?


What would you make of medieval historical records that prominently note the occurrence of large crops of acorns? It's a bit of a weird departure from the kinds of things these records normally care about, i.e. battles and the deaths of famous people. In fact, the people keeping these records didn't even eat acorns, and other, more useful, crops aren't mentioned at all.

But, sometimes, an acorn might be more than just an acorn, according to a 2003 paper by classicist David Woods. That's because the Latin word for "little nut" and the word sometimes used to describe the swollen lymph nodes caused by the Capital-P Plague are one and the same.

The Latin term glandularius is the root of our word for gland; etymologically, glandula means 'little nuts' because this is what they felt like when palpated. There is at least one other example of a plague record using glandulara as a descriptor. In c. 660 the Burgundian 'Chronicle of Fredegar' describes the 599 plague of Marseilles as a cladis glanduaria.

So "a spark of leprosy and an unheard of abundance of nuts", becomes the far more logical, "we've had some issues with leprosy and The Plague this year".

Contagions: Plague among the nuts

Image via Wikipedia user Twid, under CC

Just look at this awesome banana skateboard.

Just look at it.

Hack Job/Brian Tellock (via Neatorama)

Teach your children to smoke ad

Parenting advice from another era: give your squalling children a pipe to smoke! Right up there with "Speak roughly to your little boy and beat him when he sneezes."

Smoke Duke of Durham

Abusive parenting brought on by bad coffee: vintage Sanka ad

Sanka: because your old man beats you when he's got the jitters.

Has his old man been hitting the coffee again?

Cannabis Catering

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Cannabis Catering offers gourmet meals laced with pot. The delivery service isn't cheap, around $100/person, but damn those pot-atoes look tasty. And yes, you need a medical marijuana card to order. From Fast Company:
The idea for Cannabis Catering came to (Chef Frederick) Nesbitt when he learned that his friend's diabetic mother had been diagnosed with cancer. "I would bring back edibles [from the dispensary], but they're so high in high-fructose corn syrup that she was high off sugar rather than being medicated," he says. So Nesbitt began experimenting with his own pot food--starting with mashed potatoes.
"Meet the Personal Chef of Pot" (Thanks, Mathias Crawford!)

Boneless, clubfooted French Connection model invades Melbourne

As seen tonight in the casino across from the Melbourne Convention Centre: a boneless, clubfooted French Connection model.

Club-footed rubber-band woman visits us from the French Connection dimension, Melbourne, Australia