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Last Build Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2018 16:24:55 +0000

 



Tonight in LA: Cory at the Last Bookstore (then Chapel Hill, Boston, Chicago, Waterloo, Phoenix, Santa Fe, San Jose...)

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 16:24:55 +0000

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Tonight at 7PM, I'll be appearing on a panel at the Last Bookstore in downtown LA, with the title "Truth to Power: Genre Fiction in Post-Fact America," alongside of Gretchen McNeil, Jennifer Brody, Christina Cigala, Bobby Goldstein, CB Lee, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Kate Maruyama and Samuel Sattin. (more…)




2,000+ awesome hieroglyphs, coming soon to Unicode

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:48:07 +0000

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Unicode pioneer Michael Suignard has submitted a "Revised draft for the encoding of an extended Egyptian Hieroglyphs repertoire" in Unicode, trying to replicate the expressivity of the 7,000 hieroglyphs used in Greco/Roman times. (more…)




The world is no longer willing to tolerate the plague of bullshit "agreements"

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:36:10 +0000

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Mark Zuckerberg says it doesn't matter how creepy and terrible his company is, because you agreed to let him comprehensively fuck you over from asshole to appetite by clicking "I agree" to a tens of thousands of words' worth of "agreements" spread out across multiple webpages; when questioned about this in Congress, Zuck grudgingly admitted that "I don’t think the average person likely reads that whole document." But as far as Zuck is concerned, it doesn't matter whether you've read it, whether you understand it, whether it can be understood -- you still "agreed." (more…)




Family-owned Smugmug acquires Flickr, rescuing it from the sinking post-Yahoo ship

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 14:15:12 +0000

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Flickr exists, in part, because I needed a photo-sharing tool to help me woo my long-distance girlfriend, who later became my wife, and whom I've been with now for 15 years -- so I have watched the service's long decline and neglect at the hands of Yahoo, and then its sale to the loathsome telco Verizon, with sorrow. (more…)




The Nix Pro Color Sensor matches colors with extreme precision

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 14:00:19 +0000

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Our world is a colorful one, and when it comes time to repaint the house or create a new design, many of us look to our surroundings for inspiration. However, matching colors from the outside world to our canvas isn't the most precise process when we're just eyeballing it. The Nix Pro Color Sensor removes the guesswork involved, determining an exact match of any color you put it on, and it's on sale for over 25% off in the Boing Boing Store.

The key to the Nix's precision is its ability to block out ambient light when you're matching a surface. Simply scan any color critical surface and save it to your smartphone or tablet, and the Nix will match it to a huge range of existing color libraries. You can match with over 38,000 paint colors and even grab CMYK, HEX, sRGB, CIELAB, LCH, and LRV values. Plus, the Nix lets you discover and save color harmonies to build your creative library.

Now, you can get the Nix Pro Color Sensor on sale today for $249 in the Boing Boing Store.




World Bank recommends that countries eliminate minimum wage, dismantle wrongful dismissal rules and contractual protections for workers

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 13:54:29 +0000

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A draft of the World Bank's annual flagship World Development Report says that its creditor-states (the poorest countries in the world) should eliminate their minimum wage rules, allow employers to fire workers without cause, and repeal laws limiting abusive employment contract terms. (more…)




Romance writers sought for library residency at my former Toronto workplace

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 13:39:24 +0000

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I was a teenaged page at the North York Central Library in suburban Toronto, working in the Business and Urban Affairs section, shelving books, taping together newspapers while we waited for their microfilm versions to arrive, and fiddling around with the newly installed (and poorly documented) computerised catalogue/lending system -- I worked there with many other would-be writers, like Nalo Hopkinson, who was a public service clerk a few floors down. (more…)




Police discover over 10,000 endangered tortoises jammed into one small house

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:52:22 +0000

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An overwhelming stench of poop and urine led authorities to check out what was going on in an unassuming two-story house in Toliara, Madagascar. When they opened the front door, they were shocked to find the house full of endangered tortoises--10,068, to be exact. According to Soary Randrianjafizanaka, a representative from Madagascar's environmental protection agency, so many of the poor little critters were jammed into the house that they literally had no room to move.

