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Talking YA, dystopia and science fiction with William Campbell Powell

William Campbell Powell is a new young adult author whose debut novel, Expiration Day due out on April 1. Powell's book was bought out of the "slush pile" -- the pile of unsolicited manuscripts that arrive at publishers by the truckload - at Tor Books and I read it a year ago to give it a jacket quote, and really enjoyed it.

Powell came by my office a couple weeks ago to talk about the book, and we had a great chat that's been mixed down to a smart seven minutes. I hope you enjoy this -- and look for my review of Expiration Day on April 1. Here's a bit of it:

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Open source soft robotic quadruped with many applications

Pt and Limor write, "The Glaucus, named after the Blue Sea Slug (Glaucus Atlanticus), is an open source soft robotic quadruped from Super-Releaser. It is a proof of concept for a method developed at Super-Releaser that can reproduce nearly any geometry modeled on the computer as a seamless silicone skin. The company hopes to apply these same techniques to practical problems in medicine and engineering as the technology develops. The quadruped has hollow interior chambers that interdigitate with one another. When either of these chambers is pressurized it deforms and bends the structure of the robot. This bending produces the walking motion. It is similar to how a salamander walks, by balancing itself on one pair of legs diagonal from one another while moving the opposite pair forward."

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Teens migrate from Facebook to a Youtube video's comment-section (funny)

Here's a funny fake-news video reporting on the mass-migration of teens from Facebook (where their parents have migrated) to the comments section of a slow-motion Youtube video of a deer running. While I don't think there's going to be mass-migration of all the world's teens to one comment board, there's a grain of truth here. My old Informationweek editor, Mitch Wagner, once discovered some young girls holding a gossipy chat in the comments section of an old blog post of his; when he asked them what they were doing there, they told him that their school blocked all social media, so every day they picked a random blog-post somewhere on the Internet and used it as a discussion board for the day.

Teens Migrating From Facebook To Comments Section Of Slow-Motion Deer Video (via Waxy!)

Kickstarting a sequel to Scott "Kids in the Hall" Thompson's Danny Husk comic

Tavie sez, "Canadian treasure Scott Thompson's popular Kids in the Hall character, Danny Husk starred in his own graphic novel in 2010, Husk: The Hollow Planet. A blend of fantasy and fable, with lots of humor and sex, it was an hilarious romp that ended mid-story. Now he's got a Kickstarter campaign to get the second volume of Danny's tales published, and to promote it, he's giving away DRM-free digital downloads of Volume 1. I always think it's a really smart idea when creators allow people to read their comix online for free (see: Elfquest) and I'm glad Scott's taking this one to the people. I hope the second volume gets off the ground, because I MUST see how the story ends."

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Kickstarting Dream Life, a solo comic from Salgood Sam of "Sea of Red" and "Therefore Repent!"

Salgood Sam -- who worked on great projects like Sea of Red and Therefore, Repent! sez, "In the last leg of a successful Kickstarter to print my next graphic novel, I've set up some unlockable interactive stretch goal rewards you might want to check out to help me make it to the west coast and print more books! If you can manage to time your pledges to hit the mark that puts my Kickstarter over one of three stretch goals, I'll draw your deepest darkest dreams for you. Or alternately bright and silly ones are an option."

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Alaska senator on a comedy news video about NSA surveillance

Pat sez, "Alaska Robotics News is a political satire series covering the Alaska legislative session. We've had good luck at engaging law makers and have had several notable guests on the show. U.S. Senator Mark Begich recently joined us to talk about NSA dragnet surveillance and precognitive policing. We have a small group of writers contributing the the show and enjoy a lot of support from our community. This segment was a good opportunity to get outside our local issues and poke at the boiling frog of government surveillance."

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Trailer for a fan-supported film based on Jack Chick's "Dark Dungeons" tract

Dark Dungeons is a notorious 1984 Jack Chick tract that warns the readers about the danger of being embroiled in soul-destroying Satanic cults through playing Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs. A group of fan-supported media creators obtained a free film license from Chick to make a film based on the comic, and they've released a trailer that hints at a very funny future for the project.

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Star Wars cup ad, 1977: you like laser swords, right?

Matt sez, "The Danny Devito-like schlub in this ad feigning excitement for 'Stah Woiz' and its 'layzah swoids' in order to pawn off some collectible cups has had me laughing all evening."

Star Wars Cups (1977) - Majik Market Commercial (Thanks, Matt!)

Drunken, swearing Rob Ford lurches around after photo-op with child

A new video has surfaced of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford swearing, stumbling and cursing in front of City Hall after having his picture taken with a young boy whose mother identified as a fan of the mayor. The mayor, who had promised that he would stop drinking, smoking crack, taking marijuana, hanging out with murderers and notorious gangsters, and suppressing evidence in criminal investigations, would not comment on the video. His brother, councillor Doug Ford, told reporters that his brother kept his promises, but when confronted with the video, he clarified that the mayor only keeps political promises, and not promises about his obvious, glaring, horrific substance abuse problems.

