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Every holiday, someone spends a lot of time in the kitchen preparing all the amazing things we eat. These gifts are handpicked by us to help make spending time in the kitchen a little more joyful:
• Nostalgia Electrics Retro Popcorn Maker: This awesome popcorn machine brings the era of grand movies and the silver screen into your home. Movie night will never be the same!
• Keurig Single Serve Coffee Maker: This Keurig coffee maker allows you to bring the many, many styles and flavors of coffee (and tea) available in single serving K-cups into your home. You and your guests can enjoy exactly the flavor or style of hot beverage of your (or their) choice!
• Panasonic Bread Maker: Panasonic's bread machine kneads, proofs and bakes amazing loaves of bread. I have one in my kitchen and it always turns out fantastic bread.
• Zojirushi NS-TSC18 Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer: Making perfect rice isn't all this Micom Rice Cooker does, it also has setting for baking cakes and steaming vegetables. It is one handy device!
• Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator Cooker: Clamp this Anova Sous Vide circulator to almost any pot to keep your long, slow cooking projects at a consistent temperature. With a 99 hour timer and 5-6 gallon capacity, this circulator should meet the needs of even the most aggressive home cooks.
• Omega 8004 Nutrition Center Juicer: Masticating juicers operate at a slower speed than liquifying juicers, This one can go as low as 80 rpm, preserving more of the enzymes and nutrients hardcore juice fanatics are looking for!
Tom writes, "Subterranean London is a strange and fascinating world, a labyrinth of underground tunnels that range from Victorian sewers to wartime bunkers. Among them is the famous London Underground network, known as the Tube due to the shape of its deep level tunnels. The network boasts around 40 ghost stations, from including entire stations that closed decades ago as well as disused platforms hidden behind iron gates in still operational hubs. This article looks at 13 of London's most impressive abandoned underground stations."
To a pedestrian walking through Whitechapel, nothing remains to indicate where St Mary’s Station once stood. Flattened by a German bomb during WWII, while people cowered on the disused platforms below, the remains of the building were broken down and carted off in the ’40s, leaving no trace of the former entrance. Below the Earth though, it’s a different story. Closed down in 1938 and largely bricked up during the Blitz, St Mary’s nonetheless survives – a collection of grim, graffiti-encrusted corridors and tracks leading nowhere. In the 70-odd years since its abandonment, TFL have routinely repurposed various bits of the line, leaving very little to mark the resting place of this old East End station. What does remain is cold and bleak and difficult to access. However, a tiny portion still remains visible to those travelling on the District Line: an old connecting line known as St Mary’s Curve can just about be glimpsed when arriving at Aldgate station from the Western side.
13 Abandoned Stations & Disused Platforms of the London Underground [Urban Ghosts] (Thanks, Tom!)
I've seen the fantastic documentary, The Wrecking Crew, about the legendary group of studio musicians who played the instruments on a great many of the songs recorded by famous groups of the 1960s and 1970s. The documentary is finished, but the filmmaker (son of Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco) needs $250k to pay the licensing fees for the 120+ music cues in the film. He's launched a Kickstarter to raise the funds and is well over halfway towards his funding goal. I'm rooting for this to happen because this film deserves to be seen.
Sesame Street parodies starring Cookie Monster are always a good bet (c.f. Monsterpiece Theater) but even by those standards, "The Hungry Games: Catching Fur" (with Cookie Monster as "Cookieness Evereat") is a standout. Bravo, Sesame Street!
Deep among the Carpet fronds, where the wild snargs prowl, the Munrung tribe has known peace for decades. But now the old order is unraveling, and a new story is in the making. A story of Fray, sweeping a trail of destruction; of villainous mouls, hungry for power; and of two noble brothers on the adventure of a lifetime.
It’s a story that will come to a terrible end—if someone doesn’t do something about it. If everyone doesn’t do something about it . . .
This special edition of Sir Terry Pratchett’s hilarious and wise first novel The Carpet People features his own illustrations, including never-before- published art, and revised text. Also included is an exclusive short story written by Terry at age seventeen, before he went on to create the phenomenally popular Discworld series and become one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.
Cory Doctorow and the famed author discuss building worlds, the legitimacy of authority, and the future:
Cory: You took a bunch of runs at building a world where a million stories could unfold—The Carpet People, Truckers, and, finally, Discworld. Is Discworld’s near-total untethering from our world the secret of its staying power?
Terry: It isn’t our world, but on the other hand it is very much like our world. Discworld takes something from this world all the time, shows you bits of the familiar world in new light by putting them into Discworld. Is that staying power? You tell me.
Cory: What’s the secret to Discworld’s unplumbable depths, and is there something a big world lacks when compared to one that’s smaller (in more than one way), like the Carpet?
