What living in a dictatorship feels like, and why it may be too late by the time you notice it

Comics writer G. Willow Wilson, who previously lived in Egypt and wrote for the opposition weekly Cairo Magazine, writes movingly and hauntingly on Twitter about the experience of a living in a state that is transitioning into dictatorship, which does not feel "intrinsically different on a day-to-day basis than a democracy does," but rather is marked by "the steady disappearance of dissent from the public sphere. Anti-regime bloggers disappear. Dissident political parties are declared 'illegal.' Certain books vanish from the libraries." Read the rest

Popehat's new First Amendment law-podcast is great!

Make No Law is a just-launched podcast hosted by Ken "Popehat" White (previously), a former Federal prosecutor who writes some of the best, most incisive legal commentary on the web; the first episode deals with the oft-cited, badly misunderstood "fighting words" doctrine and its weird history in the religious prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses (my sole complaint is that he didn't work in E. Gary Gygax). Read the rest

The carnivorous moon-worm story hiding in plain sight in the diary of early Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson

Australian science fiction author Sean Williams (previously) is an Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellow, who got to live in the Antarctic while researching an alternate War of the Worlds retelling. Read the rest

Automating Inequality: using algorithms to create a modern "digital poor-house"

Weeks before the publication of Virginia Eubanks's new book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, knowledgeable friends were already urging me to read it, which was a no-brainer, having followed Eubanks's work for years.

David Pescovitz, Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad win Grammy Award

David Pescovitz, co-founding editor of this very blog, won the Grammy Award for best boxed or special limited-edition package for his work on The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, along with Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad.

The Walnut Hills High School and University of Cincinnati graduate (and a longtime friend of this writer) called the award a capstone to a lifetime spent gazing at the stars, obsessively collecting books about the cosmos and listening to albums made by artists from every corner of the globe.

Pescovitz and Daly cooked up the project nearly three years ago as an homage to the 1977 NASA probe that launched into space with a carefully curated golden record featuring a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence who happened upon it. The disc included some of Earth's greatest music, from Bach to Chuck Berry to Solomon Islands panpipes, as well as sounds of birds, a train, a kiss and more than 100 images to give our space friends a sense of who we are.

Our Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition won a Grammy! So thankful to @lad_design and Tim Daly for taking this trip with me, and for the support and inspiration of my family and friends. This is a testament to the vision of the original Voyager Record Committee in 1977. “To the makers of music — all worlds, all times.” 📀🚀👽 #voyagergoldenrecord @ozmarecords

A post shared by David Pescovitz (@pesco) on Jan 28, 2018 at 1:43pm PST

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TWANG! A one-dimensional dungeon-crawler that uses a springy doorstop as a controller

Robin Baumgarten's Line Wobbler is an incredibly clever dungeon crawler game based on a single, one-dimensional line of lights, traditionally implemented as large-scale, high-priced public art installations. Read the rest

Self-destructing thumb drives with smoke loads, glowing elements, tiny explosives

MG's Mr Self Destruct project takes the USB Killer to new levels, combining a $1.50 system-on-a-chip with a variety of payloads: smoke bombs, "sound grenades," and little explosives, cleverly choreographed with keystroke emulation, allowing the poisoned drive to first cause the connected computer to foreground a browser and load a web-page that plays an appropriate animation (a jack-in-the-box that plays "Pop Goes the Weasel" with the drive's explosive detonating for the climax). Read the rest

It's Poe's birthday, so here's Neil Gaiman reading The Raven

Neil Gaiman says Edgar Allan Poe should be read aloud, and he's right: he recorded this video of him reading "The Raven" in 2016 as part of Pat Rothfuss's Worldbuilders charity drive. It's Poe's birthday today, and I can think of no better way to celebrate it than to listen to it again. Read the rest

Hawai'i emergency notification system password revealed in photo about problems with Hawai'ian emergency notification system

Hawai'ians and the rest of the world want to understand why they were warned of their imminent demise -- what kind of bad design choices could allow such a thing to happen? Read the rest

Trial cyclist vs the obstacle course that is Düsseldorf

Here's two minutes of Scottish trials cyclist Danny MacAskill doing astounding bike tricks in Düsseldorf, making his bike leap from one narrow ledge to another, climb over walls and fences, and many other feats of daring, coordination and balance. There's a full 26 minutes of this on Ali Clarkson's Vlog 69. (via Kottke) Read the rest

Change My View: the subreddit for people willing to have their most cherished beliefs challenged

In /r/changemyview/, thousands of redditors gather to carry on an explicitly, rigorously civil discourse about the subjects that matter most to them: a submitter puts forward views on subjects ranging from the correct interpretation of old movies to the suitability of Donald Trump for president, and then invites the forum to present arguments to change their mind, awarding a Δ (delta) symbol to people whose arguments cause a shift in their beliefs. Read the rest

Blocks of laser-perforated note-cards that reveal architectural models as leaves are torn away

Triad's Omoshiro Block ("fun block") are blocks of notecards from architectural model company Triad that have been pre-scored by a laser-cutter so that the pages separate to leave behind -- and gradually reveal -- detailed, delicate and exquisite models of Japanese architectural landmarks. Read the rest

Chelsea Manning is challenging Maryland Democratic Senator Benjamin L Cardin in the 2018 elections

Whistleblower and torture survivor Chelsea Manning has filed papers to challenge Senator Benjamin L Cardin for his seat in the 2018 midterm elections. Read the rest

Make: a secret, rollaway bookshelf

Glue the spines from an old encyclopedia set to slats of wood, back with a piece of fabric (a "tambour") and top with woodscrews as makeshift rollers that run along a routed track, and voila, you've got a hidden stashbox that slides aside to reveal whatever you want to hide there. Read the rest

A Monster Manual-inspired zine and art show

Secret Headquarters, Los Angeles's best comics shop (previously, has published "Monster Manual," a limited-run, 64-page zine collecting the art from their show of the same name, in which artists were challenged to create their own rue and satirical entries for a notional Dungeons and Dragons bestiary from an alternate timeline. Read the rest

Anyone who claims that machine learning will save money in high-stakes government decision-making is lying

danah boyd (previously) writes enthusiastically about Virginia Eubanks's forthcoming book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, which she calls "the best ethnography I’ve read in years," "on par with Barbara Ehrenreich’s 'Nickel and Dimed' or Matthew Desmond’s 'Evicted.'" Read the rest

Girl plays the Star Wars Cantina theme using math and well-timed pencil strokes

Dani Ochoa, a self-described " girl with too much time on her hands," writes, "I spent way too much time figuring this out." Read the rest

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