Rob Ford heard swearing, slurring speech in new video

Julia Gillard's epic anti-sexist Parliamentary speech set to music

In this video, Australian Voices, a choral group, sets former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's epic anti-misogynist Parliamentary speech to music, doing a rather beautiful job of it.

"Not Now, Not Ever!" (Gillard Misogyny Speech) (Thanks, Karen!)

Incredible Disney impersonator sings "Let it Go" in the voices of many characters

There are a lot of covers of Frozen's themesong "Let it Go" on Youtube -- enough to seriously freak out the loony Christian right -- but Brian Hull beats 'em all, managing to sing the song, verse-by-verse, in the voices of characters from across the cinematic history of Disney and Pixar. What's your favorite?

Disney and Pixar Sings Let it Go (via Seanan McGuire)

British spies lied about getting super-censorship powers over Youtube

Turns out that the claims made by British spies about Youtube granting them the power to censor Youtube videos that they didn't like (but weren't illegal) were bullshit.

The "super-flagger" status they got from Google just means that their complaints get quicker scrutiny, but are (theoretically, anyway) judged by the same criteria as all other complaints about videos that violate Youtube's community standards.

But as Techdirt's Mike Masnick points out, the fact that senior UK government ministers believe that Youtube should remove anything "that may not be illegal, but certainly is unsavoury" is a pretty disturbing insight into the mindset of our censorious masters.

Vi Hart's updated poop-on-Pi video

Math-doodling manic talking charming vlogger Vi Hart has updated her classic anti-Pi rant with a new poop-on-Pi video called "Happy Pi Day? NOPE," in which she explains why we should be wowed by numbers like 4 and 5 and completely blase about Pi and its cohort.

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Youtube bids happy 25th to the Web by granting British spies mass-censorship power

The service will allow British security officials to censor videos "at scale" -- but not illegal videos, just material that "certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive." The new "super flaggers" will target jihadi radicalisation videos and, basically, anything they don't like. But what could go wrong? Thanks, Google!

Update: Turns out the British spies who made these claims were lying.

Free to Be...You and Me is 40

It's the fortieth anniversary of the release of Free to Be...You and Me, the groundbreaking movie/record/book that encouraged kids and their grownups to break out of gender stereotypes and shame and be whomever they were. This was hugely influential for me (I registered freetobeyouandme.com to keep it away from squatters and gave it to the nonprofit foundation that continues the project's work), and I'm incredibly pleased to discover that it resonates with my six-year-old daughter, too.

The thing is that Free to Be... is not only right-on in its politics and message -- it's also fabulous: funny, catchy, sweet and smart. It features an all-star cast that includes Michael Jackson, Mel Brooks, Marlo Thomas, Harry Belafonte, Rosie Greer, Carol Channing, Carl Reiner, Alan Alda, Diana Ross, and more. My daughter can't get enough of Boy Meets Girl and we sing William's Doll at bedtime all the time. Unfortunately, the theme of gender stereotypes is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. But the good news is that Marlo Thomas and her friends gave us parents a tool for helping our kids understand and break through these stereotypes that is just as powerful today as it was then.

CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht celebrates Free to Be...'s anniversary with a look at When We Were Free to Be, a 2012 book that looks at the project's history and impact:

As a kid on Long Island in the 1970s, Miriam Peskowitz was a frustrated "Free to Be" fan. She wrote in "When We Were Free to Be" about her feminist mom's righteous letters and calls demanding her daughter be able take wood and mechanical shop, or that girls need not wait for boys to ask them to square dance. (Square dancing, of course, being one way that schools satisfied Title IX requirements.) To Peskowitz's dismay, she had the same arguments at her child's school decades later. Peskowitz watched in the mornings as her daughter settled down to draw bubble letters with her gal pals while boys raced each other to the chessboards. The teacher said it wasn't a problem; it's just what the kids chose. "After I nudged again and again, the teacher eventually taught all the children in the classroom how to play chess. Some girls started to choose that as their morning activity," wrote Peskowitz, the author of "The Daring Book for Girls." "Very often," Peskowitz wrote, "all it takes to outsmart gender stereotypes is a little creative thinking and a little gumption.

Free to Be...You and Me [Soundtrack]

Free to Be...You and Me [DVD]

Free to Be...You and Me [35th anniversary edition book]

When We Were Free to Be [Book]

Remembering 'Free to Be... You and Me,' 40 years later [Jamie Gumbrecht/CNN]