Boing Boing 

NYC think-tank devoted to critical analysis of Big Data seeks fellows

Outstanding social scientist danah boyd has founded a new thinktank (or "think/do-tank") called The Data & Society Research Institute, based in New York City, and devoted to critical analysis of big data, and "social, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that are emerging because of data-centric technological development." It's well-funded, with an exciting mission, and they're hiring.

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Bruce Schneier and Eben Moglen, Dec 12, Columbia U/NYC

James writes, "Following on Eben Moglen's mind-warping series of talks about life after Snowden, the Software Freedom Law Center has invited Bruce Schneier to join Eben for a conversation informed by Bruce's own analysis of the leaked documents. Bruce is one of the smartest thinkers around when it comes to understanding how security and surveillance operate in the real world. And he is unsurpassed at presenting complicated security concepts even to people who lack his expertise. Between Moglen's sophisticated thoughts and Bruce's grounded approach, we're sure to learn a lot about where we stand and what we can do next!"

NYPD shoot at unarmed man, hit bystanders, charge man for making them shoot


It's the most heartwarming NYC Christmas story since Miracle on 34th Street: the NYPD shot at a mentally disturbed, unarmed man who was lurching through traffic in Times Square. They ended up wounding a bunch of bystanders. So the DA charged the disturbed man with a felony because his conduct resulted in police officers shooting passersby. He faces 25 years in prison. The officers have been placed on "administrative leave," but their names are withheld because it might be hard on them, being known as the cops who were forced to shoot those bystanders by the unarmed man who was lurching through traffic in a state of mental breakdown.

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Rooster-faced warriors of 16th century Germany


16th century German soldiery sure understood how to strike terror into their enemies' hearts: the rooster-headed armored visor (ca 1530) must have been a sight to behold. Now on display at the Met in NYC (Bashford Dean Memorial Collection, Bequest of Bashford Dean, 1928)

Close Helmet with Mask Visor (via Neatorama)

Video: NYPD try to stop skateboard race down Broadway

Despite a court order banning it in 2012, this year's Broadway Bomb skateboard street-race down Manhattan's iconic boulevard still attracted a huge number of participants. This video -- Yakety Sax and all -- shows some of NYC's finest doing...something...with the traffic and the skateboarders and whatnot, with a large amount of comical bumbling and not much else.

Broadway Bomb - Benny Hill Style - 2013 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

HOPE X announced, more 2600 archives online

Emmanuel from 2600 Magazine sez, "HOPE X (the tenth Hackers On Planet Earth conference) is set for July 18-20, 2014 at the not-to-be-torn-down Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. More details at http://xxx.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx/ and - for those who have the .xxx domain blocked - http://x.hope.net. Speaker submissions will be opening soon, along with preregistration and other ways to participate."

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Man accused of stealing 37 doormats from Manhattan banks


Here's a sad profile of William Footman, an inmate at Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward who is believed to be behind at least 37 robberies in which the doormats were stolen from banks. Footman admits to some of these, but says that the rest weren't him; he claims to have worked at a rug factory, to have a wife and 15 daughters, and to have made ends meet by selling stolen bank doormats to bodegas. But there's a clear impression that he's a fabulist, possibly delusional, and that he's really in a bad place, despite the weirdness of his crimes.

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Welcome to Fear City: a guide to scare tourists away from NYC


Islandersa1 has scanned Welcome to Fear City, an amazing, never-distributed 1970s flier aimed at scaring the pants off of tourists in NYC, produced by the police union, who were looking for more funding. (via Super Punch)

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Can has data-optimized cheeseburger? Yes.

Here's an Ignite talk by Hilary Mason, chief scientist at Bitly, explaining how she scraped data from multiple sources to create a service that locates NYC's most optimal cheeseburger, using an algorithm that balances out price, proximity, and sentiment analysis from various review sites. As Mason points out, this isn't about cheeseburgers, really: it's about the power (and limits) of cross-referenced data.

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How the Strand sells print books to ebook readers


Avi Solomon snapped this pic of the window display at NYC bookstore The Strand lauding the virtues of their "Real books priced lower than ebooks," including the fact that you can read them during take-off and landing.

