"possum man"

How to prepare to join the Internet of the dead

In January 2015, security researcher and beloved, prolific geek Michael "Hackerjoe" Hamelin died in a head-on collision that also hospitalized his widow, Beth Hamelin. Read the rest

Elegance, illustrated: heliocentrism vs geocentrism

In a gorgeous animation, Malin Christersson shows how much simpler it is to plot out celestial mechanics when you assume that all the bodies in our solar system are in orbit around the sun, rather than the other way around. Read the rest

Internet of the Dead: the net's collision course with death

My latest Locus magazine column is "The Internet of the Dead," which discusses the collision course the Internet is on with death. It was inspired by my work to preserve the personal data of my old friend Erik "Possum Man" Stewart, who died unexpectedly and tragically in June:

It was while I sat in Possum’s room that I began to think about his computer. It was a homemade Franken-PC that sat under his desk, its wheezy fan making a racket like an ancient refrigerator. After I’d left Possum’s house and headed back to the airport, I got to thinking about that computer. I strongly suspected that Possum would have copied over all the data of his life – all the e-mails and lists and photos and movies and programs and essays and stories and, well, *everything* – onto each new machine, keeping it all live and handy. After all, hard-drives are cheap – especially if you’re building your own tower PC with lots of full-height drive bays – and their capacity increases exponentially, year on year. It’s been a long time since it made sense to keep your archives in a shoebox full of Zip cartridges or floppy drives. If you buy a PC every couple of years, your new machine will almost certainly have more than twice the hard-drive space of your old one. Keeping your data on your live, spinning platter means that it will get saved every time you do your regular backup (assuming you perform this essential ritual!), and if the drive starts to fail, you’ll know about it right away.

Read the rest

Burning Man's Temple of Remembrance

Ian Alexander Norman contributed his long-exposure pic of this year's Temple of Remembrance at Burning Man to the Boing Boing Flickr pool. The Temple is a huge, ornate structure that burners fill up with their regrets, grief, memorials and testaments to their dead, their lost, and their sorrows. Last Sunday night, we burned the Temple in near silence (one jackass in an art car broke up the silence by repeatedly blasting Freebird), and watched the sorrows go up in flame. I wrote a remembrance there for my good friend Possum Man, and it was cathartic to see it all burn, surrounded by tens of thousands of other people watching their own fires.

Update: Xeno Evil sez, "I just wanted to say that the rendition of Freebird that you heard was not a jackass. It was a tribute to a dear friend and solid DPW member who used to always play the song before he was killed a couple months ago in Austin. His name was Joey Jello and he was an exemplary human being, he actually made most of DPW take stock and try to be better people. He had 'Never Betray' tattooed on his neck backwards so that whenever he looked in the mirror, he'd be reminded of his commitment to live by his moral standards. When we play freebird (and I, personally, HATE the song) it's not to bother other people, it's to remind us to be better people because Joey was better than all of us, he was amazing, weird and great. Read the rest

Pubic hair stuck to a urinal forms a treble clef

A redditor called Frankie842 snapped a photo of a public hair stuck to a urinal in a near-perfect treble clef. I once experienced something like this, back when I was roomming with Possum Man. We'd cooked a pot of spaghetti and we tried the technique of tossing a strand against the wall to see if it would stick. It landed in just this configuration and we left it up on that wall for years after.

1 in a million chance musical pubic hair (imgur.com) Read the rest

Eulogy for Erik "Possum Man" Stewart

Today, many friends and loved ones of Erik "Possum Man" Stewart gathered at Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery to remember him and his life. I gave a eulogy. Many of Possum's friends asked me for the text of it, and I promised them that I'd post it here. He was remarkable, and the event was bittersweet, full of beloved old friends and sad contemplation.

Erik "Possum Man" Stewart was one of my oldest friends. His death was a freak occurrence, one of those awful outflows of the statistics of small probabilities and large numbers. Take any infinitesimal outcome, multiply it by a large enough population and it becomes a near certainty.

It was the sort of statistical oddity that Possum loved to chew over. Though he was technically a vegan or a vegetarian through all the years we knew each other -- we met when I was 16 -- what Possum mostly liked to chew on was oddities. Read the rest

RIP, Erik "Possum Man" Stewart

Erik "Possum Man" Stewart was one of my oldest, dearest friends. He died last week, of a sudden and freak cerebral hemorrhage. It happened while he slept, and his housemates found him the next day, appearing peaceful and not distressed. The coroner believes that his death was instant.

