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Power To the People

As a huge fan of FlowingData, NPR and electricity, I'm super excited about this interactive map that gives you a clear view of the structure of the U.S. power grid. Clicking through, you'll see how areas of the country currently are (and aren't) connected to one another, what's in the works to improve the system, and why that matters (a lot) when you start talking about alternative energy sources. Good stuff.

In this picture, you can see the yellow lines that really seem to do a good job of efficiently linking up the whole country. Those power lines haven't been built yet. In the interactive part, you can take those off, revealing a clearer view of our current transmission infrastructure that looks more like a series of occasionally connected river systems than a grid.

It's Time To Play...Is! It! Sinful!?

Say you're an average medieval Euro-Joe and you want to have sex with your wife. But first, you need to know, IS IT SINFUL? Digging through all those manuscripts of canon law can take forever (plus, as average medieval Euro-Joe, you can't read, anyway). Luckily, James A. Brundage has prepared a handy flow chart for sexual decision making the summarizes the medieval Christian church's take on when sex was OK (Think: In the dark, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays only), and when you were totally going to go to hell.

Unfortunately, I'm not cool enough to figure out how to gank a picture from a Google Books page, so you'll have to follow this link to see the flow chart in all its glory.

A Farewell and Edhi

Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog celebrating the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.

Dear boingers,

These past two weeks have been nothing short of amazing. Thanks for letting me share my stories and experiences with all of you. I will be contacting those who won the haiku competition via private message to coordinate the giveaway. I would like to stay in touch with everyone, so please feel free to follow me on Twitter or even add me on Facebook if that's not weird.

Next up for me? I will be leaving to Pakistan shortly to start filming a documentary on Abdul-Sattar Edhi. For those who do not know his work, here's a decent article on his work. In the 1950's he bought an old blue van and began transporting the sick and dead to their fated destinations. This small van called The Poor Man's Van was the first ambulance in the history of Pakistan. Though Edhi single-handedly created one of the most successful health and welfare network in Asia, he never lost his simplicity. He owns only two tunics to his name, sleeps on the floor of his foundations office in Karachi, and eats only a piece of stale bread every morning.

I met Edhi in August when he was on his yearly visit to New York. He shared with us the plight of the Internally Displaced People in Pakistan and said he never saw a situation so bleak before in his life. Edhi has been with Pakistan since its inception and has seen many leaders and governments come and go. There is not very much written about him in English, but you can find a translated copy of his autobiography at I remember asking him if he could sign a copy of his autobiography for me. Edhi doesn't speak or write much English, but he took his pen and wrote in English, "love human beings." As I read aloud what he wrote on the flap he looked to me, smiled, and said in Urdu, "it's really that simple."

Thanks again everyone.

(Picture of me taken by Omar Mullick.)

Edhi Foundation Website

Raising money to air an anti-special-interest ad with Lessig and Olbermann

Adam Green sez, "On Friday, Lawrence Lessig's reform group Change Congress released a new ad calling out "Blue Dog" Rep. Mike Ross (D-Arkansas) for siding with his special-interest contributors over his constituents on the issue of health care. The ad features an extended cameo by Keith Olbermann -- and is narrated by Lessig. Rather unique. Within hours, it was featured by ABC, NBC, Politico, Huffington Post, and Rachel Maddow. Lessig's group is asking folks to chip in to air the ad on Arkansas TV."

Help us get this ad on the air in Arkansas! (Thanks, Adam!)(

Campaign to get UK government to apologise for hounding Alan Turing to his death

Robbo sez, "Genius mathetician Alan Turing was arrested and convicted of 'gross indecency' because he was a homosexual. His brilliant career was destroyed, his service to his country was ignored and he was hounded throughout the rest of his life until his death by suicide. Time to clear his name and give him the honours so long overdue."
John Graham-Cumming, a leading British computer expert who launched the campaign, said: "I think that Alan Turing hasn't been recognised in Britain for his enormous contribution because he died in his forties and almost certainly because he was gay.

"It is atrocious that we don't recognise this man and the only way to do so is to apologise to him. This man was a national treasure and we hounded him to his death.