Real Books... (via Boing Boing Flickr Pool)

Fundraiser: Campaign to name street for George Carlin vs Catholic church Carlin attended as a boy

The campaign to rename West 121st St in NYC for George Carlin has nearly succeeded, but is being blocked by a single vote -- and faces opposition from his boyhood Catholic church and school. A fundraiser at the Gotham Comedy Club tomorrow night will feature an all-star standup cast to raise money to support the cause. (via Reddit)

United States of New York map, 1978


(Click to embiggen)

Jim sez, "My sister and I helped my mom start cleaning out her basement yesterday, and this 1978 Tony Graham Graphics 'United States of New York' poster was one of the things we found. As a little kid living in Brooklyn, this definitely goofed up my ideas about geography. My parents didn't want to keep it, so I got to snag it. I need to re-frame it, but then it's going up on the wall, since I definitely remember it from when I was a kid. So I wanted to share a very very big copy of it for any New Yorkers out there that may be interested. Sorry for the blurry bits, there's only so much resolution you can squeeze out of your cell phone."

Kickstarter to fund NYC's KGB science fiction reading series

Matthew sez, "Fantastic Fiction at KGB is a monthly reading series held on the third Wednesday of every month at the famous KGB Bar in New York City. In the past, generous donations and raffles have helped keep the series going. Now, support from the community can ensure that Fantastic Fiction at KGB continues to allow writers, editors, agents, and fans to meet each month in a friendly and casual atmosphere. We've assembled a wonderful collection of rewards, including items from Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, Joe Hill, Ellen Kushner, Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, Michael Swanwick, Elizabeth Bear and many others."

Turning 425sqft of Manhattan into a tardisoid bigger-on-the-inside home


Architects Specht Harpman converted a 425sqft Manhattan micro-apartment into an amazing, multi-tiered living space by building up into the apartment's 25' (!) ceilings. It's got a bit of that shipbuilder's vibe, with cabinets built into everything, including the staircases. I love the tiny swatch of grass, too. I live in a very small place, and looking at this makes me want to explore how to cram more into our little place -- we get about 650 sqft of livable space out of an 18' square/22' tall place that's laid out in two storeys. Using this kind of technique, it seems like we should be able to get a much more livable and spacious place.

Manhattan Micro-Loft | Residential | Specht Harpman

NYC Councillors propose idiotic, headline-grabbing "3D printed gun" law

Michael from Public Knowledge sez, "Members of the New York City Council seem to have read a few articles about 3D printed guns and decided to hop on the bandwagon. Their new bill got them some attention because it has the words "3D printing" in it. But it also betrayed a near total ignorance of what 3D printing is, and fails to explain why it is regulating 3D printed guns specifically (besides the fact that it got them in the news). Lawmakers who introduce bills like this should be publicly shamed for rushing to regulate something before making any effort to understand it."

Why does this definition betray shameless headline chasing on behalf of Council Members Fidler, James, Chin, Recchia, Comrie, Weprin, Palma, Foster, Brewer, Del Carmen Arroyo, Dickens, Jackson, King, Koo, Koppell, Lander, Mendez, Rose, and Vann? A 3D printer is “a computer-driven machine capable of producing a three-dimensional object from a digital model,” isn’t it?

Sure. But so is every other modern manufacturing machine. A CNC mill fits that definition. As do laser cutters. So do industrial arms that build cars on assembly lines. And robots. And, for that matter, automated crochet knitting machines.

Which is fine. If these Council Members think that people using machines to make firearms is a problem, they should draft a bill that addresses that problem. Alternatively, if these Council Members think that people specifically using 3D printers to make firearms is a problem, they are free to draft a bill to address that too.

But that’s not what appears to have happened here. This bill reads like it was drafted after someone saw a bunch of stories about 3D printed guns, but before they took any time to think about 3D printed guns, let alone formulate a specific concern about 3D printed guns.

Legislating for Headlines Makes you Look Like a Jerk

Scary NYC neighborhood, 1888


Here's a photo from Jacob Riis's 1890 classic "How the Other Half Lives," "an early publication... documenting squalid living conditions in New York City slums in the 1880s." It shows "Bandit’s Roost, at 59½ Mulberry Street (Mulberry Bend), was the most crime-ridden, dangerous part of all New York City."

Those guys are clearly total bad-asses.

How the Other Half Lives is in the public domain; you can download the full book, listen to a free audio edition at Librivox, and choose from among several editions in print.

Bandit’s Roost (1888) (via Kadrey)

Help send 15 kids from the Bronx to writing camp

Brad sez, "Fifteen high school students from the Bronx. Five dedicated teachers. A summer of learning that could change their lives -- and change the way kids learn all across America. This summer Paul Allison, (English teacher in the Bronx and co-founder of Youth Voices. the New York City Writing Project (NYCWP) at Lehman College, CUNY plan to host a free Youth Voices Summer Program. We need help to make this happen. We are nearly half way to a goal of $15K."

