Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. Please add the causes and charities you give to in the forums!
Because we deserve health care, including reproductive, gender, and sexual health care. Because access to birth control and safe abortion is a human right. Because Trump's regime wants to destroy all of this. —XJ
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Ever since its landmark 1992 lawsuit over civilian access to strong cryptography, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been fighting governments around the world in the fight over whether the internet is a tool for dialog and innovation around the world, or a nightmarish system for control and censorship. Trump just inherited the surveillance infrastructure that GW Bush built and Obama operationalized it — a surveillance apparatus that EFF is already suing to end. There has never been more EFF moment than this one. —CD
Creative Commons is best known as a tool for sharing-friendly artists, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Since the beginngin, and all over the world, CC has provided governments, agencies, research and scholarly institutions and NGOs with the tools to easily share across borders and the bewildering array of copyright laws. We can't beat trumpism without collaboration tools, and that includes legal tools. —CD
Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia)
If "post-truth" is the 2016's word of the year, then Wikipedia's moment has arrived. For 15 years, Wikipedia has been figuring out how to negotiate truth among diverse and even warring points of view. It's not always pretty and it's not always nice, but no one's yet found a better way to let ideas bash against each other until something everyone agrees upon emerges. —CD
For more than twenty-five years, the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) has held heads of state accountable for human rights violations, and they'll continue in the United States under our new President. They analyze data collected by human rights workers using cutting-edge methods from computer science and statistics. Those scientific results bring clarity to human rights violence and support the fight for justice. We have challenging times ahead of us to hold our president-elect accountable– recall that during the campaign, President-elect Trump promised to order US forces to commit torture, and to bomb the families of suspected insurgents. Both actions would be war crimes. We will continue to stand for justice for the victims of human rights violations. Facts do matter. And all leaders, around the world, must to be held to account for their actions.
Institute for the Future
There are no facts about the future, only fictions. As we've learned in this election, nothing is certain about tomorrow. But even as our attention is captured by the present, we can begin to write the story to come. A place to start is the Institute for the Future's Future for Good fellowship. Institute for the Future, where Mark and David are researchers, is a 50-year-old nonprofit that helps the public think about the future to make better decisions in the present. The Fellowship directly supports inspiring social innovators who are working to make tomorrow a better place. You can help too. Make a donation of $100 and you'll receive our new limited edition Future Now 'zine and a custom enamel pin that Mark designed!
The National Wildlife Federation
National Wildlife Federation is a voice for wildlife, dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat and inspiring the future generation of conservationists. Now's the time: the shortlist for our new Secretary of the Interior is reportedly Sarah Palin and Forrest Lucas, an "advocate of trophy hunting and puppy mills … who never met a case of animal exploitation he wouldn't defend." — RB
The Marine Mammal Center
When seals, sea lion, or many other sea going pals need help, if they get lucky, they may be taken to The Marine Mammal Center, a veterinary hospital just for them. Thousands of heartbreakingly cute, but very wild, animals are rescued, rehabilitated and released on an annual basis. I'm a volunteer. In addition to the hundreds of highly trained volunteers that make the hospital run, the center always needs cash for fish and medicine. —JW
The Southern Poverty Law Center &
the Anti-Defamation League
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defemation League fight hate, teach tolerance, and help secure justice, and fair treatment for all. "There is no 'them' and 'us.' There is only us." –Greg Boyle —JW
Facing History and Ourselves
Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational group that helps young people study issues around racism, antisemitism, and prejudice in history, from the Holocaust to today's immigrant experiences to the killing fields of Cambodia. Their aim is to teach young people "to think critically, to empathize, to recognize moral choices, to make their voices heard, we put in their hands the possibility–and the responsibility–to do the serious work demanded of us all as citizens." —DP
Free Software Foundation/Defective By Design
The Free Software Foundation's principled litigation, license creation and campaigning is fierce, uncompromising and has changed the world. You interact with code that they made possible a million times a day, and they never stop working to make sure that the code stays free. —CD
Free Software Foundation Europe
Software has eaten the world, and software freedom is increasingly synonymous with human freedom. In Europe, far-right parties and authoritarians are inheriting a constellation of gadgets and devices that are "defective by design," built to allow corporations spy on and control their owners — and those thugs are contemplating how they can use those companies' extraordinary powers to put whole populations under their thumbs. Free softwar in Europe, free software everywhere! —CD
The Internet Archive: In an era where the control of information has been weaponized, the Internet Archive's mission — universal access to all human knowledge — is a revolutionary manifesto. The Archive isn't screwing around: they're siting a copy of their data in Canada to resist trumpian grabs and spying. —CD
Open Rights Group
For Britons, 2016 was the year of Brexit, and while we were all fighting about Brexit, Theresa May's Tory government passed the most intrusive surveillance bill in the history of modern democracies. It's a longstanding joke that the gnomes of Westminster Village think that Nineteen Eighty-Four was a manual for statecraft, but the joke is getting less funny by the second. ORG is a decade old: spunky, going though a timely growth spurt, and badly needed. —CD
I just looked up Amnesty's founding principles and found tears rolling down my cheeks: "Only when the last prisoner of conscience has been freed, when the last torture chamber has been closed, when the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world's people, will our work be done." 2016 is a year when these values need our support more than ever. —CD
On November 9, ACLU changed its homepage to a picture of Trump superimposed with the words SEE YOU IN COURT. ACLU's deep bench of kick-ass lawyers has been lately augmented by a much-needed group of freedom-fighting technologists, welded into the fighting force we'll need for the next four years and beyond: from voter suppression to free speech, the ACLU is key to the fight. —CD
With the UK plunging into surveillance dystopia where human rights are an afterthought and racial profiling is becoming official doctrine, it needs Liberty, an organisation with 80+ years' track record fighting for human rights in many incarnations of the British project. The Tories ran on a platform of repealing the Human Rights Act: when the government is officially anti "human rights," you need someone like Liberty to take the "pro" side. —CD
Born in San Francisco's Mission District in the back room of a pirate
supply store, 826 National teaches young people the art and magic of
creative writing through classes, DIY publishing projects, in-school
programs, and drop-in tutoring at seven centers around the US. And it's
all free for the kids. Help open more 826 locations around the country! —DP
Fight for the Future
Some of the Internet's savviest, hard-working-est activists. Fight for
the Future is in all the Internet fights, kicking ass on Net Neutrality — a fight that's back on in 2017, thanks Trump — mass surveillance and justice for Chelsea Manning.
