Boing Boing 

Predictable: bare-rotored flying misletoe-copter at T.G.I. Friday's slices up bystander's face


A newspaper photographer reporting on a TGI Friday's flying "Mobile Mistletoe" drone had her face sliced open by the 23" drone's six bare rotors, and Friday's blamed her for the injury, saying she flinched when the restaurant's drone pilot landed a smaller copter on her outstretched hand.

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Pizzeria asks judge to find rival's flavor to be trademark-infringing


New York Pizzeria claimed that Gina's Italian Kitchen -- founded by an ousted exec -- violated its trademark by creating a pizza that tasted the same as its own pie. The judge wasn't buying it.

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LAX delays flight because someone's wifi network had scary terrorist name

Someone in the waiting area for AA's LAX-London flight created a network called "Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork," so "out of an abundance of caution," everyone ran around like headless chickens for a while trying to figure out where the network name was coming from (cue horror music: "He's broadcasting from INSIDE THE TERMINAL!" Dun dun DUUUUN!).

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TSA demands to search man who's already flown

Minnesota's Kahler Nygard drew a Spirit Air boarding car with the dreaded "SSSS" extra-search marker, and halfway to Denver, Spirit and/or the TSA decided he hadn't been searched properly (he says he was), so they panicked and dragged him off the plane in Denver for another search because he might have been a time-traveller who could harm a plane after getting off of it.

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TSA: "please verify that your used cane is not a sword before flying"

Kevin Underhill nails it: "Anyone who does not know their cane conceals a sword or dagger (almost certainly an elderly or disabled person with a second-hand cane) poses no threat, while anyone who does know it will not need, want, or follow this advice."

Keurig's K-Cup coffee DRM cracked


When they unveiled the stupid idea of locking out competitors' coffee-pods, I predicted this would happen, and I still wonder if Keurig will be dumb enough to bring a test-case that makes some good law; after all, they are a good candidate for Battle Station Most Likely to Have a Convenient Thermal Exhaust Port.

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EU wants Google to extend "right to be forgotten" to global users


Right now, Google blocks "forgotten" articles on EU versions of its site.

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Ocala, FL criminalizes sagging pants

If you're on city property and your pants hang more than 2" below your "natural waistline," you face a $500 fine, and for repeat offenders, jail.

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UK cinemas ban Google Glass from screenings


UK cinema exhibitors -- which already makes a practice of recklessly confiscating mobile phones full of sensitive, unprotected data during preview screenings -- have announced that it will not allow Google Glass wearers into cinemas, lest they commit an act of piracy (Glass has a 45 minute battery life when in recording mode).

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North Korea threatens "merciless" war against the US over Seth Rogen movie

North Korea has threatened "merciless" war against the USA if a James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy called "The Interview" is released. The movie involves a plot to assassinate North Korean hereditary dictator Kim Jong-un. A North Korean state spokesman called the movie an "act of war" and a "blatant act of terrorism" and "reckless US provocative insanity." The spokesman called the film's director a "gangster filmmaker" and said that North Koreans had greeted the production with "a gust of hatred and rage."

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Once there was a show called "The Hat Squad" and it was very, very stupid

I remember the day I realized that TV was controlled by idiots: the day I watched Hat Squad. It only ran for one season, but the idea that anyone green-lit such a manifestly terrible idea literally shocked my conscience. The plot: a crusty old cop adopted a multi-ethnic trio of orphans and raised them to fight crime. Now that they are grown, Buddy, Rafael and Matty go abroad in the world, wearing distinctive hats, to dispense justice.

This show was so offensively stupid that for many years I thought I must have misremembered it, but I discovered its Wikipedia page this morning and realized that it was every bit as bad as I recalled, and possibly worse. That there were people stupid enough to spend enormous amounts of money of this turd sandwich is startling, but even more startling is the realization that these people were also allowed to operate motor vehicles and (shudder) reproduce.

