For some of you, sites like this one are a welcome distraction from what you really should be doing or, more likely, what someone else thinks you really should be doing. So to go one recursive step further, here are five distractions from this distraction, a short list of fantastic free browser games, from Cookie Clicker to Kingdom of Loathing:
• A Dark Room lies somewhere between a classic text adventure and a Zen koan. It is considered a "passive browser game," which means there is a lot of waiting. But don't give up. You don't play the game as much as it plays you.
• Oodlegobs: Viruses, called Oodlehobs, are the heroes of this game by Nitrome, and cats are the enemies. You control the Oodlegobs as they wage war against the Mew Tube network by infecting cat videos. Exciting side-scrolling action is combined with smart planning as you coordinate the Oodlegobs to fight the felines. Play it everyday, but especially on Caturday.
• Candy Box is a trendsetter in the ASCII art, minimalist narrative genre of roll-playing browser games. It's deceptively simple. You receive candies. Approximately one per second. But then things get deeper. Much, much deeper. The sequel, Candy Box 2, was released in October.
• Kingdom of Loating: Be you a Seal Clubber, a Turtle Tamer, a Pastamancer or Sauceror, in Kingdom of Loathing adventure awaits! Quests, puzzles and insanely spicy enchanted bean burritos await in this excellent text-ish world brought to you by Jick. Discover how everything works on your own, or lean on the excellent Kol Wiki. The fun literally never ends.
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Benjamin sez, "Since the world didn't end on December 21, 2012, humorist John Hodgman has a surplus of Ragnarok Survival Kits. Designed by Jessica Hische, these kits (which include everything from Hodgmanic cologne to a DVD copy of John's Netflix special Ragnarok) are scheduled to ship by 12/17. Each are signed and numbered by the author."
When the world did not end in 2012, I was left with a small number of surplus RAGNAROK SURVIVAL KITS (Thanks, Benjamin Wilson!)
Russian YouTube translation: "Dog dancing in Karaganda region - Mikhailovka." (Thanks, Joe Sabia)
The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats are the lineal descendants of strips like Peanuts, which mixed extremely contemporary references (in this case, references to Internet slang) with a timeless, childlike humor, and great character design. Pip and Kitteh are eternal hobos on the backroads of the Internet age, shamelessly mixing puns and sight gags in a way that is purely sweet.
As a bonus, this volume is interspersed with the hobo illustrations Ape Lad did for Hodgman's Areas of My Expertise. If you love cute animals, hobos, and Internet humor, you will love The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.
See also: Gweek 121: The Return of Ape Lad
The Ghostbusters Venkman jacket is pretty fab. As the sell-copy says, it's just the thing for when you want to "pick a fight with an ancient, Babylonian god!"
Recently I blogged the Treat Triad, a puzzle my dogs love. Another toy that keeps them focused and busy with something other than me is this crazy treat dispensing purple egg, the Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble.
The dogs bat it around and as it rolls, occasionally pieces of dog food roll out. My dog Pretzel plays football with it (American soccer) while Nemo just picks it up and drops it. He has learned that dropping it from higher altitudes allows the toy to accelerate a bit more, and that the additional kinetic transference dispenses extra treats. No, really.
I left the sound on in this video so you can hear that on hardwood floors, the toy is a bit loud. It does have rubber ribbing to keep it from destroying the floors, but I would not suggest filling the Kibble Nibble and then expecting peace and quiet.
Emmanuel from 2600 Magazine sez, "2600 is turning 30 and, to help celebrate, has put out two new t-shirts simultaneously. The first focuses on what has changed over three decades in publishing, with images of a floppy disk, a CD, and a flash drive on the front and 30 headlines - one from each of the hacker magazine's 30 years - displayed on the back. The second shirt focuses squarely on the NSA, with an iconic picture of their headquarters on the front that got 2600 staffers detained immediately after they took it. The red stamp over the top of the picture represents what could be the popular view on what NSA should really stand for: No Such Authority. On the back is part of a leaked NSA document concerning PRISM, along with a call to arms (or, in this case, stronger crypto). Finally, to help celebrate the 30th anniversary, the 2600.XXX domain is now in operation."
[Here's the second episode of Not Playing, hosted by Lex Friedman and Dan Moren . In each episode, Lex and Dan watch movies they've never seen -- but that everyone else has. There are two versions of each episode available — the capsules and the commentary track versions. Listen to their thoughts before and after they watch the movie, or listen to the longer, full commentary-track episodes and watch the classics again for the first time, with Lex and Dan! -- Mark]
What better way to kick off the holiday season than with Bruce Willis’s star-making turn as an everycop? Dan introduces Lex to the best Christmas movie ever, 1988′s Die Hard. Hot topics include Alan Rickman’s death scene, expletives in movies, and the many lives of Alexander Godunov.RSS | iTunes | Download capsule episode | Download full commentary episode
After eight years of development and a successful Kickstarter, BB pal Mitch Altman's Neurodreamer sleep mask is ready for shipping! You might recall that Mitch is the inspiring maker behind the TV-B-Gone, Trip Glasses, and a bunch of other delightful gadgets. The Neurodreamer is an open source light/sound machine integrated into a memory foam mask. Mitch says: The NeuroDreamer sleep mask is an advancement over prior entrainment* devices which attempt to entrain the brain with only a single brainwave frequency at a time. The NeuroDreamer sleep mask uses up to four brainwave frequencies simultaneously (mixed at different amplitudes), to more closely replicate the full spectrum of frequencies present in a person who is falling asleep.