Aaron Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, and as you'd expect from that
history, they're relentless in reinventing the activist playbook for the
Software in the public interest — it's a damned good idea. MySociety produces software like Pledgebank ("I will risk arrest by refusing to register for a UK ID card if 100,000 other Britons will also do it") and TheyWorkForYou (every word and deed by every Member of Parliament). It's plumbing for activists and community organizers. —CD
Enjoy the third and final part of this year's gift guide: toys! Also included are everything else that doesn't quite fit into our picks among the books and gadgets to enchant and enwonderize us in 2016. What cool and weird objects of fascination did you find this year?
Makey MakeyIt's easier to understand what Makey Makey is by watching this video of it in action than by describing it, but I'll give it a shot. Makey Makey is a printed circuit board that you connect to any computer with a USB cable (included). You don't need to install any software. Your computer thinks Makey Makey is a keyboard. And it is a keyboard of sorts. But it doesn't use standard keys. Instead, you connect wires from Makey Makey to anything that conducts electricity: a piece of fruit, a bowl of water, a cup of soup, a scrap of aluminum foil, blobs of Play-Doh. When you touch the object with your finger, your computer will think you are pressing a key on a standard keyboard. You can assign the object to be a spacebar key, an arrow key, or a letter key. And you can connect several objects to Makey Makey at the same time, so that you can create game controllers, musical interfaces, and other button-controlled devices.
It might not sound like much fun, but the possibilities are endless, and Makey Makey's ease of use encourages quick-and-dirty experimentation. My 12-year-old was instantly transfixed by Makey Makey and she started making all sorts of things with it, including a drum machine triggered by apple slices, and a game controller out of a cardboard box and bits of foil.
Makey Makey also works with Scratch, the excellent kids' software development platform. Check out the Makey Makey games people have created using Scratch.
A Silly Putty 6 pack6 Eggs of Silly Putty, just as you remember it. I almost bought a print newspaper to lift some comics, and then remembered it just ruins the stuff and isn't so impressive.
3" Glass PyramidMade of "optically clear crystal" and three inches tall, Amlong's Crystal Pyramid is the best Crystal Pyramid. My bacon is fresh, my airspace dangerous, and my undertakings favored.
Welcome to Night Vale Creepy Baby OnesieThey say "Creepy" because they come from Night Vale, where "creepy" is a superlative.
A Rube Goldberg-ian good time for allFun for the whole family, Mouse Trap is a game that never gets old and rarely works as intended.
2016 LEGO Star Wars Advent CalendarThis years Star Wars Advent Calendar does not end on Wookie Life Day, but I like the minifigs.
Bulk Generic LegoYou can get 1000 random pieces of off-brand building bricks for $30, guaranteed to "fit tight
Wolf Crotch UnderwearWith a "convex design, large space and breathable," the 3D Wolf Head Crotch Underwear "make man looks sexy and wild" and can be yours for as little as five American dollars.
Beasts of BalanceKickstarted in 2016, Beasts of Balance is a smart-phone enable tabletop game that combines stacking/balancing (think Jenga) with smart, sensor-enabled blocks that talk to your mobile device as you play the game, creating fun and complex challenges.
Draft-Matic Mechanical PencilI worked as an engineering intern for a couple of summers when I was in college. I shared a cubicle with a draftsperson named Laura. She was obsessed with two things – being part of an outlaw motorcycle gang, and her drafting materials, especially her mechanical pencil. I liked her very much, but one time I made the mistake of borrowing her pencil while she was on a cigarette break. When she came back and discovered me using it she was so mad I thought she was going to stab me with it. I remember her describing the penc
I'm 99% percent sure the pencil she owned was an Alvin Draft-Matic 5mm.
Reflectacles: super-reflective glasses-frames that look amazingScott Urban's new Reflectacles glasses are Ray Ban-style frames that are embedded with the kind of retroreflective cat-eye materials used for highway markers, making them reflective at 500 yards at night, and nearly that visible by day. He's kickstarting them at an astoundingly cheap $85/pair, in seven colors.
Sea MonkeysI remember lonely days in my 20s when Sea Monkeys were my only pet. My roommate at the time was a 6'6" pre-frontally lobotomized, homophobic, anti-semitic, epileptic, children's party clown. It was only through the love of my Sea Monkeys that I survived.
Loog electric 3-string guitarI love Loog 3-string guitars. They use open-tuning, which makes them very easy to play.
