New Haunted Mansion merch


Uh-oh, Disney is releasing a rather nice line of Haunted Mansion memoribilia. There goes my bank-balance. Some highlights:

The Hourglass: “I’ve wanted to make an hourglass for years,” said Cody, who is an 18-year Disney cast member. “This 7 ½-inch-tall hourglass has gargoyles from the stretching room and the famous wallpaper design on the top. White sand is more commonly used in hourglasses, yet we chose purple sand to match the overall color palette. The hourglass keeps track of about an hour.”

Candelabra: My favorite item is the candelabra, which also features a gargoyle. Cody said the base was inspired by the paneling found in the queue just after the stretching room.

Music Box: “We needed a music box because music is an important part to the attraction,” explained Cody. “This music box plays ‘Grim Grinning Ghosts,’ and draws inspiration from Madame Leota’s tombstone outside the attraction. Her epitaph is included on the inside lid.”

Pillow and Throw: “For the pillow, we considered using the chair design from the endless hallway scene,” continued Cody. “Yet we selected a simple black pillow with the phrase ‘Rest in Peace.’ The back of the pillow and the throw include the famous wallpaper design.”

Nine New Chilling, Thrilling Haunted Mansion Merchandise Items from Disney Parks « Disney Parks Blog (Thanks, Michael!)

Custom felted Star Wars spaceship mobile


Etsy seller sheepcreeknc makes major deluxe-o custom Star Wars felted mobiles to order. At $380, they're not cheap, but if you owe someone a major baby gift, this might be just the thing.

The pictured mobile is a piece I recently made as a custom order. It features a Naboo Starfighter, Tie Fighter, X-Wing, Millenium Falcon, Star Destroyer, Republic Attack Gunship, 8 orange and white planets and 1 Death Star.

This listing is for a Star Wars mobile with the same basic structure as the mobile pictured (choose up to 6 Star Wars figures or ships and 9 planets/balls). For additional figures/ships/planets please contact me for a price quote.

STAR WARS 6 Ships Baby Mobile, Customizable Star Wars Mobile, Made to Order (via Neatorama)

Marriage proposal in the form of a physics paper


Redditor bogus_wheel is a physicist in Sydney, Australia. Her boyfriend of seven years submitted a marriage proposal in the form of a physics paper that tracks their relationship (with a graph!). It is a beautiful piece of physics romance!

My boyfriend of 7 years and I are both physicists. Here's how he proposed to me. (imgur.com) (Thanks, Mark M!)

Handmade lockpicks from old bandsaw blades


The wonderful folks at the Port City Makerspace had me over to their enormous, beautiful spot this evening, and gifted me with "the keys to the city," in the form of a set of handmade lockpicks from their own Tinker Woodworks. The picks are gorgeous. Seriously.

This is a handmade set of lockpicks with a leather case. The picks are shaped out of old bandsaw blades. I chose the pick shapes based on which picks have been most useful to me in my lock picking exploits. The case is made by soaking the leather and stitching it around a form to fit the picks. The case is about five inches long and fits nicely into a jacket pocket. I can do some simple embroidery on the case similar to the key embroidery in the pictures on one of the cases, or a persons initials, etc. Contact me if you want embroidery on the case. Otherwise the case will be the plain ones depicted. The kit comes with the three picks and two different size tension wrenches.

Lockpick tool set with leather case

Amp made out of old brass instruments


The Analog Tele-Phonographer is Christopher Locke's fantastic smartphone amplifier made from salvaged, chimeraed brass instruments. Each one is different, and each one is awesome in its own way.

These devices are made from salvaged trumpets and other brass instruments, with assorted machine parts.

Analog Tele-Phonographer

Star Wars jewelry


Etsy seller Rockets and Rainbows makes clever jewelry out of Star Wars and My Little Pony toys, including the Snow Speeder ring shown here. But you can't buy that one, because I just bought it as a surprise for my wife. Don't tell her, OK?

RocketsandRainbows (via The Mary Sue)

Secure documents


More scenes from a book tour: SECURE DOCUMENTS!

Secure documents do not enter sign, Pasadena High, Houston, TX, USA

Spider Duck


Scenes from a book-tour, part sqrt(-1): the SPIDER DUCK, at Austin's magnificent Toy Joy.