Clapper's ban on talking about leaks makes life difficult for crypto profs with cleared students

When James Clapper banned intelligence agency employees from discussing or acknowledging the existence of leaked docs (including the Snowden docs), he made life very hard for university professors like Matt Blaze, a security expert whose classes often have students with security clearance.

My own books -- which deal with leaks like these -- are taught at West Point at a course whose instructors include a member of US Cyber Command. I imagine a rule like this would make future inclusion on the curriculum difficult, if not impossible.

Amazon patents taking pictures of stuff on a white background


The annals of stupid, sloppy patents have a new world-beating entry: Amazon has received a patent on taking pictures of stuff on a white background. The patent's particulars specify a well-known lighting arrangement that minimizes shadows and post-production cleanup. As DIY Photography points out, there's a huge corpus of prior art on this that Amazon didn't disclose in its filing, and the USPTo appeared to have done no due diligence before giving the company a 20-year monopoly on a common studio technique.

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UK tax authority caught sneaking in plan to sell Britons' private financial records

Just weeks after a plan to sell "anonymized" sets of British health-records collapsed in the face of massive public criticism, a new plan has emerged to sell the country's tax records to companies and researchers, prompting an even more critical response. One Tory MP called the plan "borderline insane," and tax professionals are in an uproar. The plan was buried as a brief mention in the autumn budget. HMRC's defense rests on the idea that the information in the datasets will be anonymized, something that computer scientists widely believe is effectively impossible.

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On knife-crime island, teens are not allowed to buy spoons

The UK tabloid press spent a decade drumming up hysteria about teenage knife-crime, and MPs responded on cue, passing a series of meaningless, overbearing feel-good measures that require shops to refuse to sell anything knife-like to teenagers -- meaning that seventeen-year-old art students can't buy xacto blades, and 16-year-old carpenter's apprentices can't buy utility knives.

This silliness has burrowed deep into the automated systems and psyches of English society. A 16 year old boy who tried to buy a pack of teaspoons at a Tesco automated checkout was flagged for an "age check," and when an employee came to check it out, she or he explained to the teen that he was not allowed to buy any cutlery at all.

Tesco later apologised, but even the kid's stepmum says that she can understand why her stepson shouldn't be allowed to buy forks or butter knives, and the BBC story doesn't question why the state (or Tesco) should be intervening in teenagers' cutlery purchases -- why a kid who is old enough to marry and rent a flat isn't considered old enough to buy cutlery to eat with in that flat.

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Child in wet bathing suit made to stand in -5F weather because school policy forbade her from waiting in teacher's car

Kayona Hagen-Tietz, a ninth grader at Como Park High School in St Paul, MN, says she developed frostbite when she was made to stand in -5F weather wearing nothing but a wet bathing suit. She had been in swim class when the fire-bell rang, and evacuated in nothing but her wet swimsuit. Faculty offered to allow her to wait in a car, but school policy prohibits students from entering cars other than those belonging to family and their delegated help. Eventually, common sense won out, though apparently not soon enough. (via Free Range Kids)

TSA agents demand bag-search to look for "Bitcoins"

Davi Barker was flying from Manchester, NH when, he says, he was stopped by two men who identified themselves as "managers" for the TSA, who claimed they had seen Bitcoins in his baggage and wanted to be sure he wasn't transporting more than $10,000 worth. When he asked them what they thought a Bitcoin looked like, they allegedly said that it looked like a coin or a medallion. (via Hacker News)

TSA not sure if DC drivers licenses are valid ID

DC resident Ashley Brandt was surprised to meet a TSA agent at Phoenix airport who didn't think that DC drivers' licenses were valid ID, because DC isn't a state.

Mall cops freak out over steampunk meetup, call the real cops


A group of steampunk cosplayers arranged to meet up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real near San Diego to ride the mall's Victorian carousel. But Westfield's mall cops were terrified of the cosplayers and evicted them all, escorting them to the door, calling the cops, and making them wait until the police arrived (the police basically shrugged and said, "Look, it's stupid, but it's their mall").