From National Geographic:

In total the house contained 9,888 live radiated tortoises, a rare species found only in Madagascar—and 180 dead ones. Randrianjafizanaka helped count them as rescuers loaded them onto six trucks that made several trips to Le Village Des Tortues (Turtle Village in French), a private wildlife rehabilitation facility in Ifaty, 18 miles north of Toliara. It took until early the following morning to transfer all the tortoises to the rescue center.

The majority of the turtles taken to the rehabilitation facility are doing well, now that they've been cleaned up, moved into more suitable quarters, and provided with veterinary care. Unfortunately, close to 600 of the turtles have died since being removed from the house, due to dehydration or infection--the result of their long neglect.

With a shrinking population of around three million of the reptiles, the trade of radiated turtles, each of which can have shells up to 16 inches across and weigh as much as 35 pounds, is illegal in 182 countries. That makes the turtles an attractive product for blackmarket traders operating out of Madagascar, to export to shady buyers around the world.

Image: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE - Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata), CC BY-SA 2.0, Link




The evolution of music from 1680 to 2017

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:47:15 +0000

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I enjoyed the piano stylings of Lord Vinheteiro in this "Evolution of Music" video**. He plays a little music from each year, starting with 1680 and ending with 2017. There's Beethoven, Iron Maiden, Aqua, and more.

Another fun video of his has him playing the soundtrack and sound effects from Super MarioWorld on the piano along with the video game itself.

**Though I found his staring at the camera a bit jarring!




Why Indonesia's Bajau people can stay submerged under water longer than you or me

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:45:30 +0000

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This is amazing.

(more…)




Weekend Tunes: Dread Zeppelin

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:34:36 +0000

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Raggae-scorched Led Zeppelin covers churned out by a tight band fronted by an Elvis Presley impersonator? Yes, there is a God, and Dread Zeppelin is proof that she loves us.

These guys were the musical snow leopard of my early teenage years: on rare occasions, I'd catch the tail end of one of their videos on Much Music or a piece of a song on college radio. It was years before I learned who they were or bought one of their CDs. Scoff if you will, but at its height, the band was so damn good at what it did that Robert Plant kept their music in his car.

On this 4.20, or as Xeni calls it, amateur day, they are my gift to you.




A new podcast hopes to solve an infamous unsolved death in Norway's Isdalen Valley

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:26:39 +0000

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In November, 1970, just outside the Norwegian town of Bergen, two kids found the partially burnt remains of a woman's body. Surrounding the woman's remains were a number of objects: some bottles of water, a rubber boot and a burnt newspaper. All of the labels had been removed from the woman's clothing. Why the woman – known in Norway as the Isdal Woman, named for the remote valley that she was found in – died or who she was has been a mystery for close to 50 years.

Norwegian journalist Marit Higraff and BBC documentary maker Neil McCarthy are working to shed light on the Isdal Woman's very, very cold case. Working together, they've produced a new podcast called Death in Ice Valley. The first episode is available to download or stream, right now.

During the course of the podcast, Higraff and McCarthy will talk to those that investigated the crime back in the day, as well as forensic experts and anyone else they feel might propel them towards the answer of who the Isdal Woman was and why she died. But they're not stopping there. Listeners of the podcast are invited to talk to one another and the podcast's producers about the case on social media, in the hope that a breakthrough for the case could be crowdsourced.

I listened to the first episode yesterday. It starts slow, as many BBC radio productions often do. But the questions that the pair of journalists raise surrounding the Isdal Woman's death and what they uncovered, even in the first episode, has compelled me to continue with the series to see how things turn out. If you're looking for something new to occupy your ears with, you might just want to include it on your list of downloads.

