I interviewed my sister for the Cool Tools podcast. Here are 4 of her favorite tools

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On the Cool Tools Show podcast, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed my sister, Wendy, about some of her favorite tools.

Our guest this week is Wendy Frauenfelder. Wendy likes to cook, fix things, pretend to be a bartender, and do therapy dog work. She also is fascinated with wild yeast and slow food.

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Show notes:

stanleystubby

Stanley 66-358 Stanley Stubby Ratcheting MultiBit Screwdriver ($10)

“I always keep a screwdriver in the kitchen, just so that I don’t have to go to the garage if I something inside the house that I need to work on. So this is my new screwdriver inside the house, and there’s a couple things I like. First, it’s small. It’s like four-and-a-half inches long, and so it fits in a junk drawer really easily. The second thing I really like about it is it’s a ratcheting screwdriver. So, if you’re fixing a knob on a cabinet or something you don’t have to spin it around in your hand, you can just kind of ratchet it in, which I love. But you can also make it just a steady, regular kind of screwdriver. Then the third thing that I love about it is you unscrew the cap on the top of the screwdriver and inside are five other tips. So you’ve got three Phillips head and three regular screwdriver tips, and they vary from pretty tiny to large and fat, and they’re right there in the cap, so you can grab your screwdriver without knowing what kind of screw you’ve gotta work on, and you’ll have the right tip.”

masonjar

24 oz Mason Drinking Jar & Stainless Steel Straw ($10.50)

“It’s actually a Ball jar, not a mason jar, and then it’s got the regular kind of screw-on lid, but whoever made this took the little flat part of the lid on top and put a rivet in it and made a hole so you can stick a straw in there. It is actually pretty waterproof. I wouldn’t say you should leave it upside down in your car, but I’ll usually put a smoothie in here, and every once in a while I’ll shake it to just kind of mix up the liquid again, and it’s doesn’t come out at all. So, it’s that waterproof. … A lot of times these will come with a metal straw, and I don’t like that because, since I drink a smoothie out of it, I’m afraid I’m never really getting that clean, so I found some straws on Amazon that fit to the bottom. It had to be an extra-long straw. It fits to the bottom of the jar, and it’s got a little bend in it, and then I just toss it when I’m done. … I just feel like glass gets really clean. And you don’t have to worry about BPAs.”

spoonstraw

GFDesign Drinking Spoon Straws ($10.50)

“I was looking at cocktail items, and this caught my eye … We started using it when I was making mojitos, and you gotta stir up a mojito, because you’ve got some granulated sugar in the bottom of it when you muddle the mint leaves. So you stir it up with this thing, and then I’m thinking, ‘This is great, because then you just leave it in there, and you sip through it.’ And if your sugar didn’t all dissolve, you can still start drinking your mojito and kind of stir it as you go along.”

buymeapie

Buy me a pie!

“I am kind of like a connoisseur of grocery shopping list apps. [This app] is actually organized by store, so I have a Whole Foods list, a Target list, and a Costco list, basically, and I can open whichever one I want, and then I can add items to whichever one I want. You can have the same item in different lists. You can have as many lists as you want if you buy the paid version. I think the free version you’re limited to maybe two or three. …What I really like about it is that you can color-code these items by grocery store area or by aisle. So everything that’s veggie is green and fruit’s green, and meat is under the red category, and cold foods are blue and frozen foods are gray. So that way, as you’re going through your list, you go to produce and you just see all the produce that you need to get is all in one section.”

We have hired an editor to edit the Cool Tools podcast. It costs us $300 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $277 a month to the podcast. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have nice rewards for people who contribute! – MF

What are the real risks we humans could face from a rogue AI superintelligence?

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To hear a wide-ranging interview about the real-world risks we humans could face from a rogue superintelligence, hit play, below. My guest is author and documentary filmmaker James Barrat. Barrat’s 2014 book Our Final Invention was the gateway drug that ushered me into the narcotic realm of contemplating super AI risk. So it’s on first-hand authority that I urge you to jump in – the water’s great!

This is the seventh episode of my podcast series (co-hosted by Tom Merritt), which launched here on Boing Boing last month. The series goes deep into the science, tech, and sociological issues explored in my novel After On – but no familiarity with the novel is necessary to listen to it.

The danger of artificial consciousness has a noble pedigree in science fiction. In most minds, its wellspring is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which features HAL 9000 – an onboard computer that decides to kill off its passengers before they can disconnect it (spoiler: HAL’s rookie season ends – rather abruptly – with a 1-1 record).

James’s interest in this subject was piqued when he interviewed 2001’s author, Arthur C. Clarke, back in the pertinent year of 2001. Clarke’s concerns about superintelligence went beyond the confines of fiction. And he expressed them cogently enough to freak James out to this day.