Terry: We know about Earth; we know an awful lot about the solar system. When you do Discworld, you, the writer, can more or less change anything if you want to, if you can make it fit. It means you’re god, and that’s a great responsibility. As a writer, you can take bits of the universe and put it in your own new universe. Working in Discworld, you use the word sandwich, and you think: Can I do this? Now I’ve got to have a reason why a sandwich is a sandwich—in our world, it was named after the man associated with its invention, the Earl of Sandwich. Can you have your own universe and still have sandwiches? You have to do it all yourself and decide if you need to open the door into our reality at the same time.
Once Discworld started moving, as it were, it started moving almost of its own volition, because I would write a Discworld novel, and that novel required that such and such should be available, or whatever, and that means that the next time, that’s real in Discworld and the thing grows. And I must say it grows to be rather bigger than a carpet—but with care, it can have just about anything in it.
I’m finishing up Raising Steam, in which the railroad comes to Ankh-Morpork, and an awful lot of things have to be made and discovered until you get to the top of that pyramid. You can’t have Vaseline until someone’s invented something else. You have to create and understand a lot of things before you can move on. And so, since I work on Discworld almost all the time, it grows because I need it to.
Cory: Do you think that there’s any way you could have kept us in the Carpet for anything like the number of books that we’ve gotten from Discworld?
Terry: I was about to say “No,” but right now I wonder. . . . If the idea had taken, I don’t know. I really don’t. But how would it be? It would be almost a kind of . . . People in the Carpet are more or less tribal. What would happen if I . . . You’ve got me thinking!
Cory: So much of your work is about the legitimacy of authority. You write a lot of feudal scenarios, but you also seem like a fellow with a lot of sympathy for (and suspicion of!) majority rule. The witches gain authority through cunning and compassion (Nanny Ogg), through knowledge and force of will (Granny Weatherwax). Kings rule by divine right and compassion for the land; Vetenari, out of the practical fact of his ability to control the city’s factions. The Carpet People is shot through with themes of who should rule and why. Where does legitimate authority spring from?
Terry: The people! The only trouble is the people can be a bit stupid—I know that; I’m one of the people, and I’m quite stupid.
Lord Vetinari is that wonderful thing: a sensible ruler—that’s why he’s so popular. Everyone grumbles about him, but no one wants to chance what it would be like if he wasn’t there. I like Vetinari. I don’t mind authority, but not authoritarian authority. After all, the bus driver is allowed to be the boss of the bus. But if he’s bad at driving, he’s not going to be a bus driver anymore. Now, an interesting sideline on this is the question of the writer’s position is vis-à-vis authority.
A journalist looks at authority as a target as a matter of course. You don’t actually have to fire, but you see it as a target. Since I am tainted as a journalist, I can’t separate that out from being a novelist, and my personal view is that you look askance (at the least) at authority. Authority must be challenged at every step. You challenge authority all the time to keep it on its toes. Vetinari works because there aren’t enough people who think he’s doing a bad job; they’re all factions, in any case. So he balances the world. It’s not everyone being happy, but rather not too many of them being unhappy.
Firedoglake obtained a copy of a two-page memo [PDF] of talking points for family and friends that the NSA sent to employees on November 22, so that spooks could rebut skeptical relatives around the Thanksgiving table. It's full of misleading statistics and outright falsehoods. Thankfully, Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola took the time to comprehensively rebut every point in the document, with extensive links to primary sources, Congressional testimony, and other significant facts.
Firedoglake obtained a copy of a two-page document that was sent out on November 22. It was clearly put together for rebutting statements about the NSA from news stories on documents disclosed by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, and it encouraged employees to “share the following points with family members and close friends.”
The “talking points” sheet suggests that employees make five key points: (1) NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation”; (2) NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy; (3) NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that’s what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world; (4) The people who work for NSA are loyal Americans with expert skills who make sacrifices to help protect the freedoms we all cherish; (5) NSA is committed to increased transparency, public dialog and faithful implementation of any changes required by our overseers. (No emphasis added. Underlines appear in the document.)
NSA Sent Home Talking Points for Employees to Use in Conversations with Family & Friends During Holidays [Kevin Gosztola/The Dissenter]
To remain a member in good standing of the Bozo Boosters, you had to follow five rules. The back of the membership card conveniently listed them.
Math With Bad Drawing's "Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World" is a rather good -- and awfully funny -- compendium of comparisons between attention-grabbing, math-abusing headlines, and their math-literate equivalents.
