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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!)

Future phone feature phone, with pink accents, in the key of Stanley Kubrick


When I was eight, this is exactly what I believed all devices would someday resemble.

The future is pink and dial-up.

The flags really make this sign


USA USA USA

A Long Time Ago, sweet memoir of growing up Star Warsish


A Long Time Ago, Gib Van Ert's memoir about growing up with Star Wars became news last Christmas, when it disappeared from Amazon following a bogus trademark question. It's been back for months now, and has been in my to-read pile for much longer, and I've finally had the pure pleasure of reading it.

A Long Time Ago is a thoughtful, funny, and beautifully written story of the role that Star Wars played in Van Ert's life, shaping his destiny as he was raised by a USMC-deserting draft dodger and a runaway Texas beauty queen in small town British Colombia. Like me, Van Ert saw the first movie as a small boy, and thereafter principally experienced it through toys, records and merchandising tie-ins. His critiques of the Kenner action figures are both scathingly hilarious and bang on, and that's pretty much a microcosm for the whole book.

By Van Ert's own admission, he's not the biggest Star Wars fan that ever lived. But Star Wars was a gateway into other nerdy pastimes -- comic collecting, Atari home systems, coin-op video games, Dungeons and Dragons -- and he does an excellent job of tracing the curious ways that the specific nerdiness of his (and my generation) shaped his intellectual and personal pursuits.

He explains how he fell away from Star Wars fandom after the third movie, forgot about it until the "special editions," and experienced his first rumblings of anxiety about the destiny of his nearly forgotten but warmly remembered passion. He nails the prequels -- fish in a barrel, but still -- and then ties it all into a story of personal development that's sweet, hopeful and wistful.

It's a short book and a quick read, and it rewards the reader with an echo of the excitement, disappointment, anger, delight, and, ultimately, love, that Van Ert feels for the franchise.

A Long Time Ago

Astronaut duvet cover


€60 is a lot to spend on your kid's duvet cover, but there's no denying that this astronaut bedding from Snurk is pretty wonderful.

Astronaut (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Ideal woman, 1926


From 1926, an "ideal" female body.

1926: The 1920s Silhouette

Omnibus editions of Riverworld


While wandering the NYC offices of my publisher Tor, I happened upon these beautiful 2010 omnibus reissues of Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld books. These are some of my favorite books of all time, and these editions are fab. Here's the setup, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The story of Riverworld begins when almost the whole of humanity, from the time of the first homo sapiens through to the early 21st century, is simultaneously resurrected along the banks of the river. The number of people is given as "thirty-six billion, six million, nine thousand, six hundred and thirty-seven" (36,006,009,637). Of these, at least 20% are from the 20th century, due to the high levels of population in later centuries compared to earlier ones. There is also a cut-off point, as no one from the 21st century or later is resurrected. Originally the specific cut-off year was given as 1983 (which was still a speculative date when the novels were first published) but this was later updated to 2008. The ostensible reason for the cut-off was that it indicated the point at which most of the human race had been purposefully annihilated during a catastrophic first contact with aliens visiting Earth. The protagonists later find out this is a creative fiction, produced by the masterminds behind the resurrection, so the spies among the resurrectees could identify each other.

Riverworld