Among James’s worries is that Hollywood has inoculated many of us from taking super AIs seriously by depicting them so preposterously. “Imagine if the Centers for Disease Control issued a serious warning about vampires,” he notes. “It’d take time for the guffawing to stop, and the wooden stakes to come out. Maybe we’re in that period right now with AI, and only an accident or a near-death experience will jar us awake.”

James and I discuss the “vampire problem” and many other issues in our interview. If you’re looking to cut back on the long, unproductive hours you currently waste on sleep, you should definitely give it a listen.

You can subscribe to the podcast within any podcast app. Simply use your app’s search function (type in “After On”) to find and subscribe. To subscribe via your computer on iTunes, just click here, then click the blue “View on iTunes” button (on the left side of the page), then click “Subscribe” (in a similar location) in the iTunes window. Or follow the feed http://afteron.libsyn.com/rss

German artists stage a quirky performance for passing trains

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When I was a kid growing up back East, my parents would bring me to a place called Edaville Railroad. It’s a theme park now but, back then, the main attraction was a train that went through a track in cranberry bogs. During the holidays, they turned those bogs into a sort of winter wonderland with bright lights and festive sculptures. Passengers were the audience, and the decorated bogs became a kind of “stage.”

I remember it being a lot of fun.

Well, for three days in late August, a group of artists in Germany took this idea to a whole new and incredibly impressive level. I love this so much!

Over 500 volunteers and residents in the “Bewegtes Land” art project entertained passengers with a super fun and quirky art performance, all happening along the train’s nearly 19-mile route.

Watch the video to see how they surprised their moving audience along the way.

The route went from Jena to Naumburg, a quiet area in the Saale valley’s countryside not known for tourists.

All I have to say is that someone really needs to do a U.S. version of this. Pretty please.

(TwistedSifter)

Timelapse of Lego’s largest kit construction

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Lego’s new Star Wars Millennium Falcon set is the largest model kit the company has ever sold. It contains 7,500 pieces and retails from Lego.com for $800. It’s sold out for now though, but you can get one from a scalper on Amazon for $1,800. Or you can watch Benjamin Große’s video above of him building the kit, 20 hours compressed to less than two minutes.

First ever “Sand Hostel” pops up on Australia’s Gold Coast

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Low-budget as well as adventurous travelers just got to spend a few sandy nights at the world’s first sand hostel on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The three-day event featured a hostel designed by Mad Max: Fury Road production designer Jon Dowding, according to Architectural Digest. And rooms started at only $7.50 per night. Unfortunately, bookings for the pop-up hostel on Kurrawa Beach ended Thursday.

Sand Hostel required approximately 53,000 pounds of sand used by sand sculptor Dennis Massoud during the 21 days of construction. Ceilings made of rafters and woven bamboo paneling were used to keep the structure stable for the tourism promotional effort.

For more photos click here.

Blips smartphone lenses are like adding a microscope to your phone

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If your photographic aesthetic lends itself more towards intimate detail over sweeping, dramatic landscapes, a Blips Smartphone Lens Kit gives your device a semi-permanent macro camera attachment. It’s being offered in the Boing Boing Store now for $24.99.

Since your phone is designed with human-scale photographs in mind, it’s basically impossible to focus on small, close-up objects without some kind of optical enhancement. To give your miniature subjects a staggering boost in detail and clarity, this kit includes two stick-on lenses: a macro with a 10mm focal distance, and a macro plus with double the magnification. These transparent dollops are supported by strips of aluminum, and includes extra multi-use adhesive tape to swap between devices without damaging your lenses.

And to get the most out of your temporary mods, the Blips app unlocks special camera capabilities, and is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. You can get a Blips Smartphone Lens Kit here for $24.99.

The making of first hand-drawn VR cartoon

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Even after a 25-year animation career, I can still remember the exact moment that I decided to become a professional animator: It was at an all-night movie marathon of Ralph Bakshi films. While watching Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic (his 2nd feature release, but his first true auteur film) I was thunderstruck by its gritty honesty. The film served up top-quality character animation supporting a fiercely street-level aesthetic. To an impressionable teenaged animation fan raised solely on a diet of classic Disney features, this film was a revelation. Here were characters as richly textured as any of the street smart hustlers inhabiting the stories of Taxi Driver or Midnight Cowboy. I was elated! I now had a vision that it was possible to create “underground” animation in the vein of R. Crumb and so many of my underground comix heroes. I decided that night to move to L.A. and fashion a career in the animation business.

