What Steve Forte can do with a pack of cards borders the unbelievable

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When watching a magician perform some card tricks, it’s a legitimate question to ask: “Would you be able to cheat at a card game?” Most performers will smirk and wink, implying they could. Truth is: they probably can’t. Sleight-of-hand with cards for conjuring and entertainment purposes is one thing; gambling techniques to cheat at cards is a whole other story. Sometimes these two domains overlap, in that liminal zone of the so called “gambling demonstrations.” However, the gamblers’ “real work” entails a very different skillset from that of a magician—while true gambling techniques are among the most fascinating and difficult to master.

The gambling expert

In the realm of gambling techniques with cards, one name immediately commands undivided admiration and respect. That name is Steve Forte. It’s no hyperbole to say that what Forte can do with a pack of cards borders the unbelievable; his skillful handling is the closest thing to perfection in terms of technique. Here is a taste of his smooth and classy dexterity:

Steve Forte’s career spans over 40 years within the gambling industry. After dealing all casino games and serving in all casino executive capacities, he shifted gears to a spectacularly successful career as a professional high-stakes Black Jack and Poker player; shifting gears again, he later became a top consultant in the casino security field. To dig deeper into Forte’s adventurous and shapeshifting life, the go-to place is the enduring profile penned by R. Paul Wilson for the October 2005 issue of Genii Magazine. Read the rest

A virtual fireside chat with Erik Davis, Dennis McKenna, and the premiere of a never-released Terence McKenna lecture at Esalen Institute, 1989

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Boing Boing pal Erik Davis will be joining Dennis McKenna (Terence’s brother) on April 3rd for an online screening and virtual chat centered on a previously unseen lecture that Terence McKenna delivered at Esalen Institute in 1989.

From Erik’s monthly newsletter.

This Friday, at 5:30 PST, I will be participating in a TRIBUTE TO TERENCE MCKENNA hosted by Dennis McKenna and our mutual friends at Psychedelic Seminars. Terence died twenty years ago, and over the next few weekends, Dennis will be hanging out with some of T’s wonderful friends, like Eduardo Luna, Bruce Damer, and Rupert Sheldrake.

On Friday we will be streaming a recently discovered hour-long film of Terence shot at Esalen in 1989. After the showing, Dennis and I will have a chat—the first in-depth conversation we have had since the publication of High Weirdness.

You can sign-up for the screening and chat here. You can find more info on the whole series here.

And if you’re looking for something provocative and mind-bending to read while you’re cowering in your invisible zombie apocalypse hidey hole, check out Erik’s wonderful new tome, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies

[H/t Laurie Fox]

Image: Promotional art Read the rest

These toys and games can keep the kids busy while you’re all trapped inside

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These toys and games can keep the kids busy while you’re all trapped inside.

As rough as all this time cooped up inside the house is on us adults, it’s even worse for kids. All that borderline maniacal energy along with an unquenchable thirst for stimulation and attention make home sequestration like a life sentence for them. Unfortunately, they have no problem taking out all that pent-up disappointment and boredom on you, the unwitting adult who must take the rap for a worldwide pandemic.

These are difficult times and we all have to do what we must to survive. We wouldn’t normally endorse this, but under our current conditions…bribe them. Tell the kids that if they can be good for a day, or just through your workday or heck, even for a few hours, you’ll get ‘em one of the cool toys and games we’ve assembled here.

Everything here is on sale. They won’t care. You will. And peace will still reign in your household. For now. But for today, it’s all we’ve got…

Video games

Every kid loves video games — and this is a good time to plant some of the old-school retro gaming love you had when you were a kid.

From the folks at 8BitDo, both the Gbros. Wireless Adapter for Nintendo Switch ($14.95; originally $19.99) and the SN30 Bluetooth Gamepad ($23.95; originally $29.99) gives you the retro-style gaming controller that’s compatible with all the latest gaming systems. Whether your kids have a Switch or play games on Windows, Android, macOS or Steam-based platforms, these Bluetooth-connected devices will take you all right back to the 90s and 2000s…even Read the rest

Outstanding, free, and far-out music stream from Aquarium Drunkard

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Aquarium Drunkard is an incredible audio hub of reviews, podcasts, features, interviews, and sessions sure to please all crate diggers, outré musicologists, fringe culture fanatics, and deep music geeks. Their genre-bending curation spans jazz, folk, garage, psych, experimental, and every other niche of music to present oft-unheard gems from across time. As the creators say, Aquarium Drunkard is “for heads, by heads.” In author Erik Davis‘s own excellent newsletter, he shares word that Aquarium Drunkard has now launched a free online radio stream, Radio Free Aquarium Drunkard. Tune in and turn on. Erik writes:

I have been in love with Aquarium Drunkard’s mailing list, streams, and musical curation chops since I stumbled across a three-part collection of rare 70s Jesus Freak music they posted years ago. Given that millions of us are now stuck at home, addictively trawling newsfeeds while trying to stay sane, the AQ kids just launched Radio Free Aquarium Drunkard, a wonderful 24/7 radio stream of joy, verve, and reflection. Admittedly, I find my own sensibility uncannily mirrored in RFAQ’s mix of scruffy indy, ladyfolk, 90s basement tapes, spiritual jazz, weird country, and deep deep 70s. But I am particularly enjoying the intimacy, wit, and kindness of the selections, segues, and overall vibe. These days we should all be paying close attention to the collective process of meaning-making. This means ignoring the algos and opening up to playlists, personal recommendations, and DJs. Tune in!