The mall cops -- and their corporate overlords -- cited a variety of dumb policies in support of the action, including a ban on wearing costumes that obscured the wearer's face (which didn't describe the cosplayers' outfits), a ban on gathering in groups larger than three (ORLY), a ban on photography without the subjects' permission (the steampunks, having gathered to have their photos taken, can be presumed to have consented to the pictures). Basically, it's a case of mall cop authoritarianism followed by the usual bland corporate doubling-down.

Of course, kids -- especially kids who happen to be brown -- already know that malls are capricious and fraught replacements for the public square. Mall cops basically hate anything that doesn't accord with their view of what a shopper should be and relentlessly discriminate against anyone they don't like. Back when I was in high school, more than half of my school had been banned from College Park, the mall in Toronto that was across the street from the school, by sneering jerks from Intercon security, who had the full backing of their management and the mall management.

The irony of ejecting people for wearing steampunk clothes in rich: malls are full of steampunk-inflected clothing, as the commodification mills of the fashion industry relentlessly mine subculture for new looks to put under glass. And here, too, is another parallel to the much more widespread discrimination against brown kids, who are often ejected on the pretense of wearing "gang" clothes -- clothes whose styles have been snaffled up, denatured, and repackaged for sale in the stores whose rent keeps the mall in business.

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Republicans against evolution

Republicans are increasingly skeptical of evolution. All in all, a third of Americans reject evolution.

Manchester cops trumpet seized "3D printed gun" -- turns out to be parts for a 3D printer


Police in Manchester, UK made a huge show out of having seized a "3D printed gun." Then, it turned out that they'd just seized parts for a 3D printer. But it's still very scary, as Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood copsplains: it might have been a 3D printed gun, and they had "intelligence" about a 3D printed gun, and if we search the computers we stole, we might find plans for a 3D printed gun, and also, our botched, humiliating cockup "opens up a wider debate about the emerging threat these next generation of weapons might pose."

Thanks, Officer Hypothetical, for saving us from this dire threat!

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UK lollipop man quits over ban on high-fiving the kids

Bob Slade, a 65-year-old retired British dockworker who's served for four years as a beloved crossing guard ("lollipop man") has quit because his bosses ordered him to stop high-fiving the kids. The local authority -- which initially counselled him to make contact and socialise with the kids -- says that high-fiving kids means that his attention is taken off the road, and they complained that while he high-fives the kids, his hand is not being sternly held aloft, stopping cars. The lollipop lady we used to meet every morning on the way to my daughter's daycare knows the name of every kid who crosses at her street -- and she still recognises me, a year and a half later, and asks after my daughter by name. They're quite a remarkable bunch.

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New York Comic-Con hijacks attendees' Twitter accounts to send out shilling tweets

Attendees at New York Comic-Con were required to register their new, RFID-bugged badges online, in a process that encouraged them to link them to their Twitter accounts. Little did they suspect that NYCC would use their signups to send tweets from attendees' Twitter accounts, in a loose, conversational style ("So much pop culture to digest! Can't. handle. the. awesome."), linking back to NYCC's website, without any indication that they were spam. I'm reasonably certain that the fine-print on the NYCC signup gave them permission to do this stupid thing, and I'm also certain that almost no one read the fine-print, and that rather a large number of attendees objected strenuously to having their Twitter accounts used to shill for a service that they were already paying a large sum to enjoy.

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Sticking a knife in a toaster


If you've wondered what happens when you stick a knife in a toaster (and really, who hasn't?), here, in six seconds, is a Vine clip demonstrating the inadvisability of this course of action. Let this be a lesson to us all.

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UK gov't wants to ban dirty words in UK domain names; tell them to #£@* off


Tony sez, "The UK Department for Culture, Media & Sport is supporting a review of the .uk domain name registration process, suggesting that restricting offensive words in .uk domain names will help to prevent abusive behaviour on the internet. Nominet has already done a great job of debunking why this is not an effective solution and is now seeking comments from the public."