"One of the things for people in the computing world is that he was part of the war effort but we don't give him recognition in the same way as other heroes. To me, he was a hero in the second world war."

Since his death, plaques, buildings and statues have been raised in Turing's honour. The computing world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize has been called the Turing Award since 1966.

Campaign to win official apology for Alan Turing (Thanks, Robbo!)

R. Crumb unsuccessfully attempts to flatten a 78 record in the oven


Todd says:

Here's Robert trying to flatten a warped 78 record by heating it in the oven. It's a difficult process, and one that can easily destroy the record as well. His efforts were unsuccessful this time, and we're asking you for your help. Robert is looking for this 78 record by DOC HOPKINS – "OLD JOE CLARK" and "21 years". Released on Paramount 577. He needs a clean copy, Any leads would be appreciated.

R. Crumb tries to fix a warped 78 record by melting it flat in the oven

Aung San Suu Kyi found guilty by Burma court, will return to house arrest

"It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it." - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

No surprises here: A court in Myanmar (Burma) has issued a guilty verdict for Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She was accused of "violating an internal security law," and will serve an additional 18 months imprisonment under house arrest. She has lived under detention for 14 of the past 20 years. Reuters, CNN. Guardian UK has a timeline of events related to the case.

Keeping the Googling Good Life Going in a Post-Box Store era: Doug Fine

We covered Doug Fine's radical off-the-grid lifestyle experiment last year on Boing Boing TV -- embed above. He is the author of Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, and he's still going strong out there on the Funky Butte Ranch. When he's not out in the fields turning the compost heap or feeding chickens, he's working on his next book, which I'm looking forward to reading. Doug has a thought-provoking piece out in this Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, here's a preview:

I have a fiancee and a son to provide for, so I decided to take a hard look at our prospects for survival if our consumer safety nets went away. For now, my green lifestyle choices at my remote 41-acre outpost in the American Southwest are optional. You know, growing lettuce instead of buying Chilean. Using organic cotton diapers instead of buying Pampers. But what if one morning in, say, 2049, I wake up to milk my goats and find out that supplies are no longer streaming in from China and California? What would I do if both box stores and crunchy food co-ops suddenly were no more? In other words, I'm examining my place in a hypothetical post-oil, post-consumer society 40 years in the future.

Now, I'm not rooting for such a thing. Slave labor, forest depletion, climate change and global resource wars aside, globalization has a lot going for it. I love that I can email a musician in Mauritania and ask to download his latest album. And anyway, lots of people still see globalization as the economic model for the foreseeable future. But when I was covering the former Soviet Union as a journalist in the 1990s, every single person I met told me that they'd thought pigs would fly before the Politburo crumbled.

On My Ranch, Ready for the Great American Meltdown (Washington Post)

Digital Open tech innovation expo for global youth: 10 more days to submit projects!

Boing Boing and Boing Boing Video are partnering with Institute for the Future and Sun to support the Digital Open, in which youth around the world are invited to submit technology projects "that will change the world--or even just make life a little easier or more fun."

The final deadline for submissions is August 15, 2009, but projects posted before the deadline will benefit significantly from feedback from the Digital Open community. We are giving away more than $15,000 worth of very cool prizes including laptops, video cameras, recycled billboard backpacks, solar-powered gear and more. We've already received 49 projects from eight countries: Argentina, Canada, India, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, the UK and the US!
More online:

Student challenges prof, wins right to post source code he wrote for course

Kyle Brady writes, "Thanks to some perseverance and asking the right questions, SJSU professors are now prohibited from barring students from posting their code solutions online, as well as penalizing their students for doing so. A win for students, programmers, and copyfighters nationwide!"

Kyle's a student at San Jose State University who was threatened with a failing grade for posting the code he wrote for the course -- he wanted to make it available in the spirit of academic knowledge-sharing, and as code for potential future employers to review -- and when he refused, his prof flew into a fury and promised that in future, he would make a prohibition on posting your work (even after the course was finished) a condition of taking his course.

Kyle appealed it to the department head, who took it up with the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development and the Judicial Affairs Officer of SJSU, who ruled that, "what you [Kyle] have done does not in any way constitute a violation of the University Academic Integrity Policy, and that Dr. Beeson cannot claim otherwise."