Reinhardheydt - Own work, Public Domain, Link




Kim Jong Un says North Korea no longer needs to do nuclear tests

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 22:23:51 +0000

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Huge news from North Korea in advance of the North-South summit next week, and planned denuclearization talks with the U.S. President.

(more…)




Digital synesthesia

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 20:58:18 +0000

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Stanford neuroscientist David Eagleman invented the Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer (VEST), a wearable tactile display that translates myriad kinds of information, from speech to sounds to digital data, into patterns of vibrations on the skin. The device was inspired by Eagleman's study of synesthesia, the fascinating neurological phenomenon whereby stimulation of one sense involuntarily triggers another sensory pathway. From Smithsonian:

The neuroscientist believes that the versatility and plasticity of the brain make it fundamentally receptive to forming new pathways of sensory input. “The brain gets this information from the world, but the brain doesn’t actually have any way of knowing: were these photons, were these sound compression aids, was this pressure?” Eagleman says. As he explains it, the brain simply transforms these diverse stimuli into electrochemical spikes and uses these signals to create a mental representation of the world. The VEST would do this same work for all sorts of data by translating it into interpretable vibrations—giving its wearer a veritable “sixth sense.”

Eagleman is developing the VEST with an open API, so that others can experiment with the types of data it can convert into vibrations. “We’ve thought of 20 really cool things to feed in, which we’ve been experimenting with, but the community will think of 20,000 streams of data to feed in,” he says.




Reefer Madness: anthology of funny old weed-scare comic books

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 20:36:01 +0000

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My friend Craig Yoe, who is one of the most-knowledgeable comic book historians alive, edited an anthology of old comic book stories about the dangers of marijuana, called Reefer Madness. It came out today! These were the kind of sensationalists comic books Jeff Sessions would have read as young elf, if he'd had the sophistication and good taste to read comic books.

Here are a few sample pages:

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Amazing birdseye photos taken by pigeons a century ago

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 20:34:20 +0000

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In 1907, pharmacist and photography buff Dr. Julius Neubronner invented the "pigeon camera." Neubronner attached his cameras, with a built-in shutter timer, to his own homing pigeons and let them fly. For most people, the birds' photos provided a previously unseen view on the world. The images are collected in a new book, The Pigeon Photographer. From the New Yorker:

(Neubronner) showed his camera at international expositions, where he also sold postcards taken by the birds. Additionally, he developed a portable, horse-drawn dovecote, with a darkroom attached to it, which could be moved into proximity of whatever object or area the photographer hoped to capture from on high. These inventions represented a breakthrough at the time, allowing for surveillance with speed and range that was previously impossible. (Whether the cameras would actually capture the desired object, however, depended on luck and the whims of the pigeons.) The technology would soon be adapted for use in wartime—the cameras served as very early precursors to drones—although by the time of the First World War, just a few years later, airplanes were allowing people to do things that only pigeons could have done before.

(Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

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If you read a lot or need books for research, Kindle Unlimited is a good deal

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 19:30:40 +0000

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Kindle Unlimited reminds me of Netflix. You get tons of all-you-can-eat content to choose from for a monthly fee, and the overall quality keeps getting better every year. I've been using Kindle Unlimited for a few years, and one of the best things about it is being able to download lots of non-fiction books and use them for research (I got a bunch of bitcoin and blockchain books that way). They also have lots of audio books. You can even get two of my books through Kindle Unlimited: Maker Dad and Trick Decks.

You can try it free for a month here.(image) After that it's $9.99 a month.




San Francisco: Kronos Quartet's Kronos Festival April 26-28

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 18:59:11 +0000

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Kronos Quartet, my favorite avant-garde classical group, is holding its Kronos Festival 2018 at San Francisco's SF JAZZ Center next week, April 26-28. I've attended multiple Kronos Festivals and they are always wonderful performances, each one an enchanting introduction to global (and local) sounds that are wonderfully unfamiliar to me yet open my ears and mind to new artists and perspectives. This year, the festival features artist-in-residence David Coulter and guests San Francisco Girls Chorus, Vân-Ánh Võ, Zakir Hussain, Mahsa Vahdat, Trio Da Kali, Jolie Holland, and avant-folk duo CocoRosie!