Spider Duck, Toy Joy, Austin, TX, USA

Junk food


Scene from a Houston grocery store, courtesy of a touring author's life. I did not buy any of these things.

Junk food, grocery store, Houston, TX, USA

Floorplan for supposed sex-dungeon in Houston's Hotel ZaZa


Remember the potential weirdo sex-dungeon in Houston's Hotel ZaZa? A reader with inside knowledge writes,

That "two-way mirror" in 322 hangs on the bathroom wet wall for the more spacious suite 321 next door. So in the "secret voyeur room" case, you'd be standing in the bathroom next door and looking through a piping chase full of sanitary and domestic water lines. The bricks are a veneer that they decided to stop at the frame of the mirror. It doesn't seem like this room was specially built for secret sex shows or whatnot. At least, no more than any other hotel room with potential for pinhole cameras and so on.

I think it really is just an awkwardly placed and sized room, dictated by adjacent suite and service elevator lobby/shaft requirements. (See attached snippet from floor plans.) The associated balcony sits in a corner, so it is in fact larger than the balconies in the adjacent conventional rooms, as the ZaZa rep claims. I have no explanation for why some owner, architect and/or interior designer thought this would be a good theme for a room, though.

Tattoo of the ARPAnet as it stood in 1971


Matt Senate has a tattoo of the ARPAnet as it stood in 1971 -- ARPAnet being the lineal ancestor of the modern Internet. The photo here is from Cyrus Farivar. Here's some relevant Wikipedia verbiage:

In March 1970, the ARPANET reached the East Coast of the United States, when an IMP at BBN in Cambridge, Massachusetts was connected to the network. Thereafter, the ARPANET grew: 9 IMPs by June 1970 and 13 IMPs by December 1970, then 18 by September 1971 (when the network included 23 university and government hosts); 29 IMPs by August 1972, and 40 by September 1973. By June 1974, there were 46 IMPs, and in July 1975, the network numbered 57 IMPs. By 1981, the number was 213 host computers, with another host connecting approximately every twenty days.[15]

In 1973 a transatlantic satellite link connected the Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) to the ARPANET, making Norway the first country outside the US to be connected to the network. At about the same time a terrestrial circuit added a London IMP.[18]

Last Friday, I met @wrought at the @techliminal party. Dude has a tattoo of the 1971 ARPAnet!

Is the "secret" room at Houston's ZaZa a voyeuristic sex-dungeon for rich weirdos?


A redditor called joelikesmusic reported that a friend of his had been checked into a weird, narrow dungeon-like theme room at the Hotel Zaza in Houston (it's got lots of theme suites -- I once stayed in their awesome space-themed one with my family, on the way to my honeymoon). When he complained, the front desk apparently told him that it was a mistake -- no one was supposed to use that room.

The ZaZa's management told the press that it was a "prison" themed room, and that there was no mystery, but intrepid redditors have been examining the pictures (especially the portrait of Jay Comeaux, a banking exec from the disgraced Stanford Banking Executive, and have been spinning out theories about secret societies and rituals in the comments.

However, one commenter called lejefferson makes a plausible case that the room is a sex-dungeon with a one-way voyeur's mirror, used by rich weirdos:

What person that you know keeps a creepy picture of a guy over their television. This is obviously a secret room either personal or for a small group of people for sexual liasons/ S&M prostitution or worse. The mirror and small space of the room also indicates there is a good chance that the mirror is two way and that people could pay to come watch the sexual/S&M events occuring. The photo of a Stanford Banking Executive, (Jay Comeaux), on the wall further indicates that this is a high society sex room. The fact that the clerk said, "This room isn't supposed to be rented out" indicates that there was a big mistake and they didn't want anyone to find out about the room. The bricks on the wall line up exactly with the placement of the mirror suggesting that they do not continue behind it but that this is a two way mirror.

ZaZa insiders question - what's up with room 322? (self.houston) (via Super Punch)

Constellation Games: debut sf novel floored me with its brilliance


I've known that Leonard Richardson was a good writer for half a decade, since he was my student at Viable Paradise.

I just finished Leonard's debut novel, Constellation Games and I'm literally trembling with excitement. Because Constellation Games IS AN AMAZING BOOK.