There's a lot of meat on the bones of this story. The most important lesson from it for me is that students want to produce meaningful output from their course-assignments, things that have intrinsic value apart from their usefulness for assessing their progress in the course. Profs -- including me, at times -- fall into the lazy trap of wanting to assign rotework that can be endlessly recycled as work for new students, a model that fails when the students treat their work as useful in and of itself and therefore worthy of making public for their peers and other interested parties who find them through search results, links, etc.

But the convenience of profs must be secondary to the pedagogical value of the university experience -- especially now, with universities ratcheting up their tuition fees and trying to justify an education that can put students into debt for the majority of their working lives. Students work harder when the work is meaningful, when it has value other than as a yardstick for measuring their comprehension. I've always thought it was miserable that we take the supposed best and brightest in society, charge them up to $60,000 a year in fees, then put them to work for four years on producing busywork that no one -- not them, not their profs, not other scholars -- actually wants to read. Might as well get them to spend four years carving detailed models of ships from sweet potatoes (and then bury the potatoes).

And in this case, it's especially poignant, since Kyle's workflow actually matches the practices of real-world programmers and academic computer scientists: coders look at one anothers' examples, use reference implementations, publish their code for review by peers. If you hired a programmer who insisted that none of her co-workers could see her work, you'd immediately fire her -- that's just not how software is written.

Kyle's prof's idea of how computer programmers work is exactly what's meant by the pejorative sense of "academic" -- unrealistic, hidebound, and out-of-touch with reality. Bravo to Kyle for standing his ground!

How I Won a Copyfight (Thanks, Kyle!)

Licensed to Drink

(Bill Gurstelle is guest blogging here on Boing Boing. He is the author of books including Backyard Ballistics, and the recently-published Absinthe and Flamethrowers. Follow him on Twitter: @wmgurst.)

From Drinking Learner Permits for Under Age Persons:

In more than 30 states, drivers aged 16 and 17 gain driving experience while holding special licenses that restrict when and how they may drive (for example, no late-night cruising). This permits a slow introduction to an adult privilege. The same concept should apply to drinking.

What could be the elements of a provisional drinking license? There could be time and place restrictions. The license holder could drink, for example, only in an establishment where at least 75% of sales receipts were for food (no bars, no liquor-store purchases). No service after 11:00 pm. Moreover, a 19- or 20-year-old could have to undergo formal instruction about alcohol and pass a licensing exam.
I'm fully aware that this may seem ironic given that I've already posted stories on absinthe and the 1974 Cleveland Indians 10-cent beer night debacle. But I see too many people drinking too much booze way too often. Recently, I came up (over beer with friends, another irony) with an idea for a drinking license. Turns out, several others have had the same idea.

While it may sound counterintuitive, would it not make sense to lower the drinking age from 21 to 20 or even less, provided the less-than-21-year-old imbiber obtains a separate license for drinking. And in order to get the license, there is a "drinking skills" program to pass. Not how to drink more, but how and why to drink like a mature grown up.

I think a lot of people (I could drink at 18, so this didn't really apply to me) go kinda nuts on reaching their 21st birthday. And because they're young, inexperienced, and uneducated in drinking, they do dumb things. People could be educated to be "better" drinkers.

USA, Canada and the EU attempt to kill treaty to protect blind people's access to written material

Update: Victory! -- the treaty proposal survived this meeting and will be back on the agenda at the next one. We've got a couple months to lobby our governments and make sure that the next time they show up, they don't embarrass us by opposing this.

Right now, in Geneva, at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization, history is being made. For the first time in WIPO history, the body that creates the world's copyright treaties is attempting to write a copyright treaty dedicated to protecting the interests of copyright users, not just copyright owners.

At issue is a treaty to protect the rights of blind people and people with other disabilities that affect reading (people with dyslexia, people who are paralyzed or lack arms or hands for turning pages), introduced by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay. This should be a slam dunk: who wouldn't want a harmonized system of copyright exceptions that ensure that it's possible for disabled people to get access to the written word?