I did eventually move to Hollywood, where I got trained in classic animation techniques by Disney old-timers. I used those precious lessons to great success in the era of burgeoning digital animation in the 1990s and beyond. I was there the FIRST time VR stuttered to life in the mid 90s, only to have its plug pulled for lack of technical viability. Fast-forward past 24k-baud modems, the first PDAs, internet 1.0, handheld gaming systems, theme park rides — I have created content for all of them. But I have never been as creatively (or technically) challenged as when I set about trying to create the first completely hand-drawn VR cartoon. It immediately took me back to that midnight theater in Pennsylvania where I got my first jolt of creative inspiration. I was determined to reinvent myself (again) in the medium of 360-degree 2D stereoscopic VR animation (say THAT 10 tens as fast as you can!).

This series tells the story of how I put together a crack team of animation and video professionals with no previous VR production experience and how, together, we figured out a successful path for pushing hand-drawn animation into a whole new world.

On a sleepy Sunday morning about 18 months ago, I was surprised to discover that a flat, unassembled Google “Cardboard” viewer had arrived with my New York Times. Watching the Times’ VR content through the Cardboard viewer transported me out of my kitchen and deep into the full immersion world of 360 video. In a flash I saw my phone in a wholly different light. It was now able to be my window into an alternative cartoon world which I could manufacture and, more importantly, inhabit. It stirred in me those old feelings of awestruck inspiration.

The first thing I did the next day was to call up one of my favorite clients: TED Ed. I had been directing animated shorts for this pioneering group of online educators for the previous three years. I hoped to convey to my Executive Producer that the timing was right for TED Ed to create a pioneering short in 360 animated video for the Cardboard platform. I was hoping that they’d trust me enough to forgive any initial stumbles as we collectively felt our way through the inky darkness that is inherent in any new medium. My pitch was well-rehearsed and the idea got approved quickly. So now I was presented with my first great challenge: Having sold the concept to my client, how exactly should I go about actually producing the piece? I mean literally–which combination of off-the-shelf software programs to use and how many team members would it require?

While I was pondering these tech hurdles, TED Ed was asking me for ideas about which teaching topic should be the short’s main concern. Luckily I had some ideas here. It was my impression that, because I was going to be drawing every pixel on the screen, I didn’t want to have the subject matter include vast cityscapes or sprawling vistas (I came to do an about-face on this thinking later). I came up with three possible environments from which to cull a topic: immersed in the ocean, inside the body, or inside a prehistoric cave. For each of these topics I was thinking that the environmental “walls” would necessarily be abstract, amorphous, and still constrict the subject matter. I felt secure that if I gave myself the parameters of a singular closed environment, I’d be able to create a world that made sense in 360-degrees. To my delight TED Ed liked my favorite idea the best and we decided to pursue the history of Stone Age cave painting. The irony was not lost on me that we’d be teaching about mankind’s oldest known attempts at creative expression while utilizing perhaps the brand-newest method of presenting this information: virtual reality.

Below is the first concept painting that I presented to TED Ed to help them visualize the world inside the cave. On the strength of this flat panoramic painting, they “green-lit” the project

Now the real work began in earnest. I needed to find a production team that was doing something (even distantly) related to hand-drawn animation in VR. I felt that if that team already had some basic VR experience, then adjusting the workflow to accommodate 2D animation wouldn’t be such a big deal. Just swap assets, right? In reality this turned out to be an extremely difficult problem to solve. It took multiple tries with multiple creative teams until we got even close to cracking that nut.

In the next installment I’ll reveal all of the fits and starts the production ran into as we attempted to push traditional animation into a wholly new and different medium. Here’s a hint: We were approaching the problem completely ass-backwards!

Stay tuned to our next installment: “The Frustrating Truth About Being an ‘Early Adopter’”.

Be a dapper zapper with the ZapCane

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The ZapCane comes complete with a flashlight, and a 1MM volt stun gun. It also supports you, as you walk.

I was looking at canes, like you do when you have a bad back, and thinking “Maybe it is finally time for a sword cane?” or something along those lines. Then I saw the ZapCane.

Complete with a handy flashlight in a fairly useless location to help you with the walking. The true charm of the ZapCane is its 1MM volt stun gun. The entire bottom extension of the cane becomes a highly unpleasant electrified surface.

Why would someone need a ZapCane? In some really rough urban spots, people with impaired mobility may find it necessary to fend off attackers! Maybe you could use the ZapCane as a silly way to try and fend off a bear, before the bear eats your fucking face off.

I am a huge fan of the fritz handle. It is the most comfortable for actually walking. Also notable, this cane is size adjustable without cutting.