Read the rest

Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse

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I greatly enjoyed Max Barry’s 2013 novel Lexicon (Cory loved it, too — here’s his review). Barry has a new novel that came out today from Putnam, called Providence, which I started reading. It’s a space thriller about a four person crew on an AI controlled spaceship programmed to seek and destroy “salamanders” – creatures that kill by spitting mini-black holes. It’s terrific so far (I’m 70% finished).

I’m happy that Max wrote this op-ed for Boing Boing, titled “How Science Fiction Prepares Us For the Apocalypse.” — Mark

My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.

I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes.

Popular fiction regularly mirrors the times in which it’s published. Two hundred years ago, society readers were thrilled by dangerous flirtations in Jane Austen novels; a century ago, people living in newly urbanized cities devoured mysteries and detective stories; and the 1930s gave rise to the Golden Age of science fiction, with stories that asked where technology might take us. Read the rest

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

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We’ve covered Theodore Gray on Boing Boing a lot, and for good reason — he’s amazing. His Mad Science book was filled with spectacularly fun science experiments, he built a Periodic Table table with little compartments to hold samples of elements, and now he has a new coffee table photo book called The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe.

Each element is treated to a gorgeous two page spread, with photos and a fascinating short history.

Did you know:

… if you keep your household smoke detector around for a couple of thousand years, most of the americium will have decayed into neptunium (wait another 30 million years or so and it will become thallium, which the CIA can use to make Castro’s beard fall out, if he’s still alive)

… if you touch tellurium you will smell like rotten garlic for a few weeks?

… arsenic is commonly added to chicken feed (to promote their growth)?

… a chunk of gallium will melt in your hand (you can buy a sample here)?

… a speck of scandium (“the first of the elements you’ve never heard of”) added to aluminum creates a very strong alloy (like the kind used in the Louisville Slugger that was involved in a lawsuit)?

Books that reveal how truly weird our world is are always welcome in my home. This one’s a gem. Read the rest

Astonishingly weird video of AI-generated facial expressions mapped to music

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AI artist Mario Klingemann used Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), one of the primary techniques to create deepfake videos, to make this incredible, unsettling, and wonderful video that facial expressions to music. (Song: “Triggernometry” by Kraftamt, 2014). Check out another deepweirdfake from this series below.

(Thanks, Jeff Cross!) Read the rest

Pandemic sourdough: baking this loaf of bread made me so happy

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Read the first post in our series on making your own sourdough starter and bread.

The third loaf of bread with my new-to-the-pandemic sourdough starter was a pleasure to bake.

Putting this loaf of bread together for its bulk rise was done in a pleasant couple minutes pause while preparing dinner for my parents. I have been pretty aggressively on my One Meal A Day diet and enjoying 20-24 hour fasts during the pandemic and thus tend to prepare dinner for the family most nights.

I decided to bake an all King Arthur bread flour loaf of bread this time, but I continued to go with 2 cup sized loaves instead of 4. The starter is behaving like it is on something like a 4-6 hour cycle, so I fed it around 1:30 pm and mixed up the dough around 6:30 pm.

I time it like this so that a) the yeast should be in a place where there are many fresh, new and hungry cells banging about the starter and b) the 12-ish hour bulk rise I give my bread will not need me to wake up earlier than usual. If the dough looks like it needs more time, I give it more time. 18+ hours were not unusual in my old home. I would forget to change the thermostat and at night my kitchen would get too cold. Here I put the rising dough on the closed lid of an indoor bbq, with a potholder as insulation.

The dough was sticky and needed a bit of flour to let me work it. Read the rest

Building 15 fun projects and games is truly Python training, the fun way

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Python is everywhere. Just look under the hood of virtually every major tech player of the 21st century and you’re likely to find a whole lot of Python-based coding language staring back at you. Case in point: Netflix. You may not know it, but from its security protocols to its much-hyped recommendations, it turns out that Python code is baked into virtually every movie, TV show or another piece of content you watch on the platform.

That’s just one example of the pervasiveness of this versatile, powerful, user-friendly language. Right now, you can both learn Python AND create some cool projects and games with the training in the Python 3 Complete Bootcamp Master Course ($10.99, over 90 percent off).

With access to over 370 lectures and more than 30 hours of content, this course demystifies Python at its most practical level by helping you build 15 different projects and games while you learn.

The course teaches basic Python operations through the creation of some simple games, like a dice roll simulator, a hangman game or simple tic-tac-toe. But as students start working through more advanced Python concepts like machine learning and data analysis, the project ratchets up as well.

Before long, you’re building a matchmaker app, a Tamagotchi-style screen pet and even exploring methods for starting your own databases.