Special note: The Saturday matinee concert, "Around the World with Kronos," is meant for families with children ages 3 and up!

Here's the full schedule: Kronos Festival 2018

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GOP fundraiser who paid for silence of impregnated Playboy model offered to lift sanctions on Russian firm for $26M

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 18:38:01 +0000

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Remember that Trump associate who resigned as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee last week after news came out he'd hired Michael Cohen to negotiate a $1.6 million deal to buy the silence of Playboy model he impregnated? His name is Elliott Broidy and, The Intercept has a new story about how Broidy promised the Russian gas giant Novatek he get it taken off the U.S. sanctions list for a cool $26 million. Just another day in the shithole presidency.

In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.

Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board. Yet even as he offered those services, Broidy was adamant that his company, Fieldcrest Advisors LLC, would not perform lobbying services but would hire others to do it. He suggested that parties to the deal sign a sweeping non-disclosure agreement that would shield their work from public scrutiny.

The plan is outlined in a series of emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. Broidy and Baev did not dispute the authenticity of the exchanges but said the deal was never consummated.

Broidy has made quite a bit of news today: Elliott Broidy plotted to force Chinese dissident from US: Documents obtained by US daily show Republican fundraiser drafted plan in hopes of getting payoffs from China and UAE.

Seeking Foreign Money, G.O.P. Donor Pushed for Trump to Golf With Malaysian Premier Image: Broidy Capital Management website




China escalates the war on jaywalkers with automated shouting laser/squirtguns tied to motion-sensors

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 18:22:16 +0000

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Chinese authorities hate jaywalkers and they've decided to use technology to end the practice; in Shenzhen, jaywalkers are identified with facial recognition and sent threatening texts while their faces are displayed on oversized nearby LED screens; in Daye, Hubei province, shouting robotic squirt-guns target and soak anyone who attempts to walk into an intersection against the lights. (more…)




Koch-backed climate deniers are exploiting the reproducibility crisis to discredit climate science

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 18:05:05 +0000

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The National Association of Scholars is a tiny, hydrocarbon-industry backed organization that is not to be confused with the National Academy of Sciences. (more…)




Senate confirms a homophobic climate change denier with no scientific credentials to lead NASA

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:54:30 +0000

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Homophobic climate change denier Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) "has made a career out of ignoring scientific expertise" says Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). Naturally, Bridenstine was approved 50-49, along party lines, to be our next NASA administrator.

(more…)




The FDA is finally doing something about the medical device security dumpster-fire

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:48:58 +0000

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Medical device security very, very, very, very, very, very, very bad. (more…)




Online communication: "If you just message 'hi' and nothing else I assume I’m getting fired"

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:25:44 +0000

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I have a friend who used to always put "Mark" and only "Mark" in the subject line of emails to me. It vaguely bugged me but I never told him to stop. Then I found out he did it to a mutual friend and she told me it really freaked her out and she told him to stop. She said having email with nothing but her first name as the subject made it seem like the message was going to have ominous news and she was loathe to open it.

In as essay for The Outline, Casey Johnston shares a similar experience: a boss who slacked "hi!" and only "hi!" Johnstone thought this meant she was about to be fired.

“Hi” implies “I need to have a full conversation with you that you’re going to be present for,” which is never good. Once I respond, if she responds to my response fast enough, I can’t theoretically pretend to not have seen what she just said, because I was literally physically JUST there, responding; no one responds and then immediately logs off. Once I respond, she has me, but I don’t know what for. It’s like she has laid a trap that is very obviously a trap that I have to now just walk into knowing I’m about to get lit up for something. Except that I don’t, really, because all she said was “hi!”

All she wanted was for me to fix a misspelling of a source’s name in a piece. So I’m sorry, Erika, that I didn’t punctually respond to your “hi,” I was very busy having a heart attack.