Seconds of excitement, by EstesRemember the anticipation? Stuffing RECOVERY WADDING in your rocket? Putting in the engine, fitting in the tiny matchhead sized ignitor? Running 15-20' of wire out to your tiny launch control device! Hitting the button and fizz… Nothing happens! Three seconds later, just as you are standing up to approach "the rocket." ZZZZZZZIIIIIIIP! You mostly miss seeing the launch, and the rocket is already tumbling back to earth. The parachute having a) popped to early, b) far too late, or c) in a ball of flame.
Monopoly Deal card gameMonopoly Deal is a $5 card game that takes 15-20 minutes to play and has lots of player interaction, and no mind numbing roll-and-move mechanic. Many of the 110 cards in the deck look familiar (money, properties, utilities). There are also action cards which can be used to collect rent, steal another players' property, cancel an action card, or used as money. Best of all, even the richest player is at risk of losing, so everyone stays interested in playing till the end.
Copper mugs for Moscow MulesI didn't know what a Moscow Mule was until I saw the Bali Hai episode of Better Call Saul. The drink, made from vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, poured over ice, was served to Kim Wexler (my favorite character on the show, played by Rhea Seehorn) in a copper mug. Recently, I went on vacation with my wife, and she ordered a Moscow Mule at a restaurant. It was served in a copper mug. It turns out you are supposed to serve them that way.
The origins of the Moscow Mule are a bit murky, but it appears to have been invented in the early 1940s by the owner of a Hollywood pub on the Sunset Strip called the Cock 'n' Bull. The bartender wanted to clean out a slow-moving stockpile of Smirnoff's and bottled ginger beer that had been gathering dust on the shelves in the backroom, so he mixed them together and started serving them in copper mugs to the movie stars who frequented the pub. It became an instant hit, at least until McCarthyism scared people away from anything with the taint of Sovietism to it. But the Moscow Mule had a kick that people liked, and it made a comeback in the 1960s, which it enjoys today.
Tiffin Board GameMore than 250,000 of Mumbai's workers enjoy a home-cooked lunch every day thanks to the dabbawallas, who bring tiffins — stacking lunchpails — filled at each worker's family kitchen directly to their workplace, in a miracle of coordinated logistics that consistently beats Mumbai's legendary traffic jams and attains unheard-of accuracy despite the low levels of literacy among dabbawallas.
Tiffin is a new tabletop game from Rael Dornfest — RSS pioneer; creator of the Blosxom blogging tool; technologist for Charity:Water; former chair of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conferences; and husband of Asha "Parent Hacks" Dornfest — that challenges you to match the dabbawallas' logistical skill by building delivery routes that minimize waste and maximize delivery efficiency.
Players compete to build more-efficient routes, while contending with slowdowns and flat tires, edging out the competition with short-cuts.
Titanium Quasi SporkThe Light My Fire spork isn't technically a spork, but rather a handle with a fork on one end and a spoon on the other. Call it a spork in front of your friends for a free nerdrage lecture.
Scorched Star Trek:TOS redshirtsThese full-sublimation Star Trek redshirts allow you to LARP an expendable security team-member who's met a horrible end, or a character in an existential John Scalzi comedy.
BloxelsMake pixel art in meatspace! Bloxels is a physical 13×13 art board with 320 blocks, which come with a free app to turn your creations into actual video game characters and levels: "When creating game rooms, each color in your design represents a different element, like green for terrain, blue for water or red for a hazard. When working on art, the color blocks represent the pixel art."
Mickey Mouse WatchI've always wanted a Mickey Mouse watch. This model is $23 on Amazon, and looks better than more expensive ones.
Bounce though the holidaysI went to my brother's house a couple weeks back and was IMPRESSED. Rather than renting these from a party service, my brother just bought a bounce house for the kids. From age 2 to about 11, and then again from 19-35 or so, this'll exhaust family and make every day kid management a lot easier. Tire them out!
Elenco 200-in-One Electronic Project Lab: A modern rebuild of the Radio Shack 150-in-One electronics kitElenco's highly rated 200-in-One Electronic Project Lab, which uses the same spring-wire and no-solder connectors as Radio Shack's classic, much-loved 150-in-One Electronics Kit, and adds a rack-mount chassis that lets your homebrew projects integrate with your home AV or networking gear.
There are 200 projects in the kit, including "Build your own Radio, AM Broadcast Station, Burglar Alarm, Electronic Game, Ohmmeter, Telegraph, Rain Detector and Sound effects tool."
Hand blown pink glass tentacleIf Peggy Olson had one of these hand blown pink glass tentacle massagers on her desk, it would go nicely with her Hokusai.
Eric Harshbarger diceEric Harshbarger's weird, laser-engraved dice are a tour-de-force: a pair of D6s for figuring out where to go for dinner in NYC; another D6 to figure out which die you should roll; an all-20s critical hit D20; Sicherman D6s that have different faces to a normal D6 pair, but the same probability distribution; punctuation mark dice (I've had students who were definitely using these); dice for indecisive people, and so on.
Caped Wonder Woman onesieThough the Dawn of Justice movie was a disappointment, the $45 Wonder Woman Dawn of Justice onesie (with cape!) (and gold foil tiara on the hood!) is not a bad consolation prize (and the cape zips off).
The Buddy Christ dashboard statuetteNo mid 70s sedan could possibly be complete without the Buddy Christ. I sort of thing my Vanagon needs one too.