TWA's Idlewild lounge: Escher, eat your heart out


No, it's not a lost Escher print, it's a photo of Saarinen's long-lost TWA lounge at Idlewild, and you can buy it as a print:

Circa 1964. "Trans World Airlines Terminal. Idlewild Airport, Queens, New York." Acetate negative by Balthazar Korab (1926-2013), Hungarian-born architectural photographer who documented the work of Eero Saarinen.

TWA: 1964 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Freestanding "street library"


The Little Free Library is a project from Stereotank: a freestanding, inverted plastic tank that you stick your head into in order to browse the books that are sheltered from the elements. It's been installed in New York's Nolita.


The Architectural League of New York partnered with Pen World Voices Festival to bring Little Free Library to New York City. Ten designers were chosen to create one Little Free Library each in Downtown Manhattan. Stereotank was selected to design a Little Free Library at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral School in Nolita. The design consisted in creating an 'inhabitable' Little Free Library, where users could immerse themselves and take the time to browse through books and borrow or exchange them. The structure is built out of an upside down plastic tank and a wooden frame. Perforations around the tank allow visitors to peek inside and preview the interior, which invites them to duck under and discover the book collection while still having a connection with the exterior. The installation is planned to be active until September 2013.

Little Free Library

New York City adopts new International Symbol of Accessibility

The new International Symbol of Accessibility replaces the old, static "disabled" icon, which depicted a rather static, object-like disabled person in a wheelchair -- the new ISA shows a person zooming dynamically in a wheelchair instead. It's been officially adopted in NYC:

After several years of petitioning for change, designers from Gordon College in Massachusetts have come up with an alternative to the traditional stick figure sitting back in a wheelchair.

Their new character is dynamic, leaning forward with its arms at the ready.

"It's such a forward-moving thing," Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York mayor's Office for People With Disabilities, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Calise, who himself was paralyzed in a cycling accident at the age of 22, plans to begin putting the new logo in place all over New York City this summer.

Revamped disability icons coming to New York City (Thanks, Matthew!)

Rich New Yorkers hire disabled "guides" to Disney World in order to skip lines (according to NY Post, anyway)

The (awful and not usually very trustworthy) New York Post reports that rich New Yorkers pay thousands of dollars to an Orlando area service that rents out disabled people to accompany them to Walt Disney World in order to jump the lines. The article says that there's a word-of-mouth underground in New York's priciest private schools, in which parents pass on the details of the service, which is allegedly called Dream Tours Florida:

Passing around the rogue guide service’s phone number recently became a shameless ritual among Manhattan’s private-school set during spring break. The service asks who referred you before they even take your call.

“It’s insider knowledge that very few have and share carefully,” said social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin, who caught wind of the underground network while doing research for her upcoming book “Primates of Park Avenue.”

“Who wants a speed pass when you can use your black-market handicapped guide to circumvent the lines all together?” she said.

“So when you’re doing it, you’re affirming that you are one of the privileged insiders who has and shares this information.”

Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World [Tara Palmeri/New York Post]

Dazzle-paint bar

The basement of the Hôtel Americano in Chelsea, NYC has been done over in dazzle-paint reminiscent of the cubist battleship paint used to confound the enemy in WWI (and dazzle makeup used to fake out face-recognition systems). The work is by German artist Tobias Rehberger, who describes it as a re-creation of Frankfurt's Bar Oppenheimer.

The space, which opens May 10 and will remain open until July 14, dazzles the senses with its salonlike atmosphere, tight dimensions and prismatic black-and-white stripes; it’s also a functional bar where anyone can stop in for a drink during the life of the project.

By Design | A Bar That’s Also a Piece of Art [Rocky Casale/New York Times Magazine]

(via JWZ)

(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail of a larger photo by Matthew Cianfrani, viewable here)

Rumored Statue of Liberty face-recognition supplier harasses and threatens journalist

Slate's Ryan Gallagher caught wind of a new face recognition software being rolled out at the Statue of Liberty. He interviewed a rep from Total Recall, who were reported to be representing Cognitec, the German company whose product, FaceVACS was going in on Liberty Island. Halfway through the interview, Total Recall's director of business development Peter Millius terminated the call, saying that the project was on hold, or possibly cancelled, "vetoed" by the Park Police.