Our World: After Switch in Standardized Tests, Scores Drop
Mathematically Literate World: After Switch in Standardized Tests, Scores No Longer Directly Comparable
Our World: Proposal Would Tax $250,000-Earners at 40%
Mathematically Literate World: Proposal Would Tax $250,000-Earners’ Very Last Dollar, and That Dollar Alone, at 40%
Our World: Still No Scientific Consensus on Global Warming
Mathematically Literate World: Still 90% Scientific Consensus on Global Warming
Our World: Hollywood Breaks Box Office Records with Explosions, Rising Stars
Mathematically Literate World: Hollywood Breaks Box Office Records with Inflation, Rising Population
Our World: Illegal Downloaders Would Have Spent $300 Million to Obtain Same Music Legally
Mathematically Literate World: Illegal Downloaders Would Never Have Bothered to Obtain Same Music Legally
The ice sheet that covers Antarctica is almost two miles thick in some places. But the British Antarctic Survey is able to peek beneath the frozen surface with the help of satellites, lasers, and radar.
Ember the platypus has no stomach. But there's nothing wrong with her. No platypuses have stomachs. They're just one of a surprising number of vertebrate species that have evolutionarily jettisoned their stomachs, in favor of a straight-shot digestive tract that directly connects the throat to the intestines.
dj BC writes, "I just dropped Santastic 8, the 8th annual Holiday mashup album in the series (10th if you count 'Menorah Mashups' and 'Re:Compostition'). This year we offer 14 new Christmas mashups, and one old one which was reissued because it is great and it matches the album cover so well. Contributors come from California, Atlanta, New York, Boston, Vienna, The Netherlands, Stockholm and Nashville."
There's some outstanding work here -- don't miss mojochronic's Lou Reed tribute at Track 12: "Lou Christmas (Without You)."
The new website, christmash.com, aims to finally put all the albums, videos and what not in one semi-coherent location. I'll be cleaning up the old album websites as well, but for now the site serves as a good central hub for links to all things Santastic. Merry Christmas, and I hope people dig it!
(Thanks, dj BC!)
WASP-19b is an exoplanet whose atmosphere is probably super hot and super poisonous — filled with methane and hydrogen cyanide instead of water. This video explains how astronomers can even begin to guess at the composition of the atmospheres of far away worlds. (Bonus: A soothing elevator music soundtrack!)
Michael from the US Department of Labor writes, "To commemorate its 100th anniversary, the U.S. Department of Labor has launched Books that Shaped Work in America, an online project that explores work, workers and workplaces through literature, and aims to educates the public about the history, mission and resources of their Labor Department. People from all walks of life are being asked to recommend books that informed them about occupations and careers, and molded their views about work."
What book would you list that shaped work in the nation? What title from which iconic author to choose? Fiction or nonfiction: which plays a bigger role? Whose life -- in biography or autobiography -- exemplifies the axiom that hard work is the best path to achieving the American Dream? Plays and poetry count, too.
Already on the list: Death of a Salesman, What Color is Your Parachute?, Working, Economics in One Lesson, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, The Feminine Mystique, Anthem, and On the Waterfront, among others. U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, contributed suggestions for the list, as did George P. Shultz and seven other former labor secretaries from both sides of the aisle. Other notables that contributed to the list include authors Daniel H. Pink and Joan Acocella, Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith, Liz Claman of Fox Business News, President of the National Urban League Marc Morial and Scott McGee of Turner Classic Movies. Their recommendations are included on the initiative's website, along with brief summaries of each book and links to related U.S. Department of Labor resources.
There's still time to start or join a Cool Tools Show & Tell Meetup in your town. But if you can't make it for some reason, you are invited to watch the live video stream of the Show & Tell taking place at Kevin Kelly's place tomorrow (December 4, 2013) at 7:30pm PT. I'll post a streaming video here on Boing Boing, or you can visit the Google event page here and watch the video.
To learn more about the Cool Tools Show & Tell Meetup, read Kevin's post about it here.
The idea here is that sometimes reading about a tool is not enough. You need to see it in action. The other reason we are doing this is because something great happens when people meet up around things they are passionate about. Cool tools fans are cool people; good things will happen when they connect.
I’ve done a couple of Cool Tools show-and-tells at Foo Camp, and I have done hundreds of show-and-tells for the Quantified Self. This is the format we plan on using: Show us your tool, tell us how it works, and why it is better than anything else, and finally, let us know how it changed your behavior. Then we’ll do the next one. Don’t be shy, bring more than one tool.
Sheep Marketplace -- a Bitcoin-based market that grew sharply after Silk Road shuttered -- was the target of a 96,000 Bitcoin (~£60m) hack last weekend. It turns out that laundering that much Bitcoin is very tricky, and the denizens of r/sheepmarketplace on Reddit have been taking countermeasures against the thieves (or thief) to track and de-anonymize the Bitcoin as it moves through various "tumblers" -- services that obfuscate the origin and destination of Bitcoin fractions. It's an exciting chase across the darknet, full of math, intrigue, and crime.
A major problem with tumblers is that they only work with lots of bitcoins coming and going from a lot of different sources - if a tumbler is taking in 96,000 bitcoins, those will massively outnumber all other bitcoins being tumbled and it’ll be easy to spot them coming out the other end. Mix in a little of your own with all those other ones and you'll find out the wallet addresses that the tumbler uses, and it should be easy to spot large transactions splitting off from there.