If I got slacked "hi!" I wouldn't mind. Getting a "hi" without an exclamation point would seem like bad news was about to come, though.

Image: By fizkes/Shutterstock




Palantir has figured out how to make money by using algorithms to ascribe guilt to people, now they're looking for new customers

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:13:20 +0000

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In 2009, JP Morgan Chase's "special ops" guy was an ex-Secret Service agent called Peter Cavicchia III, and he retained Palantir to spy on everyone in the company to find "insider threats"; even getting the bank to invest in Palantir. (more…)




Entertaining science for stoned people

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:49:07 +0000

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These hand boilers are a hell of a lot of fun, even if you aren't stoned.

Not just fun, this is science! Use your body heat to teach a child about distillation! Every child needs to know how to create the water of life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8wNTb27yT0

Honestly, I love my little hand boiler. I keep it next to an arm chair that friends seem to like to space out in.

Westminster Hand Boilers (Colors May Vary) via Amazon

Image via Amazon




Last summer, Southwest tried to kill a rule that would have tightened up engine fan blade inspections

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:40:46 +0000

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This week, Southwest flight 1380 lost an engine in midair when one of its fan-blades cracked; it was the second time in recent years that this happened to one of Southwest's Boeing 737s. (more…)




What do blind people "see" on LSD?

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:23:53 +0000

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In a case study published in the journal Cognition and Consciousness, a 70-year-old musician who has been blind since birth reports on his experiences taking LSD. The man used the name "Mr. Blue Pentagon," a reference to his preferred brand of blotter. From Live Science:

"I never had any visual images come to me. I can't see or imagine what light or dark might look like," Mr. Blue Pentagon told the researchers. But under the influence of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as acid), sounds felt unique and listening to music felt like being immersed in a waterfall, he said. "The music of Bach's third Brandenburg concerto brought on the waterfall effect. I could hear violins playing in my soul and found myself having a one hour long monologue using different tones of voices ... LSD gave everything 'height.' The sounds coming from songs I would normally listen to became three dimensional, deep and delayed."

Mr. Blue Pentagon's account is a rare glimpse into how LSD may feel in the absence of vision. Beyond a few Q&A threads on Reddit, the only other resource is a 1963 study of 24 blind people, which was actually conducted by an ophthalmologist to test whether a functioning retina (the part of the eye that senses light) is enough for visual hallucinations (it's not), and didn’t include the participants’ psychological experiences beyond vision.

Understanding Mr. Blue Pentagon's experience with the drug may give unique insights about how novel synesthetic experiences through multiple senses are concocted by the brain — especially a brain that is wired differently due to lack of vision, according to the researchers from the University of Bath in the U.K. who published the report.




Man uses GPS trackers to catch air conditioner thief

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:11:57 +0000

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Cincinnati landlord Courtland Gundlind had enough of the thief who had recently stolen two air conditioning units from his properties. So he hid a GPS tracker inside a new unit, installed it, and waited for the culprit to strike again. Two weeks later, the air conditioner texted him that it was "on the move." From Cincinnati.com:

The Okeana landlord called a friend and followed the trail. The GPS updated every 60 seconds, so they remained about a minute behind. He called police who eventually caught up with the unit and a suspect at the McDonald's on Reading Road.

Cincinnati Police arrested David Lester Walls, 50, of Linden Street, and charged him with theft and criminal damaging. He was arraigned April 11, pleaded not guilty, and is set to return to court May 15....

(Gundling) said police were surprised the GPS in the AC worked.

(Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)




Arizona is about to get its first statewide teachers' strike

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:07:38 +0000

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The contagion is spreading: Arizona is the latest red state where teachers -- backed by immense public sympathy -- are staging first-of-its-kind state walkout, protesting against the very idea of neoliberal austerity, recognizing that with the GOP running their state and their nation, that the problem is Republicanism, not some local phenomenon. (more…)