Then it got weird. Cognitec and its lawyers began to barrage Gallagher with emails and letters warning him that if he wrote about this, they'd sue him. When he asked Total Recall for clarification, they threatened to sue him, personally, for harassment. The National Park Service didn't have much to say about the bid, saying "I'm not going to show my hand as far as what security technologies we have." Go, security-through-obscurity! Hurrah for spending tax dollars without any transparency!

Gallagher reported the whole story, including the threats. Whatever merits or demerits Total Recall and Cognitec have as companies, turning into weird, opaque legal-threat-generating machines in the middle of an interview and harassing and intimidating journalists sounds like the kind of thing that should disqualify them from getting any of the American public's money.

“We do work with Cognitec, but right now because of what happened with Sandy it put a lot of different pilots that we are doing on hold,” Peter Millius, Total Recall’s director of business development, said in a phone call. “It’s still months away, and the facial recognition right now is not going to be part of this phase.” Then, he put me hold and came back a few minutes later with a different position—insisting that the face-recognition project had in fact been “vetoed” by the Park Police and adding that I was “not authorized” to write about it.

That was weird, but it soon got weirder. About an hour after I spoke with Total Recall, an email from Cognitec landed in my inbox. It was from the company’s marketing manager, Elke Oberg, who had just one day earlier told me in a phone interview that “yes, they are going to try out our technology there” in response to questions about a face-recognition pilot at the statue. Now, Oberg had sent a letter ordering me to “refrain from publishing any information about the use of face recognition at the Statue of Liberty.” It said that I had “false information,” that the project had been “cancelled,” and that if I wrote about it, there would be “legal action.” Total Recall then separately sent me an almost identical letter—warning me not to write “any information about Total Recall and the Statue of Liberty or the use of face recognition at the Statue of Liberty.” Both companies declined further requests for comment, and Millius at Total Recall even threatened to take legal action against me personally if I continued to “harass” him with additional questions.

Lady Liberty’s Watching You (via Reddit)

(Image: Statue of Liberty Paris, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from francehousehunt's photostream)

Well-dressed psychoanalyst in NYC


This wonderfully dressed woman comes from an early February post to the Humans of New York Tumblr, a collection of well-put-together individuals indeed.

“Artist?” “Psychoanalyst.” (via Crazy Abalone)

Issuing an apology on behalf of the New York Post

Andy writes, "As you guys know, the New York Post made some pretty terrible editorial decisions following the Boston Marathon attacks, including putting two innocent kids on the cover. Someone wrote a fake letter of apology from the paper's editor and inserted it into a bunch of papers around NYC, and ANIMAL made a video about it. Take a look!"

The Apology the New York Post Should Have Issued - ANIMAL (Thanks, Andy!)

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American public schools in 9 states sharing every conceivable personal detail of their students with third parties


Update: A PR person who has apparently been retained to represent inBloom strenuously objected to Greg's characterization of her client's practices below. She sent me an email, which I've posted to the comments. I've also made a factual correction, regarding constraints, below (look for the strikethrough)

Greg Costikyan sez,

inBloom, a Gates-funded non-profit to harness data to improve grade school education, has partnered with New York and eight other states to encourage the development of apps to "further education" by using intimate data about students, without parental consent and with no ability for parents to opt out.

Among the data shared are name, address, phone numbers, test scores, grades, economic status, test scores, disciplinary records, picture, email, race, developmental delay... just about everything conceivable, and all specific, none of it anonymized. inBloom has arrangements with nine states (New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, Delaware and Kentucky) to do this.

The XML schema used are downloadable here. Anyone can register as a developer and start using "sample" data, but "real" data is supposedly only available to developers with contracts with a school board. But this includes for-profit, third party developers, such as, say, Amplify, a News Corp subsidiary with a contract with New York. And it doesn't appear there are any constraints on their use of this data. Ed: apparently constraints can be imposed by districts and states, though the system can allow unconstrained access if the district/state chooses.

Who is Stockpiling and Sharing Private Information About New York Students? (Thanks, Greg!)

Band puts up Times Square billboard asking for views on piracy


The band Ghost Beach won a promo deal with American Eagle, and spent the money on a prominent billboard in Times Square asking people to tweet their feelings about piracy. Piracy is winning:

Piracy is progress, piracy is freedom, piracy is harmless, piracy is inevitable, piracy is robbery, piracy is evil, piracy is selfish, or is it a fad?

The statements above are displayed on one of the world’s most prominent billboards in Times Square, New York. The billboard displays both positive and negative views on piracy and encourages the public to add their views via Twitter. Thus far the for-piracy side outnumbers the against-piracy side 20 to 1...