Possum was the epitome of happy mutanthood. We were roommates off and on for more than a decade, and in that time, I was privileged to get a front-row seat for many of his delightful and odd experiments and outlooks. For one thing, he was obsessed with multidimensional space. From a very early age, he worked out a system for visualizing up to seven spatial dimensions. The system was very intuitive for him, less so for everyone else. He decided that the way to convey it would be through simple games that ramped up from 3D to 4D and onward. Back in the 1980s, he spent hours grinding away at his 386, writing an assembler and C program to run a 4D Pong. For a while, he worked at porting this to the Newton (I forget what it was about Newtons that made them seem appropriate for this project, but he had a reason -- he always had a reason). The project popped up, off and on, for many years.

Possum juggled. He made stereoscopes. After reading Understanding Comics, he became an avid creator of comics. He tried at one point to train his eyes to focus independently (because he wanted to be able to walk and read a book at the same time while paying attention to both), but gave it up when the optometrist ordered him to. Read the rest

Juggling is good for you in lots of ways

Here's Scot Nery's list of eight reasons why normal people should learn to juggle. My old roommate, Possum Man, was a hell of a juggler, and though he took it up as physiotherapy for an arm injury, it quickly built to an avocation. Flaming torch and machete juggling was always a favorite at our parties.

#2 Got The Hunchies?

The average person spends 312 hours per day at a computer. Your back and neck get outta whack, your wrists start hurting and your legs fall asleep. You can combat this crappy feeling by doing light exercise - juggling is perfect. To hone the art of juggling, you need to think about standing up straight, relaxing, and using your hands correctly.

#3 I can't de-stress you with my eyes

It's nice to learn something new, do something active and get away from what seems important in your life. You can lose your tension through tons of hobbies, but juggling is a great combination of physical activity, brain stimulation, joy of success, and visual stimulation. Here's another scientific study...

8 Reasons Normal People Should Juggle

(Photo: WJD2008 - 7 JUGGLING BEANBAGS, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from madaboutasia's photostream)

(via Kottke)

Previously: Blind juggling robot - Boing Boing Boing Boing: High-speed Dance Dance Revolution kid juggling three pins Claude Shannon, master juggler and juggling robot builder - Boing ... HOWTO Make a magic fireball (flaming oily rag) -- UPDATED - Boing ... Juggling monkey makes ape out of AACS - Boing Boing Read the rest

AnarchistU, Toronto's wiki-based free school

My old highschool roommate, Erik "Possum Man" Stewart, has started a free school in Toronto callled AnarchistU, in which anyone can propose a class, organize its curriculum on a wiki, sign up enough students and start teaching. Each semester has seen substantial growth in enrollment, and the model of peer education is really working well for a surprising number of people.

What is Anarchist U? The Anarchist U is a volunteer-run collective which organizes a variety of courses on arts and sciences. Most courses run for ten weeks, and meet once a week; there are no admission fees. The Anarchist U follows the tradition of free schools in that it is open, non-hierarchic and questions the roles of teachers and students.

Where is Anarchist U located? Anarchist U is in Toronto ON, Canada. There is no single street address; rather different classes and meetings take place in different community centres and homes throughout the city.

Do you offer online courses? No. All courses are run non-virtually, classroom style.

What's an anarchist school? Good question, we're also trying to figure that out!

Link Read the rest

SEED school to be neutered by administrator

Looks like SEED Alternative School is on its very last legs. This is the alternative high-school I attended from 1988 to 1992; it's the oldest public alternative school in Canada. The school's new administrator (who pitched a tantrum when he met with alumni, students and parents, rejecting the notion that SEED's stakeholders had any business advising him on his custodianship of a unique educational institution) has proposed the elimination of every "alternative" element of the school's day-to-day functioning. SEED School turned me into the person I am today, gave me the confidence to strike out on my own, start my own business, to become a writer.

Tim, the new administrator, has proposed eliminating outside instructors drawn from the community ("Catalysts" in SEED-speak); credit for out-of-classroom work unless it is formally assigned homework (I got English credit for writing and publishing science fiction); and will require fall classes to be scheduled the spring previous (SEED usually gathers its students every fall, determines which classes the students are interested in, and cooperatively sets a schedule that allows the greatest number of students to attend the most classes).

Finally, Tim will eliminate the idea that the students have any business guiding the direction of the school.

There are a lot of SEED alumni who read this blog; I can't imagine that we're any of us too pleased with this. Erik "Possum Man" Stewart has been working with current SEED student to try to resist this stuff; drop him some mail if you have any ideas (or just to lend some moral support). Read the rest

:)