By the time you’re creating your own big data analysis project using more than 60 million data points, you’ll have internalized enough Python knowledge to use Python like a pro or even get hired as a Python expert. Read the rest

That home office may be your office for a while. These accessories can bring it to life.

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There are definite benefits to the whole work from home thing. The commute is a breeze. The dress code is supremely casual. And your boss has to work a lot harder to actually find you.

Despite the joys, there are still some clear downsides to the whole home office thing as well. Job focus can suffer. Boundaries between work life and home life can blur. And sometimes, working from your dining room table just doesn’t put you in the right frame of mind to do the job.

We can help with that one.

Below are a handful of cool accessories that can help turn your home workspace into something a little more official.  From your chair to your wall art to the very air you breathe, each of these items can start changing any room into the office you’ve always wanted.

Breathe right

From the stale recycled air of your real workplace to the leftover odors of last night’s fish fry dinner in your kitchen, the air you breathe sets the stage for your workday.

You can start that day in a zenned-out place with Langria Soy Wax Scented Candles ($14.99; originally $32.99). This set of 6 attractive glass-encased aromatherapy candles with sensual and calming smells like mint, lemon, rose, lavender, and vanilla work great for yoga, meditation..or for dealing with communication or tech frustrations at your remote desk.

For those battling rooms that are too hot, too cold or just too darn drafty, the Twin Energy Saving Door Draft Stopper ($16.99; Read the rest

Dolly Parton is going to start reading us bedtime stories starting on April 2nd

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Pangalactic goddess of love, mercy, and big hair, Dolly Parton, is going to start reading us all bedtime stories, beginning on April 2nd (7pm EDT).

Weekly, Dolly will be reading selections from her Imagination Library, the collection of kids books that she gives away free to children every month, to the tune of 134 million books to date. Her first reading will be The Little Engine That Could.

Dolly plans to do the readings for ten weeks and sees the effort as a way of offering kids (and all who want to listen) “a welcomed distraction during a time of unrest.”

Dolly will be doing the readings every week from her YouTube page.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

The Quaranzine, a collaborative Instagram zine documenting life and thoughts during COVID-19

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More wonderful art creation in the face of the fear and fuckery of COVID-19.

View this post on Instagram

March 30 / @louiegilot

A post shared by The Quaranzine (@the_quaranzine) on Mar 30, 2020 at 4:00pm PDT

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March 29 / @sarahmirk

A post shared by The Quaranzine (@the_quaranzine) on Mar 29, 2020 at 6:25pm PDT

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March 27 / @kirkreedstrom

A post shared by The Quaranzine (@the_quaranzine) on Mar 27, 2020 at 9:57am PDT

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March 19 / @srothmullet

A post shared by The Quaranzine (@the_quaranzine) on Mar 19, 2020 at 3:34pm PDT

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March 18 / @og.thanks

A post shared by The Quaranzine (@the_quaranzine) on Mar 18, 2020 at 12:42pm PDT

Subscribe to the feed here.

[H/t Rudy Rucker]

Image: Art by @kirkreedstrom, Instagram screengrab Read the rest

Check out these posters from a better world where we got a Lando Calrissian STAR WARS-spin-off trilogy

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Peter Stults is a New York-based graphic designer and illustrator who has used his quarantine productively: by designing movie posters for an imagined Lando Calrissian spin-off trilogy.

These are beautiful and delightful retro-chic. But my favorite detail is on the third poster, where Jean-Claude Van Damme gets special billing for his role as Darth Maul.

A better world is possible, folks. Check out Stults’ Twitter feed for a bunch of other awesome throwback movie poster re-designs.

Peter Stults via Twitter Read the rest

Need help mellowing out lately? These meditation apps might calm you down

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If you’re routinely prone to being stressed out, hurried or generally made out-of-sorts by the hectic pace of the world and life changes, then…yikes. We don’t envy what you must be going through these days.

Right about now, even the most zen and centered among us are bound to be feeling some level of anxiety and uncertainty. In these ultra trying times of social distancing, working from home and herculean routine change, we could all use a little extra help keeping our heads on straight, our minds clear and our fears in check.

To help calm those jangled nerves, we pulled together three mediation and relaxation apps that might just do the trick chilling you out. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re all between 50 and 90 percent off right now. Namaste.

Relax Melodies Meditation App: Lifetime Subscription – $124.99; originally $250

If you’re looking for endorsements, it doesn’t get much better than “the most positively reviewed app in the history of the Apple App Store.” That’s Relax Melodies, an app focused on regulating your sleep. It combines soothing sounds, bedtime stories, breathing techniques, body-mind exercises and more to create your own perfect sleep ambiance to get you the 7 or 8 hours of restful sleep a night you need.  From overcoming insomnia or tinnitus to night-time anxiety to lowering everyday stress, these sleep expert-approved techniques could be just what you need to face tomorrow the right way.

Welzen Meditation App: Lifetime Subscription – $29.99; originally $149.99

Welzen is all about dropping just the right pearl of zen at just the right moment. Read the rest

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