Here's the plot: Ariel Blum is an Austin-based game-developer with a crappy job making Pony franchise collectible content games for the ten-year-old Brazilian girl market. Then aliens invade the Earth. The Constellation is a coalition of many alien species who have travelled unimaginable distances to invite the Earth to join their loose-knit, non-coercive, freewheeling anarcho-syndicalist collective civilization, which has more than 100 million years' worth of history.

Ariel send the aliens an email. He has a snarky game-review blog where he writes entertainingly about crummy games. Do the aliens have any crappy games they can send him? Turns out they do. From the Constellation space-station (built out of nanocomputers and moon-dust), an alien called Curic drop-ships Ariel a bunch of alien video-games, wrapped in re-entry foam. The aliens are sending stuff like this to a lot of people, and in America, the new Bureau of Extraterrestrial Affairs (made up of ambitious jerks from the DHS) are scrambling to get it all under control.

Ariel has access to the Constellation Database of Games of a Certain Complexity, which contains user-rankings for every game invented by every alien species in the Constellation, including ones that (ominously) are now extinct. He starts mining it for interesting games to download, play and review.

Thus kicks off one of the smartest, most passionate, most principled science fiction novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Formally, Constellation Games is a just-about-perfect science fiction novel. It's got a great narrator's voice in the form of Ariel, a smartalecky, LiveJournal-trained net.wit who talks like Ready Player One crossed with JPOD. The alien species that Ariel encounters are brilliantly inventive (as are their fossil videogames), each detail more charming than the last. The plot is one of those great caper stories, absurd-with-real-danger, the stuff of books like Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede, and it'll rip you right along through the 360 pages like it was a short story, and leave you wanting more.

But there are lots of formally excellent science fiction novels. They deserve our kudos and our attention, but they aren't a patch on Constellation Games. Because this book isn't just entertaining and inventive and clever. It's important.

Constellation Games is one of the best political books I've ever read, an account of the poison chalice of societies based on coercion that puts great works of anarchist fiction to shame. As if that wasn't enough, it's also a fantastic story of love and compassion, which will make you realize that, seen in the right light, we're already living as though it was the first days of a better world. Finally, this is a spectacular novel about art, to rival books like My Name is Asher Lev and The Sun, the Moon and the Stars.

Last week, I thought of Leonard Richardson as a promising talent to watch. Now I fell like he's a nascent master of the field. What a book.

Constellation Games

Chest of drawers that looks like a woodpile


Facecord is a chest of drawers disguised as a woodpile, with hidden drawers:

the vision of a stockpile of wooden logs, brings forth visions of fueling the fire and keeping warm by the hearth on cold winter's night.
american artist mark moskovitz translates this into 'facecord', a chest of drawers using the irregularities and haphazard geometry of cordwood,
and the accidental poetry of its stacking to camouflage the storage furniture's actual function. the work is included in new york's museum of arts & design
exhibition against the grain which features projects that examine the age-old medium of wood, and how it can be transformed into
a contemporary object.

 

hidden log drawer - facecord by mark moskovitz [DesignBoom] (via Neatorama)

Official City of Melbourne IP address used for biased edits to Wikipedia page for Occupy Melbourne prior to local election


Someone using the City of Melbourne's IP block has been introducing biased edits to the Wikipedia page for Occupy Melbourne, attempting to erase the record of council's resolve to remove Occupy, and trying to smear the Occupy protest by removing the adjective "peaceful" from the page. The edits were made anonymously, but Wikipedia publishes IP addresses for anonymous contributors, and the IP address in question, 203.26.235.14, is registered to the city.

Proof of attacks on Occupy Melbourne Wikipedia page, attempts to change history and evidence in on-going federal court cases. More importantly the edits were made during the last week of MCC’s 2012 elections. A quick tidy up of MCC’s image just before the election. Anyone who didn’t think Melbourne City Council (MCC) was (and still is) opposed to Occupy Melbourne either has their head in the sand, is plainly lying or delusional.

The smoking gun, proof Melbourne City Council is behind the IP address 203.26.235.14 editing Occupy Melbourne Wikipedia page. The timing of this edit is far from coincidental. 21st October, the one year anniversary of the brutal city square eviction and just days before the 2012 Melbourne city council elections, where Robert Doyle sought and gained re-election.

Melbourne City Council cyber war against Occupy Melbourne (Thanks, Occupy Melbourne!)