EFF's roundup of internettish TV, movies and books from 2015

What Is EFF Reading? Books, Movies, and TV Shows of 2015 : a media diet for Internet freedom activists. Read the rest

My family went to The Alchemist escape room and loved it

Escape rooms are popular. I'm not surprised. I've been to three of them with my wife and kids, and have enjoyed them all. The latest one we participated in was called The Alchemist, at Escape Room L.A..

On Sunday afternoon the four of us went to a nondescript building on 8th Street in downtown Los Angeles and pressed the button on the intercom next to the locked door. We got buzzed in and rode up to the third floor, where we met the six other players we were going to be locked in a room with. After a staff member explained the rules (no phones, no bathroom breaks, no brute force attacks on combination locks) we were led into a small room with a long table and a wall of old books. The door was locked behind us. We had one hour to figure out how to unlock the door and get out.

This is the smallest escape room yet, I thought. Were we going to spend an hour cramped together in here? I put the thought out of my head as I joined the others in going over the clues that would lead to the solving of the various puzzles. It didn't take long for us to crack the first puzzle. As soon as we did, one of the walls slid away to reveal a much larger room: the mysterious laboratory of of the Alchemist, an unseen evil being who was in the final stages of concocting a Philosopher's Stone to take over the world. Read the rest

Infomercial for $90 "power" candles

Dr. Linda Salvin is a "spiritual doctor, famous psychic, healer, medium" who sells Wicks of Wisdom, $90 candle sets alleged to have special powers. The Rebound Power candle "reverses negativity to the sender" and the Sweetening Judgment Power candle is "excellent for court cases, legal issues and brings them in your favor." (Martin Shkreli should hock his Wu-Tang Clan album and load up on that one.)

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe in the power of Wicks of Wisdsom" says Salvin in her spectacularly avaricious infomercial. "I have testimony after testimony, and I would not be wasting my time, my energy, or my reputation on national TV. Wicks of Wisdom works, like a prescription for your soul."

The infomercial co-stars Kris Jenner (who she?) as product pitchman.

The YouTube comments on the video will have you weeping with shame for the human race.

Here comes JR "Bob" Dobbs to set things straight:

Slavin's retort:

[via] Read the rest

1990s teenagers gleefully record family van hitting the 100,000 mile mark

The Bowman family shot this excellent home movie of the odometer on their family van reaching 100,000 miles. Can anyone who isn't car-blind like me figure out exact year this was made?

[via] Read the rest

12 recipes that will let you eat well for the rest of your life

As a kid I’d watch my dad as he’d throw (his unit of measurement) some olive oil, onions, garlic, lemon, and olives into a pan to make a quick pasta. It’s learning to cook this way that gave me a love and appreciation for food and cooking. That’s what was so amazing about Twelve Recipes. When you read it, you feel like you’re getting that private cooking lesson from a family member. A family member who happens to be a really really good cook.

Through the book Cal Peternell, chef at renowned restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, lays out twelve-ish basic foods and techniques that he believes will let you eat well for the rest of your life. If you’re a novice in the kitchen, the first chapter eases you in by teaching you how to make toast. No, seriously — toast. I was skeptical at first too, I consider myself to be somewhat of a toast veteran, but after reading a few pages I actually learned something. I had no idea that to make thin crisp toast you should actually use a loaf of stale bread since it’s easier to cut. That’s the beauty of the book – even if you’ve been making toast, grilling meat, or cooking rice all your life, there’s still something to learn.

In the best way, this isn’t your standard cookbook. You won’t find a single recipe on each page, you’ll actually find two or three, interweaved by a story about a family ping pong game. Read the rest

Burning Man: the art of maker culture

For sixteen of the past eighteen years I’ve embarked on an unusual pilgrimage: an annual voyage to a distant desert plain in northern Nevada. I didn’t go to gamble, to mine, to visit a brothel, to roam the wilderness. Instead I went to document a temporary city of art.

When dead birds were a good thing to put on Christmas cards

Henry Cole invented the Christmas Card in 1843 as a way to escape the drudgery of hand-writing a bunch of letters to his friends. In this article, Hunter Oatman-Stafford of Collectors Weekly presents the curious history of the Christmas card.

“The Victorians had some really strange ideas about what served as an appropriate Christmas greeting,” says Bo Wreden, who recently organized an exhibition of holiday cards for the Book Club of California. “They liked to send out cards with dead birds on them, robins in particular, which related to ancient customs and legends. There’s a famous quotation from the Venerable Bede about a sparrow flying through the hall of a castle while the nobility is celebrating Christmas: The moment from when it enters until it flies out is very brief, a metaphor for how quickly our lives pass.” Apparently, killing a wren or robin was once a good-luck ritual performed in late December, and during the late 19th century, cards featuring the bodies of these birds were sent to offer good luck in the New Year.

Read the rest

Swiss Researchers solve side-scrolling immersion

Researchers at the ETH Game Technology Center of the Swiss national technical institute in Zürich, have applied their considerable talents to the critical problem of immersion in 2D side-scrolling, 8-bit era games. Witness in this video the splendor of a 360° projected Mario world that unrolls across the walls as players reveal each subsequent tile of the game map.

