Tips from a fellow who has been social distancing for 50 years

For 50 years, Billy Barr has been the only resident of Gothic, Colorado, an abandoned silver mining town. He's not a hermit though. According to NPR, Barr says he "occasionally interacts with skiers who pass through, he talks to his sister on the phone, and he works for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory nearby, which gets flooded with scientists in the summer." Below are a few of Bill Barr's tips on social distancing. You should read the rest though because Barr is very funny. From NPR:

1. Keep track of something.

Each day, Barr tracks the weather for a number of groups including the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. He started measuring snow levels in the 1970s, mostly because he was bored [...]

2. Keep a routine.

Barr starts early. He wakes up around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m., and stays in bed until about 5 a.m.

"Up until a week or two ago, I would listen to the news every morning so that I could start every day either totally depressed or furious. That's always a good way to start the day," he said [...]

4. Embrace the grumpiness.

Sometimes, Barr said, it's kind of satisfying to be grumpy about something.

"Tips From Someone With Nearly 50 Years Of Social Distancing Experience" by Rae Ellen Bichell (NPR)

image: courtesy of Billy Barr

The oil glut is so bad that the price is dropping below zero due to lack of storage space

CNN reports that the oil supply glut is "so epic" the world is running out of places to store it. If it costs more to store oil than its worth (currently $20 a barrel), then it will have a negative value.

This oil glut is creating a scenario where some obscure grades of oil already have actually dropped below zero. For instance, a Wyoming crude grade was recently bid at negative 19 cents a barrel, Bloomberg News reported last week.

Shrinking storage capacity means that oil producers in some cases have to pay someone just to take the barrels off their hands.

"The price is trying to go to a level to force companies to keep the oil in the ground. If it has to go negative to incentivize that behavior, then it will," said Neuberger's Wyll.

Autodesk's former CEO and his maker friends are cranking out face shields for nurses and doctors

Autodesk's former CEO Carl Bass is a deeply talented artist and maker with his own fab lab in Berkeley. Now, Carl along with his pal Chris Taggart and their families have been cranking out a unique kind of plastic face shield to help protect nurses and doctors on the front lines of COVID-19. In some cases, they've had to be discreet in their donations due to health regulations.

“There are a huge number of people around the country who make stuff and are trying to figure out how to help out,” says Bass who is also a member of BLK SHP, a conspiracy of radically creative folks working to make the world a better place.

The shields which cost around $1.50/each to manufacture are free for healthcare providers and financial donations are welcome. You can contact them at Go Carl and Chris!

From Berkeleyside:

Over the weekend, working on a design put together by Taggart, the men manufactured 500 pieces of personal protective gear. The design involves snapping a long piece of plastic into a baseball cap....

By Sunday, the 500 shields were gone, handed out for free in plastic-covered packs of 25 to people who had heard through word of mouth about the project. Now the men are gearing up to make tens of thousands more...

The Alameda Health System issued an internal memo on Monday expanding where staff can wear masks and pledging to provide respiratory masks to workers in the ER, labor and delivery, urgent care and psychiatry emergency services. But the memo also prohibited the use of the kinds of shields Bass’s shop makes. “Masks brought from home must be commercially manufactured,” according to the memo, which Berkeleyside obtained.

This adherence to rigid standards frustrates Bass, although he understands where it is coming from. But it may end up exposing more health workers to the coronavirus, he said.

“I am finding a discrepancy between hospital administrators and distributors and those on the front line,” he said. “I spoke to people in the ERs and they said, ‘we don’t have what we need.’

"Berkeley workshop steps up to make plastic face shields for nurses, doctor" by Frances Dinkelspiel (Berkeleyside)

Watch: Incredible video of skydiver knocking out another mid-jump - only to be saved by a third skydiver

A group of skydivers jump at the same time, when one is accidentally kicked in the head by his buddy. He goes unconscious, but is miraculously saved when one of his partners is able to catch him and activate his chute.

From Digg:

The terrifying footage was shared recently by Ben Pigeon, the unfortunate diver who took a fellow diver's "femur [to the] head at 200 plus mph." Pigeon writes that he lost 3 days of memory due to the concussion, but it could have been a lot worse — luckily, another diver was able to reach Pigeon and activate his chute and he was not further injured upon landing.

From another camera:

Cut and play your own vinyl records with this $81 machine

Designer Yuri Suzuki of Pentagram and killer Japanese electronic kit maker Gakken collaborated on this fantastic-looking Easy Record Maker. The US$81 (!) device enables you to cut and play your own (very) lo-fi 5" albums! Susuki will demo the device on his Instagram tomorrow. From DesignWeek:

The machine comes with ten blank five-inch discs [with more available for purchase]. You can plug in the audio source from any device, such as a computer or phone and then “engrave sound directly from the recording stylus,” Suzuki tells Design Week. You can then instantly playback sound using the tone arm and in-built speaker...

“When I was a high school student, I was in a punk band – my friends and I always dreamed of pressing a record, but we knew how expensive it was,” he explains. “Personally this device is my teenage dream machine!”