* "Entrainment" is the the process of externally presenting brainwave frequencies to the brain, allowing it to synchronize to those frequencies.
It's available for $69.95 in three different versions designed for Sleep, Lucid Dreaming, or Meditation. Mitch is having a sale right now: Entering the coupon code THANKS gets you 10% off everything in Mitch's Cornfield Electronics shop, including the Neurodreamer. I want one!
Forget everything you think you hate about New Age music. I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1999 is a stunning compilation of beautiful, chill, complex, psychedelic, trancy, spacey, and surprisingly deep music that was self-published and self-distributed, mostly on cassette tapes in a 1970s and early-1980s heyday of experimentalism. Of course, this was before major labels saw gold beside the crystals, wrapped the worst of the music in truly bad (as opposed to good bad) cover art, and unleashed marketing magick that forever stigmatized the genre. But the music on I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990 is something else entirely. This is the music of Laraaji (excerpt above), who Brian Eno discovered in Washington Square Park playing for spare change. It's the music of minimalist composer JD Emmanuel who could be easily be filed with Oneohtrix Point Never and Emeralds. It's the sound of Steven Halprin's "anti-frantic alternative" music from before he became a rock star of "healing music." Curator Douglas Mcgowan is the audio archeologist behind the collection and wrote the terrific liner notes. The beautiful cover art is by Gilbert Williams. I picked up my absolutely stunning 3LP vinyl copy at San Francisco's Aquarius Records. Check out the trailer below! The CD is also available from Amazon: I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990.
For more background, don't miss this excellent episode of the Expanding Mind podcast with Erik and Maja talking with Douglas Mcgowan about the compilation and "the hidden sublimity of a reviled genre."
In Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations [PDF] a November 2013 report from a DC thinktank called The Center for Corporate Policy, researcher Gary Ruskin documents the scary, corrupt relationship between major corporations, private security firms, and secret police agencies like the FBI. These entities engage in highly militarized spying and sabotage campaigns against activist organizations from Greenpeace to the Camp for Climate Action, to Occupy and more; planting spies and provocateurs in their midst, compiling dossiers on organizers, and going through their trash for evidence of plans. Included in the opposition are active-duty CIA agents, who are allowed to moonlight for private clients in their off-hours, and the FBI, whose involvement in corporate anti-activist espionage was condemned in a 2010 report from the Office of the Inspector General in the US Justice Department.
The FBI's involvement in corporate espionage has been institutionalised through 'InfraGard', "a little-known partnership between private industry, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security." The partnership involves the participation of "more than 23,000 representatives of private industry," including 350 of the Fortune 500 companies.
But it's not just the FBI. According to the new report, "active-duty CIA operatives are allowed to sell their expertise to the highest bidder", a policy that gives "financial firms and hedge funds access to the nation's top-level intelligence talent. Little is known about the CIA's moonlighting policy, or which corporations have hired current CIA operatives."
The report concludes that, due to an extreme lack of oversight, government effectively tends to simply "rubber stamp" such intelligence outsourcing:
"In effect, corporations are now able to replicate in miniature the services of a private CIA, employing active-duty and retired officers from intelligence and/or law enforcement. Lawlessness committed by this private intelligence and law enforcement capacity, which appears to enjoy near impunity, is a threat to democracy and the rule of law. In essence, corporations are now able to hire a private law enforcement capacity - which is barely constrained by legal and ethical norms - and use it to subvert or destroy civic groups. This greatly erodes the capacity of the civic sector to countervail the tremendous power of corporate and wealthy elites."
The war on democracy [Nafeez Ahmed/The Guardian]
Libyan Desert Glass is opaque, greenish glass formed when the desert sands fused in some sort of extremely hot incident. (Alternately, Sandman Volume 2 Number 9 proposes that the glass is the remains of an ancient city.) What, exactly, created the heat that made the glass is a source of scientific debate, but a new paper suggests it might have been the result of a comet impact. Why a comet and not, say, an asteroid? Scientists studied a stone found in conjunction with the glass and discovered that it contained a mixture of elements that you'd be unlikely to get from an asteroid impact. Instead, the elements suggest an origin outside our solar system's asteroid belt.
Image: H. Raab, used via CC license.
One year ago today
Boba Fett skirt: Etsy seller GoFollowRabbits produces "Geek Chic Fashion," including this marvy Boba Fett skirt.
Five years ago today
BBC follows shipping container around the world: The BBC is following a shipping container around the world, and taking videos in an "experiment to lift the veil on the global economy and tell the stories behind the goods inside, those who make them, and how they travel to consumers."
Ten years ago today
David Byrne loves PowerPoint: A performance by David Byrne called "I [Heart] Powerpoint."
Alas, poor ISON. The comet that flew too close to the Sun on Thanksgiving Day appears to have suffered the fate of Icarus — if Icarus had been ripped apart by a solar flare. The video above, taken by space probes on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, provides a great view of the comet hurtling toward the Sun and then disintegrating. Although there's still some discussion over whether or not ISON still survives as a much smaller ball of rock, ice, and dust, NASA has officially declared the comet dead. Astrophysicist Karl Battams wrote a very nice eulogy.
My father and I on a walk along the beachside promenade in Worthing, England, on a sunny day. They were refurbishing the town's pier, a huge but decrepit pile of firewood that by the 1980s housed little more than an arcade. Instead of putting the cabinets in storage, they had them out on the asphalt under awnings and parasols, a startling and strangely British scene. I played Sega's Turbo. And that was that.