The USA, that's who. The Obama administration's negotiators have joined with a rogue's gallery of rich country trade representatives to oppose protection for blind people. Other nations and regions opposing the rights of blind people include Canada and the EU.

Update: Also opposing rights for disabled people: Australia, New Zealand, the Vatican and Norway.

Update 2: Countries that are on the right side of this include, "Latin American and Caribbean region including (Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Jamaica) as well as Asia and Africa."

Update 3: Canada is upset with me. That's fine, I'm upset with Canada.

Activists at WIPO are desperate to get the word out. They're tweeting madly from the negotiation (technically called the 18th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights) publishing editorials on the Huffington Post, etc.

Here's where you come in: this has to get wide exposure, to get cast as broadly as possible, so that it will find its way into the ears of the obscure power-brokers who control national trade-negotiators.

I don't often ask readers to do things like this, but please, forward this post to people you know in the US, Canada and the EU, and ask them to reblog, tweet, and spread the word, especially to government officials and activists who work on disabled rights. We know that WIPO negotiations can be overwhelmed by citizen activists -- that's how we killed the Broadcast Treaty negotiation a few years back -- and with your help, we can make history, and create a world where copyright law protects the public interest.

I am attending a meeting in Geneva of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This evening the United States government, in combination with other high income countries in "Group B" is seeking to block an agreement to discuss a treaty for persons who are blind or have other reading disabilities.

The proposal for a treaty is supported by a large number of civil society NGOs, the World Blind Union, the National Federation of the Blind in the US, the International DAISY Consortium, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), Bookshare.Org, and groups representing persons with reading disabilities all around the world.

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities...

The opposition from the United States and other high income countries is due to intense lobbying from a large group of publishers that oppose a "paradigm shift," where treaties would protect consumer interests, rather than expand rights for copyright owners.

The Obama Administration was lobbied heavily on this issue, including meetings with high level White House officials. Assurances coming into the negotiations this week that things were going in the right direction have turned out to be false, as the United States delegation has basically read from a script written by lobbyists for publishers, extolling the virtues of market based solutions, ignoring mountains of evidence of a "book famine" and the insane legal barriers to share works.

Obama Joins Group to Block Treaty for Blind and Other Reading Disabilities


Twitter feed for #sccr18


Pedro Paranaguá's notes in English and Brazilian Portuguese

Starbucks Twitter campaign hijacked by documentary about Starbucks' union-busting

Filmmaker Robert Greenwald's documentary about sleazy unionbusting at Starbucks debuted the same day as Starbucks new Twitter campaign, so he hijacked the campaign to spread information about Starbucks' bad labor practices.
On a blog post published at the anti-Starbucks website Brave New Films created, people were encouraged to take pictures of themselves in front of Starbucks stores holding signs targeted at the company's "anti-labor practices." These users are then told to upload these photos onto Twitpic and tweet them out to their followers using the hashtags #top3percent and #starbucks. According to the post, these are the official hashtags that were designated by Starbucks itself for those who wanted to enter its contest. Within hours, several people had followed these guidelines and there were dozens of Twitpics in front of stores across the country.

As of this writing, the anti-Starbucks YouTube video has amassed over 30,000 views and was featured on the front page of social news site Digg. Greenwald said that Brave New Films is not done with its offensive against the coffee company, but he was hesitant to reveal his next steps.

Anti-Starbucks filmmakers hijack the coffee company's own Twitter marketing campaign (Thanks, Simon!)

Organize a town-hall to talk about dealing with the screwed-up economy

Tiffiniy from A New Way Forward sez,

Thanks to readers on Boing Boing and many others, the movement for dealing with the economic crisis has grown to 40,000 people in two months! But, so many people want to actually learn about what's going on, learn about the insider groups that are preparing to fight. Now, during the week of June 8th, thousands of people will get together at economic crisis house parties across the country to watch an ANWF-exclusive video that lays out how we got into this mess and a live webcast of economic crisis town hall forums in San Francisco, New York, and Washington DC. These events allow us to talk about alternatives for getting out of the crisis and take back the conversation from the technocrats who think that regular people like us shouldn't have a say.