You can also design your own label and sleeves, which is another “platform to express yourself”, Suzuki adds.

"It felt like a Black Mirror episode" - Bird Scooter lays off 406 workers at once via Zoom

It turns out Zoom is super useful in these trying times. You can use it to fire 406 people at once! From

Then, after five minutes of dead air that seemed like an eternity, a robotic-sounding, disembodied voice came on the line.

The woman began by acknowledging "this is a suboptimal way to deliver this message." Then she cut to the chase: "COVID-19 has also had a massive impact on our business, one that has forced our leadership team and our board of directors to make extremely difficult and painful decisions. One of those decisions is to eliminate a number of roles at the company. Unfortunately your role is impacted by this decision."

The meeting was scheduled to last half an hour but ended up going for only two minutes. Towards the end of the monologue, as the woman started talking about the future of Bird, she sounded like she was getting choked up and was trying to hold back tears.

"It felt like a Black Mirror episode," Alvauaje said. "This ominous voice came over and told us we were losing our jobs."

While we sympathize with the workers who were laid off, we are not surprised. Bird is, after all, the company that sent Boing Boing an intimidating, bizarre, and baseless legal threat last year, which they retracted after our lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told them how wrong they were.

Image: Mark Frauenfelder

Dig this weirdo DEVO family group Visiting Kids

In the late 1980s, Nancye Ferguson, then-wife of DEVO's Mark Mothersbaugh along with Bob Mothersbaugh, his daughter Alex, and then-DEVO drummer David Kendrick, formed Visiting Kids. Mark Mothersbaugh wrote some of the tunes and he and Bob Casale (Bob 2) produced their self-titled sole LP. Above is Visiting Kids' wonderfully weird music video for the track "Trilobites" and below is the band's TV appearance on The Late Show.

(Thanks, UPSO!)

Clueless Georgia governor had no idea coronavirus could spread without symptoms "until the last 24 hours"

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp admitted yesterday he was unaware that coronavirus could be spread by infected people who don't show any symptoms —– a common fact he knew nothing about "until the last 24 hours." Where has this so-called leader been for the last two months since this basic information was first made public? My guess is in front of Fox News, but it's just a hunch.

According to Gizmodo:

On January 31, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters, “there’s no doubt [...] that asymptomatic transmission is occurring.”

As February continued, and the number of cases started to rise in the U.S., we learned more and more about asymptomatic transmission. There were still questions, but the CDC director confirmed by mid-February that people without symptoms were spreading the disease.

9/11 Truthers are still at it about Building 7

There will always be people who think the Moon landings were a hoax, that the Earth is flat, that vaccines cause autism, and that fire didn't cause the World Trade Center's buildings to collapse. This month, a group called Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth published a report from researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks about a "four-year computer modeling study on the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7," which was not hit by one of the jets piloted by al Qaeda terrorists.

The 47-story WTC 7 was the third skyscraper to be completely destroyed on September 11, 2001, collapsing rapidly and symmetrically into its footprint at 5:20 PM. Seven years later, investigators at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) concluded that WTC 7 was the first steel-framed high-rise ever to have collapsed solely as a result of normal office fires.

Contrary to the conclusions of NIST, the UAF research team finds that the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11 was not caused by fires but instead was caused by the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.

I'm not an architect and I have not used my mechanical engineering degree since 1990 or so, so I am in no position to argue with Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. But if I had to bet, I'd put my money on The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the matter in 2017 and concluded "WTC 7 collapsed because of fires fueled by office furnishings. It did not collapse from explosives or from diesel fuel fires."

Image: YouTube

1980's 12-year-old post-punk sensation Chandra sings "Concentration"


Chandra Oppenheim’s story is one of the most innocent but interesting stories to come out of post-punk NYC.

After glam moved into punk and punk moved into post-punk/new wave/no wave/noise/outsider disco/mutant disco/art punk/etc/etc, it was a musical free for all. So it makes sense that an unassuming 12-year-old from Brooklyn would enter the scene backed by a post-punk, outsider disco group under the name Chandra.

Chandra Oppenheim was just twelve years old when her debut album ‘Transportation’ was released. Musically encouraged by her father from a young age Chandra was writing songs by age nine.

Her father was conceptual artist, Dennis Oppenheim, who caroused with the artists and musicians of the late '70s Lower East Side. Dennis was friends with Eugenie Diserio and Steven Alexander, who had been playing the NYC post-punk circuit with the Model Citizens.

The Model Citizens signed to John Cale’s Spy Label and then broke up to take things in another direction with their new band, The Dance, featuring drummer Fred Maher (who later joined Material)

Chandra Oppenheim had been writing music and performing for some time, often doing songs and performances at her father’s parties. Having met Chandra when she was 11, Diserio, Alexander and Maher formed a band with Chandra and started to rehearse in a studio in Hell’s Kitchen. The result of these rehearsals was their debut EP ‘Transportation’ on the band’s own record label GOGO/ON; a mix of dissonant weird disco, bass-heavy dance grooves and Chandra’s unmistakable chant-singing.