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Guy who preemptively shot his BBQing neighbors says that self-defense includes killing people who pose "imminent" danger, like Saddam and drone-victims

You know how Obama and GWB's spin-doctors redefined "imminent" (as in "we attacked pre-emptively to prevent an imminent attack")? Well, if it's good enough for the Prez, it's good enough for Florida's neighbor-shooting yahoos. The yahoo in question is William T. Woodward, whose lawyer argues that he shot his neighbors while they were having a backyard barbecue because they were going to attack him. Eventually. Which is to say, imminently. And that, argues Mr Woodward's lawyers, is just self-defense as defined in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" laws.

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Nova Scotia's insane cyber bullying law

Jesse Brown writes, "Boing Boing readers may remember Rehteah Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who, in news media shorthand, was driven to suicide last April by cyber bullies. The public's understandable shock and outrage over her death, and the lack of any charges being laid against her abusers* has resulted in Nova Scotia's Bill 61: the Cyber Safety Act. But pre-existing laws could have brought Rehteah justice while she was alive- they just weren't enforced. Rehteah may have been cyber bullied, but more descriptively, she was (allegedly) gang-raped while severely intoxicated and chronically harassed. But the RCMP closed her case without interviewing the four boys accused, despite the existence of photo evidence."

*The RCMP re-opened Rehteah's case under pressure from the Prime Minister. This morning, they finally laid charges against two individuals, assumedly not under Bill 61, which of course did not exist at the time of the incident.

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Pro-tip for jurors: don't write on Facebook about your intent to convict defendant

Two jurors in England will spend August in jail after one asserted a defendant's guilt on Facebook—"I've always wanted to Fuck up a paedophile & now I'm within the law!"—and the other blabbed to co-jurors about researching their case online. [BBC]

Penguin's insane policy on electronic galleys for authors

[Ed: An anonymous reader from the publishing industry wrote in with the following. I have every reason to believe it's true -Cory]


Update: An agent writes in to say: "Penguin ALSO doesn't want to give agents the hi-res final jacket image without charging. We can often beg/loophole/cajole -- but the official party line is they are supposed to charge $300. (???!) Mind you, this could pretty much ONLY be used to promote the book. We like to put the book jacket on our agency website, in our agency catalogues for foreign book fairs, make postcards, etc... but obviously we can't authorize any other territory to use this image. So essentially they are saying they don't want us to create promo material on the book's behalf, even on our own dime."

There's something going on at Penguin (interesting to see if it changes now that it's Penguin Random House, though all signs point no) that's so stupid and old school and against all authors that I thought I'd share.

In every contract in publishing, there's language (as you know) that gives an author a certain number of copies of the book, on publication. When ebooks came to play, agents began trying to negotiate for an electronic version of the book too, oftentimes successful. What they /can't/ get from Penguin (and a few other publishers, though notably Penguin) is a final PDF or even a final word doc of the book. Agents are told that Penguin puts work into the layout, edit and design and so agents can't just give that work away to foreign countries for them to use in their editions. That work must be paid for. I semi-buy that argument, though it makes me think two things: 1) Shame on them for getting in the way (as they do sometimes) of a foreign deal and 2) Penguin is contractually obligated to create the book anyway, with all of those pieces.

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UK Internet censorship plan no less stupid than it was last year

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to make pornography filters standard on British Internet connections. This is a remarkably stupid policy, and despite that, it is a recurring silliness in British (and global) politics. Back in 2012, the House of Lords was considering the same question, and I wrote a long, comprehensive article for the Guardian explaining why this won't work and why it will be worse than doing nothing. Nothing I asserted in that essay has changed in the interim.

Consider a hypothetical internet of a mere 20bn documents that is comprised one half "adult" content, and one half "child-safe" content. A 1% misclassification rate applied to 20bn documents means 200m documents will be misclassified. That's 100m legitimate documents that would be blocked by the government because of human error, and 100m adult documents that the filter does not touch and that any schoolkid can find.

In practice, the misclassification rate is much, much worse. It's hard to get a sense of the total scale of misclassification by censorware because these companies treat their blacklists as trade secrets, so it's impossible to scrutinise their work and discover whether they're exercising due care.

There's no way to stop children viewing porn in Starbucks

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