One of the great vocal artists of our time has died. I saw Cesária Évora play once, many years ago, and she really was the "barefoot diva." Her voice filled the auditorium, and it seemed to pierce through the roof to fill the skies above.
She died today in her native town of Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente, in Cabo Verde.
The queen of "morna" music was a heavy cigarette smoker and drinker (as you can see in the video above). She retired in September in ill health, apologizing to her fans. She underwent open-heart surgery in 2008, and survived multiple strokes; her death today was related to those health problems. Two days of national mourning have been declared in her home country.
Photo: Evora in 2000, REUTERS/Andrew Winning Read the rest
The LA Times has a really interesting and well-done four-part series on autism. The central question: Does the increase in people diagnosed with autism represent an actual increase in prevalence of autism, or an increase in diagnosis and awareness?
The evidence presented in the Times story seems to suggest the latter. In the first part of the series, writer Alan Zarembo looks at the social change surrounding autism. Over the last 20 years, not only has the diagnosis changed and become broader, but parents have become more aware that autism is a thing, and financial incentives have appeared that make parents more inclined to fight for an autism diagnosis for their child—even when experts aren't sure that's actually what's going on with that particular child.
If that part of the story makes you sort of hostile toward the parents, consider the fourth part of the series, where Zarembo looks at people who, after years of struggle, are getting diagnosed with autism as adults. It's a nuanced view. Yes, there are some kids diagnosed with autism today who don't actually fit the diagnosis. But, in the past, a lot of people didn't get diagnosed at all. Behavioral therapies, educational aides, even the simple knowledge that there are other people who think the way they do—all these things could have improved those people's lives. So, yeah, social constructs have changed who we diagnose with autism. But maybe that's actually a good thing? Here's a couple particularly powerful excerpts: Read the rest
"There is a controversy brewing in Leesburg, VA over just what constitutes a 'holiday display.' The traditional creches have already been joined this year by a skeleton Santa nailed to a cross and displays put up by atheists. Members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are scheduled to put up their contribution this weekend."
Stanley Caulkins, who moved to Leesburg in 1937, remembers the first time the Nativity was put up at the corner of the courthouse lawn.
Caulkins, who has owned Caulkins Jewelers in downtown Leesburg for over half a century, sees it as a valued symbol, something that should not be messed with. He went before the county board two years ago to argue that it should stay. Last week, he said that he still does not understand why the issue engenders such controversy.
"The creche is not religious," Caulkins insisted, his voice trembling.
A depiction of the adoration of baby Jesus, attended by the three kings, is not religious?
"It is a belief symbol. You have to believe in something," Caulkins said.
Apparently, you have to believe in whatever Mr. Caulkins believes in.
Alec Macgillivray (Twitter General Counsel, former Google attorney, Berkman Fellow) has a great post explaining how SOPA might impact everyday Americans:
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The harm that does to ordinary, non-infringing users is best described via a hypothetical user: Abe. Abe has never even so much as breathed on a company’s copyright but he does many of the things typical of Internet users today. He stores the photos of his children, now three and six years old, online at PickUpShelf* so that he doesn’t have to worry about maintaining backups. He is a teacher and keeps copies of his classes accessible for his students via another service called SunStream that makes streaming audio and video easy. He engages frequently in conversation in several online communities and has developed a hard-won reputation and following on a discussion host called SpeakFree. And, of course, he has a blog called “Abe’s Truths” that is hosted on a site called NewLeaflet. He has never infringed on any copyright and each of the entities charged with enforcing SOPA know that he hasn’t.
And yet, none of that matters. Under SOPA, every single one of the services that Abe uses can be obliterated from his view without him having any remedy. Abe may wake up one morning and not be able to access any of his photos of his children. Neither he, nor his students, would be able to access any of his lectures. His trove of smart online discussions would likewise evaporate and he wouldn’t even be able to complain about it on his blog.
On OffbeatBride, a great (but complicated) HOWTO for making your own polyhedral chocolate dice molds from your D&D dice, and then cast delicious chocolates from it:
How to make your own Dungeons & Dragons chocolate dice mold (via Neatorama) Read the rest
Before we begin, some disclaimers. First and foremost: This is about as complicated and expensive (net cost: $100 + shipping) a mold as you're likely to get, for anything reasonably sized. (Well, unless you want molded daleks complete with little plunger-arms or something else that is fundamentally not a convex shape.) That's because it has a lot of little, tiny, fiddly pieces, and it's a two-piece mold meant to create solid 3D shapes with no flat back. And the little fiddly pieces are of variable depth so you need way more silicone than you would if, say, you were just molding your favorite buttons. Chances are, your mold doesn't need to be this insane. But that's fine! You can still use this tutorial, just skip the pieces that are clearly irrelevant.
Google claims that Universal had no basis for removing the "Mega Song" video posted in support of the MegaUpload service (which Universal is trying to drive off the Internet). Earlier this week, a court filing from Universal suggested that the company had negotiated the right to remove videos it doesn't own from YouTube as part of a private agreement with Google.
“Our partners do not have the right to take down videos from YT unless they own the rights to them or they are live performances controlled through exclusive agreements with their artists, which is why we reinstated it,” Google-owned YouTube said...
Universal said Google’s private system doesn’t count as an official takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and thus it was immune from legal liability. It’s a position that Ira Rothken, Megaupload’s attorney, said was preposterous.
