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Kickstarting Maker's Alphabet: an ABC book that celebrates creativity

Melody writes, "We're grad students in the MFA Interaction Design program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. We launched a Kickstarter project called Maker's Alphabet. It's an ABC book that features whimsical illustrations and verses to celebrate creativity of all stripes."

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Spooky music made by abusing turntables and cutting up and reforming vinyl records

Knitmeapony sez, "This is the raddest, most atmospheric thing ever. All kinds of delightful, spooky distortions, creepy static, half-heard voices and mashed-up music, created by physically altering vinyl records and record players and manipulating them as they go. A serious delight."

Web developers: EFF needs your help with important pro-democracy tool!

Rainey from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, and Taskforce.is have teamed up to build a public domain tool that makes it easier for everyday people to contact Congress. EFF wants to use it so that Internet users can effectively stop Congress from enacting laws that don't make sense for technology and advocate for laws that protect our rights. But once it's done, it will be free software that anybody will be able to use it and improve.

"There's already a functional prototype, but it's not quite finished: we need web developers to donate time to help us finish off creating individual files for each member of Congress. Please pitch in for a few hours if you can, and help us make the voices of Internet users heard in the halls (or at least the inboxes) of Congress."

Dear Web Developers: EFF Needs Your Help

(Thanks, Rainey!)

Kickstarting Storium: turn writing into a multiplayer game

Mur Lafferty sez, "This week, Storium launched its Kickstarter and reached funding ($25000) in the first day. Storium is a web-based online game that you play with friends. It works by turning writing into a multiplayer game."

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Homebrew syringe hydraulic excavator

Here's a video of a young Brazilian man demonstrating justified pride and palpable pleasure as he puts his homebrew excavator, powered by syringe hydraulics, through its paces. Here's an Instructables post that takes you through building an ambitious syringe-hydraulics robot -- full of good ideas for your own syringe hydraulic projects.

Boy Makes DIY Excavator with Syringe Hydraulics (via Geekologie)

Crowdfunding a makerspace for Portland, Maine

Jeremy writes, "I'm helping to build the first makerspace in Portland (Maine), The Open Bench Project. We launched an Indiegogo campaign on April 3rd and have raised about a quarter of our goal so far (not bad for a little town in Maine?)."

They're seeking $27.5K to pay for the first six months' lease on a space.

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Daniel Ellsberg to keynote HOPE X in NYC this summer

2600 Magazine's Emmanuel Goldstein writes, "Acclaimed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg will be keynoting at this summer's HOPE X conference in New York City. Ellsberg leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers, 7,000 pages of documents that wound up changing American history forever. Today's whistleblowers are treated far more harshly, both by the authorities and the mainstream media, often facing lengthly prison terms or a life on the run. Fortunately, Ellsberg has remained involved and connected. A whole new generation will hear his words in person and hopefully be inspired to reveal the truth from whatever corporate or government position they find themselves in." Cory 2

FCC adds 100MHz of spectrum to the commons

The FCC has unanimously voted to open up 100MHz of spectrum at the bottom end of the 5GHz band, redesignating them as open spectrum, under rules similar to those that created the original Wifi boom. Previously, the spectrum had been exclusively allocated to a satellite telephony company. Adding more open spectrum is amazingly great news, and even better is the bipartisan support for the move, which was attended by very promising-sounding remarks from commissioners from both parties about the value of open spectrum as a source of innovation and public value.

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Playground removes "safety" rules; fun, development and injuries ensue


The Swanson School in Auckland, NZ, quietly eliminated all the rules against "unsafe play," allowing kids to play swordfight with sticks, ride scooters, and climb trees. It started when the playground structures were torn down to make way for new ones, and the school principal, Bruce McLachlan, noticed that kids were building their own structures out of the construction rubble. The "unsafe" playground has resulted in some injuries, including at least one broken arm, but the parents are very supportive of the initiative. In particular, the parents of the kid with the broken arm made a point of visiting the principal to ask him not to change the playground just because their kid got hurt.

The article in the Canadian National Post notes that Kiwis are less litigious, by and large, than Americans, and that they enjoy an excellent national health service, and says that these two factors are a large contributor to the realpolitik that makes the playground possible. But this is still rather daring by Kiwi standards.

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My City Garden: Boston-area yard-sharing service for urban gardeners

Gmoke writes, "My City Gardens is up and running for the season. We're a local yard sharing website that connects gardeners, mentors, and people with access to space, to neighbors who want to roll up their sleeves and dig in. If you have extra space in your yard you'd like help cultivating, need a gardening plot this summer or are willing to lend gardening advise to your neighbors, please sign up!"

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Painting babies' medical helmets

Robbo sez, "Artist Paula Strawn paints the plain white medical helmets of babies and transforms them into super awesome designs. The flight helmets and droid designs are really cool - but so are the Van Gogh and Seurat paintings. And the wee tykes look like they love 'em too."

The kids have flat head syndrome and have to wear the helmets; Strawn's done 1,300 helmets in 12 years, through her business Lazardo Art.

Artist Turns Babies' Head-Shaping Helmets Into Impressive Works Of Art [Mandy Velez/Huffington Post]

(Thanks, Robbo!)

Making pancakes with the amazing Nathan Shields and his awesomely cute kids

The amazing pancake artist Nathan Shields (previously, previously) has launched a video-series in which he makes pancakes with his adorable kids, Gryphon and Alice. Part three, out today, is jaw-dropping and hunger-inspiring! Parts one and two (below) are great introductions to advanced pancaking, and part two features a pancake portrait of Paul Erdos!

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Arduino-powered Etch-a-Sketch clock

Dodgey99 built an Arduino-powered Etch-a-Sketch clock, in which a pair of stepper motors painstakingly draw out the current time. It's got a very low refresh rate, though: the limits of the motors and the Etch-a-Sketch means that it takes more than a minute to display the time, and it needs a couple of minutes' rest between each number. There's a plan to accelerate things with some beefier motors.

I use an Arduino driving two very cheap darlington stepper drivers with 64:1 internally reduced steppers for the drawing. For the rotation I'm using an Easy-Driver driving a Nema 17 stepper.

I also have a DS1307RTC real time clock installed so it always knows the time. Setting the time is a one-off via USB connected to a PC. Once done, you un-tether, and then the RTC keeps the time, for up to a year on the rechargeable battery, or so I'm told...

The code is actually very simple, it's just a pain drawing the numbers!

The G clamp on the back is for a counter balance until I find something more elegant!

The steppers are far too slow to write the time in under a minute so I delay it for a couple of mins between each draw. Mostly to give the very hot motors a while to cool off and to give the etch a sketch a break!

Etch a Sketch clock powered by Arduino (via JWZ)

Post-scarcity hacker convention: !!Con

Sumana is helping put on a new kind of hacker conference in NYC, !!Con (pronounced "Bang bang con"). Unlike other hacker cons, !!Con has no ranking, no winners, and no dominance displays: "Whenever possible, Hacker School culture assumes abundance rather than scarcity; attempts to rank projects or people would defile our ecology." Cory 9

Bay Area drone-fliers' meetup

Jeffrey writes, "Bay area flyers, come talk and fly drones over pizza and beer in our massive 17 foot tall ceiling warehouse! Amateur and professionals are welcome to come and talk drones and show off their airframes in action. We'll have plenty of charging stations, onsite repair workbench, tasty local beer, and food/snacks for flyers. Compete for fun prizes, fame, and whimsical trophies in our drone flying contests. Starts at noon on April 5, contests start at 2 PM. Plenty of parking and free for all." Cory 3