Alastair Reynolds' "Revenger"

Revenger, a fast-paced space opera by Alastair Reynolds with strong women as protagonists and few surprises certainly took my mind off things for a bit.

Worldbuilding galore takes place in Revenger's galaxy, a place littered with the detritus of humanity and other species. Kind of steam-punky and certainly the baubles offer a lot of 'Roadside Picnic'-style Zones which I find ironic as I, and other Boing Boing editors, have been reading the Strugatsky Brothers this month.

Revenger is 400 pages of good solid sci-fi fun.

Revenger (The Revenger Series Book 1) by Alastair Reynolds via Amazon

6.6m Americans filed for unemployment last week

More than 6.6m Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, breaking the record for the second week running.

"That brings the total number of Americans who filed for unemployment over the past two weeks to nearly 10 million," writes Fox Business's Megan Henney, "a stunning sign of the colossal economic damage inflicted by the outbreak."

Official figures date back to 1967, with the jobless peaks at 695,000 in 1982 and 665,000 in 2009. About 15m were unemployed in the early 1930s, however, then about 25% of the 60m-strong workforce. There are now 165m in the U.S. workforce.

The next few months are going to be amazing for Nintendo Switch ports

As anyone that's been kicking around here for the past few years knows, I love the Nintendo Switch—not so much for its new games, although I do dig a number of those too. For me, the Switch is the ultimate port machine. As I do the majority of my work on a slowly dying early 2015 13" MacBook Pro Retina laptop, it's reasonable to say that I haven't been set up to play the majority of PC, PS4 and Xbox titles that have come down the pike, these past five years. Happily, My Switch is allowing me to catch up. I'm in the middle of The Witcher III right now. I've been playing a bit of the Metro series (which is great in handheld mode) on and off and, Good lord: Mario Kart. Yes, it's a Nintendo original, but I never had a pal who owned a Nintendo U to play it with. Now's my chance.

Over the past week, I've heard some fabulous news about a number of ports that I'll be thrilled to play when I'm not busy with work check this out:

  • The Outer Worlds, which is essentially Fallout: New Vegas in space, will be released for the Switch in June
  • XCOM 2, one of the best strategy games I've ever had the chance to play and not finish, will be released for the Switch on May 29th
  • The Borderlands Legendary Collection, which includes Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Seque, comes out on the same day
  • BioShock Remastered, BioShock 2 Remastered, and BioShock Infinite: The Complete Edition are all dropping at the end of May as well

There's no good time to be quarantined or sheltering in place (although we're currently doing so for a very good reason). But man, what a time to own a Nintendo Switch and be sheltering in place!

Image via Wikipedia Commons


Past meets present in the retro-inspired Rymek keyboard that pairs with tablets, phones, and monitors

There are few things more satisfying than the clickety-clack of an old keyboard. So old, in fact, that it's really more of a typewriter sound and feel than that of a keyboard. But if you want to enjoy the benefits of both, check out this Rymek Retro Bluetooth 3.0 Mechanical Keyboard.

Bringing you an impressive mix of the aesthetics of both a vintage typewriter and a modern high-tech keyboard, this wireless version that raised over $300K on Indiegogo is now available for almost 30% off.

Treating yourself to the micro-USB rechargeable Rymek keyboard will offer you a better, faster, more beautiful typing experience, whether you need those words to show up on a smartphone screen, tablet screen, or monitor screen. Compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, the keyboard connects wirelessly via Bluetooth 3.0 or through a USB cable and features a secure stainless steel stent that supports your tablet or phone, so you'll be set for use with almost any device. Plus, you can connect to up to 3 of those devices at the same time, making it easy to swap between them throughout the day (or days—there's up to 50 hours of battery life!) with built-in shortcuts.

The LED backlight on the keys is a familiar and welcome feature that'll help you type in the dark, of course, but it will also bring a bit of whimsy to gaming or just everyday life thanks to the 7 dynamic lighting effects. Saddle-shaped keycaps and responsive mechanical switches under the keys add to the tactile appeal of the Rymek—so much so, it's borderline soothing. Adding to the retro vibe is the working scroll knob that controls the power and volume and the "carriage return" that switches between Bluetooth and USB.

Add this stunning tech accessory to your collection of gadgets and you'll soon find yourself truly enjoying working on your devices again, whether you're sending text messages to friends, emails to your boss, or smack talk to your opponents.

Normally $255, the Rymek Retro Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard is available for $179.99, a savings of 29%.

The trailer for the next five episodes of Rick & Morty looks amazing

I'm not a huge fan of the way that a number of networks have been splitting the seasons of their most popular shows, right down the middle. It's one thing to be thrilled and frustrated by an end-of-season cliffhanger, Knowing that there's another good chunk of episodes that you'll have to wait six months to see before that cliffhanger is even on the horizon. That's a depressing level of bullshit.

That said, I can't stay mad at Rick & Morty. With the final five episodes of the show's fourth season getting ready to pop in May, I'm preparing myself to forgive its show-runners for the long, painful wait.

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