MeaniesJust the sort of toys that kids love but parents would never get, Meanies are the perfect indiscreet gift for nieces, nephews, and other people's children. OG Meanie Splat the Roadkill Cat is "totally gross" but out of production.
Cthulhu ski masksWith more than a hundred positive reviews, Amurleopard's $4.23 Cthulhu ski mask seems to represent a kind of triumph in a narrow but important niche.
Tabasco packetsThe convenience of carrying your favorite hot-sauce in individual sachets — think "McDonald's ketchup pouches" — can't be overstated. It's a particularly great format if you're a frequent traveller, as TSA screeners don't recognize the shape as a "liquid" on their X-rays, meaning you can just stash them in your bags and pockets and not worry about getting them all out when you reach a checkpoint.
Crossbow pistolI bought this crossbow pistol because my family's favorite character on The Walking Dead, Daryl Dixon, uses a crossbow to take out zombies, and we thought it would be fun for target practice. It was only about $25, and I didn't expect it to be very powerful, but I was wrong. A bolt shot from this thing could kill someone. It easily penetrates plywood. I'm not sure if a bolt could go through someone's skull, but it would definitely lodge itself in a leg, arm, abdomen, or neck.
If you buy this, give it the same respect you would a firearm. It's not a toy, but it sure is fun. That said, I don't think anyone under the age of 18 should use it without adult supervision.
It doesn't require a lot of effort to cock it, but a smaller kid would not be able to figure out how to do it. The safety automatically engages when you cock it, thankfully. The crossbow comes with three aluminum (very sharp) bolts. You can buy a pack of 36 additional bolts for $12.
A staggering array of gadgetry gets posted to Boing Boing every year, which makes picking just some of the stuff seem like a big job. But it's easy when you just ask yourself: what made our lives better? What looks fun? Here's a few dozen tech toys that generated laughs, light and lovely smoothies.
When we got to rounding up our favorite books for our annual Gift Guide, we found that there were simply too many this time to throw in the Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukah/Yule/Solstice/Nonspecific Winter Celebration/New Year/Chalica hopper along with the tech and toys.
It's almost as if 2016 made the traditional way of learning more about our world — and of sharing dreams of other worlds — somehow more enticing.
Here's 65 of the best, then, from fairy-tales to furious politics, from the comic to the catastrophic, all waiting for you to turn the page.
Our sponsor Meh is a daily deals site that deals in a wide range of gadgets, gizmos, geegaws, widgets, stuff, gear, goods, and, of course, things. Recently, they sent me a big box of items they've previously sold for me to "review." But before I even got a chance to open the package, my ten-year-old son had torn into it, tried out each item (for at least one minute), and formed strong opinions that I will now share with you. -dp
Ion Audio Vinyl Motion Portable Suitcase Turntable: "I collect vinyl, and I can tell you that as a rule, new turntables that sell for less than $100 are crap. This one is surprisingly much better than the crappy ones that most people end up buying. The Ion turntable is actually a great bang for your buck, especially if you're playing $1 bin records that you don't care too much about."
Evriholder Beer Chill'R Mug: "I don't drink beer, but even if I did… this thing is stupid."
Haan HandiPro HS-22 Hand Held Steam Cleaner: "I guess this could be useful for cleaning up cat pee from rugs and other messes. But it would be better modded into a Ghostbusters Proton Pack for Halloween."
Banana Boat Rechargeable Wireless Floating Sound System: "This waterproof bluetooth speaker sounds good, but unfortunately we don't have a pool. I am listening to the new Green Day album in the bathtub though. So that's pretty cool."
"Overall, this was an OK haul. Not bad. Not great. Meh."
Boing Boing has teamed up with MorningSave to offer this deeply discounted collection of House of Marley watches!
House of Marley is committed to building superior, eco-friendly products, and every sale supports the Marley family's charitable organization, 1Love.
I really like the wood accents on these watches!
Boing Boing proudly welcomes our sponsor, Meh.
I was completely unprepared for how disappointed I was going to be with my random box of crap from Meh.
The folks at Meh told me I didn't have to like anything they sent. Dave told me over and over, it is ok if we hate the stuff. Having tried out most of what they sent me, I can safely say I was entertained, then frustrated, scared, confused, frustrated again, kinda bored and slightly angry. A box of crap indeed!
When I opened the cardboard box, I still thought maybe I'd get something really great. I didn't think this was impossible! I'd seen some items listed that I was sure would be a lot of fun to play with. Right on top, first thing out of the box was something I thought would be great: the CAP Clip-A-Phone!
This looked like a lot of fun! A SmartPhone mount for the brim of a baseball cap? What could go wrong? I grabbed an old hat, some hair clips and my Great Pyrenees. Amazing fun, right? I envisioned a hilarious Dog's Eye view of the world revealed through a camera clipped to my best friend's head. Luckily I didn't destroy my phone.
CAP turns your hat into an unbalanced weight dangling just above your face. There is no way a dog, even with lots of hair clips, and a bandana tied over his head holding it on, could walk with it on. Putting the hat on my 9 year old daughter allowed my phone to drop about 3 1/2 feet to the ground, luckily, the hat and clip protected it from taking the brunt of the fall. The same thing happened from 6 feet up when I tried it on. Unless you wear your hat uncomfortably tight, this clip seems designed to sell replacement screens and phones.
The one time I got the CAP to stick on my dog's head, the included bluetooth remote and app barely worked and I got no video anyways. We probably lost 90 minutes of our lives to this Clip.