Robert Sumner, founder of the GTC explains:

 ...we observed that the 8-bit era of gaming had a huge collective influence on so many people, but the actual gaming experience was typically an individual one. We wanted to turn this idea upside down, and elevate the NES console experience into a group experience where the game surrounds a large event, allowing multiple people to play in a collaborative setting. The panoramic stitching and 8-way controller multiplexing hardware were the main ways we accomplished this task.

The group submitted the paper "Unfolding the 8-bit Era" to the European Conference on Visual Media Production, and then built the system to unveil at the Eurographics Conference. Utilizing a vintage 8-bit Famicom/NES system and a PC with a point-correspondence vision tracking algorithm, the researchers developed methods to detect the edge of each screen segment, adding it to a continuously expanding texture map in real-time. This panoramic texture is then seamlessly displayed on eight aligned projectors. The vision algorithm requires no prior knowledge about the game, so it is possible to play any side-scroller on this system, such as Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Metroid, and the like. Read the rest

33,636 Gun Deaths Visualized

Matt Haughey says:

"What follows are gun emoji shown at about 28pt using Apple’s emoji font in Textedit screencaptured. Every single one represents a person that died by gunshot in the US in 2013." Read the rest

If you think self-driving cars have a Trolley Problem, you're asking the wrong questions

In my latest Guardian column, The problem with self-driving cars: who controls the code?, I take issue with the "Trolley Problem" as applied to autonomous vehicles, which asks, if your car has to choose between a maneuver that kills you and one that kills other people, which one should it be programmed to do? Read the rest

Leaked Salvation Army memo details internal homophobia and discrimination

The Salvation Army has struggled to distance itself from its reputation for homophobia, but a 2014 memo on "LGBT issues" by midwest Commissioner Paul Seiler spells out a number of ways in which the organization discriminates against LGBT employees. Read the rest

DoJ forced Google to turn over Jacob Appelbaum's email, then gagged Google

Google's lawyers fought strenuously against the DoJ's demands for access to the Gmail account of Jacob Appelbaum, a journalist, activist and volunteer with the Wikileaks project; they fought even harder against the accompanying gag order, arguing that Appelbaum had the right to know what was going on and have a lawyer argue his case. Read the rest

Curb Your Miss Universe

A film by Jake Rasmussen Read the rest

Listen: whistleblower story that Marineland threatens to sue journalists for disclosing

Phil Demers worked as an animal trainer at Niagara Falls, Ontario's Marineland for 12 years before resigning because he believed that the animals in his care were being mistreated and he did not believe that his employers would listen to him or his colleagues' warnings about this. Read the rest

Celebrities are wasting away, and other tabloid stunners

[My friend Peter Sheridan is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for British national newspapers. He has covered revolutions, civil wars, riots, wildfires, and Hollywood celebrity misdeeds for longer than he cares to remember. As part of his job, he must read all the weekly tabloids. For the past couple of years, he's been posting terrific weekly tabloid recaps on Facebook and has graciously given us permission to run them on Boing Boing. Enjoy! - Mark]

Did Kim Kardashian lose 45 lbs in one day? This and other unassailable tabloid facts.

While the rest of the world is over-indulging during the festive season, weighty matters obsess this week’s tabloids and celebrity magazines.

Kim Kardashian “lost 75 lbs in 3 weeks” post-pregnancy, says the National Enquirer, while Star magazine says she lost 30 lbs in 20 days.

They could both be right, if Kardashian lost another 45 lbs on her 21st day, which seems entirely plausible.

Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is the “Queen of Lean” and “starving herself to death” as her weight plummets to 98 lbs, says the Enquirer.

Tabloid watchers will recall that only six weeks ago the Enquirer warned that Kate weighed 99 lbs and was “wasting away,” so clearly the loss of another 16 precious ounces is cause for grave concern.

Meanwhile George Clooney’s wife Amal is “scary-skinny” says the Enquirer, though it doesn’t tell us how much she weighs because they’re too busy explaining how this brilliant human rights lawyer has transformed into "the wife from hell,” cutting Clooney off from old friends and making him sell off his former “love nests,” while she spends $4,695 on an Alexander McQueen dress and $4,000 on a vintage coat. Read the rest

Chris Christie's bizarre transgender bathroom / terrorism bloviation

Here is New Jersey governor Chris Christie's explanation why trans children shouldn't be given the right to use the school restroom they feel most comfortable in:

“Life is confusing enough right now for our children. Think about those kids in Los Angeles who last week had their entire district closed because of a threat. Think about what they felt like the next day when they went back to school. Did they feel completely comfortable, did they feel like they were safe? How did their mothers and fathers feel when they sent them to school that day?”

I cannot wait for the Bridgegate trial to begin in April.

[via] Read the rest

Howto: make a glowing bottle of Fallout 4's Nuka Cola Quantum

Redditor MymlanOhlin shares their method for making a glowing bottle Nuka Cola Quantum from Fallout 4, a fiendishly difficult videogame whose brilliant storytelling and gorgeous, explorable landscapes have totally colonized our household. Read the rest

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