“Rather than just put up another advertisement, we decided to open a discussion up with our peers about how they felt about music distribution on the internet and the future of the industry,” the band tells TorrentFreak.

“Piracy Is Progress” Billboard on Times Square Divides Artists [Torrentfreak/Ernesto]

NYPD will arrest you for carrying condoms: the women/trans/genderqueer version of stop-and-frisk


NYC has a law prohibiting "loitering for the purposes of engaging in a prostitution offense" which lets cops arrest whomever they feel like, on the strength of their conviction that the person is probably a sex-worker, on the basis of flimsy circumstantial evidence like carrying a condom, talking to men, or wearing tight clothes. Like stop-and-frisk, it's part of a pattern of laws that assume that the police have infallible intuition about who the "bad guys" are and lets them use their discretion to harass and bust whomever they feel like. And like stop-and-frisk laws, the "condom" law shows that the much-vaunted cop intuition is really just bias, a dowsing rod that leads officers to poor women, genderqueer people, and trans people.

Like most laughably cruel tricks of the justice system, you probably wouldn't know that you could be arrested for carrying condoms until it happened to you. Monica Gonzalez is a nurse and a grandmother. In 2008, Officer Sean Spencer arrested her for prostitution while she was on the way to the ER with an asthma attack. The condom he found on her turned out to be imaginary. Gonzalez sued the city after the charges were dropped. But if the condom were real, why should she have even been arrested at all?

Arrest is always violent. The NYPD may or may not break your ribs, but the process of arrest in America is still a man tying your hands behind your back at gunpoint and locking you in a cage. Holding cells are shit-encrusted boxes, often too crowded to sit down. Police can leave you there for three days; long enough to lose your job. If this seems obvious, I say it because the polite middle classes trivialize arrest. They talk about "keeping people off the streets." They don't realize that the constant threat of arrest is traumatic, unless it happens to them or their kids.

Prostitution is only a misdemeanor in New York, but a conviction will knock you off food stamps and out of subsidized housing. While society feigns wanting sex workers to change their profession, it does everything it can to keep them where they are. Most prostitution defendants plea bargain. Too broke and scared to fight, men and women agree to charges that will follow them for life.

There are two types of prostitution arrests. For "prostitution," the officer has to witness you making an offer, but "loitering for the purposes of engaging in a prostitution offense" requires only circumstantial evidence. On the supporting depositions, officers answer a checklist. Were you standing in an area known for prostitution? According to Karina Claudio, a lead organizer at the community group Make the Road, these areas can be anywhere. Were you dressed provocatively? Did you speak to a guy? Were you standing next to someone who has been arrested for prostitution? Were you carrying condoms?

New York Cops Will Arrest You for Carrying Condoms | VICE United States (via Amanda Palmer)

(Image: Molly Crabapple)

Ralph Bakshi's Kickstarter-funded documentary on Coney Island in the 1960s

A reader writes, "Revolutionary animation director Ralph Bakshi just started a Kickstarter for shorts about Coney Island in the 60s. Looks like it'll have some pretty heavy themes. Might be worth looking into! Looks like an important reflection of American cultural revolutions."

In my films I have always discussed America: who we are, what we are, for better and worse, and the ridiculous. I’m here on Kickstarter asking for your support for my newest project, Last Days of Coney Island.

It’s a series of shorts set against the strange backdrop of Coney Island and all its weird characters: crooked cops, broken hearts, jaded strippers, and singers.

Be sure and check out the rewards -- lots of extremely sweet Bakshi one-of-a-kind stuff.

Last Days of Coney Island

Gygax Magazine: Dragon reborn

Jayson sez, "Gygax magazine is a quarterly adventure-gaming magazine, created in the spirit of such iconic '80s journals as Dragon, White Dwarf, Adventure Gaming, and Pegasus. At the helm are Gary Gygax's two eldest sons, Luke & Ernest Gary Gygax Jr., along with Jayson Elliot, and Dragon magazine founder Tim Kask. The first issue includes an article by Cory Doctorow on DMing for toddlers, as well as new comics from Phil Foglio (What's New With Phil & Dixie) and Rich Burlew (The Order of the Stick). Gygax will launch its first issue this Saturday at The Brooklyn Strategist. The event, which is open to the public, will also have lots of gaming (including a massive AD&D 1E dungeon delve with the founder of Dwarven Forge) and a video Q&A with the staff. The whole event will be live-streamed at GygaxMagazine.com."

Gygax Magazine

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