I found a video from SkyMall to show off the quality of this "Pulse Massager" but I was completely unwilling to electrocute myself. It just looks creepy and honestly, I'd probably have to shave myself, or my cat, to have tried this on anything living. The big idea being you stick some electrodes to yourself and shock your muscles into submission.
Kinda like the Clip-A-Phone, I thought this AwoX StriimLIGHT Bluetooth LED Speaker Light was going to let me have music in my bathroom. The AwoX StriimLIGHT should just screw into the socket like any other bulb. It doesn't. I'm pretty sure this'll only fit into a lamp with a lampshade, because the form factor is so weird I can not get the bulb to mate with the threads in any recessed socket, or some Restoration Hardware fixtures. I did test it in my living room, however it didn't hold a candle to my stereo.
I was only supposed to get 3 things to check out, but I'm guessing Dave wanted to make sure I was totally underwhelmed. They also included this WildSide blender. It is completely a blender. I guess if you need a blender it'd be pretty awesome, but I'm 44. I have a blender.
My box of worthless crap was as advertised. Crappy. It was a lot of fun to play with the stuff and try to make it work, and I certainly wouldn't have been one of the 1500 lucky purchasers of that "massager," but every now and then a deal comes up on Meh that I just can't resist.
We've come together with our pals at Morningsave to offer you a couple neat gadgets! All three were things we collectively thought were fun to play with, and that you might like! Check them out…
First up, for only $39, we've got the Ion Audio Vinyl Motion Portable Turntable. This portable record player comes in a suitcase, just like that first record player you got 40 years ago. Unlike the tinny sounding beast of yesteryear, this guy comes with both RCA and USB outputs! Readers with an eye to the future will encode their vinyl as MP3s!
Next we've got the Nabi Look HD action camera. Unlike more expensive models, at 5 to 10x the price, this camera is cheap. $35 cheap. If you want a camera that'll record 1080p video, in an underwater housing, that you don't mind losing or destroying, this is the camera for you! While the Nabi Look outputs to microSD, and has a bunch of other features, mostly what this camera is notable for is not being valuable. Opens up a lot of possibilities in the world of action cameras, doesn't it?
I was excited to see some photos taken with the Cheerson CX-10C Video Cam Quadcopter. I am still waiting. Thus far I can barely get the thing to hover without careening into a wall. The copter does come with a 2GB microSD card and certainly implies that a competent pilot could capture some interesting shots. Maybe you'll have better luck. I'd stick with the record player.
All three of our Morningsave deals will be available until Bastille Day, where in solidarity with our French friends we will close the sale.
Boing Boing very proudly welcomes our new sponsor, Meh.
Meh is a daily deals site that often struggles to explain what the products they are selling are, what these gadgets do, or why you might possibly like them. They handle this the same way I approached college: if you can't offer useful information, make up something that sounds oddly plausible. You'll marvel at the creativity and sheer bullshit that goes into drafting the descriptive copy for the goodies they offer the world.
Sometimes you'll find a gem. Occasionally, you find something kinda useful in a limited, and likely to break soon kinda way, for an incredible price! Those are special Meh moments. Treasure them.
Meh is about fun! That's why they are sending each one of us at Boing Boing a random box of of crap that was literally laying around their warehouse. They really don't care what we think of the stuff, they hope we find something fun, or at least destructive, to do with it. We're not supposed to tell you how perfect it is. Every week or so this summer, one Boinger after another will receive a mystery Meh box and will share their wonder, bemusement, or disappointment, at what arrives. We may be weird, but to us this sounds very fun.
This video was made during the shoot for our Virgin America seat-back entertainment channel. If you fly Virgin America, watch Boing Boing TV on Channel 10 in the television channel selections. We had a lot of fun making it! If you are flying the hep skies sometime in the next 2 months, you'll see Meh. there along with a lot of other great video.
Boing Boing is proudly sponsored by Ray, the super remote!
About a month ago, Boing Boing received a Ray Super Remote in the mail and for a moment we thought we were looking at a new smart phone. From the clean white minimal box it was packaged in, to its sleek glass face, we were impressed by the simplicity and beauty of this new take on an outdated, but important everyday object… the TV remote.
One of the most striking aspects of Ray is that it's not cluttered with a bunch of plastic buttons. Instead, it is a touchscreen. Ray sports smooth Gorilla glass on its front and back, and has an elegant machined aluminum sidebar on the right with just three buttons, which you can use to easily turn the device on and off, hit mute, and control the volume.
The Ray's packaging did not include an instruction booklet. Instead, Ray walks you through the set-up process with its user-friendly touchscreen after you turn it on. It asks about your program and channel preferences as well as more basic questions in order to customize your Ray to work with your equipment. Which premium movie channels do you have? What types of shows do you watch? What are your favorite channels? Who is your cable provider? What devices (TV, DVR, Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox, etc.) do you use? You answer by simply tapping on icons or "yes" and "no" boxes, depending on the question.
Ray is so easy to navigate that even the biggest technophobe on the planet could tap through this process without a sweat. It took 10 minutes before we were completely set up and ready to go with a new remote experience that offers more control, and search and discovery that is lightyears ahead of competition.
So, how well does it work? The answer is very well, indeed. To use Ray, you first wake it from sleep mode by pressing the top button on the side. The touchscreen displays a menu to choose which device you want to use or which genre you are in the mood to watch. We set up our Ray to display TV, DVR, Apple TV, and Fire TV, but you could have a much longer list that could also include things like Roku, DVD, On Demand, Kids (a kid-friendly Ray app), Sports (a sporty Ray app), Soundbar, Media Player, Xbox, and, well, Ray can actually connect to thousands of devices and is constantly upgrading through its built-in WiFi radio as new devices enter the market.