Brought to you by Alternet and A New Way Forward, Doug Rushkoff and Professor Dal Bo will be speaking at the San Francisco town hall, and in Washington DC, Simon Johnson, and Les Leopold in NYC. We're thinking of petitioning Naomi Klein to speak at our NYC event (we need women!)

ANWF is differerent, we're all volunteer and people have made this our fight to win. People need to register their house parties and help build the movement and spirit. You can register a public or private- we have tools and a guide for hosting your party.

So, it'll be exciting, we'll get to feel like we have town halls again! Get together with your friends, watch some video, share some drinks and snacks, and chat with other people about the economy. We need to start talking to each other in order to build the foundation for a people-powered bank reform movement.

National Economic Crisis Video Screenings & Forums (Thanks, Tiffiniy!)

Antifascist collages that made Hitler crazy

RJ sez, "Very few people have heard of John Heartfield, the German born artist whose photomontages in the late nineteen thirties outraged Adolf Hitler. However, as part of the resistance against the inexorable rise of Nazism, he contributed some of the most biting satirical photographic mashups of the day - and all without the aid of Photoshop. Nice."

The Extraordinary Anti-Nazi Photomontages of John Heartfield

EU kills "3-strikes" Internet rule, affirms Internet is a fundamental right

After a last-minute scramble, the EU has been persuaded to kill the idea of forcing "3-strikes" copyright/internet legislation on European states. The "3-strikes" rule says that you can have your Internet connection taken away after a copyright holder accuses you of infringement three times -- but the rightsholder doesn't need to show any evidence that you've done anything wrong.

The entertainment industry has been lobbying around the world for the right to decide who gets to use the internet. In New Zealand, they managed to get Bill 92A, a 3-strikes rule, adopted by Parliament, but sustained, noisy activism from local geeks and artists forced the government to reverse its decision and go back to the drawing board on copyright. In France, Sarkozy pushed hard for a 3-strikes rule (his wife is a pop-star who is demanding more sweeping powers for entertainers over the internet), but was defeated. 3-strikes is a feature of the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which the US, Canada, Japan, the EU and other rich countries are conducting behind closed doors.

The entertainment industry slipped 3-strikes into the EU through an amendment to the notorious "Telecoms Package," a huge, complex piece of legislation. To counter this, progressive MEPs wrote a set of "Citizens Rights" amendments that established that internet access was a fundamental right in Europe that cannot be taken away without judicial review and an actual finding of wrongdoing.

Activists went down to the wire this week, phoning and emailing their MEPs to ask them to vote to defend due process and citizens' rights, and it paid off. Yesterday, the citizens' rights amendments passed 407/57 -- and the EU banned Sarkozy from reintroducing his failed copyright proposal.

A formidable campaign from the citizens put the issues of freedoms on the Internet at the center of the debates of the Telecoms Package. This is a victory by itself. It started with the declaration of commissioner Viviane Reding considering access to Internet as a fundamental right1. The massive re-adoption of amendment 138/462 rather than the softer compromise negotiated by rapporteur Trautmann with the Council is an even stronger statement. These two elements alone confirm that the French 'three strikes' scheme, HADOPI, is dead already.
Amendment 138/46 adopted again. Internet is a fundamental right in Europe.

Documentary on Canada's DMCA

A group of Canadian copyfighters produced this mini-documentary, "C-61," about the proposed new Canadian copyright law, which the US government is pressuring Canada to pass (that's why the USA added Canada to a nonsensical list of pirate nations). Previous attempts to pass this bill have been a disgrace -- famously, former Industry Minister Jim Prentice refused to discuss the bill with Canadian record labels, artists, tech firms, or telcos, but did meet with American and multinational entertainment and software giants to allow them to give their input. In the bill's earlier incarnation as C-60, its sponsor, Sam Bulte, was caught taking campaign contributions from the same US and multinational entertainment companies, and went berserk at a town hall meeting when questioned about it, decrying "user-rights zealots and EFF members."

"C-61" does a good job of explaining what passing American-style copyright in Canada would mean and why it's a bad idea. I contributed some narration to it, as well!