ZAP ZAPCANE Cane – 1 Millionv Stun Gun Walking Cane with Flashlight & Carrying Case via Amazon

Watch FlashPants, an over-the-top ’80s tribute cover band

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If you’re looking for an over-the-top ’80s “party dance band” with all the bells and whistles (and little red track short-shorts), FlashPants is the one for you. I just learned of them from their explosive, perfect-score appearance on The Gong Show, but seems they’ve been doing their thing for a while now. They claim to be the “most booked band in California,” playing at over 200 gigs a year.

For their win on The Gong Show, they took home a check for $2000.17 and a glorious trophy:

Previously: Watch this Jewish surf band rock the new ‘Gong Show’

Ba-de-ya, the 21st of September will always be special to songwriter Allee Willis

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“Do you remember… the 21st night of September?”

This September 21st, and every September 21st, will never be forgotten by my dear friend-in-kitsch, Allee Willis.

If you aren’t aware, Allee co-wrote the song “September” for Earth, Wind, & Fire. When it quickly climbed to the top of the charts at its release, it forever changed the course of her life for the better.

A few years ago, she shared a funny story about the song’s “Ba-de-ya” lyrics with NPR:

The story of the song begins in 1978. Allee Willis was a struggling songwriter in LA — until the night she got a call from Maurice White, the leader of Earth, Wind & Fire. White offered her the chance of a lifetime: to co-write the band’s next album. Willis arrived at the studio the next day hoping it wasn’t some kind of cosmic joke.

“As I open the door, they had just written the intro to ‘September.’ And I just thought, ‘Dear God, let this be what they want me to write!’ Cause it was obviously the happiest-sounding song in the world,” Willis says.

Using a progression composed by Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist Al McKay, White and Willis wrote the song over the course of a month, conjuring images of clear skies and dancing under the stars. Willis says she likes songs that tell stories, and that at a certain point, she feared the lyrics to “September” were starting to sound simplistic. One nonsense phrase bugged her in particular.

“The, kind of, go-to phrase that Maurice used in every song he wrote was ‘ba-dee-ya,’ ” she says. “So right from the beginning he was singing, ‘Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember / Ba-dee-ya, dancing in September.’ And I said, ‘We are going to change ‘ba-dee-ya’ to real words, right?’ ”

Wrong. Willis says that at the final vocal session she got desperate and begged White to rewrite the part.

“And finally, when it was so obvious that he was not going to do it, I just said, ‘What the f- – – does ‘ba-dee-ya’ mean?’ And he essentially said, ‘Who the f- – – cares?'” she says. “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him, which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.”

Allee is easily one of the coolest people on the planet, a true living legend. I urge you to read this 2015 Washington Post feature on her titled, “Allee Willis is the most interesting woman you’ve never heard of.” Trust me, she is!

And, by the way, if you’re in the Detroit area next week, Allee’s hosting a free party at the Detroit Institute of Arts to celebrate the video release of her new song. It’s called “The D” and it’s a tribute to her hometown of Detroit. She spent several years and several thousands of dollars rounding up over 5,000 Detroiters — the most people in history on a record — to sing “The D.”

Njalla touts a reliable way to privately own domains: let it own them for you

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Domain privacy is an annoying and complicated thing. U.S. registrar-based whois anonymity crumbles with a court order or even just a legal nastygram. Obfuscating your whois is usually against the terms of service. Many top-level domains require a real, contactable, legal entity — you! — to be there in black and white. Njalla offers to solve the problem by registering and owning the domain on your behalf.

We care about your right to privacy. We believe it’s an important piece of democracy that we have the right to be anonymous.

Njalla was started because we couldn’t find a domain name service that we ourselves wanted to use. Our goals are to be caring about privacy, simple and flexible.

When you buy a domain in our system, we’re actually purchasing it for ourselves. We will be the actual owners of the domain, it’s not an ownership by proxy as found with all other providers. However, you will still have the full control over the domain name. You can either use our information, our nameservers or you can go with your custom data.

If you ever want to move the domain from our system, we’ll of course give you the domain without any additional costs.

I guess it comes down to whether you trust registrars and TLD operators less than you trust an EU-based startup. Has anyone got any experience or expertise to share?

Look how smoothly this mini-Rubik’s Cube turns

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A couple of days ago I mentioned the the MoYu YJ Lingpo 2 x 2 x 2 Speed Cube. I still haven’t solved it, but I wanted to make a quick video to show how smooth it is. The little cubes rotate around a plastic sphere, and are connected by springs. It’s practically impossible to jam it, unlike every other Rubik’s Cube I’ve used. I thought it would be a snap to solve, having only 8 cubes (compared to the 27 cubes a regular Rubik’s cube) but it turns out I’m even dumber than I thought. I’m not giving up!

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