Let's say you choose TV. Ray's touchscreen then displays thumbnail images of what's playing right now on your favorite channels, from HBO to ABC to Syfy. You can also click on the menu icon at the top of your Ray screen to access a general TV guide, or to see a list of what's currently on in a specific genre, such as arts, news, kids, sports, and documentaries. If you instead choose DVR or one of your other devices, you can tap and swipe Ray's touchscreen to control the devices' menus on the TV screen.
Ray works from up to 33 feet away from your home entertainment center, but make sure you don't have anything blocking the way from your Ray to your devices – the infrared signal needs a clear line of sight to control them. Ray comes with a USB power cord and adapter, as well as a simple black charging stand that'll fill up Ray's lithium-ion battery for 10 days at a time. As an added bonus, and stepping stone into the world of smarthome control, you can also control Phillips lights and the Nest Learning Thermostat, but we don't have these family room luxuries so we can't tell you how that works.
Using Ray is remarkably easy, intuitive, and user-friendly, and after four weeks of uninterrupted fuss-free boob-tubing, we are ready to toss our other four remotes in the trash bin. It's our first universal remote, and we're glad we found it.
Learn more about the Ray Super Remote!
Boing Boing is proudly sponsored by Ray, the super remote!
Walk into almost any room with a television set, and you're bound to come across an unseemly pile of remote controls. The more game consoles and streaming media players we collect, the more plastic remotes we accumulate, and after 50 years of TV remote technology, controlling what you want to watch on your television set is more confusing than ever. Not even the traditional universal remotes have helped much. Why? Because most universal remotes are designed to function the same way as the remotes they're trying to replace!
The only way to fix the remote control madness is to erase our notion of what a remote control is and how we interact with them. Start from scratch and reinvent one. Be less about how we control things and more about how we enjoy them. And that's exactly what Ray Super Remote has done. Unlike any other remote control, the Ray recommends what you want to watch based on what you like to watch. It learns and improves the more you use it, tapping into various video sources like content from your cable provider, movies on Roku and other streaming services, making the TV experience less about searching through guides and more about sitting back and watching old favorites or new discoveries.
Founded by CEO David Skokna and created by a team of engineers and designers who come from innovative companies like Apple, MakerBot, Amazon, and Nokia, Ray could easily be mistaken for a smart phone. It's a beautiful device, with sleek Gorilla Glass on the front and back, and the same machined aluminum siding you'd find on an iPhone. And most remarkable of all, this is a remote control with no buttons on its face! Instead, you control your TV and game consoles with a touchscreen.
"The whole process of hitting buttons and navigating all these different remotes is completely obsolete behavior," says Mark Kizelshteyn, Head of User Experience at Ray, who came on board just after the company was founded in Brooklyn, NY almost three years ago. "It's not about hitting buttons."
The only buttons you'll find on Ray are three on its curved aluminum sidebar: one to turn the device on and off, one for volume control, and one for mute.
Kizelshteyn, who has also designed products for HBO GO and TED, says the driving factor in creating Ray was to make sure TV viewers find what they want to watch as quickly as possible. "The process of controlling the television needs to be invisible."
And so it is, in the same way navigating anything on your smart phone is. You don't think about the process, it's intuitive. Just like a smart phone, you simply tap, type or swipe. It opens to a welcoming "Hello" screen with apps that personally apply to you. These could include TV, Apple TV, DVR, Cable, Kids, Sports, Xbox or a bunch of others to choose from.
So for example, hit the TV app, and from there you can choose from your favorite shows, look at a TV guide, search for something new, record a show, and so much more. The device is constantly learning, so it becomes more custom tailored to your tastes as you use it.
As far as getting started, setup time is faster than any other remote control out there, according to Rich Besen, Head of Hardware Design at Ray. "Our setup process is on average less than half the time of our nearest competitor, and this is due to the fact that we have this beautiful touchscreen, which makes it easy." So easy, in fact, that Ray doesn't come with a manual or instructions booklet. "We're so excited to see people setting this up. It's even easy for people who aren't tech-savvy. You turn Ray on and it walks you through the setup process."
It is a bit unbelievable that, with smart phones and smart technology already entrenched in the mainstream, it's taken so long for the smart remote revolution to enter the new millennium. But according to Kizelshteyn, "People who have tried to go after this realize it's a lot more difficult than they expect. There's an enormous hardware, software and business development challenge, since it's nothing like a traditional remote."
Ray's small team of industry insiders took on a Steve Jobs type of attitude and approach in the way that they strived for perfection. "We didn't have a precious mentality about anything," says Kizelshteyn, "We all worked extremely hard, but it wasn't always right. We needed to be able to say, 'You know, this doesn't work. We need to throw this out and start over.' And we did that time and time again. Sometimes it knocks you down and it hurts, but you have to get up and say, 'It's okay, let's try it again.'" Kizelshteyn says everyone had this same mentality, and it was a really powerful force in the company.
Besen, who used to be a member of the Product Design team at Apple, says that, similar to the process at Apple, the Ray team controlled every aspect of the product's high quality. "The materials were carefully selected from the most premium aluminum, and we made sure to own the design from beginning to end. There was no confusion at Ray about making this the best product possible."
