Caitlan Moran's "How to Build a Girl" [review]


Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl is the story of Johanna Morrigan, poor, fat teenager from the economic backwater of 1990s Wolverhampton, and her transformation into legendary music critic and Lady Sex Adventurer, Dolly Wilde.

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Tour the solar system by walking around a huge, dilapidated building


Becky writes, "Shrinking Space productions have transformed the vast and dilapidated market building at Circus St in Brighton, UK into an audiosphere representing the entire solar system."

When you enter "Mind's Eye" you are given headphones and a ready-tuned hand-held radio. Then, as you drift around the building, you are pulled into the orbit of the various interviews being broadcast in different parts of it, each featuring a scientist or space explorer whose knowledge of the planet or star they are describing often represents a lifetime's work. The effect is bewitching, like floating through space itself, with only the occasional transmission back to earth for company. I went to see it last Saturday and loved it."

Mind’s Eye: Tour the solar system at home and in Brighton, courtesy of Little Atoms and Shrinking Space

(Thanks, Becky!)

Cakeageddon: life-size "horror-farm" made from cake!


Evil Miss Cakehead's latest edible installation is a "horror-farm" featuring all manner of grotesqueries from baskets of entrails to slaughtered pigs, entirely made from cake!

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Guardian rolls out memberships and a physical space for members


The 200-year-old nonprofit newspaper has turned the gorgeous 19th century railroad goods shed opposite their King's Cross office into an event space, and members can attend stellar, intimate events with Vivienne Westwood, Russell Brand, Jimmy Page, Naomi Klein and more.

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BBC tells Australian govt to treat VPN users as pirates

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the UK public broadcaster, has told an Australian government proceeding that people who use VPNs a lot should be assumed to be engaged in piracy, that ISPs should surveil their users, that websites should be censored by Chinese-style national firewalls, and that the families of people accused of watching TV the wrong way should be disconnected from the Internet.

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In the Interests of Safety: using evidence to beat back security theater

“Health and Safety” is the all-purpose excuse for any stupid, bureaucratic, humiliating rubbish that officialdom wants to shove down our throats. In the Interests of Safety, from Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon, is the antidote: an expert dismantling of bad risk-analysis and a call-to-arms to do something about it, fighting superstition and silliness with evidence.

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The Cobra Effect: law of unintended consequences, squared

In British-ruled, cobra-infested India, a bounty was offered for cobra-skins, so enterprising folks started breeding cobras, leading to the program's cancellation, whereupon all those farmed cobras were released into the wild, a net increase in cobra population. That's not the only example, either.

(Image: Cobra, Kamalnv/Wikipedia, CC-BY)

What. Did. You. Feed. That. GODDAMNED. CABBAGE?!


The normally unflappage Barbara Frum interviews a British farmer responsible for a prizewinning cabbage; but the man is both drunk and deaf (and manifestly filled with the spirit of mischief).

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UK police watchdog: burglary and car crime "on verge of being decriminalised"

The Inspectorate of Constabulary says that police now tell victims of property crimes to "solve the crimes themselves," directing them over the phone to review CCTV footage and canvas their neighbourhoods for witnesses.

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Free cybersecurity MOOC


The Open University's "Introduction to Cyber Security" is a free online course -- with optional certificate -- that teaches the fundamentals of crypto, information security, and privacy; I host the series, which starts on Oct 13."

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UK Ministry of Justice loses harddrive with 3,000 prisoners' data, which they forgot to encrypt

Alan sez, "The UK Ministry of Justice was just slapped with a fine for the loss of a hard disk containing data on over 3,000 prisoners. These things happen."

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Citizen Maths: open, free math education for adults


Seb writes, "Citizen Maths is a new CC-BY licensed open online maths course produced in the UK for adults and college students who want to improve their grasp of maths at what in the UK is known as Level 2 (the level that 16 year old school leavers are expected to reach, though many do not)."

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Unused bed colonized by giant horrifying wasp-nest


Exterminator John Birkett found the bed in a house in Winchester, England, in a spare room that had not been entered for several months. The crocheted blanket was saved.

5,000 wasps found in St Cross bedroom [Andrew Napier/Hampshire Chronicle]

(Thanks, PD Smith!)

Petition: remove child-specific antipersonnel device from Welsh library

The Port Authority in the Welsh town of Milford has installed a "Mosquito" -- a sonic weapon that produces tones that are mostly perceptible to children and teenagers -- at the library, where it has been used during opening hours.

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Can technology become a force for global equality, or is the future destined to remain unfair?

Here's video from a debate I participated in at last summer's Howthelightgetsin festival in Wales, with the BBC's Kate Russell and Steve Fuller, an advocate for creationism and transhumanism, who said some pretty silly things, as you might expect.