Last week's SOPA hearings were punctuated by facepalming moments in which learned members of the House Judiciary Committee dismissed the distinguished engineers who say the bill weakens Internet security. They said things like, "I'm no nerd, but I just don't believe it."
Well, you don't have to be a "nerd" to understand a) what DNSSEC is; b) why we desperately need it (or something like it) before the Internet collapses along with the creaking public key infrastructure; and c) how the insanity in SOPA will tank that effort. Stewart Baker at the Volokh Conspiracy lays it out in small, easy-to-understand words.
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Unfortunately, the things a browser does to bypass a criminal site will also defeat SOPA’s scheme for blocking pirate sites. SOPA envisions the AG telling ISPs to block the address of www.piracy.com. So the browsers get no information about www.piracy.com from the ISP’s DNS server. Faced with silence from that server, the browser will go into fraud-prevention mode, casting about to find another DNS server that can give it the address. Eventually, it will find a server in, say, Canada. Free from the Attorney’ General’s jurisdiction, the server will provide a signed address for piracy.com, and the browser will take its user to the authenticated site.
That’s what the browser should do if it’s dealing with a hijacked DNS server. But browser code can’t tell the Attorney General from a hijacker, so it will end up treating them both the same. And from the AG’s point of view, the browser’s efforts to find an authoritative DNS server will look like a deliberate effort to evade his blocking order.
A physics teacher created this video showing how to make a penny "disappear" by placing a Pyrex beaker over it and filling it up with water, asking why and how this illusion worked. On IO9, Esther Inglis-Arkell explains how the effect is achieved -- it's all down to the strange motion of light in water.
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So when the penny is at the bottom of the beaker, there's only one sharp turn that the light from the penny has to make, from the pyrex dish to the air. The water-to-pyrex transition is comparatively mild, with little bending. The penny is distorted, but it's visible. When the wet penny is beneath the dish, but under another layer of water, the light also only has one sharp turn — back into the air at the end of its journey. Before that it only travels through water and pyrex, which have similar indices of refraction, and so it isn't bent much.
When the penny 'disappears,' though, it is taking two sharp turns, the massive turns between the pyrex and the air both at the bottom of the beaker and at the side. And, because of the way light bends, both turns are in the same direction, away from the eye of the viewer. Imagine the beaker full of water like an immense piece of rectangular carpeting on the concrete floor, and the light like a person on roller skates. (No, seriously, this will help.) The viewer is on the right side of this carpet.
An open letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to New York's Trinity Church urges the church to allow the Occupy protest in Duarte Park, which is owned by the Episcopalian parish:
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Yours is a voice for the world not just the neighborhood of Duarte Park. Injustice, unfairness, and the strangle hold of greed which has beset humanity in our times must be answered with a resounding, "No!" You are that answer. I write this to you not many miles away from the houses of the poor in my country. It pains me despite all the progress we have made. You see, the heartbeat of what you are asking for--that those who have too much must wake up to the cries of their brothers and sisters who have so little--beats in me and all South Africans who believe in justice.
Trinity Church is an esteemed and valued old friend of mine; from the earliest days when I was a young Deacon. Theirs was the consistent and supportive voice I heard when no one else supported me or our beloved brother Nelson Mandela. That is why it is especially painful for me to hear of the impasse you are experiencing with the parish. I appeal to them to find a way to help you. I appeal to them to embrace the higher calling of Our Lord Jesus Christ--which they live so well in all other ways--but now to do so in this instance...can we not rearrange our affairs for justice sake? Just as history watched as South Africa was reborn in promise and fairness so it is watching you now.
Via Reddit, today I learned that just as there are "cat cafes" in Tokyo, there are "dog cafes" in Seoul. Redditor oddipus visited one such establishment, and shot the photo above. Corgis do, in fact, gotta corg.
I've been to a cat cafe, but wonder if any Boing Boing readers (perhaps some of you in Korea) have ever visited an establishment that caters to canine preferences?
If you followed my tweets from the markup session for SOPA in the House of Representatives, you know how frustrating it was to watch: you had these lawmakers blithely dismissing the security concerns of the likes of Vint Cerf, saying things like, "I'm no technology nerd, but I don't believe it." In other words: "I'm a perfect ignoramus, but I find it convenient to disregard the world's foremost experts." Another congressman from Florida kept saying things like "No one can explain to me how this bill harms political debate or academic freedom."
The markup hearing ended early yesterday, surprising many who concluded that the early adjournment meant that SOPA was off the table until Congress reconvened in 2012. But committee chair Lamar Smith quietly announced that there would be a special session on the 21st of December (when the press and opponents of the bill are likely to be distracted by the impending holiday) to finish up the bill's markup.
I think I've got the perfect metaphor for the hearings: there's a scene in the Disneyland Jungle Boat Cruise where you pass the "gorilla camp," in which a tribe of gorillas have taken over an explorer's camp, upending the jeep and taking deadly possession of the firearms. One gorilla is staring up the barrel of a rifle, while another is firing a pistol into a collection of floating explosive barrels in the river.
That image is what I keep returning to as I listen to committee members blithely dismiss the experts who warn that this bill will undermine civic debate, academic freedom, and the security of the Internet. Read the rest