Ray controls devices over IR and will be rolling out Wi-Fi and Bluetooth control in future software updates.
Finally, one of the great things about Ray is that its operating system is constantly updating to accommodate changes in streaming devices, so it never becomes obsolete. "As new technology evolves in the TV world, our hardware is there to support it. It's futureproof," says Besen. "We really wanted to bring the remote forward and make something that wasn't just a remote, but that was a premium product and a welcome addition to the living room." In other words, they reimagined the remote.
Learn more about the Ray Super Remote!
See inside our Maker Box with Quarterly!
Earlier this year we teamed up with Quarterly Co. to curate their very first Maker Box! This was a brand new subscription and we were stoked to be apart of it. Each Maker Box includes at least three kits with a variety of themes and projects to be worked on. For this box, the theme was "grow". We wanted to cover all aspects of DIY with a focus on growing – as a person, through the gadgets you'll build and your plants!
The first kit was hand-picked by us for you: Farm Curious Vegetable Fermenting Kit. Fermentation is a fascinating chemical process that transforms food, making it more delicious and nutritious. Every time we ferment something we're amazed. Milk into yogurt! Cabbage into sauerkraut! Cucumbers into pickles! Our mouth is watering as we write these words. We hope the Farm Curious kit turns you into a fermented food fanatic, too.
Also included was an original Makey Makey kit. Ever wanted to turn bananas into a piano? Or make your own game controller for a computer game? Well with the Makey Makey Classic you can! Makey Makey is an invention kit that allows you to turn any object into a touchpad and connect it to the internet.
For those with green thumbs, and those who tend to forget, we also included this DIY Thirsty Plant Kit from Technology Will Save Us. With this, you will always know when your plants needed water. Using this kit you can build a solar powered moisture sensor to make sure your plants never go thirsty again!
Last, but not least, we also included a three month Skillshare trial, because who better to introduce you to the world of Maker than Mark Frauenfelder himself? Skillshare offers hundreds of classes taught by various professionals, etc. And Mark Frauenfelder just happens to be one of them and teaching an intro class to none other than becoming a Maker. In this class, Mark Frauenfelder—legendary maker, creator, and founder of Boing Boing and MAKE magazine—introduces the fundamental world of Making and guides you in transforming your curiosity into a DIY project that makes, modifies, or repairs an everyday object in your life.
While this one-hour class is structured for a true beginner, you'll find a wealth of ideas no matter your background or knowledge. It's a class for everyone who believes in possibility, in practice, and in fun.
As a fun side project, subscribers had to solve a puzzle custom created by Shinteki in order to access the letter that is usually included in Quarterly boxes. Did any of you guys solve the puzzle? If you are still stuck, just tweet @Quarterly!
Well that's a wrap, we hope you enjoyed this Maker Box! Have you guys made anything else? Share your projects in the comments below or tweet @boingboing with #MKR01.
Think big – the world can be your DIY kit! If you missed out, be sure to subscribe here to receive the next Quarterly Maker Box!
Boing Boing is proudly sponsored by HP's newest Color LaserJet Pro, the MFP M477!
Boing Boing is a truly distributed company. Each member of the team maintains a separate office, or lair, from which they work. Our Publisher, Jason, shares his home office with his two dogs, a cat, a lot of books, guitars, and a bunch of toys. In typical Happy Mutant style, Jason combines functional efficiency with his own offbeat aesthetic to create a space from which to publish Boing Boing.
Here are a few things that help make his office great:
Jason likes to have a lot of desk space, but physically can't sit down for extended periods. He needed a very large standup desk. They don't make them. As an aficionado of classic mid-century furnishings, he thought a mechanical Hamilton drafting table would do the trick. It did! By depressing a pedal with his foot, Jason adjusts the height of his work surface from sitting to standing and between. Swinging a lever lets him adjust the angle of the desktop from horizontal to vertical, transforming the surface into a whiteboard as needed.
Space is another huge consideration for Jason. His office is packed with musical instruments, props for various magic tricks, and a lot of books. The devices he needs to conduct business, like a printer, must be very carefully chosen. Through this course of this program, HP sent Jason an amazing new Color LaserJet, the MFP M477, to replace a seriously outdated C series inkjet.
HP's MFP M477 offered many great features that his 15 year old printer didn't have. Real wireless printing, matched with flawless scanning and email functionality, really made a difference in his workflow. With the old clunker printer, he had to relocate his laptop across the room to plug into the printer every time he wanted to print. HP's MFP M477 is made to support a small workforce, so having it in a single user home office is a dream.
Paper books are something Jason can't seem to live without, no matter how hard he tries to only buy new fiction on his Kindle. Bookshelf space has been in overflow mode for years, and no amount of discipline seems to help. Jason is currently trying to limit new paper book purchases to cookbooks and card magic books only, but his resolve often fails.
Home offices are intensely personal, and at Boing Boing we are each very particular about what we put in ours.
In the coming weeks, we'll be running a full review, by Jason, of his experiences with the HP Color LaserJet MFP M477! .
Boing Boing is proud to welcome Robert Jackson Bennett's The City of Blades as a sponsor!
In a world where politics have run amuck and consumers must choose from over 300 varieties of toothpaste, one seemingly simple question rises to the fore: what is my next great read? Luckily for you, ladies and gentlemen, we have the answer to that question – a book that will satisfy your cravings, turn that frown upside down, reduce wrinkles in women and stimulate hair growth in men. In short, my friends, it is a miracle book indeed.