The fascinating consequence of this is that you can see the stolen bitcoins on the public blockchain, and as long as there are people keeping tabs on it there’s going to be no way for the thief to cash in on their haul. Considering how people rely on tumblers to maintain anonymity when buying illegal stuff online, this unusual loophole is something of a revelation.
Right now, as you’re reading this, you can watch as the the thief starts trying to move their bitcoins on again - it’s currently down to 92,000 bitcoins and dropping as smaller chunks begin going out. Selling those bitcoins and turning them into cash is going to be extremely difficult, as the major Bitcoin exchanges all demand proof of identity (specifically to avoid charges that they're involved in money laundering), and if they're broken down into smaller quantities to sell via a site like localbitcoins.com a paper trail will still be generated. As soon as it's possible to link one real-life bank account or identity to any bitcoins from that stash, it will be possible to work out their real-life identity. There's a £60m Bitcoin heist going down right now, and you can watch in real-time [Ian Steadman/New Statesman]
L. Gordon Crovitz is a Wall Street Journal columnist who has written about the Snowden leaks, and what they show about the NSA's operations, making extensive reference to documents secured by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a lawsuit against the US government. Throughout his article, he gets it grossly, extravagantly wrong.
Trevor Timm from EFF has taken the time to comprehensively correct Mr Crovitz's assertions about the documents from EFF's lawsuit and what they say about the NSA.
The declassified brief from 2006 made clear that such metadata "would never even be seen by any human being unless a terrorist connection were first established," estimating that "0.000025% or one in four million" of the call records "actually would be seen by a trained analyst."
The major 2009 FISA court opinion released in September, that apparently Mr. Crovitz either didn’t read or conveniently left out of his piece, showed that the NSA had been systematically querying part of this phone records database for years for numbers that the agency did not have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” were involved in terrorism—as they were required to have by the FISA court. Of the more than 17,000 numbers that the NSA was querying everyday, the agency only had “reasonable articulable suspicion” for approximately 1,800 of them.
The FISA court concluded, five years after the metadata program was brought under a legal framework, that it had been “so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall…regime has never functioned effectively.”
It's appraised at $200,000 to $300,000. Harrison Ford’s charismatic smuggler, Han Solo, is arguably the most popular character in the original Star Wars trilogy. The space-scoundrel-turned hero’s persona is irrevocably tied to his blaster pistol. Solo was modeled after the rogue gunslingers of the westerns that influenced creator George Lucas. This non-firing blaster was created for The Empire Strikes Back and was also used in Return of the Jedi. It would have been used in the majority of scenes that feature Han, with the heavier, live-fire weapon being used for close-up shots. Particularly noteworthy scenes requiring this lighter version are when Darth Vader uses the Force to lasso the blaster out of Han’s hand in Empire, and in Jedi when Han wrestles with a Stormtrooper to regain possession of his blaster during the Rebels’ encounter with Imperial forces on Endor. Based on the German issue Mauser C96 pistol, this piece, measuring 11 in. long, was custom made for the film from resin by casting the original hero prop from the first Star Wars: A New Hope, it therefore exhibits the same serial number as the hero prop, which is thought to no longer exist. The blaster is exactly in its original filming condition and therefore exhibits wear from use, but retains all of the original details, including the flash suppressor and scope (the eye-piece of which is detailed with reflective scotch-lite tape). The added distinction of this particular piece is that it was also likely used by Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, as both characters shared the same style of weapon in Empire. Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from a noted Star Wars collector. To our knowledge this is the only known example of this type of blaster in private hands. This is a truly incredible item of motion picture history and quite possibly the most exciting science fiction weapon to have been offered for public auction. Lot 379: Harrison Ford "Han Solo" DL-44 Blaster from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi
KQED created this video of the 2013 Science Hack Day San Francisco organized by BB pal Ariel Waldman! More than 200 people -- makers, scientists, artists, designers, etc. -- spent the night at the California Academy of Sciences and hacked on a fantastically diverse and compelling assortment of prototypes, demos, and experiments. Ariel says "Here's how you can organize a Science Hack Day in your own city!"
Via the Toys and Techniques blog, Franco Potenza's "Vita e lavoro nell'acqua" ("Life and work in the water"), c.1969, is a beautiful example of library music meant to accompany underwater-themed visuals. In the media business, library music is music that's usually owned outright by a company and then licensed to customers who use it as soundtracks for TV shows, radio programs, and industrial films. There's still a wealth of amazing vintage library music warping away on vinyl in warehouses, basements, thrift stores, and record shops around the globe awaiting rediscovery by intrepid crate-diggers.
Previously: "BBC radio documentary on Library Music"