And you don't have to take my word for it; the bookish masses all agree that Robert Jackson Bennett's books are a wonder. Author Jim C. Hines (Libriomancer) said: "Every once in a while I read a book that's so well done, I find myself wanting to punch the author in the face out of pure envy. Congratulations Bennett, you just made the face-punching list!" Blogger G. Brown of Nerds of a Feather, writes "Dazzling, sophisticated and thoroughly modern… Imagine China Mieville and George R. R. Martin stuck in an elevator, with only a laptop to keep them company, and you're almost there. Robert Jackson Bennett is a name to remember and a talent to behold." – G. BROWN, NERDS OF A FEATHER
Lean in closer, my friends, and I will whisper to you the names of these great books: Mr. Shivers, The Company Man, The Troupe, American Elsewhere, City of Stairs and the brand-new, much-anticipated, and thoroughly-magnificent (imagine a drum roll here, please) City… of… BLADES! And now, without any further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the man himself: Robert Jackson Bennett!
✦ ✦ ✦
Q: Who are you, really? And why should we care?
A: I'm Robert Jackson Bennett. As opposed to living a quiet life of desperation, my desperation is loud as hell. You can probably hear it from where you are. Roll down a window and give it a shot.
Q: What did you think was missing from the science fiction/fantasy genre shelf that you were trying to fill when you began writing THE DIVINE CITIES books?
A: I didn't really come into the books thinking, "There's a gap in the market, and I'm just the fella to fill it!" I just realized I found two things interesting—the bleak, miserable, cutthroat world of espionage and government control, and the storybook, disturbing, incomprehensible logic of ancient myths—and realized the two overlapped: both were about controlling the reality of others. So I wrote a book combining the two.
Q: The heroines in both CITY OF BLADES and CITY OF STAIRS (a soldier and a spy, respectively) are awesome, and they seem to break the mold of traditional sexy/dangerous character trope. What was your thinking behind this?
A: When I first wrote Shara, a lot of her inspiration came from George Smiley from the Tinker Tailor books: he's the anti-Bond, an aging, plump, cuckolded, but brilliant spymaster who uses his elephantine memory and understanding of human psychology to ferret out weaknesses in the European and Eastern intelligence theaters. What was so thrilling about Smiley was how underwhelming he initially seemed: you didn't realize that beneath his drab exterior there was a mind of chilling proficiency that could outplay any of his enemies.
I wanted to write someone like that. And there's a moment in CITY OF STAIRS that highlights this juxtaposition. An embassy gopher is sent to fetch the fearsome new spymaster from the train station and is stunned to see who steps off the train: a tall, well-muscled, fearsome, Viking-looking figure, scowling and one-eyed. In a normal fantasy novel, this would absolutely be the main character. But then there's a quiet cough, and he steps aside, revealing Shara standing behind him, looking every bit like a meek librarian out on her lunch break. One would never guess that, by the end of the series, she'd have brought down and built up world governments.
I think Mulaghesh, the main character of CITY OF BLADES, is of a similar breed: both women are superhumanly capable, work-oriented creatures. Mulaghesh is a little more swashbuckly than Shara is, but neither of them is looking for a parade. They're middle-aged, experienced people who have few pretensions about the world and what they're doing.
And as far as sexiness goes: in my own personal opinion, there are few things sexier than a confident, competent, sensible middle-aged woman.
Q: You also play very heavily on themes of colonialism and have main characters who are very clearly from different races and cultures. What drew you to these themes?
A: Originally, it was a gut decision—I knew that I wanted the Continent to feel a bit Byzantine and Eastern European, and thought that a Southeast Asian culture would have been an interesting clash.
But I think part of it was that I grew up in Houston, and I was a huge nerd, so in school I sat with the other nerds. And though some were white, most of them were Indian, Pakistani, Saudi, Korean, Chinese, and so on. I was, out of our group, the token white boy. This is because Houston is a port and an oil town and is thus an international world unto itself—Houston is not Texas, Houston is Houston. It's a city-state with a wildly diverse population.
Then I moved to Austin, where people are either white or Latino. And I went home to see my parents; and I was at the pool in their neighborhood, and I realized I was hearing about four different languages going on around me at any given moment—all these different nationalities, all in the Houston suburbs, hanging out at the pool with their kids.
There's a lot of criticism that Houston deserves, but its diversity is to be admired. I found I wanted to write about cities like that: diverse, messy, and somewhat cutthroat, exposed to the whims of the market and trade.
Q: How did it feel to lose the 2015 WORLD FANTASY AWARD to David Mitchell?
A: As I had been powerfully intoxicated for the previous three days, it mostly felt exhausting. But by that point, everything did.
Q: Fill-in-the-blank challenge: Answer any or all these FILL-IN-THE-BLANK questions:
I go weak at the knees for congenital cartilage disorders.
I can never read Pale Fire enough times.
My dream dinner party (across space and time) would include Diphyllobothrium, Taenia solium, and Taenia saginata among the attendees.
My single proudest moment was snatching my son inches from the ground after he fell off of a bench, like a goddamned superhero.
Check out Robert Jackson Bennett's The City of Blades
Quarterly.co is launching a brand new Maker Box subscription. This new Maker box features DIY kits and hands-on projects perfect for makers of all ages. You'll receive kits to build your own gadgets, electronics, quirky tools, and more. Each quarter will feature a new curator, new ideas and new projects. The first curator is Boing Boing! Each box will contain at least 3 kits and will cost $100. The box ships in February.